Monday, May 30, 2016

In Memory of ... a Time to Reflect

I normally don't do this, but it's Memorial Day and I'm getting older. Time does that to a person, especially during occasions like holidays, weddings, birthdays, and sadly, funerals. We remember the past. Today I'm thinking of family who served during war -- WWII and the Korean War come to mind. 

Uncle Pete (Momchilov) was my mom's brother. I didn't get a chance to know him very well. He died when I was twelve. He flew planes during WWII, was shot down a couple of times, but survived it all. Pete loved flying. After the war he went on to pilot commercial flights, small charters and such. Sadly and ironically, he died from a heart attack during one of those flights. His co-pilot was able to land the plane safely. Pete was only in his forties. He loved his country and flying. That's what I'll remember most about him.

I have three brothers, all many years older than I. My oldest, Art Schake, served in the army during WWII. I don't know anything about the time he served. I wasn't born yet, but I've seen photos. He looked so handsome in his uniform. He came out of the Army and continued to serve his country in another way, by becoming a police officer. That remained his occupation for thirty-some years. Unfortunately, he passed away in his early sixties and didn't get a chance to enjoy more than a few years of retirement. However, he lived a full and joyful life, loved by family and friends, appreciated by citizens and country. 

My middle brother, Bob, is a quiet, dignified, and intelligent man. I can't even imagine him being in a war, but he served during the Korean conflict for several years. I was only four when he sent home gifts, including the outfit you see me wearing in the photo. I loved it and wanted to wear it all the time! I imagine it was quite a culture shock living in a foreign country for years. It must have been comforting having fellow soldiers around him, giving support and boosting morale. I'm sure he came back after he served, a wiser man, more worldly. He went on to further his education on the G.I. Bill, one of the benefits of serving the military. He found a job at Firestone Tire in Akron, worked his way to the top and ended up the VP of Purchasing for Dunlop Tire. 

My youngest brother, Jim, may have wanted to serve in the military (I don't know for sure), but a health condition prevented him from doing so. He made up for it in other ways, becoming a viable and contributing citizen, raising a family, and working for a local company, Reiter Dairy. He's retired and has lived to enjoy seeing his three daughters marry and have children of their own. 

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we all have different stories to tell, but also we have one thing in common: being proud of our loved ones who've served and knowing the sacrifices they've made helped make this country great. 

Have a wonderful Memorial Day and honor your veterans!

*I apologize in advance for any facts I may have gotten wrong. In any case, I'm sure my brothers will let me know, if I did! LOL

Friday, May 20, 2016

Let's Count ... What's in Your Toolbox?

A writer's toolbox is special. Think about it. A doctor has her medical bag. A teacher carries her briefcase of lesson plans, papers to grade, utensils, etc. A lawyer, an accountant, a carpenter, a plumber, and the list goes on forever -- all of them need tools. Right? Tools get the job done. 

A writer is no different. What's important to us may vary, but the tools are there to help us plan, create, write, edit, until we complete the WIP. I like my tools. I keep them close by and use them frequently. What are they? Well, let's take a look...

1) Laptop -- I used to write out stories longhand, then type them. Eventually, I decided going straight to the keyboard saved me time and made the changes a cinch to read! Okay, yes. I'll admit it. I can't help but edit as I write. Some say it interrupts the flow of the story. I say the story won't take one step further if I don't correct what I see as glaring errors!

2) Outline -- I'm a planner. Used to be a pantser. Planning keeps me from writing myself into a horrible, confusing corner that would take erasing several chapters and starting over at that point to fix. So, a detailed, chapter by chapter outline it is, resting next to my laptop!

3) Sticky Notes -- This is where I will sound a bit fanatical, but I use these for brief chapter notes. I know what you're thinking. I've already outlined, so isn't this redundant? Not exactly. It's true my outline is a lengthier version of my stickies. However, the most important reason for them is to help me keep track of my story timeline. On each one, I write a few words about the chapter and include the date. Then I stick them along the edge of my bookshelf where I can give them a quick glance when I'm trying to figure out how many days have passed since such and such event happened, or which event occurred in what chapter. 

4) Character List -- I like to reference my story's characters and their descriptions, especially the minor ones, which may sound illogical but these are the ones who may not appear that often in the story. Chances are I may forget their names! It happens in my world.

