Depression and the Arts

Depression and the Arts

This isn’t an article about the recent suicide of a musician I admire, though I remain sad at his passing. This article is about the effects of the arts and media on folks with clinical depression. It’s been on my mind lately, and Chris Cornell’s death brought it to the forefront of my head again.

I had a discussion a while back where I was trying to explain the fact that the art and media we experience has a very real effect on depression. I was cut off abruptly.

“I’m not talking about being sad, I have clinical depression.”

It was curt and final, that statement. Not exactly a statement that encourages further discussion. I let it go. There are times when further speech is speech wasted. However, if I’d been given any sort of opening, I would have liked to say one thing.

I was talking about clinical depression.

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Today’s pictures are brought to you by the state of Indiana.

Clinical depression runs in my family. We all have it to one extent or another. Me, I still struggle with it on occasion, though I manage. Mine has times when it is fairly fierce, but most of the time it’s mild enough that I have few problems. That wasn’t always the case. My anxiety on the other hand…

I want to make one thing very clear here. I am in no way, shape, or form anti-medication when it comes to either depression or anxiety. Meds help a ton of people and can be a very important tool in toning down severe symptoms. My symptoms are not as severe, and for the most part, I can manage without meds by using alternative therapies. Not everyone has that choice and everyone should consider all the tools in the box when it comes to treatment for mental health, just as they should for physical health. In some cases, no amount of alternative therapy will be enough to help. In my case, it is helpful 99% of the time.

Now, back to the Arts and media we experience in our daily lives. Let’s look at a specific example. Many scientific studies have been done on how music effects brain chemistry. It does. Music, and the type you listen to, has a chemical effect on the brain.

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Many intelligent people will agree that yes, it does. And yet, when it is suggested to these same people that what they decide to view and listen to effects their depression, that’s when the speaker is often regarded as perhaps not the sharpest crayon in the pack.

“I’m not listening to that there new-age mumbo-jumbo.”

You caught me. No one said that. But I guarantee people sometimes think it. Because, regardless of the science that backs up an alternative therapy, if it doesn’t sound like western medicine with its drugs and doctors, it is viewed as nonsense.

Back in the day, when my depression was quite a bit more serious, I learned something that helped me. Art and media that was frightening, depressing, or infuriating made my depression much worse. I started weaning myself off of it. I don’t watch television news, I can read news articles, but I don’t watch it anymore. It’s all too sensational. Television wants those ratings, so the stories are going to be as dramatic as possible. Most news is negative, which leaves people thinking the world is a more negative place as a whole than it truly is. Studies have been done on that phenomenon as well.

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I used to feed my depression–listening to the sad music and the watching the sad movies. I don’t anymore. I don’t need that crap. I don’t care how amazing a movie such as Schindler’s List is, I’m not watching it. I’m sure it’s a fine movie, but it’s not in my best interests to watch it. I can watch movies that have serious bits in them, I can watch crazy horror movies, I don’t have to watch super-serious movies, so I don’t.

When I was a couple of years into cutting out art and media that wasn’t helping my depression, I read a great book by Dr. Andrew Weil. It was called 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, and in it, Dr. Weil spoke a great deal about this very subject.

“Oh, she read a book by some new-age health guru. No wonder she believes this stuff.”

Dr. Andrew Weil got his medical doctorate from Harvard. He worked at the National Institute of Mental Health. He was one of the founders of Integrated Medicine and, at present, he is Director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, where he also holds the Lovell-Jones Endowed Chair in Integrative Rheumatology and is Clinical Professor of Medicine. He is one of the many doctors that know how much our behaviors and experiences influence our mental and physical heath.

Because of my own experiences, and the things I learned when I read Dr. Weil’s book and did further research into the subject, I don’t need meds for my depression. I have the odd bad day or two now and again, but I no longer consider myself a person who has depression. It didn’t happen all at once, and it wasn’t an easy fix or a quick one. It’s something I worked at for a over a decade.

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I know I’m lucky. My level of depression was one I could manage without medication. Not everyone with clinical depression has the option to choose alternative therapies to medication. However, even if one’s issues require medicinal help, these alternative therapies can also help. It’s not a case of either or. Dr. Weil himself is a firm believer in using medication when medication is necessary.

If you have depression, take a look at what types of art and media you experience in your life. Pay attention to how it influences your emotional and mental state. Consider reaching out to art which has a positive effect and distancing yourself from that which does not. It’s not a quick fix, but it makes a huge difference. I recommend that book by Dr. Weil. It was a real eye-opener for me.

