Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Tree Hunting, Writing Update and Introducing a Little Flavor

I can't believe it's been more than a month since my last post!
Whew.

Thanks to those who commented about having "Writer's Knot," it helps to know that I'm not alone in how difficult this process of writing can sometimes be.

Let me first start by saying that I had a blast Christmas tree hunting with family this past weekend.  Matt and I went up to Winter Park with my brother Bryan, his wife Lindsay, their son Tanner, Lindsay's sister and her family.

The two of us in Winter Park.




We sang Christmas carols on the way up, to which my 18 month old nephew Tanner would clap, smile and say "Yay!" at the end of each song.  SUPER cute.

Tanner in the car



We experienced gorgeous, clear, cold weather.  The snow was dry and powdery and we had such a wonderful time hiking through the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree.  Last time, we discovered the trick is to try and find a tree that is standing alone- that way, all of the branches have had a chance to develop without hinderance from other trees that are too close.  The challenge is:  almost all the trees seem to like to grow in the buddy system.

Here's Matt with our Christmas tree "kill"



We ended up finding a spruce or fir of some kind and decorated it as soon as it was thawed out enough.  I did have to fill in some of the holes on our tree with ribbon and large ornaments.  Some of our ornaments were too heavy for this little tree, so they'll stay protected in their boxes another year.



Christmastime in our house is fun for all.  I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned my two cats' affinity for water, but they are now obsessed with drinking the tree water rather than the water out of their bowl.
And our dog, Axle can't seem to stand the excitement of what is in those boxes!  He has since "unwrapped" two of Matt's presents already and is now, not trusted to be alone with the tree or the gifts.
Ah, the joys of pets.


Writing is coming along, slowly but surely.
I am completing about a chapter every two weeks with a writing buddy who is much more disciplined than I am.  It's good.  I love my story, but I need a little motivation from time to time - someone to say, "Hey!  Where's my chapter?"
The holidays are always a busy time, but I believe writing is like working out.
To make it affective, you need to write on a regular basis- plus, it's easier to stay in the groove if you're writing every day and exercising that creative muscle.
I'm working on Chapter 11 right now and the story is really starting to shape up with some exciting additions from the first version.


Another bit of news:

I have started my own business.  Flavor Brand Strategies.  We're not at full capacity yet, (this link will only send you to our temporary splash page), but we do have some clients and I'm working on developing our brand identity with the help of a talented creative shop, Similar Blue Productions in Boulder.

A little about the company:  From the market research, to the logo, to the unique positioning and brand voice, to space articulation and developing a website, to helping employees really understand what the brand is all about and training each of them to become Brand Ambassadors, Flavor is dedicated to helping our clients create crave-able customer experiences.  Brand Ambassadors are key.  Employees are the secret ingredient to building and maintaining a successful brand experience because they are the ones who interact on a daily basis with customers.  

So, if you or someone you know needs help refurbishing a current brand or perhaps there's a new company that needs some help articulating their unique brand experience, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and are able to slow down and take some time to truly enjoy this time of celebration.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Writer's Knot

So, I don't actually get writer's block very much (despite the impression the name of my blog may give).  I actually get what I will affectionately refer to as "Writer's Knot," where I get so wrapped up in all the details of my story that I don't actually write because I'm trying to connect all of these neat ideas and threads. 

A friend from my critique group says I need to forget about all of that stuff and just write the story.  I can sprinkle in all of my cool details later, he says. 

The problem is, I really like all my details and character back stories and all the little things that make the story unique, and, I'm worried that if I don't include at least some of this stuff now, it's not going to fit in so well later on.  

I hear all of this advice of "Just finish." and "write the first draft, then go back and polish," but I want to polish now.  It's difficult to go in a straight line and finish the first draft when I want to circle back and make the story more than it is in the current state.

I am now trying to stick to a schedule to keep me producing something every two weeks so I don't let the knot tie me up too tight.  And, even though I haven't finished the first draft of the story, and I have already written hundreds and hundreds of pages, I am currently re-working Chapter 10.  "That's it?" was all my husband said the other day when I told him what chapter I was working on.  But I've gotta say, I like the story so much better in the direction it's going AND I've been able to include some of my more creative ideas.      

Is this the "right" way to write?  I'm not sure.  Probably not.  This isn't exactly something I've ever experienced before- but that's the point of the blog:  to document this process of discovery.   I just need to keep pushing through and work toward a goal until I finish.  Maybe I'll figure out the right way for me and writing books will become easier and more streamlined for future projects.



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inspiration for Writing: Fall

I'm back with some fun photos of Fall in Colorado.  
There's something about Fall that just gets the creativity going, and I'm loving every minute of it.

Here's our crazy ninja dog with his favorite piece of driftwood:

Matt's parents made a huge contribution to buying me a new camera for my birthday and this is one of the shots I was able to get with the macro setting.  When I zoom in, I can see the little hairs on his legs!  Pretty awesome.  Hopefully no one will be using the macro setting on my legs. 

Honey bee on our green onion flowers:

We spent a weekend up in the mountains to celebrate our birthdays with friends and we had a great time.  

Here's a cuddly chipmunk that Axle had a great time chasing: isn't he photogenic?


Beautiful view at Kenosha Pass: nothing I can say could possibly add to this.

Axle resting on our hike:  he did a great job considering he hasn't been able to be too active with his leg surgeries.  He is now 100% healed and we are working with him to bring his endurance back up and his weight back down.   


Me and Matt hiking at Kenosha Pass:

Gorgeous Aspens:

Lake Dillon: it was pretty chilly, but the weather made for some great photos.


Another update:  our home is getting close to being finished.  I am so excited to have our home whole again.  We have to finish the floor in the kitchen and dining room and do quite a bit of detail work, but we are shooting to have it all finished in October.  

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, prayers and encouragement.  It's been a tough year all around it seems- but we're keeping our spirits up and starting to get life back to normal.  


Thursday, August 13, 2009

First Impressions-New Post on The Stampede

Good morning everyone! 

Yesterday, I had a piece about "First Impressions" posted on my company blog.

It's all about that short amount of time you have as a company brand to make a good first impression on your potential customers and how the initial impression can lead to success or failure.  

Please take a look and feel free to comment on the piece. 

Thanks! 
Lauren  

Monday, August 10, 2009

Andrea Marchant's New Song

Hello all! 

I know I've now devoted this site to writing - BUT I have to let you all know about my friend Andrea Marchant's new song. 

The song is called "Bella, Horrida Bella" and is a hopeful for the "New Moon" movie soundtrack coming out in November.  The beautiful piano and emotional (sometimes haunting) delivery is amazing.  

Well done Andrea!    

You can also check out her other songs here.

Let me know what you think! 

Lauren

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Five Reasons to Have an Agent

This has been a hot topic of conversation among the writers I know for quite some time now. 
With a lot of unpublished hopefuls, we want to know if it's worth getting an agent.  

