Writing&More

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Are You a Writer from The “Sandwich Generation”?

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The reason why I chose the title of my blog Writing&More is because it will give me an opportunity to discuss subjects from my earlier professional life as a Health Care Administrator and Business Owner. And healthcare is a topic that affects everyone, including us writers.

If you have ever been told you are from the “sandwich generation” then you are or will be facing many challenges when it comes to having a balanced life. When I started to write part-time, not even in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine the complexity, effort and persistence that it takes to become a professional writer. Well, take that effort and multiply it by ten and you have arrived to the “Sandwich Generation”, those who care for their young children and their elderly parents. All is well and then, you’re parent’s need more help, one you can’t provide on an ongoing basis either because of time, money or the demands of your young children. Your heart is in the right place but the logistics are close to impossible.

In my experience, as a past owner of a home health agency, I received many calls from “Sandwichers” at a very late stage, with very little time to spare, forcing the family into crises mode. As a writer, your parents’ sudden change in health can change your life and perhaps force you to place your dreams on hold for a long time. So, if you and your elder parents are in a good place in your lives, consider the following steps as you prepare for the inevitable journey into aging:

 

Evaluate getting a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. I was lucky enough to get one for my mother at age 65 and now, at age 82 afflicted with some dementia and other physical ailments, I am able to financially support a certified nursing assistant every day of the week. It was expensive, but looking back, it was worth it, especially when I also got a Ryder (addendum to the policy) not to pay the premium if she became disabled. Nowadays, policies like my mom’s rarely exist or be very expensive. The market has changed considerably. And now, know, at least as of today, Medicare does not cover for personal care. So if your parents need help with any of the activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, walking, and other, you are on your own unless you pay privately for those services.

 

Conduct National Background Checks on any Assistants you hire for your Parents. If you decide you can’t afford a Home Health Agency or Registry (later explained) and decide to hire a private person, you should investigate their background. At the time that I owned my agency in Florida, one of the stricter States in policies that protect the elders, they required a State background check. Not too thrilled with the idea, I expanded my search to include the other States. To my surprise, I had a few cases where the State had approved the home health aides yet they had criminal cases in other states. It’s worth the investment even if the person is a referral by a friend or family member. Also, you can do random drug checking. There are inexpensive saliva kits that you can use. If you plan to use a kit, make sure you get the home health aide to sign a documents releasing you from any liability in performing these tests.

 

If you decide to hire professional help, learn to distinguish a Nurse Registry from a Home Health Agency. IT IS NOT THE SAME. A Registry is more like a temporary employment agency with some perks; they will conduct the criminal background but in many cases they will not cover for worker’s compensation or liability insurance. If a worker gets injured in your home, and they may hold you liable, your home liability insurance will be your best bet to help you cover for medical expenses. However, you need to confirm this because in some cases they may need you to add an umbrella (additional coverage). Also, a Registry verifies that the home health aide carries their own liability insurance with low limits of coverage. Many Registries do not have good systems in place to verify that the home health aide’s liability insurance is valid so there is always a chance that your parents will not be compensated for any damages should the aide be responsible and their liability insurance has expired. The Home Health Agency must cover both, worker’s compensation and liability insurance, with higher limits of coverage.

In many Registries, the home health aides don’t report to a nurse. A nurse will develop a plan for care for your parents and the aide must follow it. In an agency, a Home health aide reports directly to a Nurse and the Nurse makes sure the plan is being adhered to or updated, when necessary.

    An Aide is not an aide, is not an aide. A home Health aide has an estimated 40 to 80 hours of education while a certified nursing aide has as much as 120 hours of education. There are some functions a Home Health Aide cannot perform; i.e. taking blood pressure readings.

 

Registries are not typically required to be accredited by recognized accreditation companies. However, in many states, Home Health Agencies are required to be accredited by thirty party agencies, forcing the agencies to adhere to stricter guidelines and protocol.

 

So why then not go with a Home Health Agency versus a Registry? Price. A Home Health Agency can be between $5 to $7 more per hour.

