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Live Through Us at The Burrow

My writing process

Everyone has their own process. Some sit and throw words onto a paper until it’s finished. Some plot and outline until the book is written before it’s begun. I’m a mix.

Each book is different for me, which is both awesome and frustrating. I have to plot some. My stories are too complex not to. For example, in my first Cupolian book, I knew the ending would be XXX, and certain things would have to happen over time that I had to set up from the beginning. So I do have to plot. Planning of characters and such is a little different. With Cupola, I didn’t have to plan out characters for the most part because they were so passionate and bigger than life. They told me who they were. There were a few, like Avaline and the royal family, who I had to think on. “What are their desires. etc?” but that’s about it.

This new book/series, however is different. I had the original idea and then changed it. Like completely. A lot of that is because I need it to appeal to others. I wrote Cupola for ME. No one else. MEEEEEE!!!! I have a new series I will one day write, maybe, if I ever get the chance, that I will also write for me, but right now I’m writing for others. As in, I want a larger audience to like this book. I want this book to get picked up and do well in the traditional market, etc. I’m also writing it for a different audience. The style and voice, to me, is like it’s written by a different person. Maybe my readers will read it and go, “No. It’s you.” But it’s been very difficult for me because it is so different. But that’s a good thing. Stretching your abilities’ boundaries, practicing that which is difficult, improves your craft.

Now. Where was I? Oh yeah, my process.

So, I plotted until I had a basic plot. I can’t plot further than that. I have to write after that. Writing allows the characters to have faces, personalities, desires, etc. I rarely write the ending and sometimes not the beginning. On this book I had the beginning. It was the first scene that came to mind even before I changed the whole concept. It never changed. And it’s awesome 😉

But, after I get the rough draft finished, I take 7 days off. Sometimes it’s more, but that’s not on purpose. That’s just when life happens. Those 7 days allow me to come at it from a new light. So, my first edits usually add several thousand words to my piece. In other words, my rough draft is like an overly expanded outline that’s still missing a few things and out of order. It’s  a big mess. From my understanding, most writers write a ton of what they don’t need and then cut it. I’m the opposite. I go back in and add the details. I also add the first/last chapters if they’re missing, completely flesh out the characters as far as their roles, needs, desires, etc, and make sure the plot flows and makes sense and such. This is why first edits take so long for me.

Second edits are like most people’s firsts, from what I can tell. Second edits are like, sentence structure, any missed inconsistencies, grammar and such. They’re made after the entire book is written and no longer an indecipherable mess. Second edits also transfer the piece from Scrivener to Word and make sure the chapter breaks are where they need to be. By now, I want a title and should be working on a blurb. I want that blurb by the end of second edits, its rough draft anyway.

Third edits are basically just grammar, typos, etc. I may have to add another round of edits in there if I feel it’s missing something or there’s a spot I just can’t work on anymore in a previous edit and I’m like, “Just skip it for now.” Then I have to go back and fix it. I usually print out third edits and do them on paper. I also catch any overused words or phrases by now, hopefully long before now.

Fourth edits are where I read the whole book aloud. Yes, the whole thing. At this point, my beta readers should have a copy. They can read while I read. I can easily do two chapters a day this way. Any more, and it usually starts to run together and make it to where I don’t do as well. After that, I’m done. If a beta tells me something I need to change, I’ll go over it and see what needs to be done, but then I’m done. I either publish it or query it. I’m going to query this next one.

There is a long list of things to do at that point, polishing the blurb, getting a cover if it’s self, making a list of agents to query, that sort of thing. But that’s another topic for another day.

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The difference between professional and the rest of the world

Since I’ve become a writer, an author I guess, I’ve noticed something. How the professional world of writing works.

They’ve read it all. They’ve seen it all.

But the readers haven’t.

This is something the agents, the publishers need to keep in mind. For example, I recently gave a survey on my author profile and my personal facebook profile. This survey asked, “Would you rather have it to where the first parts of a series you haven’t read or forgot the plot about were interspersed within the first few chapters or a small prologue that wrapped it all.” The answers were complete opposites. The writers wanted it dispersed, like it’s traditionally done and considered to require more “skill”. The readers wanted a prologue they could skip if they wanted to.

