Survival of the Technologically Savvy

Finally! Success. I’ve been playing with the gadgets and accessories I received for Christmas. Someday soon I’ll “get” how to sync my PC docs with iCloud. (At the moment, it’s just easier to e-mail them to myself because I love iAWriter and don’t use DropBox.)

And, who imagined using Bluetooth could be so easy–and so much fun? The one problem I’m encountering with this new technology (well, other than figuring out how to get my devices to recognize it–don’t bother reading the instructions because they are for an older model or something) is that it’s supposed to make my life more productive, yet I find my self having to “adapt.” Each device and app (that allows typing) has a slightly different keyboard layout. Couple that with different tools and accessories I use and I always need a minute or two to “adjust” to the “tool” I’m using at the moment. Even simply typing a search string into Google can be a challenge depending on whether I’m using the online (touch screen) keyboard, my home desktop computer, my laptop, or one of several “keyboard” devices I use during travel.

But, in the end, I figure I’m simply keeping my mind sharp. Forcing myself to “adapt” to the device of the moment reinforces how we all should strive to focus on the here-and-now, the present, or life in this moment. That in itself is a huge benefit for me. (Imagine, please, an exclamation point there – I can’t find it on my keyboard-of-the-moment.)

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a peaceful and productive New Year!

The “Read” Not Taken

Who got Kindles, Nooks, or iPads for the holidays? It’s time to load them with e-books and apps (and I’ll be offering my latest Kindle book free in the next few days). I never thought I’d read e-books; now I’m seriously considering writing more of them. The possibilities (for my background) are numerous. One of the big features is the option to publish shorter pieces, advice, nonfiction, fiction, etc.

Several of my traditionally published books also have e-book versions; in fact, my Kids Throughout History series was among the first (of my titles) electronically published for schools and libraries in early 2000. Still, I always thought I’d prefer hard copy books, or as my sister-in-law calls them, “dead tree mode.”

I’m particular about my books. They have to be hardback or trade paperback. I’ve never been a fan of the “pocket” paperbacks. But, I did purchase several PDF style books when Amazon first started selling their “shorts.” During my graduate work, I tried a few e-books to save on textbook costs. A big mistake! I hated sitting at the computer in order to read my assignments and it was tough to use the highlight and note features; it simply wasn’t the same as curling up with a book.

Eventually I downloaded the book apps for PC and acquired several titles. It wasn’t until recently, when I explored plans for e-publishing, that I began reading more e-books.

It’s sort of like research. Are the free books worth it? How does the pricing work? I read the reviews and comments carefully to help me make decisions for pricing choices and such with my own e-published books. I even played around with my sister’s iPad and a friend’s Kindle. They’re neat! They’re heavier than I assumed but probably not much more than the books I read. And, you can “curl up” with them.

So, in all, I like e-books though I still purchase my share of “dead tree mode” books. Two things bug me though. One, strange formatting. Maybe it’s because I spent a few years as a typesetter for a weekly newspaper but I notice whether text moves back and forth between flush left and full justification, or the font changes, or for some reason a word (or letter, or page) is suddenly red or blue instead of black. It bugs me! I notice. And it interrupts the flow of the story for me. Because I was “doing research,” I read the stories despite the format “glitches.”

These could become the “reads” not taken. I don’t want people to delete my e-books or write nasty reviews that state “it wasn’t worth the price–and I got it free.” Ouch! I read many such reviews, so when I published, I worked hard to eliminate these issues and get the formatting consistent.

The second thing that bugs me is typos. I’m calling mistakes in grammar typos because I truly hope they are mere typos and not a book that should have been edited or proofread before being e-published. This thinking is easier for me than when the errors are misspellings or frequently confused words. Sometimes I’ve noticed a place where an error was caught but the correction and the error remained “you’re your car key’s are here.”

Sadly there have been a few books (thankfully they were free) that were so riddled with grammatical errors, especially misplaced modifiers, that I wonder about the credibility of the author. No wonder e-books had a bad rep at first. Some of the worst offenders have the imprint of big publishing houses, too. Absolutely unacceptable.

Yes, typos and errors slip in. We’re all human. Sometimes deadlines are simply too tight and careful proofreading is rushed. I know I have to try my hardest to make my product the best it can be. I don’t want my writing to become the “read not taken.”

Driving through the Deluge

People often talk about turning life’s lemons into lemonade. Sheesh! I’ll take lemons any day! Add a little water, some sugar, then drink down some lemonade. That sort of problem I can deal with–the “grin and get through it” type of problem.

When life throws problems my way, they come in torrents. It’s  much like the summer rains we get here in Florida. Those usually hit when I’m driving on I-75. The sky opens up like a faucet and even with the wipers on full speed I can barely see the road 10 feet in front of the car. During such downpours, you have 2 choices–pull over and wait it out, or (and this is what most people do) turn on the car’s flashers, slow down, and use the blinking red lights of the car in front of yours to help stay on the road.

Most people do this for 2 reasons. First, summer downpours last 20 minutes or so. Second, chances are you’re driving toward and then through the storm. Even crawling along with hazard lights flashing, the storm will pass by sooner than if you wait it out under an overpass. (And, personally, I feel safer crawling along than parked on the side of interstate.)

Lately, I feel as if I’m driving through a metaphorical deluge. Events just keep happening. I have no control except to try to remain positive. As soon as I think it can’t get worse, some new twist happens. (Maybe this is why I’m not getting lemons–I’d be dealing with bushels and bushels.) Normally such times in my life seem to focus on just my job or just  my personal life. Not this time. This time I’m getting hit from every part of my life and from every side and angle. I don’t know what bad karma I put out there, but it’s dumping on me now! Even with the wipers going at warp speed, I can still barely see where I’m headed.

