About mestengobooks

Welcome to Mestengo Books, a gathering place for my work. I wracked my brain for hours to come up with a designation that represents both me and my work. With so many blogs and websites already out there, it was a challenge to come up with something original. Mustang is a popular online moniker because it speaks to strength and endurance. The horse has been a totem animal since I was a child, so I knew it would be a good symbol for me because it represented much of my character: freedom, travel, strength, endurance. Mustangs have survived the wilds of the Americas since the Spanish first brought them here, making them, by nature, most durable. The word mestengo has a neat history; its origin is from 16th century Spanish that translates to wild, stray, ownerless. I knew the moment I saw it I’d found the right name. And anyone who knows me can certainly attest to the fact that I am, without a doubt, una mestenga. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. Regards, Denise Thunderhawk Denise was a second prize winner of the Southwest Literary Center’s 2006 New Mexico Discovery Awards for her nonfiction, A Bump in the Road.

This Pandemic and The Ridiculous Debate of Constitutionality

tenth amendment2

Pulling My Hair Out (Almost)

I can’t take it anymore. If I hear one more idiot or ignorant MAGA supporter scream about the “unconstitutionality” of COVID quarantines, wearing of masks, closing of businesses, etc. in protection of the people, I’m gonna scream. I’ve tried on several occasions, unsuccessfully, to explain to some folks that nothing about how this pandemic is being handled by both state and federal governments is unconstitutional.

I’m not a lawyer or a legal expert but let me try to elaborate:

the tenth amendment says it all

First and foremost, public health falls under police powers of each of the states. It was written into our federal constitution in the Tenth Amendment, in our Bill of Rights:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” 

In other words, “the Tenth Amendment reserves to the states all powers that are not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, except for those powers that states are constitutionally forbidden from exercising.” (The Free Dictionary)

Nowhere in the federal constitution does Congress have the authority to regulate any local matters (individual states) in regards to health and safety. 

With isolation and/or quarantine, however, that falls within the purview of the U.S. Surgeon General (with permission from the Health and Human Services Secretary):

isolation and quarantine

Source: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/public-health-chart.aspx

Police powers were reserved by the federal constitution for states to use when it was necessary to preserve the common good. States are constitutionally allowed to pass and enforce the following: “isolation, quarantine, health, and inspections laws to interrupt or prevent the spread of disease.” (See source referral above.)

So that’s it in a constitutional nutshell. While people in other countries are plodding along in survival mode without all the whining and griping, Americans continue to piss and moan about individual freedoms being more important than the health of our communities.

Only healthy individuals can make up a healthy community. This is but a short-term sacrifice for long-term success. Viruses have been around longer than man and will be here when we’re gone. In the meantime, let’s make a promise to ourselves, our families, our communities: to do whatever is necessary to get us past this pandemic darkness to the light at the end of the tunnel.

#staysafe #coronavirus #tenthamendment #billofrights #publichealth #livestrong

 

 

Write for Magazines and Get Paid Too!

nat geo travel_istock

La Jolla, California, USA – September 16, 2011: National Geographic magazines taken in a studio. Source: pixabay.com/istock

be a bigger needle

It’s a subject I’ve come back around to several times over the past few years. These days, competition for publishing articles in the digital world is both astounding and depressing; a writer trying to get his/her articles published online is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. Only the haystack is now steroid-sized and the needle ever more microscopic. You need to be the bigger needle.

not all the same

Magazine readers (like me) are an entirely different audience than people surfing the web. Sure, there’s an occasional overlap, but not much. To me, printed publication readers are more patient, more likely to read as a relaxing pastime, and probably more educated or white collar. If we writers don’t find a way to get our articles into printed publications, that’s a whole different audience whose readership we’re losing.

There continue to be many faithful magazine readers, just as there are faithful readers of the physical book (I’m one of those on both counts). While the online life is definitely for the younger generations, many older folks have smartly adapted, even succeeded, online. 

Think about it: your articles in those printed publications will increase traffic to your blog, increase your number of followers, even help you build a fan base or at the very least better connect with other writers. It’s a win-win situation. Do you keep an updated bio on hand? I do, and I tweak it from time to time as my experiences increase. This is an amazing opportunity for magazine readers to find out more about YOU.  

you gotta start somewhere…

Gigs can pay as low as $.10 a word up to $2.50 a word, depending on the magazine and/or your storytelling skills. These gigs can also help you get other writing gigs, as editors routinely communicate, maybe even socialize, with each other. Wouldn’t you love to be the topic of discussion at one of their business meetings or social gatherings? I certainly would.

Use previous blog posts as a basis for a magazine article; use that magazine article as a basis for a future blog post. In a previous post, I wrote about turning your blogs into a book (and vice versa). Once you pick up steam, there’s no stopping. It’s also a path to book deals, partnerships, maybe even speaking engagements.

other options

Trade magazines don’t pay much (if at all) but it’s good exposure if you have knowledge to share in one of these publications. Then there are custom publications like Costco or Sam’s Club, maybe a local bank or insurance agency. Get creative (after all, you’re writers, for heaven’s sake) and make a list of magazines/publications that interest you. Check out their query criteria, then go for it. Nothing lost, only gained – regular gigs, quitting the day J-O-B, earning a living while freeing up your schedule, increased traffic to your blog, etcetera, etcetera.

