Play Nice

Oh sigh. I must opine. Well, must… no, a gun isn’t at my head. But sometimes this old brain of mine gets stuck on something, like a record that skips.

My question for the day is, “What’s Wrong With Facebook?”

My answer is, “The same thing that’s wrong with real life. Poor Communication Skills.”

We all go to a party with a smile on our face and the hope of fun discussions and lots of laughs with people we know and plan to meet. But, not every party is that much fun. Sometimes people get snippy for whatever reason. They disagree with each other, or they just have a bee in their bonnets. The moon isn’t aligned with Jupiter, or whatever. Sometimes people are being too careful, other times, not careful enough.

I guess people are simply good sometimes and bad sometimes. Some days we’re compassionate and considerate of how we affect others. Some days, we are more selfish and want our own way or prove we’re smarter so we can feel better about ourselves, I suppose. Some days we feel forgiving, and other days we put our foot down and say, “No. Not okay!”

This is why we have manners, etiquette, and rules for professional behavior. We’re supposed to say please and thank you, be a good hostess, an appreciative guest, thoughtful of other’s feelings, careful not to be rude, not just on social media, but also in real life.

Of course, there isn’t a great deal of that going on in real life, so Maybe I’m being old-fashioned suggesting it should be observed on social media, I suppose. The only thought I’d like to emphasize is that Facebook or Twitter or whatever brand of social media you’re using, is just another tool to communicate. It’s no different than when we write letters or call people on the phone. Seriously. I see no difference at all other than the format. Maybe someone will enlighten me as to why it’s just not the same as “back in the good old days” when we drank out of hoses and rode our bikes till the sun set, then went home for supper.

And just like with letters and phone calls, there are times when it’s fine to be casual, and other times when it’s important to be more formal. My opinion is that it’s never a good time to be unkind or thoughtless of other’s feelings. Does it happen? Sure. Have I done it. Yup. (looks down, shoves hands in pocket and kicks the dirt with the toe of my shoe.)

No matter if it’s electronic communication such as texting or Instagram, or social media such as Facebook, or even if it’s a letter written in  pen, or a message spoken into a telephone, or a face to face discussion… it’s all the same beast: communication. If you wouldn’t stand in front of someone and say it… don’t say it anywhere else. Be nice. Share your toys. Don’t kick sand in the other kid’s faces. Don’t be a bully. Behave. And most importantly, Don’t make me turn this car around!!!

Harness the Elephant

Being a writer is like riding an elephant. On the one hand, it’s a lot of fun. Our perspective from up there is wonderful. We harness this big animal and it’s incredible to know we could bust through just about any boundary with the beast’s strength.

But then there is this sense of responsibility and guilt that shoulders its way to the front of our conscience. At least it does in my conscience. I’ll call her Prudence.

Prudence says, “Hey. Who do you think you are, riding this elephant?”

“Shut up,” I tell her. “Get to the back of the brain and don’t harsh my vibe.” Apparently, I’m cool and I talk like a Hippy.

But Prudence is a pushy gal. Harder to get rid of than one would think. She exists just to spoil my fun, deflate my ego, knock me down a peg. I hate that… that… (insert a variety of nasty names.)

Writing a scene is fun. But taking the scenes and turning them into full-length books is quite another thing. Sometimes a story flows out from our fingers like magic, but then someone else reads it and we see through their eyes it doesn’t have that certain something. Maybe there is no story arc. Maybe it lacks a solid plotline. Maybe there is no depth to a certain character or no consistent voice to another character. You steered your elephant through the wrong walls and plodded down the wrong road.

Now… how do you harness that beast back up again?

Well, that’s where I am with the next story in the Rosewood Series. I bulldozed my elephant and wrote that book. Then I looked it over. I had other people read it. And I realized I was way, way off the right road. So, I called a do-over. I’ve turned the elephant around and I’m riding it back to the beginning and starting down a new path.

