Friday, August 28, 2009

Face plants and police sirens

Wednesday night, I called Aunt Anne to wish her happy birthday and to find out how Timmy was doing. His wife Ruthie died a couple weeks ago and he is finally back to work after months of caring for her. He's doing better, but not too happy about all the condolences. Aunt Anne told me they make him feel worse and, while he appreciates the sentiment, it just makes things worse for him.

It reminds me of an episode of All in the Family when a doctor told Archie to be nice to Edith because she was going through the change. Nice isn't Archie's strong suit and he was nearly strangled every time he stifled the urge to rail at the dingbat. Archie's nice and polite attitude frayed Edith's last nerve and things didn't go back to normal until Archie lost his temper. Timmy losing his temper at work isn't going to go down well, especially not at the post office. I think he'll have to endure it a little longer.

Aunt Anne and I talked about a lot of things, like whether or not her friend Jaye was going to bring back her copy of Past Imperfect she took with her on her annual two-week vacation to Texas. Aunt Anne is not happy. If Jaye has damaged her copy in any way, she can kiss any thoughts of a copy signed by the author (that would be me) for Xmas goodbye and buy Anne another copy.

On the up side, Jaye wants everyone to read my book. On the down side, Jaye loans out Anne's copy instead of encouraging people to buy a copy and read it. She has no business sense. I admire her generosity, especially with something that doesn't belong to her, but there are times when there is no substitute for a copy of your own . . . said the author who won't get any royalty checks if people don't buy their own copy.

I bought a copy of a great little writing book, You Have The Power: Self-edit Your Way Into Print, written by Cindy Davis who happens to be my editor. I've read the first 2-1/2 chapters and it's really good and very helpful. Due to my bungling the event planner on Facebook, Cindy appeared a full two weeks early on the Writers Talk / Q&A I've set up. Luckily, Cindy is a very nice person and agreed to go through with her previously scheduled appearance on Sept. 9th and talk more about editing your own writing. Anyone who missed her talk on pronouns will forgive me and show up in two weeks to comment, question and learn from Cindy -- I hope.

I also received my copy of Dead Worlds: Undead Stories and plan to wander through the zombies to find Sabrann Curach, otherwise known as . I also broke down and got a copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer and so far I'm not impressed. I'm waiting for the fan girl hype to live up to the reality. It has not happened yet. The only good things I've gleaned from the first couple of chapters are future grammar posts, and one of those will be posted later today.

After a long and protracted, and fruitless, tussle with a software program on Goodreads, I have finally been recognized as the author of my own novel. I had to call in reinforcements and get an actual person to respond because the software program on the site was too stupid to figure out that my name and the author's name are the same. That's been fixed and I have been accorded author status. I had no idea life could get so complicated. Weren't computers supposed to make our lives easier? Doesn't it take a human to screw things up this completely?

Dinner last night was pleasant since I had some company, but I'm afraid I was not at my sparkling best. I was tired and cranky and doing my best impression of Archie being nice between periods of abject weariness that had me nearly nodding off. There is nothing so funny or frustrating as having a conversation with someone whose head keeps bobbing toward the plate in imitation of one of those birds that dip into a cup of red fluid. I avoided a full face plant into my steak, but couldn't keep up with the thread of the conversation. I did apologize and promised a rematch dinner on a night when I was more awake and alert.

The kids are back to school across the street, but they seem subdued and quieter than last year. I wonder if it's because the rowdier and livelier kids graduated to high school or if exuberance has been outlawed. The police presence of late has been more apparent, but so has the joy riding idiot that has roared down Pikes Peak going from zero to 140 between stop signs. He was followed, about 30 minutes later, by a police cruiser whoop-whooping his siren as he neared the cross streets and a helicopter about 15 minutes after that. I doubt they caught the speed demon since he was long gone before they appeared on the scene, their siren saving me from that face plant into the steak. At least they were good for something. Catching speed demons wasn't it.

