Tuesday, August 19, 2014

An author’s ICE bucket challenge

This writer hates the cold. I mean I hate the cold with a lingering unforgiving passion. Still, I found myself shrugging at the people who think they’re tough because they dumped a bucket of ice water over their heads. Eh. I went to swimming lessons every summer as a kid at 7 am and jumped in that near-freezing cold water and stayed in it until I was too numb to know how freaking COLD it was. And still, I went back and back and back again until I earned my junior lifesaving status.

Ice water bucket challenge over in about 5 seconds? Yeah, I could. (And in all honesty, I give kudos to those doing so and helping to spread the word about ALS, especially when they get creative with it.)

So last night, after a few days of thinking: don’t challenge me, please. I could do it, but I don’t want to film it…  I was lying in my warm comfy bed considering the challenge. Then, the idea. I have an ice bucket challenge of my own, specifically for my fellow writers.

Write a blog-length story having to do with an Ice Bucket. No long planning. No over-thinking. Just open up your blog and start writing a story. Keep it short. I guess I better do the same to get it started. Here goes:
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There I was, minding my own darn business, when Wham! Out of the blue, that crazy-eyed pigeon slammed right into my head. Yes, my head. How did I know he was crazy-eyed? Just trust me on this. Okay?

After I shook off the shock, I stared down at the crazy bird that apparently left itself stunned – I did say it slammed into my head, right? – and considered whether it had, I don’t know, rabies or bird flu or whatever. Could you catch that with a slam upside the head? Probably not, I suspected.

What did you do with a stunned crazy-eyed pigeon lying there helplessly on the sidewalk where it was sure to get stepped on by some kid bobbing his head listening to his too-loud headphones and his eyes half closed? On the other hand, I wasn’t too sure I cared. I was working on a good headache, either from the slam or from grabbing furiously at my hair trying to make sure the pest hadn’t left feathers or bugs or worse in the course, wiry mess that I’d fixed the best I could, considering, for an interview. All I needed, on top of being so nervous I hardly remembered my name, before going into the job interview was pigeon goo on my head.

”You hurt it! Look! This guy hurt that poor bird.”

”What?” I looked at the crazy girl screeching in my face and wondered if the thing on the sidewalk was her pet. I could just imagine she was the type to make a pigeon a pet. Of course by now she had people staring at me like I was, I don’t know, satan’s twin or something.

“Look, lady…”

“Don’t call me lady. Look what you did. Do you hate animals? You’re an animal hater, right? I bet you are. What did you do to it? It’s just trying to survive, you know.” Her dander was rising faster than a wig on the downslope of a steep roller coaster. I kept watching for her to literally blow steam through her nose.

”Look.” I tried again, with no identity tags at all. “I did nothing. That thing…”

”It has feelings, too. It’s not a thing.”

”I think it might not have anymore.” I shouldn’t have said it. Really, I shouldn’t have. But this nutty girl was getting far too many nerves pulsing through my pounding head.

Her pitch rose. Her intensity likely would have shattered my eyeglasses had I been wearing them. “Wow, get a grip.” Also the wrong thing to say, but I was tired of the slamming, pounding, throbbing, and screaming, from both the bird and this chick, and…

Woosh! Ice water flooded over my head and down my now soaked and shivering body and I turned to yet another chick. “What was that for? I didn’t hurt the stupid bird!”

She only grinned with a shrug and set the bucket beside her. “You had bird doo in your hair.”

Silence. Blessed silence followed my unearned ice bath water. The shrieking girl giggled, picked up the now soaked and sobering pigeon, and left me alone, with the crowd following.

Bucket girl shrugged again. “Fixed your problem, didn’t I?”

The best thing about that story? When I explained at the interview the whole story of the pigeon slam and shrieking girl and bucket girl, I was hired on the spot. After long days of happily busying myself writing about the funny things that happen randomly in life, I get to go home to bucket girl and our purely practical but with good humor twin girls, neither of which shriek, I’m happy to report. Both of whom just love pigeons. Sigh.
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There you have it. A straight through, not-much-thought ice bucket story. I now challenge my BookSpa writing group and my Western PA authors group to write your ice bucket story on your blog or send $10 to ALS. You have three days to fulfill the challenge. Be sure to challenge your author pals and leave a link here in the comments so we can find your stories!

Personal note: Along with the story, I’ll be donating to a high school friend’s personal yearly ALS fundraiser. If you’d like to do the same, his page is
 HERE.
 

Saturday, August 09, 2014

So Amazon asked me to express my thoughts on cheap ebooks…

ep-logo-onblueI’ve remained mostly quiet about the issue between Amazon and Hachette, although this is NOT only between the two companies; this involves all book companies and all authors. Since they decided to email directly and ask me to email Hachette to side with them against the publisher, gloves are off. Fine. Here’s my response, which I will also email to both companies at the addresses provided. You can read their letter here: Readers United (an Amazon page)  [A caveat: I have no affiliation with Hachette whatsoever. I publish under my own company.]
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Dear Amazon,

Since you requested my thoughts concerning your dispute with Hachette via an email sent to my personal address, I will gladly share my thoughts.

I’ll admit you nearly swayed my opinion with your argument that less expensive makes for more sales. That does sound
reasonable. However, what George Orwell understood clearly and too many apparently don’t yet is that what people get cheaply and easily they don’t value greatly. That is a fact of human nature. There are exceptions, of course, and some who buy cheap do actually appreciate the work and years of learned craftsmanship that went into the product they got for a song. In general, though, people do not value what comes easy and cheap. Those cheap paperbacks were of certain genres made for certain readers. They were not putting War & Peace out for 25 cents. 

As an avid reader for the past 40+ years, I can personally see that the quality of books has dropped. I believe the ease of publication and the free and $0.99 cover prices you have pushed and promoted have contributed to this in the same way the quality of education has dropped in recent generations due to trying to make the standards more “fair” for students for whom schoolwork comes less easily. Education is not supposed to be about ease. It’s supposed to be about learning. The same is true of books. We each have our own level, our own genre, and we cannot demand all books play at the same level just as we should never pull some students down to the lowest level of education in the name of “fairness,” since there is, in actuality, no fairness in that whatsoever.

Already readers across the globe are asking themselves why they should bother to buy books when they can get so many of them free, and many don’t care much about quality since quality is a thing of the past, for the most part. That is what George Orwell saw, along with other warnings (within his fiction) that he was obviously not mistaken about. We should be lifting readers up, not dragging them down. That’s much of the purpose of fiction. Readers should care about quality. They should use stories to elevate their own minds and worlds. Of course there is a place for quick entertainment fiction and I don’t mean to degrade it, since there’s plenty of room for everyone, but it needs to stay in that place and not overwhelm the rest of literature. And even quick entertainment fiction should be held to a certain standard of quality.

