Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Requiem

Allow me a day for reflection. Back to our regularly scheduled blog posts next week...

Weep Not For Me

By an Unknown Author
Weep not for me though I have gone
Into that gentle night
Grieve if you will, but not for long
Upon my soul’s sweet fight
I am at peace, my soul’s at rest
There is no need for tears
For with your love I was so blessed
For all those many years
There is no pain, I suffer not
The fear is now all gone
Put now these things out of your thoughts
In your memory I live on
Remember not my fight for breath
Remember not the strife
Please do not dwell upon my death
But celebrate my life

As We Look Back

By an Unknown Author
As we look back over time
We find ourselves wondering …..
Did we remember to thank you enough
For all you have done for us?
For all the times you were by our sides
To help and support us …..
To celebrate our successes
To understand our problems
And accept our defeats?
Or for teaching us by your example,
The value of hard work, good judgment,
Courage and integrity?
We wonder if we ever thanked you
For the sacrifices you made.
To let us have the very best?
And for the simple things
Like laughter, smiles and times we shared?
If we have forgotten to show our
Gratitude enough for all the things you did,
We’re thanking you now.
And we are hoping you knew all along,
How much you meant to us.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"Maybe Broccoli Doesn't Like You Either"

There's a factory near where I live that posts the funniest things on their road sign. It's been there for years and years and years, and when I passed it the other day, it made me laugh. "Maybe broccoli doesn't like you either." I wouldn't say I don't like broccoli, but in spite of my mother always making us eat our veggies as kids, I've never enjoyed them.

This year, I'm making a concerted effort to eat better. If you've ever read my bio, you know that I am a card-carrying cookieholic. My goal is to be a recovering cookieholic.

There comes a time in everyone's life where we stop and take a good, long, hard look in the mirror. I've done it before, but then I get caught up in the "but I'm in good health, overall." That might be more accurately described as "not in bad health" or "non-sick."

I look at my dad, who is 90+, who has been obese most of my adult life, proving everyone wrong who says obesity will kill you at a young age, but he depends on pharma to stay alive, and right now, he's losing that battle. That's not what I want for my life.

My dad has always said he wants to die living, not live dying. For him, that meant having his cocktails or eating the things he enjoys. He may have lived to be 90+, but he isn't the example of health I want for my life should I live to that age.

My eating habits have not been healthy, and so I've decided its time for me to make that change, before I move from "non-sick" into poor health. I'm not in favor of putting my life in the hands of big pharma.

I've been looking into some new and healthier choice recipes, and I recently made one that was really pretty tasty, in spite of being healthy for me. So I thought I'd share. (And guess what? It has broccoli in it.)

Chicken and Broccoli


1 lb raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast 
6 cups fresh broccoli, trimmed and chopped
¼ cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced

Directions
Remove visible fat from chicken breast. Cut chicken into thin strips. In a bowl, coat chicken with soy sauce; set aside. (For increased flavor, marinate for 30 minutes.) Sauté broccoli, garlic, and 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from skillet and cover to keep warm. Add 1 tsp olive oil to skillet. Stir-fry chicken 4-7 minutes or until cooked through. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then stir in mustard until blended. Return sautéed broccoli to skillet. Mix until heated through, stirring occasionally. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Practice makes perfect

Whenever people ask for writing tips, or when I go looking for writing tips, there are a million different views on how things should be done. In the end, each process for each author is different, with some unifying themes. For me, the single best tip I can offer or that I've learned is to keep at it. Write something every day.

Yes, that's me....
Much like a pianist needs to practice every day to play well, or a golfer needs to practice that short shot onto the green 65 times to get it right, or you take 100 forehand shots to learn placement, writing is no different. We learn by repetition. We get better by training every day. One of my friends has a 1,000 words a day goal. If she does more, that's a bonus, but it gives her a focus to sit down and get the story written. It also keeps her writing crisp and sharp.

"But Karla, I work a full-time job. I don't always have time to write every day." Guess what? I have a full-time job, and there are times during the year where that job overtakes my home life (heading into that time-frame now). For three months of the year, finding the time to write is extremely challenging. I don't give myself a minimum word count because I tend to be a binge writer. When I sit down, the words spew out. Or not. There are days I struggle to get even a couple of hundred words out, but I try very hard  to write "something" every day. Sometimes that something is my blog post. Sometimes that something is a critique for a fellow author. All of these things help to keep my skills sharp because....

