Someone Else’s Book Signing

Someone Else’s Book Signing

by Patricia Grady Cox

Book Cover There There

It’s a little unusual to promote someone else’s work as part of a marketing plan. However, I feel a need to share the experience I had when I attended a book signing at the Camelback Road location of Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix. They have a regular program that introduces debut authors. The June night I went, there were three authors. To be honest, I don’t even remember who the other two were. The third one stood out. You may have heard of him by now: Tommy Orange.

Tommy’s debut novel, There There, is about 12 characters who are on their way to a powwow in Oakland, California. Each character has their own chapter, their own voice, their own unique and differing story. He paints a picture of the urban Indian in America.

From a marketing standpoint, his novel is on fire. With backing from his major publisher, interviews by numerous prestigious book reviewers, and a book tour that now includes Europe, showing up at an independent book store in Phoenix to appear alongside two other debut authors speaks to his attitude, one of gratitude for the invitation to talk about his work.

What I wanted to share, on this marketing-focused blog, is the impact he had on the audience. Although he is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts, where he now teaches, his road to success was not typical.

In a very down-to-earth manner Tommy spoke about being a poor student and attending a technical school to learn audio editing. He graduated right about the time that such editing switched to digital, rather than the reel-to-reel he had learned. So he got a job at a book store, basically as a laborer. There he began to read during his breaks. And, he said, became overwhelmed with a realization of what fiction can do. So he decided to become a writer. He emphasized that it took him six years to write There There. He wrote it while he was going to school to learn how to write.

I think what connected so much with the audience was his attitude. Humble, honest, hoping his work would touch people. When a Native American grandmother in her 80s got up during the Q&A to speak about his book, her praise so touched him that he was wiping away tears. So was I.

The lesson to apply to your own appearances: when you have a chance to speak to people about your work, talk about what emotionally drove you to write your book. Be real, be down-to-earth. That doesn’t mean you can’t have confidence. It means be yourself, be honest, and be humble.

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Patricia Grady Cox
is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, WriterHer second novel, HELLGATE, is now on sale.

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The Joy of Audiobooks

The Joy of Audiobooks

by Vaughn Treude

audiobook - headphones

When I was a teenager, I had a blind friend who listened to books on vinyl records. At the time, it never occurred to me that these could also be good for sighted people. A book is much easier to carry than a record player! Later, when the medium switched to compact discs, listening on the go became possible, though still somewhat inconvenient. Modern technology has changed all that, making audiobooks available on our phones or MP3 players.

I still prefer to reading to listening. I believe it exercises your imagination, making each book a very personal experience. Ereaders, though lacking the feel of a physical book, are much the same. They make it easier to steal a few minutes of reading here and there, plus you can carry an entire library in a small device.

However, there are times when reading isn’t possible. Commuting in big city traffic has always made me feel like I was wasting a huge part of my life. Recently, I was traveling between the Phoenix, Ariz. suburbs of Glendale and Mesa, spending more than two hours per day. At first, I listened to the radio or my music player, but that got old after a while.

I’d considered audiobooks in the past, but the unwieldiness of having a folder of CDs discouraged me. Compressed electronic formats have eliminated that problem. A quick Web search reveals hundreds of recent titles available from Audible. (For alternatives see https://techboomers.com/audible-alternatives.) Audiobooks can be significantly more expensive than the visual versions, but at $14.95/month, Audible’s membership plan provides a modest discount on each purchase. They also give you one free title per month, which can cover the cost of the subscription. Prices vary greatly, so you may not want to pick the first book that catches your fancy. To get the most out of the offer, your free title should come from the higher-priced end of your wish list.

Listening to a book in audio form is an acquired taste. The narrators, who are essentially voice actors, can be very expressive – sometimes annoyingly so. At first, I hated it when they got carried away doing funny accents. One narrator gave the novel’s protagonist a scratchy voice reminiscent of Michael Keaton’s Batman. That wasn’t just irritating, it was also difficult to understand over the road noise. Yet I’ve gotten used to these minor issues. By the way, I’ve expanded my listening to venues beyond the highway. It’s a great way to make doing household chores more pleasant.

