Writing from a distance: good, bad, both?

“I’m thankful for serendipitous moments in my life, where things could’ve gone the other way.”~Rick Springfield, American musician

It should come as no surprise to anyone, but I write about coffee shops.

The activity in coffee shops is fascinating, better than people watching in a mall food court. Sometimes. I have enough poignant moments and sparkling events and interesting interactions that I can write a novel about them. Right now, I write blog posts.

I still contribute a monthly post to my Michigan writers group. I helped initiate the group’s blog, Deadwood Writers Voices, and moderator John ran with it and maintains an excellent site. The blog encourages our members to write about their passions and interests, everything from romance to travel to video games. There’s something for everyone. It’s eclectic reading with writers posting on the same date each month. My Coffee Shop Chronicles post on the 18th.

That’s the great thing about the Internet is the ability to write remotely. The un-great thing is the absence of interaction.

Sure, I write articles from a distance and email them to my editors. This is different. Maybe because it’s not work and where I’m expected to communicate electronically. Maybe it’s the personal relationships I formed. I write, but I miss talking with the group members after their latest blogposts goes live or recruiting newer members to write for the blog.

Writing something is better than not writing, right?

My bimonthly critiques fell aside with my move to New Jersey. The group’s meeting location has changed since I left, and the new places are awkward for some members to travel to. There has always been an issue on those Wednesday nights when someone is out of town on business, sick with the flu, home with a stubbed toe or choosing not to drive at night. The group is working on ways to involve members who can’t be there in person for the critiques, something I’m willing to be a test subject for. We’ve tried Skype, Google Groups and once iMessage. I long for that close-enough interaction. Interacting some is better than not interacting, right? Nothing has stuck yet. Any ideas?

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Charged up and critique comments this #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee….

Hey, how are you? Glad you could join me here at Den 10. The Bookstore Man is here is here again, sipping some tea, I think. Why I’m drinking a Café Vanilla Frappuccino in here, I don’t know, because like every other Starbucks in the world, it’s already 50-degrees and falling. Did you bring a sweater?

There’s not too much exciting personally. My husband and I went out most nights to get coffee and play PokemonGO. Other than that, there’s laundry, cleaning and more non-unpacking. Its been simply a week.

I tried writing on Monday at the Route 22 Starbucks, but my shocking revelation was that the store has about 4 outlets. I never paid attention there until I needed one. The tables are set up for wireless charging. Back in March and April, the circular rings that plug into your phone and charge when you set the discs on those special table spots were plentiful. I was amazed at the technology. Now, the iPhone charging discs have disappeared from the borrow table racks, and these scarce outlets don’t make up for that. I left when my phone battery dropped to 20%. Unproductive, especially because I was distracted by watching the battery charge.

I did go to my Montclair Memoir1 group on Wednesday. I took the Las Vegas scene in my MomMemoir piece for critique. The top three comments: I use the word “walk” too much. I didn’t establish enough tension in my near-death scene. I need to develop Las Vegas more as a character.

Despite all my writing plans and goals, I did nothing towards accomplishing them. I wrote in my planner “Really edit MomMemoir,” but even colored pen and stickers didn’t motivate me. Neither did “Mortgage. Rtn $ Tree. earned the right to write.” Cute nudges usually work for me, but that bag of items to return still sits in my car’s backseat.

I hope your week’s been more productive. If you’re not shivering too much, tell me what’s going on in your life.

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Writing & activity successes–and not–this #WeekendCoffeeShare

If we were having coffee….

Grab a seat. This is one of the most comfortable Starbucks I’ve been in. Of course it’s cold–every Starbucks in this universe is–but it blends spacious and cozy here. We’ve got plenty of time to chat uninterrupted, 30 minutes at least. *smile*  My husband’s over there doing a Pokémon Lucky Egg, and I have this fresh Café Vanilla Frappuccino in front of me.

I met my Fitbit step goal everyday this week, but still came in third in my two Workweek Hustle challenges. Those other folks must never sit down! Humph. I feel good increasing my activity, regardless. There’s always the rematch next week.

I celebrated my Swarm 7th Anniversary this week. I joined Foursquare, the original incarnation, on August 7, 2010. An overview of the new check-in map takes me down memory lane of my trips to Chicago, my 10th wedding anniversary in Disney, my NFPW awards conference in Alaska and so many more, events I remember, places I forgot. I love this app. What would I do without it?

My writing is going okay. I created a great outline of tasks to do this week, and I completed very few tasks on that list. I printed my DadLetters story, but I didn’t edit it. Two items, and I only made the effort to do one of them. Granted, that’s one more than doing nothing, but now I have to push it to this week, throwing off my other tasks. We’ll see next weekend how that goes.

And you? What successes are in your life this week?

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A pyramid of possibilities promoting on Twitter

“To hold a pen is to be at war.”~Voltaire, French writer

Last week, I missed my crystal promotion moment everywhere.

My Star Trek MomMemoir that I’ve been rambling about for weeks that takes place in Las Vegas has the perfect tie-in event with the annual Creation Star Trek convention. Imagine that. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity, and I missed that. However, note the word “annual.” Now I can plan for that. But where can I promote this book before then?

Twitter hashtags are instant and direct ways to reach people who share your interest. That’s where I found my immediate audience to spread the word about this book and future fans of my other books. Following hashtags within Tweets of the hashtag you initially searched for presents you with a pyramid of promotional possibilities.

Take my book. It’s after the convention, but still, I want to know my audience from there. I want to find people interested in my book, so I start with the subject material: #StarTrek. Within that hashtag, I find convention-specific hashtags: #STLV for the convention itself and #STLV50 for this year’s convention celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Searching those convention hashtags led me to others, among them #LLAP, #TrekFamily and #Vulcan.