They get 10-20% of your book deal depending on what you employ them to do.  Maybe even a little more if they are helping you sell your book internationally.  And the question has been, "what exactly do they do for me?"  

So for those of you who aren't sure, here's what I've discovered:  

1.  An agent believes in your work.

2.  An agent helps get your manuscript ready to send to a publisher.

3.  An agent peddles your book around to the right people.  They know what publishers are looking for and they have the contacts to get your book into the right hands of larger, legitimate publishers.  An editor is more likely to notice the work of someone who has an agent, and even more likely to read the piece if it's an agent they know. 

4.  An agent negotiates your book deal.  They understand the ins and outs of the publishing world much more than we ever could.  The very first writer's meeting I attended, the leader of the group said that even if the agent doesn't initially get your manuscript into the publisher's hands, that they are still worth their weight in gold in the actual negotiations of the deal itself because they know about contracts and how much your book is worth to them.  

5.  An agent helps their authors have a voice.  I was just reading a post on Nathan Bransford's blog about book covers and how authors usually don't have a say of what their cover looks like.  This brings up an interesting point that once the publisher purchases your book, they own it and from what I've been learning, they could make edits to an author's story without their knowledge or approval.   

There are agents that aren't so good, of course.  And some that are downright con-artists.  The best thing to do is research before you sign with anyone and make sure the agent you're considering actually has a track record, and isn't making money by charging you fees, but by selling your book.  A great place to start is here, on the Writer Beware site.

After you've become your own, successful brand, you may not need to have an agent to represent you.  But for a first-time author wanting to be represented by a big publishing house, it's essential. 

The more I learn more about this strange world of publishing, the more I will share with you. 
What do you want to know about?  

Thanks for reading! 
L
 

I'll also do a follow up blog on reasons to go with a publisher- rather than self publishing or partner publishing as a new author.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

An Author IS a Brand


Okay, so for those of you who have been following the blog, you know that my day job is as a Brand Wrangler (Account Manager) for a company called Brand Iron.  This means the strategy behind branding is a huge part of my life and I find that it's applicable in many ways. 

One thing that I think will be to my advantage as I finish my book and begin to peddle it around to agents and publishers is that I understand that my book is a product.  

Now, I know.  Authors are artists and they want their book appreciated for the masterpiece it is.  But let's face it, the publisher wants to make money - and they want to continue to make money in the future with the new author they pick up.  This means when they sign a new author, the publisher is making an investment.  When this happens, the author themselves becomes a brand.  That is to say, they should become a brand.   

How can a person be a brand?
 
Well, I'll tell you.  It's the same as any business. 
It takes research and attractively packaging products and services, or in this case, your abilities and assets in such a way that differentiates you from the competition, other authors.  

Once you have a niche or have found that sweet spot of "white space" for yourself (and this could include a unique writing style, a specific topic or audience you focus on, etc.), you position yourself as an expert to your target audience.  

If you write about teenage werewolves, or historical fiction or you really understand the dynamics of generation Y, you probably have a specific group of people who love to read what you are an expert on.  Some groups are larger than others, but if the group exists, they will read what you have to say.  And once you have a captive audience, keep writing to them.  

Now does this mean that you're stuck writing the same thing forever?  No.  That could get old really fast.  But if the "you" brand is to be a strong one, stick with it for a while.  Be consistent.  Give the readers what they want.    

As an unpublished hopeful, be the most appealing asset to publishers as you can possibly be.    

1.  Be an expert.  

2.  Be consistent.

3.  Know how to promote yourself.  Whether in person, through a query letter or through social media, you should know what makes you and your story special and how to communicate that.  

4.  Educate yourself on publishing so that you come across as a confident, educated author that can just dive right in. 

5.  Be ready to pitch at all times.  You never know who you'll meet or when.  Preparation is what most people mistake as "luck."

6.  Consider taking some public speaking classes and get good at being off the cuff in front of a lot of people or cameras.  With some practice, this shouldn't be too difficult- and this also helps further differentiate yourself from the competition because many people have a debilitating fear of speaking in public. 
"So mister publisher, you could actually put me on a book tour or a talk 
show and I won't freeze.  I can personally promote my book."  
Extra brownie points.       

7.  This is all on top of having a great story to tell that is well-written.  Because we all know that a brand is nothing if the product isn't good.  


A callous way of looking at it?  Or realistic?  Let me know what you think.  

Please vote on my book poll if you get a chance. 

Thanks for reading, 

L



  




 





Friday, July 10, 2009

My characters are pieces of me

Ava is the main character of my story. 
She is quite different from me, but there are definitely relatable parts of her personality.  
There's a scene where she meets a cute surfer, and well, I think she is an average teenager - it was fun remembering that phase of life- the butterflies, the awkwardness...  She is trying to deal with things that many teens go through and at the same time, she is dealing with some that not very many people experience until much later in life, (like the death of a close family member).  

I mentioned in my last post that I personally was holding her back from doing what she should because it wasn't what I would do.  It was a growing experience for both of us, and sort of like allowing my child to make her own choices.  Pretty scary and cool at the same time.    
   

I also have this character that's very bulbously pregnant, but she's still this amazing fighter even with her humongous belly.  I love her.  She's strong and crazy and - well, I'm not much like her, but there are some things that I really envy in her personality which is why I think I like her so much.  

It's strange how my characters are somehow all pieces of me or parts of me that I wish I had.  

The relationship that I've depicted between the brother and the sister is derived from my own experience with my brother.  Of course, it's different enough that I'm not re-telling our own stories, but that emotion is still there, that connection is still there, even though they are twins. 
I think that's why the siblings had to be a brother and a sister for me to really get it right.  

They say "write what you know," and there's little things in all of my scenes or characters that are a very real part of me or my life.  

My husband started reading my story without my knowledge.  He told me something interesting.  That the Grampa character I've written reminds him of Robert Redford -that's who he visualizes when he reads the part.  I thought "that's awesome!"  It was not at all what I intended, but I see where he's coming from.  It's really cool to have someone else's experience and thoughts meld with my own and create this very real experience for Matt that is unique to him.  
Who knows?  Maybe we can persuade Robert Redford to play the part in the movie!  Ha!  I would just die of happiness.  

The character is really caring and involved.  Both of my biological grandfathers passed away some time ago and I don't really feel that I was mature enough to know them truly well.  It's sort of the relationship I would have liked to have had, I think.    

There's also several characters with accents.  Anyone who knows me from way back when would probably know that I'm obsessed with accents.  In fact, when I started writing, the voice I wrote in was not my own, but an idealized one - one that sounded smarter and much more articulate.  It's funny to me - I think I was not sure of myself and really lacked confidence at the beginning of writing the book.  Again, a growing process.  


Last weekend I had my second story/writing critique.  It's all going well.  People were actually asking to see my rough-draft manuscript because they didn't want to wait to find out what happens.  I am totally floored and really very flattered.
One group member, who I had never met before, said the piece was really well written and easy to read.        

