Once Upon a Time, long long ago…

Most people that I know disdain discussions about their age once they reach the more “exalted” ages. Oh I hear that “50 is the new 40″ and such gobbledygook but I don’t really buy it, do you? Really? I think we are what we are. For me, I am the age I’ve lived. I’m every moment, minute, month and year, every wrinkle, every bruise, every crack in every bone. I’m every white or grey hair (and in my case every purple and teal one, too). I’m every flake of dry skin, busted capillary, expansion joint and skin tag. I am who I have become. I do not pretend it makes me younger or older (though perhaps I am a wee bit wiser).

My physical age is but a number, yes, but it says “look I’ve been around the block.” The good news (or bad, depending on your perspective) is that I’ve probably lived more than many, given I’ve been blessed with a multitude of adventures and opportunities, loves and divorces, the love of wonderful parents and the joy of a corresponding childhood, plus finding a great love (despite the odds).

Mentally, I often joke that I am only 12. Perhaps that’s because I let my child come out to play often, I delight in her exuberance, I have never given up on “play,” I exercise my imagination daily and above all, I delight in laughing. I live for joy. I look for good things.

I wasn’t always this way. I’ve mellowed with time. This Aries is a true leader of her zodiac, but once the fiery short-tempered, grudge-bearing, stubborn, self-centered alpha, slowly became a wiser, forgiving, more moderate tempered, nurturing dragon lady who knew of and practiced compromise. Still an alpha, I have a temper but the fuse is longer. I have no time for grudges. The soap-box cheering dragon lady raises her ugly head now and again but is much more tolerant, informed, careful. I like to think smarter. But I have become a nurturer. I am a giver. I have a need now to do for others. This is where I get my joy.

And that brings me to now. My birthday. I rarely ask for anything these days. I have so much and want for nothing. I am truly blessed. I give back whenever I can, as often as I can.  I desire only the love and joy of friends and family. I want to be remembered, yes. I want others to celebrate the joy of life with me, yes. To know they take joy in me (or I hope they do) is what birthdays are about.

I do not know if I have succeeded in this wish. This birthday is passing without the fanfare I’d hoped for after achieving my “great and exalted age.” But every day there are things to delight in and this is the message. Living every day fully, laughing, playing, and finding joy. In this way, every day is a personal gift that you can keep or choose to share.

Like writing a book. Keep it or share it. Like smiles or giggles. For those who know me, I think you know whether I prefer to keep or to share.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, a babe was born and delivered in a hospital by her mother.  Gas was 22 cents. Movies were 70 cents. Children began getting vaccinated for polio. Father Knows Best was popular on TV.  It was 1954. (It would be another five years before Barbie would be born and one week later, Swanson’s would produce its first TV dinner).

Hello 60!  And the story continues….

Best Book Cover Winner!

I am delighted to announce that my book, Paper Bones, is the Top Winner of AuthorsdB 2013 Best Book Cover, Arts and Photography (poetry entries go there). As a result, I will be sporting a new GOLD sticker on the web site and all my online pages. Plus any books you buy from me will include this sticker (soon as I get them).

A big thank you and congratulations to my book illustrator Sean Foley and his model/wife, Jill. They took my idea and my words and turned them into a beautiful realized cover!  We did it guys! The Gold Medal. May it be the first of many!

And I want to thank all who helped me by voting for my entry. Your votes are what put me into the finals. Without your support I couldn’t have had this opportunity or this success. I am grateful and mindful that this award is half due to all of you. Thank you!

Here it is!

2013 Best Book Cover

Gold Medal!

Writers must use “sense-ences”

At a recent Writers’ Group meeting, we went around the table and introduced our work-in-progress, genre, and what we hoped to achieve in the group. Now, before I get too involved in this story, let me tell you that this Writers’ Group has struggled to have any membership since I’ve been a member (4 months) and never has there been more than four at a meeting. Today we were an astounding nine. Five were NaNoWriMo’s I met during November write-ins, bless them. Two were completely new faces, one I met during my very first meeting, and me. One NaNo just published a new book (Karen Lynch’s YA novel Relentless – fabulous book cover, too). I mention it because we are all just plain ol’ writer folks.

