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20180210_092535Anyone who has ever experienced the family vacation knows the family vacation experience starts weeks before and ends weeks after the actual vacation.

 

This is about a family vacation experience, and about different perceptions.  Writing a story is all about the use of perception.  Twisting and focusing the reader’s perceptions, utilizing opposing perceptions, and even tricking the reader into thinking you are following a certain line of perception before revealing your true intentions.  What you do with this depends on your story and its goal.

 

Real life is drama.  Don’t shortchange your readers by forgetting that in your stories.

 

Feel free to skip to the parts that actually interest you.  I am also sick again as I write this, so please bear with me.

 

BEFORE THE VACATION

 

Of course, there are the “pre weeks” aka “the months you can’t get back”; the weeks where one of you spends a painful amount of time researching vacation possibilities (because travel agents are for wusses, people less cheap than you, and people with a different type of common sense).  They endlessly read opposing reviews, getting excited and then woefully disappointed by the same resorts, before finally taking a great intake of air, holding it indefinitely, scrunching their eyes tightly closed, and hitting send.  The vacation is booked.

 

And then once the vacation is booked it is the stressful “vacation time coordination”. Anyone with differing vacation in-house work rules will find this more difficult.  We are lucky in this.  Unlike some, we don’t have to definitively and un-irrevocably book vacation time all at once for the year and not be able to change plans.  Still, you have at least two people with different work vacation booking rules, plus kids/others, to try to book everyone off for the same week and it can be a juggling act.

 

Then it’s the preparation time.  You have to make sure you pack all of your stuff, that everyone else has theirs, and plan for every possible contingency and buy a pharmacy.

 

How you think it will go aka “the boring story” or “what your character wants” – You make your list, pack and purchase, and everything is packed nicely and easily.  Stress free.  And you happily and contentedly go to sleep looking forward to your vacation.  Your vacation is flawless. You do stuff, relax, enjoy, and come home refreshed.

 

How it really goes aka “insert drama here” – Ugh.  Let us not forget how real life can get.  You have a job, kids, dogs, and a house.  So, in between looking after all of that, you have to find the time for packing, lists, shopping, re-packing, and cleaning.  And, if your dogs are lucky enough that you have someone willing to house sit/dog sit so they don’t have to spend the week stressed and panicked in a boarding kennel, you also want the house clean when you leave.

 

Starting with the dogs, the husky, Roxy aka The Big Dumb Bunny, decides to pick that time right before your vacation to start blowing out her coat.  In the middle of winter and -30 to -45 wind chills.  How a dog can shed more than her weight in hair every hour is beyond me. Cue the endless vacuuming.  We call the other dog, Meeka, the “good dog”.  She does not blow out her coat, steal all your socks, or make you put her out every five minutes.

 

20180210_173118.jpgThe kids.  Anyone with kids can tell you that you really need to plan a week off kid free to clean the house for anything upcoming of importance.  This still applies when they are teens.  As fast as you try to clean, the place is unraveled around you into a bedlam of chaos and mess.  And, the virtual extra large dogs aka the Big Dumb Hair Bunnies you need to vacuum up endlessly.  You are also trying to get all the laundry done, and make futile attempts to pack your own stuff.

 

Just a quick interject – naturally, pre-vacation week you get sick (cough cough). You feel like Bill the cat from Bloom County looks. If you don’t know, look it up.  But you still must be up before six every morning, go to work, and deal with the kids, dogs, family, house, etc. every evening, plus vacation preparation.

 

Three days prior to vacation you announce to the entire household (repeatedly), “Tomorrow night I have to pack my stuff for the trip.  All my stuff.  I have nothing packed.  So let me do that or I won’t have any clothes to wear.  After I pack all my stuff, I can help you with yours.”

 

Two days prior to vacation, the “I MUST PACK ALL MY STUFF” evening, …guess what. Yes, you guessed it. Kids.  One, who is old enough to handle it in my opinion, absolutely needs your help to figure out and fill out the grade 10 course registration for next year that ABSOLUTELY MUST BE DONE THAT NIGHT OR THE WORLD WILL END.  Because it has to be handed in tomorrow, since it is due when you are gone on vacation.

