Monthly Archives: June 2014

(FDMFTR) Meanderings: TIMELINES AND PARALLEL LIFELINES

TIMELINES AND PARALLEL LIFELINES
By Jill S. Behe

I was thinking about timelines, and the Star Trek version of parallel lifelines, and what if’s. My dad’s birthday is coming up, and I remember last year at this time, he hit a major milestone. All four of us kids were able to celebrate it with him.

Because of my career path, I was ‘away from home’ for more than thirty years. Served my country, got married, had three boys, got divorced. In that span of time, my family and I were getting older, too. But when I thought of them (and I did, very often)—from my barracks in Germany, the beach in Hawaii, my living room in Colorado, and my backyard in Washington—they were the same age as when I left.

Now, for almost eight years, I’ve been back in the area where I grew up (Wow! Time does fly, whether you’re having fun, or not), and yet I still have trouble grasping the fact that all my relatives are … old-er. They aged while I was gone. Fancy that. It wasn’t like their lives stopped while mine moved forward, but in my brain that’s what happened.

When we get together, and begin reminiscing—well, they do—about escapades they all shared, I’m almost jealous that they had so much fun … without me sharing it with them.

But, the other part of my brain is thinking, And where would you be, who would you be, if you’d never left? A different life most definitely, and a different outcome most assuredly, but would it have been better, or worse, than the one I’ve lived? We can’t live in an ‘I wish I could go back and do it over’ life. One, it’s impossible, but secondly, would we really and truly want to?

By staying in my hometown—never venturing past the town’s boundaries—there are so many things I would have missed. Gives me chills! I’ve had a much more adventurous life, in comparison. Went overseas, lived in five different states—all over the U.S. I wouldn’t have experienced military life, as an active duty enlistee, and a military spouse. My husband would have (probably) been someone I grew up with (or perhaps I wouldn’t have married, at all). I wouldn’t have the sons I had with their dad, that’s for sure.

Wouldn’t have my writing accomplishments, either! What a shame.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Maybe not, maybe it’s best to not wonder about what could have been, because we’ve experienced things unique to the path we chose, and the direction that path took.

In one of my previous blog posts, I said: “Don’t go backwards.” That’s appropriate here, too. Okay, yes, we can go back in order to pull from our memories to enhance a story (“…and do you remember that time when Bob took the canoe out and….), but not to dwell there and wish your life was different. Our lives are what we decided it was going to be, by the decisions we made. We did that.

The past can’t be changed, no matter what James T. Kirk and the USS Enterprise say to the contrary.

But the future?

The future is just waiting for directions. Where we end up from here on out is still up to us. Good path or bad.

So go ahead, make a move. It’s really only the first step that’s risky. Then it’s only a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and another adventure has begun.

Profitez de votre journée,

The Rebel

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(FDMFTR) Meanderings: ATTACHED PLEASE FIND OUR CONTRACT

ATTACHED PLEASE FIND OUR CONTRACT
By Jill S. Behe

I’m old.

Yes, I am.

I don’t feel like it, nor do I particularly look like it, but I am. My birth certificate says so. It has that authority and must be believed. That’s beside the point. It took me a long time to get where I am as a writer and as a person, but I’m here now, and don’t intend to quit until I’m cold and in a box. I’ve written a few novels so far (five!), and a whole bunch of short stories—with more of each on the way.

One of the novels was published a few years ago. During the process of writing it, and unbeknownst to me (the author), it decided there was a need for a second. And in the middle of writing said second, I realized there was going to have to be a third, to complete/finalize the happenings in my characters’ lives, to everyone’s—real and imagined—satisfaction.

To be honest, the one in print was only supposed to be an exercise in short story writing. With the writing group I participated with, the facilitator would hand out prompts and each of us would write a three page short, or as much as we could in the 60- to 90-minute time limit.

This night, my prompt … exploded!

