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Friday, January 30, 2015

Enjoying Fickle Weather


While my extended family hunkered down under the onslaught of Blizzard 2015, I took advantage of our sunny 70-degree weather to do more yard clean-up work. It's not that I'm insensitive to the distress of others, my turn will come with the July and August months when our part of the country will be enduring 100ยบ days for weeks at a time.

This is the only time of year I don't appreciate the many trees on our acreage. Besides the thick layer of fallen leaves that needs disposing, what I most detested are the sweet gum seed balls. This year's harvest has just started dropping. A glance at the bare branches overhead tells me there are lots more to fall. Their indiscriminate scattering are a real pain underfoot because the solid object doesn't give when you step on it. When it's working time and I walk to my little cabin this time of year, my progress resembles the stumbling of a drunken sailor.

I took time to wander about the garden beds that look dismal about now and was delighted to discover the early paperwhites have just started opening their fragrant buds. Thinking to cheer my sister in Conn., I snapped a picture and emailed it to her.

In another part of the yard, the early daffodils have pushed up several inches already and the flower buds are already fat with promise. However,what usually happens is that about the time they're just about fully open, one of our famous fronts from the frigid hinterlands comes blasting through and puts everything in a frozen state.

So...I guess weather changes are just something you have to learn to live with. As far as I know, no one's been able to tame Mother Nature yet.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

A chain's weakest link

"A chain is only as strong as its weakest link"
I'm interested in digging out the background and origin of sayings we take for granted. Here's what I learned about this phrase. 

It is a literal fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In 1786, Thomas Reid wrote his 
Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man” wherein he stated:

      “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of 
       the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

This proverb has a literal meaning, but often when it is used, the 'weakest link' is referred to is usually figurative and applied to a person or technical feature rather than the link of an actual chain.

 Cornhill Magazine published an article in 1868 that contained this bit of advice:

      “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link; but if you show how admirably the last few are
       united … half the world will forget to the security of the … parts which are kept out of sight.”

 The only proverb I've come across that is remotely similar to this is a Basque saying; 

      “Haria meheenean eten ohi da” which translates into “A thread usually breaks from where it is
      thinnest.”

My only conclusion I can come to is to make certain all links in my chain of reasoning are solid and firmly established...but, be especially convincing with the latest arguments because that is what people will remember.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pictures On My Refrigerator

Does anyone remember the craze of collecting magnets to decorate your refrigerator? My mother gathered so many there wasn't a bare spot to be seen. You could trace my parents' travels by the magnet she picked up in gift shops every time they stopped somewhere.

A refrigerator's surface makes an excellent gallery for many items, including pictures. Over the years, I've taken advantage of the refrigerator in my kitchen to post on permanent view pictures I don't want to hide away in a album or drawer.

I just paused long enough to go examine what's in my refrigerator's display. It surprised me to learn the pictures there span four generations. The oldest is a group shot of my four sisters and I taken during a rare family gathering. Considering we siblings reside in places from Connecticut to Arizona, our get-togethers as adults, especially the opportunity to spend a weekend just we sisters, no extended family, have been very few. Can't recall how long ago this shot was taken, but has to be before 2000.

Only one of my sons has his picture posted prominently. I'll have to remedy that and I know just the shot I'll print and post. A niece recently sent me a picture of my older son taken while he was away at college. It catches perfectly this grown-up who never lost touch with his inner child.

The next generation is represented by my three grand-daughters. High school picture of the sisters and first day of third grade of the other. Since their families reside cross-country, spending time with them doesn't happen often.

There's a whole group of my great-grands, Lexi & Joshua. They are only a year apart in age and my favorite is the one of them in their latest Halloween costumes.

I like having the pictures such a prominent part of my every day. Each time I pass or open the door is an occasion for remembering.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Burying The Hatchet


There are times I come across a well-used phrase and I just have to satisfy my curiosity and learn its origin. Back when I was researching my novel  Twist of Fate which is set on the western frontier,I came across the expression "bury the hatchet" in my study of American Indian tribes.

Well, I knew that expression is often used in reference to a problem being resolved and the forgetting of past hurts.

What surprised me was to learn that many tribes would actually bury a tomahawk as a symbolic gesture of peace. Not all Native American practiced this ritual, but those that did took it seriously. In fact, if for some reason hostilities were renewed, the tomahawk just might be dug up as a declaration of war. Among the Indian Nations, burying a tomahawk  proved to be a more binding peace ceremony than those "peace" treaties the white man continually made and broke.

