Apr 042018
 

Hello, wonderful readers. Do you like free stuff?  How about the opportunity to help an up and coming author take important steps forward? Or to be among the first to read a new release? And maybe even see your name in print? (Have you ever wondered who all those folks in the ‘acknowledgments’ and why the author appreciates them so?) If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you’ve come to the right place.

Do you like free stuff? Click To Tweet

I don’t think I’ve told you that, besides trying to get a firm grip on my next non-fiction topic, I’ve been working on what many would call a passion project. I have joined forces with two dear friends and accomplished authors to create an author services co-op called Amelia Indie Authors. In this brave new world (and constantly shifting landscape) of independent publishing, it seems unusual for several reasons.

  • Authors can’t just wave a credit card and join. There’s an application process to make sure it’s a “fit.” If we can’t help, we don’t take their money.
  • It’s affordable. One of the things that drove us to create this is frustration at seeing authors over-charged for services they could easily learn to do for themselves.
  • It’s safe. Once again, we all get a little angry when we see authors getting ripped off. We don’t recommend services we haven’t used ourselves and believe to be of excellent value.
  • It’s a work in progress. Our wonderful early-adopters are providing us with feedback about what’s working for them and what else they need.

So what’s all that got to do with you?  Well, if you’re a writer and tired of paying too much for less than stellar results, check out the site.  But if you’re a reader? We’re looking for you. We’re in the process of creating a list of beta readers — the people who will give writers the type of feedback we need to improve. (Hint: We need more than, “It’s good.”)

Are you a writer, tired of paying too much for less than stellar results? Click To Tweet

What’s involved? Well, as I said, we’re a work in progress. (Our new and improved website will go live next week.) What I think it will look like? From time-to-time, we’ll message you to see whether you have time to read part of a work in progress. We’ll also give you an idea of the genre/subject matter to make sure it’s something of interest to you. If both of those are a “yes,” we’ll send you a portion of our author’s work and let you know the type of feedback requested. That’s it. You read and send us an email.

And chances are an extremely appreciative author will thank you. In writing. In the book!

If this is of interest to you, please respond in the comments or e-mail me at Amelia.Indie.Authors@gmail.com

Thanks. And happy reading!

 

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Feb 282018
 

In the wake of another mass shooting, I’m struck by the deep divides and angry rhetoric about guns. In a very odd and twisted manner, I can’t help hoping for the possibility that some of the more vicious discussions are as a result of social media bots, programmed to inflame. I know from personal experience that it is possible to talk about gun ownership in an intelligent, peaceful manner.

Not long ago, while waiting for a flight, my husband and I were treated to such a conversation with an interesting couple who settled near us in the waiting area. Initially drawn into conversation by the big, beautiful service dog traveling with them, our conversation turned quickly to our various travels. Actually, more to their travels. In addition to traveling with a large dog, there was a large assortment of weapons. Getting through security had been a challenge but, eventually, they got through. They were headed across the country for a quick draw competition.

Only 48 hours past a mass shooting* by a madman, our conversation tiptoed in that direction. Tiptoed. Their openness, their friendliness, and their guns were an invitation to a conversation. And, when it came to guns, I was fairly certain we would have some political differences.

I forget exactly what he said that had that cautious-but-friendly “I don’t want to argue with you in an airport” tone, but  I quickly heard myself saying something that surprised him. “I find myself holding extreme and conflicting feelings about guns and gun owners. Not only do I not have a problem with what you’re doing, but it also sounds interesting, and I’d like to learn more. And we have to do something to stop these mass murders with machine guns.”

It doesn’t matter what side of politics you’re on. It matters what side of humanity you’re on. People are hard to hate close up. We need to move in and get close up..” - Brene Brown Click To Tweet

He relaxed and  said, “It’s the difference between people who respect guns and a madman with an agenda.” He was surprised to hear that, although I choose not to have them as part of my life right now, I had grown up around guns.

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. - Plato Click To Tweet

“Things are pretty heated. I’d like to see both sides dial back the rhetoric,” he said. And, while we’re being honest about challenging biases?  He didn’t look like a guy who’d use the word rhetoric — but at this point in our conversation, I wasn’t at all surprised.

