RSS Feed

Tag Archives: English

What I Learned This Week – 10/25/15

I needed a binder to hold some paperwork the other day for my book business that my husband doesn’t officially recognize as a business. I rummaged through my recently-organized stockpile of previously-used office supplies.

You will never guess what I found.

My college binder with bitchin' graffiti

My college binder with bitchin’ graffiti

I found this binder from college. Appears as though I used it for Independent Study for English. But also lots and lots of doodling.

The doodling doesn’t surprise me. No, I remember that is how I primarily occupied my time during boring lectures and long periods of time stuck in the college library waiting for a ride as a commuter with no car.

What surprised me is the subjects of my doodles! These are all things I am still interested in today, almost 20 years later, most of which I have written about on this very blog. I guess my tastes are pretty locked in.

My personal cartoon character Mr. Ugly-Man is prominently featured–he even gets his own amusement park, complete with imitation Disney characters! (If you have ever picked up a print copy of one of my books, you will notice that he is on the back cover.)

There is also an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile on there, next to a booth selling 10 cent wieners. Because we all know that wiener sounds more perverse than “hot dog.” This also reflects my obsession to one day drive the Wienermobile. Hasn’t happened yet, but I don’t think I’m done trying. And I might not be above a little grand theft wiener. (Hehehehe. That is so dirty to say!)

I have a thing for old Coca-Cola merchandise and advertisements, even back when I drank Pepsi and Mountain Dew all the time. That is why the sunshine is wearing sunglasses and holding a Coke. It is very similar to a postcard that I own that I bought in a tourist shop in Knoxville and the store bagged my purchase in a World’s Fair bag, even though I was there more than a decade after the Knoxville World’s Fair when they built the Sunsphere, but it always makes me think of the episode of the Simpsons where Bart goes to the “Wigsphere.”

Wigsphere. I mean Sunsphere, far right. I mean left.

Wigsphere. I mean Sunsphere, far right. I mean left.

And then we come to a picture of Jeff Gordon. There is a possibility this could be from 1997, the year he won his second Winston Cup Championship. It is so hard to believe he is retiring this year. It seems like just a few months ago that I saw him in person in his hometown of Pittsboro, Indiana.

Oh wait, it was!

At least I am staying true to who I am. I guess if that is the best I can do in life, I will take it!

Why are there no Narwhal icons?

Why are there no Narwhal icons?

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!

Acknowledgements

Next one is 2017

Next GLBB is 2017

Attending the Great Lakes Book Bash a few weeks ago as an author signing at the event, it hit me how lucky I am to finally be doing what I should have been doing all along. Even if I never get past publishing three books (which I sure hope-to-shout I do, as more stories are in my head, pushing every day to get out), being able to produce something I am proud of and being able to semi-easily get it out in front of people is awesome! (Still working on how to get my books in front of the RIGHT people, but, all in good time, I guess…)

I feel like there are people along the way who were instrumental at me getting to this point, and they probably are not even aware of it. I feel like now might be the time to give them shout-outs. It wouldn’t be possible to do them justice in the back of a paperback on the flat page–I require links and multi-media.

I have already blogged about past teachers, such as dear Mrs. Raines who gave me my all-time favorite book way back in 2nd grade and dear Mr. Clark who put up with my crazy, even making me co-editor of the school newspaper when I never would have selected myself for such a job.

I feel like I should also mention my asbestos friend. We were writing buddies in 8th grade, and we still are now. (And I’m not sure my subject matter has changed all that much 😉 ) Extra kudos to her for being my beta reader. And apparently Linus to my Charlie Brown.

My best friend was fundamental to my development as well, although we enjoyed more art and drawing together than words. I don’t draw much anymore. But I love to do off-beat craft projects, such as Werecart creation and mystical giraffe repair. The skills I honed around her have now been funneled into logo, advertisement, and marketing materials.

Mixed media table display for The Riley Sisters series.

Mixed media table display for The Riley Sisters series.

In college one day I was talking with the head of the English department. He realized I had taken a butt-ton of classes in his area. He asked me why I didn’t minor in English. I said I wasn’t really interested in any of the higher level classes, which I would need for it to be an official minor on my transcript and all that. He suggested I just take an independent study with him. A class where all I do is write whatever I want to? Awesome! Too bad the story I worked on that semester sucked. But it was nice for someone to have yet again directed me closer to something I was already interested in. It seemed like most of school was crap I would never use again. (Algebra, I am talking about YOU!)

I was never a big reader (don’t be so shocked). I was always in love with television and the stories it told and the visual and aural (get your mind out of the gutter) experiences it could offer. If I grew up in today’s bounty of technology, I would probably be making programs on YouTube now rather than books. After all, Radio and TV production is what my bachelor’s degree is in.

