Monday, September 30, 2013

Facebook covers for authors

And here's another Facebook cover for writers. They are free to use so long as they aren't altered. Click the label "facebook covers" below this post to find more. I add them occasionally so check back for more!

Saving lives one comma at a time

It seems that comma usage is open to interpretation according to the preferences of the author, editor, or the voice that reads things aloud inside your head as your eyes skim across the page. But there is one concrete comma usage rule that I want to discuss today.

The other day, I was asked about comma usage in a particular sentence. They understood that they would use a comma in fiction but wasn't sure about non-fiction. Anywho, here is the sentence, with a minor name change for privacy:

After searching for a while, Amanda, volunteered to join her.

The first comma is open for debate. I would use a comma there to break the sentence, (because the voice in my head tells me to, and because it needs to separate the dependent clause from the independent clause, but that is a lot of grammar gibber gabber that not many people care about) but that is the type of thing I mentioned at the beginning of my post. Print media might simply omit that comma because it is an extra character to print. I've also seen numerous pieces of fiction where the author, and consequently the editor, decides that a comma like that doesn't need to be there. And vise versa.

The second comma, however, doesn't need to be there at all. So the sentence should read:

After searching for a while, Amanda volunteered to join her.

Why? Because Amanda isn't being addressed in this sentence. It doesn't matter if it is fiction or non-fiction, this comma rule doesn't change. If you are speaking to someone, use a comma. If you are speaking about someone, don't.

Amanda volunteered to join her.

Amanda, join her!

See? This reminds me of an internet meme I saw once. It read, "Let's eat grandpa." That was followed by the correct version of, "Let's eat, grandpa." The tagline was, "Save a life, use a comma." It was good for a chuckle and you get the point, though "grandpa" should be capitalized. But that's another topic entirely.

Peace, love, and commas,


Friday, September 13, 2013

Do I need a pen name?

A fellow writer asked me yesterday my thoughts on pen names so I'll try to respond to that the best way I can.

I, technically, use a pen name because my name isn't really Pamela Caves anymore. When I first started seriously writing and submitting, it was my name but I have since married. However, I knew that having started with Pamela Caves, I should continue with it in my writing. I do use my real name, Pamela Gifford, to market my non-fiction, what little of it there is, but it made sense to continue to use Caves for my fiction. This happened through time and chance, nothing more.

The main pro of using a pen name is so you can (sort of ) detach yourself from the negativity that will inevitably pop its head up from time to time.  Sometimes a writer wants to hide and that's okay. You can do that on some level with a pen name.

The main con of using a pen name is that sometimes it doesn't seem like you get credit for the good stuff. But that is simply the basics.

There are many more factors you should consider before choosing whether or not to go with a pen name. Here's a great article from Writer's Relief that outlines the various reasons why authors might choose pen names.

Being of a somewhat feministic nature, I've toyed with the idea of setting up a male pseudonym to see if I would be taken more seriously as a writer. Right now, such an experiment is out of my time management, but I still may do that one day. :) In any case, if I had a REAL pen name ( I swear I'm not trying to be funny here), I might feel a little cheated on credit. Writers want to hide sometimes, but we want our credit. (Now I'm being funny.)

In any case, it is a personal choice. Evaluate your reasons for considering a pen name and if the pros outweigh the cons, go for it. Keep in mind though, once you start, you shouldn't stop mid-stream and start using a different name.

Also, when you are submitting as a new author, you should use your real name anyway. If your story is accepted, you can then ask that your byline contain a pen name.

One final thought, If you're considering a pen name, search for it and make sure there aren't a hundred writers with the same name. Don't choose a pen name that is hard to pronounce, and please oh please, don't pick something like Slade Overdrive or Diamond Glitter or some crap.

Peace, love, and what's in a name,


Monday, September 9, 2013

In what Universe does 1+1=10? Apparently, this one.

I tend to want to do everything myself. I can be Super Woman if I want. Asking for help isn't in my nature and it takes the threat of the zombie apocalypse to get me to do it. I hate asking anyone to watch my children if I have to go somewhere without them, I hate asking for help with the household chores if I'm getting overwhelmed, and I hate asking for help when it comes to my school work.

Over ten years ago, I failed my math class. It had a little to do with dedication and a lot to do with the fact that I just didn't want to ask for help. I could do everything on my own! And if I couldn't, well, I kinda gave up.

Math has been the one thing holding me back from going back to school all these years. Sounds stupid, huh? But it's true. I had it in my head that I couldn't do it, and I didn't even give it a hearty, half-assed try.

So jump forward some. I decided to go back to school (obviously), and when I found out the college offered in-class math (as opposed to just the online classes), I jumped for joy and aced the class. You see, there's something in my brain that can't seem to comprehend a book and tutorials on-screen the way I can having a bona-fide teacher in front of me. Then the bombshell. If I wanted to graduate next May, I needed to take my last math course. Online.