Also, if at any time in your life you are considering suicide, please speak to someone. There are so many things that can help.

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And now for something completely different:
A writer friend of mine, Robertson Tait, has a Kindle Scout campaign that could use some nominations! I read his Scot Free in Hollywood, and loved it to pieces. If you have an Amazon account, check out his newest book! If you nominate it and it get’s selected by Kindle Press, you get a free copy of the eBook.

Click here to check it out.

Me, I have Nick of Time all set up for its Kindle Scout run. The campaign should be live in a couple of days.

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Word Choice and Writing Style

I was taking part in a conversation between various writers today about word choice. Some participants were arguing the point that using fancier word choices was the way to go. They were quite fierce about it and mentioned how it was nice to build their readers’ vocabulary, and besides, Kindle and the like make it so easy to look up a new word. That’s fine. That’s their writing style.

It’s not mine.

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The anhydrous trace effectuated an anfractuous peregrination betwixt the verdant pedicels.  The sandy path wound through the reeds.  One of these is my style.  Guess which one!

I believe in mixing up one’s word usage to keep things interesting, but you aren’t going to catch me using a word like ‘verecund’ when ‘bashful’ is a perfectly useful word that means the exact same thing. To me, if that fancier word isn’t conveying more meaning, then it isn’t useful. ‘Parched’ conveys more meaning than ‘dry.’ Parched is a word I would use. It’s more interesting, conveys more meaning, and encourages vivid imagery. ‘Anhydrous,’ on the other hand, accomplishes nothing more than ‘parched’ except it might send some of your readers to the dictionary. It also runs the risk of that reader not running to the dictionary and missing your meaning.

As a reader, I enjoy learning new words when the meaning is clear in the context of the writing. While some readers certainly enjoy forays into the dictionary, all it does is throw me right out of the story.

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What the hell is a bufonidae?

If, as a writer, you choose to use more two-dollar words, that’s your decision and your choice. Make certain there is a real reason for your word choices other than wanting to show off your vocabulary or make your story sound fancy. If you are writing Literary Fiction, for example, then your readers will expect a more varied and fancy vocabulary.

If one of your characters is a Literature professor who likes to put on airs a bit, he’s going to use some fancy words. Your character who is a car mechanic might as well, but unless his backstory justifies it in some way, it’s going to seem out of place.

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My sweetie is an educated and intelligent man.  He also admires simplicity.  He’d never say Bufonidae, not when toad is such a simple and understandable word.

Me, I admire writers like Hemingway and Twain, not for simplicity of plot but for simplicity of word choice. Anyone can read one of Twain’s stories and come away with a good experience. I don’t write Literary. I write Genre fiction. My goal is to entertain my readers and let them take a break from their life for a bit. I don’t give a damn about being fancy, nor would that writing style do my stories any favors. It’s not my style. There is a hybrid Literary/ Genre style of writing that some folks enjoy, but it’s not for me.

While you are deciding what writing style your work will take, think carefully about what your goal is for your writing. Only you can decide what style of word choice works best for your work and why. Examine the books you most enjoy reading for style and word choice. Check out some of the top sellers in your genre and see what style they are written in. Once you decide on a style, be gracious to those who decided differently. It’s not a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s a matter of style.

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My jack o’ lantern last year was completely my style.  Simple and a little humorous.  Simplicity does not equal boring.

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Making Your Own Book Trailer (if you have to.)

Making your own book trailer is much like making your own cover- if you can afford it, hire a professional. Me, while I’ve been writing for years, I’ve just started publishing as an Indie author. At this point, I don’t have the budget for a professional to do my book trailer. I’m a problem solver, so I did my own.

Can you, awesome reader, make your own?

Maybe. I’m not a computer whiz, though I am a fairly competent computer user. If you can use a program like Paint, Paint Shop Pro, or Photoshop to make a jpeg that has words on it, then you can probably make your own book trailer.

What’s a book trailer good for anyway?

It’s a great thing to put on your website, author Facebook page, and Amazon Author page to start with. I also sent it out as a tweet. If you boost Facebook posts, it’s a great one to boost. I think it’s worth it, even if you just use it for things like putting on your author pages.

So, how do you do it?

What you need to make your own book trailer:

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1- A blank panel to put words on. Here the one I used for Teatime of the Living Dead. I made a blank, colored panel and then took it over to Pixlr.com to put the border on it. Then I added some red color to the border to make it look bloody. I made mine 1024 pixels wide and 512 pixels high, because I wanted it to work well on Facebook and Twitter, and that size seems to have worked great.