 

Familiarize yourself with programs that are geared to protect the elders in your state. If you use a Registry or Home Health Agency, they are required by law to give you pamphlets that would include information about governmental help and elder agencies. In Florida, all you have to do is dial 211 for Community Services. Other States most likely have similar programs that can help you with community services from A to Z for the elderly and others in need of help.

 

Veteran Aid and Attendance Program. This is a program rarely known to the public and not used to its potential. To qualify , if your parent is a veteran and has been in active duty for 90 days and one day beginning or ending during a period of war, Then he or she and their spouse maybe eligible for the Veteran’s Aide and Attendance program.  There are other eligibility requirements like assets needing to be below $80,000 excluding your primary home and vehicles, etc. If your parent’s or elder relatives qualify, they can receive up to $1500 per month to spend on services related to activities of daily living. However, it can take 5 to 9 months to process the paper work, especially when you do it on your own. The Veterans Administration does have select locations that help in completing this paperwork.


The time to prepare is the time before crises. If you are a “Sandwicher” and do not have a plan in place, start one soon. If you would like more information, please feel free contact me vtowersauthor@gmail.com.

 

Wishing all of you a very Happy Holiday!

 

Some of the Best No-Fee Writing Contests in 2015

There are no sweeter words to me than those of my 11 year old daughter telling me, “Mommy, I like that story in your book.” That with the emotions and passion that I feel when I write are priceless. That’s the best award I can ever receive.  But having your work recognized among peers and writing contest sponsors add icing to the chocolate cake.

As most writers are already aware, getting recognition as a writer is difficult. With the advent of ebooks and self-publishing, the marketplace is more cluttered than ever, making it harder and harder to stand out from the crowd.

Writing contests are, therefore, highly relevant to the writer looking to make a splash in his or her niche; while the compensation for many of these contests tends to be moderate in nature, they are an invaluable means of getting one’s name out there and adding a feather to one’s cap when it comes to self-promotion.

Writer Award

Likewise, contests provide the chance for recognition not just among other writers and potential readers, but also among family. Placing well in a contest often draws the attention of these people; once you have such credentials to your name, they take a whole new interest in what you do, which can be incredibly validating.

There is one caveat however: Many writing contests charge an entry fee, and while these fees may look small at first glance, if one plans on entering many contests, these fees will quickly add up. To help writers avoid this pitfall, the following list of no-fee writing contests for 2015 is being provided:

• FreelanceWriting.com (http://www.freelancewriting.com/creative-writing-contests.php) provides an extensive list of upcoming contests, some of which offer substantial rewards (the The Danuta Gleed Literary Award, for instance, awards $10,000 to its winner, and the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize offers $7500). One can easily filter results by date and genre, making finding the right contest for one’s specialty a snap.

• Writerviews.com (http://writersviews.com/writing-contests.php)  also offers several contests with excellent compensation, including a rather unique Sitcom Writing Contest which awards $10,000 to the winning script, plus the possibility of it actually being picked up for use on television. There are also plentiful poetry contests, which makes this an ideal place to look for no-fee contests if you’re a poet. Plus, humor writers with a bit of bite in their style will be delighted by the Satirist Comedy Writing Contest, which seeks “the next George Carlin”.

• Chanticleer Book Reviews (http://chantireviews.com/) features a list of “Blue Ribbon” writing contests for 2014-15, spanning several different genres and promising international exposure.

• Poets and Writers lists a number of contests which are hosted by very prestigious faculties, such as Yale. Many of these contests focus on themes, such as the impact of music, and there are quite a few options on the list specific to poetry.

Also take a look at http://chantireviews.com/contests/ and http://www.pw.org/writing_contest_updates for information on additional contest.

So get involved and give it a shot.  You have nothing to lose, especially when it’s free to enter.  Good luck and Keep Writing!