I've not taken the time to seek out a tomahawk...don't have a running battle with anyone at the moment that needs resolving. Not sure if any toy store stocks guns and tomahawks these days. I'm suspect our 'politically correct police' have outlawed them long ago.

Monday, January 26, 2015

An Old Saying


"Take down a peg or two"
Ever wonder where this saying came from? I did, so I went looking. All the early citations of the phrase have a religious context; for example:

Pappe with An Hatchet, 1589 - "Now haue at you all my gaffers of the rayling religion, tis I that must take you a peg lower."

 Joseph Mead's Letters, 1625 - "A-talking of the brave times that would be shortly... when... the Bishop of Chester, that bore himself so high, should be hoisted a peg higher to his little ease."

Samuel Butler's Hudibras, 1664 - "We still have worsted all your holy Tricks,... And took your Grandees down a peg."

If the pegs were some religious artifact, it isn't clear what they were. Various quantities and qualities have been measured by the use of pegs. It has been suggested that the pegs in question here were those used to regulate the amount of drink taken from a barrel, or those that controlled the hoisting of the colors (flags) of ships. Either of these might be correct 

In all my wanderings, I really didn't come up with a satisfactory explanation. But, when I hear that expression used, I have no problem understanding its meaning, do you?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Your name is mud

"Your name is mud"
Ever wonder what this phrase is all about? I did and went looking for an explanation.

Dr. Samuel Mudd is widely reviled for his part in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He is the doctor who gave medical help to John Wilkes Booth's broken leg acquired in his escape after shooting Lincoln in 1865. Mudd was convicted of being Booth's conspirator, although the evidence against him was ambiguous and circumstantial, and many historians argue that he was innocent of any murderous intent.

However, 'your name is mud', was in general circulation long before Lincoln was assassinated. 

The word began to be used in a figurative sense as early as the 16th century to refer to things that were worthless or polluting. That usage was later extended to apply to people, as listed in the 1703 account of London's low life, Hell upon EarthMud, a Fool, or thick skull Fellow.

The combination of meanings of 'decaying and worthless' and 'extremely' was enough for the association of it with someone's name to become an insult - hence 'your name is mud'.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Comparing Apples and Oranges?

  I want to thank Facebook friend Richard Weatherly for this photo.

A reader asked what was the significance of my blog's title...Comparing Apples and Oranges. When I began to write this blog, I had no idea what I would choose to write about. I just knew I wanted it to be informative and entertaining. But, as they say, different folks need different strokes, so...

Comparing apples and oranges has to do with a long-standing difference between my husband and myself. He's a pessimist...his first answer is always "no" and first to point out the negative aspects of a discussion. I, on the other hand, have been called an optimist...usually willing to seek out the positive.

When a difference of opinion on a subject appears to come to a stand-off, our continued arguments fall on deaf ears because we are seeing the situation from two different perspective. Our only recourse when one or the other recognizes this, is to ease the tension by pointing out we are comparing apples with oranges. Over the years, we've come to an understanding...we basically agreed to disagree.

It's taken many years to come to this realization,but ever since we've started doing this, it's really ease the tension.

Thinking about this, I wondered how that aspect could be applicable to writing. How about developing those opposing viewpoints in two characters, each determined to convince the other of their rightness? And all the time they are really talking about two different aspects of the argument. Can't wait to find some place to try this out.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Something Bloggers Need To Remember

This blogging is something I'm still learning. So,whenever I come across articles that I find helpful, I'm happy to share. Some of them are obvious and others, like #5 and #7 were things I never considered. The following tips came from Reuters News Agency and I found them very informational for bloggers. 
  1. Be interesting.
  2. Be conversational — raise questions, invite contributions, discuss what’s happening on other blogs, leave some loose ends, and respond to comments made by readers.
  3. Link to external sites with relevant information.
  4. Monitor other bloggers in the same space and attempt to build reciprocal links with them.
  5. Tag posts so that they are easy for search engines to find.
  6. Inject some personality into posts, and include observation and anecdote.
  7. Credit the original source of all content embedded in posts.
  8. Make use of multimedia whenever possible and think about a post’s layout.
  9. Make sure posts are seen by a second pair of eyes before publication.
  10. Place a link to blog posts on relevant social media.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Let's Hear It For Writing Contests


How do you feel about  writing contests? Our local writers'group, North East Texas Writers Organization (NETWO for short), is holding a contest especially for writers who are teens...and it's free with prizes. You can find out more about it on our website: www.netwo.org.