When I don't write, old, bad habits creep back in. Poor sentence structure. Difficulty "finding the right word." Crutch words. As a Midwesterner, I have a tendency to end sentences with a preposition (because that's the way we speak, doncha know). And yes, there are periods of time where I just can't write due to "life" getting in the way. This has been a very challenging January for me, where life has stepped in to rob me of that time I dedicate to my pursuits. Life happens. And I'm going into busy season at the day job. Nevertheless, writing is an important component, and while I haven't had as many writing days as I'm accustomed to, I am still plugging ahead on my next novel.

As with anything else that we want to do well, the longer we go between practice sessions, the more ground we have to make up to get back to even. Yes, it can be done, but when I know I have the skill and ability to do something well, it's always frustrating to me to have to relearn what I've forgotten or lost.

So number one rule of writing - practice makes perfect. Only by repetition do we learn to correct our mistakes and apply the lessons that make our writing better, and it's good practice to write every day.

The new release is on sale now!
Pick up your copy today.
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Free Books?



There are those who tell me an author should give you a "free" book to entice readers to buy more, and to some extent, that does work. I've done it in the past. When I talked with a marketer last year about taking over some of my business responsibilities while I concentrated on writing, she suggested that, as well. "It invites people to try you for free."

Been there, done that. I work hard to provide a quality product, and I think it's worth spending at least a buck.

How many of you shop at Kohls? Or a similar store? Do you ever buy anything full price? As a rule, are we being told "full price" is too much? My answer would be yes, and it's for that reason that I price my books reasonably. When I see the big house publishers selling e-books for more than $10, my eyes bug out. As much as I love my favorite authors, I'm not going to pay that. Heck, I can buy the paperback for the same, and in many instances, less. So when my books are priced reasonably, I feel like I'm already providing the "low, low, sale price." And when I run a special? Yes, I've discounted the books even further, but I have a real hard time giving away my hard work for free, even as a sample.

Which brings me to why do I write. It's certainly not to get rich. I write because it brings me joy and I want to share my stories with you. I work hard to make sure they make sense, that they are the best stories they can be. I want to be professional about telling you stories and it costs money to bring them to you. I invest in my writing in hopes that you will like it, as well. So when I publish a brand new book and someone asks me "is it free?" my immediate response might not be the one I want to verbalize. Heck, even the bards of old had a hat for people to throw in their pennies in recognition of a story well told. I'd like to believe the stories I write are worth something to the people who read them.

Let me back up for a second. When I got my first Kindle, the first thing I did was search out free books. Why? First, I didn't know how ebooks worked. Second, I didn't know if it was going to be a medium I could appreciate. (Example, I'm not a fan of audiobooks. Not because they aren't entertaining, but because my attention span wavers too much to listen for an extended period of time.) I started out with the classics on my Kindle - Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol, A Portrait of Dorian Grey, etc. I found some others that sounded interesting and downloaded those as well. Then comes the moment of reckoning. Do I enjoy reading ebooks enough to pay for one? If you're like me, the answer is yes. There are a number of authors I like and a limited amount of shelf space for paperback/hard cover. Then there's the transportability. When I go on vacation, I can take half a dozen books with me without going over the weight limit with my suitcase. I found I liked ebooks, and for those books I was "testing out," if I enjoyed them, I could still buy a paperback version for my shelf to go back to, to hold in my hands. I still prefer holding a "real" book in my hands, but for convenience and on the go, ebooks are fabulous.

Back to the "on sale" mentality. Yes, I still struggle with paying full price for a book. Hey, I shop at Kohls. I might spring for a hard cover book by someone I truly admire and know I'll read again and again. It's an investment. I do have a price I won't pay for an ebook, even for highly anticipated books by my favorite authors. Do I expect them to give their books away for free? No. Storytelling is an art form, and its worth something to me. I hope its worth something to you, too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The thing about ghosts...

The post in which I step into woo-woo land.

I had a conversation the other day with my son's future mother-in-law. Why doesn't my son believe in ghosts? I mean, I write about them, right? And we decided it was because he is too logically minded.

Which brings me to the thing about ghosts.

If you've been following my Epitaph series, you've noticed that spooks tend to show up. Loved ones who have unfinished business. People who have been wronged and can't find their way "home." This almost always brings about the question. Do I believe in ghosts?

I'm going to deflect the question for just a second to point out that our local ghost hunters have never captured anything tangible, even with their professional equipment. Does that mean they don't exist? Going out on a limb here and saying I don't discount the possibility. I've seen and heard unusual things that may or may not be "preternatural," which means there is no reasonable explanation for them, but there might be one day.

