Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I couldn't watch

On Sunday night we recorded Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk attempt across the Grand Canyon. Glad we recorded it because the commentary and build-up was so ridiculous!  But as for the walk itself, I couldn't watch. The rest of my family was riveted to the tv, and I was staring down at my smartphone.


I am horridly afraid of heights. Even heights seen on a tv or movie screen. Just a few glimpses of Nik Wallenda suspended 1500 feet above the canyon floor was enough to nauseate me.

My fear has gotten worse as I've gotten older. I don't like ferris wheels, tall buildings (even looking up at them is enough to freak me out), and most definitely cliff edges of any kind. I will never sign up for The Amazing Race because I know I'd end up having to bungee jump off a bridge or pitch myself out of an airplane or walk down the side of a building. All horrifying challenges.

I think a fear of heights make sense. We aren't built to fly or climb walls like a spider. We are breakable. There is no real need to stand on the edge of anything. It is a built-in fear based on basic survival instincts, so I'm glad my fear is a strong one.

Maybe if I were an engineer who drafted the plans for suspension bridges or skyscrapers, I'd feel better about things. For now, though, I'll leave the bungee jumping, skydiving, rockclimbing to the daredevils and crazy people.

And next time there is a Nik Wallenda special on tv, I think I will just ban myself to the bedroom where I can play Candy Crush or Words with Friends until I get the 'all clear' signal from my husband.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Stress of Summertime

So the kids are out of school, and I work from home. This is a good thing and a bad thing.

Good thing = Don't have to get up at 6:15 am to make lunches / get kids out the door. My summer wake hour is 7 am. Yeah, I'm a morning person. So sue me.

Bad thing = Kids camp out in living room all day long on their laptops making noise / messes and intruding into my Quiet Work Zone. My office is in my bedroom, and the master bedroom just happens to be on the 1st floor. If they get a rowdy game of Minecraft going, it can be difficult to get my work done.

Good thing = Don't have to pick up kids at 2:30 pm and interrupt my work focus. Or my afternoon internet surfing. ;-)

Bad thing = Kids eat a LOT more food when they are at home. Which means more dishes. Um, and why haven't I taught them to reuse drinking glasses? Do you really need to put that 3rd drink of Kool-aid in a *clean* glass????

Good thing = Don't have to worry about after school activities and making a zillion trips into town. Have I mentioned how happy I am that the school musical is finally over? Rehearsals, extra rehearsals, rehearsals that go over time, dress rehearsals...ARGH!!!!!

Bad thing = Kids get bored and want you to make a zillion trips into town so they can see their friends, go shopping, etc. Next thing on the list is to get the daughter her driver's license. So very very very close.....I think we both can't wait for that one.

I suppose I should make more use of my morning hours when the kids are still asleep. For some reason, though, I pick up steam by about 2 in the afternoon and pour it on until dinnertime. That is when the kids are at their peak noise-making / mess-making stage.

Somehow work gets done. Kids fall into their summer routine. And by August we all can't wait for school to start up again! (Okay, maybe that's just me)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Vocabulary is so Important

I've always been someone who loves words. Spelling them. Reading them. Writing with them. Just one of those things that I've been interested in since I was a young lass.

For me, the vocabulary part of the SAT was going to be my shining moment. It was the one area I had never been worried about. My high school English teacher had prepped me well. I loved her assignments. We were to read a challenging book, keep track of words we didn't know, and then once a week we were to write a few short pages using those new words.

This was golden for a word lover like me. The new words I learned out of books like "The Time Machine" by H.G. Wells or "Tom Jones" by Henry Fielding would be the starting point for me to get my creative juices flowing.

I also remember my sophomore or junior year of college. I took a Modern Fiction class with a friend of mine. There was one kid in our class who used what I called "50-cent" words regularly...in his questions to the professor, in any presentation, etc. Words that were so esoteric and so bizarre for a 21-year-old to be spouting, that one day, we decided to keep track of all the words he used. And we came up with a brilliant contest: After class, we both had to write a story using those words and then see who wrote the best one.

The challenge was on!  I wish I still had the list of words...but there were some good ones, as I recall. Immediately after class, I headed back to my dorm room and whipped out a 2-page story using all the words. I met up with my friend, showed her my work, and she said, "You actually did it?"

Although she had agreed to the contest, apparently she'd seen it as a joke. I saw it as an awesome challenge.

Writing "Blood Moon" reminded me of those two times in my life when vocabulary gave me inspiration to write. Instead of needing a 'writing prompt,' I just needed a vocab prompt!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Formatting for Kindle - Some Tips & Thoughts

This week I uploaded my new book, Blood Moon, to the Kindle store. I think now I have a pretty good handle on how to set up my Word file next time to avoid a lot of formatting in the future. It's really not that big a deal. Someone suggested skipping the automatic Table of Contents (TOC) in Word and doing it a completely different way, which sounded very time consuming.

Instead, I used the automatic TOC, ran my file through the Kindle Reviewer program and checked out what the TOC looked like in all formats. Once I saw that it was a mess, I knew what to do. I went back to my original file, removed the huge tabs with the leder dots between the chapter title and the page number, chose a style of TOC that was simpler and then everything was fine. The TOC needs to be narrow and fit in the middle of the page in order to work on all platforms. A very easy fix.

Another thing I learned is that the superscript I added next to each SAT word in the book messes up the dictionary look-up feature on the Kindle Fire. Unfortunately, that was impossible to check in the Kindle Reviewer. I can only look at the presentation of the text, not the functionality. So I'm a little irritated that readers using a Kindle Fire won't be able to look up the definition of each word as they read, which was my original intention.

My original intention was to have footnotes with the definitions for each word at the bottom of the page. However, I found out Kindle format does not support that. So I had to remove all the footnotes and add the superscript, so each word would be numbered.

Now I know I have to put a space between the word and the superscript so that a reader can use the dictionary lookup feature in Kindle Fire. On my regular Kindle, however, the word lookup works just fine.

The things you learn.