So for the last few weeks, I've been diligently working on the weirdest math I've ever seen. I've made good progress and my grades are good. But then I got stuck on some base addition problems that I just couldn't comprehend. It was difficult this morning to walk into the math lab and ask a tutor to help me. Turns out, she really didn't know how to do the problems either so we sat down together, she went over the book and tutorials and blissfully helped me see the pattern I was missing before.

Soon after, I aced the homework and test for the chapter, (I swear I was so happy, rainbows and unicorns were following me back to my car). I then saw a message on my phone from my cousin in Arkansas. She, too, is back in school but her nemesis isn't math, it's English. She was asking for my help and I told her I would help her as much as I could.

Everyone has their different reasons for not going back to school. English for some, math for others, and maybe throw in a panic of the Fundamentals of Public Speaking and it is no wonder so many people can't see themselves back in a classroom.

But it really isn't that terrifying. If I can conquer Weird Math 5029, you can conquer your fear, too.

Peace, love, and in some cases, 1+1 does equal 10,


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Approaching two years post discectomy: Getting a steroid injection

*For previous posts about my back pain and my journey, you can click here and scroll back through my posts.

Last Thursday, I stepped into a surgery center, got prepped, and was wheeled into a room where I was given a sedative (not enough to knock me out but enough to make me not care), and was given a steroid injection in the spine.

It is reported that steroid injections only help a little over half those who try it for back and leg pain. People I know who have had one have told me I would feel like superwoman and/or I'd be out of pain the moment of the injection.

Far from it. The day after the injection, I battled a low to mid-grade fever all day. My face felt like it was on fire and I hurt. The back pain hadn't gone away and, at times, seemed worse than before. When I mentioned this to some friends, they let me know that it could take a couple of days for the injection to start working. And that's exactly what happened.

By the third day, my pain had decreased to the point where, for the first time in a LONG time, I didn't feel like I needed to take anything. Since then, the pain has been down considerably.

That being said, I still feel the pull back there that tells me something is wrong (which is probably a good thing), but I haven't felt this amount of decreased pain for this many consecutive days in so long, I can't even recall a time where I've felt this normal.

Without that debilitating pain, I have noticed two more spots up along my spine that are doing what my L5/S1 began doing so long ago. So the saga continues. I'm learning to deal with it and move in different and better ways. I'll never be the old me, but at least now I don't feel so hopeless against the pain and I can keep working to stay active. Even though much of the pain is gone for now, I know that I have to keep up my exercising if I don't want to be back in the same boat I was in before. I've lost more weight, too, which helps. I just have to be diligent with it all.

Peace, love, and hurray!


Having the drive and motivation to write.

On request, I began a local writers Facebook group. My writer friends typically see me as someone who is highly motivated and driven to write and within the group, I was asked to share my thoughts on drive and motivation. I thought this would be a good blog post, too, for those writers who are following along.

"I promised a post about drive and motivation so here it is. I don't want to write today. Hell, most days I don't want to write. I love to write, yes, but as you know, writing takes time and effort and forgive the language, but sometimes I have too much sh!t going on in my life to give a flying flip about something that might or might not help me succeed on this path. I struggled with my math today to the point where I had to walk away from it. It brought me down in a big way because I'm trying very hard to get ahead in school. In the next half hour, two very rambunctious boys will bounce through the front door and proceed to argue with each other until bedtime. My husband will be home soon, too, which means I need to have the laundry put up and start cooking supper. I'm also having to work too many hours at my job because we are short a person. I sometimes feel really overwhelmed with it all. I love my family and my life in a big way so that isn't the problem. The problem is that it would be so easy for me to put writing on the back burner. But I love writing, though it is hard work, and if I go too long without it, I get this itchy feeling all over, almost like withdrawals. Those stories keep flopping around inside my head without release. So what I have to do is just sit down and write, whether I feel like it's the right time depending on my mood, whether I feel like I have time or not. I find a time that is best for me, most of the time after the kids go to bed, and I sit down and write. It doesn't matter if it is any good, just that I get it down. If I have a work-in-progress, I force myself to continue it, even if I'm not quite feeling it yet. If I don't have a work in progress, I start something new. Usually once I get started, I can get going pretty good on it and the longer I write, the easier it becomes... provided the significant other understands not to bother me during that time. So tonight, I will write. Life isn't going to stop, the hardships and crappy days aren't going to stop, but if you care about writing and want to write, you need to sit down and do it. Almost every day. The more you do it, the easier it will be to do it and the better you will get at it. So I want to challenge everyone to get some words down today. Start a new story if you don't have one started already, or pick up something you've wanted to finish and work on it. I desperately don't want to write today, either, but I'm going to."

I don't think I could've said it any better than that. It just tumbled out of me. I'm at a point right now where it would be so easy not to write but I did manage to get something down the day I posted this challenge (and each day thereafter). I'm not sure about how good it was, but I got it down, nonetheless.

If writing is that important to you, you'll find a way to get it done. Even when you don't really feel like it.

Peace, love, and get to it,