I am going to take my weary and rumpled self to the showers and get cleaned up for another day in the salt mines. This is one day getting irritated at doctors learning English on my shift and mangling words until the occasional vowel and rare consonant surface in their chewed up melange that is supposed to pass for intelligible speech will be welcome. It should keep me awake.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Writing, it's not for wimps

There must be something in the air or serendipity just keeps catching up, but I've had more people lately tell me they have always wanted to be writers. It isn't as if I haven't encountered this comment before -- usually every time I tell someone who asks what I do that I'm a writer -- but it's beginning to get ridiculous. I have a stock response for everyone who tells me they want to be a writer, but just don't have the time.

"Do you watch TV every night?"

"Yes," they always respond.

"If you give up 30 minutes of TV every night and write, then you'll be able to finish a book in a month, or a year if you write slowly."



The glazed look in her eyes tells me all I need to know. She likes the idea of being a writer; she doesn't really want to be a writer.

After that, they beat a hasty retreat. Give up 30 minutes of TV to write? It's unthinkable, inconceivable.

These people aren't writers, they are wannabes. The like the idea of being a writer and they have ideas, but don't know how to translate them into a book or short story. Writers don't usually have that problem. Doesn't mean writers don't get stuck or suffer from writer's block, but knowing how to write isn't the problem. The problem is getting past the hurdles and into the zone. Once there, the writing flows.

As I read Page after Page by Heather Sellers, a gift from , I read again the chapter on being a writer and it said the same thing I've been saying for years about the 30 minutes of TV.

Writing is hard even when a writer makes it look easy. It's not a job or a career for the faint-hearted or those who cannot handle rejection. Writing isn't just something you do as a hobby or because you think you have a story to tell. It's much more complicated and intense than that. Writers think about writing when they're not writing, stories, characters, dialogue and scenes brewing in their minds even when they're doing something else. Writing is hard work. It's not easy, even when the writing flows, because there's the inevitable crash of expectations when it's time to rewrite, edit and re-edit until you think you're going to scream. It's reading the same words over and over until they blur in front of your eyes and then reading them again to make sure you got all the mistakes. It's living with your characters until they become more real than the people around you. It's knowing the intimate details of a character's life until you know them better than you know yourself. It looks easy and it seems like a lot of fun -- writing in your pajamas, keeping your own hours, being able to do whatever you want and go wherever you want at any time -- but it's not always fun. Slogging through reams of research to find just the right bit of information to make a story come alive and layering texture and depth takes time. It's work, hard work.

It can be fun, too, but it's a solitary life that drains the energy out of you so you can pour it into whatever you're writing until the writing is as much a part of you as the blood in your veins and the sinew and muscle that move your bones and body.

Being a writer is sacrificing whatever gets in the way and keeps you from writing or sucks the energy out of the work. It's giving up television or having a spotless house or sleeping in on the weekends, or any day for that matter, when you suddenly figure out what's wrong with the story and knowing how to fix it. Being a writer is working at whatever job will pay the bills and keep you going until a book is finished and beginning to sell so you can go back to the job you hate to keep paying the bills while you writer another book, and another, and articles, and marketing the books that are already out so you sell enough to get your next book published.

From the outside, being a writer is being a dilettante, but that's because people don't see what really goes on and what sacrifices a writer makes in order to keep writing. It's like watching a swan glide effortlessly and gracefully across a lake. You don't see the furiously paddling feet below the surface or how awkward and ungainly the swan looks when it steps from the water and walks on land.

Does this mean I am sorry I'm a writer? No. I wouldn't want to be anything else because this is who I am and who I always have been. I think about writing all the time, picking up bits of life and storing them for later use. Writing is more important to me than almost anything else and it makes sacrificing whatever I must to keep writing worth while.

It's a thrill to see your words printed in a book and your name on the cover of a book that took months or years to write. It's also sobering because in order to keep seeing your name on the cover of books and on bylines of articles and stories, you're not done working yet. There's another hill to climb to get to the mountain beyond that. There are valleys and plateaus where you can rest, but the work goes on. It never stops. That's the curse of being a writer -- it's also the blessing and amazing magic of being a writer. There are always more words to use and more stories to create and more lives to be lived by the intrepid adventurer who ventures into writing. It's a never ending life that takes almost as much as it gives and it's worth more than giving up 30 minutes of TV every day.

