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Happy New Year!  Today is the day! Last Shot at Justice has its new cover, and is now up for pre-order on Amazon. That's right, ALL th...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

On the Question of Re-Releasing a Book with a New Title

When I wrote Blinding Justice, I wrote it as a standalone novel. It wasn't until after I had published that people began to ask me if there would be any more stories, particularly about Blue's family. 

That got my creative juices flowing, and here I am nearly two years later with a whole slew of ideas for books, and Book 2 just about ready to release. (Valentine's Day 2015!)

I started to consider a title for the series, and I couldn't let go of the idea of "The Boys of Syracuse, Kansas" as a nod to The Bard. (Not that my works are necessarily Shakespearean, more that I respect his work, and the moniker struck a chord.)  But what about each individual book? Should I link the titles in some clever way, à la Evanovich or Robb?

When I began to consider names for Book 2, the title "Last Second Chance" really resonated for me. Tim, the hero, is nearly at the end of his rope, and all he can hope for is one last 'second chance' to get his life right. My heart went out to this brooding ex-con with a newly minted heart of gold.

With no small measure of consideration, I decided that each book would feature the word "Last" in the title, and that meant I needed to change Blinding Justice—which I kind of had to stretch to make work in the first place. Eventually, with Dana's help, I landed on "Last Shot at Justice", and we redesigned the cover to fit the series concept.

I hope you find this glimpse into my decision-making process interesting. It is by no means a small thing to make such a change as the marketing ramifications are far reaching, but I hope the record will show that the new concept is a solid step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 16, 2014

On My Point of View (POV) Preference

I want to chime in on something that has turned into a trend in books that I really don't care for. That being the 1st Person (Present or Past tense) narrative.

I don't know how it came to be that so many writers are choosing 1st person. Back when I was trying to sell my first book to a publisher, back in the late 1980s, I was told that they wouldn't touch 1st Person unless it was exceptional. Now, with so many mediocre reads out there, I see why.

I find both of these (present and past tense) boring, most of the time. It appears to be a challenge to show rather than tell in 1st person, which increases the yawn factor and the sense of disconnect for me.

I spent some time after reading one book that I felt I should have enjoyed more, trying to figure out exactly what it is, since I know a lot of people really like this POV. I came to the conclusion that it is like sitting at a table listening to someone--if it is really good, maybe a friend, otherwise just some random person--tell me what happened to them. I may connect with what they're saying, feel some emotion, but I don't feel like I was there.

For some reason, I can feel like I'm part of the action when it is third person and the author has mastered showing. Maybe that just means I think of myself in third person? I haven't started referring to myself in third person in conversation (at least Kristi doesn't think so....) but maybe because I have spent so long writing stories from the characters' perspectives and trying to show their stories by putting myself in their shoes, that I've thrown a switch in my brain....

I can't stress enough the importance of showing a scene rather than telling about it. Little details that one can work into a sentence will show what is happening, and draw a reader in more than telling. Going to the bathroom, washing hands, brushing teeth...becomes tedious over-telling in the hands of an unskilled or hurried writer.

For instance, a 1st person POV might read:
I went to the restroom to wash my face, picked up a towel to dry my hands, and looked at my reflection in the mirror. Brown hair, blue eyes, button nose; my usual good looks marred by the darkening bruise on my cheek.

But I like this better:
She ducked into the restroom to splash some water on her face. The woman in the mirror, wringing her hands around the paper towel, stared back at her with haunted eyes, just a shadow of their usual breezy blue. She patted her brown curls into place, pulling a few strands down to artfully cover the darkening bruise on her cheek.

It could be done in 1st person:
I ducked into the restroom to splash some water on my face. The woman in the mirror, wringing her hands around the paper towel, stared back at me with haunted eyes, just a shadow of their usual breezy blue. I patted my brown curls into place, pulling a few strands down to artfully cover the darkening bruise on my cheek.

But too often scenes I've read get the former treatment. Instead of putting a little work into it -- I literally took 5 minutes to compose all three of those examples (imagine if I put some polish on it!) -- the writer just gives a laundry list of actions and descriptions, which puts me to sleep.

So, take what you will from my little rant/pet peeve.

I guess if I ever get around to publishing my epic 1st Person narrative novel, it will have to be totally spectacular after this, right?

Monday, April 28, 2014

On Being a Sick Truck Driver

I've made a few small posts about this already, and I don't want to come across as whiny, but it really does suck being sick on a truck.

I mean, it's not even really a bad cold, just stuffy head, sniffles, and aches, but oh, the things I take for granted when I'm sick at home.

