30 September 2012

My Top Ten iPhone Apps

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I is for iPhone!

Here is my list of top ten applications I use on my iPhone. The priority is listed by how often I use the applications.

This was the first and only mobile application which I helped develop. Of course it's going to be on my top ten list! I was more involved in providing the server side development rather than the GUI, but I guess being on the back end has its benefits.

It looks like Google has updated their satellite images. I was a bit surprised to see my daughter's 2010 white Mustang in our driveway rather than my old 2001 mustard green Ford ZX2 which my son totaled when I had three payments left on it.

This almost came off my list of favorite applications for the iPhone when I purchased the iPad 3 and downloaded Kindle onto it. I use the iPad to read now, but I still love the application's ease of use. Even though I’m keeping it on my list, I’ve moved it in my list of priority apps.

Who doesn't love to look at food, comment on food, and compare food findings, reviews, and popular hangouts? There's nothing like sitting down at a nice restaurant while waiting for your food to arrive. When the server places my entree in front of me, I break out the iPhone, fire up Foodspotting, and snap my photo. Gotta share it with the world, right? Hahah, the annoyance! Okay, I don't use it much, just when I remember I have it on my iPhone and food is placed before me for consumption. It doesn't happen often or I’d be 200 lbs.

This dictionary app is my trusted companion when I'm not at my computer writing. Otherwise, I have easy access to Dictionary.com. This application allows you to search for your word, produces a list from which to choose, and displays your word with an audio option so you can hear the pronunciation of your word. You can also speak your word into the microphone and the application will search for your word.

With this application, you can configure several different locations and get the current weather conditions, an hour by hour reading, or a 10-day forecast. Severe weather alerts can be configured and maps display the current conditions all around you.

Who doesn't like Family Feud? This is the closest simulation I've ever experienced. The only thing missing is the social aspect of the game. You know, the Richard Dawson kisses or the Steve Harvey jokes and funny expressions. Still, the fast money round is addicting. It’s the sound effects when you get points. The top five answers are…on the board!

This application is in the top three because I use it on a daily basis. My husband and I move money around between six different accounts and it comes in so handy. I haven't been inside a bank in a very long time. I haven't been to an ATM machine in years. I can pay bills, transfer money, stop payments, and check my balance at the touch of a screen. How awesome is that?

This application feeds my OCD. It's not an iPhone app, more of a browser driven simulator. I can check the statistics on all of my configured sites. Hourly, daily, monthly, and annual statistics tell me how my sites are operating. I can tell which sites are worth keeping up and which I can ignore. I never ignore the busiest sites. I like to see the numbers climb, but more importantly, I like to see why they climb or why they do not. Statcounter is free, but when you start to reach the 50,000 page load statistic, it's time to make the investment and upgrade.

My OCD has its ups and downs. Up is why I have Statcounter. So, what do I do to bring myself down and focus so that my OCD can be utilized to my best interest? Five Differences is a great tool to use for this. You are presented with two seemingly identical pictures. You have a set amount of time to discover five differences in the two pictures. It takes a great deal of concentration to do this because the pictures must display on the iPhone screen, so they are small. But it is not impossible, more of a challenge.


AND NOW (You're probably wondering why I have no pictures to share)

This is why Wells Fargo might become the #1 mobile app on my list. There's nothing like feeling connected to your children, even after they've moved out. 

What applications do you have on your smartphone? Which do you use relentlessly? This is not limited to iPhones and iPads. I’d like to know what’s out there for other smartphones as well. Who knows, I might want to switch when my contract is up!

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26 September 2012

H is for Humility

hu·mil·i·ty [hyoo-mil-i-tee or, often, yoo-]  
noun: the quality or condition of being humble;  modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

There’s something I learned in the past few years which I never would have acknowledged had I not pursued my passion in writing. I also stumbled across "Thank You For Ripping Me Apart" by a fellow blogger which caused me to pause and reflect upon my own writing journey and the humbling experience I’ve grown to respect.

Humility is something you learn through experience. At first, you might have a passion or ambition in reaching a particular goal. It is when you don’t reach your goal, or better yet, when you experience obstacles to your goal, you ultimately understand how small and how insignificant you are. These obstacles are huge blows to our egos.

It is the humbling experience which makes us stronger though, makes us put forth those extra steps in order to avoid the same failures in the future. We seek to improve upon our initial naivety. How else will we be ready to lead future generations of those hoping to reach our defined goals of the past? How do you keep the standards in place for generations to come? I believe it is in teaching humility and discouraging ego.

Learning to write fiction has been my path to finding humility. It made me question my ambitions, question my road to success. When that happened, my path changed.

What do you think? Is experiencing humility an important part of learning and achieving?

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22 September 2012

Gamer to Fiction Writer - 10 Milestones


I’m publishing these because I started out my fiction-writing journey on a game called Threshold. Here is a list of these milestones in chronological order. Your order may be different, but most of these should be familiar to you if you started out on text-based games.

10. You joined a multi-player online role-playing game and instead of combating gelatinous cubes and giant scorpions, you spent your time reading room descriptions and crafting your own written prose to share with other players who were all combating gelatinous cubes and giant scorpions.

9. You wrote dramatic speeches for your cleric character and role-played him to the point of becoming chosen by the Gods and then created conflict that pissed off the Gods and got your character thrown out of the Church of Azeroth.

8. You had mud sex on text-based role-playing games to establish a fan base of your writing.

7. You applied for a virtual job on a text-based role-playing game as a writer for the virtual local paper, which paid you a virtual salary for the real life articles and stories you submitted.

6. You saved all the stories you ever wrote for your text-base role-playing game, even the shitty ones.

5. You saved all your logs from a text-based role-playing game because you thought that one day you might want to write a novel about your character and the dialogue would come in handy when you cut and paste it into your word processor, thereby saving you the re-typing.

4. You learned how to create websites so that you would have a home for all the characters that you developed on a text-based role-playing game.

3. You offered to design websites for free to build a portfolio of designs with "designed by Your Name" and "All rights reserved - Copyright 2011" displayed at the bottom of each page, just like you envision will be in the first few pages of your published novel.

2. You built a blog to self-publish your articles and used Twitter, Facebook and other social media to broadcast links to your blog (shameless plugs) which will one day host an entry for your upcoming novel...or other works in progress that will be coming out once you have finished mass marketing and making a name for yourself.

And the most important milestone in your journey from gamer to fiction writer (the last one that needs to happen for me)....

1. You finished writing that novel you had been working on!

Old Post Resurrection Blog Hop

Many of us spend a lot of time perfecting a post, and then it's buried away in our dusty post archives. So I've joined this blog hop to resurrect a favorite old post and link up with other writers. Please visit this oldie of mine: Gamer to Fiction Writer - 10 Milestones.

  • Please link yours up as a NEW post. Don’t just link from an archive
  • Preface it as part of the "Resurrection Old-Post Hop"
  • Link back to my site.
  • Comment on at least three other posts

This is open to ALL bloggers. Please join! I want to read your favorite archived articles. I shared mine.


16 September 2012

G is for Grammar, Grace, and Gratitude

There are elements of writing which make us unique from one another. The two most important are style and voice. When you are going for brand, you want to be different, especially when you have a quality product. No woman wants to show up at the Ball and find another woman wearing the same dress. You want to stand out and be noticed, because your brand is what defines you. You might feel differently if you operate in a country which makes money in the mass production of rubber dog shit.


Unlike style and voice, grammar is the one thing where there is no standing out for the better, only for the worse when you do not comply. We all need to unite under the same rules which dictate proper grammar. There’s no doubt I am one of those people who would need to hire an editor to comb through my writing. 

I know what you are thinking: I’m a writer, not an editor! I say you should learn how to edit. Learn proper grammar. If I were an editor reading gross grammatical errors in the first pages of a manuscript, I’m going to miss the story. Why? Because I would be horrified at how much work lies before me in the next 200 pages. Brand is important to your image, but grammar is important to your integrity.

Brand : clothing :: grammar : hygiene


It is difficult to accept criticism, but if we are to improve our skills, we have to rely upon our fellow readers and writers to give the feedback when there is a problem. I have been reading and writing in many different forums over the past 15 years and I can tell you some of the more common reactions from writers when they are given negative feedback on their work. However, I won’t. Why? Because I’m a positive person and I believe in sharing positive things, with the exception of the big, black woman who beat myass.

Instead, I want to share the most positive reaction to criticism, and that is grace. Have the grace to accept the criticism. You are not agreeing with the criticism when you accept it. There is a magical thing which happens when you accept criticism with grace. You discover a funnel of information by which you can choose to apply to your future work. Ta da! This leads to our next topic.


The biggest transformation in me since I’ve been writing is the gratitude I feel toward my fellow writers. The number of critiques I have received from both of my writer groups and from those of you out in the blogosphere have helped me to improve, not only my writing skills, but also the way in which I share with all of you.

This gratitude I feel is what keeps me contributing content in this wonderful world we share. And thus was born this idea for a blog post dealing with the letter “G”.

Have you found gratitude for others in your writing journey?

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12 September 2012

F Is For Food Network

Food Network, what would I do without you and why are you so addicting? I needed to take a break from writing about writing, so I’m writing about the chunk of time that I waste on my 2nd favorite thing, the Food Network.

Seriously, aside from Fox News, it’s the only channel I watch anymore. After my daughter moved out, I had to contact Comcast and turn in a bunch of equipment and downgrade my plan. Why should I pay all that money when I only watch two channels? I don’t even watch The Weather Channel anymore because I have an app for that on my iPhone.

What I watch on The Food Network

Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives – Guy Fiere makes all the food look so tasty and inviting. With a pause, he holds up a freshly baked, broiled, or fried food concoction while looking at the camera. Eat it already! You know when he really likes something. The chef gets a couple of grunts and a fist bump. I think I know when he doesn’t really like something. He’ll make noises while eating, but then he’ll go and describe stuff like “crunch” and “kick” and “depth” – but, no fist bump. He could probably make a shit sandwich look good. He might say it had some “kick” and “depth” but probably not so much crunch.

Chopped – What do I love most about this show? The judges! They remind me of my boss from The City of Albany, GA. I had done something not so conventional and I remember trying to explain what I had been trying to do. She looked at me over the rim of her reading glasses. I felt very small because a lot of money was invested in the project – my time, months of work, etc. I understand better today. I also laugh at these judges. They’re so serious. It’s food!! You eat it, your body digests it, and then it comes back out. It’s all recyclable in a 24 hour period. Stop being such snobs. These chefs have passion for what they do. Chill, okay?

The Best Thing I Ever Ate – This is a fun show because you get to listen to all your favorite celebrity chefs talk about the foods they love that someone else made. Finally, right? We watch a whole week of you guys cooking and celebrating what YOU created. Yes, it looks great. We trust you when you sample a morsel and tell us how good it is. But, it’s refreshing to listen to your praises while celebrating someone else’s creation every now and again.

What I don’t watch

Cupcake Wars – I do get it. I understand what’s going on in this show. It’s a great concept. I can’t help but wonder why the judges aren’t fat. As much as they love cupcakes, you’d think they would be huge. Plus, I don’t like the French judge’s voice; it’s annoying. Zees cupcait eez lacking za vaneela I wuz expecting. It’s a cupcake! I can’t tell you the difference between any two cupcakes other than color and the decoration on top. A cupcake is a cupcake is a cupcake!

Sweet GeniusThe host and judge of this show is creepy. The way they switch up the competition with inspirational additions is creepy. The show is just down right creepy. When the host announces a new additional ingredient, the camera captures his excitement, eyes bright, fingertips pressed together like he is waiting for his evil plan to unfold. I could write a suspense thriller spin off from this show. The antagonist is a secret. I bet you can’t guess who I have in mind.

Do you watch The Food Network? If so, which shows do you watch and which ones do you not watch and why? Are there better shows or worse shows on this channel?

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09 September 2012

Poking Fun of Another Genre

There is nothing I enjoy more than reading about how to accomplish things in a formulaic fashion, like this funny "how to" in writing a bestselling fantasy novel. I'm not writing this post just to share this parody with my writer friends, but to also discuss a very polarizing concept.

Genre nit picking, much like I did in 10 Things I Hate About Romance Novels, isn't as much about picking on the authors as it is about picking on the elements of each genre. Each has its brand, its look and feel. There is a reason for this. They all serve a different purpose and reach different audiences. However, each has the same mission, to feed the hungry minds of readers all around the world.

Keep in mind, and I discovered this recently, each also has their share of hard-core enthusiasts who will fight you tooth and nail if you poke fun of their favorite genre in any form or fashion. So, imagine the flurry of comments on our Facebook group when another writer posted the same link. Some laughed out loud in a textual sort of way; others were indifferent and simply stated it was funny. 

Now you're transported to the shower scene in Psycho and the lurking enthusiast pops out of nowhere and berates everyone for laughing and being mean to their fellow writers of fantasy. Instant dose of Debbie Downer.

I thought about this a little more and I wanted to put this in perspective so people who care about the process of writing and producing literature for readers everywhere can learn HOW to support one another in a much diversified community, the writing community.

The world of literature is composed of elemental groups much like the military; each genre is like a different branch of service. The Navy provides support by sea. The Air Force provides air support, just as you might suspect. The Army puts boots on the ground and the Marine Corps is a fighting force of readiness to be first in combat with all branches at their disposal. But, we never forget, they all have the same mission, protecting our great country.

My husband is a retired Marine; my son is medically retired from the Army. I can't tell you how many Marine and Army jokes fly back and forth between the two. The other day, when we were outside my son's apartment, the UPS man drove up with a delivery and asked my husband, "Are you in the Army?"

"No, that would be my son."

"Oh, I'm sorry." They both laughed.

The UPS guy gave my husband a pen so he could sign for the piece of mail. "I was in the Air Force myself," he offered.

"And you freely admit that?" 

The UPS guy's laughter was genuine.

"I'm a retired Marine." My husband never gives up an opportunity to deliver this tidbit of information when engaged in a discussion with other service members, past and present.

They poked fun of each other a little more until the delivery was made and all necessary documents were signed. I could tell they had a deep respect for one another. One thing they understood, and something which all service members understand, whether they served in one branch or the other, though they all had different uniforms, different obstacles, and very different outlooks on strategy and tactics, they all had a love for their country and strove to protect it together.

That's how we need to understand the cross culture of the different genres. It's not disrespectful to poke fun at the elements of one or the other. It's not elitist to have a favorite. 

There are enough fans to go around. Let's not forget why we each write. The way you support each other is to recognize your differences and understand why genres work the way they do and how each supports the reader base.

Fantasy won't always be popular, nor will romance. Each genre will have its day. In the meantime, let me say this. I support all writers, even those who poke fun with parodies. If it's funny, that author should get props. And, so I say, that was some funny shit!

Do you think parodies are mean spirited? Why or why not?

05 September 2012

7 Antagonists I Love And Why

This month's prompt at Absolute Write
The Number Seven

September used to be the seventh month of the old Roman calendar and its name literally means seventh "month," so this month is brought to you by 7. Write wherever the prompt inspires you, fiction or non-fiction, prose or poetry. Do try and keep things at a PG-13 level, though.

NORMAN BATES, PSYCHO - Owner of the Bates Motel. Why does this character appeal to me so much? Because, though he is a brutal murderer, we discover his quirkiness, prone to violence, is a mask for the immense guilt he possesses over murdering his own mother. He had been jealous she'd found a lover. This sort of Oedipus complex lends him a weakness which he struggles to suppress. How can you NOT find some sympathy for this character?

WHITE GOODMAN, DODGEBALL - What a despicable, low-class, egotistical prick, right? However nasty a character is, they can be totally redeemed, especially if they make you laugh your ass off. That is all. 

NURSE RATCHED, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST - What a wicked, wicked woman! Think about what she is struggling with when she insists on keeping these patients "cuckoo". Control and order is what she desperately seeks, and when her patients question her over her antics, she is taken back. We get the first glimpse into her evil mind when her authority is questioned. Let that nutty McMurphy disturb the order and look out! You're messing with her domain. She's under-handed and evil to the core, but...at least she's in control, right? How can you not love this woman?

DARTH VADER, STAR WARS - I feel for this guy. He's trying hard to maintain his power. He can order people killed and it is done. People fear him; he is the almighty Darth Vader! One problem, he can't get his own son to see his greatness. It's not evil, my son...it's the dark side. This poor guy can't get through to his son. How horrible is that for him?

TOMMY DEVITO, GOODFELLAS - He's a small guy with a really big internal wound. Don't laugh at him. Call him a bastard, whack his friend, just don't laugh at him. How hard is that? He’s loud, he’s a bully, and if you’re getting laughs at his expense, he’ll kill you. Flawed? Yes! You want him on your side if there is going to be any misunderstanding. You find yourself saying to people, "Hey, seriously, just don't look at him funny, okay?”

DR. HANNIBAL LECTER, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS - He is a cannibalistic serial killer who understands the human spirit, comes from a background which would drive anyone insane (opinion), and he'll eat your face off. What's not to like? Seriously, this character has shown compassion. He becomes a mentor to Clarice, the young, ambitious FBI agent, giving her clues which help her to find a serial killer. He later writes her a letter wishing her well. What a great man!

GOLLUM (Smeagle), THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY - You can't trust that deformed monster. He wants his Precious! He'll do anything for it. I can't help feeling pity for this character though. I want to give him the ring and wish him the best in his life as a deformed outcast. Poor thing!

So, who are your favorite antagonists and why?

02 September 2012

Deep POV by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Throughout the years, I’ve purchased my share of “how to” books on writing fiction, but this one was worth mentioning because it is short and very comprehensive. I purchased Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point ofView two weeks ago, and like many books I plan to read, it sat on the bar until I could find the time to get some reading done. This almost never happens, but when we decided to make a trip to St. Augustine, I packed an overnight bag and grabbed my book off the bar on our way out the door. I’m so glad I did!

Only fifty nine pages, it is full of information related to getting into your characters’ heads and staying there. Jill Elizabeth Nelson provides a brief summary of POV terms and concepts before introducing the Deep POV methods she uses to keep her readers riveted. In several of her chapters, she provides examples and exercises which help when applying these methods. She also provides her own revisions for comparison.

Ms. Nelson doesn’t just tell the reader how something should be done, she shows by the examples she provides in the book. She shows how a shallow sentence can be transformed into a tight, Deep POV sentence.

She discusses everything from Narrative Distance to Prepositional Tells to Sensory Tells. These are all exceptional topics and after reading about them, I am anxious to begin transforming much of my own pages.

My favorite transformation from this book:

Shallow: With smug satisfaction, he turned in the perfect paper.

Deep: He smirked and dropped the paper onto the teacher’s desk. Shazam! Let’s see Mr. Perfectionist give him anything less than an “A” on this one.

If you haven't read this one, I think you will enjoy it. Have you read any "how to" books lately which have you excited about writing? Please share!

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