ScoreIt! a Writers Resource

One of the most difficult tasks for any author is stepping away from their work and giving it a critical product-based assessment.

Here’s an app that takes some of the guesswork out of audience identification.

ScoreIt!™’s engineering leverages the cutting edge science of stylometry, artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify underlying patterns of language structure in any given text. Statistical analyses are then applied to identify those significant patterns that define one author’s writing style as compared to another…. In broad terms, each submission is evaluated and weighted for its 1) grammatical construction; 2) authorial vocabulary; 3) expressive complexity and 4) use of function words.”

After putting my recent title through the ScoreIt! system, I was pleased with the results.

Read more about my ScoreIt! analysis and the Book Giveaway based on the data.

Committing to the Craft – Conferences, Connections & Contests

One thing that writers love is their cave. It is warm, cozy, and quiet. Coffee, tea, or other favorite libations are always at hand while the mind agitates.

desk-789632_1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A single reader can elevate an author into the stratosphere with a kind comment or an Amazon Review. Out of that deep grotto, a connection is made.

Once the first flush of achievement fades, the next questions that authors must ask is how to get more readers and how to improve writing skills?

This January, I attended the second annual Sierra Writer’s Conference. Organized by Sierra Writers and Sierra College, it is a friendly, intimate venue filled with opportunities.

“If you want to be serious about writing, treat it like a business,” says Jordan Fisher Smith, a conference keynote speaker.

Joyce Wycoff, a event board member, says that when a writer attends a conference, “You are showing up for your writing.”

A writing conference is a place to;

  • hone your craft
  • make connections, and
  • establish an action list 

“Agents and publishers often say that writers’ who attend conferences are more serious about their craft and are more likely to succeed,” Wycoff comments.

This year’s conference was on the same day as the Women’s March.

trump-womensmarch_2017-top-1510075_32409710246
Women’s March

Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.

20170121_103619
Molly Fisk, author of Blow-Drying a Chicken

“A writer is not outside of what is going on,” said Molly Fisk. “People recognize themselves in our writing.”

“Being a writer opens a door,” she continues. “It is permission to think.”

20170121_091713

“Art happens when people get together to share their struggles,” Jordan Fisher Smith, commented. “You write because you are called to it.”

 

Following my current interests, I attended Marketing and Publishing and Guided Critique break-out sessions.

20170121_194127
Catharine Bramkamp, author of Future Gold

Catharine Bramkamp, a writing coach and social media expert discussed a variety of platforms, member demographics, and analytics. “Know where to spend your time on social media. Be aware of the results that you want to achieve. Keep yourself from getting sucked in, but do enough to have a presence online.”

 

 

 

Bob Jenkins, is a professional storyteller with a PhD in criticism. “Criticism is the20170121_202153analysis of art; what works and why it works, as well as what doesn’t work and how to fix it,” he explains.

Jenkins delighted his listeners, and the brave souls who pre-submitted writing samples, with dramatic readings of their work. His suggested improvements were striking and gratefully received.

Bob’s writing improvement recommendations; ProWritingAid, Ginger Grammar Checker, and Building Great Sentences.

 

The last workshop that I attended was with Mark Weideranders. He is a is a historical fiction author. Several of my next writing projects fall into this category.

20170121_195645robert_louis_stevenson_at_26“History did not record what was going through the mind of Fanny Osbourne, an American art student, when she drew this affectionate sketch of young Robert Louis Stevenson,” began Weideranders.

When writing historical fiction, it is important to let people know what is fact and what is fiction,” says Weideranders.

20170121_161239
Q & A Panel – Mark Weideranders, Mary Volmer, Jordan Fisher Smith and Kim Culbertson

Connections happen with shared experiences;

  • standing in line to get coffee
  • looking through books on display
  • the person you sit next to during lunch break
Poets Quartet performance
Poets Quartet performance

First Sentence Contest

A confidence booster was winning the First Sentence Contest. Below is my entry along with the artwork (on my cell phone) that inspired the words.

sierra-writers-confrence-2017-first-sentence-contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucia Stewart Artwork

 

For an introverted author, making oneself mingle goes outside the bounds of the comfort zone. Realizing that many authors share the same feelings makes it easier.

My ‘meeting people strategy’ is simple; smile, make eye contact, and have a genuine interest in the person I want to talk to.