Of course, I think I need to go through at least one round of revisions to each bit before I can let people read it.  There's too much going on in my head that isn't on paper, or in my case, on screen, just yet.  There are still things that people pick up on that are not consistent or that require a little more thought.  Gosh, I don't know what I would do without the group's help. Really is a top-notch bunch of writers and I really respect their opinions.     

Anyway, there are definitely things that are opposite of my life in the book, but I think people who know me will be able to have plenty of "Aha!" moments and may even find bits of themselves within the pages.  

The way the book is now, the mother character is really quite cold - which is absolutely opposite of my Mom.   So, Mom, when you read the book, THAT character is not you!  

 Thanks for reading! 
Let me know your vote if you get a chance.  

L





Thursday, July 9, 2009

Procrastination

Procrastination is an ugly little habit many writers deal with in their careers.  
And yes, I do believe it is a habit; which means that ultimately the pattern of waiting until the last minute to finish something or never doing it at all can be broken. 

I have warring tendencies in my nature that a) want to plan everything out and be prepared for every scenario possible in as many areas of my life as I can and b) wants to put everything off until...well, forever really.  It's really quite confusing and a bit embarrassing that I seem to be a walking contradiction of myself.    

It depends on the activity of course that determines how much procrastination takes hold.  
If I ever feel as though I HAVE to do whatever it is, the more likely I will put it off until the last possible moment.  If, of course, it is an extra curricular activity that I really WANT to do, it gets done first, and then I regret having finished it so quickly and not taking my time to savor the moment.  

Three weeks ago, I volunteered to submit a piece for my writer's group for critique.  Since I began, no one has gone twice, and I submitted my first time somewhere in the middle of the pack.  I volunteered because our numbers have dwindled a bit during the summer months and no one else was willing to put their hat in the ring.  So I thought "this is great," we're skipping the weekend we would normally meet due to the 4th of July weekend and I'll have an extra week to really have a stellar submission - really knock their socks off."
Oh, you think I would know myself by now...

I had so much time to do everything right and you know what happened?  I had a recovering puppy with his hurt leg and vet appointments, family in town, brand new job, 4th of July plans, helped paint my friend's condo, read a couple of books, worked on our house reconstruction, our 3 year anniversary, birthday parties, copywriting for the new job...
A WHOLE LIST of things I either had to do or that took the place of sitting down and working on my critique submission.  
Was there time in the midst of all of this to write?  Of course there was.  And what did I do?  Write a little, but not focusing on the task at hand. 

I had initially set out to finish this book, get an agent and get a publisher all before the end of the 2009 calendar year.  A goal that I think I should still shoot for (so I have a deadline), but one that I am quickly beginning to realize is almost a laughable feat.  Can it be done?  Sure!  Can I do it is an entirely different question.  One that we will just have to see about. 

So - that is what I'm struggling with currently.  And it seems that when I air out my difficulties, it motivates me through shame and the fear of failure to actually turn myself around.  So here goes nothing - I hope this works!  

Here's my current situation:  
I am hovering at right around 52,000 words at the moment.  My goal is to reach around 90,000 words in my rough draft and then whatever the final word count is, I'm fine with.  
To finish the rough draft alone in 2009, I need to be writing around 2,000 words a week.  
That's 400 new words a day, if I write 5 days out of the 7.  That's totally doable, right??  I think I can do it.  But that's just the rough draft.  Polishing the book is going to take a significant amount of time and stick-to-it-iv-ness, as my Mom would say.  

Okay.  That's enough of that for now.  

Here's some other life-updates: 


Axle doing his silly "Pooh-bear sit"

-Axle is healing quickly and doing really well.  Matt and I took him to the vet today to get his stitches out and the surgeon who performed the surgery praised him on how well he was doing. 

-My new job is as a Brand Manager with a company called Brand Iron.  You can check out what we do here:  www.brandiron.net

-Matt is working almost every night on the house and it's slowly getting done.  The downstairs bath is almost complete (minus the baseboards, crown moulding and the mirror).  We've taken inspiration from a photo my sister-in-law took while she and my brother were in Greece.  It looks great.  I am so proud of Matt and can't wait to share some pics of it when it's complete.  Our house is going to look amazing.    

Pistol, in a reusable grocery bag

-Our youngest pet, a 2 year old short haired tiger striped tabby named Pistol was picked up by a hawk this week.  I was outside clipping the hedges when she spontaneously fell from the sky.  Matt saw her land in an area that was not exactly a normal place for her to fall from (no trees overhead).  The hawk glided up into a nearby tree to wait as she scampered off into the bushes.  The hawk glided off his perch and headed straight for Matt, or so it seemed:  Ty (our 4 year old cat) was in the grass behind him.  
If the bird thought he could pick him up, he is crazy, or really really hungry; either of which is not really a good combination for our cats.  
Pistol and Ty are both fine, surprisingly healthy, but pretty resentful about being confined to the inside of the house for now.  Their cries for freedom are pretty pitiful and hard to ignore.     
 
 -My older brother passed his P.E. exam (Professional Engineer) on the first try.  I guess only 50% of the applicants who take the test make it on the first time around, so we're really proud of him.  Congratulations B!  

-His son, (my nephew) is walking now - scratch that, running.  He's keeping his mommy and daddy on their toes for sure.  I hear that he has forgotten that he still needs to go down the stairs a bit lower to the ground and that he's feeling so confident in his new skill that he's fallen twice now.  Isn't that how we learn?  I imagine he'll be talking soon.  But, if he's anything like his dad, he'll only speak when there's something really worth saying.  And that's okay.  It's just fun (for a chatter box like me) to watch him grow and await the day when he can communicate exactly what he means with words.  

If you're still reading this, and you have a moment, please feel free to take my little poll about the book.  I think that this will really help (when this eventually becomes more of a blog about writing and my book).  

Thanks!  

L




 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Digital Conversion Reveals the Truth About People

This week has been going fairly well with the digital conversion. 

The past 10 days have been an incredible learning experience for me.  I have learned a lot about myself and other people.    

I have been thanked repeatedly, cussed out for no reason at all, asked if I could transfer a caller to a man because he doubted a woman could help, cried on, built up, torn down, harassed, felt triumphant, been humbled, learned a lot, made some mistakes, been accused of not understanding English, told people exactly what they needed to know and told people news they didn't want to hear.  

I have dealt with Americans who are so angry at the government that they want me to somehow transfer them to the top of the food chain at the FCC or to President Obama himself to make a complaint.  I have spoken with the kind hearted who sought me out so they can compliment the agents who walked them through setting up their converter boxes and channel scans.  I have spoken to people who don't care what I have to say, they just want to say their piece and vent to someone about "me" taking away their TV.  Some are irate, some are frustrated, some are grateful for the help we've provided, but they all call because they are having difficulty with the change in broadcast signals.

It's interesting how something like this really indicates our truest basic nature.  I believe that it is how we choose to react to the worst situations that makes us who we truly are, and the reality is sometimes not what we expected.        