What are you waiting for?

#thewritinglife #author #nationalgeographictraveler #blogging #selfpublishing #writeformagazines #costco

The Rise of Yellow Journalism in the Digital Age: What Writers Can Do About It

A Bit of History

It’s ironic that what began as a feud for readership and sales between two newspaper giants in the late 19th century has become commonplace practice for reporting so-called “news” on social media. Hard to believe it all began with Joseph Pulitzer (for whom the most prestigious award in Journalism is named, ironically), who purchased the New York World in 1883. Pulitzer used a sensational style of reporting for his stories and crusades against political corruption and social injustice to win the largest newspaper circulation in the U.S.

Along came William Randolph Hearst in 1895, who purchased a rival newspaper, the Journal. Hearst’s determination to be number one led him to outdoing all his competitors, including Pulitzer’s New York World,  in sensationalism, crusades, and Sunday features. Hearst stole a cartoonist from Pulitzer, which created a rival picture series that drew so much attention that the term yellow journalism was born.

Yellow journalism and the yellow press are American terms for journalism and associated newspapers that present little or no legitimate, well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales.” (Wikipedia)

Yellow Journalism Lives on social media

Following the recent siege of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., prompted by both disinformation and misinformation peppered with a deluge of yellow journalism news bytes all over the Internet, I couldn’t help but notice how readily many had accepted what they read on social media sites. TMI, or ‘too much information’  – or more aptly – disinformation, prompted such an outburst as to endanger the lives of people and our political system at its core.

As writers, reporters, and journalists, there is an obligation to maintain the integrity of our words. In a previous post, I cautioned writers and speakers to use words carefully as they have the capacity for great power. In that post, I also wrote: “Write from the compassionate heart, support a peaceful co-existence and community goals, stand your ground without being divisive.” This phrase rings more true now as we face a pandemic, interference with our voting rights/system, and an incoming/new Administration, all susceptible to SM disinformation.

end yellow journalism!

The sheer volume of the 24/7 news cycle is overwhelming. At what point do we say ENOUGH? Are we even able to filter it all? (Of course not.) Or must we choose to step away from the constant download of so much disinformation? Is it possible to discern the true news from the false?

Yellow journalism must not, can not, should not, replace words written with integrity. Fight it but don’t ignore it, show it for what it really is: a pathetic attempt to manipulate the truth for the sake of ratings, attention, or personal and political agendas.

Pledge to maintain the integrity of your words. Promise to use your power wisely. Stop yellow journalism in its tracks.

#journalism #writers #yellowjournalism #politics #tellthetruth #twitter #instagram #democracy #fakenews #stopyellowjournalism #writewithintegrity

The Digital Project

Source: iStock photo/Pixabay

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up

Four weeks ago, I sustained injuries from a fall at work to my right shoulder, low back, and left hip. I then missed days here and there from the pain. I stubbornly tried to keep working in a modified status but that didn’t help and the pain worsened. I’ve been out for almost a week now and am finally healing. I’m catching up on sleep, reading, and all-around relaxing (that one took awhile to become reacquainted with).

I decided to attend to some digital projects to keep me busy (and seated in one place):

project number one

My first digital project is based on a Xmas gift I received early. I wanted to wait until Xmas morning but the gifter stubbornly wouldn’t let me and I couldn’t understand why until I unwrapped it: an HP printer/copier/scanner. I didn’t realize it was a scanner as well until I read the box more closely. I was excited; for years, I’ve been wanting to digitize all my family and personal adventures photos (over two thousand).

Now I have the opportunity – and the time – to scan the photos onto my computer and then to a cloud account where they’ll be safe and easily shared with family members. It’ll probably take until mid-next year (at least) but I’m excited about not having to drag a large storage bin full of photo albums around with me anymore. I’ve been taking them with me everywhere for the last thirty-plus years. Digitizing those photos is going to be a huge space saver. I love the idea of lightening my load, of letting go of items that are no longer relevant or necessary.

I’ve never understood why more people don’t do this. If you live in an extreme weather area (ex: Tornado Alley in the Plains region), digitizing your photos is a must-do to protect your family’s heritage. If you haven’t done this, it might be a good digital project for you, as well.

project number two

My second digital project is related to my last post on preserving one’s Digital Assets. Taking my own advice, I downloaded free legal documents (Last Will and Testament, Health Proxy, Power of Attorney, etc.) the other day from a website that offers free downloadable forms in Word format (pdf docs cost $ and I can edit the Word docs to my needs). You can find the free forms at http://www.freeprintablelegalforms.com (did I tell you they’re free?). Downloading was easy; now I have to sift through my digital information (passwords and their accounts) and my assets to decide what goes where, who gets what, etc. It’s a sobering experience, as I wrote in a blog post last May about writing your own obituary:

