Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's and other Hurdles

It was the last week in January.  Back in my own home, tuned in to my favorite Irish radio station and presenter, I was listening to him talk about the Winter Blues.  January 27th had been proclaimed the worst day of the year.  A Welsh academic had worked out a formula based on bad weather, being broke, fading Christmas memories and failed New Year's resolutions.  The result was that you'd be better off staying under the covers on that day, the most miserable day of the year.  Never mind my broken heart.  The researcher had not even needed to take that into consideration.  Welcome back to Ireland, real life and it’s back to business, Cherie.
The following days found me somewhat lethargic, lack luster and depressed.  My business and the presence of Patrick in the house kept me from falling into a catatonic state.  The weather didn’t help, nor did the upcoming Valentine’s frenzy that takes hold of the country every year leading up to the 14th of February.  Wherever I went something would remind me that this was an important day to celebrate love.  Shop displays with everything in red  − from cards to flowers, teddy bears to underwear, chocolates to jewelry, and not to mention red balloons labeled, “For the one I love this Valentine’s.” But what about those of us that don’t have one?
Cards the size of paintings stared at me from shop windows “To the love of my life.” What about those who never even had a love of any kind? Or about those who had lost one?
Book your seat in a restaurant for that night because couples will be out in force, and only show your face at the hostess stand if you have someone on your arm; otherwise, your restaurant experience will run into a depression avalanche.  Secure advertising space in your local or even national paper! So that the world can see that you have a sweetheart who loves you and that you are not alone on this heavenly day.
Surely, I wasn’t the only one in the world who felt this way? And to be hoping that some unknown stranger had secretly been pining for my attention sounded like a child’s fairy tale or a thought some pubescent teenagers would occupy themselves with. Growing up in Germany, Valentine’s Day hadn’t played a big role.  I can’t say when it reached the German shores, probably in the 90s once we had already moved to Ireland.  To tell the truth, it was not until I was married and living in Ireland that I had realized this holiday existed.  But my then husband was not much of a romantic, so I didn’t receive a card then either.  The first occasion I ever received a card is almost too embarrassing to mention.
It happened while Bernard and I were married and lived on the farm.  My children attended a Catholic prep school in Limerick, and I took them there by car every day in the morning and picked them up in the afternoon.  Sometimes while I was waiting for them to come out of the building, I talked to an old gentleman who was there to collect his grandson.  We chatted about the school, the weather, and gardening mostly.  But one fine Valentine’s Day this man gave me my first Valentine’s Day card, which read “To the one I am dreaming about.”
It was perfectly lovely to be admired and desired, but for him to express such sentiments that could never be said aloud made for one awkward situation.  Apparently, he thought that my children and marriage, and the 30 years between us might just be overcome by an admission of boyish longing.
Mortified, yet tickled pink, I took it home to Bernard who was working on the farmyard.  He was aghast.  I think that’s when he first learned about the existence of Valentine’s Day.
“If you ask me, it’s all one big commercial hype over nothing,” he called down from his tractor, scratching his head.  And ever the lyrical poet, he added, “Just another day for selling things, what with Christmas being over and Easter far away.  Just like the fad of Mother’s Day.”
With that clarified, he put his woolly cap back on and returned to his task at hand,  cleaning up the manure on the yard.  Needless to say, I never got a Valentine’s card from him after that, but I have received quite a few since I left him.
So, do you leave a man who doesn’t give you cards or flowers on Valentine’s Day? In the long run, a man who sees no purpose in romance or affectionate gestures is undoubtedly worse than an old codger who hits on you in a schoolyard.
As Valentine’s Day approached, I started to notice couples everywhere. Why does everybody else around you seem to be falling in love when you are on your own? Suddenly everyone seems to have an invitation to a love fest except you.  And there I was with no admirer; nobody loved me.
The weeks running up to Valentine’s had without fail always been the most hectic period of time in the dating business, more so than Christmas.  With  Christmas,  most people still have a family to spend the holidays with, but on Valentine’s, even being around family can make you lonely.  Emotions are already running high, and the commercialism surrounding V-Day rubs into singledom like salt into a paper cut.
Everybody wanted a date for that special day, or better still, be fixed up successfully the month before so that they could enjoy some closeness during their night out together.
This year, I only had to deal with myself as a client in need.
Siggy Buckley (Excerpt from Next Time Lucky)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Broken Heart and Trust

Have you decided never to trust again?
Are you willing to take the risk?
It takes years to build trust and few seconds to destroy it, we are expected to trust our friends, families and loved ones, but it is quite unfortunate that they are the people who stands the better chance of betraying the trust we have in them. Our enemies are out of the question because we would never trust them even for a second.
It really hurts when someone you trust or love, betrays the trust you have in them, from then forth, trust becomes a nightmare, it disappears.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said "I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you". There is this other quote that says " Trust is like a vase once broken, though you can fix it, but the vase will never be the same again".
Sometimes we contribute 40% of our problems. When we want people to be who they are not, they pretend to be who we want them to be, when they can't go on with the pretense, we assume that we've been betrayed. The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are, instead we trust people to be who we want them to be, and when they're not, we cry.
Is it when you need people to be there for you?, they're not.....
They're like million miles away and when you think someone is totally reliable and trust worthy and you've built your whole life around them and then it turns out they were never that person, you see your self as being alone?
Here is the big question, who is to be trusted?
Most times we trust those who doesn't deserve our our trust. People who always do things beyond our expectations to gain our trust should be careful with, because they may be looking for something else. We should be careful with people like that.
DOES ANYONE TRUST ME? If you are reading this article, know that someone trusts you and they would not want you to betray them. It took days, weeks, months, and years to build this trust and you wouldn't want to destroy it in seconds, that was why George MacDonald said "to be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved". Trust is more fragile than love.
Yes, we have to trust, William Shakespare wrote, " trust but verify", his short and meaningful quote answers the one question that billions of people in the world seek to find answers to.
Finally, trust but be careful and don't forget William Shakespeare's quote.
Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Enpetals/179184322183076
Twitter: www.twitter.com/edugoogle

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Keeper….Despite Myself.