Somehow "bachelor's degree" made me think of Bachelor Chow from Futurama.

Somehow “bachelor’s degree” made me think of Bachelor Chow from Futurama.

Speaking of which, I guess I should thank Steve in the Communications department of my alma mater for giving me A’s, and the delusion that I could create my own Riley Sisters series book teaser trailer. Blame him. It was great fun to make though! Click on the link below.

I did have plans to become a writer. When I got my first big grown-up job, I even bought myself a Word Processor. (It was 1999. I didn’t know any better.) I sat in front of it, and realized writing was hard. So, I made a conscious decision to give up that dream… until years later when I would learn that I must write because I can’t not write.

I should thank the now-defunct Borders, for providing me with invaluable book industry knowledge that I learned through osmosis from all those in cubicles near me (or those who were in cubes further away and were just loud). I got to experience first hand the evolving business of books, and the dire consequences of falling behind. I began my current venture with more awareness about the industry than many do.

And thank you to my green-haired friend and my crazy friend, my co-workers along the way, who kept reminding me daily how much I loved to write. Whether it was a fresh-off-the-presses poem I wrote, one they composed, or just reciting song lyrics to one another, they were continuous reminders of how much the written word touches our lives every day. (If I could say that about Borders, they might still be in business.) Creativity, in any form, is essential to our lives on this planet.

I didn’t really read, and find out what I liked to read, until I got my own apartment in June of 1999… and had no television for a month. I read a lot of books in that time. And I fell in love with Gaia from the Fearless series by Francine Pascal. For more on them, click here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/03/14/fearless/ While all the books are not cohesive (and I don’t even think they are all penned by Ms. Pascal), they drew me in and kept me hooked. I have been primarily a YA fan ever since.

But I never imagined I could write one until I read a little book called Twilight that changed my life in a lot of ways. For more about my Love of Twilight, start with this post: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/11/08/love-of-twilight-part-1-the-books/ Some people skewered it for not being a tome of high-brow literature. But that is not what it was ever intended to be. And that is exactly what I found accessible about it. It seemed like something my asbestos friend and I could have written. This opened my options back up to writing again, but I still wasn’t actually doing it more than in my dream journal. For more on the dream journaling, click here: https://imnotstalkingyou.com/2012/11/01/dreams-part-one-dream-journal/

I would never have a blog if it wasn’t for my former co-worker Dane. One day he mentioned that he had one, and I was fascinated. Anybody could get one of those? And FOR FREE? I pondered it for several weeks before I took the leap. What would I write about? Would I run out of things? The answer to the second question is apparently “no”, as it is now 4 1/2 years later. And the blog, well, that kept me writing until a big idea struck me, and then I had a book. And another. And another. And it is all Dane’s fault, because he had a blog and I wanted to copy him.* It is one of my fondest memories of him. That, and the time I was in a meeting sitting next to him and I felt my in utero son kick for the first time. That was just a coincidence, I think.

And thank you to my sister-in-law who, when I told her that I thought I might be writing a book after we had gone to a showing of the movie Safe Haven, didn’t laugh at me. She was one of the first people I told. That was The Wind Could Blow a Bug.

The Wind Could Blow a Bug by Jennifer Friess

The Wind Could Blow a Bug by Jennifer Friess

Thank you to my dog Dave for letting me pet her furry long orange coat when the anxiety gets to be too much. She just senses when I need her. Except if she is sleeping really soundly–she is coming up on 13 years old, after all. She is never allowed to die. She knows this. I tell her every day.

Rub mah bellah!

Rub mah bellah!

Of course I have to thank my son and husband for putting up with my fits when the computer breaks or I cannot find something and my whole world seems to be falling apart. And a million other things that can’t all be listed here. I also thank my son M for not destroying a whole box inventory of my books… yet. (I feel like that day is coming.)

RIP PARKER-final

And to anyone else I may have forgotten– My head is stuffed full with fictional towns and characters. Sometimes that makes it hard to process life properly.

*Note: This does not entitle Dane to any royalties from my burgeoning writing career.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a BugAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!
Be Careful What You Wish For – COMING JANUARY 2016!

Mr. Clark

Posted on

In high school, I had a couple teachers who were my favorites. That did not necessarily mean that I learned the most from them, but that I liked their personalities and got along with them the best.

Mr. Clark, just as I remember him.

Mr. Clark, just as I remember him.

