Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Confessions by Bonnie Le Hamilton

I have to confess, I haven’t done a lot of writing, or editing lately. This last week I finally got my hands on all of Dick Francis’ “Sid Halley” books, and I’ve been reading them in order for once. I’d read the first four (it seems his son, Felix, has written a fifth, which I haven’t read yet either) but I’d never read them in order, which frankly could be confusing since all the subsequent ones mention things that happened in the previous ones. And I’m slow reader – this may take me a while.

The thing is, I should be editing. I know I should be, but I haven’t done it in a couple of weeks, and it isn’t just reading taking me away from my computer, I’ve also been doing crafts. I have a site on Etsy now, and I opened a page on Facebook for the crafts. Not that it’s gotten my very far, it hasn’t, but I thought I’d try since every little bit would help now that I have a car payment to make.

Yes, that’s right, I finally have a car again. I’m mobile. Which is another reason I haven’t spent much time on my computer. I suddenly seem to not have enough hours in a day, when before I had too many. I’m still adjusting to this new reality.

There were a lot of things I wanted to be able to do but couldn’t because of the lack of car, now I can do them, but never seem to have enough time.

The biggest problem is not trying to do too many things in a day, because that would be too much stress. Most people would consider a busy day as a mile long “To Do” list and several appointments. Konnie considers it a quiet day if she can get on her computer and write for ten uninterrupted minutes. For me, more than two things on my calendar, and I’m spent long before the day is done.

Today I have two things on my calendar, and I have one on my calendar tomorrow. Yesterday I had two things, the day before – the only thing on my calendar was chores, and I haven’t finished those, so they are still on my “To Do” list, but I wasn’t counting chores, because let’s face it, they are on our “To Do” lists on a daily, or almost daily, basis.

Being as I live alone, I don’t have to do most of them daily, but anyone else would have to do those more often.

And all that brings me back to an earlier post I made about figuring out how much time a character is taking. When mentioning a span of time that has past, and all that the character has done, make sure they had time to do all those things.

If you say a character did A, then B, then C in X amount of time, when it takes a normal person that amount of time to do just A, you have some rewriting to do. And that’s the problem I often have. My characters are either speed demons, and or super human, or both. They can get more done in a single day then I can get done in a single month sometimes.

Then again, a master chef can chop up and prepare a lot of food for cooking faster than I can gather the tools to do the job. For me, it might take me at least an hour to dice a couple of onions and peppers, but someone who does it daily would take a matter of minutes. Skill, and practice can aid someone in doing some things faster than others.

And again, you must consider how motivated a person is. I’ve gotten more done on days when I absolutely had to finish in order for something else to happen, or in order for me to do what was next on my list. Like the day I packed up my car and went over to my sister-in-law’s place of Christmas. Just gathering what I needed to take took time, getting it loaded in my car was another matter. 
And all of it took way longer than I thought it would.

Actually, I thought gathering everything would take the longest, which is why I started the day before, but what took the most energy and time was loading my car. I had to stop and catch my breath several times.

So, skill level, amount of practice, and motivation can change how long it takes your character to complete a task, just make it clear to your reader why your character can manage it.

