Simply Writing Simple Words

I was elated yesterday to look in on my books at Amazon, and see that a 5-star review showed up for one of the books. It really helped to allay my fears that maybe I should quit writing.

I used to conduct training classes and write training manuals for a weight loss company. I never perceived the manuals to be creative writing, because I was simply writing down everything I said during the classes.

The people attending were from all walks of life – people with high school diplomas to franchise owners with college degrees. I remember my boss telling me that the manuals should be written at about a fifth- to seventh- grade level. He said it was simply for clarity of understanding, and the classes would move along more quickly. Information could be found and taken from the manuals more easily as well.

One of my trainers was trying to improve her vocabulary. It was fine when we were together, and we would laugh at how silly she sounded at times, but I told her she wasn’t to practice her newfound vocabulary words in the classroom. It had to be kept simple.

I’m not the best when it comes to vocabulary, but I’m not ignorant either. Two years of Latin helped me tremendously with the English language. I do get frustrated when I’m reading something (usually nonfiction), and I find myself reading a paragraph(s) over and over again until I understand what I just read. Sometimes the author is kind enough to say, “Simply put …” What was the point of the bloated paragraph full of five dollar words when the simply put version would have sufficed?

I guess that’s how I approach my writing. I don’t need to use a huge vocabulary or five dollar words for the type of book I’m writing. I don’t want to stop the flow of my reader by using a word or words that might cause them to wonder about the context of what they just read.

That’s not to say I don’t enjoy reading the work of someone else that goes beyond the simplistic. My thoughts about word choices and writing style helped to put things into perspective for me today. The writing I’m doing is working for me because it’s a style I used years ago.

After I read the positive review, it lit a fire under me, and I was able to write yesterday and add another 3,000 words to my current book. I’m planning to self-publish it in July.

Blogging Freaks Me Out

In a few days, I’ll have been blogging for a month. I think I like it. There are some things that freak me out though.

I liked it when there were less than twenty visitors to my blog each day. Just a few people peeking in to see what I was doing while I try to write and publish a few books. I sort of panicked when 52 people showed up one day this week. Yikes! Where did they come from? And why?

My mind went on a freak out thinking that the new visitors were other authors shaking their heads. Who in their right mind would write three books in two months and then think they were good enough to publish? … Well, I guess I did.

People spend years honing their craft and agonizing over their words wanting to put out the very best work possible. I understand that, but when I found the Smashwords site, something went off inside me, and it just came out – three books in two months. I had to do it, and I had to publish them. When I look at my books on my Nook, it delights me to no end. And the fact that the few people I know who have read the books liked them; well, it’s just that much nicer.

I’ve been visiting other blogs and enjoying the time spent blog-hopping. I love fashion, photography, music, books, poetry, and so much other stuff. I find myself following people as they lose weight. I’m sad for people who share their struggles and wish I could hug them. I love the humorous blogs. This is a wonderful new world. I’ve purchased two books from indie writers. I want to put my money where my mouth is and help others who are finding their way as well. I won’t really stop following authors; there’s a lot to learn from them.

I was nominated for an award by lightningpen. I was kind of embarrassed, and didn’t really know what to think about it. I didn’t mean to ignore you, kind blogger, but I was so new to blogging and didn’t have a clue who else to nominate. I don’t understand everything about the blogging community yet, and I may revisit that nomination one day (unless it has an expiration date).

So, even though I’m not really comfortable yet with blogging, and there are days when it freaks me out, I’m pretty sure I like it and will keep plodding on for a while.

Creating Characters

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I feel so silly sometimes because I find myself smiling or even laughing at some of the things I have my characters say or do.

Many of the characters are cobbled together from people I’ve known in my life.  My parents were a lot of fun when we were kids, and it was easy to portray Susan’s mom and dad as fun-loving and to have her mother laugh so much. Some of Susan’s friends mirror the best qualities of some of my friends over the years.

I intend to create a character with some of my father-in-law’s characteristics and personality. That’s him in the picture above. June 11, 1947 was the day he was discharged from the service. He had been stationed in Germany, and this picture of him is from the day he returned to the States.

I love this picture. He’s not really smiling, but his face conveys joy, and I see the twinkle in his eye. That is one good-looking man. I find it humorous that my husband has been a natural blonde his entire life, yet our nephew is the spitting image of this picture.

My father-in-law was the postmaster in a small town for most of his adult life. He enjoyed life and was a kind and generous man. After he died, my husband had the portrait tattoo of him placed on his arm. I think the artist did a wonderful job matching the picture.

My husband memorialized his dad on his arm. I’m going to put him in one of my books.  

Sweating the Small Stuff

Self-publishing takes time. Time that could be spent writing is taken up with other details and even nagging worries.

For a month, I’ve been waiting patiently for my books to show up at Barnes & Noble. The books didn’t come up in a search by title, author, or ISBN. After a quick inquiry, I was told the books should be indexed just a few days after Smashwords ships, so I knew something was wrong.

Yesterday, a helpful customer service rep at Smashwords sent an email to me with the B&N links to all three books. I was a little flabbergasted, and I still don’t have a clue how she found them. Even after she sent the links, I still couldn’t bring up the books or my name through the B&N search feature. When I checked the links she provided, I saw that two of the books didn’t even show descriptions. I had a feeling I’d probably done something wrong, and it threw a damper on my morning.

Of course, I had to start searching to find out why the search didn’t work and what I could do about it. I read message boards and finally found where others from as far back as 2010 had the same problems – books not indexed in search with no description and/or cover image. I finally gave up and decided it would be more productive to update my website to reflect the new links.

Errands had to be run in the afternoon, and there were a few unexpected interruptions. By the time I sat down to write in the evening, I’d lost my writing mojo. I spent most of my time reading what was already written and doing some proofreading. Still productive, but not what I wanted to do.

Have you ever been expecting a package, and it doesn’t come, and it doesn’t come, and you finally write and say, “Where’s my package?” Then it usually shows up in the mail that day or the next, and you wasted your time and the sender’s. Before heading up to bed, I searched my name again. All three books showed up, all were searchable, and all had descriptions.

I simply have to ignore some of this stuff, or I’ll never get any writing done.

Grandma Would Have Been a Blogger

My grandmother was always smiling, and she was fun. My mother said that she and Grandma acted silly quite often, and her older sister thought they should act more mature. I remember she laughed a lot. She was born in 1897, and lived to be 88 years old. After her death, pages of some of her childhood memories were found. Some of them were typed; some were handwritten. She seemed to write something down when she remembered it. I thought I’d share some of her memories today.

~ I can recall so clearly it seems like only yesterday that I was a little girl wearing braids, pinafores, and in my bare feet with mud slushing up through my toes, making “mud pies.”

~ We lived up on a hill and when I’d bring the cows to the bottom of the hill, I’d grab on to one of the cow’s tails and away we would go … her pulling me up the hill. Oh, I had fun, but in a funny sort of way.

~ We had a big grape arbor just back of our house; it was like a fairy land. You could hardly see out, the vines were so thick. We would go in the house and beg for biscuits. Then we would split them open and put currants from the bushes on them and call them pies.

~ I don’t ever recall my father whipping me, but my mother made up for it, God rest her soul.

~ We had a big log barn … one of my sisters, older than I, got her finger cut off on one of those old logs when she was five years of age. My brother started to cut with the ax, as boys will do. She laid her hand on the log as he brought the ax down, so off went her finger. He went and hid. When they found him, he said, “I wouldn’t have done it for a ‘minion’ dollars.”

~ My brothers tormented me a lot, since I was the baby of the family. I took it very serious, and I didn’t think it was a bit nice.

~ We lived in the south, and those days we ate only corn bread and biscuits, and sometimes homemade bread. It was a task to get the corn to the grist mill to get it ground for corn meal. My brother and I would each have to tote a sack of corn slung over our shoulders. We had to climb a hill and go down the other side to get to the mill. But I liked the job mostly.

