Coffee Break Escape…7 Minute Adventures exploring the world together

I don’t know about you, but I get a little restless once in a while. It’s a big world, erm…galaxy, right? With interesting lifestyles, people, new sights, and under-reported events that beg for discussion and discovery.

So I ask you:

How many words per minute do you read?

How long does it take to sip your coffee, or tea, etc.? (We include beverage drinkers of all varieties here.)

Here’s the desk in the office suites where I work answering phones. My gracious boss lets me drink coffee all day long, AND work on my fiction and blog. Thanks, Kevin!

While I pondered how to take a quick “armchair” trip to explore, without expensive airplane tickets and embarrassing airport yoga…

I percolated up (sorry) the idea of Coffee Break Escape, for a quick getaway. Short enough to digest while we ingest.

Subscribe, follow, or check back here weekly to see what we’ve brewed up. And you may be a winner…details to follow!

We’ll take a quick look at something we all wonder about, or someone whose story needs to be shared.

Like…Where did Sodoku come from? or who trained the first service dog for the blind?

The world is our sandbox.

We’ll explore the lesser known, or time travel to unique and compelling moments in history, all nutshelled down for a quick read.

You can play, too!

I’m looking for guest “adventure-istas.” 

Maybe you’re an expert on how the knitting needle evolved to its current length and pointy-ness, or you’ve taken some snapshots in a corner of the world most of us may never be able to visit. Let me know!

Whenever you hear something intriguing, visit that backroads museum of antique washing machine parts, or see something unusual you want to share, bring it!

Write up your idea, and I might feature your discovery or insight right here! See contest information below.*

Or…

maybe there’s something you’ve always wondered about, and you want me to do your “exploring.” Leave me a note and I’ll add it to the “to be brewed” menu.

And I want your bio, links, urls, twitter handles, or FB professional page links on each one so readers who discover you can quickly click through to find you where yo live.

To answer the questions I posed above, according to a quick internet survey, and some home testing (it’s the least I could do), I found the average adult reads about 300 wpm, and drinks a cup of coffee in around 7 minutes (give or take the average between guzzling and savoring.)

To fit into our break time, we’ll keep the posts to 1000 words or less. (This one is 531 to give you an idea.)

Photos you’ve taken or have rights to, or artwork you’ve created, are definitely encouraged!

This is going to be fun!

This caracal demonstrating mid-air hunting leaps for excitement (and toy balls). (San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

When I’ve gathered a couple dozen or so, I’ll be compiling them into an anthology and publishing them to Kindle (nook versions planned for the future), to meet the digital audience yearning for interesting material. The links you provide to your blog, book or business will draw these readers and potential new followers.

Occasionally, we’ll have contests* and people’s choice awards for the most unusual, outrageous, funny, or poignant stories. Start gathering your ideas now, and start submitting today!

Email me using the contact box in the sidebar with questions or your submission.

*Overseas contestants may receive accolades of applause, while North American winners can expect fun and exciting gifts along with their high-fives. Bev reserves the right to edit submissions for clarity. 

 

 

I

Use your imagination

 

One of the questions I get quite often about my fiction writing is, “where do you get your ideas?”

I’ve pondered how to answer. Where do they come from?

Novel and short story writers call it “fiction brain,” but I think a better way to understand how that part of our minds work is to watch kids playing.

Remember your childhood? Hours spent on the floor, in the backyard, or dragging pull toys, like the one above. My mother tells me after breakfast I’d jump down, let her tie on my corrective saddle shoes, and toddle up and down the street dragging my “Lil Snoopy” while she dusted in her pearls and shirt waist dress. >cough< or capris and Keds…you get the picture.

Can you imagine letting a three-year-old outside for hours at a time like that these days? Call CPS!

Then I was into paper dolls, and that part of the brain that adores role playing began to bloom.

Little kids know how to access their imagination with just a few props and ideas from media, the classics and current culture.

Remember when someone would holler, “let’s play like….” and off you’d go, making up situations, and what-if’s, inspired by books, television shows, or movies? 

Here’s what launched me into full blown horse obsession. Mary O’Hara’s “My Friend Flicka,” followed by “Thunderhead,” (who was Flicka’s son) and the lesser known “Green Grass of Wyoming.”

With my collection of Breyer creation horse models (and shoe boxes cobbled together for stables) and I was off and running. Yeah, literally. Around the schoolyard, and in the back yard, and Pam’s yard.

And probably why I still write horses, dogs and various animals into all my stories.

And that’s how fiction-brain works.

