25 May

No Words

VivI apologize for the lack of posts—the lack of communication. This came about from a tragic, unforeseen phone call. On April 16, I received a call that my sister, Vivian Anderson, had passed away suddenly. She was 52-years old. That day, my sister had called me but we were in Holland. By the time we got home and settled, it was 9:00 pm in Germany, so I didn’t call her back. I figured I’d call her the next day. If only…

Death is profound—we immerse ourselves in anguish and reflection. Things we hadn’t thought about in decades floats to the surface of our conscious. Good and bad memories sift through continuous feelings with a few ‘what might have been’ or ‘what if’s’ tangled in between. People tell me that the pain will subside. The truth is that the pain burrows itself in my heart. I learn to live with every loss.

Mom, Viv & I_bigger

Four years prior, my mother passed away. My sister and I lost a piece of who we were that day. The void nudged its way in—a numbness that made whatever was important in our lives become insignificant. What we wanted before was no longer a desire. Death tends to be a turning point. We both found new meaning, new lives, in other parts of the world; hers in Arizona, and mine in Germany. Although we lived over 5,000 miles away, we kept in touch on a weekly basis. Through hardships and joy, we let each other know what was going on. We were each other’s lifeline to our mother.

When Vivian died, I not only lost my one and only sister, but the link to my mother. It pulled forth the pain hidden in my heart, adding to the current anguish. A perpetual silent suffering that will be provoked from time to time, enhancing the moment of loss, and triggering years of memories.

Viv and IMy sister and I shared a room. We brushed each other’s hair, played Barbies and jacks together. Teen posters of David Cassidy decorated her side of the room. A child of the 70s, she liked disco, long straight hair, and Angel blouses. I wanted to be like her. Vivian taught me how to ride a bike. She helped me get my license. I was her maid of honor in her wedding, the godmother to her first-born, and spent many years with her and the children. I loved that my sister made me such a big part of her life because it left me with so many memories.

Viv and the kidsVivian was a strong, positive person, and in the face of conflict, she always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. She wore joy on her sleeve. She had two beautiful children, Renee and Zachary, which she was forever proud of. My sister was loving, caring, and smart when it came to the medical field. She was an EMT for many years, and the best phlebotomist you could ever have drawn your blood. While watching ER, she would rattle off what was needed for the patient before the actors did. As I worked on my current manuscript, I’d send her text messages asking her medical questions.

In 2007, we went to Gatlinburg, TN together. We had a great time with many laughs. I even convinced her, even though I was afraid of heights too, to take the ski lift up into the Smoky Mountains. I told her she might never get the opportunity again. A remembrance I’ll keep close to me forever.

Vivian & Denise in the Smokies
I write this to you today, trying to catch up with life, making the things I put on hold somewhat relevant again. After reading this post, I hope you walk away knowing a little bit about my sister, Vivian, and a lesson about life and loss. Don’t be afraid to hug or say “I love you” to your loved ones. Don’t just text people when you have the opportunity to hear their voice. Make sure those that matter to you know it through words and action. And lastly, make every moment count.

Sisters and Memories,
Baer Necessities

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13 Apr

Surviving Writer

It’s author interview day today, and I’d like to introduce you to Jana Robison. A sucker for cats and dogs, Jana embraces her nerdiness, and shares her writings with us along with a little bit of her blessed life. Please welcome her and enjoy the interview.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

Hello! I am a (semi) retired mother, and grandmother, who is a transplant in the big ole state of Texas. I love to draw and write, and although I truly suck at it, I’m a wannabe gardener! I am a nerd, always have been, and I must have the word ‘sucker’ flashing in neon on my forehead it seems, because I seem to attract dogs and cats wherever I go! I am a little OCD, have fought mild dyslexia since being diagnosed in Jr. High, and have been accused of being far too perky. I am a two-time cancer survivor, and I am truly blessed with the support of my family, friends, and my beloved pets.

What’s your favorite first line of a book? It can be your book or another author’s.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Tell us about your published works.

I have 7 e-books available at this time.

1.  Shards of Illusion – Suspense Novel: Young college student Maylea struggles to keep her sanity as her nightmares begin to take over her life. Desperate to escape, can she recall her dangerous past before it catches up with her?

2. Catch Me When I Fall (Fang meg når jeg faller) – Women’s Fiction: Lina’s heart disintegrates as she realizes her beloved grandmother Sissel is gone. A surprise inheritance of Sissel’s diary consumes Lina as she discovers her grandmother’s long held secret, and sends her on a journey into a foreign world.

3. Me and My Bacon – Young Adult: Struggling to deal with her mother’s indifference, and the emotional turbulence of being a teen, Mera’s world is hard enough already. Her world is turned upside down by her mother’s abrupt decision to rip her from her fast-paced city life in L.A., to the backwoods of Vermont. Can she find a way to fit in and acclimate to her new world without losing who she really is?

4. Five of a Kind – Women’s Fiction: Cheli is exhausted. 15 years of non-stop work changed her from a popular orphan to a superstar, but her new life with Alan is suffering for it, forcing her to take a break. The sudden discovery of a secret sister soon creates more drama in her personal life than any of her on-screen characters ever had to deal with. The ensuing domino effect takes her on a wild, emotionally charged adventure.

5. Somewhere New England – Women’s Fiction: A bored young woman escapes a crumbling life and has to choose between the easy way out and the right way with shocking results.

6. 5th & Flamingo – Women’s Fiction: A borderline nervous breakdown causes a structured city girl to abandon her out of control life in exchange for the unorthodox characters living by the beach that embrace her into their world.

7. Mystic Sunset – Women’s Fiction: An emergency exposes that a young woman’s life has been a lie, and she struggles to uncover her true identity.

Has writing changed the way you read? Explain.

A little, yes. Writing takes up so much of the rare free time, that it has caused me to be more choosy in the books that I chose to read. When I am finished with a novel, and have more free time though I go back to exploring works I passed on earlier.

Which do you enjoy most—character or plot development?

Definitely plot development, my characters are a struggle for me most of the time.

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I have three books in the works. The main one right now, is a contemporary fiction that I am absolutely in love with already! I hope to have it published this fall.

Are you a “jeans, sit at your desk” kind of writer, or a “pajamas, stretched out on the couch” writer?

Oh definitely a pajamas writer, in whatever setting I feel most comfortable in!

If you were in a band, what would be the name and what kind of music would you play?

It would probably be something like Daily Daisies, and it would be Big Band era music.

When you’re not writing, where can people find you hanging out in the virtual world?

They can find me on my Facebook Author page frequently, and much less frequently on my Twitter feed. I work in the spring so I spend my precious free time writing more than being online.

I asked Jana to provide me with a picture of a place and time in history she would have liked to have been present, and this is what she had to say.

picard and qI know this isn’t an actual place and time, but to have been on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise with Captain Picard and Q, ah… I will forever be a nerd :)

And that wraps it up for today. If you’d like to learn more about Jana, please visit her author website.

Nerdiness and Support,
Baer Necessities

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06 Apr

For the Love of Verse!

It’s that time of year when we all connect with the beauty of words through poetry. Most people run the opposite way when it comes to poetry. Some simply don’t like it, and others feel they don’t understand it. But poetry is all about what you get out of it. Emotions it conjures up; words ringing true.

National poetry month

Poetry is fun to write. You don’t have to be a poet laureate or have a Masters in Literature to write poetry. All you need is a subject, words, and emotions. There are many types of poems to dabble with such as Haiku, Odes, and Sonnets. This is a link that gives explanations and examples of Traditional and Invented Poetry forms – http://www.shadowpoetry.com/resources/wip/types.html.

I’d like to share a poem I did several years ago. This is a Cento poem, Latin for “patchwork”. It’s a collage of other poets’ works. Check out Wolf Cento by Simone Muench. She’s a professional poet, so you’ll probably find her poem of great value.

How to Write a Cento:

  1. You borrow lines from other poets’ poems. This does not need to follow any particular meter or rhyme.
    2) I browsed PoemHunter.com to read popular poems.
    3) When I found the first line for my poem, I went in search of another line from another poet that would go with the first. The lines you choose can be from any part of the poem.

Below is the result of the Cento I created. I loved putting this poem together because it gave me a glimpse at many poems. Even though it doesn’t have to fit any meter or rhyme, I chose to make my poem rhyme. I’ve put the name of the poem and poet in italics. If you click on the links, they will take you to the poem.

Death Dream

A stranger came to the door at eve, Love and A Question by Robert Frost
Enswathed, and seal’d to curious secrecy. A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare
love strikes away the chains of fear Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou
As I lean and look through the glimmering light–that one has utterly
disappeared
, I Thought I was Not Alone by Walt Whitman

‘He scents thy footsteps in the snow Broken Love by William Blake
Sigh thou mayst, and bid it go Think of it Not, Sweet One by John Keats
With thoughtful pace, and sad, majestic eyes, Dante by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies A Dream Lies Dead by Dorothy Parker

Yon heaven thy home, that waits and opes its door. The Guardian Angel by Robert Browning
Misery, my sweetest friend—oh, weep no more! Death – Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley

But will you hear MY dream, for I had one Sea Dreams by Alfred Lord Tennyson
For the heart whose woes are legion
‘Tis a peaceful, soothing region-
Dreamland by Edgar Allan Poe

Have you written a poem for fun? Have you ever tried an invented poetry form?  If you’d like, please share in the comments.

Poetry and Expression,
Baer Necessities

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30 Mar

Spank You Very Much!

The foibles of promoting can hurt an unknown author. Let’s face it, majority of writers dislike promoting and marketing their works. We’d much rather write than shout out

In the past, I’ve wanted to help other authors promote their works. Not only did it expose my own publishing imprint and writings, I also enjoyed learning about other authors. After doing a few promotional projects, such as First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels, There’s a Silver Lining Out There, Author Interviews, and a Pay It Forward (from my old blog), I find myself wary of doing any more other than author interviews. These promotions taught me about my own promoting ways along with dealing with writers, which I’d like to share today. These promotional lessons are to point out how often there is author participation neglect. Writing is a business, so it’s important to conduct yourself professionally.

1. Author Interviews are huge when it comes to online promotion. We try to find blogs willing to interview us so we can tell the world who we are and talk about our books. It’s a chance to give a nugget of information about where we come from, why we write, and boast about our publications. Unfortunately, author questions and answers can be mundane, and the reader can’t connect. This connection is what we want to achieve because if someone likes us, that like can turn into a sale, and hopefully the reader will spread the word. It’s one way writers build an audience. FOR FREE!

What To Do: Try to be creative when doing author interviews. Maybe answer some of the questions with humor, or as one of your characters. If possible, ask the interviewer if it’s okay to add some of your own questions and answers. Remember, it’s a way to appeal to an audience. Instead of “I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English”, provide something interesting about you, such as, “In some ways, I was an outcast attending the all-girl catholic high school while fighting my way through adolescence. When I finally broke free, I constantly tripped over my own naiveté when it came to common sense and finding out who I was supposed to be.” I wrote this example for myself, as a reminder to follow my own advice. Another way you can approach an author interview is the same way you’d approach a job interview.

What NOT to Do: Once you receive the link to the posted interview, promote it on social media, writing groups, etc. That’s the whole point! Don’t assume the interview was only to promote the hosting blog. That’s insane! Also, the blogger took the time to put your interview together and post it, so leaving a thank you comment on the blog is good manners. Once people start commenting, you should return to answer questions, thank the other commenters, or maybe add something about your life that relates to a comment. If you’re not a gracious interviewer, or you don’t interact with the posters, then most likely the interviewer won’t have you again, and readers might think twice about buying your book(s). In general, people want to be heard, so this is your opportunity to listen and possibly form a bond.

2. When I put together There’s a Silver Lining Out There, I struggled to receive the requested information. No matter how explicit the instructions, writers still left out information, or sent other things. Not only that, but I had a poet forget that she even submitted poetry to me.

What to Do: Similar to sending a resume, no matter where or what you’re submitting to, make sure to document the information. If you’re submitting a poem to a contest, then create a spreadsheet with the name and web address of the submission site, the reason, and which poem you’re submitting. Also, when you are submitting information, make sure you understand what the project entails. When I announced the collection of poems for the anthology, and corresponded with all poets, I constantly stated, “the eBook” so they understood that the anthology would only be in eBook form. When the eBook went live, I received several emails from the poets asking about the paperback.

What NOT to Do: All places you submit to have guidelines so follow those guidelines or run the risk of entry/information deletion. If a poetry contest requests, a) 3-5 poems in a single document, b) must be unpublished, and c) must not have your name on it. Then make sure you pull up a Word document, copy and paste 3-5 unpublished poems, don’t add your name to the document, and save it as “Three poems.pdf” or how many, NOT “Your Name poems.pdf”.

Another thing I’d like to state is even though a project might be helping the hosting site; it’s also for you to promote your writings. I can’t begin to count how many poets never bothered to promote the anthology, Silver Lining. Not only did they not promote the book, all proceeds going to charity, but once I sent the final email with their eBook copies and a link to Amazon, I didn’t hear from 75% of the poets. No “Looks great” or “Thank you”.

3. No one can argue with free promotion. When the opportunity arises, authors can’t help to jump on it for more exposure. With free opportunity comes some responsibility on the author’s end. Recently, I did a First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels blog post, where I promoted 21 authors, including me, using the first line from one of their novels. Along with the blog promotion, I created a video using the book covers and genres (posted on YouTube), and the book covers on a Pinterest Board. All the authors needed to do was send me their first line, genre, title, a purchase link, and an author website (A MUST).

What to Do: Again, it’s important to follow guidelines. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you are eligible, and then submit the requested material. Once the project is live, PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! It’s important to spread the word through social media, and possibly link it somewhere for a certain period of time. And make sure to thank those involved in providing the free promotion.

What NOT to Do: Because some writers didn’t read the guidelines, I received many first line submissions that did not include genre and/or author website. I guess they assumed an author website didn’t matter even though I had A MUST in caps. When I posted the blog post, I sent the link out to the authors so they could promote it. Some did and some thanked me. Several of the authors never bothered to acknowledge my emails, let alone tell me what they thought of the post. Because of this, I doubt I’ll work with these writers again.

4. On my old blog, I did a Pay It Forward to help promote authors. I featured them on my blog, and after their feature, they were to pay it forward to a self-published/indie author by featuring them on their own blog or writing a book review. I asked them to do it within a reasonable time, a month or two, and send me the link regarding their pay it forward.

I stopped this feature because the authors were miraculously too busy to fulfill their Pay It Forward obligation. Since my Pay It Forward list lacked the links, I’d follow up with the authors. They claimed to be busy with work, family, or something else. To sign up for something without following through is just wrong. It demonstrates a selfish author, and over time, people will stop supporting such writers.

Free promotion is a luxury for unknown self-published/indie authors. To have people offer promotional opportunities, writers need to be professional and courteous. It goes a long way.

Free Promotions and Courtesy,
Baer Necessities

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23 Mar

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My book club finished the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Before reading it, I was curious and appreciated being introduced to the book.

Americanah is about a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who leaves University in Nigeria and her first love, Obinze, to work and study in America. It delves into her troubles as a Non-American black woman. Racism she never experienced before, frustration in finding work, and a constant search to find herself. As an expat, I was able to relate to her sadness and depression. I have been away from the familiar, life’s comforts I had grown accustom to, and the freedom of speaking to whoever, whenever. Of course, I can’t identify with the racism aspect of it, but I can identify with the loneliness as an outsider, not understanding the language, and the shock of a different culture.

This book is a National Bestseller and voted “One of the Best Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review. I would have to agree that for the writing and historical purposes this book deserves to be a National Bestseller, but not necessarily one of the best books of the year. However, I believe it will make its way into African Studies. One of the best things about reading this book with my book club was discussing it with several expats, one being Nigerian. We were able to ask him questions about her descriptions of Nigeria and their ways.

Book Cover

Black women’s hair was a big point she made in the book, which is why the book cover illustrates braids. In my opinion, I believe the braid attempt on the book cover failed. At first I thought they were ropes, and then realized they symbolized black women’s braids. It looks like a child drew them.

As always, my book review will contain spoilers, so please stop here if you have not read the book and plan to read it.

 Writing

I found some great lines in the book, and I would like to share a few of them with you.

  • Quote 1
  • Quote 2
  • Quote 3
  • Quote 4
“…it would hurt him to know she had felt that way for a while, that her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.”
“…she had convinced herself that she was not living on memories mildewed by thirteen years.”
“But his mannered English bothered her as she got older, because it was costume, his shield against insecurity.”
“There was something in him, lighter than ego but darker than insecurity, that needed constant buffing, polishing, waxing.”

Chimamanda’s writing is good. I enjoyed her style, but wasn’t awe-struck by it. There were times where she tended to become repetitive. Many chapters contain blog posts written by the main character and they all have the same type of theme, yet not all have that “Aha!” moment. The blog posts grow into lectures more than advice, opinion, or suggestions. To me, this was a turn-off.

I would also like to point out that this book is fiction, yet in some ways, it mirrors the author’s life. Chimamanda is Nigerian, born into an Igbo family in the town of Nsukka, came to America to study and work, and now splits her time between Nigeria and the U.S. She has many degrees and acclamations for her writings. She has given lectures regarding writing, cultures, and feminism.

This book would have been better written as non-fiction, because she didn’t distance herself enough from the fictional character, Ifemelu. Throughout the book, I turned to the back cover to look at her picture, and I knew it was her speaking through the main character. Like the author, Ifemelu is from Nigeria, born into an Igbo family in Nsukka, and comes to America for her studies.

Chimamanda was quoted in an interview, saying, “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.”

The likeness of Chimamanda and Ifemelu’s life, along with the anger, is exactly what the reader will experience. I’m not a feminist, nor am I angry, so her angry writing didn’t do her justice with me. I completely disagree with her that we should all be angry. Why? The world is already angry, angry about feminism, racism, economy, government, the list goes on. There’s no need to breathe anger into people when it already exists, and in my opinion, suffocates purpose. Instead of being angry, create a love of who we are and acceptance.

Plot

When Ifemelu first arrives in America, she can’t get a job, and falls into a depression. She mentions that in Nigeria, depression doesn’t exist. If you don’t put a name on it, it isn’t there, but Americans put a name on everything. I found this quite interesting, because I didn’t realize that many countries don’t discuss or acknowledge depression.

Ifemelu begins blogging about racial issues, the blog takes off, and she starts to give lectures. Over time, she winds up making more money with her blog and lectures than any other job. While still working as a babysitter, she meets her employer’s cousin, a rich, white boy, who ultimately helps her get a green card.

  • How She Felt
  • His Beliefs
“With Curt, she became, in her mind, a woman free of knots and cares, a woman running in the rain with the taste of sun-warmed strawberries in her mouth.”
“He believed in good omens and positive thoughts and happy endings to films, a trouble-free belief, because he had not considered them deeply before choosing to believe; he just simply believed.”

She also talks and blogs about black women’s hair. How difficult it is to maintain. How black women don’t wear it natural because it’s not acceptable for job interviews, etc. She goes into detail how black women use relaxers and burn their hair straight, and those who wear it natural, afro style or braids, avoiding the harsh chemicals. This taught me how black women struggle with their hair.

There’s a part in the book where Ifemelu blogs about “Why Dark-Skinned Black Women — Both American and Non-American — Love Barack Obama”. From the post:

“But today most of the American blacks who are successful as entertainers and as public figures are light…He broke the mold! He married one of their own. He knows what the world doesn’t seem to know: that dark black women totally rock. In movies, dark black women get to be the fat nice mammy or the strong, sassy, sometimes scary sidekick standing by supportively.”

Ifemelu or Chimamanda, I can’t decipher who, is making a point that dark black skinned women may now be recognized as being relevant and beautiful. The Nigerian book club member clarified this when we came across the word Akata. He explained that Nigerians don’t look too kindly on African Americans. I found this video of a woman discussing the word akata – https://youtu.be/im6vo1KkVok. And here’s another video of a young lady discussing African vs. African American.

I learned something new, something I would have never known as a white woman—the differences—and find it intriguing. The way the woman in the second video approaches the subject is great and informative. And she’s not angry.

Since Chimamanda and Ifemelu are somewhat the same, I can’t help but think that the author used a fictional character to voice her views. Again, she should have written a non-fiction book about the cultural differences between America and Nigeria. Non-American Blacks vs. Black Americans.

There are also parts in the book where the author never finishes a relationship or action. She babysits for two children and has a friendship with the mother, her employer. Once she starts dating her employer’s cousin, Curt, the reader never hears about them again. Also, while she is set to leave America for Nigeria, she promises her hairdresser, who wants to stay in the U.S., that Ifemelu will contact a man the hairdresser likes and talk to him about marrying her. That is all we hear about it. The end of the so-called first love romance is hastily wrapped up on the last page.

Characters

This was the first time I liked a book, but not the main character. The main character, Ifemelu, is an angry woman, echoing Chimamanda. She dates a rich, white guy, who helps her get her green card. He makes her feel great, but she cheats on him because she is ‘curious’. Then she dates a black American, who is pompous, doesn’t treat her well, who she adores, and then she leaves him to go back to Nigeria.

The main problem I had with this character is she never grows. She remains stagnant, angry, bitter, and judgmental. There’s a part in the book where she’s talking with a “large-hipped, stylish poet from Haiti with an Afro bigger than hers” who says that for 3-years she dated a white man and race wasn’t an issue. Here’s how the rest of the dialogue goes:

“That’s a lie,” Ifemelu said to her.
“What?” the woman asked, as though she could not have heard properly.
“It’s a lie.” Ifemelu repeated.
The woman’s eyes bulged. “You’re telling me what my own experience was?”

This is a perfect example of how Ifemelu approaches everything in the book. Her opinion is the only one. When she dates the white guy, Curt, his positivity bothers her. When she dates the black American, his academia bothers her. She is forever aggravated, judgmental and lacks empathy. I can only recall once when she sympathizes with a hairdresser of hers. Other than that, Ifemelu never is appreciative of the good things she receives. She never looks inside herself regarding self-improvement.

Due to some of the book sounding more like a scolding than a story, and the main character’s lack of growth, I give this book 3.5/5 stars. I would recommend it with some warnings, but I don’t think I’ll read another book by this author again.

If interested, here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Americanah-Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie/dp/0307455920/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458584664&sr=8-1&keywords=Americanah

Racism, Cultures, and Feminism,
Bare Necessities

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