One caller decided that the only way to get what he wanted was to scream profanities at and belittle one of my agents until the call was reluctantly transfered to me.  The caller acted as though we were trying to keep him from receiving his TV signals.  He thought that he would get a "better" answer the higher up the totem pole he went.  He behaved appallingly, and still got the same answers.  If only he had been willing to listen.    

One brazen woman accused one of my agents with an accent of "taking away American jobs."  I wish I had been on the call to explain that just because someone doesn't sound like you does not mean they are not an American citizen.  The agent is an American, but it shouldn't matter.  It makes my blood boil that a caller would feel it is her place to say something hateful to a person who is helping her, a person she knows nothing about. 
Shame on you, voicest woman!  

On another occasion, one poor man was having a difficult time receiving channels at all because he lived far away from any towers and his home was surrounded by a thickly forested area.  He was frustrated, but he was nothing but courteous to the agent trying her best to find a solution to his problem.  I remember him distinctly because it was so refreshing to deal with someone who was actually nice.    

I think now more than ever, in our "instant gratification culture," it is becoming more rare to see people with a little patience, a little empathy and a little self control when it comes to things that don't go our way perfectly.  

I don't necessarily mean this be about me wagging my finger at some people who were screaming curse words so loudly into the phone that the receiver was vibrating in my ears; but rather about me taking a step back to examine what I've been learning from this situation and sharing it with those of you who read this. 

What do you think?  

Are people today so absorbed with what they're going through that they can't (as it was so aptly put in "Mary Poppins") "see past the end of their nose?"

What will be in store for our future if all we ever think about "me" and what's mine?
__________________________________________________________________

Oh, and of course, I am happy to answer any questions you have about the transition.  ; ) 

Here's some key websites:  


You can find almost everything you'd need to know on here and there's new updates all the time.  





Monday, June 1, 2009

Temporary Position

Hi all, 
Just wanted to let you all know that I have accepted a temporary position as a supervisor for TeleTech to aid in the final transition to digital TV this month.  
I will be managing about 20 people and should be working some pretty crazy hours. 

The lady in HR who interviewed me felt I might be a good candidate for other permanent positions once they become available, so that was encouraging.  
I'm hoping that I'll find I actually like working at this company and that it's a "trial by fire" where I really shine and they want to keep me on.  

The pay is quite good for a temporary position, but the shifts will be from 6:30AM - 3:00 or from 3:30 to Midnight - and my schedule is really not set ever (I will work on weekends and I'm never certain of what days I have off).  I would be on call to change my plans at a moment's notice.  
I can do anything for a short amount of time, but I won't really be able to see much of Matt unless I get the morning shift.  We'll see.  

The schedule is really my only hesitancy.  Other than that, I'll be working again, learning some new skills and managing a good sized group of varying personalities.  Should be quite enlightening.  

   


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Update: Axle is healing, Tanner is ONE and our granite

Here's a short update on a couple of things:  

Puppy got his stitches out today!  2 weeks post-op.  He is lookin' good!  (This photo was taken the first day after surgery - so the swelling and bruising has gone down.)  He's so strong now, it's difficult keeping him from pulling on his leash.  



Tanner is ONE year old!  Here he is on his first trip to the aquarium.  He can barely stay in his seat!




Tanner wanting to swim with the fishes.  (Sting ray, actually.) 




Tanner enjoying his first taste of spaghetti.  (He cried when he was presented with his yellow cake / chocolate icing birthday cake - I guess the icing was too gooey and messy!)  No matter...the more for the rest of us.  He doesn't know what he's missing yet.   



Tanner showing Bryan a big leopard at the zoo.  



We were all mesmerized by this beautiful show of feathers.  


Here's our granite for the bathroom vanities.  Matt really wanted something orange, lighter in overall color with a lot of movement.  I didn't want orange...but we found this one and both liked it.  This'll go on top of two different colors of cherry wood vanities.   


That's the update for now.    
More later.  

L

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Social Networking Tools

Things are changing so quickly with technology and communication, it's difficult to keep up; but I fear that if we do not make an effort to adapt, we'll all be left in the dust.  

I've been trying to encourage fellow authors who want to promote their books to get a handle on social networking tools like blogging, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.  There are many other sources out there, of course, but these are the ones that I seem to be able to manage at the moment with everything else going on.  

I am still learning about all of the features and possibilities these things have to offer, but what I do know is that these tools give us the ability to communicate quickly and effectively to those we're connected to.  

I'm sure you've noticed that I have Twitter updates on my blog and that I always tweet that I have a new blog post.  This is a way for me to let people I know on Facebook and Twitter that I've written something I'd like them to read.  It's a way to drive traffic to the blog.  (Yes, you can link your Twitter to your blog and to your Facebook profile status.)   

I think the biggest thing that holds people back from using these tools is that they don't understand what they're for or how to use them.  What I'm discovering in adults around their 40s and above, is that there is a huge apprehension to these changes and advances in technology.  And, as I said before, if you don't jump on it now, it's only going to get more confusing because people take the technology that's out there currently and build on it for future advancements.

This is a huge portion of what Internet Marketing is becoming today.  So those of you with businesses need to know how to apply social networking to building your business and communicating with your consumers.  I know for many, it seems complicated and intimidating, but once you play around with it a bit, it's really useful and yes, can even be fun. 

I'm sure that most of the people who read blogs already know all about this stuff, but there are some regular readers of mine who really are hyperventilating right now.  (You know who you are.)  And that's okay.  Take a deep breath.  Just know that you're not going to push the wrong button on your computer and set off a bomb.  It's okay to try things and play with these applications until you really understand how to use them.  And no one thinks you're stupid for no knowing how to use this stuff or what it's for - just ask someone (like me!).  
I had to ask questions at first too.  We all did.  

Some of you may not even be interested in social networking.  I remember when I was in college, I heard about Facebook and I wondered "what do I need that for?  My friends already know what I'm up to."  But it's fore more than just the small circle you talk to on a regular basis.  It's a way to stay in touch with your family and friends who you may not see or speak to much at all - and in that way, it increases the flow of communication exponentially.

My Grandmother is on Facebook.  She doesn't go on there very often, but it's a way to communicate with her nine grandchildren and find out what we're up to.  Even though users may not share everything with the Facebook community, we give enough to where there's a pretty accurate picture of who we are and what we're up to.  

Now I can know moment to moment what's happening across the country with my cousins or on different continents with other family members and friends; and that's pretty awesome.

So - anyone with questions?  I'm happy to help.  
I can think of several of you who may not even know what questions to ask.  And at that point, just say, "where do I start?"  




  








Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Show and Not Tell

For my writing critique group, we meet in a coffee shop every other weekend to discuss the writings of two of the group's members.  But last weekend, it was a warm, beautiful day and there was a fire alarm so we decided to sit outside.    
The two previous days, I did yard work and I diligently wore my sunscreen.  I was so proud of myself that I was finally being responsible with my skin; I was so happy I hadn't burned.  On Saturday, I wasn't expecting to sit outside for a couple of hours, and I was not armored with my 30 SPF.

