Friday Fun #9 – My 3 Sons.

Funny (but true) stories.

Just about every parent I’ve ever met has a good “pee” story about their kids, especially boys.

So, today, I’m going to share my 3 favorite stories for my boys.

Jason…

Just before his 3rd birthday, I took Jason to a local state park, to visit with some friends. One of my friends brought her niece who was about a month older than Jason, and they were busy running around and playing games.

The restrooms were still out of service from the winter months. So, when Jason told me he had “to go”, I escorted him to a large tree behind the restrooms.

He did his thing, and we returned to the group.

A short time later we (the adults) noticed that the kids were not in sight, and we went looking for them.

As we came around the corner of the restrooms, we could hear voices…

“No, you have to push it harder”, said Jason.

“It’s all the way”, said the little girl.

“You’re not doing it right”, said Jason.

As we came around the tree, we found the little girl with her pants down, trying to pee on the tree as instructed by Jason, but instead, she had pee’d on her pants and shoes.

Jason looked up at us in frustration, and said, “Hers don’t work right. It’s broke” and shrugged his shoulders and walked off.

Luckily, we had towels and extra clothes.

Daniel…

When Jason and Daniel were little, they had a large toy box designated for their car and truck collection, filled to the top with everything from small Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars up to large Tonka trucks.

When Daniel was about 4, and Jason was 6, Jason came running down the hallway and into the living room. He yelled, “Mom, Daniel just pee’d in the toy box”!

Before I could say anything, Daniel came running into the room, grinning from ear to ear, and announced proudly, “But I only pee’d on the little cars, momma, not the big ones”!

I sat there dumbfounded for a moment, trying to figure out just what difference that was supposed to make, and then just started laughing at the thought.

That was 31 years ago, and I still haven’t figured it out.

Christian…

Growing up in relative seclusion in the country (where you can’t see any of your neighbors), Christian was accustomed to peeing outside rather than running all the way back to the house every time he had to go.

On his 5th birthday, we had a barbeque and he invited several friends.

While the adults were getting the food ready, the kids were over the hill down in the clearing, jumping on the trampoline.

When the food was ready, I went to the edge of the hill and called them to come and eat.

After about 5 minutes, only 1 kid had showed up. I asked him where the others were, and he said, “On the hill”. So, I went to see what they were doing.

As I got to the edge of the hill, I found Christian, standing in the middle of the hill, peeing, and still carrying on a conversation with his buddies.

I yelled, “Christian! Couldn’t you at least use a tree?” but it startled him, and he turned around toward me, peeing on one of his friends’ foot in the process.

To his credit, the little boy took it rather well. He simply picked up the garden hose, sprayed Christian first, then washed off his feet.

We spent a good deal more time after that, working on manners and etiquette.

***

Today’s post has been a little shorter, as exhaustion has set in from the continued heat wave here in Alaska. (But I’m still working on the book in the early mornings, before the sun starts melting my brain.)

Are there any parents out there with a good “pee” story you would like to share? We’d love to hear them!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a cool and happy weekend!

Blessings.  – Amber

The Beginning of the Story…

As promised, here is the beginning of the story inspired by an essay that my son, Christian, wrote.

Aided by Christian’s essay and the rough outline we designed together, I am working to fulfill a promise I made to my son, to complete this work and publish it. In following the 90 Day Challenge, my goal is to publish the book by mid-September.

I am currently working on chapter 6, staying on target for the completion of the rough draft. The following excerpt is the beginning of chapter 1, and unedited. Please feel free to comment with any feedback.

A work of Christian fantasy fiction, this is the story of a fight to save a small Alaskan town from utter destruction when it is caught in the middle of a supernatural battle between good and evil.

Chapter 1 – Nightmares

The blood curdling screams pierced the night, waking Ellie from a deep sleep. As she was stumbling through the dark toward her grandson’s room she wondered, “Will the nightmares never end”? She turned on the light as she entered Jason’s room and once again, found him thrashing around wildly in his bed and screaming in terror.

Ellie reached out and gently touched Jason’s arm, speaking softly in her thick Irish accent saying, “Jason, wake up! It’s only a dream dear boy, it’s only a dream”. Ellie knew not to get too close, as Jason had swung at her before in waking, bruising her jaw in the process. She knew her grandson would never hurt her intentionally, but the look of terror in his eyes at that moment told her of a desperate scene being played out in the young teen’s mind, one where he was literally fighting for his life.

As Jason sat up, shaking with fear and gasping for air, Ellie tried to reassure him. “There, there, now laddie. It’s alright, I’m right here with you”. She gently patted his hand for a moment, while his mind began to clear. After a few seconds, Ellie wrapped her arms around the boy’s shoulders and held him as he began to sob deeply. “I tried, Grammie! I tried to save them!” Jason’s voice was so full of pain and desperation, it was almost unbearable for Ellie to hear. “I tried to pull ‘em out, but…those things wouldn’t let me, they wouldn’t let go!” As Ellie sat holding her grandson, gently rocking back and forth and trying to comfort him, her mind wandered back to that night four years ago.