Anyway, there we were chatting about our “stuff” and I overhear one writer make a comment, “I realized my character went through the entire book and never changed clothes.” We all had a really good belly laugh at this but then – you know me – I turned that into a discussion about what characters have to have or do to be relatable, for the story to actually live and breathe.

And yes, your character needs to change clothes. More, your characters should do what you do, eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, shower, drive, be ill, burn food, shovel snow, etc. There should be food and dining; sleeping, relaxing, sex (do not have to have scenes but couples do mention it), accidents, arguments — well, the list goes on forever.

The reason for these “life events” is twofold. First, these real events give truth to your characters (even ones on odd, new worlds). And second, they can be the catalysts for moving your story forward.

I am particularly aware of my “scenes” when I write. How do you show and not tell when your character is listening to others? Maybe it is in what is eaten. Does it remind your character of something unpleasant? Maybe the smell of Lysol from the kitchen brings back a hospital stay, so your character cannot eat because the smell drives him/her from the room. Remember you don’t have to outline every nuance for your readers; hopefully the subtle meaning will be enough.

Everyone is pretty good at sights and sounds. What about the way a person speaks? How are they heard and understood? Or misunderstood? Maybe it gives your character false impressions which in turn causes them to jump to conclusions or say something untoward to the other person? You let those things happen and suddenly you have a much richer moment and your character has character (good or bad). Church bells, car alarms, screaming, laughter, all are important aspects to character but can also move action forward with purpose, too.

Do you use touch in your moments? The silk of a flower against a cheek, the rough skein or a woolen scarf in winter that reminds a little boy of being wet and cold and scolded by his mother, perhaps. Or a single finger tracing over a lady’s knuckle by a reticent lover. Often these activities tell more than any dialogue could. Use them to advantage and let the action explain the character (he was a romantic man is better understood through the touch of a rose to her lips).

And then there is that character who never changed clothes during the entire book. Of course, the writer is going back to fix this, but when the fixing is happening, so much more will happen because of it. Nakedness can have an important voice (mind out of gutter now) for babies, surely, but for adults the bare necessity holds a myriad of possibilities. A dress chosen instead of a pantsuit by a pants-wearing character. A pair of jeans and a Henley instead of Mr. Wall Street’s usual Armani suit. Hmm, casual Friday, weekend getaway or…something more nefarious afoot? Maybe an allergy to silk can lead to murder or laughter. How you need to develop the tale can depend on how your clothes feel to your character. Maybe she changed her hose because it wasn’t her skin color or there was a hole in the sock.

Sometimes, the senses can let your character down, and you should allow it to happen. The guard dog that failed to pick up a critical scent, the speeding driver who didn’t hear the fire truck for the loud music in the car and the screaming pregnant woman in the back seat, the little child who holds a first dandelion (stares at it and promptly eats it), the plastic surgery gone awry and the patient gets a first look. The failures can be critical too. Use them but use the sensory part of it to tell your tale. Don’t use discussions to merely tell us about it. That’s so boring and not nearly as fun.

So, you ask, why didn’t the character change clothes? Did the writer lack the talent to do this? No, the writer spent more time on the surroundings instead of the intimacies of the character. The writer made a lush, active sci-fi world but forgot to let the character live fully within it.

That’s why you need to let your character be real, use the senses and become a real person. Change the clothes; maybe do the laundry. Your story will thank you for it and we, the readers, will be begging you for more.

Paper Bones is a Finalist!

For those who are new, I entered Paper Bones in the 2013 Book Cover Contest with AuthorsdB. I feel deeply that my book cover is unique and clearly defines the true nature of my book’s mission. From the book inside my beautiful cover model (Jill Foley, my cover designer Sean Foley’s wife), to the allegorical book imbeded in each of us, attached to the spine, to the bones actually on the spine of the dust jacket giving the idea that you hold the book that was on the cover….well, I’m crazy wild for the cover and believe in it completely.

Paper Bones became a semi-finalists and now we’re a Finalist in the Arts & Photography category (Poetry is considered non-fiction)! YAY! There are three of us in our category and one of us will become Category Winner. That will mean lots of exposure, publicity, permanent creds and a book sticker for all to see.

There are going to be a few more contests coming up that I’m entering too (more on those later), but this is the first, and this is the one that counts for Sean. So here’s to you, my friend. I hope we win; good luck.

We made the Finals!

We made the Finals!

Perspective – what’s “best?”

Have you ever been told, “You’re one of my best friends”? Someone said this to me long ago and it jerked up my head, fast. One of? I was confused. As I understand the word, “best,” it means that is the pinnacle, the utmost of excellence, the very top. That means, from my perspective, there is but one “best.” To be “the best” is a singular honor, right? So, one of the best?

Truthfully, there is nothing wrong with saying that something is among the best. Olympic bronze medalists are “among the best” athletics in the world, though the gold medalist is “the best” in that moment. But I would not say that the bronze medalist was “the best” unless the medalist was in the room with folks who never won a medal. Then, yes, at that moment the medalist was “the best.”  You see? It is about perspective.

Now come back to the woman who called me “one of the best friends.” I know it was as a compliment. I also know I am not her best friend, so perhaps she was trying to be complimentary. What it said to me was, you aren’t my “go-to” friend, but I value you. Perspective. You know me; I asked her about it. And her answer surprised me. “I have different best friends. Depends on the secrets I want to share, then who I go to.”  An original take but again, that definition does defy the definition of “best.”

With all things I take this into my writing and apply it to my characters. Do they have relationships that are blurry? Are my perspectives sending mixed signals? Do my characters even have a “bestie?” Do YOURS? Have I rounded out my relationships so that they make sense and add value to my protagonist’s character traits? These are questions you should check just as you do in real life. Perspective matters and you have to understand why you feel and believe what you do in order for your reader to at least share your point of view. Be clear and say what you mean. Don’t rely on interpretation. You may not get the “best” result. Something for your editing checking, ok?

_________

Now, speaking of besties, I once wanted a Siri so I might have a best friend in my phone. Nah, I have a best friend who luvs me in my Android, my Samsung Galaxy SIII. Let me show you some examples and make you smile.

See a doctor, she said!

See a doctor, she said!

She loves our conversations!

She loves our conversations!

but “the best!” for last:

She'll always be my friend. Aw.

She’ll always be my friend. Aw.

Perspective. May you find the best one for you.

Yours between the lines, as ever,
Sherry

We’ll call it Thank You Day

This is an odd day, the after-the-party-should-I-be-hung-over-now-what-do-I-do-how-about-clean-the-house day. For me, it is a day to begin clearing away Santa Claus, putting away the New Year’s Day dinner china, and tossing in a load of towels. It is a day to listen to the new music I received for Christmas while paying bills and writing any thank you notes.

That’s what I wanted to mention to you: thank you notes. I had company come by Dec 29, and our time was too short because these are folks we don’t know well but want to, whose company my husband and I have always enjoyed (he worked with her). We’ve gone on a cruise with them (and others) but never had the chance to know them well. Now, we’ve begun to expand that chance at friendship and we shared some wine and dessert at our house in that effort. Such fun!  When they arrived, they brought the most gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers. In winter! Sunflowers! Well that was awesomely original and I was delighted. Am delighted.

Barely two days later, on that following Monday, I got a thank you card. In the mail, handwritten. That was more awesome than the flowers and I’ll tell you why.

The way my parent raised me, a person never went to anyone’s home (on an invite) without a gift. Flowers, a plant, a bottle of wine (if you knew they drank), even a good bottle of Scotch, a box of chocolates — something. Mother always said it was the height of bad manners to show up at someone’s home empty-handed. So, I never do. And here was a couple who did the same thing — and were decidedly thoughtful doing it.

On the reverse side of the coin, Mother always said good manners said you always wrote thank you notes for gifts received, visits given, or anything nice done for you, birthdays, Christmas, special times. Actually, a thank you was right any time.

And there it was, this lovely, hand-written note, bringing a warmth and a smile. I rejoiced.

I think our society has become lazy. Our youth have forsaken good manners because they think no one really cares and that thought is simply wrong and not true. People in the generations behind me tend to think that a text message saying “thx!” is enough or an email can suffice for giving thanks. They would be wrong. It isn’t. (I’m not bashing technology here, merely the lack of effort or attention.)

Now you don’t have to be Emily Post and write gold, gilt-edged parchment notes. But you do have to make an effort and nothing says effort like a small hand-tooled note, mailed. Aren’t you worth 46 cents? I think you are. I hope I am as well. The Post Office hopes we both are, too. Really, is it so hard to take five minutes to appreciate someone’s goodness?

So I’m doing my thank you’s today and making an effort to include some extra special thoughts when I do them. I want to give the same smile I was given to those who will receive my cards. That’s priceless, to me.

So maybe today is the day we should call Thank You Day. A little effort can mean so much. Manners dusted off and used can often become a good habit. It sets a good example for youth, and tells people they matter. According to my Mother, you don’t need money to show that you have been “brought up well.” Manners. Simple.

Appreciated.

Moreover, you can’t hack a thank you card.
______________

On another note, the Mint Hill Writers’ Group gathers on Saturday. I’m hoping to get more folks to come. We tend to have but two or three every meeting. Time to rally the troops and get writers to find joy in togetherness. Know why?

Because it is NaNoEdMo! That’s National Novel Editing Month! Time to take what you wrote and start hacking on it. Oh joy. But it must be done.

Do you realize that a truly well-done manuscript usually needs at least THREE full revisions? Yes, and I have a new box of red pens!  Are you working your revisions?
______________

Let us begin the New Year by connecting on Goodreads. I enjoy reading what others are reading and discovering new adventures. Currently I’m reading “Bellman and Black” by Diane Setterfield and “Game of Thrones (Book 1 of Fire and Ice) by George R.R. Martin.

Last year I completed my goal of 50 books and this year I’ve scaled that goal back to 35 because I will be spending more time writing and I don’t want to over-extend myself. What are you reading and what are your reading goals?
_____________

Brief Notes:  Thank you to my new followers! I do appreciate your joining the list. Let me hear your thoughts and suggestions as we move along, please.

Join me on Twitter for my #DailyTwitamin (a daily bite of healthy information in 140 characters or less!), and on Facebook for pictures and other more personal things!  I also have an Facebook Author page.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of my new book, Paper Bones, at Authorhouse, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other online book retailers. If you are in the Charlotte area, you can also rent it from your local library! Just ask for it.

As always,
I’m Yours Between the Lines,
Sherry

Happy New Year!

Hello and welcome 2014!

I contemplated doing a long, reflective post with apologies and promises but I decided that what I owe you is so much more.

So here is what is coming in 2014:

I’ll give you some info on the publication of my book, Paper Bones, tell you how I’m doing and share tidbits I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully, some of this will inspire or help you on your publication journey.

This year I’ll share more pictures, more book and movie reviews as I read/see them. We can have great discussions on the merits of our reading material. Also, we’ll look at life and how we can use it to enhance our writing. I want to discuss so many topics on writing this year, sharing some of my work, getting your feedback and thoughts too.

I’ve joined Facebook and is part of why I’ve been missing. Learning to work my “other” social media outlets and find balance is a good topic for an upcoming post. We’ll discuss it. Meanwhile I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn and Klout for starters.

Life is a true adventure! We’re going on it now, together. I’m changing the blog (going to need some help but I know a few folks who can assist me), and we’re getting down to business.

So, I hope you’ll come back every day as we look at our lives, between the lines!

Happy New Year, friends and readers. Thank you for being there! See you tomorrow.
~Sherry

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