Toys

toysThere are times that I don’t enjoy being an adult. Sometimes I want to be a child again.

I get this feeling whenever I read a book with a child in it playing with a toy.

See, that’s the key word. Toy. Sometimes, I don’t like the word. It brings back an aching nostalgia. Two years away from being fifty, I miss my childhood toys. My bunny, play pistols, Tonka toys, trucks and cars, rocket ships, puzzles, games. Okay, I gave my toy cars away as a Christmas present one year to my niece. I don’t regret doing so, just, sometimes I miss them.

I miss playing like a child. I regret the broken toys because I am sad they broke. I didn’t understand their worth. I understand today the worth of those old toys. The Lincoln Logs, the pinball machine, the drum set, even something as simple as a baseball and glove. Playing catch with dad. Going up to the football field with him to shoot off the model rockets. Putting puzzles together with mom. Playing board games and making up skits with my sister.

I see a toy today and I think that some kid will enjoy this…for a little while. The old idea is true, that kids get a new toy, play with it for awhile, then get bored and forget it. It ends up dusty and ignored at the bottom of a box. It’s the same with any toy that comes out of a vending machine, a cereal box, or given away with fast food meals.

I love my nieces and it may sound strange, but I don’t like shopping for Christmas presents for them. I know they are happy with the gifts, but I don’t like to buy toys. The kind of toys I mentioned above, that get forgotten. I don’t even like going into the toy store anymore. It’s too depressing. I can’t stand to pass a mom and child walk through the toy store with the kid gawking and wanting everything he/she sees. It’s too depressing. To hear a child whine and cry because he/she is refused that one cool looking toy is too heartbreaking. I just want to explain to the kid, “Don’t you understand?” Sigh!

I don’t know. Maybe that’s what you do. You buy things knowing they’ll be left someplace, forgotten, not played with after a period of times. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I cherish the very few times I was able to spend with the older nieces playing with them and their toys. Stickers and games and the entire wardrobe of Barbie accessories. (Sorry, but the doll makers really need to make those damn shoes so they stay on Barbie’s feet.) Doing an art project with Rebecca and having to apologize for my clumsiness with scissors. Putting a puzzle together with Jessica.

Maybe I’m the only one to feel this way. I don’t want my nieces to grow up and not know what their childhood was worth. I’m not saying I regret mine or wish it were different. I wish, however, that I knew the value of it at the time so that I could have enjoyed it that much more because of that knowledge. It’s why I sometimes want to go back, to be a child again. To draw with crayons or shoot imaginary bad guys coming down the stairs. To race cars around the room. To play with my old toys and not to forget or discard them.

I think I’ll stop now or else I may get tears on my keyboard. My heart aches enough as it is.

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Gray’s Lake Author’s Fair

Yes, yes, another event that happened almost two months ago. See what you missed? Mark your calendar for next year – September 26 at the Brenton Skate Plaza.

Sunday, September 21.

Sunny day. Nice view of Gray’s Lake.

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Nearly 40 authors. Walkers and joggers and bicyclists and dogs, dogs, dogs.

And windy.

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This was the first year for the Gray’s Lake Author’s Fair. We gathered on the south terrace with set up time at ten in the morning. Set up was a challenge. We were fifteen feet above the surface of the lake and the wind blew.

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Each author brought his or her own table and chairs. Most everybody had tablecloths and the concept was strategic arrangement. Because the wind blew.

Some artists brought partitions from which they hung various pieces of art. During set up, one partition fell over…because the wind blew.

All day.

I thought about wearing a short sleeved shirt and tie but thought I might attract more people with my taekwondo uniform. I was glad I wore it because the sun was warm but the wind was cool.

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However…it was a nice day with a steady trickle of people passing through.

We were entertained by jazzy, bluesy, big band-y, Don C. Brown who played two saxophones and flute (no, not at the same time).

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And authors. I met authors from Sioux City, one who traveled the world attending World Cup Soccer, and many friends I see often.

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Thanks to Larry Stumbo for putting this on. I hope we do this next year…where we can avoid the wind.

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Montezuma All Iowa Authors’ Conference

Oh my goodness, this was almost two months ago.”

Yeah, I know, but I’ve had other things come up so give me a break.

This event happened on September 20th of this year.

