Should Pokémon Adventures be a part of book challenges? All that and a book review.

“Memory…is the diary that we all carry with us.”~Oscar Wilde, Irish Dramatist

Comic books count as books read.

When I was a kid, my school and Scholastic Books sponsored summer reading challenges. I walked door-to-door and asked people for donations. Neighbors and friends of my parents supported me by offering 25-cents per book read, $20 total, whatever. Some of the books I read are commonly refer to as chapter books. These books have a moderate-length story with supporting pictures or illustrations. I read The Black Stallion and its series. Charlotte’s Web was another. I don’t know if I was old enough to read A Wrinkle in Time yet. Age-appropriate? I read some sci-fi books that were deep for my age, but my mom loved them, therefore so did I.

Was it wrong to read, say, Frog and Toad are Friends? I chose some books like that because they were quick reads, and the more books I read, the more money I earned and the cooler prizes I could collect. When I returned to get my 50-books-read donations, some of those per-book pledges turned into a lump sum. Ticked me off; a pledge is a pledge.

Anyway, I never read any Batman or Richie Rich or Archie comics for such challenges. That would be cheating. Today, would manga count?

They should. These are serious books. Chain bookstores have sections dedicated to graphic novels. To used bookstores near me have a shelf or three, and comic book stores overflow with them. I read comic books, so manga had an appeal to me, yet also not. Staring at the rows and columns of lookalike books is like wandering a romance section: unless you know an artist or author, they’re all the same.

My friend Deb recommended the Pokémon series to me because of my current obsession with Pokémon GO. Her kids grew up with Pokémon, so she steered me to Pokémon Adventures as well as her son’s favorite, the Black & White series. I started with Pokémon Adventures Red & Blue series because it said “Vol. 1” on the spine and has a Bulbasaur on the cover. I like Bulbasaurs, and it’s a creature I recognize. The familiar seemed safe.

I started the book during the Fourth of July weekend and finished it last night. The coolest part was seeing Pokémon I know from the game come to life on pages that left my fingers inky. Some of the translation feels off, and the Boom! Bang! Ka-Pow! scenes were tough to get a sense for because V-V-IRRRRR! Shtoom! and GNSH! aren’t common in my traditional comic experience. The story itself follows the adventures of Red, a boy who wants to be the greatest Pokémon trainer ever. I’m not familiar with the original movies or trading card game, but in this book, there are quests, friendship, death, villains, thieves, mentors and lessons learned. Each chapter has a story arc involving Red and one or two Pokémon, the tension of unexpected struggles and the resolution from the actions. It’s a complete book that ends but is also continued.

I enjoyed it more than some contemporary books I’ve read. Heck, I plain and simple enjoyed it. That counts.

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Things I notice writing in coffee shops

“Just living is not enough; one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”~Hans Christian Andersen, Danish author

What do you notice around you?

Today, writing in Rock ‘n’ Joe Union coffee shop, the music includes a country artist’s cover of “Purple Rain.” There is something so, so wrong about that.

Most people who sit in a shop for a solid amount of time still order drinks in to-go cups rather than for-here mugs.

A lot of coffee shops are a Pokémon PokeStop, A Pokémon Gym, or are near enough one to spin at. A few hours of productivity means a full items bag.

People who sit in a shop’s comfy chairs are the only ones who read books…real paper books.

When three people sit at a 2-chair table, no one ever puts the third chair back.

I’m not often asked, “What are you writing?” or “What are you working on?” It doesn’t matter if I’m working with pen on paper or on my laptop/tablet.

Most laptop folks are ignored either out of politeness or the appearance of snooping.

Snippets of conversation caught out of context are fabulous story fodder.

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Writing goals as #ROW80 Round 3 begins

“Only I can change my life; no one can do it for me.”~Carol Burnett, American actress

This Round 3 is all about writing focus and scheduling.

I was late to my Memoir2 group last week, so I couldn’t test my new 30-second elevator book speech. The summary intro writerly member Krista gave was more complete than mine. If I were grading it, I’d give it an A+ and write Excellent! at the top of the page. She first described her book topic, and then the part that stood out to me was her description something like, “Once chapter is the traumatic story and the following chapter is reflection and ways to heal.” Succinct. Explains to the reader the topic and what to expect. The format of her storytelling. In so many ways, Yowza!