 

2015: Planning will create success

I am hoping that 2015 will be a year filled with excitement and new developments for all of us.  But unless we take actions to plan for the new challenges, we perhaps will waste some precious time.  I have included an article by Matt Newnan who has some good ideas on how we can start the year ready preparing for what lies ahead of us.  I hope you enjoy it s such as I did.

“Writing isn’t planned, it’s creative and writers just sit, stare out at landscapes and pen their words; they don’t really work”

“Writers cannot work with structure; they need to be a free spirit”

Both of the above are fairly true but the most successful authors have a plan in place and they stick to it. Yes creativity strikes when creativity strikes but to ensure the inspiration doesn’t just equal perspiration with limited results structure is needed.

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” and this is as true for a writer as it is any other profession, and whether you are a full-time, published author or just dabbling in writing, without a plan you are heading very close to nowhere. A plan for a writer need not be complex but to gain success in the year ahead it is essential; even if it is just a list of objectives that you need to complete it is needed.

When writing a book or when submitting a simple article such as this a deadline is given and must be met. Deadlines serve a purpose to help the publisher manage their side of the written word to ensure your work reaches the right people at the right time. The deadline impacts budgets, there are always costs when writing and managing these is where deadlines come in. More importantly where there is a deadline their needs to be a plan, there must be structure as writers can be and usually are easily distracted and often lost deep inside their work. The plan is a reminder that something needs to be done.

When you begin any work that you want published, whether it be self-published, published via a literary agent or publishing house, a magazine or even a blog, the first thing that needs to be noted is the deadline. Once this is known, and especially if you are working on multiple projects as I am – my novel, my website content, my magazine articles and this post – having a clear plan of work is essential. Just having a simple spreadsheet or even diary not just with deadlines but a countdown towards your deadline can make a tremendous difference to the success of your writing.

I personally work of a spreadsheet that contains submission dates, subjects, editor’s notes and publisher’s notes. I keep the document on Google Docs as well as on my laptop and can access it from my cellphone so I am always aware of where I am. My writing, whilst creative is managed as if I am running a tight sales operation. The spreadsheet is the first thing look at every day and when I complete a task, as I will do with this post, I check off the item and mark it as complete. It takes only a minute or two and it frees up hours of my time each day. The spreadsheet allows me to be kept up to date and keeps me focused and gives me the peace of mind to know that I know what is on time and what is falling behind.

Managing your deadlines will make 2015 a success

If you can do one thing to get yourself better positioned for 2015 then manage your deadlines better by putting a simple plan in place with deadlines, even if you set the deadlines yourself, you will become much more productive. You will also find that your creativity soars, the peace of mind knowing you are on track and even ahead of a deadline is such a powerful thing. Make 2015 the year of being planned, take a few minutes

Having spent 18 years in Sales and Marketing management internationally, Matt Newnham lives in Cape Town and is a motivational speaker who writes for a variety of publications and websites globally. Currently writing his first novel – The Seed Shepherds – he writes both fiction and non-fiction.

each day to plan and your creative time will become more prosperous and you will have started a habit that changes your writing life!

 

Writing Styles: I can’t stop reading until I finish! – Part 2

As a follow-up to my last article, I am describing different writing styles that ignite my emotions. While I can keep writing on this topic forever, I am going to narrow it down to two more styles that I look forward to when I consider buying a book. Yes, I am one of those that sometimes can’t wait for the book to be for free or offered at $0.99. While I’m too old to be part of the NOW generation, when I see a book that its excerpt excites me, I buy it. I am a Kindle Edition member and love it!

Humorous

I enjoy books that make me laugh out loud when I read them. The problem is that I only read late at night and my laughter can be somewhat annoying to my husband. I’m encouraging him to read so we can have more peace at night so we’ll see what happens. In the meantime….

Derrick Hibbard, an indie author of several non-fictional and fictional books, wrote Impish, about a lawyer who made a contract with the Devil and then tried to revoke it. This book made me laugh out loud the two nights it took me to read it. (I’m a slow reader) Below are just a few of the many funny lines in this book:

“I’m going to lose this bad boy.” He lifted up his white shirt and squeezed the skin around his belly button, making it appear to be a mouth. “No please don’t get rid of me”, the belly button said in a high-pitched voice. You’re gone buddy, Cal replied, “History”. Location 1% in Kindle, Derrick Hibbard, 2012

As a disclaimer, humor is like beauty, in the eyes of the beholder. But I enjoyed it and would recommend it.

