Monthly Archives: November 2013

Big Weekend… at home

Sometimes I think I must be un-American. I hate shopping. Well, hate is a strong word. I like shopping, on certain occasions. I do not enjoy shopping when there are many other people shopping.

My sister-in-law does the black Friday thing every year. Fortunately, she has never asked me to go. I like being around people, I just want to maintain my own space, and pushing through crowds to get to the next item on my list is not the way to go. Besides the fact, it is annoying to plan on getting something, and then find that it is all sold out.

Over the years I have tried several methods to deal with this problem and still get all my shopping done. One particular year, during a stent at a retail department store, I bought Christmas all year long. Literally. I had the entire top of my closet stuffed with trash bags that hid everyone’s gifts. I bought things that were on sale, and had tons for everyone in the family by the time Christmas arrived. It was a blast handing all of it out.

There have also been years I went the opposite, waiting until the last minute and grabbing one small item for each person on my list in a midnight trip to wal-mart. I spent a lot less money that year for sure.

This year, I am not going to be doing a lot of shopping. Going to get a few gifts for the kids in the family and that is about it. Otherwise, I am spending all my time making new addys for my books. I have also been reading a few other authors works and posting some reviews, a nice switch I think.

The house is really quiet right now, which is also nice. No kids here this weekend, and I will be missing the noise soon, but for right now, I am really enjoying it.

New Catagory – About the World

So I woke up this morning with thoughts pouring out of my brain. I know, big shocker right? I realized that I have things that I want to talk about that are not really about me and they are not really about my book. I need a new category.

I am going to call this new category About the World, because I have little pieces I want to share that have to do with the world as a whole. For example, as a teacher, I have some thoughts and ideas about the world of education, and society as a whole, that I just need to get off my chest.

So let me share this little piece of new broader insight that I want to put out there. If you got something for free, does it really have value to you? I realize that if you won a prize, say a free car, that would have value. You could look it up and say it was worth how much ever the car would cost you.

Furthermore, you could sell the car and then you would have some monetary amount. That would have value. But what if you were given something you couldn’t see? Would it have value? Would you care whether or not you got it?

This is how I am seeing the classroom right now – full of students who are getting something for ‘free’. Of course it isn’t free. Education is very expensive in the big scheme of things. The problem is, it is free to the kids. It doesn’t cost them anything. The law says they have to go, they have to take it. The issue with that is, they don’t see any value in it, or at least many of them don’t.

Rather than go in wanting to learn what they can, a segment of the school population is just waiting to turn old enough to quit, or just getting by until they are done. So what are they doing while they wait? Buying and selling drugs, damaging school property, fighting and or harassing other students, giving teachers grief, sleeping, having sex on campus, you name it.

The point is, how do we give our kids the understanding of what value this time in their life really has? I know there are many issues feeding into this – MANY issues, and I will talk about some of them at a later time, no worries. For now I want to let this idea percolate for a bit… how do we give something we can’t see or touch value when it didn’t ‘cost’ us anything?

Finally… a Blurb Worth Sharing =)

I worked on this all day today – and with the help of a fellow author DAMIAN STEVENSON, this is what we came up with…

Book 1 – A New Life: Life of Recovery

The Dragons raised her to be strong. They taught her how to kill. They got more than they bargained for…

Now she is free, or so she thinks, but can she truly escape her brutal past, finding true love amidst the sex and intrigue?

Tori Farrell is on a mission to find her true identity, to break the ties to a dark underworld for good, and to save the people she cares about most – the family she has never known.

She wants a new life, but first she must lay to rest the demons of her past.

 

I made a poster for it too…

Book 1

I really like this – it was a day well spent!!!

Blog Review – the First Word Is In!!!

I am so excited, I can hardly contain myself. My first blogged review is UP!!!    http://msme28reviews.blogspot.com/2013/11/review-new-life-life-of-recovery-by.html is the link, and it is 4 stars WOOT!!!

I realize many people would be disappointed at not getting 5 on their first try, but getting 4 on my the first blog review for my first novel ever just makes me so ecstatic – especially when I will be the first to tell you, Book 1 – Life of Recovery is not the best one in the series.

