Imaginary Playmates

October 20, 2014

Writers are a different breed of people. Much like other artists they tend to use their minds in another way. They think differently. They have wild imaginations. So what’s it like growing up with such an imagination? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you about myself.

As a child, I was very much alone. I was the last child and probably the oopsie baby even though no one ever would admit to it. My brothers were grown men and my sister had quite a few years on me. So I grew up very much alone. Even the neighborhood failed to provide a playmate. In spite of being rural, there were several houses near me but if they contained children, they were much older.

Also TV was not something that ran all day long. There were a few Saturday morning shows I was allowed to watch.  So I learned to entertain myself. I had dolls, and all sorts of things that had once belonged to my brothers. No one said I could only play with dolls so I played with everything. I also loved to be outdoors where I was free to roam, play in the dirt, and pretty much do anything I wanted. Compared to being inside where I was supposed to be quiet, the outdoors became my haven.

girlinswingMy only problem was I had no one to share my house under the forsythia bush or my chalkboard. As soon as I learned to read, I devoured books.  I climbed the pine tree and pretended I was on a tall masted ship or high on a mountaintop. Outside, my imagination took me anyplace I wanted to go. Inside? I’d retire to my turret in the great castle, hide under my bed in the dungeon, or pretend I was a school teacher to my dolls.

Then we finally got neighbors with children. The children were younger so I read books to them, and taught them to read, write and do math. Funny thing was I really did teach them. By the time they went to school, they were way ahead of their peers. I got told to stop teaching them, but I never did. The problem was they didn’t quite share my imagination. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that I was different and different wasn’t good.

I hide my imaginary playmates, but to me they were quite real. As I grew up, they grew up, but they never left me. I learned to box them up and only let them out when I needed them.  They kept me company usually in that last bit of my day as I readied for bed.

Looking back on all of it, I can see how my dysfunctional family played a huge role in my keeping these imaginary people in my life. The imaginary friends were normal when nothing else was. Instead of being ten years old, I could safely be an adult and on my own, away from my family and the craziness. I could do anything I wanted and be whatever I wanted to be.

I knew of no one who had these “people” in their heads, but I also figured out that I wasn’t alone. Turn on the TV. Did people just pull these shows out of nothingness? Didn’t someone actually write a script, and create a whole world in which these characters played? I knew wasn’t alone, it took thought to make those TV shows, but I had no outlet for what roamed in my head. I had to survive in the real world and that meant never letting on I had “people” in my head that didn’t really exist.

My parents’ marriage was falling apart and I became my mom’s whipping boy. My dad would get angry with her and take it out on me. Staying away from the house helped. Staying out of sight helped. I also hid my personal life away from the house. I was barely thirteen when I met someone I liked. He was about nine years older and in college studying to be a doctor. I said something to my mom about him and from her reaction, I knew never to mention him again. I was very good at not mentioning things and I realized that dating, in general, was best left hidden. She caught me once jumping in the car with him and somehow I danced my way out of that or I would have been grounded until I was thirty-five.

Truthfully his home life  life was probably as screwed up as mine and that bonded us even more. By the time I was fifteen, I was seriously dating him. At seventeen, when I graduated from high school with almost two years of college credits under my belt, he asked me to marry him and I turned him down. Deep in my heart, I knew he wasn’t the man for me.  He used to tell me to write and put my characters onto paper. (I later learned that psychology is known for telling people to write as a way of balancing their lives.) But these characters were too personal to turn loose.

When I did marry, well actually before I married, I warned my husband-to-be that I had “people” in my head. I figured it is important for him to know that I harbored a crazy side. He just laughed and told me not to worry about it. They weren’t controlling me or making me do strange things.

Then I was somewhere in my twenties and going through a very difficult time when I realized my characters were no longer there and that bothered me. Wow! Did they return. You want us back? Yes. My stress level dropped, my mood shifted, and I felt more focused. I even slept better. Then I started writing books for my children.

The freedom to create characters and put them into words was amazing. I had no clue how to publish a book back then. I vaguely knew that you had to type it a dozen times, then go to New York and schlep around to all the publishing houses with the hopes that someone would give you two minutes of their time. It wasn’t possible for me to do any such thing.

My girls got older and I went to work with the idea that what I made would offset the cost of their college education. That didn’t leave me any time to write. It wasn’t until my first granddaughter was born that I went back to the idea of writing books. I was determined I would succeed. Ireturned to college and took those English classes I had CLEPed and as many other English classes as I could at the local college.