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This year saw a new location but the usual contingent of wonderful speakers. We met at the Community Grace Church’s new hall. Round tables were set up for authors selling books and everyone received binders and conference information.

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First up was the pair known as Sparkle Abbey who spoke about needing conflict in stories.

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Kylie Brant spoke of some of her experiences in her writing career.

JocelynGreen

Jocelyn Green discussed a list of common mistakes novelists make.

scott-caweltiA8E282D44FBC Brother's Blood

Scott Cawelti had an interesting discussion on the writing of his book Brother’s Blood, which is about a true Iowa murder case.

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Zachary Michael Jack held a discussion on exploring different genres and how ‘cross polination’ of genres might work. He also held two mini critique sessions after the conference for those who wanted to discuss works in progress.

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Donald Harstad, former Iowa police officer talked about cops and writing and promoted his latest novel, November Rain.

Door prizes were given away, including a Kindle Fire.

All in all a pretty good conference hosted by J.O. and Debbie Parker of Our Front Porch Books in Montezuma. Contact them for next year’s conference.

http://www.ourfrontporchbooks.com/

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Around The Globe With: Kathryn Daugherty

This morning I’m awakened early by this week’s featured author. It’s one of my friends from the weekly writers’ group I attend in Knoxville. Into the transporter we go and I set the destination controls and before we take off, she pushes a button on the side of the console, one I’ve never seen before.

Soon we’re in Nashville, at the Grand Ol’ Opry. But not just at the Opry, but the Opry as it celebrates 75 years. The year is 2000. Who knew the transporter could travel in time. (I begin to wonder if the dealer sold be an old TARDIS…)

I look at the musician scheduled to perform and they run the gamut from Barbara Mandrell to Garth Brooks, from Loretta Lynn to Vince Gil.

Anyway, on with the interview while I try to figure out if getting back to 2014 will be as easy as getting to 2000. Or maybe I should first find a few companies in which to invest…

1. Who are you and what make you the most fascinating person in your city?

I’m Kathryn Daugherty, an author who has written short stories and published one contemporary woman’s fiction novel A Case of Hearts. In my real life I’m married to a talented, generous, kindhearted man. He is my soul mate and is the basis for all my heroes in my fiction and otherwise. I’m a mother of five, two that are my natural children, three that are my children by choice. There are four handsome boys and one beautiful daughter. I’m a Grandmother of seven, six beautiful girls and one handsome boy. We have a German Wirehair pointer that is our only child living at home at this time of our life. We live on the Des Moines River and have the blessing of enjoying the beauty the area has to offer. Wildlife, eagles, the season’s change in the trees and fields. Living a life of peace and comfort.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret(unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I don’t wish to reveal secrets, cause they’re secrets. I will say I do have a deep side, and a fun side. I love classic country music from the 70’s and 80’s. My favorites, George Strait, my husbands and my favorite song to dance to is “Amarillo by Morning”. Of course Garth Brooks, (Unanswered Prayers). Reba McIntire, (The Greatest Man I Never Knew). Country music is an inspiration for LOVE.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a rocket scientist?

Writing has been a lifelong passion, letters, journals, diaries. I’ve played around writing short stories and a few novels started and never finished in the bottom of desk drawers for several years. Didn’t get serious until 2005. Up until then I had worked in many careers. I think one time I figured up how many jobs I’d had in my working career and it was over 30 different positions. My favorite career is author. As far as a rocket scientist math and science, not so much, would be a terrible fit.

4. Writers are readers. With which authors would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I’ve been fortunate to share a meal with several of my favorite authors. The author of this blog being one, Stephen Brayton. Others include Lee Collins, Helen Boertje, Michael Van Netta, Carol Reed, Larry and Marilyn Brown, Charlotte Shivvers, Teresa and Bob Tallman, Katherine Hinkson, Jacque Leigh, Darlene Miller, Natalie Ogbourne, Robert Hutzell, Ashley Lovell, Cassie Den Hartog. All of the above are writers in the Marion County Writers Workshop. Eating and meeting with this group gives us all a sense of community. Writing is a solitary profession; meeting weekly with this group of writers is a breath of inspiration. Helping each other become better writers, an opportunity to make a difference. Other writers that I’ve enjoyed meeting with include, Wendy and Charles Siefken, Mike Daugherty, (no relation), Grace Augustine, so many writers encouraging writers.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book be great company?