The next time I step outside of my cave, it will be with increased confidence, improved skills, and more people I know in my writing community.

 

 

Additional Resources

Conference books, authors, and writing improvement tools

Download a FREE Conference Journal to discover your conference-attending personality

Additional Writers’ Conferences – Poets & Writers

Literary grants & funding

Writing Contests and Competitions –

Writer’s Digest

The Writer Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Predicting the Future – Writer’s Resources

Sicfi fans are smiling together today. It is the day that Marty McFly traveled to in the iconic Back to the Future movie. Remembering that light-hearted, entertaining story about one boy who changed the future will have many of us tuning in once again (Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy ) to share the fun with our kids.

In the original script the time travel portal was a refrigerator. It’s easy to visualize the comedic scenes that could have spun off from that idea. Would removal of a certain item cause the time travel event? Would the characters have had to squeeze inside? Would grabbing the handle make the floor drop out from under Marty and company? It was a cool idea but I think that the DeLorean was a much racier choice.

It’s been fun to see the differences between the movies’ visions of the future and what actually transpired!

Time travel, as a story theme, is fruitful ground—ripe for the imagination. Economists, politicians, governments, storytellers, futurists, scientists, dreamers, children and their parents all wonder about the future.

As a writer, I find that scenes set in the past are much easier to imagine than ones set in the future. Information, history and research is easy to access. What I enjoy most abut that type of writing is weaving in little known facts—learning becomes effortless and fun. (Author, Ken Follett is a master of this technique.)

How can a writer prep for composing futuristic fiction?

robonaut-600982_640 (2)

 

Currently I am working on a scenario where a character from the year 2135 travels back to the mid 1980’s.  Coming up a story rich in details that haven’t happened yet is challenging.

Since we have we have a 10-year-old son who will be ready to start his professional life somewhere around the year 2030, my research about the future has become a family affair. Together and separately we read and talk about articles in geek, science and technology magazines. We watch TV shows and documentaries where futurists entertain us with their speculations. The links below are to some of our favorites.

“The kids who will control the solar system are the ones who do not give up, who enjoy doing it and persist.” – Chuck Pell, Artist, Entrepreneur and Futurist and host of the TV series, Xploration Earth 2050.

Other Resources:

U.S. National Intelligence Council website Global Trends 2030. Articles submitted by academicians and think tank members discuss a variety of topics such as population, immigration, climate change, aging and more.

MAKE Magazine & Movement

The Futurist Magazine

As with any writing endeavor, research can take tremendous amounts of time. So much so, that it may be difficult to pinpoint where to stop.

As the cast and creators of Back to the Future point out, some future predictions were right and others were wrong. While you are working on a project, you have no idea if it will be a hit or a flop. Only time will tell.

In the end, all any writer can do is create strong characters, set the scene, make their best guess and enjoy the journey.

Today Show cast interview.

 

PBJ – Short Fiction – Family

___________________________________

WriteOn Writing Prompt: In 500 words, tell the story of a chef who strives to create the perfect dish.
__________________________________
He will be home in an hour.PBJ

Opening the thick, heat resistant door, I turn my head away from the blast that wants to scorch the beard from my face.  Peering inside the dark cavern, I nod with satisfaction as I see the delicate brown tones that cover the surface of my creation. Inhaling deeply, I smell its yeasty, sugary notes with hints of vanilla.

Out she comes to cool. I say as I slip on an oven mitt and pull out the hot loaf. The sound of my voice reverberates around the stainless steel surfaces of my workspace.

After some hunting, I locate the raspberry and loganberry preserves in the pantry with a satisfied, Ah ha!—this was an enterprise from last fall. My mouth grows moist just thinking the marriage of flavors that I accomplished with that particular batch.

I got up at 3:30 a.m. this morning to roast and grind sunflower seeds, hazel nuts and peanuts into nut butter.

My wife fully appreciates the delicacies that I bring home from work—food that ends up on $1,000 plates and rates the highest Michelin stars.

My son, turns up his nose at these things. He’s been known to spit them out—to the great horror of anyone looking on. He knows that it hurts my feelings. His typical response is, “Daaad, I know!” He rolls his eyes at this point. “You told me over and over that you’ve spent your entire career perfecting your craft. But I don’t like that fancy stuff!”

