LeeAnn Rhoden

Chapter 8 – Casey’s Story

There are very few people I actually like. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going out with some people and having a good time, but in the long run there are only a handful of people I actually let into my sphere of privacy. Lizzy is one of those people. I think of her like a sister and so I let her come over to my house whether or not the bathroom is clean. I don’t judge her, and she doesn’t judge me.

This whole Weight Clinic thing isn’t for me; it’s for her. She feels like she needs to control the food aspect of her life and I’m there to support her. Personally, I think she gives food waaaayyy too much credit but then my mom’s idea of a home cooked meal was a vending machine sandwich we ate at home. Nevertheless, I signed up to help her with her impulse control. This “buddy” thing is just not for me.

My “buddy,” Lori, was being detained by my office security and my HR department. She lacked the proper and necessary credentials to enter the building. When she claimed to be my “buddy” I was honest and told them I didn’t know her well enough to vouch for her or to authorize a Visitor’s Pass and she’d have to go through the appropriate channels in order to shadow me. These channels were a thorough background check, her employer interview, and a completed “Request for Access” form – which had to be verified and approved. A simple text to my friend Claudia in HR and I’m assured that these channels will take several business days, possibly stretching into weeks for finalization. Claudia also assured me that security would not permit this “buddy” to be loitering at any of the exits waiting for me to leave. So, while I was at work, I was in the clear. My “buddy” did manage to squeeze in a shock every now and then as a reminder that she was still in touch with me. Bitch.

Lizzy texted me the news article on the woman found dead with her left hand cut off at the wrist. We believed her demise and the Weight Clinic were intertwined. I read the article and the updates on the online newspaper. Janice Willoughby, 35, was found in the alley between 3rd and 4th Avenues on Wednesday night. It was confirmed that her left hand had been amputated at the wrist. She lived alone in an apartment on 8th Avenue. She was a professional blogger. The comments were most interesting. There were over 250 in total. Some ranting about the safety of single women at night. Others raving about the body snatchers and that’s why her hand was missing. One woman, screen name Chunky, insisted that the victim’s friend was involved. One man, screen name Marvin the Martian, claimed to have dated the victim and he was sad.

I had briefly dated a guy whose name I forget. I forgot it when we were dating too which is why he broke up with me. I would have been upset but he failed to imprint on me sooo… So, of course I thought I should call him. And after asking the person in the opposite cubicle from mine what his name was, I looked him up in my phone. His name was Robert and he was into computers and hacking and he worked for some cyber security company. Which is why I always thought of robots around him. Robert the Robot.

“Hi Robert! This is Casey. Long time! How have you been? Oh yeah? Married? Really? A boy and a girl? Wow. Two. Well, I didn’t think it had been that long. That’s great! Me? Well, same ol’ same ol’. No, not married, no kids. Yeah, well, I’ll get to my point. I need a favor….” I explained to Robot that I needed the real names and contact information of Chunky and Marvin the Martian.

Right on cue, I received a shock. Bitch.

Chapter 4: Seventh Circle of Hell

I hoisted one heavy box up the pull-down ladder and into the attic. Even for this time of year the attic was hot and stuffy. A nice change from chilly temps downstairs. Before I brought more boxes up, I thought I should look around for the box of Christmas decorations Grandma wanted me to schlep down. At first glance the attic looked neatly organized but when you took a closer look it was more of a warehouse. Boxes stacked on boxes, floor to roof, rows in front of rows. The the idea of spending the day searching for the decoration box made my head swim. If it wasn’t in the first wall of boxes, then it was in the next, or the next. Not hours of searching, we’re talking days. The aunties had put the boxes from my room at the base of the ladder making it an acrobatic feat to get down; I managed and went in search for Grandma.

“Um, Grandma, that box of decorations you want… where is it?”

“In the attic, silly,” she said rummaging through the top drawer of the antique secretary which stood in the corner.

“Grandma,” I sighed, “there are a thousand boxes in the attic. Can you be a little more specific?”

“Louisa Jane, don’t exaggerate. There most certainly are not a thousand boxes. My last count was two hundred and eighty-three. Phooey!” she slammed the drawer shut and started into the second drawer.

“Okay, of the two hundred and eighty-three boxes where might the decoration box be?

She closed the drawer and moved to the desk and began her search anew. “Christmas is when Santa comes. Santa lives in the North Pole. So, the Christmas decorations are on the north side of the house. Oh, I give up!”

“What are you looking for, Grandma?”

She straightened up and put her hands on her hips. “What dear?”

“What are you looking for, Grandma?”