One thing I have learned is that if you want something badly enough, nothing and no one will stand in your way. You are willing to sacrifice anyone and anything to get what you want. If you don't feel that way about writing, you're not a writer. If you are a writer, you will find a way and the time to write. It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tarot: The Midas Touch

The cards I've pulled lately have to do with success in one way or another and today's cards are no different. Success is a fleeting thing, as well it should be.

It's in the cards

The High Priestess is contradiction. She obscures and she reveals.


Clad in a diaphanous gown, she floats above the waters of consciousness with one toe barely skimming the surface. Crowned with a diadem of stars that represent the nine planets of our solar system, she hangs between two pillars capped with machines of unclear purpose, impossibly intricate and logical and yet enigmatic. The night sky behind her is a poetic mystery comprised of the logical course of the stars and planets while the music of the spheres is a haunting refrain just out of reach on the edge of understanding.

The High Priestess is beguiling, promising knowledge that can prove dangerous. Accept her energy and wisdom with caution. The knowledge she offers is beyond logic, a wisdom that should be guided intuition. Understand that science is but one path to wisdom, a path illuminated by the other senses. Inspiration is useless without action. Honor the muse, but don't be here slave.

4 of Pentacles

The 4 of Pentacles shows a wealthy man dressed in rich robes and holding a shining pile of pentacles. He takes pleasure in his wealth, much like King Midas, caressing his hoard as though a lover, jealous of anyone or anything that comes between him and his prize.

Wealth is an abstraction. It represents the ability to obtain the necessities of life. In and of itself, wealth is static, pretty to look at, but not useful unless it is traded for services, food, clothing and shelter. Wealth is beautiful, a shining pile of gold, silver or coins, a bank balance ending in lots of zeroes, but it is not real.

Like Midas who loved his gold and was granted the golden touch, he found that gold is tasteless and provides no nourishment. Gold was an anchor that weighed him down and destroyed everything he touched, even the golden curls of his beloved daughter. Midas learned the hard way that gold must be shared, a resource that renews itself only when it is put into circulation.

Like Midas, writers must learn to use their resources and not hoard their writing like gold in a vault. Writing must be shared and practiced in order to flourish. Even mushrooms that grown in darkness, must have nourishment. Writing can grown in darkness, but must seek the light in order to evolve and mature and grow.

Midas learned the hard way by losing what he valued most. Writers cannot afford to lose if they are to succeed. The wealth of inspiration and ability is nothing, an unfulfilled future, unless it is used wisely and well. Don't give everything away until you have nothing left. Use your wealth wisely.

The World

The World is mastery. A woman holds a wand in each hand, surrounded by the laurel wreath of victory, balanced and assured. The wands represent the balance and mastery of will in tune with the conscious and unconscious. Now is the time to celebrate great accomplishments, to be recognized by the world and the self upon completion of a hard won accomplishment. The woman is in unity with the universe and knows mastery over herself that is natural and effortless. She moves to the rhythms of nature and her own heart. But beware the false sense of security.

The woman does not rest on her laurels. She is in motion and knows that success is temporary. In order to grow, she must move forward, evolve and experience life and the world. She takes a moment to enjoy the freedom success provides, understanding that once a task is completed and the goals accomplished, it's time to move onward and upward, take the next step to a new level. Life is a learning experience and learning requires action to absorb and to build on.


In vampire lore, the vampire is a static force, locked in stasis, a relic of an ancient past. Anne Rice characterized it by vampires turning to marble when they couldn't not evolve and move with the times. That is why Lestat chose to make Louis. He needed someone who understood and moved easily in a world where Lestat was an anachronism.

An mid-list author learns from his doctor he has less than two years to live. There is a book the author has been meaning to write, but has put it off many times. Now that he knows how much longer he has, he decides to pull out the manuscript, finish it and get it published, using his terminal illness as a way to push the book through the slow moving publishing industry and to promote sales. The book is an instant success and the author becomes a very wealthy and famous writer. He enjoys his success, but as the last months of his life wind to a close he finds out that he's not going to die.

What will he do? Will he choose to die and leave a success or will he admit the truth and continue to write the stories he has held back, stories that would have made him famous without the death sentence.

How would you finish this story?

Until next week, may all your stories be successful.