The best narrators can be fabulous. My favorite so far is Neal Gaiman, reading his own work. Very few authors read their work at all, much less do it well! The multitalented Gaiman does his characters’ accents and attitudes in an understated yet effective way that never takes you out of the story.

There are other listening options when an audio version is unavailable or too costly. A book reader application lets you listen to a standard ebook on your phone. I’ve gone through several books this way using the free version of FBReader. The voice is a bit robotic, though considerably better than Stephen Hawking. The app can mimic human inflection to a degree, though homographs such as dove/dove or read/read routinely confuse it.

The drawback of an app such as FBReader is that it can’t open books with Digital Rights Management (DRM) enabled. There are easy ways to disable DRM, which I won’t detail here. As an author, I don’t advocate sharing an unlocked book, of course. However, modifying a book for personal use on one’s favorite ereader is, in my view, the quintessential victimless crime.

For me, audiobooks have had a secondary benefit. As an author of three steampunk novels, I’ve always felt I haven’t read enough in that genre. Since going audio, I’ve burned through five steampunk novels in four months, and I’ve recently started on a sixth. This gives me plenty of material to review on my blog, steampunkdesperado.com. (Eventually, I’ll get a You-Tube channel and reprise my reviews in video form. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.)

cleaning with headphones

Audiobooks have come a long way since books for the blind. They’re more convenient than ever and, though sometimes expensive, there are ways to minimize the cost. For me, they’ll never replace the fun of reading the old-fashioned way. Nevertheless, they’re a great way to pass the time while commuting and doing household chores. Best of all, busy people can finally get through all those books they’ve been wanting to read!

___________________vaughntreude
Vaughn Treude
 grew up on a farm in North Dakota where the isolation of his home made books a welcome escape. He has been reading sci-fi as long as he can remember. In 2012, he published his first novel, Centrifugal Force. Since then he has concentrated on steampunk, writing Fidelio’s Automata and co-authoring the “Ione D.” series with Arlys Holloway. See Vaughn’s blog at steampunkdesperado.com.

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The Effective Author: What Will Your Legacy Be?

The Effective Author: What Will Your Legacy Be?

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved. www.kebba.com

Legacy - what will yours be

Since my beloved mother passed away last year, I have had many thoughts about legacy. As we go through thousands of letters and photos, and as we sort the objects in her house, to divide and conquer, certain questions keep revolving in my heart and mind. What was the meaning of Mom’s life and work, or of anyone’s life? And how do you know? At Mom’s memorial service, her love of flowers was reflected in the giant bouquet selected for a centerpiece in front of the altar. Her love of sharing adventures was reflected in a grandchild’s enthusiastic eulogy.

At the lunch, Mom’s sparkling love of others was evident in the joyful exclamations of neighbors, church friends, and her exercise instructor, all describing how she inspired them and how they enjoyed her. Her love of spice cake was revealed by a kitchen volunteer, who explained that Mom always said it one was her favorite; I had to have a piece. Outside the church, Mom’s love of gardening was reflected in the landscaping around every corner of the building. Unafraid of hard work, ever, over several decades she had turned a barren rectilinear building design into a lovely destination, complete with garden courtyards. Mom’s legacy was in the hearts and conversations of those enthusing about her, and planted around the church grounds for many to enjoy for decades to come.

If you are an author, legacy may seem obvious: you are leaving a trail of articles, short stories, and books in your wake. Also, there is much digital evidence to prove you lived, and how. There are social media trails, the radio interviews, book reviews, podcasts, and Zoom recordings of your webinars. Perhaps there are even TV shows. In addition to reading your writings, people will be viewing your sweet face for unimaginable years into the future. So what will be the core of your legacy? How do you want to be remembered, and for what? Make a list now, and make time to ponder how the body of your writings and other expressions synch up with the values and goals on your list.

Everything in your digital world counts. You may want to write cleaner or more positive comments on social media. Or you may want to eliminate bitter social criticism and step up to support organizations that do work to further your values. Imagine people looking at your sweet face and body of work several decades from now. What they think and say about you will be your legacy. Only you can work now to create the living and final legacies you want. Make your moments count! And that’s you, being The Effective Authorsm!

