Entries by kristines.25@charter.net

Being a Beta Reader

editorIt’s funny the things that come into your life that you never expect.    I’ve been an editor before,  at newspapers,  for yearbooks,  and certainly of my own work.   I always thought I was pretty good at editing,  and I even occasionally thought of it as something I could do to make a living,  but I never really seriously pursued it.  While I liked helping make good writing better,  there was also the tedious work of trying to make bad writing better,  and that didn’t really appeal.  Throw in the people who wouldn’t listen to good advice,  and it seemed easier to pursue creating my own stuff than it was to help others refine their work.

Sometimes,  though,  the unexpected opportunity comes along and helps you see things in a new light.   In this case,  I made a friend who is also a writer,  and a good one,  who was working on his second novel.   He self-publishes,  and he was looking for beta readers,  which is really self-publishing speak for editors,  who would read his work and make suggestions for how it could be refined.   Essentially,  a beta reader is,  as the name implies,  a second reader,  someone who is removed from the work who can look at it with an impartial eye.   Since I knew I was a reasonably good editor,  and since I’d enjoyed this author’s first book very much,  I offered to be a beta reader for the second book.   I wasn’t sure if I could help,  or even if I knew how to go about being a beta reader,  but it seemed like something I could do,  and if I could be of help I wanted to do so.

Beta reading is a different experience.   you have wear lots of different hats while you read.   One hat is that of a simple reader,  someone who’s just reading the story for enjoyment and pleasure.   Another hat sits on the head of an editor,  someone who’s looking for spelling errors,  continuity problems,  poor word choices and other issues of that sort.   The final hat is that of a writer,  someone who understands structure and pacing and storytelling.    Once you’ve read the work while wearing each hat,  you have to put on your psychiatrist cap and synthesize what you’ve found into feedback that helps the author,  and conveys your suggestions firmly,  but not crushingly,  positively,  but not over optimistically.   Being a beta reader is a challenge,  but it’s one I found quite exhilarating.

I’m pleased to say the finished book is now out  and it’s awesome.    I’m very pleased to have played a small part in helping the final version become what it did.   This is definitely a book everyone should read,  particularly if you like sci-fi or alternate world stories,  and I’m not just saying that because I have some small connection with the book.   It’s a book that really stands on its own as a unique work with a unique viewpoint,  while still being an immensely entertaining and thought-provoking story.     I highly recommend reading Evertime and This Album full of Angles,  and anything else Will Reichard writes up to and including his shopping list.

As for me,  I’m thinking I might have discovered something I’d like to pursue further.  While I will never stop writing my own works,  helping other writer’s works come to fruition is strangely satisfying.    I’m definitely open to more experiences of this type.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude rockI’m not a new agey sort of person.  I don’t much believe in crystals or affirmations and I certainly don’t believe there’s any “Secret”.    I do believe there are benefits to trying to see the positive side life,  I can attest to that personally.     Seeing the positive has made differences in my life I can’t really put into words,  but I sometimes need to be reminded of that.   I suppose everyone needs a reminder on occasion,  so I thought I’d share the reminders I’ve had these part few days with you,  in hopes it might spark a few reminders of your own.

One reminder smacked me upside the head while I was driving to get groceries after work on Wednesday night.  It had,  as usual,  been a 10 hour day at the office.  It was cold and I was tired and I had an article draft waiting to be worked on at home.   The last thing I wanted to do was go to the grocery.   So,  there I am driving along,  grumbling a bit to myself about having to get the stupid groceries and wishing the damn car heater would hurry up and heat up the car,  when it hit me,  this was exactly the sort of thing I would have given everything I had to experience during my dark year.    Money was short to non-existent that year.    I had a roof over my head by the grace of a very tolerant landlord who, for reasons never adequately explained,  let me stay in my apartment long after he should had thrown me out.   That was,  however,  about all I had.   I had no job,  nothing of any real value to sell,  and often,  no food.   There would be days at a time when I’d eat nothing.   I quite literally starved myself down about four clothing sizes.   In those days,  the thought of driving in a car which I owned to a grocery store where I could buy any type and any amount of food I wanted,  and then packing it all in the same car and driving to a home which I owned seemed as impossible as sprouting wings and flying to the moon.  Yet here I was,  some years later,  doing just that.

