Rated E for Everyone? We need ratings, not regulation.

**UPDATE**  Hey gang, just came across this article that takes aim at a popular book for its perceived violent attitude toward kids.  Thought it was an interesting addendum to this conversation.

Howdy folks!  I've been away from the computer/blog for the last few days attending a wedding, so I hope you're all well.  I left South Texas hot and dry and, unfortunately, I found it unchanged upon my return.  I think it's interesting how some things seem so prone to change--like weather, moods and gas prices--and other things are so resistant.  Societal and cultural values are often some of the most resistant, I've noticed.

The Supreme Court ruled today that the state of California cannot prohibit minors from purchasing violent video games.  The issue stemmed from a previous law made by the state which would fine retailers up to $1,000 if they sold violent games to children of a certain age.  You can read more about it HERE.

The ruling basically keeps the purchasing decision in the hands of parents and the young people they give money to.  Strictly regulating the content of video games isn't a new phenomenon, but it's a relatively new legal battle for the United States.  Australia has had one of the strictest censorship programs in the western world for quite some time now.  (You can read about it HERE.)   The issue of violent games and their influence over the young people who play them has been broached before in the U.S., but no state had made any real attempt to legally regulate it until California.

It's no secret that I love video games.  My generation was the first--starting with Atari--to grow up with a video game console in most households.  I've seen the death of gaming as a niche form of entertainment, and its rebirth as the largest entertainment industry in the world.  In 2009 video games earned more money than movies (all combined sales).  Video games have multi-million dollar production costs and are only gaining in popularity as the generation that grew up enjoying them as kids have moved into adulthood and (surprise!) are still loving them.

Even still, I'm sure you're wondering why I'm talking about a video game law on a writing blog.

In the Supreme Court's ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia cited literature as a precedent for not meddling in in the lives of children's entertainment as it pertained to violence.  Here's a quote from the article linked above:  "Citing examples of violence in classic children’s literature like Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Lord of the Flies Justice Antonin Scalia said a state's right to protect minors, 'does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.' Scalia noted that 'this country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence,' citing a longrunning history of attempts to restrict violence in movies and comic books."

Movies have long been regulated.  There are ratings, and theaters are 'supposed' to adhere to them.  Rated R means Restricted, and no one under the age of 17 is allowed to watch unless they are accompanied by an adult.  What gets you an R rating?  Nudity and sex.  Language and violence alone won't do it in most cases.  Many other countries around the world view nudity and sex as lesser evils when compared to stabbing and shooting, but not the U.S.  Here, boobies = bad and bullets = borderline.

It should also be pointed out that video games carry ratings too.  Just not all of them.  Only the most violent and provocative games carry the dreaded M rating (for mature), and retailers are at liberty to restrict (or not) purchase accordingly.  In truth, the rating is more for parents than retailers.

Fans of freedom of choice, and those who hate censorship, will applaud the Court's decision.  It clearly keeps state governments from putting social blinders on young people, and keeps the ball in the parent's court.  They'll argue that censorship is a slippery slope and that, if allowed, we soon won't have control over what our children do or see if even one such law is allowed.  On the other hand, parents who have kids sneaking to their friends house to steal cars and shoot prostitutes in the latest Grand Theft Auto game aren't quite so excited.  They'll argue that seeing violence on TV and taking control of a character and acting out that violence are two very different things.  That simulating the bashing of someone to death with a baseball bat is something no child should be allowed to do, regardless of what their parents think.

This brings me back to books.  There is clearly a parallel in terms of both games and books providing entertainment of the 'made up' variety to people of all ages.  Many readers and writers are quick to raise the hackles when people start talking about limiting access to certain types of literature due to content.  I've done it here on this blog when religious bozos started banning books in Missouri on the basis of implied immorality and raciness.  Are video games THAT different?  Can we abhor censorship in our favorite form of entertainment, but not in others?  You can see from Justice Scalia's statement above, other people are already making the correlation.

I'm most definitely not in favor of censorship.  I do think the choices should be left up to parents and other responsible adults.  However, I also think we should make it easier to make those choices.  No parent should have to play every video game their kid brings home start to finish just to see if it's too violent.  Nor should they be expected to read every book their child reads.  Once they hit 9 or 10 and start reading 3 books a week like my nephew, that ceases to be a viable option for most busy parents.  Apply a ratings system with easy to understand and clearly stated guidelines.

