Category: Opinion

You Said Video Would Gain Exposure

Facebook algorithms favor video. Oh, and groups. So, to get the best organic exposure on facebook, post videos in your groups.

Sure. Whatever you say.

Who said it? People who know all about making your brand stand out. Professionals who are PAID to make videos that bring in customers.

But I’m an author. I’m not selling a class. And, sadly, I’m not selling many books either. But if I get my face out there, people will hunt down my stories.

Hey. No need to hunt. I’ll provide the links.

But, apparently, the quest is part of the excitement. Or something.

So I took a course about making videos to share my brand.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/2143024042585774-record.mov

But one is never enough. In fact, once a week is probably not enough.

My unplanned videos got the best views.

When I tried to only post the video to my group, only two people watched it. Of course, there are only 20 members (maybe) in the group, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0315.mov

So I went back to posting live on my author page. And my sister watched.

Of course, I didn’t really announce that I would be going live. I need to do that. Maybe more people would show up if I did that. Maybe I’ll do that next week.

If I wait until the evening when more people might be on Facebook, maybe that will get me more views, too.

Who knows?

All I know is that I fumble for something to talk about in these videos, and no one comments to give me any ideas.

http://sharonleehughson.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/img_0361.mov

So, here I am posting a video or three on my blog. Because a few people read that, right? Maybe they’ll watch the videos and leave me some feedback.

I wish building my brand and audience worked the way the “professionals” said it would.

If wishes were riches, I’d own a small country.

If you’re reading this, what do you wish an author would talk about on live videos? If you watched the videos, what would make them more engaging?

Amazon: Destroyer of Future Plans

I’ve never been one of those author with scathing commentary about the monopolizing power of Amazon’s book store. Instead I was all-in with several Kindle-only titles.

Then they pulled the plug on Kindle Worlds.

At the moment this was announced, I was begging beta readers to return their comments on the third book for the series published in this universe. That story was planned to release in less than two months.

The day after the announcement, I got my royalty statement from Amazon showing the first month when two titles were available for sale. It was great. The sales had been strong and steady, more than anything else I’ve ever published.

Amazon was jerking the rug out from under my expanding readership.

Worse, I was positive that the introduction to this world and the amazing influencer who conceived it was the future of my writing career. At least for the next couple years.

Thanks, Amazon, for demolishing that business plan I made a week earlier.

But as much as this derailed my career planning, I knew the news was even worse for Melissa Storm.

I messaged her. I wanted to encourage her and let her know that no one was mad at her and we hoped we could still work together.

By the next day, she’d formed her own publishing company.

And why not? She has an incredible platform of followers. She launches all her new releases to the bestseller list.

Those characters I was dropping into Sweet Grove aren’t displaced after all. Their stories will be told.
*Shakes fist at Big Brother Amazon*
In the future, I might even explore some of the other shared series worlds she’s planning to launch along with Sweet Promise Press.

So if you’re an author, you should check it out. There’s a form to fill out if you want to write for her.

Those lines in my business plan that mention Kindle Worlds will have to be lined out. But those titles should still reach you.

In a few weeks, I’ll give you a glance into the next First Street Church novella. When I know the release date, I’ll pass it on.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these updates. Follow my author page on Facebook. Better yet, join my Facebook group.

It’s nice to know that Amazon doesn’t actually have the same destructive power of…Thanos. Indie authors unite with more strength than the Avengers, too.

Do you buy most of your books from Amazon? Is there any way we can curb their market share?

Five Ways to Teach Classics in High School Literature Class

Shakespeare. The Bard. A true genius in literary circles. Ask anyone with an advanced degree in the subject. And some without a degree at all concur.

Me? Not so much.

That didn’t stop me from teaching OTHELLO in four sophomore classrooms a few weeks ago. What I mean by “teach” is to let an audio recording read Act IV to the class while I paused occasionally to ask clarifying questions and double-check for understanding.
And once to just point out the lovely irony the Bard does so well which I do like.
The students had time to write a summary and pick out some figurative language for their assignment. I admit, by class three, I was commenting on some of the personification in one of Othello’s monologues.

Does that count as giving them answers? *shrugs*

Then I played the 1995 movie. Kenneth Brannagh plays Honest (HA) Iago and Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus from MATRIX) takes the title role. We watched Act IV.

Yes, I did this four times. I was playing Words with Friends and scrolling through Facebook during the movie the last few times. Although I did chime in when something was clarified once they could SEE it played out.