One thing I like to do for a cold is drink tea and/or orange juice. Well, on a truck there is no readily available bathroom, so fluids intake is problematic.

Another thing is a good night's rest, and in general just lazing about. I've been lucky so far, since Collin has felt better and I needed to reset my hours, anyway. Except that trying to rest on a moving truck is not easy, or restful. Especially here in the east after a crappy winter has roads that were already bad, have been torn up even worse.

Even though we spent one night in a hotel, where I got to dip in the hot tub, I still woke up this morning feeling like I'd been in a sparring match with Hugh Jackman. (Think 'Real Steel')
I thought I'd at least be able to get some writing done, but my attention span is only equal to about 15 minutes. 20 on a good streak. Like I'm already losing interest in writing this....

It may just be the cold, but I also feel like I have no nerve for driving in this east coast hustle and traffic. Usually I'm able to just let Collin drive, but I've spent the last two days holding on to the OS handle and hollering at other drivers to stay in their lanes. Not like me at all!

The good part is that Collin and I have been chatting while I ride shotgun, which we don't seem to get to do, much. (I know, you'd think working together 24/7 we'd have said it all....) We've hatched a plan to pay off the house by 2016, so maybe we can go back to working local and hang up the Ball & Chain and our OTR miles in favor of a nice, simple life at home....

Sounds really good about now.

I know I'll be better in a day or so, but I hope we remember our incentive to pay down the house, so we can get this stage, this means to an end, behind us.

We can figure out what exactly the 'end' is later.

Okay. It's hot here in Miami, and we're waiting on the side of the road for our next load, and my attention is falling on napping more than writing this blog.

Thanks for reading! There will be more, later. ♡♥♡♥♡

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Being a Truck Driver Who Writes

(Or: On Being Tired and Out of Touch)

So I've been on the road for three weeks, now, and we have been back and forth across the USA -- not quite coast to coast.

Let's see: Mill City, OR to Sisseton, SD to Watertown, SD to Mason City, IA to Faribault MN to Seattle, WA to Ferndale, WA to Clearfield, UT to Spanish Fork, UT to Blaine, MN to Stewartville, MN to Spokane, WA to Swedesboro, NJ to Fonda, NY to Chino, CA.... Well, we'll deliver in Chino tomorrow morning. You get the picture.

That's over 13,000 (yes thousand!) miles.

I won't say I'd forgotten how tiring non-stop travel can be. But I had forgotten the reality of feeling that tired.

But it is funny because I've actually written more out here than I expected I would. Feels like more than I wrote all winter. Almost. I think the reason for that is because I can't get online at a moment's whim like I could at home. So when I'm not driving or sleeping, when I crank up the laptop, there's really not much else to do except write. Not much signal across Montana and South Dakota, never mind Wyoming. At least not a quality signal that doesn't have me pulling out my hair.

Oh, there is the never-ending receipts that have to be entered in the computer, and the husband who wants to implement a 5 year plan so we can go back to being local, which requires budgeting, which I can geek out on for hours.

But I'm getting the writing done, too. Plus, there's not much to do other than think of plot lines and conflicts and back story while driving. Inspiration is surprisingly abundant while I'm watching what little traffic is out there in Big Sky Country.

And you know what? The Google Keep app has pretty good voice recognition quality, so I can dictate notes into my phone hands free, at least well enough to know what idea I was trying to impart.

So, surprisingly, it is working. Which is what I should be doing now. Except I wanted to update folks on what it is like out here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Broken down in Utah (again)

Not saying I'd rather be elsewhere, but the people at Larry's Towing in Provo Utah are very nice. If we have to break down in this part of the country, this is a much better solution than Mountain West Volvo.

So, what happened? you wonder. We had just gotten loaded in Spanish Fork and were heading up Highway 189 when we heard a clang like a spring breaking, and then a rattle that slowed down as we did. We got safely pulled over and looked for the problem. Turns out the cap came off a u-joint. We didn't lose the driveline entirely, but we were stuck.

The folks at Larry's Towing came and brought us back to Provo last night, and have it apart. There is no damage, we just need a new u-joint. It is taking a little longer than anticipated, but we hope to be on the road soon.

Larry's crew are upfront and thorough, so we are more than willing to take the time to fix it right now, rather than having the same problem down the road because they didn't notice a small part that was ready to fail.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

My friend V.L. Dreyer invited me to contribute to the Writing Process Blog Tour. This is my first blog tour. I hope I am doing it right! I am using it as a means of procrastinating on working on my next projects. I'm sure that is not at all how this is meant to be used, but what can I say...?  

