Friday, August 31, 2012


By Scott Payne

I was on my aching old knees last week, using a hand sander to tweak spots on the deck that the drum sander couldn’t reach. It was hot, boring and painful, the perfect work to stir the treasure house of one’s memories.
The stirring came as I ran that juddering tool back and forth, back and forth over one stubborn stain around the head of a sinker nail. I had hammered the damned nail into the deck 20 years ago and its head had shoved wood grain into tiny arches. Accented by stain and weathering, that distorted wood grain formed a perfect almond-shaped Asian eye looking up at me through the sweat puddled in my glasses. The shining nail head was a twinkle in a brown pupil.
Well the eye, the muggy heat, the dripping sweat and the baking sun flooded me with an unbidden and discomfiting memory.
Instead of working on all fours beside our hostas, mental time warp had me trying to inch stealthily again through undergrowth beneath the forest canopy, glancing down for trip wires, up for snipers and peripherally for whoever shouldn’t be there.
It was so real I turned off the sander and just knelt a minute.
I had sighted the eye through a gap in the brush. It was a beautiful, wide, brown sloe eye in the profile of a tanned young face. He was peering across my intended path. The sighting pumped my adrenaline.
We both fired. He missed.
Fire broke out all around, ripping leaves and vines, smacking trunks. Bodies crashed the brush as everybody dove to Ma Earth. Soon, the distinctive, punching AK-47 rattle died away. The enemy had cleared out.
A senior sergeant gave me an approving nod. “Now don’t go second-guessing it.”
I didn’t. I merely felt huge relief. Winston Churchill put it beautifully. “Nothing is so exhilarating as to be shot at without effect.”
But that eye, that beautiful eye, has stayed with me.
Unlike most of my comrades, I really liked Asians. Not the communists, but Asian people -- Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese. And that affinity has made me speculate about the young man with whom I traded gunfire.
I call him Nguyen, (pronounced “Ngwen”) the family name borne by six out of ten Vietnamese. My glimpse -- or maybe my imagination -- tells me his face would light up in laughter. I wonder whether he had a girl or wife and whether he sired children. If so, his grandkids would be young adults now. And I suspect they all have great big gorgeous eyes too.
He looked too young to be a father. But to us round-eyes, Vietnamese in their 20s look as if they’re 15.
My memory flash took only a minute. But before I buckled back down to the sanding, I dwelt on Nguyen for some time -- maybe a story coming on.
I’m just sorry he and I never met again or can meet again. I think it would be fun to introduce myself.
See, I’m pretty sure my shots missed him too. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Just keep swimming..."

I saw this little gem today on Facebook.  It's something that I need to add to my mantra and maybe post on multiple walls in my house.  Heck, maybe I need to tattoo it on my body! :)

I managed to get over my writing funk, at least partially.  That's awesome, but my weekly word count is still much lower than I wish it was.  See, I had this bright idea that I was going to write a novella that would be submitted somewhere when it was finished.  But I also had the not so bright idea to challenge myself and write it in third person. Yeah, yeah I know all about how people say you HAVE to write in third person in order to get published... whatever.  But the fact of the matter is that I generally write in first person.  It's what I love and what I'm comfortable with.  So instead of busting this novella out like I normally would with a new story, I open it up and struggle with it.  Every. Single. Time.

I've thought about going back and rewriting what I have, but that's just a big pain in the ass that frankly I'm too lazy to do. :)   Plus it's not like I can't write in third person, I just don't like to.  So I keep on working on it, slowly but surely. Very slowly. The important part is that I haven't given up, right?

So what do you do when you're stuck on something you're writing?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

“What’s Your Message? What’s Your Brand?”

Written By: Diane Kniowski
Date: August 23, 2012

I work in the image and perception business. I work in television.
The world of television is full of messages. Some of the messages are good; some of the messages are bad. All of the messages are powerful.
They are powerful because they project out to the masses.
I have learned from watching images and messages my entire career. Here is what I learned: If we are not defining ourselves, others will define us.

