Know Thine Enemy

As many of you know, I’m an ardent, died in the wool, Star Trek fan to the bone.  So what have I been reading for the past two weeks while I was under the weather?  Star Wars books!  

I was prompted to do this out of necessity.  I’m currently working on a novel named “The Knight Riders”.  One of the main characters is like me, an ardent Trekkie, where as the other is an ardent Star Wars fan.  So, how can I keep the rivalry going between my two characters if I don’t know squat about Star Wars?  

So, armed with my Kindle, I hit the Amazon store, downloaded ten free books, and read two so far.  Shock of all shocks, I LIKED WHAT I READ!  Gasp! 

Now, I know what a Sith Lord is. . . . . 

Sigh!  I guess this is where the public stoning begins. . . . 


Writing Under Duress

This has certainly been an interesting week for me at work.    Were I a Cockatoo, my head plumage would be standing on end!  Unfortunately, I cannot divulge what has me in such a tissy.  After all, if I did, remember that old 007 line, “If I told you. . . . . .”  fill in the blank.

I’ve heard the histories of famous American war correspondents, and reporters who were embedded with the military.  They risked life and limb to get the real war story out to the world.  Imagine writing, taking video, reporting while being shot at, stoned, beaten, while bombs falling on or near you. . . . . . .

In my eyes this has got to be the ultimate test of being a war correspondent.  They know the danger they are in, and keep reporting anyway.  Some to the point of losing their lives or risking serious injury.  Recently a female correspondent lost her life in such a battle.  Her name escapes me, however I remember she wore an eye patch.  She had already lost one eye in a previous brush with death, and was right back in the field. . . . .

Well how does affect the price of tea in China, Nanci?  

In the past I had written volumes under duress.  While caring for my Mom during her final years.  This was no easy feat even though she was in a nursing home.  Also while I was dealing with my own personal demons, and the victory when I slew the “dragon(s)” one by one.  Oh and I almost forgot, dealing with a crazy job which drove me. . . . . uhm. . . . crazy. . . . *cough*.

Now, I’m once again visited by turmoil and strife.  Instead of writing, editing, reviewing, and tons of other things I should be doing, I’m hunkered down just watching and waiting.  For the first time in three years I haven’t carried “Mini-Me”, my NetBook, to work (I carried three notebooks instead).  Why?  I feel the need to travel light . . . . . . 

It feels strange because Mini-Me is my digital Gal Friday and is part of me.  Apparently, for this particular part of my life, I will have to adjust to not having her with me for a bit.  I’ll just have to do things The Old School Way ( with pen and paper) until I get the all clear. 

Lesson?  Adjustment is a big part of writing under duress.

Paul Rega – Author Profile

Paul Rega is president of Paul J. Rega & Associates, a retained executive search firm he founded in 1985. He is well-known throughout the business community as an executive search professional and career coach. 

His new best-selling book, How To Find A Job: When There Are No Jobs hit the #1 position in Job Hunting books in the country, surpassing “What Color is Your Parachute.” The book continues to be one of the most downloaded books on Amazon with over 13,500 downloads during a 3-day promotion. It rocketed to #1 Job Hunting, Careers & Resumes, #2 Nonfiction and #2 Business & Investing. It was also ranked in the Top 20 at #14 on Amazon Kindle.

Paul holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with a minor in Journalism, having attended the University of Illinois and Western Illinois University. He began his writing career while attending Western Illinois University as a staff reporter for the Western Courier. Prior to establishing his executive search firm, Paul held the position of Chemical Marketing Manager with Fisher Scientific Company, a division of Allied Chemical where he sold and marketed food and pharmaceutical grade chemicals. 

He currently lives with his fiancée in a small town along the Gulf Coast of Florida where he is working on his next book, a novel and coaches his children in soccer, one of his other passions in life.

A Support Network

I had an interesting conversation with a writer who is preparing to pull up stakes (spouse, children, pets), pile into an RV (motor home) and travel the country in order to write about their (and their families) experience.  Now that would definitely take some serious preparation!  

Not only do they, and their family have to prepare, but they will also need a support network, or a supply line.

I have a five DVD set called “Everest: Beyond The Limit” where a team prepared for ten years to climb Mount Everest!  Painstaking planning had to go into each and every detail!  Why?  Because the teams lives depended on it!  

