Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dinner Surprise by Konnie Enos

Image result for family dinner pictures
For the last couple of years in my household it has become increasingly harder to have a family dinner.
Now I know what you’re thinking.
I have teenagers. They are always busy and would rather spend time with their friends.
No. That isn’t the problem.
Around here the problem is diets.
No. Not the losing weights type of diets, though I am attempting to lose weight, but rather the medically necessary types of diets.
There are six people in this household. Fully half of us have restricted diets. And none of our diets are the same. So to get a meal on the table I would have to accommodate four different meal plans in order to make sure everyone had something they could eat (well, and the boys would eat). So family meals just went by the wayside. It was too hard to accommodate everyone.
Now even when I do try to fix dinner for the family my sons would rather get something for themselves, or only eat part of what I fixed (example: the entre but not the side dishes I fixed to go with it, or the side dishes but not the entre.) While my daughters have to pick and choose. One can’t have the meat, like at all. She’s now vegetarian, not to mention all she’s allergic too. And the other one can only have certain food, on a very short list. Believe me her medical condition is not fun.
So the other night when I went to make dinner I wasn’t thinking about what all my kids could eat. In fact, I only asked my husband what he’d want for dinner. Once I had his order, I proceeded to cook it.
He requested baked potatoes.
Okay, I’ll cook four, then we can have leftovers if none of the kids want them.
He also wanted hamburgers. Yeah, weird combination with baked potatoes, but okay. I went with four again. Either leftovers or maybe a kid or two.
He desired green beans too. Okay. I fixed dinner.
When everything was cooked. I fixed two plates. One for me and one for my dear husband.
I told my youngest son he could have any of the food he wanted.
He took one of the hamburger patties, got some bread and, well, made a hamburger.
I told my youngest daughter there were baked potatoes if she wanted one. She took one
I told my other son there was food.
He did the same thing his younger brother did.
Then my oldest child at home came out and her sister pointed out the last potato. I confirmed she could have it if she wanted.
Finally my husband came out to get his food.
I looked around the table.
“Unbelievable. I actually made dinner for all of us.”
My oldest child and boys never touched the green beans. My boys never touched the potatoes and my girls never touched the meat. So four hamburger patties and four baked potatoes fed six people.
I was amazed.
If you’d been in our house anytime in the last two years and seen the struggle it was to get a family dinner on the table you would understand why I found that simple meal so amazing.
The other thing I’ve found amazing this week is my baby is now a whopping sixteen years old. Not only that, but that big baby boy has turned into the biggest family member. Well, our immediate family, so it wouldn’t be that hard to be the tallest, though he is 5”9’. Nice to have someone to reach the top shelves and change the lightbulbs for me.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Doing Book Reviews by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Earlier this week C. Hope Clark (editor of Funds For Writers, and author of several books) posted on Facebook about buying books, not taking freebies. She’s posted stuff like this before, and she has a valid point. Publishers only pay Authors pennies on the dollar, so unless they are a big name like King, Rowling, or Patterson, they’re not getting a huge sum of money.

(And please don’t use this to argue in favor of self-publishing, because without the backing of a publishing company to distribute your books, you have to do that yourself. You won’t be able to get your books into more than a handful of bookstores, just those within a few miles of your or your family and friends, if even that, since some won’t take indie or self-published works.)

What Hope was actually saying is that as authors ourselves we should never deprive our fellow authors of money. We should never accept a free book, unless we give a review of that book. But that isn’t always easy to do.

I once accepted a free book that was so awful I never read past page 18, and I never did a review because I couldn’t get past the fact that I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings. Unfortunately, she stopped talking to me after that. But really, I couldn’t finish it, how was I supposed to review it?
Then there’s the time I learned my niece had published a book. I went immediately to her site where she had a sample chapter available and read it, instantly learning it wasn’t my type of novel. It’s a fantasy. (Look it up. Fatal Heir by L.C. Ireland.) I also realized that it was well written, engaging, and possibly something Konnie would like, so I did two things. I pre-ordered the reader version of it (my niece deserves the money no matter what), and I contacted Konnie drawing her attention to the site. Within the hour, she also pre-ordered the book.