Ratings prevent censorship, not encourage it.  If every video game was clearly rated for certain content, laws like the one in California could never be made.  There could never be an argument for the 'unsuspecting child or parent'.  It's written on the box, you knew what you were getting into.  If a store allows your kid to buy a game that's over the suggested age, don't shop there any more.  The same applies for books.  Don't want your kids reading about making out?  Put a notice on their library account.

The more I see issues like this make it all the way to the highest courts, the more I get nervous about the future when it comes to access to great works of literature (like Speak and Huck Finn), and even classic video games that I'd like to someday share with my kids.  (How long until someone deems Zelda as too violent for all of that sword play, or too tawdry for all that Princess smooching?)  Particularly in the book world, our attitudes toward censorship have been way too reactive as opposed to proactive.  I think it's time for that to change.


Cool Tool for Writers

Hey gang!  Going to keep this short and sweet today ...

I stumbled across this extremely interesting and (probably) useful little tool the other day and wanted to share it with you fine folks.

Every writer has their own personal brand of crack when it comes to overusing words and phrases.  Some love "the" others "however", and I personally find it ridiculous how many times I can use the phrase "she couldn't" in a single short story.  Anywho, I  found a little gadget to help you find your word crutch and kick its verbose little tush.


Basically, you just copy/paste whatever text you want it to analyze into the little box and it spits out all of this crazy data.  It'll tell you the number of sentences you use, how many syllables were used, the most frequently used phrases (starting with 8 words and going down), and even provide a list of every single word you used and count how many times it appears.  Is there ever REALLY a need to have the word plethora in a work of fiction?  I think not ...

Apparently I have a real thing for the word "the", because in the sample I used it popped up 698 times!  (nearly 5% of the words used)  Seriously, it's like I'm stuttering with my keyboard or something.  I thought you might find some practical use for it, or maybe just use it as an excuse to not do laundry or something.

Hope you're all well!


.99 Cent Books = Armageddon???

Salutations compadres!  I've been poked and prodded so much in the last week that I'm starting to feel like 'The Catch of the Day' at the local fish market.  That's right, I went to the doctor!  Heck, they even let me run on a treadmill ...

I couldn't help but identify with a lab rat when they started greasing me up and sticking wires all over my chest.  Seriously, an alien autopsy would probably have been less invasive.  A good time it was not.  Maybe that's why my feathers got all ruffled when I thought about today's topic.

I keep reading ... and keep reading ... AND KEEP READING about the scourge of the .99 cent book.  Those of you who are in the ePublishing Circle of Trust will immediately know what I'm talking about.  Those of you outside the Circle might not, so let me catch you up.

(I'm going to simplify a little a lot, but there are lots of little linkable words and phrases if you want to learn more.)

A little while back a small family-run Internet retailer named FREAKING AMAZON--I heard they got their start as shoe cobblers--decided they would let any old author upload their books for free to be sold on their site in electronic fashion.  Amazon, by this point, had officially become the largest retailer of paper books on the planet.  In short: Readers knew Amazon.  Readers trusted Amazon.

Coincidentally, Amazon had also popularized the eReader with their snazzy little device, Kindle.   For the historians out there, they released it in November, 2007 @ $399 US.  I say "popularized", because the Kindle wasn't the first eReader, it just happened to be the first REALLY consumer friendly one in both price and function.  (Yes, they were once MORE expensive than $399.)  Amazon had also become THE place to purchase eBooks--the things you read on an eReader.  Convenient?  I think so.

At the point authors were invited to share their wares on Amazon, eReaders were still relatively niche gadgets.  A little too pricey, and a little too unknown for the common woman or man.  That changed as other companies began to throw their names into the electronic book arena.  Two years after the release of the Kindle, physical book retail giant Branes & Noble released their own reader (Nook) and announced that they too would allow authors to self-publish on their website.  Shortly after B&N, Apple developed their own eBookstore.  All the while, a major Internet eBook retailer named Smashwords was also allowing authors to self-publish.  Even Google got in on the action.  

Fast-forward to Now

eBooks and eReaders are HUGE.  Sales of electronic books are surpassing their paper cousins and that gap is only going to widen with the growing number of popular electronic gadgets capable of functioning as a reader.  As a result, many authors are running to get on board the eTrain.