That’s what I want from my short book description, but I need to think more about what my memoir is. Random stories that build upon a lesson, sure, but the non-chronological format has me tongue-twisted. Writing more of the book and editing the parts I already wrote would help. Sharing all these efforts and getting feedback will be useful. None of this will work without some direction and focus.

Which leads into my ROW80 Round 3 goals, not necessarily in any order:

1–Craft a succinct 30-second book elevator speech.

I will use my latest version at each Montclair Memoir2 critique meeting and tweak afterwards as needed or inspired.

2– Continue my 17 Writing Outlets in 2017 and follow through.

I have collected publications and local contacts, but I’m not contacting these folks. That’s a problem. Must be fixed.

3–Fine tune a regular social media schedule.

There are a few days that my social media outlets have regular postings and updates (Instagram Tuesday Tree Update, for one), but I need more of a presence. There are people I miss socializing with. I can’t promote my writing if all I offer is my book promotion. I miss reading blogs. The move from Michigan to New Jersey made me sloppy and weak. I will try one outlet or something every week in Round 3, tweak as needed. InstagramFacebook Author PageTwitter–reading blogs–GoodreadsLinkedInYouTube…keep all, focus on some more than others?

4–Catch up, let go of and/or publish old blog posts.

Still figuring out what to complete and what to let go of.

5–Email: read and act on one old day and one new(er) email each day.

Doing this completes almost 180 days, which would put a significant dent in my email inbox.

6–Schedule weekly myself-time to review all these goals.

Wednesday looks like it might work.

7–Work on memoir and other stories.

Again, gotta schedule the time.

And off we go….

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare in writing mode and in-laws

If we were having coffee….

Hey, glad you could join me here outside Philly. Hope you didn’t hit too much holiday traffic. It’s a cozy Starbucks, isn’t it? I’m chillin’ with a Café Vanilla Frapp. The baristas know how to make a good one, sweet and thick. Of the two Starbucks in the area, I like this store best, and not just because this is where my husband and I have farewell coffee with his folks when we leave. But we don’t leave like we used to anymore.

We’re down here in North Wales to visiting my in-laws. Much shorter than our drive from Michigan. *smiles* No turnpike, just a zip down Rt. 202 through antiquey towns of Lambertville and New Hope, with a toll at the New Jersey bridge, of course. The weather was perfect for last night’s drive, and it looks to be the same for today’s barbeque. His dad is grilling hot dogs and hamburgers, and at my suggestion, he’s also throwing some veggies on there. I adore grilled carrots and zucchini, brushed with olive oil, smoky and crunchy.

I know, I’m still wearing my boot. My fractured ankle is healing delightfully, and my physical therapist says I don’t need to wear this all day anymore. I have it on now because Lucky is here, the rambunctious, three year old puppy, who has been known to jump on me. A lot. It’s best I keep my ankle supported rather than risk injuring the fractured ankle.

Back in New Jersey, Comcast cable finally set up. First program I watched? Law & Order Criminal Intent. It’s calming to have familiar programs as background noise again. I can’t write in silence. The nothingness creeps me out.

I’m in a new critique group, by the way. It’s still with the Montclair Write Group, just Memoir1 instead of Memoir2. There’s a lot of people on vacation and a lot of new people interested. A bit of shuffling was needed to keep the groups balanced, and it never hurts to have a new set of eyes reviewing my work.

The 4th Thursday of every month, the Write Group hosts their “Free-for-alls for Writers” event. This week, memoir author Lorraine Ash presented her workshop on The Four A’s of Memoir. Those elements are Assault, Abyss, Awareness and Action. She read examples from published memoirs, but the examples rambled on an on, and they were books I’d never read anyway. Lorraine was dynamic when she spoke, and those moments were educational and valuable. Eight of us went out afterwards to Manny’s Diner, and the discussions over dinner were much more intriguing. I was surprised how happenin’ downtown Montclair is on a Thursday evening.

All this talk of memoir and writing makes me think of the upcoming Round 3 of Round of Words in 80 Days. What do I want to accomplish in my writing life for the third quarter of 2017?

How are you getting ready for this July 4th weekend and the second half of 2017?

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Do you know how to critique a writer’s writing?