The second reminder visited me when I was doing my weekly pill allotment task.   I take quite a few different medications for various health problems,  and the expense of that and the tedium of doling them out once a week tends to get on my nerves.   This particular day, however,   I started thinking about the fact that I even here to stand at the counter and dole out the pills.   The odds were against me from birth.   I was born with seven holes between the upper chambers of my heart.   In 1969,  the year of my birth,  most kids with those types of birth defects didn’t survive.  It took four years for me to get big enough and weigh enough for the surgeons to be comfortable doing surgery,  which was fairly experimental at the time.   I survived that,  and thrived,  and my body hung with me through years when I neglected it by eating enormous amounts of junk food, carrying too much weight,  putting it under far too much stress and getting far too little sleep.    Even when my body did strike back,   when I had episodes of afib and double pneumonia and was hospitalized several times,  I still came through with relatively few consequences.  My irregularly beating heart didn’t throw a clot and cause a stroke.   Other than one episode of v-tach,  I never had a heart attack.   I was able to get smarter and get healthier and lose weight and find meds to control the issues that needed controlling.  Today I’m probably in better health than I’ve been in years but, had circumstances gone differently,  I might not have had the chance to improve my health at all.

Sometimes the sheer magnitude of what could have happened and didn’t,  and what shouldn’t have happened and did,  floors me.   While I don’t believe we should ever rest on our laurels and stop striving to achieve new things,  I also think sometimes we get so focused on where we want to be and aren’t,  that we forget where we are and what we have.   Anyone who’d met me during my dark year,  or in the years before that wouldn’t have given you good odds that I’d live to be 30,  much less 45.   I’m sure doctors told my parents when I was born that the odds weren’t good,  and yet here I am.   Striving toward the next goal is good and necessary and helps us live up to our potentials,  but along with the striving should also come being grateful.   Everyone has pain and sadness and adversity in their life,  but there are also bits of good and wonderful as well.   This is just a reminder that,  in the attempt to be the best we can be,   we should also be thankful for the best we are now.

#JeSuisCharlie: The Consequences of Truth

dictionary-series-philosophy-truthI wasn’t planning to write this post.  Like a lot of other people today,  among them the ever thoughtful and thought provoking writer Will Reichard, I’ve been thinking about truth and the consequences of speaking it.  Will talks,  and rightly so,  about the fact that extremists understand the power of the truth,  and try to shut down that power by shutting up those who speak it.    His solution is that we all be brave and keep shouting our truths regardless of the threats that are aimed at getting us to stop.   I like his idea.  Speaking the truth,  telling the truth,  especially when people would rather you didn’t is more than just important,  it’s vital.   There may be consequences for telling the truth,  but the consequences for not telling can be worse.  I know,  I live with some of those consequences every day.

I don’t talk much about my biggest episode of truth telling.  That was one of the strictures placed on me when I first started telling this particular truth,  that is wasn’t nice,  that people would feel uncomfortable,  that people would think badly of me if I told.   That I’d get people in trouble which, I suppose, I did,  as one man ended up spending time in jail as a result of this truth and my telling of it.  That’s one of the consequences of truth telling,  the truth you speak can have a huge impact on those around you, and sometimes that impact is negative.   I don’t regret what happened,   the damage inflicted on me by this particular man is something I deal with to this day,   and him going to jail was just.    He knew the truth would hurt, especially him,  and  he spent a lot of time making sure I wouldn’t tell it.   In a weird way,  the fact that I was finally able to tell is a kind of victory.  In the end I valued myself and the truth more than I valued being accepted or nice or quiet.

Still,  there were a lot of years when I didn’t speak this truth,  and that’s the consequence that haunts me the most.   There  were other young girls harmed by this man as well,  four that I know of,  more that I’ll probably never know.    I don’t know if I was the first,  judging by the way he arranged things and controlled me,  I’d guess not,  but neither was I the last.   There were four more young women,  probably, like me,  just learning how to be women and coming into their sexuality,  who experienced some version of what I experienced.   It took several years after I finally put a stop to what was happening to me before I was able to speak the truth of what I knew.  In that time other young women were harmed.    I didn’t speak the truth,  and now other people have a truth of their own to speak that they might not have had had I spoken my truth sooner.  That’s a thought that has caused more than one sleepless night.

Truth is powerful.   Not telling it allows bad things to happen,  but so,  sometimes,  does telling the truths you know.   The journalists in France were simply telling their truths and they kept telling them after threats were made and violence was used in an attempt to make them stop.   Some people don’t want to hear the truth,  it makes them uncomfortable,  it threatens them,  it makes them look bad,  and so they’ll do what they can to stop it being spoken.  Sometimes they send people with guns and the silence of death.   Other times it’s simply a gentle pressure toward silence applied by people who are supposed to love you and have your best interests at heart.