“I can’t remember now. No matter, it’ll come to me.” I left her standing in the living room scratching her head and ascended into my seventh circle of hell.

The north side of the house had a wall of boxes that was four across and four high and, mercifully, only two deep. Still, moving and searching through thirty-two boxes was daunting. Not one of the boxes was labeled and I decided that I just might do Grandma and the Aunties a huge favor and label them. Eventually, someone and some point is going to have to go through all of it.

Starting on the top left I searched and labeled and replaced. Most of the stuff was old children’s toys and clothes. The toys were certainly collectors’ items and wouldn’t pass the safety standards for today’s children’s’ toys. I made a mental note to ask about them. Maybe Grandma and the aunts would be willing to part with them, sell them, and put aside the proceeds for future use. The Christmas decorations were not just one box; there were five of them. And all five were the last boxes I went through.

Once the boxes, and I were freed from the attic, it was another staircase down to get them all into the living room. I was happy to be done with that chore, happy that I was able to help Grandma, and angry that I had forgotten to put on my fitbit. I’m sure I completed my entire week’s scheduled workouts.

“Oh good!” Grandma beamed at the boxes. “Thank you dear. Now, let’s get started and cheer this place up.”

“Grandma, I was going to take a nap. I have to work tonight so…”

“Oh please, you can nap at work. The dead people won’t care. Now, where did I put the tape?” Grandma resumed her search through the drawers. I slipped out and went back to my room. I needed a little shut-eye. Believe it or not, the dead people do care.

To be continued….

 

 

Formatting for ebooks

When you’re done writing your story you’ll think about publishing it. That means you’ll need to think about appropriate formatting for the medium. For the most part, using Word and formatting the chapters and pages how you’d like them to look is fine. What you’ll have to do is save this Word document as a PDF and upload the PDF. You can do this for Kindle and even Smashwords. The document will look like a PDF and read just fine on most screens. This is also excellent if you are using special fonts, charts, graphs, artwork, pictures, advertising, and hyperlinks. PDFs keep those things and they get uploaded in true form.

You can also format your document specifically for ereaders using epub. Epub is great in that it allows the text to configure to whatever ereader you’re using. What it won’t do is accept charts, graphs, advertising, or hyperlinks. You can include art, but it has to be formatted per epub rules. What you can’t have is special fonts, special characters, different sized fonts, and so forth.

For epub, you cannot just set your Word parameters and type. You need to use a different process. You will have to use the Style menus.

Because ereaders show only straight text, epub likes to keep things as simple as possible. You’ll only need to use three Styles: Heading 1 for titles, Heading 2 for subtitles and/or chapter headings, and Normal for text. You can’t use fancy fonts so stick to Times New Roman, Garamond, or Arial. Most Epub converters will not recognize any other fonts. You can use inline formatting of your fonts such as italics or bold and you can also add first level bullet or number lists (second level bullets or outlines need to be done separately and inserted as a jpeg).

Formatting for the the Normal Style for body text is simple too. Set your text to be left justified, single spaced. You can either set the first line of a paragraph to be indented or block style paragraphs. Do not check the “don’t add space between paragraphs” box. you will need the automatically included extra space between paragraphs. Personally, for ereaders I prefer block style paragraphing.

The key to successful formatting for epub conversion is to NOT USE THE HARD RETURN AND NO EXTRA SPACES. This is difficult for some to do. Stop adding double spaces after closing punctuation. Stop hitting the enter key to add more space between paragraphs or at the end of a section looking for the page break to start a new chapter or section. Habits are hard.

First, extra spaces can skew the spacing in the text. Most extra hard returns will be stripped out anyway. To get your ebook to look like you want it to look, you have to use the style keys. To end a chapter: following you last sentence a single return. Then change your style to Heading 2 for a new chapter heading. During the Epub conversion a page break will be created before Headings.

These are the basics for epub conversion formatting. There are superb tutorials that include details on removing proofing instructions and auto defaults in Word. Lulu has one. You can see it here. Smashwords has one too. You can see that one here. Both are free and both are pretty easy to follow. Even I can get it and I’m not tech savvy.

AND finally, the clock is ticking down and you have just a few days left to submit for our October issue! The theme is “What Lies Beneath.” Do you have any deep, hidden secrets or fears? Write them down! Send them in!