We define ourselves by how we dress, behave, communicate and more.
And so I want you to think about…what is your message?
What statement are you making with everything you do?

The best messages that I witness deliver a Brand message.
A brand is a promise of value.  The promise is that every time someone comes in contact with your brand, the person enjoys the same experience.  It should be a good experience. The person that you are projecting your Brand to has expectations that are fulfilled or met in a positive way with each encounter with you.
That consistent performance builds an emotional connection. The emotion connected to any experience with you is TRUST. People trust that any encounter with you is going to go well. People trust your brand because it delivers, every time.

So your brand is definitely built on how you handle yourself and deliver for people, but many other issues impact your brand. Your brand must focus on the personal experience, but it is shaped by all the other images around your brand.

What do you want your brand to look like? What is the image you want to project so more people choose your brand?  They won’t get to have a brand experience with you if you stop them by your outer image first.

Think about your own business. Does how you dress reflect what you want others to know about any experience with you. Is who you are networking with reflective of you?

So we are writers. We get to have creative freedom. I think we should still have a style.
From our business cards to our blogs to the organizations we join. It all makes a statement to any person who might do business with us. We need to craft the image and be brand conscious as we build our careers.

People can be brands. Think about Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey or Donald Trump. I can size up each of those brands in one word per person.
Martha Stewart – Home
Oprah Winfrey – Women
Donald Trump – Opulence

Maybe those are extreme examples, but each one of them started at a job and built upon their strengths in that field.

So how are you defining yourself in your field? What is the image you want to project? If you asked someone to define you in one word, what would that word be?

Want to build a brand? Ask others around you what is the message you currently send? That will give you a starting place. Then you can build and tweak from there.

We live in a world of too many messages. Make sure yours stands out. Make sure any experience with you provides a positive emotional experience. It builds a brand. And that builds repeat business. Now, go continue to build your image.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Move - or leave your rut to be more creative

Until about a month ago, my world was a small one - go to work, come home, eat out once (or twice) a week, go to the GRRWG meeting once a month.  I didn't move in a wide circle.
As most of you know, we sold (almost) everything and are on the last leg of our cross-country trip to Hawaii.  We're in California today and fly to Honolulu on Monday.
I've met a lot of people in the last week of driving.  Everyone either knows someone who's moved to Hawaii or they think we're crazy or brave.  It's a great conversation starter.
Expanding my world has kicked my imagination into overdrive.  These strangers have started a lot of "what if?" mental conversations.  For example:
* the guy who sold me cheese in Hannibal, MO, who had the brownest eyes ever.  Wow!  He was Joe Average, but those eyes told a story.
* an overheard conversation in a restroom in Arizona between a mom and her daughter (about 6-7 years old) discussing which animal is the most dangerous:
    Mom:  "Ratttlesnakes are pretty dangerous."
    Girl:  "Yes, they are, but bears are scary, too.  They'll eat your babies and bite your head off."
My mind whirled with why they were having this conversation in the first place.
* The plethora of foreigners in a California ghost town.  We were in the English speaking minority.  And I'm not talking Spanish speakers, which would be the conclusion you'd jump to given the region.  Most of the tourists were Italian.  Why?  Why would a busload of Italians journey to a deserted silver mine?
* The French couple in their two sons at Mesa Verde, CO cafe.  Again, why?
It's crazy, the things you overhear and what might spark a story.  If your writing is stagnating lately, I urge you to break out of your world and engage the quirkiness of strangers.  I guarantee it will turbo charge your imagination.
From on the road,

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eenie, Meenie, Miney, which conference will I go?

Normally I can decide on my options fairly quick, but I'm having conflicts over conferences. I normally attend a tech conference once a year in SLC. It's basically like summer Geek camp for adults. I haven't missed it for well over a decade. It's kind of like a vacation for me, as I get to catch up with friends from across the globe while I learn all sorts of new, cool IT geeky stuff.

Then there's the conference I've been wanting to attend for several years. It's just a few months away and one state south of me, so less costly to attend. It doesn't help that one of the writers I really like, and who's genre roughly fits my Jess Barker series, will be there.