Numbers don't lie

I suppose it is no surprise that the world is currently focused on America and the health care debate, especially from countries where socialized medicine is a given. I didn't, however, expect to be attacked en masse for defending my view that socialized medicine is not necessarily a good thing or that taking a stand against socialized medicine makes me a heartless and selfish bitch.

Some of the comments ranged from viciously personal to calling my intelligence into question and every one of the comments bordered on, and was often colored with, outright hostility. I finally had to delete the comments because nothing new was said and the same old lines were used to bludgeon me into abject submission. However, anyone who knows me at all knows that I may occasionally back out of a heated discussion, but that does not in any way constitute abject submission, merely a breathing space to marshal some facts and figures of my own.

It may seem callous to fight against anything that is supposed to be for the good of all or to not want to extend full medical coverage to illegal aliens, but the situation here in the United States is different from that in any other country.

To begin with, most people in other countries, and even here in the U.S., have no idea the scope of the problem or the size of this country. They know the United State is big, but not actually how big. I checked out some numbers to clear up any misconceptions.

Now for the facts and figures

The United States encompasses a physical area of 4,459,726 square miles/11,550, 690.34 square km and has 305 million residents (legal residents). This does not include visitors, tourists, foreign diplomats, ambassadors and their staffs, illegal aliens or immigrants seeking either asylum or holding green cards. Now let's put that up against some of the countries touting their systems as more workable and better.

  • France:
    Population 64,057,792
    3,794,080 sq miles / 9,826,630 sq km

  • United Kingdom:
    Pop. 60,943,912
    94,600 sq mi / 60,943 sq km

  • Australia:
    Pop. 21,007,310 (population concentrated mainly along the coastline)
    2,967,909 sq mi / 7,686,884.31 sq km

  • Canada:
    Pop. 33,000,000
    3,559,294 sq mi / 9,218,571 sq km

  • Israel:
    Pop. 7,411,000
    8,522 sq mi / 20,770 sq km

  • New Zealand:
    Pop. 4,173,460
    103,737 sq mi / 268,021 sq km

As you can see, none of these countries have the total area or the population in the United States. Our problem is much bigger and more complex, especially when considering how to pay for socialized medicine that would cover every individual in the country without stinting on medical services to at least some portion of the population. We do have a system in place that has been covering the uninsured and indigent portion of our population, in actuality two systems. They are called Medicaid and Medicare. It comes as no surprise to Americans that Medicare is almost broke and working in shifting sands with the high tide coming in.

I read an article just yesterday that stated there would be no cost of living raise for Medicare recipients for at least the next two years and the fees for medications, which are paid for by the recipient, are going up. Both of these actions mean that everyone on Medicare is getting less and being charged more. Medicaid, however, will continue to percolate since it is covered by taxpayer dollars and taxes have not and will be abated.

It would seem that, with a much bigger population, there would be more money to spread around, but that would be in a perfect world where government hasn't grown beyond the bounds of reason and common sense and hasn't been picking the American taxpayers' pockets for a very long time. You see, the taxpayers pay for those cushy government jobs and all the benefits that government employees receive, some of which continue to the end of the employees' lives, as in the case of presidents, vice presidents and members of Congress, which also includes paying for their premium health care.

One of the other factors in the well oiled machine that is socialized medicine in all the countries listed above is how they pay for it. Obviously, taxes subsidize a good portion of the health care costs, but all of those countries get a boost from -- you guessed it -- foreign aid from the United States of America.

  • France: $10,168 billion

  • United Kingdom: $12,217 billion

  • Australia: $3,038 billion

  • Canada: $4,577 billion

  • Israel: $2,250 billion

  • New Zealand: $355 million

Puts things in a different perspective. And let us not forget all the aid given to Germany and France in the wake of World War II, none of which has been repaid.

One of the misconceptions that the rest of the world has about the U.S. and its lack of cradle to grave socialized medicine is that there are millions of people dying in the streets for lack of health care, dying of treatable illnesses. While there are 46 million uninsured people in this country, which comprises about 15% of the population, there are services and free clinics in place to cover most of their health care needs. However, that doesn't mean these people don't die of treatable diseases.