~ I liked coffee so well and drank it when I was a child at home. Now it seems odd that my mother let me drink it. My brother used to tell me that I drank so much coffee one could see the grounds in my forehead. Oh! That would make me furious!

~ My mother had twelve children. Three died in infancy. One died when she was five years old.

~ My great uncle used to come and spend the night with us. The adults would sit and tell ghost stories until bedtime. Then I’d be afraid to go upstairs to bed. My uncle told about someone having dogs that “treed” something in a brush pile and this man jumped up and down on the brush to chase it out. Supposedly a small coffin ran out of the brush pile and disappeared into the night. The dogs gave chase, but to no avail. I could never forget that ghost tale.

~ They used to carry mail by horseback, only ours (postman) rode a mule. He had to be different! I used to feel sorry for him when I’d see him at the post office, because he was so homely. In my childish mind, I thought he looked just like a small dried and wrinkled apple. He was little and short, and he had no teeth.

~ Our family was fairly lucky, just a few bad things happened. My other sister fell and broke her leg, my youngest brother shot his toe off while hunting with a shot gun, my other brother broke his arm and cut his leg real bad once while cutting timber. I had Typhoid fever. Mother had her hands full looking after us.

~ We kids very seldom got new shoes and when we did, we were crazy with joy. And if they squeaked when we walked that pleased us very much, because people would know they were new.

~ My mother fed all the tramps that came along if she had a thing to give them. She never let them leave hungry, and plenty of them came to our door.

~ When we would get company, my father would make me come and play the organ and sing, “Gentle Annie.” I would be as proud as punch. I can’t recall the words now. Father thought I was good and that made me think that I could perform real well, too.

~ Mother did her washings on a scrub board. We had no water in the house. No electric. She made her own soap, and we always butchered beef and hogs, dried lots of apples and green beans, peaches, etc.

~ My mother did all the sewing for us. I can remember she made outing flannel union suits for my younger brother, and they were pink. She knitted our stockings and socks for us. Oh, how they would itch! When I got old enough to wear black cotton stockings, I was tickled to death and so proud of them.

~ My grandfather would come to visit us (I adored him). He had a pear tree in his back yard, and we didn’t have any. He would bring us kids each a pear. Oh, how pleased we would be. He had a well, which had a bucket to let down with a rope to get the water. I sure liked to do that job.

~ My mother always used home remedies as much as possible. When the terrible flu epidemic came in 1918, mother treated everyone with peach tree bark and leaves made into a tea. We had no casualties in our family, but others were dying like flies. Four and five died in one family in different places.

~ My mother wore big long aprons tied around the waist. She carried things in her apron. In the spring, she would go to the woods and fields and gather wild greens and bring in her apron as full as it could be. How good those greens tasted to us!

~ All of us had a good sense of humor. We would laugh at everything and anything that was funny at all. I still am that way. They say laughter is one good medicine.

~ I wonder if people are as happy as we were then nowadays. They seem to be searching for something and can’t find it. I wouldn’t trade my childhood to anyone for anything. Even as poor as we were.

~ My father and mother died just two weeks apart. As I see it, this world is full of sadness and sorrow, yet there is plenty to enjoy. Like the blessed sunshine, beautiful flowers, nice trees, lovely birds to sing, little babies to play with and enjoy, beautiful scenery everywhere you look … that God put here for us to enjoy. My life has not been what you would call the happiest, but I’m looking forward to a happier life beyond these earthly scenes. My childhood memories pass through my mind most every day. They are gone beyond recall, but not forgotten.

Whining, Cutting Back, Cranky Pants … and finally, A Smile

I admit it – I’m spoiled. I’m not used to not getting my way or having what I want. But we ride a financial roller coaster, and this year the train is on the way down of the biggest hill. Sometimes I scream just for the fun of it.

We’re trying to make huge cutbacks. We unloaded the upright freezer and unplugged it. We only heated three rooms of our house over the winter. I don’t run the dishwasher as often or do small loads of laundry. When our son made some noises that he was thinking about moving out, we immediately backed the truck up to the door and started loading his stuff. The water and food bill have been cut dramatically.

It’s hot today. 86 degrees. I wouldn’t normally care, but we’ve stopped using the central air unless the humidity makes it feel like it’s raining in here. I don’t mind most of the cutbacks, but the loss of the air conditioning puts the cranky pants on me. It didn’t help that I finally did some laundry today and then ironed in the heat. Does anybody still iron?

I spent a huge chunk of yesterday writing. I made a lot of progress – another 7100 words. I love where the next book is going, and I wanted to write again today but haven’t been able to get there yet. Maybe in a couple of hours when it’s not so hot.

But the reason to sit down and blog about my whiny day is because something really cool happened just before I ran out to the grocery store. (I only went to the store so I could ride around in the truck with the air on. Kind of defeats the purpose of cutting back.)

I received an email through my website. The person said they read all three of my books this weekend and wanted to know if there were any more. She said they were great books, and she had a hard time putting them down. Isn’t that awesome?!

Ok, it was my niece.

But still, I almost never see her, and when we were at my sister’s birthday dinner last week, I told her that she could Amazon one-click my books and read them on her tablet. Obviously she did. She’s busy with two young children, so I’m delighted that she not only took the time to read the first book, but blazed through the other two as well. If she wouldn’t have liked the first one, she surely wouldn’t have bought the other two – and then write to tell me that she liked them.

My cranky pants aren’t bothering me quite so much now.

Surprise! You Can Buy a Review!

Writing a book, doing your own editing, self-publishing, and finally marketing isn’t a difficult task in some respects, but leaves me terrified in others.

Marketing is most definitely a downfall. I’ve already accepted my failure in social media, although I may revisit that later. I’m not good at asking family and friends to buy my books. I don’t post notices about my books on other sites or use a signature line for promotion. I guess this is where some of the satisfaction factor comes in. It will be nice if the books sell, but I’m really just so tickled (as my grandmother would say) to have written and published a few books with the hope of a few more to come. I realize there’s a fair amount of hubris in this self-publishing thing we do, and I find myself laughing quite a bit at my own folly.

Reviews are where the real terror comes in. I read reviews where the reviewer has used phrases such as “compelling characters” and “unforgettable read” or “page turner” and “extraordinary achievement.” Ha! I’m terrified for the day when one of those reviewers will stumble upon one of my books. I know what my books are, and I don’t present them as anything other than a light mystery, with a little humor, and a little romance. So how do you find the right people to guide them to your books? The people who will enjoy an easy, breezy read that will entertain them?

Last night I was perusing blogs. There is some fun stuff out there. Most people probably know that, but this is all pretty new to me. I actually love the voyeuristic quality of blogs. People from all over the world share and show us aspects of their lives, and it’s easy to get lost for hours jumping from one blog to another.

I happened onto another indie publisher’s blog. I don’t know enough blog protocol to know if it’s acceptable to mention another’s name in a blog post, so let me just say when I read these words in respect to publishing a second book, “Maybe I’ll be able to move on then… maybe not. Jeez, this sounds pitiful,” I knew I liked this person right away. It’s hard sometimes to move forward and sounding pitiful works itself in there, too. I clicked on the link for their book, and read the description. I was intrigued. But then I noticed the reviews! Professional reviews. One 4-star and two 5-star. I looked at the site for the reviews and was amazed. When you jump headlong into this like I did, it doesn’t take long to realize how much there is to learn.

The site gives free reviews. You only pay for them if you want them expedited. They publish 3-stars and up. If your review is one or two stars, they offer constructive criticism. The best part is the person who will read and review your book already likes the genre you submit. I wouldn’t have to worry that a person who prefers to read a vampire thriller will get stuck reading and reviewing my blonde-run-amuck story.

I’m going to try to carve out a bit of every day so I can blog-hop. I know there is more yet to find that will help me. Has my writing taken a hit since I starting blogging? You bet. But I am still writing, so I’m not too worried about it yet.

Oh, about the book from the writer I stumbled upon yesterday … I bought it a short while ago. Not only will I enjoy reading it, but it’s a small way to say thank you for pointing me in a direction that might help me in my self-publishing efforts.