For the reader, this means Flames of Rosewood won’t come out when I thought it would. I thought I’d have it on the shelves by now, but, no. It will probably be May before it lands on pages and eBook formats. I’d apologize, but in the end, I’ll have a better story for my readers to enjoy. Prudence was right… this time. There is no easy way out when it comes to writing a good book. I have to take the path less traveled. Especially as an Indie author. I mustn’t be reckless in what I publish. If I expect people to pay money for my books, I have to give them a book I’m proud of, and a book they’ll be glad they read.

So, yes, I can ride the elephant, but I have to take it down the right path. Be patient, gentle readers. We’ll arrive eventually, and then, off again we’ll go in another direction, imagining scenes and making up characters, high in the saddle with Prudence safely at the back of our conscience… for the time being.

Juggling

It’s been a while, but this week I officially rejoined the working world. I have been enjoying a sabbatical from working for others. I’ve been my own boss for the last seven years. During my non-working years, I’ve taught myself how to write books, and that has kept me quite busy. Probably because I did what I always do. I got involved. Joined writing groups. Met a ton of new friends. It’s been great. And I’m not done. Six books under my belt, and one more I’m fussing over like a perfectionist, which honestly, I’m not, is just the beginning. I have more stories floating around in my head. But, the truth simply is, my time to write will be cut down quite a bit and so, I’m going to need to learn how to juggle.

Oddly enough, I actually do know how to juggle. Like with actual balls. In the air. No, I’m not good at it, but I used to, once upon a time, be able to cross over juggle and circle juggle. Only 3 balls, but hey, it was still juggling.

There have been times in my life when I juggled as many as three jobs at once. And certainly, when my kids were young and I had my photography studio, I juggled owning a business while raising kids. But, it’s been some time since I’ve tried to keep things up in the air without letting them fall. It gets harder as I get older. Mostly because I can’t remember anything as easily as I once did.

My hope is that by working, my memory and ability to think quickly and accomplish things will return. I think it will. It’s like riding a bike, right?

So, after my first week of work, these are some of the things I had forgotten:

  • One does not just make copies. One fights with a copy machine.
  • Copy Machines and Duplos do not fight fair. They have ink as their weapon. My fingers are covered with it today.
  • Paper does not instinctively want to go around rollers and get spit out. It has a mind of its own and likes to wander off and get all jammed up.
  • When learning new thing, one can never find a whole piece of paper to jot a note on. Only small notes sized pieces.
  • When you write on a note-sized piece of paper, say a really important number someone is going to call and ask for, you WILL lose that piece of paper. This is 100% guaranteed.
  • Computers are the devil. You will have a battle royale with Windows 8. It will not be pretty.

Although I’m now occupied with working 13 hours a week as my church’s Parish Assistant (so seriously, I can’t even swear at the copy machine when it jams) I intend to keep writing. I’ll just have to learn how others do it while working day jobs. In other words, it’s time for me to dust off my juggling skills. We’ll see if this old dog can still hunt.

The Bending Willow Trilogy—Charissa Stastny

1367813145I’m so tickled to tell you about a friend of mine. A friend I’ve never met, but one I have a lot of respect for just from following her blog and reading her books. She has such a good heart. We meet so few people like that and when you meet one, it’s important to keep that kind of positivity in your life. This world needs all the good examples we can get!

I picked some questions for Charissa that tell about her Bending Willow Trilogy, but even more importantly, questions that share the essence of  Charissa —a person with a beautiful soul. Her books are exciting, heart warming and well written, but when you read about her, you’ll see her goodness and that is what shines through in her writing.

Read her books. You’ll thank me.

And now, I’m honored to give you a glimpse into the author, Charrissa Stastny. She loves her family and they love her. She loves life and God and writing and she’s fun, too. Read about her and see if you don’t agree!