“You must not confuse being good with being liked.”~Paul Arden, American author

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is my second official Memoir2 meeting, and apparently I don’t know how to critique.

By official, I mean the second meeting where I present my work to the group for critique. Let me say, as before, the feedback is tough and just what I need to improve. However, feedback from my feedback is that I need to improve my critiquing skills.

“You’re line editing,” was the recurring comment from our moderator. I have no idea what that means. I know what line editing is, but I don’t know how that applies to my critiquing. When I offer feedback, I note any part of the work that is confusing to me as a reader, be that sentence flow, a lack of detail or an unexplored idea. I believe my comments are helpful, but what am I really supposed to notice?

I’m spoiled by my structured Michigan critique group, Deadwood Writers. An author who wants a piece reviewed at the biweekly meeting emails a piece of writing with three specific questions for feedback. On the night of the living critique:

1–Start by mentioning something positive, something you like about the piece.

This is important. This can be difficult.

2–During the meeting, speak only about the three questions the author wants feedback on.

Members ask about the flow of a piece, the voice of the writer or if a particular idea clearly conveyed. That last one is what I’m tripping on in New Jersey.

3–Write any additional comments on the paper for the author to read later.

Did you notice spelling errors? Maybe you saw capitalization issues, tense shifting or info dumps. Write that down and don’t clutter the critique time with that stuff. The author asked for specific feedback, so give that.

Here at the Montclair Write Group, things are less formal. We go around the room, and one by one offer our overall impressions on the piece. No formal structure, no guidelines–except, apparently, verbal line editing.

What a free environment. It’s so hippie-free that it’s downright scary. There’s no structure, no guidance, just immediacy. There should be time for reflection, I think. Then I realize, A reader’s reaction is immediate. You need that instant feedback because a reader stops reading in a heartbeat. They don’t have the luxury of critique background, and neither should you.

Or should you?

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A first writing #WeekendCoffeeShare in New Jersey

If we were having coffee…

Hey, I’m glad you could meet me here. It’s my first time at the Chatham Starbucks. What do you think? It’s super crazy busy, and I guess it’s like this every weekend. It’s one of two Clover stores in this area. Franco the barista described all the Reserved coffees. I have no idea what’s new. The last Clover store I was at was back in the winter when we still lived in Michigan. Franco suggested the Peru San Ignacio, a lemon-lime-cocoa coffee. Seriously, I was skeptical, too, but it’s a smooth coffee, not biting at all. When I told him I wanted it in a grande for-here mug, like I always do, he gave me an approving nod and a “Very nice” comment.

I like this place.

But then, I’m liking New Jersey.

My past life in New Jersey wasn’t overall positive. The best parts were meeting my husband here and establishing my freelance writing career. That was fun. I detail all the good and the bad in my memoir I’m working on (*wink, wink*), but all that made me who I am today–I know, so cliché–and it’s the reason I’m back.

I hope I can re-establish a freelance career. My old editor said to contact him, but I let contacting a new editor lapse. Doesn’t make me appear reliable. All I can say is that buying a house is a lot more strenuous than we expected, and I’m hoping I get a second chance.

It’s nice to be out with Internet. Cable gets hooked up tomorrow, and my husband set up my computer and printer yesterday. Sweet. My home office is still swallowed up by boxes, but with a purpose, I will make time for this room. Wait ’til you see it. Natural light looking out onto scenic areas of our house and neighborhood. It is inspirational for writing.

It’s good that I’m out writing. Have you ever missed something so much that you’re itching to do that thing? I denied myself writing, and that’s cruel. I can’t believe I did that–voluntarily!– but I feel invigorated, like taking a break was needed. I’m behind in edits and rewrites and all that, but it’s weird: I don’t feel behind. I feel excited. My memoir critique group probably helps with that. They offered great feedback, commenting on sections that none of my other critique groups did. It’s fascinating to hear from people who have never read my writing. And this is a hard-ass, honest feedback group, which is just what I’ve been looking for.

Well, me Pokémon items bag is almost full and mu mug is almost empty. Tell me about your week before we go. What’s new and exciting, or old and exciting, in your life?

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On writing, not writing and buying a house

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”~Benjamin Franklin, American inventor

My life has been unsettled chaos: we bought a house!

All I will say here about the experience is thank goodness New Jersey requires lawyers to negotiate the buying and selling process.

My life is a maze of large cardboard boxes that smothers every needs-to-be-cleaned room. I know where most of my writing stuff is in my soon-to-be office. I know where most of my computer stuff is. I think I know where my printer and monitor are. All of this doesn’t matter much because we don’t have Internet.

It’s easy to use external factors as an excuse for not writing. Could I be writing? Of course. I have printed drafts I took with me to Temporary Housing where my husband and I lived for three months while buying our house. I know where that paperwork is. The hotel room’s atmosphere was stifling and uninspiring, and there were plenty of places nearby that I could go to. I did, and then life buying a house got busy and chaotic. Which brings me to The Now.

Have you tried life without Internet? We haven’t had service in over a week. It took longer to schedule installation than we expected. I’m actually excited that I fell on the sidewalk last week and had to see a specialist this week. Because of that, I found an adorable coffeeshop located near the doctor’s office, a coffeeshop that has WiFi. Sighhhhhh….

I’m sitting by the open window at The Coffee Mill Roasters in Millburn, NJ. My weather app shows that it’s 77-degrees, yet just breezy enough to feel cool and refreshed. Because of the welcoming open space with free WiFi, I feel the endorphin release of writing and blogging. That feels good. I’m drinking a blend of light and medium roast coffees. I snagged the last slice of Balthazar’s coffee cake, which the owner said is his favorite. Always go with staff recommendations, especially your first time in a new place. From here, I can also spin at the Starbucks PokeStop three doors away to fill my items bag. Bonus! Oh, and there’s free parking on Fridays and Saturdays in June. I’ll be back, even after we have cable and Internet.

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A family #WeekendCoffeeShare with writing organization tips

If we were having coffee…

It’s quiet in here, isn’t it?

Barnes & Noble cafés are usually subdued, but the Easter holiday must be why it’s extra quiet in here. They’re proudly brewing Verona, which is one of my go-to Starbucks coffees. The barista is super friendly, so you’ll get a smile with your cup of tea or coffee. Oh, I have a B&N account–well, my husband does–so let’s get you that 10% discount.

We’re down here visiting his folks, and right now, he’s visiting the music department. He’s hoping not to be disappointed by the pitiful CD music selection, but he’s sure he will be.

The move back to New Jersey continues to be, let’s say, challenging to find a house. Being this close to family and friends again is a delight. If we get the house we’re negotiating, we’ll be about 2 hours away from here, which is a lot better than the 12-hour drive from Michigan. We get to do casual weekends like this, Easter dinner or random visits whenever we feel like it.

The last part of the house inspection came back favorable, which is a relief. We have one more set of hoops to hip-hop through. I think. After that, I guess all we do is wait for the closing date. I hope.

I went to the Montclair Write Group’s free write on Monday. I’m trying something new with my writing format or approach. I bought the Michaels version of a Travelers Notebook last year intending to use it in a specific way to organize my writing. I have three inserts. The first one is for my regular journaling. The second one is for writing notes or interview transcriptions from freelance writing assignments. I’m looking for work once we get settled in our house, and this setup will be perfect based on my past writing experiences in New Jersey those many years ago. The third insert is exclusively for my creative writing and story ideas.

In the past, everything dumped into my regular journal. I would have needed to index each one to properly find everything, and that is not going to happen. What a great idea to keep my writing segmented.

The problem is that this whole contraption is too big for any of my purses. It’s even bulky in my writing bags, but I can squeeze it in. If I’m out on a casual day, I can’t implement this great idea because my travelers notebook doesn’t travel well in everyday life. After about 3 days, I took the first insert out to use as my journal since it’s a size I typically use. I kept the other two inserts in the snap binder. I’ve only taken the whole thing out in public to those Montclair write meetings to use the third insert for the creative writing prompts.

I’m brewing another idea for journaling and writing that’s inspired by two books I saw last year. It seems such an obvious experiment, but it’s unconventional enough to never consider it. I’m thinking when to put it into action. It’s not intuitive, but it could be. Maybe when this current journal is filled.

What about you this week? Any creative ideas bursting forth? Spending time with family or friends this weekend? Happy Easter or Chag Sameach, however you celebrate.

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Celebrating 3 must-read writing bloggers

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”~Abraham Lincoln, American president

Today, l celebrate bloggers.

We’re all in this together, whatever our reasons for writing, whatever our topics or motivation. Supporting each other is what we should all do, but it can seem daunting. After all, when do we write our blog and read other blogs and comment on them and then comment on comments and then reply to the comments on our blog?

Let’s break it down together. Make a schedule, a small, definable, specific one. One YouTuber I follow writes in her description: “I reply to comments twice a week on Monday and Thursday.” How perfect is that? Everyone knows what to expect when–even her. This is an ideal thing for bloggers. She is my hero.

Then there’s writing. You know your schedule or are figuring it out. Whatever you do, be consistent. On those times that you’re not consistent, do NOT apologize. It irks me when I see that in blogs, like that person’s job is to entertain or inform me. Your life is your own, and your followers will understand. They’ll be extra super-duper excited to see you return.

What makes this whole beautiful community is created by commenting on blog posts and forming relationships. You don’t have to respond immediately to everything in real time, but everyone who comments deserves a reply. Don’t underestimate the power of “Thank you” or “Glad you enjoyed this. A comment is a compliment; acknowledge it as such.

I don’t have a schedule yet, so I have nothing to maintain. My life is abnormal and unstructured at this moment as we finalize the house buying process. My blogging schedule remains constant–publishing on odd-numbered dates–but discovering new blogs is difficult right now. Carving out time to read seems trivial, but where do we start? Let me share three bloggers I always make time to drop in on:

In no particular order:

1–Jeanette A. at Deadwood Writers Voices

This writers group blog features posts on a wide range of topics. Jeanette writes about video games. I have precious memories of Atari and I currently enjoy Nintendo games and the WiiFit experience, but reading her detailed First Person Shooter experiences makes me want to expand my horizons and play. I can’t play FPS because the character’s point of view gives me a dizzy headache, so I live vicariously through her. I love her detail about the atmosphere and the glitches and all the subtleties of gameplay. Her latest post about the Sims games is a short, tragic memoir-esque read that reminds us to never give us the classic games of our youth.

2–Marcie Hill at Marcie Writes

If you need blogging inspiration or want to learn the business side of writing, she’s one to follow. Her blog has a strong selection of links under her Resources tab. Her book, 62 Blog Posts to Overcome Blogger’s Block, got me out of my blogging funk with unexpected and creative prompts and ideas to write about. If you’re stuck for ideas, you won’t be after this.

3–Haiku Horizons

This site posts a poem prompt every Sunday night. Haiku a short form poem, traditionally three lines in 5-7-5 syllables. Some poets, myself included, have taken it beyond the nature-season inspired topics and morphed in into describing elements of our days. I actively participate in this weekly challenge, and I have discovered other bloggers to follow by clicking on the Link button. Not everyone who posts is a poet, so don’t be intimidated by that aspect. Haiku is one way these bloggers express themselves and their interests.

Happy reading! If you have any other sites that inspire you, leave the links below so we can all discover new awesomeness.

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A #WeekendCoffeeShare returning from Miami

If we were having coffee…

Hi there. Grab a seat. The couches in our hotel room are surprisingly comfy. I’m going to brew a cup of Starbucks Veranda in the Keurig. What would you like? I can microwave water for tea if you prefer. There’s only so much I can do in this extended-stay hotel, but we’re moving towards a house, so we may not be here much longer.

I focused on my writing this week. I was poolside at a Miami resort with no plans or appointments. I indulged myself in rare sun–you know I have sensitive skin–and I wrote two blog posts. I thought about the atmosphere I was in and the atmosphere I like writing in. Poolside is not a bad atmosphere to write in. Water and lounge chairs are soothing. Beware the indirect sunlight reflection off the pool. You can catch a sunburn even while under a large beach umbrella.

There are some little complications with the house hunting process that are turning into large complications. Everything is more time consuming than I expected. There are attorneys and inspectors and unexpected issues. our closing date looms almost a month away and things are still…tweaking.

I made time to examine my ROW80 Round 2 goals. I didn’t do that before the official start date last Sunday, and I feel better taking time now to focus on what I want to accomplish. So far there’s no progress, but I defined my goals two days ago.

The good, the bad, the frustrating. How about you? What exciting things have you been up to?

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