One of these was Mr. Clark. Mr. Clark, um, well…he was fuzzy, kinda like a panda bear. He was very dark-complected. I never found out why. I wonder if he was Greek? He had dark hair and mustache. Mr. Clark taught English. He had a kindly smile, which he often gave me after he had read some of my wacky writing. Imagine stuff similar to what I write on this very blog, except unpolished, undeveloped, and written by a suicidal, horny teenager.

Oy.

I think the first time I had Mr. Clark for a class was my junior year. It was this horrible experimental class called “Issues”. It was a 2 hour class, a combination of History and English. I would say the class overall was a failure, because I still don’t know what those two subjects were supposed to have in common. I was a student who really loved English and found History super boring. I did learn entirely too much about concentration camps in Germany during World War II in that class.

ISSUES GROUP 12/92

I didn’t want to take Issues and was sure I would hate it. Me and everyone else has come to find the two-hour class very boring. The only thing that keeps me sane is my group. A, E, Y, and the extremely sexy chauvinist H.B. (And of course me.) If one person has candy, we share it with the rest of the group. When T.F. talks, me and E repeat every time she says “like” (which is, like, a 1,000 times in one conversation). We are the only group in class that doesn’t have an assigned table. The wrestlers put all the tables back after practice, but they never put them in the same place twice. When we sit in the back of the room we can’t hear anything, so we just make up our own conversation. When we sit in the front of the room, we watch the fish in the aquarium and fall asleep.

I can remember one day sitting in Issues class. I think we may have been watching a video. I was sitting on one of the tables, wearing a dog tag. Mr. Clark sat down next to me on the table and asked me about it. I told him that it had been my dad’s, and that he drove an ambulance in Germany in WWII. I explained how he was much older than my mom when they got married, how he died, etc. Mr. Clark seemed impressed by it all. It was much more interesting to tell my family history to someone than anything we were supposed to learn that day in class. And how often does a teacher come up and take the time to ask you about your jewelry? That, like, never happens. That is probably why I remember it to this day.

Sometime that year, some seniors started up a school newspaper. It wasn’t your usual school newspaper. Sure, it had stories about school events. But, they also welcomed creative writing such as stories and poems as well. Me, whose only after-school activity consisted of French Club meetings once a month, got suckered into the newspaper. Which is really weird, because I wasn’t one to go off and join activities, especially ones that my friends were not involved in. I wrote a few stories. I went to meetings. I started going to the assembly of the paper which happened on a non-monthly basis at the local town newspaper office. Mr. Clark was the adviser.

I had no car and no friends to provide a ride. It would have been probably a half hour walk to get to the town newspaper office by foot. It also would have been mighty cold in the winter. So Mr. Clark would let me hitch a ride with him in his minivan. It smelled like tobacco in there because he smoked a pipe. It was messy, with bits of his pipe tobacco spilled on the floor. But it was a ride. And he was a nice guy. And at some crazy point I guess you could say he sort of became my unofficial writing mentor.

When it was time for the seniors to graduate, they picked new people from the existing staff to be editors for the next year. They picked me, and a soon-to-be junior. I am convinced they only picked me because I was the most involved soon-to-be senior. I am not your typical leader type. I am uber-organized though. So for the whole next year, I would have to hear my name on the morning announcements, nagging people to turn in their stories for the newspaper’s arbitrary deadlines.

When I needed to pick out classes for my senior year, I was kind of lost as to what classes to take. Mr. Clark was teaching a new class called Writer’s Workshop, where some of the class was set aside to work on WHATEVER WRITING YOU WANTED! That was unheard of at my high school at the time. Mr. Clark told me if I took that class, he would allow me to work on newspaper stuff during class time. He also convinced me to take Advanced Placement English, although I had no intention of taking the AP exam.

Now, as much as I had grown to love Mr. Clark, and I believe I may have had him wrapped around my little finger to some extent, he wasn’t the most energetic teacher. In the more standard classes I had with him, his droning voice would sometimes lull me to sleep. This happened often in AP English. I had Mythology first thing in the morning my junior year. I had not even woken up yet!

Writer’s Workshop was a whole nother story. It was right after lunch. It somehow ended up as a class full of freshmen and seniors. That class taught me that if you have a whole class of usually hardworking students lumped together, they will ALL become class clowns!

MR CLARK-blue blow pops

Both my best friends were in that class. I would take turns hanging out with them. My best friend and I would eat Raspberry Blow-Pops until our tongues and teeth turned blue. My asbestos friend and I would flirt with the cute guys. Amazingly, I did get some minor amount of work done in that class. I worked on the newspaper stuff, wrote poems, and finished a short story that contains such achingly personal passages that I have trouble reading it to this day, but I still hope to publish it.  Mr. Clark’s classroom was one of the first in the school to not only have its own computer (At that time, computer were all corralled into “computer labs”, for the safety of all.) AND PRINTER.  So, if I typed up something personal and wanted to print it, that was the place.

