Monday, April 27, 2015

My Circle

I rarely comment about politics, religion, or money issues. For one thing...I've never met two consecutive people who agree on such matters and I hate confrontations. That's not to say I wouldn't fight if necessary to save my life or the lives of friends and family. But in the general course of life, most of us are not called on to do so.

However, in the last few years I've been struck by the very aggressive, divisive, 'my-way-or-no-way' tone of the general public face we see, particularly on social media. Frankly, I don't understand the 'in-your-face' attitudes. Nor do I believe it solves anything.

I suspect most folks have no idea what I might believe about any particular issue. I take great pains to guard my privacy. I was raised on that old principle, 'If you can't say something good, shut up.' Hanging all your dirty underwear on the front laundry line accomplishes nothing except demonstrating you don't wash your clothes.

From the beginning of written history (and no doubt well before that), our human story has been one of war, aggression and greed. Perhaps that's why we find the story of Camelot so attractive--even while we ignore the reality there was brutal warfare first. 

I believe in one thing. 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' The 'L' word gets thrown around a lot. 'I LOVE those jeans.' 'I LOVE that car.' But true love is the love we feel for friends and family. Imagine how the world would be if we felt that way for every person we met...if we treated every individual the way we would treat ourselves.

Yes, there is much evil around us. But consider this--how can we perceive it when we are the very ones encouraging it? Evil loves darkness and we're the ones responsible for blowing out the lights. We ignore poverty, illness, hunger and abuse because they aren't our problems. We walk on by, walk on the other side, avert our eyes from the uncomfortable truths all around us.

There is a perception, a belief that those who live the path of love are wimps that lack courage. Not so. It takes great courage to stand in the face of evil and call it by name. I don't refer here to belief systems or lifestyles. It's not my responsibility to judge other people, whether they worship the stars or a deity or nothing at all, whether they are totally celibate or have sex in consenting groups. I don't care what they do as long as they harm none. Most especially children.

Evil in our day is most especially manifested as greed and selfishness. We can lay the blame of almost every ill our civilization suffers directly at the feet of these two roots. Think about it. If our culture wasn't so me, me, me centric, there would be less poverty, less hunger, and yes, less illness.

Today it's popular to have an exclusionary circle of friends, whether on social media or in school or even your neighborhood. This circle is often composed of those folks who believe exactly as you believe, politically or religiously or maybe even some particular hobby or skill you embrace. I wonder, though, if our efforts to create such circles doesn't limit our ability to see the outsiders clearly. Or...maybe we just don't want to admit our own failure to embrace the responsibilities we all bear.

How big is your circle?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Whole Story

Ahhhhh. Is there anything like the feeling we get from a new book cover? I don't think so. Especially when the cover artist (Darleen Dixon) absolutely understands the exact feeling you want to convey.

Back before I wrote the published version of Everything Lovers Can Know, I had a...nebulous idea about the plot. Then, in a fairly rash move, I tossed out my first idea and wrote a short story for the erotic romance market.

I have since then received my rights back for this book and after considerable thought, I've decided to go back to my original story idea, the one that shows how Baron and Jade arrive in Mystic Valley. It will take a while to expand the book, but I believe it will be worthwhile. In the meantime, I have this wonderful cover as inspiration.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Never-Read Book

Some folks never re-read a book once they finish it. Others have a shelf of favorites they visit often. I have a room of well-loved books plus two readers and a computer file of electronic books. And I re-read more than I enjoy a never-read book.

I'll be honest. I don't understand folks who watch television when they could read a book. Just do not understand that. Probably it's because we never had television until I married. I never formed the habit of brain doping via the 'box'. Even now, forty plus years later, I grow restless after twenty minutes of television. But give me a favorite book...and I likely won't surface until I've finished it.

In the last few weeks, I've endeavored to read the works of new-to-me authors. Over the years, I've noticed readers raving about this author or that one and I thought maybe I should check it out. Maybe I should find out what the shouting was all about. After some research, I purchased the stories that sounded interesting--and also garnered the best reviews. Not the five star reviews necessarily, but the most coherent reviews, written by folks who had more to say than the book was 'hot, hot, hot!' I've read enough hot books for a lifetime, most of them written by more skilled writers than the new crop.

I wanted to try stories that spoke to a reviewer, that tugged on their emotions. After reading some of the books, I was inclined to wonder if I'd read the same book the reviewer did.

So...back to the tried and true favorites.

In the two past weeks I also re-read my entire Mystic Valley series with an eye to revisions/edits before re-releasing them. They were the first books I wrote. And I see the mistakes I made with them--the favorite words that crept in (that, that, that!) and the weird (mercifully short) bits of dialogue that occasionally popped up. Reading them straight through also showcased the few continuity errors, but those are relatively easy to fix.