So here I putter, in my kitchen at home, in between shifts at the restaurant, making the world’s best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

____________

Here’s a musical giggle to go with the PBJ theme.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time song by Chip-man & The Buckwheat Boyz

How to Make a Basic e-mail Signature for the HTML Impaired

How to Make a Basic e-mail Signature for the HTML Impaired

If you have a product to sell – if you are a performer or an artist – or if you just want to find more clients then a custom e-mail signature can help grow your business.  An e-mail signature is a stylish, effective and non-intrusive way to announce to the world (or at least the people you communicate with via e-mail) an abbreviated bit of your business story.

If you enjoy the do-it-yourself approach to marketing and technical ‘computery’ stuff doesn’t send you screaming for the hills, this article will show you the steps necessary to add flair to your online communications.

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer or an HTML expert. The information below was obtained through trial and error. The steps are for the e-mail program on your home computer. (Many of them will apply if you wish to customize the signature on your smartphone or cloud based e-mail program such as gmail or yahoo, but every platform has its differences and particularities.)

sample sig

html code only

1. Seeing the code. Once you learn what goes where, you can do a search for other types of HTML code that will do even fancier things. The graphic above shows a sample custom e-mail signature along with the code that is used to generate it. The first line of the signature “Samantha B. Jones” in the purple box, corresponds with the first line of HTML code. In the HTML purple box, notice that <b> means ‘bold,’ <font size=”4″> is the size of the font, and <face=”Times New Roman,” is the font type.

2. Basic Design. Simple is always a good rule of thumb. Think about the most effective e-mail signatures that you have received. Which ones invited you to click further to learn more and which ones turned you off?

alternate design

3. Write the Code.  Here is the code for the design above. Copy it and begin to play around with it. *The items that I highlighted in green are areas where you can customize it and where you need to provide links to online images or your websites.

<img src=”http://www.link to online image“>
<font size=”4” face=”Arial Black” color=”maroon“>My Awesome Company Name</b></font><font size=”1“face=”arial“><a href=”http://www.link to website“> visit my website </a>
<BR><font size=”1” face=”Lucida Console“>Subtext #1|Subtext #2|Subtext #3 <BR><p>
Express yourself here<BR>
<i><b>italic bold text here</i></b>

(I included Arial Black and Lucida Console as these are other fonts that are generally recognized by ‘most’ electronic devices.)

4. Test the Code. Copy and paste your code into an HTML viewer to see if it works.

This is the one I use – http://htmledit.squarefree.com/

html editor

Another option is to insert the code into your e-mail program, then send yourself multiple e-mails until you have it just right.

5. Insert the HTML code into your e-mail program.

The screen capture image shows Thunderbird e-mail, but the names and steps for other e-mail programs should be ‘roughly’ similar.

In Thunderbird, go to “Tools” > “Account Settings,” then insert your code in the ‘Signature text’ box. Once you click on ‘Save,’ you can write a new e-mail and send it to yourself to test any links or images that you’ve included.

Thunderbird tools

For Outlook, go to “Tools”> “Options”> “Mail Format” > “Signatures

There you have it – the basic steps to begin creating an enticing e-mail signature.

___________________________________________________________________

Additional Articles & Resources

http://www.emailsignature.com/cloud

http://www.digitechbranding.com/pages/email-signature-HTML-programming.html

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/corporate-email-signature-guidelines-10520.html

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.xink.io/news/email-signature-format-101-dos-donts/

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/04/the-art-and-science-of-the-email-signature/

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Add-Facebook-and-Twitter-icons-to-your-email-signature-7b9fc0f6-1c25-45cc-8eae-dab15b78cf08?CorrelationId=d7474074-b1b6-45cc-a0b5-67804a173033&ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

Search YouTube for “How to create an e-mail signature in YOUR PROGRAM”

Positive Gifts from the County Go Beyond Doctors and Medicine

It can start as a cry at a higher than normal pitch, a raging fever that won’t come down, bruises that appear for no reason. A parent, consumed with worry seeks out help. The Pediatrician makes a preliminary evaluation and orders more tests.

Then the moment arrives…words, delivered with professionalism and care from the doctor;  everything has changed for the family and the child with the difficult diagnosis.

