16 Nov

Adventures in Germany

Today we’re taking a break from the written word. I’ll be sharing some random pictures from a few explorations we did this year in Germany.

In August, we took an English walking tour in Cologne. It was great because we were the only people who showed up-our own private tour.

 Then we went to a British Flair in Krefeld.

And last month, we were spooked in a haunted zoo.

What interesting things have you done this year?

Life Experiences,
Baer Necessities

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09 Nov

An Underwater Dreamer

Let’s dive right into another author interview. Today, I’m introducing you to Jenny Burke, a woman who streams together her experiences, research, and dreams to create characters and stories. Passionate about the outdoors, exploring and imagining possibilities, please welcome Jenny and enjoy.

Describe yourself in 150 words or less.

octopusI’m an author, reader, artist, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. I write and draw the worlds that grow in my mind and research details to understand them. My Dragon Dreamer series has dragons and an undersea world. I toss colored lightning with my dragons and grow pearls beneath the waves with my shape-shifters.

My stories blend imagination with real science and author experiences. The Dragon Dreamer series grew from my years at sea, a fascination with the alien, intelligent octopuses, and a love of dragons. I live in Georgia. Visit my website at www.jennysburke.com to see some of the fantasy snowflakes that my dragons grow in the winter clouds!

If you didn’t decide to become a writer, what else would you like to be when you grow up?

I’ve worked as an artist, chemist, teacher, and marine biologist, studying creatures of the dark abyss and diving on coral reefs. I’ve always been a writer, but more recently a writer of novels. I’m fascinated by all that goes into a novel and marvel at the variety of worlds within the minds of fellow authors.

Tell us about your published works.

The Dragon Dreamer by J.S. Burke has flying dragons, an undersea world, and unexpected friendship. It’s a science fantasy adventure layered for readers age 9 to 99.

Arak is a dragon misfit. Determined to prove himself, he leaves on a quest, flies far over the sea . . . and crashes. Badly wounded, he faces death. A fearless, shape-shifter octopus named Scree finds and heals him, and an unexpected friendship begins.

Arak returns to the Winter Festival, where dragons carve glaciers with fire and toss lightning bolts in the clouds. When an undersea volcano erupts, this triggers a towering tsunami and a deadly chain of events. Can Arak use his unique gifts to save the dragons?

Dragon Lightning by J.S. Burke is Book II of the Dragon Dreamer series, with ice dragons and a waking super volcano.

Drakor seems like a normal young ice dragon with a talent for making lightning swords. But he alone feels the changing heart of his island Volcano. It destroyed his beloved sire. Now he foresees their doom, but none will listen. As he seeks proof, the Volcano shakes him off into the frozen sea.

Meanwhile, Arak sails north with golden dragons and undersea shape-shifters. Dorali joins the quest, searching for adventure and escape as she struggles to cope with her terrible scars. The crew seeks a beautiful legend but discovers a terrifying reality when they rescue Drakor. Ice dragons are not what Arak expected, and Drakor’s waking volcano threatens all three realms.

Do you sing in your car? If not, where can someone catch you singing?

I sometimes sing in the car, and more often when I’m alone, anywhere. Every song I know is attached to strong memories.

What’s your biggest source of inspiration?

I have vivid memories of my experiences diving, sailing, caving, and hiking. I’ve read hundreds of research papers and I’ve known many people. I like to imagine “what if”, and then this all flows in to add detail. It’s extra fun to understand the science behind my science fantasy world.

Is it important for people to like you? Explain.

It’s nice to be liked, but not the most important thing. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes to understand their needs, and help if I can. Ultimately, it’s more important to do the right thing even if it means some won’t like you.

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

I’ve started writing Book III of the Dragon Dreamer series. I want to finish my Dragon Dreamer Fantasy Snowflakes Coloring Book, and also finish Crystal Book III.

What’s the one gift for writers that you would love to get for your birthday?

I’d like more #2 envelopes for mailing my books. I’d also like quality watercolor paper and brushes to paint my covers (this can be expensive).

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

Amazon
Facebook
Twitter
Google+

I asked Jenny to send me one of her favorite underwater species with a little synopsis as to why it’s one of her favorites. Here’s what she had to say.

octopus2Octopuses are extremely intelligent and clever undersea beings. Some kinds can change their shape, color, and texture to match almost anything. Recently, a true undersea octopus village was discovered by scientists. I was prescient! Scree, the main octopus shape-shifter in my Dragon Dreamer books, has become popular.

Dragons and Dreamers,
Baer Necessities

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02 Nov

Writing Advice List!