Listeners don’t care how hard a song is to sing or produce, they just like the way it sounds. For example, I hate the song “Barracuda”, but as a once professional singer, I totally see the extreme skill and talent required to do this song and was blown away by this rendition.

Now, I love Alice in Chains and have their tunes, not a big fan of country, but after listening to this, I have a total new respect for Gretchen. That girl’s got talent.

Does this change whether I like the song or not? Nope, can’t stand it, not even this cover. I don’t care how hard a book was to write. I like it or I don’t. Readers, listeners, watchers of TV and movies are the same. Producers, artists, and agents need to get this in their list of comprehended items. Hey, do the hard stuff whether it’s considered good by the “common population”. Go for it! But don’t expect them to think about it the same way you do. If you want to be a successful anything, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Period.

Setbacks Happen

In my writing, I have had many setbacks. Many many many setbacks. But this one really upset me. Why? Because I had it all planned so perfectly. I’m one of those people that strive on routine, to a degree. I mean, I don’t want to do the exact same thing every day at the exact same time, more just a rudimentary schedule that I follow. Rise at X:XX on these days. Go to work. Exercise. Play time. That sort of thing. You know, normal.

I don’t ever get normal.

OK, OK. I got normal for about 6 months recently, and I loved it. But I digress.

No, I had just finished a crapload of appearances and storytelling performances, and the high holy days were here, and it was just a big mess of do everything at once. The crazy schedule was over, and all I had left was to send out a newsletter with photos of last month, make it through Sukkot, and finish my edits of Inhabitants. But then I got the flu.

I haven’t been sick a lot lately, like in years. So when I didn’t feel well, I took it for granted and left work early. I could afford to; it was just a few hours. But, about a week later, maybe less, that not feeling well came back with  vengeance. I’ve been nursing this flu for seven days. Yup, seven days. Feels a lot longer. In fact, I’m glad I wrote this. Knowing it’s only been seven days makes me feel a lot better. I was beginning to wonder if it was becoming serious.

What sucks is that I finally had a couple of days to really work on my writing and catch up and get some things done, and I spent those two days in bed. No, seriously. The two days I had off I slept straight through. I forced myself to drink and go to the bathroom, but other than that, I was in flu coma mode. I went to work the next day and have been working ever since. Those two days were supposed to be a Sabbath, Sukkot. They were supposed to be a time of joy and celebration and worship. At least I didn’t bow to the porcelain throne during this illness, for that I am grateful.

Yes, I complain, a lot. I’m angry. Angry that I take such good care of myself yet this happens. Angry that I was finally meeting some exercise goals only to have to quit for over a week. Angry I was just catching up with writing goals but now have to spend every minute away from work resting. Angry angry angry.

But I also learn. I try to learn in every opportunity. I’ve learned a lot over the last year, and am still learning. Right now I’m trying to learn that setbacks happen. If I don’t meet my goal, that’s OK. I can reset the finish line and try again. The important part is I’m realistic, and right now, the realty is I need to rest. Reality also states that continuing on my goals is the best option. Once I’m well.

Hope you all accept your setbacks and realize they happen to everyone all the time. Just because the finish line moved doesn’t mean you’re a quitter. Would you fault someone who had an accident and broke their foot for not running their trained for a planned race? Of course not! But if their goal was to run that race, then they should most certainly try again the next year. And the next and the next until they meet that goal.

Season 1, Episode 4

I’m a huge fan of the Dick Van Dyke show. I leave it running in the background and will even watch some episodes like they’re new. It’s such a well written, directed, and acted show that it continues to shine today.

Then one day, I watched season 1, episode 4. Sally, the great Rose Marie, is set up with Laura’s cousin. Sally never gets a man. Why? She’s too smart, too strong, and speaks her mind. Not in a feminazi way, in a, I’m not pathetically dependent of others. Like, you know, she can change a tire and make a good joke. Apparently this makes her trash to men?

So anyways, she pretends to be a complete imbecile, acting like she knows nothing about cars when, in fact, she can fix one better than the sad sack that is Laura’s cousin. The show eventually pairs her up with a spineless twit because apparently a strong woman requires a child for a husband.