The purpose of this blog tour is to tell readers about our writing process by answering four questions.
Click here to read V.L.'s post about her writing process. My answers follow.

Question One: What Am I Working On?
I have two projects in the works right now. One is a sequel to Blinding Justice called Last Second Chance, in which an ex-con struggles for a fresh start in a small Kansas town. Here is the blurb: 

Tim Reardon made a real mess of his life, and he spent the last seven years paying for it in a Federal Penitentiary. Now he is out and trying to put his life together. Thanks to his sister Mitzi, he has a chance at working in small town Syracuse, Kansas, where no one knows his past and he can start fresh. Except that his past is hell bent on finding him.

All Janie Thomas ever wanted was to live a simple life as a veterinarian, taking care of her daughter and the pets and livestock in Syracuse. She had enough drama bringing Kylie into the world after getting pregnant at 17. Kylie's father, the town's rich heartthrob, Cody Buford, couldn't be bothered to raise a child and ran off to the big city.

Seventeen years later, Cody is back, trying to insinuate himself back into Janie's life, and she can't for the life of her reason why. On top of that, the new ranch hand out at the Lazy J is bringing up emotions she thought she had put to bed long ago.

This is different from Blinding Justice in that it takes place over a couple months, instead of the mere 36 hours of Blinding Justice. Tim is a man with a history, and that history is trying to catch up with him, even while he thinks he is making a clean break. Janie has her own history as the fallen woman who bore a child out of wedlock in a small conservative town. When Tim’s past shows up in the form of the woman he went to prison for, he finds there are very few places for him to hide and he must make a stand out in the sand hills of Kansas. Will he be able to survive denying his past?

The other project is a murder mystery set in the future, against the backdrop of the trucking industry in the year 2025. It is more a suspense than a mystery, but has elements of the cozy mystery with two truck drivers as the amateur sleuths trying to find out who killed their friend and fellow trucker, and why. I’m challenged to get this done before the future gets here. Some of the elements I have touted as futuristic in the trucking industry are already starting to come to pass. My husband and I are working on this together. While my suspenseful romances have elements of a mystery to them, this is my first attempt at a more traditional mystery, and I am working hard to get it right.

Question Two: How Does My Work Differ From Others Of My Genre?
My stories tend to be very character driven, and the conflict stems from outside sources. A lot of romance stories have conflicts based in misunderstandings and a failure to communicate. Not so much in my stories. If Mitzi and Blue are attracted to each other (Blinding Justice), it is gunfire keeping them from exploring that attraction. Conversely, while the danger is keeping them apart, it is also teaching them more about each other, stripping away the everyday trappings that get in the way of a ‘normal’ courtship, so they can see the meat of what the other is made of. Or, if Cassie doesn’t know if she can trust Nick (Knight Before Dawn), it isn’t until he gets knifed while trying to chase down one of her abductors that she realizes he really is on her side.

Last Second Chance is a bit more introspective. Tim doesn’t want to pursue his interest in Janie because he doesn’t believe she could want his kind of trouble in her life. If he tells her he is an ex-con, how can he expect her to love him in return? If he tells her, how can he protect her from the stigma that comes with the label of ‘ex-con?’ Janie doesn’t want to see Tim judge her for having a child out of wedlock, like nearly everyone in Syracuse has done, so she avoids saying it point blank.

The common thread in all my stories is that the conflict grows each character, pushes them to discover just how far they will go to protect the ones they love. But there is always a line my characters will not cross. I believe a hero is a hero as much for the things they won’t do as for the lengths they will go to.

Another difference is that my characters are a bit older than a lot of the romances I have read. In their late twenties and early thirties, they have already lived quite a bit of real life. They have already loved and lost, made mistakes, learned from them, and have confidence in the things they know they can do. They are more apt to speak the truth in their hearts in good part because they know life is finite, and they don’t have time to fuck around. They are (in general) blue collar workers, who earn every dime they spend; they live ordinary lives—except for the danger, of course—and hopefully my readers can easily relate to the way my characters live.

Question Three: Why do I Write What I Write? 
I’m something of a hopeless romantic with a lightning rod. I’m pretty happy with my life the way it is, with the possible exception that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. But I like to explore what makes people do the things they do, how far someone will go when pushed. If someone snatched me and set me down in the middle of an intense situation, what would I do? How would I handle it? Lord knows I don’t really want to get in a firefight with drug dealers or corrupt cops, but I can imagine it, and I can write myself into a situation I would be terrified to experience in real life. It is similar to reading a good book that transports me to the world I’m reading, except I get to direct the outcome. I get to throw the curve balls, jam the monkey wrench in the works, and let my characters work their way out of it.