Most of the time, the uninsured don't seek medical treatment because of the costs, but that is a small percentage of the 46 million uninsured. The people who don't seek treatment are not aware that medical care exists that will take care of them, and has always existed. There are free clinics and community health care centers that charge on a graduated basis, but most people don't know they are out there because they have not been educated or made aware of their options.

Almost all of the free clinics and community health care centers are funded by -- wipe that surprised look off your face -- the rich and by the upper middle class, the very people whose pockets the current administration seeks to pick to spread the wealth around. During times like this when socialized medicine is being debated and talk of redistribution of wealth is rampant, those very same benefactors stop contributing to the free clinics and community health care centers.

The increasing numbers of people applying for and being granted Medicare and Medicaid show that the system does work, albeit slowly, but do you really believe that a government run cradle to grave health care system would work any better? Did you forget that the government currently runs Medicare and Medicaid and Medicare is nearly, if not already, bankrupt? And you want more of the same?

As long as insurance companies have the country by the throat, and the pocketbook, the cost of health care will continue to rise. We don't need a new system or to add more government agencies and employees that the taxpayers will have to support, in addition to taxes and surcharges for socialized medicine. We need to fix the system that is in place and put it back within reach of the average person. It's insane to reinvent the wheel when all that is needed is to fix the broken axle or replace the missing and dysfunctional spokes, and that is what the proposed health care plans, each and every one of them, are designed to do.

We do not need more government and we don't need to redistribute the wealth. What we need are intelligent people in office who are working for the common good and not for their own vain egos or to line their pockets. We've paid enough, and, by we, I mean the American taxpayers whose voices have been ignored once their representatives get into office.

Funding socialized medicine in a small country with less than half the total legal population of the United States is child's play compared to dealing with a country the size and complexity of ours, especially when you're being underwritten by the United States.

Most of the world resents the United States' involvement in their affairs, and I think it's time we returned the favor. I, for one, resent the world telling me how our country should be run when they are accepting our money to keep their systems afloat. If you like your system, please feel free to keep it -- and your noses -- out of our debate. We had no say or comment when you decided to socialize your health care, so you have no say in how we do or do not run our health care.

To believe that tens of millions of Americans are dying in the streets for lack of affordable health care is naive at best, and gullible at worst. You've obviously not heard of hyperbole or scare tactics, both of which are being used to stampede Americans towards the socialized abyss. To equate an American tourist to Canada who becomes ill and is taken to the local hospital for care with our health care debate is disingenuous and fatuous. An American tourist in any country is spending money, thousands of U.S. dollars, and likely will pay for the health care received in your country. If a Canadian tourist, or indeed a tourist from any country in the world, became ill and was taken to the hospital in the U.S., they would receive quality care, too.

The United States has the best and most advanced medical care in the world. If not, why would Russia send their prima ballerinas to the U.S. for surgery if their socialized system of medical care could handle a delicate and highly technical operation like ankle surgery so that a national treasure could return to dancing?

Our system isn't perfect, but if the politicians and administration get their collective heads out of their collective backsides long enough, or lift their snouts from the trough long enough to hear the voice of the people, we could fix our system and get health care costs back in line with what they should be. It takes time, but it also takes wisdom and the willingness to see beyond the end of their greedy snouts that the answer was a simple one. Fix the wheel, don't reinvent it.

In the meantime, how about this? The United States will no longer subsidize the rest of the world with foreign aid and keep the money to fund Medicare in perpetuity and keep health care costs low so there are no more millions dying in the streets of treatable diseases and the rest of the world will no longer have any need to debate our fate.

That is all. Disperse.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's all about me

Yes, I'm going to promote Past Imperfect again, but only by way of the interview I did with Laura Fabiani of Nouveau Writer. Take a look. If you have any questions, please comment.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Money shots

Last week was a difficult and challenging week and a few things slipped past my radar, at least in terms of putting them up on LJ. Two of those slip-ups involve reviews of Past Imperfect reviews. I warned you that I would get positively obnoxious with all of the book stuff, so be forearmed.

In order to keep the obnoxiousness to a minimum, I'll only post the money shots.

