And the Accent Goes On…

diacritical marks1 (2)

Source: Google Images

I’m a word-y person. I love a play on words, words that rhyme (especially in funny poems or jokes), words with unusual spelling or pronunciation (I like a good challenge), even words that make me giggle (like ‘kerfuffle’). All part of being a writer, I suppose. Writers must love words of all kinds to build their stories, don’t you think? 

The words that got me thinking about this post are those with accent marks still used in our modern English. Many have been dropped as we modernize even more in this Digital Age and I wonder what will happen to our language as we know it. Will it, too, adapt to a point of unrecognizability? I hope not. I enjoy it too much.

Are Diacritical Marks All That Critical Anymore? I Say YES!

Accent marks are called diacritical marks. And in our modern English they are being used less and less. The accent mark, or diaeresis (omg, I had to add this word to my computer dictionary) indicates, according to Wikipedia, “the modification of a vowel’s sound when spoken.” In modern English the only two that are used consistently are the grave accent (è) and acute accent (é). Even these tend to disappear in certain types of publications, such as an online blog (but not mine, ok?). 

Take Your Pick

The list of diacritical marks is longer than I expected (you can view it here) so I’ll cover the accents most relevant to the English language and currently in use.

From Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_terms_with_diacritical_marks:

  • the acute accent and grave accent
    • as in née, frappé, soufflé, résumé (e.g., I shall resume writing my work resume – just doesn’t look right to me without the accents; neither does drinking a glass of rose… or rosé?)
  • the circumflex (entrepôt), borrowed from French
  • the diaeresis (Zoë), indicating a second syllable in two consecutive vowels (similar to, but not same as, the German umlaut)
  • the tittle, the dot found on the regular small i and small j, is removed when another diacritic is required (poor little tittle goes away…)
  • the macron, lengthening vowels, as in Māori; or indicating omitted n or m (in pre-Modern English, both in print and in handwriting).
  • the breve (ă)
  • the umlaut (über), altering Germanic vowels
    • written now as (ü) ue, (ö) oe, (ä) ae 
  • the cedilla (soupçon), in French, Portuguese and in Catalan it is a softening c, indicating ‘s-‘ not ‘k-‘ pronunciation
    • So garçon (waiter) doesn’t sound like ‘garkōn’ (something from a Lord of the Rings movie, maybe?)
  • the tilde (Señor, João), in Spanish indicating palatalized n, and Portuguese indicating nasal a and o (although in Spanish and most source languages, the tilde is not considered a diacritic over the letter n but rather as an integral part of the distinct letter ñ; in Portuguese the sound is represented by “nh”)
    • as in piñon (mmm…my favorite when they’re fresh picked) instead of pinyon/pine nut

There are several others, “representing European personal names, anthroponyms, and place names, toponyms” (remember these from my -Nym post?) and you can search them out yourself, if so inclined. 

There are also digraphs…but I digress…

There are a few English words that actually don’t borrow diacritics from another language, we made them up just for us! It’s called a hiatus – two separate vowel sounds in adjacent syllables – and you thought it was just a break from school… As in words like coöperativedaïs and reëlect  – now they’re replaced by use of a hyphen (re-elect) or made into a whole word (cooperative, dais). (Note: certain publications still use the hiatus, it’s not just for breaks anymore!)

When one breaks down a language, it’s amazing what can be found. Sure, we learn English language in schools – nouns, verbs, adjectives and such – but no one teaches the history of our language unless you major in it in college.

If the history of language or words were taught in grade schools, perhaps there would be more word nerds like you and me, then. Get your word on!

#authorsoninstagram #writersoninstagram #English #language #amwriting #writerslife #poetry #creativewriting #writersblog #Mestengobooks

My Old Posts: Like Visiting Old Friends

hjacksonbrownjr1

Source: Google Images/brainyquote.com

It’s been one of those weeks. Actually, it’s been one of those months. Health issues have taken up a large portion of my time and I’ve missed some work as a result. Now that I’m back in full swing, I’m too exhausted to even think about a new topic for my next post. So apologies all around for not writing a mind-blowing post this time around (wink wink nudge nudge)…

Stepping Back in Time…

So I did what I have an occasional habit of doing – I randomly revisit previous posts. I start with the most recent ones and at the bottom of the page I click on a post from the Related section. Sort of a ‘free association’ attempt at getting ideas for this post – and clicking on a related post after that, and so on. It has also provided an opportunity to make some updates to outdated information and add a new hyperlink here and there.

Amazing what you find when you look…back.

Eeny Meeny Miney Moe…

My first click was to this post: https://mestengobooks.com/2017/08/03/talk-to-text-a-writing-lesson/

This one didn’t go so well. I haven’t used talk-to-text since this eye-opening (and almost vomit-inducing at the sound of my own voice) attempt at a shortcut to the writing process. It seemed like a good idea at the time. C’est la vie, eh?

