Sew creative

14 Jul

Okay, I’ve figured out how to sew.  I’m slow, and I mean seriously slow.  But, at least I can still do it.  The really difficult part is cutting out the fabric, but I’ll get Greg to do that from now on or see about electric shears.  I felt like I had been swinging one armed over the Grand Canyon after cutting out 3 pieces for a toddler size skirt–really out of proportion for the amount of work it really is.  Obviously, that’s a type of motion that isn’t going to agree with me, so I have to come up with a work-around.  Even stopping frequently didn’t make it easier–just prolonged the agony.

But I can still sew, albeit slowly.

That makes me very happy.  I’ve lost a lot of my favorite things in terms of activities, and I had postponed this so very long, for fear that I would not be able to enjoy one of the creative activities that had always appealed to me.  I can, and I love it when I can. For me, there is something immensely satisfying about making something that is useful as well as pretty and unique.  Sewing is something that allows me to do that.

But, I knew that hand hemming was going to be not-so-fun.  I have a machine with a blind hem stitch, but I had never used it.  It was just a funny looking sort of zig zag thing to me before, and the directions sounded complicated enough that I would just press and hem by hand, the same way I did the very first time that I made something on a machine that had been made before WWII in Japan.  It only went forward and backward, forget zig zag.  Even buttonholes had to be done the same way my great-grandmother would have sewn them, which meant I didn’t do button holes!

This machine, bought a number of years ago, is a computerized machine made by Brother that has now been discontinued.  I don’t even remember why I had to have it–I bought it to replace a nearly new Kenmore that still works today, so the reason was not something immediately obvious.  I’m pretty frugal, so just because I could isn’t a reason that would have flown with me.  I just don’t remember why now.

I do remember that when I got it, it was so quiet, smooth and easy to sew on that it made the old one seem like it had been made in the stone age.  It is really seriously the best machine I’ve ever used.  Sure, there may be better ones out there, but I’ve not encountered them myself.  There is virtually no vibration, despite the fact that the machine is very lightweight and easy to move around.   It has a ton of features, most of which I haven’t used, but they include a self-threading feature, and that alone makes the machine worth its weight in gold–my eyes are not what they were a few years ago even.  You have no idea what kind of joy it is to replace the spool of thread with a new one and just push a button to thread the needle!

But back to the skirt.  I had my granddaughter with me one day while we were in Hattiesburg for a doctor appointment for her mother.  We went to the fabric store while her mama was in the doctor’s office (it’s always a 2 hr thing!) I had a bug–I wanted to make SOMETHING.

Sure, I have tons of patterns for stuff.  I used to be willing to try complicated patterns, finding the challenge a thrill.  This time, I wanted to make something for her, but I wanted it something that was very simple.  I didn’t want a challenge, I wanted an easy success this time.

So, it was a cheap pattern to make little girl’s skirts.  Four views, all for a skirt about knee length and flared, with an easy to put on elastic waist that was great for a 3 yr old who is still mastering dressing herself.  With the pattern in hand, we started looking for fabric.

Of course, Grandma has a thing for fabric that is easy care and easy to match with a variety of tops.  Three year old granddaughters want their favorite characters though.  So we compromised.  Two pieces of easy-to-match fabric, and one piece of Hello Kitty fabric, add a few yards of elastic, and we were set.

Somehow, “Grandma is going to make you a skirt” and buying the fabric translated to “I can wear it right now” to a three year old.  We had a hard time with the bit about me having to take it home with me and sew it, but we got through that.  She’s growing in spurts, and her mother wanted me to make it long enough that she wasn’t going to outgrow it in a few months.  I also made the elastic waist “expandable” so that it can be let out as she grows bigger.

We both remember her brother and his Power Ranger costume.  He wore it until it was nearly obscene and I had to hide it then.  Hello Kitty skirt might be in that same category.  My daughter also had a pink denim skirt that she wore from the time she was about four until she was nearly ten and it had become the mini-skirt it was originally meant to be.  Having this skirt long enough to last if it becomes a favorite is probably a good idea, never mind that I’m making her two other ones.