 

The other kid has a mountain of homework that she absolutely cannot figure out on her own, even though she is the one going to school to learn it and knows it better than you do.  Seriously, some of these math word problems I am sure are written in some archaic ancient dead language from a planet in a far away galaxy.  Mostly I repeated the questions on the page until she started actually thinking about them and solved them herself.

 

Now, it is past bedtime for everyone, you still have laundry and cleaning to do, and have not packed a single sock.  Or maybe you did pack a sock, but the Big Dumb Bunny stole it.  At this point you are too tired and sick to know or care.

 

The Nightmare before Christmas, I mean (um), the night before vacation.  Okay, now you really need to pack.  You start your morning with slopping an entire cup of coffee on yourself minutes before you have to leave for work.  Nice.  Now you have to do laundry again because you had to pull clothes out of the stuff you washed to pack, because you don’t have enough clothes that fit.  You bust your butt at work all day making sure everything is done. You half expect at this point that your car will break down on the way home.  Somehow the stars and planets align and it does not.

 

However, and, I should have put that in all caps.  Let’s try that again.

 

HOWEVER, you get home and while you were at work the good dog puked, the toilet upstairs plugged and overflowed, and the house is a complete disaster.  The panicked teen tries to resolve the overflowing toilet by staring moodily at the toilet bowl, water flowing over its sides to flood the bathroom floor, glares at it, and starts throwing all the towels on the floor in an effort to make it all stop without asking for help, and the water continues to flood over the toilet bowl.

 

Meanwhile, on the downside, aka the kitchen, water has begun to flow from the ceiling light fixture located directly below the offending toilet.  Cue the sudden discovery by your spouse that something is wrong upstairs.  This, by the way, is next to the brown spot in the kitchen ceiling from the other kid previously trying to fill water balloons by placing them over the entire tap end, forcing the water to wash back up the space between the water pipe and the tap covering until it wets and stains the ceiling below.

 

20180210_075200.jpgIt is your last evening to pack, and you are overtired, still sick, and trying to clean, do laundry (again), deal with dramas, back up all your life’s work so you don’t risk losing it if anything happens to your laptop (because you stupidly think will all that spare time while you are up hours before everyone else every morning on vacation you will have time for writing), and attempt to pack your stuff, finally.  Only, the evening is gone before you know it, you have accomplished little if anything, the house is still a mess, you are still doing laundry, and EVERYONE HAS GONE TO BED WITHOUT YOU.

 

Oh yeah, and you still have to pack all your stuff for the week, but you can’t because everyone went to bed.

 

Vacation day!  You are not sure what time you went to bed.  Eleven?  Eleven-thirty?  You are up at two am because you are supposed to be ready to leave the house by 4 am.  Showered, dressed, and dolled up.  Your brain is mush.  You know you are forgetting a thousand things.  You have half an hour to pack.  You are constantly being interrupted despite your pleas of, “Let me pack!”  Your spouse is trying their best to help.  You gather stuff, set it down, turn, and it is gone. Your spouse packed it in their bag.  At this point you are now packing without knowing what you actually packed.  You can’t find anything because your brain is mush.  You will take stock of everything you are missing when you get there.

 

20180208_194931You will get there to find that you are missing basic essentials like deodorant, hair brush, and a toothbrush.  You will spend an exorbitant amount of money buying two of the three at the little resort store, only to find halfway through the vacation it was packed in your spouse’s suitcase.

 

After arrival and after going through the customs security screening and passing through the door of “Thou Shall Not Go Back”, the thirteen-year-old discovers she left her phone in the bathroom on the other side.  Being stupid Canadian tourists they let us through and watch in confusion as I scurry with her to retrieve the lost phone.  Later we learned how terrified our handler was that we committed such serious a faux pas, and we speculated was possibly shocked we were not arrested for it.