There will always be people telling us to shut up,  in gentle and not so gentle ways.  The trick is not to listen.   It’s not about speaking the truth because if we don’t the terrorists win,  or speaking the truth because by doing that we honor ourselves or even about speaking the truth because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s about speaking the truth because the consequences of not speaking it can be so much worse.

As strange as it sounds to say that when 12 people died today as a result of the truths they spoke,  I’m inclined to believe they’d agree with me.

#JeSuisCharlie

And that’s the truth.

Making the Leap

11016317_m-leapIt seems that everything I write here lately  (all three posts of it so far)  is mostly about some dilemma I’m having.  The last post was about what to reveal and what to keep private.   This post is about knowing when you’re ready to do something more or different than what you’re doing now.   It’s the decision I’m struggling with at the moment,  and I figured the questions I’m asking myself might be useful to others who are in the same boat.

Here, in a nutshell,  is the dilemma I’m having.

I have a full time job.  It’s a decent job.   I get to do some fun things,  I have a great deal of freedom in what I do and how I get it done.   There are things I would change of course,  but it’s not the worst job in the world.    A lot of what I’m doing now,  as far as writing and speaking,  have come about as a result of this job,  so I can’t say it’s exactly holding me back.     And yet,  I can’t say it’s really pushing me forward at this point either.    I’m to the point where there are opportunities appearing that could lead to me having my own business and being my own boss.   Realistically,  it’s entirely possible.

Recently,  I wrote a post about believing in your dreams even when everyone is telling you no for another blog I write.    The gist of the post was that there will always be people who will tell you not to take a chance,  who will always advocate for playing it safe.    My advice was to follow your dream anyway,  and to try despite what others might be saying to caution you against taking that chance.    I meant what I wrote,  and I still believe it.  My problem is that I’m not sure what to do when the person who is cautioning me against making the leap is myself.

It’s not that I don’t believe in my skills,  I know I have ability and talent.  I know I can learn new things.  I believe I could sell myself  using the skills I’ve developed selling on behalf of others.   I really think I have resources and talents that are as yet untapped,  and I’d like to explore them.   The thought of being able to write and help people learn and to guide and mold my career subject to my own whims and not the whims of others is very enticing.   I also, having many friends and acquaintances who run their own businesses,  know that being your own boss isn’t all skittles and beer.  Running your own business can be stressful and sleepless, and require long hours of work.  I’m prepared for that.

What I’m not prepared for is failure.   I’ve been down and out broke and starving and I don’t want to be there again.   I can build up my savings,  but that’s the only safety net I have.    I can’t look to my family for money,  I don’t have a husband to contribute a second income while I get myself on my feet.   If I do this,  I’m on my own.    If it all goes pear shaped,  and I end up living in a van down by the river,  I’ll have no one to blame but myself.     Just like that,  my lizard brain starts hissing at me that it’s too big a risk,  that I’d be on a tightrope, and it’s better to stay safe and have a steady income than to try something that could implode spectacularly.   Just like that I’m awake at four in the morning worrying over the collapse of something I haven’t even started yet.

Here’s the part where I throw myself on the mercy of those of you who have started your own businesses –  what did you do when ol’ lizard brain started messing with you?   What made you believe you could succeed?  Did you have a safety net in case you failed?

Odds are,  at some point,  I’m going to make the leap.   I’d just really love to be sure that the cliff won’t crumble when I reach the other side.

The Big Reveal (Or Not)

curtain revealOne of the things I’ve been struggling with a bit lately is how much to reveal about myself.   I think what’s gotten me thinking about this,  other than the fact that I’ve started this blog,  is the impending end of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.  I know it sounds like an odd thing to inspire a discussion of what you discuss and what you keep private but,  for me,  Craig Ferguson is a model of what to do in this area.   For those who don’t know,  Mr. Ferguson has hosted the Late Late Show on CBS for the past 10 years.    He is funny and smart and very entertaining and far and away my favorite late night talk show host.     He has little patience for bullshit or anything or anyone that seems fake,  and he’s unflinchingly honest about his past, his mistakes, and what he’s learned.   Craig seems at home in his skin.   He makes no apologies for who he is and what he does,  but acknowledges that he’s made mistakes in the past and admits he’s apologized where it was appropriate.    He’ll tell you almost anything,  with the exception of his family,  which he mentions rarely,  nothing much seems off limits.   The result is an interesting show hosted by an interesting man,  who is constantly surprising and intimately human.