The next click was:  https://mestengobooks.com/2016/07/22/subliminal-messages-and-the-call-of-the-word/

Too bad this one didn’t come to fruition…I got quite far into developing the chapters then gave up because I stopped practicing some years ago. But I did end the post with some good advice:

“Pay attention to the hidden messages all around you. Let them be your muse, let them inspire you to answer your ‘call of the word.”

And the next link after that: https://mestengobooks.com/2016/07/08/success-and-failure-the-yang-and-yin-of-writing-life/

“In summary, the lesson of Hexagram 47 from the I-Ching is about oppression and hope – that even during difficult or bad times we must dig down deep, not fear failure (the inevitable downswing of the life/writing-cycle), quietly embrace it, and carry on with the understanding (hope) that all will be better again (the inevitable upswing of the life/writing-cycle).”

Yikes. I’ve been in the oppression phase (yet again) but seeing this post is a reminder that what does DOWN must go UP. Here’s to mini successes! I hope they arrive soon, I’m tired of the other side of this cycle…

“Failure happens to everyone. It’s how you handle the failure. Ride it out, like a big bump in the road and you’ll come out the other side wiser, and perhaps, more successful. In whatever way that means for you.”

I sense a running theme here… (If only you could see my facial expression right now…)

And finally, the pièce de résistance: https://mestengobooks.com/2020/07/15/words-have-power-so-be-careful-how-you-use-them/

The first paragraph of this post is more than prophetic – all you have to do is read your feeds on Twitter, IG, TikTok, etc. Chaos is everywhere, especially in the American political arena, where a major war of the words (read: lies, slanders and unfounded conspiracies) has been ongoing for far too long. The danger of violence against fellow citizens (regardless of where on this globe you live) lurks around every corner and now in every grammar school. We have to take responsibility for our words and the power they can have over others. Now more than ever writers are needed to provide light and laughter, adventure, facts, TRUTH.

Yes, these wise words were mine (amazing, I know). This is why I go back and re-read – who knows what goldmine of tidbits I’ll find.

And maybe learn from, like the advice of old friend.

#writersoninstagram #authorsontwitter #thewritinglife #oldfriends #blogging #freeassociation #thursdaytips #thewritelife #author #writer #words 

Autumn is My Muse

fall tree_Auburn

Fall colors arriving in Auburn, CA

It’s About That Time…

Indian summer has finally arrived in northern California – it was a long, extraordinarily HOT wait for the crispy air, crunch of leaves underfoot; colors at the beginning of their descent into eventual death and decay. On our morning break, I walked to a stand of trees in a green space nearby (see pic). I listened to the wind and the leaves as they whispered secrets and stories unknown to humans. Experience nature and it will speak to you in all of its languages; nature has inspired writers to put into words what is felt, seen; you only have to listen, look, and learn.

I haven’t had the desire to write or work on a novel in a long time; poetry, however, has been calling to me. Poetry, for me, is a highly internal/emotional form of writing and expression, perfect for the coming changing of season.

Going In

Autumn is the time of year referred to as Yintang in Chinese medicine – part Yin, part Yang, where the world and everything in it begins the ‘going inward’ process toward TaiYang, or Terminal Yin (winter). It’s the time to feed your mind/body/spirit with quieter activities.

Writing poetry is perfect for mind and spirit; nourishing foods will help “feed” your writing:

“…Autumn …it is a time of harvesting and gathering. Weather turns cooler and we crave warm foods. Nature begins moving inward and downward; leaves fall off trees and plants wither. Nuts and fruits fall to the ground as energies collect in the roots and rhizomes of plants, which are ready to harvest for our fall menu. More root vegetables become available, as well as mushrooms/fungi, which strengthen and nourish digestive fire, allowing us to better “digest” food, thoughts and ideas.

To assist the inward movement of energy, add sour foods to your diet in small amounts, like fermented foods. Put warming, moistening foods on your table: mushrooms, barley, leek, radish, cauliflower, tofu, nut butters, hemp and olive oils, and use warm, invigorating herbs like garlic, sage, savory, thyme, and rosemary.” The Five-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods (2016)

Inspiration

 

The Autumn of Life

Colors red, gold, fiery orange, of forests bright

Fade with time

As, in our youth, once brilliant

We fade into the autumn

Of our lives.

The sweet scent of decay, the crunch and 

Crackle beneath my boots

As I amble along the path life has given me.

The autumn of life – – – 

Activity fades to quiescence and

The desire for inner stillness

Claims victory over youthful vigor

Now waned.

(© 2022)

My advice? Get outside more = write more – and maybe better and deeper. And don’t forget to FEED your inspiration!

