And the word is…?

Jake: A Murder in BrooklynAlan M. Guy is a retired dentist and indie author. “Jake: A Murder in Brooklyn” begins when the protagonist is awakened at 3:33 a.m. from a dream. Detective Stanislaus Jakubowski (Jake) begins a quest to find the vicious murderer of his now retired, former detecting partner and mentor. Guy cautions readers that the content is raw and gritty, and “Not for everyone.”

Guy, a member of a Florida writing group, produced this work as a challenge to see if he could write without using an English word deemed to be most common in all compositions. Can you guess what word he left out?

My senior center writers’ critique group is composed of an eclectic mix of capable, original thinking, intelligent individuals, all of whom have impressed me and educated me in some way or another, to become better at this craft.

Mary Alice brings wisdom, derived from her many active years, to frequent musings: most are humorous in her unique style. A few are serious. I guess it must depend on her mood that week.  All her creations, however, reflect her ability to simplify with dignity and grace those thoughts, which flow through her mind.

Carol contributes her unique ability to make us feel comfortable with her down home Wisconsin war-year childhood essays. We feel these essays must be compiled into an anthology to share with her family members. Most outstanding is her writing and rewriting remarkably reflective remembrances carefully crafted with alliterative alliterations.

Bonnie has created a semi-fictional family saga, which entertains and envelopes us with each reading in its unusual stylized format. In addition, she has a remarkable ability to listen intently and constructively critique unabashedly. Despite her recent “JOB-like” trials and tribulations, she has returned to us with her ever-positive smile and giggles.

Steve has shown an ability to artfully describe real characters. On his imaginative side, he creates fictional futuristic mysterious men secretly training for some worldly salvaging of our seas, or perhaps more, as that might be a smokescreen for something more sinister.

No one can deny Limone’s deep-seated love for his horribly damaged homeland. He expresses his spirituality so humbly as he describes his feelings towards God, Mother Earth, and his fellow human beings.

Doug has brought an unusual frank story of real people from financially humble beginnings with a style so dramatic it is enthralling just to listen. He has a fabulous matter-of-fact ability to read his story that seems like a professional actor. He has a great voice for radio.

Don’s mischievous, rebellious views of life and religion sometimes masked a great talent he possessed in many artistic aspects of his long life. His position was that he was unable to critique our fiction, which did not detract from sharing with us his well-researched writings on classical painters and Germany’s Bauhaus movement.

Jane, as facilitator, provides guidance with a well-balanced firmness to keep our group on track, combined with enough flexibility to allow some deviation, so long as it is informative or helpful to some of us in our world of writing and literature. Her lack of visual acuity, which has forced her to become an involuntary Luddite, has not deterred her ability to keep up with current events or knowledge of the technology to which she is no longer privy.

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Answer? The. Did he succeed?

Tools of the trade

EmersonHow many times have you wished for just the right image or message to convey your thoughts and feelings? What about combining them? Do you wonder where people come up with all that stuff you see on the internet? It’s mind blowing when you think about it. Some of the content is just plain silly and some is breathtaking. A lot of what you see is amateurish at best while some is breathtakingly beautiful. I don’t think there’s much you can do with a good photo except post it and let the viewers take it in visually and intellectually. Sometimes, however, you want to take your photo to a different level. You want your audience to get what you meant when you took that shot. One way to do that is with a free design tool called Canva (www.canva.com). Most of what is on the site is free, but you may need to pay for photos that are not stock photos. Even at that the paid images are mostly in the $1 range. Or you can upload your own photos and designs, as I did with the image at right.

It is a simple-to-use tool. There is a slight learning curve but it won’t be long before you are creating all kinds of designs. You can use them in Facebook and other social media posts and in blog posts. Aside from being a useful tool, it is down right fun to play with.

I learned about this site by attending a webinar conducted by Joan Stewart, www.publicityhound.com and Joel Friedlander, joel@thebookdesigner.com, well-known names in the indie publishing business.

If you are looking for a handy tool to add to your design toolbox, this is it and it is (mostly) free.

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Note: I am in no way affiliated with Canva . These are my thoughts based on my experience. There may be other similar programs in the marketplace. I have not tried them.

5 Awesome Reasons to Try Sparkpeople.com

SparkPeople.comWhat is Sparkpeople.com? It’s not just another weight loss program; it’s a FREE weight loss program that emphasizes healthy lifestyle, above all else. It has fitness tools, nutrition and fitness tracking, support through online resources, and a broad array of fitness videos with instructions on how to safely do the exercises in your home.

The site’s promo copy points out countless activities you can do to get healthy and reach your goals. Among those activities are:

  • Lose weight
  • Live a healthy lifestyle even if you don’t want to lose weight
  • Guides to nutrition, fitness, and motivation
  • Health and wellness information about conditions, treatments, and health news
  • SparkPeople experts
  • Recipes

 Awesome Reason #1

It’s FREE: This is not a hook to get you started on a 10-day free trial with a fee kicking in after that. It is 100 percent FREE. Every resource is available to anyone who signs up. That isn’t to say there aren’t items available for sale, including a fee for direct coaching if you think you need it. But you aren’t required to buy anything. Sign on and have immediate access to tools you can use.

Awesome Reason #2:

Spark. You receive regular e-mails from SparkPeople with links to helpful articles. Do you want to know more about living a healthy lifestyle, weight loss, exercise, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, or wellness concerns? SparkPeople has articles to answer your questions. These daily e-mails spark you to log on every day, which is the first step to following through.

Awesome Reason #3:

Goal setting. You can’t know where you’ve been until you know where you are going. How many Sparktimes have you said, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds by my cousin’s wedding, or my class reunion (or whatever special date or time is out there).” That kind of thinking leads to yo-yo dieting. SparkPeople’s strategy is to spark participants to embed lifelong changes designed to ensure good health. By setting realistic goals, you set yourself up for success.

Awesome Reason #4:

How many times have you read that keeping a “food journal” or an “exercise journal” is crucial to weight loss success? Have you tried that? Writing down every single thing you eat throughout the day? Writing down your physical activity? I’ve tried. I just can’t do it. SparkPeople has trackers. All you need do is search for a food or activity, select the measure and add it to your tracker. Not everything is there, so you may need to add something now and then, but it is, for the most part, easy to do. (I say “for the most part,” because there is a learning curve, but you can do it.)

Awesome Reason #5:

This site has terrific articles and videos about health related subjects. And I cannot overstate this – it is all FREE. Select from nutrition, fitness, motivation, health and wellness, weight loss, Spark recipes, and more. You will find multiple articles or videos on subjects of interest to you.

There is more to the site. Explore. See if it will work for you. It is working for me. I’ve lost 12 pounds over 40 days, have not felt deprived, upped my activity, and physically feel better than I have in years.

One thing I don’t like about the site is the very reason it is free; it is loaded with ads, and the pop-ups are annoying. But I reiterate the site is free to you. SparkPeople developers learned early on that if you have a good idea you can make “passive” money by offering something everyone wants, and then charging advertisers to offset the cost of delivering that content to readers. SparkPeople hit the mother lode. SparkPeople.com gets more than 100 million page views a month and has more than 15 million registered users. That’s a lot of potential buyers for advertisers. The ads are sometimes annoying, but not to the point of detracting from the mission of SparkPeople.com: to provide tools for a healthy lifestyle, a service people want and are in need of… and it is FREE to the consumer. You can’t beat that.

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Note: I am in no way affiliated with SparkPeople.com . These are my thoughts based on my experience. There may be other similar programs in the marketplace. I have not tried them.

5 Benefits of Grammarly

InspirationI hate editing my copy. It’s the trickiest part of writing. There are so many ways to go wrong when you are producing words by the hundreds. For all the value word processing programs have brought to writers, their biggest flaw is literal non-contextual interpretation of words.

She went their to see her mother. Their is spelled correctly, but it’s wrong in this context.

The bear truth, is misleading unless you are talking about a big brown animal you came across in the woods.

Grammarly.com, an online instant grammar checker and more,  is a wake-up call: Commas, periods, exclamation points, oh my! Spelling, context, confused words, oh my! Voice, mixed metaphors, unclear comparisons, oh my! Grammarly points to the word or phrase and suggests an alternative, or that you rethink what you’ve written, oh my (head in my hands here), and sigh. I am not a horrible writer, but I am too often a lazy one. Grammarly is worth every cent of the $139 I paid for it.

Grammarly forces me to think: Yikes, what a thought. Think more about what I write. Perish the thought. However… (Picture me thinking here: Hmmm, Grammarly might not be happy about that ellipse. Does it have a purpose? It does come in handy now and again, because as I write I may want to slow my readers down. Still, is the ellipse necessary, or am I slowing down the reader too much?) I hope you get the idea. As a writer you do want to think about every aspect of what you’re writing – spelling, grammar, voice, tone, and readability, and yes the occasional ellipse.

Grammarly hates, hates, hates, passive voice: If you use this product be ready for a rude awakening. You think you’re writing in electrifying ways, until you see how many times you slip into passive voice. Why do you slip into passive voice? Because passive voice is easy, and it’s sloppy, that’s why. Things happen, and you tell about what happened, yadda, yadda, yadda. Have you put the reader to sleep in the process? I look over some of the things I’ve written, and I cringe. Instead of engaging the reader, I see where I dumped information in globs. Bad form; sloppy writing.

Grammarly gives you options: You can use the basic mode and Grammarly checks for contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style. Or you can select plagiarism to learn whether you have inadvertently “borrowed” someone’s words and made them yours. There is a vocabulary enhancement function, which points out vague words that can be changed to another word or phrase to make the sentence stronger or clearer.

Grammarly will send you to a professional proofreader: I believe there is a charge for this service, but if you want another pair of eyes to look at your work, the option is there.

A caution here. Grammarly doesn’t do your work for you. You still must read your copy. The suggestions in Grammarly are just that, suggestions. As the writer, it’s up to you to accept or reject the program’s recommendations.

In summary this is a good product for writers whether you are writing a business letter, an op-ed piece for the local paper, a school paper, an essay or a book. Punctuation and grammar are the building blocks of written communication.

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Note: I am in no way affiliated with Grammarly.com. These are my thoughts based on my experience. There are other similar programs in the marketplace. I have not tried them.

SEASON OF CHANGE

Butterfly

Is it good, this thing called change?
Yesterday I was free,
today caught in some
dark void
neither one thing
or another.
Waiting.

Change comes.
Light.
Air.
Stretching.
Unfolding.
Free,
flying into the day
wing color like
jewels in the sun.

Yes,
this thing called change
is good.

Photo: clipart.com

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