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Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert. She also has a natural healing Kebba books 2017practice and is an ordained minister. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, plus Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, available through her office. Just email SacredMeditation@kebba.com. Kebba’s newest book is the full-color Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and Inspire, also available through her office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: calendar@kebba.com.

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Predator and Prey Eyes

Predator and Prey Eyes

by Rita Goldner

As authors, we often use eyes as a metaphor for something else, like insight, perception, or the ability to foretell. For this post, I’m starting with a literal discussion of eyes: their pupil shapes and position on the head. Since I’m an avowed animal-lover, I read voraciously about their behavior, evolutionary traits, etc. I’m intrigued by the complex ways predators and prey animals evolve to better suit their hunter or hunted status. Some of their adaptations, like claws for catching vs hooves for running away, are pretty obvious – eyes, not so much.

Sheep and fox

A study conducted by scientists from the University of California in Berkeley and Dunham University in Britain has observed differences in pupil shape. Small predators that must stalk and ambush prey have vertical slits for two important reasons. First, the slit shape allows for a much greater range in muscular contracting and expanding than a round pupil. Therefore it gives the eye a wider choice in how much light to let in or block, which is great for day and night hunting. Secondly, the vertical shape is better for judging distance, based on clues from the blur of a moving prey. This is especially important for small predators like your house cat and this pictured fox, because they need to sneak up and surprise their quarry. Larger predators like lions and tigers have round pupils because they don’t need that much depth-of-field accuracy; they just chase down their dinner and take it with brute force.

Prey animals, like sheep, deer, and horses, have horizontal pupils, shaped like a letter-slot on your front door. They let in light fore and aft, while blocking glaring overhead light. Since their pupils are parallel to the ground, these animals can see predators running in from all sides. The really cool part is that when the animals lower their heads to graze, the pupils rotate to remain horizontal!

Prey & predator eyes

The placement of eyes on the head is also a predator-prey adaptation. Predators need 3-D vision, to focus on the animal they are either chasing or pouncing on, so they have forward-facing eyes with overlapping fields of vision. Grazing prey, on the other hand, need to see who’s approaching from all around, so they have sideways-facing eyes. They have such good peripheral vision that they can see behind themselves.

In the midst of all this scientific jargon, I hope we can extract a nugget of wisdom for authors. We have a unique position among entrepreneurs in that we make a product with the creative side of our brains, then market and sell it with the business side of our brains. So I guess the metaphor would be that we are required to have both sets of eyes. With the forward-facing binocular ones, we can focus on our target: our creative goals and literary agenda. Meanwhile, we can’t forget that “it’s a jungle out there,” and while we’re calmly grazing, we must keep our 360-degree lookout for predators on the business side, like unprofessional agents, vanity publishers, events or people that diminish our confidence, and even time-stealers and momentum disruptors. Keep your eyes open!

Rita signature

Comments welcome!

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Rita Goldner
is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit OrangutanDay.com. Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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Dream the Movie, Write the Novel

Dream the Movie, Write the Novel

by Marcus A. Nannini

dreaming your book

So you want to write, to apply an extremely overused phrase, the great American novel. Wow! Not exactly an original opening on my part, and just about now you have likely decided you know where I’m going with this so you have decided to stop reading and move on. Bear with me, because I tend to take my stories on unexpected tangents. (Read the reviews.)

As a writer – or aspiring writer – you have ideas and you have confidence, a confidence solidly based on your life experiences. Perhaps your junior high English Composition teacher told you she liked your writing style. Or maybe it was a high school teacher who took an interest in your writing. But until now, you never went anywhere with it. Somehow life got in the way. Doesn’t something always get in the way?

Now, however, you have determined you want to express yourself with written words – words so damned wonderful and compelling that at least 5 million people will pay retail price to read them. Maybe 6 million. It’s time for you to pursue the life path you always desired which, of course, means sitting in front of a white screen, just waiting for you to fill it with words.

Suddenly you wake up. You’re sweating, though the A/C is pumping away. Your heart is racing. Around you everything is familiar, and all is in place – yet it isn’t. Something is different, but what?