Then my girlfriend’s daughter called me. She’s a known romance author and said write romance. (There’s a whole story there.) And so I shifted from the idea of writing for children to writing romances. Today I corral those characters, rein them in, and make them obey me. I utilize them. Do I still have any of those original “people” up there? Oh yeah! And no, I’ll never write their stories. They are all breathing sighs of relief! :-)

I can say I have an active muse. Wish I had known what it was when I was still young and I wish I had known what to do with it.  Of course I’ve reached that point in my life where I don’t feel as though I have to apologize to anyone for the way I am. I can also hold my head up and proudly say I have a muse.  A muse and two bucks will buy a cup of coffee. Writing a book takes lots of  love, sweat, and tears.

But when I spot a review for what I’ve written, my heart wants to sing. Here’s my latest review for A Rancher’s Woman. Thank you Amazon Customer for the wonderful review! You really made my day!

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Jokes and Bad Writing

October 8, 2014

During the month of October, I send Halloween jokes on Twitter every morning and evening at  7:30. They are all family friendly jokes so I promise there are some real groaners in the bunch! Starting in the summer, I begin to scour the web for Halloween jokes. Sometimes they are too long or too risque for “family”. Those I save for my close friends.

I ran across one joke that was hysterical, but it was typical of bad writing. It was also too long to use for Twitter, so I’ll pass it along to everyone here. When you’re done laughing, I’ll explain why it exemplifies bad writing.

A vampire and a young teenage monster went to a Halloween party. The monster said to the vampire, “A ghoul just rolled her eyes at me. What should I do?” The wise vampire replied, “Be a gentleman and roll them back to her.”

In the writing biz, that’s known as wandering body parts. His eyes swept the room. His hand snaked her waist. Their eyes met and locked. Oh gross! Super gross! Please keep those eyes in the characters heads and do not let hands and fingers wander around on their own.

How is it prevented? Make certain both are in the same room. The number of times the heroine has moved to another room and left the hero behind only to have his arm or hand touch her… Way too numerous to count.  It’s a common mistake. And as for those eyes, try gaze instead. Their gazes locked. He scanned the room, looking for–. His gaze settled on the ancient artifact. You don’t want those eyeballs settling on that artifact!

Don’t count on an editor to find such mistakes.They  are often subtle and slide by even the best editors. Why? Because poor grammar has seeped into everyday language.  If a bunch of young mothers were chatting about their children and the one mother said, “Elle’s eyes would follow Daddy around the room from the time she could sit up. “

No one would blink. We all know what she meant. So why is it bad to write it? Well, it just is. Somehow, we’re held to a higher standard when we write. Maybe it’s because paper and ink were expensive and there was little room for errors. Tradition has carried through to today.

Fortunately poor grammar can be used as a way of showing the differences in education levels between characters. But there are also these diehards out there ready to pounce if someone makes a grammar mistake, even if it’s on purpose. Those grammar Nazis don’t bother to even consider if it’s a spoken line. And I’m not going to get drawn into comma usage in this blog post. Just keep in mind that our language is constantly evolving.

Advertising executives have used poor grammar to grab our attention. Winston Winston Cigarette commercial with a catchy jingle. Circa approximately ...cigarettes commercials are famous for the line: Winston tastes good like a cigarette should. The usage of like instead of as was jarring to the ears and therefore unforgettable. But it also meant that a new generation of people, after listening to that commercial for 18 years, grew up not knowing that like, being used in place of as, was poor grammar.  Thus giving us, like I said. Totally wrong use of the word like. (And probably most of you can’t remember ever hearing a cigarette commercial.)

When I was growing up, the word got was not considered a word. It was some awful slang. Today, I use got and I use it in my writing. (Forgive me, dear English teachers!) Today, it is accepted as a legitimate word and everyone uses it.  Proper grammar is deteriorating.  I’ve cringed when I’ve heard professors using poor grammar. Aren’t they, in general, supposed to he held to a higher standard of education? Apparently not.

Even our newspapers make horrible grammar mistakes. Yikes! How do we expect anyone to know what is considered good grammar when we are surrounded and bombarded with poor grammar? I actually sat in a college English grammar class where the professor tried to teach who and whom, but it had it backwards. I slipped out of the class and went to the department head. Why was a literature professor teaching grammar anyway? I’ve known high school students with better grammar skills. Was she a good literature instructor? She was great! But her English grammar skills were in the hopper!

Also look at the influx of foreigners into our country. (Let’s face it, we’re all boat people! My family was here before the Revolution. They didn’t fly here!) For those learning English, they have very little formal training in  English. Seriously, I can’t think of a single pocket in America where proper English is the standard.  I know I grew up in a pocket of educated people and my English teacher was determined to teach me proper English. I’m not sure if she failed or not. I swear to this day, she sits on my shoulder and tells me that she taught me to use better grammar. I’m certain if I ran this blog post though my editor she’d find two dozen things wrong with it!