Economics ... BLECH

An initially unnoticed aspect of authors being able to circumvent the traditional publishing process--you know bleed tears, find an agent, bed-down with a publisher and hope your book made it to the front of the bookstore for a couple of days--and self-publish their work was pricing flexibility.  All of the sites that allowed for DIY publishing also let the author more-or-less set the price of the product (a privilege usually afforded to only publishers).  In the old model, the author's job was to write, not worry about profit margin.  A good thing for many authors who feel as I do about the E word.

So what did authors do when they put on their big boy and girl business undies?  What any entrepreneur would do, of course!  They undercut the poop out of the competition.  Why?  Why does Walmart sell things cheaper than everyone else?  Because they can afford to.  The Indie/DIY author was no different.

eBooks from traditional publishers are more expensive, and here's why.  You're going to pay more for Stephen King and Twilight because the big traditional publishers are corporations with big payrolls.  They have many editors, secretaries, etc., etc. to feed.  They also publish more than one or two books in a year.  That requires coin.  Furthermore, Stephen King and Twilight are responsible for making money for all the lesser-known authors who might not earn back the investment publishers make in them.  Combine that with the cost of making paper books (ya know like ink, shipping, feeding the gnomes who blow on the binding glue to make it dry it faster, etc.), and you've got a formula for mark up.

Here's a pretty solid list of why traditional publishing is 'spensive.   

It's a well known fact that most authors survive off of Saltine Crackers and various canned meat products, and they wouldn't know the difference between a board room and the Bahamas if you showed them a photo.  (I kid, I kid!)   So you see, the idea that an Indie author would be willing to price their baby at a scant .99 cents and think they were making a killing isn't that far fetched.

I'd like to point out that at this point no crimes were committed--by either party--and no animals were harmed during the making of the price war.  Traditional publishers have a right to determine what an acceptable profit is, as do Indie authors.  As with most things, however, the actual decision is going to come down to consumers.

I say tomato, you say I'm destroying an entire industry

There has been A LOT of mudslinging in the transition from paper to electronic publishing ...

Let's pause for a sec to clarify something:  It is a transition.  Not a fad.  Not a phenomenon.  Not a tryst.  This is a lasting change to how we primarily consume a product.  Proof?  I just got my nearly 70 year old dad an eReader for Father's Day on Wednesday of last week.   He told me on the phone this morning that he has already read half a book on it even though he didn't think he'd ever use it.  It seems he really likes being able to enlarge the font.  Now he wants to know how to get some of his favorite old paper books on it!  Call it anecdotal if you want, but for my money when the "old folks" are buying in, the "change" has already come and gone.

Back on task, everyone (including me ... wait for it) has seemingly had an opinion about what has happened to the publishing industry.  Readers, authors, publishers, editors, agents, Wall Street, grandfathers, granddaughters--you name it--have expressed everything from joy to dismay over the first real change to come to the reading medium since we swapped out stone for papyrus.

With those opinions have come accusations and prognostications.  Accusations of wrong doing and right doing in the transition, prognostications of good things and bad things still to come.  I've applauded some, laughed at others and scoffed at most.

The biggest bur to stick under my saddle of late is the scuttlebutt over book pricing.  Former literary agent and current author, Nathan Bransford, posted this poll last week to essentially gauge what the perceived value of a $25 hardback paper book in eBook form is.  He had posted a similar poll last year and the results were compared.  The highly unscientific, yet utterly compelling, findings showed that a year ago 63% of the folks who voted believed an acceptable price for the eBook version of a $25 paper book was greater than $10.  This year, 72% went the opposite direction and said that the eBook version should be priced below $10.  Even as a somewhat random sample that's a pretty big shift.

Nathan isn't the first person to illustrate or surmise that the value of a book is falling.  Consumers are starting to speak up.  THIS EXCELLENT ARTICLE (highly, highly recommended) posted back in March on The Digital Reader noted that of the top 20 bestselling eBooks on Amazon, 9 were priced at $1 or less.  With this evidence in hand a number of people have started predicting a day when all books are free, because no one will be willing to pay for them.  I've also read a number of hostile comments directed toward the authors who are pricing their books in the bargain basement, blaming them for hastening the collapse of the written word's value.