Shakespeare scripts were meant to be seen not read.

No matter what you say, I will not be pursuaded from this. If there hadn’t been movie adaptations for the nine plays I had to watch in my college Shakespeare class, I would have failed it.
The man didn’t even give stage directions.

You need the actors to interpret it for you and then learn from their actions.

It was during the final teaching session that a sophomore boy asked, “Why do we have to read this? Couldn’t we study something newer and easier to understand and learn the same things?”

Oh, young man, we certainly do need to study (not read) Shakespeare and other classics. But it’s time to be honest, high school students aren’t getting much out of it.

Use something modern that alludes to the classic.

In preparation for writing this post, I Goggled “Why teach classics in high school?” Links back to many of the articles I found on the subject will be included.

One article on an Advanced Placement literature help site claimed it was a disservice not to teach classics. One of the main arguments was because so many modern references derive their meaning from classical literature.

It’s true. As an aside, I fully believe advanced literature courses should cover the classics, and only the classics. Those students are preparing for college and they’ll need the analytical skills a great literature class teaches.

For the average student, I might recommend a book like THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt. In it, the narrator is forced to study Shakespeare while every other student in his class goes to their weekly religious classes.

The students will engage with this novel’s story, and teachers can take time to delve slightly into the Shakespearian references that are made. In this way, the class stays engaged with the reading, and those who find Shakespeare interesting have now been given a sample. They’re free to check him out of the library or binge watch him on Netflix.

Pair a small bite of a classic with something more current.

Most students shut down when you show them an old story. They don’t care how much it influenced literature or society. All they care about is that it is OLD, and therefore doesn’t relate to them.
Students of literature know better. But general high school classes aren’t meant to make literature buffs out of students.

What is the purpose of literature class in high school? Go ahead and Google it. I did.

Students think the purpose it so learn to research a topic and write an essay on it. Teachers think it’s about grammar, vocabulary, reading and comprehension of broad categories (so why do they have to read a Shakespeare play in every year of high school?), studying the literary culture of English societies and organizing information and communicating it to others. Oh, they say the research and citation aspect is also important.

In any case, there is no reason to wade through hundreds of pages of classical literature to learn these skills. In the era of memes and movies, students want to be entertained. If you entertain them, they’ll learn more.

Ignoring the culture of learning is antithesis to teaching. Great educators can adapt their methods to fit their students. I know this because I worked in a special education classroom for ten years, and in that room, it was all about adaptation.

Invest in different formats of the classic.

I’m not a fan of graphic novels. I want words or I want pictures.

That doesn’t mean the upcoming generation feels the same. If we can put To Kill A Mockingbird in a more accessible format without damaging the beauty of the original language, why wouldn’t we do it?

If a student will read the book in graphic novel format, isn’t that better than if they don’t read it? You say you’ll read it aloud in class. Fine, but we know how easy it is to tune our brains to something else when we’re not interested in the topic at hand.

The key is in making adaptations that maintain the integrity of the original. And companies are trying to do it. Schools should make a market for this important work by investing in new books in a format that engages their students.

Put the classic into historical context.

Many of the posts I read on the subject said the most important reason for studying the classics was because of the cultural insight it imparts.

Wouldn’t this be better off in history class then?

I’d argue for the combined humanities courses that fall in and out of favor in our state’s middle school environments. That’s a perfect age to marry these two subjects.

But those students aren’t going to wade through UNCLE TOM’S CABIN to understand the American cultural climate. Good grief! I barely managed to wade through it as a junior in high school and I was an advanced reader and writer who devoured any book that was handed to me.

Except that one. But I did slog through it.

An excerpt or two could be gleaned from the text on the pertinent cultural lessons. This way, students can access the benefits in a dose they can handle.

Curate the substance and present it in a medium students relate with.

English and literature teachers are the experts on the subject matter. However, they aren’t meant to make experts of their students.

That’s why there are curriculum learning objectives.

As an author, I have to kill my darlings if I want to produce stories that readers will read. This means brilliantly written scenes get cut from the manuscript and filed in my “cut scenes” document.

High school teachers need to do the same. Is symbolism in literature an important thing for students to grasp? And if it is, then choose a modern book they are familiar with (one that has a movie to go along with it) to teach it.

Why? Because using a source they aren’t interested in to teach them a subject they think is pointless is only going to frustrate everyone. They won’t learn, and you’ll feel like a horrible teacher.

The English department at every high school needs to have a round table. The state mandates the learning objectives. Let the teachers decide which literature is best suited to the objective and the audience.