This post is a bit different. I thought I’d create a fiction writing alphabetical advice list based off my experience as a writer, author, and publisher. Hope you find something of value.

ABCs of writingAudience – It’s rare I hear authors talking about their audience, which is an important aspect to selling your book. Let your audience feel as if you wrote the book for them, and that comes from knowing who is going to read it. Don’t try to sell a romance novel to a thriller audience. All will suffer in the end.

Beta Readers – Target audience readers, who read a novel and provide feedback to the author regarding what works and doesn’t work for them. Beta readers and/or critique partners are invaluable in getting an outsiders point of view. Writers are too close to their characters and plot, so plot holes go unnoticed and/or a lack in character development.

Characters – Some types of genres rely heavily on character development because they’re character-driven. Even those that are plot-driven still need plausible characters. Are they uneducated, funny, mean? Take the time to study your characters. This helps with the development, dialogue, and believability, which ultimately connects the reader to the story.

Dialogue – Dialogue is great in molding a character. Readers can get a sense of a character from how they interact with other characters. If you have a character that lived their entire life in the countryside, you can change their speech to reflect their surroundings and naiveté of city life. This is part of character building.

Evolution – Like life, we like to see character’s evolve, growing and advancing throughout the story. You want them to learn something they didn’t know at the beginning. Keep in mind that your characters can only evolve within a realistic amount of time. Realistically, a killer can’t turn their life around overnight.

Freewriting – This is when you write without worrying about the condition of the Freewriting is freeingwriting—to write without editing. It’s a great way to let ideas pour onto the page by exploring characters and plot without the baggage of grammar and outlines. If you struggle with writer’s block, this is one way to combat it.

Genre – Genres define the type of book written. This is still a troublesome area for most authors because there are so many categories a book fits into nowadays. Some authors have redefined or created new genres. For help in finding your genre, list the themes in your book, such as romance, humor, and adventure equals a romantic comedy.

Hook – This is what writers refer to when hooking readers at the beginning of the book. The first/opening line or paragraph of a novel need to have a good hook. A novel should capture a reader’s attention from the first paragraph, so they’ll continue with it.

Imagery – Describing a character or setting using the five senses. This is part of showing instead of telling. Aside from sight, use the other senses. This gives the reader a better understanding of character and setting.

Jargon – Language used by a particular profession or group that other’s don’t understand. If one of your characters is a doctor, they might rattle off medical jargon—another additive for character development.

Killjoy – This isn’t actually a writing term, but I thought I’d use it in my alphabet advice. Killjoy is a person who ruins the enjoyment for others. Writers sometimes tend to explain too much, insulting the reader’s intelligence. Don’t explain everything to the reader, which I consider a killjoy. Give your audience some credit when it comes to following and understanding the story. If it’s written well, they shouldn’t have any problems.

Lazy – Many people who are starting out as writers feel the need to ignore writing rules. They believe there is no such thing. This is a lazy way of thinking. Of course there are rules because writing is a craft—a skill that very few have without practice and knowledge. Those who think this way are too lazy to learn the skills of writing, for example, character and plot development, show vs. tell, language, and the list goes on.

Mood – Book covers, language, set the mood of a novel. It helps define genre. If a novel is a crime mystery, then you want the book cover, blurb, and language to set the mood. There’s nothing wrong with throwing in humor or other themes, you want layers, but the main tone is what deepens the reader’s experience.

NavigatorAnother word I thought I’d add to writing. You are the navigator of your story, and it’s your job to navigate through characters, conflict, climax, up to the end. Sub-plots are great. They interrupt the flow, similar to life, navigating the main story or characters. If you go off-course, unfocused, there’s a good chance your reader will stop and navigate to another book.

Opposition – Hostility and conflict are great in novels. They keep the reader’s attention. Life is all about obstacles and successes. Let your characters and plot reflect reality.

Point of View – This is the perspective of the story sometimes told from a character’s perspective or a third party. Every writer finds their own comfort in POV. Here are the different POVs: First person, Second person, and Third peson (limited, multiple, omniscient.

Quit – Writing can become lonely. Many writers question whether they’re good enough. If you love writing, put in the time to learn, then I suggest you stick it out. Accept the fact that you will feel alone at times. You might not sell the amount of books you had hoped. But isn’t life all about doing what you love? Just make sure that if you’re going to publish and charge for your works, that you’re offering your best.

Revisions – Revising a book is so important. I see writers posting on forums that they finished writing their story and want to publish now. They only have one draft—the rough draft. You and others must revise your book many times. Revise, revise, give to a beta reader or critique partner. Revise, revise, and give to an editor. Revise some more. Send for a few proof copies, and revise some more. It’s much better to get it close to perfect the first time you publish than taking your book down because of editing complaints.