Let's pump the brakes, m'Kay?
Here are my reasonings (told you I had 'em) for why we shouldn't go all 2012 on books just yet:

  • The Entertainer: Entertainment and talent have always carried a price tag.  People will pay to escape.  People will pay to enjoy and whiteness things they cannot, or are not willing to do themselves.  It's why we have sports.  It's why we have Lady Ga Ga.  If you can offer an experience of value, someone will pay for it.  From puppet shows in the street to sold out arenas; if you build it, they will come.
  • A Change Will Do You Good: eBooks are a market in flux.  It is still way too early to nail down the market price.  Case in point: Back in March 9 out of the top 20 Amazon bestsellers were under $1.  As of this evening, only 1 out of the top 20.  A month from now it will probably be 15 out of 20.  Based upon the survey mentioned above, I'm not even sure readers know what an electronic book is worth to them.  While I'm pretty sure it isn't what a paper book is worth, I'm also pretty sure it isn't nothing.  (That's coming from a reader, not a writer.)
  • "I'd Buy That For A Dollar": Worth is highly subjective.  Some people wouldn't pay more than $30 for a meal, but would sell everything they own for a new Harry Potter book.  Others would pay thousands of $$$ for a bottle of wine but not pay anything for digital content they can pirate for free on the Internet.  As such, there will never be "an agreed upon" price for anything.  
  • Look To The Past, Not The Future: The music industry went through a similar shift not all that long ago.  People predicted horrible things when consumers were allowed to download their favorite tracks for .99c instead of being obligated to purchase an entire album for $15.  The same mantra of, "Pretty soon we'll be giving it away!" was shouted then.  (Actually, it is still being shouted by Jon Bon Jovi.  :)   Here's a news release from 2005 explaining how Apple and the Big Record Companies were butting heads over  the issue.  The reality is that the music industry for MUSICIANS and LISTENERS has never been better.   What about the Big Record Companies?  Not so much.  Draw what conclusions you will, but I for one think authors and readers will be fine. 
  • "A Hamburger Today ...": Fastfood restaurants have been waging the price war for years, yet I still have to pay .99c for a hamburger.  Shouldn't it be free already?   If piracy and price cutting were truly the ingredients for "free" I tend to think my next iTunes purchase would be $0 instead of $9.99.  There is a bottom line for everything, and that bottom line will be set by the people who make a living off of the goods and services being provided.  An author won't work for free so long as there are readers who covet their stories.  Why?  Because milk and eggs aren't free.   
At the end of the day I think that authors just need write good stories.  The money and accolades will come if there is justification for it. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  Are cheap eBooks going to devalue literature to the point that no one is willing to pay for it?  Are we headed toward a future where authors, like classical composers of old, are hired by private investors to craft stories that will be free to the public?


Writers: You Are What You Read

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original writers borrowed one from another.” ~ Voltaire

Oh, Tuesday.  You fickle beast.  You start like a Monday hangover--all noise, bright lights and regrets.  Then, somewhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon, you start to feel like Wednesday.  If there's a groove in the week, it has to be from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon.  Everything else feels like climbing up or sliding down in my book, which is to say a struggle.

Speaking of books, I've been doing some stewing on the relationship between reading and writing.  We all know there's one.  At the most basic level, if you can't read, you can't write.  Pretty simple really.  But what about at a deeper level?  To what extent do our reading habits influence our writing habits?

You Are What You Read

You've probably heard the expression, "You are what you eat."  This clearly isn't true, or I might have looked something like this guy after college:

I think it might be more applicable to reading and writing, though.  My mother called the other day and asked what I was working on.  The conversation went something like this:

Me - "Well ..."

Mom - "You are still writing, aren't you?"

Me - "YES!  I'm just trying to think of how to describe it.  It's actually a series of long short stories--like novellas.  They involve a guy who becomes a monster hunter, or paranormal investigator.  Each story is about a different investigation."

Mom - "Is it horror?  Like Stephen King?  You know my favorite movie of his was Silver Bullet."

NOTE: My mother is a HUGE horror film fan and loves movies based off of Stephen King stories.  She also knows that I've read his books since I was a kid.

Me - "Well, he didn't actually make the movie himself, but they based it off of his novella, Cycle of the Werewolf--"

Mom - "You know why I like that movie so much?  Because it seemed so real!  You almost forget that it's about something crazy like a werewolf.  I was just worried about the little boy in the wheelchair and scared of the creepy priest."

Me - "That's because King is a master character author.  You worry so much about the characters and their relationships with one another that you almost forget that you're reading a horror story.  Until some possessed dog eats someone, that is."

Mom - "So your stories are like that?"