But poor grammar, when we write, will cause confusing sentences and stuff that makes us say huh? So I’ll leave it with proper grammar makes our writing clear  to the rhttp://www.clker.com/cliparts/h/2/q/9/J/O/devil-with-fork-md.pngeader. Or as my English teacher used to say, “Write what you mean!”

It wasn’t until I became a novelist that I understood what she was saying. I just wish I had paid more attention to her when I was young. I’m not sure what she saw in me back then, but she has stayed with me. Like the devil on my shoulder, she stabs me with her pitchfork occasionally.

OUCH! Okay, more than occasionally!


Projects, Muse, and Peanuts

October 4, 2014

I just added another project to my list of things to do. Marie Higgins who writes adorably sweet stories, is going to be doing a boxed set this spring and wanted to know if I wanted to join. I never did learn to say no, so I said, “YES!

I have a ton of sweet readers who would love another story from me. So here I go! It’s themed so I have to think up a good story line. Oh my! My brain is already playing with ideas.

I never can seem to turn my muse off. It just spins all the time. Sometimes it spins things that are worth listening to but sometimes it just spins junk. It’s been spinning a lot of junk lately.

I’m also involved with a local fund raiser for a friend. That is a huge project that I must complete today. That also means I don’t have time to listen to anything that my muse is spinning until that project is completed. So why am I typing this? Don’t ask.

:-)

I’m very good at procrastinating.  Actually I’m compiling a bunch of my books and books by friends who have donated to the cause and dropping the books onto a flash/thumb drive so that they can be raffled off in one big set. It should be loads of fun.

Back I will go to working on the fundraiser. Hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful weather. My back door is open and letting in plenty of fresh air. I love spring and fall. I love to keep my windows and doors open! But I also love not having to spend money on heat and cooling bills.

I also missed the the big peanut parade in town this morning. Can’t believe I forgot about it, but I did! I could hear it and by then it was too late.  Just a silly local thing but it’s always fun.

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Here comes Halloween!

September 29, 2014

I love October! It’s my favorite month!      coloredLeaves

Why? The colors of the trees and and the colors of the flowers including that beautiful purple that shows up in the flowers. And I have a love of pumpkins and gourds. They’ve now started growing tiny gourds that look like exactly like pumpkins and they are perfect for decorating. There’s also that scent to autumn, all crisp and clean, the crunch of fallen leaves and indoors the scent of cinnamon and apples.

The taste of fall is apples, cinnamon, baked between a delicious homemade crust and fresh-picked apples all crunchy and sweet, and apples that have been stewed and applesauce. Oh and the apple cider! Can you tell I like apples? Homemade cookies. Yum! And a half dozen pumpkin pies on the counter next to the apple pies with their lattice tops.

Creating a pretty lattice top is a fun trick to learn.  Everyone knows it’s woven so it’s up and over, and down and under. Practice makes perfect. Then you can have fun putting twists in it. Seriously, learn to make a good homemade pie crust! There’s really nothing to it. The first couple crusts you make might not be pretty but taste will make up for it. And those scraps that you cut off… grab the cookie cutters and make pretty decorations for the top of the pie. I usually roll them a little thinner then cut them out. I lift them with a spatula and “glue” them to the top with a drop of water on the spot where they are going. I’ve fork pressed the edges of a pie and then covered the edges with “leaves” and “acorns”. But don’t let anything hang over the edge of the pie plate. It looks beautiful when it’s done. Once the leaf is on the pie, take a knife or a toothpick and make veins on the leaves and hash lines on the tops of the acorns.

Why all the baked goods? It’s finally cool enough to actually consider baking. Actually ovens today are very energy efficient and they don’t make the house hotter as they did when our grandmother used them. But really who wants to think about doing much baking with it’s sweltering hot? So all the baking begins again along with homemade bread. And there’s no bread machine in this house. I love to proof my own yeast in a bowl – oh the smell as it awakens. Then I mix it into the flour and begin to knead it. There’s nothing like kneading bread as a way to de-stress.

I just love this time of year so it makes perfect sense for me to write a Halloween/autumn story. And I have another very short one coming out soon in a Halloween anthology with the Exquisite Quills. I’ll let you know about that one when it hits the market.