First, from Ruth Shelton, aka , "...The deft handling of Diana's contradictory emotions makes "Past Imperfect" a believable tale, and her character one that will resonate with everyone who's ever fooled themselves about what they wanted, and why they wanted it in the first place.

I only gave this 4 stars rather than 5 because I wish Logan's character had been more deeply developed. Dare one hope for a sequel?"

I must commend Ruth on her correct use of the comma in the last paragraph. Bravo!

This morning's email list contained a review from Coffee Time Romance reviewer, Matilda, who ends her review with "...Past Imperfect is a pleasurable read, one that will touch your heartstrings and even complicate you on which man Diana should be with. Smooth flowing dialogue makes this a story you can breeze [through] without losing a thing. This is a book worthy of the shelf space.

There have been random reviews from gentlemen of my acquaintance who read the book out of friendship and were surprised -- pleasantly, so they tell me -- that they "thoroughly enjoyed" the book and the characters. They even related to the men, but I won't say which ones. That will remain their individual secrets.

One reviewer emailed to say that the book didn't hook her and she didn't feel she could review it since she couldn't get into it, but that is to be expected. I am not so naive as to think that everyone who reads Past Imperfect will like it or won't damn it with faint praise. If everyone liked only mysteries or nonfiction biographies, there would be no room for the diversity that currently abounds in the publishing and reading worlds. That's a good thing, a very good thing.

That is all. Disperse.

Grammar: Introducing the comma

No, we're not going back to the beginning in this series of grammar goofs on commas, but proceeding to using commas after introductions.

To begin with, introductory clauses are dependent clauses that introduce the rest of the sentence, or the independent part of the sentence. Introductory clauses begins with adverbs: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, therefore, etc.

If I am to believe what is written, I have six months to live

Although a reviewer's job is to write what they did or did not like about a book, it is still just their opinion and thus subjective.

Introductory phrases are not dependent clauses, but have a subject and verb that are separate from the main clause, the independent clause, of the sentence. Introductory phrases may include phrases that are prepositional, appositive, participial, infinitive and absolute phrases.

To control weight, models limit their intake of carbohydrates and fats. (introductory infinitive phrase, main clause)

Lying judiciously, Annabelle chose her words carefully in order to keep the police from examining her further. (introductory participial phrase, main clause)

An intelligent and well-liked woman, Eleanor Roosevelt used her position and power to effect changes in her neighborhood of Greenwich Place. (introductory appositive phrase, main clause)

Blustering loudly and continuously, Jeremiah proclaimed his innocent. (introductory absolute phrase, main clause)

After enactment of the obscenely expensive stimulus package, unemployment continues to climb while the president jets all over the country and around the world with his vast entourage. (Introductory prepositional phrase, main clause)

Using words like however, furthermore, therefore, still and meanwhile provide links and continuity from one sentence to another.

The tea parties continue. Meanwhile, liberals continue to push their pork-heavy agendas.

The tests were conclusive. Still, there is a question of whether or not the illness is psychosomatic or physical.

There are instances when a comma is not necessary after an introductory clause. Here's how to tell the difference.

Use a comma:

  • After an introductory clause when the introduction has a subject and verb of its own (dependent clause).

  • After a long introductory prepositional phrase or more than one introductory prepositional phrase when there are more than five words before the main clause.

  • After introductory verbal phrases, some appositive phrases or absolute phrases.

  • If there is a distinct pause in order to avoid confusion. When you read it aloud, do you pause? Would the reader have to read the sentence more than once to understand it? If you answer yes, a comma is needed.

Do not use a comma:

  • After a brief prepositional phrase of less than five words.

  • After a restrictive (essential) appositive phrase. My best friend Connie and I met when we took driver's education in high school. (noun or pronoun is green and appositive is in yellow)

  • To separate the subject from the predicate.
  • (see below)

    Writing, rewriting and editing a novel is one of the easiest parts of being a writer when you consider the time and effort necessary to promote and market the published book.

    To write a book without any idea of how to market and sell it is a waste of the writer's and the publisher's time.

    It is difficult to trust someone who has blatantly lied to you over and over while professing their friendship and honesty.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me. There is still more information on commas to come, but next week should finish this comma coma once and for all. Until then, may all your grammars goofs be easily fixed.