Me - "I guess they are a little bit like that.  They've got some fun paranormal and scary stuff going on, but they're mostly about this guy trying to find his place in the world.  Those are the kinds of stories I've always enjoyed reading."

The thing is, I've always believed you should write what you like to read.  If you're passionate about YA, horror or historical romance as a reader, that passion will surely seep into your writing.  However, I'm not sure I ever really made the connection beyond the very broad strokes of genre or categories.  It goes so much deeper than that.

In hindsight, I can easily see the little bits of my favorite authors in my writing.  King's flawed and conflicted main characters.  JK's strong female roles and iron-tight friendships.  Shakespeare's exploration of human emotion.  On and on it goes ...

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not claiming to have successfully cloned the techniques of the legends I'm referring to in my own writing.  When I do that I'll give you a ride on my private jet and let you take the yacht for a spin.  :-)  It's just that I can see how I've tried to emulate them, and done so almost subconsciously.

So I ask: Have you noticed your favorite reads sneaking into your work?  Do you purposefully try to emulate a style or author?  Do you write stories similar to those you read the most?



No Limits, Please

Ever get tired of boxes?  I do!  Here's a tune for all of those who yearn to be set free to be anything and EVERYTHING they can be.

Hope you enjoyed Lenka!  (Her new album rocks, btw.)

Happy Sunday,


The Thoughtful Pause & Keeping Pace

"It's the deep breath before the plunge." ~ Gandalf 

Pause. Interruption. Lull. Recess. Breather. Respite.  All of these words can basically be defined as temporarily stopping an activity or thought.  There are lots of reasons to do so.

Runners and fitness types know that proper (see - efficient) breathing is key to optimizing performance.  The idea isn't to take in as much oxygen as possible (you'd pass out), but to take in exactly what your muscles and brain need.  Harder to do than say when your exerting yourself, I know.  However, knowing how to space your breaths--or when to pause--is important.

Pausing is an often overlooked aspect of general conversation.  We've all known at least one person who never seems to pause in conversation.  They jump from topic to topic with little prompt or indication.  It can make communicating clunky and confusing, especially if you don't know the very person well.  (If you're besties, you probably already know what they're thinking anyway. :0)  Most of us learn without ever being told that it's good to stop talking from time to time when we are in conversation.  We do it for lots of reasons, like to look for those all important non-verbal indicators that our words are having the intended effect, or to gauge the comprehension of the person we're talking to.

Musicians have long understood and mastered the art of lull or refrain--particularly jazz and classical musicians/composers.  The best way to add drama in music is to adjust the volume or omit noise all together.  This is partially because we've been conditioned to associate sound volume and frequency with emotion or feeling.  (Think Pavlov's dogs, but cooler.)  To our heartstrings, slow usually means sad, loud means angry, fast means exuberant, etc.  Artists do similar things with color and texture.

I bring all this up because a timely respite is also very important in writing.  I don't mean literally stopping, although that can sometimes be important too.  I mean knowing when to use fewer words, shorter sentences, or to leave something completely unstated.  It's a technique that can be used to manipulate pacing and tension in your story.

You want the reader to slow down?  Add more detail and explanation (i.e. words).  You want the reader to be breathless after reading an action scene?  Shorten your sentences/paragraphs and use strong verbs.  Dialogue, or the lack thereof, can also be used manipulate the flow of a story.

Like the breathing and exercise example, it's a simple technique, but it can be hard to master.  I guess I've been thinking a lot about it lately as I've been working on edits for a new project.  Learning to push/pull the reader through a story is definitely a challenge.  I find I'm a little better at doing it with dialogue, but I REALLY would love to do a better job using other methods as well.

I set about trying to find some useful info on the subject of pacing, because... well, because I wanted to waste time thinking about writing instead of ACTUALLY writing.  (It's a weakness.)  Luckily, my search turned up some useful goodies.

THIS ARTICLE has some interesting things to say on the subject, particularly as it pertains to word choice.

THIS ARTICLE draws an excellent comparison between pacing and sports on television.

THIS ARTICLE has an awesome visual method for breaking down the pace of a story.  The author lists the following factors as things to look for regarding pacing: "Word length, Sentence length, Length of paragraphs, Dialogue and internal monologue length, & White space"  Highly recommend you give it a look!  

Finally, I thought THIS ARTICLE offered a pretty good general explanation of pace should you still find yourself a little confounded by the idea.