Not only did the team have to prepare, but they also needed a reliable support network / supply line! 

Similarly, when the United States Marines went to Iraq, they took a support network.  That’s one of the things the United States military is known for.  They are capable of mobilizing (organizing and moving) an entire city if need be.  They also do not go anywhere without taking their own supplies, or making sure supplies have already been sent ahead and prepared for their arrival.

I say this because we as writers need the same supply line.  The Bible says: “No man is an island. . . .”  which basically means: One man, woman or child, cannot do everything, so we need one another.  Like minded companions to travel on the same road with us, and show us the way.  

Already know the way?  Each one teach one and pay it forward.

The Tax Man Commeth. . . . .

Oh procrastination, procrastination! 

I never used to be such a procrastinator, but when it comes to taxes. . . . .

In years past, I had found a perfect solution.  I had a friend who was a tax preparer on the side.  She would do my taxes every year for $40.00.  All I had to do was hand her my previous years return (copies) and my W2 and she was good to go.  

She would always get on my case.  Why?  Because I never had the right paperwork, and always had to practically trash my bedroom to find my previous year’s paperwork.  But, that’s another story.  

I know, I need to be more organized. . . . . .

However, about two years ago my perfect solution and world changed.  First the United States Government decided it was spending far too much money by sending out tax forms to every taxpaying citizen.  Which left aforementioned citizens to either scramble to the nearest Post Office to pick up forms, or go on line to print out said forms.  

The next year, the United States Government decided they were no longer provide free forms at the Post Offices.  Why?  It had become too expensive, and the “greenies” were complaining this was wasteful and killing too many trees!  After all, this is supposed to be a paperless society, right?  

As a matter of fact, this was the government’s original plan of “herding us” into  e-filing our taxes.

::Que the “Jaws” theme music here::

So, last year my friend tells me:  “You can file on line now, Nanci,” and gave me the site she used.  

It was supposed to be easy-peasy, but it took me like three hours.  Me and filing taxes just never broke bread together.  That’s why I always had a trusted person to do it for me. . . . . .

I don’t remember much of that episode.  Yes, episode!   They could have made a soap opera out of it!  I don’t recall how much I got back or anything.  I was just glad I didn’t have to pay and sent it off.  

Then the nightmare started.

Well, back then the government did not tell you that when you e-file your taxes you become an instant potential victim for Identity Theft!  After all, no matter how secure the website, hackers can get in and gain access to your date of birth and social security number, bank account numbers, address, etc.  

Due to certain financial situations in my past, no one can  use my social security number to get any credit.  Any attempts would be stopped cold.  They did however, withdraw $60.00 from my debit account.  I had to go through the headache of shutting down my old account and opening a new one. 

Funny how this never happened to me until after I used “Tax Act”. . . . .  Of course you know I would NEVER use them again. . . . . . . . 

This year, I again decided to e-file again.  Only this time I decided to use a more reputable website (Turbo Tax – which was recommended by my co-workers).  It didn’t take me three hours this time.  This year I not only got nothing back, but have to pay!  I see I will have to pick up some deductions for next year!  It’s inconceivable to slave away all year for your mere pittance, then have to pay. . . . .

I’m licking my wounds, but I’ve learned my lesson.  I’ve officially crossed the finish line in the e-file race.  Next year I will file much earlier, and God willing be more financially prepared.  

An Important Note

This is just a note to let you know that I have officially changed the name of this blog from “Radical Scribblings” to “Distracted By Shiny Objects”

I had originally intended this to be a writing blog, but I’ve seen the necessity of it growing beyond just writing.  It will still include advise and rantings about writing, but this blog will also include. . . . .  well . . . .   you know us “distracted folks”. . . . . . .  Endless fascination with everything. . . . . .

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. . . . . . . . . .

N. A. Cornelius 

                  Photo taken by me w/ cellphone

The Art of Written Jujutsu

Now I’ve seen everything, you say.  What in the world is Written Jujutsu?  Are making stuff up again, Nanci?

No I am not.

First, the principle of Jujutsu is to use your attacker’s energy against him or her, rather than directly opposing it. 