DWF, w/ 16yo son ISO companion.  Must be able to deal w/ distorted body image issues, broken ovaries, hot flashes and mood swings.  Workaholic and neat freak.  Cannot tolerate dirty carpet.  HPV+
And you wonder why I’m single?  But this, is who I am. Turning the corner towards 50, my life has been filled with all sorts of ups and downs but somehow I remain standing and for the most part happy. 
My journey towards middle age uniqueness began during my 20s when I started taking fertility drugs because I could not get pregnant.  My body would not, could not perform the most basic of functions.   After more miscarriages than I can count, I adopted the most amazing baby from Russia.  But those drugs… patients should really read the warning labels more closely.  So desperate to become a mom, I did what the specialists told me not really asking or caring for that matter, about side effects.  The one I remember hearing about the most:  early onset menopause.  I had no idea what this meant for me, my body and the poor souls who reside under my roof.
Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings.  Already at ten years and counting, my ob/gyn told me that early onset menopause could go on through my fifties until “real” menopause hits!  Yeah!   I have not held a comfortable body temperature in almost 15 years being either too hot or too cold.  I either wear fleece or am stripped down to the bare minimum.  Some days, I do both.  Am I angry that the drugs affected me this way?  Not really.  I did what I needed to in order to move through the process of becoming a mom.  That doesn’t mean I like the added laundry from drenched clothes and sheets, sleepless nights and miserable days but have accepted that this body change represents me.
Another piece of me that I have accepted:  being divorced.  But I am and I’m glad.  More so, I’m free to have a pure relationship with my son, now 16, and a friendship with his father.  It hasn’t been easy rebuilding my life but I have and am accepting of the joys and tribulations of owning a home and serving as both mother and father to a young man.  In fact, I look back and marvel at this young man who has learned self-reliance, resilience, and resourcefulness from me.  Granted, he’s now 16 and “brilliant” but I still even get a little respect.  Not bad for a broken down old mom with an out of whack thermostat.
Finally, I’ve just come to accept that cervical cancer lies dormant in my body waiting for that day when it can rear its ugly head.  Yes, I’m HPV+ and I got extra lucky with not one but two strains of the virus both linked to cancer.  I’m not ashamed by this as most women catch HPV at some point in their life; I just got the strain that doesn’t go away.  A great doctor, lots of vigilance and taking care of myself keeps me safe and prepared for what may lie in the future.  But I hold those same Res traits that my son does, so I’m ready.  Just something else to accept.
So middle-aged and falling apart?  Not through my eyes.  What I see most days is strong, resourceful, funny, dedicated and devoted.  Granted, the mood swings also make me a bit of a whack-a-doodle and incredibly difficult but they eventually pass, I haven’t left any real bodies in their wake and there’s always chocolate to soothe souls (both mine and those I spew upon during an episode).  But this is just who I am.  I accept me for my strengths, quirks and that bit of craziness that exudes from my core.  It’s ok to not be perfect and I can now say that after 40+ years of trying. 
Find the perfection in your quirks.  That’s how I started.  Then learn to accept them as gifts that make you incredibly special and unique.  When you look at yourself in that light, isn’t great to celebrate and accept yourself for who you are?
Cheryl Stahle 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Self Promotion Treadmill (1)

One of the downsides of being an Indie writer is the need for self promotion. I've spent a lot of time over the last year trying to figure out how to promote White Jade and The Lance. I've read a lot of blogs, articles and books about guerrilla marketing and self promotion. Joe Konrath has probably written the Bible of Indie promotion. If you have not already done so, look him up. His blog is at http://www.jakonrath.blogspot.com. Joe's basic philosophy is brutal in its simplicity: promotion takes time and a lot of work.
The problem isn't so much finding out what to do, it's balancing that with writing. For me, that is the real work. It's where the juice is. Marketing is a job. Writing is hard work, but it's not a job. It's life.
Nelson DeMille's approach is that writing more books is a better way to spend your time than self promotion. Konrath would agree that you need as many books out there as you can produce, a body of work over time.
You're probably in trouble if you are writing just for the money, both from a creative standpoint and for the future of your early retirement. But still...money is good. Reward is good. Millions of readers would be good. That is going to take self promotion.
We are in the first stages of a massive revolution in publishing and marketing and it's not clear yet what really works and what doesn't. It also depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Here are a few things that keep popping up from various experts on marketing your books.

WARNING: Cliché Alert
Take this list with a grain of salt.
       1.      ads don't work, don't waste your money
2.      press releases don't work, don't waste your money
3.      you need a great cover
4.      you need to write a lot of books
5.      a series is good
6.      you need to stick to your genre
7.      you need to keep control of your work
8.      you need to think in terms of the long run
9.      you need to think internationally
10.  you need friends
11.  you need to support other Indie writers
12.  you need to do all those things Amazon suggests, like the Author Central page
13.  you need the patience of Job
By friends, I don't mean Auntie May, your buddies Joe and Irene and your Mom. I mean the people you support and meet online, on Facebook, on the Amazon forums, in specialized groups on Goodreads and LinkedIn. I'm not so sure about Twitter, but maybe. The groups you choose to join are an invaluable resource. It doesn't mean those folks will buy your books. It does mean you can joke, laugh, tap resources, learn, celebrate success, get the word out about your writing, get yourself out of the writer's isolation and in general participate in the human race. That is good, trust me.
It boils down to this: link up with others and support them. Write as much as you can. Trust in the value of what you write. Have fun doing it. Otherwise, why bother? Remember Field of Dreams? If you build it, they will come...
Twitter: @alexlukeman  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alexlukeman

Friday, January 27, 2012

Elizabeth and Hazel from Little Rock

 I was 14 when Elizabeth and Hazel were 15 years old.  I lived in Massachusetts and they lived in Little Rock, Arkansas.  But just about everyone in the U.S. got to know Elizabeth and Hazel through a black and white photo by Will Counts that became iconic.  Little Rock was being forced by the federal government to integrate Central High School in 1957.  Nine selected black students tried to go to school that day.
     The photo branded Elizabeth and Hazel -- black Elizabeth as stoic and strong, white Hazel as the ugly personification of racial hatred.  It was a shameful day in American history that has not been forgotten even 50 years later.  The National Guard prevented the nine black students from attending school that day, but Elizabeth's camera-caught "mix of hesitancy and resolve"  lasted a lifetime.
Elizabeth had wanted the advantages of a white high school over a black high school.  In reality, along with the other eight black students, that year was mostly a nightmare of being subjected to daily humiliations dealt by their white classmates.  There were a few exceptions to that, but far too few.  Hazel, although not identified by name in the photo, didn't return to Central.  After suffering through a year, Elizabeth dropped out.
     A newly published book by David Margolik, "Elizabeth and Hazel:  Two Women of Little Rock," documents the rest of the story of these two women about to enter their 70s.  Their stories follow lives that diverged and intersected.  Elizabeth fought depression and suicidal thoughts.  Hazel could not forget the image of her face contorted in rage and hatred in that picture.  About five years later, after having married young and having a couple of children, Hazel called Elizabeth and apologized.  She then embarked on a "life of self-discovery and activism, much of it in the black community."  She atoned for her prejudice any way she could.
     In 1997, Hazel reached out to Elizabeth again.  As they drew closer and became friends and confidantes, they provided a much needed "source of hope and inspiration to a community intent on moving beyond its troubled history."  They posed for newspaper pictures, made joint speaking engagements, and enrolled in a seminar on racial healing.  Even Oprah invited them to appear together on her tv show.  Elizabeth gained strength from her relationship with Hazel, got a job she loved, and set her life on a smoother course.
     Far from being forgotten, the Little Rock nine were often honored.  There were many news stories about them, especially on anniversaries of that 1957 attempt at desegregation.  One of Elizabeth's proudest moments in 1998 was hugging President Clinton after he presented her (and the other eight) with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
After a few years, in little ways, Elizabeth began to sour on reconciliation with Hazel.  By 2000, "quietly, unceremoniously, their great experiment in racial rapprochement was over."  And herein lies the crux of the story.  "As Margolick charts the labyrinthine turns of this complex relationship, and acknowledges the pain that persists between the two women, the fissures and misunderstandings that continue to divide the races are laid bare."
     I didn't learn that my parents were prejudiced until my husband and I adopted a black child.  When I asked my mother why I hadn't known she was prejudiced, she said, "Because I knew it was wrong and I didn't want to pass it on to you and your brother."  When black speakers came to talk to our group of white parents who had adopted black children, almost all of them tried to convince us that, as whites, we had to face the fact that we were prejudiced against our black children.  And, in the mid-70s, black social workers in California stopped trans-racial adoptions dead.  They said that white people were not capable of raising black children.
It's very complicated.
Comments?? E-mail Suellen at ZimaTravels.com