My story “A Case of Hearts” is a story or Family, Friendship, and of course LOVE. My characters could be the neighbor next door, the shop owner down the street, or someone in your family. I’ll let a few of my review comments from the readers speak for the book. “Combination of romance and law,” “hope, faith and real life emotion,” “research makes story real,” “characters we care about” “romance without being graphic,” “book you can’t put down,” “touches on concept of doing what is right and caring about others,” “characters are engaging.” This makes “A Case of Hearts” great company.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

My story “A Case of Hearts” was started as a short story. The story grew out of my imagination When it came to the legal aspects of the story I wanted it to be right. I contacted a friend, Laura Folkerts. Laura is an attorney and she graciously went through what I wrote of my legal proceedings. She corrected glaring errors and advised me of the proper procedures. She helped me make the legal part of my story real.

The novel I’m working on is set in Weeping Water, Nebraska. I’m making a trip in the near future to check out the community. I also have flashbacks to 1969, years I do remember. The story also has information about Vietnam so I’m doing extensive research to make sure I have the information correct.

In regard to character development, I want my characters to be real people so I observe and hope to capture genuine qualities of human nature. I outline to a point, then let the story develop at its own pace. I edit as I go mostly going back over each chapter several times. When I wrote “A Case of Hearts” it took over four years to write. The stack of paper in my rewrites stands three feet tall. Yes I do a lot of rewrites.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any Advice?”

My advice for someone who wants to write is to begin. Put the pen to paper and tell your story. Take classes on development and structure but tell the story you have to write.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

I believe we all have a purpose and we must pursue our dreams. I believe pennies we find on the street or in odd places come from the angels. I believe that LOVE is the answer to many questions. I believe we must all “Remember Who We Are” when we leave home.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

My next story is a parallel story of a thirty-something and a sixty-something woman who meet on a plane and find their lives intertwined. The past comes to haunt and preserve their future. The working title: “She Promised Her Heart”.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

My website is http://www.kathryndaugherty.com you will find short stories and my blog “Thoughts from My Window on the River”.

A Case of Hearts can be purchased at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/A-Case-Hearts-Kathryn-Daugherty/dp/0985807792/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414732406&sr=8-1&keywords=a+case+of+hearts

Barnes and Noble online http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-case-of-hearts-kathryn-daugherty/1116744609?ean=9780985807795 or her website http://www.kathryndaugherty.com or by visiting http://www.thewriteplace.biz/bookstore/product/36-a-case-of-hearts

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Research Rejection, Part III


rejection 3I posted the idea for this blog on Facebook wanting some comments and asking if other authors had experienced rejection. My thanks to David Schlosser and Bob Dunbar who responded with an example each. I can’t make up this stuff so I’ll let them tell their short stories in their own words:


david schlosserDavid Schlosser:
I once wrote a scene in which a veterinarian sedates a bad guy and contacted the head of the US association of veterinary anesthetists to conduct research. He was polite and responsive until I asked what sort of chemical cocktail a vet would have access to in a vet clinic that would knock out a human. Then he said (IMHO, wisely, though it hadn’t occurred to me until he said), “Because I don’t know you, I don’t think I should answer that question.”

bob dunbarBob Dunbar: When I was doing research for my novel about the Alamo, a colonel in the Mexican army refused to allow me access to their archives, claiming that the Mexican army had never massacred anyone at any time during its history.

FBILogoNo, we authors don’t have it easy when it comes to research. When trying to find out information on child pornography I called the FBI. I repeatedly said I wasn’t involved with it, didn’t want to be involved with it, had zero interest in other than some facts to put in a story. I wonder if I ended up on a watch list anyway.

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When I talked to the Oskaloosa police regarding heroin for Mallory’s next adventure, again I made it clear several times I didn’t want the drug, didn’t want to sell the drug, didn’t want to be involved with the drug, and had no plans to buy any quantity. I just needed information.

Since I don’t want to end this on a low note, let me highlight some successes.

One of the best two interviews I had were with a nurse and a counselor who provided me loads of material on addiction. Both will receive a mention on the acknowledgments page and probably a signed book.

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Another great adventure was had with a friend from high school who helped me ‘do the zoo’ for a future story. She definitely will receive a free book.