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2- Words! Keep it simple. What will kill your book trailer the fastest is having too many words. Don’t try to cram the entire summary in there; pick what’s most important to get the idea of your book across. This isn’t meant to be a video summary or even a video blurb. It’s a teaser. Say just enough to make folks want to go and find out more.

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3- Pictures! You need some pictures other than your book cover to make it interesting. You must also make absolutely certain the pictures you use are copyright free for commercial use, or you can get sued.  You can use your own pictures, or check out some of the free for commercial use websites like Pixabay or Picjumbo.  You can put the pics on your blank panel, or make them the same size and alternate words and pictures.

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4- Music! Again, you have to be very careful to use music that is copyright free for commercial use, or risk getting sued. Also, sites like Youtube and Facebook might not let you upload a video with copyrighted music.  This isn’t worth taking chances with.  Use copyright-free music. There is a site I love that has great music and effects. FreeSFX You have to make an account, but it’s easy and free. They have a wide variety of music and sound effects and all they ask is that you credit them in the video. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Take your time finding the right music. It took me a while with the Teatime trailer. I needed something creepy, sure, but the horror music was too serious for my book. Psycho Waltz ended up being perfect. Playful yet creepy. It reminds me of some of Danny Elfman’s music.

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5- A slideshow program. All you need to put these pieces together is any program that will let you make a slideshow with music. There are some online options, but I used Windows Movie Maker. It’s pretty user friendly and there are tons of “how to” posts and Youtubes to help you figure it out. Basically you load your pictures, add your music, and it’s done. To help things go smoothly, I named my pics teavid1, teavid2, etc, so that they would load in the correct order. That way you don’t have to move them around post-loading.

There are fancy bits you can add as well. I had the music fade in and out. The fade out is important as I didn’t need the entire song. I also set the time each frame takes, some shorter if they had few words, none longer than 7 seconds. Length is important. A short video has greater effect. Also, sites like Twitter have length limits (2min, 20 secs.).

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Then there are visual effects. Both my book trailers have random movement, which I think makes it look better. You can even choose a specific movement for a specific frame. Teatime has one frame that spins slightly, for example. I also used a slightly nutty fade between slides. It wouldn’t be right for all projects, but it works for this one, I think.

That’s pretty much it. I’ve made two book trailers in slightly different styles. The one for my children’s book is pretty straightforward panels with words -vs- panels with pictures. In Teatime’s I added the pictures onto the panels with the words. I think either one can be effective, but the words -vs- pictures is probably easier.

If you want a trailer for your book but can’t afford a professional, I hope this post helps you out. Until next time, keep being awesome!

 

Posted in Book Trailers, Ebooks, Self Publishing, Teatime of the Living Dead, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Teatime of the Living Dead’s Big Fun Release Day!

Teatime is live on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon and available for purchase.  I love this book and I’m very excited about this release.  Teatime is one of my favorite things I’ve written to date.  It combines all the things I love, writing, theatre, and humor.

Some time ago, I was the costume designer for a production of Night of the Living Dead for a Louisville theatre.  I adored the production.  We did filming in a local cemetery for the first bit of the show, participated in Zombie University to teach members of the community to be our zombie horde, and even participated in the local zombie walk.  I never had so much fun making theatre before or since.  These are the experiences I drew on to write Teatime, and I think that’s why the story shines a little brighter than some of my earlier work.

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An Amazon review for Teatime:
“Lately I have gone back to reading books outside my normal sphere of interest. This one is a perfect example of a book that I enjoyed immensely despite my general indifference to zombies. The writing is so strong, the suspense so tight, the chase so enjoyable that I galloped through the story in half the time it would normally take me.

The premise is kind of fun: Andrew Hamilton is a successful theatre producer, getting ready for the first night of an exciting new production, called “Night of the Living Dead”. Small cast, large horde of zombies (30 locals, trained to perfection over a month, 2 media personalities added in for publicity reasons), spectacular, fiery special effects. The dress rehearsal is a smashing success, but on opening night, things quickly go very wrong when the horde of zombies start attacking the public, and it transpires that their ultimate, juicy target is really Andrew.

What follows is a nail-biting chase as Andrew tries to flee the growing, all-pervading threat. The detailed pursuit through downtown Louisville is so well documented that, at one point, I had the map out and was following the action from a virtual helicopter!

Many moral choices must be made along the way, and Andrew’s character, already nicely developed, grows with each challenge. We all have our pet fears, weak points, and personal nightmares. Andrew is tested to the limit over and over again in order to survive, while he has to deal with the guilt of having unwittingly been the spark igniting the mayhem.