Sabbatical – It’s good to take some time away from your manuscript. This allows your mind and eyes to rest before tackling revisions. Even during revisions, make sure you put it aside, especially if things start getting jumbled.

TenacityTenacity – To be a writer, one needs to be persistent when it comes to all aspects of writing. There are times when you will want to give up. Maybe you feel someone writes better than you. Or you’re having difficulty writing dialogue. If you love it, keep the drive going. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. Writing isn’t all about sales. There’s a personal satisfaction when you finish a novel—a sense of accomplishment. This is what usually drives us onto the next project.

Unacquainted – If you’re unacquainted with medicine, and your story contains a doctor, it’s your job as a writer to make sure you research it. There’s nothing worse than reading a book where the author did not know the subject matter. They didn’t research it. Get acquainted with whatever subject you put into your novel that you don’t know much about.

Voice – Writers have their own voice. Don’t wish you could write like Stephen King because you won’t be able to, nor should you want to. Find YOUR voice when it comes to writing and try to perfect it.

Writer’s block – Most writers experience writer’s block. Nothing comes to them to write, or they’re stalled on a project. Step away and try something new, such as freewriting. The more you worry about it, the harder it is to get rid of. Instead, try to jiggle your creativity in other ways.

Xenial – It means to be hospitable between host and guest. Be hospitable to your readers. They will stick around if you show them love.

Yell – Sometimes a character, the way the story is going, writer’s block makes you want to yell. Go ahead and do it. Yelling is a great way to release frustration.

Zealous – Passion, eagerness, this is the glue that keeps us writing. Stay committed to the craft, to your passion, to your dream, and in the end you’ll be rewarded.

Did I miss something?

Passion and Advice,
Baer Necessities

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26 Oct

A Political Plague

political plagueThere are certain subject matters most Americans stay clear of and those are religion, politics, and finance. We feel they’re emotionally charged personal matters. The difference though is that someone’s religion or finance doesn’t necessarily affect others as much as their political choices. I’ve hidden many Facebook posts because I’m afraid to know whom so-and-so supports. I don’t want it to taint my thinking of them. Whom someone votes for says a lot about an individual.

Up until now, the one person I’ve discussed politics with is my husband, especially regarding this upcoming election. According to USA Today, “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the two most unpopular presidential candidates in more than 30 years of ABC News/Washington Post polling.” Since the election is approaching, I decided to broach the subject, no matter how controversial, to take a stand regarding our government’s approach to the Presidency and the way candidates campaign.

U.S. GOVERNMENT AND PARTIES

First, I’d like to state that I’m not affiliated with any party, nor do I declare one. I don’t believe in or understand why people vote per party instead of per individual. We are supposed to grow in life. There are particular things that are more important to us at certain stages in our lives. How can a party always support what’s important to you at every stage?

Second, I believe the U.S. government needs an overhaul since a two-party government isn’t a democracy. There are no checks and balances. One side usually dominates the other. There should be at least four parties with the same amount of visibility, and all should take part in debates, not just Republicans and Democrats. And there shouldn’t be two types of primaries—open or closed (21 open states). All U.S. citizens should have the right to vote in the primaries without declaring a party or membership. If you live in a state that only has closed primaries and you’re not a party voter, then you can’t vote for the nominees.

Also, do away with electors since they are what stand in the way of the American people. It impedes the popular vote. I feel that we should be voting for the President and Vice President, not the electors. “You help choose your state’s electors when you vote for President because when you vote for your candidate you are actually voting for your candidate’s electors.” Many Presidents have won based on electoral votes, not the popular vote.

HOW CAMPAIGNS ARE RUN

When it comes to funding, Super Pacs obstruct a candidate’s decisions. For each company, union, or individual that provides support, the elected presidential candidate will spend their time in office returning those favors. So if they’re busy taking care of corporations, they won’t have time to take care of the American people.

During debates, if a candidate’s answer is about criticizing another, their mic should be turned off while the question continues with the next candidate. There is too much grandstanding, accusations, and not enough information in regards to what they’re going to do for us—the ones who matter. Most Americans don’t follow politics year round, so campaigns are the only time we can learn about the nominees.

VOTING

I’ve already submitted my overseas election ballot and voted for Gary Johnson. My main reason for this is, “Achieving just 5% of the popular vote nationwide will achieve “major party” status for a third party for the first time ever… The future for all generations can only be made better with the inclusion of more ideas and more candidates… This will completely change the political landscape for the 2020 election. Now is our time to change history.” This is what I want—more ideas and candidates for the future of America. Times have changed, and the stagnant Republican and Democratic parties should not be our only choices. We need more voices for “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Only WE can make it happen.

WRITE-INS

Some believe that voting for a lesser party or a write-in means throwing your vote away. I disagree. Why would I invest in broken people? Why would I vote for anyone who I don’t want representing me as a U.S. citizen?

For those voters who don’t approve of either candidate, we do have options. Here’s a list of registered write-in candidates for President: http://presidentials.mytimetovote.com/Write-In-Candidates-running-for-president.html or you could vote Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian Party). Since I was late learning the ins and outs of write-ins, and I had to return my ballot, I didn’t have time to read up on the Independents. Don’t turn to the Republican candidate just because you can’t stand the Democrat. Take the time to learn about other possibilities that could change the political arena.

States that Do Not Allow Write-Ins: Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, or New Mexico

Thirty-three states allow write-ins as long as the candidate has registered with the state, which is why I can’t write-in Bernie Sanders. He hasn’t paid fees or filed the paperwork for states. In these states, if you write-in someone not registered (check the link above) then your vote will not count. Here is the list of States: Washington, California, Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennesse, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine.

States with Unrestricted Write-Ins: Vermont, Oregon, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, Alabama, Pennsylvania, or Rhode Island. These voters can write-in anyone they want, including Bernie Sanders.

CANDIDATES

My vote would have gone to Bernie Sanders if he was nominated. I don’t agree with everything Sanders wanted to change, but I believe in him as a person. He is the kind of man I would want representing me as a person and as an American. In my lifetime, he is the first nominee to look outside the box. To see what is broken in the U.S., and refer to other countries regarding how they handle matters.

He came from a struggling working class family, was involved in the Civil Rights movement, opposed the Iraq war, and had more than an 8-hour filibuster against tax cuts for the wealthy. Before leaving the Senate floor, he pleaded “a better proposal which better reflects the needs of the middle class and working families of our country and to me, most importantly, the children of our country.” He didn’t take money from Super Pacs. He has been honest throughout his political career, and he didn’t attack his opponents as the others did. His heart is for America. His issues are “… inequality in the United States. Economically, he favors tax reform that increases rates for the wealthy, greater governmental oversight of Wall Street and balancing the disparity between wages for men and women. He also believes in a state-administered health care system, more-affordable higher education — which includes tuition-free public college and universities — and an expansion of the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid systems. A social liberal, he also supports same-sex marriage and is pro-choice.” Bernie Sanders truly cares about the American people.

It boggles my mind. I’ve heard people complain about being sick of typical politicians. How they wish there was a candidate for the people. Aside from the wealthy, I just can’t understand why an honest, upstanding man who just wants justice for all wasn’t nominated. A man who can relate to the working class. Clinton and Trump aren’t in it for the people because they’re so out of touch with the dwindling working middle class let alone the poor.

HILLARY CLINTON

HillaryAlthough she isn’t as offensive as Donald Trump, Hillary isn’t someone I want representing me as a woman let alone an American. Prior to Obama, the White House has been dominated by the Clinton and Bush families for 24-years, 28-years if you include Hillary as Secretary of State under Obama. I’ve always thought she was smug, will do anything for power, and changes her mind when it suits her purpose. She is in bed with Super Pacs, so you can bet she isn’t committed to the citizens—she’s committed to those who supported her campaign. Democrats and feminists will vote for her, disregarding her faults and lies. Supporters say she has the experience, yet experience is what we have been voting into office and it hasn’t gotten us anywhere.

Here’s a quick glance over her past. Hillary came from an upper-class family. She knew of Bill’s affair with Lewinsky, but “Some on the staff have said that Hillary knew about Lewinsky long before it came out, and that what really upset her was not the affair itself but its discovery and the media feeding frenzy that followed.” That speaks volumes to her character. When running for the U.S. Senate seat in New York, she opposed same-sex marriages and was for the Iraq War.

Ellen DeGeneres, a democrat, had John McCain (Republican) and Hillary Clinton (Democrat) on her show discussing same-sex marriage. There is a difference in how she interacts with McCain vs. Clinton.

  • John McCain
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Changed
John McCain – a man who fought for her freedom –
Hillary Clinton – Ellen specifically asked, “Do you think it would be possible for someone to run and to openly say “I support gay marriage” and win.” Hillary, “I don’t know. I have had the same position for years, and so I don’t know what someone could or couldn’t do but I always believed that marriage should be left to the States.”
Hillary changes her mind –

She flip-flops like a fish out of water with lies. To me, she’s untrustworthy. I like what Susan Sarandon said about her. Many party voters are able to dismiss inaccuracies and bullshit for the sake of the party, but I won’t.

DONALD TRUMP

trumpIt’s a sad day in U.S. history that someone like Trump was even nominated. The Republican party showed their ignorance on this one. I don’t need to say much about him. Trump does a fine job representing himself. Those who are voting for him either absorb his poisonous rhetoric or hate Hillary enough to go with him instead of looking for other possibilities. People willing to vote for Donald Trump embrace bullying, racism, hatred, and chauvinism. These people find it funny or don’t care that he insults the disabled, veterans who fought for this country, women, people’s intelligence and the list goes on. He’s made a mockery of the American people and this election. These voters love that he speaks his mind, and believe what he says. Well, this is what they can believe about Trump. With him at the helm, the U.S. will not move forward. He will isolate America, and isolation is not the way to go in this world.

Do you want to weigh in? Please do so without insults.

Politics and Buffoonery,
Baer Necessities

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19 Oct

Preparations for National Novel Writing Month

For those of you who want to be writers, November is a perfect time to put your writing skills to the test. It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), so I thought I’d give you some pointers on the site and writing.

NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month is where writers from all over the world gather and write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. The only thing you win is the satisfaction of knowing you succeeded in writing a novel, and possibly gaining new friendships.

Before getting into it, I thought I’d share my experiences regarding NaNoWriMo. I had participated in 2008 and 2014 with success. My 2008 novel turned out to be my first publication in 2011; Net Switch, a dark, psychological suspense thriller. At the time, I was a full-time employee, so I know about the struggles in finding time to write. I’m currently working on my 2014 crime mystery novel, which will be a 2-book series.

The Site

1) Create an account on NaNoWriMo.org. Most people are wary of putting personal information down, but it helps other writers get to know you. Leave out where exactly you live. Let others know how long you’ve been writing, what type of genre you write, hobbies, books and authors you love. This is also a good time to add a writing buddy. If someone you know has signed up, get their exact username (a site glitch, so it must be accurate), pull up their profile and add them.

2) Then go to Regions – Find a Region, and search for the areas closest to you. The support of others, along with those nearby, is extremely helpful when writing. They also have write-in meetup places to join other NaNo participants.

3) Go to Inspiration – NaNo Prep and check out what’s available and convenient for you to do. Under Conversations, the Forums are another great way to connect with writers before, during, and after November.

Writing

1) Make an intention. Why are you doing NaNoWriMo? What is YOUR purpose? Then write it down and tape it somewhere visible on your computer.

2) If all you have are a few characters and a premise for a story, that’s all you need. Don’t be discouraged that you don’t have an outline or know how it’s going to end. Writing will decide character and plot. What you had planned doesn’t exactly mean your characters agree. Things will fall into place as your fingers tap away.

3) Write and don’t look back. Forget about spelling, sentence structure, and punctuation. Before I did NaNoWriMo, I constantly went backwards, editing sentences and paragraphs. This is about getting your story down. Editing comes later. Let the flow of writing happen. Let your characters’ hijack your thoughts and the plot twist whichever way feels right at the time. You can always change it later. You have a limited amount of time to get the story down.

4) When you need guidance or support, rely on the forum, your regions and buddies. As I stated in a previous post, I Want to be a Writer, it’s a journey of solitude, but it doesn’t always have to be. Reach out to others, and you’ll find there’s always at least one person feeling the same as you.

5) Don’t worry whether someone has more words than you, or if you think they’re a better writer. It’s not a race between writers. This is about YOU. Can you throw caution to the wind and write your butt off? Can you focus on your story and word count to finish on time? Like writing, this process is a journey of self-discovery.

6) If you fall behind, don’t panic and quit. That’s the easy way out. If you want to write, get your butt in a chair and refer to your intention. Remind yourself why you wanted to do this in the first place. When there’s no accountability or physical reward, people are okay with walking away from a challenge. Don’t! Your intention is just as important as public recognition. Make NaNoWriMo one of the defining moments in your life. What do you have to lose? Even if you decide not to work on your book for publication, you can say that you wrote a novel in a month.

7) Once you plug in your word count to receive your badge, take a break from the 50,000 words or more you have written before returning to it. Let it sit for a week or two, go treat yourself to something special, and then start revising. Revisions are what raise the word count, adds dimension to your characters, and meat to the story.

Good Luck! Write like the clap of thunder. Finish with the air of an Olympian.

Have you participated in NaNoWriMo? Would you like to add to this experience?

Self-Discovery and Narratives,
Baer Necessities

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