I am now a lobster.  Red as I can be.  But just on my shoulders and chest, so I look like a red and white zebra!  Today is the first day I can really lift my shoulders fully (but not without pain).        

On Saturday, it was my turn to have my first critique with the writing group.  

I was nervous to show the first round of my first novel to anyone, let alone a group of writers.  
I did try and clean up the first draft a bit before I submitted the first 20 pages, but there's still a lot of my book to finish, so things will probably change once I get to the final stages and complete the manuscript.

The overall impression I got from my colleagues was that they liked the story.  
They liked the beginning a lot - I got a lot of compliments on that, so that was very encouraging.  
I was glad to learn that there are some things I can do to make my writing stronger; specifically, using the "Show and Not Tell" technique.

Rather than saying "the water was freezing,"  I should say something like "her numb fingers clung to the keel of the capsized sailboat."  
Talking about "numb fingers" indicates that the water was freezing without actually saying it.   
This way, my story become more engaging and creates a more vivid image in the minds of my readers.  

I did do a lot of "show and not tell," in the story but I hadn't consciously made the decision to do that.  It just sort of came out that way.  

I know that when I go through and edit my story, I will be a lot more deliberate in how I deliver a scene, but if I can finish the book with this in mind, I won't have so much to fix when I go back through in my second draft.  

I do want to be careful to not make every single sentence SO flowery and rich that it becomes difficult to read and it's still my unique style.  I think there's a balance I need to achieve.  Sometimes I do want a short, succinct telling, indicating a fact without room for interpretation.  I think there are times when that could be very useful.  

There are many things that I don't know about writing.  I just know what I like and how I want to tell my story.  Do I know what a dangling participle is when I'm writing?  No, not really.  And I do want to learn that, but for now, I need to finish the first draft and then worry about grammar.  

I may come to the conclusion that I don't really care if everything is grammatically correct.  
Maybe I want it to sound more natural, like the way people actually talk.

It's all up to me.  It's my book and I can write it however I want.  I think that's the main thing to remember when getting critiqued.  

I was at Michael Kintz's book signing a couple of weeks ago (a writer in the group), and I met his publisher, EJ Thornton, of Thornton Publishing.   She said something to me that really helped: 
"Critiques don't have anything to do with the writer, they have to do with the person who is critiquing the writing."  
She explained that each person has their own hang ups and things they look for in their own writing and project those feelings into how they critique the work of others.  
This is something I will hang on to.  It helps me not be so sensitive when others tell me something I may not find particularly nice.  It's just their opinion.  I take what I want from the critique and leave the rest.     

Thankfully, everyone in the group was really encouraging and I am no longer scared to share my work with people.  I think this is a much healthier place than I was in about critiques and writing only a month or two ago.  I've learned so much in a short amount of time and I am so grateful for that.  

Update on Axle: 
We picked him up at the hospital today.  His left rear leg was opporated on with a proceedure called "TPLO" - it basically fixes the angle of his leg since he ruptured his CCL (dog version of the human ACL).  His meniscus was not damaged, so that is a HUGE blessing.  He is bruised and on pain medication, but he's already putting a little weight on the leg, so Matt and I are encouraged.  

House Update:
We are really starting to see things happen in the house.  We got our doors back, Matt laid the new subfloor, we picked out materials for the floors, cabinets, paint, granite, and took out a few walls while we were at it.  It's amazing what small changes can do to change the flow of a room.  We are really excited to get past the drywall phase, but we're not quite there yet.  I'll post pics as soon as there's something interesting to share.  ; )   

Happy 30th Birthday today to my big brother Bryan!!  I love you!  

Oh, and my nephew Tanner turns 1 in a couple of days too!  I can't believe it!   



   

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update on the last post

Hello all! 
Today has been an interesting one to be sure.  
This afternoon, Axle had seizure #5.  That's right, since the last post, Axle has had three more seizures.  That's a lot in the past 18 days.  Too many.
  
Right now, I am perched over our sleeping dog and writing about him.  I feel like an overprotective mother hen sitting on her egg.  The seizures don't seem to hurt.  But I feel awful watching him go through that without being able to really help.  

Our little egg:


Today, he seized on the subfloor of our entryway. 
We had asbestos in the linoleum under our Pergo, so we have been out of the house for a few days during the abatement.  When we returned home, we found large chunks missing from the subfloor.  Half an inch deep in some places.  The floor is not really safe to walk on in some spots and is really rough.  

This is what the floor looks like.  Not really a good representation of the chunks missing, but you get the idea.


This is what the kitchen looks like: 



Other things have happened since the last post.  Both good and bad. 
Matt's Dad is at home, wearing a neck brace and trying to do too much too soon.  But that is the way of the Brenkle.  If they're not working, they're dead.  I am just so thankful that he is beginning his recovery!  

Matt and I have begun picking out new floors and carpet to replace what was damaged.  So far, so good.  But it's not an immediate process.  
We're thinking of doing an engineered Tigerwood (Brazilian Koa) for the kitchen, entryway and in the adjacent family room.  

Any good or bad stories on that?  

Matt will be doing all of the reconstruction in the house - so it will be a good opportunity for him to showcase some of his talents and to use the money estimated for labor to do little upgrades with the materials we're choosing.  

We've also had the opportunity to spend some time with our nephew, Tanner.  
Here he is in all of his adorable glory:  

He'll be one year old next month.  I can't believe it!  He's almost walking too.  I'm not really ready for that phase, but I guess I have to accept it.  The question is, are his parents ready?  Ha! We'll see.  

I am waiting to hear back on a job that I really want.  I feel like it would be a really good fit and a great company to work for, so I have my fingers crossed.  

I am also submitting next week for my writer's group for the first time.  I am nervous and excited to get feedback on my story.  
Matt actually just started "secretly" reading my rough draft and said he was impressed.  That makes me very happy to have his support.  I guess he didn't really know what to expect.  And I didn't know he was reading it!  Sneaky!  
I don't mind that he read it.  It actually takes the edge off of other's critiquing what I've written.

Anyway, there's a lot going on right now, sorry it took me so long to give you an update.
I hope all is well in your world! 

Lauren  

 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bad Things Happen in Threes, Right?

Greetings from my bedside table. I can't sleep.  It's hot and humid in my room, my husband is in another state visiting his Dad who was bucked off his horse on Sunday and broke his neck; our house flooded on Tuesday and now all three levels are missing various flooring, ceiling, drywall, etc.;  and at 2:20AM this morning, my dog Axle had seizure number two.  

I can guess at the cause, since the last time he had a seizure was just under a month ago and the animal hospital couldn't find anything wrong with our boy that was very obvious.

I am hoping this ends the string of unfortunate events for our family, but am beginning to prepare myself for more despite the saying that "bad things happen in threes."

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining - it's just that these circumstances are so incredible that I feel the need to share them with you.  