#poetsofinstagram #poetsoftwitter #authors #poetry #autumn #fall #MestengoBooks #writers #WritersDigest #inspiration #getoutside #nature #trees #autumnleaves #nutrition #wholefoods

Would Hemingway, Fitzgerald or London Have Joined a SM Writers Group?

white fang

Source: Google Images/raptisrarebooks.com

I Often Wonder…

Did the great writers of the early to mid-20th century, like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Jack London, share their works with each other? If available, would they have joined social media (SM) like FB or writers’ groups? Sure, they drank (all three), sometimes together (Hemingway and Fitzgerald); caroused together (the same two); even shared a few women (Hemingway) with other men. But would they have wanted or needed SM? In their day, and for centuries prior, writing was a solo activity relegated to dark offices or the corner table at a local café. Maybe that’s why so many were heavy drinkers or alcoholics… maybe some contact with other writers outside of bars to discuss their works would have made it less lonely – or more sober.

Maybe.

No Time Except for Writing

Jack London was too busy living his stories to have sat around and kibitzed online. Fitzgerald and Hemingway knew each other and were friends in Paris in the 20s. They certainly drank together and partied till the wee hours. It’s what many of the great writers did back then. When they weren’t partying or off on an adventure, they were hunkered down in front of their typewriters or pencils/pads, scratching away at novels now considered some of the greatest literary works. Would/could a FB group have improved on that? Or are writers in the 21st century more insecure or more reliant on others’ opinions? Is that insecurity a result or side effect of SM? Or is the thought of toiling away, all alone, too frightening? Do we really NEED someone else’s input to craft a great story?

Social, To a Degree

Yes, we are social creatures by nature but writers have survived for eons working on their own… or have they? Perhaps there were many discussions among writers about plot, characters and settings. In the end, though, each writer must go it alone to write the story. It’s the last bastion of solitude enjoyed by fickle artists.

I often wonder, if any of them were alive today, what they would think of SM and its effect on writing. Hemingway might have enjoyed the celebrity SM offers (he did have a bit of an ego); perhaps Fitzgerald as well. But Jack, in my opinion, would have poo-pooed the notion that he needed to join a group for ‘support.’ After all, he wrote a thousand words a day on his own and often while out living one of his stories – tinker, tailor, oyster pirate, WRITER.

A life of WORDS from a life LIVED. All without social media. Amazing.

#ErnestHemingway #FScottFitzgerald #JackLondon #writersoninstagram #authorsoninstagram #fiction #greatnovels #novelists #tuesdaytwocents #thegreatamericannovel #socialmedia #facebook #instagram #twitter #authorsontwitter

Whether the Weather is Important to Your Novel

First draft of book cover for Rescue on White Thunder

Today I read an interesting post from a fellow writer/author about using weather in our stories (thanks for the inspiration, Damyanti). That got me to thinking… about how every story needs atmosphere (figuratively and literally) and how weather can define a plot or reveal something about a character. And oddly enough, after reading Damyanti’s post and a couple articles on this subject, I realize that I don’t pay all that much attention to weather in some novels and I’m not sure why. (But now I will thanks to that post!)

“The setting of a story informs the mood, the attitude of the characters, and the presentation of the themes. One of the most important elements of the setting is the weather. In literature, weather plays many roles such as a plot device, a way to set the atmosphere, a symbol for cleansing or misery, and much more.”

Hannah Aster, Weather in Literature: Rain Is Never Just Rain, at https://www.shortform.com/blog/weather-in-literature/

My personal favorite is fire. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been transfixed by fire. It has a hypnotic quality about it whether it’s coming from your fireplace or blazing through a forest. I’m not a pyromaniac; I simply enjoy and respect fire for its beauty, danger and power as one of nature’s indomitable forces. Which is why I made it a running theme throughout both of my fiction novels (1 unpublished, 1 unfinished):

“Braddock and his team reached a grove of pine interspersed with hemlock and western red cedar above the trees burning to the southeast and dug as if their lives depended on it (because it did). The ground was still a bit hard from a cold winter and the digging was arduous. Fires spread quickly over a fresh, loose layer of humus covering the solid ground. Tree trunks caught fire one after the other as flames overran the surrounding brush and now-dead timbers toppled from last year’s big storm. The crackling roar of the fire amplified and they had to shout to hear each other. Braddock knew they would soon be forced to move to higher ground. Some of the firebreaks held but winds were increasing in strength and velocity, propelling fresh embers to other areas. More trees and small brush ignited, creating walls of flames that nearly licked the upper branches of the tall pines.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Fire in a story is a powerful motivator as it can often connote a life or death scenario: 

“Unaware of the situation below, Braddock scanned the perimeter. Flames were everywhere, from the pine needles and grass on the ground, to the upper branches of the trees. He hadn’t fought fires in a long time; but it’s something one never forgets, he reminded himself as he struggled to figure a way out. He had to find Annie – it was the one thing that drove him to do what he did next. He choked on the smoke so he grabbed a bandana from his pocket, poured water on it, and held it over his nose and mouth. Pockets of blackened earth began to appear as the fires burned the forest floor clear and Braddock saw their opportunity: a narrow stretch of burned over ground leading upwards between two patches still ablaze. 

