Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tunnel W Published

Tunnel W is published. You can get it on Amazon & Smashwords and anywhere else that Smashwords will distribute it. It started out as a short story, and the characters (once again) ran away with it. (That line is actually funny after you read the book. Now, you HAVE to read it to get the joke.)

Tunnel W has a kick-ass, women lead character. She is everything I am not (except for funny she is funny, and perhaps not as funny as me.) It is my first real take at a story with a lot of physical, fighting, acting and plots to overtake the other side. It is a novelette and keeps things moving pretty quickly. Go to  Tunnel W to buy it for your ereader.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

I am a lover of New Year's Resolutions. There can be many reasons for this. First, my birthday is New Year's Eve. So not only is it a new year but it is a new age for me, so I am doubly enticed to look at my life for new goals and what I have achieved. Second, I am a lover of lists. I make shopping lists, lists of movies I want to see, lists of things to do, etc. One of my favorite gifts I got was a vertically skinny book make out of unique, thick paper and entitled "The Book of Lists." Third, I am someone who likes to see how much I can accomplish. I love to challenge myself and I am striving to do better and be better.
Here is the dilemma. Last year, I had one goal. The goal was to publish a book. It was a lifetime goal that I have had. Not only did I publish a book, but I published two books AND accomplished some goals that I had on my list for a while.
List of Things I Accomplished in 2012
I lost over 50 lbs.
I ate better
I exercised
I got married
I published a book
I accomplished a lot in 2012 and that was after just setting one goal. The dilemma then lies in do I go with my love of writing lists and write a list of things for 2013? Or do I have one goal and hope the success continues?
I already have a list in my head of things I want to accomplish. I guess I will have to make a list of pros and cons about this. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Publishing Ebooks

I, like many other writers, are in a very exciting time. I could compare it to some very historic times like when the slaves were freed, women were able to vote, or every teen who ever got his/her license. I don't know if this time for writers is as BIG as those. So I will stop being dramatic.
I, however, am published. Self-published. I am published. I did not have to spend one dime to get published. I just needed a computer, a story, and the knowledge to do so. I have published ebooks.
A few weeks ago, I read a comment regarding one of my books that was from a stranger. I knew it was a stranger and not a family member, because it was a harsh comment. Although I am no stranger of hearing harsh remarks from family and friends, I am pretty sure it was a stranger's review.
Although it was a 2.5 out of 5 star review, I was estatic. Why, because a stranger read my book. Scratch that he or she read half of my book because he did not read the whole thing and he/she made the point to say that.
Another reason why I was happy, was because the reviewers stated he/she was not satisfied with the book because of his/her expectations. I went back to the description of the book, and realized it seemed to be his/her assumptions that led to those expectations.
Anyway, publishing ebooks has consumed my days and nights with writing. My thought in between appointments, in the lunchroom, in the bathroom, walking down the hall, are stolen by my character's thoughts. No, I do not think I am delusional or experiencing psychosis, but if it makes me writer better, why not.
I am a published author. Self-published, but aren't I my worst critic?

7 Ways to find Free ebooks Legally

It is my Kindle and my one year anniversary. I was not sure I would be able to go away from my love of the feel and smell of old books. The love of sifting through piles of books at yard sales (tag sales, garage sales). I thought I would miss having a good, thick book in my hand. Here a year later, I am head over heels in love with the concept of ereaders and ebooks. Also, I have published ebooks and have many more on the way.I have downloaded hundreds of ebooks and paid for less than half a dozen of them. The only reason I had to pay for them, was because I was impulse buying and impatient.

The rest of them were free. All this was done legally!

There are many books that are FREE! Here are the many ways to find them. Some shortcuts are included.

1. Go to ebook websites and type in free ebooks or 0.00. Some sites add books to this search that are free only if you subscribe to a certain membership. There are tons of new writers that have books for Free.

2. You can borrow books through the online library. Yes, you still need a library card. Currently, you can borrow up to 7 books at a time and put up to 5 books on hold at a time. If have kids with library cards,  you can take more and more out at once. This allows you to take out books that are new and popular for free. Follow this link for instructions,  Overdrive Library hints by CNET

3. You can borrow books from friends or family. A lot of books allow the buyer to share with one friend/family member/ other. The six books I have bought I have lent to a friend and she didn't have to pay anything. (Wait, I think I got the raw end of the deal here.)

4. You can borrow books from strangers. Site like Book Lending and ebookfling let you lend and borrow with strangers for free.

5. Go to ebook publishing sites, and writing forums to connect with authors with free ebooks. Such sites include Smashwords, Writer Unboxed, and Figment. Enter contests or make a comment on a article or post for chances to win free ebooks.

6. Find coupons and codes for ebooks RetailMeNot, Coupon Cabin, and many others.

7.  Last and maybe not least. You can find a lot of classic books for free on various sites.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

World ending 12/21/12

Do I believe the world is ending on 12/21/12? No.
Do I believe in ghosts? No.
Do I believe in. . . love at first sight? Lust at first sight.
Did I believe the Y2K hype? Enough to take all my money out of the bank for a couple days.

Have I prepared for 12/21/12? I have imagined it, and I have downloaded enough ebooks for at least a year or two. (Hope I can charge it.)

World ending on 12/21/12. . . I sure hope not; I have a lot of books itching to get out of me.

Addicted to. . . .

