Procrastination

Procrastination is bad! Rationalizing it is worse! I’m guilty of both. It seems as if I can’t…or don’t want to…write. I believe I’ve narrowed the underlying causes down to three:
1. Fear. Over the past two days, I’ve read many good children’s books and I’m being followed/friended by successful authors. This is a good thing, right? Well, tell that to my insecurity. I think maybe I might be believing in myself just a little too much. After all, these books (in a much more immature form) were rejected by some of the best publishers. And now, I’ve only sold two on Amazon. Insecurity just kicked into high gear.
2. No time.   I thought maybe I’d accomplish a lot today and some of tomorrow, but life keeps getting in the way. Today I had errands, tomorrow we’re going wine shopping (it’s  20% discount-stock-up time at our favorite liquor store), then company starts coming in late tomorrow night. So, instead of buckling down and getting at least a few words on paper, I chose to just forget it based on the rest of the week.
3. Unsolicited criticism. A person that I know and trust thought she was being honest with me, when instead she was just being hurtful. I know better than to listen to her. Her spelling and grammar are poor and her idea of reading a book is to look at “People” magazine. Not exactly a qualified critic. But, I listened nonetheless.

I started the blog above two days ago, and never finished it…speaking of procrastination.  Circumstances have improved a bit since last I blogged.  I’m still insecure, but right now I have a little time to write (until my grandson wakes up and wants to play!), AND people who offer their opinions when I’m not asking, can just go away.  Don’t need ’em, don’t want ’em, won’t tolerate ’em.

Rather than spend my precious, limited time on blogging to an unseen audience, which may or may not exist, I shall now devote the next few moments to “the series.”  Tomorrow I’ll blog again, and the subject will be, “Why Do I Have So Many Ideas?  And Which Should I Throw Out?”

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Following the Experts

I’ve read, in several places, that if you are an unknown author (I am), and if you’d like to be noticed (I would), then you write a blog and give out free samples!! I HAVE! Check out “Promised Sample” in this blog.

Additionally, I am publishing (here and now) a very short story based on my Moochie Mockingbird character. This is for one reason…and one reason only…my blog writing and my children’s story writing are not the same. I’d like you to sample my children’s writing. So, would you read my very short Texas tall tale?…here?…and now?…thank you very much.

A SHORT TEXAS TALL TALE

by Laynie King

“The distance is a long way away,” thought Moochie Mockingbird.  “Not sure where I’m going, either.  Better look for a place to rest.”

Moochie was ready to continue his exploration of Texas.  He’d been to Palo Duro Canyon and Ratcliff Lake and Saragosa.   Someday he’d go down to the Gulf Coast, but not today.

As Moochie settled into the branches of a nearby mesquite tree, he remembered something he’d seen on his way to Pecos.  He’d go back and check on that…first thing in the morning.

Just at dawn, Moochie ate a small beetle and some ants for breakfast.  He had a swallow of water from a puddle and took off into the sky.  His destination was about two hours away.  Looking down from a great height, Moochie saw exactly what he was looking for, off to the east.

Moochie flew in closer to a tall, metal, man-made object that reached far into the sky.  There were a lot of them around, but he decided to pick one that didn’t have humans near it.  He flew in and around the ladder-like structure.  He flew to the very top where he found a flag.  He flew to the middle where he saw a long pipe that went down into the ground.  Parts of this big contraption were going round and round and parts were moving up and down.  It appeared to Moochie as if there had been a little hole in the ground and this ‘whatever-it-was’ was making the hole bigger.  And it was noisy!  Moochie thought this was all very strange.

“I can’t imagine what humans would want with a hole in the ground.  They won’t be able to live down there, I don’t think.  There must be something valuable at the end of that pipe, but I sure don’t know what it is.  And I can’t ask…‘cause I don’t speak human.”  Moochie wasn’t so much confused as bewildered.  He wished there were other animals around.  They might have the answers to his questions.

