Monday, April 23, 2018

Waiting

The hunk and I have a slew of appointments this week and next. Each one pretty much wipes out the day--not because the actual appointment takes so long--but because of all the OTHER stuff. You know. Get up. Take meds. Eat breakfast. Shower, times 2, dress, collect all the paperwork, then drive to the appointment. Depending on the time of day, etc., this can take a while.

Wait in the waiting room. Wait in the examination room. Ah-hah! The doctor arrives. Ten minutes later you walk out with another sheaf of papers. Drive back home. Collapse from exhaustion.

I don't know why the entire process is so tiring. But it is.

We try to fit in a side trip or two. For instance, after today's appointment, we'll do a quick pass through BJ's...if such a thing is possible. And of course, that will mean hauling groceries into the apartment and putting them away.

Every time I see one of those programs about online doctor appointments, I wonder how that would work. Would we still wait, except at home?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lessons

Back in the day when I first married and anticipated the joys of parenthood, my thoughts were all about the things I would teach my children. Kindness, love, fairness...you know, 'parent' things. I didn't even consider what I might learn from them.

The number one, absolute top lesson I learned is child logic is completely different from adult logic. The hunk and I were once awakened early on a Saturday morning by frantic knocks on our bedroom door. Sleepy inquiries elicited the information that there was a fire in the boys bedroom. The hunk leaped out of bed, starkers, and rushed to their room. Sigh.

The mattress was smouldering. Next to the bed, a merry little blaze was gaining ground...a campfire. Sticks. One of the firestarters I'd made for camping from paper egg cartons and wax. And a wide swath of newspaper.

The hunk carted the mattress outside, dumping it on the patio, while I smothered the fire with some baking soda. Once the fire was out, we cleaned up the mess. Score? A burnt mattress, scorched carpet, and two scared kids. In the 'discussion' that followed, one bit of logic came out that still stuns me to this day. WHY were there newspapers spread under their campfire?

To keep the carpet from getting dirty.

Number two--they have no comprehension of greater consequences. When our children were young, super human television stories were popular. Bionic Man. Wonder Woman. Our son leaped from the roof (how he got up there is a different story), because? He was the Bionic Man, of course. Naturally.

Another time, after taking the kids to the circus, we found the boys standing on their dresser, holding on to a piece of twine they had tied to the overhead lamp (another story for later). They were prepared to practice trapeze moves. Yes, I know. Twine does not equal a sturdy rope, but there's that consequences issue I mentioned.

And then there's the time our daughter walked out into the street in front of a car. Fortunately, the driver wasn't going fast and stopped in time. When she (rightly) yelled at our daughter, she and I were both dumbfounded by her little girl logic. Yep. You guessed it--she was Wonder Woman so the car couldn't possibly hurt her.

Number three...children have no filter when it comes to talking about their home life with outsiders. Sometimes, this is an excellent thing especially if they are in an abusive situation. Other times, well, let's just say it can make things iffy if someone decides to call in the authorities.

Take the time someone gave us a couch. We stashed the old one out in the garage until we could arrange to borrow a truck to take it to the dump. During this same time period, the two boys were going through a very normal stage where they didn't want to share a bedroom. Our older son decided he would sleep on the couch in the garage. No problem. We left the house door to the garage unlocked, and I figured the new arrangement wouldn't last long.

That wasn't exactly the way it went. He went to school and excitedly shared the new arrangement with his fourth grade class and teacher. Only what he told them was he now slept in the garage. Period. A very nice CPS lady came out to check out the situation. After an exhaustive discussion over coffee and cookies and a good laugh, she went off to file her report, clearing us of any wrongdoing. And a couple weeks later without comment, he decided he'd rather sleep in the bedroom with his brother.

My children are all grown now, some with children of their own. I freely admit I have a private laugh when they call me, ready to pull out their hair over something their children have done. They do say what goes around, comes around.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book of the Day

 Recently, on my Facebook page I've started a Book of the Day post. It's not long. Book of the Day. Title. Author. And, just to be clear, these are not books I've written. They're books from my library.

It used to be book recommendations were passed along by discussing books over coffee or at a party or heck, even in line at the grocery store. That doesn't happen much, anymore. Some people check out on-line book groups. I don't. Many are genre specific and others are...unfriendly. I tend to talk about books I've read on a face-to-face basis, even if that is on social media.

So. Each day I'll post a title and author from my own library. Perhaps a reader will reminisce about the enjoyment they received from reading it. Maybe someone will discover a new-to-them author. Why some folks might even step out of their comfort zones and try new genres. I hope so.

