Sing for Us Sharon

July 8, 2011

I am a reluctant singer. I don’t even sing in the shower. When I was a kid, I had to sing whenever company visited.  I hated it so much, I would feel sick to my stomach until the performance was over. I developed a vibrato when I was nine or ten and my parents took it as a sign that I could sing. So, whenever my aunts or uncles would visit, or even if we went to one of their houses, I would be asked to sing. I always knew someone would ask sooner or later, and until the request came, I couldn’t eat anything, just waiting.

“Sharon, sing for us.”

 I would look at my parents, and they would be smiling, nodding their heads to encourage me. I don’t know if they ever knew how I hated to sing. They gave me singing lessons and I learned to sing O Sole Mio in Italian, and some other songs I don’t remember. Finally the singing teacher suggested I take piano lessons instead. My parents must have been disappointed, but I wasn’t.

Sharon

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

Can you Write More Than One Book at a Time?

July 6, 2011

It’s probably not a great idea, but I found that when one book seems to be dragging its feet, it is helpful to have another WIP on which to focus  attention. Then, when I go back, I seem to have caught my breath and can move ahead with renewed energy. All the while I’ve been away from book #1, my subconscious mind is still trying to break the impasse. Never fails to work.

One must show a little restraint however. It’s tempting to pick up a new idea, or a new character and run with it. Everything seems shiny and new. There are no loose plot threads, the characters haven’t taken over the insane asylum yet,  and no pesky critique partners have had an opportunity to tell you  ‘the sky is falling’.

So, I’m working on the first book in a series of three, an urban fantasy entitled The Energy Collector, and a woman’s fiction work called Layla Bunch. They are as different as night and day. Maybe the only reason working on two pieces at once works  for me is that they are two different genres, and different markets. Also, the urban fantasy  has been edited and re-edited, with a first draft completed for the second book  in the series ,  and  35,000 word of a the first draft completed for the third book in the series. Layla Bunch is still in first draft status with only 10,000 words. So they are differentiated by where the two books stand in the creative process. I just re-read this paragraph. I’m really working on four novels at once, aren’t I? Now that’s crazy. Do you think I am a little ADHD?

Each writer must come up with their own work patter/process. No cookie cutter options when it comes to creativity. No wrong or right, either. So, strike out on your own and develop a methodology that works for you so you can write the best novel possible. Geez Sharon, four books?

Sharon

Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

C. S. Lewis

July 5, 2011

I told you that you might be surprised at what I’m currently reading.

 C.S. Lewis is best known for the Chronicles of Narnia, but did you know there is a prequel that explains how Narnia came to be, and how the evil witch ended up there? It’s a sweet little story. I decided to read it because a reviewer of my urban fantasy series thought my writing was reminiscent of Lewis. I don’t see it, but regardless, I enjoyed the book. Lewis has a phenomenal way with characters and setting. A bit tongue in cheek. Reminds me a bit of Charles Dickens.

There is a religiosity about C. S. Lewis’s work. He was a well known christian, and the following quote sums up his platform.

‘ The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him’

Sharon

Categories: Monday - Books.

Outliers

July 3, 2011

There’s a best selling book on the market. I haven’t read it, but I heard about the theory.


The title of the book is Outlier.  I’ll use Wikipedia’ definition,An outlying observation, or outlier, is one that appears to deviate markedly from other members of the sample in which it occurs. 


Outliers are individuals who have focused long enough on an activity to become expert at it. The authors of this book talk about the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.


So, for example, assuming it takes 4 hours to play 18 holes of golf, you would have to play 2,500 individual rounds to become expert, or about 48 years if you played once a week. (Of course by that time, even if you were an ‘expert’, your age would start to add strokes to your game, and you probably wouldn’t be on the pro-circuit.) Anyone who is a golfer is going to jump all over my example.


The point of all this is, I am not an outlier in any aspect of my life, and in some areas, I am the antithesis of outlier. (I wonder if that’s an inlier?) At my age, to become expert at something, I better spend about 12 hours a day which could put me in the outlier range in a little over 2 years. I’m trying to become an outlier in the craft of writing novels, so I think I’m about half way to learning how to be an outlying novelist.  


Where would you focus your attention to become an outlier? Do you have an activity or an area where you would like to excel? 


Sharon

Categories: Sunday - Carte Blanche.

Can We Find a Cure for Breast Cancer?

July 2, 2011

Does that mean the development of a vaccine that will prevent an individual from ever having breast cancer?   Would there have to be lots of different vaccines because there are multiple types of breast cancer? Would there be a pill or a machine that would nullify cancer cells, or disarm them somehow? What will a cure look like? And when will it happen?                


When a normal cell divides, the cell’s DNA is copied more or less perfectly. But each division of a cancer cell brings about new changes in the DNA. So a drug might be able to kill some but not all of the cancer because each cell is a little different. 


Another problem is inherent in the ability of a cancer stem cell to hide. Chemotherapy might effectively kill an entire tumor, but cancer stem cells might evade the drugs and cause a relapse of the cancer years later. In a sense we cure breast cancer today. The problem is when somebody is diagnosed with breast cancer, we can’t tell that woman that she is cured, until she dies at 95 of something else. So, we know we cure breast cancer, but we never know if any one particular person is cured at any one time.


So where does this leave us?  We are without a cure that we can point to, and women are dying everyday. Does that mean we give up? We can’t. We made a promise to end breast cancer forever. 


Sharon

Categories: Saturday - Susan G. Komen.

My College Professor Told Me I Should Become an Economist

July 1, 2011

That college course began a love affair with economics. I never followed my professor’s advice, but I never stopped being passionate about the subject. Maybe because I realized early on, that economics drives just about every decision we make, every action we take.  We have finite resources, and how we choose to allocate them is what economics is all about.

If I buy one dress instead of another based on the price of each dress, it is an economic choice.  My behavior is informed by my choice which is based on the finite resource of my bank account or credit card limit.

Don’t worry that every Friday’s blog is going to be wearisome. I hope to explore theories about economics I have developed over the years, and hopefully bring the subject to a discussion level where we can talk about practical things.

We are in a particularly bad place right now economically because of the choices we have made on an individual level as well as on a governmental level.

So let’s explore and see where we can take this discussion. I welcome input on this one, because I am in no way an expert, just an interested student of the subject.

Sharon

Categories: Friday - Economics.

What Does it Take to Lose 55 Pounds

June 30, 2011

If I had to sum up in a single word what it takes to lose a lot of weight, and keep it off, that word would be acceptance. Oh certainly, determination is an important word too, but acceptance is what finally made the difference for me.


I had to accept the fact that I had to eat in a very proscribed way for the rest of my life, or I would never lose the weight I needed to lose, and most definitely would not keep it off. It’s like being an alcoholic or a drug addict. They know that they can’t have just one, or a little of anything they are addicted to. It simply leads to more. So I changed my mind set. I can’t live to eat, I must eat to live. What that meant for me is, no added salt, no sugar, no simple carbs, very little fat, no processed food. This diet isn’t for a day or a month, it is for the rest of my life. 


Giving up salt was the hardest part of my diet. I don’t even cook with salt, and I eat almost no processed foods. Food is bland without salt. I try to substitute fresh  herbs,  rice vinegar and mustard, but salt, oh how I miss salt. Sugar comes from fruit, oil comes from nuts and salmon, and carbs come from oatmeal in the morning. 


Here’s an interesting little bit of news:

Healthy Lifestyle Tip: Fabulous Fiber
Take two people of the same age and height; one is normal weight, the other is overweight. What accounts for the difference? Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin studied the dietary intakes of 100 people, half in each weight category. They found that diets were similar in consumption of sugar, dairy products and breads, but different in fiber intake. The normal-weight people ate 33 percent more dietary fiber and 43 percent more complex carbohydrates than the overweight group.

Fiber-rich foods are generally low in calories and fats, yet they’re bulky enough to provide a feeling of being full. Here are some ways to increase your fiber:
  • Jump-start your day. For breakfast choose a high-fiber cereal – 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. Opt for cereals with “bran” or “fiber” in the name.
  • Switch to whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label and with at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur.
  • Mix it up. Add pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews. Add high fiber fruit such as pears, raspberries, strawberries to salads, cereal, yogurt, salsas or as a topping for any dessert.
  • Get a leg up with legumes. Eat more beans, peas and lentils. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad.
  • Eat fruit at every meal. Apples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are good sources of fiber.
  • Make snacks count. Fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices. An occasional handful of nuts are also a healthy, high-fiber snack.
    Source: mayoclinic.com
Next week I’ll share what the weight loss has done for my health. Amaaazing!

Sharon
 

Categories: Thursday - Lifestyle Changes.

Somersaults In the Spring

June 29, 2011

When I was almost nine, I came home for lunch on a Fall day and crawled into my bed.

My Mom came into my room, “Why are you in bed?”

“I don’t feel good.”

She put her hand on my forehead, “You’re very warm.” I didn’t leave my bed again until the following Spring.  I had rheumatic fever.

Some nights I would dream of a thick pot of something that looked like Cream of Wheat. A big wooden spoon stirred it around and around.  Then I would wake up, and my Daddy would be sitting by my bed, so I knew the fever was back again.

It’s hard for a nine-year-old to stay in bed. I wanted desperately to get up. Sometimes, when my Mom would take my temperature, I would put the blanket over my head so I could shake the thermometer down, hoping I could make it be normal. She never said anything, just suppressed a smile, and made me stop burrowing in the bed clothes until she was satisfied she had an accurate reading. My Mom did  something for me, for which I am forever grateful. She lugged home shopping bags full of books from the library. That’s when I learned to love to read. There was no television in our house then, and books were my only way to leave the bed I was sentenced to occupy.

Every other day Dr. Gibbs would come to our house to check on me. “How do you feel?”

“All right. Can I get up now?”

He would shake his head, “Turn over.” I had to lay on my stomach, pull my pajama bottoms down and he would give me a shot of penicillin. He was a rumpled  sort of man,  his clothing and his face looked like they needed to be ironed. His voice was gruff, but I was never afraid of him. He told me once that if I did a somersault every day for the rest of my life, I would  be healthy. I thought it would be wonderful to do a somersault on the grass outside our house. I lived in a twin bed, so there was little room to practice a somersault.  I determined that I would start somersaulting as soon as I was free.

Every morning my Daddy would make scrambled eggs for me. I had to eat in bed on a little tray table. Whenever I  couldn’t finish my breakfast, I would dump the left-overs in a box of toys that was underneath the skirted dressing table next to my bed. One night I heard a scratching under the dressing table and I screamed.

Daddy came running, “Sharon, what’s wrong?”

I could hardly speak, I was so frightened. I was curled up at the foot of my bed as far as I could get from the scratching under the dressing table. “Daddy…” I pointed wordlessly.  He found my stash of left over eggs and a small mouse in the box. He didn’t say anything, but I felt terrible.

Finally, one day in May, on my ninth birthday, my Daddy said he had a surprise. Mom brought in a new dress and laid in on my bed, and took out some underwear and socks from my drawer. She helped me dress. My shoes no longer fit and she slid my slippers on my feet and then she stood and held out her hand. I felt anxious, I didn’t know what was happening. Mom lead me out the back door where Daddy was standing beside a metal lawn chair. It had an arched red seat and back and white arms and legs.

“You can sit out here in the sun for an hour every day,” Mom said.

“But you have to stay in the chair,” Daddy added.

I just looked at the green grass, thinking of how I would somersault everyday for the rest of my life.

Categories: Wednesday - Memoir.

What I Learned by Admitting I’m a Dummy

June 28, 2011

I learned a lot this week by reading my Writing for Dummies book. Maybe the most important thing that I learned is that writing a novel is very formulaic. The rules are strict, but talented writers bend, break and ignore them all the time, but if you’re fairly new at the game, or if you have more than 100 rejection slips papering the walls of your writing area, maybe you need to understand the rules and formulas.

If you don’t write, or read, but watch drama on TV, here’s an interesting bit of insight I can share. Most stories are built around a three act structure.

Act 1 – The first quarter of book or TV show where you set up the background, ends with a major disaster. This is where the main character commits.
Act 2 –  The second and third quarters of the book or TV show, deals with the main character trying to achieve her goal while running into one road block after another, with each quarter ending with an even worse disaster
 Act 3 –The last quarter ties up all the  lost ends and includes the climax  (resolution). Did the main character win or lose, or maybe neither?

The novel I’m working on right now is in the women’s fiction genre and is titled Layla Bunch. The other skill a writer must master is the art of boiling a complex story down into a single sentence of 25 words or less. At first that seems impossible. But I managed a 17 word description of Layla Bunch. What do you think?

An ailing widow takes in a homeless woman who suffers from memory loss due to a traumatic past.

Does it make you want to read the book?

Sharon

Categories: Tuesday - Writing.

I’m Reading a Dummies Book

June 27, 2011

There I said it. Not only am I not smarter than a fifth grader, I’m a dummy when it comes to writing. After over 60 years of reading nearly non-stop, I thought I was qualified to write. Sorry, not true. However, if I hadn’t put those years in, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to write at all.  At least I can write badly.

The Writing for Dummies book is an MFA in a box. I know, just from this one book, that I’ve probably improved my skill level at least 30 to 40%. I’m using what I’ve learned to plan my latest WIP (that’s work in progress), Lalya Bunch, which is turning out to be a vast improvement over my first three books.

I’m sorry I ordered it on Kindle.  I wish I had a physical copy so I can dog-ear the pages and write and highlight more easily. Yes, you can set bookmarks and highlight text on a Kindle, but it’s not as visual.

But, if you are a writer without confidence or would like to try to write and are willing to admit you are a dummy, there is no better starting point to learn about how to plan and structure your work.

I promise next week I’ll tell you what I am reading for fun. You’ll be surprised.

Sharon

Categories: Uncategorized.

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