5) yWriters5 -- I use this software program because it's free. Yes, I'm thrifty, frugal, oh heck, I'm cheap. Otherwise I would be using Scrivener. In any case, whatever one chooses, a program where you can enter in all the fun stuff -- outline, summary, characters and their descriptions, etc. It helps a planner like me, or a pantser who needs reforming. lol

6) The Emotional Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi -- Yes, I occasionally get stuck in the muck when choosing my words and expressions. I take a look through this reference for help now and again, though I do put my creative mind through a major workout to come up with my own ideas first! Can't let that brain muscle become lazy ;-) 

7) My writer's mug -- Actually, I have three now, but my favorite is this one. They're great for inspiration or just some comical relief. 

8) Writing Utensils -- I wouldn't be complete without these. I scribble across my outline all the time, in the margins, between the lines, anywhere I find white space. It's my obsession to change words and ideas constantly! 

9) Last but absolutely not least are the abstract essentials -- imagination, perseverance, confidence, and a thick alligator skin to protect against criticism, naysayers, and all around Debbie-downers. Who needs them? 

Okay, so those are my tools, what about yours? I'd love to hear. In the meantime, I'm going to be book blogging with Reading Addiction Book Tours starting in a little over a week from now. Hope you'll stop by some or all of the blogs hosting me. I'm even going to write a couple of guest posts! Should be a fun time :-) 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Authors Inspire Authors and Where You May Find Creativity -- Book Festivals

Happy Monday! I wanted to write this post because it involves all things positive. Well, almost all. A great way to jump start the week. Right? Anyway, I attended an author expo at a local library on Saturday. Somewhere around forty authors attended. Tables were decorated with books, tons of swag, bookmarks, and candy, animated chatter of authors talking to authors echoed off the walls and down the halls from floor to floor, sharing ideas, experiences, lamenting about lagging book sales, the dismal pricing of what we put so much time, effort and creative sweat into that goes mostly unnoticed. Did I have fun? You betcha!

This is my crew, my playground, my chance to reconnect with like-minded people. The book sales are icing on what's already a very delicious seven-layered cake. (Yes, I do tend to speak in dessert metaphors. Don't judge.) So, what's the deal, you ask? Here's a rundown in list format:

1) Authors think alike. We speak the lingo and completely understand one another. If you're skeptical at why this is such a big deal, try talking about books, publishing, who's in, who's out, the challenges of waiting for the CALL, where to find readers, etc. to your significant other and see the puzzled expression on his/her face. Or the response: "So what? You write a book, sell it and make lots of money. Isn't that how it goes? And penguin is a bird species. Why are you talking about birds?" *sigh* It's really like that.

2) It's a let's-trade-ideas moment, social-networking. How great is this?! I gain a lot of knowledge and writerly tips from other authors. Make new contacts, which can lead to even more writerly tips and ideas. For instance, this Saturday I learned about another site where I can buy printed materials, and also the names of a couple of local conferences. I never leave without some valuable info.

3) A chance to socialize is therapeutic. Those who write for a living know that it's a solitary activity. You admittedly resort to carrying on conversations with yourself and staying in PJs all day. And when was the last time you showered? Five chapters ago? (I'm picturing scenes of a disheveled Johnny Depp in The Secret Window.) Socializing is a chance to reconnect with someone other than your characters, though the real ones may not always agree with you ;-)

4) Inspiration, i.e. you're energized. Okay, this will sound weird, but when I visit friends and family, see their pretty, neat houses, I go home, take a look at the clutter, and then become Suzy Homemaker ... at least for the day! I guess it's no surprise that when I hear about the books and projects belonging to other authors, it inspires me. Sure enough, when I got home Saturday ... well, maybe not Saturday because after several hours of jabbering about books, I came home and crashed! Anyway, the next day I hammered out the outline for current WIP, Don't Judge a Con by Her Cover and wrote chapter one this morning! It can work like that.

Yes, good things happen at author festivals. Give 'em a chance. 

Have a great and productive week, be creative and write! 

UPDATE: Mother-in-law is doing great with her rehab! May come home at the end of the month. Here's to staying healthy :-)