Tight, confident writing, impeccable research (the author really knows her theatre), a lovable protagonist put through the wringer, and a worthy romantic sidekick, sufficiently fleshed out to also elicit a strong emotional response from me (i.e. I loved her). There is a fair amount of gore, enough to satisfy the most blood-thirsty, but not so much that the squeamish like me will be put off. This story kept me on the edge of my seat right from the start, and provided a lot of unexpected subplots and enriching detours into the human psyche, and the nature of altruism. A lot more than a scary zombie romp, a thoroughly satisfying read with a heart-warming message of optimism and belief in the power of love, self-belief, and the will to survive.”

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Click here to check out Teatime’s Amazon page.

Click on the “My Books” tab at the top of the page to read a three chapter preview.

I just love this book.  I’m glad it’s finally release day!

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Writing News

The year of writing dangerously continues!

I finished Nick of Time!  It’s done, it’s had a couple of re-writes, and it’s off to the editor.  Once I get it back and make corrections, it’s next up at Kindle Scout.  I found out in the re-writing stage I’m doing better at not writing the word “that” all the time.  I still do it far too much, and had to have a “that” hunt to eradicate most of them.  However, instead of having well over a thousand “that’s” in a 66k manuscript, I only had around 700.  Now the total is under 200, and I’m happy.

It’s my dialect.  Folks around here must say the word “that” a million times a day, and since my writing style is very conversational, they creep into my work on quiet little mouse feet.  Then I search through and kill them off.  I’m hoping to write less and less of them with each project.

I’m very pleased with Nick.  It’s lovely to get back into genres I have a far better feel for.  I enjoyed my romance projects, but I have to say romance writing doesn’t come naturally to me.  Give me a bit of mystery with some paranormal elements and I’m all set!  I’m a little sad about it.  I love reading a good romance, especially ones with paranormal bits, but it doesn’t flow as easily when I write it.

Now, as far as Nick of Time goes, it was big fun to write and I think it will be fun to read as well.  I really dig this book!

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Teatime of the Living Dead is nearing its debut! I’m excited and nervous all at the same time.  I’ve got some early readers who plan to do reviews, and I’m doing a paid promotion for the first time.  Author Shout has a package that’s very reasonably priced, so I’m going to give it a try and see how much it influences sales.  They are not one of the major players in book promotion, but let’s face it, I cannot afford a Bookbub right now.  Author Shout has done great work for me with my Kindle Scout campaigns.  I’m looking forward to what they can do with my book.

My plan was always to wait until the third novel was published before I did any paid advertising.  Teatime is number three, and it’s also one of my best written books to date, so some advertising is a good idea.  I’d like to do some AMS ads and such, but I think I’ll have to wait a bit before trying that.  My smallish ads budget, at least for this month, is going to Author Shout.  I’ve used them before and I’m looking forward to it.

Teatime will have its big debut on May 9th, so be sure to check it out!  Once I have some paperback copies available, I’ll do a giveaway on my Facebook author page as well.

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The writing news I’m most excited about is that I’m ready to do a re-write on Ghost in the Park.  This was the first novel I wrote after leaving fanficdom, and it remains my favorite.  While my sweetie Brian enjoys all my work, this one is by far his favorite.  He says it’s the best thing I’ve ever written.  It needs a light re-write, as I’ve learned a few things since I wrote it.  I need to do some “that” killing for certain, lol.  But honestly, it doesn’t require much work before it’s ready to go.  The best thing about starting in fanficdom was I was there long enough to develop my writing style and voice.  I really only have a few grammar oddities to fix, and then Ghost will be ready to roll.

Ghost in the Park is book one in a series, and I’ve been waiting to write book two for ages.  I was going to finish Crucible Station first, but I can’t wait any longer.  I love the Ghost series, and it’s high time I got to it.  What stopped me before was trying to get a literary agent and be traditionally published.  It’s not a good idea to write a series while you are doing that, you have better chances with stand-alones.  Now that I have no such worries, it’s time for more ghost stories!

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That’s all the news that is the news today.  Look for Teatime of the Living Dead on the 9th, and a Kindle Scout campaign for Nick of Time coming soon.

Posted in Ghost in the Park news, Nick of Time, Teatime of the Living Dead, writing, Writing News- Plots and Plans | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Starting Your Novel with Backstory? Don’t.

Starting Your Novel with Backstory? Don’t.