He looked down at Smoke, “Think we can do this, boy?” 

Smoke looked at the tight space between the towers of flames; he winced and tried to wag his tail in support.”

– Rescue on White Thunder, 2012 (currently unpublished)

Just following this last quote from my first novel, another character (the second protagonist) used the smoke from the fire to hide in as he snuck up on antagonists. Like two birds with one stone, eh? Using a force like fire in a story ratchets up the action. It can make heroes out of likely or unlikely characters. Fire speaks to one’s primal fear of being trapped in a blaze (in a house, in the woods, etc.) and brings readers to the edges of their seats.

Weather, in short, can be the tie that binds a story together and bring it to an exciting or unexpected conclusion.

#thursdaytips #writingtips #writersdigest #authorsoninstagram #fires #wildfires #fridayfuntips #saturdaystories #fictionnovel #writingfiction #hotshots #firefighters #mountainrescue #howtobuildaplot #literati #mestengobooks 

Supporting Local Authors is Good for Business

A Reason to Go Local

I’m sure many of you watched the news about the devastating tornadoes, including the leveling of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Upon seeing the destroyed warehouse, one of my first thoughts, after concern for survivors, was “Oh man, lots of people will be angry about their Xmas packages not arriving on time.” Gifts and gotta-have-it-now items purchased online from other parts of the country, other parts of the world. It’s a “Xmas fever” that spreads around much of the world for a short season and repeats itself year to year.

Then it got me thinking…

For many years I’ve enjoyed shopping locally (I find more unique items this way) and these disastrous events have certainly emphasized my choice. I love supporting local businesses, especially those hit hard by the pandemic. You can go to a local bookstore or business and pick out the gifts yourself. I like the personal touch; I feel it gives the gift a greater meaning if I took the time to pick it out, take it home and wrap it.

Less Really Is More

Mass material consumerism has reached an all-time ‘low’, in my opinion. We have football stadium-sized warehouses where people toil under the digital gun (their movements are tracked and timed every minute of every day) to get your purchases to you ASAP. This harkens back to the factory laborers of the early twentieth century (with not much more labor protections, it seems). Complaints about late deliveries even though there’s a huge labor shortage (which some folks refuse to recognize), issues with availability of raw materials, etc., persist with no end in sight. Keeping your shopping local may decrease your purchase options but increases the opportunity to meet your neighbors and find unusual treasures.

Local Support Strengthens a Community

One way to resolve this global issue is to help our own community members thrive and supporting local authors is a good way to start.  Many towns and cities often have yearly events that introduce local authors to the community. I was one such fortunate author when I lived in New Mexico, where I published my first book (it even won an award!). What a wonderful way to meet readers and other writers and discover new stories.

While much of writers’ works have gone digital (eBooks, Audible, etc.), I feel it vital to support as many members of our local writing communities as possible. Small or local bookstores, libraries and cafes are often great places to meet local writers and authors via book readings or writing groups (professional, Meetup. etc.). Grab a cuppa and have a listen.

Show Your Local Library Some Love

Another wonderful way to support authors (both local and worldwide) is through your public library. I find them an amazing source of discovery and entertainment. This week I discovered a new Asian author, Gail Tsukiyama; I took home two of her books: The Language of Threads and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms. Libraries offer a wide variety of books from local authors to best-selling authors and everyone in between. And it’s a great place to review a book before going to the bookstore to make a purchase.

Post Script:

(Yes, large companies like Amazon provide jobs and help boost the U.S. economy (GDP); they may be, in some places, the only option for employment. That’s not the focus of this post and I continue to support buying locally so we can boost our local economies, which in turn will have a positive effect on the national GDP.)

#writersoffiction #supportyourlocalauthors #placergoldwriters #writersdigest #meetupgroups #poetry #buylocal

The Bloom Is Off The Rose

withered rose

Source: Pixabay

That’s it, I’m done. This morning I read an interesting post by a writer I follow who took a 6-week break from SM (which explains why I didn’t get any new posts from her in my inbox). Many of the comments I read for that post agreed and offered some useful words on how to handle SM if you choose to stay in the game. I’ve posted before on the pros and cons of SM and how much we actually ‘need’ to be on it. I was inspired by her desire to cut the proverbial ties that bound her to her followers and the global writing community, the ties that took her away from her writing time. I constantly struggle with a similar issue. But her honesty encouraged me to take a small step today and I deleted my Goodreads account (for the second, and hopefully, last time) while reorganizing and thinning out my online bookmark manager.

Honestly, why should I give a damn which books complete strangers are reading? And why would they give a damn what I’m reading or have read? FYI – just finished Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan; I hope knowing this changes your life in some way. 🙂

I’ve also wrestled (many times, actually) with closing my Mestengo Books FB page; it contains the same information as my website and I’d rather you visited that over a lackluster FB page. All my FB followers (a whopping 35 people) can visit my website, if so inclined. Well, that’s gone now, too. Whew. A moment of trepidation but I quickly recovered. (And I have fourteen days to make it live again, in case I change my mind and realize I simply can’t live without an ineffective FB page.)