As I mentioned I put people I meet into my books in some fashion. Many writers do this. I hear stories and live through experiences that I remember, write down, and save for future reference. A former landlord and some previous neighbor tenants are bound for a future story…and not as likeable people, but hey, it’s their own fault. Lol.

Advice to the general public: please help out a writer when asked. Watch how you act and what you say around writers. You might end up in a story…

Please share your research woes and wins below.

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Research Rejection, Part II

rejection 2My first rejection came from a rude secretary in the Quad Cities when I was driving the route Mallory took in Beta. I stopped at a plant that processed meat gelatin. (Yeah, sounds disgusting to me, too) When I asked the secretary if there was a PR person available she told me one didn’t exist. When I asked her who might help me, she said he wasn’t available. I gave her my name and contact information and I think she threw it in the trash when I left. Maybe she was upset that construction in the building was so loud or maybe ‘rude’ was her personality. Anyway, she ended up being rude to Mallory in the story.

My next stop was at the meat processors in downtown Davenport. The flustered receptionist was baffled at what I wanted, flapped a hand at an employee directory, and disappeared. When I spoke with the correct employee, she told me she couldn’t help me because of proprietary reasons. Again, I didn’t want to steal secrets, I just wanted general information on how the pig slaughtering process went. Nope, no go. I ended up speaking with a friend who worked in a similar plant in Ottumwa and he gave me the information and no corporate sabotage was committed. The flustered receptionist went into the book.

I put these next two rejections as one because they involved the same bit of research. For Alpha, I needed information about railroads and train cars. I knew someone who worked at a repair shop in Albia. I traveled all the way down there, saw the ‘Visitors Welcome’, elevated to the third floor, asked to speak to the employee and was told, curtly, no. No reason given, end of conversation. I should have given my information to pass along, but felt it probably would have also ended up in the trash. So much for the welcome sign.train

Then I visited the Des Moines rail yard with a friend. We took pictures of signs and trains and discovered a maintenance dirt road that ran along the north side and dead-ended under a bridge. I thought the location was the perfect spot for the climactic scene in Alpha. But I still needed specific information about trains. I stopped into an employee break room and was directed to another office where I was given a number to a representative in Omaha.

Back home I called the number, gave the guy my schtick, and happened to mention that I had visited the Des Moines location and that I had driven the maintenance road. He told me I had trespassed and to not do it again. Oops! Anyway, I emailed him a list of questions and he didn’t respond. Sigh! I ended up getting the information one morning from a former railroad worker who was a guest at the motel at which I worked.

Then there’s the latest one with the casino. I also called a local media representative since the woman I spoke with at the casino told me they worked with media, but although he didn’t outright reject me, he couldn’t offer the kind of assistance I wanted. Left to fend for myself, I discovered a bunch of factoids on my own via the Internet.

Of course, this means I can’t use the actual name of the casino/racetrack in the story. I do not want anything to come back upon me even though nothing bad happens in the chapter, no crimes committed. That’s okay, I’ve changed the names of other businesses.

Next week, I’ll present some examples of rejection from other authors.

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Research Rejection, Part I

rejection 1I thought about this topic several weeks ago when outlining a chapter to put at the beginning of Mallory Petersen’s next adventure, Delta. In the story she meets a classmate about halfway through the story. When I wrote the first draft, I thought the scene worked, but after reading it to a critique group, and discussing it with a friend, I decided I needed to introduce the classmate earlier in the book. The character plays an important role and I didn’t think it would be fair to the reader to throw her into a later chapter. The plot would be more believable with an earlier appearance.

To introduce her, I had to write a scene near the beginning of the book and I mulled over the problem days before I decided to have Mallory visit the local casino. I’ve visited the place numerous times (and have even won a bit of money on occasion) but I wanted to have more information the place. When I called the public relations person, introduced myself, and told her what I was working on, she declined my request.casino

Wait a second, let me back up. I have to admit I probably didn’t present myself over the phone as well as I could so I’m partially at fault for not making a good first impression. I mentioned I wanted general information regarding the history of the place, size of the property, and mistakenly asked of information regarding security. I know. I know. They’re not allowed to give that kind of information but I wasn’t asking for sensitive information like numbers of cops, shift change times, or the schedule of the money transfers. I didn’t want that. I wanted general information, maybe throw her a scenario or two that Mallory could have-that would not require private information-but I didn’t get that far. The PR rep said she works with media people when they come a’callin’ for news stories, but she’d never received a request for information from a fiction writer. Then she said said something along the lines that it wasn’t the policy to grant requests like mine.

Okay, so I was confused by the two statements and I believe she was confused as to what I was and what I wanted.

Anyway, this had me thinking about past research endeavors. I like to visit the sites I put into my books. I jot down as much information, descriptions, and details as I can. I’ll take pictures (or have my friend take them because on one jaunt I didn’t have a camera. I do now.). I’d rather have too much information than too little and need something later.

I’ve been doing research for many years and I can recall only four times I’ve been rejected. Most of the time people are very nice, will talk with me, answer my questions, and I come away happy. The police are extraordinary if at times busy to get into too much detail. A fireman I spoke with gave me some important information that had I not obtained would have had readers writing me nasty emails. A business owner was so sweet I remembered her by putting her into Alpha. (Not her personally, but her personality.)

val airI mentioned in interviews that one of the reasons I travel to sites is because things can happen and I may meet people I can add to the story. The time I crashed a quinceanera at the Val Air Ballroom is a classic example.

I meet all sorts of people and even when they’re not helpful for what I want, they are helpful because I remember them and put them into chapters.

Let’s discuss those next week.

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Review Regrets

regretsI wanted to write this on one of the reviews I’ve done on my other blog, braytonsbookbuzz.wordpress.com but decided instead to write this up as a regular blog. One of the reasons I chose to do it here instead of there is because I initially thought I’d write this at the beginning of one review and it might seem like I was lambasting the author, which, essentially, I am. I could have written up a separate blog type post over there to insert between reviews, but again, I’d have to insert it between particular reviews and I didn’t want it to be as if was pointing a finger at a specific book. This pertains to one particular book, but on a more general note to many I’ve read.

I’m posting this early before the reviews in question but in time, it shouldn’t be too difficult for someone to figure out to which reviews I’m referring.

I started reviewing books a few years ago. I love to read and have hundreds of my own books to read (and if I had been smarter, would have stuck to reviewing those) and decided to hop onto a couple of websites to review books. The problem I should have realized was that I would have to actually read the books (duh!) and that would take time and would take time away from my own books. But I persevered. I felt obliged to finish the reviews as quickly as possible.

When I moved last year, I had to inform two sites that I needed to go on hiatus because I just wouldn’t have the time. I stayed with one site and am only intermittently reviewing audio books for them.

However, I decided to sign up on another site where the authors themselves made the requests. This was back in the spring and I’ve been asked to review over twenty books so far with three (as of this writing) waiting to be read.

When I signed on to do reviews for the first review site I was informed how they wanted the reviews written and that I could refuse to review any book I didn’t want or didn’t care for. I was told that some books just weren’t worth the read and the very first book I received fit that category.

However, with my site, I could be a bit more honest and inform potential readers some of the good points of the books and any mistakes I found. If you’ve perused some of the past reviews you will see that many authors have made many mistakes, a lot of which should have been caught by an editor and many which should have been caught by the author.

There have been some good ones although in my ranking system, very few Black Belt ranks have been given which tells you that the quality has to be there in many fashions.

Jump ahead to this spring and the recent spate of books. If you’ve read any of the reviews since that time, you’ll notice a startling pattern. Many of them have been below par. An enjoyable book will get a Blue Belt and even some Purples are worth reading. Most of them, however, have fallen short.

So recently, I finished a couple of books I found lacking quality in many areas and gave them low ranks. I then read a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It had one or two problems, but nothing egregious. I praised it and gave it a higher rank.

For a few days, I was back to reading my own books before the next set of requests came through. In two days I accepted three reviews. I started on the first and…

Let me say this. After finishing the previous and having a break, I was feeling good. The previous one was a good book. Then I started another one and wanted to throw away not just the story, but the computer I was so disappointed. Mistakes in the prologue and throughout.

I suppose I should be thankful for the quality books that come through. They’re not all bad.

