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Picture Writing

On a quest to go back in time, I barely made it out of Owensboro, Kentucky before Snowmageddon hit. I had travelled to my hometown with camera in hand, determined to link the past with the present. While one doesn’t define the other, it was still a worthwhile venture to connect the dots. In fact, it was downright fun!

DSC_5436I met a friend who has known me and my faults since I was six years old. Kudos to Lenny for still showing up. We arranged to meet under the river’s shell. I later learned the shell is really a bat wing, but thankfully, my friend saw a touristy person trying not to strangle herself with the zoom lens around her neck as she ran towards the river-as if that would make the passing barges hold still for a picture under the bridge. The crazy lady may have been yelling for them to slow down too. That’s how Lenny knew it was me.

We began our hometown adventure at the riverfront playground, puzzled by how to climb the concrete trees. Taking a photo from where I watched past Regattas, I wondered if I could see through the rails to where the hanging was. “What hanging?” Lenny asked.

“We weren’t born yet, but it was right over there by the Hampton Inn.”

On a happy note, Lenny said, “This spot is where I proposed to my wife.”

So many memories were made on the river, even ones from the Boogie Shack. I tunneled down the playground’s tornado slide for a not-so-graceful landing, static electrified hair and all. I’m still sore.

For our next scavenger hunt photo, we took my car. “I pictured you driving a mini-van,” Lenny said.

“Get out or take that back,” I said. Like spies, we parked on street corners and zoomed in on house trailers, mansions, even corn fields. We got a lot of stares in the small town, but I promise we only parked in the liquor store’s drive-thru in order to get the best shot of the old steel mill. You know, a picture shot. Even better was our side trip to a sewer ditch where we frequently picnicked. More than a few folks wondered what we were up to.

A memorable day was spent all for the sake of My Big O Journey: Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky. The book’s upcoming print copy will have old Owensboro pictures as well as the recent ones Lenny and I risked our reputations for. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, several photographs will accompany each chapter. Heaven knows how long it takes to write that many words.

Just like Lenny and I retraced our past steps, writers should come out of their shells (or bat wings), and walk in the same shoes as their characters. It should be mandatory that a writer visits the place he writes about. With today’s temperatures dropping into the teens, I’m outlining my next book about Hawaii.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)
Write Baby Write: You Can Do It

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The Magic Eraser

Write Baby Write: You Can Do It It had been a long time since I looked under the kitchen sink. “I need to look under here,” I said to my husband, as he prepared a meal for supper club that evening. He just stared, not used to my being in the kitchen while he cooked. Gourmet chefs can be like that.

While deveining shrimp, he stepped over to avoid the cabinet door banging his shins while I searched the cabinet’s contents. Unlike Mother Hubbard, my cupboard was never bare, filled to the brim with stuff I intended to use ‘someday.’ I forgot what I was looking for in the clutter, but spied something else: Magic Erasers. I eased the unopened box toward me while bottles of cleaner toppled like bowling pins. I slammed the cabinet shut before rolling a strike.

The Magic Erasers were an impulse buy during my coupon binge in 2011. Besides twenty jars of free mustard, I often returned from grocery trips with household cleaners for pennies on the dollar after stacking coupons. The Magic Erasers were new-in-the-box, but I doubted they would work four years later. While my husband slaved away in the kitchen, I decided it would be an ideal time for me to try a new product. I wetted one end of the eraser and dabbed it on the wall. I couldn’t’ believe it; the mark disappeared, the mark that had been there since we last moved furniture-could it be seven years ago? The seven-year mark disappeared as did all the others when I erased my whole house. I only stopped when the Magic Eraser disappeared. Indeed it was magic.

Good writing needs a magic eraser too. On a keyboard, it’s called the backspace key. Before computers, we mostly used pencils. My pencil eraser always wore out well before the sharpened writing tip, and I thought that was bad. I was convinced that good writing needed lots of words, the more the better. I was rewarded for adding flab to research papers in order to increase the pages or word count, per a teacher’s requirements. Once I finally learned what an adjective was, I strung them together to make even longer sentences. My daughter did the same on her homemade cards, writing: I love you so, so, so, so, so…much-until her Crayola disappeared like the Magic Eraser. She did this to show me love when she was five years old, but you won’t be showing the reader love if you water down words with over-abundant adjectives to impress them-unless you’re five years old.

Mark Twain once said, “If you find an adjective, kill it.” He even suggested to “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

I’m amazed at the end of every writing piece after performing a document word search for ‘very.’ I need to stock up on Magic Erasers for my ‘verys’ alone. But let’s back up to the pencil. With a pencil, you can’t write and erase at the same time. It’s the same with writing-you can’t erase until after you’ve written. Write first and erase later. And then be ruthless with the ‘verys.’ They are very annoying.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon

We Got Spirit in our Britches and it really, really Itches

“Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon, lime. Look at the scoreboard and see who’s behind. You, you, you , you-Yeah, you.”

I was used to this kind of cheer while growing up in Kentucky. We talked all kinds of smack around basketball, and intelligent words weren’t required. Nowadays, cheers are mellower and might even spell real words like d-e-f-e-n-s-e.

However, one place in our nation still chants intensely personal cheers. The Library of Congress notes the homecoming tradition of the University of Montevallo as the oldest in the country, with their distinctive mantras passed down from the late 1800s. The entire college body divides into sides-either purple or gold, and remains that way forever. I once interviewed a lady for my Montevallo book, and asked her whether she was purple or gold. She replied, “I AM a purple.” She graduated from the university in 1956.

Imagine programming your GPS by pulling up the state of Alabama, and drawing a giant X on it. The exact center of the X marks the spot where these age-old cheers take center stage, culminating on one special night of the year called College Night. By the end of the night, you’ll find yourself hypnotically mumbling along, not quite sure what you’re saying, but joining in the frenzy nevertheless.

When you step into the arena on College Night, the world as you know it is left behind. You’re transported to a place like ancient Rome, where costumed lions roam the floor, and an urgent crowd jostles you towards a mosh pit. Confident grins surround you, looking inquisitively at your poker face. The arena is charged with excitement, anticipation, and nonsensical cheers which make sense to the other thousand people ringing cowbells and waving banners. Listen to the beginning of this video clip and see what I mean: YOUTUBE TRAILER

You feel like you’re on a different planet, albeit a happy one. Suddenly, half of the crowd gives a ‘thumbs up,’ and you are keenly aware that the decision has been made to go for the kill. Panicked, you scan the crowd for real gladiators and lions in this other worldly place where anything could happen. You’re relieved when the band strikes up the familiar Star Spangled Banner, indicating you’re still in America after all. The crowd stands at attention with one hand over the heart and the other behind the back, but something is odd. The hands behind the backs are signaling with peace signs.

The purple motion is the peace sign while the gold motion is the thumbs up. At least country comes first during the National Anthem…right before the color war. The last battle of College Night takes place on stage as each side vies for the best original play. Viewing two separate plays in one evening, judges gauge the best performance and decide whether a purple victory or gold victory will prevail. What’s it going to be this February-a PV or GV? This still doesn’t explain what “Moo Psi Moo” means. Visit the University of Montevallo website for more information on College Night! (Click Here)

wsos-montevallofront-words-smallWith one PV daughter and another GV daughter, this event hits home for me! If you can’t make it to college night and want to experience this ‘Local Legacy’ at one of the top colleges in the South, check out my book (click here)

Are you ready to Sing?

Are you ready to sing? Once this tune gets in your head, it’s there to stay. Imagine Julie Andrews and the von Trapp family singing “These are a Few of my Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. You’re almost there. Add a little more attitude and a phantom banjo. Now you’re ready to hum along to this little ditty about my hometown in the 1970s. My Big O Journey: Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky is now available on Amazon’s Kindle! You can get the ebook at Amazon (click here!) Yes, I’m excited and yes, I’m nervous. Both make me want to sing. So, in the key of G sing with me:

The Sound of Bluegrass Music.

Big Dipper burgers and mutton with burgoo
Shiny Red Goose shoes and Farrah’s new hair-do
The Charley’s Chip truck, Harlem Globetrotters too
These were the things that we liked to do

Wax Works recordings with eight tracks and albums
Snow drifts and ice rinks and Lincoln Mall’s fountain
Lunch box with thermos, the OTS bus
These were the things that were special to us

Bluegrass and banjos, young boys with tall afros
Dancing with Maypoles and movies at Malco
Drive-ins and Sun-in and Miller’s Lake fun
These were the things that I would have done

Rash Stadium football, a fat Cabbage Patch doll
Dizzy Dave’s straight jeans, Camaros and mood rings
Regattas on river, and Dipper Dan’s cream
These were a few of my favorite things

Izod sweaters
Stick pin letters
And uniform plaids
I simply remember what Owensboro had
And then I just feel…so glad!

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)
Write Baby Write: You Can Do It

Coming soon in 2015!

The book draft is finished. My Big O Journey: Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky is coming to Amazon in February 2015! Take a sneak preview of the cover. My Big O Journey: Growing up in Owensboro, Kentucky I’m even more proud that I didn’t gain my usual 15 pounds when writing, while losing 15 friends at the same time. At least, I don’t think I did. Most folks extended grace, knowing I was in a race to the finish before carpal tunnel syndrome set in. Laser-focused and self-absorbed, I escaped to my own world and didn’t recognize those around me, including family members. My own daughter claims that when she asked if I wanted something from Chick-fil-A, I told her to hush! I missed my chance for nuggets and great lemonade, but have a book to show for it.

My Big O Journey is about growing up as a Kentucky girl in the seventies. Feeling too young to write a memoir, I stuck to one decade of life and lost myself in the reminiscing and nostalgic stories of youth. I was neither a bad girl, nor a goody two-shoes, and was able to offer justice to both sides of the Big O. I didn’t sugar-coat the past, but turned up some surprises that even spooked myself while writing a certain chapter.

I loved the pouring out of ideas which somehow connected together. I usually get burned out ¾ of the way through the writing of a book. That’s an understatement-I hate my own book by then and threaten to abandon it in a bottom drawer. This usually means I’m about to have a break-through as opposed to a breakdown, and it’s most important to push through. During My Big O journey, I never reached that breaking point. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane and all the side alleys.

I trained my mind to empty all onto the page-the good, the bad, and the ugly, knowing full well that I would review my thoughts-turned-words many times before sending the pages off to edit. My editor would scour those same words and purge those never meant to land in a book on Planet Earth. Entire chapters melt in a puddle on the floor like the wicked witch. Ouch.

I’m okay with that. The problem comes when I’m in public and open my mouth to speak. Because I’ve spent hours unleashing unfiltered thoughts onto paper, it’s difficult to filter those same thoughts before voicing them. You won’t believe the things I blurt out. My words become squirted toothpaste – no squeezing them back into the tube. Once they’re out, they’re out. Where, oh where did my filter go? If my editor were around, even she would run for cover. Maybe that’s why my husband neglected to inform me of his office Christmas party…hmmm.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)
Write Baby Write: You Can Do It

Finding Time When There’s No Time to Find

How do you find time when there is no time to find? Surely this was one of those questions the Ancients asked their oracles. Today, we’re still wondering the same thing. Time management tools and plans abound, yet we still find ourselves muttering, “I don’t have time.” Of course we do. If we have the breath to utter that we don’t have time, obviously the present time is something we do have.

What we really mean to say is that we don’t have time to do what we want to do or what we know needs doing. It’s this ‘me’ time that gets lost in the shuffle, the time that matters to us. For me, my ‘me’ time is the ‘write’ time or finding time to write. This is what I want more of-not the ‘I need more time to do chores’ kind of time.

Outside of paying for a chore boy, a cheaper way of finding more time is to milk the time we do have. Milk it for all it’s worth. Thankfully, multi-tasking was last millennium’s trend which I’m relieved went out of style. If anything, multi-tasking created more attention deficit disorders or made current ones worse. I’m suggesting that instead, we eek out all 60 seconds of every minute. The Urban Dictionary defines eeking out as “letting your leg hairs grow long enough so it doesn’t hurt as much when you eventually shave them.” How’s that for a word picture?

Even I could think of a better definition. To clarify, we all have what could be called wasted time. Whether it’s the car line, the grocery line, driving time, waiting for the bus time, kids at karate time, daughter’s dance lessons, or what have you. I’m proposing that we find more ‘me’ time from our wasted time. Most of us can claim to have plenty of wasted time, so why not sneak some ‘me’ time out of it? In fact, our wasted time could be the only place to find it.

I waste a lot of time in the car, so this is when I use the time to write. No, not while driving-that would be considered multi-tasking. When the gear is in PARK, I am safe to write. Sure, I battle wasps with the windows rolled down, but a wasp sting is nothing compared to socializing with other soccer moms. During oodles of practices, which are wonderful physical and social time for my children, but wasted time for me, I write. I can write and still watch my children compete from my vehicle while keeping two things in mind: never park behind the soccer goal if auto insurance has already replaced the windshield, and secondly, sometimes the only thing separating a pit bull from a soccer mom really is lipstick.

Think about planning some ‘me’ time during your wasted time. Eek out those seconds. Who knows? They could even be found while shaving or putting on lipstick.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon

Blog Days of Summer

When I last looked, it was eleven days, nine hours, and fifty-three seconds until autumn. Tell that to my air conditioner. There’s no sign of the heat letting up and the humidity is almost like a second skin now. We’re in ‘the dog days of summer’ and so is my blog. Wikipedia claims this time to be in July and August, but I beg to differ here in the South. More of the same sultry weather is to be expected as the muggy days drag on and on.

Tis the season to complain during this interim. We absolutely hate to wait. We’re afraid of down-time and end up wasting the in-between opportunities because they weren’t in the plan. We have a plan for the future, but we don’t have a plan for right here and now. That could actually be a good thing. Good things come to those who wait, right?

I’m trying to make some sense of this whole ‘time on my hands’ theme without copping a guilt trip. I know the movers and shakers of this world share no sympathy with me and secretly relish every chance to share war stories about all-important busyness in every season. I was once one of them, the queen of the hive, in fact.

Lately, I have found that it is a blessing not to be busy at all times. This is not to be confused with being lazy. Laziness is doing nothing when you should be doing something-the whole ‘idleness is the Devil’s workshop’ kind of thing. Believe it or not, there are some times when you’re not supposed to be doing anything. It’s called REST. Isn’t it silly to stress over rest? We strive for rest and get it, but feel guilty for enjoying it, and do our best to whittle it away until we’re finally busy again.

Doing nothing can be good for you. I believe a spectrum of opportunities exists for everyone. When we are in position at the same time that opportunities line up, we can reach up and grab those opportunities that were always there. Many times this happens when we’re in-between projects or on our way to somewhere else. We often see the lack of events as delays, even interruptions to our rhythm, instead of the opportunities that they are. Rest assured, if we are busy, we won’t see them at all.

Let’s hang in there for the dog days of summer. Change is a-coming, but it might not be today. Meanwhile, the electric meter spikes along with the heat, but let’s try to submit, if just for a day, to the rhythm of something else besides ourselves. In other words, get busy resting.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($3.99)

Chip on the Shoulder

When I was a teenager I stayed grounded–grounded as in punished and made to stay home on a Saturday night. One time I was even grounded for having no common sense. When I asked Dad how long I was to be marooned in my room, he said, “Until you get some sense.”

I persisted, “Can I have a timeframe? How long will that be?” This didn’t help plead my case. Mostly, I was grounded for having a ‘chip on my shoulder.’ That’s ‘70s slang for a rotten attitude. Urban dictionary describes it as “someone who has a self-righteous feeling of inferiority or a grudge.” Surely that wasn’t me. (The grammar police would say, “That wasn’t I.”) You see, I still hold some of those chips.

The last writer’s conference I attended hosted many talented writers. Interspersed within this group, were also many talented writers with chips on their shoulders. You could spot them from across the room. Some would say that it takes one to know one. When asked questions about their magnum opus, these writers responded rather smugly or defensively. It took deeper conversations before the shoulder chips could be chiseled away. Look out! You never knew where these chips were going to fall. They could fall on you if you weren’t comfortable in your own vocation or writing abilities.

It’s not attractive to have a chip on your shoulder. So how does a writer prevent this from happening? First, you have to have a mission-a book in the works or a daily word-count goal. In other words, you have to write if you want to call yourself a writer. Next, you have to stop looking at other writers as if they are your competition. No one can write your story except you. No one. Believe this and competition becomes a non-issue. But here’s the clincher: those inner nattering voices that tell you that you’re not good enough or cut out for this writing thing. Stare those fun suckers down, down to the floor next to your writing desk. The little demons need to be grounded. Teach them to think twice before trying to steal your joy.

The last time I had a chip on my shoulder was after making a decision to homeschool my children. A real voice, albeit well-meaning, said, “You wouldn’t do that to my grandbabies.” Another real voice said, “If Shelly Miller can homeschool, I know I can.” That voice belonged to a mother who moved forward to homeschool her own children successfully, so good for her. As for the first voice, I heard it again last week upon the college graduation of our daughter, the oldest of the grandbabies. This time, the loving voice said, “That’s our granddaughter, graduating summa cum laude with the highest honors. And she was homeschooled!”

Just when my peacock feathers puff up and the birth of a new chip begins, I have to consult spellcheck for how to spell ‘summa.’ And here lies the last trick in avoiding a chip on the shoulder: Maintain humbleness although nobody ever gets used to the taste of humble pie.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at Amazon ($2.99)

Guerilla Marketing

A long time ago, the “M” word meant something good. When we were dating, my now husband used to tease me with the “M” word while dropping to one knee. “Will you m-m-m-make me a sandwich?” My heart fluttered with the almost proposal. Yes, I wanted to marry him, but not so much make him a sandwich. I finally got the “M” word I wanted to hear and we’ve been married almost 25 years…and I’m still making those sandwiches.

Nowadays, the “M” word scares me. It’s far worse than making sandwiches. Today’s “M” word stands for marketing. You’d be hard-pressed to find an author who both loves to write and market books-maybe someone else’s books, but not his own. I picture book marketing as pedaling boxes of books from the back of my trunk with a sign that reads: Buy my book. The meek writer in me would rather place the book into a reader’s hands and say, “Here, just take it.”

I am both the marketer and the writer, yet I’m not comfortable with one of these people. At some point, this becomes silly. One neighbor even had to order my book online because I was too timid to take her money and dig into my stash of books (And you know there’s always a giant stash). Thank Heavens Write, Baby, Write is only available in ebook format so readers have no choice but to order online. I temporarily solved that marketing dilemma.

Most aspects of marketing are out of my control. Recent tornadoes are to blame for guerilla marketing tactics. Last week, Alabama was slammed with more deadly tornadoes. As a result, book sales of Tornado Valley: Huntsville’s Havoc, took off. Of all things, sales depended on the bad weather. For this reason, the ebook is priced as low as it can go during tornado season. I want folks to read the book. Timely advice from those who have survived direct hits from three different tornadoes could save additional lives. That’s worth marketing. If it brings to light the victim’s plight and results in more aid, that’s worth it. And if it means connecting personally with my readers, that’s worth marketing too. Okay, so maybe marketing is not so bad. I’ll think more about that when I m-m-m-make my next ham and cheese sandwich.

God bless my readers who have been touched personally by tornado disasters.

Check out some more encouragement and writing tips in my latest book WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It! Available at: Amazon ($0.99)

Featured Book of the Day – Author Marketing Club

Well, Here goes… I experienced some good success with a book promo run in the fall with a different book promotion site, but this week on April 4th, I am trying out Author Marketing Club’s featured book of the day, WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It!. I will provide an updated review of the Author Marketing Club promo performance. It’s the first time I have used the paid promotion features, but it’s always been a great site for promoting free ebooks! It’s pretty affordable promotion option with a good traffic volume level.

WRITE, BABY, WRITE: You Can Do It!
Available at: Amazon ($0.99)