”The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization
from destroying itself.”
Albert Camus

Let me tell you just a bit about myself. I started my publishing career as an indie, and by that I mean independent. It was back in 2003, long before indie was cool, but even then I could see the value in not allowing some big company to dictate what I could or couldn’t get out in print. I had spent ten years writing consistently and studying the craft, taking a novel class, reading avidly as I have since I could read, and all of this was after having been obsessed with Stories and the written word ever since I was read to as a child and then learned how to form sentences correctly. I am very serious about my craft, which is also my art, and along with learning how to write fiction specifically, I studied how publishing was accomplished. That’s why I become indie. The big pub path didn’t fit my own path. That doesn’t mean there is not a place for it. There absolutely is. I was glad to have another option, however, and it has been a hard uphill climb, but that was my choice and I was willing to take the risks and put my own funds into making it happen.

I have no qualms with the big pubs. They are doing business and it’s their right to do business as they choose (within legal bounds). Free market is the only right answer for overall success. Anyone who does not want to join in or support that business has the right to choose not to buy from them.

I stopped purchasing anything from you the moment you made your intentions clear of monopolizing and ruling over the book world. I do not link my books to you from my site or anywhere else. My prints are there only because my printer sends them automatically, but sales from your site have been nearly non-existent. My sales come from BN, Kobo, and other retailers [likely because that’s where I link to – a lesson other authors might consider]. I have lately experimented with putting two novels under my pen name (faster write novels that have taken less investment on my part) on the KDP site but only at the 70% rate and non-exclusive, and again, sales there are nearly non-existent. I will not put my novella there since I can’t price it at $1.49, which is what it costs at other retailers, without dropping to 30% profit, and .45 each is not worth my time to format and upload. 

I understand that exclusive books get far more help from you and I understand that’s why authors do it. I have nothing against authors jumping on opportunities that look helpful if it fits their needs. I will not do exclusivity, however, because I believe in free market, and my strong belief in that, which is supposed to be the staple of American society and why we got as strong as we used to be, far outweighs my need for book sales.

I fully object to your exclusivity clause which is a monopoly attempt. Even if it is “only” for six months, you know after six months, a book is no longer a new release and has less selling power. I fully object to the way you pull books from certain companies off your retail site just because they won’t play the way you want them to play, to include small pubs. I fully object to you buying out everything book related you possibly can in order to increase your monopoly hold. I fully object to being forced to make my books available for lending since I won’t use your exclusivity program. I fully object to authors getting their royalties docked due to ebook returns, which allows readers to read and not pay (we have libraries for that). And I still resent your attempt several years ago to force all indies and small pubs to republish their books through your then-newly purchased publishing company, which would have cost us money most of us could not afford just to suit your bottom line better.

As I see it (and this is simply my opinion), your actions, if not countered, could potentially lead to less freedom in the book world and a tighter hold on what can be published. As an indie who has fought the past eleven years to be taken seriously as an author and artist and who had to do a lot of learning to find the best resources and to create the resources I needed that weren’t already in existence in order to produce professional quality books in the mixed genre non-standard fiction I write, any possible intrusion in that process is not something I can idly and quietly lose to one company making billions on the pittance prices you think we authors (or publishers) should be able to charge.

I will not spend twenty years writing a very long, well researched, well crafted series of six books just to have to sell them for only $2.99 each [half the price of a fast food combo meal or less than one gallon of gas] just because it’s better for your bottom line. I’m sorry, but my 600+ page books are worth more than that and I won’t have you say otherwise.   Yes, I understand so far you are not saying I must price them at $2.99 (etc.), but if you win in forcing the big pubs to price the way you want, we indies and small press authors will have no means to fight if you decide to do the same to us (and maybe you won’t, but how do we know?). I don’t intend to price my ebooks at $10-15, but I do want the freedom to do so if I wish.

For the record, I will not pay $10-15 for an ebook, so I’ll gladly wait for the paperback instead, or borrow it from my library. For those who no longer buy print books, I can understand why they would pay that price and I have no objection to what someone else is willing to pay. A good book is very well worth the cost of one low end restaurant dinner or a quarter of a tank of gas and will last far longer than either. (Neither of those can be resold, either, once consumed.)

Your free and .99 scheme that, yes, is helping a few authors sell big and a handful of others to sell moderately is already hurting my right to sell at a decent price. Why pay even $2.99 for a small name author’s books when you can download a billion free and mostly free books from hundreds of other small name authors? The free pull is wonderful for you since it grabs customers, but it isn’t so wonderful for a lot of us writers. I do not wish to give my work away after all the time and heart I have invested in them, but you’re making it rather impossible not to do so. Of course it’s your right to try to win customers, but it’s my right not to support practices with which I disagree.

I’ve already heard the arguments that giving the first book, or first book of every series) away free gains readers and makes sales. That might be fine and dandy for those writing four to six books a year, but for those of us who put more time into our books (lit fic, upmarket romance, lit fantasy, lit sci fi, etc), giving away even one of them, that likely took two to four years to write and edit, is a huge loss of investment. You are stacking the deck to give fast-written and yes, often (not always) lower quality, books the upper hand. Why should  authors put years of work into their books or bother to worry about high quality if their sales price will be dictated at such a low price it’s not worth their time?

I cannot and will not support that, as it’s bad for my bottom line as a lit-mixed author, and, I believe, bad for fiction in general. As we have clearly seen in recent years, change just for the sake of change is not always a good thing. It must be  a smart change in order to be a good thing. It must be overall good, not good only for a few at the expense of others.

Your bottom line is about profit. That’s fine, since that’s what business is about. My bottom line is about my craft, my art, my heart and soul effort to make my books the best I can and, when they sell, to be able to ask a decent price according to the length, quality, and amount of time I’ve put into them.

No, I will not sign a petition to try to force any publishing company to give in to your demands, since the way I see it, you have no right as a retailer in a free market society to demand such a thing. If readers don’t want to pay those prices, they can buy less expensive books by their choice. It should be their choice, not your demand. Leave publishers alone to price and sell as they see fit and the beautiful effect of free market competition will keep prices low. And if the big pubs collude to price too high, readers may very well gravitate toward indies and small press, since indie is actually cool by now and getting more so all the time. I have no qualms with that, either. There is room for all of us. Some people buy $70 tennis shoes and others buy $10 tennis shoes. Either is fine, and a personal choice they should be allowed to retain, just as the shoe companies are allowed to price as they see fit. Why should books be different? Art must not be considered any less valuable than any other product. In many cases, it is far more valuable and should be seen as such.

Sincerely,
a small name indie author struggling every day to find readers who value the art and craft of literature and stories,
LK Hunsaker

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

100 Things About Susie Brooks

Susie-Rehearsal by LK HunsakerThe final character interview based on the beginning of the Rehearsal Series. Find the other two under the BOOKS heading.

SUSIE BROOKS
From the novel series Rehearsal by
LK Hunsaker, as of March 1974

1. WHERE IS ONE OF YOUR SCARS AND HOW DID YOU GET IT?

I don’t have scars.

2. WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM?

Lavender paint, a photo collage from my childhood days, a picture of Dad and me at the cabin from when I was a baby, my first pair of ballet slippers and toe shoes, and a print of one of Monet’s garden scenes with a pretty stone bridge over a stream.