And finally, there's my Bubba truck awaiting a well deserved repair that will cost about the same as going to my tech conference. All three options are pulling at my bank account which only has enough flexibilty to cover one of the three options.

So, do I put Bubba up for the winter in a cocoon and make him wait so I can go to either conference? But, then which conference do I hit? I could really get a lot out of the Sisters-in-Crime conference, and I'd get to "writer stalk" one of my favorite authors, but then I'd miss out on seeing all my friends. (Trust me the cookies will get shipped out there either way!)

Of course we do have our group conference coming up in November which is totally do-able budget-wise, but it's kind of hard to “stalk” fellow writers that I already get to see once a month. Although, Andrea is blast to hang out with, it's just not the same as following a writer I haven't met yet like a puppy.

Guess it may be time to get out a dart board and start tossing darts, unless one of my fellow members may be running down to Cleveland to the Sisters-in-Crime conference. At least I have another month or so to make up my mind, but still...what to do?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

If, not when...

They say it will happen. It's an if, not a when.

So after four days of rebuilding my computer after a malware attack, please remember to backup your files.

I was lucky. I lost very little, mostly because I've been extremely lazy the last few weeks. What I did lose, I probably didn't need anyway, although I could have done without the day of freaking out because nothing would load. (Tip: When it says remove all USB devices, it means your mouse too. If this had occurred to me sooner, I would have saved twenty-four hours computer wrangling.)

After I was able to get Windows to run, I was able to recover some of my files using a program called Recuva. (Tuck this name away for when you need it.) I also recovered some pictures of my daughter's first haircut and the kids doing a puzzle with my mom that I forgot about.

So here's your friendly reminder, back up your files however you want, just do it more often than every six months.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm in the mood for some fun and ready to give away a prize!

If any of you followed my old blog, you will remember a fun thing I used to do every Wednesday called "Wednesday Weirdness" where I would post a picture and pick the best caption from the comments. I know it's actually Thursday, but I decided to run a caption contest anyway.

Without further ado, I present to you, the doll pencil sharpener.

It takes creepy dolls to a whole new level.

Go ahead and leave those captions. The funnier the better! The best caption will win a $10.00 Amazon gift card. Good luck everyone!

I'm sorry I don't have an eloquent post for you this month. I just started a new job last week and have been super tired.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sorry this is a little late. I lost Internet service most of the evening.

A Word about Goals--   

IN GRRWG as in many areas of life, we tend to set goals for ourselves to use as mile markers to measure our progress.  That’s wonderful.  Everyone should have goals.  However, setting wrong goals could prove to be a detrimental rather helpful to our success.

What do I mean by that?

Well, awhile back someone – I think it was Chel -- did a great presentation at our meeting about setting realistic goals.  It was a wonderful, informative presentation, but as time passed, I think we sometimes forget some of the important points of that presentation.  We need to set goals that are realistic and achievable. When we don't do that, we could feel like a Failure with a capital F.  That negative feeling can spread and grow until you begin to feel that you’ll never succeed or, worse, you were never meant to be a writer at all.

That’s why it’s important to make sure your goal is REAL and ACHIEVABLE.  Sometimes, that’s a hard thing to remember when you read the goals of other writers or here how someone in the group cranks out thousands of words month after month.  Just because those authors do it does not mean you should set a goal to try to match theirs.   You need to ask yourself what is a realistic and achievable goal for you. After all, what’s going on in your life may be vastly different from what’s happening in their lives.

If you don’t, you could set yourself up to fail.  Feeling like a failure is something we all want to avoid.  So make sure your goal is achievable. Even if it is as simple as saying “I’ll write at least once a week.”  Notice that goal does say how many words or paragraphs or what day of the week, it just says that you’ll write.  
And what do you do if a houseful of company, mandatory overtime, a family illness or some other unforeseen event  prevents you from achieving even a simple goal like that?    