Too often, thought isn’t given to the audience. For an author, that’s the top of an ice-slick slope with an avalanche brewing at your feet. It’s time teachers realized it puts them in a precarious position to only think about what they want to teach instead of how their students will best learn.
What are your thoughts? Did you LOVE reading ROMEO AND JULIET in high school? Are there other ways to teach classics to teenagers who play video games and watch movies rather than read?

My Thoughts on AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Once should have been enough because twice was too much. If someone asked me to, I’d go see it a third time. Yes, I’m talking about AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

This post contains my review. It includes spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film, stop reading right now.

I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. The story is intense, and it starts in the middle of the action right where THOR: RAGNAROK ends.

***SPOILERS BEGIN NOW*** Consider yourself doubly-warned.

There will be the death of two people in that first scene. You might mourn them. You might not. But no matter what happens with the Time Stone, I think these individuals aren’t coming back.

Image belongs to digital spy UK

Time Stone, did I say? Yes, this is the glowing green thing Dr. Strange wears around his neck. The thing he’s sworn to protect at any cost.
I recommend watching that movie if you want to get more back story. It might just make you want to pop his head like an irritating pimple.

Image belongs to pop inquirer

“Why doesn’t he use the Time Stone?” I’m sure I thought this several times.

What I Liked
One of the things I love is the repartee of dialog between the characters. Even though Iron Man is far from my favorite, I enjoy the byplay he has with all the other characters. And Spiderman is funny too.

I enjoyed the constant action. We learned what the stakes were at the very beginning and every scene showed either the villain or the Avengers moving toward completing or stopping the collection of the infinity stones.

The story was well-executed. I was engaged and on the edge of my seat from the very first scene.
What I Disliked (and could have been handled differently)
Thanos isn’t a true villain.
Oh, he is driven and determined and maybe a little warped, but he believes in his cause as much as the Avengers believe in theirs.

I’m not a fan of relatable and sympathetic villains. I know they’re the “in” thing, but I want to hate the bad guy. I want to see them get justice in the end.

Thanos still had some things against him:

  • Gomorrah hated him. If she had been with him for more than half her life and she didn’t believe he loved her, how was he supposed to convince me he did by shedding some tears when he has to sacrifice her? Was she the unreliable narrator?
  • Thanos never convinced ME that his cause was right. What spurred him to promote himself to the position of God and decide that half the people in the universe needed to die? Because Titan didn’t listen to him and it perished?

I’m sorry, but that is NOT a reason to believe you should murder half the people in the universe and proclaim yourself their savior. That’s taking things to the extreme.

“You’ll never be a god,” Loki tells Thanos.

But Thanos believes he already is. A self-made god. And why not? No one can keep him from what he wants.
And how did he learn about the infinity stones? How did he know to put them into a gauntlet?

What I Disliked – But was Necessary

People died in the first scene.

One of them was someone I learned to really like in THOR: RAGNAROK. This is war, so I knew there would be casualties.
I didn’t like that the team had to be separated for most of the movie (and Stark’s little group for all of it). I know it’s a big universe and things were happening everywhere, since somehow Thanos could transport himself where he wanted in a near instant (what stone helped him do that?)
Cap had a beard. Yes, he’s been in hiding for two years, but he could have shaved once he faced the Secretary. He wasn’t on the run anymore, then.
That Dr. Strange had the time stone and he could have turned back time as easily as Thanos did when Wanda destroyed the mind stone. But he didn’t.


All I can say, is that whatever single future he saw where the Avengers won must have involved him turning the stone over to Thanos. Or Stark saving the day (and I hope it’s not that one). That’s the only thing that makes sense. Will we even discover why he made that dumb move?

What Made Me Cry (the first time)

Gomorrah’s death, which surprised me since I didn’t really connect very much with the Guardians crew. Those movies were very “blah” and “meh” for me. Although the soundtracks were rocking.

Vision’s death. Let’s face it, the trailer shows him practically losing the mind stone, so I was sure he was going to die. But they made him last for so long. It might have been that Wanda had to destroy the stone that made it the hardest.

What I Hope Happens Next

For the Avengers to take the gauntlet and bring everyone back. I’m not sure when they should turn time back to, maybe just to that moment Peter Quill lost it and ruined the plan to get the glove from Thanos.

That would still leave a few people dead. Is that a price I can accept?

Apparently, there’s a new hero in the wings. She’s going to be the one who saves the day.