Jason’s parents, Jack and Marie, had both been tragically killed when the family’s house burned down. For some strange reason, none of the neighbors heard or saw anything of the fire until the next morning. Jason was found unconscious in the yard, still in his pajamas, with burns on his hands and arms, and claw marks on his face and chest. He was in shock, and he repeated over and over, “I tried to pull mum and dad out, but they wouldn’t let me”. The doctor that treated Jason for his burns suggested that Ellie take him for counseling. Having lost Marie, her only daughter, she thought perhaps counseling could help them both. So, she made an appointment with a priest from the local church.

Father Elliot had seemed rather unsettled as Jason tried to describe for him what had happened the night of the fire. Jason said, “When I woke up there was fire everywhere, and I could hear Mum screaming for me”. He said, “I tried to get to the door, but it felt like someone was holding onto me and I couldn’t move”. He continued, “All of a sudden, the door burst open and Dad rushed in and grabbed me up. He ran out into the hallway and shoved me down the stairs, yelling for me to get out of the house”. 

Ellie sat quietly, wrenching her fingers as she listened to Jason. She was fighting the urge to cry, wanting to be supportive of her grandson, but still feeling the pain of her own loss. Jason continued.

“I looked back and saw Dad grab Mum, trying to pull her down the stairs, but she wouldn’t move. Then the stairs began to collapse, and they both fell down onto the landing. I was reaching out for them, but Dad suddenly lunged forward and knocked me out the doorway onto the front porch”. The tears were flowing down Jason’s cheeks and he began to shake as he said, “When I turned back toward the door, I could see Mum. She was reaching out for Dad and screaming, ‘let go of me’. Then I saw something that looked like a man, but with a face like an animal. It was holding onto Mum, trying to pull her back into the fire. There was another one trying to grab onto Dad. I ran back into the doorway and tried to reach out to them, and Dad grabbed my hand. I could see his eyes…he was afraid”. Jason paused for a moment, then said, “I tried to pull as hard as I could, but something jumped out at me and knocked me out into the yard”. He continued, “The last thing I remember is hearing Mum and Dad screaming, and another voice that sounded like it was hissing and laughing. Then everything went dark”.

Ellie had hoped that by leaving Ireland and moving to America to start a new life, that it would end the suffering of Jason’s constant nightmares. Almost every night for the past four years, Jason had awakened, screaming the same thing over and over. Though Father Elliot had been sympathetic to their loss, he didn’t believe Jason’s story. He said that it was probably just Jason’s mind trying to deal with an unfortunate accident by trying to find someone or something to blame for it. The cause of the fire was never discovered. But there was some speculation that it was intentional, that it had been started by Janet, Jason’s older sister…

Ellie was snapped back to the present when Jason’s alarm clock went off. They were both startled by the ring, then smiled at each other, trying to bring back some normalcy to their morning. Jason said, “Well at least this time, it was almost time to get up anyway”. Ellie smiled and said, “I’d better be getting onto making the biscuits. Young Blake will be here soon, and I’m sure he’ll be hungry as always. He’s such a skinny lad, I don’t know where he puts it all”.

*******

Well, that’s it for now. Stay tuned for more exciting excerpts in the coming weeks. If you are interested in becoming a beta reader, or want to receive updates for the book’s launch party, be sure to subscribe to my email list here.

Thanks for joining me in this adventure, and as always, I welcome your friendship!

Blessings.  – Amber

Friday Fun – Baked Alaskan

How to make 737,438 Baked Alaskans…

With average daytime summer temperatures ranging from 55 to 78 °F (12.8 to 25.6 °C) across the state, today is a little hotter than normal. Tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter…if anyone’s left to record it.

I will remain indoors today. I don’t have air conditioning, so I spend a lot of time like this…

And this…

Last night, even with every fan I own set on high and all the windows & doors open, it was still too hot to sleep comfortably. Tonight, I will try this…

Even the critters are a little out of sorts with the warmer weather…

Went grocery shopping early this morning to beat the heat. By the time I got home, the food was already cooked…

The weather is even affecting electronic equipment…

If it gets much warmer, I may have to head south to cool off…

Even so, Alaska’s summers are too short. In just a few more weeks, we’ll be back to this…

Then, we’ll be back to complaining about the cold and wishing it was 87F (30.5C).

Well, that’s enough Friday Fun for now. Go enjoy the warmer weather as best as you can while it’s here! And I’ll see you next week.

Blessings. – Amber

P.S. Just a quick update…I’m currently writing chapter 6 of the book now…PROGRESS!

Good Morning Sunshine

The dawn of a new day…

We are entering into a heat wave here in Alaska. Our average temperature for this time of year is 67F. But the forecast says 78F today, and 87F by Friday.