I think it is good, don’t get me wrong, but  as it is dark and full of background information, almost like a prequel to the rest of the set. And I know they get better as they go…

Now I cannot wait to see what others have to say about this book, as well as the ones that will be following. Thank you so much Myra for reading and posting this for me, I know being the first on something like this is tough, as there are so many authors out there now, all wanting to get their books read and reviewed, and I truly appreciate your time.

I realize this may qualify as the worst blog post ever, but I have to go now… I need a tissue…

Much love,

Sam

Working for a Living… confessions of a hit and run employee

I am keenly aware of the hardships of those who are stuck in a job or career that no longer, if ever, brought them joy. I love what I do, don’t get me wrong, but since deciding to publish my stories, I have realized that soon I will walk away from my full time job in pursuit of something else, and that makes some of my days now more trying than they have to be.

If you read my previous post, Random Vs. Random, you may have gathered that this is something that I do and have done several times during my life. I have to admit, I do have a hard time staying put. I have never, previous to my current job, held a position longer than 3 years at any given location, and now that I am in the process of transitioning again (I can say that this time because I didn’t just walk in and say ‘I quit’ and am actually not leaving for a few more months), I find myself reflecting on all the different types of jobs that I have held over the years…

Church Nursery Worker – My first job, I kept the nursery at our church on Sunday and Wednesday night. This was back in the late 1980’s, so $5.00 an hour was really good pay for 16 or 17 years old, even if it was only a few hours a week. I loved the kids and the experience I gained knowledge about being responsible and having people count on me.

Fast Food – During that time I also worked at a local fast food place one entire summer, and that was a crazy hectic time and a real eye-opener to see people / women in their 20’s and 30’s working at such a place. Minimum wage back then was $3.35 an hour, and it was important to me I think to see how hard life could be if I did not keep my head on straight and make it through school. I also worked at a second such establishment for 1 full year while attending college, and developed a deep loathing for the smell and demands of such a job. I would have to be pretty desperate to accept such a job today.

Flower Delivery Driver – I delivered flowers for a florist who owned a shop and attended our church for about 3 months time. It was a fun job, and I would pester the designers when I wasn’t busy to teach me things about how it all worked. That is the one thing I can say about all of the jobs I have held – as long as there was something new to learn, I didn’t mind it so much and rather enjoyed all those little bits of insight.

Data Entry Clerk – I did this job in several forms over my life, particularly as a temp when I just needed some income without the commitment of a full time job. It helps that I am proficient at so many types of software programs as well as being experienced at typing (90 wpm) and overall keyboarding with 10 key by touch. Thinking back, this was one of the easiest types of jobs, if all that was required was entering the data, but talk about monotonous… no that did not last long at all.

Substitute Teacher – if you have college hours and want a new appreciation for educators in our country, you should try this one. I did it twice, and I guarantee it will open your eyes as to what the men and women devoted to the betterment of our youth face every day. All I can say is, you haven’t lived until some 10 year old kid throws their book across the room and calls you a ‘bitch’ because you are just the sub and you still expect them to complete their assignment.

Medical Billing / file clerk – another fun one. Actually, I kept this job about 2 years, but after having my 3rd child I realized I needed something that paid better or all I was doing was working to pay the daycare. It was during this time that I cross trained to work with the social worker and the office manager to help them with higher level functions of the business, as well as spent time working with nurses and techs. Of course, I grilled everyone I could when I got the chance and was always eyes and ears open to take in what I could about the processes that were going on around me. All in all, I spent 2 years at the company, but my duties changed several times while I was there, so it wasn’t like I did the same exact job for 2 years straight.

Debt collector / patient accounts manager – I almost hate to admit this was a job I really got into. I had various numbers of employees who worked under me, so I did training and oversaw the ins and outs of the process. What I enjoyed most was organizing the process, as the office had no one in this position before I took it on, and I came in to clean it up and make it work, and I was damned good at it. However, after almost 3 years, I got restless again, and with no way to move up, I moved on. I guess you could say it was good timing, because this office actually closed not long after I left… good intuition.

Retail manager – I did this job at several locations over the years as well. My first and favorite was shoe department manager, and as a severely OCD type person, there was just something about perfectly aligned boxes in numerical order that made me almost high. That was my longest stint, lasing just over 2 and a half years and 3 Christmas seasons (I started there as a seasonal employee and moved up after the holiday). When I went back with the company a few years later, I took on different departments, and the last time I worked for them I worked in the back office taking care of the money and deposits, spending less than a year at each position after I left the shoes. A real shame that chain closed down completely… I really liked that store. My favorite part of this job – training the seasonal and new employees… what a blast.

Accounts Payable Clerk – if you don’t know what this is, it is the person who pays the bills for a company. It is also not as easy as it sounds if it is done properly. I loved and hated this job, as so much of it depended on other people doing their job well for you to do yours. I only did this for a year or less and I moved on, taking my plant and walking out at lunch one day. I also had this type of work as part of my duties from time to time, and it is just the sort of thing I could really enjoy if it paid well enough to make it worth my time.

Accounts Receivable Clerk – again, this job did not last long, only about 3 months. I had done this particular type of work in various other positions and the lady who hired me told me if I was good at it she would pay me well. Apparently, my definition of well and hers were two different things, and after my 90 days and she finally told me what my pay was going to be (and she claimed it was more than she had ever given anyone), I left. Should have pinned her to a number up front and not wasted the 90 days.

Receptionist – I have only done this job under the most dire conditions, as I detest answering phones and playing errand girl. I think I will starve before I do this on a daily basis again.

Teacher – yup. High School. And I truly love my job. If all I had to do was walk into a classroom and teach, it would be the coolest job ever. However, there are many things that go on outside that make it the most stressful job I have ever had. I am not even going to rant about all of them here; all I am going to say is this – classes are too large, budgets too small, and teachers don’t get paid near what they are worth. Sometimes you make a real difference in a kid’s life that needs it, and that can give you the best feeling ever. Too bad feeling good about your job doesn’t put food on the table. I may go back to this again some day, as I do love it. I just don’t need it right now, and need to get away from it more. Maybe a small private school next time.

Accounting / Auditor – I held this job for about a year, and I knew it was only short time when I took it, as I was finishing my bachelors and planning on changing towns. However, I loved this job too, as it was just the kind of detail work that I take pride in. It also was pretty independent, and any screw ups were mine. I could do this again some time, no problem.

Small Office Manager – I actually ran a small office in it’s entirety for about 6 months. I loved this job too, as it was all mine as well. However, there was actually one man who owned two separate businesses housed in the same building, and although I enjoyed my side, the girl who had the other side was very into drama, and I had a better offer fall into my lap and decided to move on… sigh. The good thing here, I learned all about both sides of the business, as I did any time I worked as a bookkeeper / accountant, and so I have knowledge about 4 separate industries that I would never have had if I never took on those little jobs.

Newspaper Delivery Driver – I moved to east Texas for a couple of years and found a small town in the midst of a group of small towns and rural areas north of the metroplex. It was a great place to live, but the economy was horrible, and many were out of work. The first week I was there, I attended a job fair for a new retail store where a couple of thousand people were applying for 80 positions, and that was my first time to see such desperate conditions. I was in shock. I started off at my favorite retail chain, but they closed that store, so I took this job just to pay the bills for about a year… and I loved it!!! It was mostly independent work, with lots to do and learn about. However, the industry is dying, or it appeared that way to me, and I eventually left the area and moved back closer to home and my mother. The best part of that job – where else can you drive 80 miles per hour down a dirt road at 2 am and get paid for it?

I did try to go to college right out of high school, but it actually took me 12 years to earn my degree. I also took classes for nursing, and decided that wasn’t for me, and changed my major 2 more times before finishing with a BS in management. Looking back at this list now, I can say one good thing about it – I do have a lot I could write about, and I am sure that I will.

Random Vs. Random

I love the word random. It implies so many things. I myself am a random person. That means that I have the tendency to change directions in quick, unpredictable moments of fancy. Now, those who have known me the longest are calling BS at this exact moment, because I am also known as a planner, keeping my work done far in advance and coming up with some very great plans. I keep my day’s schedule lined out, seeming to be upset when things are not moving according to plan. What they don’t realize is, that this is a coping mechanism to counteract my randomness and to help me be successful in a non-random world.

So what exactly does it mean to be random? To me, it means that I can think fast on my feet and can come up with information and ideas at a moments notice, and often these are great plans. I have held many jobs where this ability has served me well. Working with a large number of people, such as with the public, being able to change directions or come up with a plan on the fly is a great benefit. It also means that I am pretty unpredictable and have to work hard not to be scattered.

What it really means is that the creative juices always flow, and that I am thinking when there is no reason to be. I guess you could say I am planning, even when there is no benefit to planning. There have been times that I would have paid to make the never ending stream of thoughts that go on inside my head stop, and just be quiet, and enjoy the moment, and stop planning or thinking 5 steps ahead. Perhaps this is why those who know me and see me from the outside think I am a planner; because to some extent, they are right.

I am a planner. I plan ahead and hope for the best. Then I change the plan. Often. By the time we get there, how things go is seldom how my plan started out. Furthermore, having things go according to plan is sometimes downright  boring. I mean, I love doing things that I plan on for a while, but then after it has been going for a bit, or I really get good at it, I just get tired and I am ready to do something else. That’s random. Or was that the plan?

So here is my random act of the day – giving my books away. I changed my cover page here on my blog to explain how I am going to do that. If you are interested in checking out a FREE copy of my book – Life of Recovery, be sure to visit the main page on my blog. Now for the plan…. you need to be 18+, as this is an Adult Novel, and it is NOT a self-help book, nor is it of a religious base. If you are interested in receiving a free copy, please visit my new front page at https://samanthajacobey.wordpress.com/, as the page that I planned and put there is now boring to me and I have selected another to take its place. See, I guess that was the plan.

Tone and Poor Word Choice

This wasn’t the first item I wanted to cover from my last post in more detail, but it has become the most pressing in my mind since it was added. I have been reading some of the works of my fellow indie authors, and it has been a lot of fun seeing what they are up to. I have been thinking about what makes a work that is enjoyable, and I have come to strongly believe that word choice is a major player in that arena. Have you ever read a piece that had limited word choice? I am currently reading a book I shall not name, largely because I would never publicly bash someone’s blood sweat and tears unless I could not find a single ‘nice’ thing to say about it, and I do not want anyone to take this the wrong way. Beside, overall, the story is enjoyable, and although it was slow to warm up, it is coming along nicely, with one minor flaw: repetitive word use.

Now you may be wondering what I mean by that, so allow me to explain. Given all the words there are in the English language, we often have options that allow us to say exactly the same thing in a variety of ways. Why is it then, that writers become stuck in a rut and use the same words or phrases at regular intervals? This is something I mostly became aware of when I was rereading some of my own work, and I have made it my personal ambition to NOT reuse the same verbs, nouns and adjectives at too high a frequency. To say something is beautiful is nice. To say it twice on the same page detracts from the sincerity. To say it 3 or more times on the same page becomes monotonous.

How can one work to avoid falling into this boring habit? For starters, there is a nifty tool that can be accessed simply by double clicking a word to highlight it, then right clicking to view the alternate options under synonyms. Of course, you have to know exactly what the word means that you are implying, as well as the one that you are opting for, as the fine line between what you meant to say and what you actually said can be crucial. There was a post recently that I followed on FB discussing a self-published book that was horrid in this regard to the point of being hysterical. The author had followed this trick, but had chosen words that didn’t mean anywhere close to what was intended.