What were your favorite toys and games? How could they inspire your imagination to build worlds, and play what-ifs at your keyboard?

Come on, let’s play like!!

 

 

You Should Write a Book!

Photo by Kristin Nador, WANA Commons

Have you ever heard that? Do you have such an interesting life, or a story inside begging to get out?

Maybe you’re keeping an early draft hidden behind several password protected portals in your laptop.

I’m not gonna lie. Writing is not easy. But it can be so rewarding, and cathartic. To create, to imagine, to share. And if your passion is bubbling up, maybe it’s time to dispel whatever’s stopping you.

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.
Z.N. Hurston

Before you break out into a total flop sweat, let’s explore the Top 5 Reasons people give for not writing. See if you recognize yourself. And take a deep breath.

1. Not enough time. Oh, please. These days it’s not like working on that antique machine…yes, kids, that is a typewriter. The keys jammed, the ribbons tore, and when you made a mistake, you had to start all over, or use messy white out.

You can write a line or two on your smartphone while waiting for your Starbucks. Our grandparent’s generation had to hunt and peck, re-type and used reams of paper, and yet they wrote VOLUMES. (If you bang out 5 lines a day for a year, you will have about 20,000 words.) Not buying this one.

2. I don’t know where to start. This is actually a pretty tough question even for multi-published authors. Epilogue or no, the day you were born, or two years later. Middle of the action, or build up to the character. My advice? Read some compelling memoirs and see how they start. One of my favorites is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells. OR just begin wherever you feel comfortable. Then go back and cut, paste, delete. (They’re talking about making Glass Castle into a movie, maybe yours is the next blockbuster but you have to write it first!) Just begin! 

3. My life/story is not that interesting/unusual/compelling.  That’s probably quite true. There’s a saying among us writer-types that all stories have already been told. But it’s the way you say it, how you tell it, that makes it unique. OR, it’s written for a unique audience. Maybe you should write just so your grandchildren will know more about you. Or to get it off your chest!

Photo by Frank Selmo WANA Commons

4.  I’m not a good writer. So learn. You weren’t a very good driver/cook/walker when you started. But with practice, we get better. (Let’s hope) The internet and bookstores are full of helpful information. I wrote a couple of posts a few months ago with great links to help launch you; Part One and Part Two explore everything from what you can read for inspiration, to websites where you can get encouragement and advice.

And you can always ask me. Bev loves to talk writing.

5. _____________. How can I argue with that? LOL Seriously, you might have plenty of excuses, even one I’ve never heard.

But when you are tired of making excuses, feel the urge, know you are not alone.

Most of us have harbored a secret desire to write the Great American Novel, our memoirs, or a short story. Do it.

We’re all friends here, and this is a safe place to pull up a chair and start banging away at the keyboard.

I’d love to hear about your writing desire, and encourage and inspire you.

Everything worth doing well requires practice.
Imagine how long it took her to learn this.

 

 

 

 

Top Five Reasons your kids should NOT watch the Olympics.

Photo courtesy of Clover Autrey – WANACommons

Here are the top 5 reasons it is a terrible idea to let your kids watch the Olympics. (If I’m too late, I apologize. Maybe you can reason with them before actually showing up to the gymnastics class they have already begged you to sign them up for.)

Let’s not go losing our heads over all this. (From www.picturescafe.com)

In reverse order, we will begin with # 5. You are busy. I know how much is on your plate. And if your kids find any encouragement to get involved in a sport from watching the Olympians, they will surely add to your already long to-do list. What’s more, the drives to practice and meets will mean you’ll spend lots of time together. Who needs that?

#4. It’s expensive. Lessons, uniforms, equipment, out of town meets? All this adds up.

If they do insist, try to steer them toward table tennis…experts predict the cost to get your kindergartener to the Olympics in this sport will total $100,000. Ping pong being one of the more>cough<affordable sports.

Equestrian in your family? Gulp. Try $400,000. If you need more of a reality check, this MSN article has some more staggering statistics that’ll have your calculator buzzing and your paddle spinning. Another article, one in The Daily Beast, lists the foreclosures, the financial hardships and even how Olympian’s parents sold everything and moved to be near the best training facilities and coaches for their little athletes. For more astounding numbers, check out this blog “Team Mom.” Who ARE these people?

Who needs a kid with this attitude?

#3. It can be SO disappointing. For every medal awarded, heck for every athlete that qualifies for the Olympics, thousands of others did not. Do you want your child to be the one left in the wake of greats like Michael Phelps?