I look at the people who are Tweeting these hashtags. Who were Tweeting often about or during the convention? I easily discovered the owners or organizers of the convention: @CreationEnt. This company also hosts conventions for other fan-favorite TV shows and movies. Noted for future. Continuing the search for Tweeters, I find at random @TrekConvention, @TrekGeekDan and @FanSets. Who they follow will probably add to my promotion network.  Another note for the future.

In some of the Tweets, I see television shows I mention in my memoir. There’s #TOS for the original series, #TNG for Star Trek: The Next Generation, #Voyager, #DS9 and #Enterprise. I’m sure the movies also have specific hashtags.

I see Tweets mentioning cast members or ones by the actors themselves. Duh!

All this and I haven’t even looked into the Las Vegas city-related hashtags yet.

Twitter makes it easy to establish a community. You can get lost diving through and through and deeper and deeper into the hashtags that lead to other hashtags that lead to others. You may think that’s a lot of time, but I did this search while I wrote this blogposts, which was maybe an hour. I also clicked through some of the Tweets to Instagram photos, maybe people I can now follow. I love Instagram.

Back on Twitter, doing this hashtag search under “Top” and “latest” tabs bring different results. With Twitter being an in-the-moment media outlet, I always thought that Latest would provide a more accurate, active engagement with my audience. Connection. Conversation. Brining out the “social” aspect of social media. I used to snub at that Top Tweets tab in general. How good can they be? Top Tweets are probably something promoted or have a gif of a kitty cat, something so instantly likable and inane and, therefore, immediately shared. Why bother? However, Top Tweets are made by the Influential Industry Professionals, or so I consider after this hashtag search. These people may have 14.3K followers and are following 32 accounts, never to blink in your direction, but why not? There’s no harm in following the industry’s trusted expert. CreationEnt may never even see a Tweet or pay attention to a Mention, but there’s no harm in tagging my Tweet with them.

What are some related tags to or of your work? They are out there. Searching for and finding these hashtags help you define your audience even if you have no idea who your audience should be.

I’m forgetting the obvious genre tie-ins to my book, hashtags like #memoir, #scifi, #nonfiction, #mom and #family.

Now that I have a plethora of promo hashtags, what about seasonal tie-ins? Mother’s Day in May is obvious, but Father’s Day in June is just as relevant. Grandparents Day is in September, and these people grew up and are most intimate with #TOS. Moms and dads grew up watching the overlapping timelines of #TNG and #DS9 and #Voyager. Holidays are always good for family-focused books: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and Valentine’s Day. In my case, patriotic or governmental holidays don’t fit. Just as well; I don’t have to be present everywhere to be successful. Paraphrasing some great writing advice I recently received, the more focused you are, the stronger your campaign will be.

What’s next? This list of tags, companies and people is the start of contacts and tie-ins. Now that I have my list–and you probably have yours–what’s next? Fit this into my marketing campaign, of course.

< To Be Continued… 🙂 >

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A schedule to publish two stories in one month

“A good beginning makes a good end.”~Louis L’Amour, American author

I can do three things at once; at least, I used to.

Reflecting on this past Weekend Coffee Share post, my writing and editing process reminded me of Comm 242 class at Penn State. This intro film course was an intense, hands-on filmmaking class. Everyone produced 12 projects that semester, which generated a life-consuming schedule. Every week, we edited last week’s project while filming this week’s project while writing next week’s project. I forgot how rigorous that was and how good that was. Why can’t I do that now?

Always keep busy with a project. I can do that. I have enough ideas and half-started books to keep writing and editing at all times. I don’t have to keep as insane a schedule as that film class, but why not attack writing in that way? I’m annoyed at myself for missing my Star Trek memoir deadline, but I’m not defeated. How can I make this a reality?

Let’s brainstorm here. How can I write and publish two books in one month?

August 7 – 13 (this week):

–Print out my currently-published DadLetters memoir. It’s another short story inspired by the 8-hour eBook challenge. Read through that document while doing a quick tweak, revise or whatever I immediately identify as lacking dimension. Type those edits and set aside.

August 14 – 20:

–One last critique of MomMemoir from the Montclair Memoir1 group on the 16th. What section?
–After that final feedback, begin MomMemoir 4th and final powerful edit.

August 21 – 27:

–Finish edit of MomMemoir, say the 23rd.
–Release MomMemoir to Fiverr editor for her review and line edits.
–Finalize book cover with my Fiverr graphic designer. This is already started. He needs some text from me to complete the project.
–Why she edits and he designs, write/revise DadLetters draft #2.

August 28 – September 2:

–In theory, final edit and cover design will be complete. This schedule is somewhat out of my control.
–Submit a section of DadLetters edit #2 to my Montclair Memoir1 group for their first critique of that work (August 30).
–Maybe do the next DadLetters edit #3, but my MomMemoir is the focus this week. Do what I can to:
–PUBLISH MomMemoir on Amazon and maybe other platforms. Research CreateSpace and Nook publishing options, or postpone until later.

During all this, work on my ROW80 Round 3 goals. Email, blog posts and social media are the key areas. How can they fit into this schedule? With this structure of sorts, maybe the goals will flow better.

September 3 – 11:

–enjoy Labor Day, my birthday and the Penn State-Pitt game in State College.

Tuesday, September 12 (entering second month):

–Has MomMemoir been published?
–Pick up where I left off with DadLetters memoir: submit another section to Memoir1 group (Sept. 13).
–Continue or begin researching CreateSpace, Nook, and other publishing options.
–Think about what’s next to work on. Maybe my 8-hour eBook Jimmy the Burglar. Maybe chapters of my full-length Dad memoir. To be decided based on how the previous month worked or didn’t. 

That’s doable. I focus on one major project while working on the other one in the background. It’s not exactly two books in one month, but it’s darn close. Spacing out to allow for Life to happen. Keeping up.

I bet you can do that, too.

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Writing goals are achievable through #ROW80

“Art is the triumph over chaos.”~John Cheever, American writer

It has taken me, what, 3 years to finally believe that I can do this.

Do what?  Everything.

Okay, maybe not everything, like walking through a pit of snakes, but my writing and social goals feel more controlled.  After years of doing this ROW80 thing, I know how I can break it down.  Maybe my goals have changed into something more realistic.  Circumstances change, so does the state I live in.  Whatever the reason or reasons, whatever the progress or not, I feel success-full this week.  Look at what’s going on:

Remember, these are in no specific ordered, simply numbered for me to keep track of how many goals I have this time a’Round.

1–Craft a succinct 30-second book elevator speech.

I work on this every two weeks when I submit a piece of work for critique to the Montclair group. At the top, I put a synopsis of the story to this point so that the reader has some context going into the current critique. That synopsis now includes some version of this at the beginning. I’m practicing the summary of my book, the back cover blurb in one or two sentences.

2– Continue my 17 Writing Outlets in 2017 and follow through.

Last week, I mailed our “We’ve Moved” cards.  Now, everyone, including my writing contacts, knows we live in New Jersey. This week, it’s time to contact them.  I’ll at least make a list of who to contact, compiling phone numbers and email addresses from current business cards and older contact info.

3–Fine tune a regular social media schedule.
6–Schedule weekly Myself-Time to review all these goals.

These two are more linked than I realized. My current schedule appears to be a good one:

Monday–Email, home stuff
Tuesday–Write, focus on memoir/books, print out copies for biweekly critique group
Wednesday–Write blog posts, do social media
Thursday–Email, read blogs, reply to my blog comments
Friday, Saturday and Sunday–Still under construction

Appears. It’s not yet functional. What I need to do is assign social media outlets to a specific day or days. There are weekly Twitter chats I used to be active in. Mondays and Wednesdays used to be dedicated writing days and were therefore dedicated Instagram days. I have planner stickers that have Facebook/Instagram post on the same sticker, indicating both be done on the same day.  I usually do that on Tuesdays.

When I lived in Michigan, I had a set work schedule, which meant I could fit in a set writing schedule. I do not have that structure yet in New Jersey. If Monday and Thursday are at-home days to do email, make calls and whatever, then Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday are out-of-the-house writing days. Wednesdays work for sure. You see, every other week, I have my Montclair memoir critique meeting. I’m treating off-week Wednesdays the same way and getting out with some writing plan. That’s a start.

4–Catch up, let go of and/or publish old blog posts.

The more I go back in my social media to catch up, the more I see my list of unpublished or in-draft posts. This really annoys me. Deleting them is a waste of my delicious writing, but I’m becoming less and less attached to them.

5–Catch up on email.

Monday and Thursday are email days.  I did not keep that schedule last week. My inbox is as cluttered as my phone photos.

7–Work on memoir and other stories.

This is pretty cool: I’m actually doing that! Not my big memoir, mind you, but the two short memoirs that are already published but in desperate need of a deep rewrite. I missed my previous self-imposed publishing date for my Star Trek MomMmeoir, so I’m working on a revised deadline. I haven’t figured that out yet–the how or what or when–but I have the motivation to do so.

This is all a success, even the failures.

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare with exciting editing advice

If we were having coffee…

Hey there. Glad you could meet here. I know, no exciting, newly-discovered coffee shop, just my standard fallback here on Route 22. The texture of the Frappuccinos is hit or miss, sometimes not thick enough and too runny, but they do everything else as you’d expect. I’m in a black iced tea mood these days, and not that infusion thing. Those leave an aftertaste. I’m going to get one of those, even though the AC is kickin’ it to frosty temps in here. Do you need to get a sweater? I’ve got mine.

There’s not much new and exciting in my personal life. More cleaning, more unpacking, more PokemonGO with my husband. The most exciting event was last week’s Penn State Freshman Send-off Picnic. Every alumni chapter hosts a summer picnic for incoming freshman to celebrate their achievement of acceptance and remind them that we alumni are available for support.

The Northern New Jersey chapter awards their student scholarships at the picnic. Every alumni chapter I’ve been a member of offers student scholarships that are based on an application form and personal essay. My husband and I were active in the review process in previous chapters. I hope we have the opportunity to become involved in the Scholarship Committee here.

The exciting thing in my life is my writing. I did not re-publish my Star Trek MomMemoir yet, but I learned a great deal about how I edit. I can’t rush rewrites. I do need to set a deadline, but not a date that’s crunched into one week. Four edits is all I allow myself. That is enough time to write, tweak and make it strong without overthinking it. That’s how projects never finish–including mine. After those four reviews, I let it go into the world–in this case, an editor–and then maybe one final lookover before I upload and press Publish.

There’s freedom in letting go, in finishing a piece, in writing The End and moving onto the next project.

I’m on Edit #3, so while I’m in my breathing space, I’m getting as much critique feedback as possible from my Memoir1 group. Remember setting a deadline? I’ll set a release date by the end of August. That’s a month from now and one more round of critiques before my last powerful edit. It also gives me space to review my DadLetters memoir, also published on Amazon. I haven’t looked at it in over a year. I bet it could use a rehaul, too.

What’s new and exciting in your life?

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Contradictory critiques: what do you believe?

“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.”~Herman Melville, American author

Recent feedback for my Star trek MomMemoir is full of inconsistent whimsy.

I gave myself permission to do 4 edits on my short story of my journey with my mother through the love of Star Trek from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. It’s already published on Amazon, my response to the 8-hour eBook challenge, but now I’m giving it a complete revamp. I’m changing it so much that it requires a new ISBN, and I have plenty of those.

I completed three MomMemoir edits in 10 days, and then my mind blew up. I couldn’t look at it objectively anymore. I had to set it aside. During those 10 days, I took 5-page chunks to my Montclair Memoir 1 critique group. I might as well make the best use of my brain downtime to get additional feedback. Yesterday, I took the Grand Canyon part, which is the segment I have worked least on. The feedback I’m receiving is…fascinating. And contradictory. I feel that some people completely reversed earlier decisions on what elements and details are important. Two points stuck out to me.

The first is about time reference. I rewrote the Grand Canyon part based on earlier feedback that I need to explain references to things in the past that are no longer standard or relevant today. It is a form of dating the piece, but it puts the once-common experiences into context for the readers. Think about the phrase, “Back when I was a child…”

This is the part members commented on:

I had looked online to determine and find the time of sunset. Counting backwards, I planned when to leave do we’d have time

I had a map from AAA and directions I printed from the MapQuest website. There was no GPS then, at least nothing common, and I only had a flip phone recently from work to replace my beeper from work. Mom and I had to do it old school: read words off a piece of paper and hope the website had everything current and labeled correctly.

Back in the opening pages, people recommended I explain how movie-going experience in the 80s and 90s differs from the experience in 2017. Today, one-screen theaters are rare or called art houses. Back then, the word “multiplex” didn’t exist. Common events were “sneak previews” and “re-releases.” Not knowing those terms tripped people up.

I kept that in mind for this Grand Canyon rewrite. Who uses paper maps anymore? Do you know what a TripTik is? Back then, that’s what you had, and the few websites that provided directions were gold.

Some people said the GPS part “got in the way of” my interactions with Mom, and that is the focus of this section. However, if I just wrote “I pulled out the AAA TripTik,” todays readers might wonder why I bothered with whatever that is and simply used the GPS on my phone or in the car.

So which is it? Explain out-of-date details or don’t give background?

Another question to ask myself: “Is it relevant?”

The second issue that annoyed me was dialogue. In an earlier piece, I needed more dialogue between me and Mom to get aa sense of our dynamics. Talk don’t tell. Show me the dialogue. With that advice in mind, I added more in:

Mom was reclined on the couch watching TV, remote beside her. She was still in her Star Trek clothes and looked so content. I was not about to share my near-death experiences with her.

“Oh, it was fine,” I said. “Walked around. It’s really bright there, a big crowd, it’s best that you didn’t come along.” Not that Mom and I would have walked back to the hotel anyway, but still. You wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as the shuttle bus ride.”

I sat on my bed and tossed my tennis shoes in the corner. My breathing slowed to normal. It really wasn’t that late, maybe 8 pm, but the darkness of that road made it feel like middle of the night.

“Have you had dinner? Want to order room service?”

“Oh, that sounds wonderful,” Mom said. She pushed herself off the couch and walked over to the small desk where the menu was. “I was hoping we’d do that.”

As we ate at that small desk, Mom asked, “What are we going to do tomorrow?”

“Let’s talk about that after breakfast.”

The strongest feedback I received from that was: “Most of that dialogue is conversation. It’s too banal.”

Dialogue should move the plot along, but this part was intended to pause readers, to allow them to catch their breath as I did after my near-death experience. I planned it to downplay what I tell Mom, to demonstrate how kids like me often disguise and downplay danger to protect their parents from worrying, and to bridge the gap between tonight and tomorrow morning rather than just waking up. Apparently, none of that worked.

The feedback came without members actually reading that near-death experience. This dialogue, therefore, might not work as a stand-alone piece, but since I reference the near-death event in that first paragraph, it shouldn’t matter.

People referred to a later sentence in this piece–“No, Mom, we don’t have time.”–as a stronger show of personality. They said that line moved them forward, yet I feel it is repetitious given my action at that moment. Repetition can work when done well, or repetition can simply tell what you’ve already said or shown.

So which is it? Dialogue or no dialogue?

Another question to ask myself: “Should I tighten it to a shorter exchange, focusing on where I begin and end?”

What would you do?

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Why I’m okay not publishing my book on time

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.~John Muir, American environmentalist

I did not publish my memoir on Sunday night as planned, and I’m okay with that.

Why? Sunday turned into family time. My husband and I went out on an excursion to local towns. What I thought would be a few hours in the afternoon turned into a full day and night on the road. Family time is important. So is Pokémon GO.

I’m a tad embarrassed to admit that I played Pokémon GO all day Sunday rather than write. Dedicated and real writers write. I played a video game. I also got an afternoon of distraction-free time with my husband. Yes, we stared at our phones sometimes, but while driving, we had time to talk. No laptop. No social media. No work. No cleaning. No cooking. No TV. Just us. All that and a great bonus structure because of the failed PokemonGO Fest in Chicago on Saturday. We walked and hatched eggs. We drove to nearby towns to find unusual critters. I leveled up to Level 35 early afternoon, and by the time he pulled into the driveway, I was 80,961 XP closer to the 1.5 million needed to get to Level 36.

During the day, he talked about his work and challenges with projects. I talked about my writing and goals for this memoir. This all led to discussions about Star Trek conventions, our parents, next year’s anniversary trip to Disney, jobs, house expectations, Penn State football and more. I would not have experienced this with my nose buried in my laptop.

Am I unreliable? This was a self imposed deadline, something that allowed me plenty of time for social media and marketing leading up to the annual Star Trek convention in August. Now my promotional time will be shorter, but I will have a better product.

I also decided to hire a cover designer and an editor, trying out services on Fiverr. The artist who created my Dad Memoir cover is still available, so I contacted him. I’m scanning the list of editing gigs to try someone out. I wish I could say this was delaying publication, but I keep editing and editing. Fiction removes words; memoir adds words. When I am done, I will have a book that I can say “I am finished.” I’ve given myself 4 total rewrites before an editor gets it. I’m on edit #2, so it’s time to get writing.

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare offering Fiverr tips for publishing

If we were having coffee….

Thanks for coming over. You’re my first guest in our new house because we’re still unpacking, as you can tell. I cleaned off the table for you, a bit. Just push my laptop aside.
The kitchen’s still a mess–makes me think if we need all these plates we have–but our cups are unpacked. I don’t want you to trip, so let me get you something. I’m having the last Sheetz House blend K-Cup, unless you want it. I have other flavors plus loose leaf black tea.

The best news this week is about my ankle. Physical therapy ended Friday. My movement, strength and flexibility are back, as good as or best as it will be. All that’s left is one follow-up with my ankle ortho to check on the fracture, maybe a final X-Ray, hen I should be done with this whole thing two months after moving in to the house.

I also hit 31,000 Swarm check-ins. I know from past experience that you get extra points for hitting those thousand marks, so I planned it to get the max points possible. I planned that moment for a whole week. That check-in got me: 100 coin points for an even 1000 check-in; 15 for my weekly streak at the Route 22 Starbucks; 15 for my overall weekly streak at coffee shops; 5 for attaching a photo and 2 point coins for sharing the check-in on social media. That’s 137 points, and I used my 3x Joey Beans sticker bonus. I got 411 points, but it’s not my highest. If I was Mayor there, maybe. Still, it’s fun to watch all those coins fall into my app wallet and hear the plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk-plunk of 411 coins, and then to see all those coffee cup stickers fly on the screen.

My writing is getting exciting. I’m in this mad rush to edit and publish my MomMemoir in time for the annual August Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. I went back to Fiverr for editing and cover services. This is the second and the last time I’m going to work on this book, and I’m making it the best product it can be. My former graphic designer is still doing gigs, which is what projects on the site are called, so I purchased a package that includes files I can use for eBooks and separate ones formatted for print publications. His gig starts at $5, but I paid $40 for the extra options I wanted.

I was skeptical the first time I heard of Fiverr. All kinds of services offered for $5. Are these people experts or hawkers? Are they industry professionals? Professors? Retired? Full-time freelancers? Part-timers who work a day job? Really, what can I get for 500 pennies?

What I’ve received so far is professional customer service, which you know is a big,

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Let’s talk Star Trek, #ROW80 and writing tips

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”~Confucius, Chinese philosopher

Today’s memoir writing tip: Don’t begin with backstory.

Perfect advice as I rewrite my Star Trek MomMemoir. The annual Las Vegas Star Trek convention begins in two weeks, and I need to be ready with my updated short memoir.

That’s what I’m calling my book these days. The current version is just under 6000 words. My writing groups have bantered the definitions of “flash fiction,” “creative memoir,” “short story,” “novella” and “book.” These discussions are not just about the technical, official writer vocabulary, but also what is generally perceived by the public. What are the readers getting themselves into?

My short memoir about the trip Mom and I took to Las Vegas to see Star Trek: The Experience is the perfect tie-in to the sci-fi convention. The event’s timing caught me by surprise, so when I sat down to tweak my current 2013 book for marketing, I realized how much more vibrant I could make it. The book started with an info dump and backstory.

I’m following the iconic advice: start in the middle of action. I put what I feel is the pivotal moment that changed my entire perception of Star Trek right there as Sentence One. It was previously at the top of Page 3. Today’s Memoir1 critique group gave me more advice to help me with focus and description, which is good because I plan to (re)publish my book this Sunday night.

This whole thing–from writing to rewriting to marketing–has put a kink in my ROW80 Round 3 goals, yet at the same time, surprisingly, strengthens them.

1–Craft a succinct 30-second book elevator speech.

This goal had my DadMemoir in mind, but I wrote a one-sentence summary of my MomMemoir for the Montclair Write Group today: “This is my short memoir about my mother and I bonding through science fiction, how I fell in love with Star Trek, and the distances we would go for that love: Las Vegas.”

What do you think?

2– Continue my 17 Writing Outlets in 2017 and follow through.

I’m putting this on hold until August, giving me time to focus on promoting my (new) book and to continue cleaning and unpacking our house.

3–Fine tune a regular social media schedule.

The middle of writing mania is a good test of my first outline:
Monday–Email, home stuff
Tuesday–Write, focus on memoir/books, print out copies for biweekly critique group
Wednesday–Write blog posts, do social media
Thursday–Email, read blogs, reply to my blog comments
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are still under construction

4–Catch up, let go of and/or publish old blog posts.

I’m struggling with this. Deleting half-written blogposts is like tossing my precious work words and time in the trash.

5–Catch up on email.

Right now, Monday and Thursday are email days.

6–Schedule weekly Myself-Time to review all these goals.

Fitting this in where I can this week.

7–Work on memoir and other stories.

Success here! It’s not my intended DadMemoir. but (re) publishing MomMemoir counts.

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Pigeon poop and writing prompts

“All wealth is the product of labor,”~John Locke, English philosopher

Yesterday, I wrote about pigeon poop and people loved it.

That’s the beauty of free write exercises: you have no idea what will spew from your pen.

The Montclair Write Group met for the monthly Penny University Free Write at The Fine Grind. Three topics, 20 minutes each and then everyone reads what they wrote. The prompts were: the perfect pitch; the one who got away; and either Angry Barber or No Matter What.

For the first prompt, I wrote a murder mystery between utensils. The second prompt is where I introduced the poo.

Paul pumped his feathers, his eyes focused on the far side of the pk lot. Adjust for wind. Straight. Straight. Release.


Thomas’ chest feathers unfluffed wilted. As Paul returned, Thomas said, “You hit the window, not the headlight.”

“Last min. change,” Paul said. “I wanted to make more of a splash for little Perry here.”

That was fun. People around me nodded and shared their car pigeon poop stories.

Don’t pooh-poo the opportunities a free write gives you.  All writing advice books offer this tip.  Yeah, who has the time? After all, if you’re sitting down to write, let’s make it a productive writing session and work on a current project. Otherwise, a free write is a useless distraction and another form of procrastination.

Who has the time? We all do, but who makes the time? If it wasn’t for this get-together at the cool coffee shop, I would not have. But look at what magic appeared.

You don’t need a book of prompts to do this. Who has those handy anyway? If you’re out in public, pick three words from posters or signs around you. If you’re at home, choose three objects around you. Set the timer on your phone or microwave and write.

I launched each piece with a noun and an action: “Suzie looked” and “Three pigeons sat” and Jamie danced.” Pooping pigeons followed. The group shared enough ideas and personal experiences that I have fodder to continue these ideas into some thing.

Pigeon poop. Who’da thunk?

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This #WeekendCoffeeShare about reading and unpacking

  • If we were having coffee….
  • Hello! Isn’t this a nice Starbucks? It’s a Clover store, and they still have my Nicaragua Macarena. That’s not it’s real name, of course, but a barista back in Michigan couldn’t pronounce it, so that’s what she called this blend. These Cranford baristas don’t know much about these Reserve coffees, so I recommend a tea or this Macarena.

    This was our first 4th of July in New Jersey. When we lived in Michigan, we crossed the Detroit River to celebrate the US holiday in Windsor, Canada. This year, we’re celebrating in our country. A clerk in the Quick Chek recommended the fireworks in Union’s Biertuempfel Park. I know, that’s a mouthful and I still don’t know if I pronounced it right. We got close enough to see the ground launches and feel the Boom! in our chests. The finale was loud and bright, and people on the streets around us clapped afterwards. That’s the sign of a great light show.

    The house is still not unpacked. The shelves and cabinets are crusted with 30 years of someone else’s dirt. It soaked deep into the wood. Gross! Yes, exclamation point. My ankle is almost healed, so I’m now able to do more work. I’ve gone through three 6-roll packages of paper towels, a 5-pack of sponges and bottles of various cleaners.

    My husband set up our new TV and my WiiFit yesterday. I’m excited to use my exercise game again. This time, I’m easing into the exercise. The last time I took an extended break from my WiiFit, I jumped into my typical 60-minute step program. Talk about sore knees and thighs the next day.

    Hey, let’s talk writing. Have you been productive this week? I feel accomplished. I wrote three blogposts that I published on schedule. I also finished reading my first book in fo-ev-ah and posted a review on Goodreads. I noticed how few people I had in my list, so I connected to social media networks. I now have 82 Goodreads Friends to inspire me. Feel free to join me over there.

    This week is my Montclair Memoir2 meeting, so I have to work on my piece to bring for critique. I’m also looking to set aside time to review my ROW80 Round 3 goals. I’m telling you about all this to keep me accountable.

    So, what’s motivated you this week?

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    Should Pokémon Adventures be a part of book challenges? All that and a book review.

    “Memory…is the diary that we all carry with us.”~Oscar Wilde, Irish Dramatist

    Comic books count as books read.

    When I was a kid, my school and Scholastic Books sponsored summer reading challenges. I walked door-to-door and asked people for donations. Neighbors and friends of my parents supported me by offering 25-cents per book read, $20 total, whatever. Some of the books I read are commonly refer to as chapter books. These books have a moderate-length story with supporting pictures or illustrations. I read The Black Stallion and its series. Charlotte’s Web was another. I don’t know if I was old enough to read A Wrinkle in Time yet. Age-appropriate? I read some sci-fi books that were deep for my age, but my mom loved them, therefore so did I.

    Was it wrong to read, say, Frog and Toad are Friends? I chose some books like that because they were quick reads, and the more books I read, the more money I earned and the cooler prizes I could collect. When I returned to get my 50-books-read donations, some of those per-book pledges turned into a lump sum. Ticked me off; a pledge is a pledge.

    Anyway, I never read any Batman or Richie Rich or Archie comics for such challenges. That would be cheating. Today, would manga count?

    They should. These are serious books. Chain bookstores have sections dedicated to graphic novels. To used bookstores near me have a shelf or three, and comic book stores overflow with them. I read comic books, so manga had an appeal to me, yet also not. Staring at the rows and columns of lookalike books is like wandering a romance section: unless you know an artist or author, they’re all the same.

    My friend Deb recommended the Pokémon series to me because of my current obsession with Pokémon GO. Her kids grew up with Pokémon, so she steered me to Pokémon Adventures as well as her son’s favorite, the Black & White series. I started with Pokémon Adventures Red & Blue series because it said “Vol. 1” on the spine and has a Bulbasaur on the cover. I like Bulbasaurs, and it’s a creature I recognize. The familiar seemed safe.

    I started the book during the Fourth of July weekend and finished it last night. The coolest part was seeing Pokémon I know from the game come to life on pages that left my fingers inky. Some of the translation feels off, and the Boom! Bang! Ka-Pow! scenes were tough to get a sense for because V-V-IRRRRR! Shtoom! and GNSH! aren’t common in my traditional comic experience. The story itself follows the adventures of Red, a boy who wants to be the greatest Pokémon trainer ever. I’m not familiar with the original movies or trading card game, but in this book, there are quests, friendship, death, villains, thieves, mentors and lessons learned. Each chapter has a story arc involving Red and one or two Pokémon, the tension of unexpected struggles and the resolution from the actions. It’s a complete book that ends but is also continued.

    I enjoyed it more than some contemporary books I’ve read. Heck, I plain and simple enjoyed it. That counts.

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    Things I notice writing in coffee shops

    “Just living is not enough; one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”~Hans Christian Andersen, Danish author

    What do you notice around you?

    Today, writing in Rock ‘n’ Joe Union coffee shop, the music includes a country artist’s cover of “Purple Rain.” There is something so, so wrong about that.

    Most people who sit in a shop for a solid amount of time still order drinks in to-go cups rather than for-here mugs.

    A lot of coffee shops are a Pokémon PokeStop, A Pokémon Gym, or are near enough one to spin at. A few hours of productivity means a full items bag.

    People who sit in a shop’s comfy chairs are the only ones who read books…real paper books.

    When three people sit at a 2-chair table, no one ever puts the third chair back.

    I’m not often asked, “What are you writing?” or “What are you working on?” It doesn’t matter if I’m working with pen on paper or on my laptop/tablet.

    Most laptop folks are ignored either out of politeness or the appearance of snooping.

    Snippets of conversation caught out of context are fabulous story fodder.

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    Writing goals as #ROW80 Round 3 begins

    “Only I can change my life; no one can do it for me.”~Carol Burnett, American actress

    This Round 3 is all about writing focus and scheduling.

    I was late to my Memoir2 group last week, so I couldn’t test my new 30-second elevator book speech. The summary intro writerly member Krista gave was more complete than mine. If I were grading it, I’d give it an A+ and write Excellent! at the top of the page. She first described her book topic, and then the part that stood out to me was her description something like, “Once chapter is the traumatic story and the following chapter is reflection and ways to heal.” Succinct. Explains to the reader the topic and what to expect. The format of her storytelling. In so many ways, Yowza!

    That’s what I want from my short book description, but I need to think more about what my memoir is. Random stories that build upon a lesson, sure, but the non-chronological format has me tongue-twisted. Writing more of the book and editing the parts I already wrote would help. Sharing all these efforts and getting feedback will be useful. None of this will work without some direction and focus.

    Which leads into my ROW80 Round 3 goals, not necessarily in any order:

    1–Craft a succinct 30-second book elevator speech.

    I will use my latest version at each Montclair Memoir2 critique meeting and tweak afterwards as needed or inspired.

    2– Continue my 17 Writing Outlets in 2017 and follow through.

    I have collected publications and local contacts, but I’m not contacting these folks. That’s a problem. Must be fixed.

    3–Fine tune a regular social media schedule.

    There are a few days that my social media outlets have regular postings and updates (Instagram Tuesday Tree Update, for one), but I need more of a presence. There are people I miss socializing with. I can’t promote my writing if all I offer is my book promotion. I miss reading blogs. The move from Michigan to New Jersey made me sloppy and weak. I will try one outlet or something every week in Round 3, tweak as needed. InstagramFacebook Author PageTwitter–reading blogs–GoodreadsLinkedInYouTube…keep all, focus on some more than others?

    4–Catch up, let go of and/or publish old blog posts.

    Still figuring out what to complete and what to let go of.

    5–Email: read and act on one old day and one new(er) email each day.

    Doing this completes almost 180 days, which would put a significant dent in my email inbox.

    6–Schedule weekly myself-time to review all these goals.

    Wednesday looks like it might work.

    7–Work on memoir and other stories.

    Again, gotta schedule the time.

    And off we go….

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    A #WeekendCoffeeShare in writing mode and in-laws

    If we were having coffee….

    Hey, glad you could join me here outside Philly. Hope you didn’t hit too much holiday traffic. It’s a cozy Starbucks, isn’t it? I’m chillin’ with a Café Vanilla Frapp. The baristas know how to make a good one, sweet and thick. Of the two Starbucks in the area, I like this store best, and not just because this is where my husband and I have farewell coffee with his folks when we leave. But we don’t leave like we used to anymore.

    We’re down here in North Wales to visiting my in-laws. Much shorter than our drive from Michigan. *smiles* No turnpike, just a zip down Rt. 202 through antiquey towns of Lambertville and New Hope, with a toll at the New Jersey bridge, of course. The weather was perfect for last night’s drive, and it looks to be the same for today’s barbeque. His dad is grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, and at my suggestion, he’s also throwing some veggies on there. I adore grilled carrots and zucchini, brushed with olive oil, smoky and crunchy.

    I know, I’m still wearing my boot. My fractured ankle is healing delightfully, and my physical therapist says I don’t need to wear this all day anymore. I have it on now because Lucky is here, the rambunctious, three year old puppy, who has been known to jump on me. A lot. It’s best I keep my ankle supported rather than risk injuring the fractured ankle.

    Back in New Jersey, Comcast cable finally set up. First program I watched? Law & Order Criminal Intent. It’s calming to have familiar programs as background noise again. I can’t write in silence. The nothingness creeps me out.

    I’m in a new critique group, by the way. It’s still with the Montclair Write Group, just Memoir1 instead of Memoir2. There’s a lot of people on vacation and a lot of new people interested. A bit of shuffling was needed to keep the groups balanced, and it never hurts to have a new set of eyes reviewing my work.

    The 4th Thursday of every month, the Write Group hosts their “Free-for-alls for Writers” event. This week, memoir author Lorraine Ash presented her workshop on The Four A’s of Memoir. Those elements are Assault, Abyss, Awareness and Action. She read examples from published memoirs, but the examples rambled on an on, and they were books I’d never read anyway. Lorraine was dynamic when she spoke, and those moments were educational and valuable. Eight of us went out afterwards to Manny’s Diner, and the discussions over dinner were much more intriguing. I was surprised how happenin’ downtown Montclair is on a Thursday evening.

    All this talk of memoir and writing makes me think of the upcoming Round 3 of Round of Words in 80 Days. What do I want to accomplish in my writing life for the third quarter of 2017?

    How are you getting ready for this July 4th weekend and the second half of 2017?

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    Do you know how to critique a writer’s writing?

    “You must not confuse being good with being liked.”~Paul Arden, American author

    Tomorrow, Wednesday, is my second official Memoir2 meeting, and apparently I don’t know how to critique.

    By official, I mean the second meeting where I present my work to the group for critique. Let me say, as before, the feedback is tough and just what I need to improve. However, feedback from my feedback is that I need to improve my critiquing skills.

    “You’re line editing,” was the recurring comment from our moderator. I have no idea what that means. I know what line editing is, but I don’t know how that applies to my critiquing. When I offer feedback, I note any part of the work that is confusing to me as a reader, be that sentence flow, a lack of detail or an unexplored idea. I believe my comments are helpful, but what am I really supposed to notice?

    I’m spoiled by my structured Michigan critique group, Deadwood Writers. An author who wants a piece reviewed at the biweekly meeting emails a piece of writing with three specific questions for feedback. On the night of the living critique:

    1–Start by mentioning something positive, something you like about the piece.

    This is important. This can be difficult.

    2–During the meeting, speak only about the three questions the author wants feedback on.

    Members ask about the flow of a piece, the voice of the writer or if a particular idea clearly conveyed. That last one is what I’m tripping on in New Jersey.

    3–Write any additional comments on the paper for the author to read later.

    Did you notice spelling errors? Maybe you saw capitalization issues, tense shifting or info dumps. Write that down and don’t clutter the critique time with that stuff. The author asked for specific feedback, so give that.

    Here at the Montclair Write Group, things are less formal. We go around the room, and one by one offer our overall impressions on the piece. No formal structure, no guidelines–except, apparently, verbal line editing.

    What a free environment. It’s so hippie-free that it’s downright scary. There’s no structure, no guidance, just immediacy. There should be time for reflection, I think. Then I realize, A reader’s reaction is immediate. You need that instant feedback because a reader stops reading in a heartbeat. They don’t have the luxury of critique background, and neither should you.

    Or should you?

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    A first writing #WeekendCoffeeShare in New Jersey

    If we were having coffee…

    Hey, I’m glad you could meet me here. It’s my first time at the Chatham Starbucks. What do you think? It’s super crazy busy, and I guess it’s like this every weekend. It’s one of two Clover stores in this area. Franco the barista described all the Reserved coffees. I have no idea what’s new. The last Clover store I was at was back in the winter when we still lived in Michigan. Franco suggested the Peru San Ignacio, a lemon-lime-cocoa coffee. Seriously, I was skeptical, too, but it’s a smooth coffee, not biting at all. When I told him I wanted it in a grande for-here mug, like I always do, he gave me an approving nod and a “Very nice” comment.

    I like this place.

    But then, I’m liking New Jersey.

    My past life in New Jersey wasn’t overall positive. The best parts were meeting my husband here and establishing my freelance writing career. That was fun. I detail all the good and the bad in my memoir I’m working on (*wink, wink*), but all that made me who I am today–I know, so cliché–and it’s the reason I’m back.

    I hope I can re-establish a freelance career. My old editor said to contact him, but I let contacting a new editor lapse. Doesn’t make me appear reliable. All I can say is that buying a house is a lot more strenuous than we expected, and I’m hoping I get a second chance.

    It’s nice to be out with Internet. Cable gets hooked up tomorrow, and my husband set up my computer and printer yesterday. Sweet. My home office is still swallowed up by boxes, but with a purpose, I will make time for this room. Wait ’til you see it. Natural light looking out onto scenic areas of our house and neighborhood. It is inspirational for writing.

    It’s good that I’m out writing. Have you ever missed something so much that you’re itching to do that thing? I denied myself writing, and that’s cruel. I can’t believe I did that–voluntarily!– but I feel invigorated, like taking a break was needed. I’m behind in edits and rewrites and all that, but it’s weird: I don’t feel behind. I feel excited. My memoir critique group probably helps with that. They offered great feedback, commenting on sections that none of my other critique groups did. It’s fascinating to hear from people who have never read my writing. And this is a hard-ass, honest feedback group, which is just what I’ve been looking for.

    Well, me Pokémon items bag is almost full and mu mug is almost empty. Tell me about your week before we go. What’s new and exciting, or old and exciting, in your life?

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    On writing, not writing and buying a house

    “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”~Benjamin Franklin, American inventor

    My life has been unsettled chaos: we bought a house!

    All I will say here about the experience is thank goodness New Jersey requires lawyers to negotiate the buying and selling process.

    My life is a maze of large cardboard boxes that smothers every needs-to-be-cleaned room. I know where most of my writing stuff is in my soon-to-be office. I know where most of my computer stuff is. I think I know where my printer and monitor are. All of this doesn’t matter much because we don’t have Internet.

    It’s easy to use external factors as an excuse for not writing. Could I be writing? Of course. I have printed drafts I took with me to Temporary Housing where my husband and I lived for three months while buying our house. I know where that paperwork is. The hotel room’s atmosphere was stifling and uninspiring, and there were plenty of places nearby that I could go to. I did, and then life buying a house got busy and chaotic. Which brings me to The Now.

    Have you tried life without Internet? We haven’t had service in over a week. It took longer to schedule installation than we expected. I’m actually excited that I fell on the sidewalk last week and had to see a specialist this week. Because of that, I found an adorable coffeeshop located near the doctor’s office, a coffeeshop that has WiFi. Sighhhhhh….

    I’m sitting by the open window at The Coffee Mill Roasters in Millburn, NJ. My weather app shows that it’s 77-degrees, yet just breezy enough to feel cool and refreshed. Because of the welcoming open space with free WiFi, I feel the endorphin release of writing and blogging. That feels good. I’m drinking a blend of light and medium roast coffees. I snagged the last slice of Balthazar’s coffee cake, which the owner said is his favorite. Always go with staff recommendations, especially your first time in a new place. From here, I can also spin at the Starbucks PokeStop three doors away to fill my items bag. Bonus! Oh, and there’s free parking on Fridays and Saturdays in June. I’ll be back, even after we have cable and Internet.

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