Luckily, I’ve survived these deluges before so I’m confident I’ll get through this one. Eventually. I also know that during such times I learn who my true friends are and whom I can count on. Sort of like the spring cleaning my mother used to do when I was young, I know that this deluge is helping me wash away all the unimportant things I’ve expended energy on; once it ends I have a feeling my windshield will be squeaky clean and I will clearly know where I’m headed.

As I’m crawling through this torrential rain, I have remembered to thank my friends and express gratitude for all my wonderful students. They have been most compassionate and understanding. Thank you!

Transforming Memory

It’s a dull day in sunny Florida. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to do this, but I’m sitting on the lanai drinking coffee and eating breakfast. It’s an hour later than it feels due to the overcast sky and steady drizzle. I’ve been watching the pond collect the raindrops for about half an hour.

Yes, it’s “winter” here in Florida, but this is unusual. Even during rainy season, our rain usually comes in steady torrents. When I first moved here, it seemed as if a faucet was turned on and then off. I recall waiting 15 minutes after the rain ended for the water to drain off the flooded parking lot so I could get to my car.

This is different. The sound of it is gentle and steady. It is just so odd to have a dreary, overcast day all day. The smell of the rain is subtle with a hint of moss and fish. The feel of it is less ominous than our usual storms. And, it is damp. Damp that lingers and seeps into every crevice. Again, unusual. The promise is different, too. Torrential bursts of rain or thunderstorms are short and followed by sunshine to quickly dry and humidify. Then life gets back to normal. This rain has no promise of stopping. It reminds me of the jungle movies in which rainy season arrives with a steady drizzle that lasts for days and weeks until the characters (explorers, scientists, anthropologists, whoever) face rivulets of water growing into streams through their camps until they are nearly flooded away.

It also reminds me of camping in Michigan. I remember being huddled in a light jacket in early July as a storm blew through during which the temp dropped into the 70s and then subsided into a steady drizzle. We’d sit drinking coffee and watching it rain, forced to put activities on hold. I’d watch the rain drip from the trees and notice details.

I’m noticing details now and wondering how rain in the setting of my fantasy novel looks. I allow bits of my memories to shift and morph into details for the setting for the world in which my fantasy is set.

My main character has been slowed in reaching her destination when her transportation is injured. Now a steady rain is complicating the situation. What trees and plants does she see as she sits, damp and miserable? Is she unable to build a fire? Why? What does she hear?

As I notice air ferns peppering a tree trunk and moss hanging from other trees here, I wonder about her world. Are there plants or creatures hanging from the trees there? Are they poisonous or will they bring comfort? Is there a plant that thrives in the damp and wet that might save her steed? What must she do to find it?

How does she distinguish the natural sounds, such as a woodpecker tapping and poking for breakfast, over the sounds of danger?

As I linger on the lanai, allowing the drizzle to sift memories to the surface, I transform them into pieces and details to create the setting or twists in the plot.

Life: A Wide-Angle Lens

Focus. Zooming in. Careful attention.

Variety. Lack of boredom. Multi-tasking.

Some people may see these items at opposing ends of spectrum, but I see them as essential for my sanity. I enjoy juggling several projects and, ever since I took a coaching for higher performance course in grad school, I work hard to balance whatever I do into three important categories to maintain a balance in my life.

During the past six months I have had people imply–or state outright–that I am not focused. Some people know me well, such as a friend who teaches a blended K/1 class: “Seriously, were you a hyperactive child? I think you’d be labeled ADHD today.”

Others don’t know me at all, such as an agent I met at a writing conference: “Juggle several projects? No! We want to work with writers who are focused.”

Others know me well but seem to project their life philosophy onto me: “Where’s your vision? You need to focus.” “What is it that you want? Rein in your energy.” “How do you get anything accomplished when you juggle so much?” “If you could focus on just one thing, what would it be?”

Beneath all these comments I detected doubt. And it was bugging me. I began to doubt myself. I began to doubt the balance I work to maintain. When everything is balanced I thrive on all that juggling. I seem to reach optimal performance.

I felt really grumpy about all this doubt. And the grumpiness led to feeling out of kilter. So I grabbed my camera and headed through the dew to the pond behind my building. Nature centers me and I knew I could click myself back into balance.

I soon realized that I kept moving between wide angle and zooming-in. For each photo I took I widened my view, then took the big picture. Then I zoomed in, took a few more. Tightened the focus, and took some close-ups. Once I found a new place around the pond, I repeated from that new perspective.

Am I supposed to go through life using just my telephoto lens? That doesn’t work for me. I always need to see the big picture before I can focus in. My way works for me. And, now that I feel centered and have some cool nature images to post around my office, I’m ready to tackle my list of projects.

All Things Writing

Words are my business! I write, I edit, I teach, I create and give presentations. Obviously words are important to me. They’ve fascinated me since before I could read. As a writer and educator I enjoy sharing all I’ve learned during 25 years as a professional writer. So, when I’m not writing or teaching (college, elementary arts enrichment, and writing workshops), I enjoy coaching other writers of all levels.

New writers need help with craft, with how best to weave their words into captivating tales. Other writers need motivation and encouragement when the rejections arrive. Even established authors benefit from someone who truly understands this business. And, it never hurts to have someone to be accountable to in reaching those writing goals. For all these writers, I’ve created this blog. I’ll focus on the craft of writing, words, the writing process, and publishing. 

Click the links if you’re looking for my “wonderings and wanderings,” visit my website for more about me and my books. For news about upcoming programs visit “Lisa Wroble Writing” on Facebook.