Live Every Week Like It’s Shark Week

 

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Ever since I was a little kid and saw Jaws for the first time,  I’ve been in awe and fear of sharks. They are so fascinating and full of mystery. After watching Shark Week this year I’ve come to realize that the people who spend their entire lives studying these magnificent and terrifying creatures still have so much to learn about them.

While I’m certainly no expert, I learned something about sharks that is so supremely weird. I thought all sharks gave birth to live pups, AKA baby sharks, but when my husband and I paid a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium this year we were both taken by surprise when a volunteer pointed out a shark egg, with a little baby shark inside! Sharks lay eggs? That is so bizarre, but, it gets even better.

We learned that sharks can have their babies in three different ways:

  • Live Birth called viviparity, similar to how mammals give birth. This can be especially dangerous for the pup since its father may try to eat it!
  • Hatching from an egg called oviparity. The eggcase is tough and the shark sometimes lays them in crevices so predators like seals or other sharks can’t get at them. After the shark vacates the egg case, the empty shell is often referred to as a mermaid’s purse. I can’t help but love something so mythological.
  • A combination of egg and live birth called ovoviviparity. Here is where it gets weird and kind of brutal. In some ovoviviparous sharks, the siblings will eat each other! As they grow teeth they turn on the other sharks in the womb to make more room until only one is reigning as victor.
Photo credit Matt Brisher Flickr Creative Commons

Photo credit Matt Brisher Flickr Creative Commons

It doesn’t seem to matter whether the female shark has a live birth, lays eggs, or uses a combination of egg and live birth, the amazing thing about the female is that there can be one to five males who fathered the pups. Some shark species can give birth from four to twenty pups.

Clearly there is so much to learn from these outstanding sea creatures.

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A Wedding Anniversary

We are remembering Joe and Virginia today as they share fifty-two years of marriage. Virginia and Joe daily read a Scriptural text to help them have a spiritual bent to their day. Joe looked down at the date and looked back up at Virginia to say Happy anniversary! To which she replied, Thank you, and went over to give him a kiss. For someone with the kind of memory issues Joe has, this was heart-warming to hear. We wish them a very happy day!

 

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“A Successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt everyday.” – Andre Maurois

How to Grow a Writer

Like plants, writers need a few basic instructions to grow. Here are five short and easy tips:

1. Prepare your writer by giving it the right environment. This may seem simple: pen, ink, paper…er,  computer, keyboard, writing software (that’s the one I like!) Whatever your tools, your writer has needs, supply them. Is the space frequented by family members or roommates? Or is it secluded? Is the area cluttered, organized, or a healthy mixture of both? Does the environment include music? Either Punk, Classic Rock, Country, or Classical? I prefer to give my writer quiet time, but that’s just me.

2. Give your writer plenty of water, food, and sunlight. This means you have to nourish your writer by reading. Read your favorite authors, read ones you only like so-so. Read fiction (any genre), read history and nonfiction, read memoirs and biography, read about science and biology. Reading expands your writer’s knowledge so your writer can–you know–write. It will also help develop your writer’s tastes and style. Your writer will also  learn what they don’t like to write about and what they do like to write about. In addition, your writer will learn how not to write. Of course this is subjective to each writer.

3. Fertilize your writer in the form of praise. Your writer could succumb to crippling self-doubt, lack of courage, or simple procrastination, resulting in stunted growth. Praise is essential, not too much though! Over-praise will burn the tender growth, and what you will be left with is an unproductive writer. The objective is to have a steady flow of creative sprouting.

4. Maintain and watch your writer. Pull out any weeds of distraction, or toxic negativity. These will choke the writer and diminish growth.

5. An idea, somewhat debated, is to surround your writer with sound. This may stimulate growth. Perhaps the vibrations your writer receives are in the form of a writer’s group or forum. Hearing feedback and constructive criticism can be beneficial for encouraging growth and inspiration in the writer. But it is up to you, really.

Notebooks

Of course this is all tongue-in-cheek, but I hope you gleaned a few good tips on how to grow as a writer. What is your writing technique? What has worked for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section of this blog.

Lazing Around on a Caribbean Cruise Vacation

I’ve been noticeably missing for most of December and if you really want to know what I’ve been up to well then here is visible proof. Paul and I went on a vacation to celebrate our 20-year-anniversary.

First we traveled to the north part of Florida to visit family. Then after a few days visiting and cooing over new babies and young ones we traveled to the south part of Florida. There I met up with my long-time friend Leigh. She is looking pretty good too!

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We went to the neatest estate in Miami. It is a museum now but once was known as Villa Vizcaya, a sprawling mansion built in 1916 fit for a king. I recommend it if you are in that part of the world and looking for something really amazing to do.

