Renewing Faith In Humanity… (Blog Hop Post)

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On this day, I am so thankful for those heroes out there that protect my freedom…your freedom…Many of them have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Peace. It doesn’t end there either because their families spend a lifetime grieving for the loss of that loved one who perished while looking out for me and my own family. My step-son, well, I think of him as my son…He is in the Army and serves in Alaska. He has done two tours overseas in the last few years. While he is away, his wife tries to keep busy as she lives almost a lifetime away from her closest relative and works at not worrying over his safety. I could not imagine her frame of mind. My hat tips to them both.

So what has happened in our society to make people want to wage war? Why do people abuse those who work awful everyday jobs so that they can eat out, get gasoline, use a clean bathroom, or even teach our children? Why do we as a civilization, with so much history to learn from, not live the lessons that have been taught? I will be the first to admit that as I have worked in the retail field, I have grown to be impatient with those who think they can be rude or judgmental with me. I have sported a real chip on my shoulder for a long time…perhaps longer than I ever have known…

And then again, there are these moments…these glimmers of decency that will renew my faith in humanity.

You know, when I was only about 21, maybe 22, I was married and had a little boy. We moved into a new apartment and it was very close to Christmas. For weeks I had been shopping the dollar stores for little gifts to give my husband and son. We knew we had nothing to shop in the large department stores with. I had carefully hidden away some blocks, a sippy cup, coloring books, playdough, and small cars. I bought a few outfits at a second hand store as well for my little D. (He had just turned one years old a few months before.) Well, one day about a week before Christmas, I came home to find a large manilla envelope taped to my door. I don’t remember what the 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper even said, but it was along the lines of do something great with this for Christmas. I looked inside the envelope and there was $500 in there in gift certificates to Toys R Us. My eyes burned with tears and my heart was pounding. I remember looking up and down the street for the person who left it, but there was no one. Years and years later, I found out that gift had been from my dad, a man I didn’t have a good relationship with. Yet, he held enough compassion for my family to extend his hand of help to us. It wasn’t the money making that holiday so special for us, it was the love he showed. It was the moment of selflessness he displayed that I hadn’t seen very often in my lifetime. At one time, I was daddy’s little girl. By the time I left home, we were not close at all. It has taken many years for us to repair our relationship, but I believe it started that day.

The years went by and I divorced my husband of nine years. It was a very difficult time for all of us. I believe people do things hoping they are making the right decisions. They may not always be the right ones after all. Again, Christmas came and I literally had nothing. Not even for dollar store gifts. We were surprised one evening with carolers that left us gifts on our doorstep. I did not know these people, but they were from my church. Various members of the congregation had “adopted” my kids and bought them presents. I hadn’t stayed religious for all of my adult life. In fact, even my spirituality had left me and I felt just a shell…a zombie, if you will, walking and working to survive for my children. The fact that people I had never met would gift my children with anything was a miracle to me.

A couple of years later, I was able to return the favor for a dear friend who was in much the same position as I was. She had two small children and nothing for Christmas. I had the time of my life finding gifts for them all, wrapping them up, stuffing them all into a huge Santa bag and delivering them in the middle of the night. I left them as close to their door as I dared to creep. She called me Christmas morning and told me about the excitement. I was beaming ear to ear knowing I had done that for them. It was an amazing feeling to help another out the way others had helped me. Her tears were my tears…her laughter was mine also…her uplifted heart was shared.

I could go on, but I will simply show you one more act of kindness that has been bestowed upon me and my family.