It drives me crazy when characters I read repeatedly fail to communicate with each other, and the conflict comes solely from their inability to share their feelings with each other. So, as I mentioned above, I deliberately create characters who are brave enough to speak their minds and their hearts. Maybe not right off the bat, especially if the level of trust hasn’t had time to build. Knee-jerk reactions aren’t unheard of in my stories: Cassie runs off into the Alaskan wilderness because she discovers a frightening truth; Nick flies off to a confrontation before he thinks everything through. But they do have the courage to admit when they are wrong, and move ever forward without rehashing the same argument or fear again and again and again.

Question Four: How Does My Writing Process Work? 
Ideas come to me from all kinds of places. Often a vignette of some scene I witness in life. Sometimes even a dream will inspire a story idea. I see something that results in me asking: "What would happen if...."

Sometimes—like with the mystery—I have to do some plotting to make sure I get the pacing right, but for the most part, I let the characters tell me their story. That may sound a little crazy, but often I will sit down with the keyboard in my lap without a clue what I am going to write, and the words just start flowing. Like I’m channeling the characters and they are dictating the story to me.

If I have a scene I’m not sure is working, or one that is complex, I will share it with one or two people to get feedback. Last Second Chance is set on a ranch, and Janie is a veterinarian. I have a scene where she is treating a horse with laminitis. I consulted with a man who is a horse handler, and two friends who own horses have read the scene to make sure I have it right—and who make sure I haven’t just written an info-dump scene (also known as an ‘As you know, Bob’ scene.)

As I write, I continually go back through and tweak what I have written. Adding clarity if something is murky, cleaning up grammar and spelling, inserting or deleting scenes.... Once I have a complete draft, I go through it multiple times, cutting, adding, cleaning, analyzing, making sure I have the best, most complete story I can write. Then I have one or two people read it, to get a baseline reaction. Of course at this point, I’m pretty confident I have a story worth telling, but these people help confirm that. For Blinding Justice, I had a friend who worked in law enforcement read it to make sure I had the police mindset accurate. For Last Second Chance, I will likely have one of my horse friends read through it.

After that, I send it off to my editor and wait breathlessly until she sends it back. This step is so important. Even though I proofread for others, and I am very good at spotting problems in someone else’s work, I am too close to my own work to see the problems. And there are always problems. My editor helps spot holes in the story, catches my grammar errors, cleans up punctuation, etc. She puts a polish on the story that I simply can’t produce myself.

After that, I have beta readers go through it. By this time, I am getting twitchy to publish, but beta readers are also an important step. Fresh eyes to catch mistakes that have managed to slip through until that point. Or errors I created when I fixed the problems my editor pointed out. I had five beta readers for Blinding Justice, and each one found different problems. Just a few by each, but enough that I would have been embarrassed to find after publication.

And I can’t help but read through one more time (okay, two or three more times) before I start uploading for publication. As you can see, for me, writing the story is the easy part. The polishing, editing, polishing, and proofing process is exacting. I don’t hate it—I actually enjoy it, which is good since I do it professionally, too. The worst part about the post-production work is that is does take time, time that I would rather spend selling the book, or more importantly writing the next book. But because I want to put out the best work I can, I pull the reins in on my impatience, and go through every step even when I want to start sharing my story with the world. I learn more and more about crafting a great story with everything I do, and patience is the greatest lesson of them all.

Posted via Blogaway

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Welcoming My Hubby Home

My husband is a truck driver -- so am I in the summer -- but he runs solo in the winter so I can (theoretically) stay home and write. This winter I did more proofing for customers than I did writing.

Anyway, after 3 months away, he came home Friday morning, the day after our 9th anniversary, and I went from basically living a single woman's life to living married overnight. It's an adjustment to have him home again.

I love my husband, and I often say our current arrangement is the best of all worlds for a introvert like myself. For 8 months of the year, we are together 24/7, crossing the country, spending time and seeing the sights, and making money. The other 4 months he gets to run solo and be a free spirit, and I get to be a homebody and recharge so I'm ready to go again in the spring.

But the initial time spent when he comes home is always an adjustment. I go from staying up into the wee hours of the morning, working in silence in the front room, and getting up at my leisure, to having the TV on every waking moment, running errands with him, getting called upon to rub his neck, back or feet, and basically not having any time to get into work mode for proofing, much less writing.

I don't want to make it sound like I'm spending all of my time slaving for him -- he will often make dinner and serve me, and we do things together like shopping, etc. We went to the beach to celebrate our anniversary, and stopped in at the casino on the way. But it is an adjustment to now spend time doing things someone else wants to do.

My hubby doesn't understand about my writing process. He thinks I should be able to just sit down and type immediately, and set it down at any suggestion and pick it right back up. He doesn't understand that I have to work into it, get the words flowing, and that any interruption is a setback. Even now, he wants to put his foot in my lap so I can rub it. (He apparently got bit by something when we were doing yard work yesterday, and he thinks a massage will help.) Of course, I had just started getting into the groove of writing this post.

I didn't set out to moan about my hubby with this post. My intention was to speak to how much of an adjustment it is to have him home.

Another week and we'll be back on the road, and I will settle in to being a truck driver first, and author/proofreader second. And it will be fine. Really.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mom's dog Ada

Since Ada has been featured in a few posts I thought I'd show her to you. She is a sweet dog and a faithful companion to Mom.

Monday, March 17, 2014

On Walking Someone Else's Dog

I mentioned earlier that my mom was going to have knee replacement surgery, and I was going to be her caregiver. The surgery was two weeks ago today, and Mom is doing great. Not up and running marathons, like she seems to think she ought to be able to do by now, but for a 78-year-old, she is a rock star.

One of my easiest duties as caregiver is to take Mom’s dog for a walk, twice a day. We’re not sure what breed she is—she looks like a Golden Retriever, but in miniature—but she has a sweet disposition and has been a great companion for Mom. She is peculiar in one respect: she won’t do her business in the yard, and so she must be walked. This has been great for making sure Mom gets her exercise, and giving her reasons to socialize with the neighbors. The downside is that Ada (the dog) must go twice a day, every day, rain or shine. At ungodly hours for a night owl like me.

I tend to stay up well past midnight writing or proofreading, and left to my own devices, I get up around 8:30 or so. But Ada wants to be fed at 7 and walked by 8 at the latest. Mom has been able to feed her, but I’ve barely been able to drag my butt out of bed to get out the door by 8. I walk her as late as possible in the evenings, but this time of year it has still been over 12 hours since she’s been out, so I do feel for her, and I try.

One interesting thing about walking someone else’s dog is the people I meet.

Now, Ada is not always friendly with every dog she meets, so I never assume the pug or yorkie or hound coming up on us is a friend. Most times they pass without incident. But whether or not the dogs are friendly, almost everyone we come across knows my mom. And they ask me how she is, where she is, and how the surgery went. It is gratifying that so many people know and care about Mom, and tell me to tell her that “Winsow’s mom says hello,” or “Dakota and I are praying for her.” (We all seem to remember the dog’s name before the people’s names.)

Since I am not a morning person, I also look for the blessings in getting up so early, and I find it very peaceful to walk in the quiet of the morning. Mom lives near a sweet little park that features lovely magnolia trees, which are in bloom right now. Everything changes so much this time of year. I can walk by a bare tree in the morning and by the afternoon the leaf buds will be pushing, and the next morning it will be leafed out. A magnolia will be full of fuzzy pods one trip, then 11 hours later they will be open and displaying beautiful blooms. Dewdrops and birdsong in the morning, sunset colors in the evening. Clouds as a backdrop, blue sky, green green grass. It is all splendid, all glorious, and seemingly all mine. It is a blessed escape from the cares of the world, a timeless bubble impervious to the tragedy, anger, politics, and madness that seem to be crashing against the rocks of reality, driving me to distraction when I let it.

We anticipate the doctor will tell us tomorrow that Mom doesn’t need live-in care any longer, and I will be able to go home, just stopping in every couple days to help her do the things she can’t do herself. The dog walks will pass on to helpful neighbors, and I will get to sleep in again. At least until I get back on the truck next month.

I have to confess, part of me will miss the daily walks with Ada. But I do miss my own bed, and my lazy mornings.

Monday, March 10, 2014

When Did ‘We’ Get So Touchy? (In Defense of the Personal Opinion)

Or: (Not Every Negative Review is Bullying)

First of all, this post is not meant to suggest that there is ‘no such thing’ as literary cyber-bullying (as a distinction from other forms of cyber-bullying that I have no experience with), or that literary cyber-bullying is not a very real problem. It is. I have seen it happen. But I have also seen a trend of "instant touchiness" in the literary bullying events I have watched unfold.

Personally, I have no problem with someone posting a low star rating with no review, or a review that tears my work to shreds, or even attacks me in a direct or indirect way. I can't say it doesn't hurt, but I suck it up and move on. I have my tricks to help myself get over it (like looking for something that will help me improve my work, or noticing, 'hey, that person gave Mark Twain a 2 star review, too!) but these things are not the reviewer's responsibility to provide.

To me, someone leaving an honest review--even if it says 'I have not and will never read this book because...'--is just a fact of being a writer and a risk of putting my work out there for the world to see.

I try to remember that with the written word, tone is very easy to misread and project my own judgment upon. So I try my best to assume the person writing is coming from a position of neutrality. And if there is no question about their feelings, I do my best not to take their words personally, because it is more about the reviewer than it is about me, as long as I don’t add myself into their words by replying.

Any published author is (dare I say) becoming a celebrity in at least a small degree, and as such, needs to develop a tough skin or they really have no business publishing their work. Not everyone is going to love their book, and that is a fact. Even Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Shakespeare have negative reviews.

The reviewer, in posting a review, is also offering their words up to public opinion, just by virtue of being on the internet. Not everyone is going to love what they have to say about the book they are reviewing. They would surely benefit from a thick skin, too, or maybe they should think twice about posting their review for everyone to see.

But offering a simple opinion often turns sour when someone takes another person’s opinion personally. I shake my head when ANYONE, including and especially the AUTHOR, jumps in and puts the reviewer down for expressing their opinion. It is an opinion, and everyone has the right to have and express one. Some people choose to be more blunt and/or harsh about it, but that reveals more about them than it does about the work they are reviewing.

So often what could be an interesting discussion on differences of opinion becomes a slugfest, resulting in some horrible things being said under the flag of anonymity that the internet provides. This anonymity allows people to write things that they would never say in person--which is both the beauty and the terror of the internet.

What confounds and astounds and disheartens and amazes me is when what could be an enlightening discussion turns into a crapfest of people slinging insults at each other, and it goes on for days, and hundreds of posts, with everyone so defensive and trying to prove their point until no one can be heard in the cacophony of words.... That, to me, is literary bullying at its worst, and often there are authors who join in the fray, hurling mean-spirited words with wild abandon, or sometimes even making a misguided attempt to bring rationality to an irrational situation.

The other disappointing aspect of the simple review that turns into an orgy of hate and apoplexy is when not only the initial reviewer (if they hadn’t already done so) and all the people who ‘side with’ them in the brawl, go out and hit any author who disagrees with them with a rash of one star ratings and/or shelve their books on virtual shelves with truly eye-popping names meant to express their disgust and/or fury at being disagreed with. Shelf names are basically another a form of expressing an opinion, buried in several more layers of anonymity. I can’t take those personally, either.

What I find most distressing about the shelves is that they are there forever, unless removed by site moderators. Even if the person who shelved it changes their mind and takes the author off their ‘shitlist’, the shelf remains, as “-1 user shelved this book as....”

Once upon a time, people could disagree without having the end result be a bullying session gone wild. Once upon a time, disagreements could unfold and be worked out, and then disappear down the ages, the vitriol having only gone so far. (Not all, of course. Hatfields and McCoys, anyone?) And maybe the great debate about literary bullying will, too. As the world gets smaller and more and more people can be involved in other people’s lives on a rather microscopic level, the more people will either need to grow a thicker skin, or be miserable living in, and taking personally, the judgment of others.

Again, I’m not condoning literary (or any) bullying, but I do think the line between personal opinion and bullying is a little farther out than a lot of victims think, and taking up arms to defend against a negative review or rating really just makes the situation escalate that much faster. Let’s face it, we live in a time when people are tired of feeling compelled to be “P.C.” when posting their opinions. And some people even feed off the drama created when they fail to act with “correct” manners. The fastest way to shut people up is to not give them anything to feed on. Like the fisherman who goes fishing at the wrong time, and the fish refuse to bite. Like the toddler whining for attention; ignore them and they will go off and find someone else who will listen, or they’ll get bored and move on to something else.

I love that America is still the “Land of the Free” and I would hate to see censorship become a reality. That being said, I wish people could learn to moderate themselves, because having the right to your opinion is closely tied to the ability to hurt with your words. It may not be the reviewer’s ‘problem’ if the author gets hurt, but the atmosphere it creates affects everyone, and wouldn’t the world be a happier place if fewer people were hurting?

In summary, I call on us all to remember the immortal words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Monday, March 3, 2014

On Being Dragged Forward by Cloud Technology, Kicking and Screaming

I consider myself fairly tech-savvy. When I worked in an office, I was the unofficial go-to gal for folks when the IT department was too busy (or too full of jargon) to help. I know a lot about MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and various industry specialized software. I can usually help someone figure out what is going on with their file and get it fixed (with the exception of some really complicated formulae in Excel.)

I have apps enough that I can run my trucking company without ever having to print documents while I’m on the road. There’s “Sign my Pad”, a fax to email service, Polaris Office, to name a few. Receipts go into Quickbooks, Payroll is done on Medlin software....

I have self-published 4 titles, including one of Poetry, complete with pictures. I successfully uploaded them to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomanceeBooks. I’m in the process of formatting for Smashwords.

I say all this to show that I’m kind of a computer power-user. I don’t know much code—just a few html tags to make things bold or italic. But when it comes to using stuff, I’m not afraid to jump in there and try it out. Help desks love me because I already know where a lot of their tools are located.

The exception has been ‘Cloud’ technology. I have been reluctant to use “the Cloud” for fear of exposing my data to unscrupulous hackers and data thieves. But I recently took the plunge and downloaded the DropBox app to my phone. I was looking for an easy way to transfer a picture I had taken with my phone so I could tweet it. I know, I could simply use the Twitter app, but I have resisted adding it to my phone because I don’t want the temptation/distraction available on my phone. (I have Twitter on my laptop and tablet; I don’t need it on my phone, too.)

I figured it couldn’t hurt to put a photo of my roommate’s cat out in ‘the Cloud.’ After all, I was about to Tweet it to my followers, right? So I downloaded the app to my phone, then to my laptop and my tablet. Bam. I was able to tweet the photo without having to add Twitter to my phone, which has the best quality camera. (See the tweet at https://twitter.com/KacyAuthor/status... )

Since then, I have learned I can use DropBox to transfer books I have downloaded on my laptop to my tablet without having to hook the tablet up by cable, simply by exporting the file from DropBox to my Kindle app. I am officially a fan. I have been struggling to find an easy way to do this since I started selling my books on my website!

There are lots of Cloud-type apps out there, now. I just happened to land on DropBox and have been pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to use.

As with most things I have to get dragged kicking and screaming into, I am a (conditional) convert. I still will not store any sensitive data ‘out there’. I don’t believe there is any place off-site that is secure against those who want to access it without my knowledge or permission. But I am thinking of many other ways I can utilize this app.

What’s next for me? Should I try to learn code? Create an app of my own that facebook will buy for billions of dollars? Sure. Why not? ;-)

Monday, February 24, 2014

On Being a Terrified Caregiver

So my mom is going in for knee replacement surgery a week from today. She chose to do it now, while I am ‘home for the winter’ so that I could care for her while she is recovering. She asked if I was willing, and I said ‘sure thing’.

Now, people who know me are probably scratching their heads right now. On one hand, why wouldn’t I agree to help? Out of her seven kids, I’m an obvious choice since I work from home and ‘home’ can be wherever I have an internet connection. But on the other hand, I am the kind of person who says “How can I support you without actually having to, you know, be there, near you?”

In general, I don’t do caregiving.

It’s not a lack of compassion. It is...well. It's a kind of terror. My first instinct is to run away. Pain makes me uncomfortable. Other people’s pain, that is. I have a fairly high pain threshold myself, as long as I’m allowed to whine about it. But other people’s pain?

When Mom was in hospital after her colon cancer surgery, I visited before her pain was really under control. I thought I was going to throw up, I was so upset. I wanted to drag a nurse into her room to give her drugs immediately. And I wanted drugs of my own to calm me down.

As her knee surgery approaches, I have moments of wondering what on earth I was thinking.

Now, I know she will have ~3 days in hospital before she comes home, and nurses and therapists coming to the house to change dressings and that sort of thing. So really all I will be doing is running errands and being her go-fer. Walking the dog. Being there in case she needs help. Being a companion. Actually being there really will be fine.

It is the anticipation that makes me wonder, and worry, and question the decision that led to me being ‘the one.’ That is a lack of confidence. I worry I will say or do the wrong thing, something to make matters worse. That I won't be in the right place to stop a fall. That I won't notice a serious problem....

I guess the bottom line is that I don’t want to let Mom down. She has always been rock solid, and to have her wellbeing in any way dependent on me is rather frightening.

But it will be fine. A fine, stretchy experience for me. Really.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Suddenly Being a Stepmom

So I met my husband 10 years ago this month. We got married just over a year later, and have gone about living our lives in a very simple way.

We work, we live, we run a business together. Well, okay, maybe it isn't always simple. But we knew right away that we weren't going to have kids together.

While I knew he had 3 sons from an earlier marriage, it was a difficult divorce and their stepfather had adopted the boys and their mother made it impossible for my hubby to see them. So even though it was very hard on him, when I met him he hadn't seen his kids in years.

Even though he is not big on social media, he started a facebook profile on the off chance that his boys might want to contact him. And last year, they finally did.

It was so wonderful to see him reconnect with them, all grown men living their own lives. The oldest just turned 27, while the middle son is 25, and the youngest is 23.

And I am a stepmom, at least in the literal sense. I don't feel like a mom. I don't have some desire to mother them or meddle in their lives. They are great kids, and I enjoy spending time with them.

Now Jeremy, the oldest, is moving 1100 miles away to Wyoming for a job, and his dad wanted to give him a pistol and a hunting rifle as a congratulatory gift. Today we took the pistol to a gun range and shot up a few boxes of ammo, and then I took him shopping for some road-food. And I got just a small taste of what it might be like to have a son of my own.

No, I'm not feeling wistful and my biological clock isn't trying to shake off cobwebs so it can start ticking. I do not want kids of my own. But today, when I wrote it out in a letter that I was gifting these firearms to my stepson, (to make sure no one thinks he stole them) it was weird to me. I think it was weird for him, too.

I mean, I was married to my husband for 8 years without ever even having met his boys, and now I am a stepmom. With two of them getting married this year, there's a very real possibility I could be a step-grandmother in the near future. Holy shit. Just writing that out is freaky.

I just don't know how I feel about it. I'm not worried about anything, just kind of amazed at how things can change in the blink of an eye. In a way, it's like the old joke: if I had known how much fun grandchildren were, I would have had them first. That's me, or surely will be in a year or three. Now I'm starting to feel like a genius.

Has anyone else out there been in a similar situation? Not asking for advice - just want to hear your story if you have one.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Deep Thought for the Day

In general, I try to avoid getting political on social media. I can do without the drama. But I recently engaged in a thread on facebook that really helped me crystallize something I have thought for years, but never knew how to explain.

The thread was in response to the case of the woman in Texas who died, and everyone agreed that she was dead, but her body was kept functioning to benefit the 14 week fetus she was carrying at the time of her death. The woman’s body was kept functioning for two months before the court ordered that the family could have the machines turned off.

The discussion could be boiled down to this: when is it okay for a baby to die?

I will probably catch some heat for this, but I personally believe the hospital was in the wrong to resuscitate her body, and that they had misinterpreted the new law. I found the situation creepy and horrifying, and I would never want to be put in a position to have to make a decision in a case like this.

My family had to pull the plug on my father and it was awful, but all of us agreed that it was the right thing to do. I don’t think that you can truly know what you would do in that situation until you have stood at a dead person’s bedside. I have been there, and I have no regrets.

But this case involved a fetus. A potential human being. And here’s the thing:

I believe God’s gift of life has more purpose than merely growing up to procreate more life. Animals live to procreate. How are we different if we believe that the only reason we are here is to create more life? If my sole mission in life is to be a parent, and my child’s sole mission in life is to be a parent, and their children’s sole mission.... Humans are unique on Earth because we have the ability and the desire to do more with life than simply procreate.

I believe God’s gift of life, that spark of creation, that existence, teaches us as much if not more about God and His purpose when it is extinguished as when it is allowed to grow, be born, and live its life to old age before it dies.

I don’t believe the death of the fetus or a child robs us of a potential cure for cancer, or a presence who could bring peace to the Earth. I don’t believe it is in God’s plan that every spark should survive. God is not that limited. We will get whatever miracle God has in store for us, regardless of the vessel that finally accomplishes it.

I’m not trying to make it okay when a child dies. I don’t mean to imply that it is okay if someone slaughters children (or any life) wholesale. I am not saying that we shouldn’t be sad, angry, or horrified.

I’m saying that what we feel is the point.

What we learn from the event, what we do about it...that is what makes us human, what makes us distinct from animals.

Holding ourselves accountable for a decision defines our character and directs the course of the rest of our lives. Taking a stand for the things we believe in shapes our psyche, and grows us as spiritual beings. Living our lives with purpose, searching and reaching for God’s plan for us, and doing our best to fulfill that plan, that is what life should be about.

That spark that is extinguished?
The greatest tragedy would be for nothing to change because of its brief existence.