I have yet to give a full account of what's happening at the house and demolition, but here's some fun pictures to illustrate:  

Restoration crew member ripping up our kitchen floor-



View of kitchen floors being dried out - that's a very attractive linoleum that was hidden under our Pergo!
Where the kitchen dining area light fixture was (much of the water collected and funneled out through the fixture onto our kitchen table and the floor).

You can see how wet the drywall was!


It's hard to see from this angle, but the crew had to remove a lot of the ceiling to get rid of all the contaminated moisture.


  








Monday, April 6, 2009

Ignorant Americans?

I'm working on a bit of the book (it's actually just one tiny little paragraph that's bugging me) and I thought I'd ask your opinion.  

I have the main character, Ava looking at some old books.  Some of the titles are in Spanish and French.  She is a "typical" American teen in a "typical" American high school.  
Do you think she should be able to understand one or both of these languages?  Or neither?  

I personally took four years of Spanish in high school and could have probably worked it out on some level (though I am not fluent by any means) and I know many people took one or the other language at some point (or possibly another language like German or Mandarin), but I think those are the two main ones that are taught in high school today, right?  

If this book is published and just for fun, let's just say it gets published in other languages, would it perpetuate the stereotype that Americans are ignorant of the world's languages? 
I personally feel that I do not know as much as I should to be able to communicate effectively with the world.  

Many Americans have become very comfortable in our position of power.  We often feel that we do not need to learn another language since so many people from other countries are already learning English and can communicate just fine.  Is it right to wait for all of the world come to us?  To English?  

Here's the big question for the book:  Do I make the character a tiny bit educated in another language (but not fluent?); should she be  a prodigy who just "gets it" with language?  Or is it more realistic to make her only language English?  

What do you think?  


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pray for Tom

Good evening. 
For all of you who read this, I could really use your prayers tonight. 
Matt's Dad was in an accident with his horse today.  He was bucked off and the fall broke his neck.  
Thankfully, he is not paralyzed.  But further testing is needed tonight to determine how extensive the damage is and what needs to be done to repair it.  
Tom was in front of the house when the horse threw him off.  Natalie was home and heard their dog barking more urgently than normal.  

He was very lucky that he was not out on the Ranch alone when this happened, but like most Brenkle men, he is made of some pretty stern stuff.  I believe he could have probably marched himself to the hospital if he had to. 

I will keep you all posted on what is happening, but for now, just keep him in your prayers.  

Thank you! 

Lauren   

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The problem with characters

I am working on the first draft of my first novel and hope to have it completed by the end of May.  If I miss my deadline, I won't be too hard on myself, but it is good to have goals in place to keep the story moving.  

Right now, I'm hovering around 40,000 words - which is a good chunk of the book (it's about 175 Word doc pages), but apparently, in the world of publishing and "real" authors, you are supposed to speak in terms of how many words you've written, not pages.  When the book is published, the pages are all different sizes, so it's impossible to know how many pages the book will have once it's actually printed.  

My goal in the end is to have a polished 90-95k words in my manuscript, so I'm almost half way there.  

I've just come from a writer's meeting, so I'm jazzed about getting back into it.  It's a nice encouragement to be around other writers.  We all feed off each other's energy and what we've learned since we met last.  We all have different genres and motivations, but the overarching goal is the same:  to be published authors.  Some in the group already are, and that's a huge comfort for those of us who are striving to become published.  

We all have our own unique perspectives and backgrounds.  We all had something different happen to us today that colors the mood we're in.  So, in a way, we're all like characters in a book.  In this story, the characters have all convened in one place, united by the single purpose of getting published.  And it's really cool.  Some people are helpful.  Some are cynical, overwhelmed or curious.  Some well-versed in the publishing world and are focused on "giving back."  Each meeting is steered a different direction just based on who shows up.  It alters what questions are asked and how everyone responds.  It changes the story.   

I am at a point in my book where the pace is really starting to pick up.  There's a lot happening and a lot that needs to happen and it's difficult because I still don't have a full understanding of my characters.  It was brought up in the class today, and I guess that's normal to have questions about our characters as we get to know them throughout the course of the book.  I thought I was prepared before I began, but apparently not.  I have a Power Point presentation with all of the characters and who they are, what they look like, etc in a slide or two that is supposed to define them to me.  I may know their eye color and all the names of their extended family, but there's something missing.  I don't always know what they're going to say or do.      

I have about 150 characters right now - some have not yet been used (and won't be because some are family members who have passed on), some have made small appearances so far, and some are central to the story.  The only problem is, I sort of started to fall in love with some of these characters and their back stories, so now, I have an infinite number of ways my story can go.  AND there's that issue of keeping the story focused and meaningful.  If I tell too much, I think I would definitely lose momentum.  

There are characters in the story who are really good on the inside, but they make terrible mistakes or decisions that change the course of the story.  

My story is about a young teenage girl named Ava.  She has already endured a lot at her age.  She has lost her twin brother (whose name I am currently thinking of changing).  Not only that, but she feels that the reason he is gone is because of a disobedient decision she made.   So not only is there pain, but now there's guilt.  Every person I know would deal with these powerful feeling differently.  Ava shuts down.  She doesn't enjoy things she used to; she even avoids them.   

At some point, Ava has to change.  Her life and her story must move forward.    

She begins to take control of her situation.  She begins to act, rather than just watch.  As she does this, her fears and insecurities slowly begin to disappear.  We begin to see her as she used to be before her brother died, but with a new perspective.     

What I'm working on right now is making sure that this doesn't happen too quickly or slowly.  I got bogged down by the depressed version of Ava and wouldn't allow her to change.  I was writing a scene that would inspire curiosity in most people, but she played it safe.  She didn't want to investigate.  And I started to think:  if the character doesn't feel like being interested, would the reader be?  Am I robbing the story of a greater possibility because I am not ready to let go of the sad, unengaged Ava?    

I needed to let her branch out into a more dynamic character.   But it wasn't easy.  

I physically had to step away from my computer, take some time and think about it.  Should she follow the person in the shadows or wait for help?  Follow her curiosity or stay safe?  

It's interesting because I find that the problem with characters is within myself.  It's my lack of understanding or willingness to allow them to change and grow.  It's the struggle between what I might do and what the character would do.  
  
I guess I would compare it to being a parent.  When a new situation comes up, you may not automatically know how to handle it, so it's easy to hold onto the old way of doing things.  At some point you have to give them a little slack and let them write their own story and, at times, make mistakes. 

And that's what's happening.  Once I allowed Ava to change, I have found that things are happening more organically in the story.  It's exciting to watch the story change.   
And I am growing and changing as an author.

It's strange how that works.  

All I can say is that I'm really loving this process.  I am stretching my imagination.  I have learned so much already, and I haven't even scratched the surface.    





   

Friday, March 27, 2009

Playing in the Snow

We woke up this morning, put on our snow gear and trekked out into the park by our house.  
We had so much FUN!

The snow was pretty deep - up to Axle's chest in some parts of the park.  
He was running as fast as he could, rolling in the snow, plowing through it, throwing it up in the air and catching it in his mouth.  So funny.  He's never been in snow this deep before.    

It hasn't snowed very much this year, and it FINALLY really came down yesterday.    

Me and Axle having fun:

Axle and Matt playing in the snow:

He looks so cute in his puppy pack!

Matt and Axle running in the park.


When we got home, we shook out the pine tree on ourselves with Axle close by.  I wish I had a picture of that with all of our lashes white with snow and the dog looking a little bewildered.  What a great start to our day!    


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Beyonce Defending Her Curves??

Are you serious? 
Is someone out there actually demanding that a sexy, beautiful and talented star like Beyonce defend the shape of her body?!? 

I am saddened that this is such an issue, but it will give me a chance to speak out against a sickness that has been plaguing our country.  Our obsession defining beauty only being in the form of rail-thin women must stop.

Since when is "curvy" a four-letter word?  Since when is size 10 considered "plus sized?" Well, that's what it is in the modeling industry, which is just ridiculous.  And I love how people use the P.C. phrase "full figured," to describe a woman they feel is a bit overweight.  It doesn't mean "overweight," of course, but it's the way people say it that clues me in to their real meaning.  

Why are people not judging us by our character?  Why are we subjected to public scrutiny if our body does not fit a very tiny "ideal."  Who comes up with these ideals anyway? 
 
I can see wanting to be healthy and toned by not over eating and maintaining regular exercise, but demanding that we are a certain size?  That's like saying, oh, I'm sorry, you're not a blond or you don't have blue eyes.  Or, your skin is too light or too dark.  Can we say Nazis?  

Hello!  Women are SUPPOSED to have fat.  Women are SUPPOSED to have curves.  Ever wonder why super skinny / super active women do not have regular periods?  It's because they do not have enough fat on their bodies!  When a woman's body fat drops below a certain critical level, her body changes.  The estrogen production actually decreases to pre-puberty levels!    

You may say - well, this is just the rant of a woman who doesn't fit the size 4 and below ideal.  I have to say I have never been a size 4 and will never be that small no matter what.  I am not built that way.  But I also have a pretty positive body image.  Sure, I want to be healthier and stronger, and yes, as a result, less cellulite and a lower percentage of body fat.  But my size does not define who I am or my self-worth.  

I believe that as long as I strive to take care of myself:  feeding my body good food; giving my body good exercise; feeding my mind; being true to myself; knowing who I am and what I want; that makes me a woman, a force to be reckoned with, not some weight-obsessed waif who only believes her worth lies in the hands of those who care nothing more for her than what she looks like.  Yes!  I blame women for giving others this power to tell us how we should feel about ourselves.      

Ahem.  My rant is almost over.  I only have left to say that so many of our nation's youth and adults, for that matter, struggle with their self-image as a result of people telling them they aren't good enough because of their weight.  Look at all the people with eating disorders.  I can't deny that I believe there would be eating disorders regardless of the media objectifying women and telling us that we need to look a certain way to be beautiful, but I think that it is multiplied exponentially by the images we see and the opinions of those we look to for guidance.  

It makes me furious that people out there actually believe that they are qualified and entitled to judge people like that.  And then the rest of us tend to follow suit and think it's okay for us to make these kinds of deductions.  I myself have been guilty of saying things like "whoa, she should not be wearing that," when I've seen an overweight woman wearing a bikini and strutting her stuff on a beach.  What I should have been saying is "good for you!"  If she feels confident and beautiful in her own skin and wants a good tan, more power to her.  
    
If "skinny" is all people use as a template for judging a person's worth, then I believe their own insecurities are being transferred to those they pass judgement on and that's sad.  

Hey, for those of you who need a reminder of what the world through the ages has thought about women with full figures:  

Venus of Willendorf:  24,000-22,000 B.C. - a representation of fertility, femininity and beauty.



Marilyn Monroe:  reportedly a size 12-14 - a woman just oozing sex appeal.


And of course, the woman who should remain exactly as she is: (tell me she doesn't look good).

Looking good at every angle ... Beyonce


I'm not going to say that "real women have curves," because it's not about your exterior that defines who you are as a person.  

I think that statement is just as shallow as believing that you have to be thin.  Some women are thin no matter what they eat; it's their genetics AND it doesn't mean they're healthy.   

Some people may think that it's not realistic to focus only on inner beauty, and perhaps they're right because that's not the only thing we see when we initially look at a person - but there has to be a way to keep young women from believing that they would be much better off in this world if they were outwardly beautiful instead of smart, kind or talented.  We should be teaching our kids about their contribution to this world and how to make it a better place, not just praising them on how pretty or how handsome they are.  

I read something a long time ago that discussed the psychology of influence; and a woman was more persuasive if she had an attractive personality rather than if she was physically attractive. 

Just stuck with me.    


BTW, I think what Dove has been doing with their current "Campaign for Real Beauty" really hits a sweet spot for women out there.  The advertising side of me realizes that their using this emotional connection to sell product.  But when a company really understands their market and takes steps to walk their talk (like putting programs in place to boost teen self-esteem) - they deserve to sell more soap!





  

Monday, March 16, 2009

Puppy Has a Seizure

I am still flustered.  
My puppy, Axle, had a seizure today.  
It was the first one I've ever seen a dog have.  

When I realized something was wrong, I thought he was just scratching his belly, but the tags on his collar were jingling too much.  I called his name.  He didn't respond.  I went over to him.  
His legs were sticking out and rigid.  He was on his bed, his mouth was open, he was gasping for breath, his head was under the couch and he had peed all over the place.  I moved him out into the open so he wouldn't hurt himself under the couch.  

We rushed him to the Animal Hospital.  We had blood work done - and the results showed no abnormalities in the blood or his urine.  Everything was normal, which indicates an exterior cause or no real "cause" at all.  Apparently, that happens a lot more often than not.  

We need to watch him now and keep a "Puppy Journal," to make sure we track EVERYTHING that happened today with the dog in case it happens again.  That way, they might be able to deduce a possible cause from any common factors.          

It was really scary and I hope it never happens again.  
But we'll be watching him extra close for a while.  He's at my feet right now.  I think the smell of his bed/ the area where his bed has some bad memories.    

I'm still pretty shaken up...and Matt is too.  

Even our cat Ty, seems to be acting a little more vigilant around the dog.  



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Antibacterial Soap

Yes!  Once again my hubby is HOME! 
He was only gone for a week and a half this time, but I was sick for a week of that time, which made our separation feel like forever!  
When we talked on the phone, we swore we wouldn't kiss each other either so he doesn't catch anything - but once we saw each other, that was out the window.  
He says it was worth it, and that's so sweet, but I wonder if he really knows what he might be in for.  

I still have a sore throat.  
I went out ONE night with my girlfriends and apparently picked something up while in Denver because three days later I had the beginnings of an illness that kicked my butt.  I should have washed my hands more.  Grrrr.  
Since I've been staying home a lot, my immune system isn't used to outside germs anymore.  So, it's kind of like being a kindergarten teacher, I guess.  You know, when they start teaching, they're sick all the time because they're around little kids that have no concept of hygiene?
Yes, if only my sickness was because I was hanging out with fun little kids.  

It was no fun lying in bed for four days straight and then "taking it easy" on the couch on day five.  My poor puppy was full of energy and just begging for me to play with him.  
I did for maybe five minutes when I felt like I could manage; but it made me so tired that it never lasted for long and landed me right back in bed needing a nap. 
My girlfriend Keely and her mom Jennifer came over like the angels they are walked the dog right in the middle of being out of commission.  
How sweet is that? 

My Mom came over and made me potato soup a
nd cornbread and watched a movie with me on day five.  Hopefully I don't get her sick, but the fever was long gone and I wasn't coughing much.  We disinfected all the surfaces and light switches and everything with wipes that supposedly kill cold and flu viruses.  I sprayed everything down with Lysol before she came over too, so it better work!  I repeated the routine today before I left for the airport to pick up Matt - but what's the point if he kisses me and sleeps next to me?  

The men in his family supposedly have impenetrable immune systems (not entirely true), but they don't get sick very often.  I think it's because a) they don't wash their hands very much or b) they don't wash their fruits or veggies before they eat them.  
I guess that would expose you to all kinds of things:  people picking their noses; sneezing; coughing; and God knows what else on the produce!!  I don't care if it does help with the immunities - I am going to continue to wash my veggies!! 


But it brings up an interesting idea that we've probably all heard rumor about:  do we live in a society that is too sterile?  And as a result, when we are exposed to some bacteria or virus, our bodies can't fight it off.  I've heard that antibacterial soap is a big no-no and that it does more harm than good to keep our lives so clean.  

On the other hand, my Mom is a dental hygienist and she is in people's mouths all the time.  She is very clean and germ-conscious.  She's always washing her hands and rarely ever gets sick.  Once, when I was in elementary school, strep throat was going around and almost every kid had been sick with it, and then it started going around a second time.  My Mom got tired of it and went in their to disinfect all of the desks and wash the classroom water bottles (everyone had their own).  I guess kids kept re-exposing themselves to the virus.  The teachers thought she was a "crazy germaphobe;" but it worked.  (Just as an aside:  I have never had strep; but my brother used to get it all the time.  Go figure.)  

So which way is better?  

To wash with antibacterial soap or not?

I guess that since I'm not an uber-clean person, I'll still get my share of germs in the house.  That and I'm sure the hubby'll sneak them in somehow.  ; )   He'll probably use my keyboard or something after touching unwashed fruit!

So for now, my routine will stay the same - except that when I go out to public places, I'll probably wash my hands a little more to be on the safe side.  





  



Monday, March 2, 2009

Writer's Group

So last week I went to my writer's group and it was really great.  
I was able to ask a lot of questions of the group leader (who has more than 30 books published), and connect with other writers - some who want to write a book but don't know what they're writing about, some who are in the process of writing, some who are getting published as we speak - so it's a good mix and there's a lot of encouragement and excitement about getting our books published.
I'm sure that as we all get to know each other better, there will be a lot of cross pollination with ideas as well.   

There are many things to consider when wanting to publish a book.  There are lots of new things that are happening in the book industry right now - for one, the printed word is becoming less and less.  People are buying digital books and downloads.  What does this mean for the author?  Less profit, of course, but also presents some new opportunities of how books get out there.  The sad thing is, bookstores are dying.  I really love the smell of books and the stiff creak a brand new book has and you open it up and the pages are straining against the binding.  I love love love going into book stores and just hanging out for hours, browsing, reading, dreaming.  Will that still be available in the future?  I hope so.  I don't want to read all of my books from a screen.  I want to feel the weight of the book in my hands and hear the turning of the pages!  Granted, the digital book option is more green, so that is a huge plus.  But why can't I have it all?  Why can't we use recycled paper for book pages or something?  

In all of the books I read about writing books, they ask you about what your motive as a writer is.  Do you want to be famous?  Do you want to make money?  Do you want to satisfy some personal goal.  Things like that.  It helps the writer determine what kind of book they are writing and their audience.  Are they writing to a small, academic community or trying to appeal to the large mass-market?   

The only thing is, in my group, I feel like I am one of the only ones who is dreaming as big as I am about my book.  I mean, in private, I'm secretly hoping about the possibility of getting a whole series of books picked up, movie options - a whole franchise, really.  I wonder though if I am being naive, or if I just have a lot of confidence in myself right now.  

But for me, this is not my motive.  I guess more than anything, the book I'm writing is for me and my future kids.  I have sort of bought into the idea of selling my book for money and actually making at least a little money.  But more than that, I want to entertain.  I think that is the primary goal.  So if I don't make money or become so wildly famous author, I'm okay with that.  But it would be pretty awesome.  ; )  

It's funny when I tell people that I'm writing a book.  They're all amazed.  I usually get raised eyebrows and a "really?" or a "wow, that's a really competitive thing to get into," or something like that.  But really, anyone could write a book.  I'd do a little market research first on what you're wanting to write, but other than that, have at it!  Who knows if my book will be any kind of success, but I can tell you, someone out there will probably want to read it.  If no one else, my friends and family - just to satisfy their curiosity about what I've been doing with my time.    
My first novel is about the ocean.  It includes myth, history and my research / imagination about the ocean. So far though, most of the imagination applies to the characters.  Some of the real creatures that live in the ocean are so strange that I wonder if I could even dream up something as weird as what is really out there.  I know I'm going to go back in my second draft and polish and add some more imagination in there - I'm just getting the skeleton of the story down for now...34,000 words so far (about 1/3 of the way through the first draft).  Crazy.  I've never done a project like this before in my life.  But it makes me happy.  


Especially because it's for me.  No one else is demanding a product from me by a certain deadline.  Pretty cool.  That would be an amazing lifestyle, but much like becoming an actor or something that is a highly desired profession, only a few really make it big and the rest have to keep their day jobs.  Many continue to write or act or paint, but as a creative outlet, as a passion rather than profession.  So, if that is what this turns into for me, so be it.  I'll have something that really makes me happy to think about and immerse myself in after a stressful day.  
This is a bit random, but I'm going to try and take people through the writing process as I see it and the one thing I wish I could control in this process is no more 4 A.M. brain storms that I can't turn off.  My brain wakes me up and is like, "OK, I've got this great idea.  Want to hear it?" and then, without waiting for my sleepy response of "no," my brain begins to babble and make crazy connections and change things in the book without permission - and if I don't write it down, it's lost forever.

So, I'm at the mercy of the strange state of between sleep and awake where things sort of become clear.  I love and hate these times - I just wish I could control when these moments decide to show up!   If you've ever had a big project due and you lose sleep about it / dream about it, you know what I'm talking about!  

Here's to my love/hate relationship with my crazy brain!