Hi, my name is Michele and I am addicted to downloading ebooks. My justification here is that they are free, and good. I love, love, love that I can download books for the library for FREE. Using Overdrive the ebooks come from my computer right to my kindle. How can you blame me? Who could blame me? I am the type of person that yearned to be locked in a library on a college campus like Kurt Vonnegut's book Hocus Pocus. Okay he did have a illness that killed him, but that is besides the point. If I had to be locked away somewhere it would be with a bunch of books.

Okay I am not being completely honest. I not only download free, good ebooks, but I download as many as I can at a time using multiple library cards owned in my household. And to take it to that step further. I put as many as I can on reserve. So at any given time I will have 21 books borrowed and be on a waiting list for 15 books.

To go another step further, it is a coping mechanism. When I get stressed I go on-line and sift through hundreds and hundreds of books. Anything that seems remotely interesting, I download it. I have even taken to clicking on a random page number and randomly download a book from that page.
It is an addiction. . . what is the definition of addiction? I, however, justify it by saying 1. it is free 2. I am not harming anyone 3. it's free, good ebooks. I will not work any 12 step program for this, but I will download a book on it.

Characters holding me hostage!

People talk about writing what  you know. They talk about finding something you know about and write. I think it is about writing what you are interested in or have no idea about. Researching about things can be part of the writer's journey. Writing about pirates learn nautical terms, writing about a carpenter pick up a hammer, writing about a murder mystery. . . be mysterious.

Walk into a room and just say, "I am mysterious." If you are writing a nonfiction book, I think this all can be taken differently. If you are writing a fiction book, just go with it. Let you characters guide the story.

The first time I had this happen writing, I could not believe it. I had created this amazing character that I would even want to date, and she only lasted a chapter. I was sad to see her go, but hey, writing happens. My characters went another direction, and it all worked out in the end.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Planning my Grand Entrance

I am awaiting the time to say "I have arrived!" There are times I have had grand entrances in my life. Running out before a crowd at my high school & college basketball games, my wedding, my graduations, my birth, and surprise parties.
Now I am trying for my grand entrance as an author. How intimidating is it surfing the net looking for the magic recipe of "how in the hell do I make a lot of money writing ebooks?" Here is another good article to read on that How to Make Money on Ebooks by JA Konrath. But otherwise there is a lot of information out there on the internet, but a lot of it seems pretty useless. I think I need a mentor or a fairy godmother. I will take either or both.
In my searching I had found some things out that I am instituting:
-Write a blog.
-Set-up a fan facebook page.
-Write, write, write.
- Read, read, read, read.
-Join forums, author sites.
- Learn from others.
All trying to point to building a "platform".

I have stumbled upon a writer I have not read his books yet, but he seems to be very succesful. I watched a video of him on a BOOKRIX interview. He seems very witty, and someont I woud love to have a beer with. Check out his blog, JA Konrath Blog. He is very involved in the ebook movement.
Still, I have this pull of "building a platform" or writing, writing, reading, writing, reading. There are only so many hours in a day. . . not to mention I have a more than fulltime job, kids, and a wife.

So, I am going to find a way to fit all this in to my life. I will surf through my favorite intro music to make a grand entrance, and try on my fanciest capes (I dont have any, but maybe I should start collecting).

Monday, November 26, 2012


Book number two hit Smashwords & Amazon yesterday. In one day 29 books were downloaded. The new book, Off-Trail: Trail Swap is a Spin-Off of Trail Swap.
SPIN-OFF: to derive a new product, material, or service from something that already exists, or be derived in this way.
Do you remember Spin-Offs? I do. Television is not what it used to be. (Yes, I just sounded 80 years old.) Some spin-offs are the following:

All in the Family's - Maude, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria
Alice - Flo
Cheers - Frasier (how they picked that character to follow not sure)
Cosby Show  -  A Different World
Different Strokes= The Facts of Life, Brian & Sylvia, The Academy, Peekskill Law,
                                More Facts of Life
What's Happening - (very cleverly titled) What's Happening Now

I went on a tangent. . . so spin-off. Off-Trail is not as exciting as all those spin-offs above. Listening all those makes me want to go back to the 70's & 80's. I, however, am very excited at the prospect of Off-Trail bringing some more traffic to my first book Trail Swap. My sales for Trail Swap spikes some last night after I published Off-Trail. It's FREE on Smashwords. Click on the book to the right to follow it to the Smashwords site. Enjoy, and don't forget to leave some feedback!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Internet- Too Wide of a Net

Even with new search engines, the internet seems to be too wide of a net. It catches everything and you have to weed through them all.
I just want to know "how to boil an egg." Not how big an ostrich egg is? How to boil at higher altitudes? The history of boiling eggs. I know how do I not know how to boil an egg? That is for another post.
Doing this publishing, writing, blogging, facebooking, and tweeting I am finding out that there is a lot I don't know. Everyone and their uncle and cousins are writing about how to best do something but who are they to say that?
Please just sign me up for a search engine entitled, "These people are not idiots. . ."
I hope I make the cut.