I went back to talking to his wife about her services dog, dog training, and our trainers. Another nice connection made. We exchanged contact information, and I gave her some of my organic beef treats for the dog for “later.” The guys continued to talk as well; as is his custom, my husband continued asking questions about the shooting club, competition, and who knows what else. Before our flight was called, he invited us to come to their club and either observe, learn to shoot, or both. And you know what? We’ll probably go.

Working online, I’ve developed an allergy to a number of buzzwords. “Authentic” is one of them. So, I’ll describe the conversation as warm and friendly. Any of us could have easily chosen to focus on differences but instead chose to look for common ground. It reminded me of another friend, a gay man living in the bible belt, who has found his way to bridge such gaps. He tells me that when political conversations get too heated, he tries to move them like this:

“Do you love people?”

“Me too.”

“Do you want what’s best for them?”

“So do I.”

“See? We agree. The only place we come apart is how to make it happen.”

How do you approach important but potentially uncomfortable conversations? Are you passionate about an issue that’s hard to talk about? Please use the comments to weigh in.

 

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Feb 212018
 

A week ago I was writing about Valentine’s day. Maybe it makes sense, then, that today I’m trying to make sense of the heartbreak known as “another school shooting.” It is crazy that our students are no longer safe in their schools and that our country seems so polarized about this issue. I’ve tried to write about it before and always come up short so today I’m sharing some of my questions about school shootings.

  • How is this “not a gun problem?” Yes, I know there is a 2nd Amendment. Yes, I know the country is full of responsible gun owners: I grew up around them and have had some firearms training. I was married to a USMC sharpshooter. I am not a “snowflake” who thinks we should collect all the guns. But flatly stating “it’s not a gun problem” closes off discussion and begs another important question: why does any civilian need an automatic (or semi-automatic) weapon? And while I respect those who describe a weapon as a tool, I wonder if our students, teachers, concert, and movie-goers would fare better against other “tools?”
  • And what about the two words that are supposed to explain everything? “Mental health.” Sane and rational people do not commit mass murder; the vast majority of people with mental illness do not commit heinous crimes. There are few resources for people (especially kids) with complex, hard to manage issues. Despite all of the political talking heads squawking “mental health” they continue to cut budgets for services. At the same time, most private health insurance is expensive and restrictive.
How is this 'not a gun problem?' I was married to a USMC sharpshooter... Click To Tweet

 

  • How is a good guy with a gun supposed to overcome the heavily-armed lunatic we’ve thought about in the previous two questions? Weren’t there highly trained (and armed) capital police present when the senators’ baseball team members were shot?
  • Isn’t this discussion too political? There was a time in the not-so-distant past when “political” did not mean “anyone who disagrees with you is an enemy to be destroyed.” Besides, doesn’t everything have a political component?
  • Here’s one that really bugs me. “Why wasn’t it reported?” As in Parkland, FL the shooters’ bizarre behavior and violent threats HAVE been reported. Frequently they are known to local law enforcement officials. If they haven’t been arrested it’s simply because their behavior had not yet met a criminal level. A number of our elected officials have seen fit to blast the FBI for this latest tragedy. But speaking of the Constitution? I’m fairly certain that even the feds can’t arrest someone before they commit a crime.

I don’t have answers; I know the solution is not simple. But I can’t help believe that consistent, small actions are better for our culture than believing there is nothing at all we can do.

  • The Parkland students and their activism is inspiring. Full of sorrow and rage, many of them are old enough to vote and they are motivated to make a difference. Their leadership and courage is an important piece of the puzzle. While there are many trying to silence them, we can share and amplify their message.
  • We can send messages of love and support to students who lived through the MSD shooting. Here’s the address:

Stoneman Douglas High School
5901 Pine Island Road
Parkland, Florida 33076

  • Any of us can contact our state and federal representatives and let them know it is past time to make sure our students are safe in schools. We can urge them to regain some of their objectivity by returning any monies they’ve accepted from the gun lobby.

  • We can support students who are #MarchingForOurLives. Let’s not take over, organize, or attempt to speak for them but instead, use these events to hear our kids’ concerns about their safety and their futures.