We have a saying here, “Alaskans don’t tan, we just thaw out”. But I think this week I will be melting.

Still, I am enjoying the early morning sunrises, though they are hazy now due to smoke from a couple of large wildfires around the state.

It is in the quiet of the early morning that I feel a sense of peaceful renewing. It is when I am reminded that each day is a gift, another chance to be alive, exploring the beauty around me.

As I sat down at my desk this morning with my bible and my coffee, I heard several birds singing outside the window. I thought, “They are welcoming the new day too”.

Getting ready to work…

Since I started the 90 day writing challenge last week, I’ve been waking up excited every morning.

I find myself getting slightly annoyed while doing the normal morning chores, impatient to get back to the writing. In fact, the writing has been rather consuming.

Though I have been very productive with the book, I realized that I’ve been working 14 to 16 hours a day. That doesn’t leave much time to enjoy anything else.

So, today, I took my coffee outside and spent a little time enjoying the quiet coolness of the sunrise. I laughed at Frodo’s attempts to find something to play fetch with (he chewed up his last frisbee, so he’s back to stealing firewood from the pile). And I watched the 2 older cats, Coal and Pretty, as they began exploring the yard, looking for unsuspecting prey.

I was also privileged to witness a patch of wildflowers as they opened their blossoms to welcome the morning sun. I don’t know what they are called, but they are only open while the sun is shining.

Finding balance…

Though I love writing, I have to find a balance in my schedule. I’ve been neglecting other projects that I need to accomplish before the summer is over, like the rock work on the house.

I guess I have what is referred to as a “one-track mind” when it comes to doing what I enjoy.

For the past few days I’ve gone so far as to set an alarm to remind me to stop working in the evening. But I turn it off and keep on writing for a few more hours. (I know, it’s not very good self-discipline.)

Today I put the phone out in the living room, so when the alarm goes off, I will have to actually get up from the desk to go turn it off. The goal is to write for no more than 10 hours a day, so I can have a few hours for other things, like maybe some fun with the critters, and more time to spend with my friends.

Next Wednesday I’ll share a little of the story and its progress. And I’ll be back for Friday Fun (spoiler alert…it will probably be centered around heat, as it hits the 87F mark).

In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying some lovely sunshine and good company! Blessings to all. – Amber

Friday Fun #7 – Coffee

It’s time for a coffee break…

I have been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. There is probably more coffee than blood in my veins.

In fact, I my grandmother used to put it in my bottle when I was just a toddler. Perhaps it was her way of getting even with my mother for all the bratty things she did as a child?

Now, I am a coffee connoisseur. Not a snob, as I will drink bad coffee, or even instant coffee, if that is all that’s available. (For that matter, I’ll eat the coffee grounds if need be.) To my credit though, I haven’t tried snorting the grounds yet.

Many years ago I bought my first electric grinder, along with a bag of flavored gourmet coffee beans.

Living in a thin-walled apartment building at the time, my neighbors complained about the noise of the grinder at 4AM.

The next morning, I woke up (again at 4AM) to no electricity. I could still use the gas stove to heat water and pour over the grounds through the filter basket into the pot. But the grinder wouldn’t work without electricity, and all I had was the bag of whole beans.

So, I did what any coffee-holic would do…I filled a plastic bag with a handful of beans and took a hammer, went out on the balcony and smashed my beans until they looked about right. (The neighbors complained about that too.)

One of the perks of being a taxi driver (yes, that was a pun) for 8 years was free coffee from the local 7-11 stores, if we brought our own cup. But they finally had to put a limit on me because they said I was drinking up all of their profit.

When I was pregnant I tried very hard to do all the healthy stuff. While talking to my doctor about my diet, she suggested that I switch to decaf coffee. But…

Ever have one of those mornings where it feels like the whole universe is out to get you?

I am an early morning person. Always have been. And I’ve never really had much need for an alarm clock since I usually wake up at 3:30AM on my own.

Considering the writing schedule I’ve set for myself for the next few months, along with the daily life stuff, there probably won’t be much sleeping going on around here. (Well, except maybe for the cats. But that’s a good thing, since when they’re awake, they’re usually causing trouble.)

However, as I’ve grown older, I find that with too little sleep, my body nor my brain seems to deal with it as well as they used to.

Fortunately, I have found the solution…

Would anyone like to join me for a cup?

So, now I’m ready to get back to work on the book. I figure, after 2 pots of java juice (yes, pots, not cups) I should get my typing speed up to around 5,000 words per minute. Just hope my brain can spell that fast. Wish me luck.

I hope everyone has an amazingly beautiful weekend! Go fill it up with smiles!