Now,  mind you,  I don’t expect to be hosting a talk show anytime soon,  nor do I expect to be famous,  but I am aware that anyone who does the sort of stuff I do, writing, speaking,  and so on,  will get noticed by at least some people if they’re any good at what they do.   I’ve already experienced some attention,  and I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t hoping there would be more.   Much as I love writing,  I’m not typing these words simply for the joy of doing it.   I want others to read what I write,  to absorb the ideas within and hopefully to start a discussion and share their opinions.  As I said in my first post,  I want to be a good host,  which means I want to be honest and I want to be liked.   And that’s what brings me back to my original question – how much do I reveal?

Now before you start forming crazy ideas about what I might be hiding,  I was never a hit woman for the mob.   I don’t dress in latex and spike heeled boots and run a sex dungeon in my basement.  I’ve never shoplifted so much as a stick of gum.  Most of the things that give me pause when I think about writing about them or talking about them are more in the nature of personal stuff,  things that if they were discussed might offend people or make them uncomfortable.   Things that could have an impact on whether or not someone would decide to hire me to write an article or to advise them on their social media campaign.

Part of me says,  who cares,  I am who I am,  and nothing I have to reveal or discuss really reflects badly on me.   I realize I’ve made mistakes in my life, but who hasn’t?  I also realize that some things I’m a bit reluctant to discuss,  like the fact that I deal with depression quite regularly,  aren’t things I should be ashamed of or fearful of admitting.    It also should be said that anyone who would be hesitant to hire me because of anything I’ve shared in this blog probably isn’t someone I want to work for anyway.  And yet….

I’ve always said I’d much prefer genuine hatred to fake chumminess any day,  and I’ve always meant it.   I guess maybe,  in the end,  that’s the principle I should use as my guide.   Some things will be off limits,  either because they involve others,  or because I’m not ready or able to discuss them.   Everything else is fair game.   I think,  in the end,  this will give a much truer image of who I am,  both professionally and personally.   People who own their own businesses,  really anyone who is on social media or blogging these days,  don’t really have the luxury of private and personal anymore.  For better or worse,  we’re all out there for everyone to see.

I intend to make sure what you see of me is real and true.

The rest will just have to take care of itself.

What to Expect

Welcome-on-BeachHaving a website in which the URL is your name,  and having built that site yourself feels a bit self aggrandizing.   Truthfully,  I bought the URL on a whim,  thinking it kind of funny, and not wanting anyone else to have the ability to build a website with my name,  and then promptly forgot I’d purchased it.   A while later,  I realized I kind of did want a place where I could consolidate my work,  and talk about what I might be doing in the future.   I also wanted a place where I could discuss how I could help other people who might need it.  Finally,  I just thought it would be fun to have a place where I could be me,  and what better place for that than a website that bore my name?   Still feels weird,  but I’m adjusting to the idea.  This will,  I think,  be my main cyber home,  and that’s kind of a cool thought.

So,  I guess the first order of business is to welcome you to my home.   I like to think I’m a pretty good host,  and I’ll try to keep the place relatively tidy.   I also hope it will be an interesting place to come.   I have a lot to say and, up until now,  not many places where I could say what I like,  so I’m guessing there may be the written version of verbal spew here for a while.  I apologize for that in advance,  but I’m also confident that the majority of what I spew will be interesting and hopefully worth reading.   I’ve been doing this thinking about stuff for a while,  and while I haven’t always written what I’ve thought,  I have written a lot.   I fairly sure people wouldn’t be paying me to write if I wasn’t good at it.  One time might be charity,  but consistent paychecks leads me to believe I have some talent in this area.    (I should also tell you that self deprecation is one of my things.  I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.)

Anyway,  what I mostly wanted to do in this first post is to let you know what you can expect in subsequent posts.   I’m a writer by inclination,  a marketer by trade,  so I will be talking about marketing and writing here.   I also am becoming quite fascinated by social media and what it can do and how it can be used,  so I’m sure that subject will be examined on occasion.    Sometimes I’ll just want to talk about something that happened in the news or in my life or some experience that I’ve had,  and those posts will show up here as well.   I’ll try to keep a balance between informative and life vignettes.   I will do my best to make sure it’s all interesting.

What I expect from those who come here,  if I’m allowed to expect anything  at all,  is that you talk back to me.  Tell me that I’m right,  or wrong.  Tell me what you liked or didn’t like.  It goes without saying that I also expect courteous behavior that encourages discussion and is accepting of all points of view.  I’m all for civilized debate.  Anything that degenerates into a slanging match will be dispensed with immediately.   I definitely like opinions.  I’m not fond of prejudice or closed minds.    Mostly,  I’m hoping that this becomes a place where good discussions happen.   I’m excited about what this could become.