Two wrongs don’t make a right

The other day while online, I was reading an advice columnist. A woman wrote in about an incident with her boyfriend’s parents. The mom made a comment that she thought was rude. She responded with a sharp remark. When her boyfriend told her that what she did was rude, she didn’t believe him, hence the need to write into an advice columnist for an unbiased opinion.

The columnist sided with the boyfriend. The woman’s response was indeed rude. I agreed with the columnist but when I read the comments below the article, it seemed many other readers didn’t agree. Some of them even thought the woman should have been more direct. They thought she should stand up for herself rather than let the rude comment stand.

I didn’t read all the comments but none of the ones I read sided with the columnist. And I thought, “This is what is wrong with society.” The fact that the mentality was all about getting even or putting people in their place seemed wrong. Since when did two wrongs make it right? Yes, the parent’s comment was rude. She may have spoken without fully weighing her words. But instead of just brushing off the comment or maybe even bringing it to her boyfriend’s attention for an explanation, this woman chose the path of giving back what she thought she got in the first place.

There are many times that I tell my kids that they should not do back to the other one what was done to them. If one of them hit the other, it doesn’t mean you should hit back. An insult does not require an insult back. Being rude does not justify being rude back. I repeat the adage I heard from my own childhood – “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Jase was having issues with a few kids at his school teasing him. My husband talked to him about ways to handle it. On a few of them, Jase said that the response would be the same as bullying. He knew right away that he shouldn’t do back to the kids what was done to him. But it is all too easy for people to want to fall back on that. It is easy to lash out with equal amounts of anger or rudeness and justify that as you are only responding because it was done to you first.

When one of my kids runs to me and says the other was rude or mean, I remind them that they cannot control that person. They cannot control their actions or words. The only thing that they are in control of is their own actions and reactions. So when Jase is rude to her, instead of snipping back at him, she needs to stand up for herself without being rude. She can state that she doesn’t want to play with him when he speaks to her this way, or she can ignore his remark as she knows he is only trying to get a rise out of her. (Because don’t siblings always know how to push our buttons?)

It is a tough thing to learn and obviously based upon the comments to the advice column many people are in need of learning it. But I can’t control them. All I can do is set a good example for my kids and remind them that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Today’s Featured Author – Taiwo I. Ajao

Author Taiwo I. Ajao is on a virtual book  for Adunni Dares to Dream.

Excerpt

Whenever Adunni brought up the idea of school, somehow Mama found a way to end it. Despite the fact that she was illiterate, Mama was sharp, hardworking and very resourceful with money. Mama had married young, as was common in the culture, and she started to bear children as a teenager. It was unfortunate, however, that she experienced the loss of many of those children during childbirth. Only Adunni and her sister had survived, and Adunni wondered often about what she could have done to save those who hadn’t made it. Adunni was tearful as she remembered how her mother had nearly died last year during childbirth. Was every girl expected to get married and have children, even if it killed her? Adunni didn’t want to be like other girls: she wanted to be great! Adunni believed that to be great, she must be smart and be able to read, and learn great things.

Book Blurb

Adunni Dares to Dream is the true tale of a poor African girl who just wanted to go to school. Although she was a part of a very hardworking family, Adunni just could not have the finer things in life, like school, books, & literacy. In her culture, girls were just expected to look pretty, get married and have children. But Adunni wished for something more.

As Adunni dares to dream , she inspires many others to dream too, including a handsome young man who couldn’t stop dreaming about her! So Adunni has choices to make. Does she give in to her society’s expectations? Does she chose the status quo? What are Adunni’s dreams and where do her dreams take her?

About the Author/Illustrator

The Dr. Ajaos are a husband-wife, doctor-nurse team who have a joint passion for health literacy, preventative healthcare, and education for at-risk groups in the Global setting. Mrs. Taiwo I Ajao, the Author, is a Registered Nurse with a Master’s in Public Health in Maternal and Child Health, while Dr. ‘Wale Ajao, the Illustrator, is an internationally-trained medical doctor with a Master’s of Arts in Communications & Producing for Film and Video. Together, The DrAjaos intend to address health literacy via it’s most fundamental forms: using the arts of writing, entertainment, and communication to educate children and their parents. Adunni Dares to Dream is the beginning of a beautiful merger of not just a celebration of educational achievement, but also of Faith, Hope, Love and Miracles.

You can find out more on their website.

Or check out Adunni Dares to Dream on Amazon

 

He said, she said: 4 Tips on Using Dialogue Tags

Recently, my husband commented there was a section of dialogue in my current work in progress (WIP) that was hard to follow. I don’t know if this is because he tends to listen to my WIP verses reading it or not. But either way, it is an area I need to go back and consider revising.

For readers to know who is speaking, you need dialogue tags such as he said and she replied. And while they are necessary, you don’t need them every time someone speaks.

Image result for dialogue tagsI am sure we all have encountered books full of too many or too few dialogue tags. (Check my post on that topic.) Even from professionally published authors I have had to stop and count lines backwards to figure out who is saying what.

Dialogue tags should be like punctuation marks – they should be invisible, guiding the reader, but not getting in the way of the story.

Here are four tips to help you use dialogue tags like a pro.

1.)  While your high school English teacher may have encouraged you to stray from the boring “said” or “asked,” there is nothing wrong with sticking with these words. But many new authors don’t want to stick with “said” and “asked.” They search out posts like this one that show you 100 different ways to say “said.” And while there is nothing wrong with interjecting a few of these into your text, you should do so sparingly. The concern with these more frivolous choices is that the words draw the reader’s attention away from the dialogue.

Bad Example: “You can’t go out into the dark,” Mary cried.

“What now?” Edward groaned.

“No, no, no,” she muttered. “Too dangerous.”

“What is your problem?” Edward wondered.

Here is a writer trying to use too many fancy tags. It should be rewritten to something more like this.

“You can’t go out into the dark,” Mary said, blocking the door.

Edward groaned. “What?”

“No, no, no.” Mary shook her head with each word. “Too dangerous.”

“What is your problem, Mary?”

The second scenario allows you to focus more on the dialogue.

Now there may be times when your dialogue may not communicate the tone or emotion clearly. And there is nothing wrong with using a descriptive tag such as whispered, shrieked, muttered, grunted or boasted to help your reader understand the scene.

Example: “Leave me alone,” he muttered.

But don’t worry about using other words than “said” or “asked.” If you only use them when necessary, and the dialogue is interesting, no one will even notice them. And that is what you want.

2.)  The placement of dialogue tags and how often you use them are important – even more so if you have a lot of characters in a scene. Well-positioned tags insure your scene make sense and eliminate any reader confusion. If a reader has to backtrack a few paragraphs or pages to get the conversation straight, a writer risks the book being abandoned.

Example:  “You always do this to me, Mary,” Edward said. “You get all worked up, forbid me to do something and it turns out to be nothing.”

Bob held up his hand. “Stop it right there, Ed. You don’t need to pick on poor Mary.”

“Thanks, Bob,” Mary said flashing him a smile. “I knew I could count on you.”

“Anything for you.”

Edward rolled his eyes. “If you two are done…”

3.)  You don’t have to always use said or any other dialogue tag to indicate who is speaking. You can use action to indicate this as well as to provide information essential to understanding the character and/or some element of the scene. In the above example, Bob holding up his hand and Edward rolling his eyes are examples of this way to identify the speaker without a dialogue tag.

Or you can have the characters use each other’s names as they speak – but again, this is done sparingly.

Bad Example: “What are you doing, Bob?” Mary asked.

“I am helping you out, Mary.”

“You know she doesn’t need your help, Bob,” Edward said.

So in the above example, characters are calling each other by name but a little too often. In real life people use other people’s names sparingly (typically at the beginning or end of a conversation) and so should your characters. Here is the above example revised.

Mary glared at Bob. “What are you doing?”

“I am helping you out, Mary.”

Edward stepped in front of Mary, shielding her. “She doesn’t need your help, Bob.”

4.)  Use adverbs (such as loudly, softly and angrily) with your dialogue tags sparingly – as in almost never. Nothing points out a novice quicker than a writer who uses adverbs to tell your reader how someone spoke or even worse uses an adverb with one of the fancy alternatives to said.

Examples: she said excitedly

He exclaimed loudly (redundant)

Using an adverb is telling your reader how the dialogue was spoken instead of showing them.

Example: “I never want to see you again,” she said angrily.

But instead of telling us she is angry, show us.

“I never want to see you again,” she said, storming out the door and slamming it behind her.

Of course, as with any “rule” there are exceptions. Sometimes adding an adverb can be a quick way to indicate a mannerism or emotion (she said quickly; he said coldly) without writing longer, descriptive sentences. But keep this to a minimum.

Wrapping it Up

To summarize….

  • Unless you have a good reason, stick to the standard “he said, she said.”
  • Other simple verbs – she asked, she whispered, – are fine.
  • Fancy verbs – he bellowed, she interjected – should be avoided.
  • Use only as many dialogue tags as needed for clarity. If two people are speaking, one every three or four lines is about right. You will need more dialogue tags if you have more characters speaking in the same scene.
  • You can also use character action or calling a character by name to indicate who is speaking.
  • Never use adverbs (or at least very rarely). Instead of telling, show the reader the action.

Even though “said” is the preferred verb, if you use it every time, your dialogue will become tedious. So aim for variety. With some practice, you will learn when a dialogue tag sounds correct and appropriate. In fact, if you don’t even think about or notice the dialogue tag…you got it right!

Trying to keep the kids occupied during the summer

School has been out for about 10 days. The first few days are heaven for the kids. They sleep in. Watch TV or play. No more getting up. No more homework. The kids love it. But the newness of it all is wearing off.

That means it is time to make sure the kids are busy enough that they don’t spend all their time bickering, playing on their iPads or driving their mom crazy. (especially this last one)

As always, I try to have things for the kids to do. But as they get older, I find it harder to find things that they both like. It was much easier when they were little and the park or an indoor play place sufficed.

We still have our old standbys – the zoo, the children’s museum, Pump It Up, Sea World. We go to the free or dollar movies offered by our local theatres. There will be swim lessons and Lexie still has her weekly gymnastics class.

We can go visit their grandparents or even let them go spend the night – or two. And we have our neighborhood pool as a wonderful free option.

And in between these activities, we do have two trips planned. The first is a short three-day trip to South Padre Island. This is actually work for my husband as he attends the annual city attorney’s conference.  While he hears lectures, the kids and I go to the beach. This year the conference is at the Schlitterbaun Resort, so we will go to the water park at least one day. My brother will be joining us on this trip. The kids are excited to have their Uncle coming to the beach with them.

Our other trip is in July. We are going to Houston for a week. For the past two summers, we have been planning to go here. It is only a three-hour drive from San Antonio and has lots to do. But something always comes up. First, it was a cruise that my parents paid for and then last summer we put it off so we could go to Disney World in December.

But this year we will get to Houston. The hotels are already booked and the City Pass tickets (which let you view five area attractions at a discounted price) have been purchased. We will be going to Houston Space Center, the Kemah Boardwalk, the zoo, the Aquarium and the Natural History Museum. Of course, I totally expect the hotel pool to be the big hit. Heck, my kids just love staying in a hotel room and will be more excited over that than the attractions.

While this seems like we have a lot planned or at least have a lot of options, by the end of July, we will probably be looking for new things to keep us busy. I will check Groupon and scouring the newspaper or Facebook looking for fresh ideas to keep the kids busy and out of trouble as school doesn’t begin until the end of August.

And while the kids will be enjoying their summer, I, on the other hand, will probably be counting the days until they are back in school and my routine returns to normal.

Today’s Featured Author – Melissa A. Woods

Please welcome Melissa A. Woods to my blog. She released her novel, Getting Past Anxiety, last year.

Excerpt – Getting Past Anxiety Chapter 3 

For those who suffer from mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, often one of the hardest steps in healing is admitting to yourself that you need help, and then actually seeking out that help. Seeing a therapist or trying different methods of treatment, such as Chakra therapy, can create anxiety in itself. In my novel Getting Past Anxiety, the main character Stella experiences this for herself.

After finally deciding to see an energy healer, she sets off to her first session and discovers all of the nervousness, peace and healing that comes with it. This chapter in the novel gives a detailed account of Stella’s first brush with striving towards help.

A short, fifty-ish woman with shoulder-length gray hair entered the room. She smiled at Stella; her smile was wide and genuine, as if Stella were the person she most wanted to see right then. She took her hand. “ I’m Rachel,” she said. “ I am so happy to meet you.” Her voice was soft, yet clear and penetrating. Letting go of Stella’s hand, she plumped down in the bag chair. Thank God I didn’t sit init, Stella thought. Stella had looked up the name
Rachel. She was very interested in the meaning of names. The definition was from the Bible, meaning, “ ewe” or “ little lamb.” In the Bible, Rachel had been a beautiful and cherished wife of Jacob, and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.

Stella’s anxiety increased and her mouth became dry. Her heart started palpitating. She had been in therapy before, but it felt different now. This wasn’t an office; there weren’t any desks orchairs to sit in while Stella discussed her problems. Maybe this form of therapy isn’t for me, she thought; then she answered herself immediately. The other forms didn’t work either, did they? And she knew her anxiety was getting more and more out of control, to the point where her normal life had vanished. She’d had to leave her sales job; she was always anxious when she left the house by herself and it was hard for her tobe alone at any time. She had tobe willing to try anything. Had to. While Stella had this internal dialogue sitting on
the futon, Rachel spoke softly.

“Stella why are you here?” “ Well, I am afraid and anxious all the time,” Stella said while Rachel busily gathered objects from the room, placing them on the floor next to her. “ I have always felt this way since I can remember, but it seems like the apprehension is getting worse.” She watched Rachel spread a white blanket on the floor, big enough for a person to lie down upon. On top of this, Rachel arranged a shawl that had a deep eggplant-color background with a delicate design in lighter purple woven through it. It had long slender fringes, making her arrangement look like waving fronds of purple seaweed in a white ocean. “ Oh, that looks good,” Rachel said. As Rachel wandered around the room, she explained how she was building a space for Stella, and she continued to gather up items like a doll and a pink flower; then she went outside and took a piece of bark off her cedar tree. Back inside she picked up a purple cord, like something used to tie back curtains. She placed the objects around the perimeter of the eggplant shawl.

“Okay; that’s good,” she said. Stella sat on the futon and stared at the space Rachel had created. She didn’t get it. This is weird, she thought. What does she want from me? Rachel was silent, gazing at her creation on the floor. Was she meditating? After what seemed like a long time, but was probably just a minute or two, Rachel smiled and Stella heard her warm soft voice say, “ This is your space. I’ve created it just for you, a womb if you like. When you are ready, you can enter it.” Stella immediately froze. Her arms and legs felt like they belonged to a robot. Not knowing what else to do, she got up and placed herself inside the circular space on the floor. She lay down on the purple shawl. Her head and her toes lay on the white blanket.

It was quiet, but Stella did not feel peaceful. She felt uncomfortable; she was probably doing this—whatever this was—wrong. Rachel wasn’t saying anything, so Stella just lay there. She closed her eyes. After a while, she had a vision—she guessed it was a vision; she didn’t know what else to call it. Stella was a bird, a big bird like an eagle with a huge wingspan. She was flying, soaring over the mountains. She felt the lift of the wind. She could see rivers below; she even saw ripples on the rivers and fish in the depths—her eyesight was that keen. Stella perched on top of a mountain just to look around, and then she heard a voice. “ Where are you?” “ Huh?” Stella asked. She was herself again. The eagle was gone. “ Where did you go?” It was Rachel’s voice. Stella didn’t answer because she didn’t know what to say.

“Are you comfortable in this womb?” “ Not really.” “You can get out if you want to.” Rachel’s voice was calm, peaceful, like an angel’s voice. Stella got up and went back to the futon. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Rachel asked Stella to describe her experience. “ Well, I felt like a bird flying around,” Stella said. “ Was this a new experience for you?” “No, when I was younger, I would dream about being a bird, but I haven’t had those
dreams in a long time.” “ That was your way of detaching from your environment,” Rachel said matter-of-factly. “ Oh, okay,” Stella said, not really understanding what it meant. Still, she felt tears start to build in her eyes. But Stella couldn’t allow herself to cry because she
was afraid she wouldn’t stop. She had just met Rachel, and she couldn’t cry in front of someone she had just met. She shifted around on the futon. She didn’t want to talk about flying anymore. Rachel said nothing for a while. They just sat there in silence. Stella heard the birds chirping outside and the wind blowing through the trees. It was springtime and the buds on the grapevines were starting to unfurl into leaves; she gazed at them through the glass door. They were that pure spring green, so fresh, so new.

“We’re almost done for today,” Rachel said. “ Here is what I picked up. I think your mom probably drank alcohol when she was pregnant with you. She didn’t want to be pregnant. She didn’t want another baby at that time. That’s why she drank. “ You know, Stella, not being wanted is one of the deepest wounds a person can have. This wound is responsible for your loneliness in this world, and it’s also responsible for your toughness, your ability to survive. You had to be tough to survive in your mom’s womb.” As Rachel talked, a picture rose in Stella’s mind. She saw her mother, Shirley, sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a camel-colored dress and smoking a cigarette. A brownish drink in what Stella thought was called a “lowball” cocktail glass was in front of her. Her rounded belly pushed against the table. Stella wanted to cry; she could feel the tears pushing their way forward, but she clamped down hard inside so she wouldn’t. It was hard for Stella to cry in front of people she didn’t know. “ It’s okay,” said Rachel. “ You’ll cry when you cry. You will learn to let goof all this grief. This is the start of your healing work. You will replace all your old beliefs with new ones.” Somehow, Stella had held the grief in, but she knew she was on her way. And underneath the grief was an odd sense of relief—she wasn’t crazy, she wasn’t wrong; everything she had felt her whole life was true: the feeling of being a burden, abandoned, not important, not loved. It was all true because her parents had not wanted her. They still didn’t.Stella got up to go. Rachel picked up the eggplant-colored shawl from the floor and handed it to her. “ This represents a womb,” she said. “It is yours now.” Then she gave Stella the purple cord.

“This is our connection to each other,” she said. “Wear it whenever you feel anxious, and bring it to our next session.” “ Thank you,” said Stella as Rachel hugged her goodbye. Stella walked out the gate onto the street and back to her car. Her tears finally began to fall as she sat in her car. She thought how unusual this form of therapy was. Stella had never experienced anything like it before. She felt comfortable with Rachel and was optimistic. On her drive home, Stella passed by her old high school and saw that it was being torn down. She smiled and thought, The death of an old script!

Book Blurb

Getting Past Anxiety is an inspirational novel designed to help you reclaim your life. Follow the story of Stella Maris, a thirty-seven-year-old professional woman in the Pacific Northwest who is fighting to escape the shackles of anxiety. Stella’s inner prison is built on childhood trauma, and anxiety is its gatekeeper. In desperation, she reaches out to Rachel, a transformative healer, to help her find the key to reclaim her life. Stella’s story is ultimately about how we choose the quality of our life. This book will inspire you to start your own healing process so you can break the shackles of your anxiety and reclaim your life.

About the Author

Melissa A. Woods is an author, professional keynote speaker, life coach, and expert on anxiety disorders. She is also a licensed massage practitioner for over twenty years and successfully worked on clients with anxiety issues. Melissa spent years studying anxiety and learning how to heal from it. Her formal credentials and expertise include life coaching, therapeutic massage, creative writing, and sales and marketing. She received a Certificate of Memoir from the University of Washington and published works in Memoir Anthology of Writing from the University of Washington. What makes her expertise stand out is that Melissa had her own up-close-and-personal experience with anxiety disorder—she couldn’t get on a plane for twenty years, so she feels the pain of others when it comes to dealing with anxiety.

You can learn more about Melissa on her website.

You can purchase Getting Past Anxiety on Amazon.

So long, Hootsuite! Looking for social media replacement.

When I first became a self-published author, I read up on how to market your books. In the Internet age, you need a presence on social media. So I set up a Twitter account and an author Facebook page.

I also read about setting up a Hootsuite account to manage my Tweets and Facebook posts. Since I am always busy – writing, taking care of the kids or whatever – it seemed like a good way to maintain an online presence while getting work done.

Now while I only used it for Twitter, Hootsuite could handle all social media channels such as Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Tumblr and more. It allows you to schedule your updates in advance and to analyze their effectiveness though not all reports were included in the free version.

Every Saturday, I would schedule tweets about my latest release, my blog or things going on in my life. This worked out well. It was nice to plan my Tweets in advance when we went on vacation, or if I joined one of World Literary Café’s Tweet Teams.

I’ve done this for years until last week. When I went onto Hootsuite to promote a new release for a fellow author, I was notified that the free version of Hootsuite was now only limited to 20 tweets a week. Yikes! I do that many tweets in 2-3 days. All of a sudden, the free version won’t work for me.

I checked out the paid versions of Hootsuite thinking that I liked the program well enough to pay for the ability to Tweet more often. To move the professional version, it would be $19 per month. That is $228 a year to be able to schedule 500 messages a week.

That is more than I want to pay – especially when don’t know how much sending out Tweets helps drive people to my blog or buy my book. I don’t use any of the real-time analytics or other features you get with a paid account.

So, I have been looking at affordable alternatives to Hootsuite. The problem is that many programs I found were not affordable at $49 or more a month. Hmm….they are making Hootsuite’s price look better and better.

SocialPilot – Very similar to Hootsuite. On their free plan, you can do 10 posts a day, but you can only have 30 posts in your scheduling queue, which means I can’t do a week’s worth at a time like I do with Hootsuite. Their basic version is geared to bloggers. It is $10/month and allows 50 posts shared a day and 250 in the scheduling queue.

Buffer – This one covers Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Google+. The free account only allows 10 scheduled posts. Their “Awesome” account offers 100 scheduled posts at a time for $10 per month.

TweetDeck – If you are only managing Twitter, Tweet Deck may be for you. And best of all it is free! With TweetDeek, you can schedule your posts, monitor timelines, manage multiple Twitter accounts and set alerts to keep up with other people’s Tweets.

For a list of other Hootsuite alternatives (many with higher monthly fees), click here.

For now, I think I will give Tweet Deck a try since it is free. After that, I may need to try one of the paid versions. Luckily, most offer a 7-day free trial. If you have a social media manager that you like, please let me know about it in the comments.