What I enjoy most about going back and reading from that time are not the poems (and definitely not the newspaper), but the freewrites we did for the first 10-15 minutes of every class. And, well, that is sort of the impetuous for this entire blog. Other blogs are only about one topic: food or homeschooling or pop culture, etc. My blog is about all the things I need to flush out of my head. Where I used to write them in a way to amuse myself or Mr. Clark, now I write them to amuse you, dear reader (and myself).

Every now and then in my life, I come across a nice furry guy with a mustache that I can joke with. They often have a similar look of sweet exasperation when I bust out my weird personality. And they always make me think of Mr. Clark.

I miss him a lot. And I never, ever thought I would say that about any teacher.

I Have Written All My Life (Doesn’t Everybody?)

Posted on

I have always written stories or poems, almost all my life. I didn’t realize that not everyone does this. Only recently did it dawn on me.

Does that mean my career calling should be to be a writer? I have been spending 37 years trying to figure out what I should be when I grow up.

Is writing the answer?

"The Worst Snow Storm!" My first book.

“The Worst Snow Storm!”
Commentary:  My first book.

I made my first book a long, long time ago (but in this galaxy). It had a cohesive plot, but questionable spelling choices. You’ll have to excuse that fact–I had no editor, and was only in elementary school myself. It even had characters of varying ethnicities–one family was white, the other was black. That must have been the influence of 1970’s and 1980’s cartoons, which all had a token black character on the cast, because I didn’t even know any African-Americans at that age. The story wasn’t a school project or anything. I just made it all on my own, at home. I was very proud of it, because my mom put it in the scrapbook.

"Bobby Jones and Marty Cargo one day planned to play on that day.  But they had a snow storm." Wow.  Snow's so thick, I can't see a thing!

“Bobby Jones and Marty Cargo one day planned to play on that day. But they had a snow storm.”
Wow. Snow’s so thick, I can’t see a thing!

All through school, I would write stories every chance I could for class assignments. It made an assignment easy for me to complete. I would also write at home, just for myself. I would skip lunch during high school to write in the computer lab (much less chance of getting picked on or having food thrown at you). When I had a big depression my senior year, I became a prolific poet. I took lots of English classes as electives. I took the AP English class, but not the placement exam. I even took a one week summer writing workshop held at a local college.

"They asked their moms'.  Their moms' said, "No! You cannot go out." Smart moms.

“They asked their moms’. Their moms’ said, “No! You cannot go out.”
Smart moms.

One of my favorite teachers was my English teacher. We will call him Mr. C. He also happened to be the adviser for the newly formed school newspaper. I wrote a story or two for it. The next year, I ended up as the Co-Editor, which I actually really enjoyed. It was just kind of a happy accident that I ended up with that position (and because no one else wanted it). It helped to make my college applications not look so naked.

"But they went out anyway far, far away.  And they built a snowman.  While they were building a snowman it started to snow."

“But they went out anyway far, far away. And they built a snowman. While they were building a snowman it started to snow.”

In college I was busy, but I still wrote. During that time, I wrote one of my favorite stories. It is kind of goth. I used poetry at that time to once again get me through depression. I was a Communications major, with an emphasis on Radio and TV Broadcasting. I filled in the gaps between classes for my major and prerequisites with English and Psychology classes. I took so many English classes that the head of the department told me to make it my minor. He let me do an independent study to work on some stories and get a 400-level class on my transcript. (That would be an unfinished story that wasn’t good, and I wish I wouldn’t have wasted time on it.) (I could have minored in Psychology as well, but I didn’t want to have to take a statistics class, which was required to have it be an actual official minor.)

"After they were done with the snowman, they were very, very cold.  They would go home, but it was too far away." Damn, look at those goodsebumps.  They were REALLY cold.

“After they were done with the snowman, they were very, very cold. They would go home, but it was too far away.”
Damn, look at those goosebumps. They were REALLY cold.

My first full-time job, I found other creative-minded types. We read each other’s old stories. We wrote and emailed poems to each other throughout the day. They also were interested in dream interpretation, as I had been for years.

"When Bobby's dad woke up, Bobby's mom told him that Bobby was gone.  And when Marty's dad came home from work Marty's mom told him that Marty was gone." The mom's sure look happy about that.

“When Bobby’s dad woke up, Bobby’s mom told him that Bobby was gone. And when Marty’s dad came home from work Marty’s mom told him that Marty was gone.”
The mom’s sure look happy about that.

