Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Learning to Write

When I look at the education level of many children around me, I wonder how they are going to function as adults. I get the feeling that governments manipulate data to make the reports favorable and therefore making the standing officials look good when in reality, we must be slipping. Sure, many adults used to only go to school until 8th grade, but have you seen what they had to study? The level of education for an 8th grader in the 1800s would challenge many Liberal Arts college graduates. Why do most colleges offer high school level courses for the incoming graduates? They expect a large percentage of the incoming students will not be ready for college.

So why am I mentioning this? I think kids need to be challenged to write starting as early as Kindergarten. Writing forces you to think on your own, to come up with an organized thought process, to develop an opinion and to be creative. Yes, grammar and punctuation count, but they are secondary to the actual content of the writing. I had a fourth grade teacher who taught me to enjoy grammar and writing. He encouraged us to write and had large stacks of paper in his classroom free for us to use. I remember him telling us to write on anything we could, newspapers, boxes, and at the same time to practice our penmanship. He let me learn as fast as I wanted in math, taking the time to grade the stacks of homework I would bring in most mornings. Learning under his enthusiasm was fun and exciting and my future school life was shaped by his example.

Whatever your age, write! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What is a Plot?

AML photography
When you sit down to write a story, you need to have a plot or pathway along which your story will develop. The trick is to make the plot unexpected so the reader walks away shaking his head saying, "I didn't expect that," instead of, "that was a boring story." Some people have the ability to think ahead and plan out what they want their main character to do, while others like me spend more time in the present. Since I lack this creative foresight, I need to actually draw out a flow chart that shows how one action leads to another. If I have a desired outcome, I will draw the flow chart backwards.
According to Tameri, you should be able to describe your plot in two dozen words or less or it is too complex. Since plot is also described as the conflict within the story, you can use the emotions around the conflict to enhance the story from a simple short story to a complete novel. For example a simple plot is two kids got lost and found a house of candy, which they were not supposed to eat. Hansel and Gretel provided us with so much conflict that most of us never have forgotten the childhood story.

Of course, practice is the key to developing a plot. One of the funnest ways of doing this is in front of children while you watch their faces reflect the emotions of your story along the path of your plot. You should try it sometime.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Getting Back Into Writing...

I spent yesterday with thousands of other people in the middle of Baltimore at my daughter's graduation from college. The number of graduates forced the school to streamline the process so that each graduate was given about 3 to 4 seconds on stage - just long enough to have their name read and to receive their handshake from the president of the college. Actually, they only had about 2 seconds of fame, because as they stepped forward to shake hands, another name was being read out. Thankfully, my daughter was thrilled and so we were happy as well.

Today, I am ready to get back into writing. I feel like I have been away for weeks, even though it has only been about 5 days. I am sure the next two weeks will not avail me of too much time for writing as I have another daughter graduating from high school and Memorial Day weekend coming up! I will just have to keep my pad of paper with me and try to add on to my stories whenever I have a chance.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How Are You Known?

Panama Canal Expansion by Dynamite
This morning, I was watching a clip on the History Channel. Did you know that Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite? When he was about 60 years old, his brother died and the newspaper printed an obituary for Alfred by mistake. He was mortified to read that he was known as the merchant of death in spite of his hundreds of inventions. Alfred was a brilliant scientist - so amazingly smart and incredibly successful as a businessman, fluent in several languages, yet today, I only knew him as the man behind the Nobel Peace Prize. How did that happen? That false obituary motivated him to set aside his fortune in a trust to reward people annually for their contributions in physical science, chemistry, physiology, literary work and contributions to the furtherance of peace.

Most of us struggle to cope with our own lives and give little thought to how we will be remembered. As I write, I want to remember that my words will outlast me and that no one will care how much money I earned from the writings. They will care about who I was and how I lived. How are you known?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It's Raining!

Heide Braley at the age of three.
We fell asleep last night to the sounds of gentle raindrops on the trees outside our windows. As the night progressed, the rain got heavy and twice I wondered if we were going to have our backyard flooded out by the heavy cloudbursts. This morning, the rain has been steady and I feel like I am living in a tropical jungle with all the dripping and splashing. 