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Respect Another’s Individuality

"We ask of others to follow our dreams, to be like us. Why?" 
Why, indeed! "Why can we not celebrate the talents and skills and differences of each other, encouraging others and ourselves to greatness, daring to stand out, to be unique, to be individual?"
Such is the verse that accompanies the image to the right in my book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. We are continuing on through the book in our search and quest for sobriety and inner peace, and today we are looking at individuality. 
This verse was prompted by my experience of always being compared to others and being found deficient, almost every time. My dreams and talents and skills were rarely applauded for the fist 16 years of life; instead, I and my interests were compared to my sisters and found to be stupid, a waste of time.  
As a result, I have struggled with daring to stand out with my uniqueness, my talents and skills, until I became sober, did some healing work, and found inner peace.
We do great disservice to others when we compare them to ourselves or another, rather than accepting and applauding them as they express who they are in their soul. We are negating their Spirit-given talents and abilities, who they are at their very core.
Perhaps, the number one thing we can do to encourage individuality in others is to have a firm belief in and appreciation of who we are ourselves. We can work on ourselves to discover these things. When we do, we can go outside of ourselves and truly appreciate another who is different than us. 
We no longer see the other as a threat, needing to be cut down, when we feel secure about who we are. Rather, we rejoice in all the different people that exist in the world, confident in the knowledge that the differences lend texture and richness to our lives.  
It is this single action that will bring us respect of individuality in others. Ask yourself today if you can truly see yourself with respect for your own individuality, and then observe how free you are to appreciate the individuality of those around you.  
Carolyn CJ Jones 
on Facebook

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eco-biz – Put on Your Listening Ears?

In a prior column, readers were challenged to ‘put on their listening ears’. Why? Through participating in 20011 Industry events, as both an attendee and workshop/speech provider, I observed polarized attendee participation. For, basically, there appear to be two distinct reactions: those who ‘plug in’ – participate in active listening and those who ‘disconnect’ – actually chose to walk out of a session. So, considering the fact most present-day businesses which tend to thrive are open to creative shifts in their business strategies, I’ve urged all to as the elementary teachers heed - ‘put on your listening ears’!
People who ‘put on there listening ears’
•           clear their mind of distractions,
•           ask open-ended questions that encourage the speaker,
•           ask questions that clarify any unclear issues,
•           don’t draw conclusions or make snap judgments,
•           don’t automatically agree with everything,
•           restate key points in their own words,
•           are open and non-defensive, and
•           avoid thinking about responses while the speaker is talking.
Successful people, regardless of Industry sector, are aware of the powerful role which listening plays and maximize its use. For example, politicians, at least the better ones, ‘work a roomful of prospective voters’ while intently focusing on each individual. Carefully listening to each person’s views, politicians converse earnestly with one person after another creating a positive and lasting impression in the voter’s mind that each person has their full measure of respectful listening.
Unfortunately, this tactic – although proven effective, is a technique most people seldom encounter. Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, emphasizes the power of ‘empathic listening’. Covey says in some situations, there is a necessity to not merely go through mechanical responses that might be required for ordinary listening, but open oneself to the talker to the point where one actually feels what they are feeling. For, Convey believes the only way to establish communication in some professional and personal situations is by becoming, in a small part, the person you are listening to. He uses the word "sensing" (others call it "intuition") to describe the information a listener perceives during deep, empathic listening. While this strategy most certainly takes time to learn, with practice, the rewards are a whole new level of communication which automatically elevates you in the eyes of a talker because people who listen at this level are so rare.
On the other hand, perhaps in some ways, a more important concept is to extend the ‘golden rule’ which translated at the platinum level is to treat others not only as you would prefer to be treated but as they respectfully deserve. So, avoid ‘disconnecting’ and instead, enable your ability to listen for underlying issues. Then, address these issues, not emotion. During a recent ‘green’ conference, I witness a workshop instructor fail to accurately hear a stated issue. After providing examples of green build technologies, the instructor solicited comment. Responding, an attendee queried, “You are aware a house always faces the street?” Instead of interpreting the comment as a valid concern related to restrictive community building codes, the instructor ‘blew it off’.
Instead of ‘blowing off’ someone stated concern, as Covey’s research suggests, be the person who steps into the other person’s shoes. Don’t ignore stated issues, paraphrase the message by summarizing it, and use analogies to clarify it.  Participate in active listening skills, ‘put on your listening ears’.
About the author - To acquire details of Wright’s activities, visit her web site www.TheWrightScoop.com or contact Sylvia@TheWrightScoop.com or follow tweets at ID Wright Scoop or postings at facebook The Wright Scoop. As recipient of the Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic Award,  Sylvia Hoehns Wright challenges all to ‘change America’s landscape’, move their life-styles from eco-weak to eco-chic – ‘green’ life’s garden, one scoop at a time!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Rise
The lines are getting shorter
Like this life is passing by
So fast as the truth once blinked

What you wanted was far beyond at the door
But you would never know
It would be so cruel and a perfect lie

Shame is only seen in a denial
Why do you wait for something to get better
When nothing seems to get better?

Afraid to lose what almost got
But forgotten was and with a heart in pieces
Never mind about the past
It is the right time to rise
Like you have never risen before

Marina Siade
Twitter: @mrsiade


Monday, January 23, 2012

Exploring loss in the context of mothering

Currently I am in the process of editing an anthology on motherhood and loss titled, “Joy, Interrupted.”. After I lost my own infant daughter to SIDS in 2003,  not only did I struggle with how to express my own experiences through the process of writing, I also sought comfort and understanding through learning from other experiences of loss in the context of motherhood.  However, I didn't have much success discovering books about this aspect of mothering.  There is so much out there about the positive aspects of mothering, and little out there about the risks involved in the process—whether physical or emotional.
The concept of loss in the context of the mothering experience, in my opinion, hasn't been explored enough in our culture. Normally, the mothering experience is described as one of gain, in which a woman gains happiness or sense of completion through child-rearing, without addressing how, with every act of mothering,  there is always the risk of loss.  The emotional range of mothering doesn't just involve joy—it involves interruptions, some of which can result in pain, longing, or even ambivalence.  Addressing these interruptions doesn't the potential of joy allowed in the mothering process;  understanding the risks undertaken in the varied experiences of mothering allows us to fully appreciate the magnitude of motherhood.
So, I decided to seek out the writing and artwork on my own and collect it in an anthology. I had previously published a memoir and novel through the small press my husband and I had created Fat Daddy's Farm and decided editing and publishing an anthology on this subject would be a worthy project for us to undertake.
At this point, I have collected over sixty works from authors and artists from three continents.  These works include poetry, art, essays and narratives about various aspects of loss in the context of motherhood. These explorations include experiences of loss through death, the loss of self in the process of mothering, and the loss of one's own mother through adoption.  Each work challenges and expands our notion of the mothering experience.
The goal is to have this anthology published in October 2012.  If you would like to find out more, our website feel free to email me at fdfarmpress@gmail.com, or you can be kept update on the progress of the anthology by subscribing to our newsletter.
Melissa Miles McCarter (melissa_miles@yahoo.com)
Twitter: @fatdaddysfarm

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Memory and Me

My last post Authentication prompted many wonderful comments from you wonderful readers (are you feeling special yet? I hope so!). One reader in particular (Marc, this is you) ask me to share more about myself.
Me? You want to know about me?
I realized that blogging carries a versatile voice. I realized the tone for blogs is often more personal and vulnerable than the objective view I often bring to my articles for content websites.
Not better, not lower quality, just a different style of writing.
With that in mind, I looked over my About Poetic Parfait page. Marc was right. Not many personal details. I revamped the page. If you have already taken a read (oh come on), here is your pop quiz about me:
  • What country do I live in?
  • What is my favorite beverage?
  • What websites have I written for?
Are you three for three? If not I’ll grant you a hall pass today. Memory, got to love it.
I liken memory to the jam filling of a layer cake.
The Jam
The strawberry jam holds together two or three layers of breaded cake. The jam keeps the cake moist and adds additional flavor. Types of jam vary from cake to cake but without it the taste is dull.

Jam and Your Mind
Yes, the mind is like jam.
We have minds that are shaped by our past experiences. Our minds and memory make us who we are today. Make us individual, tasty, confident, or possibly lack confidence. Our minds can retain lines of poetry that we have written ourselves and poems we read over the years.
Here is one of the first poems I memorized, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”
Robert Frost published the poem originally in 1923, however I wasn’t introduced to it until I was in high school. I read the novel “The Outsiders” and there it sat, looking coyly   at me, within a page in the book. Tempting me to divulge it the way I eat shortbread cookies still warm from the oven.
The book quickly became one of my favorites. It still is today.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
(Written by Robert Frost)
Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down today.
Nothing gold can stay.
Do you have a poem that you have memorized or a certain line that keeps surfacing in your mind?
I enjoy your comments, thanks for the support!
Twitter: @christybis 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

6 Elements of Humanism

Humanists know that Humanism is rather hard to define. The problem is that
while it’s a fairly simple and straightforward philosophy, it’s actually a bit of a
philosophic mélange, made up of several interrelated elements. For instance, in
a single sentence the American Humanist Association defines Humanism by
combining 6 basic statements about what Humanism is. According to the AHA,
Humanism is (1) a progressive philosophy of life, (2) that without
supernaturalism,(3) affirms our ability and responsibility (4) to lead ethical lives
(5) of personal fulfillment (6) that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
All of the 6 elements contained in the AHA statement are important if we are to
fully understand the Humanist philosophy. No one element alone defines
Humanism. It is the combination that makes Humanism such a powerful
philosophy. Let’s consider these elements individually.
1) Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life. Simply put, Humanists don’t
accept the status quo, especially if the status quo involves suffering. We believe
that we can and should be actively working to make things better. This alone
doesn’t make us Humanists, but it is an important part of our mindset.
2) Humanism is without supernaturalism. Our focus is on finding real solutions
to our problems. We view supernaturalism as a distraction from the things that
really matter. Just being without supernaturalism is not enough to make you a
Humanist, but you can’t be a Humanist unless you are without supernaturalism.
3) Humanism affirms our ability and responsibility. Human agency is central
to the Humanist philosophy. We believe that humans have the ability to change
things in our lives. We aren’t just victims of fate waiting for the gods to take care
of us. We can choose to act in a way that will make things better, not only for
ourselves, but for others as well. And because we have that ability, we therefore
believe we have a moral responsibility to act to make things better.
4) Humanism is about leading an ethical life. Since we can choose how to act,
we choose to act in an ethical way. In fact, most Humanists strive to be the best,
most ethical person they can be. This not only helps us make the world a better
place, it also helps us feel better about ourselves as human beings and helps us
lead happier more fulfilling lives.
5) The goal of Humanism is to live a life of personal fulfillment. Since we are
without supernaturalism, we are also without an afterlife. And while a lot of
people find the prospect of having only one life to live depressing, Humanist
embrace it. We are alive now so we might as well make the best of it. No sense
wasting this one life in hopes that you might get a second one after you die. That,
to us, is defeatist talk. Better to embrace this life and live it to the fullest.
6) Humanism aspires to the greater good of humanity. Despite the fact we
have every intention of living life to the fullest, we don’t live our lives in a
hedonistic fashion. Yes, we are individuals, but we also recognize our
responsibilities to our fellow humans. We are progressive. We want to make
things better. We believe we have the ability to make things better and that we
have a responsibility to do so. We choose to lead ethical lives of personal
fulfillment and are committed to doing so in a way that not only helps ourselves,
but helps others as well.
In other words, without supernaturalism we affirm our ability and responsibility to
lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of
So, the next time you find yourself struggling to explain Humanism to someone,
take heart. As complicated as it can sometimes seem, always remember that
Humanism isn’t rocket science. It is a very practical and humane approach to
living an ethical life of personal fulfillment that aspires to the greater good of
humanity. Or, more simply, live your life to fullest, love other people and leave
the world a better place.
Jennifer Hancock is the author of The Humanist
Approach to Happiness Practical Wisdom and Jen Hancock’s Handy Humanism

Friday, January 20, 2012

Homeswapping is like Dating

Having been an old hand on dating sites (in a former life), my experience with a home swapping site took me right back.
As new hopefuls on a home exchange website, my hubby and I enthusiastically put up photos of our house, plus a catchy description together with details about us. We felt like kids in the candy-store: all these great places and houses all around the world up for grabs at the click of a mouse.
We approached desirable potential partners, sometimes we got replies, and sometimes not: “sorry but...or you're too late”. Then we thought we had found the right fit and we started to communicate by email with the prospective swappers.  At the same time we asked a couple of questions about what they were offering on their part. After a bit of research, at last we were ready to commit: “Let’s do it” only to get blown off: We've found somebody else.
It reminds me of Internet dating. After crafting a compelling personal profile, you click though gazillions of pictures and prospects; you wait for responses or actively approach potential partners. You communicate, sometimes slowly; sometimes unexpectedly excited, making quick progress in getting to know the other side. Then boom—you’re blown off and don’t know what hits you. They disappear from the radar or have the courtesy of informing you that they have met somebody else while you were getting your hopes up. Happens all the time. It’s called double timing.
We lost out while trying to cover our backs and avoid being disappointed if things turned out to be different to what they were portrayed to be. 
We are still "virgins" on the home swapping front so to speak, but we learned our lesson: Apparently one has to jump "into bed" here even more quickly than on dating sites.

The above was posted last year when we embarked on this new adventure of "Home Swapping". Our second season was about to start when we were approached two weeks ago by a couple in  Germany in a tempting location we'd like to visit. When we didn't hear from them for about ten days, it was clear to me that something was afoot. As a repeat "dater" we learn more quickly. It was a case of double timing indeed, and we're back to the drawing-board. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just Another Religious Festival

“OK”.  And with that one word, my 15 year marriage ended.  We had both given up so there were no fights or last hurrahs to save our union.  I wanted our son.  Done.  He wanted his pension.  OK.  We actually negotiated the division of property at Starbucks over lattes.  Dutch treat!
It doesn’t get any better than that for a friendly divorce.
However, I had spent the previous 15 years as an ice hockey mom and school teacher for at-risk teens.  For this 70s throwback of peace, love, rock and roll, violence didn’t fit with my belief system; however, circumstances dropped it into my lap daily both at home and at school.  Along the way I disappeared while serving the needs of everyone else.  I couldn’t even remember what I enjoyed doing and I didn’t know where to start in creating Cheryl Version 2.0, middle aged edition.
Slowly I experienced rebirth, dabbled in online dating (just don’t!), raised an amazing son and developed deep interests in yoga, reading and writing. My regular haunts included Starbucks, yoga studios and bookstores.  Not exactly the life of a thrill-seeker but joy appeared in subtle ways through the perfect backbend or a well written novel devoured over a latte and cookie.   I was restless though.  After so many years living in ice rinks and never taking a vacation I had to blow off some steam and this lovely life I had created did not include adventure.
Three weeks.  That became my gift of time and for once in my adult life, I had freedom.  Throw caution to the wind, this was a childless adventure.  My friends thought I’d head to the shore with a stack of books when I shared the news of a getaway.  Not this time. 
The Festival of San Fermin!  That’s where I chose to go so I planned a vacation around that religious holiday. Traveling to the major cities of Spain introduced me to centuries old neighborhoods, gothic cathedrals, and fabulous museums.  I soaked it all in while spending siesta time sitting in plazas drinking cava.  Three weeks.  Time for me.  And for kicks, I went alone and did not activate international cell phone service.   No one to tell me when to get up, what to eat for dinner, or how to spend the days. 
I enjoyed 2 glorious weeks traveling throughout Spain with my camera in hand.  I wandered through street markets, toured museums and palaces and chose to view only masterpieces at the Prado.  I even crashed a wedding reception.  Why not?  No one really knew what I was doing but me.  I enjoyed freedom for the first time.
Did I mention that the Festival of San Fermin is more commonly called the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona? 
I didn’t tell too many people from home either.  I certainly didn’t tell my mother what adventure awaited me.  My guess was that wouldn’t go over too well.
A train ride later, I entered the tiny village of Pamplona.  The annual kickoff food fight had fortunately already ended by the time I settled into my hotel but the partying had just begun.  I began to realize that my standard glass of wine was not going to be the norm for the next few days.
Mardi Gras looked tame compared to Pamplona during the festival.  Dressed in obligatory whites with red sash and scarf, I elbowed my way through the crowds to enter the streets.  Once there, African conga drums played, strangers pulled me into their arms to dance in the street and mimes entertained all.  Music poured forth from stores and vendors filled the streets selling t-shirts and flags. The streets provided sensory overload but once I got into a rhythm, the crowds became invisible.   Callemucho .  The drink of San Fermin poured freely usually by flask or 2 gallon jug.
After a night of partying and no sleep, the actual festival began.  Fueled with over a decade of pent up energy, I  chanted “let ‘em loose”  in my mind.  Catch me if you can.  But I’m not quite as foolhardy as it appears.
First, most of the people running had imbibed for at least 24 hours.  I chose to toss back just one flask of Callemucho (cheap wine and soda).  Juts for courage I thought but my balance remained rock solid.  Next, a plan.  I wasn’t about to run on a cobblestone street the width of a standard American alley full of drunks without knowing the lay of the land.  I watched the first day, safely ensconced on a balcony two stories above bull level. 
Day 2 however I joined the crowd in the street.  My earlier reconnaissance showed that the end of the run was safer as there were fewer people (still packed shoulder to shoulder), a bit more space on the street and a fence to leap over should the need arise.  So that’s where I planned the start of my run.
 I heard the shot indicating that the bulls had left their pens, waited my 17 seconds for them to arrive, and then hit the street.  There they were, 10 agitated, magnificent 2000 pound beasts and me soaking wet at 115 pounds.  This sister ran fast, smelled their musky odor as they swept by and breathed a sigh of relief as I choked on their dust when they roared past.  My 2 seconds of glory.  Not trampled, not hurt and only a slight glow of perspiration on my brow.   I ran with the bulls.  Feel my power now people!
This single mom can do anything these days.   When life gets tough or when I’m feeling a bit beaten up, I don my red sash from Pamplona, look at the photos I took of the bulls on my desk and smile.  I found my inner courage again.  I’m getting to know myself too.  Life’s not so bad as Version 2.0.