Really, the only time I can remember not writing was while my mom was sick. I spent one evening a week doing her grocery shopping for her, two nights doing her laundry, and usually taking her to a doctor’s appointment as well. And I worked 40hrs a week, plus a 2hr daily commute. She about killed me. I didn’t have time to write at that time. I didn’t even have time to think. Even though she got a clean bill of health a few years after she was diagnosed, I was still doing all those errands for her. I had to put an end to it when my son was born. Literally, like 10 minutes after I walked into my house from the hospital.

"So they went out and looked and looked for their boys." Sorry.  Too lazy to rescan.

“So they went out and looked and looked for their boys.”
Sorry. Too lazy to re-scan.

I went back to work after my maternity leave on the exact same day my company filed for bankruptcy. I also went back in a new position (my former lateral position that I had interviewed to get back into had been eliminated while I was off, so I was starting a new lateral position. Got all that?) where I got to work on one of the company’s blogs. It was fun. I found out a co-worker had a personal blog. This peaked my interest. Plus, I could read the writing on the wall. I knew I needed to add some new mad skills to my resume. So, I started this blog, got on Facebook and LinkedIn, and figured out how to actually use my Twitter account.

"They found their boys and picked them up and took them home." Wow, frozen solid.

“They found their boys and picked them up and took them home.”
Wow, frozen solid.

While hanging out at home with my son, I found more time to blog regularly than I would have anticipated having. Regularly publishing posts got me followers. Followers made me try to think up more content. This made me dig out an old story from high school, my only intent being to jazz it up a little, then post it on my blog.

That led to me deciding that I might be able to combine it with more short stories, and do one of those self-publishing dealios.

In 6 months time, that has led to me finishing 2 young-adult (short) novels, and starting a third in the trilogy, with plans for 2 bonus books.

My original goal is to have one self-published by year’s end. I am thinking the writing may be the easiest part of the equation.  I don’t know anything about royalties or percentages or designing book covers, etc.  And at first, well, I thought an e-book would be good enough to fulfill a dream.

But, well, a physical book with a cover with my name on it, filled with words spilled forth from my brain, is so tempting I can taste it. That was my first vision when I made that book out of crayons and pencil.

Trust me, when I get to that point, you will all know. imnotstalkingyou.com will be book-hawking central.

You know, I have also always had a love to art (drawing, painting, photography). Hmmm, maybe that is my real calling…

"They got home and laid their boys down, covered them up, and gave them some soup." This story has been sponsored by Campbell's Soup.  Mmm-Mmm Good.

“They got home and laid their boys down, covered them up, and gave them some soup.”
This story has been sponsored by Campbell’s Soup. Mmm-Mmm Good.

Grammar vs. Text (& FBOF)

Posted on

You always hear news stories about how texting is dumbing down our teenagers and will someday replace the English language as we know it. I don’t see it that way. I think of them as two languages you can learn side by side, like English and French. Although, like anyone who knows two languages, the one you actually use the most will be the one you are more fluent in. That is part of why I write this blog.

Being out of work, I spend more time texting than writing emails of a professional nature. I try to write this blog in my own voice, while still trying to follow the basic rules of grammar. Does a smiley face sneak in sometimes (Why sure:) Do some posts have too many statements in parenthesis? (Definitely.) But I do generally consider myself a stickler for good spelling and grammar.

But, having texted, I totally understand the need for as much abbreviation as possible. It is necessary for speed, space-saving, and it saves your thumbs. Also, you have to realize I am not a part of the core texting generation. While kids today can type something like “OMGMMISL*” and totally understand each other, texting in my generation is a little different. My asbestos friend and I use texting as a substitute for phone calls and a more immediate version of email. I would love to call her and have long meaningful chats. But as we both have children between the ages of 11 months and 18 months, that seems a little improbable. And the signal at her house sucks.

We also have silly thoughts throughout the day that are better conveyed by text. But we are limited to how much we can abbreviate and still understand each other. Hence, our message often takes two or three texts to fully convey. I am thinking teenagers don’t do that. My friend and I only have abbreviations for things like Meijer (mjr), Wal-Mart (wmrt), and flaming butt of fire (fbof). My friend’s daughter coined the term “the flaming butt of fire.” (What is “the flaming butt of fire”? If you have to ask, honey, you have never had it!)

So, I believe, if actual writing is balanced with the actual English language, civilization will b ok a lil longer;)

* “Oh my God my Mom is so lame.”

I’m not stalking you. is NOW ON FACEBOOK! “Like” that I’m not stalking you and get an update when there is a new post to read. (It is sort of like YOU are stalking ME.)

%d bloggers like this: