Archive for May, 2010

Moisturize and revitalize

When the winter season changes into spring we think about exfoliating the skin and moisturizing in preparation for summer exhibition.

What about the brain cells, how do we moisturize, revitalize and exfoliate the brain?

As writers how does one keep the imagination juiced up and ready to go?

It had been a while since I had taken a break. Using an upcoming wedding as an excuse to take a well-deserved break, I headed to the Pocono Mountains in NJ to retreat and regroup.

You don’t really realize you need a break until you are in the middle of one. So my genius mind said that I should book a place in the woods where cell phones only work sometimes and internet is scarce.

On day one, I was woken up by the crows. Large, noisy carefree blackbirds that could be the journalists of the bird world… forever watchful and squawking all news first thing in the morning for all to hear.

Spiders of all sizes dominated all entrances and exits of the condo adding a spectrum of fear to the equation. I am as you may relate that I am quite afraid of the nasty critters. I believe that they know it also. They wait for me with trip wire and hidden webs. The smallest beastie will make me evacuate the areas just as quickly as the larger one – I don’t discriminate. I hate them all equally and I am consistent in my opinion.

*shiver*

The evenings were awesome, with no lights to intrude on Nature’s wonder the stars seemed that much brighter and the moon much more of a necessity.  The moon shone brightly over the lake and through the tall pine trees creating a spooky effect. The wind whispered through the branches lightly touching the skin like a wraith.

I managed to catch a couple of sunsets over the lake. Ribbons of colour lace the approaching night sky like strings on a blanket being pulled to cover the earth… and yet there is a gentleness that makes you pause and appreciate the tender balance of harmony reflected by the lake’s water.

Taking new roads and getting lost was a pleasure with no running clock. Days ran into nights and the week into the weekend with an unmatched rapidness. Plush greenery mottled with varying shades and hues covered the layered landscape, dominated only by the blue shale of the mountain’s side or intrusion of some path, whether it be a meandering river or highway. Soon it would be time to the routine and all highways will cease to meander. All highways become causeways and are reminiscent of the straightest path between two points. The GPS will again be a mandate with the shortest path being the primary configuration.

*sigh*

I had great plans on accomplishing many writing tasks and will admit that I did not get to many on the task list. More importantly though my brain took a rest and I feel like I’m ready to conquer my world again.

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Profiling’s place

Howl,

The dog sat on top of the mountain and raised his nose to the heavens releasing his soulful cry.

That line or something similar is probably nestled in every book referencing a werewolf or shape-shifter. At initial glance, nothing jumps out as funny, after-all all dogs have descended from the wolf – right?

Well my mountain top is the top of my couch and my dog is a pug. Yes he tilts his round face upwards and howls. He doesn’t have a snout, but he doesn’t let that stop him from pointing his flat face upwards to tell the world his sorrows. I suppose the funny thing is that the bigger dog with the nose cannot howl. She’s learning from the pug, but it’s an odd sound that comes out. I suppose practice makes perfect – right? Yikes!

If someone had told my Alpha pug that he shouldn’t howl until he had a nose, I’m sure that he would have given that person a piece of his mind. Not having a snout, or being short of stature has never stopped my little guy from over achieving.

Does this translate to writing?

Does a stereotype exist for every group? Probably just about. Where does your character belong? Is he or she nestled perfectly within that group? What are the extremes of the stereotype or profile and can the character play those up or down to bring an edge to the feature?

Knowing how to build a character is important to the growth of the story and the character him or herself. Sometimes modeling a character within a stereotype is a good place to start as there are accepted characteristics.

Fables used similar tactics when modeling their stories. The fox was sly, the owl wise etc…

Granted the readers may have accepted a particular stereotype for a type of character, but is there really any reason the character couldn’t break the mould and be what you needed him, her, or it to be?

Starbux your writing…

When I lived up north, I found that Dunkin Donuts made the best cup of tea. Starbuck’s, while they had the ambiance and perhaps cornered the gourmet coffee experience, they had nothing on the cup of tea. That thought process quickly changed after moving to South Florida. Starbuck’s definitely captured my attention and their hot Chai lattes… YUM about sums it all up.