After Fatal Heir actually came out, there was a time when Konnie informed me that her youngest daughter had swiped her reader to read LC’s novel. I posted about this on Facebook because my niece (on my side of the family) swiped her mother’s reader to read a book written by niece (on my husband’s side of the family). It was funny at the time.

And while I do have the novel, I did buy it after all, I have never read more than that sample chapter. I know its excellent writing, and an intriguing story. It did almost draw me in, but I’m not much into fantasy. I keep telling myself I have read some, and I really should read it, it is after all my niece’s novel, maybe one day. Until then, whenever I learn someone likes fantasy, I mention LC’s book. It’s the least I can do, and word of mouth might not be a written review, but it is a review.

I also am poor, so buying a lot of books isn’t in the budget. I do buy, and I sometimes do buy new, I just bought a new Donald Maass book yesterday, but most of the time I go to the library. Some authors I like, I just can’t afford their books, even on a reader.

Maass I can afford, Francis I can’t. I go to the library to read Dick and or Felix Francis novels. And anyone who knows me knows I like their books. I talk about it all the time. Again, not a written review, but it is still word of mouth; I think it should still count. And I think the fact that I have mentioned this on Facebook a time or two should count too. Even if it isn’t an eloquent paragraph or two extolling all the virtues of their writing, it is still a review.

Don’t you agree?

Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fur Babies and other such family members by Konnie Enos

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As I’ve mentioned before, we have dogs in this house.
Now being dog owners we tend to have noisy greetings when someone comes to our door. It’s impossible for anyone to ding-dong-ditch and run away before we can open the door and find them running away. (It helps that there is only one way to get off our property and there isn’t any place to hide while you make that rather exposed dash.)
It’s also impossible to get into the house without enthusiastic dogs greeting you and or trying to get out the front door.
For this reason when we return to the house we play what my daughter refers to as “soccer”. An exercise in blocking furry family members from exiting the house. Generally when you open the front door you have to expect to see one or more black noses.
Recently I was returning to the house with one of my daughters and fully expected at least two black noses at the door. Her three-legged dynamo and my energetic little lady. And quite possibly my husband’s big ball of fluff. There was also the possibility of my other daughter’s yellow cannon ball. Though her tiny guy was least likely he still might show up too.
I cautiously opened the door.
No noses.
I opened the door further.
No furry family members.
I finally opened the door all the way and stepped into the house, glancing though the clearly empty front room and kitchen and all the way down the hall to the back door.
Not one person or furry family member.
“Notice the decided lack of greeting.”
Daughter walking in behind and closing the door. “Yeah. But I can hear them. They must be blocked by something.”
Clearly. The only door in the hallway not closed was the hall bathroom and that was no dogs land, strictly for the cat.
So they were either in a bedroom or the backyard.
As we moved down the hallway my other daughter opened her bedroom door spilling out her cannon ball and tiny guy plus her sister’s dynamo. As they came out one of my sons opened my bedroom door and my husband’s fluff ball ran out with my lady.
There was our usual and enthusiastic greeting.
What was I thinking about through that whole experience?
With all the writing I’ve done I’ve never once given any of my fictional families pets.
I don’t know.
I do know animals add another dynamic to the family experience.
And there are so many ways they could be included.
Are they part of the family or just a pet, or a working animal?
In my household our animals are part of the family.
If the family lived on a farm, their animals could likely be working animals.
If a person is disabled, their animal is more than just a working animal or a pet. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.
The other thing to consider when writing stories with animals in them is that they all have their own personalities, just like humans do.
With as many pets as I have, I should consider adding pets to my stories.
It is food for thought.
Have you written stories with pets in them?
I’d write more but my little lady needs her walk.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Twin Stories by Bonnie Le Hamilton

The other day I saw, and shared, a post on Facebook 13 Insane Identical Twin Stories That Are Almost Too Funny To Believe The only thing is, I didn’t find them funny or unbelievable.

In all but three instances in the whole article, similar things have happened to Konnie and me. The only exceptions were waving hi to our reflection (at least I’ve never done that, and Konnie’s never mentioned doing it either, so I’m assuming she hasn’t either), the intentionally switching to cheat stories (We never did that! Ever, would never have considered it.), and the boyfriend kissing the wrong twin one. (It’s a good thing too, since the first time I ever saw my brother-in-law, due to my husband being stationed clear across the country, they were already parents.)

