Category Archives: Senseless Ranting

An Impromptu, One in a Million Chance to Live a Scene from Your Novel

I love hiking. It’s one of my favorite wind-down hobbies.  That’s probably why “the woods” are usually a staple in my writing. This past weekend, while hiking with my husband and my pepped up poodle, I had an unexpected surprise.

There is a scene in FIRE IN THE WOODS where my MC, Jess, is walking along the side of the street and sees a deer grazing near the woods. Jess takes off into the woods after the deer, and ends up with more than she bargained for.

Back to “real life.” — While crossing the road from one part of the woods to the other Saturday, imagine my surprise when, about twenty feet from me, a deer crossed as well… heading for the same woods we were.

Luckily for me, the doe was quiet, and my poodle didn’t see her, or I would have been at the mercy of fifty pounds of barking, solid muscle tearing after a wild animal.

As the doe trotted beneath the canopy, I instantly made the connection with the scene in my novel, and I wondered… just how hard would it be to chase a deer in the woods? 

Research time!

I handed the leash off to my husband.

“You’re kidding, right?” he said.

“Nope!”

And off I went.  It would have been wonderful it this had been a buck, like in my novel, but the female deer was just as exciting for me, because in all the years I have been hiking, I have never actually seen one. It was a very cool experience. And, yes, I found out, you CAN chase a deer into the woods with some success. But like my character, Jess, I lost my fluffy-tailed friend about a quarter of a mile in.

After re-joining Hubbs and my pup, we finished our five-mile trek, and we saw the deer three more times. (or “a deer” I have no idea if it was the same one)  Pup even got to chase our woodland friend once. (That was the last time we saw the deer.  Smart deer.)

So… unexpectedly I discovered that you CAN chase a deer in the woods, and you can also see the same (or another) deer multiple times on the same day.  This sequence of scenes is now totally validated for me. Very cool – and it gave me a warm and fuzzy inside.

Have you ever had an unexpected chance to relive a scene in a book you have read?

JenniFer_EatonF

What do you look for in the second novel of a series?

Last night, after being poked and prodded by my son who wants to “talk books” with me, I stared reading Divergent. I mentioned this to an author friend of mine and she said “Loved Divergent. Insurgent [Second book] not so much. You know how second books go.”

“You know how second books go.”

This phase has been haunting me since she said it.  As most of you know, I am currently writing a “book two” in a series. I am already feeling the stress and strain of trying to make ASHES IN THE SKY just as good, if not BETTER than FIRE IN THE WOODS.

Sometimes, I fear I’m falling short.

Read-hold up PKO_0016876Are their chase scenes? Yes

Are there near misses? Yes

Are their explosions? Yes

Are the stakes higher? Yes

Are strong relationships built, ripped apart, and rekindled? Yes.

So what am I worried about?

“You know how second books go.”

I don’t want people finishing book two and saying that I missed the mark. I don’t want people saying they wish there was more of this, or why did there have to be so much of that.

The scarier thing is that book two is due before book one even comes out. So I can’t even wait for reviews or reader commentary of what they hope for in book two.

So….. I’m asking. If you are reading a book two in any series, what do you look for?

What “book two” blew you away, and WHY WAS IT SO GOOD?

What “book two” came up short, and WHY DID IT SEEM LACKING?

JenniFer_EatonF

Everyone can benefit from a critique, but not everyone should get one

I find myself shaking my head sometimes at the way people act when their work is critiqued or reviewed.

Recently I was in attendance at an event where an author spoke. She started by laughing about receiving a harsh review that day. Then she asked the audience if anyone read her book.  When one girl raised her hand, the author said (I’m making this up) “Do you think there was too much tomato soup in that pot?” The girl in the audience said: “Well, I do see how someone could think there was too much tomato soup in the pot”.

What went immediately through my mind was that maybe there WAS too much soup in the pot, and the author didn’t realize it.

The funny thing was, the author then started to argue why she didn’t think there was too much soup in the pot.

Think GirlIt made me think:

If two people thought the same thing, the issue is probably there.

As an author, we need to understand that what we type onto the page may not be perceived as we expect from  a reader’s point of view. We need to accept this, and move on.

Thankfully, the speaker caught that she was defending herself, laughed, and continued her talk.

This brings me to critiques.

If you cannot handle a critique, what are you going to do when you get out into the “real world” and people slam you on the internet because your main character’s name is Fred and they hate the name Fred? Think about that.