So now we broach the ordering lingo that Starbuck’s consumers quite often use.

About that! I crossed the line! I crossed the line from one of those people who ridiculed the veinte, grande, tall lingo and I joined them. It took me quite a few months to figure out that what I really wanted was a hot Breve Chai Tea Latte with no foam – but when I did I was rewarded with a cup of perfection each and every consistent time.

*sigh*

So how does this pertain to writing you ask?

I’ve been submitting pieces of work for various contests and fundraisers. Each submittal has guidelines peculiar to the contest. Just as Starbuck’s offers that same cup of coffee as many ways as you can choose to order it, as a writer often you may find that your one manuscript must be tailored for each submittal in order to get the appropriate amount of attention. Anything submitted outside of the requirements could be immediate disqualification and permanent filing under ‘G’ for garbage by-passing even the slush pile.

Don’t think that by using quality stock paper or brightly colored paper that your manuscript will receive a higher priority. That’s like serving decaf to a caffeine drinker in an orange cup. It’s not going to work.

The best chance has to be to give them what they are looking for.

May I have a hot Tall Breve Chai Tea Latte please?

How to avoid baggage fees?

So there I was standing on the retractable ramp, one step on the plane and the other on the ramp when I heard the shrill voice.

“Ma’am”

Certainly she couldn’t be talking to me, I am still way too young to be a Ma’am. I sigh and with great reluctance turn to greet the approaching voice. The air hostess with claim tickets waving in hand was coming for me. About to board the plane with a 16″ backpack that is 10% full and a small laptop wheeler, I am now being asked to check a bag.

Hmmm – Not likely. The airline shall remain nameless, but they have a poor bag handling track record. Within one month they ruined a 5year old bag (I admit – time to get a new one) and a 2week old bag. Now they want to check my laptop. Let me have a quick think about that. NO!

I proceed to inform the nice air hostess that I fly regularly and both bags will fit under the seat. This was the truth with the exception I come to find out on the plane that I’m on there is barely any foot room by my seat because they have some contraption fitted under it. So I had a discussion with an air hostess grandly refusing to check my bag only to find out that she was partly right. My bag indeed did not fit under MY seat but practically every other seat on the plane – but I suppose the latter irrelevant. The kind gentleman next to be volunteered his foot space and my wheeler went under there with plenty of room for my small 16″ backpack and I was fortunate enough to just be able to sink into my seat and brood.

With my ire stoked and an hour plane ride, I could only think of the injustice, broken policies, and sometimish enforcement of the “rules” (I use this term loosely). Why did I have to pay to check my bag when I could just go to the podium and wait for them to state that they are out of room.

This must be the correct way to avoid being charged a baggage fee. Buy a 22″-26″ bag and make sure it is tall rather than wide that way you can lie it on its side and still close the overhead. Don’t worry that no one else can fit their bag in there – that shouldn’t be a major concern. As a matter of fact, if you just bring any bag to the podium they will check it with no charge once they make the “No Room” statement. So if you check in online, theoretically you could bring the largest bag possible and still not pay a penny.

No one looks at those tiny metal frames mounted against the white placards that ask: Does your bag fit here? Even though TSA agents and airline agents are standing right by them, these frames that are supposed to be used to enforce policy have become more like a vase of artificial flowers. Looked at from afar by first-time viewers but just part of the environment for the old-hands.

I witnessed passengers that somehow made it past two checkpoints with their oversized roller-boards.

Surely TSA’s lives would be that much easier through the checkpoints if more people checked their oversized bags.

How fair is it with this cockamamie zoning rule that Mr. 26″ bag can get his stuff in the overhead and the lady with the claim checks is running down the ramp after all of us in Zone5?  I know – the answer could be simple. I should just pay and arm and a leg and fly first class.

My thoughts on that are this: If I am seated in first class and still am the last one on the plane, do you really think that there would be room at the inn for my bag?  I think NOT!

The virtual bookshelf

Thoughts of life/death have circled back around with recent losses for folks in my circle of influence. Sure we live to expire, but what logic is behind who gets what kind of shelf life?