I’ve gotten some great free eBooks by being involved in the Kindle Scout program. You nominate a book, it gets selected for publication, and you get a free book. You get a free book that’s been vetted by the Kindle editors, so you can expect a certain amount of expertise from the book. Awesome, right?

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Just as this early spring has been awesome.

It is, except when it isn’t. Not all of the books are worth reading. Sure, you aren’t going to find a million typos or anything majorly wrong, but a few of the books I’ve gotten have not been good.

Take today. I’m not going to mention the title or author, I’m not trying to shame anyone here. My first few novel length stories had major issues. (I didn’t try to publish them though.) I finished a book yesterday that was pretty good. I enjoyed it. I tried to start a new one today, and I didn’t make it very far.

I read the first page. I flipped through the next few pages. I closed it and opened another book.

The author lost me on the first page.

It doesn’t matter how good your book is as it goes along. If your opening isn’t strong, many readers are not going to stick with it until it gets good. In fact, with that “look inside” feature on Amazon, many folks aren’t going to buy it at all.

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If you don’t hook your reader right away, they won’t make it to the good stuff.

Let’s call this book a post-apocalyptic tale. It’s not, but remember I’m not trying to shame anyone. Just because this book has a weak opening, it doesn’t mean future books by this author won’t rock my socks. Imagine, if you will, a post-apocalyptic tale that begins with a newspaper article that dryly recounts everything that happened to cause the apocalypse and where everything stands today. Imagine this “article” goes on for pages and pages.

Boring. I’m talking about mind-numbingly dull. Thus my disappointed closing of that book and switch to another before I read two pages.

What was the writer thinking?

I imagine the author thought, “Hey, if I make the backstory and world building into a newspaper article, it’s a clever way to introduce the world of the book that fits the story!”

What really happened:

The writer wrote a ton of backstory and world building and info dumped it into the beginning of the book under a thinly-veiled disguise that did nothing to make it more interesting or readable.

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You could use some clever tactic to call this an oak, but it looks like a sycamore to me.  Extra points to Yogi Bear fans.

Consider Arthur Dent and the big, big world of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Where does this story start? Does it start with a ton of backstory and world building that tells us all about this giant new galaxy of a setting?

It starts with Arthur Dent brushing his teeth. He brushes his teeth, he remembers something important, craziness ensues, and by the end of the first chapter, the reader has learned quite a lot about this man and the world he lives in. It’s all done in an engaging way without an info dump in sight. As the books go forward, the reader learns more and more, all in interesting, bite-sized chunks, all while the plot of the tale moves forward.

Don’t start your book with an info dump. Don’t do it. More readers will turn away than will suffer through it. It is, by far, the least interesting way you can show the fabulous world of your book to your readers. Let them jump into your world and explore it with your gentle guidance. Think of the world of your story as a treasure that you will lead them to, not an annoyance you want to get out of the way as soon as possible.

One way is effective, one way is not.

So, I closed that book and opened another. I was distrustful and disgruntled, expecting the worst from this new book because of my recent, ennui-inducing experience.

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Lead your reader through your story.  Don’t set up a bunch of hurdles they have to jump before they get to the good stuff.

Here’s what I found:

“The real problem with dynamite? It doesn’t work too good when it’s wet.”

Sucked me right in. What does this tale start with? A train robbery! And not one that’s going according to plan, either. By the end of the first chapter, while exciting things are happening, I know a lot about this world and a great deal about the main character. I like him already, and I’m anxious to finish this blog post and get back to the book.

The book is Ace Lone Wolf and the Lost Temple of Totec by Eric T. Knight. I’m recommending it to you right now based on the first chapter alone. Westerns aren’t my favorite genre, but I like them, and a good story is a good story. This has all the makings of a very good, very well-written story.

I gotta go now. I gotta book to finish.

Teatime News:  Teatime of the Living Dead was not selected by Kindle Scout, but it will have a big release day on May 9th!

Posted in Kindle Scout, reading, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Spring Wildflowers- Picture Post

I love early spring wildflowers in Indiana.  It’s living proof that the winter is behind us and warm days are on the way.  I think winter is nice for about a week, then I’m done with it, and the long wait for spring begins.

Today I wen tromping around the woods at Sodalis Nature Park and took oodles of pictures.

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Sweet Williams

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Trillium and Dutchman’s breeches.

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Cool little shelf mushrooms

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My best guess for the one on the left is Scillia, which is an invasive species.  On the right is Bloodroot, which is not flowering yet.

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May apples have recently sprung up and aren’t blooming yet.

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Spring Beauties are a particular favorite of mine.