Last year, I worked as a blogger. I would go into the office, work for a man who didn’t even register I was there. He never tried to make me any better than I was. I merely existed…a drone among drones…punch in, put the head down, punch out. I knew I could not take much more and I approached the owner of said company with a proposition. We shook on a plan where I would work from home and continue to blog in an effort to relieve some pressure down the lines. On my last day in the office, the owner told me he was not able to continue with our agreement. I was crushed. I was angry. My dreams of going back to school were no more. More than that, my heart felt more hate than I have ever felt in my life. Not toward the owner, mind you, no it was the man I worked under that forced his hand to retract what we had shook on. It occurred to me that a man’s word is no longer his honor. Business owners don’t run them, they sit back and collect what all the others do for them. If life were that easy for everyone!
So, I tried and I tried to work hard in my home to prove to my family that they really needed me to stay there with them. Needless to say, bills became too much and we got behind. I was forced to go back to work.
I opened my local Craigslist and started looking for a job. Again, the hate and anger surfaced because I was supposed to be doing what I loved and taking care of my family. My husband assured me that he just wanted me to work part time. After a few resumes went out, I found a listing for a place just up the road working at a second hand consignment store. I would have little gas expenses and the hours were perfect. They hired me.
There were some feelings of doubt that I harbored. I knew I had skills and didn’t want to sit in a warehouse perusing other people’s belongings forever. But I had to pay the bills.
These people were the last ones I had ever expected to meet. They were very to the point. They really reached out to me. They made me feel a part of their family. They prayed each day before lunch.
Being so behind placed an extra side of stress to my plate and we were struggling to feed our family of six. I had nothing left for groceries. Knowing we would be catching up, I did apply for assistance so I could get some food. It was a temporary fix to a bleak situation. The verdict came back that we made too much to qualify. I was devastated once again and the anger reared its ugly head.
We were talking at work the following day, discussing the public school system, the housing issues, and other rants that came up. I relayed my experience with the State from the day before and the rant grew heated.
As I was leaving the store that day, the owner and his wife asked me to stay late. When we were alone, I was handed an envelope. M.E. told me that they are Christian people, that they don’t go to church but they save a little in a fund that would go toward a tithing type of fund. She told me to go get my family some food to make it through that really tough place in my life. I was overwhelmed with emotion and the tears fell from my eyes in gratitude.
That has not been my only blessing since I started working there. Besides gaining my spirituality back that had been absent for many years, I get to make friends with some of the most special folks. A lot of my customers will come in to shop and will hug me hello. Their positive way has helped to dispel the anger that has been pent up in me. It has helped me to become a semblance of my former self. It has been the best therapy a person could ask for and get paid for showing up. (Perhaps even more than writing books!) But the times my boss tells me she appreciates all that I do for her heals my broken heart one crack at a time.

God meant for me to find these people…my angels…and they have truly saved me. Going from feeling like dirt to knowing I am important and I matter where I have landed does indeed renew my faith in humanity. I now pray before I go to bed each night. Through that example, we have been blessed in countless ways. But it all started with one couple who saw the potential in me and gave me that chance.

I will tell you, I am the Queen of the Hard Times. When you have it bad, email me. I may not be able to fix your problems, but I can be that ray of light to help show you the way. I have been hurt. I have known hate. I have known defeat. But I have picked myself up and dusted off, storming in on life again. You can as well.

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Why Writing? GUEST POST

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The idea behind this guest post today is “inspiration”. My friend, Cheryl Alleway, is an author up and coming in the literary world. Her book “Of Blade and Valor” will be releasing in a couple of months so be on the lookout! 😀 The photo above was taken by Cheryl and was a place of inspiration for her. It was in the backyard of a Welsh mansion she stayed at while on a holiday. She told me, “Beautiful place…haunting actually. If you want to talk about inspiration…this place surely fit the bill!”

When I write, I find that I do my best work when I am inspired. Some will say that their husband is their muse…that a place in their backyard brings forth ideas and feelings. I find inspiration through many aspects of my life. Ironically, I do my very best work when I experience grief. Not always the kind of grief that comes with losing a friend or family member, no, I seem to really get in touch with my feelings and all my senses when I am sad. Maybe I had the worst day at work. Perhaps I fought with my kids. There are times that finances can get me really down. But those are the times that I take advantage of my sorrow and just pour out my thoughts and feelings on paper…er, computer. When I get on a roll, my husband asks me if I am vomiting words again. The answer is, yes. But does that mean that I only write well when I am sad? No, I write all the time. But in reading my work, you can definitely tell when my life was turbulent. 😀

How do you find your inspiration? What kinds of things stimulate your thoughts and feelings to come forth and help you get that writing project done? It is interesting to get other writers’ takes on finding that “muse”. Feel free to chime in and share your thoughts!~D.M. Korth

How do we decide one day to become a writer?