The mockingbird flew to the shade of a prickly pear cactus.  He ate his fill of little wasps that were flitting in and out of the fruit.  It was getting hot and the sun was very bright.  It reflected off the sandy desert and back into Moochie’s eyes.  He was too smart to exert himself in this West Texas heat.  Just because he was curious didn’t mean he had to be foolish.  Mooch decided to rest a bit.

A couple of hours before sunset, Moochie left the shade.  And just in time!  Off to his right he saw a rodent-like animal.  He thought it was a gopher, but he wasn’t sure.

“Hey, you!” called Moochie.  “Hold up a minute.  I want to talk.”

“Well, this should be interesting,” said the gopher.  “I’ve never talked to a bird before.  Why can I understand you?”

“Oh, it’s just a talent I have.  I can speak every animal language except human.  Anyway, I have a question.  The name’s Moochie, by the way.  What’s yours?”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.  I’m Gail Gopher.  Full name’s Gail Prairie Pocket Gopher, but that’s bigger than I am.  What’s your question?”

“Well, a few days ago I was flying west and I saw these big tall things sticking up out of the ground here.  I got busy over by Saragosa, and forgot about them for a few days, but I’m here now.  I’ve just got to know what the humans are doing with these things.  Do you know?”

“It’s your lucky day, Moochie.  You’re asking a question about something that’s in my own backyard, so to speak.  These are oil-drilling rigs.  I live underground and every time the humans start drilling, it shakes my burrow nearly to pieces.”

“If humans are drilling for oil, does that mean you have oil in your burrow, too?  Oh, and what’s oil?”  Moochie had finally found something he didn’t know anything about!

Gail laughed, and then answered,  “No, I don’t have oil in my burrow.  The humans have to drill down hundreds of feet to get to the shale that holds the oil.  Oil is a black liquid.  I’m not sure exactly what they do with it, but when it comes up the pipe, it sure does smell.”

“Is that what’s in the air?”

“Sure.  Smells like this all the time.  I can’t imagine that the humans would want this in their houses.  I sure wouldn’t want it in mine.  This is close enough, thank you.  I just don’t know what they
could do with it.  And I never really thought about before you asked.”

Moochie and Gail stood quietly, thinking that they now had more questions than answers.

“Y’all don’t have a clue about that rig, do ya?”

“Who said that?  Where are you?”  Gail Gopher looked around, but couldn’t see anyone with her tiny, beady eyes.  “Come out where we can see you.”

Moochie jumped back quickly.  A big ol’ scorpion appeared right in front of him.  Moochie had seen one before, knew they weren’t edible, and was actually a little scared of it.  “Gail, it’s a scorpion!  Watch out!”

“Oh, I’ll wager that’s Scorpio.  He’s always around here.  Just don’t get him riled up; he’s harmless if you leave him alone.”

“Gail, why are you talking to a mockingbird?  Wait a minute, why am I talking to a mockingbird?  What’s goin’ on?”

Moochie ventured a little closer.  “Well, Gail and I were just wondering what humans do with the oil they drill out of the ground.  Do you know?  Oh, and we can all understand each other, ‘cause I have a talent for language.  When I’m in a group, everybody understands everybody.”

“Okay then!  So, to answer your question.  The humans use the oil for energy and that’s all I know.  Well, I do know there’s a strong smell around here most of the time.  It doesn’t help that there’s oil floating on top of that pond over yonder.”

Scorpio pointed to a rectangular, man-made pond not far from the rig.  Moochie could see the sun reflecting off the oil that floated on top of the water.  It made rainbow colors all over the surface.  As he watched, he saw a small gopher climbing the steep dirt walls that kept the water from draining away.

“Um, Gail, do you let your kids play on the pond walls?”  Moochie was concerned.

“Oh, no!  Never!  I’ll bet that’s Garry; I can’t let that boy out of my sight for a minute.  I told him to not go over there.  Garry!”  Gail shouted out to her son.  “Gar-r-ry!!”

The little gopher didn’t hear his mother.  He continued his trek up the pond wall.

“If I go over there,” said Moochie, “will he listen to me?”

“Probably not.  Garry thinks he’s smart enough to do anything he wants.  He won’t listen.  And I can’t shout loud enough for him to hear me.  If we don’t hurry, he’s going to fall into that stinky water!”

Gail started to worry.  “I’m not going to be fast enough to stop him.  What are we going to do?”

“Scorpio to the rescue!”  And the scorpion took off.  “I’ll just scare him away from the edge.  He’s a bit afraid of me.  It’s our only chance.”  The scorpion ran faster.

“Hurry!  I don’t know what I’ll do if he falls in the water.”

As the scorpion ran toward the pond, he was followed on the ground by Gail and in the air by Moochie.  They’d be there quickly, but not before the scurrying scorpion.

Garry was making his way up the dirt hill.  He’d pretty much forgotten what his mom had said.  He didn’t think once about the water on the other side of the wall.  Just as he was going over the top, Scorpio jumped out.

“Stop right there, boy!”

“What?”  Garry started to back up.  “Why are you talking to me?”

“Because you’re too hard-headed to listen to your mother.  Get away from that pond right this minute or I’ll do more than scare you!”

Garry backed down the hill, away from the scorpion.  His mother called up to him from the flat ground.  “Garry, you get down here this very minute, or I’m gonna tell Scorpio to sting your stubborn tail!”

Moochie laughed… and then tried to pretend he hadn’t.

“Moochie Mockingbird, don’t you laugh when I’m talking to my son!”  Gail was indignant.

As the baby gopher reached flat ground, Moochie said, “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have.  But you have to admit  that a little sting would have given Garry quite a shock!”

Said Scorpio,  “I wouldn’t have stung him all that hard.”

“Garry, you get back to the burrow and wait for me.  I want to talk to my new friends.”  Gail gave the little gopher a shove in the right direction.  “And don’t you stop anywhere on the way!”

“Thank you for hurrying over here, Scorpio.  Maybe you scared him enough that he won’t go back up, but I wouldn’t count on it.  He’s the orneriest little one I ever had.”

“Moochie, if you hadn’t seen that rascal go toward the pond…well, I don’t know what would have happened.  Thank you for caring.”

“This has certainly been an interesting afternoon!  Here I am, just a prairie pocket gopher talking to a scorpion and a mockingbird as if it were the most natural thing.  Hmm.  I’ll be thinking about this for a while.  Thanks again, hope I’ll see you both later!”  With that, Gail ran back to her burrow to have a few stern words with her son.

Moochie knew he probably wouldn’t be seeing Gail and Garry again.  The gophers wouldn’t be venturing out of the burrow tonight.  And he’d be leaving for parts unknown in the morning.  He turned to speak to Scorpio.

But the scorpion was gone.  Moochie was disappointed.  He really wanted to talk to Scorpio more about oil and drilling and strong smells.  But the arachnid was gone, and so was Moochie’s chance to get more answers.  Well, at least he knew more than he had before.  He supposed that he was just going to have to settle for that.

Maybe someday Moochie would learn human language, and he’d ask them all about big ol’ deep, noisy rigs drilling holes in the West Texas ground.

—The End—

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.

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Eight Hours

Four hours’ travel time with my husband last Friday. Check. Four hours’ travel time with my husband today. Check. Eight hours of near-perfect silence. Priceless.

Don’t get me wrong. My husband and I get along wonderfully. After all, we’ve been married for 41 years. But, when he’s driving, that’s all he’s doing. He is the most dedicated driver I’ve ever seen. (He makes me crazy…) So…

I spent eight hours in the passenger’s seat this weekend sampling “stuff” on my Kindle. I can also access my browser on Kindle; however, I really didn’t have time for that.  I sampled authors, editors, teachers, professors, and so-called experts who I seriously doubt have ever met a child!  I’ve read “dummies” and “idiots” and various other experts who contradicted each other.  I sampled children’s books, child authors (one of them 12 years old!), parents, and psychologists.  And what did I come away with?  (Sorry…With what did I come away?)  In no particular order:

1.  Be patient.  If you want to sell a gazillion copies of your book/series/whatever, you have to know that it isn’t going to happen in the first week.  I mean, really….if they’ve never heard of you and your book is in position 106,342 on Kindle, whatcha gonna do?  Be patient.

2.  Talk about yourself.  Libraries, schools, churches, strangers, Author’s Corner, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress.  I’m even thinking about showing my face in some writers’ societies that actually charge you money to be your friend.  Publicize or die.

3.  Write.  I know, seems too elementary.  I mean, really, seamstresses seam, carpenters carp…wait, that’s not right.  At any rate, the books ain’t gonna write themselves.  You may be inspired in the middle of the night, but that won’t put it down on paper…or monitor, as the case may be.

4.  Have faith.  Last week at this time, I was sure that I would have already sold dozens of books by this week at this time.  (But that might have been the champagne talking…)  I was wrong.  I sold two.  One to my wonderful husband (on whose critique I will expound at a later date), and my son – who is reading it to our one-year-old grandson.  I have had several requests for free hard copies, and I am considering those.  One is to a teacher who uses my Moochie Mockingbird stories (which have been in existence for decades) during “Texas Week” with her first-graders.  Actually, the teacher is my daughter-in-law, mother of the aforementioned one year old, and I will get her a copy of the new improved version.  Anyway, back to the subject.  I have faith that I will sell more books.

I am gratified that I have five followers on Twitter already.  I consider that quite an accomplishment, since I’m just learning to “tweet” and have only a vague idea of what I’m doing.  Perhaps this IS the best way to get my name before the public.

So, eight hours and I’m only impressed by four points.  Actually, that is quite a coup for the “points.”  I’m not easily impressed.  I have come away from all my reading with a new committment to “work” as a writer.  And I’m grateful to my husband for the near-eight hours of quiet in which to study.

Tomorrow, I’m going to speak with the local printer (I have a choice of one (1) printer in our little town), and see how much he’ll charge me for some nice soft-cover hard copies.  (Is that an oxymoron?)  More to follow.  For now, it’s goodnight and good writing.

 

 

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Discipline and the Newly-Published Writer

In my former life (pre-retirement), when I found the time to work on my Moochie Mockingbird stories, I’d just get behind the keyboard and “write.” I didn’t care much about characters or conflict or continuity, but I was outstanding at description and dialogue! Somehow, I did manage to have events in the proper order, but that may have been pure dumb luck. The stories weren’t very impressive.

Now I’m disciplined, albeit far from perfectly. I worry about antagonist/protagonist/plot. I follow an outline. I…whatever. I don’t flesh out my characters until the plot is finalized. I save my “color commentary” until I feel good about the story. I don’t worry about spelling or punctuation or embellishment until the very last…this is the most difficult!

My brain hurts. It doesn’t want to think this way. But I’m learning.

In order to succeed as a writer (even if marginally), I’m learning I have to work at it. But I’ve also had to learn to “tweet,” to connect on social networks, to promote myself, to format correctly…the list goes on.

Usually around suppertime every day, I drag my tired backside into the kitchen…where, thankfully, my husband is cooking. I look at him and say, “I can’t stuff another thing into my brain,” or some such thing. Then I eat quickly and return to the keyboard.

We’re getting ready to take a short three-day trip to see our kids. I debated whether I should take my laptop. Duh. I can’t stay away. Four hours in the car with nothing to do? Here are the new things I can do! Twitter, blog, Facebook, LinkedIn…and not just contributing. Reading, following, #linking, exploring groups…learning…another list goes on…

One of my children has promised me a crash course in tweeting this weekend. Another is doing a professional photograph of me. The third is my support…my cheerleader. And our one-year-old grandson is just gonna love me.  Now I know why I had children!

At the end of the weekend, I’ll be back in my little office. Doing whatever it is I do that makes my brain hurt. But I’m disciplined. I’m determined. This time I will succeed.

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Personal News; Setting Goals

Writing very nearly got in the way of my personal life today. My husband and I are celebrating our 41st wedding anniversary. And, while I did think far enough ahead to get a gift and a card, I hadn’t wrapped them yet.

He walked into my office a few minutes ago with a beautifully wrapped present and a wonderful card. I, on the other hand, gave him his present in the bag it came in. I feel badly about it, but he assured me that it was alright.  It has been, after all, 41 years!   Several moments later  he said, “Don’t you need to get back to your book?”   Understanding man!  However, the clatter of the keyboard in my office forced him to the guest room to take a nap!

So, now it’s back to the grind. I’m trying to come up with a reasonable number of words as a goal-per-day. Haven’t quite figured out what that is yet, but I will make it an attainable goal. Stayed tuned for updates on that one!

One more word from this one-book author: I can’t say enough good things about Amazon/Kindle’s publishing help desk! They’ve answered every question I’ve had so far, and some of them were just ignorant! Kudos to helpful people who answer their email politely and in a timely fashion! I’m impressed.

Back to the keyboard! More tomorrow.

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Back to Writing

The last two days have been spent doing the “business” of writing. The release of “Palo Duro Panic” on Kindle was really exciting for me – until I found a serious error and had to re-upload it. Which put me back in the review/publishing loop…on which I’m still waiting!

Not to worry! The original release (including error) is online to purchase; the new-improved version will be available within about 36 hours. Same price, better read!

I’ve been on Facebook forever, I think, but now I’m on Twitter and I have this wonderful blog site on WordPress. By the way, kudos to WordPress for making this so easy.

So, the business of business aside, there are about fifteen new ideas rattling around my brain, and I need to get them into the computer’s memory quickly. Its memory is SO much more reliable than mine.

One of the new books is a “pre-quel”, in a way, to “Palo Duro Panic.” It’s the story of Moochie Mockingbird as a very young bird, and how he got his name.

So, it’s back to “work” for me! If there happen to be any children’s book authors out there who have word of wisdom for a new writer, please leave me a comment. I read them all and I’m willing to learn!

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Promised Sample

Palo Duro Panic

Coyote Gets Caught

Cody Coyote was the oldest, wisest coyote in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  Years of experience had made him a well-qualified teacher in the ways of the coyote,of nature, of other animals.  It was
Cody’s goal to make sure every pup born into his den could use its own good sense before it went out to face the canyon by itself.

In a secluded cave under the canyon wall, old Cody gathered the newest pack of young coyotes around him.  On this particular late afternoon in March, it was gloomily dark, bitingly cold, and very windy.  Cody had to speak up loudly to be heard over the howling of the wind outside the cave.

“It smells like snow!  Stick your noses out into the wind and feel the cold and the damp.  Feel the direction of the wind.  That’s what snow smells like.  It’ll be on the ground before the afternoon’s over.  Now, I know how you like to jump and play while you’re hunting.  And I know how some of you like to run away from the rest of the pack.  But, for tonight, don’t ever go off on your own.  When the weather is bad, y’all have to be more careful.  Snow can make the rocks very dangerous.  And where there’s snow, there’s usually ice.  And where there’s ice, it’s slippery!  I don’t want any of you hurt.  So, be careful and be aware of your surroundings.”

 Several of the pups had already started playing and weren’t listening at all. Casey Coyote stood up.  “Y’all settle down now and listen to your elder.”  Casey was a little older than the pups and
sometimes he acted more important than he was.  “Now, listen up!”