Happy writing, or editing, everyone. 😊

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

When You’re not the Norm by Konnie Enos

We have a cat.
Because we have a cat we have a litter box.
We also have dogs and if you know anything about dogs, you know they will chew poop, especially cat poop. For this reason we have to keep the dogs away from the litter box.
The litter box is in the bathroom.
There is only one way into or out of this bathroom. A door we have developed the habit of leaving all but closed except when in use. None of the dogs can open it from this tiny crack, but Tiger, the cat, can.
Now generally speaking Tiger only opens the door far enough to squeeze through himself, he is a cat. The problems arose when it became quite clear this wider opening was sufficient for all the dogs to “nose” it further open.
It was also abundantly clear Tiger wasn’t about to learn how to actually close the door.
New solution: Child safety gate in the door frame.
Now on the surface this seems like a wonderful fix.
The cat can easily jump the gate whenever he wants while none of our dogs are big enough to push the gate over on their own, nor can they jump over it. (Thankfully they haven’t tried their combined weight on it.)
Since this is a “child safety gate” and all the humans in our house are adults, or might as well be (less than six months to go for the youngest), it was readily assumed the gate wouldn’t deter any of us.
After it was installed I sat in my usual place on my bed, where I have a view of the bathroom door and watched.
My husband steps right over.
My daughter, who is the same height as my husband makes it look as graceful as dancing somehow.
Both my sons who are taller than their dad have no issue.
My other daughter then approached the bathroom.
I warned her about the presence of the gate stating, “You’ll probably have to move it out of your way.”
She looked at it. “It’s okay.” Then, with some care, stepped over it.
I swear my jaw dropped. I was stunned. She’s the closest to my height and I was positive I could not step over it.
When it was my turn to enter the bathroom, I measured myself against the gate.
The top of it came to about an inch below my belly button.
When I realized that I had a clear vision of trying to straddle our old dog Jim Boy. Considering the height, the comparison was easy to make.
So I’m the only member of the family who can’t just step over it.
Then we discovered the problem.
I could not figure out how to move it!
For at least two weeks I had to have someone else move the thing just so I could use the bathroom.
Mind you, I’m in my mid to late fifties and vaginally delivered FIVE children!
Yes, there were some close calls before I could get into our only bathroom.
Then I finally figured out how to get it down.
But then there was the issue of putting it back up.
In my household I have told my family for decades I won’t do any chore “below my waist”. My reason for this is because way back in the spring of 1971 I broke my back. Within a couple of years arthritis started to set in. Bending over hurts.
Now guess what I would have to do to reset the gate.
You guessed it. Bend over.
Now if I could simply put the gate in place and re-latch it as quickly as I could undo it, then there would be no problems.
Yeah, it’s not simple.
It took me another half a week to finally figure out how to re-latch it but I could not get it to latch before my back was yelling at me.
So though all of this, it seemed the gate was down more than it was up. It seemed to cut down on the dog incidents but they were still happening.
Anyway, finally, one day I actually managed to get the lock set within seconds. Now it’s no problem for me.
But what I thought about while I was fighting with that gate was how any person who doesn’t conform to the average has to adapt to a world not set up for them.
If you’re taller or shorter than average you have to learn to adapt to. If you’re left handed, you learn other ways to do basic tasks.
Being a short ambidextrous person, I find myself adapting a lot.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

New Year's Goals by Bonnie Le Hamilton

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s setting goals and all around the world gyms are overflowing with people who say they want to lose weight. Which is the most common goal people set, but how many achieve it?

The answer is not many, and its mostly because they set goals, but they don’t build a road map toward achieving it. Reaching a goal isn’t done in one step, it takes many steps, and you have to figure out what the first step is before you can take it. However, you also have to set out mini goals along the way.

For you men, think of it in terms of playing football, you reach the goal in ten-yard increments. Aim for the first ten yards, rejoice when you reach it (or surpass it), then move to the next ten yards. 

Or think of it as climbing several flights of stairs. It starts with taking the first step. But if you keep your eyes solely on the top, you miss how far you’ve come from the bottom. You need to celebrate each “landing.” You also need to aim for them, and set a deadline to reach each of them.

This goes for any goals you are setting whether it be about your writing, your health, your education, your job, your finances. No matter what category your goal falls in, in each case you have to map out a plan to reach the top. If not – well, I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard it several times, “A goal without a plan, is just a wish.”

So, stop wishing and make a plan!

My goals start with finishing the edits on my manuscript Forbidden Connection. After that I’m thinking I should finish my sci-fi, then I’ll think about all my other started but not finished stories.

And its not like I have a lot of time because I have goals in other aspects of my life as well, and I’m trying really hard to map plans for all them. Which is pretty hard for me, because let’s face it, I’m a pantser when it comes to writing and why should I be any different when it comes to life?

The fact is, I do write with a plan, sort of, its all in my head, not written down. You can ask Konnie, she knows. I’ll ask her to help me brainstorm. She’ll give suggestions which I’ll then shoot down because it won’t fit with what I already have planned, and we’re talking planned, not written yet. I do that a lot.

Of course, I’ve also had to change those plans because they just don’t work. And actually, that is something needed in goal setting. Like last year my goal was to finish editing Forbidden Connection and shop it out. Well, I did submit it, once. Got rejected. It wasn’t really ready yet. It was too soon. And I honestly felt I made a mistake in submitting it when I did, now I’m editing again, this time with the help of an editor. So, I’m back to the same goal I had this time last year, but that isn’t to say I didn’t make progress this last year. I did get one rejection, and my story is a lot further along than it was before!

And I’ve got to remember where I started, which was with a 130 + k word manuscript which I wrote in just 8 weeks. And talk about rough! It didn’t just need cut down, it needed a whole lot of help, in a lot of different ways.