Well, the answer is different for all of us, but there are commonalities between writers that might help with the answer. I believe most importantly that we are inspired by many things around us, and don’t forget reading. As an adult writing a novel, have you ever thought back to some of the works we read as a child? Here are some I remember: The Bell Jar, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Never Cry Wolf, Tolkien (all if it), Moby Dick, Tom Sawyer and so many more! Think about the influences way back then and now look at the epic, romantic, thrillers that are sitting there waiting for the taking. We’ve been given a lifetime of inspiration through adventure, mystery, action and leaps of faith. No wonder we are stimulated to write the next big tale.

There is something inside those who love to write that is stirred by life itself. Some are inspired by darkness, treachery and wish to explore how someone is drawn into that world. Some are mystified by fantasy and the unknown of the spirit world. There are those who look up and are in awe of the world beyond ours that lies amongst the stars. History pushes people like me to look back at what has been and examine how our predecessors survived lives so harsh it is unbelievable at times. Thus the exploration of one’s own imagination becomes the catalyst for some of the greatest works of all. We are influenced and molded into who we are by what we see, touch, taste and feel inside. The world is at times volatile, dark, beautiful and heartwarming all at the same time. Our lives are individual and our experiences even more so.

It is an infinite sea of adventure to us and I believe that inspiration with its many faces breeds the author mentality as it does many other creative endeavors. It is like a drug when we grasp a subject that intrigues us. We run with it and images race through our minds as we see the story unfold. We are mesmerized by them and thus we are motivated to write it down. To feel that someone else could experience the same excitement as we did writing it is then the next step. We desire to share it because we are so passionate about what we’ve discovered. It is the need to teach, present, educate that pushes us to take that step into publishing something that we’ve poured our hearts into. In the end it is like showing the world our child. It is a part of us. When I read the work of the greatest authors of the world, I feel it in them as well. Inspiration drove them to what they are today.

What inspires you as a writer? Grab onto it, embrace it and write! – C. Alleway

Cheryl Alleway is a native of Ontario, Canada where she loves the outdoors as much as she loves writing. Her book “Of Blade and Valor” is set to be released in mid 2013 by Twisted Willow Press. Her love of the medieval world stimulates many of her tales, which are told in her unique voice.

To Bully Or Not To Bully? That Is The Question…

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Bullying has been a part of life from the beginning of time.
That statement does not erase the effects that those words and behaviors have on a person. No amount of apologies or take backs can heal that scar the victim will wear the rest of their life.

We read about nasty kings from the old days, the ones who would tax the people beyond their abilities just to make them miserable and their purses heavier. They would steal brides from their new husbands and take their virginity just because they could. They would devise the burning of homes and crops to force people to bend to them. This is bullying, right?

It seems that every television show has to have a protagonist who has to make someone’s life pretty miserable. Even family shows like “Little House on the Prairie”, for all its goodness and value, Nellie Olsen was just an evil person. Watching that show, however, did not prepare me for the bullying I would endure through my middle school and high school years. So did that show “teach” the concept that bullying is okay? Well, I don’t think so. If anything, it showed that the good can prevail…that other people do grow up eventually.

I had a handful of kids that liked to tease me mercilessly, from slamming my locker shut on me to calling obscenities…many of which I didn’t even understand…, and those who would wait for me after a religious class and muss up my hair asking if I had horns under there. I could name two girls who would wait for me to get off the bus and spray shaving cream in my hair, blow up condoms and say horrid things. I could go on. If I showed any of the emotion that was ripping out my insides, they would come at me all the more. I didn’t have a leader I felt I could turn to…and if I spoke up, who knew what they would do to me then!

Eventually, I really struggled to find acceptance. There were girls who pretended to be my friends and then just drop me at the drop of a hat. There were some, guys and girls, who are still my friends today. But I sacrificed some as I tried to gain others. In the end, I felt as though I didn’t belong anywhere. I imagined that every kind word anyone dared to say toward me was with an evil intention. I acted out to gain attention…

Now that I have children, I have become very protective over them. Will I ever know the extent of what happens to them in school? As I trust others to keep my kids safe…mentally and physically? Probably not. I do my very best to pump up their self-esteem so that the bullies of the world cannot touch them but I wonder if even my power as “Mom” can withstand the abuse from other children.

