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My interests are varied and I'm likely to write anything from funny to poignant to informational, so my blogs are organized by topic. Just choose your favorite topic on the left. I'd love to hear from you in the comments section or go to Contact and email me privately if you like. Thanks for coming by!page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
8/11/2011 12:21:42 PM
The Legs of God?
Since Abbie in Don't Make Me Make You Brownies takes over her sister's volunteer job as an English as a Second Language teacher while she housesits for her, I thought I'd tell you one of my favorite funny stories from when I taught adult ESL at the community college.
My classes were a little different than Abbie's because mine were full of people from all over the world, rather than only Spanish-speaking students, although I could count on my Latinos to volunteer from the first day and help me set the interactive mood I needed for the Speaking and Listening classes.
Over the years, I taught all different levels, but upper level students were the most fun because they spoke enough English so that I could learn all kinds of interesting things about their cultures and countries.
One day, my students were giving oral presentations. The assignment was, "If we were going, as tourists, to the city you're from, how would we get there? Where would we stay? What would we see or do while there?"
Most of the Latin American and Asian students came from large cities. They told us we could fly to their cities, stay in beautiful hotels, and see all kinds of cultural and historical places. My French (science teacher) student was from a beach resort town in France. His description made me want to throw on a bikini and hitch a ride with his family on their next visit home.
One of the last students to speak was a Pakistani named Iridi. We had already learned that he was very un-worldly for a young man in his 20's. He was easily embarrassed and somewhat gullible. That day, we learned why.
Now, this was quite a few years ago, so some of the details are sketchy, but the way I remember it, he told us to get to his home town, we would first have to fly to Frankfurt, Germany. Then we'd take another flight (or two?) until we ended up in Pakistan. Then we would have to take a couple of forms of public trasportation to get as close to his village as possible. Finally, we would need to walk or take a donkey up the mountain to get to the top where his village was because there were no roads. There were also no hotels (and no electricity), but he assured us that we could stay at any home in the village because they welcomed visitors with open arms.
The other students were surprised at how remote a place he'd come from. They had all kinds of questions for him, and he was happy to answer. That's when we learned that the women in his village all dressed in traditional Islamic garb and he'd never seen a woman's legs in real life until he got off a plane in the Frankfurt airport. He said it was quite a shock to see all those women walking around in shorts.
Being the "feeler" that I am, I was curious about the emotions he experienced at that moment. Was he offended? Upset because of his religious teachings?
So I had to ask, "Iridi, how did you feel when you saw a woman's legs for the very first time?"
He looked at me with with his typical sincere expression. "I thought..." He suddenly threw his hands up in the air. "There IS a God!!!"
The class roared with laughter. In fact, we had a lot of fun personalities in that class, so Iridi had just invented their new catch phrase for them. After that, any time they could work it into a conversation, someone would cry out, "There IS a God!" and the whole class would dissolve into laughter, including Iridi and me.
And, no, teaching ESL never got me arrested like it does Abbie in Don't Make Me Make You Brownies, but the fun, frustration, and interesting cultural tidbits I learned did inspire parts of both "Brownies" and Not Dreaming of You.
8/10/2011 8:50:40 PM
Did you ever have one of those moments where you "woke up" and said, "Wait a minute...what happened to me? When did I lose myself to everyone else's needs? Where did I go?"
If you're a woman over 40, there's a good chance that, at some point in your life, this happened to you. This epiphany-slash-giant question mark happened to me several times. But then the thought would slip away because I was so sleep deprived from the baby, then small child, who wouldn't let me get a full night of shut-eye or from running around trying to do what was expected of a home-maker when I actually had my own business to run... Everyone else came first.
In the book-turned-movie Eat, Pray, Love, Liz realizes she lost herself somewhere in her marriage and may have a habit of losing herself to men whenever she falls in love. After her divorce, when she meets the hunky Brazilian, she's scared to death to make any sort of commitment to him. She's just spent the year finding herself again and he could throw a major monkey wrench into her newfound sense of "balance," as she calls it.