As I mentioned in past post, unfortunately not all who call themselves writers respect their fellow writers work.  I don’t know if it’s due to jealousy or just a nasty streak, or what, but encountering someone(s) like this can be devastating to a fledgling writer.

I’ve had numerous encounters like that, but one in particular stands above the rest.

About two years ago I started writing “Free Enterprise” which is Star Trek/Andromeda cross over fan fiction work.  Back then, it was originally named “Crossbow” but I changed the name due to personal reasons.  I will tell you why later.

When I started this work, I was a member of an Andromeda fan club, which was dedicated to Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda and Keith Hamilton Cobb.  It was originally intended to be a written role playing game, but no one else wanted to play.  So, I took the ball and ran with it.  Originally back then I did this with the blessing of the Grand Pooh Bah of said club.  Supposedly, she was reading and enjoying it along with the rest of the members.

Everything was fine and dandy until I reached the 60th chapter or episode.  Out of the clear blue she wrote me a very nasty personal message on Facebook, taking me to task for deviating from Andromeda cannon, and excoriated my entire work thus far!

Hey!  Wait one cotton picking minute!  You wait until I write 60 chapters to trash the entire story?  Talk about seeing red, blue, orange, green and yellow!
From the very beginning I’d posted a general disclaimer that “Crossbow” was a work of fanfiction, and was not intended on intrude on Paramount & CBS Studios licenses and rights (they own both Star Trek and Andromeda). Crossbow was being written purely for my personal enjoyment (fans included) and not for profit.  Last but not least since it was my work, I intended not to stick to Andromeda cannon because I found said cannon to be utterly boring!

In my humble opinion, cannon made a certain Andromeda character stiff and unappealing.  Sort, of like Spock was during those beginning and original episodes of Star Trek(ie: “The Menagerie”). As the writers and Leonard Nimoy settled, relaxed and got used to the role, the character began to flow much better.  

So “Crossbow” was my great experiment to take one character (Tyr) out of one show(Andromeda) and stick him in another(Star Trek).  Within fandom most automatically know when you see the word crossover you know things are not exactly going to be by the book.  But, I guess common sense just aint so common. . . . . .

Anyway, The Grand Pooh Bah threatened me with all kinds of mayhem if I did not rewrite my story according to her specifications, ie: cannon!  Including hints of a lawsuit and reporting me to The Star!  Mind you episodes (or chapters) of “Crossbow” had been simultaneously posted on a Star Trek site twice weekly, the members loved it and were begging for more.  I’m not saying I’m such a great writer but, there was something drastically wrong with this picture.

On one hand had hundreds who loved the story, against one ill mannered loudmouth who didn’t.  Oh, whatever was I to do?

Here is where I went to the mat, and applied Written Jujutsu. . . . .

I wrote her back and informed her again of my disclaimers.  “Crossbow” was purely a work of fanfiction and done not for profit, so there is no legal leg to stand on there.  Neither, was I afraid of confronting The Star if I had to.  After all, I work with people who carry guns for a living, if I’m not afraid of them, I’m certainly not afraid of some television personality.  Cough. . . .

The last time I checked he did not own the rights to the particular character, so he could not sue me.  He wouldn’t have gotten much if he did, cuz I’m “po”.  

I also took the liberty of going on line and hunting down cases where Paramount (evil dogs that they are) had attempted to sue fanfiction writers and artists.  They lost overall.  They won in very minor cases where certain names or images which barred from use by fans. 

Why did they lose otherwise?  

Star Trek’s fanfiction is not being released for public consumption.  It’s only geared towards fellow Trekkies or Trekkers. In other words, who the heck else can relate to Trek fanfiction except fans of the show?  But, greedy Paramount saw nothing but dollar signs and wanted to horn in on the action.  They got their backsides handed to them in court. . . . . .

In my humble opinion, if Paramount & CBS’s so called professionally published books were not so poorly written, (now and again you find a diamond in the rough) there would be no need for so much fanfiction.  However, Paramount has this long standing ban against fans writing for them professionally (except Peter David).  I say, who better to know how to write than the fans?  Thus, Paramount cut off the nose despite their face, and this is why you have hundreds of fans publishing their own fanfiction works on line. 

