If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance)

gravestoneMost people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right?

When my friend, Trish, was first diagnosed with cancer, she professed to not caring about the bills or the money she spent on her family. Her theory was that you can’t take it with you. And while that is true…you are leaving behind love ones who will have to pick up the pieces. They will still have bills to pay.

Trish lost her battle with cancer at the end of August. She was the main bread winner of the family. She did not have a will or life insurance. Now her husband is struggling with paying off her medical expenses and adjusting to life without her income. A life insurance policy would have provided the family some relief.

In Trish’s case, the lack of a will was not as important even though it might have made a few things easier on her husband. But now he is the sole provider for their two kids. It is even more important that he have a will to provide for his children if he should pass away before they reach adulthood.

My husband is an attorney and while he doesn’t specialize in wills and trusts, he make a point to emphasize to parents that they need a will. It is the ONLY way to have a voice in what happens to your children after you die.

You may think it is obvious that your brother will take care of your kids or that your mom is young enough to do so. It may never enter into your mind that your mom and brother may argue over who is best to care for your children. Without a will, it will be up to the state to decide who will have custody of your children.

But with a will, YOU get to say who you would like to raise your kids. You can ensure that the family member or friend you want to raise your child is the one that gets to do so. You don’t want to leave it up to the courts to decide what is best for your family.

(There are other benefits of having a will such as giving instructions regarding medical decisions in case you are not medically able to express your wishes, providing for the education of children or grandchildren and avoiding tax consequence for your heirs.)

As for life insurance that money can help pay off your expenses and for your funeral instead of leaving your loved ones with bills. In the case of Trish, a life insurance policy would have done that as well as provide the family more time to transition their lives to a single, one income family.

So I urge all of you to review your life insurance policies and update your wills. And if you don’t have a will – and especially if you have kids – I urge you to get one.

Today’s Featured Author: David Mark Hebden

Today I welcome author David Mark Hebden to my blog.

Interview

Welcome, David. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share a little about myself with you.

My name is David Mark Hebden, but I have used several aliases.  I’m a fiction writer, author, and eBook self-publisher.  I currently have 7 books published with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in a small Pennsylvania town, lived in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie for awhile but moved with my family to Southern California when I was 9 years old and that’s where I grew up and attended school.  I come from a middle class, blue collar, Catholic family, but I wouldn’t consider myself a religious person.

Including the United States, I’ve lived and worked on four continents.  I’m presently living in Bangkok, Thailand.  So I guess you could say Southeast Asia is where I call home at the moment.

When did you begin writing? 

I got the writing bug as a child living in Ohio.  My best friend and I wrote and printed a weekly newsletter on a printing press his parents had in their attic. I explained more about that experience and the reason for it in my latest book titled, A Life in Disguise.

Can you tell us a little more about your most recent release? 

Here is the book blurb.

life2When a terrorist bomb shatters a Thai marketplace, Michael Orly flashes to other times he’s fled debris and gunshots while serving with Special Forces and as an undercover operative for NSA.

In this autobiographical novel, the author uses character Michael Orly to explore his own past from a young recruit slipping deeper and deeper into the ranks of the highly trained in the tortuous jungles of Panama to his current hoped-for retirement in Thailand.

His life has been under wraps and chained to government agencies throughout his life. He recalls his days in South Vietnam during the TET Offensive; as the youngest Special Forces team sergeant leading a small group of professional soldiers in an isolated camp at Ben Soi, including several hundred Cambodian and Vietnamese soldiers; in undercover assignments ensconced as a police officer to root out U.S. drug lords; infiltrating outlaw biker gangs; and in covert operations during the Yom Kipper War gathering intelligence on Russian military in Syria.

The author explores his life in retrospect, cloaked in disguises, fractured by PTSD, preserved by equal parts loyalty and deceit and, just maybe, protected by talisman’s found along the way. But such a life never ends on a beach, lounging in the sun … when the agency calls, his Life in Disguise begins yet again.

Obviously you put a lot of yourself into this book. Are the rest of the characters based on real people? 

I believe most writers put at least part of themselves into what they write and I’m no different.  I base many of the  characters in my books on real people I have worked alongside or met through my travels.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Normally, I will complete an outline that includes characters names and descriptions prior to writing a book which I would suggest doing.  Most likely the storyline will change as you write it and you can always add new characters as the story unfolds.

How do you conceive your plot ideas? 

Prior to writing my first book, I had difficulty trying to figure out a storyline.  My sister’s husband, an Ivy League educated man, suggested I do a major “Mind Dump.”  Naturally I asked, “What exactly is a Mind Dump and how do I accomplish it?”  A Mind Dump is putting everything you have in your brain down on paper or completely clearing out your mind.  To make a long story short, I successfully did it.  It took me quite awhile to complete the Mind Dump process and I actually did it like writing a book with chapters and headings like; The Crocodile Diary, Broken Puzzle, A Life So Far, Falling Through Cracks, Carnival of Errors, From Patriotism to Prevarication, etc., etc.  Once I finished cleaning house, I suddenly started having amazing new ideas for storylines and eventually completed 8 new books that I’ve been successful in publishing 7 of them so far.  So, if you come up against that brick wall, try a Mind Dump.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I have lived and worked within the military, intelligence, and law enforcement communities.  I can remember college writing professors telling me to write about things I know best including life experiences.  I’ve always tried to do that, but discovered the real challenge is delving into areas I have absolutely no knowledge of and then successfully include them in my books.

Would you want to jump into one of your books and want to live in that world? If so, which one?

Hell yes I would!  Especially my book, Plausible Deniability.  It’s about a young Viral Immunologist living in Paris who gets mixed up with former Nazi’s and members of the secret Vril Society.  I have a love affair with Paris and remember feeling quite at home when visiting the city and wandering the streets.  I hope to someday call Paris my home.

Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

Locate a really good editor and copy-editor who you not only work well with but trust with your writing projects.  Create a catchy title and book cover image.  Writing and selling books is extremely competitive, so explore every avenue to get your project in front of the reading public.  If nothing else, remember that a well written, professional looking book always reflects well on the author because you never know who might be reading it.

Thank you so much for being here, David. 

Thank you for your time, I understand how precious it can be.

******

You can purchase A Life in Disguise or any of David’s other books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

 

 

 

 

World building: Don’t rename ordinary items and other tips

I have written before about the fun of building your own world. It is one of the reasons that I enjoy writing fantasy. But building a new world with religions, governments, cultures and history can be a daunting task.

Developing your world BEFORE you begin writing is essential if you want to keep the details of your fictitious world consistent and logical throughout your novel. You want your characters to LIVE in this world so make it real and believable.

Now there is a whole bunch of world building details that you will develop that will never enter your novel. Don’t get hung up on the small details of your world. For as much as you want to make everything your own, you don’t need to spend your time recreating the wheel so to speak.

Here are some world building tips:

  • Language – You don’t necessarily need to create your own. I know Tolkien did but he was a trained professional in the art of linguistics. You throw in too many words from a made-up language, and you could easily confuse and possibly lose your readers.
  • Spelling – Avoid too many obscure spellings. Just because your story takes place in a different world doesn’t mean you need to name all the people and places with obscure, hard to pronounce (or remember) names.
  • Apostrophes – Another common mistake when creating a new world is to have lots of words with apostrophes in an effort to make the words look different or unique. Remember that in most languages, an apostrophe is merely a sign that something has been omitted. Use them with caution.
  • baby bunny 17Animals – If you are creating a whole other creature that does not exist on Earth that is fine but too many authors simply rename animals. If you are writing about small, big-eared, short-tailed, fluffy animals, then go ahead and refer to them as rabbits instead of some made-up name. The same goes for horses. If your characters travel by horse-back, you don’t need to rename the horse unless it perhaps has razor-sharp fangs and two heads. Reinventing the entire animal kingdom would be annoying especially if the animals exist for no other purpose than to be described in passing. If they are important to your story, then by all means create your own creatures.
  • Units of Measure – You don’t have to necessarily worry about creating new ways of measuring things. Yes, meters and kilograms maybe be more recent inventions but there is nothing wrong with using “steps” or “feet” as measurement. In ancient times, using steps or the length of a forearm were common practices.

It is easier on you and your readers if you don’t recreate everything. If you are not careful, it will seem like your book is written in a foreign language and leave your reader struggling to understand what is going on. And not recreating everything will save you as a writer time too.

In honor of my birthday – Fantasy Book Sale

My birthday is this week and I thought I would give you, the reader, a present to celebrate.

For one week, I am offering my fantasy trilogy for just $2.99! That is right – you can get all three books for the price of one book!

If you are a cat-lover, I also suggest checking out The Search, which features Tosh, a telepathic cat from my trilogy. You can get this fantasy short story for only 99 cents on Amazon.

But I will let you in on a secret – you can get The Search from Barnes & Noble, the Kobo Store, or Smashwords – where it is available in all e-book formats – for FREE! That’s right. It is FREE every day!

So for just $2.99 this week you can get FOUR fantasy stories. (Sale ends Tuesday, Sept. 16)

Enjoy!

The Elemental trilogy

Amazon                Smashwords (Coupon Code: HN44P)

box set

Summoned:

Lina was born with the power to start fires with a mere thought – a trait which died out long ago. She had no plans to leave her beloved homeland. Then gypsies kidnap her and take her to a foreign land. There a strong urge compels her to travel north.

On her journey, she reluctantly uses her innate Elemental powers as she battles mystical creatures that have not existed for 800 years. When she discovers the shocking truth behind the calling, it will change her life in ways she could never imagine.

Quietus:

In the shadow of Ben Dar fortress, Lina learned she was the center of a thousand-year-old prophecy claiming the rebirth of the Elementals – an ancient race dedicated to caring for the Land.

Now Lina and those with traces of Elemental power train in the mountains of South Point in the hopes that they can defeat this unknown danger to the Land. Will her powers be enough to stop the destruction of her homeland?

Destiny: 

Destroying Quietus should have stopped the destruction to the Land. But it hadn’t. Slowly, the barren areas continue to grow destroying everything in their path. None of Lina’s Elemental powers can repair the damage while the Land remains contaminated by magic.
But there is an ancient scepter created by a Learner that may lift this magical barrier. Before Lina can claim it, the scepter is stolen. Now Lina and Val must race to find the scepter and end the destruction to the Land once and for all.

The SearchThe Search

For over a thousand years, telepathic cats known as STACs have faithfully searched for those with power over the elements looking for the one foretold to save the Land. None have questioned their duty to fulfill this ancient task.

But when Tosh’s latest charge is murdered because of his Elemental powers, Tosh considers abandoning The Search. Will a glimpse of the future destruction be enough to change his mind?

Amazon                 Barnes & Noble               Kobo Store        Smashword  (every ebook format)

Keeping the dog out of the cat’s litter box

Sadie Rose, our Cocker Spaniel puppy who just turned one-years-old last week, has fit well into our family. But there are a few reasons she doesn’t have full run of the house yet. When we can’t play with her or watch over her, she stays in the kitchen with a dog door that lets her have free access to the backyard.

One of the reasons she can’t have full run of the house is that she still has that puppy tendency to chew on things – usually the kids’ toys. It is like having a toddler. She finds the smallest pieces of anything – a Lego, a coin, a balloon – and puts it in her mouth. Even when we think we are diligent about picking up, she still finds something – just like a toddler does.

But one of the main reasons she doesn’t have free roam of the house is the cats’ litter boxes. Sadie Rose loves to get “snacks” out of the litter box. Yuck!

We have two litter boxes. One was upstairs in the kids’ bathroom. We had been keeping the door closed when she was upstairs, but sometimes we would forget to close the door or the kids would use the bathroom and then leave the door open. Next thing you know, she is in there searching for a treat.

Our other litter box is downstairs. It used to be in the half-bath across from the pantry but we moved it to the dining room so the cats could reach it without having to go past the puppy. Once we found out that Sadie would eat out of the litter box, we raised it off the ground. This worked until Sadie Rose grew taller.

So my husband and I looked for a solution. Research online said we weren’t likely to break her of this disgusting habit. The suggested solution was to make the litter box unattainable. There were countless sites offering normal-looking furniture that hides a litter box. Some sites even showed you how to create your own. However, I couldn’t fathom adding more furniture to our house – especially anywhere I would want a litter box.

CIMG3291My husband suggested putting the upstairs one under the bathroom cabinet and the downstairs one under some cabinets in our dinette area. But doing this would mean cutting a cat door into the cabinet doors. Now we won’t be in this house forever so I didn’t like the idea of cutting into the doors.

As we discussed our options one evening while sitting in our computer room, I noticed the cabinet we had bought to hold our Pachinko machine. We had already drilled holes to keep the machine upright so it wouldn’t fall on the kids. The inside housed some books. This looked like a good candidate for trying our own hidden litter box.

CIMG3292We bought a new cat box that fit inside and my husband added a cat door. I must say it looks pretty good. The trick was letting the cats know it was there and of course getting them to use it. We kept the door open for a few days (closing it when the dog was upstairs.)

We have had the doors closed for a few weeks, and at least one cat must be using it. Now we just need to decide what to do with the downstairs litter box. Once that one is taken care of and we get Sadie to stop chewing up the toys, she will be ready to have run of the house.