That leads us to the second part of using this device; if you aren’t 100% sure, or have any doubt, use the dictionary to look up either or both words, used and options, to be sure the alignment is there before you make the trade. I am sure you all know what a malapropism is, but in case any of you are not familiar with it, I will elaborate. This is a literary term that refers to using an incorrect word that sounds like the one that it is being mistaken for; such as referring to the kiddy pool as the kitty pool. If you were speaking, you might be able to get away with such a slip, but in writing, it stands out more, especially if you decide to switch out ‘kitty’ to make it more interesting and end up with some outlandish non-plausible word choices in it’s place.

Finally, I feel I should address what all of this has to do with Tone, as I titled this article with the purpose of making that connection. The tone of your work comes largely from the words you put into it, kind of like you are cooking up a pot of stew that is flavored by the items you put in the pot. If all you put in are potatoes, then all you get is potato soup. However, if you toss in a wider variety of items, you get a great deal more flavor, and you are able to adjust the tone of your work more finely, taking your reader to new highs and lows more easily and far more believably. Ignoring this fact could drive readers away from your offerings, as having to read that people never walk, run, jog, meander, wander or saunter anywhere, but they are always ‘headed’ where ever they are going can at some point leave your readers looking for the exit to escape what might have been a good story with just a little more appropriate descriptive language.

My Writing Style

I have started getting a few reviews and bits of feedback from other authors, and I have found what they have to say very interesting. I also continue getting feedback from ‘ordinary’ people, and I can’t help but notice how different the feel of these two groups are, and I wonder if it comes from the different reasons that people are reading my work. For example, those who are reviewing for the purpose of giving me feedback seem to be very caught up in the writing style of my work. One such reviewer sent me a list of things to change after reading less than 50 pages of the book. I pursued the issue, curious how this person felt about certain elements that I have employed, only to discover that the reviewer missed out on key details I was trying to convey. This was due in part to the manner of the reading – looking for certain things and not actually absorbing what I was saying. This has had me thinking now for several days, and I have come to the conclusion that how and why a person is reading a book will reflect in their judgment of the author’s writing.

Firstly, I want to point out that understanding the purpose of the book can or should help with seeing that the style of the writing will be affected, and rightly so. Specifically, in the blurb for Life of Recovery, I stated that I would be using a series of current events and flashbacks to share the past event’s of my heroines life. That having been put out there as a stated choice, I was a bit surprised to receive a review in which the reader complained about having the story told in this manner, and would rather have had it told straight through chronologically. I had to laugh at this, honestly, firstly because I did not just decide on a whim to use this particular style or technique. This is not something that I am ever going to ‘fix’ in my writing, as this is my style or choice, particular for the book at hand. I also state in my blurb that there is an unfinished feel to the book, as this is not the end of the story, and is only the beginning. This same reviewer complained about that too, not getting all the answers up front was a concern, but I assure you, all things will be revealed when the time has come. I feel like readers who are reading for the pleasure of the story will find this style of story telling to lend itself well and achieve the purpose of the book.

Secondly, I had the afore mentioned reviewer who only read a small portion of the book and sent the list of ‘fixes’ that needed to be implemented. This one really got my attention, as it made me realize that some people actually expect all authors to write with the same or similar style if they want to be ‘good.’ One particular thing that was mentioned was that my characters needed to talk more and they should use more dialogue and less description. Hello? My style is descriptive, for one. If it is being described, there is a reason or purpose for it being there. In the opening of my book, I describe the room in great detail, and how my heroine explores the room to find that it has been completely stripped of everything that is not essential. Said reviewer thought I should have been more flowery such as ‘so and so’ (insert your favorite author here) and that would make my work better. Haha, I am not ‘so and so’ for one, and I sure don’t want to sound like them. I want to sound like me, case closed. Furthermore, my main character doesn’t talk in the beginning for a reason, and this is something that will be brought out as her story continues. Again, this is a style of writing that suites what I am trying to convey, and I think that if the reader isn’t looking for things that need to be judged, they are more apt to accept and even understand the purpose behind what is being imparted and through what style of disclosure.