3. IF YOU COULD BE AN ANIMAL, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

I think I would be a bird so I could travel when I wish and rest in treetops.

4. WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?

A lot of kinds! I adore music and will listen to nearly anything. My favorites for listening are Elton John, Carly Simon, Helen Reddy, Jim Croce, and Badfinger. I like Mozart and Tchaikovsky and Gershwin for dancing, and sometimes harder music depending on my mood.

5. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU WERE BORN?

7:03 am on July 11th 1954, nearly two months early

6. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW?

That’s a hard question. I guess to be recognized for who I really am instead of Evan and my dad continuing to treat me like a twelve-year-old. I’m nineteen and living on my own, mostly.

7. WHO DO YOU MISS?

My mom. I lost her when I was little. My sister. Jeremy. Family I should know and don’t. And Evan at the moment because we’ve both been very busy with our jobs recently and haven’t seen each other much.

8. WHAT IS (ARE) YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION(S)?

A rare photo of me with both Mom and Dad, dishes that belonged to Mom, my first pair of ballet slippers and toe shoes, and a bunch of dried roses I keep hidden in my drawers.

9. HOW TALL ARE YOU?

5’2”

10. DO YOU GET CLAUSTROPHOBIC?

Yes. I don’t like crowds or closed-in spaces.

11. DO YOU GET SCARED IN THE DARK?

Only during thunderstorms.

12. THE LAST PERSON TO MAKE YOU CRY?

Evan, but he doesn’t know.

14. WHAT KIND OF HAIR/EYE COLOR DO YOU LIKE ON THE OPPOSITE SEX?

I like dark hair, and eyes of any color that stand out, but it doesn’t matter much really.

15. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE PROPOSED TO?

How doesn’t matter, as long as it’s the right person proposing and I can tell it’s really important to him that I agree.

16. COFFEE OR TEA?

Mild tea, especially herb tea since I have to be careful about caffeine.

17. FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING?

Ham and black olives

18. IF YOU COULD EAT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Italian anything with a good alfredo sauce

20. DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH RIGHT NOW?

A crush? No, it’s not a crush. There is someone I keep hoping will ask me out as more than just a friend.

21. WHAT WAS THE FIRST MEANINGFUL GIFT YOU EVER RECEIVED?

The yellow rose Evan gave me at the end of my first dance recital.

22. WHAT WAS THE LAST ALBUM YOU BOUGHT?

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

23. NAME SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.

Someday, I want to own a dance studio. I also want to help Raucous move forward to where they should be and watch them play in a huge arena.

24. FAVORITE CLOTHING?

A long loose T-shirt and dance capris. They aren’t stylish, I guess, but they’re comfortable. I’m not into fashion.

26. DO YOU HAVE A PET?

No. I live in a small apartment and don’t want to have animals inside.

27. NAME SOMETHING YOU REGRET.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t given up the chance to join a dance troupe, but I think it was for the best.

28. WOULD YOU FALL IN LOVE KNOWING THE PERSON IS ALREADY TAKEN?

I don’t think you can help who you fall in love with, only whether or not you act on it. I wouldn’t say anything if the guy was taken.

29. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TELL SOMEONE HOW MUCH THEY MEAN TO YOU?

I’m still trying to figure that one out!

30. SAY A NUMBER FROM ONE TO A HUNDRED:

4

31. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT NUMBER?

I think it’s the perfect family size.

32, WHAT IS THE NUMBER YOU CALL MOST OFTEN?

I don’t use the phone often. I suppose it would be the gym to let Evan know when I’m working late.

34. HAVE YOU BEEN OUT OF THE USA?

Not yet, but I hope to travel eventually.

35. YOUR WEAKNESSES?

Trusting the wrong people, being too dependent on my friends.

36. MET ANYONE FAMOUS?

No, but I think Raucous will be known widely if they stay together and keep working on it. They’re already local heroes since they’re the most requested band around here.

37. FIRST JOB?

Assistant dance teacher in Glenn Heights; I was fourteen. Even before, I was helping other classes but they couldn’t make it an official job until I was old enough.

38. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO RELAX?

Sitting in the basement listening to Raucous practice with no one else around. I also love to read historical novels.

41. WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU FILLED THIS OUT?

Choreographing the second half of the dance for my six and seven year old ballet class.

40. HAVE YOU EVER HAD SURGERY?

No, and I hope not to have. Evan and Dad would be overbearing with worry.

42. WHAT DO YOU GET COMPLIMENTED ABOUT MOST?

Putting up with living in a building full of males! Just kidding. Actually, my choreography, I think.

44. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY?

For Evan to ask me out … anywhere. Only the two of us.

45. HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU WANT?

Two, at least. More would be okay since I love kids, but Dad would prefer I adopt instead.

46. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

My middle name is Angela, after my mom, Angela Lynne.

49. WHAT KIND OF SHAMPOO DO YOU USE?

Whatever is cheapest. I splurge a little on conditioner because my hair is long.

50. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?

It’s okay.

51. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?

Ham

52. ANY BAD HABITS?

Of course. If you ask the guys, I’m sure they’ll give you a long list. Stu complains that I’m a neat freak.

53. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?

I suppose I would, although I seem to get along with men better than with other women.

56. DO LOOKS MATTER?

In almost everything, but it’s more how someone presents herself than actual looks that stand out, I think.

57. HOW DO YOU RELEASE ANGER?

I turn on fast music and dance, or go for a walk. I can yell when I need to, but I don’t often.

60. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY AS A CHILD?

I don’t remember. Jeremy and I played outside a lot and rode bikes together.

61. HOW MANY BIRTHDAYS DO YOU KNOW OFF-HAND?

Evan is Oct 13, Kate is May 22, Dad is April 13, Mom’s was Aug 19, Jeremy’s was Sep, Diane’s is March 3, Stu is Jan 30, Mike is Dec 16, Doug is Sep 7. I think that’s all I know, except Evan’s friend was I think born in June. I haven’t met him yet, but Evan’s trying to talk him into coming to visit. Oh, Janet and Nathan are both sometime in November.

62. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN COSTUME OF ALL TIME?

One year Jeremy and I were the Bobbsey Twins, but no one knew who we were. Jeremy was really cute in his sailor outfit, though.

63. BATHS OR SHOWERS?

Showers; I don’t like to sit in water I’m washing in.

64. MASHED POTATOES OR MACARONI AND CHEESE?
mashed potatoes

65. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PARTNER?

Strength, and not only outer strength, but strength of character; intelligence; patience because Dad says I’ll have to have someone with a lot of patience and that’s probably true; kindness; motivation – he can’t be afraid of working hard; the ability and interest in being a good father; and he has to really appreciate music and be willing to dance with me at clubs, at least slow dances.

66. WHAT ARE YOUR NICKNAMES?

Most people call me Suse. Evan calls me Angel because of my middle name.

68. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?