I prefer a team effort. That’s one of the reasons the Avengers appeals to me (and I was hoping Justice League might as well).

No matter how strong you are on your own, you’re always stronger with someone else fighting beside you. This is one of my favorite themes.

I’m still a little stunned at all the ash that filled the big screen. It feels like the Avengers have been defeated, and they lost more than half their team in the process.

This is why I can’t say I liked the film. I enjoyed it. I will watch it again and will add it to my DVD collection when the time comes.

But I look forward to all this destruction being reversed. Why not turn time back and let Thanos save Titan? Why didn’t he just go for the time stone so he could do that in the first place?
Let him have his happily ever after and strand him on his planet so he lets us have ours, too.
Did you like the movie? What things didn’t you like about it? What do you hope happens next?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part Two

People want to know what it’s like to be an author. What it takes. How do I stay on track. It’s neither science nor magic, but it does take work.

On Monday, I listed five things to know about being an author. In case you missed that post (or you don’t remember), I’ll recap them.

  1. Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published
  2. Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers
  3. Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know
  4. Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story
  5. Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves

To discover the ins-and-outs on each of those, read the full post here. Then come back to find out the next five things to know about this author gig.

Success as an indie author is ninety-nine percent connecting with the right audience.

I still haven’t found my tribe. But success can be measured by markers other than copies sold, numbers of social media followers and earnings.

Define success. Make this part of the business plan mentioned above.

Find promotions you can join that help you build your email list. Yes, you need one. Even if you don’t want to mail a regular newsletter, you need a way to let your readers know that a new book is coming, to ask for reviews and to sell copies. (This goes for traditional or indie published authors.)

The project that had me pulling my hair out was one I tackled for the sole reason of having a stand alone romance novel in print. This is the “entrance fee” for dozens of promotions I’ve seen. I couldn’t join them because I didn’t have a print book.

Building my tribe is also why I decided to write in the First Street Church Kindle World. The owner of that world is a marketing powerhouse. She leveraged her thousands of followers for us, and that’s worth signing over full rights to KDP for a few stories.

Some markets take longer to break into.

Young adult fantasy and any form of young adult literature is one such “competitive”market.

This is why I haven’t written any young adult fantasy in two years. I want to. I’m considering polishing up one of my manuscripts and submitting it to a small publisher I’ve been following for several months.

But I have to decide if that’s in the best interest of my business. If I love telling the stories I’m writing and they are connecting with readers, why shouldn’t I keep writing them?

To succeed, you need to partner with one or more influencer.

This is where I will praise Melissa Storm. She has a huge reader group that she mails to on a weekly basis. Other authors pay her to be promoted to her group.

I’m getting access to these groups just because I’m writing in her Kindle World. Since my first novella was published there in November 2017, my email list has grown from 39 to 185. Every subsequent title I publish in that world nets me more followers.

And many of these readers are connecting with me so they can review the books. Book reviews are the foundation for online sales.

The author gig requires business and marketing (sense)abilities.

Marketing. The thought makes my skin crawl. My introverted self retreats like a turtle in its shell.

Traditional publishers expect you to market your book by posting on social media, making appearances and having an email list.

You’re nothing but an amoeba in the sea as an indie author. There are plenty of readers. You don’t have to compete for them, but you do need to connect with them.

Ads on Amazon, Goodreads and in reader newsletters give you exposure to readers. Some of them want to chat with you online, and that’s what Facebook is for (as advertising here nets sketchy results compared to ads on sites where readers already visit and are looking for book recommendations).

Hire a marketing firm if you have the budget. I’ve bought several nonfiction books that outline the best practices and with each new book, I try to add another level of marketing.

It’s not my strength. I don’t even like it. But I can do a little and if I invest in the right areas, I’ll get a decent return on my investment,

It will take more than four years to “succeed” in either traditional, indie or hybrid publishing.

I haven’t arrived. I’m not a success, not even by my own flimsy definition.

July is the four-year mark of my author career. I still don’t have my first 1000 followers (what pros say you need to have a successful book launch).

I do have an impressive list of published titles. Check out my Amazon page to see them all.

Most of them don’t have enough reviews so I can join advertisers with huge lists, where indie authors find big sales and garner new followers.

I’m not giving up the dream. I have a plan and I’m working it. I’m learning to network more and refine my brand so it’s identifiable to the readers who are looking for me.

This list could continue. Each of these “lessons”could turn into a blog post. And there are dozens more things to know if you intend to be an author.

Four years ago, I claimed the title of professional writer, but didn’t see myself as an author. After all, an author needs to have a published book. An indie title that sold fewer than 200 copies didn’t count.

But it did count. All it takes to be an author is published work and the guts to own the title.

Author friends, what would you add to this base of knowledge? Reader friends, how do you prefer to connect with the work of an author whose stories you enjoy?

Ten Things to Know about Being an Author – Part One

Since shortly after I was old enough to read and imagine my own stories, I wanted to be an author. My first story was penned in a spiral notebook when I was in third grade. The past four years that I’ve been living the dream doing this author thing have been amazing.

And instructive. And painful at times. Filled with discouragement and despair at other times. Even wrought with excitement to the point I soared above the clouds.

The higher you go, the further you have to fall.

And falling from such heights hurts. It might even kill you(r dream).

Traditional publishing is the slow track to being published.

By slow I mean, it takes years if you pursue one of the large publishing houses (which means you have to find an agent first). After you spend months writing, revising, editing and polishing your manuscript, the journey of ten thousand miles begins.

It starts with research. Which agents are looking for your style and genre? Which publishers would contract it?

Then the rounds of submission begin. Most of this is done electronically. This speeds the process of notification to three months instead of six to twelve. Many agencies won’t respond unless they’re requesting pages.

Talk about disheartening. It feels like tossing my life’s work into a black hole.

I wanted this for myself. I needed the validation. I wanted a publishing professional to confirm that my work was of a quality to be read and circulated.

Publishing with a small press is the fast track to getting work in front of readers.

Even though it was a small publisher who gave me my first fiction contract (and all my subsequent contracts until I began writing for Kindle Worlds), it didn’t feel like traditional publishing to me.

First of all, the submission hoops are simpler to understand and jump through. The turnaround time for notifying you of acceptance is shorter.

I started with short stories in answer to specific submission calls. This is the only way I’ve managed to publish in my dream genre (young adult fantasy).

The contracts are long but straightforward, and most of the small houses don’t offer advances. They split the royalties half and half, though, which I understand is a substantial raise over big houses.

You still get the benefit of several editing passes (story development, line edits and proofing) and a professional cover. On my stand alone titles, I’ve been consulted about the title and my thoughts and opinions were considered and employed.

Traditional publishing success is ninety percent about who you know.

Slush pile. I’m not sure the few manuscripts I’ve sent, although requested, actually met up with the agent or editor. Getting a query past this point is something I’ve only managed with small houses.

Could be my queries are weak. Or the agent wasn’t looking for the kind of story I was telling.

All I know is that hearing nothing is more depressing than a rejection. It’s like all your effort is meaningless to the agent or editor. Sure, they have a ton of work, but does it really take so long to send a four line email saying you aren’t interested?

If you can get an author to recommend you, I understand the odds increase exponentially in favor of a contract.

Small press publishing is fifty percent finding the right publisher and fifty percent telling a good story.

It will still take effort to locate the right press for your story. More small houses appear every month. Many of them will disappear within a year or two. I don’t send anything to a publisher that’s been around for less than a year. And I always check out their current and past titles.

I’ve started reading some stories from a small press that weren’t all that great. Then I see that the author is also the editor-in-chief. This looks like a new form of vanity publishing to me.

They started up the press so they could publish their own books.

I’ve also read a few fantastic stories that come from the same situation. The difference? I didn’t take a poll, but I think it involves professional editing and more skilled writing.

I don’t want a bad story to be published. This is what kept me from subbing manuscripts for years. I wasn’t good enough. Even reading the first fiction short that Roane accepted makes me cringe a little.

Indie publishing requires both entrepreneurial finesse and cash reserves.

Independent publishing makes you the boss of it all. You’re the captain of the publishing ship.

If you want, you can churn out a story and upload it to Amazon with a thrown-together cover. Maybe you’ll sell a few copies.

But if you want to be a professional author, act like one. Make a business plan. Plan a production schedule. Give yourself deadlines and then meet them.

To succeed, you need to learn the business. Locate professional editors and hire them. Listen to their comments and improve your stories.

If you don’t know design, hire a cover designer. You can hire someone to format the interior of the book. You can even hire a publicity representative to plan your marketing campaign.

All of that costs money. Plan on investing anywhere from $500 to $1500 from your savings per book. Then do the math and find out how many copies you have to sell to break even and make a profit.

I still haven’t broke even on my indie novella Reflections from a Pondering Heart.