“I attempted this exercise once and found it difficult to decide who got what (if anybody actually wanted any of my crap to begin with, they have enough of their own), to parcel out my “stuff” to people, some who aren’t in my life all that much and others who are. It actually scared me, as if I’d suddenly gotten a glimpse of the universe, less me.” Excerpted from Skills Building: Write Your Obit May 6, 2019

a digital project for ebook authors

Here’s a big question to those writers who have self-published eBooks – are they safe or not? I recently read an article in The Book Designer email I receive weekly written by a female author touting the so-called ‘benefits’ of e-Books being pirated (wtf???). She actually wrote that the one benefit of having your e-Book pirated (illegally downloaded for free by persons not legally allowed to offer it) was that it created word-of-mouth advertising and that, in and of itself, is good business for your book. Her point was that people who would download the pirated, free version were not likely to pay for your book to begin with – is she serious?

In my opinion (remember, I’m an expert on that), this is a naïve attitude lacking in principle. Why anyone would or could support book piracy AT ANY LEVEL is beyond me. Is that kind of word-of-mouth advertising worth losing royalties or credit for your work? If piracy is good for books, then where do we draw the line? Do we draw any line? I realize it’s an uphill online battle to protect your work.

~ Which is why it’s paramount in these crazy times that you get your Digital Assets in order. NOW.

~ If you’re a writer, you’re not too young or too old to do this. Preserve your works, your memories, the history of YOU.

#DigitalAssets #WriterBeware #MestengoBooks #intellectualproperty #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #ebookpiracy

Writers: In These Covid Times, Are You Prepared For The Unthinkable?

Source: estateplanninglegalcenter.com

Thinking of the Unthinkable

It’s a topic I’ve covered on two other occasions (first post; second post); now we’re in a pandemic and I’m once again compelled to share important information for all the writers out there. We’re living in unpredictable times and no one can afford to be arrogant or in denial about the unthinkable: not surviving a Covid infection. I won’t bore or scare you with statistics, or with probabilities; Covid is a real infection, a real threat. Writers, you must get your Digital Assets/DA (aka intellectual property/IP) in order, just in case. 

So I ask you:

If it comes down to it, what will your writer legacy be?

Is this a conversation you’ve even had with loved ones or yourself? Procrastination will only draw out what could become a painful situation for your family. It’s vital you prepare for what may come. Just in case.

I wrote this in the second post on DA: “In this new digital world, our lives are complicated by our dependence on many devices, each with its own password and accessible only by you.” Your first step is to take inventory of all your intellectual property, both completed and unfinished works. Are your files backed up and easy for others to locate in online folders or another organized system? Now is a good time to get it all organized.

Your Legacy to-do list

The following is a reiteration of a list (that is by no means finite) from a previous post; while it may be time-consuming at first, you’ll probably be glad to do it because it’s also an opportunity to clean out any works you know you won’t finish.

  1. Do you have a Paypal, Google Pay, or any account, in addition to personal banking, with monetary value? Who will have access if you die? What happens to the money? Whom will you designate as your beneficiary? Who will you appoint as your Literary Executor?
  2. What about personal and business email accounts, blogs, and podcasts? Personal and business websites? Do you want them up and running for people to read your when-you-were-a-breathing-starving-artist work?
  3. Do you keep a list of logins and passwords to all of your online accounts? Make sure your designated Estate attorney has the most recent copy on file or at least your computer password so s/he can access the document.
  4. What electronic devices do you own that need a password for access? Do you have a laptop, smartphone, tablet, DVR/Tivo, Ring, or a home burglary system? How many apps do you access from your phone? Does anyone else have the access code for your phone so they can access the apps?
  5. Do you bank online? What about mortgage payments, investment banking, utilities, airline, or other memberships? Which memberships automatically renew online? You’ll need to spell out which to cancel and which to keep active for your heirs/estate.
  6. Do you have any Social Media accounts like Facebook, LinkedIn, or YouTube? Any accounts with e-commerce sites like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Ebay, etc.? Check the policies of these companies regarding access by another person. You’ll need to legally designate someone if you want that person to clean up your online life.
  7. How much of your work is unfinished? Do you want someone else to finish it? Or would you prefer your Executor/Executrix just heave every incomplete project, every potential novel/poetry book/best-selling short story into a shredder? What will you do with the work you have completed? Who gets the royalties? Who will do the marketing to keep the sales going?
  8. Do you have translations of your book? Movie deals? Audio books? Who will oversee these if they become options after your death? Who will make the decisions about maintaining and growing your work after you’re gone?
  9. Will you leave the option to own, sell, or operate your business and control your intellectual property up to your heirs? Or will you decide so your heirs don’t have to? One option is to designate a micro-publisher to oversee your work so that royalties will be properly paid to your heirs.
  10. What about cleaning up your personal information collected by those data-mining companies? If you think it won’t matter once you’re gone, you’re wrong. Someone could use your identity and gain access to your intellectual property and online life, and then your hard-earned money. This can affect any heirs you designate and their ability to oversee your IP or pay any monies owed. Many sites mine all sorts of personal information; you will likely need to join now to have access to your personal information and request they delete it. 
  11. You need to be concerned with writer scams popping up all over the web offering unauthorized copies of authors’ books or scamming writers out of money. Writer Beware is one of many sites that track predatory sites and unscrupulous people trying to steal our IP. Make sure all is good before passing it on to the heirs.

