The top twelve things on my mind

The top twelve things on my mind first thing this morning:

  1. My mom – Tuesday is the 3-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
  2. My health – I frequently have anxiety upon waking. My sleep is restless and I never know if it will be 3:00 am, 4:30 am, or 6:45 am when I wake. Anything before 6:00, and I stay in bed.
  3. My 2nd son – He has been unemployed for some time and continues to look for a job.
  4. My husband – His body is warm as he sleeps here beside me. He came to bed last night very disappointed in the Bengals’ performance in the playoff game. I save myself those ups and downs by maintaining a lack of interest in most sports.
  5. My youngest son – He is in Hong Kong for two weeks on a business trip. His days are my nights.
  6. My daughter – Will we be able to work out a quick visit to Chicago in the next few weeks to help her with an upcoming move?
  7. My oldest son – He and his wife are expecting a third child in June.
  8. My mother-in-law – I should call her today and see if she wants me to go to her doctor’s appointment with her this week.
  9. Things to do today –  I added several items to the “today” list on my Wunderlist phone app before I got out of bed. I love that app. It’s very satisfying to click items off when they’re done.
  10. Bathroom design – A remodel for our bath is overdue. It is a complicated space and the design is not straightforward, but we’re getting close. I took a few more measurements this morning to try to visualize how things will fit and look. I keep a tape measure in there for this specific purpose.
  11. The weather – I heard rain falling when I let Arthur out the front door (I did not accompany him today.) Then through the laundry room window I saw the rain turn to snow in the light that shines from above the garage door. I took a few quick photos with my cell phone. (Whatever did I do before I had this handy device?) This photo is going to do triple duty as my photo-of-the-day for the 365Project, my post of the WordPress weekly photo challenge for “Weight(less)”, and an image for this page.
  12. What to blog about. ‘Nuff said.

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The snow has weight, because gravity causes it to fall, or float, from the sky. But each little snowflake is nearly weightless by our typical standards. The wind was able to blow the flakes horizontally.

 

7:10 a.m.

I step out onto the front covered porch. Arthur pulls on the lead in my hand. I am warm enough in my pajamas and robe on this mild winter morning.

Arthur stops at the edge of the porch. I always think he sees, hears, or smells another animal when he does that. Maybe he’s just being sure.

I look around also. It is dark, but my eyes adjust and I can see the silhouette of the branching arms of the locust tree. Four porch lights glow across the front of the vacant house to my left around the bend of the lane. Straight ahead a series of small bright lights from the homes on a neighboring street shine through the winter woods barren of leaves. I’ll not see those lights come spring.  The new neighbors’ house to the right, at the corner, is brightly lit on both the back and the left side that are visible from where I stand, perhaps to discourage burglars. I wonder if our motion-detector security lights around back where it’s near the woods still work. The new neighbors’ strand of Christmas lights sparkle across their back porch rail.

Arthur tugs and pulls on the retractable dog leash as he steps off the porch and meanders through the foliage in the landscaping that stretches across the front of the house and along the bend of the sidewalk to the tree.

I notice a drip, drip, drip from the rain spout to my left. Otherwise I hear nothing except the steady drone of distant traffic. The juvenile owl, with its awkward squawk must not be visiting this morning. Ah, now the soft whistle of a train miles away breaks the silence.

Arthur is taking his time.

The sky is beginning to lighten to a dark gray-blue, as the place where I stand, on this glorious planet we call home, turns towards the sun and the dawn of a new day.

 

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January 14, 2010

Inspiration

Often I use my writing to inspire my photography. I’ll have a topic I want to write about and I’ll go find a picture. My editing post is a good example. I knew what I wanted to write about and I went in search of a photo. Granted, the clock photo is a bit of a stretch.

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Sometimes I use my photography to inspire my writing. And as I’m participating in the 365 Project where you take a photo everyday, I should be able to generate a lot of inspiration. Yesterday’s brilliant puzzling post is a good example. As is today’s post.

Now, you might expect I’m going to write about home and hearth, warmth, passion, or any other number of things a burning flame brings to mind, but no.

The fire inspired me to write about that illusive quality we call inspiration. Writing from my photographs can be just one more tool in my limited toolbox.

How do you find inspiration? Care to share your secrets?

 

Puzzling

Many things about life puzzle me. For example, why does putting a puzzle together feel so satisfying? This is our biggest ever at 3000 pieces, a Christmas gift from our daughter and significant other. Do we still say “significant other”? I am completely out of touch.

Our adult children helped us get a good start on it over the holiday. Then they left Mark and me to pick up the pieces.

We’re getting there. I can taste victory.

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Marketing self-published books

Marketing continues to befuddle me as I try to promote Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. If my book doesn’t cross a reader’s radar, they won’t know it exists, let alone buy and read it.

Most times when I wade out onto the web with all the marketing and promotion advice for self-pubs, I just get discouraged and walk away. There is a lot of book promotion noise out there on the web. But I’m trying to keep in mind a quote I came across recently:

“The universe is infinite; there is space enough in it for everyone to succeed, including me.”

Although I want to make my books available in many formats for anyone who wants to read them, Amazon is making it tough. Several years back they instituted a program called  KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select. This program provides opportunities for authors to offer price promotions, and include your book in the lending library. For example, many authors promote their book for free during an introductory period. This successfully gets their book into readers’ hands, some percentage (and I don’t know how many) of whom will actually read the book and and even leave a review on Amazon. Because of the way Amazon promotes its products, including your book, having a lot of reviews and better yet, sales, gives you more free promotion. Your book will show up during searches. You’ve seen it, “Customers who bought this book (or product) also bought these products. . .” And magically your book gets on a reader’s radar.

To be on KDP Select, you have to sell your book exclusively on Amazon. I have not yet chosen to do that with Dancing in Heaven. But last month I enrolled Where Memories Meet in KDP Select. That means I can, and have, scheduled a countdown promotion where I set the book’s price at a discount for a period of time (a couple of days). Then Amazon notifies customers of the price break and how much longer it will be in effect.

My countdown promotion is scheduled to begin February 1. My normally $2.99 priced ebook will be offered at $.99 until February 4, and then it will be $1.99 for three more days until it returns to $2.99.

I think this is a good sales tactic, but it needs to be promoted. I’ve been researching websites that promote ebooks for a fee. They include but are not limited to Book Bub, Just Kindle Books, Ereader News, and Goodkindles to mention a few. For varying prices, these sites will blast your book out to their fans and followers, and perhaps list on their website for a day or longer. To promote my memoir at a price of $.99 via Book Bub  it costs $720. They are only able to accept 20% of the books submitted to be featured. My book was not accepted.

It’s a bit of a relief because $720 is pretty steep for my marketing budget. Instead I have paid a minimal fee to have my book (with the countdown deal) promoted on Just Kindle Books, and Goodkindles. I am still waiting to hear from Ereader News. I have no idea if promoting my book on these sites will produce any measurable benefit.

Another option I have is to buy advertising on Amazon. You have to bid for the advertising slot by entering a price per click. You set the total amount you are willing to spend. Amazon does not guarantee customers who click your ad will buy your book, but it will get on their radar.

I suspect your head is spinning by now. Mine is. So I’ll sign off from the marketing trenches.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Here are a few links to my struggles with and thoughts about marketing during my first self-publishing experience:
Now marketing
Promoting in the world wide jungle
How much time should I spend promoting my book?

 

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All that’s left is the amaryllis

The ornaments are wrapped in their boxes and stacked on the shelf in the basement. The cookies have been devoured. Containers of leftovers from elaborate meals now empty, washed, and stored. The lighted angel is silent, the announcement of a birth long past, she stands in the dark downstairs beside the box of strings of lights that brightened the bushes outside our window. The sheets are changed and the towels washed. Toys are put away. Santa came and went in a flash. But the amaryllis remains.

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Delving deeper into memories

My post yesterday sent me off on a tangent about memory.

I wrote about what I do remember on the day of my first confession, but there is a lot missing that I do not remember about that event.

I have no memory of my actual first confession, at least not one that stands out from other confessions I made during my childhood. I have lumped all my experiences of Catholic penance into one image of kneeling in a small dark room, hearing a small window-sized barrier slide open and a priest’s voice. I can’t remember what the various priests said over the course of my confessions.

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” I seem to have successfully retained as my appropriate response. I don’t remember the multitude of offenses I confessed to. I do remember there were big sins and smaller sins which fell into the two categories of venial and another name I can’t recall. I also didn’t remember if venial referred to the bigger sins like murder and theft until I Googled it. “According to Roman Catholicism, a venial sin (meaning “forgivable” sin) is a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation,” (Wikipedia). Maybe that’s why I don’t recall the name for the really big sins. I only committed smaller sins like fighting with a sibling or telling a white lie. If there is such a thing.

I also remember sitting on a hard pew and praying the Our Fathers and Hail Marys I was assigned as penance.

On the day of my first confession, I have no idea what happened afterwards. Did I go back to my own school? Did I go home? How did I get there? It’s a complete black hole. I don’t remember telling my mother what had happened, although I’m sure I did. And most importantly, I don’t remember her response. I wish I could.