I’m not one to erase history. I don’t think Gone With the Wind, Song of the South, or Looney Tunes need to be adjusted or removed. I think they need to remain a part of our history, studied even, and watched by most. Therefore, I don’t have a problem with this show either. You want people to know what the past was really like? To know what REAL sexism and racism is like? You keep shows like this going. You have present and future generations watch TV and movies that show society’s views. They can argue with a political piece like 1984 or Animal Farm or even The Jungle, but they can’t argue with film. Something about the pictures makes it real, not a person’s opinion of the truth.

Watching that show made me think. It made me see women of the past in a different light. I showed it to my husband. “Would you want a woman who is that stupid? Who can’t change a tire or do any of the things she pretends she can’t?” I asked.

“No!” he answered.

See, some men need a “lesser” woman because they lack confidence, just like a lot of women break down a man to be submissive because they need to feel superior for whatever reason. (There can be many.) Not my husband, and not a lot of present day men. Thank goodness for that!!!

Down by the Creek Bed

Yesterday we went for a walk in our woods. Before we went, we made sure to carry the right equipment.

Don’t worry. I didn’t make him carry it the whole time. This was just while I was climbing the gate. For those who think I may be going overboard on this, you’ve obviously never encountered a wild boar before. Which we get plenty of. Unfortunately.

Along the way, we ran into many fungi.

I’m pretty sure these two are the same kind.

I think these are called fan mushrooms.

Sorry it’s so blurry, but I love this little purple dude!

It’s the Mario shroom! LOL!!

A full skeleton. Well, almost full. It was missing its legs, presumably taken away by coyotes and the like. Its fur was still there, underneath it. And this, my friends, is why we carry in the woods.

We also saw some very pretty flowers.

And the state flower (lol-it’s poison ivy)

Two Monarchs mating.


And finally, a restful bit by the creek. Please note that Boy, our best mouser, likes to go with us when we hike the woods. He’s such a great cat!

Rosh Hashannah, Shalom!!

The Truth About Saving Money

I keep seeing all these, “How to stretch your dollar” articles that are at best useless and at worst nothing more than an ad to a scam “work-at-home” website. Here’s the truth. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, literally, you can’t save money. That’s what that means. It means you need every last dime you have. So you have to get creative in how to cut corners. This post will be honest. Brutally so. For all of those out there who don’t have the vacation accounts, extra cars, 3 bedroom homes and a maid that are recommended to cut from your budget, this post is for you.