Action Packed and Fast Paced

“You need to come with us..Like h…I do,” I said as I kicked the guy in front of me in his knee. He jerked and doubled over; I put him in a head lock and cut off his circulation. I looked to Jones and saw that he already had the other man pinned to our table.” 253 of 3428 location in Kindle, 2014, Karina Espinosa

These are a few lines from Karina Espinosa’s latest novel Greed, part of her series, Sins of the Fallen. In two lines she crafted a visually vivid fight scene, and as a female, writing from a male perspective. She has a loyal fan base including myself, because of her fast paced, action packed writing style. This book left me gasping during several scenes and to top it all, she has an excellent sense of humor.

 

I want to clarify that my opinions of these writing styles pertain only to fiction work. When it comes to non-fiction, I focus more on the value of its content advice. For example, when building my blog, I had to find a quick reference and quality guide so I purchased Molly Greene’s book, “bLog It! The author’s guide to building a successful online brand”. It was very well written, easy to use and helped me in setting up my blog from scratch. It also contains other valuable information regarding social media.

 

Writing Styles: I can’t stop reading until I finish! – Part 1

As a writer, I’m always looking at the styles that other writers have. While I have my own, I like to see not so much their syntax but their descriptions, dialogue and most important, how they make me feel. I’m not a Reviewer as I don’t have the experience to be one. However, passion is not an acquired skill nor requires experience. These are some the writing styles that I’m passionate about. This blog is not to review the author’s or their books but to share with you the different styles that keep me up all night!

Poignant and Lyrical

Meg Collett, The Hunted One, is a book that I can read over and over and never get tired of it. She is a master at describing one scene in one word. An author of a few words, her dialogue is many times short, direct and does not need any elaboration. Her descriptive words have the perfect balance of complexity and simplicity. In her books, the Hunted One, for which she’s received rave reviews, she gives life to her characters with minimal effort. I just purchased her book “fakers” and can’t wait to read it. I emailed her to ask her why does she excels in this area and if she was influenced by other talented writers.

“So I put a lot of effort into my descriptions and scene-setting. I think sometimes what you don’t say is just as important as what you do. My writing style was heavily influenced by Andrew Davidson (he wrote this book called “The Gargoyle”). His writing was lyrical and very poignant. But he made you feel the scene rather than just read it. I always aim to achieve that! “ Meg Collett, 11/11/2014

My hat off to you, Ms. Collett, and hope to continue seeing you succeed!

Beautiful Descriptive Prose and Romance

I’ve read many books that are written almost like poems. The descriptions are elaborate and transport me in a limousine to the setting of every scene. Their scenes are better than movies that have won Oscars. The skill set and talent that I think it takes these authors to write this type of novel inspire me to keep writing. The combination of words is like crocheting exquisite lace. I’ve read several works of this kind, but then I learned of John J. Geddes. Just his tweets s “like having a candle light dinner”. After reading several of his exquisite paranormal, romance short stories, I purchased his book, “Epiphany”.

It is fantastic. Every emotion that I could hold inside just erupted when I read this book. In this short sentence, he uses several beautiful descriptions that show a part of the personality this character in his novel.

“The intoxication of celebrity totally fulfilled her and she was never more sparkling and effervescent than in a room full of adoring strangers. “ Epiphany by John H. Geddes, 94 of 5497 or 2% using Kindle reader, 2013

Even his tweets are full of flavor.

Tweeted 11/14/2014
“she vanished and there was no trace of her, only footsteps in the sand.”
“she was a parachute descending out of a clear sky-another part of my landscape”

I strongly recommend you subscribe to his tweets. There is nothing more enchanting than to end dinner with a French delicacy.
Mr. Geddes, please, never stop writing. It would break my and many of your fans’ hearts!

Going Against Expert Advice: Lessons Learned by a Newbie

As I start this article, I feel like Jerry McGuire when he wrote his Mission Statement. Some people disagreed with his concept of spending more time with his clients even if it meant less revenue for the company where he worked. But at the end of the movie, not only did he win the heart of his lovely wife but also came to learn many lessons about his craft. And this is my intention. I am writing this article to share with you how going against the grain can sometimes be painful to your ego, force you to take the longest distance to your destination and in some cases, you may have to reinvent yourself again. Would I change any of the actions I took that got me here today, No, I wouldn’t. It’s been a journey full of lessons and as I sit here, I know similar situations will be around the corner. But now, I will follow the expert advice that is readily available all over the internet.

So, I will share my story as I share some ideas that looking back would have made better sense and hope that at least for some of the newbies, this information will be helpful.

1. Find a Writing Buddy

The main reason I started to write was because I had a friend who encouraged me to join the Nanowrimo Contest. It took me several weeks to spell and pronounce the name correctly. I had just quit my job to dedicate more time to my special needs child who was attending elementary school. I had the time and for some reason, the hunger to write and express myself on paper. I was fortunate that my writing buddy is an excellent writer and had several years of experience under her belt. Also, the one-on–one offered me more time to discuss questions and issues that came up during my writing.

2. Take your time to publish your first novel; Find a Good Editor

So I entered the contest and in two weeks, completed my novel. First mistake, I decided to split the novel into a series and then publish it a few months later. I did have the novel edited by a professional editor, but only once. Even though I edited my work at least six times, a professional is the key to creating quality work. Also, be selective in choosing your editor. I know it’s expensive but it’s worth it. Later in the article I will share with you the consequence of poor editing choices. Do your research, ask people in the industry for recommendations; my conclusion is to select a good, professional editor even if you have to pay more money. I’m living a conservative lifestyle and don’t have money to blow away but if you are committed to be in this business long term, then look at it as an investment.

3. Take your time to publish your first novel; Research your audience

I had not read books for a long time before I wrote my novel. But ask me about any movie and I can tell you anything you want to know. I was and continue to be a movie junkie. As a result, I did have many ideas for good plots that I felt I could convert to novels. To top it all, I was a Healthcare consultant and travelled around the States and the world, spending many hours in planes. So I read many books but they were professional, self-improvement and non-fiction books. This alone gave me the confidence to write. When you are unaware of your audience, you have a big chance of failing in this business because they are your customers. Like any company, knowing your customer is the most important aspect in developing a product that they will buy. If you are in this field to write and never make a penny, then this may not be important to you. But in my case, I would like to be paid for my services and do not want to release bad quality work because it reflects on my reputation. Been there, done that.

4. Take your time to publish your first novel; Research your genre

Once you select your genre, this suggestion goes hand in hand with the earlier one. Read books in your genre so that you can understand the wording that is being used. The audience likes the genre because of the way that it’s written so if you write something completely out of the ball park, they will put that book down in the first inning and they will never buy another one from you again.

5.  Subscribe to Blogs and Read Them

When you have a family and a full-time job, it’s hard to make time for all the demands of this business so take your Time. The business is not going to go away. I’m over 50 years old and changing to a different discipline has been a very humbling experience. Having been a successful Health Care executive and owning three business, to transfer and start in this career has not been an easy road, and I’ve come to accept that it will be very bumpy for a while. But when I went to a Statewide Writer’s Conference not too long ago, I noticed that many of the writers were either my age, and in many cases older. I cannot tell you what a sense of relief that offered me. It gave me hope that I can write for a very long time and still make it. Yes, there are many young and wonderful writers that we can learn from and will be around for a long time too. So age doesn’t matter in this business. Also, make sure you network because many authors will be your clients. Take your time.