I read recently that we can delve deeper into our memories and bring back details. I’ve never made a conscious effort to do so, and don’t exactly know how. Although I have to admit that I had to concentrate to bring back details for the scenes in my memoirs. But most of those were easily accessible. I suspect a little Googling might lend some guidance.

I get a little scared when I think about uncovering memories I haven’t sifted and sorted through as an adult. I don’t really know if it’s possible. If I tried, either I would discover things I had forgotten, taking me back to a time and place that no longer exists, or I would resurface empty-handed. Either way, it is a little unsettling to think about.

You’ll be the first to know.

 

 

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Forgotten

~A memoir from childhood

I was forgotten once.

I attended the public school when I was young even though I was Catholic. When it came time to make my first confession, which was a scary enough proposition in itself, I had to go to the local church. I was in the second grade.

My mother didn’t drive, and was largely confined to the house because of my disabled sister Annie. Mom had arranged for me to walk to church with a couple of older girls who lived about three blocks away and attended the Catholic school. I had met them, but I didn’t know them well.  Shellenbergers. It’s interesting the things we remember.

Things were different in those days. It wasn’t out of the ordinary that I would walk somewhere at a young age. We walked to school and back every day, but I had never walked to church.

On the morning of my first confession, I walked the three blocks, then up the steep steps to the Shellenbergers’ house. I crossed the covered porch and knocked. After what seemed like an eternity the mother answered the door. “I’m sorry,” she said. “They already left. If you hurry you might be able to catch up to them.”

Hurry I did. I was terrified. I didn’t know how to get where I was going. I ran down the steps and turned the corner to Roosevelt Street where I could just barely make out the other girls in the distance. I did what I usually did when I was scared, upset, or sad. I started crying.

I followed the girls from a distance. I couldn’t catch up and stumbled along behind. I was now crying profusely.

From my vantage point I saw where they turned a corner. I followed and  made it to my destination. The nun who met me at the church door took one look at my red blotchy face and wanted to know what was wrong. She led me through a door and down a quiet hall to a room where I could regain my composure. My first confession was anti-climatic after that. Facing a priest behind a screen in a small darkened room and telling him all the sins I had committed was nothing compared to the trauma I had experienced getting there.

To this day I don’t know why I became as upset as I did following those girls to the church. Although I tried to deny it to myself, in part I felt that my mother had let me down. I was alone; I didn’t know where I was going; and she was supposed to be taking care of me. Like other thoughts I’d had before and would have through the following years, that led immediately to guilt. Mom had to stay home to take care of Annie. She shouldn’t have to worry about me.

Maybe I felt sad that those people Mom trusted to help me let her down as well.  Maybe I was just sad that I had been forgotten.

I was only seven.

 

 

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Editing – a life lesson

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We writers know how important editing is. Readers do too. No one wants to slug through lines, paragraphs, then pages of drivel to get to the point. We don’t have the time.

Editing has always been important to photographers, even back in the darkroom days. With the invention of digital cameras it is imperative. You can snap hundreds of photos in a matter of minutes now. But no one wants to scroll through hundreds of photos. We don’t have the time.

I don’t always think of it in these terms, but I edit the activities I fill my life with. We all do—some of us more consciously than others. Like a good editor, are we making the best choices with the use of our time? What to add? What to cut? Where to dwell a little longer, perhaps repeat for emphasis?

The last time I took on the post-a-day challenge, I was interested in establishing a discipline to write every day. It worked for a while.  I created lots of words on the screen, much it drivel. I filled pages with photos readers had to scroll through.

This time, I’m practicing editing. Good for my writing. Good for my photography. And good for my life.

 

 

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It’s a new year

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun is still low in the sky, but if I’m going to try to catch an early morning sunrise, I’m going to have to rouse myself before 8:30.

Happy New Year.

It’s a new year with a new look. I finally managed to change WordPress themes. I had been dragging my feet on it because I was afraid it would create a lot of problems with menus, widgets, pictures, and such that I would have to spend time I didn’t have on correcting. But WordPress discontinued support on my old Clean House theme and I was having problems doing things I wanted, so I took the leap to Twenty-Sixteen. Now I’m really current.

So far so good. It took me about five minutes, not counting the time I spent copying menus and widgets into a Word file, which I didn’t need.

I’m going to start this year with a blog-a-day challenge.  Joss Burnel over at Crowing Crone Joss sent out an invitation and I accepted. I’m ready for some structure in my life. Don’t feel compelled to read all. I know a daily post from me about the weather or other minutiae can be tedious at best. I’ll try to make brilliant titles and add informative categories and tags so you can easily pick those posts you are interested in.

I’m also going to make every effort to keep my posts brief.

Ciao.

 

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