When You Realize What You Were Missing

My daughter is deaf in one ear, diagnosed at 14 months with mild/moderate loss. Got her first aid at 26 months. Took her first booth test somewhere around 3 years old. At that point, her hearing level had dropped from moderate to profound loss.

It’s hard for those of us with normal hearing to understand what profound hearing loss means. I didn’t really get an inkling until those first booth tests. I sat in the booth with my daughter, but several feet away. She wore headsets to listen to the instructor. The doctor would ask her to point to cards with pictures on them. When the doctor asked for the airplane in the good ear, my daughter pointed without hesitation.

In the bad ear…nothing. The doctor would gradually raise the volume, to the point where I, sitting a few feet away, could hear the doctor as clear as day even through the headsets, while my daughter sat unmoving, waiting for the instruction she could not hear.

That is profound hearing loss.

Still, the loss didn’t seem to impact my daughter much. She can’t localize sound, and if you talk in her bad ear she will not hear you, but those were the only major issues. She has a hearing aid for the bad ear, but has been saying for some time that it doesn’t help at all.

So we are trying out a new type of hearing aid, called a cross or crossover.  This consists of a microphone on her bad ear that pipes the sound over to the good ear, so she is hearing both sides on one ear.  Eventually, the brain learns to discern which sound comes from which ear, and it helps with sound localization, as well as hearing sound and speech from the bad side.

When we first put it on my daughter, her eyes got big, and she yelled, “Everything is so LOUD!” For the first time in her life, she was hearing the world as I do. She was stunned and delighted, excitement shining from her face. The funny thing was that every time we put the aid on, she started yelling instead of speaking normally. That seemed counter-intuitive, until I figured out that she probably thought she had to speak louder to be heard over her louder world–much like we yell over a TV up at high volume.

While excitement was her first reaction, a different feeling surfaced a few days later. “Mommy, I’m a little sad.” I asked her why. “Because I never realized how different I am.” I asked what she meant. “I never knew how much I couldn’t hear that everyone else could.”

Sometimes it’s hard when you finally realize what you’ve been missing.

So I whispered into her aided bad ear, “I love you.”

It piped over to her good ear.

And her smile shone out and her eyes lit up.

Maybe she realized that she’s not really missing the things that matter most.

BooksNJ 2017: Hot, but way cool

Author Kerry Gans at BooksNJ

photo by J.R. Bale

On Sunday I skipped the last day of the Philadelphia Writers Conference to attend the BooksNJ festival in Paramus, NJ. For those of you wondering where Paramus is, it’s WAAAAY up in north Jersey. You pretty much pass New York City to get there.

Still, the hour and a half ride was pleasant, no problems at all. I got there early and found a nearby bank easily. Then I got lost coming back from the bank because even with the GPS the roads were too confusing (and poorly signed). But I eventually arrived at the Paramus Library, which hosted the event.

I should add that we were having a major heat wave that day. Temps in the 90s, and this was an outdoor festival. Luckily, we authors were under a tent, so we had shade all day, and enough of a breeze to make the weather not unbearable. The library also provided us with cold water and an air-conditioned room to retreat to if needed.

Because the festival grounds were rather large and there were panels ongoing all day, judging the crowd size was a bit hard. I talked to a good number of people who stopped at my table, gave them cards and bookmarks, and signed some bookmarks for some tweens. I got to spend the day with fellow authors J.R. Bale and Kristina Garlick, so I had good company to pass the time.

Author Tag for BooksNJ

J.R., Kristina, and I were on a panel together, along with author Stephen S. Power. The topic: Worlds Beyond Reality: Fantasy and Science Fiction, moderated by Laurie Meeske. We discussed the difference between SciFi and Fantasy, why people are drawn to one or the other, what drew us to writing those worlds, and why we feel those genres are important. Although we were in the final time-slot of the day, our panel was well-attended. This was my first panel at a book event ever, and I greatly enjoyed talking with these knowledgeable and entertaining authors.

After that I packed up, sweated my way to the car, and let the miles unfurl under my tires as I headed back south. I enjoyed the day, and when the next BooksNJ festival comes along in 2019, I will certainly plan to attend.

Kerry Gans at her table at BooksNJ

 

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A Writing Weekend: Philadelphia Writers Conference and BooksNJ

PWC - part of my writing weekendMy writing weekend kicks off on Friday, when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Philadelphia Writers Conference, my home away from home. I’m looking forward to the classes, the camaraderie, and the energy I always get from the conference.

I find it electrifying to be with so many other writers. Okay, so maybe the electricity doesn’t really start crackling until after the coffee stations open, but the energy ramps up as the day goes on. The confined spaces of the conference rooms trap inspiration and send it ricocheting until some of it inevitably hits me.

I will probably pitch at the conference (I usually do), but I haven’t decided yet. I have two manuscripts ready to go, so I certainly have something to talk about. Oddly enough, I have found that I pitch better if I don’t think about it too much beforehand. That seems counter-intuitive for an anxiety-beset introvert, but it works—provided I know my story well enough to speak fluidly about it (which I do). I think it’s because if I don’t admit to myself that I am going to pitch, it tricks my anxiety into staying calm until it’s too late to paralyze me with fear.

While I love the Philadelphia Writers Conference, I will miss Day 3 because I have a book event. On Sunday, I will be in Paramus, NJ, for the BooksNJ festival. This is my first time at this event, so it is a new adventure for me. I am even on a panel—Worlds Beyond Reality: Fantasy and Science Fiction with fellow authors J.R. Bale, Kristina Garlick, and Stephen S. Power, moderated by Laurie Meeske. It should be fun—just pray for sun, please!

I have quite the busy 3-day writing weekend ahead, chock full of adventure and fun. As is tradition, I will be reporting on the Philadelphia Writers Conference each night on the Author Chronicles blog, although I will not have a post for Sunday’s session. And come back here next week when I’ll tell you about my BooksNJ experience.

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Pre-Summer Progress

Nothing like a looming deadline to spur on the writing. In my case, the end of school creeps ever closer, and the knowledge that I will no longer have 6 free hours a weekday pushes me onward. And so I have buckled down to try and get my current Work In Progress in shape before my days are filled with Mommy-duty events and my creative life takes a vacation.

Of course, I will have SOME time to write over the summer, but it will not be in the same volume as now. It will also likely not be in the large chunks of time I prefer, but in snatched moments here and there, at swim practice or waiting to pick my daughter up from day camp. Perfectly fine for blog posts and even line-editing, but not conducive (for me) to deep writing or big-picture revision.

Knowing that, I’ve been focused on making progress on Veritas, my YA sci-fi. I am coming into the home stretch with these edits, and I want to finish before summer stifles me. I also have a July deadline to give it to my editor, in case I need further urging.

This round of edits focuses on two things: sensory details and voice. Sensory details because I am terrible at putting them in. As a reader, I’m okay with minimalist description, and I take that to the extreme in my writing. So I have to go in and add appropriate sensory details.

Those details go hand-in-hand with voice in that point of view determines exactly which details a character will notice. But I also need to make certain my 3 POV characters don’t all sound alike. My antagonist (a 300-year-old spirit of a queen) can not sound like my main protagonist (a 16-year-old girl who only wants a quiet life and her father’s love, and seems destined to have neither) nor her twin brother, who wants desperately to be a warrior but fears he doesn’t have what it takes.

Voice is more than just tweaking, but I have already gone in and physically re-written each scene from scratch. Now I’m polishing the voice—especially the boy’s, as his voice took the longest to become clear in my head. In this go-round, I added many details to his scenes, some to the antagonist’s scenes, but very few to my protagonist’s scenes. I hate when that happens. I’m never sure if I am not making tweaks because what I have is really good, or because I’m just sick of the project. My editor will tell me.

I finished that round of edits earlier this week. Fantastic progress, to check off that last chapter! But I have one more round to go—trimming word count. The last round of revision pushed my count to about 101,000 words. Not out of the ballpark for a YA science fiction, but more than I am comfortable with. So I am hoping to trim 5,000 to 10,000 words at least. It’s no secret that I can be wordy, and I am sure I will find plenty to tighten. I hope I can finish that before D-Day on June 21st.

Once I finish that edit, that’s all the progress I can make on my own. I will have revised the manuscript about 5 times, and I will be so sick of it that I will have lost all objectivity. At that point it will go off to the editor, who will no doubt make it bleed.

Here’s hoping for pre-summer progress for all you writers who are parents!

SciFi Fantasy Day 2017 in Washington, NJ

SciFi Fantasy Day with the Mad Hatter and Queen of HeartsSo on May 20th, I rose with the sun and drove through the rain to Washington, NJ, for their SciFi Fantasy Day. This was my first SciFi Fantasy focused event, and I looked forward to seeing fellow authors Marie C. Collins and Kristina Garlick there.

The rain had me worried, however, as I had no tent (on my list of things to buy when I have money again). I DID have “emergency rain gear” (a sheet of plastic) and an umbrella. As I arrived, the time for the rain to stop was 10 AM, the official start time of the outdoor event. Waiting in the headquarters for the rain to let up, the time changed to around 1 PM. Was I going to have to simply turn around and head home?

Luck was with me. I set up a little before 10 AM under cloudy skies, outside Misty’s Pet Grooming & Boutique and Gaia’s Gifts . I utilized my emergency rain gear three times in the next two hours in the occasional light drizzle. The plastic did nothing to enhance my display, but the rain also meant that there were no customers browsing, so it worked out well!

After noon, the clouds stayed but the rain stopped. The crowd would have been larger with sunny weather, but the people who came had a good time. Positioned close to the tail end of the street due to getting my application in late, I could not see many of the activities going on, but I could hear the music and enjoyed hearing favorites like the Beatles echoing down the street.

I glimpsed elves and steampunk, storm troopers and knights errant, belly dancers and Darth Vader. Vendors included crystals, tapestries, geodes, chain mail, lightsabers, jewelry, games, plush Pokemon, and books. I did not have a chance to explore, but it seemed a vibrant mix of customers and vendors.

In spite of the damp start and the chill air, I enjoyed Washington’s SciFi Fantasy Day. I intend to apply for next year as well, and hope the weather is better.

SciFi Fantasy Day in Washington, NJ

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Rejection & Perseverance

Latest title to get a rejection

(Concept art)

I’m shopping a middle grade historical adventure, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I’ve had wonderful feedback from all of our beta readers, and am very excited about the quality and prospects of this book.

Unfortunately, real life has other ideas. I have queried 50 agents. 3 requested fulls (yay!), but all ultimately passed. The rest of the agents either passed on the query (19) or have not answered at all (28), which is usually an assumed rejection.

The last agent who requested just passed Tuesday, so at the moment I am in the pity party stage of acceptance. And I will allow myself to feel it until Thursday. After that, it’s back on the horse. (A horse actually threw me once, so I know how this goes.)

I’ll compile a new list of agents and start over. Maybe take another critical look at the query, although 3 requests is not bad in today’s market. And then I’ll send them out.

Am I glutton for rejection? No. I am a stubborn writer who has a book I believe in passionately. Somewhere out there is an agent who will believe in this book as much as I do.

We just need to find each other.

Do any of you have a cutoff point for when you stop querying?

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Time Travel: Philly to Phoenix and back in 52 hours

Time travel is real. I did it this past weekend. I went back in time, to a different world, and then into the future. Amazing.

Friday afternoon, I boarded a cramped metal tube and was catapulted through time. After a slightly bumpy ride, we arrived at our destination 3 hours earlier than our time.

A different world! The environment we had left had been a cool, rainy 60 degrees. We exited our capsule to an arid 106 degrees. Instead of waving deciduous trees, newly green with the spring, we saw stunted trees and twisted cacti. Brown, sandy desert replaced my soft green landscape.  Mountains towered on the distance, dwarfing the sprawling intrusion of humanity.

We enjoyed our visit to this other world. Time spent with longtime friends, an exploration of nearby South Mountain with its grand vista overlooking the city, and culminating in a beautiful renewal of vows for my friends celebrating their 21st anniversary.

Although Phoenix is a modern city, the Western landscape evokes the Wild West and time long past. Stone structures on South Mountain brought the old time atmosphere to life. And spending time with a friend you’ve known for 32 years brings the inevitable nostalgia and memories. The past was very present out there.

Sunday morning we climbed into the tiny tube again and reversed course. Aside from a seatmate who had an inflated idea of his own personal space, the ride was pretty smooth. And when we arrived back in the cool (and still rainy) airport, we were 3 hours ahead of where we had started.

We had come back to the future.

For all its discomfort, air travel is truly amazing. To be able to travel 4,600 miles in about 9 hours of flight time in order to visit friends for a single day is a minor miracle. I am a terrible flier who often has panic attacks on the plane (fun!), but I am grateful I live in a time where such speedy travel is possible.

I am, however, waiting eagerly for transporter technology to become a reality…

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Marketing Desert

River Reads 2016--not a marketing desertAfter the whirlwind of book events last year, I have hit something of a marketing desert this year. I have missed 4 opportunities to do book events—one I dropped the ball, the other three occurred while I was away on vacation.

Another book event that conflicts with the last day of the Philadelphia Writers Conference popped up. It is a new one for me, so I will go and meet new people. I have to buckle down and see what other events might be coming down the pike, so I don’t miss any more deadlines. A few are in the summer, but the rest of them are slated for September on.

This down time is ideal to work on my email list for my newsletter. I have collected many emails, but have yet to do anything with them. Neither I nor my email recipients want a tsunami of emails from me, so it will be light—once a month at most. If you want to join my email list, click here and scroll down until you see the blue Join Mailing List button under the Author Profile.

I also want to look into getting more reviews for the book. So I will explore book reviewers and see if I can make some contacts with them.

Events, newsletter list, pursuing more book reviews, and booking school visits for are going to fill this marketing desert.

What marketing strategies do you use when book events are few and far between?

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The Evolution of an Author

Every author, if they are serious about writing, goes through an evolution as they grow. At my critique group this week, we are reviewing a manuscript from one of our members, J. Thomas Ross, that she wrote soon after she graduated college. She is now a retired school teacher, so this manuscript has been in a drawer a long time!

We have reviewed many a page by Ross, and we rarely find much to criticize—although there is much to praise. Her work is meticulous, her descriptions effortless and vivid, her characters deep and real. Her world-building sucks you right into the story, and the plot grips you. She has done much to perfect her craft over the years, so seeing this very early manuscript has been fun.

This young manuscript has problems most beginners are familiar with. Head-hopping POV shifts. Clunky description. Confusing action. Minor plot holes. Using overly-large words when a shorter one would suffice. Even the grammar mistakes, which is a rarity today!

What is amazing, though, is what else is evident in this early manuscript. The descriptions, while occasionally clunky, are vivid, drawing you right into the moment. Her characters leap off the page. You become invested in them and their journey immediately. They are real. Her portrayals of emotion are compelling, not cheesy as many early efforts can be. It is clear that she applied her current meticulous writing style to this manuscript, because even with its faults it is a page-turner.

I am really enjoying this look into the early work of a writing friend I admire. It has let me see her evolution from a young writer to a seasoned one. Her basic skill was evident early on, but she has worked hard to bring her craft skills up to meet that potential. I hope that someday you, too, get to enjoy the work of J. Thomas Ross. I guarantee she will grab you from page one.

Have you ever had the chance to read early work from another writer? Could you spot the potential? Do you ever look back at your own early work and compare it to where you are now?

 

 

 

A Change of Place: Creativity and Location

So many things can impact our creativity—how we feel, what we eat, time of day, how much we’ve slept, outside worries. But one major component of creativity is place. Where we write. How does where we write influence what we write?

I’ve often read advice that we should have a specific place where we write. Perhaps an office, a local coffee shop, the library, or even a spot in our home. I’ve even heard that if you write on your sofa (as I do) you should write at one end and watch TV, etc., from the other. The idea behind all this advice is that having a dedicated writing space triggers your creativity because it trains your brain to write when you are in that spot.

This week I had a much larger change of place than the opposite end of my sofa. I spent some of the week in North Carolina, in a small rural town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Over the years, I have noticed that this change of place triggers a change in mindset for me almost every time. For some reason, genealogy obsesses me when in North Carolina.

genealogy obsession heightening in one place

Now, it doesn’t take much to get me chasing down rabbit holes for genealogy. But for some reason, the past feels much closer to me while I am there. Perhaps it is because the town often feels like it is from a bygone era, and the surrounding mountains have a timeless quality. The many farms could be from a hundred years ago, and the pace of life is slower. Not everyone knows everyone, but the community is close knit. In the way of rural communities, many earlier generations had more than the 2.5 kids families have now, so kin networks sprawl across the land. The past is still very present here.

Maybe part of the mindset shift is because we come here specifically to visit family, so family is very much top-of-mind. Whatever the reason, it ramps up my genealogy obsession and I want to chase ghosts for hours.

This got me wondering what kind of stories I would write if I lived there. Would I still write fantasy and science fiction? Or would I be drawn to family dramas and small-town conflicts? What stories I would write if I lived on Chincoteague Island, as I did for 8 months one year? Would I be writing stories of wind and sea and sky?

Assateague Island--a favorite place

Your location undoubtedly influences your writing, from topics to characters to theme. While a temporary relocation may not fundamentally alter what or how you write, a change of place can shake up your creativity and dig you out of a funk, break a writer’s block, or give you a new perspective on some element of your story.

Do you have a specific place you write? Have you found your creativity influenced when you have a change of place?

What place will you sail away to?

by William T. Gans, Sr.

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