This is my way of spreading the wealth. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Grandmother

When I was ten my mother died in a car accident. My family was literally in the process of moving from Arizona to Indiana when the accident happened so on top of losing my mother, I also lost home, friends, and all that was familiar to me. When we settled in Indiana, my grandmother lived with us as a surrogate parent/caregiver. I didn't know her as we had lived too far away to visit very often.

My grandmother taught second grade for many, many years--long enough that the grandparents of her current students frequently showed up to remind her she had also been their teacher. My mother was the quintessential stay home mom so I was unfamiliar with a female role model who went to work every day. We had the summer to get to know each other and then in the fall, it all changed.

Dad was home in the afternoons, still grieving and mostly hibernating, while Grandmother went off to work each day. I vaguely remember that my brothers did not adjust well at all that year to all the changes. I was too busy dealing with my own problems. Fortunately, I discovered the bookmobile and books became my salvation.

But, I did learn important lessons in that year after my mother died. I learned to be independent. My mother was a model mother, cooking, cleaning, doing everything and expecting nothing from us kids. It was pretty normal child-rearing for the 50s. The thing was--we didn't know how to do anything. We never learned.

On the day my mother died, my father was caught up in trying to find a place to unload our possessions so he could use our pickup truck to drive back to Arizona for my mother's funeral. I vividly remember him handing me a can opener, a can of tuna, and a loaf of bread and telling me to feed my brothers (who were all younger than me). I had no idea how to use a can opener. I had no idea what to do with the tuna. I had no basic survival skills.

Well, that summer I learned. My grandmother was not one to do all the work while idle hands were available. Her teaching method was basically, learn by doing. And there was a lot to learn. It had never occurred to me to wonder how food arrived at the table. Oh, I knew my mother did 'stuff' out in the kitchen and then 'poof', food was ready. My grandmother involved me--willy-nilly--in the whole messy process.

I learned how to wash dishes. I took out the trash. I made my bed. And helped with the laundry. All normal things to learn at my age, but let me tell you, I wasn't impressed. I wanted to go back to the old model where I played or daydreamed or read all day and I wasn't happy when I realized that life was over. Grandmother was firm about her expectations. Everyone works. Everyone. Even my little brothers learned to pick up after themselves.

The other thing I learned was personal responsibility for my behavior. I remember pounding into the house, all hot and bothered about something a friend did, just bursting to share my story. Grandmother listened. Then she told me to sit at the table and she pointed out several problems with my story. She showed me the event wasn't one sided. And when I wanted to argue, she shut it down. "If you can't say something good about your friend, then keep it to yourself. That way you won't have to apologize later for hard words you wish you hadn't said."

Unbeknownst, that was a lesson I was already dealing with. The day before my mother died, I was angry with her and shouted out, "I wish you were dead!" Months later, Grandmother's words reinforced the painful lesson.

Grandmother is long gone now. All my grandparents are gone. They were a powerful influence in my life. And I'm so thankful I was privileged to know them.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

How'd you like it?

One thing I have learned in the last eleven years...never ask a reader how they liked my books. They might tell me--and if they were 'meh' or worse--I don't want to know. I suppose I should clarify here. If I'm asking an editor/beta reader for their opinion, it's an effort on my part to improve my writing. I do want to hear what they have to say. I am actively soliciting their opinion.

But once the book is published, I won't ask for a review. I gratefully accept all reviews. But asking (for me) borders too close to expecting a positive outcome. Several years ago, when I first started my blog, I did Friday reviews of my fellow newbie authors' books. I saw the reviews as a way I could help out other new authors.

A very wise friend pointed out a huge pitfall in my Friday reviews. What would happen when I read a book I didn't care for? Then what was I going to write? After all, there's a big difference between a friend reviewing a book--and a professional reviewer. For one thing, that reviewer doesn't know the author. A friend? Well, that's different.

It's the same in reverse. What will they say if they don't like the book? New writers, in particular, have very fragile egos. A bad review can be devastating. A good review might be a lie.

I confess I love a good review. I'm enough of a perfectionist that I agonize over a four-star review, wondering what I could have changed to elicit a five-star review. And the truth is it's all subjective at best. It so often depends on how the reader feels that day, what their past is, what the weather is like...

I once received a one-star review because the book was too short. It was a book advertised as a 'quickie'. Another time I received a one-star review from a woman who totally trashed my book, then concluded by saying she had cramps and couldn't sleep so she was looking for something light to read.

There's only one way to deal with a bad review. Read it carefully to see if you can learn any thing from it. And then, walk away. Some bad reviews are simply irrational. There's nothing you can do about them.