I’ll keep the FB page for my nutrition book; eventually, I’m fairly sure, I’ll tire of that one as well. I’m trying out Instagtram and Twitter for a few months; I don’t spend more than about thirty minutes a day on each (first thing in the morning is best for me) so I don’t yet feel they’re sucking the soul out of me. Give ‘em time.

Does this mean I’m focusing more on productive writing? Not necessarily. I am currently in a predicament that is engulfing almost every moment of almost every day and invading my thoughts almost round the clock . Exhausting. But that’s life: the ups and downs, hills and valleys, ebbs and flows. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my life is currently in that ebb/down/valley so I’m not focused on writing other than this post. Maybe I should be, it would bring a welcome relief from the stress and insomnia.

As I’ve posted before: all we can do, in my opinion, is what’s best for each of us, no matter what the ‘experts’ tout. If you like SM, are good at it, and are finding success with it, then stay the course. Too many people are in burnout mode from the addictive lure of instant success, instant money, instant something. As always with a fad that rapidly becomes popular, (almost) everyone  wants on board, wants their ‘piece of the pie.’ What was once shiny and new quickly fades into oblivion, replaced more quickly by the newest, baddest, greatest, freshest, cheapest, etc. And many of us (writers) are exhausted from trying to keep up. In that realization, a host of writers are backing off, reverting back to doing things ‘the old-fashioned way.’ They’re taking a step back to view the bigger picture. Exhaustion is then replaced with serenity, clarity, and wisdom gained only by the experience.

I will continue to post to my blog because I need it, even if you don’t. And I will make a concerted effort to keep only a small space in my life for SM. The bloom is definitely off that rose for me.

 

What has been your experience with SM? Positive or negative? Care to share? What are some good arguments for keeping up with it? What are some good arguments for letting it go?

 

 

 

Read Different: Go Native

Native storytellers

As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” This applies to our reading choices, too. As a writer, I love to read – that goes without saying for most writers. But the hardest part can be finding something new and unusual; finding stories written from a different perspective, as long as it’s not considered “mainstream”. If you’re looking to support writers who share stories different from yours, I recommend you try Native American authors.

I’ve been reading fiction and nonfiction from several prolific Native authors for over twenty years. I discovered them on treasure hunts through the fiction aisles of libraries (and from there I found their nonfiction works as well). You don’t have to be an Indian to enjoy a culturally specific story; the details are rich and paint a story not unlike your own, just with a different brush. We’re far more alike than we sometimes care to admit and it’s good to learn from others’ experiences and unfamiliar settings.

The following is a short list of some of my personal favorites. Some of them, like Kent Nerburn, Joseph Marshall, and Priscilla Cogan, I go back and read at least once a year because they teach me life lessons that remind me of what’s important.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann (nonfiction)

This is a true story of how Osage Indians, after discovering oil on their lands and becoming rich, were systematically murdered. It was the first major homicide case for the FBI; together with the Osage, the FBI managed to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies of murder in America.  “It is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long.” A can’t-put-it-down kind of book.

Kent Nerburn

These books tell a story of a white man’s physical and spiritual adventures with a Lakota elder. A humorous, touching, and eye/spirit-opening adventure that spans three books. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

  1. Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder
  2. The Wolf at Twilight: An Indian Elder’s Journey through a Land of Ghosts and Shadows
  3. The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo: A Child, an Elder, and the Light from an Ancient Sky

Priscilla Cogan

These are a fictional trilogy of spiritual adventure. Maggie, a white woman, meets Winona Pathfinder and her spiritual journey begins; a mix of Lakota and Christian beliefs. I loved all three books; I read them again and again.

  1. Winona’s Web
  2. Compass of the Heart
  3. Crack at Dusk Crook of Dawn

Lakota Westerns by Joseph M. Marshall III (Lakota) – I love westerns and these are my favorite fiction works by Joseph Marshall. He is a prolific writer and the scenes he paints with his pen have you right there with Cloud and his people, in their struggles to survive as whites encroach on their lands.

  1. Hundred in the Hand – a fictional account of the Battle of the Hundred in the Hand (the Fetterman Massacre) as seen through the eyes of Cloud, a warrior fighting alongside Crazy Horse (whose younger brother, Little Wolf, was actually killed in this battle at the ripe old age of 19, ten years prior to the death of Crazy Horse).
  2. The Long Knives are Crying – the second in the series, picks up around 1875 as the Lakota face the inevitable arrival of whites, still through the eyes of Cloud, now much older and the last generation of “free” Indians.