We'll also be once again sponsoring a a short story contest in conjunction with our yearly conference held in April. Named to honor a member who gave so much to those of us following, the information about the Jory Sherman Short Story Contest is also on the website.

I'm a longtime subscriber to C. Hope Clark's excellent newsletter, Funds For Writers http://www.fundsforwriters.com/. Here are a couple contest she reported in last week's issue. I think you can use Paypal to pay the entry fees.

65 LITTLE WORDS WRITING COMPETITION
http://creativecompetitor.com/65-little-words-creative-writing-competition/65-little-words-writing-competition-february-2015/
ENTRY FEE £2 (OR FREE TO MEMBERS).1st Prize: £260. 2nd Prize: £195. Deadline February 10, 2015. You have just 65 words or less including the title to write a complete story. It's a tough one, but you can do it,and we look forward to receiving your submissions. You must use the photo published online.

THE PARK BENCH WRITING COMPETITION
http://creativecompetitor.com/creative-writing-competitions/writing-competitions-2015/park-bench-writing-competition/
£3 ENTRY FEE (FREE TO MEMBERS).1st Prize: £195. 2nd Prize: £150. 3rd Prize: £100. Deadline February 28, 2015. Using the photo for inspiration, you have just 1,000 words (including the title) to write a complete story that captures the imagination of the reader. To be in with a chance of winning this writing competition, you must include the park bench in your story.

If you've never been confident enough to enter a writing contest,let me encourage you to take that step. I find the undertaking stimulating and the endeavor to write something to enter challenging. It makes me stretch my writing muscles.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Memories Outlast Physical Reminders

The smokestack at Thurber, Texas
Thurber, Texas once claimed to be the largest town between Fort Worth and El Paso. Now only the towering smokestack remains of a once prosperous business and a thriving community.  It took life in 1886 with a coal mine begun by the Johnson brothers, Harvey and William. Workers who were recruited came from Italy, Poland, Britain, and Ireland among the eighteen nations represented. Manufacture of brick began in 1897 and eventually the plant was making 80,000 bricks daily.

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, railroads changed from coal to oil as fuel, diminishing  the markets for coal. When the company’s investors switched to developing oil leases, production of bricks decreased. The company’s move to its corporate location in Fort Worth in the early 30's brought the demise of Thurber and it became little more than a ghost town. Only a handful of buildings still exist where once 10,000 residents claimed Thurber ‘home.”

A smokestack, visible alongside Interstate 20 about seventy-five miles west of Fort Worth, is all that remains of a once-bustling town... a few buildings, some historical markers and memories planted deep in those who remember.

And yet, former inhabitants continue to gather on regular occasions because memories are more permanent monuments than anything subject to the erosion of time.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Social Media...Can One Keep Up?


Mentioned last week about having to replace my laptop. Here's an update on my progress in getting it up and running.

I'm a writer so I need a good Word program. My desktop is equipped with a Word 2010 and I was smart enough to make a note of the Product Code for the program I bought a few years back. No problem. I'll just go to Microsoft's website and download a copy. Nope! Seems that Microsoft no longer makes Word 2010 available; they now want you to use/buy Word 2013. After a bit of investigation, I settled for Apache Open Office...and it's free. I'll let you know how it works out later.

Although all my files were transferred from the old to the new computer, I had to rebuild my list of Favorites. There's Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, the site that hosts the serial of my novel Twist of Fate, and where I post a weekly blog about interesting cities in the US, VentureGalleries.com.

As a member of Authors Social Media Share Group (ASMSG), I'm active on Goodreads, Riffle, and Booklikes. Then I remembered I needed to find and add my personal and author websites. Once I found them, I took the time to post an update (don't do that near often enough.) So then it was on to Amazon where I located the address for my Amazon Author Page and Amazon Central so I could check on near-nonexistent book sales.

I'm sure there are other sites where I have a membership presence like Authors Den which I don't visit very much. But, by then my fingers were exhausted and most of the day had gone by. And I still had this blog to write for tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2015

When I'm Not Writing...


I'm pretty faithful to dedicating a portion of my day to writing projects of one sort or another. But, sometime there  a day comes along when I can't resist the call of the outdoors. Today was one of those days.

Here in Texas our winter this year has been one of gray, overcast skies and biting cold North winds that keep a person trapped indoors. When this day gave indication of something vastly different, I set aside the computer and research book and answered the call.