Totally Cool

Yesterday the US was treated to a transcontinental solar eclipse. It began in Oregon and crossed all the way to South Carolina. Living just outside the limits of totality, I experienced 99% coverage. It was pretty cool. It didn’t get completely dark like it did under the totality path, but it did get dark like twilight. What was the best was looking at the ground and seeing light waves, like flames almost, or shadows of flames. With the weirdness of it all it was easy to understand why animals get freaked out and how easy it would have been for primitive man to be terrified and even ans recent as Medieval times how people could think it would be a portent of doom.

In fact, eclipses are so important that they are used in language as both a noun (Hey, did you see the eclipse?) and as a verb (Her beauty eclipses all the other girls.). And as a verb, it’s a fairly strong one with a strong meaning. It’s interesting how a natural phenomenon became part of the vocabulary.

What other vocabulary words can you think of that come from the forces of nature?

AND don’t forget, we are accepting submissions for the October issue! The theme is What Lies Beneath. Have you been lying? Have you been lying in wait? Have you been lying underneath something? Send it in!!

First Impressions

We all know that first impressions are important. When we go to an interview, we dress our best – typically we we shower and put on pants. Why? Because if we don’t make at least a decent impression, then we don’t stand a chance of getting hired. With writing, it’s the same thing. We want to make an impact with the readers so they, you know,  hire us – or at least keep reading our work. Yes, we need time to build the storyline to get to the hook – usually in the first chapter – but that first line needs to be catchy.

Some of history’s best first lines:

  1. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – George Orwell, 1984
  2. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….- Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities
  3. Call me Ishmael – Herman Melville, Moby Dick
  4. There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. – Emily Bronte, Jane Eyre

So what’s all this about first lines? Well…. A. Marie and I are planning something fun in the very near future! You, yes you, will be able to chose the first line of a round robin short story that we will write right here on this very blog! So be on the look out for the first line choices!

In the meantime, the submission deadline for the October issue comes to a close on the 30th! Get your stories in soon. The theme is “What Lies Beneath.” So, try your absolute best to creep us out! Bet you can’t! Gonna write about the “things” buried in the back yard? Or how about those deeply buried emotions that if brought to the surface could create havoc and chaos? What about those unspoken desires you dare not let into the light? Well, that is creepy. But send them in!

My First Time

There’s a first time for everything. Truth. One of the questions we ask consistently of the authors we interview is, “What is the first thing you wrote?” Most, if not all, our authors can remember the very first thing they wrote with great detail. I too can remember the first thing I wrote. At least the first good thing I wrote that I was proud of and that made me want to be a writer for real.

It was a class project. We had to pick a partner and together write a short story. First, let me say, I have never liked “group work” because a group doesn’t work. One person works and the others watch. No big deal because I liked to write and I liked coming up with the story. My partner came up with the characters’ names. Our story was about a boy and his dog. And just to make it interesting, I wrote the story from the dog’s point of view. What can I say, I was 10 and it seemed like a good idea. The dog’s name was Rufus and the boy’s name was Jimmy because my partner liked a boy named Jimmy. The title of the story was Rufus, because, you know, the main character.

The gist of the story was that Rufus had a boy who went missing from home. Rufus went on a journey to find Jimmy. It turned out Jimmy was simply at school. The story wasn’t long, just 10 pages, and it was certainly short on plot and character development. But, it was original, had dialogue, paragraph structure, a climax and denouement. The BEST part was that our story was chosen by the teacher to be posted on the bulletin board in the classroom as the best story from our class.

I was very proud of that story and I really wanted to be a writer ever since that day. I wish she’d have given the story back to me, I’d like to have it, just to have it.

So what was your first time? What did you write? Do you still have it? Let us know!

DON’T FORGET TO SEND IN YOUR SUBMISSIONS FOR OUR OCTOBER ISSUE. THE THEME IS “WHAT LIES BENEATH.” WHAT’S BURIED IN YOUR BACK YARD? UNDER THE BASEMENT? IN THE DEEP DARK CREVICES OF YOUR SOUL? WHAT EMOTIONS HAVE YOU TAMPED DOWN AND HIDDEN? SEND IN YOU SUBMISSIONS BY AUGUST 30TH!

Formatting – It’s Not That Hard

I read and edit a lot of writers’ works during the course of a month. Some plot lines need help, some need punctuation work, some need help with vocabulary. What I see most of is basic trouble with format. It’s not rocket science and formatting a document isn’t trying to use an architectural program to design a sky scraper or a complex wiring diagram. But formatting is just as important because a good format makes the work EASIER TO READ. I yelled that last part.

Perhaps the problem began with emails. People stopped indenting for paragraphs and went to a block format. That’s fine in email, but please, not in writing. Yes, yes, I know people are using it now in business writing. But it’s ugly and inelegant. Stop it.