This is perfect weather for writing and after I do a few errands, I plan on hitting the keyboard.
 
I am listing some of my stories on Smashwords so I can reach a larger market, for those folks who don't use Kindles. This should help to increase my audience.
 
This is a fun week for me in the history of my life; my youngest daughter has her last day of high school, I am celebrating my 26th anniversary with my husband and I am turning 50. Am I allowed to say that I am content with my age? I don't feel any older and want to embrace each change that comes my way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Enjoy Writing

If you ever wonder about how to get going in the writing market, I can only suggest one thing as being the most important thing you need to do and that is writing. The act of putting your words on paper (or your computer screen) forces you to think through ideas and then lets you see how they look. Many times, your words make perfect sense in your head, but when you put them on paper, you see that maybe you need to rearrange them to make better sense or to clarify your real meaning.
 
Writing is just like being an artist or a carpenter, or any other craft, the more you practice, the more you see your own work, critique and refine it to your own desires. Then as other people see your work, they add their perspective which you can decide if you like or dislike. This evolution over time will hone how you format and arrange your writing and your audience will increase.

So, write. Try writing letters, diaries, blogs, short stories, and enjoy it. Don't be discouraged by the lack of notoriety and instead focus on the craft.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Fistfuls of Money

Who doesn't want to make millions? Today I am going to write a story - which means it is fictional, about how someone read an old book and learned to work the stock market to their advantage, increasing their worth many times over in just a short period of time. Is it possible? Of course it is - look at all the people who invested in Microsoft when it was offered to the public as an IPO. According to Wikipedia, from those investors, four became billionaires, and 12,000 became millionaires - just from investing. 
 
To give you a simple example, if you invested by buying just one hundred dollars' worth of stocks back when it was first offered in 1986,(which was not too long ago) today you would have over $28,000 in your account. If only...

But what if we could stick our finger into the giant money market known as Wall street and pull it back out with fistfuls of money. Wouldn't it be lovely!

Just wait and when you read this story, you might just be tempted....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Escaping Reality

My Nightmare
This morning I received notice from Amazon that my latest story, My Nightmare is now published and live on the web. I like the look of the cover and think the readers will enjoy the short drama of my main character Elizabeth, as she realizes that immersing herself so deeply into her writing might not be a wise choice. We all take time to trip out from reality whether it means we are reading a good book, or watching a movie or simply dreaming (and not taking drugs). This is healthy and probably helps us face our own reality with a new perspective.

So I hope the distribution goes well and that lots of people around the world get to read this story. I will list it for free download this weekend, 5/12 and 5/13.

Here is how it starts...


I lay back in the warm sunshine. The air was cool but as long as the sun stayed out from behind the clouds, I felt deliciously warm and comfortable. There was nothing but the sound of the wind in the trees and the scuttle of the dry maple seeds scraping against the concrete patio. My writing notebook sat unopened on the table next to me accented by the color of the royal blue pen next to it. I glanced at it from time to time as if I was checking to see if I was ready to start. To start on a journey that might mean trouble. Trouble is what got me here in the first place. Place, this wasn’t a place, it was a prison. Prison - why do they put people in prisons instead of letting them live. Live was all I wanted to do, through my pen and paper. Paper was the entrance to my stories. Stories were an expression of where I could go without ever leaving my chair or moving a muscle.
My thoughts meandered as easily as a butterfly might flit from flower to leaf without rhyme or reason. The sounds of the masses of bamboo swaying in the wind were fuel for my imagination, but I enjoyed it only temporarily. (continue)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Morning News Ponderings

Apple Blossoms
When I read about the morning news in the United States, it causes me to realize that we are quite spoiled as a society. Our level of comfort seems to rely on a level of excess that the majority of the world will never enjoy. You would think that we should be the happiest country with all the excess but instead we seem plagued with complaints. Could it actually be that material success does not bring happiness, just like the stories we read as children instructed us?