Then keep in mind what I said earlier: goals are mile markers to mark your progress, just like the ones on a highway do.  You certainly wouldn’t cancel your trip if you ran out of gas, got a flat, or someone needed to make a rest stop before you reached a certain mile marker.  After all, the marker will be there waiting when you get back on the road.

Your writing goal is the same.  It’s not a one-time event. If you miss it today or this week, you can shoot for it tomorrow.  Goals are meant to challenge you and give you a sense of accomplishment when you complete them.  They should never make you feel like a failure if you don’t hit them. Your gift and abilities are too precious to allow that to happen.  Just by sitting down and putting pencil to paper or fingers to a keyboard, you are accomplishing something that most people will never attempt. Don’t let some artificial measure blind you to that fact.       

Try to think of goals as a journey not a destination. Sometimes you rush along the journey, sometimes you take the scenic route, sometimes you detour for an interesting side trip. So make yours fun...

And enjoy the ride!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Repeat and Repeat

Series writing is fun to do.  It has a lot of advantages.  Your main characters are already developed and you're comfortable with them.  You know how they're going to react to a given situation.  You know their quirks, their strengths, their values and their aspirations.  No problem!  All you have to do is figure out a plot that will showcase our intrepid main character.  Even that's easier with one you already know.

The down side is that you already know your characters.  You may lose some of your freshness, the reader may begin to find him stale.  And you begin to run out of new ideas for him, so you find yourself repeating some of his lines.  You sort of zone out while you're writing the book and wake up to find you're on the third book and they all sound the same.

So now I'm supposed to come up with some really nifty ideas for how to overcome all that.  You can't present a problem if you don't have some ideas of how to solve it.  First of all, remember some readers like that very aspect of a repeating character.  Remember Sherlock Holmes?  And now he's going to be on a new television series this fall.  Can hardly wait. Sherlock Holmes was made complex enough as a character that we never grow tired of him.  I remember I was shocked when I found out he dabbled in drugs, but it never seemed to diminish his capacity to solve murder mysteries.

How about Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, and Lucas Davenport from the Prey series or Alex Cross.  Repeating characters that make you wait impatiently for the next book starring them.  I find that as I read these characters over the years, they change.  My perceptions of them change.  They mature, get married, feel lonely, question themselves, try and sometimes fail, although in the long run, they prevail, make mistakes along the way and change their philosophy on things in general, just as we all do as we mature.  I like a character that grows with me. With repeat characters, you might keep that in mind.

Secondly, you must spend more time on your new characters for the next and the next books, the murderers, plotters, evil doers introduce new characters that are compelling enough to draw us in as well as repeat character.  The interactions of your repeat character and the new villian bring new excitement to the story, yet because you know your hero's strength.  He's solved these problems before, you have no doubt he will again.

So don't be afraid of a series.  The reading world can always use another Alex Cross, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand...Dollars?

I'm back from my awesome vacation to Paris, and I have a ton of pictures to sort through and get printed for my scrapbook. I'm hoping to be able to use some of the pictures as inspiration for my writing, and some will probably end up on my blog. I love blogging, and I like to "pretty up" my posts with pictures.

I used to copy images from other blogs and websites. I'd read warnings about using photos without permission, and but I'd seen other people just do an image search and use pictures they'd found online so I figured it was okay, as long as I cited my source. Lately, though, I've seen more and more warnings against "borrowing" pictures. I guess it makes sense. As a musician, I'm familiar with copyright laws. As an author, I'd be incensed if someone took something I wrote and used it without permission or compensation.

The final straw came when I read Roni Loren's blog post about her horrific experience after she used a picture on her blog and was contacted by the photographer. It wasn't enough that she took the picture down right away - the guy demanded compensation, and Roni was swept up in a very expensive and frustrating experience. You can read about it HERE.

So now my blog is plainer, but it's legal. I've taken down pictures that don't belong to me, and I'm going to hope nobody who has seen them is going to take action against me. And if I want a picture, I'm going to use images that I took myself, or that I purchased. Paying for an image is a lot cheaper than being sued.

                                                            Patty Kiyono