  1. If you do have a retirement plan, that’s great. But if your goal is to save money for something other than retirement, it’s not helping you presently. It might be best to cut what you save there and put it in the other account. Think carefully. While yes, your kids grow up and that one trip to Disney you’ll get to take them on before college is vital, that wrap around porch with a new grill isn’t.
  2. Get another job. Whoa! Did you just tell me? Yes. It doesn’t have to be permanent. Just a couple of weeks, months, or even years depending on your needs. “But I don’t have time for another job.” I don’t either, and I so understand where you’re coming from. That’s OK. Let’s move on.
  3. Do NOT try to sell stuff online or host yard sales unless you know what you’re doing and live in an appropriate environment. If you live on a dead end street in the middle of nowhere, a yard sale isn’t going to help you. If you go around buying used books at yard sales and then try to sell them on Amazon, I’m afraid you’re going to be in for great disappointment when you see Amazon’s charges for you to do that. You will literally be lucky to make a dime. Literally.
  4. Monetize a hobby. Do you knit? Sew? Bake? Write? If you’re going to do it anyway, might as well earn back some of the millions you spent on yarn and icing sugar. But don’t count on this being your financial savior. Consider it part of your hobby, and if it grows from that, great.
  5. Garden. No, seriously, garden. It doesn’t have to be big or difficult. Lettuce is cheap and easy to grow with bountiful yields. You will eat healthier and save a ton! Potatoes do well too. Check with your local area and see what does and does not do well. Even if you do wind up using pesticides, it’s potentially cheaper than buying at the store. Be sure you plant from seed. If you go and buy four cabbage plants for $1.50, you’re spending more than just buying it already grown. Be careful though. You can spend a fortune on “recommended” supplies like netting, tools, and other items. Don’t get dragged into that. You’re doing this to save money, not spend it, remember? If it doesn’t work, you tried.
  6. Don’t eat out and don’t snack. “But… but… but…” I said this post would be honest, not fair. Those snacks cost money. Save EVERY receipt. EVERY receipt. Snacks, vending machines (write it down on a posty), eating out all count as groceries. COUNT THEM. I do. I have little slips of paper in my purse or car or somewhere to write down things like that. I’ll write it on my hand if I have to and add it later. You are NOT going to like what you see, but you need to see it. Pick yourself up (you can’t change the past) and work on the future. That $50 you spent on 20 oz cokes last month? If you can’t live without the cokes, buy a six pack or 2-liters. One 2-liter is cheaper than a 20 ounce.
  7. Eliminate your entertainment budget. This one will hurt a lot of you. I have never, repeat, never had an entertainment budget. If it’s food, it goes in groceries. If it’s clothes, it’s only bought if necessary and therefore goes in that budget. Entertainment budgets are justifications and unnecessary. “But it’s what makes like worth living!” Oooooohhhhh yes. Yes it is. And this is why so many poor people are depressed. We don’t have the privilege of movies, fashion clothing, new cars, eating out more than once a month (if that), more than three pair of shoes (work, home, running/etc) if that, cable, or even a second set of sheets. I lived many years with one set of sheets. Wash and dry and put back on. Get rid of cable or any other services you don’t need. Internet is probably a must at your house, and most shows can be watched without the expense of cable. I haven’t had “TV” in over 10 years. My horizons have been broadened because of it.
  8. Stop using the dryer. If you have time and space, hang your clothes. I added it up, and the dryer costs us $30 a month to use. That’s $30 that could go elsewhere.
  9. Stop wearing makeup. Good golly Moses! I can’t believe the cost of makeup these days! Don’t worry. It doesn’t take long to get used to being “naked” in public. No one’s going to throw rotten vegetables at you. However, you will become accustomed to it and no longer view overly made women as attractive. “But my husband likes me in makeup.” Your marriage is more important. If you honestly believe it would cause a problem in your marriage to quit using makeup, then don’t quit. Maybe you could save it for special occasions? Many men find barefaced women more attractive than madeup ones. Trust me on this one.
  10. Have an allowance. Yes, even adults need limits. We have allowances in our house. Maybe think of it as that entertainment budget you got rid of? Be strict! Be brutal! If you can only afford $20 a month for each adult, then so be it. And stick to it!!! Want something not budgeted, like unnecessary items, makeup, clothes, movies? Use your allowance. That’s what it’s for. Our allowances are also what we buy each other presents with. “I’m not doing that. That’s not fair.” Again, this post isn’t about fair. It’s about truth.
  11. Learn self-control or learn around the lack of it. I knew a girl who could NOT save money. She said money burned holes in her pockets. If that’s you, try to control yourself. If you have tried and tried and simply cannot, then do what she did. While rent-to-own furniture, etc is a waste of money for people who are able to save money for themselves, it’s helpful for those who can’t. Utilize these places. But realize it’s costing up to three times what it would if you could just save it yourself. I’m not trying to make you feel bad. We all have weaknesses, but I want you to be aware that learning to hold onto money is best.
  12. Search the sidewalks. When we lived in Knoxville, we drove around certain neighborhoods and picked up their discarded furniture and stuff. We got a nice TV, several couches, sets of drawers, chairs, old computers. Pretty much everything we owned at one point was found on the side of the road. A little paint and some work later and viola! Good as new. If you’re too good for that, then you’ve come to the wrong blog. I’m proud of my scavenging skills, of my abilities to recycle items others throw away. Others are too. We have some nice things in this house no believes someone else threw out when we tell them. Be sure to ask their permission if they’re around, and don’t take something unless it’s blatantly obvious it’s being thrown out.
  13. Look for sales. This one is more difficult unless you’re a housespouse. Stores have sales certain days of the week and certain times of the day. At work I used to visit the deli at 7:30, because that’s when they offered all the food left at the end of the day for next to nothing. The bakery marks everything expired down at the beginning of the day and then again at 4:00. At 4:00, my produce friend grabs what he wants from that second markdown. Smart man. But we have the advantage there. Visit different stores on different days. Watch their billboards. Browse their ads. Soon, you will pick up that store A has cheaper pizza and store B has cheaper milk, but only on Mondays.