Cheryl Stahle, memoirist, author and founder of Your Best Writing Group lives in Doylestown, PA with her son.  Cheryl consults with aspiring authors to guide them in telling their life stories.  She has a special interest in working with adoptive families as an adoptive parent herself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Summary of "Patti Canella"

Patti (Pat) Canella was no ordinary girl; coming from rural Ohandsworth to Middleton, the move to the city should have been a shock for the country girl, but it was her ideal setting. From her teens she knew how to shoot, could hold her own against most boys in a fist fight, and was not afraid to either 'kick ass' or 'cuss', if she felt the need. In her words "You rile this gal, and she'll go wildcat on your ass".
Middleton PI Pat Canella, was called to a hold out, and after a savage gun fight ends, she is left looking at her dead former partner. 
The story traces Patti from the start when the men called her Nancy Drew, to be fully accepted by the men.
With the help of a ghostly ex-cop Dennis she solves some cold cases. The first being a double shooting which led to the death of Dennis.
After struggling to rescue a bus load of people stranded in the desert, Patti decides the quiet life is too much, and heads back to the city, where she has to contend with her own ghosts now.

One click from oblivion
In March of 2011, I started the story, the idea was a young girl Patti sat in her dingy office getting only dead cases. When a man comes in looking for Pat Canella.
"Here I am," Patti  says "I guess you thought of a big Irishman or an Italian with a flick knife. I used to have Patti on there, but tired of chasing ponies".
The story sat on the scheduler for ages doing nothing, so I put it in the trash section. Out of sight, out of mind.
In October, out of sheer stupidity and not thinking of winning I entered a competition at the Merrill collection in Toronto. The prize, a pre-made cover. 
As the date passed for closing, I did not think anything more, until I got an email. I had won the cover.

I had a look at the cover, and there was my story line. The picture was of a young lady holding a smoking gun. I went back to the trash file and luckily, the start of the story was still there. With some dusting off of the webs, and a bit of prettying up. Pat Canella was reborn.
Irony is the story that almost was not, is now creating a growing fan base on Bookrix and Facebook.

Alan Ghostman Place

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


This morning we continue on in my book and reach hope. We have now experienced ways for getting past hopelessness.
Ray of Hope
"A ray of light across the bars of my being lights my way, instills hope in my
heart." This is the verse that accompanies the photo above.
Hopelessness is defined as having no expectation of an event occurring, being despondent.
Despondent implies being in very low spirits due to a loss of hope and a sense of futility about continuing our efforts.
Hope, on the other hand, is defined as a feeling that what is wanted will happen, a desire accompanied by expectation. It is hope which we want to cultivate in order to dispel hopelessness.
We have come a long way in our journey and have learned several tools and ways to act and behave that will be useful in combatting hopelessness. We have learned to surrender the pretense that everything is fine with us and we have discussed awakening to awareness of what is going on around and within us.
We have learned to trust in a power greater than ourselves, and to have courage and humility. Ways to treat ourselves with such things as gentleness, kindness, and compassion have been discussed.
We have become honest about ourselves and heave learned to practice willingness,
to commit to the journey, to move forward. Finally, we have learned the tremendous tool of how to conduct a self-appraisal. Through that appraisal, we have come to forgiveness of both others and ourselves. Do you see how far we've come?
Now, after going through what we have, we have learned to accept ourselves.
All of these things in combination provide for us a ray of hope that life can and will get better for us. Hopefully, it already has begun to do so.
We focus on that ray of hope as we work on getting past hopelessness, allowing hope to grow.
We take a deep breath, reveling in this new-found hope, and we allow it to blossom.
Today, take a moment to reflect on how far you've come, and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the way past hopelessness to sobriety and inner peace.
Carolyn CJJones
Twitter: @carolyncjjones

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another Day

Her face is turned toward the window, nestled on a deep feather pillow.  Long dark lashes flutter as I kiss her cheek, brushing back soft strands of hair from her forehead.  It is dark out, yet she will rise and greet another day.
His face is face up, eyes closed, arms thrown back over his head in the same position as when he slept as an infant.  I reach down to kiss the sweet spot between his jaw and neck, and he groans and pulls the covers tighter.  It is dark out, yet he will rise and greet another day.
Sleepily she pads downstairs, honey colored hair still in a messy braid.  Too early to eat, she sips cold orange juice as she pulls on long underwear and ski socks.  It is dark out, yet she will go and meet another day.
Groggily he pulls on his fuzzy black and white skull patterned bathrobe and gulps down fresh water.  He trods down the stairs, too full of chatter for such an early start.  It is dark out, yet he will go and meet another day.
She dresses quickly yet deliberately.  No worries about appearances, she thinks only of the snow that awaits her.  It is cold out, yet she will be brave and face another day.
He pulls on his layers, sweet grapefruit juice dribbling down his chin.  Thinking only of the countdown to Christmas, he hugs me in anticipation.  It is cold out, yet he will be brave and face another day.
Methodically she unscrews her ski helmet face bar in the dark lodge, preparing for the morning workout ahead of her.  Layer upon layer upon layer she bundles up and heads towards the lift, tousled braid whipping in the wind.  It is dawn out, and she gets to have another day.
Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.
Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.

It is bright out, and I get to have another day. 
                                                                                                                                          Jennifer Wolfe

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Humorous and Not So Witty Path to Writing

I did not learn how to write until I went to college. “How does one get accepted into college without knowing how to write? What I mean is that writing correctly was not one of my strongest points. I had my share of dangling participles, run on sentences and incorrect use of tricky words, i.e. to, too, who, whom, lose, loose and so on. So becoming an author was never in the picture.
When I decided to go to college, I was in my late twenties, which was a surprise to me, because I had no interest in going to college when I graduated from high school. However, that all changed when I started to work at a textile company that made linings and interfacings. The company employed home economists in various regions of the country. Their job was to go into stores and demonstrate how to use those materials when constructing clothing. This is when I became interested in becoming a home economist.
Since a degree in home economics was required, I made up my mind to register at a community college where I obtain a Liberal Arts Degree. During my first year there, I was required to take English. The professor, who taught this subject, inspired me to be a better writer. She made the course exciting and stressed good grammar, correct use of words, and proper sentence structure in a clear-cut way. Still, becoming an author was never on my radar. I went on to complete my BS degree in Home Economics. That was in 1979.
In 1982, the court summoned me for jury duty. While serving, I met an editor who represented a major publishing house. When she discovered that I was a Home Economics Consultant, she thought I should write a book on home management. I made it very clear that I was not interested in writing a book. She kept insisting, and I kept saying, “No.” She was persistent. Finally, I gave in, developed an outline and sent it off to her publisher. A couple of weeks later, I heard from the publisher. They turned down the idea. I cannot remember the reason they gave for rejecting the synopsis.  Even though my heart was not into writing this book, my ego was somewhat bruised.
Then in 2006, I started my second online dating site. Everything was going great; people were joining and becoming paid members, and I was making money. Then the unthinkable happened. After operating this site for over a year, and without any warning, the affiliate closed my site. After getting over that initial shock and displeasure, I wrote an article about the incident. From that piece, I wrote and self-published my first book, “Making Dollar$ And Cent$ Out Of Online Dating.” It is my personal journey into the difficulties I encountered while finding a company to host my site.
Eventually, I started to write short stories and decided to put those narratives into a book called “Shades of Deception,” a collection of ten short stories, and “Malicious Acts,” an anthology of five short stories. The genre is contemporary romance. Since my business is all about romance, my stories center on relationships, love, lust, deception, manipulation, betrayal, scandal and fraud.
Writing these books has had its challenges, but the rewards of having a product that you were involved with from start to finish, outweigh the setbacks. As a self-publisher, I have had my share of blunders. Even though I consider myself a good writer and sometimes become overconfident, I make mistakes and so do traditional publishers.  After publishing my books, I had to revise them, thanks to an author who gave me some constructive feedback. He found my stories clear and engaging but thought my segments were too long. After reviewing my books, I understood what he meant. Therefore, I split my lengthy paragraphs into shorter bits, and corrected a few mistakes, which somehow my proofreader and I missed. I learned a very good lesson. No matter how great of a writer I may think I am, I am not flawless.
For over twenty years, I wrote and edited articles for my past two publications and created a singles’ publication. I did not realize it then, but I was preparing myself to become an author. I still do not see myself as a novelist. Writing comes naturally to me. If I had to choose between reading and writing, I would pick the latter. Recently, someone asked me to provide a letter of recommendation. I did and read to her what I had written. She then asked, “Did you write author after your name?” I laughed and said, “Of course not.” :)

Vivienne Diane Neal The author is now semi-retired, but she continues to write short stores and articles on love, romance, relationships and other topics of interest.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ever Swapped Homes?

With more dash than cash it's hard to fulfill your traveling needs...Thinking of the top '100 places you should see before you die' always makes my tummy churn and my face green with envy.
After a wonderful but expensive vacation in the Fatherland I had a brainwave. Somewhere and somehow I had heard about swapping homes. Well, on TV families are known to even swap spouses. With a little bit of investigation (thank you Mr. Google!), I found an app for that or rather several websites. Looking at all the beautiful homes worldwide nurtured my travel bug that bit me years ago. He started to grow and make himself heard: If you swap houses with some of these people, you can stay longer. Hey, there is a way to swap cars too. That takes a big load of your pocket book. The bug could no longer be ignored.
Cheap package tours are an option, at least occasionally, but not in our circumstances. Especially if you live in "Paradise" anyway. We want to travel to Europe as much as possible because of family reasons. And hubby loves France and Italy. And his employer is too stubborn to let us relocate and pay for regular trips.
I was all for it immediately.
But: I hear you ask a) Do you want strangers in your house? b) even sleep in your bed? Guess, how many different people share a hotel bed over time? c) What about valuables and personal stuff? Well, lock it away! And if a glass or a vase breaks, or a book gets mislaid...so be it. In any case, people have insurance.
Well, we women can be very persuasive with the right arguments and the right open-minded partner who wants to please his wife who is a long way from home...
That's how it all started. Hey, Europe here we come: The Intrepid Home Swappers! The world is your oyster- if you like oysters. Who knows where we'll go next if this works out?
Being an old hand on dating sites, my experience with a home swapping site took me right back.
As new hopefuls on a home exchange website, my hubby and I enthusiastically put up photos of our house, plus a catchy description together with details about us. We felt like kids in the candy-store: all these great places and houses all around the world up for grabs at the click of a mouse.
We approached desirable potential partners, sometimes we got replies, and sometimes not: “sorry but...or you're too late”. Then we thought we had found the right fit and we started to communicate by email with the prospective swappers.  At the same time we asked a couple of questions about what they were offering on their part. After a bit of research, at last we were ready to commit: “Let’s do it” only to get blown off: We've found somebody else.
It reminds me of Internet dating. After crafting a compelling personal profile, you click though gazillions of pictures and prospects; you wait for responses or actively approach potential partners. You communicate, sometimes slowly; sometimes unexpectedly excited, making quick progress in getting to know the other side. Then boom—you’re blown off and don’t know what hits you. They disappear from the radar or have the courtesy of informing you that they have met somebody else while you were getting your hopes up. Happens all the time. It’s called double timing.
We lost out while trying to cover our backs and avoid being disappointed if things turned out to be different to what they were portrayed to be. 
We are still "virgins" on the home swapping front so to speak, but we learned our lesson: Apparently one has to jump "into bed" here even more quickly than on dating sites.
You can follow our steps for about months on our travels to Germany and France. The first home swap near Frankfurt turned out to be an all-round positive experience. We absolutely loved it and felt totally at home away from home. Our second exchange made me want to scream when we arrived and then take the prefix ‘in’ out of Intrepid Homeswappers. The location, however, was hard to beat and even the lack of good weather wasn’t that important once you see the sights of Paris.
The topic solicited even more interest with the local media than my book on dating, i.e. the interview with NPR will concentrate on this adventure, yet still plug my book I was promised.
For us it was a great, invaluable experience. We were drawn out our comfort zone, left the rut of daily routine in the US, and managed to enjoy ourselves even though my husband was working for five out of the seven weeks. While we’re still unpacking our six enormous suitcases -68lb.each-, plans for next year are being hatched and little safeguards discussed in order to guarantee an even better exchange next time.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Are Restaurants Aware of Portion Control?

I haven't had potatoes for ten months. I wasn't craving them I just wanted a few  French fries.
I decided on my local Five Guys restaurant. I was told their fries were the best. Forget eating the burger I'm vegetarian. So I go into my local Five Guys to order fries. The potatoes of the day was from Idaho. I order my fries with no salt. The guy drops the basket of fries in the peanut oil. He drains the excess oil and place the entire basket of fries into a brown bag. Who's order is that I asked, and he gives me the bag. I was shocked I ate six fries and dumped the rest into an outside trash bin. Do I look too skinny? Or maybe  this guy thought I should eat more.
Does Five Guys know about portion control?
America has an obesity problem, and nobody seems concerned.
I did it - so can you!
Wake up America!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

In Praise of Consumption ( Thursday's post)

Come listen to our sales pitch
It's made with you in mind
Watch all our pretty pictures
They flicker there on line      
Read all our clever posters
They're scattered in the mallways
See all our flashy billboards
That pass along the highways
Hear all the siren songs
That sing across the skyways
Yes, we’re coming straight to you 
From your cell phones too!

Now!   See what you don't have?
It’s right there on TV
A pretty thing, a shiny thing
A just can't do without thing
Exactly what you need
This perfect, just so thing
It's something that you've earned
That you really do deserve
It's guaranteed to please
And will make your life complete!

New toys will make you happy
You know that it’s quite true
Come try them now, come buy them now
That midnight sale is on right now
Come buy just one or two or maybe just a few
And then you’ll find another and another one too!