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Blue violets and yellow ones were all over.

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Jack in the Pulpit on the left and American Mint on the right.

Do yourself a favor; get out in the woods and shake off the winter blues.

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There’s only a few days left to nominate my horror/ farce, Teatime of the Living Dead!  Click the picture above to check it out!

Posted in Kindle Scout, photography, writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Crown Hill Cemetery

Picture post!  I had a big fun day with my family today.  First there was the dropping off of an old mattress and box-springs as well as an old dishwasher at my town’s free heavy trash drop off.  Okay, maybe not fun, but very satisfying to get that stuff out of the shed.  Then there was unexpected sushi lunch at my favorite sushi place.  Then we went out to Crown Hill Cemetery to show my brother some of the sites.

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Gothic Chapel behind part of the military section of the cemetery.

Crown Hill in Indianapolis was first established in 1863 when 236 acres of land were purchased from three local farmers.  Other lands were purchased as time went on, and now the cemetery is 374 acres.

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The Gothic Chapel was built in 1875, and restored in 1972.  It’s lovely, and certainly worth a visit.

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Indiana poet, James Whitcomb Riley, was the first person buried at the Crown.  After Riley’s death, local children began leaving coins on his grave-site to pay for his memorial.  He was beloved by all, but especially the children.  Coins are still left here, and the donations are given to the poet’s namesake- Riley Children’s Hospital.

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Not only is Riley’s monument worth seeing, but there’s a wonderful view from the crown of the hill.  You can see downtown Indianapolis lurking in the background of this picture.

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American depression era gangster, John Dillinger, is also buried here.  He has a plain marker in a less fancy section of the cemetery.  Today, his headstone was decorated with change and a dark tulip.

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Dr. Richard J. Gatling, inventor of the Gatling Gun, is buried here with his family and a very nice monument.

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23rd United States President Benjamin Harrison is buried here with both of his wives.  I like that.  I think it’s lovely that both his wives got to be part of the family plot instead of picking one over the other.  His first wife, Caroline, died of tuberculosis when she was sixty.

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But the people of note are not the biggest reason I love visiting Crown Hill.  It’s a gorgeous place.  There are giant trees here, and beautiful flowers here and there.  There are many monuments, some of which have stained glass windows inside.

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There are statues and other sculptures throughout the grounds, and many of the monuments themselves are also works of art.

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If you look sharp, you might see some deer as well.

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If you are ever in the Indianapolis area, a visit to Crown Hill is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

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Buddha, Brother Joe, Sweetie Brian, and Mom.

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If you have a spare moment and an Amazon account, please visit my Kindle Scout campaign and nominate Teatime of the Living Dead.

 

Posted in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, photography, writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Top 7 Newbie Writer Mistakes

We all start out somewhere. None of us are awesome novel writers right off the bat. That’s to be expected. No one goes straight from “I think I might write a book” to Stephen King, writing superstar, just as no one goes from pre-med undergraduate school straight to doing brain surgery.

A writer has to get some practice, get some feedback, and grow their writing voice and style before they are going to write a great book. Unless, of course, one is a prodigy. Let’s face it, most of us are not prodigies, and that’s okay. Mr. King wasn’t a prodigy either.

“So, what are some of the most common newbie writer mistakes?” you seem to ask.
Never fear, awesome reader, I am going to make a list.

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Some of the first spring daffodils I enjoyed this year.

1- Beginning a Book Too Early

It’s lovely that your MC is a happy person, with a happy family, and a happy life. We don’t want to read all about that. We don’t want to read all about how they went to work at the florist today, and everything about how to be a florist, and what kind of person this florist is, and nothing very interesting happens.

But that’s world building and character building!

Yes, it is, and it’s the most boring way to do it. Your book should begin with something happening. It doesn’t have to be a life or death situation, but it should not be world building or character study. It also should not be back story. Sure, your character may have grown up as a foster kid on a wombat ranch, but you can mention that later, if it makes sense to.

I am working on a book where the MC is a guy who is always in the right place at the right time to save someone’s life. Where do I start the story? Do I talk about the city he lives in? Do I give a dissertation on what kind of guy he is? Do I show him in a typical day at his work?

Hell, no. I open the story with him saving somebody. As we go along, you find out things about my MC, where he works, and where he lives, in bits and pieces as it’s relevant to the story I’m telling right now. Remember it’s okay to have a bit of mystery going in and if your book is engaging, the reader will gather those bits and pieces as the story goes along.

Start your story at the part where it gets interesting. Fit the other bits in later.