I spent several years editing and revising it, then an editor friend of mine offered to look at it for me before I submitted anywhere. She sent it back to me, informing me it was mostly telling. Back to the drawing board!

And I revised and edited it at least a dozen times between then and the current edits, so you can imagine what a mess the first draft was!

If you want a timeline for how long this had taken, I’ll point out that Konnie’s oldest daughter was a preteen when I wrote the rough draft – she’s now married and expecting. And considering where I lived at the time, it had to be the summer of 2001. Yes, that’s right, almost eighteen years ago. I’ve moved three times since then, and I’ve lost count of how many computers I’ve gone through. Back then it was a desktop which only used floppy disks.

My how times have changed.

Anyway, what are you’re goals for the new year? And do you have a road map to achieve it?

Happy writing everyone! And have a happy and successful New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Traditions by Konnie Enos

Last week sometime I got into a conversation with one of my daughters who brought up family traditions and asked me if we practiced any traditions from my family during this season.
That’s the simple answer.
Yes, like most Christians today we put up a tree and hang stockings. We buy gifts to exchange with our loved ones. And yes, Santa still comes to visit.
We did all that growing up.
Things we didn’t do?
We never really did an advent calendar. The closest we came was those chains they’d have us make at school and more than half the time we’d forget to remove the links and have to count the days remaining anyway.
I don’t remember my mother ever sitting down with us on Christmas Eve and reading us the First Christmas story out of Luke. In fact, I can’t think of a time my father did it with us, though it’s far more likely that he did.
I can remember my step-mother reading Twas the Night Before Christmas to us, but I’m not sure it was on Christmas Eve and I’m certain it wasn’t a yearly thing.
I do remember doing some traditional things growing up.
I remember one year, with our mother, doing an advent wreath.
I remember our step-mother’s near nightly “tricks” to keep the little ones believing “elves” were watching them. Believe me when I say it’s far more pleasant to wake up to find a piece or two of candy in your shoes than to find peanut shells in them. And mind you, this was in the Eighties, long before Elf on a Shelf was invented.
As I’ve thought about, I could come up with only one thing that has become a tradition in our family. I even know where it got started.
I learned a long time ago how to wrap most anything, neat and tight. But the most important thing I learned to do was to tape. Every. Single. Seam. Why do we tape them so well?
Our super snoop brother.
I think he was about three when he started successfully finding any and all hidden “Santa” gifts weeks before the actual event and telling his three big sisters exactly what they were getting from the “big guy”, who, he informed us, had to be our mother.
I think we eventually convinced him we didn’t want the surprise spoiled but it was always obvious he was still very much into finding out what the gifts were long before the event.
Once, our mother curbed this tendency by hiding our gifts at someone else’s place. Our step-mother taught us how to wrap gifts tightly, sealing every seam, so he couldn’t peak without it being obvious. She also came up with the ingenious idea to mislabel all our brother’s gifts one year, though clearly identifying them by using a special type of tag, so that he’d think none of the gifts were for him. That year he was surprised to find anything under the tree for him.
And yes, I still wrap like this. I’m sure Bonnie does too and I think I’ve passed it on to my children if the way the gifts we got from my oldest daughter this year were wrapped is any indication.
As we were unwrapping my youngest son quipped. “Mom must have wrapped this, there isn’t any seams.”
Most of his gifts were wrapped by his sisters and his aunt. I only wrapped one of them, and to be honest nearly every gift I opened had the seams well covered.
The only real tradition is as a family we try to read the First Christmas story out of Luke and I read Twas the Night Before Christmas to them. One year I read it five times, because they were at their aunt’s and I ended up being unable to get there, and their aunt didn’t have a speaker phone.
Thanks to speaker phones, this year, I read it to all my children, and my son-in-law, in just one reading.
Of course, because our oldest is expecting, we’ve talked about traditions and which ones to carry on and even what to change. She and her husband are discussing which things they grew up with that they will continue with their children and which ones they won’t.
Though, considering how much she loves hearing the story each year, and the fact she already owns the book, I’m sure the tradition of reading Twas the Night Before Christmas along with the story in Luke, will continue with her family.
As I finish writing this, my thoughts go to friends who have lost loved ones this week. Paul, you and yours are in my prayer.
Everyone, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy New Year. Also happy birthday to my wonderful son-in-law.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Merry Christmas by Bonnie Le Hamilton

At this moment, I’m at a point where I both can’t believe two weeks has past since my last post and knowing that much time has to have past because of everything that’s happened since then.