Oh!  You really are in luck
Just look at what's on sale
It comes in red or blue and a dozen other hues
There's sizes here for everyone
Large, medium and small and extra large ones too!

Do you have a life?  Buy a reason now to live
Do you have a soul?  Here's its purpose sure to give

Oh joy!    Imagine all those discounts!

 And look right here on line
 Be the first to buy
 Own this FDA approved 3D flat screen, wi fi
 Wide track, fuel injected
 Five bath, slim line, smells fine, top of the line
 Fully equipped, live in, country style
 Sports series, super-sized
 Battery powered  KAZOO!
And it's even got a Hemi too
Imagine all those rebates!

Now, exercise that plastic power
Add all those special coupons
That you’ve searched and found on Groupon
Use your super card
Just press those magic buttons
And poof!  It all belongs to you!  It's yours!

Oh!   Don't consider what’s to come
Or what the world may be
No need to see the future nor quantify the sum
Just think of now and all the shopping fun

It’s all right here. . .
Listen to our sales song
Buy it now before it's gone!

C  12/3/11
Sandy Hartman

Write it Down

I took a yoga class a few days ago, and in the last (i.e. the best!) part of class, when you just lie there and relax, I was suddenly struck by an idea for a scene to include in the new novel I’m writing. The timing was unfortunate, but I couldn’t help when I came up with the idea! As soon as the class was over, I literally ran to the front desk and asked for a piece of paper so I could write it down.
Now this may seem a little extreme, but I’ve learned from experience that no matter how much I think I’m going to remember something I want to include later in a book, I never do. Here are some of my typical forgetful predicaments, which you may have experienced yourself:
  • If I come up with a great idea in the middle of the night, I won’t remember it in the morning.
  • If I come up with the idea at a yoga class, inevitably I’ll run into someone I know on the walk home and start chatting, or I’ll stop at the grocery store, and boom, I’ve forgotten all about it.
  • If I come up with it when I’m out with friends, forget it.
That’s why I (and you) should always WRITE IDEAS DOWN.
I usually keep a little notebook in my purse and a set of sticky notes by my bed and also in my car. If I find myself without anything to take notes on, I send myself a text message. In fact, I sent myself a text message the other day to write this blog post, and I completely forgot about it until I just saw it on my phone!

You may come up with the best line of your entire book while you’re shopping this weekend. If so, what are you going to do about it?
Maria Murnane writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com
This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2011 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Two Scene Solution

Perhaps you have encountered Writer's Block, that dreaded affliction where the creative muse frolics elsewhere while you sit hunched over your keyboard, numbed of mind and body, gnarled fingers poised to enter...nothing.
Paralysis has set in. Perhaps you're overwhelmed by problems of plot and character that you never anticipated when you started the book in the first place. Suddenly, it's all too much. How can you decide what goes next, how can this thing ever progress, how do you get out of this mess?
Easy. Forget about the big picture. Forget about that neat idea you have to blow something important up in the middle of the book or whatever (I write thrillers). Forget about how it's all supposed to end, if you really think you know that in the first place. I usually don't, and I'll bet you don't either, beyond the broadest possible outcome like the good guys win. If you do, chances are your book is doomed anyway by the gods of predictability and boredom.
Just write a scene, any scene. I'm assuming you have actually STARTED a book, a good first step. Hopefully a scene that has something to do with your book. For example, suppose your hero is imprisoned in a dungeon. Now you're set. Description, description, description. What's it look like? What color are the stones? What kind of floor does it have? What does it smell like? Bad, I'll bet. You know, a hole in the corner for a toilet ff the hero is lucky. Are there other dungeons? Is anyone in them? Are they screaming, crying, cursing, silent? Is there a window? Is it daytime? Night? Raining? Are there rats? Bugs? What's our hero thinking? You get the idea.
Naturally scene one leads to scene two. Hero gets out of dungeon. You weren't going to leave him there for the whole book, were you? That would be depressing, kind of like The Road, and you don't want to write a book that makes people want to shoot themselves unless you are seeking a grand literary prize in contemporary literature.
Okay, hero gets out of dungeon. How? He escapes by way of a secret passage, the King's men let him loose, he picks the lock, he's rescued, an earthquake knocks down the wall--the possibilities are endless.
Suddenly it's lunch time, you've just written 1500 words and it was easy. You might throw out half those words later, but so what? Write scene one. Scene two will follow.
Try it, you'll see. And let me know how it goes.
Alex Lukeman, Author of White Jade and The Lance

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Bunny Whisperer

Marilyn Mansdorf  holds the honorable title of  "the bunny whisperer."   I met her a couple of years ago because she is an author.  You get to meet a lot of interesting people when you're an author.  She had written a children's book, "Bunny's Busy Day," and used photos that showed wild cottontails coming over to her house to play.  In fact, after they started coming to her house 7 years ago, she began to buy little toys for them to enjoy.  And they have come regularly ever since, bringing along relatives and the younger generation.
     Technology is a double-edged sword.  It can be extremely helpful in becoming known if you know how to network and use it properly.  On the other hand, the photos could have been photo-shopped.  Even though she wrote that they were very wild cottontails and in no way trained or enticed, how to prove it?  Before taking pictures digitally, she had taken hundreds of photos with the negatives to prove that they were not altered in any way.  But how to get someone to really listen to her that these were WILD cottontails?
     Being an author myself who is constantly frustrated by not being able to attract much attention, I understood her frustration.  While I wanted very much for people to understand through my book, "Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird," China's emergence  into stardom over the last two decades beyond anyone's expectations,  Marilyn was on a mission to teach young children tolerance and respect for the little wildness still left in our world.  Along the way, she had some encouraging false starts, but they faded away.  She kept asking herself, and me, "Why doesn't anyone care?'
     Marilyn has always been attracted to animals, and they to her.  She can't explain the last 7 years of these wild bunnies continuing to visit her without fear.  But telling other people about it became her passion.  With one book self-published, four books are awaiting publication until she knows how to reach markets for them.
   Although lacking skills in computer technology, Marilyn has an abundance of energy and passion to cultivate an audience that cares about the bunnies and their continuing desire to have a human friend.  Some friends helped get her website started at bunnybooksinc.com.  And recently, a beautiful article with many pictures appeared in the Orange County Register by Pat Brennan, Science and Environment Reporter.  He doesn't understand either why the rabbits come to visit her, but he believes her bunny friends and her mission is newsworthy.   The article is reprinted on her website.
     In the mission statement on her website, Marilyn hopes "that introducing children at a very early age to the mutual kindness depicted in my stories will help them grow up to be happy tolerant adults. My love of nature and photography has melded into a mission to educate us all on how to do the same. I have managed to capture on film the ultimate example of humans living in harmony with nature." Well said, Marilyn, and very well done.
Suellen Zima