By the End of the Weeekend

My lovely assistant and wife stated that by the end of this weekend she will create another beautiful cover for my second book Off-Trail. Are you trembing in anticipation too? I could just quit my job and write, write, write.
I had a conversation a few months ago. It went like this.
"I think I am going to quit my job and just concentrate on writing books," I said casually.
My wife stared at me in a sympathetic look and smiling slightly."Ummm," she started. "If you could make enough money, I would say. . ."
"I am just kidding," I said. I wanted to save her the trouble of navigating "how to be supportive but say hell no in the same sentence."
I would though, I would love to join the ?# of people who quit their job and just write. Well, I am not saying "just write" in the sense of "just being a homemaker" because we know that BOTH jobs are HARD. I would like more time to concentrate on writing. I feel my brain is BURSTING with ideas for stories. I am so hungry to read and write (no rithmatic).
So by the end of November Off-Trail will come-out. It is an enhancement to Trail Swap, my debut novel. It will be accomanpied by my favorite for letter word, FREE. It will be FREE. I hope that it drawas more people to Trail Swap and other books.

From 5th Grade to Forever

In year 19xx I was a 5th grader, I had just moved from the elementary to our Middle/Junior High School in my small New Jersey town. I had braces and always with the prodding of my mother was updating to a perm. A very bad perm. I was awkward. The only thing socially I had going for me was my newly found love of playing basketball, and my friends. I had a tight knit group of friends.  We hung-out at each other's house, did sleepovers, had each others backs, had funny (at lease we thought) inside-jokes. A few of these friends I still keep in touch with.

I had one friend that people always mistook us for the other. I am not sure why. We both did not think we looked like eachother. She had just moved from the next town over "the Township" and with one playdate in my backyard, we became friends. I remember her favorite color was purple, she was artisitic, very unique and smart. She laughed at my jokes or laughed at me, I am not quite sure which one. During high school everyone had their acitivity band, sports, smoking pot, boys, etc. We grew apart.
She went on to college in PA like me, but PA is a huge state. She managed to hitch a ride with someone from her school to visit one year as a surprise. She still lives in PA as I live in MA, and I have been to visit her 7 years ago. She, however, has come to visit me a about five times. This feat is brave because I share a home with three energetic kids, four cats (which she is allergic), a dog and a wife.
The most important thing she ever did for me was when I was going through a disasterous time with my divorce, she sent me a card. She filled it (in her neat handwriting) with inspirational quotes. The quotes all pointed toward sayings of hang in there, and keep going. She included a picture of her and I. It was a picture of me with my blonde hair. She was the only person from a distance (who was not in close proximity seeing me fall apart), who reached out to me during this hard time. I was at rock bottom and that card was a stepping stone to help me pull myself off the rocks.
This June she drove about 6 hours from her town to my town for my wedding, reception and then that next morning drove back. It meant so much to me that she was there.

Friends from 5th grade to forever.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Written by E.S.W. a 10 year old Author

E.S.W is as unique as they come in the package of a 10 year old step-daughter. She found out I published an ebook, and her eyes lit-up and she said, "I am going to do that." Then I said how much money I made so far and she said, "You didn't say you made money with books, I am definetly doing that!"
She is something else. When we pass vacant commercial areas she asks me and her mother to buy it for her so she can start a cupcake shop. She loves cooking, creating, and anything that could make her money.
She was watching me update my blog and said, "You are starting a blog?"
I answered, "Yes, I have been writing in here for a few months."
She said, "Write about me and my book!"
So here I am writing about her book. When she finally finishes it, we will publish it together. I will type up from her composition notebook, and get it published. She stated that I can have 50% of the money she makes on the book. (E.S.W I am writing this specifically in here so that I have proof that you said this.) She is a definetly a kid that 50% goes to 30% without something in writing.
She is very creative. I know her book will turn out wonderful. Who knows, she might even start a fad for other kid writers to publish. (This might have already happened I have no idea.) She can do whatever she puts her mind to. She loves to read, is wicked smart, sharp, and a great imagination and sense of humor.
So, when her book comes out, it will be advertised here. For now, it will be something to wait for from E.S.W.

Daily Writing on My Hand

My co-workers and supervisees have a daily laugh as I say, "Oh, I forgot." I then take my pen in my right hand and write a couple words of reminder on my left hand. (This all started when I was in the wilderness and paper always got wet, and as a supervisor I had to write reminders down on the fly.)  Currently, on busy days my hand looks like a long poem. If I don't get my days work done before I go to the restroom a bunch of times, my list gets lost. I have sticky note after sticky note, list after list, and I am going partially mad. So, this weekend I spend time thinking about how to organize myself. What I am doing is not working . . .
Besides winning the lottery and getting a personal assistant, I was at a loss. I could make more lists of what I need.

After thinking about it for some time on Black Friday, I realized that what I needed was one place to have all these things. To avoid missed appointments, disorganized task lists, and to save my left hand from a tattoo of a sticky note, I decided to look into a PDA (personal data assistant). Yes, because of all the smart phones they seem to be going out of style.. that is the good thing. As long as I can sync it to my computer somehow, I will be good to go. The other good thing is, nobody seems to want them or are using them so something that went knew for $150-$400 now is $20-$70.

I researched the PDA's and looked on ebay and amazon. The way I do ebay is I put everything on watchlist that come close to what I want and then I obsessively and anxiously watch the time count down. I narrowed the search to a couple of Palms, Compaqs, and Dells.

Then I went on Facebook and posted that I was looking for a PDA and asked if there were any suggestions. Someone suggested and ipod touch (I would love to have for other reasons too, but can't afford). Then my long time friend from 5th grade posted that she had one and she was getting rid of it. She is mailing it to me this week.

Hold on my left hand . . . you will hopefully only be tortured a little bit longer.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


I am not talking about a kids tantrum. I have, however, been in the middle or have had to try to de-escalate these. I am talking about your own tantrums. Actually, I am talking about my tantrums. This is an embarrassing to write about but the fact that I did not get caught having the tatrum maybe sharing this might shed some light for you.
Maybe, possibly, you will identify with it. For a long time, months actually, I have been highly stressed. No matter how hard or long I work I am behind on my work at home. I am so exhausted when I get home that I can't get the things I want to get done or need to get done. Things like dishes, laundry cleaning... no don't worry this is not turning into a domestic blog (not that there is anything wrong with them but this isn't one of those). Then I am not able to do the things I want to do . . . spend time with my family, with my writing, hobbies, etc.
Back to the tantrum, I mean a full-out kick your shoes across the room, throw chairs, bang tables, swearing. . . yes minus the 6-shooters it was like Yosemite Sam.
I was out of control. I think if I had the chance in that moment, I could have jumped in a ring and beat the $%^# out of anybody that stepped-in. No, I am not on steroids.
I lost it. Somehow, within 20-30 minutes I came down from this rage and was able to compose myself and limp through the rest of my day (bc I only could find one of the shoes I kicked off).
But seriously, adult tantrums, they happen and they are scary, and I am still stressed.

Day Light Saving Time

Sources say that Ben Franklin is credited with the idea of Daylight Saving Time. It wasn't until WWII that it was instituted. Today we have to remember twice a year to switch our clocks. With the now modern conveniences of computers, cellphones, cable boxes, we only have to remember to change the oven, micorwave and alarm clock.
Daylight Saving Time was instituted to conserve energy and enable some people to work more hours. I think it is just added two extra fool's days to the calendar. People showing up late or early to appointments, being sleepy from loss of sleep, and having to repeat 1am
It is even trickier when you have to manage a shift work place of business. Even though someone only worked from 11pm to 7am, they worked 9 hours.

In my years of living in the wilderness I came to adopt the sun as ruling my day. On month long river trips and backpack trips during my years as a wilderness counselor we forgot about the time and just rose at sunrise and went to bed when it was dark. I have come to a time in my life when I don't want to sleep in as much. I want to get up and enjoy a quiet house while everyone else is asleep. I want to watch the sunrise. I revel in walking through the center of town and feeling as if I am the only one awake.

This morning I was happy to have light at 6 am. My dog Cali and I were very happy to greet the day early.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Single Mom No Tip

There was a recent story and was accompanied with a picture of a receipt. A single mom racked up a bill of $138.35 and then wrote in the spot where the tip should be "Single Mom Sorry." Then she wrote, "Thank you it was great."
First, who are I to judge. I am not.
Have you ever stiffed a waitress or waiter? I used to be really harsh until I dated people who were servers, and they left good tips. I think that you have to decide it you can afford the tip before you go out. If you cannot, they you don't go out.
Besides that, if you have a server who is rude, that is one thing. Then less tip.
I once was at a 50's Diner in Pennsylvania and a young high school girls spilled ice and water all over our table. She then ran back to clean it up and slipped on a piece of ice and ended up sliding under our table. She was fine, and although I was a poor, poor college student, we left her a huge tip.

John Cusak

John Cusack was the man of the 80'sand 90's.  His characters were the Wesley's (Princess Bride), the underdog, the sweetheart, and the boy next door.
I dated a John Cusack when I was in high school. Actually, it wasn't John Cusack. It was Lloyd Dobler. Yes, the ultimate of Cusack's characters!
Lloyd Dobler, if you don't know who he is, was a character from Say Anything.He ended up dating a beautiful, smart, and someone he loved from afar. He was so sweet, innocent, and emotional.
So yes, I dated this guy (minus the trench coat). What happened? No we are not married, but I am now married to a woman. (Thus the problem.) My Lloyd Dobler was very understanding of this when I "came-out" to him a few years later. He actualy jumped up and gave me a hug and said "congratulations!"
He is out in Oregon with some lucky wife and kids on the way.
I now have a best friend and I am looking for another real-life Lloyd Dobler for her.
John Cusak the man of the 80's & 90's. If you never saw Say Anything, go find it now and watch it. It will have you laughing, crying and wanting to meet your Lloyd Dobler or find one for your single friends.

CMA's 2012

I was lucky enough to wrestle the remote away from my family in order to watch some snippets of the CMA's (Country Music Awards). There has to be other country fans out here. I haven't met many though.
I wasn't always a country fan. In college, I had a hard time getting up in the morning. I didn't drink (much) in college, but I just stayed up late. I either had a late away basketball game or a lot of homework. Anyway, I set my clock radio to a local Pennsylvania country station because I knew I would get up to turn it off. Country music was THAT bad to me . . . I remember for a year almost every morning I woke to "Dust on the Bottle" by David Lee Murphy.
But somewhere between college, New Jersey, Florida, North Carolina, and now New England, I became a country music lover. I think it was North Carolina and Florida that did it to me. The only stations strong enough were country stations and I needed music.
What about country? Nobody else in my family loves it. I love the stories, I love the silliness of it, and I loved the feeling of family that you see at the CMA's.
I only got a snippet of it, but boy it was nice to spend a second with windows down, twang of the guitar, cowboy hat wearing, and southern drawls.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Too hot, too cold- Get the Kids Outdoors More

"It's too hot." "It's too cold." These are the responses I get from my kids when I ask them to go out and play.
Do your remember the people on WALL-E the cartoon? They were obese, their bone density had decreased, they could hardly walk, and just stared at a monitor all day? Ok, I don't think we are there yet, but we are headed that way.
When I was growing-up (I know this is the dreaded "old person's" way to start a conversation) we only had television (a couple dozen channels) and Atari. Besides the frequent Saturday morning scheduling of cartoons, I was not glued to the television. I am so thankful I did not have to overcome the temptation today's youth have. Being able to instantly communicate via computer or text with a friend, surfing the net for information on everything, and intricate video games.
I would never have left home.
So, how do we do it now?

1. Start them Young: Anything we can do to start kids enjoying the outdoors while they are young, the better chance they will continue that.
2. You get out. You as the caregiver/parent need to role model being outdoors. Even when I need to do some work from home, I try to bring the paperwork outside to do it (not in the winter though).
3. Go camping. Talk about full exposure.
4. Give them something to do outside. When I was trying to find out the best way to hang a swing for kids, I read something that said, "A swing entices kids to come outdoors." I have found that to be so true. Kids are gravitated to it. Get them something to play with (volleyball net, basketball hoop, back-catch, bubbles, bocce, etc).
5. Get them interested in nature. Give them a camera, bug catching kit, a nature book, or set-up a nature scavenger hunt.
6. Do planned activities outdoors. Plan a cook-out, a hike, cloud watching, a festival, picnic on a blanket, a guided nature walk, a zoo trip, etc.
7. For those who like art, set-up an easel to draw landscapes or nature.
8. Visit waterfalls or other nature spots.
9. Set-up a fort, kids area for activities, a patio or deck. A deck I have been told invites adults to come outside. I am not sure what it is about wooden planks being over a yard verse a table sitting on the grass, but hey if it works.
10. Have a schedule. Home from school, snack, and get outside.
11. Turn off the electronics. (TV, computer, games, not the fridge etc).

If all else fails, sit them down inside and start a story about "When I was your age. . . " They will be running for the outdoors.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Not sick, but not going to work.

I am a big fan of taking care of yourself. Even if you are not sick, you can still stay home from work. I get a Bizillion sick days, and personal, vacation days on top of that. I am one of the lucky people who only get sick a few days out the year, and unfortunately they are usually on the weekend.
So, what happens to my sicks days, they sit in my pay check and play poker with each other.
Take a day off! I tell my staff that all the time. Take it off, plan it to take it off, or wake up and say, "The heck I am staying home today, going to the beach, or going for a hike."
Taking Monday or Friday off is a double bonus, THREE DAY WEEKEND.
Look, as long as your are doing your job, don't worry about it.
Take care of yourself. Life is too short. It is too short. You will never get to all those place "you are supposed to go before you die." Has anyboyd done that. So circle a few and go.
Better yet, keep a list. I am big on lists. A list entitled, "things I will do when I have more time." And then take time off and do them. Have fun cutting your toe nails!

Friday, October 12, 2012

At the End of my Rope, Glad I Tied a Knot the Last Time I was Here

"I am at the end of my rope, I am glad I tied a knot the last time I was here." I have only lived for 37 years but feel that I have had my fair share of ups and downs. I am having a wonderful life. I have not quite hit rock bottom, but I definite know what it looks like as I dangled from the end of my rope.
Lately, I have been having some difficulties . . . work, money, etc and have been stressed to the point I had been losing sleep (something that has only happened 3 times in my life). I am big on using analogies and I can comfortably say I have a knot at the end of this rope. It is much easier to hold on that way.
I think eventually, I will tie several knots in this rope so that I don't slide down as easily and so it makes it easier to climb back up. I was never good at climbing ropes. When I was younger in elementary school we had this thing called Extended Learner. Some kids got picked for Extended Learner Art, Science, Math. I got picked for Extended Learner Gym. I could hang with the best of them. There were probably 20 kids in this class and only 3 were girls. I could run as fast, dribble and shoot as well, but I could not climb that damn rope! Still 30 years later I am still a little pissed at that. I could do some mean break-dancing though.
Ok back off my tangent. I think is important in life to have some perspective to ground you. For some this comes in religion or spirituality, some in philosophy. For me, right now it is that I luckily have a knot at the end of my rope.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Trail Swap

A beautiful creation came to light a few weeks ago, Trail Swap. This is my first published ebook. This book comes after years of my work and time. I spent years writing daily and forming characters and stories. In 1998 I started writing about Swap and her adventures on the Appalachian Trail. When I started writing about Swap, I was living in the Florida Everglades area as a wilderness counselor. I was sleeping in a tent nightly, and learning aspects of outdoor living.  In 2000 I moved to Boomer, NC and I started the writing stories about Farryn and her adventures with southern hospitality. Then one late night at a local all-night diner, I had the idea to combine the two stories. Right there, Trail Swap was born.
I put the book to the side to marinate and age for about 5 years, my girlfriend at the time encouraged me to write again. I would write and re-write pages, and she would read them and fall in love with the characters as fast as I could imagine them up. I finished the book, and attempted to court several publishers and received rejection letters. Life took over, and the book sat dormant for 6-7 years.
The Christmas of 2012 my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I am a simple person with very few needs. At this point in my life I have everything I need and want. I have a family, my health, and happiness. I conjured something up to ask my mother to get me, a kindle. I was not sure if I would like it. To me, nothing was going to replace that old book smell and the feeling of a book in my hands.
To my surprise, I got the kindle and I was instantly addicted. I frantically searched the internet for free books, downloaded library loaned ebooks, and even bought a couple of books.
Then it hit me. I need to publish an ebook. My book would reach so many people and I can by-pass the grueling publishing process.
Again, I scooted my lopsided office chair to the computer and edited my book 6-7 more times. My wife formatted my book for Amazon, and I downloaded my book.
Ok, actually I made a long story short. . . let's back up. I actually scoured the internet for the following: how to publish an ebook, how to market an ebook, where to publish an ebook, ebook vs print, what to publish, how to make money on an ebook. There were probably a dozen other topics I looked up. Each of these topics had hundreds of websites. I took notes, I printed things out, and I learned. All this information sat neatly in a binder next to the computer. Then one day I bit the bullet, and I downloaded my ebook.
The cover: then in the effort to avoid a horrible looking book cover, my wife went hiking and took a ton of pictures for the cover and made, what I think, is a beautiful, cover for Trail Swap.
There she was born, my first book. One of my life goals was reached. Many more books have started to pour from my veins. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Movin' Chairs with My CEO

Yesterday I had a new hire start. I usually spend a few hours on my team members first day going over paperwork, policies, etc. During this time my new hire stated, "It is very important to have a supervisor whom you can trust." (I am not sure if they said whom or who.) I paused for a second, and took a few deep breathes, and said, "Yes, you are so right."
A few days ago my company moved sites. We moved from a small venue to a huge office building and merged with four other programs of our agency including the Administration Office which includes the VP's, CFO, HR, and CEO. If you have ever gone through an office move, it can be very hectic. I am lucky because my team has taken it like champs. They have dealt with not having internet nor access to our shared drive along with not having our physical mailboxes and mail room set-up.
I have a huge all-day training today and went up to the training room to see if the room was set-up. I went up and to my dismay the room not only was empty of furniture I needed, but had boxes and chairs that were being sent back to the dealer in it. Let me say, I was a little disappointed and anxious about where to sit 20+ people for the day.
In high-heels and with a smile my CEO came out of her office and helped me move chairs in the training room, move the boxes to the closet and delegated to get the room set-up for tomorrow. I was so in awe that she took time to do this. (Not that she usually was not helpful, I have limited interaction with her.) I was so thankful for her help and time.
When I thought back on it, I am not sure why I was in awe. I am very similar. I have a roll your sleeves up and get to work kind of attitude. When I was a residential director I was out in the mud and rain helping de-escalate a youth. Just a few days ago, I was on the floor plugging in computers. Last week I emptied the fridge and cleaned it out at work.
I go by the motto, "I would never ask my staff to do something that I would not do myself."
I have decided I am a great supervisor, and my supervisees are lucky to have me. I should email them about the party they should have for me. (I can't help but think the title of this post could be a country song.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

What's Inspiring

I used to take a lot of long trips by car. I would drive 6-12 hours like it was nothing. On those drives I would strategically plan my music for the trip. At times I have listened to audio books. Within the last year, I heard a radio show that was people getting up to an open mic and telling a story. I wish I remember the name of the show. The people on it were wonderful story tellers. They paused in the right spots, and had wonderful ways to tell their stories.
That night I went home and wrote like crazy. I wrote about big, significant events in my life. I wrote about everyday events in creative ways, and I made up things.
A lot of time I am inspired by people's writing, a good book, an amazing story.
I am also inspired (I am sure others are too) by nature. What is more inspiring than nature. From sunsets, to starry nights, to chirps of birds, to the dew on the grass, nothing compares to nature.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life as a Writer

Besides eating Ramen noodles, life as a writer is an amazing life-upgrade. The life of a writer is like being given different glasses to view the world. I had the unfortunate event to not get glasses until I was in college. I had needed them since I was at least in 7th grade, but somehow I was either good at the eye-chart or nobody picked-up on it. When I finally got my glasses, it changed my world. I did not realize I was supposed to be able to see the details of the leaves on the trees, I no longer had to squint to see the other end of the basketball court to read my player's number, and I did not have to sit in the front of the class at school.
Writing is like that. Once I committed to my writing, it was as if I was carrying around a ficticious backpack to collect my creative thoughts for the day. I grabbed from conversations, things I drove by, stories people told me, etc. I built characters out of strangers I passed by.
My characters and plots run through my mind continuously. I wake and write, I go to work and take notes, before I go to bed I write. I actually considered motivating on my invention of the "time remote control" to freeze time for more time to write. I actually wrote this blog in .5 seconds due to the remote. It would have been quicker but I got peanut butter on the remote and . . . I won't bore you with details.
Write writer write.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How to Give Potentially Bad News

Lately as a supervisor I have had to give potentially bad news. Throughout our lives we have to give "bad news" to people. As a leader, it is tricky of how to deliver bad news. At times, you need to hold back your own emotions on the news, but also validate how this change or information impacts the team.

First: I was thinking of the phrase "potentially bad news." You first have to decide if this is actually bad news. I might think it is bad, but will my audience think it is bad? If it is only me who thinks it is bad, then I need to deal with it myself.

Second: You are confident the audience (your team, your family, your friends) will consider this bad news. Now you have to come up with a game plan. There are several tactics I have taken.
  • Downplay the news. This seldom is fully successful but might take some of the bite out of the news.
  • Distract. Tell the news but then change the subject.
  • Validate & Empathize. I think this always has to be an ingredient. It, however, cannot be overused and has to be coupled with "how are we moving on from here."
  • Donuts & O.J. Couple something good with the bad news. This back-fired on one agency. Everytime they had to tell people bad news, they brought a ton of food to the meeting. The workforce came to associate food with bad news.
  • Fictional Horrible News. You can tell them untrue bad news. For example, if you have to tell your staff that they have to sign-in and out of the office everyday, tell them they are are going to be given gps devices so you can track them. Okay that one is a little far-fetched. I have seen kids use this tactic on parents. There is the classic letter that was sent by a college girl to her parents stating: she moved across the country, married into some cult, got a tattoo, etc etc. Then at the end of the letter she writes, no I actually am just failing math.
  • Have a Plan. This is probably one of the most successful tactics I have had. If there is a change or some bad news, how are you going to weather this information? What is your plan moving forward? Have the team come up with some plans. This should be coupled with some accurate amount of empathy and validation.
  • Don't Say Change is Opportunity! That translation is wrong anyway. At least that is what I read.
  • Radical Acceptance. Teach people the DBT term. It means figure-out what you can change and not change. Change the things you can and find a way to accept then ones you cannot change. This is very similar to the Serenity Prayer.
  • Be supportive. If you are a strong leader, people will look to you. There are few leaders who I would follow into a raging inferno, but they do exist. I feel like my team would follow me blindly into a charge. I do not take that trust lightly. That is a big responsibility.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Best Wake-ups

My best wake-ups.

Above & below are pictures of a sunrise viewed from Cadillac Mtn. in Acadia N.P.
This makes me think of some of my favorite G-rated ways of waking-up.
Waking up in the Florida Everglades with tree frogs looking down at me through my tent mesh. Under a Utah sky in the middle of some random dessert.
In June falling asleep on the grass under a star filled sky in the Grand Tetons. Pulling my Sierra Design mummy sack drawstring so my eyes were uncovered and peered at the star above. Waking with my sleeping back covered in snow, me still warm, and sitting up to two moose 30 yards from me.
Waking facing the blue sky with a gunnel on each side of me and thwart in front of me as my canoe meandered around a small lake.
Waking after publishing my first book, Trail Swap.
The outdoors renews, revives, and inspires.

Best Way to Pack for Any Trip

I have taken many trips in my lifetime. I have had to pack 12 kids and 3 adults for a month long river trip, done roadtrips up the west coast, weekend trip to the beach, and various other trips. In that time, it has been second nature on how to pack for a trip. Here are my systems for packing for a trip that might work for you.

1. Having certain luggage already packed with basic essential. I have a duffle back and the side pockets always have the standard toiletries I need like a few pairs of contacts, Q-tips, hair brush, deodorant, travel toothbrush, etc.

2. If camping or backpacking, it is VERY helpful to have a bag or tote box already packed with all your standard camping needs. That will help motivate you to take more trips because you will have less work to do on the front end.

3.Not forgetting things: Think sleeping, eating, bathing, safety, environment, and fun. About everything fits in these categories.

4. Don’t overpack. Learn from previous trips. You didn’t need 3 sweatshirts last trip, so odds are you won’t this trip. Traveling lighter is better in my book. I once went from the U.S. to Germany for a week and all my stuff fit into one standard book bag that I carried on.

5. If going on a road trip and staying in a hotel, have a “hotel bag.” This is extremely helpful if traveling with kids. This way you do not have to lug 4 separate bags in. Put the whole family's clothes, toiletries, bathing suits, activities, etc you need for that one night in one bag. (My better-half's idea.) Genius!

6. Laundry: Consider if you want to do laundry on the trip. Even campsites these days have laundry facilities. Do you want to pack 2 weeks of clothes or just launder?

7. Learn how to pack efficiently. It can be annoying living out of a duffle bag. Organize it so that you can get to it easier. Should you put outfits together? Organize all the shirts together?

8. Buying or renting. What can you buy or rent there so that you don’t have to take it. I finally got a canoe, then the thought of driving 3 hours with it on top of my car was not too pleasing. I ended up renting one instead. It was better than a canoe flying down the highway. Even for smaller things, does it make more sense to buy or rent it there. Boogie boards at the beach, bikes, etc might fit in this category.

9. Do not pack right before the trip. Chaos, swearing, frustration and forgetting things come from this. If you can pack the car the night before, great.

10 List. I have a laminated list for trips. That way I am not reinventing the wheel each time I go on a trip.

How to Prepare for Camping

It just rained, the firewood is all wet, and everyone is hungry. It is no fun being unprepared for the outdoors. Sure there are a lot of Survival Experts out there who can live off of grass dew and buffalo eye balls. This article is for the average person who would like to be in the woods relaxing, inspired, and enjoying his/her time.
  • Alone or Companion: All camping and outdoor books and trainings I went through advised against going camping, hiking, canoeing, etc. I tend to enjoy the wilderness with others and that is my advice also. (If you do go alone, see my post on Traversing the Outdoors Alone) If not going alone, choose your companion. Will it be your partner, a friend, a family, a bunch of friends? Whomever it is, make sure you all are in agreement of the plan for the trip. (Camping with kids is a whole other story for a whole other post.)
  • Pick a time to go: Pick the length and right time of year (season) to go. If you stay too long, you may never go camping again. If it is too short of a time you spend more time setting up and breaking camp than relaxing.
  • Pick a place that fits your needs: If you are bringing children with you, be realistic about the conditions they are ready for. If you or your travel mate have back or other medical conditions, choose accordingly. Are you bringing a dog? Make sure the place allows pets. Are you and your travel mate happy with just sitting around the fire all day? Or do you need things to do in the community? Are you staying in a cabin, tent, trailer, lean-to etc. Where ever you choose to go, make sure you look at all the amenities and things to do. Read the reviews about the place.
  • Bring the right Gear: The gear will vary depending on the type of camping you are doing. Is there a bathroom available? Are there showers? A good way to think about what to bring is thinking of these categories: sleeping, eating, bathing, safety, environment, and fun. About everything fits in these categories. (See my other post Best Ways to Pack for Any Trip.)
  • Food & Drinks: A hungry + tired camper  = unhappy camper. If you choose to bring food you normally won’t eat, odds are you will not be happy. For instance, if you choose to bring dried fruit and canned spam, because that is what you think camping should be about, your tummy will not agree. Spend a good deal of time planning out the meals, and snacks. 1. Figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners you will have while on your trip. Bring plenty of water!! 2. Consider if you will have to transport the food. If you are car camping (camping with a car close by) weight is not a factor. If you are hiking during your trip, you should avoid canned food and fragile foods. Figure out how you will store your food. Is there is a lot of bear activity where you will be camping? Some outdoor enthusiasts spend a lifetime trying to outsmart animals in the wild. Don’t underestimate the critters! Also, it is your job to protect these critters from food they should not be eating.
  • Fun!: Don’t fool yourself. You will not be fishing, hiking, swimming, and sitting around the fire the whole time. Bring other activities to keep you busy. If kids will be coming, that is a whole other situation. (There will be another post for this also.) Think about bringing a book, cards, board games, nature books, camera, journal, sketch book, frisbee, baseball and mitts, wiffle ball, hackey sack, and other sports equipment.
       These are just some basic hints into beginning or continueing to enjoy the outdoors!

Traversing the Outdoors Alone

In my book Trail Swap Swap (the female main character) hikes alone from Georgia to Maine. Swap had a few close calls, but was aware of ways to be safe. If you are planning to hike, ever if for a few hours, you should take precautions.

Picturing a young adult withering away in the Alaska outback in the book Into the Wild kind of makes me not want to camp or long-time hike alone. I, however, have done it. The fears and worries that I went through, inspired me to write this article. If you are going to hike, even if it is a day hike alone please do it safely. There are few things I am weary of in the wilderness: weather, people, skunks, and dehydration.

  • ALWAYS let someone know where you are going and when you are planning to be home. Leave a message on someone’s answering machine/voicemail if you can’t reach someone. I have had several times when I was in the woods longer than expected and thought, “Nobody knows I am out here.” I have learned my lesson.
  • At least bring your best friend. Bring your dog. It is a nice psychological barrier to thinking you are alone. People with ill intentions are less likely to bother an individual who has a dog. (Now if you have a mini/small dog depending on their spunk, I am not sure if that would work.)
  • Bring plenty of water.
  • Bring the proper gear. Bring the right footgear, clothing appropriate for the weather, survival pack, a cellphone, police/ranger number, and a map. Remember there are several true and fictional stories where someone throws away a map and throws caution to the wind and ends up meeting their doom.
  • If there is a sign-in log at the front of the paths, sign in your name and a companion’s name. When I hike, I write down my brother’s name. I figure, he has the same last name, and people are less likely to think I am hiking alone. *Women/girls even who are hiking in pairs should consider putting a males name down on the registry.*
  • When hiking or camping and running into someone, if you can pull it off, don’t admit you are hiking alone. You can say things like, “Did you run into my husband/brother? He ran ahead to pull off the trail and go to the bathroom.” If you have your campsite set-up while pointing to the tent you can whisper to passing hikers/campers, “My fiance is sleeping.”
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Where would you go to for help? Where is the nearest road, house, etc. Be aware if there are any vehicles coming down the road as your path crosses a road. The less people who see you hiking alone, the better.
  • Carry some sort of protection. You have to decide on your comfort with this. Depending on state laws and park laws, you can carry pepper spray, a knife, or a gun. I have a friend who used to hike in NY State with a shotgun strapped to her pack. If that is not a deterent to people, I don’t know what is.
  • Know your ability. Don’t take any unnecessary risks (swinging from vine to vine, boulder jumping etc). You have less access to the hospital in the woods. If you are tired, slow it down, hydrate, and take care of yourself. People tend to get hurt in their first few days of hiking due to fatigue and injuries related to pushing themselves too hard. Don’t overpack your pack. Practice hiking with your pack before you go out.
  • Avoid skunks by avoiding dusk and before sunrise hiking. Avoid other nocturnal animals by stowing your food appropriately and not leaving food scraps around. Don’t bring food near or in your tent.
  • Stay on the trail!!! Besides your potty breaks, stay on the trail. Not only safe but it supports the “Leave no Trace” rule.
  • For more ideas, of how to be safe in the woods you can read my fiction ebook Trail Swap.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creative Surplus

There is a lot of creative surplus. It has been surging through my veins, packed in my childhood footlocker, hanging in my closet, and stacked in my basement. Like those stocking food, weapons, medication, and supplies for the end of the world as we know it, I have been stocking it up.

It is time I start handing it out. Instead of dispersing it through an eyedropper, I have knocked over a water tower of it. It flowed through town so quickly and suddenly that everyone in this two-horse town had to take notice. The water tower is in the form of an ebook, TRAIL SWAP.
It is the first of many voyages my offspring will take. Thanks for starting off on this voyage with us. Not sure if we will make money or become famous, but we will share in a plethora of laughs.