I thought I’d share two passages from the beginning of my autumn/Halloween/Thanksgiving story. It’s fun and little sexy. (It wasn’t written for children. But it’s just a little sexy.) It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle book and will be available in few days as a Kindle Unlimited for those in the USA. (Don’t have a Kindle and want a copy? Drop a comment and tell me. I’ll get in touch with you.) I’ve listed the international link for it so it goes to your Amazon store.

A Skeleton at Her Door

http://authl.it/B005MZ9X74

The peephole revealed a man in a skeleton costume. Angie laughed and opened the door. “Omigod, Matt, come in. You look a little bony. Did you lose weight? Where did you get that costume?” She turned and called up the stairs of the tiny two-bedroom townhouse that she shared with her daughter, “Lissy, come see Matt in his Halloween costume.”

She turned back to her neighbor. Every speck of his face was covered in black and white paint, including the lips that were painted like teeth. “Who painted your face? They did a phenomenal job.”

The skeleton didn’t answer.

“Afraid to talk for fear of messing it up?”

The skeleton nodded.

She stared at the incredible hunk standing before her in his skintight, black and white costume with a hood. It looked like something a speed skater would wear during the Olympics. “Geezzz, if you weren’t such a baby compared to me and didn’t have a steady girl, I’d be all over you. Really, Matt, you need to show off those muscles more often. You’re hot! Very hot! Talk about jumping bones.” She giggled. “Oh yeah!” She fanned her face with her hand and grinned. “Lissy, get down here!”

“Coming,” a young voice hollered back.

At the sound of footsteps, Angie turned and watched her young daughter descend the stairs. Seeing the child’s face was worth it.

“Wow!” Lissy’s eyes grew round with amazement. She sat on a step so she was equal in height to the man standing by their front door. “But, Mommy, Matt has blue eyes and this skeleton has brownish eyes.”

Angie turned back to the man and he shrugged. Panic rose in her and held her stomach prisoner in its tight grip. Had she opened her door to a complete stranger? “You’re not Matt?”

coloredLeaves

The bouquet was huge and Angie finally put it on the table in the dining area. She pulled out the plastic stake that held a packet of floral preservative and a card. She sprinkled some of the powder from the packet onto the foam block and poured a glass of water over it. Then she opened the small envelope and read the card.

Thinking of you, Tom.

Another small note was folded and tucked with it.

So sorry, I hope I didn’t scare you. When you said Matt’s name, I wasn’t certain what to do. I knew I had the wrong address, but I instantly realized you knew Matt and would direct me to his place. Again, sorry for the mix-up, but it was really nice to meet you. You’re very pretty.

Tom

P.S. Matt told me your name.

She laughed, stuck her nose into the flowers, and inhaled their sweet scent. They were so beautiful and their color brightened her little dining room. It was fun getting flowers, even from a stranger.

coloredLeaves

Since fall has arrived in the northern hemisphere I thought you might enjoy it. Halloween, the way we celebrate it, is not celebrated too much beyond the USA but it’s such a fun holiday and totally child oriented even if that child is almost ninety years old! So what was a grown man (the hero) doing in a skeleton costume? He was headed to a charity auction.

And that opening scene comes right from a true life event! Three guesses who opened the door thinking it was my neighbor doing a dress rehearsal for a big Halloween party in our neighborhood? Oh, yeah! I did. No, he did not send me flowers! It was my youngest daughter who informed me that it was not my neighbor. So there I was alone in the house with my girls, and a total stranger, in a costume, in my living room. I took me awhile to track down who my skeleton was but it turned out he was dating the daughter of a neighbor one block away. I think he might have been more panicked than I was.

Anyway, that incident stayed with me and I played with that what-if idea, hence the opening of the story. If you’d like to read more, Amazon will allow you to read both scenes in their entirety for free. Just click the link.

A Skeleton at Her Door

http://authl.it/B005MZ9X74


Writing Really Short Stories

September 19, 2014

I’m writing short stories. I wrote both stories for the Exquisite Quills’ Halloween and Holiday  Anthologies and I’ve just kept going with these little winter holiday themed shorties.  I’m not even certain what you call these tiny shorties. They are smaller than a novelette. So I’m calling them quickies.

Are they fun to write? Yes! But there is little room for character development and all those things that make for really great stories. I think the trick is to create a complete episode. Just like a long story it must have a beginning, middle, and an end. I give all mine a happy ending. Can’t say for certain that each has a HEA (happy ever after) but each has the hope of a HEA.

Seriously, how much can you pack into 2000 word quickies? Not much. I figure it’s just a glimpse into the love life of two people. Just something to make the reader feel good.