See you next week! – Amber

90 Days to Published Challenge…

A leap of faith…

“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him…so shall your plans be established and succeed”. (Proverbs 16:3 AMP)

In 2014, when he was in the 7th grade, I gave my son, Christian, a writing assignment for a fictional story as part of his Language Arts class. I told him it could be about anything other than Star Wars themed, which he was driving me crazy with at the time.

Christian had an enthusiastic and creative imagination, and a natural gift for storytelling. But he hated writing. He said it was hard to put the words on paper because his brain could think much faster than his fingers could write. So, I suggested that he record his story out loud, then play it back in sections and write it down.

He turned in 3 pages a week later, showing improvement in his writing skills. But as I read his story, I was struck by his concept and asked him to share more of his ideas, which he was happy to do…orally.

I told him I thought his story would make a wonderful book, to which he replied, “You’re the author. How about I just tell you the story and you can write it”.

Though I had not worked in fiction before, his story intrigued and inspired me so much that I finally asked him to collaborate, to create a full book and publish it together. He was pretty excited about the idea and agreed.

With daily life activities, school, and work, we didn’t accomplish much with the story that year. But we did manage to get a working outline drafted, and a few pages of scribbled ideas and details.

Christian’s enthusiasm seemed to build each time we discussed the project. He even asked if we could use some of his Language Arts time the following year for working on the book. He told me, “I think it would be kind of cool to see my name on a book and know that I helped to write it”. Then he asked, “Do you really think we can do it”? I replied, “Yes, I promise we will”.

Keeping my promise…

Christian didn’t get to finish that school year, or see his book completed.

But through all of the pain, chaos, and numbness inside my heart since his death, there’s been a fire brewing. I knew I had to keep my promise to him, but for some reason I have procrastinated. Perhaps it’s because of the emotional pain attached to losing him, but it’s been more difficult to work on this book than anything else I’ve ever written.

Yet I can’t deny the inspiration and the drive I feel for seeing this book completed. It is a part of my son’s legacy, and I need to keep my promise to him.

It’s time…

Recently I’ve been working on a series of guides for helping authors through the self-publishing process. While doing some research, I came across a book by Chandler Bolt, titled “Published“.

It is an instructional book designed to take you from the beginning of the writing process through publication in just 90 days.

I’ve previously used many of the techniques described in the book, and helped other authors to publish their books using the same methods, but I’ve never done it in 90 days. I was intrigued with the idea.

So, I decided to accept this challenge, at first intending to use the guides I was working on for the material.

Half-way into the 2nd day, I was hit with a barrage of emotions and thoughts, including a sense of urgency that I need to keep my promise to Christian and publish his story.

That urgency kept biting at me until I finally decided to put away the material for the guides for now, and pull out the outline and material for Christian’s story.

I’ve decided I can’t wait, I can’t procrastinate any longer.

If God be willing, and I get another 90 days on this earth, it is my intention to see Christian’s book in print and my promise fulfilled.

With the amount of time and effort involved in this undertaking, I have decided to reduce the number of posts here to 2 per week, on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I may share some excerpts of the book from time to time in the Wednesday posts, if there is an interest here, perhaps asking for feedback and critique. Fridays will still be reserved for fun and humor, since by the end of the week I usually need to do a little laughing myself.

I hope you’ll bear with me through the next few months, and share in my excitement too.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow for Friday Fun. Until then, I hope everyone has a sun and fun filled day! – Amber

3 Questions for Authors

Kindness in the world of wordsmiths…

Through the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful folks in the Author community. Without their kind generosity, my own journey into the land of writing would not have happened.

Generally speaking, in the world of business, competitors are seen as the enemy. But in the world of Authors, I have found a sense of comradery, and a willingness to help each other.

I need your help…

Today I’m reaching out to ask for your help with some research by sharing your expertise, and answering the following 3 questions:

  1. What is/was the biggest obstacle for you as an author?
  2. What is the most helpful advice or criticism you have received, and how did it help you?
  3. Do you have a system or blueprint that you follow when marketing/promoting your work?

Share your answers in the replies, and if you know other Authors that would be willing to help, please share a link with them. Also, feel free to share a link to your website with your answers.

Thank you in advance for your help, and have an awesome day!

A word of encouragement: It is most often the difficult path that leads to an amazing destination. Keep going. Don’t quit.  – Amber

Friday Fun #6

Fitness Program for Writers (or anyone with a desk job)

As a writer, I spend many long hours sitting at my desk. But, as everyone knows, such a sedentary lifestyle is not good for your physical health.

So, I created a fitness program just for writers (or anyone with a desk job) that can be done while you work. There’s no need for expensive gym memberships or finding time for strenuous workouts with an already overloaded schedule. It’s simple, free, and anyone can do it. And with a little practice, you can customize these exercises to suit your own personal needs.

Ready? Let’s begin…

  1. Weight Lifting:  Repeatedly lifting a 12oz coffee mug from desk to lips and back. Do this exercise several times throughout the day and evening for firm biceps.
  2. Cardiovascular Workout:  Hitting the delete button by accident and having all your work erased an hour before your assignment is due. This really gets your heart pumping and blood circulating as you jump up and down while screaming “NO”.
  3. Stretches: Reaching for the computer paper on the shelf behind you and then reaching to put it in the printer. Make sure paper and printer are on opposite sides of your work area for an equal stretch.
  4. Reflexes: Trying to catch yourself before falling out of your chair from reaching for the paper or printer. This is especially important if your chair has wheels.
  5. More Reflexes:  Trying to catch the cat before he runs across your keyboard and knocks your coffee over.
  6. Toning Work:  Replacing the ink cartridges in your printer.
  7. Squats: Getting up and down from your chair for frequent bathroom breaks. A sign you are doing well on your weight lifting (see #1).
  8. Frequent Massages:  Scratching your head while staring at a blank screen. This promotes good circulation and helps stir up new ideas, or daydreaming.
  9. Knee Rotations:  Swiveling side to side in your chair while talking on the phone, wishing you were still working on your writing. This can be combined with the Frequent Massages (#8). Then it is considered “multi-tasking”.
  10. Breathing Exercises:  Blowing all the cat hair off of the desk, or sighs of exasperation. Either one will work, so long as you inhale and exhale deeply.
  11. Walking/Jogging: Daily trips to the mailbox looking for that big fat check from your publisher for your latest bestseller, or your fan mail. I don’t get to do this one, as I don’t have a bestseller or fans yet, but I go once a month to collect bills (firestarter).
  12. Endurance: Repeatedly getting up and doing this all over again each day because you are a writer. It’s who you are.
  13. Yoga Position: Giving our self a frequent pat on the back to maintain positive reinforcement of why we do this. Other benefits include, getting to those hard to reach spots when they itch.
  14. Posture and Balance: Sit nice and straight with your head up, preferably with a high-back chair. This stops your head from rolling to one side when you fall asleep, thus reducing the likelihood of falling out of your chair. (Safety first!)

If you follow this simple exercise plan, you probably still won’t achieve that rock-hard sculpted body (like all the fitness ads show). But it keeps you moving, instead of staring at a blank screen in a catatonic state, which could lead to someone calling an ambulance to report you as dead. (That would be a little embarrassing.)

Well, that’s it for this week. I hope everyone enjoys a fabulous weekend, and Happy Fathers Day to all the awesome Dads! – Amber

The 10 Commandments of Writer’s Etiquette for Social Media

10 Commandments of Writer’s Etiquette for Social Media

What is etiquette and why is it important?…

When I was a child, my parents taught me that there was a standard set of principles of what was considered to be appropriate behavior, as acceptable in society. This behavior brought a sense of peace, kindness, and consideration of our fellow human beings. It fosters an atmosphere of genuine community, a pleasantness in life. This is known as proper etiquette, or good manners.

I was also taught what was unacceptable, those behaviors and attitudes that erase the bonds of community, fostering an “every man for himself” type of mentality. It stirs up anger and resentment, implies an ignorant arrogance, and brings loneliness in life.

Understanding the consequences of our actions before we act, is paramount to the contentment, peacefulness, and quality of life that we create for ourselves. Life is just better when we live in harmony with our neighbors instead of being at war with them.

Who are you?…

Reputation for a writer is a major asset, or liability. It is the image folks have of you, based on what they know about you. It can build or destroy your career.

Before the online world began, face-to-face encounters and the writing itself was how reputations were built. But the internet, and social media in particular, have changed all that.

In a world where everything we say and do is under close scrutiny and made available to the public eye, it is more important than ever to remember the rules of etiquette, what is considered appropriate and good.

Here are ten tips for online behavior for people planning a writing career. (Unless your life goal is to be a professional extremist ranter—then ignore everything here. Being a person people love to hate can make you rich and famous—if you want that kind of fame.)

But for the rest of us, here are 10 basic rules written by Anne R. Allen:

The 10 Commandments of Writer’s Etiquette for Social Media…

1) Thou shalt not spam.

What is book spam? Repetitive links, blurbs, and quotes in your Twitter stream.

Compulsively posting your book blurbitude in 100s of FB, GR and Google+ groups and forums.

Putting somebody’s address on your mailing list when they haven’t subscribed.

Posting endless, non-news, non-informational promos for yourself or other authors. A little promo is good. Nothing but promo…is nothing but annoying. People want news and personal connections on social media, not robotic advertising.

Here’s the short version: if you’d ignore it in your own inbox, FB page, or Twitter stream, it’s probably spam.

2) Thou shalt support other authors.

Your fellow authors are not “rivals”.  Authors who band together do better than antagonistic loners. In fact, the number one thing a beginner should be doing on social media is getting to know other authors in your genre and subgenre and making friends.

One of the hottest sales tools in the business right now is the multi-author bargain boxed set with several titles by different authors. These boxed sets are getting on to the bestseller lists and raising visibility for all the authors. Yes. The NYT and USA Today Bestseller lists.

Another is the joint 99c sale. I participated in a 99c sale with other chick lit authors last year and it got my boxed set on the humor bestseller list where it stayed for 8 months.

Authors who band together get their books in front of the fans of all the authors in the group. Supporting each other is fun and profitable.

But note: “Support” does NOT involve demanding that other authors market your book for you by spamming their Twitter stream or FB or Google+ page. There’s very little evidence that spam sells books anyway.

It also does not mean tagging other authors as members of your “launch party” on Facebook or asking them to play moronic games. (If you let people know you have time to waste on FB games, you’re saying you’re not writing. You might want to keep that under your hat.)

It also should not include begging for a “mention” on somebody’s blog or other social media if you have no relationship with them. And it doesn’t mean trading reviews and “likes”. Review trading is unethical, and fake likes are pointless.

I’ve seen indies whine that their fellow authors weren’t doing enough marketing for them and hadn’t bought their books. That’s not asking for support—it’s being a brat. Unless you have a “how to write” or book-marketing title, your fellow authors are not your audience. Go find your own readers.

3) Thou shalt practice tolerance.

The Internet is global. That means primitive, insular thinking will only drive away most of your potential audience. Within a few years, experts predict most ebook sales will be outside of the US.

Hurting people because they have different customs or beliefs from yours has been a human pastime since Zog bonked Gog on the head because Gog’s fertility goddess had bigger boobs than his fertility goddess.

But guess what? Zog couldn’t actually make own his beliefs “more true” or Gog’s “less true” with violence or cruel words. And neither can you.

If you’re insecure in your own beliefs, go talk to your pastor, shrink, precinct coordinator, Belieber club president or whoever will guide you back to the light.

And if you are secure, other people’s belief systems won’t affect you one bit, so they’re none of your business.

But remember tolerance isn’t just about religion, ethnicity, or politics.

Saying rude things to writers who choose a different publishing path from yours is just as ridiculous. Want to prove your path is better? Go write a bestseller, and stop wasting time being snarky on the Interwebz.

I realize this stuff happens because primates are tribal. We instinctively fall into us/them, black/white, either/or thinking.  It’s easier to demonize the “other” than to understand them.

Plus we feel safer if we’re part of a tribe. Especially if the tribe has a strong leader.

But no matter what chieftain/dear leader/blogger you follow, you’ll be happier if you accept that people are different. Some are independent jacks-of-all-trades who can do it all. Others prefer to work as part of a team. Saying one is more “correct” than another is like saying chimpanzees are more “correct” than baboons.

Evolve. I promise you’ll find better ways to spend your time.

4) Thou shalt not whine about the stupidity of the reading public, your lack of sales, or the unfairness of the industry.

If you constantly go on about how stupid romance/paranormal/fantasy/chick lit readers are, or how ebooks are the worst thing that ever happened to civilization, be aware you’re alienating a huge segment of your potential audience.

Yes, you have an MFA and you’ve read Proust in the original French and you’re furious because you’re flipping burgers even though you’ve written the next On the Road/Ulysses/Work of Staggering Genius. But putting down readers won’t change that. Save that stuff for the local coffeehouse where you can commiserate with your fellow proto-post-post-modern-neo-Beats.

This caveat includes detailing rejection woes. I see lots of writing blogs that chronicle the writer’s history of rejection. Guess what? Agents see them too. That can be an automatic reject. You’ll look like a potentially troublesome client.

And if you end up self-publishing, that stuff will make you look as if you chose your path because your book wasn’t good enough, not because you embrace entrepreneurship.

This is a tough business, no matter how you publish. Most authors go through 100s or even 1000s of rejections before they get a book deal, and most self-publishers spend years building a substantial readership.

Whining will not sell books. Get off the Internet and go write.

5) Thou shalt remember: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”.

That quote is from the 1993 New Yorker cartoon by Peter Steiner, the most reproduced cartoon in the magazine’s history.

It became iconic because it speaks the basic truth of Internet culture:  you never know who you’re actually interacting with. This is not only because some people/dogs are masking their identity. It’s also because humans tend to assume others are like ourselves unless we have information to the contrary.

So, if you’re a fresh, eager newbie, you’ll assume everybody you meet is new to the writing profession, too. Or if you’re a jaded system-gamer, you assume everybody is gaming the system right along with you. And trolls see other trolls under every cyber bridge.

This can lead to lots of embarrassing faux pas and unpleasant encounters, especially since superstars and/or newbies can show up commenting on a blog thread along with the regulars.

It would make you look bad putting down a 12-year-old in Mumbai for not getting your references to 1980s US TV shows. So look before you snark. Pay attention to the person you’re communicating with.

Otherwise, you’re only revealing stuff about your own faults and failings you probably want to keep to yourself.

6) Thou shalt not respond to reviews.

No matter how unfair. Just. Keep. Quiet. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

We need reviewers, so treat them with respect. Even if you’ve paid for a review on a blog tour and were led to believe the review would be positive and it isn’t. Honest reviewers can’t guarantee a rave. (And BTW, the blog tour organizer may be paid, but the reviewer isn’t.)

Everybody gets rotten reviews. You have just joined a club that includes every successful author who ever lived.

So, go read the rotten reviews of great books and hilarious one-stars of the classics. Then go offline and do your mourning in private. Go to the gym. Buy chocolate and/or wine and call your BFF. Go out to your local pub and imagine the reviewer’s face on the dart board—anything but respond online. You’ll not only embarrass yourself, but you may attract vigilantes who will try to destroy your career if you complain—even if it’s on your own blog or FB page.

The review community has its own brand of extremist ranters who demonize authors and keep honest reviewers in a state of terrified paranoia of the dreaded “badly behaving author.”  (Authors can be bullies too. Don’t be one of them.)

And yes, we even have to put up with the sadistic trolls who call themselves “reviewers” but don’t read anything they “review”.

Unfortunately, there’s a gang of sock-puppet bullies who play Amazon reviews as if they’re a video game. They set up thousands of accounts under fake names so they can leave hateful one-stars of books they haven’t read. They often buy an ebook and immediately return it so they can get an “Amazon verified purchase” seal of approval. And they usually know how to keep inside Amazon’s guidelines, so Amazon seems to feel helpless to stop them in spite of pleas from publishers and bestselling authors. It’s gotten so bad that some authors are quitting the business.

The Good E-Reader reported the growing phenomenon this week in their piece on “The Bullies Win“. Let’s not let them. Hang in there and keep reporting these people to Amazon until they put a stop to it.

The best way to fight troll reviews? Write an honest review yourself! Big-name authors get troll reviews even more than indies and newbies these days, so even somebody famous can be helped by your review. Go write one for your favorite book right now!

If the troll makes a personal attack—dissing the author rather than the book, report it. Goodreads has done some housecleaning and will promptly remove ad hominem attack reviews. (Thanks for getting it together, Goodreads!!)

Amazon, not so much—but do report obvious sock puppets. Or sign an anti-sock puppet petition. There are a number in circulation. If the reports reach critical mass, maybe the Zon will finally crack down on them, the way they did with paid reviews a couple of years ago.

If a reviewer obviously got a bad download of your book, you might contact him/her privately and offer a better copy. But even there, you’re treading on dangerous ground, and it may be a trap. I almost offered a reviewer a new copy, since a bad download was her only reason for a one-star, but then I saw she’d left the identical review on dozens of ebooks. Either she’s a troll, or she doesn’t know the difference between a book review and Kindle tech support.

Most reviewers are hardworking, helpful people who genuinely love books. (And reading books takes time!) We can’t survive without them.

Don’t confuse the sock puppet trolls with real reviewers.

7) Thou shalt not badmouth beloved authors.

When you dis Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins online, you are alienating a huge percentage of your potential readership. These authors are successful because lots of people love their work. When you call these people bad writers, you’re criticizing the taste of all their fans. They won’t reward you for it.

If you’re also a book reviewer, you certainly can say King’s latest book isn’t up to his usual standards, or Divergent is no Hunger Games—that’s your job. But if you’re thoughtful, you’ll realize you don’t have to say it in sour grapes terms that make you seem like a whiner and a wannabe.

8) Thou shalt check facts before you share.

If something going viral on social media is so outrageous your emotions get triggered, take a deep breath and go to Snopes.com and check news sources. 99% of the time it didn’t happen, or it’s been twisted to make you react.

And no, Bill Gates is not going to give a charity a billion dollars if you “like” some picture of a dying child or an abused puppy. That child and puppy have been gone for 20 years and you cause pain every time you share those pictures.

I have to admit I’ve fallen for a few scary, untrue Internet memes and I’ve shared or commented posts that were based on false accusations. I seriously regret that.

Now I avoid blogs that tend to make over-the-top accusations of “bad behavior” or “piracy” and I always check Facebook’s watchdog pages like Facecrooks and  Check Scam and Spam on Facebook before I share any of those hysterical “protect your privacy by blocking all your friends from seeing your pages” posts.

I repeat: anything done online is IN PUBLIC. Do not expect privacy here.

9) Thou shalt not feed trolls.

Trolls are part of Internet life. Kind of like those bloodsucking mosquitos.

Why are there trolls? A new Canadian study finds that trolls are “everyday sadists” who get pleasure from other people’s pain. They’re the people who like to torture kittens and abuse small children. Trolldom is less work than going the serial killer route. It’s also equal-opportunity: the report found as many female trolls as males.

The anonymity of the Internet allows these otherwise closeted sociopaths to revel in sadistic behavior. It is simply fun for them.

But remember that trolls feed on attention the way mosquitos feed on blood. So, the only way to get rid of a troll is to give it no attention whatsoever—no matter how obnoxious and wrong he/she/it is, because your attention—good or bad—is its food. You must starve it by ignoring anything and everything it does.

Don’t think of a troll comment or “review” as an exchange with a fellow human capable of rational thought. Think of it as a pile of poo you don’t want to step in.

Unboot from the Interwebz and phone a friend, read a book, or walk the dog. Anything you say online will make things worse.

10) Thou shalt follow Wil Wheaton’s Law.

Actor Wil Wheaton first coined the dictum, “Don’t be a d**k” at a gaming conference in 2007. He was talking about interactive online game etiquette, but it is a good rule for anybody using the Internet.

In fact, it’s a good rule for anybody participating in life itself.

In more polite terms, it can be called The Golden Rule: have empathy and don’t do stuff to other people that would feel bad if it were done to you.

 by Anne R. Allen (April 13, 2014)

*Though it’s been 5 years since this post was originally written, it still applies today. Remember, as a writer, you are a professional, so present yourself accordingly. You and your work will be better received if you “play nice” and maintain your integrity.

Just One More Day

This morning I took a trip down memory lane, as I do from time to time.

I try not to dwell in the past, but there are some lessons of life that are good to be reminded of occasionally.

I found this post that I originally wrote in 2010, and decided that it fits well with the Wednesday Wisdom theme here. It is the kind of wisdom that I keep close in my heart, every day.

Just One More Day

(Written February 10, 2010)

In the hustle and bustle of the modern day, we tend to rush along in the fast pace of what we call “life”. We hurry from here to there and through this and that. We dream and make plans for the future, and we say “someday”. We wear ourselves out trying to fulfill obligations and get everything done that needs doing. So we take vacations. But then we fill up the vacation with so many things to do in so little time, we end up even more exhausted when it’s over. No wonder life is referred to as a race! But is it a race that we really want to win? After all, when a race is won…it’s over.

When the race is over, how many of us will look back on our life and think “What an awesome race. I’m glad I finished!” How many of us instead will think “I wish I had done more of this and less of that” or “I wish I could have just one more day”.

What if you knew you had just one more day? What would you do with it? Would you spend it getting all your affairs in order? Perhaps you would spend more time with your loved ones, or calling all your friends. Would you spend time in the presence of God? Most of us would probably spend those last few hours on what was most important in our hearts.

We just don’t know…

The point is that none of us know exactly when our race will be over. We never know when it will be our last chance to tell someone we love them. We don’t know when it’s our last chance to share a kind gesture or word to a friend that’s feeling down. Perhaps it is their last day. Did they know that we cared? How many times are the funeral homes filled with flowers, but the body is unaware? Did they ever receive such adoration while they were still alive to enjoy it? When a parent dies, do they know that they were the greatest inspiration in their children’s lives? When a child dies, do they know that they were the greatest gift to their parents? If the world and people were perfect, they would know.

However, none of us are perfect. We forget. We stumble. We overlook. And at times we need to be reminded of what is truly important. So, ask yourself, what is truly important to you? My personal answer is from the Bible:

“And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1Corinthians 13:13)

The majority of my life was spent going here and there and doing this and that. I accomplished many goals and tasks. But I never really thought about what was truly important to me…until I lost it.

In the blink of an eye…

On May 24, 2002 I received an email from a friend. She didn’t know when she sent the email, but my oldest son, Jason, had just died the day before. The email contained a poem by Norma Cornett Marek, written after losing her own son, making the words very personal and special to me. It made me realize that the most valuable and important thing in my life is the love I share. And I learned not to take that love for granted. What is here today may be gone tomorrow…in the blink of an eye.

So, think on this question as you read the following poem, “what would you do if you had just one more day?”

“Tomorrow Never Comes”

If I knew it would be the last time
that I’d see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.

If I knew this would be the last time
I’d hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would video tape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute or two
to stop and say “I love you,”
instead of assuming you would KNOW I do.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I would be there to share your day,
well, I’m sure you’ll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there’s always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything right.

There will always be another day
to say our “I love you’s”,
and certainly there’s another chance
to say our “Anything I can do’s?”

But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I’d like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget.

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
and today may be the last chance
you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if tomorrow, why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll surely regret the day
that you didn’t take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss,
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
whisper in their ear,
tell them how much you love them
and that you’ll always hold them dear.

Take time to say “I’m sorry”, “please forgive me”,
“thank you” or “it’s okay”.
And if tomorrow never comes,
you’ll have no regrets about today.

*Written by Norma Cornett Marek in 1989 as, in her words, “a tribute to a beloved child I lost, in hopes it would cause people to never be careless or too busy to let our loved ones know we love them.” (Reprinted with permission.)

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