My children tried out for sports teams, and auditioned for community theater, and I can tell you, there were plenty of disappointments, lots of tears shed when the cast list or play roster was posted. And my kids were upset once in a while too.

Once, our daughter was cast in a role where she may or may not have been required to wear a bucket on her head. But we didn’t let her turn it down, no sir. It was painful to watch, especially when the other cast members teased her, and even shunned her from sleepovers and similarly important rights of passage. But we insisted she continue wearing the bucket whimsical costume to the final curtain.

US gymnast Jordyn Wieber cries after failing to qualify for the women’s all-around finals in artistic gymnastics.
Image by Gregory Bull / AP

She learned an unforgettable lesson, and showed true character because in the very next show, she was cast as the lead. And I’ll never forget how she forgave the ones who’d teased her. Now that’s what a real leading lady acts like. Good sportsmanship can be learned anywhere.

Back to the Olympics. Do you think Jordyn regrets trying so hard?

But it looks so dang hard, Bev!

#2. The Variety is astounding, what if your child pick the wrong sport? Every year, the Olympic committee adds (and sometimes removes) sports.

I’ve had a heck of a time finding the curling competition. Anyone?

The 2012 Summer Olympics has 32 categories. From Archery to Wrestling. So if Jr. wants to try one and changes his mind…oh why bother? We all know how hard it is to get kids to stick with something.

Or.

Set up a system. For every season, let him try a new sport, until the end of the match season. Teach commitment… and then move on to something else, no harm no foul.

I grew up showing horses. Fell in love with them, dreamed, slept, ate, dressed and played horsey games. What a nerd cute kid I was. Of course I dreamed of competing in the Olympics. Even rode with the Brits for a season, and earned a couple of levels in the British Horse Society. Go me.

I also tried my hand, er…fist at volleyball. Meh. Not my game. I was even invited to try out for the college basketball team when I got lost in the gym one day. Turns out being 5’8″ will get you a personal invitation, directionally challenged or not.

But always back to the horses. Would I have loved to compete at the Olympic level? For sure.

(You do realize that male and female equestrians compete at the same level, and average the oldest of all the athletes. There may still be time for me, yet! Hey, honey!? Do we have a spare half a million lying $ around?)

Do I wish this was me? Oh, yeah. Do I regret my Olympic dreams? Heck NO!

But if you’re still not convinced, here’s the top reason you should turn off the games.

Drum roll, please because the top reason to give back that game controller and shut off the Olympics?

#1. Your children will get a global sense of the world, hence, they may want to travel, and you will miss them. Have you seen the hugs and high fives players exchange around the floor, stadium, court, track…whatever? And they are  from different countries?! These athletes are ambassadors, and their good sportsmanship (in most cases) demonstrate what it’s like to put aside our differences and experience humanity–face to face, ground level.

 

And I’ll bet you think the world can use a lot more of that. 

OK, you convinced me. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest post:Kristen Lamb’s WANA Commons-Excellent IDEA!

Where can you find selfless giving, encouragement, and lifting each other up in one place?

Bev: This week I’m doing something I’ve never done, so I hope I do this correctly. I’m a huge fan of Kristen Lamb who has the GIFT of encouragement, a wicked sense of humor, tons of marketing ideas (see her books below,) and a terrific idea for bloggers who are always trolling for photographs.

Here’s Kristen to tell you about a community she’s hosting for photo sharing where you’ll never have to worry about copyright issues again. This is “WANA Commons-Beautiful Blog Images without the Worry,” posted August 1, 2012

Subscribe to her blog, join the community, you will not regret it!

Kristen Lamb

WANA Commons–Beautiful Blog Images without the Worry

The Money Shot by Lisa Hall-Wilson

First of all, I want you guys to know that I MISSED YOU! July was a whirlwind month for sure and reminded me of the days when I used to be on the road for sales. Wandering out of bed in the night to go to the bathroom, yet suddenly realizing you’re in a coat closet. Fun stuff!

We will talk about LA another day, because I have a GIFT for you guys. I KNOW! Another one? Hey, y’all are like my kids, and I’m a terrible mother because I dig spoiling every last one of you. Here, have some cake.

Thank you lovely August McLaughlin for the image.

Most of you guys know I am all about writers blogging. Blogging plays to our strengths. Blogs are far less volatile than other types of social media. Twitter might be gone in a couple years, and Facebook could implode, but blogs will likely remain. This makes them one of our most POWERFUL tools for branding. Blogs afford us an opportunity to share our art, to permit people to fall in love with our writing voice. Blogs give us a chance to create those “thousand fans” even before we are finished with our first book.