 

20180210_112138.jpgThe vacation.  Day one, everyone wakes up cranky.  Everyone is moody, miserable, and fighting.  The beds and pillows actually inflict pain; they are so bad.  But, once settled in, each person has the time to start living the moment instead of only reacting to a fast paced series of reactionary moments.

 

While on the drive from the airport to the resort the previous evening, you are taking in the world the local people live in through the bus window, your kids, who are sitting much closer to the front of the bus, are noticing how rude, insensitive, and disrespectful they feel some of our fellow vacationers are being towards the travel guide whose job it is to get everyone to their hotels.

 

20180209_153704.jpgWe are in a place where the local population is predominantly dark skinned.  You notice how kind and friendly all of the people working there are, how some struggle with the language barriers between them and their guests, but they still do their best to help.  Your kids, however, whose sole experience with different people in your other raced neighborhood is what they learned in school about the history of black slavery, are feeling weird and at odds over watching all these dark-skinned staff serving the predominantly white guests.  They question the appropriateness of it, not understanding it is so only because of the nature of the local population’s demographics.

 

20180210_103428(0).jpgDuring one dinner, while you are observing the strange behavior at the next table, your spouse is observing a very different scene behind you.  The table next to you, a larger group, are taking turns politely clapping each person as if each is taking a turn quietly sharing some life affirming moment.  The moment feels almost cultish to you, and you wonder if this is some sort of retreat for some group.  Your spouse reaches across the table, touches your hand to get your attention, and looks you in the eyes.

“Get ready to move fast, there is going to be a fight behind you and I think it will be ugly.”

You glance quickly at your teen sitting next to you and then at the couple quietly arguing being hind you, just at the moment the whispered argument gets louder.  The wife was very inebriated, and the husband not.

We each had a very different memory of that dinner.

 

Naturally, being a vacation of the sort we have not been on in years and may not again for years to come, everyone has to take a turn being sick.  Another wrench thrown into that perfect vacation.  Another drama, another obstacle to overcome.  I have to say, I don’t know when I felt a sickness like that.  After the vomiting the large ball of discomfort settles in to take up permanent residence in your stomach.  You are cold and hot.  Every inch of your muscles and skin hurts.  The weight of your body against the mattress is agony.  Even the feather weight of the light sheets is pain.  Luckily we packed a pharmacy.

At one point, as I lay there, my spouse thought he saw bruising.  It was only shadow.  I said I had the lividity.  That now I know what dying feels like and it hurts like hell. That I am now The Walking Dead and if I didn’t feel like such crap I would probably be eating everyone.  My spouse called me a dork.

 

20180210_075334.jpgOf course, the vacation was not all bad.  Kids and teens, being who they are, were in a constant flux between getting along and annoying each other.  Anyone with teens knows how little you see them when they start hiding in their rooms.  And, with work and kids, how little time a couple actually has together.  We had eight full days, including travel both ways, of all four of us being together 24/7, getting reacquainted with each other.  That was through good and bad, sickness (literally, with us taking turns being up all night vomiting), and health.  We still like each other.

 

20180211_144645.jpgThe trip home.  The plan was to have everything packed and cleaned up the night before and ready to go.  Everyone is up, showered, dressed, and last bit packed with lots of time to haul our stuff to the front lobby, get lunch, and hop on the bus to the airport.  Easy.  No fuss, no muss.

The reality; okay that actually did sort of work out for us.  Not so much for the other family with two small boys who were on the wrong time zone.  They missed the mandatory check out time, thus incurring the wrath of the forewarned late checkout surcharges.  The bus did wait for them while they hurriedly put their two small boys on the bus and scurried off to hastily pack all their belongings and race back to the bus.

It also presumably did not work out so well for the others who our vacation company on-site liaison, bus driver, and hotel staff were unable to locate.  They missed the bus.  All but one eventually made it to the airport, where we all looked at each other wondering what fate befell the mysterious man they kept paging over the intercom to make his way immediately to our boarding gate.