And there are hosts of other issues. Today, I’m going to attempt to explain how to correctly set up a format that can be used and acceptable for most applications.

 

Page Set-up

Most applications ask for 8.5 X 11 paper with 1-inch margins. This is done by selecting the PAGE LAYOUT tab in your Word document. From there you can select the margin size, page orientation, number of columns, and page size. You click on each one and use the drop-down list to make your selections.

 

 

 

 

 

Text Set-up

Once your frame is set up, now to set up the text. This is the important part because this is what your recipient reads. Yes, you want the text to be quality, but if the format isn’t conducive to reading then it can’t be read. Our requirements are:

Font: Times New Roman – because a serif font is easier to read than a sans serif font.

Size: 12 pt. type – because it is a comfortable size to read. Too small (less than 11 pt) or too big (more than 14) is uncomfortable for reading for prolonged periods of time.

Spacing: Double space – because it makes reading faster and allows the eyes to see the individual lines for corrections that need to be made.

Indentation: First lines of paragraphs indented 0.5″ – because it indicates a new paragraph rather than a full pause or separation in the narrative.

Justification: Left justified (meaning it lines up evenly along the left-hand side of the page) – because it is easier to read and scan for line breaks.

All of these things can be done mostly in one place. From the HOME tab in your Word Document you can set the font and size. In the same HOME tab you can use the PARAGRAPH drop-down chart and set the rest of the parameters.

Just doing these simple few things will make reading your work easier for you to proofread as well as for any editor or agent to whom you are submitting your stories.

And not just for your stories. Try it with memos, letters, or anything that you need to write/type text. Your reader will thank you because it is easy to read. And it makes a terrific professional presentation. 

 

 

 

 

Portfolio

Recently I was asked to submit some writing samples from my portfolio. That sounds like it should be easy enough; I’m a writer, I have samples. But I discovered that as hyper organized I am about my projects and time, my actual storage of my writing needs some work. Yes, all of my writing is on a computer – either the laptop or the desktop – possibly in Dropbox, or on a thumb drive in the desk drawer, or the end table drawer, or my purse. See, it took me all day to locate some writing samples that were “okay” and I don’t like my writing anyway so then I was depressed all night because the samples I selected I felt needed apologizing for. This is not the place I need to be in and I’m sure that many writers need to get their act together as well.

Writing is a profession. And we should treat it as such. I have a resume and portfolio that highlights everything I’m accomplished for every job/career I’ve had. Samples, charts, graphs, bullet points, you name it. Yet, my writing career? My passion in life? Yeah, squat. My stuff is scattered in random files, across several devices. Some have several drafts not labeled other than writing1 or story2. GAH! What is that?! That’s not how I am, so why did I do that? Apparently, I need work on this. Sooo, when I return from vacation and school resumes, I will be turning my hyper focused attention to organizing my writing and editing portfolio.

The best way to do this? Well, here’s my plan:

  1. Create a mega folder in Dropbox. This allow access to my writing from the desktop, laptop, tablet and phone.
  2. Inside the mega folder, create subfolder labeled with each writing – newspaper articles, short stories, novels, blogs, etc.
  3. Within each subfolder label the writing as draft1title, draft2title, draft3title, finishedtitle.
  4. Save each subfolder on it’s own LABELED thumb drive so I have a digital back up.
  5. Print each finishedtitle so I have a physical copy because I’m old. These will be stored in binders on the bookshelf.

I don’t know if the samples I sent will tickle the fancy of the editor. The odds are low. I’m not sad. However, the request did bring to light a glaring problem I have and for that I’m glad. How do you store your work? Do you treat your writing passion as a profession? Is your portfolio put together and organized? What is your system?

Very soon the submission window for the August/September issue will close. The theme is “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark.” So, if you’ve been damaged, traumatized, broken or bruised, write it down and let us know! We will begin accepting submissions for the October 2017 Issue. The theme will be “What Lies Beneath.” Any deep dark secrets? Skeletons in the closet or under the bed? Told any half-truths? Bet you can’t creep us out!

Independence Day

We wish everyone a very happy Independence Day! It’s a BIG DEAL at our house because it is also Little Man’s birthday. We do cake and cookouts, fun and fireworks, pictures and presents. This year we are also hooking up the plumbing and gas to our kitchen after being without water and gas in the kitchen for 16 and a half weeks for the renovation. Just in time for me to make Little Man’s cake. And GOD! I have wanted to cook actual food for weeks and I am twitching!