I would think it was just me and Liz suffering from this problem if I hadn't watched dozens (hundreds?) of episodes of What Not to Wear. It's not that I'm that stylish, it's that the show gives me something similar to what I get from a romance novel--lots of drama and/or humor followed by a happy ending.
And in half to two-thirds of the episodes, there's a scene like this: Clinton and Stacey ask the poor woman who's been nominated by friends and family, "What happened?" Wasn't there a time when she thought she was important enough to take care of?
At that point she gets a far away look in her eye as if she's pulling up some long-forgotten memory of herself and starts crying. She's spent so much time taking care of her husband, kids, parents, job, etc., she hasn't even had time to take a good look in the mirror. It soon becomes obvious that it's not just a fashion problem, she's let the rest of her dreams die a slow death. She doesn't even feel like herself anymore.
As women, I think most of us are genetically predisposed to nurturing others, even those of us who don't think we're particularly talented in the areas nurturers are supposed to be talented in.
As I've said before, when I was a little girl, I didn't dream of weddings and husbands and children in my future. I always saw myself living alone in a giant house in L.A. In these daydreams, I was a writer or someone involved in the entertainment industry in some way. The only other person who was a regular in those fantasies was the maid who cooked and cleaned so effectively that I never even saw the kitchen of that fantasy house.
Yet, when I fell in love with my first husband many years ago, it happened to me, just like it did to so many others. I got sucked out.
I've tried to trace back to the point when it started. I guess that must have been when my high school boyfriend only liked us to hang out with his friends and not mine. I obliged.
I did make sure I got a college education before we married, but after insisting he get a transfer to a bigger city where I would have a chance at a job in my field, I capitulated and went to live in the town where he worked. (I later learned he'd never really tried for the transfer he claimed he'd applied for.)
For me, though, I'm not sure any of those were as big as giving up my name. I'd never planned to change my name, yet it only took a bit of guilting on his part--as a pleaser, I'm a sucker for guilting--and I had a whole different moniker. When I became a different name, I think it solidified the idea that I was a different person and allowed me to forget the ambitious over-achiever I once was.
Most of it happened gradually, though. I tried to cook meals because I thought I was supposed to. I constantly had my husband in mind with every decision, although he didn't seem to think of me when making his. Then I had a child and the rest of me was sucked out in such a huge way, I couldn't even remember who I was in the first place.
My daughter had health problems and needed her mother, so I quit my regular job. My parents moved to town to be near their only grandchild, which was nice, except that there were now four people I felt I had to either care for or please.
I was creative enough to find a way to make money that kept me available to my daughter and allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom as far as she was concerned. I had to be all things to all people.
But I stopped playing my guitar and singing. I stopped writing songs. I stopped wearing quirky, funky clothes and started shopping at Old Navy. I lost all ambition for anything that would make me feel like I accomplished something...for me.
"So what?" You may say. "That's what I did. Isn't that what we all do?" And that's exactly my point. That is what most women do. If we're lucky, we wake up one day and start to find ourselves again, usually after the kids are pretty self-sufficient.
It occurred to me the other day that I needed to think more like a man. Instead lumping all the work, home and family stuff together and priding myself on how much of it I got done that day, I should pride myself on how much money-making work I got done--especially since I'm finally getting to do the work I love for a living--and also on how much I'm able to not do because I can either afford to pay someone else to do it and/or I delegate it to another family member.
Can it possibly work? Well, I've finally got a regular cleaning lady. And I'm sending my daughter on quick trips to the grocery store now that she has a license. And the biggest of all for me is cooking. My health condition demands that I eat well most of the time, but I loathe the process of planning, getting, and making food more than anything else on this earth. (When I say this, I mean I'd rather be required to let a snake slither across me every day--or a rat scamper over me--than deal with what's for supper.)