Thirdly, I write as third person omniscient so that I can move where the action is and get inside a character’s head when I need to, but I try not to spend too much time in there, as that would actually detract from my story in my opinion. This is supposed to be a suspense thriller that has mysteries to discover. I give plenty of clues as to what is going on, but to actually get inside a character’s head and spell it out would be… lame. I don’t want you to know everything at once, and I certainly do give lots of commentary. It’s all part of the style, part of the world I am creating. One of the reasons that I have broken the story up into short segments, is that the tone of each book will be different. I don’t think reviewers always consider this when they are reading a particular installment, especially if they think that all come afterwards will be exactly the same as the one they just read, because I warn you, they won’t be. One commented that each book should be able to stand alone, and they each will stand alone, having all the elements they should to complete the segment of the story they are telling. That being said, I think that those who are reading for pleasure will be driven for more as they become more absorbed into this place that they are slowly being drawn into.

Finally, what about those ordinary readers, who aren’t reviewing or looking for anything other than what is unfolding before them? Well, they love it! I continue to get feedback from people through emails and messages that they can’t wait for the second book, they love my characters, etc. I am very pleased to hear this, as I feel strongly vindicated that my style is worthy of my target audience. I hope the numbers continue to grow as we move from one book to the next. I know that my style for each book is slightly different, as I use different techniques depending on how and why I want certain aspects of the story to be revealed. I also know that one of my main purposes in all of my books is to push the reader to wonder why certain things are taking place and to consider the possible meanings and outcomes of the events. As I reach the end of what I am saying here, I realize that this is only the beginning of my understanding, and there is a great deal to be said about how we used style and tone to convey the story that is unfolding between our pages of text. That is how it is for me, each thought leading to another, and each conclusion posing a new question. I guess I will have to dig in and take on one specific element at a time and see where this leads me.

Going to the Gym

I took the day off from work yesterday to take care of some book related stuff and decided to start the day with a trip to the gym. I haven’t been going in a couple of months. I have just been too busy with writing my novels, work and other things. Really, I lost my gym buddies and have lacked the motivation that having someone to answer to about not showing up brings. Now I have people pulling me away instead.

So we did a really easy workout – or it should have been. Me, I couldn’t finish anything and was exhausted by the time I left. So today I am sore as hell; shoulders, stomach, thighs, and even that all important rear end. The only part of me that doesn’t hurt to move is my fingers. I guess they are the only real part of me I have been using for months now.

I have a plan though. I am going to start going on Saturdays, when there is no one who will be expecting me to be somewhere else, and I can actually take some ‘me’ time. I also intend to start doing a bit of working out here at the house. There are always easy exercises that you can do at home, its just the fact of getting out of the chair and getting on with it.

I love my gym though. Great crowd there, and not like any that I ever belonged to in the past. I tell people I go to Cross Fit, and I get some funny looks from people. I realize I don’t really look the part, but the people who know me have seen how much I have changed over the last year and a half in that regard, and I am not even hard core about it.

I love the fact that you don’t use a lot of fancy machines and all the exercises are more natural to everyday movements. I also love the fact that I feel better and can move more freely and confidently since I joined. It is a gym that I understand is not for everyone, but it is definitely the best place for me. It is one of the things I am looking forward to when I am able to not be tied down to my current profession – going to the gym regularly.

Putting the word out…

For days now, I have been working on looking for book blogs for reviews, giveaways, etc. It has been pretty interesting to see all of the time and work that some of the sites have had put into them. I made a page here so that I could start keeping tabs on some of the ones that I like the best. Now I just have to go back and find the ones that I saw before that.

I must admit, working on something like this can be quite tedious. Especially since there is no set way that people want the information. Some want it boom – there it is, others seem to want to see a dog an pony show. I also never realized just how many book review blogs there were out there – and believe me there is more than you can go through in a day, or even a couple of days.

What I would really like is to just find a couple that I really connect with and can work with. I don’t think that is too much to ask. I gave out 15 copies of my book, and only have 1 left that has not given me feedback. All but one of those wants to know when they can get the next book and to hurry up about it, which is great!!! Therefore, I am confident people are going to like it, if I can ever get them to read it. I am just such a person of action, and I hate ‘waiting’ for people to reply to me and tell me whether or not they are interested… call me impatient.

Oh well, back to the searching… Later.

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