Some people react oddly when they get a critique.  For me, personally, If I get a crit that says “Wow, this was wonderful. I really enjoyed it in every way shape and form. You are brilliant!” I’m not really all that happy – Now, if you want to say that in a review, I’d love you for it :-)

But in a critique?

GAH!

Nope.

This is a person who will never crit my stuff again.

Because I am smart enough to know I’m not perfect. Nope. Far from it.

But some people out there want to be coddled. They want their egos stroked. People like this SHOULD NOT be asking for critiques. A critique is not a forum for your self-esteem, although it can be a place where you can BUILD your esteem.

If you are not ready for feedback that you may not like, then you need to find a way to GET READY.

PKO_0013466 sadBecause learning that the pivotal scene you wrote— the one that makes you cry and changes your life every time you read it… (yeah, you know that scene. Everyone has one)

Anyway… learning that your scene DIDN’T provoke the emotional response you wanted is going to hurt. But what you need to train yourself to do is let that pain sink in for all of five seconds, get over it, and then re-read the comments and look for useful information to better your writing.

PKO_0004816Believe me, guys – for those of you who are not published yet – it is FAR BETTER for a critique partner to tell you that something does not work, and give you ideas on how to make it work, then to get slammed in an amazon review later.

So where are you on this? If you have not been critiqued or reviewed, are you preparing yourself, or are you looking for a testimony to your brilliance?

If you’ve been receiving critiques for some time, how do you react when one, two, or three people say something you disagree with?

_JenniFer____EatoN

Enhanced by Zemanta

Meeting a man who survived the Holocaust as a boy– 72 years later.

Sunday, April 27 – Holocaust Remembrance Day

(My apologies if I get any facts wrong. I decided to write about this as an afterthought. I did not take notes, although I wish I had.)

Several months ago I signed up for what I hoped would be a unique experience for my son and I– an opportunity to listen to a firsthand account of what happened in France during the Holocaust. We were not disappointed.

Mr. Middleberg is now 87 years old, and boy do I wish I look that good when I hit 87.

During the war between Germany and France, Mr. Middleberg lived with his family in Paris. When France surrendered, they were at peace. No problems, right?

Well, not if you were a Jew. They were now ruled by Germany.

The problems started slowly. First you needed to register. No biggie. Then you needed to wear a star, then you lost your right to travel, then you could not go to school. Then you were not allowed to own your own business. It happened in small steps (and maybe not in that order) but the new laws, mostly concerning Jews, continued to get worse.

Rail leading to the concentration camp Auschwi...

Rail leading to the concentration camp Auschwitz II (Birkenau) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Middleberg was only 9 when his father got a card that said he had been recruited to work for the German army. He and about 9,000 other men were placed on busses and taken away. His family was able to see him once a month for a short while, and then all correspondence was lost.

Not soon after, homes started getting invaded.

Rumors started that the Germans were going to take a huge number of people, probably during the night. A kind janitor in their building showed Mrs. Middleberg and her two sons a place where they could hide in the ceiling in a supply closet should the rumors prove true, and unfortunately, they did.

The janitor, a WWI vet, used his wooden leg to pound on the steps and warn the Middleburg family that they were in danger.

Hundreds of their neighbors were pulled from their homes while they hid for almost a full day. When they got hungry, Mr. Middleberg was given money from his mother and he snuck out– past the soldier waiting in their apartment for them to come home. He walked through the streets where people were screaming and crying and being dragged from buildings and placed on busses.

Mr. Middleberg, a lone child walking through the street, although terrified, remained unnoticed, and was able to bring bread back to his family, where they continued to hide for many more hours.

When it was all over, they could not go back home, because they had registered. The Germans knew where they lived and would be back for them.

All of their Jewish neighbors were gone.

They hid on the streets until their mother got news of a woman who would smuggle children out of the city. They kissed their mother goodbye, and lived on a farm for two weeks until they received word that their mother had been captured.

Mr. Middleberg, (who I think was 11 at this point) hoped his mother would escape, and took his little brother back to Paris to live with his aunt hoping that their mother would find them there. They were baptized as Catholics, and hidden as orphans.

In an odd strike of luck (or otherworldly interventions, depending on how you look at it) Mr. Middleberg just happened to see his uncle walk by a shop he was working in. The man said he was hiding himself, and couldn’t help the two children.

"Selection" of Jews from Hungary at ...