You can hear your partner lightly snoring, just loudly enough to drown out your dog’s heavy breathing. The familiar mechanical whine of the A/C is serving as white noise. But something is different. You can feel the difference.

You find yourself energized, though it is not yet four in the morning. You can’t go back to sleep, so you grope your way over to the laptop, open Word, hit the File tab, then the New tab, and right before your eyes appears a blank white page. (Scroll down.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yeah, yeah, you’ve been here before. Congratulations. But there’s something different this time. You know there is definitely something different. You are feeling a resolve. A resolve unlike anything you’ve experienced before. The dream from which you suddenly awoke depicted a future that had become a reality, a reality from which you detoured years ago. But detours are intended to ultimately put the traveler back onto the correct road – and your detour has finally come to its end.

By God, you are about to change the pattern of your life. You are going to write a novel, and this time you are going to see it through to publication. You know in your bones you will finish what you are about to start, and it’s going to be the best thing you’ve ever written. In fact, it will be the best compilation of words you have ever strung together, and this is only the beginning. You promise yourself this time things will definitely be different.

You woke up with a movie playing in your head. It wasn’t a movie you’d ever seen: somehow it was your book in movie format. The beginning scene, a gripping, hold-onto-your-seats vision, is something you suddenly know how to translate into writing. Your dream has handed you the first 25 percent of your novel in movie format. You’ve always had a gift for expressing what your eyes can see with words, and this movie is the visual that’s been the missing element in all your prior book-writing endeavors.

You race through a quick outline of the first fourth of your novel and come face-to-face with the dreaded middle 50 percent – the part of the book where your protagonist never seemed quite capable of pulling off the story. Their challenges were tired and over-used, your characters were wishy-washy, and your antagonist was always a singular, never a plural. But you witnessed the movie in your dream. In the space of another hour, you have finished the working outline for the previously dreaded middle 50 percent. Something is definitely different!

It’s about seven in the morning, so you take a break to make a 14-cup pot of extra strong French Roast coffee. Now it’s time to outline a great finish. In the past, you failed to create proper climatic buildup, which always resulted in your beta readers hemming and hawing when pressed for their opinions. This time, you’ve seen the movie, you own the script, and by darn, you’ve just outlined a smash-bang final 25 percent of your novel that is certain to force the reader to stay up until they finish it.

Based on your dream movie, you have envisioned the outline of your novel and can begin to fully express your story with words. You are an author now, and you literally envisage each scene and each character because you have lived the scenes and witnessed the characters on the big screen within your head. Each page substitutes words for the action in your dream film. You convey the entire story, right down to the last detail. But it’s a book, not a movie script.

A movie script sets up scenes and provides dialogue, but it is up to the director and actors to bring the story to life on the big screen. You are the author, and as such you determine the locations and describe the settings. You are simultaneously the director, the wardrobe department, the makeup stylist, and the editor. Nobody appears in your story who is not exactly as you want them to be, where you want them to be, and doing what you want them to do. Your convert your dream into words.

When I find myself staring at a blank page, I imagine the movie I’m about to present in the form of words. Sometimes I envision a single scene and paint it with words, much as they do in the storyboarding process of moviemaking. A storyboard can help me bridge a gap in the story. Perhaps my approach is the reason I have never suffered from what is referred to as writer’s block.

storyboard-example-02

Tempo is critically important in movies, and at least doubly so in books. Should a character be plopped on the head with bird poop, you needn’t get bogged down in your description of the bird. Detail is necessary, but it can spill into overkill if you are not careful.

A writer doesn’t need to actually experience a dream to be successful. Success is measured in many ways, but for an author I believe it means seeing your book published, at no cost to you with respect to the physical act of publishing. Making the time to write is an entirely different matter. Just as is making the time to pitch your masterpiece to the publishing houses, of which there are hundreds. I hear so many would-be authors complain about lacking the time to write. Others say they try to designate a specific time of day for writing, but it frequently doesn’t work out.

I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of time management. We’re all adults and can figure out how to better use our time – and if your novel is potentially that good, you will find a way to manufacture the needed time. I know that simply scheduling a specific time of day for writing does not work for me, unless I have a deadline.

Writing requires creativity and, for me, programming a time of day to be creative is something I have trouble with. I don’t think creativity can be scheduled. I prefer to set a daily goal and work around it. For example, with my current nonfiction project, the publisher wants me to come in between 60,000 and 63,000 words and keep my photos to not more than 40 or 50. While the word count is one-third less than a novel, the research time is onerous.

My daily goal is 1,000 words, based upon the date by which I want my first draft completed and ready to send off to Oxford, seeking the green light to proceed and with a contract in hand. Many days I easily write 2,000 words; other days I might only manage 600. It depends mostly on the research element. But the time of day I write is fluid, changing from day to day, based upon my mood and life interferences.

I set goals, but they are not hard and fast. I may decide to take most of a weekend off and modify my goals accordingly. The creative juices flow best, for me, when I am not forcing the issue and backing myself into self-created deadline corners. I must be flexible to be at my book-drafting best.

I believe if a person is having trouble dedicating time to writing, they should probably pull back from the project and take a deep breath. I suggest using word-count goals for each week, rather than setting aside specific time slots for writing. With your stated goal as the motivator, I believe the time you require to write will make itself available to you. The only degree of self-discipline required is to set a reasonable goal and consistently achieve it.

Next thing you discover is your movie has become a book – a good book. Then you move into the editing phase and do so, front to back, more than once, as you want it to be the best movie/book possible. Remember, the success of every movie depends in no small part on the skill of the editor. A book lacking a good editor is a book that’s not as good as it could be.

If you are reading this post, I consider it a given that you have the talent to create an excellent movie/book of your own. Set reasonable goals and do your best to stick with them. Never get down on yourself. With respect to your book, you are the director, so stay in control of the process and it will get done.

sit down and write

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Marcus Nannini
began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the Marcus Nanninisixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel.

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1930s Country Sayings

1930s Country Sayings

by C. K. Thomas

My mother grew up on an Indiana farm in a family that included four older brothers. CJKs momSometimes I imagine hearing the echo of her brothers’ words as she surprised me with her colorful responses to questions. Like the time she took me along to a high school reunion at her former school when I was 10 years old and someone asked about my red hair. My mother’s hair was coal black or, as she was fond of saying, “as black as a stack of black cats.”

She explained the color of my hair with this little tidbit, “Oh, that was in the days of the ice man.”

Her face showed no embarrassment, but mine certainly turned bright red. I know this because I could feel the heat in my cheeks as everyone laughed at her joke. You’d have to have known my mother to understand just how easily and often country sayings like this sprang from her lips.

As the only girl and the youngest in her family, I imagine she often got her own way. However, she repeated to me some of the favorite lines her mother employed in raising her only daughter. For instance, when the family planned to drive into town to sell butter, eggs, and cream to the local store, my mother would ask if she could wear the knock-about clothes she had on at the moment. Her mother’s pat answer, “You can if you want to look like the worst one.”

As a youngster, my mother often complained about having to rake leaves again and again in the fall, as every day there seemed to be more to rake. My grandmother told her that was nothing to complain about because “After all, they’re not the SAME leaves.”

Being impatient for something to happen at our house usually brought the response, “Take a ‘tater and wait.” Later in life I figured out this must have been a farm expression used to put off hungry children, who were often the last to eat after the adults were finished. My mother used it as her go-to phrase whenever some situation required waiting.

It seems I wasn’t very good at lying as a kid. My mother could spot a lie before the sound of it left my lips, and her response . . . “You keep tellin’ stories like that, and your tongue’ll get sore.” Told to run out to the mailbox or on some other errand while it rained, I’d hear, “You’re not sugar, nor salt. You won’t melt. Now go on!” And if I was caught telling a tall tale, she’d say, “I’ve heard the wind blow before.”

Recently I’ve started keeping a record of these country sayings as each one pops into my head. I could go on for pages, wrapping stories around the 45 quotes I’ve collected so far. However, since I’ve already racked up more than 500 words, I’d best quit and promise to continue decoding the idioms of Hoosier country folk for you another time. Believe me, there are Dusenbergsome doozies to come!

By the way, the phrase it’s a doozie is widely thought to have been coined in the 1930s in reference to the elegant Duisenberg cars. Ultimately, anything that surpassed expectations rated the saying. Then, just when I thought I knew what I was talking about, it turned out I might have been “hearing the wind blow.” Check out the origin of the word, doozie with this link,

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C.K. ThomasC.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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Curious Sayings

Curious Sayings

by Barbara Renner

It’s raining cats and dogs! This isn’t unusual here at our summer home in northwestern rainy mnMinnesota, where it rains at least once a week, sometimes all week long. How else would the corn grow so tall, the mosquitos grow so large, and my hair grow so limp? The other question is, why did I state, “It’s raining cats and dogs”? I didn’t really see any animals falling from the sky, yet you knew I’d been observing a torrential rain storm. What are the origins of that curious saying?

raining cats and dogsThe most common explanation for “it’s raining cats and dogs” comes from a time when shelters had thatched roofs. Domestic animals hid in the thatch and would either be washed out in a rainstorm or seek other shelter. The phrase could also be attributed to a 1710 poem by Jonathan Swift, A Description of a City Shower:

Sweeping from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood;
Drown’d puppies, stinking sprats, all drench’d in mud,
Dead cats, and turnip-tops, come tumbling down the flood.

Those are pleasant thoughts! Perhaps Swift wrote this poem about another theory. At one time the streets of British towns were so poorly constructed that many cats and dogs would drown whenever there was a storm. The townspeople who observed the corpses floating by thought they had fallen from the sky. Swift later made reference to his city shower poem in A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation, 1738: “I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs…”

I’m a great procrastinator, especially when I have a task to do I don’t know how to do, don’t want to do, or fear I will succeed. Often I procrastinate writing. I convince myself I need to dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to research and write, although Patricia Grady Cox suggests scheduling time to write, even if it’s just an hour a day. That would be ideal, but when my procrastination kicks in, I find my laundry gets washed, the dog gets walked, and Facebook gets perused. I find it difficult to “get down to brass tacks” or “engage with the basic facts or realities” of writing.

The “brass tacks” phrase has been attributed to the haberdashery trade. A yard of material was once measured by holding it out along an arm’s length. In the late 19th century, that habit was discontinued when cloth was measured between brass tacks set into a shop’s counter. This explanation is confirmed in a piece from Ernest Ingersoll’s 1880 story, The Metropolis of the Rocky Mountains:

“I hurried over to Seabright’s. There was a little square counter, heaped with calicoes and other gear, except a small space clear for measuring, with the yards tacked off with brass tacks.”

The older I get, the harder it is for me to draw stored information out of the depths of my mind. This often happens when I’m trying to think of an actor’s name, or even a common word. One time when my husband and I were first married, he was trying to recall the name of a popular comedian. The only way he could evoke the name was to stand in front of the bathroom mirror and perform one of the comedian’s routines. At this moment, I don’t remember who this person was; in other words, I am “racking my brains.”

To rack one’s brains is to strain mentally to recall or to understand something. The rack the rackwas a medieval torture device that tore its victim’s limbs from their body. Another pleasant thought! The term “rack” was later adopted as a verb, meaning to cause pain and anguish. In 1602, Shakespeare used it as a verb in Twelfth Night:

“How haue the houres rack’d, and tortur’d me, Since I haue lost thee?”

The first recorded use of “rack” being applied to brains was in William Beveridge’s Sermons, 1680:

“They rack their brains . . . they hazard their lives for it.”

Not remembering a comedian’s name isn’t hazardous to my life, but being unable to recall common words could be detrimental to my writing career.

As I sit here writing, it’s raining cats and dogs, and the forecast is for rain all day. That will give me all day to get down to brass tacks and complete my blog post. Unfortunately, there will always be that allusive word I will rack my brain to remember.

There are so many other curious sayings. What are some you use? In case you are racking your brain to remember, here is a great website that explains curious sayings, idioms, phrases, and proverbs.

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Barbara Renner
and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Barbara RennerBirds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at RennerWrites.com, as well as on TwitterFacebook, and GoodReads.

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