 

20180211_105331.jpgGoing through customs is its own experience.  Leaving Canada, the fourteen-year-old was randomly selected for the “sniff test”.  Yes, apparently they had to make sure a fourteen-year-old girl was not carrying or recently in contact with cocaine.  I, being the concerned parent, laughed at her plight.  The Canadian customs staff were typically Canadian, indulgent and kind about it.

And then there was the phone in the bathroom incident on arrival, which we teased the thirteen-year-old about and told her that her father would have had to contact the Canadian embassy or consular service or whatever they have there to have our government try to negotiate our release from a foreign country prison.

Coming home, we learned while in line to check our luggage that the rules for carrying going the opposite way are different.  We hastily shifted items from our carry on to our checked luggage.  On the way to security I ended up having to throw out my chapped lip stick because that apparently is illegal.  Every man woman and child went through a cursory pat down.  The Dominican customs people were all very understanding and kind while processing all of us.

On arrival in Canada, and after a slightly bumpy landing, it is time to breathe a sigh of relief.  It is over.  You are home.  Cue laughter.

We are in the back quarter of the plane.  Naturally, disembarking is done from the front to the back.  Everyone is collecting their stuff from the overhead compartments and beneath the seat in front of them, committing incredible acts of acrobatics trying to squeeze through the ten-inch aisle with their stuff to the front of the plane, and stumbling numbly down the tunnel ramp on legs and buttocks that are no longer functional after a more than six-hour flight trapped in tiny uncomfortable seats with their legs pressed to their chins.

20180211_144010.jpgLiterally, with the last of the rest of the plane passengers passing through the door at the end before us into the great terminal beyond, an airport worker hurriedly rushes to the door and closes it in our faces.  We, and our fellow back of the plane passengers, are left staring dumbly at him as he motions us to stay and runs off through the secondary set of doors.  We look at each other.  There are a few nervous chuckles.  We are literally in a dry aquarium.  A glass-walled prison with no way out except to race back to the plane, whose door is presumably closed by now, and no place to shelter.  Is there some sort of airport security event?  Should we be afraid?  But, this is Canada, so the worst it might be is that someone forgot to say please and thank you.

After some moments of the same man who locked us in and another worker looking around in confusion, the other trying his swipe card on some random card swiper at a desk through doors the rest of the plane did not disembark through, a third airport worker came along and let us through.

20180211_143714.jpgAt last, we are home.  Or at least on the last leg of home, driving home with a slight detour that involved going in completely the opposite direction of home for some distance before realizing we are going the wrong way, and made it home.

The vacation, naturally, does not end there.  Because now you have to catch up at work and do all the other post-vacation stuff.  But the real story has already ended and that stuff happens after you cut to end story.

 

And that, my friends, is how an unexciting vacation story becomes filled with obstacles and drama.  Real life throws a wrench in things and so must you when you write your story.

 

While we were all in this together through various stages, every person would have had their own unique perspective and experience.

 

There is more to the story, of course.  The monkey on the beach, the walk off-resort through a possibly sketchy area, and the salami taxi.  But that is the fine details you flesh out later in your story.

 

Now, if I were to re-write this from each person’s perspective, each would tell a very different story.

 

Follow me on my blog.

You are here:  The Intangible World of the Literary Mind

This blog is about writing, being an author, and life.

 

LV Gaudet, author

This blog is for the fans of dark fiction, those stories that slither softly into your dreams in the night to turn them dark and foul.

 

 

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November is over, and as the dust settles (quite literally) December has come upon us to take hold of our lives.

Ugh.

 

With NaNoWriMo 2017 finished, the first thing that had to be done was rallying the troops, my unwilling participants (aka the family), into a day of binge cleaning.

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Custom hat made at Lids

We did my birthday.  Happy birthday to me.  The best present being the custom made hat from Lids and Tuxedo cake from Costco.