And for the rest? Enjoy the good ones. Ignore the bad ones. And move on.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Road Trip

I LOVE a good map. I have an extensive collection of road maps, old maps, atlases, and home drawn maps. I've talked to some authors and readers who don't understand the importance of a good map. After all, we have GPS...right?

I don't. Never had it. Don't want it. It's just another way for folks to know where I am/what I'm doing. If anyone doesn't believe that, they haven't been paying attention to your average crime show. I haven't gone anywhere exciting lately, but who knows? I might.

I use maps to plan my strategy when I write. Are there mountains nearby? Caves? Rivers? How can I use them in the story? Often, the geography of an area can serve as an antagonist.I don't understand authors who fail to use this resource.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who have inherent direction finders in their brains. And those who can't find their way across the street without their GPS. This is exactly why I advocate everyone learning how to read a map. When/if the power grid goes down, everyone should know how to get out of town. Seriously.

Waaaaay back when the hunk and I first married, we decided to celebrate our six-months anniversary by taking a road trip. Chicago to Arizona. We were about two hours down the road when the hunk told me to check our next route change. And we discovered the atlas was at home. Well, he panicked.
I told him I would get us there with no problem.

Not to put too fine a point, he didn't believe me until I directed him to turn into my grandparents' driveway...three days later. We drove straight there with no detours. No getting lost. He never got over it. And that's how I ended up as the family navigator. I can get us almost anywhere, but I always like to check out the maps first.

Speaking of checking...if you're an author and you're going to mention a specific route number, make sure you check that it actually goes where you say, because I once threw a book across the room when an author didn't check...wasn't even close...and I never read another of her books. It's a simple thing to check--and if you can't check such a simple thing, what does that say about the rest of the 'facts' in your book?

Get a road map. Use it. Don't get lost!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Giveaways


Back in the day, back when I was a total newbie, I thought I had to have something to give to potential readers when I went to conferences. Everyone else was handing out pens and keyrings and little notebooks. Well, those things cost money--money I didn't have. So I gave out pocket rocks. And hair piks.

The pocket rocks were from my Camelot series and the hair piks were from my Mystic Valley series. I thought they would have the advantage of novelty. My daughter and her family were living with us. Everyone in the family was dragooned into painting or some other step in the process. When it was time for the conference, off I went, secure in the belief I had some fabulous giveaways.

Well, it didn't exactly go that way. At the end of the conference, I had a lot of rocks and piks. A reviewer stopped at my table and offered to take them to mail out in various reader packs, so I gave most of them to her. Every one of them had my web page painstakingly printed on them. They weren't expensive, but sure did take hours to make.

And the takeaway? I can't point to even one sale I made from them. And that was supposedly the point, according to all the author advice out there. Get your name in front of potential buyers!

I expect you're wondering why I'm bringing this up now. Well, everyday new writers stumble on to the publishing scene, overwhelmed with advice and helpful tips. Here is mine. Don't waste your money with giveaways in the belief you will attract new readers. Most of the people who take them are already fans. That's okay. Readers deserve extra little rewards. But you really don't need hundreds of them.

The other reality? Many of the folks I talked to packed the stuff from conferences, carted it home, and promptly dumped it in the trash. I have to say the few I discussed this particular conference with told me they still had their rock...or hair pik. So. I guess you could say my hard work paid off. My name is still sitting on their desk.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Message

The phone rang this afternoon. I glanced at the caller ID, saw it was a local number I didn't recognize, and ignored it. Until the caller said my name, her first name, and the admonition to "Call me."

Not so remarkable in the general scheme of things except A) I don't know anyone in this area named Ginnie (Virginia) and B) I didn't recognize the voice at all. Will I call her back? No. If she calls again and leaves a more detailed message, possibly. But based on a name I don't recognize, a phone number I don't recognize, and a non-message, no.

I know there are folks out there who answer every single phone call, but at our house, we don't. Our criteria for answering is: a phone number we recognize, a name we recognize, or a detailed message that identifies the individual calling and what their business is with us. Possibly harsh, but I've answered my share of scam calls and I'm not interested in answering any more.

The rule here is: State your name. State your business. Explain why I should return your call.

You'd be surprised at the number of calls that are hang-ups. Seems to me they must not need to speak to me if they can't give simple information. I feel it's a matter of good manners. A phone is just as much a portal to my privacy as my front door. No one would expect me to open the door to someone I don't know. Who would do that?

Do you want to talk? Tell me who you are. Tell me why I should answer the phone. Simple.