My 15 year old son has struggled with acceptance and has been dealing with bullying at his school. While I understand that this is commonplace anymore, it sucks to relive those dark and terrible days with him. He has found an outlet in martial arts and boxing. For quite a while, he has been able to hide his temper when others aggravate him. But just last week, he was tormented by another student until he finally snapped. That moment suspended him for two days, a light sentence I know, however, my thoughts stray to this kid who thought he was so cool to get my son to react to his abusive words. Who has taught this kid that it is okay to badger another human being until they retaliate? Is it the parents, or lack thereof, television, peer pressure? I would just like to know how someone can justify ruining another’s life, their self image, their hopes of fitting in at such an awkward time in life.

I am not the sort of person I feel I should have been. I am jaded. I don’t trust people. I look in the mirror and see a monster in the glass. I struggle daily with my sense of self-worth. So when I speak to someone, I do evaluate how my remark will make them feel. However, I am human and I have slipped when I feel my line has been crossed. But I don’t remember a time in my entire life that I have felt that it is okay to damage another’s frame of mind.

As parents, writers, and social media participants, we should be setting the example that it is NOT okay to be a part of this sort of behavior. The sad truth is that some do not know the difference. We are allowing this trend to grow rampant and it needs to be squashed. Freedom of speech is one thing…assault on another human being (whether words or actions) is not. It should never be.

When I write, I do indeed have a protagonist. I have bullies…they are a part of life. However, I find solutions to rid my world of them. Real life is no different. I would like to walk up to those who had mistreated me as a kid and slap their faces! But you know, that makes me no different than them. I am better than that. But if I get my hands on the kid who thinks it is funny to torment my son, and we will have meet your maker kind of meeting. I do not wish my experiences on anyone, much less my own child.

So be on the lookout for some nasty ends to some terrible bullies of the medieval times. I won’t tolerate it even if it is all made up!

What’s The Deal With Reviews?

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When we first get a book out on the market, we tend to be all about giving copies away, swapping stories, and review exchanges. Are reviews important? Of course they are. They are also the hardest piece of advertising to acquire. Why is this, you ask? Well, let’s examine the ‘review’!

1. While reviews are wonderful to own and use as someone to vouch for your work, there are ways to gain them and ways to use negatives to your advantage. You want reviews to be genuine, without harming your reputation.
One way to get those glowing reviews is to ask the people close to you to please give their thoughts on your work. Avoid using the word ‘review’. There are a lot of people who are not confident in their literary opinions and asking them to formally review your work will scare them to the point of not giving even a few words.

2. What is it about people and negativity?
Okay. Take a moment to think about this. How many times in your life have you called up the restaurant you just had dinner at and told the manager that they did such a great job? Did you commend that waiter or waitress that had been on their feet for hours on end, smiling and kissing your rear, and accommodating your every wish? What’s that? You think your tip says it all? Well, I can tell you that your words of praise mean more to that waitstaff than any amount of money you left.
But, how often do you complain about the service? Does it compare to the amount of times you call the restaurant with positive thoughts? As a fellow human being, I highly doubt that many people give kudos where they are due. Spouting one’s opinion of how they were wronged is our nature. We want others to know, without a doubt, that you were disappointed in them.
That is a lot how reviews work. People may read your work and like it. In fact, I know there are people out there who like your stuff. They are content. They found their new favorite author. They love your world. But do you think they will all take the time to spread the word? Sorry, no, they will not. In fact, you will get more people spout off to the world the reasons they hated it. It is their opinion and they want the world to know all the reasons they should not enjoy themselves by reading your work.

3. When you get a bad review, do you sit and cry?
Well, I have. You know, how dare they rip a hole through your soul by saying the editing was terrible? Who are they to be the judge of your style? Don’t they realize that your work is like your own child and when they bad mouth it, it is the same as putting your baby down?
No, unfortunately, many people don’t care how they come across, nor do they think about the effect it will have on your psyche. There is a way to be constructive and the general population does not think about that. They are only telling everyone else about their feelings. Being a crusader of “freedom of speech”, I understand that fact. Being a writer, I get a little sensitive sometimes.
What to do with those less than desirable reviews that lurk on your Amazon page? Hmmm…
Broadcast the daylights out of their little blunder. Rip it apart and ask your followers how they feel about those statements that haunt you. Wear it like a badge of courage…for it takes courage to be able to display those sentiments and move forward.