Let’s not take over, organize, or attempt to speak for our kids but use #marchforourlives to hear their worries about safety and the future. Click To Tweet

  • How about finding out what sort of mental health resources are available in your community and finding out how to help someone access them? Are they available to people without private insurance? Is there a waiting list? Is there more intensive treatment available if necessary?
  • Finally, please learn about the relationship between domestic violence and gun deaths. The #Parkland shooter had reportedly been violent with his former girlfriend. He is not the first mass shooter with this sort of history yet when victims of domestic violence go public with their stories far too many of them are not believed or supported. Many domestic violence programs need volunteers, supplies, and money. Any one of those is welcome, I’m sure.

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Feb 142018
 

The most wonderful thing just showed up on one of my social media feeds. According to the photo, St. Valentine was the patron saint of beekeepers. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to this patron saint thing, but I love the idea of St. Valentine looking over the bees and the beekeepers, today and every day. Oddly enough, I had started this post before reading that and, one of the first things on my list? Beekeepers. Hearts and flowers don’t happen without those who nurture and protect our precious pollinators.

I love the idea of St. Valentine looking out for bees and their keepers. Click To Tweet

I’m feeling a lot of extra love for emergency responders who gently and efficiently delivered one of my closest friends to the ER just last week. Once there, her path was crossed by a neurologist who pointed the emergency room doctor toward the zebra (aka rare condition) that could have cost her life. And while today we are focused on gratitude?  Friends, first responders, and zebras are pretty high on my list most days.

While I’m thinking of thankless jobs, let’s all send a little love to domestic violence, sexual assault, and child protection advocates. Do you know many of them are in as much danger from the systems in which they work than the violence they face when walking into strangers’ homes? Our politicians talk a lot about valuing children and families but the people who do this important work are poorly paid, often with few or no benefits. You would also be surprised at the number of supervisors (and high-ranking officials) who insist these workers make visits to the homes of people who have threatened their lives.  I’m sure most people aren’t aware. I need to believe you wouldn’t tolerate this sort of treatment of those who intervene on behalf of our most vulnerable. It’s past time to hold our elected officials accountable for creating and maintaining a system that doesn’t work.

#Politicians talk about valuing children and families; it's past time to hold them accountable for creating and maintaining systems that don't work. Click To Tweet

Oops. I’m getting a bit too soap-boxy here so how about a loving shoutout to the friends who help me laugh at myself when I do stupid things? (I keep them busy. You’re welcome.) And the people in the neighborhood who have come up with unusual and beautiful color schemes for their houses? And the ones who pick up after their dogs?

Favorite Husband and I are not people who perform romance on demand. Frankly, neither of us cares much for anything “on demand.” With 364 other days of the year to declare our undying love, we have consciously stepped away from gag-inducing commercialism, over-priced flowers, and impossible dinner reservations. And if any of those are meaningful to you? Wonderful. Enjoy. We’ve got something fun planned with friends a little later in the day — after I get to put in some time working with a wonderful teammate on a favorite project. Writing this paragraph gives me a glow reminiscent of ET’s heart light. Perfect days often do.

We have consciously stepped away from gag-inducing commercialism, over-priced flowers, and impossible dinner reservations. Click To Tweet

I shamelessly adore teachers and librarians but probably none more so than those in Philadelphia who stopped waiting for city officials to address the opioid crisis and took it upon themselves to learn how to save lives with Narcan. Remember The 5 Love Languages? I think these folks define love in action.

Artists. All of them– especially my college roommate who celebrates Gal-entine’s Day. That’s a tradition I think I’d like to adopt. Let’s not forget the writers ranging from old-school journalists who tirelessly chase down leads to bring important stories to our attention, those who take time from their own work to read others’ work, and those who pretend not to pull out their hair while organizing multi-authored projects. (And the one who remembers to bring the goodies to help turn even mundane meetings into some sort of celebration.)

And without a lot of explanation, I’m going to ask you to send some love to the people in supermarket parking lots who leave their grocery carts *beside* the cart corral. They’re probably thoughtless and inconsiderate in other parts of their lives and might need our love lights most of all.

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