06 February 2018

Beautiful Evil Winter: Historical References and Editing Answers

On a recent book tour, two reviewers mentioned historical discrepancies and editing issues. To one reviewer in a particular, I have to say thanks for providing specific examples. Too often, authors only hear general complaints with little opportunity for improvement. I care about quality, I respect quality, and Ive spent a great deal of money to provide a quality experience.

Heres the once-muted backstory on editing:

Looking back, in addition to my own tedious backward and forward reads to search for errors, I paid two professionals, one focused on proof reading and the other on story development, to polish my freshman novel. Why did I pick proofreading? According to the Expert Editor, "Proofreading is the process of correcting surface errors in writing, such as grammatical, spelling, punctuation and other language mistakes." Based on my educational background, I felt comfortable that my writing skills would be a stronger link than the editing. Editing required the most money the most attention; so, I hired two editors. Like most people, I had limited funds and made the best strategic choices with the exception of the proofreader selected.

Much to my continuing regret, I chose to work with a publisher, First Edition Design Publishing, FEDP. I paid for proofreading services as well as a book cover plus. After I severed ties with the publisher for several other reasons, I discovered that the FEDP employee read the story, but didn't dig into the details. He made only two changes in a 243-page book! During the time with FEDP, I thought we did such a stellar job because it didnt require many changes. Little did I know then. Finally, I navigated my way to a top-notch editor for my second novel, Plenty.

 I funded the entire first book effort with a small inheritance I received after the untimely tragic death of my biological father. Awful already just became a living nightmare. Since I needed money for my second novel, I pushed ahead without re-editing.

Fast forward to today, hopefully, at some point, I'll have the resources, at least a $1,000, and fortitude to right the editing wrongs. Of course, I'll have to fight the tsunami of anger, hate, withering disappointment and ALL of the associated agony and horrifyng memories of his death and funeral as my new editor sifts through the book with me page by page. Even though I wrote Beautiful Evil Winter years ago, I still feel my heart sink as I think of re-editing it. Bottom line: Beautiful Evil Winter represents a snapshot of one of the very best and very worst times of my life. My plan: to keep running my race, to write more quality books and to rely on my tested trusted support team. No looking back and dwelling in the past. Not buying into the Monday morning quarterback syndrome. A valuable lesson learned about editorial choices! 

Having said that, I can correct errors and re-publish quickly as an indie author. Recently, I have taken the liberty of making changes and re-publishing to enhance the experience for the reader. 

Re: historical references, I made an error with the mention of an iPad. That word has been changed to computer. DVDs appeared on the scene in the US in March of 1997. Specifically, Toshiba introduced DVD ROM in early 1997 as per Wikipedia. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVD_player.  I also checked with my website manager to confirm my understanding of technology at the time.

Also, re: historical references, our epic adoption took place in 1997. The USSR fell on December 25, 1991. Re: landline and cell phone technology, a 2017 U.S. government study shows that 45.9% of the U.S. population still have landlines. See the following link for more details:  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/milestone-for-cellphones-vs-landline-phones/. Since I lived in that apartment with the phone and since I dealt with Natasha, I can assure you that both existed in 1997.

In 1997, a landline would sit on a coffee table in an expensive Moscow apartment.  And it did. A doctor would recommend putting onions in a babys socks and a Mustard poultice on his chest to cure congestion as mentioned in the book. When my husbands pediatrician, a retiree, heard about the prescribed treatment, he gasped. His American-born grandmother used that same treatment for the same ailment.  

In closing, for those whove never traveled to ruthless Russia, The Russian Mafia controls the country. Daily life easily mimics the unforgiving gun slinging days of the frontier west even today. My dad, the one who raised me, still travels to Russia a couple of times a year. After he returns, we always chat about this trip as weve done since my twenties. 


07 October 2017

Why Plenty, the Award-Winning Fifty Shades contrast?

Twenty-one year old has a heart attack? I recall the first time I heard about sadism—a news story on the radio. I froze in my tracks. What!! Why? Heart condition? The young woman suffered a heart attack and ended up in the emergency room after a sex party. How can this happen? The electric shocks administered proved to be much for her body. Victimized or consensual—beyond horrifying! This story has haunted me for years. In the big picture, Fifty, the student-for-a-sadist romance series, angered and disappointed me. I couldn't help but envision the added level of agony, raging rivers of tears, soul-shredding heartache and searing physical pain that prostitutes, battered women, trafficked teens, and naive young women attempt to survive and will endure because of the popularity of these trendy novels. Someone succinctly said, “ It’s a perfect complimentary plot for an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”.  Agreed.  

And while in bookstores for hours at a time, I witnessed grinning high school and college age girls lead their boyfriends, hand-in-hand, to the Fifty display to grab a copy of the novel and leave. As a mother of a son and an adoring aunt to my nieces, two words: totally revolting!  Yes, I’ve read all three novels, only to analyze the reason for their success. I also read the Twilight trilogy, irresistible due to the author's prose, her uncanny ability to put me in the scene as if I lived it, and the unusual storyline. I also read The Hunger Games trilogy, awestruck by the gripping plot and fascinating characters. And I’ve read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, completely exotic and spellbinding.

 At a minimum, the Fifty series camouflages and glamorizes a dehumanizing, cruel, immoral view—greed for green preempts all else. At a maximum, generations of the very vulnerable, the already victimized and innocent kicked over a cliff. The lives of marginalized, downtrodden, crime victims—already scarred by kidnapping, forced drug use, rape, sexual assault, physical violence to include cigarette burns, razor blades and attempted murder—darkened and damaged once again by three books, which made both BDSM and corrosive relationships more mainstream acceptable practices. More horror heaped upon those whose clients, new and established, never thought of that opportunity until now. Can you imagine waking up stripped of the most basic of freedoms, choosing how to shape your life your day? From the choice to call a friend or your parents or your siblings to the choice of what to wear that day to cuddling with the family dog—all gone. How about the taken for granted shopping trip to the mall or the local Dairy Queen for a Blizzard with a best friend? Gone. How being forced to sell sex hour after hour of every day? Sick, pregnant or sad. How about the choice of when to sleep, when to eat and what to eat? And most trafficked teens won’t escape their captors. According to author and lecturer Jerome Elom, the life span of a trafficked teen—only 7 years.  

Without question, Fifty has certainly added jagged daggers of withering sorrow to the abysmal lives of many emotionally-bankrupt human beings who struggle day-to-day to survive in the hopes that tomorrow may offer a chance to leave a nightmare, a chance to re-claim their bodies, families and souls.

5 Star Review of Plenty- Love Corruption and a Powerful Woman!

"...Plenty is a novel about love and corruption, friendships and salvation, the descent into hell and the effort to survive: as such, it's not for those seeking either a romance story or an easy leisure read. Indeed, readers who expect a novel filled with positives (an innuendo perhaps provided in both title and the fact that the small town is ironically named 'Prosperity') will find it abundant, instead, with conflict, sexual and psychological angst, and the efforts of two women to change the course of their lives... At times readers feel they are in an emotional meat grinder; at other times, protagonist strengths come to rescue. No easy or light read, Plenty is a vivid, revealing story recommended for any who would absorb two women's methods for regaining power in their worlds, and uses compelling, thought-provoking devices to bring this atmosphere to the forefront of attention. Female readers seeking an antithesis to Fifty Shades of Gray with more dynamic, powerful female characters will find Plenty more than fits the bill." D. Donovan, Senior Book Reviewer, Midwest Book Review 

02 May 2017

Saving Toto

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Saving Toto

Toto would be hard pressed to survive on a walk with Dorothy in 2017. And the leashless walks–forget it! The main threat to Toto and small dogs like him—the adoring owners who let their cute canines walk them. You’ve seen that owner the one who walks behind Toto as Toto leads him or her around the streets. And should a bigger dog walk by? Toto’s owner lets his irresistible dog lunge, bark or snap at the passing dog. Sometimes, the daydreaming owner will allow Toto to lunge into the big dog’s lane or even lunge at the big dog’s owner. Yep, Toto wouldn’t survive a minute given the bad judgment I’ve witnessed by Toto owners. Ultimately, the blame for Toto’s demise or injuries attaches to the owner who never bothered to train Toto with basic commands like “Heel, leave it or stay."  

When I walk my German Shepherds on a heel, I can hardly believe how a Toto owner will allow their pint-sized dogs, oftentimes with Napoleon complexes, lash out at my big dogs that are protective of me.  Like cats, it takes just a second to for a big dog to grab a much smaller dog by the neck, shake once and the beloved Toto dies. For that reason, I carry leverage, pepper spray, to protect Toto from the thoughtless owner. I don’t want to see Toto die, and a blast of pepper certainly trumps a dogfight or a lightening quick death.  For other big dog owners, I’ve had to use my leverage more times than, I want to admit, to deal with loose dogs and aggressive dogs who want to fight the biggest guy in the bar.  These days, walking a dog comparable to driving a car—being mindful, smart and safe—crucial to enjoying a day with man’s best friend or a day driving the Mustang fastback.

And by the way, I’m not a dog park person because one never knows what’s racing through the gate. Has it been vaccinated? Has it been caged or ignored for days, making it hyper and aggressive? Does the owner exercise good or bad judgment?  Does the dog respond to recall? Is this dog trained? Will the owner closely watch the dog or chat? When I had to go to dog parks, one person told me if someone’s dog hurt his dog, he would go postal with the knife he always carried. Scary, huh? Another dog park patron pulled apart two dogs, one his own, and tossed the other dog like a football in the dog park. Also, some owners don’t recognize ready to war behavior. And it only takes a split second for a vicious battle to begin. To get a policeman's opinion, I talked to a K-9 officer who told me," Dog parka are awful. Stay away!" After talking to professional dog trainers about dog parks and irresponsible owners, I've learned that we're all disappointed with what we see. Playing ball in the backyard and dog class—sometimes the best options for a happy day with my best friends.

14 January 2017

Observations from a Well-Traveled Dog Walker/Owner

As a devoted dog owner, I’ve wanted to write this blog for a long time.  My second award-winning novel, Plenty, spotlights the many ways trained dogs serve people. We owe it to our canine companions to be their best friend.  How to be a best friend and a leader? In my opinion, training, exercise and time build the bond needed to nurture confident good citizens and respectful family members.  Whether obedience or agility, nose work, rally or barn hunt, all lives stand to be enriched. For those who realize the win-win benefit of walking and exploring public parks, among the most useful commands – leave it, heel, come and wait.

Ever been ambushed from behind by an aggressive, truculent, loose, old Black Lab or charged by a loose Pit on the beach with family and canines in tow? I have. The lessons taught and bond forged can make the difference between life and death for your vulnerable best friend.

Some safety insights and anecdotes - for those who dislike suspense and drama- from a professionally trained, experienced dog owner.

Good citizenship involves common sense and common courtesy, chosen by dog owners and the general public.

I’ve walked miles with my German Shepherds and Pyrenees, typically 7 miles a week every week. A promise made to rescue groups, to work my dogs everyday for at least 30 minutes, formalized by signing a contract.  For those who don’t know, a walk can be transformative. How powerful is it? After a neuterectomy, the vet prescribed Ace and later Xanax for my young fit must-be-sedated dog.  After he chewed through two dog kennels and began jumping in the air to snap at imaginary objects, I began to search for another answer. Yes, the long slow walk - more effective than potent prescriptions. Never underestimate the power of exercise or the walk to calm a canine, change demeanor or control destructive behaviors.

Surprisingly enough, it’s not the leaf blowers, concrete trucks or other large dogs that create problems, but, by and large, the thoughtless actions of irresponsible owners – including but not limited to: letting dogs off leash, letting the dog charge other dogs and lack of basic obedience skills such as come, leave it and no.

Let’s start with skateboarders, joggers and bikers, all of which can easily startle a dog.

How to manage the sound of a grating skateboard and a free wheeling teen while walking dogs next to a busy street frequented by city buses? A command to sit and stay off the sidewalk to face the danger has worked for me many times. Add a smile to relax all muscles in your body -important because dogs can sense your fear, anxiety and anger through the leash. Once again, my dog trainer talked me through strategies to deal with life in the big city.  A trainer and desensitization exercises – a sturdy wall against scary surprises and challenges.  As part of the pack’s continuing education a skate board sits outsides the back door; so, that I can use it gradually as a desentizaiton tool.  One of my trainers told me “Be positive about the challenge – see it as a training test at which you’ll succeed. “   

How to best defend against the fall predicated by a shadowing runner?  Mindfulness listening, and tuning into a dog’s body language have always been tactics, but not fail proof. For runners, it’s always a good idea to call out to alert the owner of your presence. For the runner enjoying the day plugged into his favorite music, I recommend unplugging to maintain mindfulness about surroundings – to be aware of another runner with dog in tow or loose vicious dogs who label passerbys as trespassers. In my neighborhood this week, a runner, while tuned into his music, attacked by a loose Pit. His calves mauled and shredded by the angry dog.

How to defend against an eighteen year old jogger who suddenly turns from a blind corner in to a narrow park corridor and runs within a few inches of three protective dogs?  Well, my plan to step away from the sidewalk and park the pack thwarted by dense bushes flanking both perimeters of the sidewalk. Leave it and heel saved the day as only one dog barked a warning. Commands – the great equalizer when common sense doesn’t prevail.

Finally, how to deal with the stealth and silent bikers that whizz by? Listening and watching my dog’s reactions, especially the one that’s 360 alert all the time. The best bikers ring a tinkling bell or call out. The worst don’t do anything but zoom by triggering a negative reaction by the pack and me. Like horses, dogs sense fear and anger. Circling back to desentization training plus leave it and heel work wonders and so do classes with a professional.

Next on the drama list – kids, loose dogs and dog parks

How to defend against kids who run, screaming, up to the dogs? I wave them away or walk in a different direction. Don’t let your kids run at dogs because of a desire to pet the cute puppies.  Most dogs don’t like hugs.  Ask the owner first  - many dogs don’t like the traditional pet/tap on the head, but prefer stroking. Especially, not a good idea, for adults or kids, to run at the protective breeds or large protective breeds. Best not to be perceived as a potential threat.

How to safeguard your family and the pack from a loose charging dog on a touristy beach? How to take control when a loose hapless combative dog and an irresponsible owner cross paths with you? On the advice of my local police department and my dog trainer, I always carry pepper spray.

By the way, I’ve been told many times that if a loose dog attacks a dog on a leash, the loose dog will be deemed culpable and will be viewed as such by authorities. Finding a bodily injury defense lawyer also not a desirable project to add to the daily planner. Keep your dog leashed for his safety. Useful to know if someone wants to see what’ll happen in a dog fight match-up. I’ve met that person too.

How to survive the dog park? Observe the owner group and the dogs with laser like focus. Shadow your dog. If a dog owner brings a prey-driven, energetic, as in waited-all-day-to go-outside, dog to a dog park, the stage has been set for a fight.  Exercise a high-strung dog before the unleashing him in the park. A few sessions of nose work may effectively drain a dog’s energy level as will a game of fetch. Call a local dog trainer for details. I’ve had more training conversations re: dog park danger than any other subject. My trainer also recommends going to the dog park early morning, midday never after 5 pm.  Snapping and straining canines led by grumpy owners never a good mix.

I no longer go to dog parks, preferring to travel the sidewalks. My next post re: a small family pet being attacked at a pet park by a vicious dog in full view of the small children and their horrified mother coupled with numerous stories about dog fights tainted my view forever.  By the way, I’m not a proponent of breed phobia – the owner always responsible for exercising, training and controlling his dog. Unfortunately, some breeds attract “bad owners” given the most minimal standards. Furthermore, most folks don’t have the opportunity to quiz an owner before dogs meet in  “play” at the park. And unfortunately, some breeds have gained popularity due to their fighting skills, bloodlines honed by corrupt breeders and bookies.
Political correctness doesn’t matter when I assess a park or a situation or an owner. My dogs aren’t allowed to play with certain dogs. Loyalty to my pack outweighs any lame thoughtless outrage about my decision. Given my emotional, financial investment and love for my pack, I don’t take risks with dogs designed to do a lot of damage or uber aggressive dogs regardless of breed. 
Aside from hackles, the unwavering stare should send up red flags for some intervening action to take place before blood bubbles.
Finally, your furry best friend depends on you everyday to set him up for a positive safe experience. Don’t fail him by taking unnecessary risks.

And on a final note, if a leashed small dog lunges at big guard dogs, the owner has put his dog in grave danger  - the big dogs may well perceive the little dog as a threat.

To those park-goers, families and pedestrians who think about the welfare of all dogs and dog owners who responsibly share the same space by picking up poo, training and restraining their pets, I owe you my profound gratitude.  

To the aware owners/trainers of prey-driven or aggressive dogs who remain mindful of the concerns of other owners and act accordingly to keep the peace for all, I can’t applaud you loudly or often enough.

Happy Tails and Happy Trails in 2017!!