Every Writer Is Different
One thing that fascinates me about writing is that no two writers are alike. No two writers will come up with the same story even if given the same exact prompt. I was talking to a friend of mine recently and she said, “Don’t tell me, or I might use those ideas of yours.”
I said, “Honey, even if you did, you wouldn’t turn out the same things I do.”
The reason she wouldn’t? We’ve both lived…
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How to Kidnap A Princess In One Easy Step
This is an excerpt from Oops We Broke Our Brother way down the road.
“Your Highness, I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Bellan,” Eric said, finally giving up and beckoning his friend from the shadows.
Jenna turned to look, “Hello.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Highness.” Bellan said. “May I have the pleasure of seeing your beautiful eyes? I have never gazed at the beauty of a princess before.”
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How Tortellini Came To Be
Tortellini was originally intended to be just a couple of blog posts. Writers are told over and over again to blog. Because blogs sell books. The more you post, the more people you reach. But a lot of writers write about writing. And I didn’t want to give the same advice that everyone else was giving.
So what else could I write about?
Dragons, of course!
The intent behind the story was a dragon…
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Oops, We Broke Our Brother – WIP
[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1”][vc_column_text]“Hey wait a minute,” Ava protested as Jenna put the pot on the stove. “I should be the one to make this potion! You’re not any good at cooking. You’ll do it wrong.”
“No I won’t! Making potions and cooking aren’t the same thing. Besides it was my idea and I’m in charge,” Jenna said.
Ava couldn’t argue with that point. “Okay, but if we have to call the…
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There’s Gravel In My Sandwich Excerpt
Max sat down at the second grade table and scanned the lunch line of people with pizza, looking for just the right person to help him sell his sandwich.
He didn’t have to look very long.
Lynette Quillin sat down next to him. Max normally didn’t like Lynette at all. Not only was she the sort of girl who knew everybody else’s business, she was mean and bossy.
Today she was just the sort of person…
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Amazon has a lot of good things going for it, and one feature that I use often is the customer reviews. Standing in a brick-and-mortar store and comparing two products side by side, it’s often hard to tell which is going to do the best job of meeting your needs. If, however, you can access the experiences and advice of people who have purchased and used each product before, you’re much more likely to be confident of choosing the right one for you. Many retail websites offer customer reviews, but it’s the big players like Wal-Mart and Amazon who have a large enough customer base to get lots of reviews, numbering in the thousands on some products, giving potential buyers a meaningful and well-rounded picture of how satisfactory the product is. A product with 200+ reviews averaging 4.5 stars is much more attractive to me than one with a perfect 5-star rating based on only three reviews. Unfortunately, on those less-frequently-reviewed items, ratings can be badly skewed up or down either by someone’s unscrupulous manipulation or by people’s genuine ignorance of how to properly participate in the system. Believe it or not, there are people out there who sell positive reviews to Amazon vendors, propping up bad products by overwhelming the accurate negative reviews with positive hogwash. And maybe some people have other reasons for giving tons of utterly worthless 5-star reviews, I don’t know. But it’s disheartening to see someone like this—assuming it’s even an actual person rather than a bot—clumsily abusing the customer review system and yet somehow getting an 86% ‘helpful’ rating along the way:
Meanwhile, some of the most annoying and least helpful reviews on Amazon are those in which the writer uses the *product* review page to gripe about a problem with shipping or other issues unconnected to the quality of the item for sale. As an Amazon Marketplace seller, I’ve experienced the reverse situation – I received a mediocre review because the idiot buyer didn’t enjoy the used software I sold them, even though they freely acknowledged that I had described it accurately and shipped it quickly.
I don’t know any way to fix these crummy reviewers, but I do know we shouldn’t be adding to the problem by leaving gushing, insubstantial reviews for our friends’ books. Wanting to help out a friend or family member by leaving them a good review is a laudable instinct, but there’s a right way to go about it, assuming you really want to help them. Some things to remember:
1.) Leaving a review does matter. Not only do other customers actually read reviews and have their purchasing decisions influenced by them, but Amazon itself uses the reviews to choose what products to highlight. There are certain threshold numbers of reviews that trigger Amazon’s algorithms for featuring or recommending a given product on the pages of complementary and/or competing items. You know those little lists that say “Customers who viewed this item also looked at…” or “Customers frequently bought this item with…”? The number of reviews influences the likelihood of that happening with your friend’s product. Another reason good reviews matter is that many of us will sort our search results in descending order by customer rating, meaning that the highly-rated items will be featured most prominently on the page and be more likely to get our attention.
2.) Base your review on an actual use of the product. In other words, don’t post a 5-star review of a book you haven’t read (or a 1-star review, for that matter). I shouldn’t even have to say that, but I do. One recurring trend I’ve noticed on Amazon is the posting of reviews for highly-anticipated products that are still in the pre-order stage; you have a glut of customers who want to express an opinion on a product even though it is literally impossible for them to have had any experience with it. This dilutes the real reviews that come afterward and undermines the usefulness of the system as a whole.
3.) Nobody cares that you know the author. If you are a friend or family member, there’s nothing to be gained by mentioning that. If the author is already well-known, this will just come across as name-dropping; if (in the more likely scenario) the author is an unknown, it just seems pathetic. A 5-star star review that says something that amounts to “Great job, sweetie! Your dad and I are so proud of you!” is worse than no review at all. The fact that your mom likes you and thinks it’s super neato that you wrote a book is NOT a convincing reason for me to purchase your work. In fact, the presence of such a review will make me suspicious about the other positive reviews you have—I’ll wonder if they’re written by your cousins who are simply less lame at concealing their bias. If you’re going to review a book, REVIEW THE BOOK. Don’t tell me what a great person the author is.
4.) Make an effort to use decent spelling and grammar. Nobody is going to give you a grade on it, but a badly written positive review (e.g.,“if u dont like this book your a looser lol”) can actually reflect poorly on the book itself.
5.) Give a fair review of the material. If you think it’s only a 4-star book, give it four stars—your review should give the author fair feedback, and give potential buyers your honest recommendation. If you really hated it, feel free to give a low rating, but at least provide reasons for your dissatisfaction (see the next point).
6.) Be specific and substantive. What would you want to know before spending money on a book by an unknown author? Talk about the quality of the writing. Talk about whether you found the story or character arcs interesting. Talk about memorable scenes, or mention similar better-known works by way of comparison. Don’t post spoilers, but feel free to comment in general terms (e.g., “the ending was pretty predictable”). Does the work seem to have been properly edited and proofread? If it’s targeted at a particular audience—kids, for instance—address how well you think it connects with them, or whether your own kids enjoyed it. Mention things that might turn off certain readers—profanity, political slants, stereotypical characters, poor pacing, gimmicks, ‘Mary Sue’ protagonists, etc.
7.) Go forth and review books.
Mother’s Day has always been a struggle for me. The most obvious reason being, I’m not a mother. I wanted to be one very badly most of my life. The only reason I liked the holiday at all and didn’t loathe it was because my mother is a wonderful, godly woman who sacrificed a lot for me growing up to keep me alive and she deserved to be honored. My mother was my hero growing up. I wanted to be exactly like her. I wanted to teach like her. I wanted to have a family with the same number of kids like her. I wanted basically to copy my mom in every possible way I could. Knowing my Mom deserved it made the day a little easier.
But jealousy still clawed at me.
I grew to hate and resent Sunday on Mother’s Day, to where I was glad if I was sick because I could have an excuse that was perfectly valid to stay home and no one would ask me uncomfortable questions or look at me with pity. I wished it fell on some other holiday because God deserved my worship no matter what day it coincided with. But at the same time, I was mad at God, too. For not giving me the fruit of the womb which was supposed to be a blessing from the Lord. But what I hated the most were sermons about motherhood and how to be a better mother on Sunday mornings.
When I did come, I girded my loins, pasted a smile on my face, and had a backup plan if the sermon was about motherhood. I’d let my mind wander wherever it wanted. I’d read other passages, or think about something else entirely. When the sermons weren’t about mothers, and applied to being a godly wife as well, I was eternally grateful.
But it’s impossible to know in advance before you get to church what the sermon will be about. (Unless you call the preacher ahead of time, or happen to peak over his shoulder reading his notes, both cases of which are unlikely.).
In my head I knew that we’d made the right choice not to have children due to being a carrier of my genetic mutation and the enormous possibility of bring a child worse off than myself into the world, that didn’t erase the longing. The yearning I’d always had for someone to cling to my skirts and call me, “Mommy.”
Things are a little different now.
It still hurts, but not as deeply. I still weep but the tears aren’t enough fill a rain gauge.
Clara and Philip.
Most of you know that I went to my sister’s house for a few weeks to stay with their family. My sister has two toddlers. Clara is four, Philip is two.
They were wonderful to play with. They were so excited to have me there and wanted me to come do everything with them. But shortly after I arrived, I became sick. I developed a 100.0 fever, which for most people isn’t significant, but for me, it saps me of any and all energy to function. I played with them as best I could, and slept or sat staring into space the rest of the time, totally devoid of energy.
This went on for about a week until finally Leah took me to the doctor. As it turned out, I had an ear infection. I got some medicine and within a couple of doses was well on my way to feeling better. But as I was trying to get better, I had to rest a lot. As I was lying there on my makeshift bed of an air mattress and I thought about what it must be like for Leah everyday. Two people to feed, clothe, make sure they’re happy, healthy and whole. Whether you feel like it or not. And you don’t get to send them home to somebody else. If you’re lucky, your husband might be able to help take care of the kids, but he might not.
We talked about it together and she said, “Being sick is the worst part of being a mom.”
I thought about that for awhile. Babies are fun to hold and snuggle with. But they need care 24 hours a day. So do toddlers. Leah’s life was busy and hectic with two rambunctious children all the time. Even when sick.
What must my mother’s life have been like? Caring for me while I was in the hospital. Working so we could have insurance so that I would be able to have the medical treatment I needed, whether she felt good or not?
ALL THE TIME.
The longer I thought about it, the more I realized the life I thought I had wanted would never have been sustainable. Even if my children had been perfectly healthy, I wouldn’t have been. And they would eventually get sick and need me to care for them. And my poor immune system means I would catch what they had, nine times out of ten.
Tim would be left alone to do it all. That’s not a helper. And my body would have eventually collapsed from the strain.
And suddenly I realized, I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my sister, either. My mom was still my hero. But I was perfectly happy to be me.
I’m perfectly happy to be able to sleep in. I’m perfectly happy to have peace and quiet. I’m perfectly happy to have four cats in the bed to snuggle with and a husband who loves me who can take care of me and the house when I’m sick.
My life isn’t the same as theirs. Mom is a teacher. Leah is a mother.
And as for me, I’m a writer and proud of it.