I know you didn’t hear what you wanted. There are no honest get rich schemes. I’m sorry. But maybe there’s something on here that helped you. If you’re already doing all of this, well then I’m sorry. You’re in the same boat I am. Good luck.

Yes, we knew that buggy was stuck

(For the record. Timmy, Clive, the roommate and I are all good co-working friends. All things were done in fun.)

A couple of co-workers thought I was mean because I didn’t help a customer … or seven. Hey, my job’s boring. I gotta get my entertainment from somewhere. Please note, no one was hurt in any way because of this, and in fact, they probably learned something, which is more than can be said for the majority of their days I’m sure.

To refresh your memory, I work the self-checkout section of a large retail store. A lot of times, customers astound me with their actions. Take last night, when a woman kept bending over, peering into where the receipt comes from wondering where to put her dollars. So yes, I did wait until she asked me to come help her. I would have waited longer, this was getting good, but she asked for help. I’m not belligerent. So, I pointed out the clearly marked area with, get this, actual runway lights and the words “Cash in” printed in them. Yes, the area that takes your dollars literally has green lights that light up in sequence like they’re calling for a plane to land on them. No joke. I did this nicely, with a smile, heck I was wearing one anyway.

Another time I watched was when one of the kiosks was shut down. It had a sign on it, and the screen had a big red “X” that said “This register closed”. What more do people need? Please, tell me and I’ll start using it. I stood back and watched, astonished at the woman’s sheer lack of common sense, when a co-worker told me I was mean. Hey, I was about to tell her it was closed. This was my first time to experience this level of stupidity, and I was enjoying it. A story on that co-worker later. Trust me, it’s good. I went over to help her. Yes I was nice. No I wasn’t laughing at her. No she never knew I had been earlier.

So I’m reading a book in my car during lunch, and I go back to tell a co-worker about one of its passages: how the coachman got a kick out of watching the gentry folk try to get him out of a rut when he could have done it himself, simply because he wanted some entertainment. This co-worker, let’s call him Clive, (he’s going to be a common occurrence in these stories) laughs and nods. “I get people all the time that walk around me and all the buggies I have laid out for them to get their own.” He’s the person that stands by the front door and hands you carts. That job curtails a lot more than you would think, at least at my store. You can thank Clive for dried buggies, keeping the sanitizing wipes filled, and many other things you more than likely take for granted. He’s a great guy and a busy man. But anyway, he says, “I just let ’em walk past and try to take it. I know the buggy’s stuck, but I let them try until they give up. Then they look at me and go, ‘You knew this buggy was stuck, didn’t you?’ I nod and smile ‘hmm-hmm. Would you like one of these?’ and gesture to one of the ones already sitting out for them to take.”

I asked why they would surpass those instead of just taking what was already there. His flabbergasted face said, “When you find that out, you let me know!”

So yes, we most certainly have fun with you, and yes, we do it on purpose. You are our entertainment.

So back to that co-worker who called me mean. Let’s call him Timmy. There’s a button on the control panel for the kiosks that allows me to take control of them. It will display a message on the screen and say, “Please wait for assistance.” Timmy was clocked out for the day, and he and his roommate were buying their groceries. His roommate grabbed what he could and used another kiosk to make it go faster. I pressed the button. Every time Timmy would try to scan his 2-liter, I pressed it. He would go to bag it, only to hear the voice. I pressed it again, returning his control. He would wait until the kiosk returned to normal and then try to scan the 2 liter again. That would be when I pressed it again, making his screen change and the voice talk to him. This continued until I was doubled over crying with laughter. It kept telling him to rescan the items and everything. He spent several minutes trying to scan the same 2 liter. It was hilarious. Finally I felt sorry for him, after watching him scream at it, plead to it, and swivel around like someone looking for the hidden camera, and I asked him if he wanted me to stop.

“That was YOU?”

“Yes!” I laughed through tears.

His roommate held up a fist. “Awesome! Double points!”

Made. My. Night.

Help me. I work retail.

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, just haven’t had the time. But today I’m making the time. As I’m sure most of you are aware, I work … think SuperStore. Yeah buddy. And just like my Here’s Your Sign series when I worked there last time, I’m posting some of my fun moments. So, so fun moments.

I presently work at the self-checkout area. Let me clarify. The SELF-checkout area. This does not mean you ask me to ring you up personally at a kiosk while all the other customers have to wait on me to stop theirs from yelling at them, “Please wait for assistance!”.

The policy of our store is known to the world. “Steal from us. Please. We’ll even help you.” But there are a few things us employees are allowed to do. One of them is look inside large items being purchased, like suitcases, backpacks, purses, etc. Yes, even in SELF-checkout.

I got to put that allowance in action last night while trying not to laugh at two very sloppy thieves. Over time, you get to know the difference between lazy, disabled, methhead, poor, and many other subcultures of retail patrons. These two were just plain crazy. Hair sticking out all over the place like a cliche cartoon drawing of Einstein with glasses that would make Professor Trelawney jealous, these two old women kept looking up at me, a sure sign of something fishy. Most patrons who come through my area don’t want to be talked to. They want to be left alone. The last thing they do is watch me, unless they need something. So, I get to watching them and their order, and things aren’t adding up. Literally. Like their two foot tall pile of fabric that rings up for 97¢ and is called “baby jungle”. That kind of not adding up.

They had two buggies, one full of stuff, another to put the stuff in after it’s rung up. This is common, so I ignore it, but what I can’t ignore is the large tote they move from one buggy to the next without scanning it with the little wand. This is when I get to make my move.

“Did you get this?” I tap the tote.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

No, no they didn’t. “I don’t think it registered. Oh!” I “casually” look into the tote to see the large pile of fabric with a sticker of a UPC stuck to the real price tag. “Someone put the wrong sticker on here. Let me fix that for you.” I radio for a CSM. They would have to come do the void anyway, but I wanted them to see this. I took the sticker off and rummaged through their items as innocently as possible.

The CSM came by. “This was stuck to one of their tags. It needs to be voided off.” She voided it off, not really caring, and then left. I resumed my rummaging.

Their tote had many items. None of which had been rung up, nor were going to be from what I could tell. The pile of fabric had six UPC’s alone. Stuffed between the folds was clothing. I just handed each item to them, letting them ring it up. Three small plastic doo-dahs, quilting batting, toddler clothes… At that point I moseyed a few feet away, radioed the noncaring CSM, and as quietly as possible asked for the person who stops thieves. They weren’t in yet but would be later on.

Another CSM comes by, along with a manager. They had heard the radio chatter. At this particular time, the kiosks have a glitch where every 7 items, I have to press a button. I use this to my advantage, and instead of standing at my podium pressing buttons, I stand directly with them and fix it right there, acting ignorant as to what was wrong with it, assuring them I would look into their register as soon as they left, and apologizing for its misbehavior. While I’m personally handling this order, I peek down into one of their purses without being seen. It was fairly easy to do.

I kid you not. There in the purse was a big ol’ can of Bushes Baked Beans. I literally felt my eyes grow cold from all the extra air hitting them because of how big they had gotten. Kinda hard not to laugh at it now.

Several items later, I went up to talk to the manager and other CSM to tell them what was going on. The CSM looks over at them and slowly says in an astonished voice, “There is the outline of a can in their purse.” Sure enough, the can had fallen to where its outline could be clearly seen at that point.

I wasn’t allowed to do anything about it. I just told her, “Honey, there’s a whole bunch of food in that thing.” Three sets of lips were heavily bitten for several minutes to keep from smiling and bursting out laughing.

Sloppy thieves.

As soon as they left, I walked over and picked up a price tag they had dropped on the floor. The CSM printed out a copy of their receipt, and these things were left for the thief catcher. She came and talked to me, laughing a lot in the process, then watched the videos. She said she thinks I caught everything but the food that got away in their purse.

I see a lot of thieves where I work. Half the time we just let them go, there’s nothing we can do with a motto like that. Other than laugh, that is, like when they forget to take the sticker price tags off the backs of their shirts. Oooohhhhh, we laugh.

The cost of any business

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