Before my mother passed, we had a family conversation about "the next phase." I think I tried to add some humor to the conversation and said something along the lines of "aren't you going to come back to be my guardian angel?" to which I got a resounding "NO." Alrighty then!

I do believe in sensitivity to those we love, a bond that transcends time and distance, and maybe death. I don't think of ghosts as scary and threatening, rather, I think of them as comforting. There have been moments in my life where I find myself suddenly overcome with emotion for no apparent reason. A feeling like you'd get with a hug - warm and comforting. Those aren't necessarily "ghostly" experiences, though. Well, maybe, if the person you're sensing has passed on.

I've also had those hair-raising moments - a wind chime swinging from the ceiling when there's no breeze and they don't produce any sound, a door opening and closing for no apparent reason (we're talking heavy, front entrance door, not a half-closed interior door). Ghosts? Maybe, or maybe some other as yet undiscovered rational explanation.

What about you? Have you had a ghostly encounter?


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

When you don't know what you don't know

At the day job, when we're training someone, we always encourage them to ask questions. The problem is, you can't ask questions when you don't know what you're missing.

When I start a new book, I take the "pantser" approach. I dive into the story and then figure out what I don't know as I go along. Normally, that isn't a problem, and there are often times when I have to halt the action to do research. Researching can be fun, but it can also be distracting. While I was writing my first book, I went on so many different tangents that it took me two years to write that book. Fortunately, in learning the process, I was reminded that I needed to stick to my theme, to tell the story I started out to tell and let the rest of it go (perhaps as fodder for future writing).

I'd wager eighty percent of research doesn't make it into the novel, but it's critical information. The problem comes in when you let it take you away from the story you're writing. As a pantser, I don't know what I don't know, and when I stop for research, I learn important details that color the story. For instance, when you're recovering from ACL surgery, you do not do "open chain" leg lifts. And then I get distracted by what exercises you would do, and pretty soon I've lost the focus of my story in favor of writing a recovery plan for someone post surgery.

This is where I stop to take off my pantser hat and buckle down as a professional writer to determine the story I want to tell.

Time to refocus. Yes, I need to know the research information, but that's background. Now I know more about the process and can avoid incorrect information, include relevant information, but that isn't the main focus of the story. That information gets put into a file labeled "authenticity," but likely isn't necessary to my plot.



Now that I know what I didn't know, it's time to write the rest of story.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Character Interviews

In every book I write, there's always one elusive character, one where I'm not sure what they're all about. That's the point where I stop and consider who they are, what's their backstory. What makes them who they are. (I think I need to develop interview questions for those characters!)

As an author, we have to be careful not to draw one-dimensional, cookie-cutter characters. Even the bad guys weren't always bad (unless they're sociopathic, but that's a different story altogether). In THE ARCHITECT, I had to interview the ghost to find out what his deal was, and even then, there was more to the story (which I often don't discover until I keep on writing). In the current work in progress, my protagonist was keeping secrets from me, and I got as far as Chapter 5 in the first draft before I stopped and said "hey, wait a minute. I don't know enough about you." Putting on the brakes, I started writing down questions. How did she get to where she is today? What's her history?

When I start writing a new story, I begin with goals, motivation and conflict. It's a good start, but can still be fairly flat without knowing why they have those goals and what pushes their buttons. I knew their goals. I had motivation, and conflict, but I still didn't know enough about my characters to move the story forward. Generally, it takes several chapters before they start "talking to me," but this particular character wasn't talking.

Here are some of the questions I'm asking her:
  • How did you get this job?
  • What are your credentials?
  • What's at stake if you fail to execute your directive?
  • What are your afraid of?
  • What makes you question your ability to successfully execute your job?
  • Tell me about your family life. Are they instrumental in your career choice? Do they support your career choice? Do they encourage you or do they expect you to fail? 
She is mindful of her choices and decisions and especially conscious of her own state of mind. I think that's where I'm running into trouble. She sets a higher standard for herself, a level of confidence and knowledge she wants to project and share, so as I look for those doubts, she's pushing me away and denying that they're there (but nobody's perfect...)

A little secret about THE ARCHITECT, the first hero failed his job interview and had to be replaced.

I'm moving forward with the next in the series. My protagonist passed her interview, but I still have much to uncover!

The new release is on sale now!
Pick up your copy today.
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