I remarried a couple of years ago. My new and improved husband always says he hates yardwork and hires others to do it. One day, I thought, "I hate dealing with food every bit as much as he hates yardwork, and it's an issue every day." So, I'm picking up many of our meals from the only organic restaurant in the area.
I haven't figured out a way around all the constant appointment-making for 3 (sometimes 4) people and two dogs--doctors, dentists, hairstylists, chiropractors, veteranarians, groomers, kennel. Then there's the pest control man, a/c guy, pool repairman, appliance repair/delivery people, handyman, plumber, yard guy, Uverse repairman...well, you ladies know the drill.
I guess my longterm goal can always be to do so well as a writer I can afford my own wife (or at least a part-time personal assistant).
Anyway, this whole "losing yourself" theme was the inspiration for Abbie's fears in Don't Make Me Make You Brownies--now available! Unlike many of us, who were somewhat unsuspecting, Abbie meets Rick and sees a new, different life racing towards her like a freight train and her instinct is to run for the hills. She's scared to death of losing herself, or getting "sucked out," as she thinks of it.
But, of course, me being me and all, I had to torture my heroine in the funniest way I could come up with.
So, did you get sucked out? Or were you brilliant enough to keep your balance through it all? Or are Liz, Abbie, and I the only ones who've thought about this?
8/6/2011 4:02:06 PM
For Smashwords there is one important thing you need to do differently to your manuscript to make sure it qualifies for the Smashwords Premium Catalog (that is supposed to get you out to more retailers). Here it is:
Today's imaginary novel will be called "Peace, Love, and Mustard" and it was written by an author named Oscar Myers. If you were Oscar, you'd make the very first page of your manuscript say:
Peace, Love, and Mustard
By Oscar Myers
Copyright Oscar Myers, 2011
If you originally had a copyright warning (or anything else) before your title page, move it to after this first page or you won't qualify for the premium catalog. Do not put any type larger than 18 pt. anywhere in your manuscript, including the title page.
That 1st page was the only problem I had when trying to use Smashwords the first time, and it took a couple of days to figure out why they wouldn't put it in the premium catalog because the message just said that it didn't follow the formatting guidelines.
Anyway, you would save that document as a separate file, like: PeaceLoveMustard_Smashwords.doc (not .docx)
Besides the items you needed for Kindle and Nook, you'll also need a short (400 words or less) description of your book. You will use it in one box and the regular long description in the next.
At smashwords.com, set up an account, then click on the "Publish" tab.
Fill in the boxes.
When choosing ebook formats, I uncheck "plain text" because I don't want my book read without the formatting in it.
When you select your document to upload, make sure it's the Smashwords Version you created. (You are uploading the Microsoft Word document. You do not need to convert it like you do with the others.)
Click "publish" at the bottom of the page and it will tell you how many are waiting ahead of you and count down as long as you keep the page up. Today, I put up Don't Make Me Make You Brownies and only had 4 waiting ahead of me. That's the least I've seen.
A few minutes later, it had been reviewed and needed an ISBN. Here, I just chose the "free ISBN" option.
When you want to check on your book later, you'll click the "dashboard" tab. If there is a message in the "Premium Status" column, such as "Needs submission," click on it and see if it tells you there's a problem you need to fix in order to get into the premium catalog.
After it says it's finished, you can go to the home page and it will give you links so you can put up your picture and/or bio. These are not required, so you can go back to them later if necessary. (Other people do not see these messages on that page. They only show up for you when you are logged in.)
You can view your book by going through your dashboard page and clicking on the title, and you can provide links to it like this http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79513.
However, it will take a while before it shows up in the search engine.
The royalties I've received from Smashwords have been only a small fraction of the royalties from other sites. However, this is a fast-changing business and we don't know what game changers will come along next, so it's good to be out there in multiple locations. Besides, once you have multiple novels, novellas, and/or short stories published in multiple locations, it really can start to add up to a nice monthly "salary."
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