So I cut and pasted copies of these legal briefs and sent them to her.  Since she lives in the United Kingdom I also sent her a copy of the United States Constitution.  I highlighted the First Amendment, which is the right to free speech which covers writing.  Yep, fanfiction fits quite neatly under that umbrella. . . .

I haven’t heard from her since.  Possibly because I soon after quit said club (too much Bravo Sierra), and unfriended her on FaceBook (more Bravo Sierra).  She did have limited contact with me on the Star Trek site, however, sadly that site went belly up in February.  I was saddened to lose the site, but not her.

By the way.  I changed the name of my fanfiction from “Crossbow” to “Free Enterprise” right after that donnybrook.  Why?  Because it is my free enterprise to write what I please.  Period! Dot!

Just in case you’d like to take a peek at the site which caused such a fuss in the first place, click on name.

Free Enterprise

Water Off A Ducks Back

Subtitle:  “Shake it Off!”

The main lesson I learned while working at my job (a Paramilitary Organization), is how to have a “thick skin”.

Cops always needle one another and their support staff, so no one is safe.  I believe that is what’s called “gallows humor”.  A police officer’s job is so stressful and dangerous that they have to crack jokes and do slapstick practical jokes, in order to lighten up the atmosphere.  I also hear the same applies to all branches of the military.

It took me seventeen years to learn not to take these jibes personal, even though some might be.  I’ve also learned that I don’t have to bow down and accept negativity or disrespect from anyone.  Not even supervisors.  

I’ve also learned to believe in myself, and not depend on others to give me accolades.  To do 100% even when no one is around or cares when they are.  You tend to get ignored you when you are a good worker, but, make one error and they are all over you like white on rice.  

“So I spelled cat wrong,once.  What about the 1,000 times I spelled it right?”  

“Why don’t you compliment and encourage people when they do their job correctly, instead of lambasting them when they make one tiny error?”   

The answer is always cricket chirps. . . .

Compliments go a long way to build up the moral of workers.  But, constant negativity tears them down, causes employee depression and apathy.  Then some supervisors want to know why people do a half tailed job, and why some call in sick all the time. Who wants to work under those conditions?  

How does this translate into my writing experience?  Last week while I was on Twitter, I tweeted the address of my blog site: The Story Hour, which has a few samples of my writing on it.  A couple of my followers wanted to know the addy so I tweeted it out.  

I get this nasty tweet back from a person or a bot which called himself/herself/itself “TheBlabbermouth” or some such other.  They tell me “Your site is so bad you should call it an IT”.  My first reaction was  “Number one, who the heck are you?”  Second reaction:  “Who gives a hoot what you think?”  My third reaction was to BLOCK him/her/it.  

First of all, I’m not saying I don’t accept constructive criticism.  I most certainly do.  I would have been more than happy to accept it if they had said, the color scheme of the site didn’t look right, the lettering was hard to see or read, or my spelling was horrid, my verbs and tenses were off, etc.  

My opinion?  If you are going to make judgments then at least suggest constructive ways to improve the work(s).  I never except criticism which completely trashes an entire work.

More then likely when a person does that, it means they haven’t taken time to read the entire work, if at all.  To me, this is totally disrespectful to the author, and a total disregard for time spent writing, etc.  Even though we writers and authors have computers and the digital world to assist us, it still takes time to create then transcribe thoughts into words, upload, add graphics, and so on.  

So why on earth should I listen to them?  So, I just shake it off, the way a duck shakes water off her back, and keep writing away.  

In conclusion:  I write for those who like my writing, not for those nattering nabobs who hate it.  Leave it to them, I would never write another word in my lifetime.

Sad, isn’t it?

Here’s the link just in case:
The Story Hour

Chose Your Weapons!

This title was inspired by a book I’d just read and reviewed about women in the military. One lady in particular was a Marine pilot and flew Cobras (gunships) in Iraq.

The Cobra is a two seater attack helicopter, and needs two people to operate it. One fly it, and one to target and drop the ordinance (bombs). As a consequence, the cockpit is tiny and crowed with equipment buttons and switches.  So, one must carefully select what one carries on board and must properly stow all of your equipment close at hand. Why? Because you don’t have time to hunt and paw through things when you are in a fire fight. . . . .

::Picturing some women tossing their pocketbooks for their keys, change, or glasses::

Not that I’m likening writing to war. . . . . but in a way I am.

When you are ready to write, are you really ready to write? Is you computer all booted up and ready to go?

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve thrown a fit a hissy fit because my automatic online backup slowed my computer down to a crawl or froze it to where I couldn’t access the internet and/or write. Of course this meant the ideas that were hot and fresh out of the oven, went scattering into the wind like spooked chickens.  While I fussed at my computer and damned it, Carbonite, and the internet all to the ninth ring of hades.  In the end, there was no avoiding it.  I had to put on my geek mage persona to set things right.  Which meant no writing for me. . . . . . .

I got rid of Carbonite, by the way and now use MyPcBackup with no freezing or slowdown problems. Fancy that. . . . .

Back to the subject.

Is your computer and all of it’s peripherals ready?  Printers, software, camera, microphones?  

Are youready? Do you have your Big Chief Book with all of your codes handy just in case you have to visit a site that your browser doesn’t have auto access to?   If you use prescription reading glasses, do you have them handy? If you like to sip water, juice, coffee while writing, you have a cuppa nearby? If you like to snack, do you have a healthy snack nearby?  Notice I said healthy snack. . . . . .  

If you like to listen to music while you write, do you have your MP3 player close or do you have a radio/stereo setup close to you and on your fave station or playing your fave music? Is your environment’s temporature correct. If it’s cold in your “office”, are you dressed warmly enough? If it’s hot, do you have air conditioning, a fan or a window open so you have a nice cooling breeze. 

Last but not least, did you go potty?

Don’t laugh!  Personally, I’ve had more ideas go out of the window after having to make the forty yard dash to the “necessary” or “the “back house” as an Italian co-worker calls it.  And right in the middle of a good sprint too!

One thing I’ve recently added what I call my “bridge” (remember I am a “Trekkie” to the bone), is a timer. When I’m at home I try to spend a limit of two hours at a time on the computer. After the two hours are up, I go do something else for two hours or so then come back. Why? Because I found myself spending an entire day on the computer, not going out to work out, do errands, clean, cook. I was becoming a digital hermit or hobbit!

Being that I am poor and cannot afford slaves. . . . . and these things don’t get done by themselves. . . .

So, be sure to give yourself time outs. Like they say in baseball: “Get up and stretch”.  I say get out of the house! You’ll have a much fresher prospective towards your project when you do. Sometimes even a short nap will work.

Another important part of being prepared is having the proper supportive equipment. Banging away on the computer keyboard, and using the mouse, or mouse pad are considered repetitive action motions. Which means we can severely injure ourselves if we are not properly equipped.  

We avoid injury by using a proper office chair with lumbar support for the back, foot rest to elevate your feet/legs, ergonomic keyboards, ergonomic mouse pads, or wrist rests, to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. All will save undo wear and tear on our precious limbs, for those who have made and wish to make writing their livelihood.

I hope this has been helpful or at least provided a laugh or two.  If so, I’ve done my job. . . . . .  :+)

                                      Gunship Cockpit

The “Necessary” or the “Back House” is the Bathroom.

Writing Prompts

What are your favorite writing prompts?

I don’t know if I’m gifted or crazy.  I’m probably both.  Almost anything can be a writing prompt for me.  Someone can mention a word or a sentence, and I’ll have a story idea in a day or so.  Sometimes less.

I’m also a very visual person.  Couple this with the fact that I live in New York City, The City That Never Sleeps where almost everything goes.  I get plenty of visual fodder from just walking the streets, going for a jog, shopping in the local supermarket, on the bus or subway, and forget work! My workplace is a human zoo!  Many a time I’ve gone home saying to myself “Only in New York City. . . . .”  

Poor citizens of New York City have no clue that song Sting sings:  “Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watchin’ you. . . .”  Ops!  That sounds like a stalker, doesn’t it?  Forget I said that. . . . . . .  :+}!

To test your writing nettle, what kind of story would you get out of these photo?  

Photo was taken by me at Occupy Wall Street, last year, and I’m still fascinated by it!

The kitty was so well behaved and stayed right there on his owners head!  Please don’t ask why this guy was wearing a Fred Flinstone shirt. . . . . . .

Please do not ask, I have no clue.  Obviously, I was not the only one who was fascinated.  Check out the size of that camera and that microphone!