It’s a sobering experience to think of your life in these terms, but in the long run you’re doing your family or loved ones a favor by setting it down on paper. A Writer’s Legacy, Part 2, January 15, 2019

#covid19 #coronavirus #intellectual property #digitalassets #bookAholic #storytellers

Lessons From Creating An Online Class

Udemy Course

Udemy Course

I can’t believe I finally figured it all out…

Learning the Basics of Chinese Dietary Therapy is now LIVE on Udemy (you can check out a few sections for FREE). It only took three to four months but I persevered and now, hopefully, I will reap the rewards of my hard work. Putting this class together was much harder than anticipated. Maybe it’s partly due to the fact that I’m feeling farther and farther behind on technology; it takes me so much longer to figure out stuff.

What I did first was upgrade to MS Office 2019 after facing several frustrating issues with my old limited-ability software. It was a good decision that followed getting Windows 10 uploaded to my older laptop (which I bought refurbished over six years ago – wahoo Toshiba!). Now it runs like it’s almost new and I can’t believe how much faster it is, nevermind enjoying the perks of the new software. 

The Devil’s in the Details

I gained a new appreciation for the detailed work involved in creating each slide in PowerPoint (13 sections with 6-15 slides per section); that alone took around two months. Thankfully I had already done several live seminars and had my book in a PowerPoint presentation. Breaking it down into doable sections (per Udemy’s instructions as to font size, etc.) took a greater attention to detail and I became frustrated more than once through the process. Once the slides and sections were completed I had to go back and narrate/voice-over each slide as well as create an intro page for every course section (see above).

Sounds easy, right?

Except….

Lesson After Lesson

I learned a valuable lesson during the narration process. I learned that my voice changed with my mood so I had to re-record some of the slides because I didn’t like what I heard (it was easy to tell when I was in a bad mood or a good mood). Some had to be re-recorded because I spoke incoherently (it didn’t seem so when I was recording).

We all think we sound normal, articulate and intelligent but hearing oneself in a recording, over and over again, gave me insight to how much I had to focus on these aspects: speech pattern, enunciation, timing (moving from one sentence or paragraph to the next), word usage (avoiding big or difficult words), context, word emphasis, etc. There is definitely a rhythm to narrating that must be learned over time, with experience (which I need more of).

Once the narrations were completed, I had to save each section and every slide as video/mp4; this took several hours over a course of several days. It was the main reason for my technical upgrades, because my old software couldn’t save the .ppt as video and the old Windows system took too darn long.

Once that was done, I had to go into my Udemy Instructor Dashboard and download each section, one by one and complete their checklist of requirements. In addition, I had to download any section-related documents in .pdf – this was the easiest part since I already had what I needed from the seminars. From there, I submitted the class for review and awaited approval. In less than a week, the class was approved and went live online.

Whew

All I can say is, at this point, I’m glad it’s done. The only extras I’ll need to add in for an upgraded version are in .pdf and won’t be difficult to do. The hardest part is behind me but I’m glad I did it. A challenge accepted and completed. One more adversity ticked off the list.

Lessons learned and shared so someone else can have an easier time with it.

#chinesedietarytherapy #chinesemedicine #onlineclasses #udemy #nutritiontherapy #teachonline #fiveelements #healthyeating #wholefoods

Coming Full Circle

Home1

Source: Pixabay

In a scene from the movie Forrest Gump, there’s a famous line Forrest says after he stops running:

Finally, Some Good News for CA Freelancers!

Thumbs Up California!

On September 4th, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed a bill modifying the new independent contractor law that went into effect last year. This is HUGE. The new Independent Contractor law meant freelance writers here in California could no longer earn a living beyond our state border. In two previous posts, I outlined the new law, its definition and how it might affect writers. The new, modified law, which is effective immediately, includes “freelance writers, musicians, film support crews and visual artists, who now can continue working as independent contractors.1

Blog post #1: New CA Labor Law

Blog post #2: Writers Losing Contracts

Restrictions Gone

Gov Newsom also removed the restriction of accepting no more than thirty-five (35) freelance assignments from one outlet. As of Monday night, freelance writers and other content creators are EXEMPT! The bill, previously introduced as AB5, is now AB2257 and has these features:

  1. It eliminates the cap of 35 submissions for freelance writers. Yippee!
  2. Included in this new exemption of “professional services” are translators, appraisers, and (this is a unique one) registered foresters.
  3. Industry workers, including recording artists, songwriters, producers and promoters are also now exempt.

This update of a law that clearly affected writers’ ability to earn a living, especially during COVID, is a ray of light bursting through dark days. Will other states with similar laws follow suit?

1.Source: https://deadline.com/2020/09/governor-gavin-newsom-signs-ab-2557-helping-independent-contractors-1234571287/

It’s Happening Elsewhere, Too

So do other states use what is called the ABC test? This from an article on Forbes.com: “Massachusetts and New Jersey already use the ABC Test to restrict the number of workers classified as independent contractors. Other states use the ABC Test for specific situations, such as determining unemployment compensation.”

From a legal website: “Some of the states where their legislatures have adopted the ABC test include California (recent change), Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.”

Whether this change to the new law is a good thing (and I believe it is), there are still plenty of kinks to be worked out. In the meantime, writers, keep on writing. Let’s be a force for change that benefits all. Gig economies are here to stay (thanks, millenials).

So are freelancers.

#freelancers #freelancewriters #writersofcalifornia #independentcontractor #gigeconomy #Uber #Lyft #fictionwriters #nonfictionwriters #investigativejournalism

Shoes and Socks Not Required: Sell Your Books (from home) To Unique Locations


I apologize; I’ve been away (okay, hiding from my writing responsibilities). I’ve been hot, sweaty, and working my butt off but not writing. We’re in a heat wave here and my brain has shut down from all the humidity and triple digit temps. And I’m trying (and trying and trying) to get my nutrition book up on Udemy as an online class but not-so-tech-savvy me is having a hard time figuring it all out. Turns out I need video equipment for a mandatory thirty minutes of video (who wants to see me yakking on and on, I don’t know) to go with the class. Ugh.

There Is An Upside To This

The upswing to this coronavirus is everyone’s home and online – either you’re offering something (like a class) or you’re buying something (like that writing class you’d been meaning to take but were too busy livin’ large). Did you know you can get your book into numerous venues while still wearing your jammies?

An interesting post came to my attention a short time ago and I want to share the gist of its information with you. Since bookstores and many physical retail outlets are temporarily closed, what’s a writer to do? We have to keep selling our books, don’t we? In a previous blog, I wrote that we have to continue marketing regardless of this pandemic and to not feel guilty. So here are a few interesting options that maybe you haven’t thought of as a place to sell your books (and not feel guilty), courtesy of Brian Jud, author of the post, and Stephanie Chandler, of the Nonfiction Authors Association (dot.com).

Unique Venues Abound If You’re Looking

Of all the places that sell books (most of which are closed temporarily), the two best places to have your books for sale at are… wait for it… SUPERMARKETS and PHARMACIES! Yep, they’re open to the public and they always have a book selection. Obviously, certain types of books sell better here, like cheesy romance novels. If your book is more family-oriented, this might be a place for you to consider. Also, according to the article, fiction outsells nonfiction here (think cheesy romance novels). But books like mine, a nutrition book, might go over well with people trying to make better food choices in the grocery store.

Think about how to price your book for one of these venues. Supermarkets tend to discount their books (up to 25%) and book prices in pharmacies are usually under twenty dollars. Are you willing to go a bit lower in retail price to gain exposure?

That said, how will you get your book distributed to these markets? Does your current distribution partner provide access to supermarkets and drugstores? The following is a short list provided by Brain Jud and contains useful information on getting your books into these stores:

Symak Sales Co Inc.“is a leading importer and distributor of general merchandise throughout North America. Symak products can be found in a wide range of retailers and wholesalers, including discount stores, variety stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, distributors, department stores, and dollar stores.”

Readerlink Distribution Services, LLC “is the largest full-service distributor of hardcover, trade and paperback books to non-trade channel booksellers in North America, including the biggest names in retail across multiple retail channels.”

Choice Books distributes books through more than 11,500 displays in various retail locations (i.e. supermarkets, mass merchandisers, airports, pharmacies, travel centers, gift shops, etc.) across the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. At regular intervals, Choice Books sales representatives visit each retail location, replenishing best-selling books and replacing damaged/slow-moving books with new books. Major book categories include family living, self-help, devotional, entertainment, gift, cookbooks, adult/juvenile fiction and bibles.

There are other unique opportunities as well: hospitals, liquor stores, and pet stores, to name a few. If you put your thinking cap on, I’m sure you can come up with additional options. Sans shoes and socks.

Words Have Power So Be Careful How You Use Them

maelstrom_picasso~25532698267856375019..jpg
Maelstrom, 2019 © DThunderhawk (acrylic)

The Power of Our Words

Writers have long known that words have power. Socrates, Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, Jesus, and many others (including Hitler) across the span of humanity have changed lives and moved civilizations to follow a particular premise. We find ourselves, once again, in dynamic and chaotic times. The ebb and flow of human existence has always been based on the power of words.
Words, whether written or oral, have the power to change, heal, hurt, destroy and/or create. As writers in this changing global landscape, we must be more vigilant in choosing our words. What and whom are we trying to effect? Writers and orators can be leaders of change for better or worse, it’s our choice.

Phrases like Black Lives Matter and Civil Rights Movement and words like racism and colonialism, these are powerful words that awaken us, call us out to be better, or remind us that we still have a ways to go.

This Is Personal

Example: A friend is in a challenging situation at the moment. Forced out of her rental (not an eviction but a notice to vacate) during Covid times, she sleeps in her car because there’s a huge housing shortage where she lives. Her hypnotherapist made a comment during a session that has stuck with her and has helped her better deal with the current situation.
He said:

“It’s not WHO you are, it’s your circumstance.”

Bam. Light bulb. 💡
Aha moment, for sure, even for me.

This, Too, Shall Pass

When she heard that, she said it gave her a whole new outlook. She no longer feels it’s her fault, that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that this too, shall pass. Words chosen carefully can help us move beyond even the most difficult of challenges.
This virus is affecting us personally and globally, some more than others. It’s imperative we choose our words more carefully to ensure our survival and recovery. Write from the compassionate heart, support a peaceful co-existence and community goals, stand your ground without being divisive. Make your words work for you, not against you – or others.

Universal Energies At Work

What’s happening now, all the chaos, is Yang (movement, momentum, anger, anguish, change in process) and what will follow, accordingly, is Yin (peace, stillness, changes completed, new way of life). Universal laws are playing out before our eyes. Patience is required to get to the next phase of this seemingly never-ending cycle.
As writers, let’s use our words, our stories, as a beacon during these dark and chaotic days. Let’s create and maintain the POWER OF WORDS.

(COVID) Times, They are A’Changin’… For Writers

Sac free library

Little Free Library, Sacramento, CA

The New Normal

Times are changing, for sure. Life is most certainly different as a result of this pandemic. Same ol, same old isn’t anymore. Everywhere I go, I hear the phrase “this is the new normal.” We all have been changed by this virus, internally and externally, personally and globally. How it affects writers has been nothing short of upheaval, including the sad news of a huge loss to the writing world. Last week we lost Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a prolific writer with an uncommon knack for vivid storytelling. His collection of books, including The Shadow of the Wind, (which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog) excited and intrigued me in a way I’d not experienced since I’d read the Neither Wolf Nor Dog trilogy. I recently re-read that book, devouring every page with gleeful delight; it is now a permanent part of my home collection.

I discovered the slightly ragged copy in a Little Free Library in midtown Sacramento. The box in the pic is where I actually found his book, among many others that have provided me with amazing trips down Imagination Lane. Best idea ever, these Little Free Libraries (littlefreelibrary.org for a location near you). For writers, it’s free advertising!

Welcome to The Digital Life

Where are we headed? Into new territory, for many, but familiar for others. Social distancing has forced writers to find new avenues for marketing their works. Some of the safe-distancing options are digital (eBooks), audio (Audible), podcasting (storytelling and reading to audience), and FB groups (among other popular SM).

For those of us not quite comfortable with the digital life (that would be me), I have to think about how to be creative in this new world. Instead of pushing the book itself, I recently decided to turn it into an online course so I can teach the concepts in the book. What better way to get people excited about their health than to actually have me walk them through the information? Since my book is a non-fiction, it’s a no-brainer. I’m a lively speaker and reader, so I know students will enjoy learning along with me. Better retention and they’ll feel they got their money’s worth; win-win.

Oh, The Choices

Options for fiction works may differ; for example, poets can offer a poetry class. Have you considered whether you could teach someone else how to write something? Do you have a degree in Journalism, English, or Communications? The digital life is now in full swing as millennials and many others take advantage of not only the social distancing aspect but also prices for online classes – they’re greatly reduced and there’s a multitude from which to choose.

Maybe you need to brush up on your MLA style or grammar and syntax in your sentences. Maybe you need help with plots and characters. Or writing a mystery. Or a comedy/farce. Whatever your need as a writer, online classes can surely fill it. Lots of experts out there so find classes taught by people with experience and know-how. Yes, we are smart to learn from our own experiences but it is the wise (wo)man who learns from the experiences of others.

Times are certainly changing; adaptability is key to not getting caught behind. Survival of the fittest, Darwin postulated. Change can be a good thing, if you’re willing to go along for the ride.

Live Small, Live Well

old Italian windows_Milan

After watching a PBS Frontline report on coronavirus in Italy , I had an idea about people living smaller lives, and not just during a pandemic. What if we chose to live this way on a daily basis? Ideas led to writing and writing led me to creating this post – even though it’s not really about writing… but ends up that way, I guess.

In other words, when something moves you, write about it. 

Small and Close Is a Good Thing…Usually

Smaller living spaces bring people closer together. There’s plenty of room for everything you need using smarter design, smarter placements, living with less stuff. Simpler lives are happier lives. People are then able to focus on what really matters: relationships and community – look at Italians, they seem to have perfected it.

Europeans have lived this way for a long time out of necessity because there’s no room for the multitudes of sprawling American McMansions or penthouse-sized apartments in most European cities. Americans seem to think they need more open living space, so they purchase bigger homes and more material items, like furniture and art and expensive kitchen toys. But is it all really necessary in order to feel fulfilled? Or is it a nod to some internal need to “keep up with the Joneses?”

Or perhaps it’s the result of an overblown sense of entitlement; that what we want we deserve simply because we work for it or can afford it. That seems more like an individual-oriented mindset.

What’s Really Important

Watching the video, seeing the small spaces Italian families share, it’s no wonder they’re as close as they are. Normally, that’s a good thing but during a pandemic that kind of intimacy, sadly, has had a deleterious effect on their lives. But I doubt they’ll change their ways because those very connections are the lifeline of Italian life.

Smaller apartment homes force people to share the whole living space, including common and private areas (in Europe, brothers and sisters routinely share bedrooms). This type of living also provides lessons in conflict resolution since we’re not going to get along well all of the time. This is a community-oriented approach.  

Smaller is Better for Everyone

Tiny houses are all the rage here in America but what we need is to reduce overall apartment living space (square footage) to make room for more people in each building. With burgeoning populations across the globe, it makes sense for us to adopt more of a European style of living. We’ve been spoon fed the ideal that the “American Dream” is to own a single family home, which requires more land space and finite natural resources (and equates to a much larger individual environmental footprint). For some reason, in America, living with others in apartment or multi-family (aka tenement) housing is perceived as inferior to owning your own home (which actually owns you for 20-30 years until the deed is in your hands). The benefits of community living can far outweigh life in the suburbs.

European style refrigerators, for example, which are much smaller than their American counterparts, force people to think about what to eat, how much, and how often. Shopping becomes a daily responsibility or at least every 2-3 days, depending on how many one is shopping for and feeding. Smaller fridges force people to choose foods that are most important: what is fresh and made daily, rather than something with a 6-month or more shelf life; that’s hoarding for a future that may or may not come. This pandemic has certainly reminded us of that.

Living smaller means living well today, within our community. Tomorrow will come when it comes.

One Story, Two Story, Three!

writing graphic

As is usual, I’ve spent part of this afternoon trying to figure out the topic for my next blog post. Needing inspiration, I checked my professional email for ideas because I often send myself links to interesting and/or informative articles from Writers Digest and other literary sources.

Bingo.

Halfway down my professional email list is a link to an article on the art of writing spin-offs. It’s an informative article on how to get more than one angle/story from a particular topic. It’s a way to maximize the information you gather on a story and leads you to other avenues, thereby creating multiple stories and more income.

Of course, you submit these spin-offs to different magazines, depending on the angle of the story. Be careful not overlap the information; keep the angles separate and unique. Make sure to pitch to noncompeting publications. 

“Travel writers often write about the same location from different perspectives. Freelancer Valentina Valentini wrote about The Gravediggers Pub in Dublin for BBC Travel. She traced the history of the pub and its owners, steering clear of the ghost stories associated with it. Later, she pitched the haunted history to Atlas Obscura.”

Dinsha Sachan, The Art of Spin-Offs: Freelance Article Ideas at Writers Digest

This reminds me of two of my previous posts: 1) Bad Choices = Good Stories (if you missed it, read here) written back in 2017, and 2) A Writing Life (On the Road) in 2016 (read here). Travel pieces, for example, can offer a multitude of angles because so many historical places are popular with travelers. You can focus on eco-tourism in one article for a travel magazine; historical context in another article for an historical magazine; food and culture in a foodie magazine. With a little imagination, you can create multiple stories from that one topic and increase your freelance income.

“Sometimes a news piece can sow the seeds for a broader trends feature.” Dinsha Sachan

“One story often leads entirely to another; both are different, and yet intricately linked.” Kamala Thiagarajan, an India-based freelance journalist

Researching a topic will often provide ample opportunities to explore different angles. Even if one avenue seems to go nowhere, don’t be afraid to explore it. You never know where it might lead. Perhaps to that writing life on the road, after all.

All That Jitters

Fear Emotion5 clipart MS Office

In this current, and hopefully soon-to-be post-COVID atmosphere, anxiety and fear have ruled many lives around the globe. With good reason. Anxiety and fear about people’s health, futures, finances, etc. are keeping many people up at night and jittery during the day. While anxiety is a normal human emotion, it becomes pathological when it interferes with our daily lives in such a way that is considered beyond the norm. Which begs the question: how does one cope?

With Chinese medicine.

You Have Options

Acupuncture has repeatedly proven its ability to mitigate and dissipate the emotional and spiritual (seen as inseparable in CM) imbalances brought on by just this type of global disaster. In CM, these imbalances are understood to affect one’s shen, or consciousness/spirit. Emotional imbalances affect organ function as well. Chinese herbs, as posted in a previous blog, are a time-tested option for reducing anxiety and associated symptoms like insomnia, rumination and nervousness, without the side effects that often accompany pharmaceuticals.

In his article Anxiety: The Unsettled Shen, Mark W. Frost, L.Ac., writes:

According to TCM theory, the emotions of fear, pensiveness, grief and anger cause the Qi to sink, stagnate, dissipate, and rise respectively.

The Seven Emotions

In CM, the Seven Emotions are: joy (Heart), anger (Liver), pensiveness/over-thinking (Spleen), grief (Lung), fear/shock (Kidney). The emotions that combine to create anxiety are fear (of the unknown, loss, for one’s security/safety), pensiveness (rumination), grief (sadness, loss), and anger/resentment (loss of control over one’s situation).

Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

Anger is the emotion controlled by Liver in CM. Liver controls the flow of Qi throughout the body. Anger constricts that movement as does rage, resentment, frustration and bitterness. Chronic constraint (stagnation) of Qi creates Heat internally, which agitates shen/Heart (Liver nourishes Heart in the Five Element system) and fails to anchor shen within the Heart. This can result in disorders of psyche and soma.

The opposite of joy (Heart) is sadness. Sadness, while a normal emotional response to loss can, when extreme or protracted (over longer periods of time), stagnate Heart and Lung Qi, which leads to a Fire deficiency (this can affect overall or various components of bodily functions).

Pensiveness (aka over-thinking/rumination) leads to both stagnation and deficiency, setting up a chronic imbalance in digestive functions (in CM, Spleen controls digestion). This stagnation (excess) and deficiency (reduction in function) bring about the formation of Dampness (wet mucus) and Phlegm (dry mucus), and combine with Heat. Combined with constraint and anxiety, it can manifest as “knots in the stomach” or “butterflies in the stomach.” Depending on the individual, digestion and elimination can be seriously increased (seen with anxiety) or decreased (seen with depression as it causes constraint).

Grief is the emotion associated with Lung in CM. It is similar to sadness in that a prolonged state of grief will cause constraint in the Lung/Heart relationship and likely lead to a deficiency.

Fear is the emotion associated with Kidney in CM. While fear is healthy and keeps us from doing foolish things, it, too, can become protracted as a result of fright/shock (think PTSD and other anxiety disorders). 

When there is an imbalance, fear can foster a general insecurity about life. A deficiency of the Yin aspect of the Water element, the calming, receptive and grounding portion, can manifest as agitation, insecurity, and anxiety (combination of nervousness and fear). (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, D. Thunderhawk, L.Ac., 2016.)

In Conclusion…

This has been a nerve-wracking experience for many around the globe. Meditation, solitude (easy with the shelter-in-place orders), compassion, in conjunction with holistic healing methods (acupuncture, herbs, Reiki, medical Qi Gong, healing hands, etc.), can ground us and reduce, even heal, our anxiety, our jitters. We must continue to move forward no matter what tomorrow may bring. Remember that adversity makes us stronger.

May you find peace and strength to ease your minds and nourish your spirit. Namaste.

 

 

 

Like, Um, Well, You Know…Seriously, To Be Fair…

crutch words1
Source: Google Images

Grammar Still Rules

Grammar rules still apply to your writing and speaking and always will. Especially if you want to keep readers and listeners engaged.

Today I’m writing about a few of my pet peeves that have become far too prevalent in today’s writing and speaking. I’m talking about crutch words and fillers: like, well, you know, ah, um, uh, etc. 

My biggest issue with these overused words and space fillers is that they make the writer/speaker sound less intelligent, less able to think or speak quickly or clearly. Which equates to poor writing and speaking skills. And poor communication skills take away one’s credibility, which means people won’t read your books or listen to what you say. Is this how you want the world of readers and listeners to perceive you? 

Ditch the Crutches

While some crutch words and fillers are acceptable in written dialogue, they should be left out of interviews and other professional conversations. If you listen to podcasts, you know what I’m talking about; fillers and crutches take up way more space in a conversation. Listen to an interview, maybe even record it to your computer. Then edit out the fillers and crutches and listen to what remains – the actual conversation sounds quite different when it’s cleaned up. It’s more direct and to the point and it’s the same with writing. Remove the fillers and crutches (except when necessary in character dialogue) and you’ll find the reading succinct and clear. And credible.

A Interesting Peeve

Another of my pet peeves of late is the incorrect use of ‘a’ and ‘an.’ Far too often, even on the evening national news, I hear professionals using ‘a’ where ‘an’ is required.

Here’s the rule: if the word begins with a vowel or a consonant with a vowel sound like the h in hour or in abbreviations/acronyms such as MBA, use an. If the word begins with a consonant or consonant sound as in book or PTA, use a. I’m annoyed every time I hear phrases like “a airplane” or “a interested party” because the speakers come off as not very bright or particularly attentive to their grammar. Or they have lazy copyeditors!

Modify This

The next peeve on my list (which I swear grows with age) is the overuse and incorrect use of what are called vague modifiers. Vague modifiers are also crutch words and fillers and don’t belong in good writing or clear speeches: A lot, kind of, perhaps, truly, somewhat, quite, seemingly, suddenly, rather, fairly, etc.. There are more, but you get the idea. How often do you use these in your writing/speaking? Are you even conscious of whether you use these or not? Here is a link to a funny article on crutch words that “literally” made me laugh out loud.

I’ll admit I’m guilty of falling prey to the occasional crutch and filler. However, I have become more conscious of my spoken words as a result of doing a podcast last year. That, in turn, has made me more aware of written words and their impact.

Those Catholic grammar school nuns beat good English grammar into me and my classmates – quite literally, actually. To this day, I can’t finish a project and ‘turn it in’ (publish) unless it’s perfect.

Seriously. 😉

#grammarrules #thewritinglife #communicationskills #writeagoodstory #podcasting #Englishgrammar