“This ebook suffers greatly from a lack of editing. The author has people speaking in idioms which would never have been used in medieval times, and also fails often to show who is speaking, thus creating confusion. The grammar used also shows the author’s need for a competent editor. Nevertheless, the story line is very good and if the author were to invest in the services of a good editor, the book would probably be successful.” ~N.F. Duncan

What would you do with a review like this. I know, hard to say when you might not have had one. While I feel that this person had no respect for me as a writer, I had to think about some books that I have read in my lifetime where I might have felt the same. I don’t like every book I have read. But you had better know that I would never add the extra jab of “competency”. To me, that is like giving the finger to an author. Do I know that my edits were lacking? Yes I did. I still published it knowing that? Yes I did. And you know what? Among the hundreds of readers who do enjoy my work, there are only an amount of haters that I can count on one hand. Does that mean I am tooting my own horn? No, not exactly. I am simply saying that there will always be those who can’t wait to smear another’s name in the dirt and you have to dust yourself off and move on. Do I agree with this reader’s opinion…no. While I know that there could be better edits done, I chose my style carefully. My characters speak in a way that my modern readers can relate. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. It makes my readers feel according to my characters. Is that my opinion vs. their opinion? No, because I have other positives to outweigh the negatives.

“Noble Courage by Daisha Marie Korth is a great read. Korth is amazing in her character and plot development. Throughout the entire book I felt as though i personally knew every character, and that I was right there with Aspen and Thorne. Once I picked up the book it was impossible for me to put it down, and this is true for the whole series. If you are looking for a series that you can fall in love with from the very beginning then this is the one!” ~M.R.H.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they were all like that? lol

4. Avoiding the Soul Crusher review:
There is no perfect formula for getting others to leave positive thoughts. However, you as the author can plant the seed of positive thoughts. When asking people to pick up your book, tell them you look forward to hearing how much they enjoy it. Explain that you are honored to have their readership and that if they like what they read, to jot down their thoughts for you. Publicly thank those who give great reviews so that others will catch the air of happy thoughts. You don’t have to try to cover that you had a bad review, face it and back up your work with the good ones.

5. Do not swap books and offer to review another author’s book in exchange for one on yours. This leads to less than honest reviews on both parties. Many will stall in making their statement until they get your back. Then, they will mirror what you had to say. Believe me, it happens. Perhaps not every time, but it will. When you are in a position of leaving a review, use the sandwich method and avoid using words that are unnecessarily harsh. We are all human beings here, we all have hearts and feelings. There is absolutely no reason to purposely destroy another person with your bad manners. If you review another’s work, make sure you don’t expect a glowing review back. Do not GIVE one to receive one either.

6. The Sandwich Method:
Stating true and factual statements in an appealing manner. Begin with a positive, such as a feeling it stirred within you, avoiding giving the entire story away. Mention things that may need improvement. You could say, “I just wish the editing had been a little more thorough because it interfered with how I read the story.” Close with another positive statement to leave the prospective reader with a sense of adventure having not made up their mind for them. That is NOT your job. There are always positives in everyone’s work, you need to be open minded enough to find them. Being honest and yet productively critical can develop an author into a better writer. Just being an @$$&*^@ could make a writer quit forever. Why should that weigh on your shoulders?

We are in the business of entertainment. If you write fiction, the world is yours! There are no laws, there are no rules, save one: It has to be believable. You could write about white cows that squirt strawberry milk in the chocolate hills, for all I care…but I have to smell the strawberries and taste the chocolate grass. If you write non-fiction, I’m sorry, but you have to be accurate. Be sure your facts are straight and when interjecting your opinions into the mix, be sure readers understand that and know your professional ability to back yourself up.

Think about these points when you review another’s work. It is not professional to be mean to another author intentionally and people will pick up on your pessimism. They will not follow you, nor will they read your work. Do your fellow writers a favor and provide healthy criticism that is attached to your name.