*sigh*

I couldn’t help but reflect on death as both an instance as well as a journey while filling out my author’s questionnaires for marketing purposes of my pending publications. How much of myself am I willing to share with the world? How long will anything I publish have a shelf life for?

Conventional books have a very short shelf life if they are not immediately branded as a best-sellers. eBooks are charting a new course with a longer life in the catalogs not taking up too much digital room on the virtual bookshelf.

Everything has a shelf life. Each of us hopefully lasts longer than the conventional book on a major player’s bookshelf and yet without the appropriate level of promotion and breathing of new life in the release of subsequent titles interest stagnates.

I don’t believe that any particular recipe for success exists. If it did, the mould would be coveted by all for cloning. Instead I am left to chart a course minding the guidance of subject matter experts in the industry with hopes that the path that I have opted to follow will lead me to  some level of success. I suppose any life is no different, whether it be the life of an individual or the life of a book. My hope for all is for a jacket to jacket journey of life filled with passion in all that matters most with a long dust-free shelf life.

I was… Where?

The city erupted from the forest greenery like a cystic pus filled pimple. Smog hung about the sky scrapers like concealer masking the densely populated protrusion from  the air.

An alternate perspective might find great joy in the city, relishing in the night life and sparkling lights. The dizzying heights of the scrapers providing amazement and awe.

Did we both go to the same place?

The other day I watched my son debate with his Godfather about the specifics of the role he played in upgrading an Xbox. Did he install the lighted panel or just hold the plexi-glass? At the end of the conversation we all wondered if he was even there? Granted he was attempting to debate with a seasoned debater, but do we all fall into the same or similar trap? Do we succumb to voice of others simply because we are unable to communicate our position.

What role do I play? What am I looking at? Do I have a consistent perspective? Am I satisfied with that? Can I stand my ground and communicate my position to others?

So I remember the age old question on perspective involving the Grand Canyon. If you do not see the Grand Canyon in all its glory with the setting sun casting red and orange hued sparkles off of the minerals in the cliff walls, have you truly seen it? More specifically if you venture to the Grand Canyon on a rainy overcast day and see nothing but a muddy ditch, have you really seen it? Is the Grand Canyon the splendor or the muddy ditch?  And do you keep going back until you’ve really seen it or experienced it to your satisfaction or that of others?

Knowing where you stand is important. Research helps to support your position. Understand the bigger picture and how you plug in.

If you really feel the city is naught more than a cystic pimple – How many share your position? What is the green rating of the city? What information do you have to support your position?

Knowledge, understanding, and passion all translate into confidence when writing and speaking.

Grounded.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of those who mother and not just because you are a female with children. To the Mom’s first and foremost because your job never ends. To the single Dads because I know it’s tough to play both roles. To those who are care givers because often it is a thankless job.

May your day pass everyday knowing that you are appreciated.

Today I am surrounded by my loved ones, simply enjoying the love showered upon me as Mother’s Day is celebrated; and I stop and am enjoying them. I am fortunate truly to have family and friends who keep me grounded. They are all special in that they don’t wait for the one day a year to recognize me and tell me they love me. I know every day – from the gentle nudge sending me to bed after I’ve fallen asleep at the computer or that last cup of tea for the night when they know that I have a deadline to meet. They are the reason I get up every morning and keep going into the wee hours of the night. Any time that I have wanted to run because troubles have felt too burdensome, I have them to reflect upon.

They ground me. They are my reality.

So often we look towards the future with hope, full of expectations. We yearn to be somewhere else. More successful perhaps? A new job? Different circles? No matter what the actionable goal maybe we embrace the future with an apprehensive certainty for those who confidently walk forward.  A day such as today reminds us that while we stride forward to meet our objectives using our well honed plans, that we take the time to live in the the present remembering those who care about us whether near or far.

For my family, who has grown with me, I thank you for believing in me as I have and will always believe in you. On a day like today, with title and date becoming insignificant, I remember, acknowledge, and appreciate you too.

With love,

B