But I am not making the next one for her.  I have several great nieces and a nephew, along with the impending arrival of a pair of twins this fall.  The next one is for Mikey, a great-niece I’ve never been able to meet yet. Tall and thin for her age, I’m told that finding clothes to fit can be a challenge for her.  Plus, neither my sister nor her mother are able to sew.  So, I’m making her a skirt too. This one is going to be pale purple with a Disney princess theme and “Princess in Training” on it.  Like the one for my granddaughter, the elastic waist will be adjustable, since the recipient will be across the continent from me and impossible for me to adjust the waist size exactly.

Did I mention that they are nearly full circle and ideal for twirling?

Dancing little girls, whether they are pretending to be on Frozen or just dancing for the joy of life, are a real treat, and skirts that twirl with them add to the pleasure.  Don’t ask me why, but I remember that from watching my own daughter as she was growing up, dancing through the backyard, unaware that I was watching her through the kitchen window. Watching her as she leaped and twirled, you had to feel happy yourself.

So when I finish the skirts, I’ll move on to something a little more complex but still in the realm of “easy” with some aprons.

What can be more practical than an apron? Plus they offer plenty of opportunity to be a little creative!

The Homosexuality Contagion

12 Jul

I’ve heard a lot of anti-gay rhetoric.  I live in the Bible Belt where there seems to be a genuine fear that they are going to “catch the gay“.  There is a lot of statements about how people don’t want gays in their neighborhood, schools, workplace, restaurants, or churches too.  I have to assume that they truly believe that it is somehow contagious and they are afraid that they too, will become gay.

I have also read a lot about how people are gay from birth, as well as arguments that people are homosexual because of their upbringing, experiences, choices, etc.  I can’t answer those questions, and that’s not what this blog post is going to address.  I’m only going to look at the fear of “catching the gay.”

I have had a number of friends who were homosexual over the years.  I’ve gone camping with them, eaten meals with them, cooked and laughed with them, and on occasion, even shared a drink with them.  I’ve had plenty of opportunity to “catch the gay.”

Guess what?

I don’t have a single symptom of being gay.

I’m married, I’ve had kids, and I’m totally comfortable with my sex life as a monogamous heterosexual.  I don’t feel threatened by gays, whether male or female, unless they are armed and specifically state that they are threatening me.  Of course, I would feel equally threatened at that point, regardless of sexual orientation.  I have to also admit that I have never once asked anyone who was threatening me with bodily harm about their sexual orientation.  It just never seemed relevant at that point.  The assailants that were known to me also happen to not be gay, so I also don’t regard homosexuals as potentially threatening individuals.

I’ve also heard that homosexuals are basically child molesters in training.  Thinking back to the years that I worked in law enforcement and corrections, I try to remember a single case involving a convicted child molester also being a homosexual.  Guess what?  I don’t remember any.  That’s not to say it is impossible, but I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other.

The next bit I hear is how the Bible specifically forbids homosexuality.  Well, sure it does, but the Old Testament has a lot of things that we don’t regard as moral or legal in modern society, like incest, polygamy, stoning, etc.  Besides, what happened to that bit about separation of church and state that is in our constitution? Or maybe the whole bit about “thou shalt not judge”?  Or even all that bacon, sausage, pork chops, etc. that America buys in the grocery store each year…that is forbidden too, if you want to get right down to it.  So, we’ll toss out that Old Testament bit, and the New Testament mostly talks about tolerance and love, and stoning homosexuals is definitely out.

I’ve also been told how the gay community and especially same sex marriages are going to threaten the “sanctity of marriage.”  When it comes out of the mouth of a man who has been repeatedly divorced or has been publicly pointed out for extra-marital affairs, that’s hardly going to fly.  Personally, I just don’t get the sanctity of marriage thing when 50% of marriages in the USA end in divorce in 5 years or less.  I also don’t see where having a gay couple who is married as neighbors is going to threaten my marriage, unless my husband was going to “catch the gay” (since I’m obviously immune to it.) I also don’t think that a gay couple’s children are going to “catch the gay” or expose my children or grandchildren to the risks of “catching the gay.”

Homosexuality isn’t a disease, and it isn’t a virus.  You can’t catch it.  You either are or you aren’t, that’s all.  Okay, there are people who are bisexual, but that’s another thing entirely.  I’m not addressing that.  Since I’m not bisexual or homosexual, I can’t pretend I understand how or why it is.  The only person that truly knows your own sexual orientation is yourself.

I don’t understand why people are so afraid of homosexuality unless it is because they have not addressed their own sexual orientation and find that thoughts of the same sex indulging in sexual behavior is arousing, and therefore is “bad” and must be suppressed.  I do know that my mother always insisted that those who persecuted gays were afraid of their own sexuality and sexual urges, which is why they became so angry and fearful when exposed to gays.

I think she may have been right.  I don’t fear them, I don’t find that they make me angry, and I do support same sex marriage.  I think it would be great for the economy too.  After all, most gays never have children, and have far more disposable income as a result.  That means that they will spend a lot more money on things like their weddings, anniversaries, homes, cars, etc. over the years than those of us who devote our lives to raising another generation.  Same sex marriages also means fewer children being born–which will mean more economic and educational opportunities for the children that are born into this world.  The same sex marriages will also probably pay more taxes over the years, as they will not qualify for the child tax credit, will be able to concentrate more on career advancement, and will probably make more money in their lives to be taxed as well.

Sure, they can adopt.  They can use surrogate mothers and sperm donors too. Some of them will have kids, and that’s okay too.  They will have jobs, buy houses, build neighborhoods, attend churches, buy goods & services and do all of the other things that other families do.  Why should I care if Johnny and Jane have two dads or two moms?  Why should I worry about their parents’ sex life at all?  Or any of my neighbors for that matter?

As long as they aren’t breaking any of the other laws we have, it doesn’t matter what orientation they have or don’t have.  It doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter, nor should we even give a second thought to what their sex life is about.  I honestly have never gone to a PTA meeting and sat there discussing the other parents’ sex lives or lack thereof.  There are some things that I just do not care about. I also don’t worry about co-workers, other church members, the shopkeeper, or any of the other people I may come into contact with in the course of a day.  In fact, making me visualize such a thing about any of those people is probably going to leave me with an “ewww” and a mental desire to scour out my brain to get rid of it.

The world will be a much better place when we all quit worrying about whether or not everyone else has a better sex life than we do and we start concentrating on our own issues.

Just get over it.  You won’t “catch the gay” even if your neighbors are a same sex couple and they come over for a bbq one weekend.  You can drink after them without it happening too.  You are more likely to catch hepatitis or drug resistant tuberculosis, and neither of those diseases care what sexual orientation you have.  Their marriage won’t make you get a divorce, and your husband isn’t going to run off into the sunset with a gay guy because of it either.  (If he was going to do it, he’ll do it even if you have nobody that is a homosexual in your neighborhood.)  Your wife isn’t going to start lusting after the pastor’s wife either.  You are safe, honest.

You are seriously not that stupid, are you?

22 rules to get more real followers on Twitter

7 Jul

If you use Twitter, you have been bombarded with temporary followers that sport a blatant advertisement to induce you to spend your hard earned money to buy followers, usually to the tune of $29.95.

Are they worth it?

It depends on your goal.  If it’s just about numbers to you, and you don’t care who follows you or how many people actually read your posts, then it is likely a bargain.

On the flip side of that coin, if you are looking for engaged followers, which means people who actually care what you tweet, read your tweets, and maybe even click on the links you provide, then no, these ghost followers are about as useful as a chicken with teeth.  (That should give you some real nightmares, since chickens are a murderous lot and will kill & eat their companions when stressed.  Then, there are also the foul tempered roosters, who may attack if they feel you are threatening their harem and are already equipped with nasty bone-like spurs on their feet.)

Buying followers is a lot like buying blow up dolls to be the guests at your next party.  Sure, they give you a great body count, but their conversation sucks.

So, since you can’t run out and buy the kind of follower you need to make your Twitter account really pop, how do you do it?

It’s not rocket science, actually, and anybody can do it.  Here is a brief list of 22 things to do with your Twitter account to help you gain more followers fast.

  1. Post a picture to your profile and get rid of the universal egg.
  2. Fill out your profile–make it reflect who you are and what is important, while staying brief with your character count. Don’t just put your name or website, or even a series of hashtags–you want to attract followers who are interested in you!
  3. Tweet regularly, at least once a day.  It doesn’t have to be something profound, it can even link to your website or blog.  Just tweet something, for heaven’s sake.  It’s so sad to see accounts that are four or five years old, and have under 5000 tweets.
  4. Follow people who interest you or have similar interests to yours.  If you are a company or brand, then follow people who tweet about your products/services, from your area, or reviewers of similar items.
  5. When someone follows you, follow them back if they appear to be a real person.  There are a lot of fake or “bot” accounts that tweet continual spam on Twitter.  You don’t have to do anything more than look at what they tweet to figure out if they are a porn bot or continual stream of advertisements for various things, etc.
  6. Reply to tweets that catch your interest regularly.  Make this a habit to ensure that you tweet back to people at least several times a week. You can even have real conversations, albeit in 140 characters or less, with others via Twitter.
  7. Retweet other people’s tweets when they are interesting or relevant to your interests.
  8. Mention other people’s Twitter nickname when it is relevant.  It’s a kind of compliment, and it increases their visibility.
  9. Thank people via a tweet when they mention you or retweet something you’ve tweeted, even if it was just retweeting your retweet.  This is a kind of courtesy, increases people’s visibility on Twitter, and since people like to see their name, they are more likely to retweet other things in the future.
  10. Retweet tweets from people who have retweeted your tweets.  They like it, so they’ll retweet you more often.
  11. Read your “notifications” section daily.  This shows you who and when and what has happened while you are not reading Twitter.
  12. Avoid using DMs or “Direct Messages”, which are a kind of private tweet.  Never just automatically send DMs to others–it’s annoying, usually ignored, and many people will not read or respond to DMs.  (I’m one of them!)  DMs have become the hallmark of spammers.
  13. Do not become the kind of Twitter account that everyone despises–the unfollower.  These account holders follow people just until they are followed back, and then they unfollow the account.  It is rude, and many people use an app to show them who is doing this, so that they can reciprocate.  You won’t win friends with this behavior.
  14. Be prepared to spend some time using Twitter.  You learn a lot reading other tweets, as well as have more reason to interact with other Tweeple.  Most people will spend an hour per day minimum reading, retweeting, and posting tweets.  This can easily be broken into smaller segments of time, with as little as 2 minutes spent at a time, although 15 minutes is a more reasonable segment.
  15. Keep your language clean of obscenities, profanity, etc.  It offends some people, and may cost you some credibility with others.  (I am assuming you aren’t a teenager seeking to impress his/her peers here.)  Besides, 4 letter words are not going to create the impression that you are a brilliant tweeter with the 140 character limit.
  16. Don’t be a troll–nobody wants to be your victim, so nobody is likely to follow you just to be one.  Be pleasant, even when you don’t agree.
  17. Don’t post anything on Twitter that you would not want displayed on a billboard in your neighborhood.  It’s a public forum, not a private encounter group. That includes things you do not want your boss, spouse, parents or children to read as well.  Things you say today may also bite you five years from now, so even if you are single & childless today…you might not be that way forever.  If in doubt, don’t!
  18. Don’t be a Twitter stalker.  Stalkers anywhere are creepy, and you don’t want to frighten people away. Reputations spread via the internet, so if you develop one as a stalking creep, you will soon be tagged.  It’s great to admire someone, it’s great to tweet to them or about them, but if you are becoming obsessive about everything they tweet, etc., maybe you should step away from Twitter and seek some professional help.  Don’t do it to your ex’s either–it’s still creepy.
  19. Don’t get into Twitter wars.  They may be your ex-best friend, your worst enemy, etc., but getting into a Twitter war puts your reputation on the line and you won’t come out of it as a winner.  Drama is only amusing for so long, before no one wants to see your tweets anymore.  Follow your mother’s old adage! “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  It’s not bad advice sometimes.
  20. Be yourself. Everyone is tired of the fake people, the fictional characters, etc. that have plagued internet conversations for so long.  Very few people are rich, powerful, beautiful…and have time to sit on the internet all day.  Nobody buys that song and dance either.
  21. Have fun.  Relax & enjoy yourself.  Vent frustrations and aggravations.  Tell people about important things.  Find out about local events.  Find out where your friends are hanging out on the weekend.  Tell people where you went to get great barbecue or a good deal on tires.  Tell them about the lousy service from Company X too.  Get people to read your blog, check out your new book, or read the book review you posted.  It’s all good!
  22. As you increase your followers, your limits on who you follow are lifted as well.  When you reach the point where you have an unbalanced (in Twitter’s opinion) of followed versus followers, it may be necessary to unfollow some people who may no longer be active on Twitter or may not be following you back.  (Follow backs are not mandatory!)  There are also some less-than-ethical Twitter users that follow you just until you follow them back and then unfollow you.  There are  a number of apps available  that are free at least at the basic level that can show you these accounts and make unfollows a little easier and quicker to do.  Most will appear in tweets on your account at some point, and they shift and change according to how recently Twitter has changed their rules and code.  Try them to see which ones you like.

I hope this has helped demystify and make Twitter a little easier to navigate through.  It isn’t hard to get followers, by simply being yourself and interacting.  It isn’t instant either, and it does require some investment of time and effort.  As a result of this effort, you can have followers that are interested in what you have to say, as well as ones that are saying things that you are also interested in.

If you would like to follow me on Twitter, my nickname is @giascott.  I have less than 10,000 followers, and I have never paid for a single one of them.  I have been using Twitter since 2009, but until this year, I was guilty of being a sporadic user–I would sometimes go weeks or even months between tweets.  I also only use Twitter on my computer and Kindle.  I don’t use any apps for Twitter–I log in through a browser.  I don’t even regard myself as a Twitter expert, but rather as an “average user.”

Writing, as always

5 Jul

I’ve published a lot of small cookbooks in the past year, on a variety of topics.  They’ve been popular, too. So have the books about camping, whether it was food or other facets of camping.  The Time of Chaos was well received too.

Fiction, I have to admit, is my first love.  Even so, with my practical side, I really love non-fiction books too.  Most of my own books are actually non-fiction.  I’ve learned a lot from well written non-fiction books, and I’ve also encountered the sort that was written in “engrish” that wasn’t even worth the time it took to open the cover, digital or print.

Those really awful ones are kept in my mind as the example of “don’t-do-that”.  The file, I must admit, is getting thicker with time, as new editions of awful are filed away there.

But despite enjoying putting together the non-fiction books, it seems to be time to take some time and explore my own abilities and creativity.  I hadn’t tried to do a lot of creative stuff since my accident, which was nearly 5 years ago now.  It was partly out of fear, as I learned that my new restrictions had eliminated one of my previous pleasures from my future.  Some things, I’ve learned to work around, others I have been forced to gracefully accept as no longer possible.

I’ll never know the joy of swimming again, but I can still play in the shallows.  I can hang onto something floaty and kick through the water, with my life vest on.  Sure, it’s not the same, but I will live.

Today, I tried something that I have been afraid to try, even as my sewing machine sat there, just waiting.

I tried sewing.

I can do it too. Sure, it’s a lot slower and cutting out fabric is sheer agony.  Thankfully, I have a husband who is both willing and able to help me with things like that.  Maybe I’ll see about electric shears to make it easier.  I am making a simple elastic waist skirt for my granddaughter.  Once upon a time, it would have taken me about an hour to have cut it out and assembled it, with another fifteen to thirty minutes to hem it, press it, and have it finished.

Okay, I confess, I have to stop and take breaks.  A lot.  Sometimes its because I forgot some detail, like how to tell my machine I’m going to baste rather than stitch a proper seam, and I have to go read the digital copy of the manual (I have no idea where the original manual is now) to figure it out.  Sometimes it’s because I just need to stop and relax a bit.  Physical tension happens to trigger a lot of negative stuff for me, and apparently, I was getting tense today.

But I used to really love creating things with the sewing machine.  I often made my own patterns too.  This project, on the complicated scale, wasn’t going to push my limits in that regard.  It was going to be a simple project to see where I was going to have problems and give me an idea how to fix those problems so that I could do it again.

I’m ecstatic–I have faced a boogie man and conquered it.  I was afraid that it would be like trying to swim, only to discover that I absolutely couldn’t do it.  I didn’t want to admit defeat on this one, and I had delayed it so very long.  Of course, it helps that in this case, I’m not going to drown if I have to stop for a bit and come back to it later!

So, now I have a few budding projects in mind.  Two things that I’ve done a LOT of over the years–a specific (and rather simple) doll and customized dog coats.  I’m thinking that I may write a couple of how-to books for those kinds of things.

Hey, they are low calorie!

Yeah, that’s the other issue.  The recent muffin book was tough on us–that was a LOT of muffins to try, even over 6 months. It’s also summer on the Gulf Coast, and cooking is not my idea of a good time.  I also have another complication.

The day that The Big Book of A-Z Muffins was first available was the day our cook top died.

I’m now cooking on a camp stove until that issue is resolved.  Since a cook top is expensive, and I’m not even sure I want to have another one, it’s not getting an immediate replacement.  I actually would like to do away with the electric cook top and put in a regular gas stove with an oven, and get rid of the hated wall oven, aka “Easy Bake Oven”.  It’s undersized, not level, and I despise it.

I can also remember my Granddad’s saying when you figured something out and were finally able to do something right, “Now, you’re cooking with gas!”

I do prefer a gas stove.

So, without a “real” stove, writing cookbooks isn’t a very practical idea.  Of course, I could write a LOT of books about cooking with one burner.  Two years of our experiment of living in a travel trailer and years of using a camp stove when camping had pretty much perfected the art.

But I’m in the mood for something a bit more creative without worrying that my blood sugar is going to skyrocket.

So, I’m concentrating on the fiction for a bit.  I’m playing with sewing again.  Summer isn’t eternal, even in the South, so my aging dogs may appreciate some new finery for fall, right?

And I have a beautiful granddaughter who can wear it, as well as is old enough to start enjoying dressing her dolls.  My niece is expecting twins.  I have a nephew who has a beautiful baby girl too.  I used to love making 9 patch quilts in the throw/baby sizes, and they were another fast & easy project.

There has been a whole new world opened up.  That’s pretty cool, when you have had too many doors that slammed shut for you in the past few years.

So stay tuned.  Who knows what will be coming next!

 

Connecting with authors: the fan letter

4 Jul

Writers are a solitary lot.  They work alone, and while the picture of a solitary hermit hunched over their keyboard, chugging down vast quantities of beer or wine as they agonize for hours over every little detail is probably no where near the truth, they do in fact work alone in relative isolation usually.  Even those that manage to write with the chaos of their family swirling around them like the incoming tide around a rock are still working alone, without being able to interact with their peers. They pour their heart and soul into their manuscripts, then they are polished up, dressed in their finest cover, and sent out into the world. It’s a traumatic moment, sending that innocent and shiny new book out into a big cruel world, where it will be handled with carelessness, potentially tossed into a pile of books and forgotten.   That writer is its parent, and as a parent, agonizes over the launch of their efforts, until one day, it just happens.  It’s gone, forever condemned to the cruel pens of book reviewers.  A writer then prays for its salvation, that it is strong enough to withstand their assault. But despite this, the writer is compelled to begin again, and a new story is begun while the previous one is still involved in its own birth.  Still working alone, the writer may begin to feel that isolation, and wonder if anyone has really ever read their work, if it matters at all in the overall scheme of things, and even whether they are wasting their own time. Baring your soul and pouring out your heart is painful, and leaves so many writers feeling vulnerable.  After all, the world isn’t known for being kind and considerate, is it? But the fans are out there.  They read the book, they like the book, and they would like to connect with the author somehow.  But, all too often, there are a few things that prevent that fan letter from being sent.

  • The reader assumes that all authors receive a lot of fan mail.  (Not true!)
  • The reader assumes that authors are annoyed by fan mail. (not true either)
  • Readers do not want to be regarded as a creep or stalker.  (Most people aren’t going to take it to that level, but if you think you are doing that, maybe it’s time to back  off.)
  • Readers don’t know how to contact an author.  (more about this part later)

The fact is, fan mail is one of the greatest moments in a writer’s life.  Nothing compares to that first fan letter, unless it is the second one! So how to write the perfect fan letter?

  • Tell the author what you liked most about the book.
  • Explain how the book affected you, such as it made you laugh or cry, you had to stay up all night to finish it, you built your own space ship from the included directions, or whatever effect the book had.
  • Tell the author how and why you had originally bought the book.
  • Keep it short.  Authors have busy lives too, and it often includes things like a full time job and a family, with their writing done in their “spare” time.
  • Tell the author where you left a review.  (If you hadn’t left a review somewhere online, go do that before you write the author!  Authors love reviews!)
  • Type it up and send it by email.  Fan letters that are never sent or received don’t count!

So how do you find how to contact the author?

  • Start with the book itself.  Is there an “about the author” section? It may include contact information.
  • Search for the author’s website.  Many authors have a website.  Searching may be easiest if you use the author’s name and the title of the book.  Their website is likely to contain a “contact” page or form.
  • Look on Amazon for the author’s profile.  Many authors have an author page on Amazon, and it may include contact information.
  • Goodreads.com, a popular book review site, may also have an author profile page.  Some authors interact directly through Goodreads as well.  Other book review sites may offer the same or additional information.
  • Email the book’s publisher, asking where a fan letter to that particular author can be sent.  Often, it can go directly to the publisher, who will then forward it appropriately.

So, go do something constructive, like put a smile on an author’s face.  Make their day with a connection to the real world–their fans.

Book reviews: 7 hints for the negative review

3 Jul

Yeah, I’m a writer.  But just like everyone else, I’m a reader.  I also review the things I have written and sometimes, my review doesn’t agree with the others.

What then?

I review it honestly, and I hope others do as well.

Face it, some books have obviously fake glowing reviews–we’ve all seen them.  After a while, we also get pretty good at spotting them. That’s not the kind of review that anyone wants to agree with, but it’s also not exactly what I’m talking about either.

I’m talking about some obscure (to you) writer who has received glowing reviews about their novel and how innovative, subtle, unique, ground breaking, etc. it is.  Sometimes, all of these positive reviews set us up for disappointment, because when we read the book itself, it turns out to be so obscure, odd, and hard to get into that we never do get the point.

Then, we feel stupid or uneducated or just plain dull because we didn’t “get it”.  We feel as though we failed on the “worthiness” test.

But is it really us or was the novel so convoluted that it wasn’t our fault we never got the message?  Are the glowing reviews more like the case of the emperor’s new clothes rather than us being the dullard?

Review it honestly, state why you disliked the novel or found it tedious to read.  This isn’t grade school, there is no red pen, and you aren’t trying to impress a soul with your witty book reviews unless you work for a prestigious newspaper or magazine.  You do not have to buy into the emperor’s new clothes!

Unlike our school days, we’re not writing book reports to impress.  We are writing book reviews so that other people who are buying books can determine if they are going to like a book before they buy that book.  It’s not to leave spoilers either–it’s simply to give your opinion of why someone would or would not like a book.  Therefore, be honest, even if you feel like the lone dissenting voice in the crowd of masses who loved it.

Nobody is going to come to your house with a red pen and a glare over your review.

Sure, on occasion, you might get a comment or two about your review, and some of those might be snarky.  Snarky is cheap though, and books, even in digital format, really aren’t.

So, with that said, here are some hints for a constructive (though negative) review.

  1. Be specific about what you hated, whether it was the characters, location, weak plot, editing/proofreading or the narrator’s voice
  2. You are not attacking the author, and don’t make the review into a personal attack on the the author.
  3. Try to think of who would like the story. Maybe you didn’t fit that category and that was why you disliked it. Mention the category of reader  that you believe it was intended to strike a chord with.
  4. Never use profanity or slurs to make your point–it turns off everyone.
  5. Don’t take disagreement with your review personally.
  6. Be honest but remain polite about your opinion of the book and why it failed to be a hit with you.
  7. Above all, remember that authors do put their heart and soul into a book, so don’t shred the author just because you hated the book.  They may or may not ever see the review!

I need a break!

1 Jul

I have never liked my electric cook top & wall oven–they came with the house. I’ve often scathingly referred to the oven as an “easy bake oven” because it is under sized and most baking sheets won’t even fit into it. I wasn’t thrilled with an electric cook top either.

With that said, I did have something to cook on. As of today, it won’t work. Lights flicker briefly, then vanish and the burners don’t heat up beyond barely warm. (I can actually lay my palm on them after having one on for 10 minutes on high.) I’d say it’s broke. Not that it ever worked all that well, but it did get hot now and again. (Pancakes were usually either burned or anemic looking, for example.)

I’m not defeated. Camp stoves I have, and can use. After 2 yrs in a travel trailer, I’m the queen of 1 burner meals.

But dang, I’d like a break. We spent $1200 to fix our vehicle today. Couldn’t that stove top have hung in a few more months? I really want to replace the wall oven & cook top with a more economical stove (a stove costs less than either component does) but that means some kitchen renovations have to happen, which we can’t afford right now, even as minimal as we intended. (New vinyl flooring, new paint, removal of 2 cupboard units, installation of gas line, new counter top, and a new faucet) I hadn’t even priced what it would cost us to get about 10′ of gas line & a new dog leg for the stove installed yet!

So, I get to stare at a hated cook top, while cooking on an all-too-familiar camping stove, trying to stay upbeat, and most of all, trying to write–about food, as well as fiction.  It’s hot.  We live in Mississippi and I don’t do well with the heat and humidity combination anymore.  I’m grumpy and short tempered.  I despise the fact that there will be no reprieve from the incessant hum of biting insects and air conditioners for two months now, as our temperatures approach the triple digit level.

Sure, I could leave the South and move somewhere with a climate that was more agreeable, but I also have a husband. I also want to keep that husband!  He does not want to deal with snow ever again, and while shoveling it is something neither of us can do anymore, trying to convince him that there are places that get very little snow and that it doesn’t stick around long enough to need to be shoveled is proving difficult.  It would also mean leaving our daughter and granddaughter behind to the merciless heat, abandoned to their own devices.

Okay, so that’s a bit of melodrama there.  But, Grandmas tend to get melodramatic about their grandchildren.  I only have the one, so I get to go absolutely gaga over her!  We live an hour away, and I’d rather she lived closer instead of further away anyhow.

So there’s the bait.  I stay, even though July and August mean I’m largely housebound.  Early morning, while cool on the desert, simply is slightly less hot but full of biting bugs here.  My perfume of choice? Repel!  Yep, I’m adapting.  Not sure what the husband thinks of that as my favorite perfume though.

So, I’m looking at scrimping and saving for however long, to accumulate enough money to buy a stove, along with the rest of the work that has to be done to allow the installation of said stove.   While I could just spend enough money to buy that stove on just the cook top, it would still have to be installed.  I already have 30+ year old countertops that are wavy and peeling–installing a new cooktop into THAT is silly.  We can install inexpensive counter tops for a couple of hundred dollars.

I could give up the idea of a gas stove too, and just use the wiring that is in place to install  a new electric stove.  That would be an “easy” fix on the expense of the gas line (we already have gas in the kitchen, just not to the stove)  but, we still have to take out at least one section of cupboard to install a stove, which means we have to put in new flooring and counter tops.  When we’re doing that much work, we may as well get rid of that hated easy bake oven too, right?

So that leaves us just needing to paint and replace the kitchen faucet.  (Sink is fine, if I can’t have the style I want due to budget concerns)  That’s the cheap part, actually–I am certain we can do both for under $200.

I don’t want to replace the cupboards–they are vintage wood, and mostly in very good condition.  There is some damage from a wheel chair to the lower cabinet doors, but that can be refinished and will vanish.  The handles, which were replaced in the 70s from the looks of them, need to go away.  I’d like to replace them with some sleek brushed metal ones, another inexpensive weekend project.

Sounds easy and inexpensive, right?

Ha.

Murphy and his laws have been plaguing us for ages now.  Just when we think we have spotted a light at the end of the tunnel, something will jerk the rug out from under our feet and skid us backwards again. Things like $1200 mechanic’s bills.  Greg’s heart attack. Oh, the transmission.  Breaking equipment.

I just wish Murphy and his assorted laws would simply go on vacation, relocate, or find somewhere more interesting than our house.

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