With temperatures in the high 60's and the soft, southerly wind a mild five to ten miles per hour, I couldn't pass up the chance to get some yard cleanup done. We've got a lot of trees  on our property resulting in a dead-leaves cover. I began with the flower bed alongside the drive, removing leaves and sticks with a rake and drawing them into a long piled row in the middle of the paved drive.

Used to be (when I was younger and more physically able) the raked-up leaves would be put through a shredding machine and returned as mulch on my garden beds. This will be the first year I'm not up to the chore and other demands don't allow the time to do so. A couple hours work and I had completed a major yearly task.

Since we live in the country outside of city limits and any restrictions about burning, I have no hesitation about disposing of the accumulated leaves in this manner. And that's just what I did.

Of course, reading this you will realize I didn't stay away from the writing very long. I should have taken a picture of my leaves burning but you'll have to be satisfied with one captured in Google Images.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

American English and English English


 

Have you ever wondered why Americans and English people spell certain words differently? These are the kinds of questions that writers are always asking themselves.

I have a copy of this marvelously fascinating book titled "The Book of Totally Useless Information" by Don Voorrhees. He answers questions like: Why are diamonds measured in carats? Isn't that something you've always wondered about? Or, was there really ever a Mother Goose? And, why is a left-handed person known as a southpaw?

Anyway, I found the answer to satisfy my curiosity about the difference in language between American English and English English. Seems that we can trace it back to an Englishman living in the American Colonies, Noah Webster. Right, the same Noah Webster who gave us the "Blue-Backed American Speller" back in 1783. He hoped to establish a proper American spelling of the English language that would give America the true mark of culture.

We can credit Webster for the spelling of the following English words: center for centre, color for colour, fiber for fibre, defense for defence, tire for tyre, as well as numerous others.

Webster might drop his false teeth if he heard the broad differences in dialect today between say, the Deep South and New England. I think, however, he would be pleased at the way American English has spread and been adopted around the world.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Computer Woes


Ah-h-h, the trials and tribulations of being a computer user. Had to replace my laptop yesterday...it was an old Dell a friend gave me a couple years back. In spite of all my efforts to clean out the old stuff cluttering up the RAM, it was moving slower and slower So I bit the bullet, made a trip to my favorite computer shop, Computer Tech in Gilmer, TX, and purchased one of the re-furbished models they had on the floor.

Having invested in machines they refurbish in the past and being well-pleased with their customer service, I had confidence this new computer will work out. The purchase included a transfer of files and folders from the old to the new but not any programs I might have purchased and added myself. So...guess what I'll be doing today.

In the meantime, I've discovered the new laptop is telling me it's connected by wireless to the internet feed but the computer doesn't respond to that information. So far, no access to the internet. In order to get this written, I've had to resort to my husband's ancient desktop which he refuses to allow me to upgrade. He's still not comfortable around computers although I have to admit he's learned how to find himself around Google pretty well. At least, the "vital" information he shares with me would indicate that.

So, today will be devoted to getting the new machine up and running...except for the time-out to take Sammi, our cat, to the vet for her yearly shots. But that's another tale.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Inspiration's Strange Paths


Funny how one's imagination jumps from one idea to another. In an interview, someone once asked where the idea for my novel SECOND TIME AROUND came from.

My response? I was thinking about how, in my younger days, it used to be a requirement that a woman wore a hat for all occasions. From there, I began to wonder if anyone ever favored a particular hat that became associated with important events in her life. That might make an interesting story, I told myself. I even did internet research and collected a variety of hat images to inspire the plot.

But then the story morphed and instead of hats, my imagination conjured up a particular woman. One who is recently-widowed, a mature business woman suddenly confronted with a man she believes is her first love. Then my imagination did a now-familiar twists and added this element. Suppose this first love was supposedly killed on his way to propose to her twenty-eight years previously. That story became a romantic/suspense set in Dallas, Texas with the action taking part in the 50's & 70's. And yes, I did include a scene that featured a particular hat she favored.

Many times my novels begin with a character that takes up residence in my thoughts. My job is to just visit with him or her, listen to them talk about their lives, watch some of their activities, notice the surroundings. Only when the conflicts start to emerge can I begin to write their story.

It's really a fun ride--the writing, that is. But don't ask my opinion about the other side of the picture, getting the story published and convincing people to spend their money to buy your books.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Way My Mind Works

A friend of my just published her first book. It's a collection of stories with a paranormal twist to the endings. She and her publisher came up with a terrific title:

It got me wondering about that phrase - A baker's dozen. So, never one to deny satisfying my curiosity, I pulled out a small book I keep handy in my desk drawer and found the following...I paraphrase:

"By the middle of the Twelfth Century London baker had formed an official brotherhood which later split into the Company of Brown Bakers and the Company of White Bakers. A law passed in 1266 stipulated that exactly eighty loaves of bread were to be baked from a standard sack of flour. If found selling underweight loaves (thereby getting more loaves from the sack) there were dire consequences.