I love a good story. The kind that you lose yourself in for hours. But like many readers, I don’t have the time to devote to it. (I’m a fast reader!) So when I do have some free time, usually imposed on me for some odd reason, I look for something that I can read during that time frame. Then we all have those little moments where we’re stuck someplace or on a break at work so the idea of reading a quickie that doesn’t require a lot of attention or serious involvement on the part of the reader is ideal.  But the HEA of a romance does have a way of lifting our spirits.

Life is chaotic! I’m crossing my fingers that a dozen little quickies will be accepted and enjoyed. I’m certain that I’m not alone in wanting something I can read in a few spare minutes. candyCaneTree

 


The days are flying!

September 12, 2014

August seemed to have come and gone so quickly and now we’re almost halfway autumnLeavesthrough September! Remember being a kid and the school year seemed to last forever? To get from the start of the school year to Halloween seemed like the longest wait in the world? So what the heck happened? Am I going to wake up one day, a few days from now, and discover that Christmas is almost here? Yes!

That means I’ve got a lot to do in a short amount of time. I am writing, not editing. Yet, I have plenty of things to edit. I have wonderful story lines running in my head and characters begging for keyboard time that won’t make it there for a while. I’m working on a bunch of shorties. The only way to explain them is they are just short enough to read while waiting for the kids to get out of school or activities.

The Exquisite Quills decided to get together and do two anthologies this year. One for Halloween/Fall and one for Christmas/winter. We have to write a story in 2,00o or less! These are really short-short stories! But they can be loads of fun to write and to read. I write both of mine this week so they are just there on my hard disk in need of a little tweaking  before they go to my editor.

We (the Exquisite Quills) did one last year for the winter holidays and it’s free on Smashwords. I wrote The Kissing Ball for that anthology and I’m going to be nice and post that story here on my blog. Or click Smashwords or the book cover for the complete book.

Writing those made me think about what plans I had for the next few months. When I looked hard, I decided my plate was overly filled. I have a few personal things going on this fall and they are eating into my time. Plus I still need to redo my website and fix my book on this blog. See? I’m overloaded. So realistically I need to cut back. But part of me doesn’t want to reel in all my great plans, so I tweaked them. My new plan is…file0001277603822

How does a bunch of these short-short stories all centered around the winter holidays sound? I think it sounds like fun! And they should be fun to write, while taking  a lot of self-imposed pressure off of me.  So that is my new plan for this fall. All little shorties that are fun easy reads. No half stories, no hooks just sweet snippets of romance to make you feel good. I’ll bundle them all together for you at a super price.  :-)

Are you ready for some winter romance?

 

 

 


Just Bits and Pieces

September 8, 2014

file7691286497067Fall is here and I’m loving the cooler temps. Goodbye blistering hot days and hello to cooler evenings.

Did you know Tuesday is supposed to be some sort of super moon? Apparently it will be close to the earth and a full one so it should be a beauty as it rises. Is your camera ready? Looks like we’ve got thunderstorms predicted so I’m don’t think I’m going to have a very clear view.  Darn! But if we have a break in the clouds, I know the perfect spot!

I don’t work for tourism but if you live on the east coast, September is a wonderful time to vacation at the beach. One – the water is warmer, two – the hotel rates have dropped, and three – no crowds! I’m lucky, it’s just a short drive to a lovely beach where I can stick my toes in the sand and really enjoy the experience. (Just be very careful because, in most places, the lifeguards no longer are there to protect you.)

MFU0916I’ve been working hard. I’ve got stories in my head and I’m very anxious to start writing, but I also have some smaller obligations for a couple of anthologies and I’m determined to fix my pitiful website and finish the “other” pages on this site.

I’m on Twitter. Again, maybe not as much as I should be. Social media is not my forte, but I’m forced to do something, so I do that…and this and some other blog stuff. But the reason I’m telling you about Twitter is because in October I tweet a Halloween joke twice a day. I try very hard to keep them family friendly. Some are corny but that’s okay. If it makes you smile or gives your children a good giggle, I’ve done my job. You’ll find me @ayersbooks

Now you are wondering why I tweet Halloween jokes.  It started several years ago. A ASAHDsmSkeleton at Her Door was brand new and I was trying my best to let people know about the book. Well, my hope was that maybe people would buy my book(s).  I have no clue if it works. But I love Halloween. It’s just fun. There’s nothing serious about the holiday.

I love the pumpkins and all the autumn decorations. Even the food is wonderful. Freshly picked apples that really crunch as you eat them. And after avoiding the oven like the Black Plague during the summer, there’s all those pies and homemade bread. Yeah, I definitely like the food!

I’m ready for Autumn!

(And my friends on the other side of the equator, I’m sure you are ready for spring!)


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