I leave you with questions:

What are your tricks for manipulating the pace of your stories?

Do you consider pace when you draft, or only when you edit?


Tragedy & Hope

I took a long-ish blogging break for the month of May, but somewhat sadly the world didn't rest with me.  When I started my break the Southern U.S. was just beginning to recover from the string of violent storms that left lives ended or destroyed in multiple states, the most heavily hit being Alabama.  The stories of survival that poured out were both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Then, only a few weeks later, another massive tornado hit the modest-sized city of Joplin, MO.  They were still adding to the death toll this week, and the damage was catastrophic.  I lived in Missouri for 4 years and had visited Joplin many times while traveling back to my home state of Oklahoma.  Missouri, like Oklahoma, is a state dominated by rural living.  It's not uncommon for your nearest "neighbor" to live several miles away.  As such, when something like this happens to one town or city, it feels as though it happens to the entire state.  Everyone is your neighbor.

Only days after the Joplin storm another tornado struck, this time in my home state.  Tornados aren't infrequent things in Oklahoma.  In fact, they are kind of a fixture in the culture there.  Every town (no matter the size) has a storm siren, and they have 'tornado drills' in the schools starting in kindergarden.  No, if you grow up in Oklahoma a tornado is nothing to get excited about unless it's your house its blowing over.  The Oklahoma tornado didn't harm as many people as it hit a small town named Piedmont (yes, I know people who live there as well); however, it held perhaps the saddest story of all.

A pregnant mother huddled in her bathtub with her two young sons, trying desperately to protect them from the storms fury.  The father was out of town for work.  When the storm had passed, the mother and unborn child were injured but alive.  One of the boys was found dead immediately, but the other was missing.  After searching through wreckage and debris for two days--the father had of course returned and joined the search--they found the body of the other boy.

The thought of that family losing two of their three children in one freak storm was almost more than I could take.  You can't help but question the order of life when you hear stories like these.  It's the kind of stuff that happens to people in movies or books, but not in real life.  No real person should ever have to endure such tragedy, after all.

I sometimes feel that if we have no more control over things than that, why try at all?

Then I read the story of Bridget Zinn ...

I'm sure some will think Bridget's story in many ways is just as heart-wrenching.  A beautiful woman taken long before her time by cancer is surely nothing to celebrate.  However, after learning about her all too brief life, I do feel inspired.  I think you will too.

Here is the bio from her website:

"I'm a YA writer and fan of all things YA. The types of books I like the best are usually super funny and have a unique perspective on the world – they also tend to be a bit on the girly side although not ALWAYS. Adventure and intrigue can get me too – it's just that a touch of snogging here and there is always a bonus in my mind.

I write the sort of books I like to read: you'll find adventure, unique twists, and definitely a snog here and there. It's quite possible that there's a bit of sneakiness and mischievousness in my stories, but you'll have to read more to find out for sure. All I can tell you is that if you check out my About Me page don't be surprised to discover links to Secret Lairs, Partners In Crime, or Crazy Stunts.

My first novel, POISON, will be published by Disney/Hyperion the Summer of 2012." 

Like myself and so many of you who follow this blog, Bridget had big dreams.  Her dreams were so big, in fact, that her brain and heart couldn't hold them all so she had to write them down and share them with others.  From all the accounts I've read, Bridget was an exceedingly talented writer and a better person.  She had a real zest for life and a unique ability to transform that into words.

If you're an author or have author-like ambitions, you'll have immediately noticed that Bridget was not able to see her book published.  I say that because I know for most of us seeing our words in print IS the dream, and to come so close and never realize that dream would be the ultimate torment.  It is probably breaking some of your hearts right now.  I know it did mine for a time ...  

Then I read her blog.  

I'll confess and hopefully not sound too morbid, I expected to read the accounts of a dying person.  My wife is an Oncologist, and I can tell you that cancer is typically not a subtle thing.  You know it has you well before it takes you.  However, after reading only a few entries, something odd occurred to me: Bridget wasn't dying, she was living.

This was a woman who took each day as a gift, and did her damnedest to make the world her playground.  She loved reading and writing down to her bones and wanted to share that love, regardless of the poor hand she'd been dealt.  And that's when it hit me.  That's when I realized the example Bridget had set for me--for all of us.  