Then the dreaded mall crawl.  That ovicerous mental and physical torment that involves traipsing through crowds to buy presents for the people in your life, who you have absolutely no idea what to get for them because a) they can’t think of anything they want, b) they don’t do anything, no hobbies, no interests, and c) your gift picking skills leave something to be desired, namely actually having gift picking skills.

 

P.s.  I just completely made up that word.  Ovicerous.  There is no word in the English language that describes my dislike of crowds over-filling the too small aisle spaces in the aimless pursuit of shopped for products.

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The #BigDumbBunny aka Roxy the shelter dog no. 2

I came home to find the furniture rearranged.  I now have a desk view of the back yard and the rascal, the wild rabbit that lives under the deck and continuously teases and torments the #BigDumbBunny, aka Roxy the shelter dog no. 2.  It’s better than looking at the wall, although It’s only dark Monday to Friday and all but between the hours of too late in the morning to way too early in the afternoon.

 

Now, nine days into December, and the dust that settled over November only to be disturbed at the start of December is finally starting to settle.  We had to do another mini purge, this time getting rid of furniture to make room for a Christmas tree in our new to us house with less space than the old one.

Yeah, after fourteen years living in a small town not far from the city, we moved inside the world of city living.  Sort of.  More on the outskirts, but still within the bubble of city life.

can_you_handle_a_little_darkness_mousepad

Mouse pad at Cafe Press

 

I made a mouse pad.  It’s not bad.  Great for home, a little thick for on the go.  I refuse to learn how to use the mouse pad built into the laptop because it makes me swear too much.  A pair of runners gave up their life for me to get the photo used for the mouse pad.

P.S. you can buy this mouse pad here

 

So what now that it’s December?

Today, we will find the tree and decorative remnants among the boxes of still unpacked debris of moving and put up the Christmas tree and decorate the house.

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I am making pancakes.  Oops, in thawing them out, the package of breakfast sausages sucked into itself like a bowl of half soggy wieners intent on avoiding being eaten.

 

 

 

And it is time to prioritize and sort out what projects to concentrate on.

The Gypsy Queen is in final edits.  A read through, an upload and download on Kindle for another read through.  Then I can decide if it is good enough (is it ever in the eyes of the questioning uncertainty of the author?) for anyone else to read it and brave the opinions of the beta readers.

I need to finish my NaNo from this year.  The next installment and hopefully the last (except for White Van which is a standalone) of the McAllister series.

I also promised a book two of the Latchkey Kids.  That is a work in progress.

And I made a promise to myself to focus on editing and finishing the myriad of completed, mostly complete, and semi-completed drafts that have been left to sit over the years.

And there are my more beloved projects that I just don’t want to leave sitting on the back burner.

There is also that one immitigable truth.  Editing is not fun.  I would much rather be immersed in the spell of some dark scene flowing through me spontaneously onto the page than endlessly editing and re-reading the same words more than a hundred times over.

Unfortunately, like every author I know, I don’t have the luxury of saying, “Wow, I am making so much money off this writing gig I can just quit work and do it full time!”

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I don’t expect to have a lot of time this weekend to get done what I need to do for me, for my writing.  Laundry, groceries, house cleaning, and all the other drudgeries of real life.

 

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We also have only a few short weeks to consider finishing the Christmas shopping, baking (it’s not Christmas without some damned Christmas baking!), the endless list of various donations to everywhere you live, work, school, play, etc joining the cause of bettering Christmas for the less privileged, and the family get togethers.

 

 

Next month is January, we can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the nonstop Christmas merry-go-round has stilled, and greet the NaNo start of the “What Now” months with the making of an official promise to revise your NaNo novel.  Are you game?

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It is Saturday morning, and the house is sleeping except for me and my dogs as I sit and ponder #NaNoWriMo2017.

 

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Which coffee?

First, the most important question.

Which coffee cup will I use?

 

 

 

Next, what plots do we brew today?

 

A seemingly sweet innocent little girl, who reveals a hint of evil.

A softly whispered voice in David’s head which only he can hear.