“Selection” of Jews from Hungary at Auschwitz-Birkenau in May/June 1944. To be sent to the left meant slave labor; to the right, the gas chamber. “The Auschwitz Album”, Yad Vashem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days later, his uncle was captured and ended up in Auschwitz, where by another strike of luck, he ran into Mr. Middleberg’s father, and told him where his children were.

Mr. Middleberg’s father was one of the few miracle survivors of Auschwitz. He was a watchmaker, a skill the Germans needed at the time, and it saved his life. He was liberated at the end of the war, and he made it back to his children.

Their mother never came home.

They found out years later from public records that she was placed on a bus that went directly to an extermination facility, where she exited the bus and walked straight into the gas chambers.

Out of a huge extended family of maybe a hundred that lived in Paris, only Mr. Middleburg, his little brother, his father, and one other relative survived. Four left.

Eleven million people dead.

You can read a lot about history in books, but nothing compares to listening to someone recount what happened from a first person perspective.

I’m very glad we went, and if you ever have a chance to listen to a first hand account of the Holocaust, I urge you to take advantage. Mr. Middleberg’s talk was a lovely testimony to the courage of his mother, and especially the courage of the Janitor, the woman who smuggled them out of Paris, the farmers who took them in, the aunt who hid them in their home, and the priest who baptized them and hid them within the congregation as orphans.

What you don’t really think about is that all these people who helped could have been arrested and executed for helping these children. So many people turned informant, or turned a blind eye because they were scared.

He ended his talk by pointing out that hate comes in many forms, and it is everyone’s responsibility to stop it…

A wonderful message that I hope continues to sink in for generations to come.

JenniFer_EatonF

Enhanced by Zemanta

Hollywood has destroyed the world how many times?

Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hollywood has destroyed the world how many times?

Here is a nod from Time magazine to one of my favorite genres, with some of my favorite movies mentioned.   I just loved this article.  There is nothing more fun that a good, exciting, “the world is going to end, but I’m gonna do something about it” movie.  Heck, I got some story ideas just breezing over some of these comments!  Where’s the popcorn!

http://entertainment.time.com/2013/04/23/apocalypse-wow-10-ways-hollywood-has-ended-the-world/

 JenniFer_EatonF

Enhanced by Zemanta

Dealing with a child with Behavioral Issues. Update. One Year Later

Parenting is an ongoing struggle, isn’t it? I have to say though, that things are much better than they used to be. I think the issues that we deal with now are “normal”.

But something happened over the weekend that I just have to share.

Easter eggs

Easter eggs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday there was an Easter egg hunt at our church. Littlest Dude was in the oldest age bracket, and this is probably the first, and last year he would be able to participate. His gaze traveled across the gardens, and a smile touched his lips, seeing the multitude of eggs scattered in the grass (4,000 eggs, I was later informed)

They made an announcement for the older kids not to get the eggs in the middle of the field (Since participants ranged from 2 years to 8 years.) I reiterated the request to Littlest Dude. And then they were off!

There is nothing cuter than several hundred kids running through a field trying to find eggs.

I lost sight of Littlest Dude for a few minutes until his red shirt gave him away back in the trees.

Whew!

At least it seemed that he’s left the easy ones for the other kids. The eggs disappeared quickly, and late-comers ran toward the field, hoping to get there share.

Littlest Dude ran by a few times, bag overflowing but determined to find all the well-hidden eggs. Yep. He’s tenacious. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree on that one.

I grimaced as first-time parents strolled lazily toward the event area, obviously clueless that there may not be anything left for their children. Boy, were they about to be in for a bad morning!

People started to leave, and Littlest Dude is still out there running around, having a grand old time.

Then it happened.

He comes strolling back to us, a huge smile coating his adorable little face, WITH ONLY A FEW EGGS IN THE BOTTOM OF HIS BAG.

“Littlest Dude,” I say. “What happened to all your eggs?”

He shrugs. “A lot of kids didn’t find any, and they were sad, so I gave them my eggs.”

Need a tissue? I did.

I hope this warmed you heart as much as it warmed mine.

JenniFer_Eaton__F

Enhanced by Zemanta

Are you a member of the SCA Society for creative Anachronism? Have you ever been to Pennsic War?

Are you a member of the SCA Society for creative Anachronism? Have you ever been to Pennsic War?

 

English: Society for Creative Anachronism part...

English: Society for Creative Anachronism participants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve never heard of the Society for Creative Anachronism, it’s…. well, hard to explain. Lots of people come together for a medieval-fest and turn a building, or a huge area, back in time. Think Renaissance Faire on steroids. But in these events they won’t even let you in without proper garb.

And you don’t just get to watch. With training, you become part of the world.

I went to an event once over twenty years ago, and it was quite a treat. It had a big enough impact on me that I still think about it, and I’ve decided to feature a SCA event, the Pennsic War, in one of my novels.

 

Kingdom of Northshield court in the Society fo...

Kingdom of Northshield court in the Society for Creative Anachronism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s my problem. I’ve never been to Pennsic War. I am trying to imagine what Cooper’s Lake park in PA looks like when 10,000 (yes, that’s ten-thousand) people from around the world converge on that one campground, to watch and take part as the East Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom meet for a week of tournament and good times. Think Olympics, Medieval style.

Heavy combat, fencing, crossbows. Oh! I get tingles just thinking about it!

English: Melee fighting in the Society for Cre...

English: Melee fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thing is, I can imagine what a campground of people in Medieval garb looks like, but anything I can come up with would just be a really good guess.

 

So I’m wondering. Have you been to Pennsic War? Or maybe another smaller war-like event?

Here are my questions.

  1. Does combat start on Friday, or is that just revelry like the opening ceremonies and the good stuff starts on Saturday?
  2. Do most people stay at the campground?
  3. Are there ever any non-SCA campers there? Are they freaked out?
  4. What is it like back at the campground? Do people stay garbed and “in character” for the whole week or two weeks?
  5. Do combatants get hurt?
  6. Fencing competition: Do girls fight girls and guys fight guys, or can a championship match be a guy and a girl? (Sorry that was a spoiler)
  7. From the event I went to, I imagine the rivalry feigned and in good fun. But is that still true? Any side-duels that might not exactly “follow the safety rules”?
  8. Anything you can give me would be helpful. I want this to be authentic, and do the event justice as the catalyst to send my heroine on her journey.

Oh! Do you have pictures? More pictures will be helpful.

And, as a side note, if any SCA member would like to read the SCA excerpt when I’m done to make sure I “got it” I would be eternally grateful.

Huzzah!

(Yeah, that was probably lame. I’m sure I spelled that wrong.)

Find out more about this cool organization here: http://www.sca.org/

JenniFer_EatonF

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

What do you think is the right price for an ebook?

There has been a lot of talk about this lately. I’ve heard both sides, and I completely understand all sides of the argument. For now, I’d like to take off my author hat, and speak as a consumer.

A few weeks ago, my son just HAD to have a particular book on release day.  I cringed when I saw the $14 price tag.

$14 For an Ebook?

Huh

Initially I told him he had to wait until it went on sale. But eventually I caved. The kid’s not asking for a video game, after all. It’s a book. Still… $14 for memory space?

As an author, I totally appreciate the time and effort in creating a book, and yes, I did pay the price. But I can’t help but feel a little scammed when there are so many great books out there without a “Best-Selling Author” tag that are $4.99 or less.

Today, I ran across the same problem with a book that I was really interested in.  I came across a blurb for it on an agent’s website when it initially sold. Today, it came up recommended on Goodreads.  I was all ready to buy it. It sounds great.

But at the $9.99 price tag, I hesitated.

English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...

And the hardcover is $13.59. Does anyone else see a problem with this? Why spend $9.99 on an ebook when you can spend a few dollars more and get something you can hold?

I’m wondering… if Amazon hadn’t driven prices down so low on ebooks if I would have even blinked about spending $10 on a book that I wanted.  If all books were around this cost, I wouldn’t have a choice, right?

 

But this is my worry.

How many people out there are like me, and want the book, but decided to pass and get two other books for 4.99 instead?

Where, as an author, I’d like to see average book prices be higher, I have to worry and wonder about houses that charge so much more than other books on the market.  I suppose if they are throwing big marketing dollars at the book, that people will be influenced to buy no matter the price.

But what about the people like me who stumbled across the book by accident and just want to read the story? Are they risking turning them away?

This is one of the quandaries that keeps me in limbo about whether or not to submit to certain houses. I don’t want people to say, “Why is your book so expensive? All these other books a five bucks.”

I’m wondering what you think. If you are an author, try putting your author hat aside. Think as a reader, or a consumer/buyer of ebooks.

What do you think is the right price for an ebook?

And maybe another question:  Should ebooks be premium priced for the first several months, and then the price drop once the paperback comes out? Or would fewer books even get to paperback if less people are buying?

What are your thoughts?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Post #662, 663, 664, 665… Oh No! What blog post is this? Nope Not gonna do it. Quick! Call in the Rabbi!

What is that I hear out there in the Blogosphere? Murmurings of dismay and fear:  “Why didn’t Jennifer skip post #666 and go from #665 to #667, the way some building elevators go from floor #12 to floor #14? No one would have noticed.”

Here’s my word associations about 666: the Number of the Beast; the Sign of the Beast; the anti-Christ; the Apocalypse; Revelations. It’s also the subject of “The Devil’s Highway,” a song by The Snake Brothers, a local Pine Barrens-based New Jersey folk/country/bluegrass/ roots band.

Hi there, I am Rabbi Ilene Schneider. Here’s what I know after Googling 666: all of the above. Plus there are as many interpretations as interpreters. Plus, the number is possibly gematria, a method of hermeneutics that assigns a numerical value to letters of the Hebrew alphabet. [Gematria is the reason the number 18 is lucky in Judaism – It’s the numerical value of the Hebrew word “chai” (pronounced like “hi,” but with a guttural “h,” not a soft “ch” as in “China”); as in the toast “l’chaim;” as popularized in the song “To Life, To Life, L’chaim,” in “Fiddler on the Roof.”]

English: Jersey Devil strip from 1909 Français...

English: Jersey Devil strip from 1909 Français : Dessin du Diable du New Jersey en 1909 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also learned that the number may be a mistranslation and it should be 616, coincidentally the route number for Church Road, a south Jersey street that’s not very apocalyptic, except where it intersects with a traffic circle in Cherry Hill. Had New Jersey traffic circles been around in the 14th Century, Dante would have modeled his Circles of Hell on them.

The explanation I favor for the confusion between 666 and 616 is that the Greek name for Nero (as in the Emperor, not the protagonist of “The Matrix”) when transliterated into Hebrew is equal to 666, while the Hebrew transliteration for the emperor’s Latin name is equivalent to 616. It does make sense that the writer of Revelations would have considered Nero the anti-Christ.

County Route shield

County Route shield (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And, yes, there is an Atlantic County Route 666 in New Jersey, just as The Snake Brothers sing. I know. I looked it up. The road passes by Estelle Manor, site of the long-abandoned Estellville Glassworks. The town has been suggested as the birth place of the Jersey Devil, the only state demon in the U.S. “Devil’s Highway” is more likely to refer to our native boogie man (or part kangaroo, part goat, part horse, part dog, part bat, complete with wings and horns) than to Satan. (I think it’s far more likely that Mother Leed’s 13th child was born near Leed’s Point, although the monster has been sighted throughout southern New Jersey.)

So am I afraid that I am now cursed because I wrote blog post 666? No more than I worry about Friday the 13th, a number that is actually good luck in Judaism (the age of legal maturity; Maimonides’ list of the attributes of God, to name two reasons). There are too many real dangers out there to worry about whether numbers have a cosmic significance. But they are fun to research.

swish swivel sparkle

Rabbi Ilene Schneider, Ed.D., one of the first women rabbis ordained in the U.S., has finally decided what she wants to be when she grows up. She recently retired from her day job to devote herself to writing. She is the author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries, Chanukah Guilt and the award-winning Unleavened Dead; the 3rd, a work-in-progress, is titled Yom Killer. She also wrote the nonfiction Talk Dirty Yiddish: Beyond Drek.

Website: http://rabbiauthor.com

So what do you think? Are you superstitious about # 665 +1?

Enhanced by Zemanta

How a simple change of attitude can change your life. You cannot change others, but you can change YOU

I came across this training session today. Most of these things I roll my eyes at, but this one I thought was particularly good.  This is a segment of a seminar given by Zig Ziglar, who I’d heard of, but never listened too.

Now, to be honest, his method of presentation is a bit off-putting to me, so if the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, I suggest just closing your eyes and concentrating on what he says.

This is not targeted at authors. I think this can benefit many people in many ways.  The last 45 seconds or so, in particular, packs an extra-special punch.

This is about nine minutes long. I suggest taking a minute to listen. People spend big bucks to hear seminars like this, and here you have it for free.

http://www.ipcoutlook.org/mart/53792F.shtml

In general, I am a huge optimist. I’m glad I can smile at how wonderful the world is when people around me are hemming and hawing over their rejections and writer’s block. Negativity loves company, but that’s not the company I want to keep. It sucks creative energy.

If I ever start to get negative, I’m coming back to this post to give a listen.

A positive attitude can snowball into positive results.

Give it a try. You may be surprised.

Enhanced by Zemanta