I was told by one of my review sites that I had to stay positive about the books I accepted because just because I didn’t like them, somebody else might. I agree, and for the most part, I enjoyed the books I received from that site. Those I took a pass on, I still reviewed for my site and I did so because those I wanted to point out the mistakes. Not that I just ‘didn’t like’ the book because some of them had potential and a fairly decent plot. But when you have problems with grammar, punctuation, spelling, and basic sentence structure, I don’t think anybody is going to enjoy trying to read through it. I’ve had to endure some truly awful material and I’m not writing this to be cruel to the author. I’ve read some glowing reviews for books that made no sense to me, that had glaring and obvious mistakes. I wouldn’t have cared if Margaret Mitchell, Raymond Chandler, or Agatha Christie wrote the books, they wouldn’t have been worth reading.

On the site I’ve signed up to take requests, I suggest that authors read previous reviews on my blog to understand what they’re getting into when they ask for reviews. I’m not going to hold back. I will try to stay tactful, but when there are mistakes, I point them out.

Does this make me an expert with a big head? No. All authors make mistakes and work on their craft. I’ve made mistakes and am constantly trying to improve my own stories. I’m going to try to put out the best manuscript possible. I’m going to hope my editors will catch my mistakes and correct them.

I think that’s part of the problem with many of the poor quality books I receive – no editing or poor editing because many are self-published. I’m not here to bash SP authors because I’ve seen some good ones out there. But for heaven’s sake, take the time and spend some money to get some assistance. Don’t just put out the first, second, third, or even the fourth draft, just because you think it’s time.

I entitled this Review Regrets not because I regret accepting books to review, but regret having to read and give an honest opinion on stuff that I found wanting. My regret is the time spent on these when I have many more books I’ve rather be reading.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

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Fitness Writing, Part VII

Motive picOne day in August of 1991, I was uptown and saw the local taekwondo club had a special offer of two weeks’ free classes. I’d always been interested in martial arts, so I thought this sounded like a good deal and started classes.

I’d been in Oskaloosa less than a year and soon after starting my job at the radio station I joined the local community theatre group. I had been acting in plays since high school and enjoyed the friendships made.

When I discovered I was pretty good at martial arts, I had to make a choice. Rehearsals for each play conflicted with taekwondo classes. Although I still wanted to act, I enjoyed TKW more so I gave up the theatre. Sorry, Hollywood and Broadway.

Because of an injury as a child, I had had trouble with my right arm when participating in sports. Taekwondo brought back some of those issues, but in time, they relieved themselves with the constant exercise. Because I’ve kept up the workouts, I don’t have as many elbow problems.

I earned my first degree black belt in 1993 and immediately joined the instructor trainee program. I had been teaching a lot of classes for several months but this program helped determine my future. I became certified (as opposed to certifiable), helped a friend of mine with her club for a year or so, then took it over and moved it to Grinnell. In 2003, I assumed ownership of the Osky club and although Grinnell had some problems, I still run the Osky club, even from an hour away.

I enjoy martial arts. I look forward to the tournaments and the camps. I look forward to seeing friends. I wish I had more time to participate in many of the activities around the country and I still strive for more students in my club.

I still work on my form and compete in tournaments. I train because I want to improve myself. I’m not in the best shape but I am strong and a lot more flexible than I would be without TKW. My body responds well to exercise. It revels in sweat, the sore muscles, the increased heart rate, and exhilaration of accomplishing my goal for the day. I suffer when I don’t exercise and it’s that much harder to do the next time. I feel good when I finish a workout. I recover faster today than I did six months ago. The coming cold weather will restrict some of the outside exercise, but I will cope as best I can.

Why do I exercise? Because I want to stay healthy. I try to watch my diet and think about what I ingest. Sure I have the occasional cookie and soda and fast food, but not as much as I used to. I’m more into salads and the right amount of lean beef and chicken. I love fish.

Chief Master Larry Hoover, an excellent high rank in my region, once related at one of our winter camps that up to age 30, people exercise to build. Building muscle, etc. After 30, we maintain. We may build a bit of muscle and lose some fat, but we’re maintaining what we have already gained.

I don’t want to be overweight. I don’t want high blood pressure. At my next physical I want to see what my cholesterol level is but I’ve been watching the fat.

And I exercise. I run and bike and do WarriorXFit. I used to lift weights and would like to be in a position to get back to the gym. I still work on my form for flexibility, stamina, balance, and for self defense. I hope never to have to use martial arts against an enemy, but I’m training my instincts and responses to be able to deal with it if that time ever comes.

That’s my motive for working out. Because if I didn’t, then my body suffers.