Here is one of his fabulous nonfictions:

The Journey of Crazy Horse – drawn on oral stories from elders, Joseph paints a picture of Crazy Horse the man, not the legend. A beautiful read.

James Welch (Blackfeet)

  1. Fools Crow – first published in 1986, it’s a fictional account of Blackfeet life in 1870, through the eyes of Fools Crow, a young warrior and medicine man. A gorgeous story.
  2. The Heartsong of Charging Elk – this is a true story. Charging Elk, Oglala Sioux, joins Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show but is left behind in a hospital in Marseille, France after a serious injury. He is forced to remake his life alone in a strange land. Sadly, the book ends when Charging Elk is only thirty-three; James died in 2000 while working on the second half of Charging Elk’s story (marriage and descendants).

The Last Algonquian by Ted Kazimiroff – This is the true story of (Joe) Two Trees, the last of his people, living alone in Pelham Bay, New York (up to 1924). He befriends a young boy scout (the author’s father) and recounts his sad story in great detail. (Graves of his parents and dog are located in Long Island City, NY.)

The Heart of Everything That Is by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin – an unusual and factual account of Red Cloud, Lakota chief; rich in historically accurate information, thanks to the discovery of Red Cloud’s lost autobiography. Good if you like historical works.

And last, but certainly not least:

Black Elk Speaks as told through John G. Neihardt – the meeting of a white man in 1932 with the great medicine man Black Elk (Lakota), who told John his life story (through a translator). A beautiful, sad telling of the tragedies that befell the Lakota in the latter part of the 19th century. Black Elk takes you back in time to his life, his people, including his first cousin, Crazy Horse.

Scribbling

Clothesline Notes in Jack London's Country Cottage

Courtesy Jack London State Park, Google Images

Here in Northern California, we’ve been experiencing a spate of wildfires (15 statewide total) that have all but drained our firefighting resources. A local news station did a Special Report on the damage inflicted by these wildfires, including land, homes and lives lost. Terrible. As they looked back over the past seven years to show how fires have increased in frequency and size, they focused on the 2017 Tubbs fire, the most disastrous fire in California history. They talked about how it nearly decimated the Jack London State Park in Napa County.

For those of you who grew up reading great classic authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, etc., Jack London was a prolific writer and adventurer who settled here in the Napa/Sonoma region in the early 1900s. In fact, it was much of his worldwide adventuring that lead to the writing of some of the best works of the 20th century, including my personal favorites, White Fang and The Call of the Wild

The newscasters shared details on how State rangers packed up his personal belongings in order to save them in case the fire reached his home and property (it came close, but thankfully missed), storing them all the way out here in Sacramento for safekeeping. Now returned to its former glory, his writing room still contains all of his writing instruments and materials, his desk, and other accouterments: the twine strung across a closed-in porch, with a multitude of little notes clothes-pinned to the line. Jack scribbled these notes on small square pieces of white paper whenever something came to him (which was daily, evidently). He pinned them to the line for later use in his books.

And did you know that Jack London wrote ONE THOUSAND words EVERY DAY, BY LUNCHTIME

The closest I come is a notebook marked “Write What You Know” on the front and it’s where I scribble when I need to unload. It’s not a journal; it’s simply a place to jot down whatever is rumbling around in my mind at a certain moment in time instead of pinning them around my house and looking like a crazy person. It’s where I scribbled the first chapter of my novel, a dark short story, and some senseless meanderings I tore out. I have never come close to a thousand words a day and likely never will. I’m not that motivated, even in a good month.

Out there on the world wide web you’ll find a plethora of expert advice by professional writers telling you to write daily. That’s nice if you’re fortunate to be earning a living from your writing, but what if you aren’t? And does it really matter if you write daily? I think not. I think we each should adhere to whatever writing principles fits our lifestyles, since one size surely does not fit all. Jack, like many famous writers, wrote daily (what else was there to do in the middle of a jungle at night?). I think it’s because he had so many stories in him to share it was the only way he could get to the next book.

Do we have any less stories? Perhaps, perhaps not. Some of us don’t travel or adventure as much as folks did back then, when it was easier and more affordable; you didn’t need a passport (until WWI), so moving between countries was much easier. And we’re busy working full-time jobs, part-time jobs, raising families, caring for parents, finishing a college education, etc. We have (modern) lives to live! Which brings me back to the point of the title – those lives give us fodder for our stories. So if you’re not scribbling daily, that’s okay (see Call of the Word); but it’s probably a good idea to at least have a place (notebook, clothesline, etc.) for you to scribble your ideas – the good, the bad, and the ugly, so at some point you, too, can turn them into a cohesive work. Like Jack.

Scribble on!

 

What a COCKY Thing to Do

cocky

I tried sharing this to my site via the article’s page several times, but it won’t go through except to my FB page. So I’m providing a part of the article with the link for you to read the whole kit’n’caboodle. This is a must-read for all writers, as the words we use in our work, well, make our work what it is. How any one writer can assume she can trademark an everyday word is simply outrageous and narcissistic.

The Continued Tale of Trademarking A Commonly Used Word

I struggled with how to title this post. When I first heard about this whole trademark on the word “Cocky” thing, I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. Then, after a few days, I grew worried over what this will mean for the future of being a writer because this kind of thing of trademarking commonly used words stifles creativity. Over the past couple of weeks, I became aware of other words that were in the process of being trademarked, and I just shook my head in disbelief this was even happening. Then I found out about someone trying to trademark the word “Forever” yesterday, and that’s when something snapped inside of me. I also heard something about “shifter world” being possibly trademarked, but I didn’t see too much about that. (As a side note, it looks like the author isn’t going to go through with trademarking “Forever” so that’s good.)

But anyway, now I’m mad. It’s taken some time for me to soak in the ramifications of what this whole #cockygate thing really means. It’s not just about the word “Cocky”. It’s not just about Falenna Hopkins. I had no idea who Falenna Hopkins even was until I found out she had trademarked the word “Cocky” and was threatening authors with C&D letters to change their titles just because she doesn’t want other authors to use that word in the title of their books.  Kevin Kneupper sent in a petition to cancel the trademark on the word “Cocky”, so I thought this was all going to go away.

Read the rest here:

https://selfpubauthors.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/the-continued-tale-of-trademarking-a-commonly-used-word/

Also check out #cockygate for more information

Jack-of-Many-Trades

jack of all trades2

There’s an old saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” It’s been on my mind frequently as of late. I use the word ‘many’ in the title since I am not a Jack-of-ALL-trades but rather a person of many talents who has not bothered to master any of my talents. I’m a dabbler; I like to dip my toes in here and there, testing different waters and enjoying different experiences to enrich myself and my life. Or so I’ve told myself over the years. Perhaps I’m just unwilling to go the distance in one area – no, that would be boring.

Maybe it’s why writing still appeals to me. I can test different waters again and again without it feeling repetitious. There’s so much to explore in both fiction and nonfiction realms. Unlike Hollywood, which seems to be running out of (good and original) ideas, the people who live the stories will continue to have stories to tell. And write.

Even when feeling lost (as I am this week, for some reason), we are still living our stories, they are around us and in us. We must draw from our well of jack-of-many-trades when our stories need help. I’m having a crisis of confidence this week so it’s difficult for me to draw from other areas of my life and get busy writing beyond this blog (which I have avoided writing for over a week). I’m also avoiding a crucial re-write of segments of one of my fiction novels; to be honest, I feel like I’ve failed the story by getting those segments wrong. As a dabbler, it’s sometimes difficult for me to fully invest the time and energy and focus because I’m convinced I need to be elsewhere in my life.

Truth is, I’m avoiding the one thing I want most – to finish the novel and publish it. Not sure why.

The down side of being a jack-of-all-trades is that boredom sets in quickly. We are fast learners who get what we need from a situation/job/story/etc., then move on. We tend to have multiple things on our plate (job/s, hobbies, etc.) so our attention is often drawn away from where we need to be in our stories. At the moment, I do have some more important tasks at hand but I add more tasks rather than go back to finish what remains incomplete. Aspects of the novel ramble about in my mind yet I avoid updating the manuscript.

The upside of a jack-of-all-trades is we can draw from many corners of our lives because we have experienced life spherically – in all directions. We can use our ‘dabbling’ as a force that pulls pieces of a story together like the many colors of yarn that weave a beautiful tapestry or rug.

I’m trying to find a way to use what I have learned as a jack-of-all-trades in my stories and in my life. Are you?

jack of all trades

Every Life Has a Story…

One of the ongoing contentious issues where I live is how to deal with the considerable number of homeless citizens. Our city has estimated that there are several thousand folks, at any given time, in this difficult and frightening situation. I frequently pass snacks from my car window to a homeless vet or other individual; I have even purposely sought out hungry homeless people  in my area to pass along a leftover sandwich or drink. I often consider trying to talk to one of them, to find out what happened in their lives that landed them on the streets.

Police, politicians, and the community express a wide variety of opinions on how to handle this devastating situation (they’re not, actually, they just spend time arguing about resolutions that never materialize). The constant harassment by police, who then dispose of the camping equipment, blankets, and other personal items, is a sore spot for the community and especially the homeless. While many of these less fortunate people have addiction and/or mental health issues, it’s not the same story for each person.

It was because of this controversy that this occurred to me:

Every life has a story and every story has a life.

As writers, whether fiction or nonfiction, for journalism or some other purpose, it is our duty to share the stories that bind us together as a race (humanity), a community (your area), and as predecessors to a new generation of writers/storytellers. We are responsible for being honest in our characterizations,  even with the creation and convincing representation of fictitious characters.

Go forth and listen to what people have to say. Get their stories. Then tell those stories in a way that moves people (emotionally, to take action, etc.). Don’t be afraid to tell the tough stories about misunderstood people (real or imagined). Use these stories to color your fiction work, whether they be shades of gray or bright pastels,  and paint each life/story as important because it is.

A friend once told me each person that crosses your path knows something you don’t.

What have you learned today that can be a part of a story?

 

Book Promotion Tips

 

I didn’t make a notation at the bottom of this list, so I don’t remember where I got the information. Sorry. I’ve also added advice (Note) and links based on personal experience.

So you have written a book and had it published. Congratulations. Now you face the challenge of what to do next. Many authors think that marketing is a job for the publisher so they sit back and wait for the royalties to roll in. You might have a very long wait. The market for books is extremely crowded and most books do not sell well. However, there are a number of actions the author can take to move from writing to marketing:

  1. Send review copies to all the journals and magazines that review books in your genre. This is something that most publishers do for you but if you’re self-published (like me), this is all on you. Don’t forget the many online sites that review books. (Note: might want to ask them first, see if they accept review copies, as there might be a fee involved or a very long wait list.)
  2. Get friends, colleagues, clients or anyone who likes your book to place reviews on Amazon and other online book stores. Amazon is highly influential and the reviews matter, so encourage anyone who says they enjoyed your book to place a review. 
  3. Offer yourself for interviews on radio stations. Most radio stations/podcasts are looking for interesting interviews and the author of a newly published book has a good chance of getting on air. (Note: I’ve done some good interviews via Radio Guest List. They have a HUGE database of  a variety  of podcast shows – in other words, something for everyone, and are always looking for guests. The audience size varies, so check the websites of the podcasts where you want to be a guest for guest criteria.)
  4. Create a web page for the book. Ideally you should have a separate website with an address that features the book title. Now you can exchange links and drive traffic to the site with comments, blogs, quotes and extracts. Be sure to show people how they can buy the book. Encourage user feedback, comments and reviews.
  5. Offer sample chapters as free downloads. Take a couple of your best chapters and turn them into pdf files. Let people download them for free. Think of this as the equivalent of letting people browse through your book at a bookstore. (Note: With self-publishing sites like Lulu, this is offered with each published item.)
  6. Use material from the book in your blog. Start a blog and quote from the book. Lift sections and acknowledge the book as the source. Build a community of interest around the topics in the book.
  7. Review other books in this field. Become a reviewer on Amazon. Use your own name accompanied by ‘author of the book……’. Review other books and when people read your reviews some will click through to your book. 
  8. Start an email newsletter. Encourage people to subscribe on the website and then send out an occasional newsletter with interesting new material in this book’s field. But you cannot just plug your book – you have to add value with new information and comment.
  9. Give away copies to the right people. Use the book as your calling card. Give copies to potential and existing clients. Encourage them to read it and pass it on. 
  10. Offer books as prizes. Local radio shows, magazines or societies will often be interested in running competitions and will give you valuable publicity if you give them a few books to give away as prizes. (Note: I did this on Goodreads – they offer the opportunity to do ‘giveaways’ and it’s good publicity.)

Some authors do book signings in local bookstores but unless you are well-known (or have a good relationship with the store owner), this activity is unlikely to produce worthwhile results. Finally, you could consider using the book as a platform for launching your speaking career. You will need a different set of skills to succeed here but the book can make an excellent starting point and every talk will help sell more books. (Note: I teach my nutrition book as a seminar/workshop in local community colleges and adult learning programs.)

 

Bad Choices = Good Stories

This week’s blog was inspired by a t-shirt worn by a man who strolled by me the other day. It read: Bad Choices Make Good Stories. I laughed to myself as I fondly remembered some instances where that was most certainly true in my life. Like the time I “hijacked” a limo with a friend…that one always gets a good laugh and a “I can’t believe you weren’t arrested!” response. We were young (and very drunk) and, many of you would agree, almost obligated to make bad decisions at that age (the ripe ol’ age of 23). Or the time the police paddy wagon showed up at our overly-raucous beach house party, headlights beaming on the idiot standing in the driveway with a bottle of Stoli’s in her hand (yep, that was me; and no, I wasn’t arrested that time, either, cuz I ran like a jackrabbit).

Artists paint/draw from painful experiences, as do poets and writers in general. We draw upon those bad choices and negative experiences that life throws our way. In other words, as writers/artists, when we’re given lemons, we make lemonade. The badder the choice, it seems, the saucier the story (probably why I made so many; keeps the stories interesting). Those bad choices add color to our lives, not to mention bragging rights with the grandkids and anyone else who’ll listen.

My point is this: don’t be afraid to make bad choices. They make life more interesting, create the tall tales of adventure and hi-jinks, and carry us into old age with a certain wisdom and appreciation – which can only be gained by making those bad choices – preferably in our youth. (Although I admit I still like a little naughty in my life. At my age, it keeps the blood circulating!)