Why is this Picture Frame Empty? #MayChallengeRepostDay5

When I logged into my WordPress account, I had other plans for what to post today. I was not looking for writing prompts or post ideas. However, when I saw Felicia’s Writing Prompt: “Why is this picture frame empty?” I knew then what my purpose for logging on was. This prompt is an excellent way to spark a thoughtful conversation and for those of you who know me, or rather my writing style, you know that if there is one thing I enjoy, it is thoughtful conversations. So, why is this picture frame empty?

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In life we tend to severely underestimate the power of choice. If you ask someone why their life turned out the way that it did, they are most certainly going to give you the details. These details may range from a number of things: upbringing, childhood, circumstances, racism, discrimination, abuse, neglect, the list goes on and on. Interestingly enough, rarely will you hear:

“I am where I am in my life because I chose to be here.”

The picture frame is only empty if you want it to be. If you see nothing, then that is what exists. This happens a lot in life. Every day we are only capable of seeing what it is we want to see, and sometimes this makes it difficult to embrace the necessary changes we need to grow or to even recognize the palpable. What is obvious from our perspective is the only thing that exists, but we cannot see the other side of it. If I bang my hand hard against the table you will feel it move. Even if you can’t see me, you will feel the effects of me hitting the table. The question is: Do you limit your perspective to that which you can only see, feel, taste, and touch physically? Or will you consider that something made the table move? It’s all about the decisions and the choices that we make.

While I can give you a million reasons why I can or cannot do a certain thing, one truth remains: Each and every individual is where he or she is because he or she chose to be there. When we start taking this kind of responsibility over our lives, we will be in a better position in every respect. We undergo changes every day. The only problem with change is that everyone wishes to change his circumstances but never his mind. When we each start to self-examine ourselves and start to take accountability for our life and the things that are happening in it, only then will we be better able to see what really lies ahead.

Why is the picture frame empty?

It depends on what you choose to see. Maybe it’s not a picture frame at all. Maybe it’s a mirror.

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Dear Self-Publishers: You Are Not JK Rowling

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The rain sounds like marching footsteps on my roof. Yes, it is pouring out. So, I thought I’d take the cozy time spent underneath the covers to devote time to my laptop which means sharing another thought that recently crossed my mind concerning Self-Publishing. As always, my thoughts are based on my own experience. Will you get something out of it? It is always my hope that you will.

There is always something we can gain from one another. Always something we can add to our Self-Publishing arsenal of sorts. However, while each self-publisher is similar, each is also different. There is no one answer to self-publishing a book. There is no one way that it is done. In this post, JK Rowling is not merely representative of herself, but she is representative of others who have succeeded in the business of book publishing. Thing is, I am not JK Rowling and neither are you.

Using Rowling as a platform of discussion, I’ve viewed her countless outlines available online for her books in the Harry Potter series. They are very nice layouts and tend to be very organized but it was also very confusing to me. Rowlings outlines are, again, well organized but it is not something I could have followed. For me, to follow an outline for writing books would just confuse me and I will probably never finish it. It is just not the way that I write. I and me are key terms here.

What makes your book special? In a world where people are Self-Publishing books everyday (and often coming out with them at the same time) what makes yours worth the time? Wrote a Historical Novel? So what, so did the next guy. Wrote a Young Adult piece? Who cares, so did she. Her over there. Yes her, she wrote a Fantasy, Horror, Young Adult novel too. In a world where there are seas and seas of Self-Published books, it is not the concept of the story itself that is so different. I believe there are tons of books with similar themes. I also believe that every book has a question that needs to be answered, a message it is trying to deliver, or a problem that it attempts to solve and each author has to answer that question or reveal that message or provide a solution to that problem in his or her own unique way. This, the answer, is what makes him or her stand out. It is the unique combination of that authors own persona as well as his or hers approach that is different and that makes that author either stand out or blend in with the sea.

I’m sure authors whose names we all know have been influenced by others, of course. But they have also become known for their individuality. There is always something slightly different about how one author approaches a subject as compared to another. Terry McMillian and Sista Souljah are both talented writers, but Souljah can’t write like Terry and Terry can’t write like Souljah. For each to be successful, each will have to bring something to the table that is different in order to become their own name brands.

Dear Self-Publishers: You Are Not JK Rowling

It is not up to us to write like those who’ve become successful financially and globally. It is up to us to write in a way that works for us, according to our individual personalities and our individual styles.  It appears that everyone wants to have the answer to how to Self-Publish a book. The truth? There isn’t one. At the end of the day we have to write stories that people want to read and lets just say the JK Rowlings are already taken. I’d be willing to bet that a book written with less than desirable grammar and poorly promoted can still be read IF it’s an engaging story. Writing is, after all, story telling which is not something everyone can do.

This, the skill of writing, tends to be overlooked when it comes to advice or discussion on self-publishing. I’ve seen tons of advice on how to promote, why it is important to get a story edited, why book covers should be appealing, ISBN Numbers, the list goes on and on. I’ve spoken myself about the importance of these factors, why they are important and so on. Except, I do not hear much about the actual skill of writing; the craft of story telling. Poor books is not always because the book cover is bad, the editing is crappy, or that the marketing skills are poor. No. It is because not everyone can write a book. I’ve read Traditionally Published books with tons of grammatical errors and yet people love the stories because they are told well. There is a skill there that draws readers in. Toni Morrison said it best when she said that obviously some aspects of the field can be taught, but you can’t teach skill or talent. I love to sing, but I am not going to walk into someone’s studio and record an album. While I’m sure my voice is decent, singing is not a skill that I have. I would much rather let the Alicia Keys and Whitney Houston’s have at it. As for my voice? Well, that is what showers are for.

As for the purpose of this post? Well, we’ve all heard it before: Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

Editing For Emotion

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As I enter another revision stage for Book #3 in The Stella Trilogy, and I prepare for that final edit, I found this article extremely helpful. While we hear a lot about action and keeping the story moving, it is true that you don’t hear much about editing for emotion. I know many people do not click third party links, but I discovered this article written by Laura Drake that hit the nail on the head. To the authors credit, I will only post an excerpt of the article. Please visit Laura’s website for its entirety.

The Most Important Edit No One Talks About By Laura Drake

“Everyone knows about ground level edits – copy/line/stylistic edits that look at sentence structure and grammar – they’re small, but important.

We all know those two edits are critical.

But there’s another edit that is very seldom talked about, that could take your manuscript from good to sold.

I call it the 5,000 foot edit. It’s the edit for EMOTION. I don’t care if you’re writing a romance or a legal or espionage thriller; if you don’t have a solid bedrock of emotion in your book, you’re not going to have readers. It’s what they come for! Think of your favorite author. Why is he your favorite? I’ll bet right up there with plot, is the emotion. If we don’t have emotion, the reader won’t care about your character. And that’s a story-killer.

Have I convinced you? Okay, let’s move on to how to do this thing.

In a book, regardless of genre, the character has to grow, right? So you need to follow the character’s arc, and be sure it happens in a timely, logical fashion. It’s okay if the character grows in fits and starts, or even if they progress, then back up a few steps. As long as their character arc doesn’t look like this:

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A problem I’ve seen (and had) is that the character seems bipolar, going from laughing to angry to loving in three paragraphs. For emotion to be satisfying, it has to be deep. Take those three paragraphs, and dig deeper. It doesn’t mean you have to turn three paragraphs into three pages – sometimes a visceral hit and a one sentence reminder of the emotion will do:

This is from my RITA winner, The Sweet Spot:

The red flowers had some brown edges, and looked a bit bug-eaten. She’d planned to stop at Wal-Mart and pick up a bouquet on the way to the cemetery, but . . . Her stomach settled a bit. “These are Benje’s flowers. He’s not going to care about a few bugs.” She headed for the tool shed, to find her clippers.

I added a sentence of dialog that added emotion – a reminder to the reader of an emotional memory: working in the garden with her child (the child she’s going to visit in the cemetery). See?

No matter what genre you’re writing, not all scenes are action. If they are, you’re going to wear out your reader in no time. It’ll be a fast read, but also, unsatisfying, because in action, you can only show flashes of emotion – like paint splattered on a canvas, rather that brush-stroked on. You need what Dwight Swain, in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer (a ‘must have’ on your craft shelf, IMHO) calls a ‘sequel scene’.

A quiet scene, where the POV character can reflect on what just happened, and compare the results to his world-view. These are the scenes that move him along his growth arc. You can only do that by getting deep into the emotion – because that character’s flaws in his world-view usually come from damage in his childhood: abuse, neglect, or even over-indulgence (poor little rich kid). And that’s emotional. Be sure you’re plumbing all that good stuff.” – Laura Drake

Finish Reading

The Written / Spoken Word

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

OK, so you’re sitting down somewhere and you decide to read a book. Everything is going well and you’re sure that if given the chance you’ll win “The Best Reader Ever” award. You sit there and you think to yourself: “Wow, I am such a great reader!” All smiles as you professionally turn the pages. Then you decide, at a different time, to read a book. Only this time you decided to read it out loud instead of to yourself. It may even be the same book but somehow it doesn’t seem to be going as well as it did the first time. The same words that flowed smoothly in your head seem to have added more syllables. It’s to the point now that you stumble over words that were hard back in third grade. “Huh? Now I know I can read.” You say to yourself, you cannot understand it and for a second you even close the book and look at the cover. Yes, it’s the same book.

What is the correlation between reading in our heads (silently) and reading out loud? Does speaking guide us deeper into the conversation? What kind of power is there to a voice pumping out words? As I think about this, I wonder how this would sound if I was to record it for you. If instead of a blog post I sent a memo instead, do you think you would understand it better? After all, in this age of technology it is not always easy to discern the intent of text. I wonder if the tone of my voice, my mood, and my pronunciation would change the context in any way.

education-rap-microphoneIn my opinion, I think both the written and spoken word is important. And as I write, I do not believe every poem should be spoken. Some of the poems I write are structured in a way that must be read, while others are structured in a way that must be heard. In this way, I believe the difference in the way we react to the written and spoken word is in the differences in structure and style. For instance, in a letter I may write: “I ponder this as I prepare to release…” But if I was verbally speaking to you I would probably say something like: “I thought about this since I’m about to come out with…” It is not that I cannot write how I would speak; it’s just that we tend to speak in a less formal way when we’re talking than when we are writing. It is much more spontaneous, there is no preparation; we use the slang of our upbringing, and neglect complete sentences.

This is what I like most about the spoken word. There are so many additional elements available to help understand the meaning. You don’t just have words to work with, but there is also body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. A speaker is capable of both giving and receiving feedback instantly. Right away he or she is able to determine whether or not their way of dress, hair style, or accent influences the information in any way.

man-writing-booksOn the other hand when we write, it tends to present itself in a way far more grammatically correct (I use grammatically correct loosely and really for lack of a better word since my writing is not exactly grammatically correct in the English sense of the word but you get the point) than if we were to say it out loud; perhaps a symbolic way of representing things like pauses or tone of voice in speaking. While speaking is straight forward, writing must take on a form of speech in a way that demonstrates the moving of lips without physically seeing which is perhaps the implementation of a more proper usage. You can see my facial expression when I’m talking to you but to write it I must use words to create that image. That is what I love most about the written word, a portrait of something painted not by images but by words. A sound heard not because it is audible, but because it was etched into paper in a way that is loud.

LERONE_BENNETT,_WELL_KNOWN_BLACK_WRITER_WHO_IS_SENIOR_EDITOR_AT_EBONY_MAGAZINE,_IN_HIS_OFFICE_AT_JOHNSON_PUBLISHING..._-_NARA_-_556250Additionally, the most important, and also the most fun, thing about writing vs. speaking to me is also that it tends to live on longer. This can be a good and a bad thing. It can be a good thing because it gives us the chance to record beautiful words like poetry and stories to live on for as long as they need to. Our books can be passed down to our children and grandchildren like pictures. But it can be a bad thing because if you recorded something wrong or irrelevant that can also live on! I think this is one of the reasons writing has been associated with being a kind of skill. Perhaps it is because we learn to speak before we learn to write. We pick up the language of those around us and attach to them the context of our environment. Before you know it we’re “Mama” and “Dada” all over the place! Now, because we have understood this language and associated it with the people around, this does not mean we know at that moment how to write it which will come much later.

But today is a new day, and with technology the power of speech has taken on new meaning and it too is also considered a skill. Not only can you record permanent versions of speech such as poetry, memos, speeches, lessons, etch, but today writing is not alone but “Public Speaking” has also evolved into a skill.

Self Published Books and Libraries: How to Get Your Book onto Library Shelves

Great Info on Self-Publishing and Libraries.

readers+writers journal

 What Indie Authors Need to Know About the Library Market

By Jane Friedman via Publishers Weekly

It has become a cliché to talk about how e-book distribution has leveled the playing field for indie authors and made the publishing environment more democratic. But accessing the library market remains somewhat more difficult for single authors with just a few titles.
While indie authors can gain some access to libraries by making their books available through major library distributors, that doesn’t mean that those books will be purchased. In many ways, getting self-published titles into libraries hasn’t changed since the e-book revolution: authors still have to prove that they have quality products that fit the collection. And, unfortunately, authors still face the stigma of self-publishing: there’s a long history of patrons offering to donate handwritten poetry collections or memoirs to their libraries.
Though some libraries work with their communities to publish…

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Beware of Flattery

Everyone wants to be appreciated at some point in their lives. At some point, everyone wants to be loved and encouraged every now and again. Flattery however is not the same as genuine praise. Not only is it counterproductive but its borderline insulting especially for the person being flattered upon. It is almost like lying or pretending to care.

Before I go on, I have to mention that not all flattery is bad. It is easy for introverts or those of us who are really shy, to be flattered by compliments. This form of flattery is likened to that of humility.

But how do you know if you’re flattering someone in a negative way or if someone is flattering you?

Ultra-Orthodox Praise

flatteryFlattery is known by what I like to call the Ultra-Orthodox Praise. This tends to really creep into my skin and tug at my nerve strings. The reason it’s so irritating is because it’s so fake. I’m sure I’m not the best thing since sliced bread. The Ultra-Orthodox Praiser however will lead you to believe otherwise. Likewise, you are not the best thing that has ever happened to me.

 

When someone has done something well tell them. Let them know they really touched you, how it made you feel and ways it has helped you to improve. Give credit where credit is due.

HOWEVER

Don’t overdo it. Making something out to be above what it’s worth is flattery and it does not help the giver or the receiver. When you discern this kind of flattery in your midst, don’t let it go to your head. Let’s look at some examples:

“You are very pretty and I love that new hair cut!”

Even though the word “very” was used this is a genuine compliment. The person stated what they saw in the person and showed also that they noticed something new about them. It shows that they are interested and truthful in regard to their praise.

“You are very pretty and I love the new haircut! Where’d you get it done?”

This compliment is also a good one. In fact it is better than the last one. Not only did this person notice the new hair cut but they made it a point to also ask questions. This engages the other person and shows genuine interest.

“You are by far the most beautiful person in the world! I wish I could marry you today.”

This is flattery. Is this person really the most beautiful person in the world? This is extra and is not helpful. Suppose the woman did think she was the most beautiful person ever, this will help her to do nothing but think too highly of herself. She will be filled with pride and no one will be able to tell her anything. So you see flattery is really unnecessary.

Now this next example is kinda tricky:

“I think your poetry is better than Maya Angelou’s.”

Praise-Flattery-sign

Is this a genuine compliment or is it flattery?

This is a genuine compliment. It’s genuine because it’s one person’s opinion about someone else. Remember that flattery is characterized by over-exaggeration, not necessarily the mention of famous individuals. It is also important to note that this is someone’s opinion and it is addressed as such. “I think” informs us of the nature of the statement and lets us know it is an opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion.  Chances are the person really did think this poet’s work superseded Maya Angelou’s. It is their opinion. However, it is easy for this statement to have been one of flattery if the person went over the top with it:

“I think you should change your name to Maya Angelou since you’re such a great poet.

Though this is an opinion, it is also flattery. If the person really is a good poet, tell them but leave the extra stuff out. It only makes you look insincere and phony about what you’re saying unless it was understood that you were joking.

Why People Flatter

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If you are in a situation where someone is flattering you, there are three possible reasons:

1). Envy

Believe it or not most people who are overtly zealous concerning certain individuals do not actually care for them, and their flattery is a cover. These people tend to over compensate to make it look like these people are their “besties,” but in reality they hope for their down fall. There is no reason to pretend or make someone out to be other than they are except if there are hidden motives.

2). Pity

Another result of flattery is pity. People are most likely to become victims of flattery by those who feel sorry for them in some way. If you’re attempting to build encouragement this is not the way to do it. People need to know the truth so that they can improve. You don’t have to be mean about it, but flattery is just as counterproductive.

3). They Want Something in Return

If someone is throwing unnecessary overtly zealous statements your way that are really over the top, another reason for this is that they want something from you. What they want can vary. Some people are so bad that they’ll do it just to get your attention.

How to React to Flattery

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If you believe you are being flattered in negative ways just brush it off. Don’t be rude and try to jump down people’s throats for flattering you. However, don’t take it seriously. Flattery tends to be an over exaggerated form of an observation for the purpose of exacting pity, or trying to get your attention. It is sometimes based not off logic or genuine interest, but of hidden envy. Acknowledge it for what it is and keep it moving. Like the quote says, enjoy it. It may even be funny, may uplift you even but don’t swallow it. Remain humble. Mistaking flattery for truth can have its consequences. You can put yourself in the vulnerable position of being really hurt that someone was not honest with you. You will feel used and under appreciated. There is nothing like the real thing so never trade the truth for a moment of flattery. It hinders, it does not help.

If You’re a Flatterer

Sometimes we are just trying to be nice. But if you find yourself flattering a lot just keep it real with yourself always. You don’t have to over acknowledge someone, either their presence or talent, to make them feel special. If you are truly genuine they will know it and if they have good hearts they will appreciate it.

*Remember that genuine praise or excitement over someone or their work is not flattery.*

As seen in our examples, flattery tends to be over the top in unrealistic ways:

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Flattering Comments

Finally, I have to bring up an important observation as it pertains to the blog world. Sometimes I get the feeling that there are certain instances where it appears differing perspectives are not welcomed in the blogosphere. Not from the comments I get since I have been fortunate to have genuine people leave their thoughts on the table and we have engaged in excellent conversations. However,  while browsing the blogging world period (which doesn’t limit itself to WordPress), I do detect flattery in the comments area. Sometimes, not all the time. I know how important it is to be kind and I would never promote a debate (because its fruitless) but being nice and courteous doesn’t mean everyone will think the same or that everyone will be in agreement. That is not how it is in the real world. In fact, sometimes people may even get upset or agitated by a blog post. We need to understand that that’s OK as long as they maintain a level of self-control (no usage of profanity and angry outburst) because that’s real.

When giving commentary on someone’s blog make sure that you’re being real about it. Respect their blog as if walking into their home, but don’t make your comments so overlaid with flattery that it becomes fake.

Why Lebron James is not the King

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I used to be a basketball fan. I still enjoy it from time to time, though not nearly as when I was younger. You see, I grew up on Michael Jordan, back when Basketball was exciting. Back when we had MJ parties and we would scream and shout with joy over the dark skin brotha floating through the air. But as Jordan faded away and we come upon our new school athletes, Basketball is just not the same anymore. In fact, I do not remember it being as exciting since Jordan. But in this post I am not going to compare Michael’s BBall skills to Lebron’s or give my opinion on who’s better. After all, the subtitle of this blog is that truth is stranger than fiction and it’s been awhile since I’ve said anything weird.

Sports are fun. I like sports. I play a little basketball for exercise on occasion every now and again. I ran track, and played a little tennis. So like I said, Sports is fun, I like it. Great way to exercise. But things do tend to get a little, well, strange……

When Michael first signed his contract with Nike, he stated that he did not want his shoes to be red and black because red and black are devil colors. Why did he say that? Of course, the devil is a spirit not a person. He has no color. But there is a reason red and black is associated with the devil:

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• Red and Black is associated with the devil because of Nimrod. Nimrod, a descendant of Ham (whose name means burnt black), was a black skinned man who became associated with the devil for two reasons:

#1: Nimrod had the people to bow down and worship him as God King.

#2: Nimrod was very powerful, so much so that he killed a bull with his bare hands. He covered himself in its blood, wrapped the tail around his waist, put the horns on his head and the hooves on his feet. He was black underneath and red on top. This is how we got the image of the little red devil.

Moving on, why is Lebron James not the King?

3 is Symbolic of the Trinity (The trinity is not in the bible but originates with Nimrod, his wife-mother Semiramis and their son Tammuz.).

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• Jordan’s Championship record is in a period of 3 apiece. He was also the 3rd person drafted into the Bulls in the year 1984. He played for Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the United States.

Satanists are largely into Numerology (a concept copied from the bible) so everything always has to line up:

• The Chicago Bulls came into the NBA in 1966. Jordan won 6 championships. Michael Jordan also wore the number 23. 2 x 3 = 6.

• Michael Jordan played for a team called The Chicago Bulls whose colors are, coincidentally, red and black. Bull is also coincidentally the same animal used to become Nimrod’s renowned image.

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• Michael Jordan’s contract with Nike makes his shoes the most sought after of every shoe pretty much invented. People have gone as far as to steal, kill, and destroy for them. Nike is not just the name of a shoe, but was the Goddess of Victory. She is seen with wings in most statues and paintings, ironically, in the same stance often seen by MJ as he floats the air.

 

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
A stone carving of the Goddess Nike at the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, Turkey
A stone carving of the Goddess Nike at the ruins of the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, Turkey
CHICAGO - MAY 14:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a shot against the New York Knicks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 1996 NBA Playoffs. Copyright 1996 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
CHICAGO – MAY 14: Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a shot against the New York Knicks in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 1996 NBA Playoffs. Copyright 1996 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

 

• Michael means “Who is Like God” and Jordan is known as the Basketball God because of his success, this is common knowledge. But in addition, he is the best Chicago Bull’s player in history, making him the King of The Chicago Bulls. Like Nimrod, Michael Jordan is both God and King, but of Basketball.

Lebron James is not the King of Basketball because Michael Jordan has already been crowned God King of Basketball.