I don’t watch TV a lot since I’m usually working or watching band practice or reading, but I like Carol Burnett and Sonny and Cher, also MASH with Evan, and Mike Douglas.

70. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?

I’d rather have rainbow sherbet than ice cream.

71. HAVE YOU BEEN ARRESTED?

No.

73. PLANS FOR TONIGHT?

After work, I’m babysitting until around 8. Maybe I’ll go over to Evan’s afterwards to unwind.

74. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU HAVE?

1971 Blue Ford Pinto

75. WHAT KIND WOULD YOU HAVE IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT?

1974 GTO

76. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RECENTLY?

Kate fussing about not having enough job opportunities in Lakewood.

77. LAST THING YOU DRANK?

Water while I was working on choreography

78. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?

Diane, because she couldn’t reach Evan.

79. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE IN THE OPPOSITE SEX?

Their build first because it’s the easiest thing to notice, and then the eyes, because you can tell a lot by looking at someone’s eyes.

81. FAVORITE SMELL?

Evan’s cologne when we’re dancing together.

82. FAVORITE MONTH OF THE YEAR?

April because everything starts to grow again.

85. WHAT IS YOUR HAIR COLOR?

Very dark brown, not quite as black as Dad’s.

86. EYE COLOR?

Blue, like Mom’s were.

87. FAVORITE BOOK?

One favorite? I guess “For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Ernest Hemingway

88. FAVORITE COLOR?

purple

89. FAVORITE RESTAURANT?

Passini’s Italian

90. DO YOU LIKE SUSHI?

I haven’t tried it and don’t think I’m interested.

91. LAST THING YOU WATCHED?

Parts of whatever drama Kate had on last night while I was getting dinner.

92. WHEN YOU HAVE GOOD NEWS, WHO IS THE FIRST PERSON YOU WANT TO TELL?

Evan.

93. PLAY ANY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS?

No, I started the guitar once but didn’t get far with it.

94. REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?

I’m not into politics and don’t understand it well enough to chose sides.

95. KISSES OR HUGS?

Both, if they’re from the right person.

96. RELATIONSHIPS OR ONE NIGHT STANDS?

Relationship

97. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU BOUGHT?

Groceries

100. DESCRIBE YOUR LOVE LIFE.

I don’t have one at the moment.

Friday, April 18, 2014

100 Things About Evan Scott

Evan-Rehearsal by LK Hunsaker

Back in 2007, I did one of those surveys going around, but not for myself – for my Rehearsal characters. While organizing my blog a couple of days ago, I found that I posted one and left the other two hanging. Fair is fair. Time to remedy that!


Evan Scott
from the novel series Rehearsal by LK Hunsaker
as of March 1974:


1. WHERE IS ONE OF YOUR SCARS AND HOW DID YOU GET IT?

I have a few minor scars from cuts and so on, barely visible.

2. WHAT IS ON THE WALLS IN YOUR ROOM?

A couple of paintings done by a local artist and a print of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.

3. IF YOU COULD BE AN ANIMAL, WHICH WOULD IT BE?

A horse, not a race horse or a show horse, but something more poised and practical.

4. WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO?

Rock, classical, some jazz and the pop artists Susie enjoys. Elvis is a favorite, and Skynyrd and Pilot, and too many others too list.

5. DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME YOU WERE BORN?

Yes; mom calls at that time every birthday … just before noon.

6. WHAT DO YOU WANT MORE THAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW?

I can’t say.

7. WHO DO YOU MISS?

My brother. We lost him several years ago. I suppose I miss having a father who wanted to be a father more than he wanted other things. I’d love for Duncan to come visit, or move here. And I miss Susie when we both get too busy to see each other often, but it doesn’t happen a lot.

8. WHAT IS (ARE) YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION(S)?

My guitar and bass. Not much other than that.

9. HOW TALL ARE YOU?

5’10”

10. DO YOU GET CLAUSTROPHOBIC?

I haven’t yet, although I don’t like being crowded for too long. I enjoy space and quiet as I can get it.

11. DO YOU GET SCARED IN THE DARK?

No.

12. THE LAST PERSON TO MAKE YOU CRY?

My father, I would guess, but it’s been many years when I was still a child.

14. WHAT KIND OF HAIR/EYE COLOR DO YOU LIKE ON THE OPPOSITE SEX?

Dark hair and blue eyes; it’s an incredible combination.

15. HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE PROPOSED TO?

I don’t imagine I will be, but I do hope I can propose in a way that makes the occasion as right as it should be when the time comes.

16. COFFEE OR TEA?

Either, depending on the time and situation.

17. FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING?

Pepperoni and black olives, with extra cheese. Most anything else is fine, also.

18. IF YOU COULD EAT ANYTHING RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Cheeseburger and fries. I haven’t had lunch yet.

20. DO YOU HAVE A CRUSH RIGHT NOW?

I wouldn’t call it a crush. I’m deeply interested in someone right now, and for several years.

21. WHAT WAS THE FIRST MEANINGFUL GIFT YOU EVER RECEIVED?

Susie and Jeremy bought guitar strings and picks for me after I complained to them about not having either. It was their fault I didn’t have either, since they played with one or the other when I ignored them too long, so I guess they felt guilty. I didn’t have the heart to complain the next time I needed to replace a string and didn’t have one.

22. WHAT WAS THE LAST ALBUM YOU BOUGHT?

Carly Simon, for Susie’s birthday. Before that, I think it was Wings.

23. NAME SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.

I’m hoping to be able to balance a family with my music career and not neglect either too much. In the shorter term, I’m trying to get a good friend to come join the band in order to finally play together on stage, even little clubs like we’re playing now. I see us doing well together, since he pushes me to be better than I am without being egotistical about the talent he has.

24. FAVORITE CLOTHING?

Comfortable and presentable, whether it’s casual or more dressy. I’m fine with either.

26. DO YOU HAVE A PET?

No, I can’t have one in the apartment, but maybe eventually.

27. NAME SOMETHING YOU REGRET.

Not being able to say too many things I need to say.

28. WOULD YOU FALL IN LOVE KNOWING THE PERSON IS ALREADY TAKEN?

Not intentionally, and I wouldn’t act on it. How can you make yourself not fall in love with someone?

29. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO TELL SOMEONE HOW MUCH THEY MEAN TO YOU?

I think showing them is more important; being there for them and supporting them and treating them with respect and kindness. Words are too easy to say without meaning. Actions, you mean, always.

30. SAY A NUMBER FROM ONE TO A HUNDRED:

Two

31. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT NUMBER?

Two is a nicely balanced number, as well as flexible enough to double or divide and still be a good number.

32 WHAT IS THE NUMBER YOU CALL MOST OFTEN?

Mom’s, I suppose. She worries if she doesn’t hear from me often enough.

34. HAVE YOU BEEN OUT OF THE USA?

Only to Canada just inside Niagara Falls so far, but I hope to travel a fair amount eventually.

35. YOUR WEAKNESSES?

Holding things in. And not holding things in.

36. MET ANYONE FAMOUS?

I don’t think I have.

37. FIRST JOB?

I worked at a local grocery store as a stock boy during high school. Before that, I mowed grass and raked leaves for elderly neighbors now and then.

38. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO RELAX?

Other than music, I like to rifle through various magazines or read biographies. I used to play sports in school.

41. WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU FILLED THIS OUT?

Training for a new employee that I’m sure was a waste of time. I can’t see him staying long.

40. HAVE YOU EVER HAD SURGERY?

Not surgery, but stitches in my knee after hitting a cleat while sliding into home base.

42. WHAT DO YOU GET COMPLIMENTED ABOUT MOST?

Susie. Everyone I introduce her to is charmed by her and wonders why she bothers hanging around with me. I can never give them an answer as to why she does.

44. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY?

Just hanging out with friends is enough.

45. HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU WANT?

I’ve always thought either two or four would be nice, depending on what my future wife has in mind.

46. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE?

My middle name was my grandfather’s first name. I barely remember him, but Mom adored him.

49. WHAT KIND OF SHAMPOO DO YOU USE?

Anything that doesn’t smell fruity.

50. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?

I’ve never thought about it.

51. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?

Salami and ham.

52. ANY BAD HABITS?

Apparently, I’m overly critical. Is that a habit? I also can’t stand having drawers or doors open for no reason and will shut them in between someone going in and out of them if they take too long.

53. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON, WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?

Probably not. I don’t tend to choose to hang around others who are like me.

56. DO LOOKS MATTER?

Of course. How you present yourself affects the way you look and if you don’t seem to respect yourself, I have trouble finding respect for you, either.

57. HOW DO YOU RELEASE ANGER?

I work out with weights if I can, or pace, and I try to avoid whomever or whatever made me angry until I cool down.

60. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY AS A CHILD?

Building blocks, I suppose. Jeremy and I would create buildings and towns with them and talk about where we would live when we could choose.

61. HOW MANY BIRTHDAYS DO YOU KNOW OFF-HAND?
About nine or ten, I guess.

62. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN COSTUME OF ALL TIME?

It had to have been Susie and Jeremy as the Bobbsey Twins. They were adorable together.

63. BATHS OR SHOWERS?

Showers.

64. MASHED POTATOES OR MACARONI AND CHEESE?
Mashed potatoes

65. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A PARTNER?

Trust, respect, loyalty, laughter, an appreciation for music, and an openness to new experiences.

66. WHAT ARE YOUR NICKNAMES?
Duncan calls me Ev, but otherwise I don’t have any.

68. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?

M*A*S*H, All in the Family.

70. WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR?

Chocolate topped with pecans and caramel

71. HAVE YOU BEEN ARRESTED?

No, but I nearly was once. I wouldn’t have regretted it if I had been considering the guy had it coming.

73. PLANS FOR TONIGHT?

After work: a quick dinner, practice, and hopefully inviting Susie over to watch TV

74. WHAT KIND OF CAR DO YOU HAVE?

A brown Mercury Cougar

75. WHAT KIND WOULD YOU HAVE IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT?

I’m happy enough with the one I have for now.

76. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RECENTLY?

The radio, most often, since we have it on at work.

77. LAST THING YOU DRANK?

Coffee

78. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?

Gerry last night, arranging another show at his club

79. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE IN THE OPPOSITE SEX?

Her eyes and the way she’s dressed. I don’t like girls who are too obvious or showy.

81. FAVORITE SMELL?

Sunflower lotion

82. FAVORITE MONTH OF THE YEAR?

April when it’s warm enough to go without jackets and nature comes back to life. It feels full of promise.

85. WHAT IS YOUR HAIR COLOR?

brown

86. EYE COLOR?

brown

87. FAVORITE BOOK?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe is good. Otherwise, I mainly read non-fiction.

88. FAVORITE COLOR?

Blue or Green, depending on my mood.

89. FAVORITE RESTAURANT?

There’s a little German place in Boston I love to get to when I can, but it’s been a while.

90. DO YOU LIKE SUSHI?

Not any I’ve tried, which luckily hasn’t been much.

91. LAST THING YOU WATCHED?

Mike had a game on last night and I watched it off and on in between doing paperwork for the gym.

92. WHEN YOU HAVE GOOD NEWS, WHO IS THE FIRST PERSON YOU WANT TO TELL?

Susie

93. PLAY ANY MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS?

Guitar and bass. I started messing with the piano for a while but didn’t get the hang of it well, unlike Stu who can play anything he touches. Any musician has to be jealous of that.

94. REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT?

Republican, but I think both have their good and bad points. I guess I’m pretty well in between, but I’m registered as Republican.

95. KISSES OR HUGS?

Both, if they’re from the right person.

96. RELATIONSHIPS OR ONE NIGHT STANDS?

A relationship has so much more value and fulfillment. I don’t understand jumping from one girl to the next without much thought.

97. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU BOUGHT?

Lunch yesterday.

100. DESCRIBE YOUR LOVE LIFE.

Frustrating most of the time. But hopeful.

~~
Find 100 Things About Duncan O’Neil HERE

For Permalinks to my character interviews, see Stories Behind the Books under the MY BOOKS header.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Fiction Fusion

booksandwine-detail1

Fusion is the “in” thing in music these days. While I’ve never been big on following or caring about what’s in or out, I do like the fusion trend – the mix of different music genres to create something new. We Americans are an easily bored bunch, aren’t we? Status quo just can’t last long. And I can’t say anything about it, since I’m easily bored, as well. I’m actually a strange mix of “need things the same” and “way too easily bored.” Yes, I drive myself crazy at times. Feel sorry for those who have to deal with me regularly?

Anyway, I like the music mixes. I like that they’ve termed it fusion. Fusion is kind of a cool word itself, isn’t it? Music does tend to find the coolest ways to describe things.

Such as “indie music” which is sometimes termed as a genre instead of the original intent of musicians going independent and producing their own work (kind of the definition of independent, aka indie, is it not?) So, back when authors really started to jump in and publish themselves and everyone was bickering over what to call these renegades, I started calling myself an indie author just like the indie musicians. Made sense to me. Guess it made sense to a lot of folks, since that’s the most accepted term these days for those of us going it on our own.

So now, authors are writing mixes of so many different genres they sometimes need six terms to describe one book [paranormal new adult romantic historical suspense]. Wow. Well, okay. And publishers are always coming up with new terms to describe what authors are writing. The newest I’ve found is upmarket, meaning genre fiction of some kind with a more literary feel, more complex plots, deeper characters. Basically what I’ve called literary romance for several years is now upmarket romance. Well, okay then. Maybe that will work better?

I call all of this genre mixing fiction fusion. Same concept as in music. And I like the concept in fiction as well as I like it in music. It keeps things fresh and interesting.

Although, in all honesty, I’ve been writing fusion … well, since I started writing seriously in 1996 (go ahead, date me by age). I was never sure what to call it. I’m still unsure what to call it. But just as I’m an indie author, I’m also a fusion author. I write what comes out.

Maybe instead of my long-term tag line that tends to raise eyebrows (or pushes them across to the other side of the street), Literary Romance with an Artsy Twist, I should use Indie Fusion with an Artsy Twist. What do you think? At least they might stop to ask what I mean.


Monday, March 10, 2014

My Writing Process–an author chain

JoyfullyYours-AmyLamontRomance Author Amy Lamont invited me to join the Writing Process chain to talk a bit about how I work.

Amy and I met recently in a writer’s group and I’m enjoying getting to know her. If you click on the book cover, you can find her writing process post. I look forward to checking out her next-to-come book, Mandy’s Marine.

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What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently going through final edits for the re-release of the first two books of the Rehearsal series, this time under my own imprint, which gives me more flexibility. Book 4 is also in final edits stage and Books 5 & 6 are in the works.

Along with that, I’ve just started putting together ideas for an anthology of local writers (you’ll find some of them linked below) and have a short story forming in my thoughts to be included. It’ll be the first story I’ve set in my adopted hometown and I look forward to adding luscious details to make the reader feel as though she’s actually been here.

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

I’ve had a hard time calling my work any one genre. It’s romantic, but doesn’t stay in the bounds of the romance genre since it tends to be far longer and includes family backgrounds and is often heavy with societal issues. It’s part literary fiction given my writing style and the mentioned societal issues, but it’s faster-paced than much lit fic and usually lighter. I think it’s what they are now calling Upmarket Romance and some of it could be called New Adult, but I call it Literary Romance and to be honest, I haven’t read any other books that are very similar. I write very deep inside my characters and let them tell the story, which is always art-centered.

Why do you write what you do?

Because that’s what comes out. I don’t remember which author was first credited with saying, “Write the book you want to read,” but I truly believe that and that’s what I do. I’m not terribly big on convention and don’t worry much about what’s “in” at the moment. I write what I need to write. Writing, and the characters’ stories, always comes first. I worry about how to market it later.
[*caveat: My pen name line is more conforming to recent trends than my LK books. I’m often up to trying new things.]

How does your writing process work?

Characters come to mind as they’re involved in some situation. I think about their story and about who they are and what they truly want most and what tries to keep them from it for quite some time before I start writing. That’s my usual MO. I have, however, grabbed a couple of characters from the air, so to speak, stuck them in a situation I hardly know, and let them go where they go. But most often, the story is well-formed in my head first. It may wander and change while writing the first draft and I let it do that.

I don’t outline first. I outline as I go. After I write a scene, I make a note of it so I can refer to it later if needed. When I do the big rewrite (aka the second draft), I may move things around and add or delete and make sure to tie up loose ends and fix things so the beginning, middle, and end all agree. My last book started in October and midway through changed to spring, so then I went back and made it all agree.

After my big rewrite, I send it to my first reader to get her thoughts while I start editing. When I’ve edited a few times, at least twice after the BR, I send it on to my proofreaders to help catch things I missed, then go over it once more. As John Irving says, at least 2/3rds of my writing time is editing.

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Hopping on the Blog Chain next week (Monday, March 17):

Liz Lally: Liz Lally lives with her husband in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. She has written two humorous books "Help! I Married a Cartoon Character" and "Nooo! I'm Not a Cartoon Character.”  http://lizlally.blogspot.com

TC Conner: TC Conner, The Write Gardener, writes about life in and out of the garden.  www.thewritegardener.wordpress.com

Valerie Rutherford: Valerie Rutherford is a YA Fantasy novelist, planning on self-publishing. She's currently working on a universe of inter-connected novels mixing magic with relationships and real life issues. http://fireflys-locket.livejournal.com/
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Friday, February 21, 2014

Splitting the Author Personality

inkblot3I used to scratch my head over why an author would need to use different names. You often see So N. So writing as Such N. Such written on book covers. If you’re going to put your name on it, anyway, why not just put your name on it? After all, the cover art should show varying genres, shouldn’t it?

I’ve changed my mind because I found reason to change my mind. No, that doesn’t mean I’m wishy-washy or untrue to myself; it means I’m willing to stop and think and reconsider what I thought I thought. It means I can admit when I’m wrong, or in the very least that I recognize what I think is “right” might not be “right” to someone else. It means I’m secure in the fact that I can be wrong and still be right enough. Right?

Anyway, when I was bringing out Pier Lights last year, I gave this matter a lot of thought. And I mean a LOT of thought. I do not want to look disingenuous. I don’t want to look like I’m “ashamed of” or “embarrassed by” this new spicier line. I admit it was hard for me to release spicy fiction (as completely non-vulgar as it is – with none of those shock value phrases many authors use) because in general, I’m a rather non-spicy and very private sort of gal. It’s about the relationship, the characters, the story.

But you know, sex is a normal part of life and it IS part of theinkblot2 characters. It’s part of all of us whether we grasp onto it or hide it or ignore it. It’s still there.

I’ve developed a good following of readers who are glad I don’t write spicy, or at least I never did until Pier Lights. So, for those people, since I would never criticize anyone for wanting or NOT wanting spice in their fiction – it’s fully their right to choose – I wanted to be sure they realized the new book was different so they could skip it if they’d rather.

Funny thing: as uncomfortable as the whole thing was – writing and releasing romances with actual sex scenes – I found I enjoyed writing slightly steamier shorter contemporary romances. All of my LK books are set in the past, near past or distant past. Writing present and not having to research “did we have that back then?” is a nice switch. And, letting the characters go farther than my LK books allow them to go offers more in-depth exploration, so to speak.

The one thing I still insist on: each scene must move the story and/or develop the character. That includes any spicy scenes. I won’t do spice just for spice. It has to bring character detail in to play.

My author friend Celia Yeary posted today about stepping out of your comfort zone, or not. My comfort zone, as I commented, is quite small, and I’m just not willing to tie myself into that little space. So out I step. I love challenges. I love learning new things. I love what I learn about myself when I learn new things.

And I’m fully enjoying these contemps set on beaches in places I haven’t been (research is just learning new things) inkblot4They are short enough I don’t spend a year or more on them. It leaves me time to work on my longer, more complex LK books. And, they take me to new places. I mean that in more way than one.

My plan was to do one a year during Nanowrimo since I can write the whole first draft in a month and then spend the next few months rewriting and polishing. Winter is a nice time to spend working on summer beach books! Recently, as the second book was nearing the end (of revisions and publishing), I felt a bit unwilling to let go of this new line, under the name Ella M. Kaye, until the end of the year. Maybe some novellas as fill-ins, for the fun of it and to help spread the new name? Good possibility. I haven’t done a novella yet. Might as well.

Now the crux: The wonderful, loyal followers I mentioned? They want these books, too, but not so much the spice. So… I’ll put out non-spicy versions, as well, not widely, but available. Yes, I’ve heard the comments that it just says the author is being wishy-washy or not standing up for her own work. I disagree. I think it’s having respect for your readers and their own personal and valid viewpoints. Not that a writer should do a cleaner version if they’d rather not, but why shouldn’t they if they so choose? Live and let live. There’s plenty of room for both.

As far as renaming/revamping/splitting yourself… Why not go with the flow and let the tide take you where you might really need to be? You can always row back into that safe harbor if you’d rather. My guess is you will have learned lots of nice new things by then, about others and about yourself. 
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Today is RELEASE DAY for Shadowed Lights, the second Ella M. Kaye book. Find more about this line at EllaMKaye.com.

SLcover-72p-9x6

When her sister loses her house to Hurricane Sandy, Delaney Griffin welcomes the family into her home. Months later, with five noisy kids and an overbearing brother-in-law threatening her sanity, Delaney spends much of her free time at the wildlife refuge, which also works as her refuge. Still, the lack of privacy, along with space to dance, her only passionate release, causes her debilitating social anxiety to escalate.

Eli Forrester has come from small town Indiana to Barnegat, New Jersey with his company to help restore the coast. A high rise worker who loves new people and new places, he fears nothing, except water. When he accidentally kicks one of the sea critters Delaney is trying to help rescue, he is drawn to the quiet New Jersey girl. Unwilling to take her cues to leave her alone, Eli is alternately put off and turned on by her odd behavior.

Under shadow of devastation, fear, and forced separation, Delaney and Eli search for their own rescue light.

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Want to win an ebook of this title? Check the comments!
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Intricacies of Intimacy

ValentineCookies-CakeCentraldotcomWe’ve all seen these gorgeously decorated cookies in stores. How can you help but be impressed and drawn to picking them up and taking them home?

My cookies, on the other hand, when I bother to bake, come out ragged around the edges and usually a touch scorched here and there, and if I decorate, which is unlikely, the frosting is rough and uneven.

But, and this is a big but to me (no jokes, please), those gorgeous, perfectly decorated cookies rarely taste good once you bite into them. Mine, on the other hand, (not taking credit since it’s Mom’s recipe) taste incredible, so incredible that even this mostly-sworn-off-sugar gal can’t resist them. I’ve learned to easily bypass those “perfect looking” cookies and if I want cookies, I make them (or have a daughter make them, which is far better) and then I can enjoy what truly matters: how they taste. It is food, after all, not art. The taste is the thing.

Wait. How is this about intimacy? Well, it’s really the same thing. I learned long ago to bypass relationships (or at least keep relative distance) with people who look so perfectly “gorgeous” on the outside, and I don’t mean actual looks; I mean appearance-wise. I prefer a man in sweaty, dirty, work clothes to a man in a suit. He looks far more real to me. That’s perhaps my blue collar upbringing -- my grandpa coming home from his service station with black oil and grease stained fingers, even after carefully washing, with the same smudges on his clothes, but with a big smile for his family because he’s so glad to be home with them after a productive day. To me, that’s beautiful. I can’t fully trust anyone who always looks perfect. And you can’t have an intimate relationship with anyone you don’t fully trust.

[Disclaimer: I am not at all saying men (or women) in suits are less trust-worthy! It’s only a personal thing.]

In-To-Me-SeeSee, the thing is: I’m so far away from being one of those beautifully decorated cookies myself that being around those who are so beautifully decorated is intimidating. You also can’t have an intimate relationship (of any kind, not only romantic) with anyone who intimidates you. I need the rough edges, the dirty fingernails, the clothes I don’t want to touch but enjoy seeing, and the forgiving nature of that imperfect soul willing to accept how fully imperfect I am. I cannot be intimate with anyone too self-confidant because I can’t understand it and it’s hard to trust something you don’t understand. I understand defensiveness. I understand rough edges. I understand doing things you wish you hadn’t. I understand having a hard time admitting that you did something you wish you hadn’t. I understand having a hard time with apologies (it’s defensive). I understand messy, slightly overweight, occasional laziness that makes you drop something wherever you are instead of putting it where it belongs, and wearing old stained sweats at home and hoping no one drops in. I understand awkwardness. I understand bad hair months. I understand being so far out of the current fashion trend you can’t even see the edge of it, and not caring at all. I understand blue jeans and T-shirts that look like they’ve seen better days. In all honesty, I suppose I have, too. But like those jeans and tees, I’m far more comfortable than I was in my “better days” whenever those were supposed to be.

I won’t lie. (I can’t do that well; ask my family.) My husband and I have had some rough years. Those brand new stiff and shiny blue jean days were often hard to get through. He will say the same. We both had our defenses. We both had our scorched spots. Through it all, though, we saw the bright glow from within each others’ imperfect souls and uneven edges, and we stuck it out to keep digging underneath. Some days the digging went smooth and gave us the rush of a job well done at the end of the day. Other days we looked at the nicked and scarred shovels and nearly tossed them aside. It’s never been easy other than the rare day of perfect riding weather when too many other things weren’t pressing on us to take care of or to handle or to stew over. Those are the vacation days of marriage that are to be relished and remembered through the scarring and healing days of growth. Trust me, if you haven’t tried marriage yet: there are far more work days than vacation days.

gingerbreadcoupleAfter 26 years, we finally have more and more of those vacation days and the shovels can often just sit and wait while we sail along on that well-earned rest. Even now things can come out that never have in the past 26 years. And you know, that’s a beautiful thing. That’s intimacy. Others may only see the uneven slightly scorched cookie couple that we are. That’s okay. Because at the heart of that cookie is true flavor that’s impossible to resist. There are things we have been through together that no one else in the world can ever truly understand. We’ve earned that scorch along with the … a-hem, gray hair. 

So today, my DH calls from work where I’m sure he’s covered in sawdust and stain and whatever else, as I sit here in my sweats and old slippers and messy hair working on a career that pays so far under minimum wage I can’t even see that edge of the pay scale, and tells me to go look in the closet. He used to buy me roses. By this time, he knows spending that kind of money on cut flowers that will just die in a couple of days is not on my wish list. Instead, he now buys one beautiful, shining gold-plated rose covering a real rose so it’s both real and still always beautiful, no matter how wilted and browned it may get inside. I see those gold roses as a symbol that the faint, scorched glow inside is finally making its way out where it can be seen. The effort may not show to anyone else. It doesn’t matter. It’s a part of intimacy not meant for others. 

True intimacy is real and beautiful and unending. It may flicker at times, but it never burns out. 

Of course the card he got to go with it was not only not in the envelope, but also unsigned. I had to laugh. That’s intimacy.

DH and me at our daughter's wedding
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This blog post is part of ProjectUnderblog.com
UnderblogCollective



Monday, January 20, 2014

Classic Literature and Education issues

Hemingway-LiveLikePosterI’ve had or seen a few discussions lately about what should and shouldn’t be taught in high schools. Now, I’m not a teacher, but I have done quite a fair bit of research into educational issues and I’ve had a fair bit of education beyond high school, strongly in the literature, art, and psychology fields. Education is of major importance. We all know this as a fact. What we can’t seem to agree on is what it should consist of and how it should come about.

One conversation was with a young friend who felt that art and music should be taught in schools but should not be graded. One of her points was that it brought her grade point down because she’s not good at it. I understand that reasoning. It’s not something she plans to do in her life, anyway, so why grade such things? Heck, I felt that way about science. Math, I understood why it was necessary. We all use at least the basics and theories. Biology? Chemistry? Botany? No, I still see no use in my life for having to have been graded on any of that. Yes, it’s everywhere. Yes, it affects us all. But learning what little I learned of it has not helped my work.

Or did it? The thing is: the seemingly simple event of learning something new makes more difference than most of us understand. Our brains are like any other muscle; the more we use them, the stronger they get, and the more varied things we learn, the more supple they become.

So, this brings me back to the article I read on a book site that really got me fuming, not only because of the vulgarity and condescending tone in it, but because her whole thesis was that since she hated and didn’t understand Hemingway, or other classics, all classic lit should be thrown out of high school lit classes. Most high school sophomores, she said, have “no frame of reference to tap into the heady though subtle emotions that course through Hemingway’s novels.”

Wait. No frame of reference? But isn’t that what fiction is supposed to give us? A wider frame of reference? As far as I know, teens don’t have a frame of reference to tap into the emotions of vampires who live forever if they suck blood or magicians with powers that make them the most important person in the wizard world, either. Does that mean since, as a young teen I lived in the middle of cornfields in an average working class family far away from war, had never had an illicit affair, and had never experienced impotency or traveled to Spain, I couldn’t begin to understand Hemingway’s characters’ emotions? I did, though. I understood them fine through my limited frame of reference.

Since the article’s author loves In Cold Blood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas better than Hemingway, yes, we should throw out all of the classics and have sophomores read about druggies destroying their lives but being oh, so cute about it or the intricate details of a savage murder. Nightmares, anyone? I would have.

Yes, high school students should be made to read certain books for the same reason they should have to learn science basics. It’s a learning experience. It opens horizons.

That said, I don’t think any student should be forced to read novels about rape, incest, murder, or war if they feel strongly against it. Do parents realize what their kids are being made to read? You should if you don’t. Read reviews about the books you see coming home from school, or try reading it yourself. I was appalled at one of the books my son brought home and said he tried to read but just couldn’t. It was “in” at the moment. I guess the teacher thought she was being trendy. No, I wouldn’t read that graphic intensely violent thing, either, and I told him not to bother (probably the first and only time I ever told him NOT to do his homework).

Wouldn’t it be easier to have a selection of different genres so they can choose which classics to read and which modern fiction to read? Give them choices to an extent, but don’t throw out classic fiction that gives them frames of reference they will not achieve in any other way. If it’s a struggle for them to read, that’s a good thing. It is. Making things too easy on kids is doing them no favors.

And yes, if they have to be graded on science and math, they should also be graded on art and music. For some of us, those art and music grades pulled up our GPAs after struggling through those other classes. Would it really be fair to take that from us? (By the way, learning art and music basics help you learn everything else better. Scientific fact.) Good teachers will recognize a true attempt to learn and be somewhat lenient on the grading scale for artsy people struggling with math and for math people struggling with arts. I had a science teacher who did it for me and I’m forever grateful, because really, I did try, and that was the important thing for this non-scientist.

I loved “having” to read classics in school and it was as important for this writer-in-training to do so as it is for budding scientists to learn chemistry. We all have different things we struggle with and through. The struggle is as important as the things that come easy.

So, how about I trade you my Tolstoy for your… well, I’ll read most any genre that won’t give me nightmares, at least on occasion. And I won’t try to get Twilight pulled out of kids’ hands if you don’t try to get Hemingway away from them. Capote and Thompson I might take issue with. They can wait on that till they’re choosing completely on their own. Or at least give them different options within the same genre.

Half the point of teaching literature is learning the literature itself, to include the techniques, the metaphors and similes, flow, plot, conflict and conflict resolution, and how the author slants words and phrases to express her personal opinion, all of which will overflow into their lives if it’s taught well. The other half, and maybe the much bigger “half,” is to teach them to love to read, to realize how much they can learn from books, and how much bigger their horizons can be. We can’t do that by making them read only books they don’t enjoy.

Include the classics, but give them other genres, and choices, as well. They should be learning how to teach themselves what they want to know, not how to get by the easy way, and not that we should throw out and dismiss what doesn’t interest us. Make them quest for more knowledge and you’ve done the biggest part of giving them the tools for success.






Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Word for the Year

UnderblogCollectiveI found Project Underblog by chance yesterday and I’m a fan of a group of writers or bloggers all posting about the same theme at the same time and linking together. I also agree with Ms. Yother about resolutions for the new year. So, along with always wanting a good topic for my blog, I found this inspirational and had to jump in.

I haven’t done resolutions for some time. I’ve been doing goals, more or less, but have wavered on setting new goals specifically for the year because the schedule for my goals doesn’t go by the calendar. Not exactly. At least not January to December. The idea of choosing one word as your theme for the year instead of a resolution was very appealing. As I thought about it, a few possible words came to mind, but the one that stuck the hardest:

FOCUS

Focus is a much bigger word to me than it appears. It’s not one of my strong points. I have a plethora of interests and even within each field of interest, I have a plethora of things I want to do. I start new things often. I mean OFTEN. I start far too much to possibly keep up with it all.

That doesn’t work well when you have a mountainous goal/task that needs a LOT of attention and time.

So this year, my theme is FOCUS. Specifically, I have to cut out some miscellaneous time wasters, those things I’ve come up with that might be a good idea… Yeah, yeah. Good ideas are a dime a dozen (just like cute guys, so the song says). Implementation, and I mean full implementation, is more rare. And far more important.

My focus this year has to be on those things most important this year. I’m talking about writing specifically. I’ve produced well. I believe each book surpasses the last in quality. What I’ve truly lacked is focus on the things I truly Want to do with my work, other than the work itself.

My marketing stinks. I know it does. Maybe because I’m too scattered and have too many ideas. I’ve considered which supposed marketing tools (you know, those sites authors just HAVE to join) are not productive enough for the time they take, and mainly, they’re ones I don’t enjoy a lot. Those need to drop in status to hit or miss as I can get to them. I don’t have to be everywhere; really I don’t.

My important and most enjoyable tools are

1) My blogs. I like to blog. I have lots of thoughts that can’t be well confined to 160 characters. I have several blogs. All of them have been sorely neglected. Much of my focus this year will be improving and increasing blog activity.

2) Elucidations. I believe in my indie arts project and need to spend more time on that.

3) A project I barely started to develop last year called Write The Light In. With my psychology degree and my natural instinct to want to help others and to bring out the good side of things, this thought of combining that with my love of words is dear to my heart. It deserves full attention.

So this year I focus on the above, along with my actual writing, of course. Some social network places will close. Others will be “as I can get to it.”

FOCUS: My theme word for 2014.

Anyone else in? Click HERE to join in, but link submissions close in 3 days, so jump fast!