So bakers added an extra loaf of bread for every twelve they sold to make up for any underweight loaves. Small price to pay since they could have their ear nailed to their shop's window if caught under-weighing their loaves of bread. 

That information came from an interesting book called The Book of totally Useless Information by Don Voorhees. And my friend's name is Vivra Bean. You can check out her blog & book here:

Now...aren't you glad you stopped to read this? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

An Honest Review

I recently agreed to participate with a group of authors who sought and reciprocated book reviews. Our goal - to support one another's efforts in getting attention for our published works.

Most of the books I've read and reviewed since have been a pleasurable and entertaining experience. However, I presently find myself in a predicament.

There is an author, who shall remain nameless, whose books I find raises flags of inconsistency. Oh, there's nothing wrong with the story-line and the author does an exceptional job with the plot and characters. If I were just a reader, I would thoroughly enjoy the experience.

My problem arises when every once in a while I come across a glitch that should have been caught by a competent editor. I don't fault the author because his/her job is to get the words down and in the right order. When a publishing house takes on a project, part of the process is putting the manuscript through the experienced hands of an editor or two. So how did these obvious errors in writing get past them?

To complicate matters, I'm familiar with the publisher this author used for those two novels. A handsome chunk of the author's money has been invested in the publishing of these books.

I cannot honestly write a favorable review (which is the whole point of my reading the books.) Do I just set the books aside? Or do I (gulp!) contact the author to share my concerns directly? If you were in this author's place, what would you choose that I do?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Comparing Apples and Oranges: Our Antiquated Keyboards

Comparing Apples and Oranges: Our Antiquated Keyboards: Came across a curious bit of information browsing for a topic to write about today. In a way, it's connected to writing so I'll incl...

Our Antiquated Keyboards

Came across a curious bit of information browsing for a topic to write about today. In a way, it's connected to writing so I'll include it.
The question was asked: Why aren't typewriter or keyboard keys arranged in alphabetical order?

Well, it appears the early typewriters--the first practical one was built in 1867--did have their keys in more or less alphabetical fashion. This arrangement allowed typists to type so fast, the keys would jam up. To slow down the typists, the keys were rearranged into a diabolically difficult pattern.

With this changed arrangement, the left hand does about 57% of the typing, the right only 43%. The three weakest and least coordinated fingers, the two pinkies and the left ring finger, make far more than their share of strokes. Besides, to type most of the common words, one must move up and down between rows.

In 1936 someone named August Dvorak designed a keyboard where 70% of the typing is done on one row, 57% of done with the right hand, and the stronger fingers do more work.

So why are we still using the original arrangement? World War II came along and all manufacturing was devoted to wartime production. The U.S. Navy's order for two thousand of these typewriters with new-designed key placement was never filled. The novelty never caught on after the war.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Moment of Being


Here's a writing exercise guaranteed to enrich your writing.

As described by Woolf, ‘moments of being’ are moments in which an individual experiences a sense of reality, in contrast to the states of ‘non‑being’ that dominate most of an individual’s conscious life, in which they are separated from reality by a protective covering. Moments of being could be a result of instances of shock, discovery or revelation.

 The idea is to slow down and to tune into my senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Turn off the phone; hide in the bathroom; do whatever’s necessary to become at one with my character which enables me to share the experience.

And for good measure, I add any details that fully capture this moment in time: temperature, touch of texture, sensations of comfort or discomfort, thoughts that arise in the midst of the moment experienced.

The goal  is to capture the essence of that moment and record it. The aim is to describe those moments as accurately as possible so the reader is also there, with the character, in that moment.

 Write it like a shopping list if you want to. Start anywhere and, at the end, tack on anything you want to add.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Invisible Writing

If I couldn’t publish, I would still write. I will be forever indebted to Julia Cameron for introducing me to the concept of ‘morning pages.’ It has become a combination journal/diary/planning book;  a way to gather the threads of my life and focus on daily happenings. I consider this my ‘invisible writing’...writing that is meant for my eyes only.


It is a special period in my day set aside with little routines. I always write at the desk in my bedroom. A scented candle flickers on the desk’s upper shelf. Cheap ball-point pens are stashed in a nearby drawer to prevent a halt in the writing when a pen runs dry. I finally settled on five-section spiral notebooks and even fill-in the blank divider page if I’m flowing.  