Think about it... Do we need to take more vitamins? Do we need to take more drugs for every little symptom? Do we need larger houses? Do we need mega grocery stores full of pre-made foods? Do we need to insure every aspect of our lives, in case of catastrophes? Do we need a new car every three years? When does it stop?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of creature comforts but I think we need to find a balance within the excesses. I want to enjoy my life instead of complaining. There is truth to the phrase, spoiled rotten, and I don't want it to be the summary of my life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Worst Nightmare

"What's the problem, dear?"
"You locked my door!"
"That's just standard procedure for folks who are upset. We don't want to spoil the peace of everyone else," she explained.
Suddenly, I felt my neck muscles soften and then my spine. Grabbing the door frame, I realized the pills she gave me were far stronger than I expected. I turned to to make the two steps to my bed before I fell over."

So many times over the years, I have watched movies where the main character is unwillingly committed to a mental hospital, or people say that it would be their worst nightmare. What about today? Do you think you would have enough presence of mind to get out if someone had you committed? Not me - I hope I never have to darken the doorways of such a facility and really hope that no one ever has to commit me.

This story will be live on Amazon this afternoon, when I will post a link for my kind readers...

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's Your Road

I try to write from my heart and love to read about others who do the same. I so often hear from folks who mimic other people, instead of speaking their own mind. They speak in quotes from other icons in history as if the other person is more important than they are. I was reading through the Facebook posts on my page this morning, and I came across this picture with the caption, "It's your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you. 

I encourage you to stop mimicking and speak from your heart. It will force you to think about who you are and what is important to you. We can all read quotes from past intellectuals, but put down the dusty books and speak your own words. You might be surprised at how nice it is to be genuine...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Supermoon

I don't know if you have heard or read in the news about the supermoon coming tomorrow on May 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm. This is a time in the cycle of the moon's orbit when it comes closest to the earth. Of course, such a large object in space so close to us tends to be a little unnerving and of course the stories will fly. Will there be strange events caused by this phenomenon? 
 
We live just yards from the top of the Chesapeake Bay and will expect an extra high tide. With the heavy rain that is forecast for earlier in the day, we might have to look for flooding, but that should be the extent of it. Here is a picture I borrowed from, the Ben Stacy Blog.

Supermoon
What if..
 
My imagination can think of several story ideas. What about you?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Free eBooks

This morning I am offering two stories on Amazon as free! Yes, if you check out, A Weed or a Flower, you can download it today for no charge. Another very popular story, Broken Friendship is also free today. So you can get on over to Amazon and download them. I think Amazon runs on Pacific Coast time so you have a few extra hours after midnight if you live on the East Coast.

Now I am ready to write. That is the core of my work so as other writers also recommend, write, write, write!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Trailer Progress

Yesterday I finished by first book trailer, The Meanderings of a Pen Trailer. It is simple but effective and I think I like it. Whether or not it will help my book sales has yet to be determined. 
If you are wondering how I did mine, I basically used the covers that introduced the stories in my book, set them in a story line on Windows Movie Maker - a program included with Windows XP.  I then imported a simple tune after I composed it on the free version of Noteflight.so I wouldn't have to deal with getting a license to use someone else's music. I saved it as a movie to my computer and then uploaded it to Facebook and then Youtube. I added it to this blog as a sideline item for people to review when they read this blog.
So there you go. Feel free to ask me any questions. Today is a cool rainy day that will turn warm later so I am looking forward to finishing my story - as my leading character has been stuck in a mental institution while I worked on this trailer...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Brain Freeze

According to Wikipedia, brain freeze is the acute cognitive faltering due to stress. (Of course, there is the other commonly used definition of a form of brief cranial pain or headache commonly associated with consumption (particularly quick consumption) of cold beverages or foods such as ice cream and ice pops.
 
What do you do when your brain freezes and you find yourself sitting and staring at your keyboard with no words coming to mind? One blogger, Chris Abraham recommends that you just write about one of the many ideas floating around in your head and don't worry about being perfect.

Purdue's Online Writing Lab, has an article by Sean Conrey who recommends that you try starting in the middle of your story and worry about the introduction later. No one will know or care if you didn't start at the beginning.

In a blog, Love and Laughter by Peri Kinder, she states that maybe you should just admit you are a terrible writer and go get a job at your local department store. However, I will take that one step farther and say just go and stand in line to apply at the local department store and you will all of a sudden find that missing inspiration to go back home and write furiously!

Laugh at yourself and relax! None of us have it all figured out. (I assume)