The thing is...even after reading them with a deeply critical eye, I still liked them better than most of the recent 'new' books I've read. And that gave me reason to ponder why.

The number one reason was because the stories are the kind I like to read. Well, duh, you say. But you see, writers don't always write what THEY like to read. Too many of them write what they believe will sell well. When I wrote the Mystic Valley books, of course I hoped they would sell well, but first--long before I had any dreams of them being published--first, I wrote them for myself. I reveled in the fine details, the world building, and twists and turns of life in the valley. I thrilled at the karmic, kick-ass endings for the bad guys and the happy ever after endings for the reluctant lovers.

To tell the truth--I never expected to submit the stories. Nope. I submitted them on a dare. So, there you have it. I wrote them for me. And that's why I still love them, warts and all.

I think perhaps writers are so anxious to find that path to a bestseller, to hit that nebulous point where their readers consume their books with rabid gluttony that they forget the basic writer's truth. 

It's all about the story.

It's not about how many sex scenes are churned out or how many murders are committed or how convoluted the conflicts for the hero or heroine are. None of that matters if the reader doesn't connect with the characters, if the writing/editing is so sloppy they can't make themselves continue, if the writer is so intent on beating the few facts into the minds of the readers that they repeat them over and over...and over...

First write the story you want to read.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Planning, Planning, Planning

On my recent sojourn to the north, I had an epiphany. Yes, it was painful. I've been delaying a lot of projects by telling myself I'm planning. Not so. I'm about planned out.

Planning is easier than doing. Doing requires energy and...discipline. It doesn't require talent. Or knowledge. Or education. To be a doer, you simply have to 'do'. Planning is so much simpler.

I know folks who spend their entire lives planning. They plan to plant a garden. They plan to knit an afghan. They plan to change the sheets on their bed. They plan to call their parents. They plan to write a book. Somehow, none of their plans move forward because they never reach the doing stage.

The upside of retirement is you have time...or so they tell me. The downside is the lack of schedule. There's no core of events to hang your plans on so you just keep planning. And time rolls by with nothing accomplished. It finally dawned on me that I am responsible for designing a framework for doing. It's not enough to get up in the morning without some sort of schedule to meet. That's where the discipline comes in. If there's a schedule, I'm the one who has to stick to it. I used to have no problem with sticking to the plan, but something went awry last year and I frittered away my life.

No more time for planning. In Yoda's philosophy, it's time to 'do or do not'.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Aliens, Books, and New Babies

It's been awhile since I wrote a new post on my blog. Life has been zipping by, dragging me willy-nilly with it. I finally dug in my heels and refused to continue until I get a few personal things done.

It's been a busy new year. Already, we're in the middle of April and no writing has happened. Today that changes. I'm eager to get back to my story. Certainly, I've had enough 'thinking' time!

The rights to most of my books have been reverted to me so there are a lot of edits/revisions ahead of me before I can make them available again. Covers...oh, yeah, there's enough to keep me busy. At first, I wasn't even sure I cared whether I ever posted them again, or not. But time did the trick. I'm proud of my work. So as I can, I'll make them available.

With the reversion of rights, it was necessary to update my webpage. I FINALLY took a couple days and worked on it. The book page looks awfully bare right now. That will be an incentive to get cracking.

The rest of the last couple months have been spent cleaning, sorting photos, anticipating the birth of our fifth grandchild, traveling to see him and his family, and dealing with various medical issues. Heh, whenever we go to visit my daughter, we always see something interesting on television (she has cable) that we don't have available at home. This time we watched various shows about aliens. ALIENS.

Now, I am undecided about the theory of aliens visiting earth far in the past, though it seems logical they would. After all, IF they're visiting now, I can't believe they just suddenly developed the technology for space travel in the last couple hundred years. And if they visited in the far past, wouldn't they have found meddling with humans almost irresistible? If even 10% of reported alien visits are true, it's clear they don't subscribe to the Prime Directive of non-interference.

Anyway, the shows were interesting to watch--as were the ones on Sasquatch, survival, bull-riding, hunting in Alaska, and all the other weirdness we watched in our hotel room. I don't miss cable with it's potpourri of oddness and stupidity. Really. I'm ready to go back to my television fasting.

For those who don't see my Facebook page, I'll post one picture of the irresistible cuteness of my new grandson, Gabriel. That's it. One.

 Well...maybe just one more...
 Okay. That's it. He's pretty good lookin'. As are all my grandchildren, naturally.

Finally, I started a new book last night by an established NY-pubbed author I've never read. On the face of it, the story sounded interesting. I've read many reviews by readers who LOVED this author. I'm a third of the way through the book, still waiting for something to happen. So, meh. Which just goes to prove every book is not going to ring bells with every reader. I feel better.