6. To  Blog or Not to ; That is the Question

Well, if you are reading this you know where I stand with that. But it’s been over a year that I’ve been writing and just started a blog. With determination, I will continue it. A major part of your success will depend on marketing your product and social media will get the word of your novel out in the market. This part of the business is the scariest for me not because of its complexity but of the time commitment it requires. I cannot say, Take your time, because in this case you need to be available at whatever time. So know that once you publish your novel, if you don’t start the ball rolling, you are going to miss momentum and potential opportunities that will make your book successful. I found the following website in researching which web hosting product to select,

http://www.consumer-rankings.com/hosting/?a=148&c=2968&s1=80681060.82174544&vn=nrd3-nbf&ls=g&gclid=Cj0KEQiAp4yjBRCE_enjmpug944BEiQATCpLvbaJ_IHyxWefofhWoYt-HJv2iz3QbRdMnL8eZLfAxpEaAk0y8P8HAQ

I decided to start now because I’m planning to publish my 4th book in the spring if 2015.

7. Research your Publishing Options

With the internet and eBooks, there are so many options for publishing; indie, self-publishing, hybrid, traditional and so on. Compare them and check which one not only fits your financial goals but also your time limitations. Your time is money and if you go pure self-publishing, your flying solo. Some people love it and after doing it several times, it’s become second nature for them. But there are options that will support you in some aspects of the business, allowing you time to breath. Whatever you decide, be aware that the marketing will mainly fall on your lap. The audience wants to see you so no matter which route you take, if you make it big, be ready to travel and invest considerable amounts of time unless you can clone yourself.

8. Reviews of Your Work Can Hurt

One of my first reviews was a one star. That evening I called my writing buddy and cried like a baby. And for those of you who think I was exaggerating, I’m just a very sentimental person. After a few days, I re-read the check and did what everyone tells you not to do; I emailed my reviewer. However, my email was not to insult her but instead to thank her. I think she was shocked and to be honest, I didn’t think she would respond. But she is professional and did. Every point that she noted from the fact that I wrote like a child, that my work should’ve been edited more, that after 11 pages, she had to put the book down and that she couldn’t believe anyone would ever release a book in that condition, I analyzed and concluded that she had given me the aspects of the novel that I had to check to improve it. For me, that was priceless. I’m now in the process of editing the book and publishing a 2nd edition and will feel proud to do so. And every bad review that I got for the book, I will read and take into consideration. In my email, I explained to her that it was my first book and that the 2nd one of the series was in the process of being released. I asked her if she would give me another chance. And she said, not only a 2nd, but a 3rd, a 4th and so on because this is what she does. She reviews books not only for her audience but also for the writers to consider suggestions for improvement. Since then, I’ve kept in communication and have utmost respect for her work. I will be sending her my new book in the spring and hope she enjoys it.

9. Your Reviews Can Hurt Other Writers

No one likes to have their baby called ugly so my recommendation is not what you say but how you say it. I have not been the most diplomatic person when it comes to this. Perhaps being in Consulting and telling companies how to improve their operations hardened my speech. This is an area that I need to work on. I’ve seen the work of some colleagues and while I’m the least person to have the ability to give a proper opinion, I can at least recognize some syntax, POV and character consistency issues. When I see how some writers give their comments in such a soft yet assertive way, I applaud them. Now if you are a professional reviewer, your job is to be assertive and direct but from one colleague to another, you can be less aggressive. Again, this is just my opinion.

 

There are many other lessons I learned but these were the major ones. So to summarize, after going through these experiences, I changed my pen name. Yep, my insecurity got to me and decided to start anew. Interestingly enough, I do like my new pen name better than my old one and will not be changing it even if I get remarried. This is a craft and I need to learn many skills. I am taking internet courses for writing but am planning to go back to school and take some formal English writing courses as recommended by my writing buddy. There are so many factors that will influence your success and skills in one of them. But I think that the most important one is to be determined and be ready to like rollercoasters because you will have lots of ups and downs; but if you have the desire and passion to write, it will be a great ride. Finally, thank you Writing Buddy for being my seat belt and helping me stay on my seat.

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