Casey was Cody’s grandson and he made the older coyote grin a bit.  Cody remembered how he used to act important, too.  He’d get a bit bossy with the little ones.  Then those little ones would grow up, and Cody would have to deal with them being as big as he was!  Casey would learn that lesson, too.

Then Cody repeated what he’d just said, “Stay together, two or three of you, and be careful.  Good hunting.  I’ll see y’all later.”

The pups ran off into the canyon, each of them thinking of rabbit, squirrel, or mouse for dinner.

Cody Coyote got up from the hard rocks and wondered why he’d ever sat down.  Seemed like old age was catching up to him.  Oh, well, that was Nature’s way.  Nothing he could do about it.  He set out to hunt his dinner.  He set out alone.  The snow was already an inch deep on the ground and it was still coming down.  From the looks of the clouds, it would probably snow heavily all night.

As he walked along the rim of the canyon, his sharp eyes saw movement just off the path.  Rabbit!  A big old jackrabbit for his supper.  Cody crouched for a jump.  Just as he started to spring forward, his front paw slipped out from under him and he went sprawling forward on his chest.  He thought he’d stop sliding right there, but…Cody was wrong.  As he slid, he dislodged a very large, very
slippery sandstone rock.  The rock was covered with snow and ice and once it started rolling, nothing was going to stop it.  Cody and that rock and hundreds of small stones went skidding along, just to the very edge of the mesa.

Then, thankfully, Cody stopped rolling, and he lay panting for breath.  He could see over the edge.  It was long way down to the canyon floor!  Cody wondered why he’d stopped rolling and
skidding where he did.  Oh, no!  That sandstone rock had also stopped rolling and skidding, slipping and sliding, too… stopped right on top of Cody’s left hind leg.

Cody could not move.  He was trapped.

So, there’s your sample of the first book.  There are two other books that will be published soon.  Meantime, please go to amazon.com, search for Laynie King, or Moochie Mockingbird, or Palo Duro Panic.  Enjoy!  And tell your friends

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June 21st, 2011

Laynie King’s First Blog…ever!

One would think that, given my passion for writing, I would have had a blog long before this.  One would be incorrect.  I am hereby changing my
status!  Okay, that was the Prologue.  Now on to the important things.

I published my first book on Amazon/Kindle yesterday, June 20th, and I’ve already sold two copies.  (Okay, one was to my husband.)  Amazon has given me an
opportunity I’ve been dreaming of for years!   Self-publishing without a huge cash investment.  Hooray!

Here’s a little bit about me.

I’m a Texas mom and grandma, formerly of North Texas, now residing (retired) in an obscure corner of the Texas Hill Country.
I’m not a native Texan, but my husband and three children are!  That makes me Texan by default.  As our children were growing up, we took many
trips around the state, exploring and discovering…and frequently camping.  The kids loved being outdoors!

Several decades ago, I started writing stories about our vacation adventures, but didn’t want them to sound like reports on “What I Did on my Summer Vacation.”  So, I took an experience, or a situation, or an event or location, and fictionalized it with a mockingbird hero named Moochie.  Over the years, the stories evolved.  There are copies in a couple of school libraries, and I wish they’d pull them and throw them out.  They were trash!

I didn’t know how to write, but I believe I’ve learned.  No, I’m not going to tell you how!  Sorry.   I’m proud of this first story!  It has characters that I’ve grown to love, real animals  (and their real
characteristics), real Texas places, all in an adventure that I think will appeal to my target audience:  8 to 11-year old kids, male or female, who possess good reading skills.  A caveat on that last phrase…this book is also a great “read-to-me” book for younger children!  I’ve had first graders tell me it was wonderful.

On my next blog, you will find a sample of the first chapter of “Palo Duro Panic:  Moochie Mockingbird Tales”

Meantime, I’m on Twitter and Facebook as Laynie King.  But, please cut me a little slack!  I’m just learning to use Twitter!

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