***Kevin Kelly estimated that all an artist needed to make a really good living was to cultivate a thousand true fans.***

Blogs with pictures look better, rank higher with search engines and improve our overall SEO. Of course the problem with using pictures these days is, unless we take the photograph ourselves, we can be in danger of violating copyright. Many of you have already heard what happened to poor Roni Loren and how she was sued for using a picture on her blog.

We live in a very different world and the very nature of copyright is changing. I am not here to debate this or discuss it. I will say that you guys are free to use anything you find on this blog. If you have a sick day and can’t blog, reblog one of my blogs. As long as you aren’t claiming you wrote my content,share, share, share like the wind!

I believe in giving and giving generously. I know that YouTube (which is free) has been largely responsible for most of my music purchases. I hear a song. I dig it. I download it. And yes there are pirates and people who refuse to pay for anything, but we call those people thieves. We can never lose a sale with those people because thieves weren’t going to pay money for our stuff anyway. But again, let’s remain focused.

WANA is an acronym for We Are Not Alone. I live my life by this motto. I believe fundamentally in service above self. Does it get me hurt sometimes? YES! Sometimes I get hurt, brutally hurt. But you know what? The pain I endure for a jerk who can’t recognize a blessing is worth it a million-fold for the lives I am fortunate enough to change.

So here is the thing. Through adversity we find strength. Whenever I see a problem, I know the WANAs can come together and turn a tragedy into a triumph. When I heard Roni’s story, I was so hurt for her. Roni is absolutely one of the kindest, sweetest people I know and there isn’t a malicious bone in her body. I wanted something good to come from her pain.

I also know that we author-bloggers are already short on time and hunting around to check copyright or go through the legal motions of gaining a letter of permission is just too much work. Many of us have day jobs and families and then writing books and blogs and social media and on and on and on and we are already to the point of breaking.

So I came up with a solution. I know you guys are more than writers. You are creative people and creative people often can’t help being creative. How could we solve the photo/copyright dilemma AND have yet another opportunity to promote each other and serve each other. The answer? WANA Commons.

Photo courtesy of RAS Jacobson

WANA Commons already has 117 members as of this blog, and we have collectively uploaded over 1,400 images. If you check out this group, you will see what I mean about creative people having more than one outlet. So many of the pictures are just breathtaking, and the best part is they are a gift. The WANAs have come together to share their images and you guys are free to use any of the images in WANA Commons. All we ask is you give attribution.

That’s it!

Beautiful image from Shannon Esposito. TALENT!

I hope more of you will join and contribute your images. I have several photographer friends who will be uploading images. We live in a world where people throw away the phone book and ignore advertising. Consumers go to who they know. Bloggers, particularly popular bloggers are the new taste-makers. In a world with the power of the four arrows (fast-forwarding through commercials) product placement is going to be one of the best ways to get business.

Authors all need head shots and we need images for promotion stuff and book covers, and we are going to go to photographers we know so I encourage the photographers out there to contribute. Not your best images. We know you need to make a living, and we want to help get your work out there. WANAs aren’t just writers. WANAs believe that we can work together to solve the toughest issues of life. Discoverability is a nightmare for ALL of us, so let’s work together. Transmedia helps ALL of us.

Seeing free images didn’t stop me from paying almost a thousand dollars for author shots. In fact, free images closed the sale for me. I knew this photographer’s work and I liked it and that’s why I sought her out.

Anyway, I hope you guys will come and join WANA Commons. No we aren’t Ansel Adams, but there are some really stunning photographs on there. To those who have contributed, you are beautiful wonderful awesome souls and you remind me each and every day why I LOVE my job. Thank you for sharing.

Just go to Flikr and sign up for an account if you don’t already have one. Also, please make sure to tag your images with what the image IS. This will help us sort through the images faster. Make sure to put YOUR NAME and WANA Commons on all of the images you tag. This will help us AND will help your SEO. Thank you ahead of time for being so awesome.

Also check out Shannon EspositoAugust McLaughlin, Renee Jacobson and Lisa Hall-Wilson and maybe thank them for the beautiful images in today’s post. These ladies are WANA personified!

What are your thoughts? What other forms of art do you like to do? What are your favorite things to take pictures of? What kind of pictures do you need? Maybe we can all be on the lookout, our iPhones at the ready to help a WANA peep in need.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck! Also, I will announce July’s winner probably on Friday. I need time to tally everything and I am not even fully unpacked yet.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

Thanks, Kristen!