Why do people write? For money. Fame. To say to people, “I am published.” Some people feel the ‘need’ to write. Some write for the pure enjoyment of writing, of expressing creativity. Some write only to share with family.

I write for all of those reasons. I write because I want to write and feel bad on those days I don’t, just like exercising. I suffer when I don’t write, and yes, it’s that much more difficult to begin when I’ve stopped. With working out, I have to remember to stretch and cool down and push myself when I want to quit. With writing, I have to remember the rules, when to break them, proper grammar and punctuation, how to show and not tell. When I miss a weekly writers’ group, I really miss it.

So, there you have it. I hope I’ve helped and spurred some ideas. Let me know your ideas for fitness and writing. How do you do either?

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Fitness Writing, Part VI

FormI really enjoy the forms of the American Taekwondo Association. The white belt form has 18 moves and you work yourself up to 81 moves for the first degree black belt form. White belt starts with some very basic moves, punch, front and side kicks, low, high, and middle blocks, and a knifehand strike (karate chop). Each form thereafter introduces a new move or combination move with some extra turns, and so on.

I’m certainly not going to disrespect other styles of taekwondo to other martial art styles because I’ve seen some talented people do some amazing things. I will, however mention that I attended a tournament in Keokuk last year that was open to all styles. I don’t know how the judges decided who was better when they saw so many different forms. Kung Fu, karate, taekwondo, etc. One thing I noticed was that though many of the forms were intricate, not many had very many kicks. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m just saying that the ATA forms have a lot of kicks, especially the higher in rank you go.

My form, the Fifth Degree Black Belt form, for example has 95 moves. Now, like the other forms, many of the moves are repeated. (Left punch in one section and right punch in another, for example). However, I have front kicks, round kicks, hook kicks, jump spin kicks, wheel kicks, jump outer and inner crescent kicks throughout. With the number of kicks and types of kicks I do, I’m constantly working to improve the quality of them. Ditto with the hand techniques.

Kicks can be intricate. Lately, I’ve been working on a combination side-hook-round kick and having balance issues. So I keep working, practicing, breaking down each kick to it’s smallest components to figure out the problem. I work on the technique.

Maybe I’ll take a section of the form and concentrate on the flow or timing. The entire workout could consist of only five moves, but I’m doing them over and over, looking for the best technique I can get.

One of my instructor’s favorite challenges focuses on stamina, both mental and physical. The challenge is to do the form seven times in a row, full power. Remember, my form has 95 moves, including all those kicks. So, I begin, I complete 95 moves, I go back to the ready stance, and begin again. Seven times. Somewhere around the fourth time, the body may be used to it, but the mind is saying, “Three more. Arg!) So it becomes a mental game to strive to keep up the energy.

Of course, you can’t just go out and rip out seven in a row first time. I had to work up to it. Three times one session, four times, the next, and so on. I don’t do the seven in a row all the time, but everynow and then I’ll do it, just to sweat and keep up the stamina.

Even so, during those seven times, I look at technique. I may go back and do something again if I don’t like it, just to stay honest. Sure I could whip out seven times but if the quality isn’t there, what’s the point? I’ve lost the integrity of practice.

How does this relate to writing? We’re always learning and honing the craft of writing. Following the rules, breaking the rules, changing the rules to suit our story. Some of the areas of writing to help are challenges. In my Thursday night writers’ group we have a weekly challenge for those who might need some inspiration in between bouts with the work in progress. Maybe the challenge will focus on point of view, or certain words, or scene, or developing character. Some nights, all of the writers may be having the same general problem, so the challenge for the next week is to explore that area and improve upon it. Many of the hot-to writing books will have challenges to try.

Other areas of practice are blogs. Such as the wonderful one you’re currently reading. Writers can work on the rules of writing, the craft of writing by pumping out a weekly blog. Again, I don’t want to put down other blogs, but some I’ve read, well, I don’t feel they’re as much a blog as they are a lengthy Facebook post.

Letters (remember those?) can also be a way to practice writing. News articles, too.

One of the ways a friend of mine tried was to open a favorite book and start writing it. Longhand, write the book as the author wrote it. By doing this, one might be ale to see the ‘how’ of the writing. The reasons paragraphs were formed in such a way, how dialogue flows, etc.

You’re working on technique.

In the final installment of this series, we’ll look at motive. Stay tuned!

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