What I write to cover those lines that I do my 'two pages' every morning is never meant for publication. This is a private conversation with myself which enables me to clarify my thoughts and feelings. My ‘morning pages’ is the way I add concreteness to my abstract impressions and judge whether they are worth pursuing or not.

Writing, the act of writing itself, is an endeavor that satisfies something deep within. I've come to realize that through the act of putting words on paper, I can make sense of my world. It sorts out jumbled thoughts and helps me consider in a very direct manner those feelings and convictions I feel deeply. The ‘morning pages’ is a special writing that I try to practice every day that is just for me. It is my ‘invisible writing.’

Saturday, January 10, 2015

I Dig Researching


Researching for accuracy is one of my favorite writing-related activities. Whatever time setting I place the characters of the novel I'm developing, I strive to incorporate tidbits that reveal the environment and culture of that period.

For a present work-in-progress I needed to learn more about the 'homefront of WWII' - how did our country being involved in a war affect those at home and what activities were they involved in as their part of the effort?

One of the cliches of WWII is Rosie the Riveter. Looking behind the scene, so to speak, I discovered Rosie was an actual person. Let me quote what I learned:

Walter Pidgeon (1897-1984), a Hollywood leading man, traveled to the Willow Run aircraft plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to make a promotional film encouraging the sale of war bonds. One of the women employed at the factory, Rose Will Monroe (1920-97), was a riveter involved in the construction of B-24 and B-29 bombers. Monroe, a real-life Rosie the Riveter, was recruited to appear in Pidgeon’s film.

It just so happens that I also write a weekly blog for Venture Galleries.com about interesting cities I've come across, their origin and history. The week of January 6th I featured the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan. If you're interested in learning more about this fascinating place, you can read more at: http://venturegalleries.com/blog/historic-america-happened-ypsilanti/

Friday, January 9, 2015

Juggling the Writing Hats

No one ever told me when I first began to write how many different hats I'd be required to assume. I'm still trying to decide if I'm a writer or an author. Can anyone tell me what exactly is the distinction? I know once you have published a fiction book you are allowed to call yourself an author.

I started my career by writing nonfiction---articles for magazines, devotions, even published a newsletter for a period. At the time I always referred to myself as a writer.

But with the publication of a novel, a memoir, and a collection of short stories, the number of hats I've collect increased dramatically. In this day and age, with the publishing industry undergoing such tremendous changes, a published author of fiction has to learn to wear so many different hats, especially if you plunge into the self-publishing arena.

I've had to learn to be a researcher, an editor, a proof-reader, a book cover designer...all before the book even takes on life. Once you've got a completed book, the hats multiply. Then you need to become a publicist, a promoter, a public speaker, and a marketer. And that doesn't begin to include the skills you ought to acquire if you plan to use social media to help sell your book.

Let's face it...this writing obsession automatically opens the door to a lifetime of learning and acquiring new skills. That's not such a bad thing, is it?

A few years back I gathered articles of mine that had been published in The Writers' Journal magazine and others I'd written for some writers organizations' newsletters and compiled them into a book I entitled Some Write Thoughts. My intent, hopefully, was that by sharing what I'd learned and experienced in my twenty-five years of writing it would in some way smooth the path for others journeying this road. It's available on Amazon in both paper and Kindle format:  http://www.amazon.com/Some-Write-Thoughts-Gay-Ingram/dp/1461167078/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

If you've been bitten by the writing bug, you might glean a few gems from my book.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Writing Short & Twitter

       @ + #
There are dozens of Twitter accounts for websites that publish only 140-character stories. Some of the most notable are @OneFortyFiction, @seedpodpub, @sixwordstories, @twitterfiction, @7×20, and trapezemag.


All, unfortunately, are unpaid markets. But if you just wanting to see your words on the internet highway, consider the above.

If your tastes run towards non-fiction, rather than fictional tales, consider adding #cnftweet. Each day, @CreativeNonfiction selects one tweet with this hashtag to retweet, and these tweets are then eligible to be included in upcoming issues of the magazine, or in their newsletter.

@Nanoism is a paying Twitter fiction market, which publishes three times a week and pays between $1.50 and $1 for stories: not bad, given the brevity of the form. Serialized Twitter fiction is paid out at a higher rate.

In short: keep on writing, and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to grow your fan base. Depending on where you choose to publish your stories, your work may be exposed to thousands of people. In addition, there are often contests being held on Twitter by various publishers where you can win cash and prizes with your well-written, 140-character stories.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Help! I'm being buried under books


I have this incurable disease called bookaholism. I fully expect to meet my demise under an avalanche of books.

In an attempt to decrease the odds, I began to weed out my collection a few years ago. One way I did this was to put together a basket of books and donated it as an auction item...specifically a bunch of   books about writing that I knew would never have their covers cracked open by me again. Hey! Maybe the winner gleaned a few nuggets of knowledge from them.

I also packed up a box of books dealing with a subject I was no longer interested in and donated them to my local library. I even listed a bunch on Amazon and sold a few there.

But despite my efforts, it seems to me these critters must secretly multiply.

Last year I surrendered to the siren call of an E-Reader and requested one as a birthday present. My husband readily acknowledges he is an electronic dinosaur so I did the seeking and purchasing of a Kindle Fire. Surely now the ever-encroaching tide of books would come to a stop.

Not so. Now I find myself cribbing minutes to read the growing list of downloaded e-books on my reader. Just yesterday I made a stop at the local Goodwill store and walked out with a sack of books.
To be honest, only one of them is for me...the rest are to be given away.

There's more than one way to control this disease.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Distraction to the Writing

Have no idea why I chose this topic to write about. I share my home with only a retired husband and a cat, Sammi. Husband has been trained to not disturb when my fingers are poised over the keyboard. Still working on training Sammi.

At the moment she is making passes between my feet lodged on the floor. If I knew better, I'd guess her message was, "I want to go out side." But, she has already conveyed that message earlier--way before the sun started coloring the sky--by scratching on the wall above the headboard of my bed.

So really, I don't have distractions other than my tendency to indulge in unimportant whims like cleaning the bathroom or cooking supper.

Would love to hear about your distractions to your writing. Could be a productive way to put off writing tomorrow's blog...you think?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Writing Flash Fiction

I enjoy writing flash fiction. What is flash fiction, I hear you ask? It's a piece of writing that tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end using only 300 to 500 words. Today I'm sharing a writing exercise using the following words to write a flash fiction story: Linseed oil – turpentine – palette cups. You get to tell me if I succeeded or not.

The apprentice gathered a handful of paint-filled brushes and dropped them into the turpentine-filled jar.
He brushed aside straw-colored hair leaving a steak of ocher on his forehead. Once more his gaze returned to the wet painting on the easel. Could add just a stroke or two to the mouth. Make the smile a little fuller. Feeling guilty, he shot a look across the room to the two men deep in argument.
“Ten lira. That’s all that painting is worth to me. Take it or leave it.”
“But Patrone, just the special colors you demanded cost me more than that.”
The visitor shrugged his shoulders and turned away, shaking his head. 
Maestro grabbed at his cloak, forcing the man to halt in his steps. “I’m pleading, Patrone. What will I have left to live on once I pay my model and the apprentice?”
The man yanked his cloak out of the artist’s clutches, dug beneath its surface and pulled out a leather bag. He loosened the drawstring and shook out several coins. Holding them out in his hand, he said, “Here, this is all I can spare.”
The artist snatched the coins from his open palm and bowed deeply. He followed his visitor out the door and down the steps to the entrance.
Left alone, the apprentice returned to his work. The model, Lisa, had already left but not without some curt comments about her meager pay for the long hours Maestro required for this painting. He swiped at the palette cups, regretting the waste of paint. Tomorrow, the same costly colors would again be squeezed from their tubes. There was always another painting that needed to be done if they were to eat.
The sound of a more amiable conversation drifted from below. What a way to live. Much as the need to create beautiful pictures drew him, he realized this was not the way he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
He stared again at the wet painting. Lisa was a charming subject, no doubt about that. But there was something about… He snatched up a brush lying nearby and with just the suggestion of hesitation dipped it first into the linseed oil and then in the Crimson Red. He leaned close to the canvas, wanting to be exact in the placement of the paint. There! Just one or two dabs.

He stepped back and surveyed what he had done. Now! That will make everyone wonder what the lovely Mona Lisa was smiling about.

Did you enjoy it? Will you help me give it a name?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's Day Four

Some days it's better to just quit fighting and relax into the flow of things. This was one of those days. Maybe it's the years I've accumulated but I no longer stress if the time to write never shows up. Hey! There's always tomorrow, right?

But since the challenge is to post a blog every day for thirty-one days, I will prop up my eyelids with toothpicks long enough to get something written here.

Let's talk about writing space. Where do you do your writing? I'm blessed to have a kid-free home with only my retired husband to intrude on my time. As I've mentioned previously, the daily pages I write almost first thing in the morning are scribbled on a small desk in my bedroom. That works fine for eating my breakfast while I fill in the lines.

When a laptop entered my life, the only space available was in the living room where, like at this moment, it has to compete with the television show my husband is watching. This devise is usually dedicated to social media postings like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ which just seem to multiply and take up more and more of my time.

For a designated workspace, I trot the fifty feet or so out to the little cabin situated by the barn. That's where the serious stuff happens. That's where I do the research, where the writing resource books are kept and my accumulation of past writings and publications that I just can't bear to get rid of fill every spare open space. There are even storage boxes underneath the kitchen table I inherited from my mother-in-law. Twenty-five years or more (I've lost count) sure does create a lot of saved paper!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Butterfly Thoughts

Another typical Texas winter day...gray overcast skies and dripping clouds. May need to wear my boots to slosh through standing water when I trudge out to my cabin later this morning.

I titled this posting butterfly thoughts because that seems to be the way my mind is working this morning...flitting from one room of memories to another...alighting on first one thing or another but not delving deep before going on to something else.

Since writing and reading consume such a large portion of my attention, my thoughts touched upon the books I've read in my lifetime. Two came quickly to mind--mainly because their titles captured my imagination and upon reading, the style of their content has stayed with me.

Many, many years ago I stumbled upon The Scent of Water, a novel written by now-deceased Elizabeth Gouge. Reading her prose mesmerized me. She had the ability to take ordinary happenings in a person's life and somehow, draw aside the curtain and provide a peek into the soul of her character. I devoured everything of hers I could put my hands on and was never disappointed.

In more recent years, I discovered the writings of Julia Cameron, someone I would delight to sit down and chat with over a cup of coffee. But, somehow I suspect she would prefer tea. The Sound of Paper, the latest I've consumed although she recently published a new book, ntrigued me from the start. Her perspective on the writing life transformed me and to this day I continue to practice her recommendation to write what she calls Daily Pages. It's become a ritual to set myself at the desk in my bedroom, light a scented candle, and open the spiral notebook that stays accessible. Then, in as constant a motion as possible, I hand-write until I fill three pages. Whar I write is of no consequence; the objective is to keep the pen moving. Having developed this habit, I am continually amazed by the ability to now basically write on command.

That's just one of the considerations that occupied my thoughts upon waking this morning. I'll save my ruminations about the months I lived in Hawaii for another posting.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Day Two of a Thirty-One-Day Challenge

Okay, okay. So I'm a glutton for punishment. Have to admit I just can't ignore a challenge. So, hopefully, you can look forward to getting some kind of gibberish from me every day for the whole month.

A month or so ago I downloaded a fifteen-lesson course that promised to teach me everything I needed to know about successfully using a blog to promote my books. What with the busyness of the holidays and a rash of book-signings, I've managed to peruse only lesson one and two.

The subject of lesson one was the importance of your blog name. Since this blog has been active (off and on) for a couple of years, I saw no need to expend any mental anguish on something different. I like the name I came up with...Comparing Apples & Oranges...it provided an opening for a wide variety of subjects.

If you've been curious enough to read past postings on this site, you will see how eclectic my postings are. In 2013, I did a series on the origins of common sayings and shared about phrases such as "What's Under Your Hat?" and "Mind Ypur P's & Q's."

2012 delved into the origin of a host of Christmas traditions like the history of the Candy Cane and the Kissing Ball. I tapered off in 2014--far fewer postings--mostly dealing with what was happening in my writing career at the moment or somehow related to writing in some way.

Tomorrow I may write about Lesson Two...and then perhaps not. May just wait and see what the Muse brings to mind to share.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Remembering To Blog

Why is it so many projects begin with tons of enthusiasm and before you can pop a balloon, the new adventure turns into an ornerous chore?

I really had good intentions when I began this blog website. I mean, really, how difficult could it be to take five or ten minutes and jot down what was pressing on my mind at the moment. Didn't happen!

So anyway, New Year's Day 2015 has arrived and it calls for new beginnings...I think. A friend just shared information about the Ultimate Blog Challenge so I say to myself...what the heck, might as well give it a try.

This is what you get for day 1. You'll have to keep coming back to see what kind of nonsense I put down in the following days.

Oh by the way...if you'd like to take the challenge, just go to this website  http://ultimateblogchallenge.com/sign-up-confirmation/