It’s difficult to find the time during the whole beach/lake/park/cookout/fireworks festivities to sit down and write something. But consider note cards or in lieu of that, texts or emails or making a note on your phone for any ideas or inspirations that come up. Photos too can capture that moment and you can write about it later (whenever that is). For me, because it is Little Man’s birthday I have so many things that inspire me and drive me to write on this day. You can do it too.

For those not in the USA, happy 4th of July to you too! Be it midsummer in the northern hemisphere or mid winter in the southern hemisphere, enjoy your Tuesday! And have a piece for cake to help celebrate Little Man’s birthday. Take a picture, send it in. He’ll get a kick out of knowing people all over the world celebrated with him.

Don’t forget, we are accepting submissions for a few more days to our August/September issue. The theme is “That’s Gonna Leave a Mark.” Any memories of unfortunate accidents or events? The girl or guy who dumped you at the prom? That missing finger from the fireworks? Any pranks that have gone way wrong? Let us know!!

Dieting, De-cluttering, Editing, and You

I have a lot of things going on in my life. First, there’s Little Man. He’s out of school for the summer so we are wrapped up into his activities such as day camp, vacation bible school, scout day camp, soccer camp, and all things scout patches/loops/pins/awards that we can work on. Let’s not forget his social calendar of play dates, swim lessons, and birthday party planning (who new planning kids’ parties were like planning a state dinner?).

Not my house.

Second, there’s family time. Planning family vacation, weekend visitations to or from family members, and gatherings with friends. Third, there’s the fixer-upper house. We are STILL in the middle of the kitchen renovation so I have no kitchen, just an electric skillet and a bathroom sink. Husband is building beautiful cabinets but with his work schedule it can only go so fast. Meanwhile, I’ve been tackling the deck and gardens trying to chip away at the hot mess. And since June is rainy season in Georgia, I’ve been trying to knock out some of the unfinished/half finished projects. And when I can, I’m trying to purge all the stuff we don’t need (or at least haven’t needed in the past 5 years).

Fourth, my physical therapy schedule. Twice a week for two hours each visit for the last 8 weeks. Two more weeks to go and hopefully I’ll be released to continue PT on my own recognizance. My back is much better and my right shoulder only hurts when I try to do too much so I stop and rest when I need to. Fifth, I’ve been editing. I completed a wonderful novel, I’m going chapter by chapter with a novice writer acting as not only and editor but a structural editor and writing coach. I have been asked by another author to edit their work and I’ll soon start yet another project.

Sixth, I’ve also been studying for and taking exams for my real estate license. Happy to say I completed the course and passed all the tests. Now on to broker hunting and applying for an active license to begin working.

Eat smaller portions.

On TOP of all that, I get to look forward to my doctor tell me I need to lose weight (like I’m unaware of this). I just can’t really cook healthily when I don’t have a kitchen and it’s hard to exercise more than the physical therapy when everything hurts all the time and squeezing PT in at all is a miracle (see above list). I know, I need to just eat better to get back to my pre-marriage pre-baby shape quit nagging.

But don’t we all have a ton of stuff to do? Couldn’t we all stand to lose a few pounds? Couldn’t we all stand to just take a few days and complete the last bits of a project? Couldn’t we stand to clean out our rooms/drawers/closets? Yes. Yes we could.

Our writing is like our lives – busy and crowded. We put everything into it. We write everything our characters think, feel, smell, say, and do. Our descriptions talk about the leaves on the trees and in hopes of imbuing our readers with the feeling and tone of the setting, we over do it. We over extend. And thankfully, our editors are there to put our writing on a diet. Stripping away the fat and junk making our writing leaner. Editors help us reorganize our paragraphs and straighten out the plot and subplot lines. They de-clutter and streamline making our stories flow. As writers, we need our editors to help us, guide us, and we need to trust them. Writers should also check their work before turning it over to an editor so it is as clean as possible to begin with. Sort of like cleaning the house before the housekeeper shows up. Is your punctuation correct? Spelling? Word choice? How many times have you used the word “that” when you should have used “which”? And strip your adverbs to a minimum.

In the meantime there are only 6 weeks left of summer. My projects are becoming fewer, my tasks are wrapping up. Soon I will have edited my life’s schedule down to only a few things to do. I’m looking forward to a less crowded life. Hmmm….maybe I’ll have a chance to write again.

Not that you aren’t busy, but we are accepting submissions for the August/September issue. The theme is “That’s Gonna Leave A Mark.” What harrowing experiences have you had that have left you permanently scarred? Do you have a tattoo? What’s the story behind it? Missing a tooth? One eye? We’d love to read all about it!

 

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