To say the least, I’ve been busy. Okay, not busy on the level of Konnie’s life. Frankly, I don’t think I’d survive that level of busy, but I have had things on my calendar pretty much every day for the last couple of weeks. In fact, there are a few things on my calendar that I didn’t actually manage to do for one reason or another.

My calendar is still quite full. And by full, I mean I have at least one event or appointment a day, along with chores and or errands listed most days. Konnie is probably reading this and wishing her calendar looked like mine.

Busy is relative. I don’t have kids to run hither and thither. I do have gifts to wrap, or rather I did. Thankfully, I finished that – yesterday. I also managed to get all my gifts shipped yesterday. Which for me was quite a feat because I had a dentist appointment and company for dinner yesterday.

As I told my guests last night, the longest I’d managed to sit down all day, up to that point, was when I was in the dentist chair. I did manage to sit for longer after my guests left, but I was so exhausted by that point I could barely think. I managed to do one more crochet project and talk to Konnie, but I didn’t manage anything else.

Yeah, I know Konnie accomplished a lot more yesterday then I did, because she always does, let alone she was still up when I went to bed. I could not handle that.

And I’m not sure how I’ll get through this weekend because I’m double booked just a little bit. You see, my sister-in-law roped me into helping her with a craft fair this weekend – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Three days, the Sunday before Christmas, so I also have choir practice Saturday and of course 
church on Sunday.

Thankfully, my sister-in-law is okay with me being gone for a couple hours those days, because I was committed to the choir long before she asked me to help her with this craft fair, but this craft fair is why I was trying to finish one more crochet project last night. I haven’t got much, but I’ve got a verity of things to sell and I will be doing this with my sister-in-law, so she has some things to sell too. And of course, we won’t be the only ones there.

Anyway, at this point, I’m hoping my life will settle down a little after Christmas, but I’m not sure it will because, one of the things I have managed to do in the last two weeks is buy a car. Yeah, that’s right, I’m mobile again, which is actually why I managed to get so much done yesterday. I didn’t have to wait around for rides, just the dentist.

And I still have my Christmas baking to do. Plus, my sister-in-law and I talked about driving around to see the lights sometime before Christmas, we’re running out of time to do that. And I may actually have to eliminate something else from my calendar, because I don’t think I have enough time for everything. After all, I’ll have to do dishes, and laundry, and all those sorts of chores in there too. I may live alone, but I still need to do those. Not as often as they are done in Konnie’s house, but there is that issue of how many people live with her. (I'm not going to try to count animals.)

And I’m running out of time for the things on my agenda today, so I’m cutting this post short.

Happy writing everyone and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Mom Mode, Again by Konnie Enos

Okay, confession time.
This is my fifth attempt at writing my post and all the others crashed and burned. Usually because they started sounding like pure drivel. Though at least twice it was because I could not make any sense of my point or how to get there.
At about two this morning I decided it was because I was just too tired so I closed my laptop and went to bed, for a few measly hours of rest. I’m not sure four hours of fitful, and interrupted, sleep is very helpful.
Yes, I knew I had a post to get up. I’ve known for a couple of months now I’d be doing the post this week. However, for the last few weeks to a month, every time I need to get things done, and even plan time to do it, someone comes up with “but I need this and you have to do this for me”.
Instead of doing finances or paying bills, I’ve had to drive people to or from appointments or school or take them shopping. Unfortunately, tis the season.
Every single time I thought there was nothing on the schedule that I had to worry about one or more of my family members would come up to me and say they needed, or wanted, to go someplace. In a couple of instances they told me we had to get something done and there wasn’t a lot of free time to do it in.
As a result of taking care of my family’s needs, I have missed my writer’s group meeting at least three weeks in a row now.
Even when I’ve wanted to write, and thought I might have time, what “free time” I had was spent trying to catch up on finances and clearing out my emails, which I’m still behind on, so I haven’t done any writing. I can’t even remember the last time I opened any of my files.
This busy mom mode has gone on so long I’m beginning to feel I will always be running my kids hither and thither and have no time for me.
Pretty bad.
Especially when you consider three of my four children still living at home are high school graduates and two of those are in college.
I mean they are old enough to be on their own, paying their own bills, and taking care of their own transportation without bugging mom, or dad for that matter.
But even knowing they could move out at any time or that our youngest is a senior in high school and so very close to old enough didn’t leave me with expecting any reprieve, most particularly not in the near future.
My youngest hates both school and change and has declared he was never moving out of this house.
Of the other three, my oldest daughter still at home does want to move out and is trying to work out her plans to do so. She keeps hitting roadblocks.
My youngest daughter has had her plan in place for years and is following it step by step. She graduates from the local (read inexpensive) community college in May and will then move on to university, armed with a degree which can get her employment which pays well while she continues her education. She’s determined not to incur any student loan debt on her way to getting her DVM if at all possible.
So of those three I have known for some time my girls are planning on moving out, just not exactly sure when. Sometime in the next year? However, I felt I would be stuck with my son for life.
There is also my oldest son.
For years he told us he was moving out as soon as he turned 18 even though that was in the middle of his senior year in high school.
Then he told us he’d move out when his best friend turned 18 so they could move in together. So a few months after his birthday.
Then he said they were waiting until graduation.
Then they were waiting until after his friend returned from spending the summer with his brother.
Then they were waiting until they got jobs.
Somewhere in there my son decided to join the Army instead, something he’s still working on but he’s also broke.
He keeps talking about getting a job but so far he’s given more talk than action.
For a young man who insisted he’d move out as soon as he was old enough, he now seems quite content to stay right where he is, because his eighteenth birthday was last year.
Maybe by his next birthday.
Happy birthday Anthony.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Time and Distance by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Have you ever stopped to think about how much time it takes you to get from point A to point B? or how much time it takes to get from point A to point B then to point C then point D, and finally back to point A?

Trying to figure out how long certain things will take, depends on distance, how large of a city (population), and even the number of people with you and how many places you’re planning to go. All of which add time to how long it will take. And your character running into someone else will add more time to the trip.

Which is what Konnie and I were talking about not too long ago. She said something about my characters getting too much done in one day. But, well, I always think her characters take too long to do simple tasks.

I’m guessing that both of us need to work on it, but in a lot of cases we’re guessing how long a certain action or event will take, we have no real way to tell us how long it will really take. There are some things that are easy to guess, while others are not so easy.

I mean I can have my characters drive across town in twenty minutes or less, but I generally put my stories in small towns, that’s what I know. That’s where I live and I rarely put my characters in larger cities. I may have lived in those larger cities in the past, but I don’t now, and I’ve lived most of my life in small towns, so its just easier to put my characters in small towns.

Konnie on the other hand lives in a large metropolis. For Konnie, she can drive ten miles in any direction from her home, and still be in the city. I can drive that far and be out in the countryside, sometimes in less distance than that. For Konnie, traffic is a constant problem, and traffic jams happens, routinely.

The last time I saw anything close to a traffic jam around here, a train had just gone through town, shutting off roadways for several minutes. Cars were backed up a whole quarter of a mile! 😊 There was once (years ago obviously) when Tom and I were watching the news and the reporter was standing with interstate behind him talking about proposed construction in that area and how it would affect rush hour traffic.

As he talked cars were zooming past him at about one every two to three seconds (it was rush hour). Then the reporter drew everyone’s attention to those cars, saying, “As you can see traffic is bumper to bumper right now.”

I turned to Tom and asked, “If that’s bumper to bumper, what do they call it when your bumper is literally touching the bumper in front of you?”

He said, “Around here that’s a fender bender,” deadpan and straight-faced. And it still makes me laugh because it’s so true.

At any rate, travel time is affected by so many different factors making it hard to figure out while writing a story. And of course, there is the issue of actually doing the shopping, and how long it will take. I’m sure some people think it takes them a matter of minutes to do their grocery shopping, but I’m telling you, I rarely finish in under an hour, and I’m just shopping for me. Think about how long it takes all those people who actually fill their cart, or even more than one cart?

How do you figure that out? I’m not sure. I guess. Maybe I guess wrong sometimes, but I think it’s possible to go too far in the other direction where you have characters barely managing a couple of things in a busy day. I manage to accomplish more on my busy days than my lazy days, because I keep going, keep working.

But when writing my stories, I need to remember that my characters aren’t working alone, and those characters they interact with might be having a bad day, or my character didn’t realize how long it would take to chat or whatever.

However, I think sometimes that Konnie is too vague about the passage of time, and she has her characters accomplishing too few things in a single day. If you have your character taking a half hour just to brush his teeth, you have two valid choices, either this is a character flaw of some importance to your story, or you have some editing to do.

Anyway, consider the time it is taking your characters to accomplish tasks, look at them closely. Is it taking too much time? Is it taking too little time? And how can it be fixed?

Happy writing everybody!