Eight pages in, I was still scribbling when she called time. Nowhere near finished, I went home and kept at it, eventually ending it some 40,000 words later. Too long for a short, and too short for a novel. A friend from the writing group offered to edit it for me (Thank you, again!). The revisions added another 10,000 words or so, and Presto Change-o … a novel was birthed.
Pitched it out and it was caught!

Imagine thatheart-racing moment when I played back my editor’s voicemail: “Jill! Jill! Pick up! Pick up the phone! It’s accepted!”

I was in seventh heaven, on cloud nine, and all the other appropriate clichés.

What an odd time. Surreal is about as accurate a word as I can think of to describe that whole accumulation of things. Then to see the e-mails telling me, the bookseller’s site saying so: People unknown to me, and who didn’t know me, were reading my words, my story … my baby. And the really amazing part, they liked it! But even better, they wanted more, were already clamoring for a second book.

Whoa! Head rush!

I’ve been a reader all my life, literally. From the moment I was born, my family read to me (and my sibs), until we were able to read for ourselves. I’ve been a writer since (can’t remember any further back, but might be) about the third or fourth grade. And from that decisive moment, my life goal has been to be a published author.

That was accomplished in 2011. Doesn’t mean the journey’s done. No. The bar’s been raised. There’s another rung on the ladder. Something more to achieve.

NEVER, in all those years did I imagine what it would feel like, to have a book in print. To have people I know come up to me, and tell me how much they enjoyed it, and then add, ‘So when’s the next one coming out?’

Weird, and wonderful.

Is this how my favorite authors felt when their first was published? Is this how their families reacted?

With nonchalance, or a Holy Crap?

For me, it was Holy Crap! And now, with the second of the trilogy accepted and in the final editing stage, it’s about to start all over again. But with added pressure. Will my ‘fans’ like this one as much as they did the first? And if so, they’ll be after me for book three, (maybe with pitchforks to prod me along) because book two is ends with….

Oh, I probably shouldn’t say.

But, geez-Louise! My characters better start talking to me, or there won’t be a third. It’s maddening! Me, the reader, wants to know what’s going to happen, too. Me, the writer, wants to be in the thick of it, in the middle of the book where I know where the storyline is headed. That’s when the characters are the most vocal; at least that’s what I’ve found to be true.

As of this moment? Pfft! I’ve got a bunch of notes, and three skimpy scenes.

ARGH!

Fists are raised and I’m yelling (in my brain, because that’s where they live), “Come on, you guys, tell me what’s going on! The Rebel’s rooters want to know. I want to know. I can’t tell your story, if you don’t start talking!”

Writing is hard work. It might not put muscles on our bodies, but I’m sure our brains have more … muscle-mass, from all the straining and stretching we do. But when our work gets that ultimate demand of: ‘We want your manuscript,’ all the sweat, and pacing, and hair-pulling, and screaming at the monitor we did to get to this point, is worth it.

Then we have to hand over that baby we labored to bring forth. It’s like sending a child off to kindergarten by themselves for the first time, or sending a high school graduate off to a faraway college. It’s hard to let go, and hurts some, but not for long, and the results are way beyond measure.

So, whatever the level of writing, we can’t stop. Even if it’s (in our minds) a piece of trash when it’s finished, we did something very few people can. We created something, from nothing more than a thought.

Pretty awesome!

Profitez de votre journée,

 

The Rebel

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(FDMFTR) Meanderings: There are writers and then there are writers!

THERE ARE WRITERS AND THEN THERE ARE WRITERS!
By Jill S. Behe

There is no best word processing program. It’s all about which one is the easiest to use, and the one we’re most comfortable with. For that reason I use MS Word, but when I write, almost one hundred percent of every project is written out longhand. Typing it into WORD.doc, keeps me on track, and at the same time, lets me do a sort offirst edit. Some people type everything out exclusively, and can’t be bothered with pen and paper. There are even writers who still use typewriters.

While typing, inevitably, a word will come up that the MS WORD dictionary doesn’t recognize. One of my ‘go to’ online sites is Dictionary.com. It not only gives definitions, but a also a thesaurus, and for foreign words, a translator tab. I also have (what feels like) a twenty pound dictionary, and a super thesaurus that I use quite often.

Another good practice, besides looking up words with questionable spelling or meaning, is to remember proper punctuation. Run-on sentences are tiring to readers, especially if the writer wasn’t intending such a long drawn out line. Check, for, comma, placement, and, most, definitely, periods……..and question marks.

Exclamation points should be reserved for very, very special occasions. The less the better, because overuse can deflate the power of the sentence. Besides!!!!!!! They tend to stab a reader’s eyes.

There are any number of self-help books on the how-tos of writing. A good writing handbook should be on the shelf of every writer, but especially one with ambitions of publication. All sentences (according to English class) need a subject and predicate (a what?) … that’s a verb. If VERB is an alien word, a good Basic English textbook may be needed.

But….

Yes, fragments are very commonly used by writers. Use them myself quite often. But not ALL sentences in the work should be fragmented. The basic rules of English should be religiously followed in every piece of writing we allow the public to see. Not only because it makes us look smart, and the story sound right, it ratchets up our integrity in the eyes of editors, publishers, and ultimately, our audience.

Profitez de votre journée
,

The Rebel

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Story Gift: “A Match for Papa”

Happy Father’s Day!

Here is a short short I wrote back in, geez … 2004. I’ve polished it up some.

Enjoy.

The Rebel

A MATCH FOR PAPA
by Jill S. Behe

Papa always carried a pipe. It was either in a pocket, cupped in-hand, or stuck in his mouth.

Most of the time, it wasn’t even lit.

After supper every night, he’d go have a smoke in the backyard. He’d lay his napkin neatly beside his empty plate, get up from the table, and give Mama a big loud kiss. They’d smile at each other. “Excellent meal, my beautiful Bella,” he’d say. Then he would go to the cupboard, get his tobacco pouch, fill up his pipe, and head out the back door.

Mama would stop clearing the table, and get a match from the little glass dish beside the stove. “Here, Paulie. Go give this to Papa. He forgot to take one with him.”

Papa would get about halfway down the sidewalk before turning back, patting his pockets, pipe in his mouth. He’d look up to see me running toward him with a matchstick in my hand, and get a big grin on his face. “Ah, my boy Paulie. You’re a life saver.”

It was a long trip for my short, five-year-old legs, and I’d be breathless. “Here’s your match, Papa.”

Bending down, he’d ruffle my hair before taking the stick from me. We’d spend a little time walking around the backyard together, and talking about stuff.

Once I got older, I realized he did it on purpose. He knew letting me bring him a match would make me feel like I was doing a great thing for him, and that feeling of accomplishment and helpfulness was important to my development into a man. He also wanted the bond between us to be stronger.

He worked so hard and such long hours, those few moments together were about all we had. Even after I knew what was going on, I still made sure I always had matches with me, just in case he needed one.

I loved that man, and he loved me. If I had to name a hero, it would be him. I was so proud he was my papa and that I had his name. He died when I was twelve. There’s no getting over the pain of that loss (though it does fade some); but you never-ever forget.

Eventually, I got married and had a Paulie of my own. I didn’t smoke, so I wasn’t able to play the same game, so created one of our own. We had ‘catch.’

After supper, I’d give my wife a kiss, and thank her for the meal. Paulie would grab our baseball gloves out of the box on the back porch, and hand me mine. “Here’s your glove, Papa,” he’d say. We’d throw the ball back and forth, and talk about–stuff.

Brought back memories.

Now, he’s got a Paulie. I haven’t asked him if he’s going to carry on the tradition. I guess it’s a little early yet; my grandson’s only a year old. Still, I’ll have to ask if he’s thought about it.

Times are hard, especially nowadays. Fathers and sons need to get along. We don’t always bond like the women do with their hugs and kisses and crying and carrying on. We men have our own code.

My Papa was the best man on earth, in my eyes. My son has told me I’m his hero. That makes a man proud and humbles him at the same time. All fathers should feel that, at least once in their lives. A boy-child is special. He’s the one who will carry on the family name. If he’s ashamed of his father, he won’t care if he continues the legacy.

I took the time to know my son. Studied him from birth up. Learned his personality, likes and dislikes. To this day, I make sure he knows how much he means to me, how much I love him … how glad I am that he’s mine.

THE END

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(FDMFTR) Meanderings: When the people stop talking.

WHEN THE PEOPLE STOP TALKING
By Jill S. Behe

Today is Friday the 13th, and also a full moon. Tomorrow (as I’m writing this) is Flag Day. Last Friday was D-Day. In a couple more, it’ll be Father’s Day.

Where am I going with this?

Give me a minute.

Obviously someone felt these days were significant enough to want them celebrated. But each is just a day on the calendar. One where we get to fly the flag and be thankful for the sacrifices made, or an opportunity to stare off into the night sky to marvel at nature, or to honor our fathers (or not, depending).

My point?

Um, at this point I don’t really have one.

But … for those of us who write—because to NOT write is not an option—the four days mentioned above provides us with a multitude of story ideas. Some more prolific than others.

Writers are/can be a strange breed. We have characters (we call them people) living in our heads, usually all talking at once. ALL wanting their story told, RIGHT NOW! Our job, as the real human element (though that may be questionable) in this mishmash, is to isolate that one single solitary voice whose story is the most intriguing, and forcibly shutting the others up in the closet … until next time. Unfortunately, the confinement does tend to break open and allow a character, or more, to escape.

Then the fun begins.

There’ve been articles, stories and, I think, even a movie, about that dreaded disease writers get every once in a while called: WRITER’S BLOCK. Makes me shudder to think of it. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s a legitimate malady—depending on who you talk to. But writers ALWAYS have something to write about. We may not always be so inclined as to take advantage of all that potential. (That’s a whole different mindset). But there is as much of an unlimited source of material available to the artist with a pen, as there is to an artist with a brush.

Take the examples above:

D-Day is just such a tear-jerkingly horrifically awesome Holy Crap memorial day (for me), it’s hard to know what to say about this one. Watching all the documentaries that are available I can’t, as a U.S. citizen, be thankful enough for the selfless sacrifice those men and women made. A friend recently mentioned how it reminded him of the Bible verse (St. John 15:13KJV): Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Except that, these people laid down their lives for their entire country, and though (I’m sure) some grumbled about it, they did it without a second thought.
Okay, back on track.

Flag Day.

Do you know why we have a special day, just for the flag? Why we even have a flag? How did it come to be? How did they come up with the design? All manner of questions come to mind, jerking on the ‘idea chain’ in our minds. Could aliens have had a hand in that?

Did you know that on June 14, 1777 the flag was adopted, by resolution, by the Second Continental Congress? Did you also know that June 14, 1775 is the U.S. Army’s birthday? (Just thought I’d throw that in there).

How about Friday the 13th? What hasn’t been written about this day? But what if it all hasn’t been written? (Obviously not). There’s all kinds of weird and wonderful beings associated with the 13th of anything.

Talk about endless possibilities.

A full moon? Yeah—wow—see above.

And Father’s Day? Another subject with an infinite number of options.

I know it sounds like a history lesson, but it isn’t, not really. It’s all about finding an idea, having a notion, getting a niggle about something, and writing it down, then expanding and expounding.

Next time that ‘person’ stops talking in your head, or starts to whisper too low to hear clearly—and the story just sits and spins its proverbial wheels—stick it in a drawer, or save it to a file, and then go write something else for that day, hour, minute, until the creative juices start flowing again, in the right direction. Taking a walk not only does wonders for the stress levels, but can enlighten, and sometimes even jiggle loose that one fragment of a line that opens up the whole rest of the story.

I understand the qualms.

It may not always work (sometimes nothing seems to), but it can’t hurt to give it a try, right? And, obviously, there are more potential idea makers out there than just those four days I mentioned. Fiction, or not.

Hmm, I guess I do have a point, after all.

Don’t let the trepidation of the blank page—or of having that loud aggravating disruptive person messing with your gray matter suddenly go silent—dissuade you from moving forward. Every word counts. Every thought put on paper counts. They may not be for the work at hand, but perhaps the next story, novel, article, etc., will benefit.

Take it, or leave it.

So,

Don’t walk backwards—you never get anywhere that way. Persevere. March onward and upward, into the fray of the unknown piece of writing that only you can write. Take the … pen by the quill (nib?), and make something great happen.

Profitez de votre journée,

The Rebel

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The Rebel on Basics: The Marketing Plan–A necessary evil

THE MARKETING PLAN – A necessary evil
With the changing paradigm in modern publishing, authors MUST become their own marketing team.
by Jill Behe

As with all businesses that want to succeed, a good marketing department is essential. If we, as writers, want to retire on the profits from our royalty checks, we need a great marketing plan. And, unless we find a creative way to let them know there’s a book available to buy, how will Joe and Jane Public know we wrote one?

The first goal of every serious writer is to have their work published. The second is to be on the Bestseller list.

An independently published author has to work harder to get the same exposure as one published by a legacy house. Consistent perseverance, dogged determination, and creative marketing strategies are all necessary to call attention to their work.

Traditionally, big houses used signings, book tours, and radio interviews to keep their authors in the spotlight. More exposure, more sales, more money.

But not anymore.

Cutbacks are everywhere.

Nowadays, especially with the launch of the Kindles and Nooks, and e-book availability, signings and tours are rare and expensive … hell, they’re all but gone. Publishing houses aren’t forking out the dough for them, anymore.

So, what can we, as individual professional artists do?

Several things come to mind:

Social Media:

These sites are attracting more and more people, and are an excellent (and necessary) way to spread the word. Friends tell friends, family tells family, and so on and so forth: blogging, guest blogging, and virtual book tours, posting, texting, and tweeting.

But, that’s not enough.

A personal Website:

Where do you go when you want to find out about your favorite author? You go to their site, or one that their publisher has set up.

Your fans want to know about you, too. There are a lot of different sites available where setup doesn’t require a college degree to understand the instructions. Perhaps a friend or family member has the knowledge to build one for you … and not demand your firstborn as payment.

Business Cards:

What? Really? How better to advertise? A business card, with the title of the book, author’s name, and author’s Website. However, phone numbers and home addresses are not pertinent information on this kind of card.

VISTAPRINT is a very good site for reasonably priced cards. They also offer an array of other marketing tools: pens, mugs, T-shirts, postcards, etc.

Pin them on bulletin boards (libraries, grocery stores, banks, Laundromats, Post Offices, and college campuses, to name a few). Slip them into the envelopes with the utility bills, holiday cards, letters, anything sent in the mail that will reach someone otherwise unreachable.

Leave them at the table at restaurants, or at the cash register.

Pass them out to strangers at the mall, at the gym, on the street, at the store, at work.

Bookmarks:

Can be left in doctor’s offices, businesses, and don’t forget to ask the local librarian for permission to leave them at the front desk. Anywhere. It’s an old-school technique, but it’s real and tangible, and a heck of a lot of fun passing out.

Internet Media:

Record a reading and post it on YouTube. Make a video with a few friends acting out a scene from the book. There’s also any number of independent Internet radio stations with shows dedicated to various types of genre fiction: mystery, thriller, spooky, etc.

Libraries:

Talk to someone at the local public, college, and/or high school library to set up a reading. Ask to speak to a high school English (Communications Arts) class, a writer’s critique group; if you’ve put out a book and made even a single sale, then these people want to hear from you.

Book Stores:

Call or visit your local brick-and-mortar indie stores and arrange for a reading, or book-signing, or both. Make sure to have some books on hand for patrons to purchase on site.

Ask the manager if it would be possible to stock a few on his shelves.

Performance Art Venues:

With this area of marketing, no, one doesn’t have to get in the nude and roll around in Jello.  On the other hand, bravery is still a must.  Look for open mike opportunities, places–such as coffee shops, street diners, and even local Saturday markets–where people, artists and musicians and other performers are welcomed to deliver poetry slams, book readings, etc.  Often these places have no problem with artists handing out (or selling) their wares, such as chap-books, works on CD/DVD, or actual books.

Write:

This should be a no-brainer, and shouldn’t be a headache for writers, but often it is. Tough. Write anyway: putting up book reviews on Amazon (this is a biggie, and a great way to get noticed, to network with other writers, and to garner book reviewers for yourself when you’ve work available), post in discussion groups, leave comments on author blogs, follow your fellow writers’ posts, and then respond to them, and with more than just a quickly typed “lol.”

And when you write, write well, ’cause you want your writing to be read, and understood, and enjoyed, and RESPECTED, remembering that whether it seems like it or not, every time you put words down, you’re advertising your name and your brand.

Sounds like a lot of work.

Of course. But anything worth doing, is worth doing to the best of our ability.

Right?

Right!

And this list of marketing prompts is just the start. Get on the Net and troll for ideas. Learn about Kindle publishing, about Kindlegraph. Find out who J.A. Konrath is, and why you should know what he has to say. Get onto Facebook and send “friend requests” to your favorite authors, indie and legacy, and when the time’s right, engage them in conversation. And don’t forget to thank them for their advice. Look for and download e-books on marketing, and self-promotion. Many are free. Make Google your friend.

And sometime between all the chores, don’t forget to work on that piece of flash, short story, novella, novel, blog post, or magazine article. Develop and grow your list of contacts, expanding your mailing list, and your network of fellow authors. Populating Websites with decent content, month after month, can be a nightmare. Often authors will absolutely welcome a well-written piece, and will reciprocate when you need one for your site.

Success or failure doesn’t rely solely on the publisher anymore, and shouldn’t be expected. Being in control of how poorly, or how well our book sells is on us. Everything possible needs to be done to get the word out that we have a published book available.

No stone unturned.

Now get going. There’s a to-do list to hit.

The Rebel has spoken.

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(FDMFTR) Meanderings From the Rebel

FIRST DRAFT MEANDERINGS FROM THE REBEL

Welcome!

Thinking about the subject of the first blog on my new site, I had to go back to the beginning. When my editor first suggested I should think about creating a Website, I … rebelled (imagine that). The thought of flaunting my work seemed vain. Exposing myself, to whomever clicked on the link to bring up my site, felt invasive. But his–strongly persistent–reasoning over the next few months gradually began to make more sense.

Don’t you want your fans to know something of yours has been published?

I don’t have any fans.

And you won’t get any, if they don’t know you have something in print. With a Website, they’ll have links to the places offering your work.

I can do that? Cool.

You like to know more about your favorite authors, don’t you?

Of course.

But how do you do that? Call them on the phone?

(Eye roll.)

No, you visit their sites. If you don’t have one of your own, you’re limiting your fans’ access to you. Think of a Website as your personal advertisement.

So, okay. I finally gave in and created a site … and it died a slow painful death. It took a while to decide where I wanted to set up a new one. This one gave me headaches, trying to figure out how to build it. So much so, I almost gave up. But with the help (about 95-percent) of a friend, it’s now starting to look pretty cool. Don’t you think? The goal is to have more and more ‘stuff’ to add to it, all the time.

For now, though, I’m happy with the progress. How about you? Did you find what you were looking for? Is there something in particular you would like to see? Let me know on the Guest Book page and, if it’s a feasible request or suggestion, I’ll try to incorporate it into the site.

That’s it, for this time.

To all my fans (current and future), THANK YOU:
For your support,
For liking my work,
For helping make my lifelong dream come true,
and for all the ‘nudges’ about when the next book is due out. (By the way, it’s close! Just be patient a bit longer, please.)

Til next time,

Hugs,

The Rebel

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