Then the cherry on top of our vacation was a cruise to the Caribbean. What was unusual about this cruise was that we traveled north first! Charleston, SC was our first stop and we stayed there three wonderful days. Besides touring Fort Moultrie (there is a very entertaining video to watch) and Fort Sumter, we saw gorgeous plantations and historic homes, and fit in some souvenir shopping.

Plantation, Charleston SC

We also took a day trip to Savannah, GA. Here I am standing next to a statue of Johnny Mercer, legendary songwriter.

Johnny Mercer Statue, Ellis Square, Savannah, GA

After that we headed south (for real this time) to Haiti, Dominican Republic and Bahamas. Along the way we entered the Bermuda Triangle and watched a Meteor Shower. Amazing!

We leave 2013 with this relaxing picture in mind:

Bahama Beach

The Diary of Anne Frank: Perhaps Hiding was Not a Great Idea

Melk train station in Lower Austria

While watching The Diary of Anne Frank, the 2009 BBC version, I was suddenly struck with the idea that going into hiding was not the best thing the Frank and van Pels (van Daan) family could have done. My opinion stems from something Joe said in his memoir, THE ALTERED I. He told me that in the concentration camp of Melk, big, strapping, strong men (soldiers, prisoners of war) came in, but quickly died. They couldn’t take the transition. Camp life was just too hard, too horrid and squalid. Joe said that within six weeks some of them hadn’t survived. He on the other hand, scrawny, starved, and barefoot had survived some of the worst situations.

Perhaps going into hiding did a great disservice to the Franks, van Pels (van Daan’s) and Mr. Pfeffer (Mr. Dussel). Although they had limited rations, had to be as quiet as mice, could hardly stir all day long, and lived in cramped quarters, they still had it more comfortable than living inside a concentration camp. When they were inevitably found, a tragedy to be sure, they were ill-prepared for the hardships of transportation, starvation, and camp life.  It’s no surprise they died. And so close to the end of the war too. That’s the disturbing part.

I wish they hadn’t been found in their secret annex! I wish they had all survived. I wish Margot Frank’s diary had been recovered as well as Anne’s. But sadly this didn’t happen. Although I had seen this movie (not necessarily this version) many times, read the book, and often pondered the cruelty of their demise, I was touched more deeply this time around.  Although she is just a young girl, Anne’s diary had a profound effect on future generations of young people. Those Nazis who rounded them up were so superior, so full of self-importance. But who remembers them? Who were they? No one knows. Their names are forgotten. As weird as this sounds, I wanted to shout out to the Nazi oafs on the screen Leave her alone! Don’t you know who she is? She’s more important than you’ll ever be!

Anne’s name remains. Anne’s story will continue as long as people want to know it. . . so I guess that means forever. That very little girl and her diary became a treasure to us who value such things.

A part of me wishes they had taken their chances in the selections to begin with, but then that beautiful diary might not have been written. That goes to show that we can’t know the impact our decisions will make on our lives. We can only hope for the best. Decisions like these aren’t easy to make, and who is to say which way is the better choice? If they had all made it and only come out of hiding after the war was over, then definitively we could say  that was the right decision. People during those times had to survive the best way they knew how. That’s a true statement where Joe is concerned. He made drastic decisions in order to survive.  For him there will always be that guilt, that question mark.

Of the eight souls in the hidden annex, only Otto Frank survived, and Anne’s diary. At least we have that.

What to do (and not do) While Waiting for Your Book to be Published

I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands lately since signing that Holy Grail of a publishing contract and waiting for said book to actually be published.

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabrie...

The Damsel of the Sanct Grael, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti: medieval romance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most authors who have been around this publishing block a few times dig in and write another book. Of course, if you are like me and barely know how to use the tools in your Word program, then you’ve been gobsmacked!  There are a number of things you should be doing. Sitting around twiddling your thumbs waiting for your publisher to tell you what to do isn’t one of them.

Not that I ever thought that. I went into this situation with my eyes wide open. I knew the rules had changed since the early days of publishing and now a substantial amount of marketing was squarely on my shoulders. I just didn’t know where to go or how to get started and it all seemed daunting, and techie, and alien to me. So here is a brief list of things I discovered and that just might be useful to you, the burgeoning writer:

Step One: learn how your computer works.

Step Two: learn how to back up files. For some time it has been suggested opening up a drop-box account and simply shift your files there. I have been too overwhelmed with learning everything else there is to learn that I haven’t taken this step myself. . . yet. But I will! In the meantime, my computer automatically backs up to an external hard drive and I feel comfortable with that system. And yes, I hired someone to help me, just so you know before reading step three.

Step Three: if any of this is over your head hire an IT guy, or a computer fix-it guy, or gal (don’t want to presume) and let them handle it!

Step Four: set up you social media sites. This will take time, cause a headache, make you crazy and cross-eyed, but you just have to do it, so there! Not to mention all the passwords and user I.D.’s you will have to set up. Write them all down and keep them somewhere safe.

Step Five: learn how the social media sites work. Sometimes just a picture will suffice. Sometimes a sentence or two and a link (go back to Step One: learn how to work your computer) Simply cut and paste the URL and this will take readers down a rabbit hole right to where you want to lead them, hopefully. If it is any consolation I’m still learning. For example Twitter. I had no idea how to work it, I just wrote something and clicked on the tweet button. I had no idea where it went or what it all meant. You will also want to learn about ow.ly and bit.ly for Twitter. . . take my word on that.

Step Six: Start a Blog. If this proves problematic for you, don’t stress it, don’t do it. Content yourself with social media, or whatever is easiest or suits your personality. There are a lot of different ways to market yourself nowadays. Don’t limit yourself.

Step Seven: write blogs or short articles for other bloggers. Where to start? Facebook, Writer’s Literary Cafe, LinkedIn. These are all excellent places to find bloggers looking for content for their blog. The easiest is to write an author interview.  In your search engine look up typical author interview questions (you supply the answers) and customize the questions for your book, your genre and your personality.  This really works. I am personally grateful to all those bloggers out there who generously invited me to write for them. You can also write for news sites like examiner.com or Yahoo!Contributor Network. Click here to read my articles: April’s Yahoo! Articles.

Step Eight: if you have all this down cold, are already doing this sort of thing, then by all means write your next book!

In my opinion these steps are good to follow even if you are going down the self-published lane. It all comes down to marketing. So while you are designing your font, your front cover, your back cover, getting expert reviews, setting up your author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble (and where ever else you can dream up), and learning how to create your space, you will need to tack on some of the above-mentioned steps.

Whatever you do don’t do nothing at all. Now is the time to build your platform, make a brand for yourself, make your unique voice heard. Many authors are doing this very thing, so don’t hold back and don’t be shy. I fondly remember what my publisher said to me in an email: “You are an author now, act like it. Get out there and get some interviews done.” Then she kindly shared some helpful links. Remember you are authors. Get out there and act like it.

April signing her book publishing contract with LeRue Press for THE ALTERED I

April signing her book publishing contract with LeRue Press for THE ALTERED I

What other suggestions do you have while waiting for your book to be published? I would love to hear about it.

Fall Resolutions: Plunge into the Project at Hand and Fight Off Hesitation

As so many of my fellow bloggers have posted it is finally autumn! I didn’t realize how much in common I had with so many people who really love this time of year. The mornings are crisp, bright, and clean. No wonder each day I wake up and feel energized to take on my day. By take on my day I mean clean!

Autumn

I am in an eternal cycle of re-organizing right now. I don’t know why I can’t get ahead of it, maybe it’s all the marketing on my social media sites that is taking up some of my vital energy? Could be, but I won’t lay all the blame on Facebook. I’m a natural born procrastinator.  Something I have been trying to break free from for some time. I must be doing somewhat okay because how else could I have finished my first book, right? Well, now I’m using the excuse of “I have to organize first,” as my next ploy as to why I haven’t started that historical novel I’ve been daydreaming about for five years.

English: Hesitation by Alfred Garth Jones

English: Hesitation by Alfred Garth Jones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must confess, I did write my first sentence. Want to read it?

I’m still too shy, but I will give you a clue: the story is based on actual occurrences in my husbands family during WWII, plus a lot of made up stuff that didn’t happen. The main characters will be a boy, around thirteen, and his older sister, about age twenty-five. They will be caught up in the whirlwind of the Holocaust and each of them face obstacles to their survival. Each will learn to survive in their own unique way. Along the way they will meet others trying to ensure their own lives as well. Since I love art, there is going to be a mystery thrown in about a missing, priceless work of art. How can a book about the Holocaust not have a Nazi or two thrown in? So there will be that too.

I have more to tell you, but I should really save that for the manuscript. There will most likely be several drafts and then a professional edit, but not before my husband critiques it in his usual tender way: “Eww, take that part out. It doesn’t make sense!” or “Yuck, re-write!” Truthfully, the re-writes always turn out better with his review. My pride must endure the pain of it all. I’d rather take the bad review from him than any of my dear readers. For you, I want only the best before your eyes.

Why am I explaining all of this? I’m telling you so it will be out there that another book is in the works and I will be held accountable for finishing the story. I work well under pressure! I realize I’m only accountable to myself, no one is out there holding their breath, waiting for a book. There are so many wonderful talented authors actually getting the writing done. I know because I’ve been reading their fantastic stories! So what is another book? Well, I guess it’s just something I have to do.

English: New Year's Resolutions postcard

English: New Year’s Resolutions postcard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m going to take this quote by author Steven Pressfield to heart: “Resistance knows that the longer we noodle around ‘getting ready,’ the more time and opportunity we’ll have to sabotage ourselves. Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.”

Since the fall is usually my time for starting a new year, I’m diving in now.

What are your autumn resolutions? I would love to hear about your projects.