  1. If you could revisit one day in your life, which would it be? In 2009, I spent a week with my grandma taking care of her. I would revisit any of those days and just drink in her smile and laughter.
  2.  Tell us a little about your family. My husband and I are high school sweethearts and married after his mission. We have four children—3 daughters (one married, one serving a mission in Korea, and one still in high school) and one son (in high school). We love being together and our favorite activities include biking, hiking, camping, and going to Disneyland.
  3. Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader? After my husband read my first book, he commented, “It would have been better with a zombie in it.” Since then, the Search and Find feature on Word has become my best friend. I always use it before I send out drafts to readers because, unfortunately, my husband is skilled at sneaking zombies into files. There is nothing worse than when the masculine hunk in my story tells the girl of his dreams that ‘he wants to eat her brains.’ Ugh!
  4.  How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing? Quite a lot. There is always one character I identify with—usually the shy, awkward one with a good heart who doesn’t know how to accessorize. My cool characters are my dreams of how I wish I could be. It’s fun as a writer to live vicariously through our characters.
  5.  Where did you get your inspiration for this book? My muse started with a door-to-door salesperson. An Israeli girl named Suvi with a nose ring and a vivacious personality knocked, charmed me into buying one of her oil paintings, and then talked to my daughters and me for an hour. After she left, a story started to form around her in my mind. As I wrote my imagined story for Suvi, I wanted to help my own daughters be aware of hidden secrets people carry so that they would be more merciful in their judgment of others. We never know what awful circumstances and experiences have led someone to act in certain ways.My little brother was my inspiration for my James character. He served a mission in Guatemala and I used his letters he wrote home to cast Elder Hinton. I tease my brother that James Hinton is him…only cool!
  6. Did you put real experiences in this book? In Eyes of Light, the missionary scenes are almost all taken from real-life experiences my brother had while serving in Guatemala. I found his letters captivating and used them to form my character James. In Secret Keepers, there are several scenes—like the Garden tomb and Wailing Wall—I described from being in Israel as a college student. I also stayed on a kibbutz in the Galilee and based Suvi’s experiences there on mine.
  7. What is one silly fact about you? I can do a ‘mean’ monkey imitation, actions and all. When I did this at Biblical zoo in Jerusalem, the monkeys spit at me though. I don’t know what that means.
  8.  If you could have plastic surgery, what would you change? Nothing. I think wrinkles are earned and are a sign of wisdom. I’ve worked and lived too hard to let some doctor take that away from me.

Blog Tour Giveaway (ends March 1st)

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Ode to Snow

I should have pictures of snow. Or at least of my cat in the snow. There’s plenty outside to photograph. Plenty of cats, too. The problem is, I keep trying to open my doors to go outside and they creak and push against little drifts of icy-nastiness at which point, I give up. When it comes to cold snow, I cede to it almost immediately. “I give… you win! Uncle!!”

This white wonderland outside my window is best left to look at. Certainly not something I want to play in. Snowshoeing. Snow Skiing. Sledding. Cross country skiing. Building snowmen or snow forts or having snowball fights. Go for it. I’ll stay inside and make you some soup and hot cocoa. That’s my job. Maybe I’ll write a little poem for you. An ode to snow.

As a matter of fact, I have a concoction of Northern Beans, diced tomatoes, spinach, Italian Sausage, chicken breast, in a nice turkey broth on the stove right this very minute. (Yes, that’s home-made broth. Oh, and I seasoned it with parsley, thyme, and basil from the summer garden.) Smell good? Oh yeah. Smells great. I’ll eat it while I look out the window at the snow. I’ll feed it to my husband who is out being “King of Snow.” Teaching it a lesson. Blowing it and scooping it. He’s winning, too. He’ll teach that snow to pile up in our driveway. I am watching him and very, very glad to be in, and not out. Warm, and not cold. Thank you, Hubby.

Now, here’s my ode to snow.

You’re wet, and cold, I am not sold, on winter sports and frolic.

I’ll stay inside where I can hide, cause snow just gives me colic.

The end.

P.S. Enjoy the picture of my cat. That is all. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming.