I’m Not Flaky; I’m Brilliant!, by Elle Hill

Do these manuscripts make my cognitive processes look non-standard to you?artist at work

I recently read an article summarizing a study that claims writers’ thought processes closely resemble those of folks diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. According to the article, many famous writers – F. Scott Fitzgerald and Charles Dickens, for example – deviate from so-called “normal” ways of thinking and feeling because their brains are constantly squeezing out too much creative juice to focus too long on one thing. According to the article, “Fink’s hypothesis is that the most creative people are continually making associations between the external world and their internal experiences and memories. They cannot focus on one thing quite like the average person.” Presumably, because of this inability to focus, these folks are too scattered to enact socially appropriate behaviors and think in a traditionally linear manner.

I can relate. Well, sorta.

For me, the experience is a little different than flitting between my physical and mental worlds like a hummingbird between juicy flowers. My particular cognitive quirk is walking and smiling through the material world while only occasionally touching base with it.

As I’ve been known to say a time or eighty to my fiance, I’d make a kick-butt brain in a jar. I just do better in the world of ideas than in this meaty reality with its endless variations, vagaries, and contingencies. When things like, oh, I dunno, my bathroom pipes bursting gush their way into my reality, I handle it, I do, but I’m also a nervous wreck till equilibrium reestablishes itself and I can sink back into my head. Brains in jars don’t have to worry about bathroom-related mega-dramas, interesting though they may be. Just sayin’.

I also have the memory capacity of a rutabaga. Trust me on this. My oldest sister has told me she thinks it’s because I’m so brilliant I’m always distracted by my inner dialogues and can’t focus on this material world thingy. I like her explanation way better than I’m just a

I'm almost as flaky, but definitely not as tasty.

I’m almost as flaky, but definitely not as tasty.

giant flake. Maybe Lauri is close to right; maybe it’s because I’m a creative superhero that I lose my cell phone at least once a day and can’t remember any of my 120 students’ faces this semester. Oh, and why I’m the queen of dissociating; I can spend an entire conversation nodding and smiling while mentally plotting my next blog post.

Except when I’m talking to you, of course. Then I’m totally present.

My mother has always told me I come by my horrible memory honestly; my beloved grandmother was always two steps behind – or maybe ahead of – the present. She lost her keys more times than not, drove cars in a kind of happy daze, and contentedly immersed herself in her passions: ministering, writing, and painting. But that’s just it. Maybe I didn’t inherit her atrocious memory as much as I snagged her mountain of creativity. Hey, perhaps we share more than just a nose, Grandma.

In short, people come in all flavors of feeling, thinking, and socializing. It’s just kinda nice to know my flavor of different is also what helps fuel my creativity… and the misplacement of my wallet.

 

Note:  The sociologist in me feels compelled to provide the following caveat: I don’t mean to disrespect anyone who’s been diagnosed with any form of mental illness or cognitive difference. I know forgetfulness is different than bipolar disorder. I respect all forms of emotional, social, and mental differences.

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Fascinated By Foley by Rebecca E. Neely

About a week ago, I came across a documentary on TV about a Foley Artist. What’s that you say? I’d never heard of it either, and found myself completely fascinated by the documentary, and the artistry.

Per Wikipedia, “Foley artists create ‘sound art’ by recreating the realistic ambient sounds that a film portrays. The props and sets of a film often do not react the same way acoustically as their real life counterparts. These reproduced sounds can be anything from the swishiradiong of clothing and footsteps to squeaky doors and breaking glass. Foley complements or replaces sound recorded on set at the time of the filming.”

The Foley artist in the documentary worked in a warehouse, where he stored hundreds, literally thousands, of props with which to create this sound art – dry leaves, tin cans, shoes, rocking chairs – you name it. These sounds are then ‘matched up’ to the movements of actors.

Bottom line? Foley helps to create a sense of reality within a scene.

As a writer, after watching the documentary, I started paying much closer attention to the all the sounds around me–the grating of the handle when my daughter opens the door to her room, my fingernails on the keyboard of my laptop, the hum of the dehumidifier in the basement. I try to take a walk daily, and this presented a host of sounds that maybe I’d been tuning out–the squeal of the train, and its whistle, as it chugs past, several times a day, about two blocks from my house, the flutter of birds’ wings as they zoom from treetop to ground, the fall of my footsteps on pavement, the snippets of music coming from a car radio as it drives past.

What sounds are going on around you everyday? Have you tuned out, or tuned in? Maybe one of them is just what you need to add realism to your next scene.

Fun Fact: Foley art techniques, many of which are, amazingly, almost the same as those that were used to broadcast radio shows, were named after Jack Donovan Foley, who worked on the sound crew to make Show Boat, then a ‘silent’ movie, into a musical in 1929. 

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A MIGHTY GOOD MAN–available on Amazon

‘Hank’ Jerry…Her personal and professional life on the skids, a family emergency forces her to return to the small town, and the aunt, she left behind.

Jack ‘Gent’ Darcy…Fresh out of prison, he’s bent on cutting ties with the Creds, but when you’re a war counselor in a national gang, they don’t let you just walk away.

Injured and on the run, Jack lands on Hank’s doorstep, and makes her a proposition she can’t refuse: write his story about life inside one of the most powerful gangs in the country. It’s simple – she’ll get her career groove back, and he’ll bury the gang, then disappear – his version of freedom.

Only problem is, they can’t help falling for each other, and they’ve both got something to hide that could blow up in their faces. With time running out and gang enforcers closing in, will the trust they’ve forged survive the ultimate test?

Posted in Blogstopping For Beckie! | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Stranger Than Fiction

It’s often said that truth is stranger than fiction. I recently watched an episode of the show “Mysteries at the Castle” that discussed the true story behind the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, a story I had, until that moment, always believed to be fiction.

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Back in the 16th century, a young man named Petrus Gonsalvus, referred to as “the man of the woods” for his beast-like features, came to the attention of Henry II, King of France, because he appeared to most to be a talking animal. Petrus suffered from a rare condition called hypertrichosis which left him covered head to toe in thick hair. He remained at court and eventually became a nobleman of sorts, although he was never fully accepted by his peers because of his condition.

As a nobleman, a lady of the court was chosen to be his bride but she, like many, had reservations about him. Over time, she began to see past his looks and they fell in love. This tale came to the attention of Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve who then wrote Beauty and the Beast.

This goes to show while there are many stories about fantastic tales of mystery and intrigue, Petrus’ case proves that truth is often stranger than fiction.

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“It was my life-long dream to become a private eye. Little did I know that with my very first case, that dream would become a life-threatening nightmare…”

When Jordan James decided to embark on a career as a private investigator, she never could have imagined that a chance encounter would lead to her staring down the barrel of a gun on the roof’s edge of a high-rise building. As she begins to investigate her first case, the puzzling murder of a prominent businessman that has left Boston’s finest mystified for more than two decades, she finds herself suddenly immersed in a treacherous underworld brimming with betrayal, raw greed, and political subterfuge of international proportions. In the midst of this, she discovers she is falling for her mysterious client despite the hints of his dark past. Can this feisty Southern girl with a penchant for trouble solve this baffling case or is she doomed to become another tragic chapter in an international conspiracy?

“COLD AMBITION” Available Now on Amazon!

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“It all started with a favor…”

When private investigator Jordan James agreed to search for the missing son of a U.S. Ambassador, she didn’t realize she was walking into a case one hundred years in the making. The deeper she delves into this unusual assignment, the more shocking, and the more dangerous, it becomes. With time running out and lives at stake, Jordan must race to identify the culprit of an elaborate plot while also uncovering a far more personal truth too intimate to ignore…

“LOST DISTINCTION” Available Now on Amazon!

Posted in Rachel's Reminisces! | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Homonym Havoc With Catherine Castle

The other day my husband wrote an email for us, read it to me for my okay, and then sent it into cyberspace. A bit later, I got a carbon copy of the email, and started to wail. He’d written due for the word do. This is not the first time he’s inserted the wrong word in a sentence. It seems as if he doesn’t know the difference between wait and weight, unless he’s on the scale checking the pounds. He frequently gets ad and add mixed up, too. Quite honestly, I think he ascribes to the colonial notion that however the word sounds, and however you think it should be, is how it is spelled. In case you don’t know, it wasn’t until the early 1800s, when Webster created his dictionary, that a standardization of spelling came into being. Up until that time people just picked a phonetic spelling out of the air, and if they liked it, they used it.

Can I just say here, honestly, THAT DRIVES ME NUTS!

Lots of people have trouble with spelling, especially when it comes to homonyms, and for good reason. In case you’re wondering, Homonyms are two or more words that share the same spelling, or the same pronunciation, or both, but have different meanings.

As if it wasn’t tough enough to figure out the difference between fair and fair, loot and lute, maid and made, write and right, aloud and allowed, do, dew and due, (all homophones, which is a subset of homonyms), our nation’s spelling skills are suffering even more with the advent of texting shorthand. And don’t even get me started on the automatic word fill feature on smart phones. Really, how does a phone know where my sentence or my thought process is going? It doesn’t! By the way, that feature drives me insane. I have turned it off on my phone to avoid writing, and accidentally sending, stupid sentences filled with inane words that don’t make a lick of sense. Because your phone’s spell checker won’t catch those grammar mistakes since—guess what—the words are spelled correctly.

But I digress . . .

Specifically, the hubby had written a homophone, which is a subset of a homonym. There are three sets of homonyms that people get confused about. They are:

  • Homophones, which are words that sound alike and have different meanings. Some examples are aloud and allowed, fair and fare, loot and lute, maid and made, write and right, do, dew and due.
  • Heteronyms, which are words that have the same spelling as another word but with a different pronunciation and meaning, such as: lead (the mineral) and lead (to guide), does (the verb) and does (two doe), wound (an injury) and wound (to wrap), produce (the verb) and produce (what you get from a farm), desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region) tear (to rip) and tear (cry), minute ( 60 seconds) and minute (tiny), moped (sad) and moped (a motorcycle).
  • Homographs, which are homonyms that share the same spelling, but not the same meanings. You can park the car in the park, rock the baby while listening to rock music, watch the ocean wave wave at you, and have a row with your canoe mate as you row down the river with leaving your mate behind.

And if all that isn’t confusing enough consider this:

  • We drive on a parkway and park on a driveway.
  • We ship by truck and send cargo by ship.
  • Your house can burn up as it burns down.
  • You fill in a form by filling it out.
  • An alarm goes off by going on.
  • And a slim chance and a fat chance are the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.

If you can keep all that straight without a dance card, I’m impressed, because just writing this blog confused the heck out of me. I’ll think I’ll desert this topic now and go get some dessert to console me while I put my feet up on the console.

Is it any wonder we have so much trouble with spelling?

What about you? Do you have a particular homonym that trips you up?

I can’t get enough of these crazy words, so I concocted a silly tale filled with these lovely English gems on my blog. If you’d like to read more, click here.

Catherine Castle Catherine Castle, author of award-winning book The Nun and the Narc

Posted in News From the Castle!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

The Chaotic Life of the Pantser

Oh, the disorderly chaotic life of the pantser. When you start a book, you’re not quite sure where you’re going. Your plot arcs end up looking like the stock market–or an EKG (hopefully the patient is still alive). You rewrite a during editing–thousands of words of very good prose end up on the cutting room floor, typical pantser plot arcnever to see the light of day. You can’t foreshadow, because you don’t know what’s coming up in 4 paragraphs, much less 4 chapters.

Actually, a more accurate description of the pantser process would be “pre-shadowing.” Some delicious little tidbit shows up one morning and, like Alice, you decide to follow it wherever it might lead. Down that rabbit hole! And so you’ve foreshadowed–backwards–at the expense of your plot arc.

So why not bite the bullet and plot?

The answer is pretty simple: I . . . just . . . can’t . . . do . . . it.

Every time I try to decide in advance what the characters are going to do, the writing is as dull as dirt. The characters sleep-walk through the scenes, dutifully reciting their lines like an elementary school skit. It is sooooo painful.

I press on, certain that eventually I’ll get better at this. Finally, one of them rebels.

“Hey. Mr. Author guy. What the hell are you doing?”

“Quiet. You’re a character. I’m in charge here.”

“Yeah, well. You’re not doing a very good job of it.”

“Hey, this is really hard work. I suppose you think you can do it better.”

“Of course. Here’s what I would really do in this situation.”

Drink-meAnd off we go. Alice foolishly slugs the bottle labelled, “Drink me,” and whatever I’d planned is long forgotten.

BUT HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: If you’re a pantser, that’s the magic of writing. That’s why you do it.

Yes, I know. The characters aren’t really independent of me. They just live deeper in the subconscious than their plotted avatars. Down in the subterranean passageways where the fey fairyfolk dance, the sirens sing, and the succubi in their scanty dress preen and pose to lure the unwary.

Down where the treasures lie, waiting to be discovered.

 

Posted in On The Blog Rhoad With Rusty! | Tagged | 8 Comments

Life Lessons from . . . Proofing a Book?

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One of the best things that has ever happened to me is becoming a published author. I love getting to share all the people inside my head with the people outside my head. I enjoy creating characters, inventing plotlines, throwing in a few twists, and seeing a book to completion.

Of course, in the writing process, completing a book doesn’t mean it’s finished. It’s only the start!

As I write a novel, I share chapters with my critique partners and get their feedback. Is it believable? Does the plot make sense? Are the characters multi-dimensional? Is the conflict strong enough? Based on their suggestions, I tweak as I go along. Finally, the day comes when I’ve “finished” the book.

The first thing I do? Put it away. Let it ferment like wine. Don’t think about. Start something new. Then a few months later, I take it out and read it from start to finish. It’s easier to find discrepancies that way. Once I’ve re-read the manuscript and polished it to perfection, it goes off to my editor.

Then the real fun begins.

First, if I’m lucky, she offers me a contract (Woo-Hoo!). Then comes the editing process where she makes suggestions for me to implement to make it the strongest book possible. I think about the dedication. Work with my cover artist. Finally, I receive the final version which I need to proofread before signing off on it.

That’s the part I can’t stand.

I’ve always been a fast reader. In elementary school, I would finish reading assignments long before my classmates did. While my husband pours over the sports section, I’m able to read the entire Sunday paper. I’m fortunate that I comprehend what I read at a quick rate. It helped me immensely during college.

But to proofread a manuscript, I have to SLOW DOWN!

I know you’ve received one of those emails or seen one of those items on Facebook. At a glance, it looks like gibberish. Then you start reading it, and you actually can read it. It might be missing every vowel, or it might have words that only have a few letters—yet your eyes flow over the material and not only do you read it, but it makes sense.

That’s because our brains are programmed to fill in what’s missing. It’s one of the cool things about being a human being. But it’s absolutely awful when you’re trying to proof a lengthy novel!!!

Recently, I received the final versions of two of my Soul Mate Publishing books. Though they are being released three months apart, both of them wound up being at the proofreading stage right around the same time. I spent two days reading through one and another two days reading through another. And I mean SLOWLY—like molasses dripping—reading. Sure enough, if you read aloud, you can catch when an “a” or a “to” has been omitted. But to me, it was like gnashing teeth. I felt like a racehorse reined in, only allowed to trot along instead being given my head and running all-out.

Yet I know this final step of the process is important because it helps put the best version of my product out there for my readers.

It got me to thinking of other things that I do in fast-forward. Walking. Reading. Watching TV. Eating. Sometimes I’m moving so fast through something, I don’t enjoy it as much as I could—or should. So this “slow down and proof” lesson can be applied other places, as well. I tried it on my morning walk recently. I still walked fast. After all, I’m walking for my health, so I don’t want to go at a snail’s pace. But I took time to stop and take a couple of pictures and enjoy things a little more along the way.

I tried it with the next book I read. Oh, I still read quickly, but I took time to go back and re-read a few passages that moved me. I enjoyed them all over again!

I can’t do it with every meal, but I do think we Americans could learn from our overseas counterparts and take a little more time to savor what we’re putting in our mouths when we eat. Since the brain can’t signal that the stomach is full until 20 minutes after it is full, maybe this would help us from being such over-eaters.

Maybe there is something, after all, to the old saying: Stop and smell the roses. So not only will I continue to slow down when I proof a final version of a manuscript, I just might linger over other things in life, too!

Lauren Linwood’s next release is the western historical romance Ballad Beauty, due out March 25.

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Payback Time by Rebecca Heflin

Whew! I’m getting this blog post in by the skin of my teeth! Up until a few minutes ago, I had no idea what I was going to write about. Then it hit me! Why not write about how crazy life is and how important it is to take care of ourselves?

Life is crazy for everyone, right? We have jobs to juggle, many have kids and spouses, family, friends, community commitments, and of course, writing, promoting, editing and revising. It can all get pretty overwhelming. We all need to take some time, slow down and breathe, and do something nice for ourselves — pay ourselves back for all our hard work and commitment.

So, here are my five favorite ways to pay myself back:

5. Read. If I can settle down for 15-20 minutes and read, I can feel my stress subside, my body relax, and my mind focus. A good novel really helps me escape the craziness that is everyday life. I try to take a few minutes while I’m eating lunch at my day-job to read, then again in the evening right before bed. If I find more time to read, all the better, but I at least like to set aside those moments and give my busy brain a break.

4. Take a walk. This doesn’t have to be a long walk, or even a fast walk. Just a short stroll, preferably outdoors, can clear the mind and lower your blood pressure. Bonus! It can also boost creativity. So get up from the desk and perambulate.

3. Meditate. No, not the kind where you sit cross-legged on the floor, outstretched arms resting on your thighs, making breath sounds (although that’s good too). I’m talking about just closing your eyes, focusing on your breathing, and letting go of the tension. You’d be amazed what just five minutes can do.

2. Spa therapy. When I have a little extra discretionary income, I love to treat myself to a spa treatment. A pedicure (with foot massage, of course!), a facial, or a full body massage — now that’s what I’m talking about! But even a quickie neck and shoulder massage can really work out those kinks that are inevitable when you sit behind a desk all day.

1. Take the day off. Give yourself permission to put everything on hold — just for a day. I’d been busting my hump for weeks, adding to the word count for my WIP and working on my edits and revisions for the latest release. I’d finished my final round of edits on a Sunday, and it had been a BEAUTIFUL Sunday weather-wise. With a work holiday the next day I decided to give myself the day off from writing, too. My husband and I went to a local state park and spent the afternoon, taking in the alligators, the birds, and the perfect blue sky day. Not only did I get to enjoy the fresh air, but I got to spend some quality time with the love of my life. That little outing left me refreshed and reenergized, and ready to hit the ground running for the craziness that is my life.

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What do you do to pay yourself back and recharge?

Posted in According to Rebecca, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , | 7 Comments