Thickening tensions between the elderly William McAllister and his son Jason, who William on more than one occasion swore he should have “put down” that day in the woods.

The delightfully wicked elderly Mrs. Bheals, who is new to the series and William and Anderson broke out of the care home along with William’s wife Marjory.

 

What plots are thickening and brewing up a storm of coming suspense in your #NANO world?

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I’m one of those writers, the kind who have multiple writing projects on the go.  I have more than I can keep track of.

Ideas come to me all the time and at any time.  I have lost more good ideas than I care to remember, because they came to me when I was not in a time and place to be able to jot them down.

And then there are the times when I can let the idea flow, living and feeling it, getting it down.

When I can get the ideas down, it is not always handy to add them in at the right place in the right story.  They become the odds and ends, bits and pieces; the homeless scenes that need to be relocated to where they belong.

 

Which leads us to the dilemma:

The lost story bits.

 Working on one of my current works in progress, I cannot let go of the feeling that I am missing something.  Literally, not figuratively.

The_Latchkey_Kids_Cover_for_KindleThe problem:  I have a vivid memory of writing a particular scene to go in this story.  I also remember the scene feeling right, thinking this is it, this is *the* scene.  Thinking it is good.

 

It is a pivotal scene too.  The scene leads the reader on to learn more behind the bullying behavior of the character, Dylan, from the first story (The Latchkey Kids), and opens the story to lead up to his dark secret (The Latchkey Kids book 2).

 

Do you think I can find this scene?

Nope.

 

I have committed myself to thorough and random searches for any possible file, folder, and key words that might lead to the discovery of where this mislaid scene is hiding.

I am searching every possible dark corner this scene can be hiding in, files on the laptop including Word and backed up notes from my phone.  Emails. My phone.  Every scrap of loose paper I can find in the house where I might have wrote it down.

The scene exists.  I know it.  I feel it as certainly as I feel the lips on my face.  As certainly as I taste that sip of coffee.

Somewhere, in the dark murky depths, in that soulless cold world, with the faint hollow ringing of words crying out in your subconscious, that scene waits.  Lost.  Alone.  Desolate.  In the lost world of story bits and forgotten scenes; right next to the Ruins of Incomplete Stories and the ruination of the stories that went nowhere.

 

Someday, little scene, I will find you.

Unfortunately, by then I will have already rewritten a new scene.

 

 

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email vomitWe all want to wow people into following us. Whether you are a published author, a professional reviewer (aka you write reviews on various products either for monetary compensation or in exchange for free stuff, with the expectation of getting some form of compensation for ever review), some form of professional or quasi-professional, or just blogging for kicks, it’s the reason you blog. It’s the reason I blog. Otherwise, we’d all just be giving out TMI and posting pics of our pets and suppers on Facebook and not bothering to write blogs.

 

want more followersProducing good and interesting content is the way to go. The blogosphere is the boxing ring and we are doing the dance off, yelling “PICK ME! PICK ME!”

Successful blogging means not just getting your articles read, but gaining followers and keeping them. It is writing articles they want, and sharing articles that will interest your followers.

 

Whatever the content you share, you need to do it often enough that your followers don’t forget you exist. When that happens, you sink into the black abyss of the web.  You don’t want to go there, because I’ve heard ugly rumors of what resides there. Yes, ugly.

Things like this.spider monster

It is a dark and terrifying place. Cold too, very cold. Or is that the chill of fear dripping down your spine?

 

Finding interesting content to share means following others. Successful blogging also works on a quid pro quo, only without the expectation of always getting something in return. No, it’s not squids gone pro. If you don’t know what quid quo pro means, you can Google it. Basically, it means you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

In blogging, you follow others, who may or may not follow you back. You share their content because you liked it or think your readers might. You follow rules of decorum. In other words, play nice.