2- Boring Sentence Structure

No reader wants to read sentences that are all the same type, sentence after sentence, blah blah blah. You have to learn to mix it up a bit. Let me give you an example. The biggest mistake I see in green writers is every sentence starting with the subject first.

I see the boy’s lap belt lift and rise like a snake in slow motion. The coaster hits the third hill. The boy begins to rise out of his seat. I stare in horrified fascination.

-vs-

Beside me, the boy’s lap belt lifts and writhes like a snake in slow motion. The coaster hits the third hill. As I stare in horrified fascination, the young boy begins to rise out of his seat.

Even in that short example, there’s a crazy big difference. Which one do you want to read?

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Statue at Crown Hill Cemetery

3- Muddled Point of View

This is a bugaboo that really hurts a ton of newbie writers. I did a post on narrative point of view here. Read it. Know the different types of point of view, study them, and pick one of them. Then write your book. No cheating. No jumping from one type to another in the same book. If you write in omniscient, then have that Godlike narrator telling the story. Do not just jump from character to character willy-nilly as the mood suits you. Even better when you are starting out, write in first person, or limited third, until you get some writing under your belt. It will keep you from head-hopping. Don’t know what limited third is? Well, you better find out before you write another word. Do read that post on narrative point of view. It will help.

4- Giant Word Counts

If your first book is between 200k and 300k words, chances are it needs some serious editing. Even if you are writing Science Fiction, Historical Romance, or High Fantasy, anything over 150k words is suspicious. Yes, it’s possible you have a trilogy on your hands, but what’s most likely is that you don’t know how to edit effectively. I knew a writer that had a behemoth at 250k words, and after a good content editor got hold of it, ended up with 90k. And the writer was stunned to admit that the book was better for the cuts. Huge chunks of writing that were not necessary to the plot were hacked out, and the book was better off without them.

If you have a book so giant that places like Createspace can’t even print you a proof, then you have trouble. It might not be as simple as cutting the book into smaller pieces. In a trilogy, there’s an ongoing story arc, but each book in the trilogy must have a beginning, middle, and end. Cutting one story into three pieces doesn’t cut it. Consider doing some major pruning or work with a professional content editor to find out where to prune.

5- Word Count Too Short

The opposite of #4 is that writer who writes 7k words and thinks they have a novel. Nope. That’s a short story. Here’s a rule of thumb rundown:

Under 7.5 words + Short Story
7.5 – 17,499 Novelette
17,500 – 39,999 Novella
40,000 and up Novel

Now, keep in mind that if you write novelettes or novellas, you might want to bundle several together if you want to publish. Shorts stories would need a herd to publish. Also note that 40k is very short for a novel. If you publish a Novel that’s between 40 and 60k, then you should describe it as a “fast read” in your description. Readers will be angry, as well they should, if they pay money for a book and then discover that’s it’s a really short book.

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Weinermobile!

6- Describing Too Much

Julianne Q Johnson, second child to the awesome Gene Johnson, sat at her Cyberpower PC typing away at her black ergonomic split keyboard in fits and starts. She wore comfy clothes, some black stretch jeans that had seen better days and a faded Disney t-shirt that had Mickey Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald on it. The t-shirt was a steel grey with an artfully faded silkscreen on the front. The keyboard and mouse were set up on her old, brown-stained, wooden roll-top desk, and Supernatural was playing on her second screen attached to the wall under the bookshelf that she had painstakingly put up herself. Julianne was a bit out of sorts because she wanted to finish the awesome and sparkly blog post for her writing blog on WordPress, but she had a migraine that was making her grumpy as hell. Her fiancé, Brian–who was wearing khaki shorts and a tie dyed t-shirt–distracted her by picking up both adorable ferrets and being all cute with them. Frankie was a big Champaign hob and Millie was a tiny white jill.

-vs-

Julianne typed her blog post in fits and starts due to an annoying migraine.

Some description is interesting and needed to further the plot. Describing every damn thing is ponderous and boring.

7- Rushing

Rushing is the opposite of describing too much. It is when the writer rushes from plot point to plot point without any description or character thoughts and feelings.

Julianne typed.

Equally as boring as over-describing.

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A puddle of Millie

Honorable Mentions:

The following are also common things to look for in your writing, and there are tons of articles in internet-land that describes them. Keep in mind that any advice that tells you “Never do this…” is a bit ridiculous. There’s a time and place for everything, folks get into trouble when they do something too much.

Telling instead of showing
Word overuse (using the same word or phrase too many times or too close together.)
An extreme overuse of -ly adverbs (I believe in using all the words, but not to excess.)
Willy-nilly use of unique dialog tags
Using participle phrases incorrectly
Overuse of filtering words- look, saw, heard, etc
Boring verb choices (Ran instead of dashed, rushed, hurried, sprinted)

That’s all for today. Keep being awesome!

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My Kindle Scout campaign for Teatime of the Living Dead is live!

What is it?

Kindle Scout is an awesome program where people nominate books they would like to see published. Nominations won’t guarantee success, the editors have final say in who gets published by Kindle Press and who doesn’t. However, nominations can help get their attention.

What can you do?

Head to my campaign page here, and nominate Teatime of the Living Dead. Make sure you check out the excerpt for a sneak peek of the book! Anyone with an Amazon account can nominate. Each person gets three nominations at a time, but you can only nominate each book once. If you want to help further, share this post to help spread the word!

What’s in it for you?

Anytime you nominate a book on Kindle Scout, and it gets selected for publication, you get a free advance copy of the book. I’ve gotten 19 so far! Because the books are vetted and edited by Kindle Press, you can expect a certain level of quality. All of the books I’ve read so far have been worth reading, and some have been amazingly good.

A little about Teatime:

Andrew Hamilton believes in friendship, good theatre, and that Twizzlers are an underrated member of the candy family. He does not believe in magic. His current play is going great, until the actors playing the zombie horde turn homicidal. Zombie madness spreads through the city and the creepers have one thing in common: they all want to kill Andrew. Magic not only exists, it has rules and deadlines. If he can keep ahead of his stumbling and drooling fan club until teatime, he might survive.
They’re coming for you, Andrew.

Posted in Fiction, Habits in writing, Kindle Scout, Teatime of the Living Dead, writing, Writing Advice | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Year of Writing Dangerously- Writing News

The Year of Writing Dangerously- Writing News

Today is mostly going to be writing news, and all the things I’ve been up to lately. I’ve been a busy bee, both with writing and also with a ton of campaigning and promotion chores.

I did a couple of Instafreebie promotions, and now my sparkly new newsletter is going on 200 subscribers. Not bad for it not being out long.

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Wyrd House is on sale!

My paranormal mystery with a bit of romance, Wyrd House, is on sale from now until the 15th. During this time you can pick up an EBook for $.99. This is part of a mystery promo, and on April 9th and 10th you can check out the other books on sale at davidnethbooks.com/promo.

Wyrd House is a haven for anyone with magical gifts living in a mundane world and Myra fits right in. All she needs now is a job. A man offers her a dream position, but she is wary. Myra senses Carter’s dark magic and sees its effect on his weak and ailing employees. Investigating further in an effort to aid them, she draws Carter’s attention, and then his retaliation. With the help of the handsome man next door, she will persevere. If Carter wants a fight, he’s chosen the wrong witch.

Click here to check out Wyrd House’s Amazon Page.

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Unrelated note: It’s spring!

Instafreebie Promos

Instafreebie is a great way to find free things to read, and I’m taking part in two IF promos right now. If you are looking for more free books, check them out!

Science Fiction and Fantasy- April 10th through the 19th

The Prolific Reader has an ongoing page with Instafreebie book listings and they add new books all the time.

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Teatime of the Living Dead News

Teatime continues its Kindle Scout Campaign. I have reached the boggy middle bit, so I can use all the nominations I can get! If you don’t know about the Kindle Scout program, it’s a great way to get free advance copies of Kindle Press published books. You go to the Scout page, nominate anything that looks interesting, and if it gets selected you get a free eBook. It’s free to nominate, but you do need an Amazon account.

Click here to nominate Teatime of the Living Dead!

I also have a Headtalker campaign running until April 10th. Headtalker is a fancy way to share things on social media, and it’s free. You can support through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. If you want to help me spread the word about Teatime, please consider checking out my Headtalker Campaign.

Click here to support on Headtalker!

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Nick of Time News

My current work in progress, Nick of Time, is almost done! Nick has one chapter and an epilogue to go, and I fully intend to finish it this week. I’m planning on this book being my next Scout campaign. I really love this book, and I’m very excited to have it almost finished.

Subscribers to my newsletter just got a one chapter sneak peek of Nick of Time. If you want to get free stories and sneak peeks, make sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the shiny red button at the top right of the page.

That’s all for now. Happy writing and reading!

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I love spring!

Posted in Kindle Scout, Newsletter, Teatime of the Living Dead, writing, Writing News- Plots and Plans, Wyrd House | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment