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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/profile/blog/amarq/sort_by/entry_order DESC, entry_creation_time DESC/page/11
Rated: 13+ · Book · Opinion · #1254599
Exploring the future through the present. One day at a time.
UNDER CONSTRUCTION

I hope I stay within budget




My website: http://www.almarquardt.com
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June 5, 2016 at 2:30pm
June 5, 2016 at 2:30pm
#883908
Second Round for "Invalid Item"   by A Guest Visitor :

Write about your greatest struggle so far writing or otherwise. You can choose whichever form you want: short story, poem, creative nonfiction, etc.

When I first saw the question, my brain went into overload. Like every other human, my list of struggles is so long, to pick one is near impossible. It seems we are born, live, and die with struggle.

There's a quote from the movie "The Matrix." I don't have it exact but to paraphrase one of the "agents" as he talked to Neo: "We tried creating the perfect world for you. No struggles, death or disease, but you kept waking up, because you could never believe in a perfect world. We lost entire crops."

I also think that since we live almost daily with struggles, we can't imagine what Heaven will be like.

The one that I choose for this particular entry isn't my greatest struggle, but it's certainly one of my more recent ones.

Call it a slight case of mid-life crisis.

My hair is graying, certain parts aren't -- shall we say -- as perky as they once were. I have arthritic knees and now elbows. Last year I graduated to bifocals. I'm finding myself saying "What?" more often than I used to, and I can't remember anything unless I write it down or tell my phone to beep me a reminder of an appointment or meeting.

Every day I gain a greater sense of my inevitable mortality.

I see younger folks with better health, figure and energy than I do, and I can't help but mourn the loss of my youth. I look in the mirror and think, "Yuck. I'm old, fat and saggy. How ugly and worthless am I?"

Like it or not, I determine some of my self worth based on how I look. I would love to lose a few (or 40) pounds, but it gets more difficult the older I get. My brain tells me that looks don't matter. My son still adores me and smiles whenever he sees me. My husband still thinks, and calls me beautiful. They don't care that I'm all squishy. Why do I refuse to see me through their eyes?

During church today, my pastor mentioned a recent scientific journal where scientists have discovered that so-called negativity such as anger, frustration cling to our neurons like Velcro. Positive emotions and thoughts, on the other hand, slide off our neurons like Teflon. If true, my brain is no different from anyone else's. I often see the positive in most every circumstance, but it also takes a lot of mental rigor to get me to that point. Afterward, I need a nap.

In other words, we have to work on optimism, and we have to work on embracing the fact that we are flawed creatures, but nonetheless loveable and beautiful in spite of -- or even sometimes because of -- those flaws.

So I'm getting old. So no young stud is going to turn his head and think, "Whoa. She's hot." That same young stud, however, may still smile and take down a grocery item from a shelf because I can't reach it. He will treat me kindly and with respect because I am his elder (they still do that, believe it or not. I've seen and experienced it).

My brain is convinced that even though there may be fewer days ahead of me than behind, I still have today, and I must not squander it. I am still worthy of being loved no matter what my age or how much loose skin waddles underneath my arms.

Convincing my heart, that's the real struggle.
June 2, 2016 at 7:42pm
June 2, 2016 at 7:42pm
#883704
My first entry for "Invalid Item"   by A Guest Visitor :

What is originality and what is plagiarism? As writers we experience a fine line between the two. Most ideas have been done, but if we take our own original take on them, are they new? Sometimes we find inspiration or influence from other authors; it is how we grow as writers. How do you deal with this dilemma in your own writing?

The other day I complained to a friend how reading as much as I do has constrained me when it comes to starting a new story. Every time I think I have a great idea, I remember a book or story that tackled it already.

"It's been done already," is a phrase I oft repeat, and it's downright depressing.

I can also point out certain ideas in my current stories that have come from other books and even television shows. Does that make me a plagiarist?

First, let's consider the definition of plagiarism (according to the Oxford Dictionary):

the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.

On the surface, yes, I have plagiarized other writers.

According to Wikipedia, however:

Plagiarism is the "wrongful appropriation" and "stealing and publication" of another author's "language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions" and the representation of them as one's own original work. The idea remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules. The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, particularly with the Romantic movement.

Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics. It is subject to sanctions like penalties, suspension, and even expulsion. Recently, cases of 'extreme plagiarism' have been identified in academia.

Plagiarism is not in itself a crime, but can constitute copyright infringement. In academia and industry, it is a serious ethical offense. Plagiarism and copyright infringement overlap to a considerable extent, but they are not equivalent concepts, and many types of plagiarism do not constitute copyright infringement, which is defined by copyright law and may be adjudicated by courts. Plagiarism is not defined or punished by law, but rather by institutions (including professional associations, educational institutions, and commercial entities, such as publishing companies).


The Bible even addresses this difficulty in the Book of Ecclesiastes (verse 1:9):

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.


All in all, a certain amount of plagiarism can't be avoided in anything we write. A large percentage of what we know and learn originated from someone else.

What we have to do as writers is try to make whatever idea, concept or thought we find from someone else, and put our own unique spin on it.

For instance, one idea I copied pertains to mental telepathy. Some of what the telepaths in my stories are capable of, and what their limitations are I stole (although I prefer "borrowed") from the television series "Babylon 5". I could claim the rest is all from me, but if I searched every book, story, and television show I've seen with telepaths, I'll bet what I thought was unique, I subconsciously took from those stories.

My world and my telepathic characters, on the other hand, are different enough from "Babylon 5," I believe only true fans of the show will see the similarity between the two. I doubt they'll contact the owners of the show and convince them to sue me for plagiarism, though. If anything, they might consider it a compliment - the whole "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" kind of thing.

As the Wikipedia article states, I am certainly in an ethical gray area if taken to plagiarism's literal definition to the extreme, but I don't use the ideas to subvert or otherwise harm the "Babylon 5" writers, or to claim their work as my own.

That's really all plagiarism is. It's not using other people's ideas and thoughts to create something different or unique, but to take something someone else has done or written in entirety and claim it as my own.

As for the rest, if you want to borrow my words and my ideas to mix in with your own, you have my permission. I'd be flattered if you did.

Then again, I'm not making any money with my writing, either . . .
May 24, 2016 at 8:59pm
May 24, 2016 at 8:59pm
#882953
“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone.

This quote made complete sense to me the first time I laid eyes on my son, but there were many other momentous experiences I was - and still am - not prepared for.

Parenting strengthens the heart, and I don't mean by the love a child fills you with. I want to cry with my son every time he cries, especially when I can't take away his pain. I have to keep my tears hidden, because he needs me to be strong.

It strengthens the stomach. From puke to blood to poop. I've seen it all, I've smelled it all, and I've had to clean up every drop and chunk. Not fun, but it has to be done. I can't afford to add my puke to his, because that would mean more to clean up, and no one likes to see other people puke, especially a parent.

It strengthens the body. I discovered I'm a lightning bolt with stubby legs when I see my son in danger. One time we played on a sandbar when Tom was not yet two. He wandered into the water and fell into a hole. I never ran so fast in my life. He didn't go but six inches under water when I had him in my arms and returned to the shore. I did it all in about 3/4 of a second, but it felt like twelve minutes.

It strengthens the nerves. Bugs and insects don't bother me. There are plenty I don't like, though. Wasps being one of them. Ugly creatures. But I don't run away screaming when I see one. I just think they're ugly with their skinny little bodies. One insect does make my skin crawl, and that's a tick. They're also ugly, but what creeps me out is how they can crawl all over you, suck your blood, and you don't feel a thing. I see one crawling on me and it takes all my wherewithal to remove it and either flush it down the toilet or burn it.

Right before Tom stepped into the shower this evening, he called me into the bathroom and asked me to remove something from his hair (you know where this is going, don't you?). At first it looked like a piece of caramel stuck in his hair, but then I noticed the shape. My first instinct was to call my husband and tell him to remove it. He was in the garage, however, so I steeled myself, grabbed a pair of tweezers and removed it all by myself. I then flushed it down the toilet.

I was proud of myself, not only that I removed it all by my lonesome, but that I managed to not cringe or make weird noises and faces as I did so. Like with everything else, my son needed to see me calm, so he wouldn't freak out.

That's not to say I didn't shudder after I left the bathroom, or that my skin isn't crawling with the heebie-jeebies as I write this. Because I did, and I am.

May 17, 2016 at 4:45pm
May 17, 2016 at 4:45pm
#882359
I signed up for a blogging contest -- of sorts.

The premise is as follows (copied from forum):

The Great Blog Off!

Do you have what it takes to be the blog champion?

Ready for some bracket style fun?

This contest will be run in the form of a bracket. This means you will face off against one person to advance to the next round where the winner of another pair will face you.


 Invalid Item 
This item number is not valid.
#1971426 by Not Available.


I decided to participate, and I invite you to do the same. Who knows, maybe you and I will have our own little "face-off" and see who's the better blogger *Bigsmile*.
May 15, 2016 at 6:28pm
May 15, 2016 at 6:28pm
#882199
I received two items in my mail today:

Prize for a contest

and

Merit Badge in The Magic Words Contest
[Click For More Info]

*^*Trophys*^* Congratulations for winning a Silver Award in the  [Link To Item #1871010]  with your story "Ashella's Heart"


You'd think I'd be celebrating, but I'm not. I'm grateful, don't get me wrong, but I honestly thought my story was better than Silver. I deserved a Gold, dang it (read with slight tone of sarcasm).

I took a few chances with this story such as not keeping a single point of view. And since the word count was constrained, I went "minimalist" in that - for instance - I didn't describe the characters such as hair color, eye color, etc. I figured I would let the reader decide what the characters looked like. And because there was so much action, a lot of description had to be slashed.

Based on the contest judge's review, I went too minimalist. For the most part, I can't argue with the review. There were one or two things I didn't agree with, but that goes with the territory when receiving (and giving) reviews. It's so darned subjective. What one person hates, another will love. And what one person sees in a story, another one may miss -- including the writer. I can't tell you how many reviews I've received where the reviewer saw something in my story I never saw, let alone intended.

That said, the judges scored based on factors such as characterization, setting, and dialogue, to name a few. I scored the lowest on description (5/10), but the highest on dialogue (9/10). Those two scores show where my strengths and weaknesses are, which come as no surprise to me. Dialogue has always been my strength, and description my biggest weakness. I scored overall 52/70, and based on the thoroughness of the judge's review, I couldn't help but think I didn't even deserve that.

This contest will open again next month with new prompts, and I intend on entering again. Next time, I plan to write a better story that's more in line with what the judges are looking for.

What bothers me most is this is the same story I submitted to Writer's Digest Annual Competition. Based on one person's review, I'm now thinking I wasted $25 and will have nothing to brag about come October, dang it.

Oh well, That's life. Win some, lose some. As long as I don't give up, this one loss doesn't matter -- except as a means of learning something so I can and will write better.
May 13, 2016 at 7:06pm
May 13, 2016 at 7:06pm
#882060
Judging by the above title and the title of the previous entry, I wonder if I could start a whole series on four-letter words. It would certainly provide me with so many ideas, I'd never have another reason or excuse not to write another entry.

I wrote on Twitter a while back: "One of my weaknesses is impatience. I want to know a lot of things, but I don't want to take the time required to learn it."

To add to that, the singular frustrating part about writing and submitting said writing to agents, magazines, publishers and/or contests is the waiting for results.

The fantasy contest I entered closed almost two weeks ago, and -- although it said judging could take up to four weeks -- I still can't stop checking my email at least once a day, only to find out the results aren't in, yet.

There are really no winners or losers in this particular contest, because it's based on points. Plus only one other person besides me entered.

I liked my story enough that I decided to submit it to Writers Digest Annual Writing Competition. I had to rework it quite a bit, because the maximum word count is 4,000 words, and my original story ended up close to 5,000.

I don't hold out much hope that I'll even place, let alone win, because there will be thousands upon thousands of entries. Sometimes however, one must take chances in life, regardless of the odds, because you just never know until you try. The problem is I won't know anything until October, and even then, I won't hear a word from them unless I placed. Truth is, I don't even care about the prizes (and they are substantial). I'm looking for bragging rights -- something I can add to my query letters (once I get off my tush and actually submit them, that is).

I'm not being lazy, honest. I'm actually waiting. Yep. Waiting. On purpose, and I'm not chewing my fingernails to the quick as I wait. Nor am I sitting idle. Well, I am, literally, because I can't write while I'm standing up. At least not very well. Since I signed up for a writers conference in August, I decided to go through my novels one more time as well as write what people call "One Sheets," which is similar to a combination of a resume and query letter. Perhaps I'm making excuses to procrastinate more, I'm holding off on querying agents until after the conference.

So all this hate for waiting is 100% my own doing. I gots no one else to blame but me.
May 10, 2016 at 11:10am
May 10, 2016 at 11:10am
#881774
I've been wanting to write an entry for a week now, but every subject that pops into my head soon fizzles as boring and worthless.

Even now I'm considering holding the delete button down until every word I've written so far disappears.

How often do you go through your previous blog entries and think, "Wow. That's some good stuff?"

Part of me winces at the thought, because it smacks of pride, and doesn’t “Pride go before the fall?”

Regardless, I think it, and worse, I believe it. I have written some good stuff. I just wish I could do it all the time.

If I dig a bit deeper, it’s not only that. I don’t want to have to work hard to accomplish it. Some people seem to write the good stuff without much effort. They’re inspired by little things they see every day, whereas I have to spend days – if not weeks – searching for even a smidgeon of an idea – many of which never take root.

I know I’m being overly harsh on myself. I am who I am; my gifts, desires and talents are unique to me, and I shouldn’t compare myself to others. No. That’s not quite true either. I need to look at what other people accomplish, not with envy or jealousy, but as a way to motivate me to do better. I need to work hard, so when I look back I can say with complete honesty, “I did good.”

And I do. For the most part. Just not as often as I think I should.

Then again, there’s nothing wrong with working hard to achieve a goal. Working hard is what makes us appreciate our accomplishments more. If it were too easy, then it’s not a real accomplishment.

To use an example, let’s say I run around a track in five minutes, but I cross the finish line at the same time as someone wearing prosthetic legs. Which one of us accomplished more?

For me at least, I shouldn’t write because it’s easy. I do it because it’s hard. Maybe not all the time, but often enough. That way, when I do succeed, I can be proud of myself. While pride may make us stumble, it can also motivate us to continue to strive for success. Like everything else in life, it’s a matter of finding balance – and being honest.

"Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

"It ain’t bragging if it’s true." ~ Will Rogers
April 18, 2016 at 9:41pm
April 18, 2016 at 9:41pm
#879742
A friend and I had a conversation the other day about the difference between what we want and what we need -- especially as far as what God gives us. As long as we depend on him, he will always give us what we need. Rarely is it what we want, because, at least for me, what I want is too often not in line with God's will. I'm selfish that way.

I also think of God as holding back, and what I need is often not all that interesting or exciting. After all, what's exciting about being able to eat every day? To have a roof over my head? It's necessary stuff, and while I'm beyond grateful, none of it is blog-worthy.

What began the conversation was how her daughter decided that God could not exist, because he wouldn't let her have children (she and her husband tried for years and spent tens of thousands of dollars in fertility treatments -- to no avail).

She and her husband recently divorced, and my friend told her, "Maybe God knew that children weren't right for you, because of what eventually happened between you and your husband."

Her daughter said, "I never thought of it that way."

God has his reasons for doing things, and I told my friend, "While it makes sense, there could also be another reason -- or many reasons -- that they couldn't have children. Their divorce is only one possibility."

It reminded me of Dave and I's own journey with having children -- and a very profound thought hit me.

Neither Dave nor I wanted children, and we were perfectly content with that.

Twelve years into our marriage, I changed my mind. I was 35 at the time, and chalked it up as my biological clock ticking. I begged God every single day to take away the desire to have children. It was pointless to have that desire all of a sudden, because it was driven by hormones, and no other reason. Our life was just fine without kids. Plus, I knew Dave wouldn't change his mind, so these sudden, infuriating thoughts and desires were nothing but pain. I wanted -- and needed -- that pain to end.

Until one day Dave made an off-hand comment about children.

A small voice in my head said, "Pursue this."

I asked, "Dave. Did you change your mind about having kids?"

Quite meekly he responded, "Yes."

Long story short, we discovered on our 15th wedding anniversary that we were pregnant.

We now have an 8 year old son whom I couldn't imagine my life without. He has added so much love, joy and richness to my life that I thank God every day for giving me -- not what I wanted -- but what I needed.

A perfect example of how God sometimes determines that what we need is far more extravagant -- and blog-worthy -- than what we want.

Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are? . . . Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Matthew 6:26 & 33
April 14, 2016 at 11:01pm
April 14, 2016 at 11:01pm
#879412
One of my favorite books of the Bible is Ecclesiastes.

It begins thusly in verse 1:2 (NIV): "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

How often I feel that way as I trudge through my daily existence. I can't help but wonder if anything I do makes a difference. Truth is, everything is meaningless -- without God (which is the main point of Ecclesiastes).

But I digress.

A lot of people have what they call a "life verse." It's that one verse in the Bible that describes either who they are, who they want to be, how they see God, or how they want to see God. Sometimes it's a reminder about what they need to focus on as they trudge through their "meaningless" life.

I used to scoff at the idea of a "life verse." There is so much to the Bible and to life in general, that to boil it down to a single scripture seems closed-minded and short-sighted.

Until I found my own. It's Ecclesiastes 7:13 (NLT): "Accept the way God does things, for who can straighten what he has made crooked?"

I'm anal. I like things just so. When a situation doesn't go the way I want, I morph into a toddler in the middle of a grocery store, flat on the floor and screaming my head off, because my mommy won't buy me that ice cream cone. I can't tell you how many times I've done the same to God when I don't get my way, or he wants me to do something I don't want to do. When I start to hold my breath and clench my fists at God, I remember that verse. He has made my life crooked. There are so many twists and turns, I know not what direction I'm traveling. But God knows, and I have to trust that he'll never lose me or lead me astray.

But again, I digress.

I decided to judge the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) 1st round Genesis Contest (a contest on the first 15 pages of an unpublished writer's first novel [I won said contest in 2010 in the speculative fiction category]).

I was given one entry to judge, and I have to admit I was shocked. Shocked, I tell ya!

It could have been written by me.

It wasn't the plot or the characters that I found so familiar. It was the writing style. The writer has the same strengths when it comes to dialogue and overall tension, but she made the same mistakes I always make -- lack of detail and description. The writer only used her eyesight to describe her world and the people in it. No sounds, no smells, or other sensations.

That another person would have the same writing issues as me made me feel not so alone. I hope the writer will take the advice I gave to heart, and that she will concentrate more on her weaknesses instead of depending on her strengths. Because when it comes to writing, our strengths can't cover up or carry our weaknesses. If anything, our strengths can make our weaknesses stand out more.

Which reminded me of Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV): "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
April 12, 2016 at 1:36pm
April 12, 2016 at 1:36pm
#879208
Done!

As I expected, my story ended up just shy of 5000 words, the maximum allowed for the contest. I could have written a lot more, and the story actually feels more like a beginning of a much larger story. Wonderful. I need to write yet another novel right now like I need my spleen removed. Short stories, yes. Novels, no.

Do I expect to win, or even place? Nope. I wrote it for the challenge, and because it was fun.

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