 

blah blah blah

But, every now and then, you encounter the over-sharer.  This is the blog world’s equivalent of the Facebooker who spams your feed with so many posts of their kids, their pets, their meals, what they did, are doing, and are about to do, Oh, very large hammer.jpgand what they are doing now, and now, yeah you get it … until you find yourself so sickened by their posts that you want to put your own eyes out, cancel your FB account, and put your computer out of its misery with a very large hammer. (Wow, that is one heck of a run on sentence, just like those annoying posts without end. OMG, there was a period in there but it still never really ended, did it?)

 

The blogger over-sharer will put up a mass of posts, their own or shared; at this point it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, unlike FB, when a blogger posts a vomit of blog posts and you do not have your notifications turned off, each and every post will ping your email inbox.

Yes, each and every one. So, you can turn off notifications and not know when one of the sites you follow posts an interesting blog, sending them to the bloggo black hole and likely forgetting to check and follow them (because you are so darned busy and these things just happen).

Or, you are subjected to having your email inbox spammed. Bloggers who spam you with 36 blog posts, each pinging your email inbox individually, because you made the mistake of following them, just aren’t getting it.

vomit

Now, when I get 36 bog posts from the same blogger spamming my email inbox, they have effectively vomited in my inbox. Yes, I had 36 one day, all at once, an incessant ping ping ping ringing and pinging. I had to shut my phone off and count the toll later.

 

 

Delete and unfollow. Yes, Virginia, there is such thing as too much.

 

unfollow
You need to strike a balance in your blogging.

balance

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fish & lureI’ve noticed a new breed of phishing scammers lately. They’ve gotten more sophisticated in their attempts to trick, cajole, and outright scare you into falling into their trap. The emails are written by someone fluent in English and are even doing a pretty good job of mimicking the company they are pretending to be.

The scammers of old seem to have fallen away, those all too predictable and obvious pathetic attempts with poorly spelled words, atrocious grammar errors, and the glaring obvious that they know very little of the English language and are completely oblivious or just don’t care.

As published authors we have to put ourselves out there, always marketing and schmoozing online like the girl at the young teen dance who so desperately wants to be asked to dance, but no one seems to notice her in the corner behind all the other girls desperate to be asked to dance.

The problem with making yourself visible to as many others as possible in the hopes that just one or two might actually buy your book, is that you are also making yourself visible to the spammers, phishers, and hackers.

Apparently a phisherman of this newer breed noticed me on Amazon. I suddenly am getting all these urgent messages that my Amazon account is in dire peril.

How do I know it phishing? It’s not that hard to figure out, really. Just be smart and stop and think before you panic and click that link or give any information. And when in doubt, just back out. Stand up and take a step back and close that email. Picking up a phone to call customer service (if they have one!) will sort it all out. If they have no real people working for them, then go to the actual legitimate website and contact them with all the details. They will no doubt tell you that you just got phished.

Keys and tips to protect yourself from phishing:

  1. Don’t make your email public. Really, how many of your “fans” need to email you? There are safer ways to do set that up. Do you think Stephen King put out his private email to the public? Not a creepy clown down the sewer chance! Of course, that’s sometimes easier said than done whenever media site defaults to publishing your email.
  2. Use multiple email accounts. Use a spam email for social networking sites where you know you are likely to get spammed by the site or phishing scams. Never use the same email that you use for banking and other important business.
  3. If the email is asking for personal information, bank account or credit information, passwords, or for you click a link to log in securely – IT’S A PHISHING SCAM! As soon as you log in through their link they have your username and password, giving them full access to your account.
  4. It doesn’t matter what the account is: your bank, Facebook, Paypal, Amazon, etc they will never contact you asking for you to click a link and provide information that gives access to your account. They will instead direct you to visit their legitimate site to access your account securely or contact them.
  5. Check the IP or senders email. Big red flag: all the Amazon’s calling and your account is in grave danger and has been shut down emails are coming from “noreply@amazon.ca”. Now here’s the dead giveaway: the sender’s email shows up as “noreply@azon.ca“. But that is almost Amazon you say? Yes, but do you not think a multi billion-dollar corporation would get that right?
  6. Did it even come to the right email address? I’ve had plenty of warnings that my bank accounts are in imminent danger. Usually the first giveaway is that it’s a bank I don’t have an account with, or sent to the wrong email.

The phishermen may have gotten smarter and more sophisticated, but common sense is pretty smart and sophisticated too.

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I get incredibly lazy about character development in my first draft.  This especially happens when it comes to secondary and background characters.

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When I’m in the throes of pounding at that keyboard, the words flowing through my fingertips as the story flourishes, or banging my head on the contraption in frustration, my focus is on the story.  The big question of what happens next is what drives that first draft.

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 In most of my stories I have no better idea than the reader does about what is going to happen next or even who the characters are.  The story often changes from that initial hunch of what it will be about as the events play out.  Hell, I’m just along for the ride, wherever my imagination decides to take us.

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Just like the reader I’m experiencing the story and meeting the characters as the events unfold.

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This is why it is perhaps even more important for someone who writes like I do to never forget that every character is somebody, no matter how small a bit part they play.

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What is more memorable?  The story where everyone is a faceless nameless blank except the three or four main characters?  Or one where old Mrs. Appleblossom down the street always wears a white flower either in her hat or tucked into her button hole, the absence of which could be a hidden (subliminal) hint of trouble to come?

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What about Mr. Commely, who’s only purpose in the story is to deliver the letter that gives your character the bad news?  Does the reader need to know that Mr. Commely has returned to work after retiring because he’s lonely after his wife passed away, that he always has a gentle pat on the head waiting for even the most fiercest of mailman hating dogs on his route, or that his behavior is sometimes strange and erratic? It doesn’t drive the story forward, so some would argue this is just extra words that should be cut.

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The girl serving coffee through the drive through window probably doesn’t need to tell you that she’s having a bad morning.  You can see it in her face.  You don’t know her name and you probably don’t need to.  But you can make the reader wonder why she’s having a bad day.  Did she have a fight with her boyfriend?  Was she reprimanded at work for being late again when she’s dealing with a serious crisis at home?  Maybe she has a parent or child who is deathly ill.  Why she looks unhappy isn’t important to the story.  But just making the reader notice her sadness and wonder about it because your character did draws the reader further into becoming one with and sympathizing with your main character.

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When you go through the drive through yourself, that girl behind the window touches your life when she hands you your coffee and takes your money.  It may only be a thirty-second moment, but those thirty seconds still touch your life.

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None of these bits about small characters drive the story and most of it can be left unsaid, back-story for these people who make only brief appearances.  But dropping these little observations can add a depth of understanding and reality to the world your characters live in.

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If you write with a sense of familiarity will all your characters lives, the reader will pick up on it.  Like watching someone waving to someone walking by from across the parking lot, you can get a sense if they are familiar with each other or just passing a friendly wave to an acquainted stranger.

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Some characters develop through the writing of that first draft.  The main characters mostly get a lot of their character traits and flaws because their reactions and needs are what push the story forward.  But with the rest they are lucky if they get dubbed as “frontdeskguy” or “girl2” as I write.  Sometimes they are nothing more than a mention of “the other guy”.

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As the story unfolds, so do little hints into the characters that show up for repeat appearances.  And as I learn more about where these bit players fall into the story, I also get a better understanding of how each of them can bring more life to the story.

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Like the young man in Men of Twelve (working name of a W.I.P.).  The young man is an unimportant player, like the Start Trek guy who wears red to beam down to the planet.  I know he’s going to die and the reader may get a sense of it too.  That the trees mock him for being a nameless bastard without a father moments before his death does not drive the story, but it does add a layer of depth to the scene and the world the characters live in.

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It’s in the editing, when I go back over the story to re-write, revise, develop more, and delete than I put the emphasis on picking out each character from the biggest to the smallest and give them a little touch of personality.

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Bringing your characters to life brings the story to life.  And, remembering that behind that blank nameless place holder in the story every character is somebody adds a touch of real life to your work.  Behind the blank nameless face every person you see today is somebody too.

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