Would I write if I had 6 months or 6 days left?  Would I write if I knew I might never see it printed?  Do I love this enough, does it mean enough, for me to hold onto the ambition in the face unbelievable adversity?  You can really put anything in place of the 'writing' and the message is the same: Live your life with passion.  Live each moment as if it were your last, and fill your time by chasing your dreams.  If you do that, it will be a life well-spent.

I guess in the end Bridget's life gives me hope.  Hope that I can view life as being bigger than my anxieties and fears.  Hope that I CAN live in the moment and quit worrying about the future.  Hope that even when things seem the ugliest, there is still beauty to be found if we search for it.  

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."  ~ Oscar Wilde

To be clear, I didn't know Bridget, and I'm quite certain I'm the poorer for it.  Her husband, Barrett, has setup a beautiful memorial on her blog that I'd encourage you to view at the link posted above.  You can also make a donation to a memorial fund established in her honor.    


I'm Back & Bringing the Love!

Greetings!  I'm O-fficially back from my blog break.  From a writing standpoint it was a very needed and productive absence.  It allowed me to get my ducks in a row--or at least point them in the general direction I'd like to see them headed in the future.

I've been reading a lot of your blogs over the past few weeks and have loved every minute of it.  There are soooooo many awesome author and writer blogs out there!  Seriously, it gives me a HUGE slight amount of inferiority complex at times, but it's also what makes me want to grow and get better.  I really admire all of them (you) so much.

As such, I figured a great way for me to get things started again would be to say a proper thank you to all of the folks who supported my A-Z blog marathon during the month of April.

NOTE: For more details on the A-Z, and to catch up on my writing tool themed posts, be sure to check out the MORE STUFF: A to Z Toolbox link in the upper portion of the sidebar on the right.  You'll find quick links to all of my A-Z posts.

In typical non-serious me fashion, I thought it would be fun to create a blog award for the folks who so awesomely stick by other bloggers.  A true badge of gratitude, so to speak, for the real troopers out there.   I also thought it would be important to create an award with no strings attached, meaning it wouldn't be an award that would require the recipient to do anything in return.  After all, this is about me being grateful and not about me wanting the awardees to discuss their favorite color of Easter Egg or preferred flavor of pudding.

OK, if I'm being completely honest one of my biggest frustrations and failures as a blogger is that I don't always pay proper homage to the folks who go out of their way to say nice things about me.  If I get an award of some kind I always try to pop over and say thank you, but I don't always have time to actually post the other stuff that comes with the award.  So think of this as the guilt-free, 0 calorie award!  :-)    

Here she is:

What do you think?  Shiny, right?

Now to the important stuff!  Here are the folks who took the time to share their thoughts and encouragement during my crazy month of April.  Each name is linked to a blog, so please do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven't already.  They're a dedicated and talented group!

(I did my best not to miss anyone, but if I did miss you I'm very, very sorry.)

The Desert Rocks
Bethany Robison
Debra Elliot
M.J. Fifield
M.K. Theodoratus
Lisa Nowak
Sherri Lackey
A.T. Post
Shelly Batt
Mary Waibel
Becky Wallace
William Kendall
Rachel Giesel
Gail M. Baugniet
Sarah McCabe
Trisha Leaver
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Sommer Leigh
C.R. Ward
Sylvia Ney
Katharine Owens (KO)
Michael Offutt
Angela Felsted
D.U. Okonkwo
Nicole Amsler
Claire Goverts
Claire Dawn
Julia Munroe Martin
Norma Beishir
Amy Wood
L.G. Smith
Kari Marie
Chris Phillips
Susanna Leonard Hill
Angela Ackerman
E. C. Smith
Alison Miller
Margo Berendsen
Melissa Dean
Halli Gomez
Jeffrey Beesler
Linda Hofke
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
Nicole Ducleroir
Libby Helly
PK Hrezo
S.E. Sinkhorn
Siv Maria
Jeanne Kraus
Elena Solodow
VB Tremper
Sarah Allen
Nas Dean
Ju Dimello
Girl Friday
Arlee Bird
Matthew Vanacore
Donea Lee
Lynda R. Young
Gen Summerset
Ellie Garratt
Phyllis Sweetwater
Doreen McGettigan
Erica and Christy
Vince Watkins
Patricia A. Timms
Elizabeth Twist
Julie Flanders
Ellitot Grace
Shannon Lawrence
Angela Scott
L. Carroll
Elizabeth Mueller
Misty Provencher