For nearly 300 families in Nevada County (California), these experiences are part of their story. But that’s only the beginning. A new reality sets in—one that involves long drives to special care units at UC Davis, San Francisco or Stanford and physician specialists, dieticians, nutritionists, social workers and rounds of medication.IMG_1555-web

Maryellen Beauchamp has a special connection with these families. She is Nevada County’s Public Health Nurse Case Manager for California Children’s Services. 53 webCalifornia Children’s Services is operated by the State of California. Over 80 years old, it has an office in every county. Maryellen acts as the conductor in an orchestra that encompasses multi-faceted medical assistance for children with severe health issues. These issues can range from growth plate or skull fractures, endocrine, neurological, orthopedic, and metabolic disorders to Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy and premature infants.

This type of work comes with a heavy weight and knowledge that is often difficult to leave behind at the end of the day.  On her desk, Maryellen keeps several inspirational quotes that remind her to remain grounded. One of them reads; Today, I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive; I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. –H.H. the XIVth Dalai Lama

Maryellen recently had the opportunity to incorporate something important into her program—a sense of positive empowerment for her young clients. It came in the form of a beautifully illustrated book, Toby Bear and the Healing Light.  It is the story of a stuffed bear who teaches a sick child the power of affirmations, meditation and visualizations in the healing process.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light was created by author, Lisa Boulton while undergoing cancer treatments, as a gentle way to help children going through difficult illness. Boulton enlisted photographer and artist Lisa Redfern to create the photo-illustrations. “I wanted the story to feature local people, places and businesses as a way to express my love for our community and for the outpouring of support and caring that I received when I was sick,” says Boulton.SNMH Approved 12-14-12

Maryellen says, “I like that the story features Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital—the place where the journey with California Children’s Services begins for many of our families. It is also a plus that the Nevada  County Public Health Department could partner with the local women who created the book.”

As Maryellen puts it, “You can’t get well with doctors and medicines alone…it takes the right attitude to make it all work.”  She’s excited about the books because she plans to give them as gifts to the age appropriate children in her program. “It is a positive message and gift from Nevada County Public Health Department to the children (and their families) who need it most.”

Read more about this topic at The Union.com.

Toby Bear and the Healing Light

IMG_1563-1web

Good Morning Aboard Caralee – Short Fiction – Romance

 five minute ficiton
[reddit writing prompt]

A married couple start another average morning on an average weekday. No one dies. No twist. Show their overwhelming love for each other without them speaking a single word.

Their movements were automatic with a choreograph-like smoothness.  In a galley smaller than most American coat closets, this was an accomplishment. The 45 foot Caralee housed all of their worldly possessions and had transported them to exotic ports all over the globe.

He reached for bowls while she filled a pot with water. He struck a match to light the flame on the stove as she pulled out spoons from the drawer. She placed the pot on the burner while taking a box of oats out of the cupboard.

When hands were not occupied with tasks, they would glide across or alight upon the other’s body; a brush down the back, coming to rest upon a shoulder, a hip or making a light tap on the behind.

Oats were added when the water boiled, the pot covered and the heat turned down. During the brief pause in their morning dance, their eyes lingered upon each other; they smiled.

He enjoyed watching the light play across the pink facets of the pendant that always hung around her neck. A gift he’d presented to her some thirty-five years earlier on the day that Asmara was born. Their only child had been conceived above deck, on a warm night, under a ripe Sri Lankan moon.

Sitting hip to hip at the tiny table, they held hands as they ate. Her nervous fingers twisted his wedding ring around and around on his finger. She paused occasionally to rub her fingernail over the smooth mound of rose quartz that she’d found in Brazil.

Before taking that first sip of coffee, they clinked mugs together softly. A tradition adopted from their time in the British Isles.  It signified ‘a robust day and a tender heart.’

Photography by: Mark Pepall
Photography by: Mark Pepall

Bundled in coats, they went topside to welcome the sun as it crested the horizon. Elbows resting on the rail they let the cool breeze flow across exposed skin. Smiling, she turned to him, observing the lines on his face and the wiry gray hair that steadily overtook the brown along with the passage of time.  She thought that he looked as good as the day they met…even better. She mouthed the words, ‘olive juice.’ This was a family joke; these words look like something else if one is lip reading. A chuckle from deep in his chest echoed across the water.