Thankfully, the only time either Tom, or Jerry, have mixed us up was on the phone, and each time we can forgive them because in both those instances they were expecting the other twin to answer. Yeah, they got it wrong, but it was understandable.

And the closest we’ve come to a teacher mixing us up was that one April Fool’s Day when the teacher kept thinking we’d switched places but what really happened was just days before she’d changed the seating putting me near Konnie’s old seat and Konnie in my old seat. Or that time when I signed up for a class taught by a guy Konnie knew, who had asked her to take the class, but she couldn’t because of her work schedule.

When I walked in the class, he thought Konnie had made it after all and said so, calling me Konnie, and I told him, “Actually, I’m Bonnie.”

At which point he thought he’d been calling Konnie by the wrong name all along and sincerely apologized. Konnie’s roommate, who was with me, stepped in to inform him that he hadn’t until that minute met me and Konnie was indeed at work.

 And as for the intentionally switching to cheat scenario, we never did that, We did get accused of cheating once, but that wasn't a “switching places” tale, that was a “we’re twins, and we communicate with just a glance” tale. I looked at her and got the answer, and everybody who witnessed it knows I got the answer from just glance at Konnie. It happened. But I’d hardly call that cheating, since it was clearly accidental.

And I’m certain I’ve related that story before too. If I haven’t, just let me know.
Anyway, on a whole every story in the article is believable, since for the most part, similar things have happened to Konnie and me.

In fact, I’d say all those stories are common. Frankly, I would think stories of Twin ESP, which is a real thing, since that is how we got accused of cheating, would be more unbelievable than any of the common occurrences in the article, though all of them would make good fodder for any story involving identical twins.

Happy writing everyone. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Research by Carol Baldridge

Thank you, Bonnie Le and Konnie, for inviting me to be your first guest blogger. We three are readers and writers who use libraries, and I was a librarian for over 25 years, so I’d like to share some library lore with your readers.

No matter what kind of writing you do – fiction, non-fiction, essays, or even poetry -- somewhere along the line you will need to do some fact-finding and fact-checking. 

Fact-finding and fact-checking are better known as research. Research, ugh! That’s too often a dirty word that many writers don’t like to think about. But writing what you know goes only so far. Where does a writer begin to do research? Why, at the local public library, of course!

Here are some basic but very important things to know about your public library:

1. Your card -- Get acquainted with your local library and its librarians, Apply for a library card and keep it in good standing. Promptly pay any fines that accrue and pay for any lost library material. Renew your card when the time comes.

2. The reference desk -- Libraries have a reference desk where masters-degreed and specially-trained librarians will research questions for you and help you find what you need for your writing life. They will teach you how to search databases and how to use electronic and paper catalogues. Also, reference librarians all over the world are good sources for the names of and contact information for local experts and historians.

3. Reciprocal borrowing -- This means the patron travels to the book (or library materials). Visit and use the libraries all around you -- area public libraries, college/university libraries, museum libraries, corporate libraries, special libraries. Many will accept your library card as your admission ticket, or you might need a special permission slip from your home library.
Learn how to use WorldCat and other library databases to identify and locate helpful books, journal articles, DVDs, CDs, primary sources (e.g., diaries or letters from the time period you’re researching). Be sure to take note of (photocopy!) the title and verso (backside of the title page) pages plus the primary sources listed in bibliographies, resource lists, and notes in secondary sources.

4. Interlibrary loan (ILL) – This means the book (or other library material) travels to the requesting patron. As mentioned in #3 above, learn how to use WorldCat and other library databases to locate helpful books, journal articles, DVDs, CDs, primary sources (e.g., diaries or letters from the time period you’re researching) at other libraries. A reference librarian will ILL them for you, so you can pick them up at your home library. If the item(s) are out of state, there will be a charge for mailing.

Remember -- DON’T SKIP THE LIBRARY RESEARCH! Many stories have been ruined when the writer didn’t do the needed research.

Happy writing – and researching!

Carol Baldridge

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Descriptions by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Not too long ago I saw a post on Facebook asking how to describe a character without a “standing in the front of the mirror” type scene, which any decent writer knows is a big time no-no. But it isn’t always all that easy, especially if you have only one POV. How would the POV character describe himself to the reader without standing in front of a mirror to do an assessment?

That isn’t easy to even to answer.

I have one story I’ve written were the reader learns the hero has red hair because he complains about how his whole family (whole community actually) has red hair and how boring it is. In the same story, the reader learns about the main character’s size because some other characters point out the size difference between him and another fellow his age, and he reflects on why he is understandably larger. The only other description given of him is the way he dresses, and that was in form of describing the dress code of his people to an outsider. (They’re aliens.)

At no point do I have this character standing in front of a mirror.

In another story of mine (an unfinished one), I show the reader the POV character’s appearance by having other characters react to it. Of course, the whole thing is in his POV, so he does inwardly react to their reaction, thereby the reader learns why people do have such a reaction, but my main character isn’t standing in front of a mirror describing himself either.

Generally, I find it easier to have at least two POV characters, so each of them can “assess” the other in their eyes when they first meet. Simple and easy, but then sometimes you need more, because there are always things a character isn’t going to take note of. Or maybe doesn’t need to.

I have a scene in yet another story of mine where the hero describes what he assesses to be a young boy climbing out of the passenger seat of his tow truck, which his employee had just returned to his garage. In that short paragraph, the reader learns about the description of this new character in the hero’s life, including said characters size, though not her gender.

Which brings me to another post I read this week about pronouns (and frankly I find this incomprehensible) but apparently it is now politically correct to use the plural pronoun “they” to describe an individual who prefers to remain androgynous. I even noticed an author using this incongruous pronoun to keep the sex of a character unknown to the reader.

And it makes me wonder if schools are even teaching grammar anymore at all. He, She, and It are all singular, They is plural. Personally, I would never want to be referred to as in it, but “they”?

And instead of keeping the reader in dark about a character’s gender don’t refer to that person as “they”! Keep the POV character in the dark too, or at least confused as to gender, which I’ve said I’ve done, but frankly, if I ever read something where an individual is referred by the pronoun “they” I’d probably stop reading the book. I might even consider it a wall banger. Such writing would certainly draw me out of the story, which we all know is a bed thing.

Yeah, I know I’m old fashioned, but I can’t be alone in this. Can I?

Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Busy is Relative by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Yesterday it took me most of the day to do a load of dishes then sweep and mop my kitchen, hall, and bathroom. Not that either is a big job. Of course, they aren’t. This isn’t a big apartment, and I do live alone. It’s just that I had to keep stopping to catch my breath and rest a minute or two. And even with all that resting, by the time I completed those tasks, I was a bit stressed; I didn’t finish my “to do” list.

Konnie didn’t finish hers either, but well, she rarely does. And she rarely does because none of her immediate family members recognize that she has more to do in her day then run people around to all their various appointments and activities. Let alone that she isn’t goofing off when she’s sitting at her computer. And I’m not even talking writing.

Konnie spends time doing online surveys, which nets her a little extra money every year, and she uses quicken to do the family finances, and all their various bank accounts are online too.

For me, I consider I have a busy day if my “to do” list has more than four items on it; Konnie would consider that a vacation. I seriously doubt her “to do” list ever has less than ten items on it. If mine had ten items on it, I’d included my shopping list. Even when I had a car, and was driving my sister-in-law around to all her appointments, my “to do” never had more than five things on it, and I considered it a hectic day if my sister-in-law had more than one appointment. (She only rarely had two appointments in a single day.)

Konnie would consider that a lazy day.

Busy is relative. What one person considers busy, another would consider lazy. Viewpoint and perspective change by who is seeing, or doing, what is going on. This is especially true in our stories.
Have you ever tried writing a scene from the POV of another character? It becomes a completely different story because that character will “view” the events in a way the original character didn’t. I actually have one scene I’ve written in two different POV’s but that’s because the main character didn’t notice some things his buddy did.

Viewpoint, and frankly attitude, changes the story. Has anyone else tried this? Written one scene from two POV’s? Do you see what I mean?

Happy writing everyone. J