Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes, cats
http://www.vijayaschartz.comamazon - B&N - Smashwords - Kobo - FB
Know what pounds my cake? Not adapting to a pandemic. But I’m not going to cite all the national/local cases—we’ve all heard them a million times before. Instead, I’m going to cite how I almost blew a golden chance by passing up a virtual Read Across America at Mountain View Elementary School.
Recall that many Arizona schools have gone to virtual or hybrid learning. That means full- or part-time online instruction. My daughter Zooms most of her college classes at Northern Arizona University. As a musical education major, she’s also had to Zoom her student teaching. So, she’s on both ends of online education.
But adapting to this type of education was not problematic for her. She, like most members of “Gen Z” were born in this evolving technology. As a four-year old, she helped me hook up a VCR, DVD, and PlayStation to the family entertainment system. As a nine-year old, she guided me through building my author website. And I’m sure if asked right now, she could reconfigure a more efficient APS power grid—overnight. There just ain’t nothing these Gen Zers can’t do!
Not the case for me. As a Baby Boomer born in the era of vacuum tube technology, I marveled at the development of solid state circuitry and went dizzy with the dawn of nano-chip technology. But my adaptations were clunky. My once steep learning curve flattened. It may have something to do with aging brain cells. Or maybe I’m too complacent with the present technology and don’t want to fix what ain’t broke.
As an in-person elementary school presenter, I was happy with my modus operandi for six years. But this year when asked to present on-line, I balked at the offer.
First of all, I can count on three fingers how many Zoom meetings I’ve attended (the first being a baby shower). Secondly, I’ve never presented in Zoom. Thirdly, I’ve never presented on Google Meet—the local school’s online meeting platform. With three strikes against me I wanted to turn the offer down.
Before the pandemic, I was comfy-cushy as an in-person presenter for the past six years; proud of only needing a few years to comfortably work a smart board with Power Point. Now in the heat of virtual learning I’m once again in unfamiliar territory. I got on YouTube and spent a few hours viewing tutorials, but because of the upcoming class presentation I felt pressured and didn’t understand a thing. I spilled my inadequacies to the school’s event coordinator, feeling naked in the rain!
She assured me that I was not alone; that many presenters were like me (OK, maybe not so naked), and that she’d schedule a few practice sessions. I felt a little better and joined one. I did so poorly I had to schedule another one. Then another one. So shameful!
With one day to go, I scheduled a practice meeting with my daughter, the Gen Z Queen. She’d never participated in Google Meet before but figured it had to be similar to Zoom. Well, she got it, and I still didn’t. She recommended that I get help from the teacher since I didn’t have enough time to jack up my confidence.
I emailed the seventh grade teacher my slides in case my internet dropped or I succumbed to hypothermia from being naked in the rain for two days. That made me feel a little better, knowing at least I had a Plan B. She emailed back, saying she’d be happy to facilitate the meeting in case I got washed away in shame.
The night before my presentation, I lay restless in bed. Once asleep, I had nightmares of all the YouTube tutors laughing, jeering, and scolding me for being a Google Meet moron. How could they be so cruel?! I closed one tutorial window, and it popped up in another window continuing to mock me!
That morning, at 5:30 AM, I got up, took a shower, and washed my hair. If I’m going to be a moron, I may as well look like a well-groomed one. After getting a vente-sized Starbucks latte, I prepped my backlight, headphones and computer in my dining room—my back wall full of family photos and shelf of classic novels.
I entered the Google Meet meeting about 15 minutes early, about 7:30 AM. Thankfully the teacher was already there. She had viewed my slides ahead of time and really liked my presentation. That eased my mind a little. She also mentioned that her first class contained some gifted students who could assist both me and her should we encounter any technical glitches. After hearing that and sipping some latte, I really felt better.
Show time! At 7:45AM, the teacher thanked all the students for joining and offered incentives for participation. She introduced me, and I gave a brief bio. My presentation was an original, ~3000-word short story that I read entirely. I also included pictures on every slide. After every third slide, I inserted thought-provoking questions for the students to answer.
Sometime during my first few slides I got a chat message from one of the students: “Your voice is reverberating; push in your headphones jack more firmly.” I must have bumped it when reaching for my latte cup. “Thanks,” I chatted back and pushed in the jack. At least three more students acknowledged my sound correction. I am liking these seventh grade students; they’re so much nicer than those YouTube tutors in my dream!
Many students engaged in the question/answer period—sometimes presenting arguments with supportive reasons. They must have been following my story closely! After the presentation, a lot of them chatted their gratitude for hearing my story. The teacher also seemed excited about her students’ participation. After dismissing the students, she wanted to know if I could present more short stories if I had them—and I did!
After that first experience with Google Meet, I didn’t feel so naked in the rain. Take that, YouTube tutors!
Jane Ruby is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. She’s judged many association literary contests and is now in her third year as the Literary Contest Coordinator as well as Secretary of the Association. Learn more about Jane HERE.
In children’s literature, if a frog and a monkey wear striped pajamas and go on vacation to the moon, we think nothing of it. But give Wyatt Earp a cellphone or Calamity Jane a sports car and poof! Our credibility as an author is shot.
Back when I was a reporter at a rural weekly newspaper in Washington State in the 1980s and 1990s, the Five W’s ruled first paragraphs. The thinking behind this formulaic style of journalistic writing is that if stories must be shortened due to space limitations, all the facts still appear in the story: Who/What/When/Where/Why.
And our editor drilled into our heads: Check your facts. Get them right. Period.
You might ask: What’s the big deal? No ones cares. Or: Why attempt to “get it right”? I don’t have the time for that.
I subscribe to the camp that authors have both a burden and a responsibility for being as historically accurate as possible, unless it gets in the way of the story (and, in that case, mention any discrepancies in the afterword). As authors, we want readers to trust us (and come back for more), which is why we can’t risk making reckless mistakes.
It’s important here to delineate the difference between material facts and immaterial facts. With material facts, i.e. what date was Abraham Lincoln sworn into office, there is no margin of error. What he ate for breakfast, what color socks he wore, or what time he retired that night are immaterial facts, and we, as authors, can color our manuscripts with our imaginations when writing in this type of detail.
How to do this? For each of my manuscripts, I begin collecting resources as soon as an idea surfaces. In the early stages of any manuscript, I amass 50-100 books on various subjects pertinent to the era and turn to librarians, historians, museum curators, authors, storytellers—and the Internet—to fill in holes.
Here are some other tips for sourcing data: *Visit locale/setting of novel, if possible, to flesh out all sensory elements *Read/research anything and everything about the era you are writing about: Literature Newspapers and Magazines Advertisements Maps Art Encyclopedias Photos/Film Diaries/Journals Music Census Data School, Church, and Land Records Calendars/Phases of the Moon/Tide Charts Almanacs and Catalogues Birth, Marriage, and Death Announcements Recipes *Visit museums/historical societies (actual or virtual) *Use print, digital, audio, and crowd-sourced material
In writing Answer Creek and Eliza Waite (and in my current work in progress), I fact-check myself constantly. Did matchsticks exist in the late 19th century? Who was president of the U.S. in the 1840s and 1890s? What were accepted practices for births and deaths in remote settlements? Where did pioneers access herbal remedies commonly used for constipation and ulcer? When did women get the vote in each of the states? Why were oxen and mules preferable to horses? How did men and women cook and bathe without any modern conveniences, especially on overland trails or in rural areas?
When writing, I place a triple XXX as a placeholder to remind me to return to fact check that piece of information as I don’t want to disrupt the flow of writing to check every detail when creative juices flow. It’s easy to find this marker (or TK, i.e. “to come”) in document searches. On days when I don’t feel particularly inclined to churn out a thousand words or two, I use that time for historical research. It’s one of my favorite parts of the writing process, but it can become very time consuming.
Some authors fear they’ll get it all wrong and that fear stops them cold—this line of thinking is writer’s prison. If you’re scared before you put anything down on paper or computer, you’re compromised every time you sit at your desk. Days and weeks turn into months of procrastination. Your story dies on the vine because you’re worried that some aficionado/reviewer is going to tank your manuscript once it’s published. You’re not any closer to getting published if fear is crippling you.
Instead, try turning that fear around and calling it confidence—confidence in your skills as a researcher and a writer, confidence that you’re aligning yourself with history and paying attention to detail, confidence that you will endeavor to get everything right (not just facts, but characters and settings and plot), but not at the expense of never getting anything down on paper or computer at all. Through this lens of confidence, you’ll turn prison into permission. You’ve got lots of time to check and re-check facts.
That’s why in my new manuscript, set in 1905 rural Arizona Territory, you won’t find my protagonist driving a Jeep, reading a book or magazine that wasn’t published yet, or saying something that wasn’t in vogue at the time. Every day, I find myself going down proverbial rabbit holes doing historical research—but that’s a topic for another newsletter!
Remember what Thomas Edison said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
So get to work! In the meantime, I’m back at it, too. Perched on my shoulder, my old editor keeps whispering in my ear. Check your facts. Get them right. Period.
|Find Ashley and her books HERE|
Ashley E. Sweeney is the winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for her debut novel, Eliza Waite. A native New Yorker, she is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, and resides in Tucson. Answer Creek, released in May 2020, is her second novel, and winner of the 2020 Arizona Authors Association Literary Award. She is at work on a third novel set in 1905 rural Arizona. Find Ashley’s books by clicking these links: Answer Creek and Eliza Waite Visit Ashley’s website HERE. Winner: 2020 Arizona Authors Association Literary Award Winner: 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award Finalist: 2016 Sarton Women’s Book Award Finalist: 2017 WILLA Literary Award
|The Curse of the Lost Isle series starts in the time of Charlemagne and the Viking Invasions and ends during the Crusades.Find these books on my page at BWL Publishing HERE|
|Roland breaking his sword on a stone|
When the US Army ordered troops into Arizona Territory in the nineteenth century to protect and defend newly established settlements, military men often brought their wives and families, particularly officers who might be stationed in the west for years.
Most of the women were from refined, eastern-bred families with little knowledge of the territory. Their letters, diaries, and journals from their years on army posts reveal untold hardships and challenges. They learned to cope with the sparseness, the heat, sickness, and danger, including wildlife they never imagined.
These women were bold, brave, and compassionate. They became an integral part of military posts that peppered the West and played an important role in civilizing the untamed frontier. Combining their words with original research and tracing their movements from post to post, this collection of historical narratives explores the tragedies and triumphs that early military wives experienced.
Author, historian and expert speaker Jan Cleere writes extensively about the desert southwest, particularly the people who first settled the territory. Her freelance work appears in national and regional publications including Arizona Highways Magazine, Persimmon Hill Magazine, Phoenix Woman, Tucson Guide Quarterly, The Desert Leaf, Chronicle of the Old West, and Arizona Garden. In 2001, Jan received recognition from Arizona Highways Magazine for her article, "Hostess to the West," the life of Elizabeth Hudson Smith, a Black entrepreneur in Wickenburg, Arizona, during the early 1900s.
Visit her website at: https://www.jancleere.com/
For example, I’ve had strangers phone to tell me how much they loved my article in the newspaper. How they got my number, I’ll never know, but in a small town with only 600 residents, I’m not surprised. They love it when I admit to being a newbie to the rigors of Maine. They guffaw at my descriptions, such as when I wrote:
During my first October in Maine, I purchased a nice, shiny red snow shovel. Old man winter wasn’t going to catch me napping! My neighbor Bruce came over one day and spotted it sitting in a corner, the $19.95 sticker still attached. He confused me when he said, “Oh, I didn’t realize you had small children. That should be fun for them.”
It sounded like a joke that lost its punch line. Was the snow so easy to shovel that small children could do it? I’d heard about Maine winters, and that didn’t sound quite logical to me. I explained, “I want to get a jump on the snow. I haven’t seen it in five decades while living in Phoenix, but I’m looking forward to shoveling it for exercise. I suppose we might have some by Thanksgiving, you think?”
He smirked and said, “We’re late, actually. The first snowfall usually arrives in October.”
I clapped my hands in amazement! I would get to use my shiny new shovel sooner than I thought. He looked at me and smiled, just like my uncle smiled when, at five years old, I insisted on opening the pickle jar all by myself. Come to think of it, that didn’t turn out too well. Why did I recall that broken pickle jar now?
Just as Bruce was leaving I asked, “Have you got your shovel out yet, too?”
He answered, “Yeah, I just put it on today.”
“Put it on?”
“Yep, it’s sitting right outside.”
I looked out and saw a four-foot wide snow shovel (which I later learned was called a snow plow) attached to the front of his pickup truck. He turned back and said, “When you need help with that shoveling, let me know.” He didn’t say “if.” He said “when.” Hmmm.
Our first snowstorm hit the next week, and it suddenly dawned on me why he had asked if I had small children. I hung that mangled shovel on my wall and called it art, and then nearly broke my neck trudging through the drifts to yell, “Bruce . . . HELP!”
When you open up, confess (and even exaggerate, just a little, as I did in the previous passage), you lift your readers’ spirits, make them feel good about themselves (after all, they now think they’re smarter than you are!) and you forge a relationship that allows you, later, to display your acumen without making them feel inferior. Everyone loves to know that while you are smart, they have at least one area of expertise in which you lack knowledge. Eventually, you wind up on an equal footing.
On the other hand, when you try to dazzle them with your wit right off the bat, you set up a distance between yourself and your reader . . . a distance that may or may not be erased in the future. No one likes a smarty pants.
Erma Bombeck knew this so well. She once said, “He who laughs, lasts.” It is my belief, (I am sure she shared, it) that the one who makes them laugh, also lasts. Be the one they remember forever, the one that made them laugh by laughing first at yourself. Publicly. With abandon. Without shame. You’ll find yourself laughing, too.
Kathleen Cook is a free-lance editor and the author of twenty books. A former copy writer/editor for Demand Studios, she also served as the Fictional Religion Editor for the ODP (Open Directory Project). She is currently the Arizona Authors Association newsletter editor.
|FIND IT ON AMAZON HERE|
Donis Casey is pleased to announce that her second Bianca Dangereuse Hollywood Mystery, Valentino Will Die, is just released. Publisher’s Weekly says “Lovers of old movies and Hollywood gossip will have fun.”
WHO IS TRYING TO KILL THE WORLD'S GREATEST LOVER?
Though Bianca LaBelle, star of the wildly popular silent movie serial "The Adventures of Bianca Dangereuse", and Rudolph Valentino, the greatest screen idol of all time, have been friends for years, in the summer of 1926 they are making their first picture together, a steamy romance called Grand Obsession. One evening after dinner at Bianca's fabulous Beverly Hills estate, a troubled Rudy confesses that he has received anonymous death threats. In a matter of days, filming comes to an abrupt halt when Rudy falls deathly ill. Could it be poison?
As Rudy lay dying, Bianca promises him that she will find out who is responsible. Was it one of his many lovers? A delusional fan? Or perhaps Rudy had run afoul of a mobster whose name Bianca knows all too well? She calls on P.I. Ted Oliver to help her investigate the end of what had seemed to be the charmed life of Valentino. Find the book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc.
DONIS CASEY was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A third generation Oklahoman, she and her siblings grew up among their aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and great-grandparents on farms and in small towns, where they learned the love of family and independent spirit that characterizes the population of that pioneering state. Donis graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in English, and earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Oklahoma University. After teaching school for a short time, she enjoyed a career as an academic librarian, working for many years at the University of Oklahoma and at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Donis left academia in 1988 to start a Scottish import gift shop in downtown Tempe. After more than a decade as an entrepreneur, she decided to devote herself full-time to writing. The Old Buzzard Had It Coming is her first book. For the past twenty years, Donis has lived in Tempe, AZ, with her husband. Find out more about Donis at: DonisCasey.com or FanFiction