This is only FIVE things you need to know about being an author. I’m guessing 900 words is more than long enough for most of my blog readers.

Come back on Thursday to learn the other five things.

Which of these seems most obvious? Most important? Most discouraging?

Why don’t Immortals have Immortality?

By rights, immortals should possess immortality. Instead, those ”immortals” portrayed in literature and film appear to have conditional immortality.

Immortality means living forever, not able to die and not possessing mortality. By definition, an immortal is not liable or subject to death.

But in books and movies, immortals are killed. Regularly and with gory, indiscriminate relish. This confuses my sensibilities. It’s a contradiction. An impossibility, if the meaning of immortality is to be unscathed.

My husband’s answer to this conundrum: They’re immortal until someone kills them.

Highlander

This is the first example that comes to mind even though I have not seen this movie for many years.

A Highlander was immortal and would live perpetually throughout time. Unless someone cut off his head.

If another Highlander did this, he would inherit the power. What power? A larger target on his back for other “immortals” who wanted it for themselves?

If you will live forever, what else could you want?

You will accumulate wealth and possessions. You might be worshiped as a deity (since the dictionary defines an immortal as one of the gods of mythology).

To what end? If you can be killed, do you sleep with one eye open? Or do you get sick of the endlessness of life and seek out someone to curse with the “gift” of outliving anyone you might love or befriend? Unless they are also immortal.

This is false immortality. If you have unending life, no one and nothing can end it. Duh, it wouldn’t be unending if anything could end it.

Christianity

One reason this contradiction bothers me (other than the word doesn’t seem to actually mean what we say/think it does) is that it muddies the waters of theology. Most religions offer up a version of immortality to its followers.

I ascribe to the doctrines of Christianity (as presented in the King James Version of the Bible, not those taught by organized religions who claim the name of Christianity).

According to the Holy Bible, God sent His Son, Jesus, to die a substitutionary death for all mortals born on Earth. If these mortals, accepted this blood price through confessing and repenting of their natural unrighteous tendencies and believed this death could pay their blood debt,debts will be granted eternal life.

Immortality would be a gift from the pre-existing, all-sufficient Creator of their universe. Namely the Source of life would extend life to them

It’s understood that this immortality isn’t for the mortal flesh but for the eternal soul and consciousness of the believer. This flesh is cursed (as is the Earth), but once the timeline for the body is completed, the believer’s spiritual half steps through the curtain of death and inhabits a new, immortal (undying and unkillable) body that isn’t affected by the original curse.

With all the conflicting reports of immortals dying and immortality being conditional, the clear waters of God’s promised “everlasting life” is tainted, misunderstood and cheapened.

And that’s sad. Because this promise is the foundational hope of faith.

My Perplexity

In this era when new words are invented and accepted into the English language annually, why doesn’t someone construct a work that more accurately reflects the conditional mortality presented as immortality in the genre of fantasy?

Semimortal would work. This means they are half prone to death and half undying. Isn’t this the case for the “immortal” Highlanders, elves, Roman-Greco deities and the like? If allowed to live out their normal lifespan, they will live forever. The only way they can die is through murder or purposeful wounding.

Quasi-immortal is another possibility. It seems like they will live forever. They have the potential to never die. But they’re perfectly killable—whether by specific mystical means or only with certain weapons or on certain days.

In a fantasy series I wrote four years ago, I had immortal elves and dragons. In the second book, I killed an elf. So he wasn’t truly immortal, right?

Wrong. His mortal body was killed. Once his essence was transported back to Astrya (the first realm and homeland of the Creator and Sustainer deities), his body would be regenerated. He would live again, carrying memories of his physical death but not of his time as pure life essence.

It seems to me this may be the same sort of death those afflicted by the Infinity Gauntlet in the recent AVENGERS film may have experienced. If someone else wields the gauntlet, it could be used to reverse the destruction of one-third of all living things in the universe.

What is your thought on the misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the purest definition of immortality?

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

Not Seventh Grade Again!

I have repeated seventh grade nearly a dozen times. So when I got a text while substituting in a seven grade life science class to work in a seventh grade math/engineering classroom the next day, this was my first thought.

Two days of seventh grade?!?

If you follow my posts, you know I prefer teaching in high school English or literature classes. My truest nightmare was an advanced math class at high school with non-existent lesson plans.

As far as middle school goes, the only job I won’t take is PE. Well, I turned it down at my favorite high school when they asked me to take a PE/health position for two days.

The truth is, I completed the seventh and eighth grade curricula every year I worked at St. Helens Middle School as a special education instructional assistant. Well, I may as well have. I was expected to be able to tutor or teach my SPED students in any class they struggled.

But science and math on back-to-back days? Was someone trying to kill me?

Or maybe change my short hair to baldness?

Welcome to Life Science

I’m minding my own business on a quiet Monday night. Reading a book and trying to recover my equilibrium after wrestling with two uncooperative romance manuscripts all day.

I need to pick up two subbing jobs each week. I really need to do this now that I’ve purchased a $600 airplane ticket to New York City and my brother is telling me I’ll need $1000 in spending money for the four days I’m there.
A click on the Safari app on my iPad takes me to the Frontline employee absence website. The last three times I checked, there was nothing. This time:

Full Day Science at Scappoose Middle School.

I decide to let it ride. Because…science.

A minute later the phone rings. Yep. The absence system offers me the job.

I feared a movie. Instead, it was six 50-minute sessions reading the same two articles to seventh-grade students.
These are the same ones who played hide-and-seek under the lab counters.

I wish I was kidding.

Everyone Needs Math in Their Life

I’m slightly more than half-way through this science fest when my phone rumbles with an incoming text.
A teacher I worked with at St. Helens Middle School is sick. Could I cover his classes the next day?

Ugh. Math?

But I see getting my second day of work outside the house done in short order. Won’t that help me focus on those stories better?

They’ve just started a unit on finding area in one-dimensional shapes. I could do this in my sleep.

Except trying to get them to sit still and listen to the instructions is like herding cats…across a flooding river…in a blizzard.

Don’t Forget to Engineer It

It boggles my mind that there is even time for an elective in a five period school day. They have to take math, science, PE and health, and humanities (a combination of language arts and social studies). I guess that does leave ONE class period open. Most students have band, choir or art. I guess there has to be a place for everyone else.
So engineering.

Enter thirty seven graders who would rather be bending pipe cleaners and straws into some sort of structure. Sit them at a desk.

Here’s the plan for the day: Watch a video about the Mayan engineering feats and write down twenty-five facts. Turn them in at the end of class.

Or if you get them done beforehand, get up and turn them in. Or ignore the film and chat with your friends. If the sub calls out a fact (to help you out because I’m nice that way) be sure to ask “What?”

It was the longest 43-minute class period of my day.

My Saving Grace

You heard me right. Each class lasted 43 minutes.

That was the saving grace for the day. Sure those seventh grade bottles of hormones squirreled around and talked when they should have listened. Yes, they asked me a dozen questions I had already answered during their unauthorized chatting time.

But, the final bell sounded at 1:30, a full two hours earlier than normal.

Which means, after standing outside with the same squirrels until they boarded their buses, I was free to leave two full hours before the end of the normal school day.


AND…wait for it…

I still got paid for eight hours. Because in the sub teaching world, there are half-day jobs and full-day jobs. Anything more than four hours is considered a full day.

Score!

In reality, I don’t mind a little seventh-grade math and science. At least I can speak intelligently about the lessons. You know, since I’m a repeat attender.

What was your favorite subject in school? What grade in school horrifies you the most?

5 Things I’ve Learned About Change

One quarter of 2018 is past. It’s supposed to be a year of metamorphosis around here, but what has really changed? If nothing else, I’ve learned a few things about the process of making changes.

In January, I posted my word for the year. I made a lovely graphic.

And then a few weeks later, I adopted a new branding design. Which included a lovely new logo.

Things were off to a metamorphic start. Oh yes.

I penned blogs about what was changing: career,website and me. And maybe a few people even read them.

But when change happens to someone else, it doesn’t affect us. I mean, really. Other people move or find a new job or send a kid to college. We might feel for them (especially if we’ve experienced these changes before), but there’s no metamorphosis in our life when that happens.

1. Change Takes Purpose

Let me explain this. Things change in our lives without our PERMISSION. That’s a circumstance.

In order for us to truly “become something better” there has be be purposeful change.

For example, we get laid off. That was a job we loved and felt called to do. Now we hit the streets to find a new job. After a few dozen applications and some not-so-fruitful interviews, we are offered a new position and we accept it.

However, the new job might end up being only a circumstance. If we don’t embrace this new place and employ our gifts toward this different mission, we won’t change.

WE won’t change.

Just because circumstances change, it doesn’t follow that we will change.

So when life throws you a new circumstance, be a good Marine. Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. And most of all, set your mind to making the most of it so you become a better person.

2. Some Change is Excruciating

I have no idea what the caterpillar feels inside a cocoon. I’ve always imagined the little guy spun his secure bed, fell asleep and woke up as a butterfly.

We aren’t caterpillars. If we sleep through a change, nothing will happen.

My experience this past year is that the longer I’ve been in one place, the more difficult it is to change. More than that, it’s often an unpleasant experience.

Think of it this way, your car is stuck in the mud. You rev the motor. Wheels spin. You sink further into the mud. The more you struggle to get out of the rut, the deeper you get into it.

So it is with changing something that has been static for many, many years.

In order to pull ourselves out of the rut, there’s going to be external force needed. And then there will be internal struggles to accept that application of brutality.

Metamorphosis in the human arena is agonizing.

3. Change Can Be Small

We want big and flashy. This is most often true in areas where we’re making physical changes.

We start a diet and exercise plan. Three days later, our muscles scream and our stomach rumbles. We step on the scale and see:

We’ve lost one pound

One pound?!? For all this misery? Why am I doing this again?

Because big changes start small. Think of the avalanche. It can start with a single pebble sliding down the slope. It hits a larger boulder which rumbles. Dirt loosens around it. When it goes, it takes trees and more rocks with it, leaving behind a corridor of destruction.

The thing about a small change might not even be that it becomes bigger. Often it remains a small, simple thing: filling out a gratitude journal every evening before falling asleep.

But that ONE LITTLE THING bleeds into every area of life. It might begin as, “I have to pay attention to what I’m grateful for so I have something to write in the journal.” Soon enough it becomes a habit to give thanks for all the little things.

The rain stopped when I walked out to get the mail. The cat didn’t run away when I needed to load him into the carrier (and I’m not wearing scratch marks in the aftermath).

The truth is:

4. Real Change is S-L-O-W

Weight loss is another one of those things we want to happen now. Nope, actually, yesterday.

How long did it take me to pack on that extra fifteen pounds? A year? Two years? And yet I think I should be able to drop it in a couple months.

What I’ve discovered is that when I try to be diligent about eating a low calorie diet and exercise every day until my muscles STOP aching, I get burned out. My limit for persevering in both of these things is about one month.

One month? Can I even lose FIVE pounds in that time?

But when I think about it like that, it discourages me. So instead, I look at things as progressive. My sister the Beachbody coach has lots of motivational memes, and they make me feel like a failure if I let them.

Instead, I pull out my calendar and see all the times I know it will be difficult to stick to low calorie eating. I make sure I can up the intensity of my workouts during that time, but I don’t plan to follow the restrictive eating plan.

Why set myself up for failure? Instead, I shoot for MAINTAINING the strides I’ve already made.

After the week of vacation, I return to another 21-day focused eating and exercise plan. At the end, I give myself a week or a weekend to relax in the kitchen.

No, I don’t eat everything in sight. Usually, I’ll reward myself with pizza (and I don’t eat the whole thing) or baked goods (that I give away or share so I don’t eat them all). Then my head is in the right spot to do another 21 to 30-day focused weight loss plan.

It could take me six months or ten months to lose those fifteen pounds, but that’s still LESS time than it took to gain them.

5. Change isn’t always Better

Sadly, change isn’t always the best course of action. It’s difficult to admit this in a post extolling the virtues of metamorphosis.

I’m not talking about YOU attempting to improve something and it falls apart. That’s failure. And failing is the key to success.

Sometimes we were OKAY in an area of life we decided needed to change. Maybe we’ve decided to double the number of books we read in a year. Reading is great, right?

But if we forfeit family time, sleep and preparing nutritious meals (because we’re reading!) then we’ve missed the point of making a change.

Sometimes, we are healthy even if we aren’t a size six anymore. This doesn’t mean we should indulge in a daily dose of ice cream or cookies. Let’s not become UNHEALTHY. But we don’t have to strictly count every calorie. If we miss a workout, there’s no need for self-flagellation.

If reading self-help books makes me adopt a negative self-image, this isn’t a change for the better. We must weigh the change from every angle.

The world is filled with excellent things that I’ve never tried. And if I tried them they could hurt me or deter me from the best course for my life.

So it’s important to remember that a change doesn’t have to be permanent. If you make a change and discover it’s actually detrimental to your life purpose or mental or emotional health, you can change back. Or better yet, re-evaluate WHY you wanted to change that and see if there’s another way to achieve the end result you desire.

What have you learned about change? Have you experienced any of these five lessons about change first-hand?