Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Writing a Memoir

Entrepreneur, Best Selling Author, Publishing Liaison, and Motivational Speaker are just a few of the makings of O. Keeys (Omegia). After serving two terms in the military Omegia went on to apply her strategic planning to the publishing industry. She has garnered numerous awards and praise to include the Scribe Award for the National Black Book Festival, guest speaker for The Miami International Book Festival, and ranking in Conversations Magazine top 100 books of 2010 and 2011.
In between book touring Omegia spends her time dedicated to helping her fellow authors. She has over 20 years in the publishing industry in which she started out as a teen working in her mother’s book store. Omegia has many published books to include (Adult) Passionate, Playmates, Seduction.com, Can You Keep a Secret? and Erotic Moments: Love, Lust, and Desire, (Memoir) Rise and Fall of a Track Start and Single, Black, and Government Owned, (Young Adult) The Baby Girl and Unloved, and (Self Help) The Not So Common Sense Guide for Authors.
Who Are You to Pen a Memoir?
“You’re not a celebrity so what gives you the right to pen a memoir? You don’t look like you’ve been through anything.” I stared at the older lady and composed myself before responding.  Being I was at what was probably my 50th book festival I was used to all sorts of questions regarding my writing but this is one which caught me by surprise. If she wasn’t still in front of me with her nose turned up I would have thought I imagined it.
My answer was simple but not short and sweet. “I wrote a book which people can relate to. Being a victim of molestation, rape, racism, sexism, of abuse, and much more has nothing to do with how I look or my status. But, if it makes you feel better I felt like a celebrity every time I returned home to my family while in the military, when I qualified for the Olympic Trials, and when I overcame every obstacle put in my way.”

The woman’s frown softened a bit and she purchased my book. A few weeks later I had an inbox message on Facebook thanking me for setting her straight. She stated she laughed, she cried, and wanted to strangle some of my family members. My intention wasn’t to set her straight, as she put it, but to let her know being victimized in anyway has nothing to do with how much money you make so why should speaking on it?
Single, Black, and Government Owned isn’t a woe is me depiction of my life by any means. Yes, some terrible things happened to me, but overall I feel I’ve lived a pretty good life. In fact I really didn’t focus on the bad much but how I went through life trying to overcome it. It wasn’t an easy decision to write my memoir. I was scared of what people who thought they knew me would think, but the voice inside of me had other plans. The voice said screw their feelings and do what I needed to do to finish the manuscript. In the end the voice won out and trapped me in front of my computer for three weeks straight as my life played out before me. I’m all the better for it. This memoir was the therapy my soul needed.

I’m accountable for all my actions and have learned I can’t control the action or inaction of others. My goal for my memoirs, this and Rise and Fall of a Track Star is to help those who’ve been victimized and to give my readers a great story through my raw emotion.  One doesn’t need to have walked in another’s shoes to begin to understand their plight.
Omegia Keeys

Please enjoy this snippet from Single, Black, and Government Owned
What the heck was I thinking? I stood in front of a brown brick building with about fifty other people, both male and female, being screamed at. We were lined up in four rows with ten in each column. I was in the second row, midway down and an arm’s length away from the each of the four other people surrounding me.

“Drop your bags! Pick them up! Hold them with your arms straight out!” one of the drill instructors yelled.

Dressed in their battle dress uniform (BDU’s) and Smokey the Bear hats, they swarmed us. Something about those hats made them more intimidating. For me, it was because it blocked their eyes, but for those who got the one-on-one attention of the drill instructors, it was something more. The fear could be seen on their faces whenever a drill instructor approached them. One guy with long, blond hair received special treatment with the hat. The drill instructor stood so close as he spoke to the boy, the brim of the hat smacked the boy in the forehead on every other word. By the time the drill instructor was finished, the poor guy had a red indention on his forehead.

“You rainbows are a bunch of freaking idiots! You just couldn't follow directions, could you? The Airman manual clearly said pack two changes of clothes,” another drill instructor added.

I found out later they called us rainbows because it was day one of Basic Training and we hadn't been issued our uniforms yet. The group of us standing together in formation with different colored clothing made us look like one big rainbow.

With my arms out straight and parallel on both sides of my body, I fought desperately to hold up my bags in my hands. My arms were just beginning to feel the burn and from all my years of watching military movies, I knew this was only the beginning. I held back tears as I reflected on what had gotten me to this point…..

Other Books By O. Keeys:
(Adult) Passionate Playmates, Seduction.com, Can You Keep a Secret?,
(YA) The Baby Girl, Unloved,
(Memoir) The Rise and Fall of a Track Star and Single, Black, and Government Owned,
(How To/Self Help) The Not So Common Sense Guide for Authors – coming soon.

Giveaway: 5 E-books will be given away during the tour. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Writing about living with cerebral palsy

Days when we feel sick and tired and are ready to throw in the towel, it's always good to remember that there are others far worse off than you who never let their conditions get them down.  Annie Harris is such a person, an inspiration.  That when life hands you lemons, you can start up an international lemonade brand. 

  Annie Laurie Harris, the oldest one of her ethnicity who lives independently, was born with cerebral palsy. She has defied the odds and challenged the medical prognosis since early childhood. She continues to live a full and active life in her 6th decade. After achieving her Master's Degree at Penn State University in 1985 she worked as a counselor and advocate for those with a history of chemical dependency. In 1990, she was recruited by the prestigious World Institute of Disability to be the Assistant Director of the first HIV/Disability Project. Her grant writing expertise is second to none as private foundations funded her innovative research projects again and again. Since returning to her home state of PA where she lives near her beloved alma mater, Ms. Harris continues to be involved in her community and avidly supports the Penn State athletic program. Once again,her love of writing helps to supplement her income. Her groundbreaking memoirs, It's Easier to Dance, is provocative and thought provoking.
What Do You Do All Day?
This is a common question that I am sometimes asked.  More often than not, I have learned it was assumed that I didn’t do much at all.  Let me take you through a typical week in the summer since that’s the season we’re in right now.

My favorite time of day is the early morning and I spontaneously wake up round 5:30 a.m.  I thank God for one more day of life as I make my “must have” cup of coffee and pray a prayer of thanksgiving.  I am at my computer by 7:00, typing in my online journal or starting a post for this blog that I may or may not finish.  During summer I drink a fruit smoothie for breakfast, made by my aide or myself, depending on how steady I feel which varies from day to day.  The morning usually includes some form of physical exercise, as if  typing wasn’t  enough given  the time it takes to control my hands!    Mon, Wed & Fri I exercise in the theraptic pool at Penn State.  Tues & Thurs, I walk with my walker in a nearby park and/or use my exercise band to keep core, leg and arm muscles toned and flexible as possible.  Lunch is my main meal as I prefer to eat lighter in the evening.  I really enjoy cooking!  My aides allow me   to “use” their hands to make meals from scratch.  I usually rest in the afternoon or go to any scheduled appointments.
I keep up with national news and current events by reading online articles from a vbariety of sources, especially those issues impacting the lives of us who are disabled.  Then, of course, there is SPORTS!  I’m already anticipating the college football season and how it will be different for my Penn State Nittany Lions given the events of the last 8 months.  I’ll spare you who are reading this the details.  Summer evenings are spent enjoying plays, movies or just riding my scooter to my favorite spots on campus.  The sun sets near the recently built Law School Building which is beathtaking!

Of course, high humidity and barometric pressure can leave me in pain.  On those days, I just relax and take comfort in knowing that tomorrow will probably be better.
If any of you have some questions, please leave a comment and I will be happy to answer them.

Thanks for hosting, Cindy,  I enjoyed visiting your blog.
It's Easier to Dance, a memoir, by Annie Laurie Harris, a woman of African American Heritage, born with cerebral palsy, depicts the highlights, turning points and crossroads of her life while living with a complex, disability. Cerebral palsy is a neurological birth defect that can impair the function of any part of the brain. In her case, her brilliant intellect exists concurrently with lack of muscle coordination and significant speech impairment as well as difficulty in swallowing and performing everyday tasks. Ms. Harris tells in detail of the struggle to learn to take care of herself, earn professional credentials, work in profit and non-profit organizations, and becoming a contributing member of her community.
 Annie has a contest to give away a  Kindle Fire. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Hardest thing about Character Development

  Hazel West, author of the great YA Historical Fiction novel On a Foreign Field, shares some insights on character development.  Hazel is lucky to live in Florida and has always been fascinated with the brave men and women who have graced the pages in history.

Hardest Thing About Character Development 

Character development is one of those things that is so critical to a story, but it’s also probably one of the hardest things to crack down on for beginning writers. It’s so important because readers connect with the characters in a story more than anything else. One might even be able to forgive an uninteresting or poorly crafted plot if the characters are crafted well enough and are likable. I know for myself, a character might change from who they were in the beginning of the book to a completely different person in the end. Sometimes this works for the story, but other times, I find myself having to go back and fix things that are out of character to who that person has become. Some characters are just stubborn and don’t want to be who you thought they were. My best advice on that matter is listen to your character. They know what they’re talking about.

            I know for myself, I read books for the characters. Sure, I love a good plot, but it’s the characters I care about above all else. As a writer I don’t only make sure I have a sound and interesting plot, I make sure I lovingly craft a cast to fit it; characters who a reader will be able to identify with. Some come more peacefully than others and there will always be some you can relate to more easily. Another hard thing about character development is in using characters who you may not be able to relate to. We do pull from our own experiences to write emotions, and we always put a little part of ourselves into our characters, but sometimes, we have to look outside the box to craft a character we may not relate to at all. Making them seem real, can be a challenge, but I encourage writers to create hard characters because you will end up being a stronger writer for it.

            Character development is one of those things that really just takes practice. No one can expect their first book and first characters to be perfect. My best advice on learning how to make good characters is to watch people, see how they react, think about people you know who share similarities with your characters or even other characters from your favorite books. Writing backstories or journals for your characters is also a great way to get to know them and the kind of people they really are. Don’t think of them as fictional characters, think of them as real people. Sit down and chat with them for a while and you’ll find that before long, they’re writing the story for you!

Hazel West can be found online at:
Author Link: Character Purgatory -  http://hazelwest.blogspot.com/
Purchase Link: http://www.amazon.com/On-Foreign-Field-Hazel-West/dp/1477493441
Link to Tour on Main Site: http://www.virtualbooktourcafe.com/3/post/2012/07/on-a-foreign-fielda-story-of-loyalty-and-brotherhood-by-hazel-west.html

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Introducing author: Rickard DeMille


I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada to Rickard and Anita DeMille, who also provided five younger siblings for my amusement- four brothers and a sister. After graduating from Las Vegas High School I attended Brigham Young University. After my freshman year I spent two years in Venezuela and Colombia doing missionary work, then returned to BYU where I graduated with a BA in Spanish. Since then, I’ve focused my efforts on BS.
After college I was commissioned an Officer of Marines. I became a Combat Engineer, and ran my battalion’s computerized maintenance system. Soon after leaving the Corps, I moved to Houston, TX, where I resumed working with computers. I’d also picked up three kids along the way - Rick, Dave and Rob. Ten years later, I moved to Dallas, re-married the wonderful Tracy Ellis, and picked up two stepsons, Mark and Matt. I also began working with a group of exceptional Welshmen. It’s been over twenty years, Tracy and the Welshmen are still in my life. In those years I’ve also earned a Masters of Ministry and a Masters of Divinity from the Golden State School of Theology. Preparing a masters thesis rekindled my passion for writing.
A few years ago, I began to write seriously.  Since then, I’ve had short stories and articles published, in print and online. My work has been published by BeWrite, Darklines, Eros and Rust, and others sites. One of my short stories was published in the Australian anthology ADUMBRA. I also write screenplays and finished 18th in the 2010 Writer’s Digest Screenplay competition in 2010, and 16th in the 2011 competition.

Recently I finished my first novel, HELLFIRE (formerly A MURDER IN MUMBLES), a thriller set in Wales. HELLFIRE was a finalist in the 2010 Debut Dagger contest sponsored by the Crime Writers’ Association in London, and the 2010 SouthWest Writers contest. In 2011, I signed a contract with Transit Publishing, and HELLFIRE was published in February of 2012 as an eBook. In July of 2012 HELLFIRE was republished by MacDonald, Barclay and Co. in both paperback and eBook formats. 
I published my Masters Thesis entitled BIBLE STUDY: DEFENDING DANIEL, an examination of the historical, archaeological and linguistic context for the Biblical book of Daniel. I have already begun work on a sequel to HELLFIRE, currently titled COYOTE MIDNIGHT, which is set in Texas.

My Website is: www.rickardbdemille.com
Email: rickdemi@yahoo.com
My blog is: http://demillewriter.wordpress.com
The Amazon link is: http://amzn.to/NE1ysW


An International Debut Dagger Award Finalist.
“Packed with action, emotion and suspense.” --Crime Writers Association
“A must read for any fan of the thriller genre” -- Joe Nassise, Internationally best selling author Of Eyes to See and the Templar Chronicles

US Marine Travis Deacon always loves catching some R&R. And he loves being in Wales to catch it, until his best friend, SAS Major Gareth Jones, dies in an "auto accident." When Travis asks too many questions about Gareth's death, MI5 steps in and tries to send him back to Afghanistan. Then, the international terrorist who killed his friend, tries to send Travis to hell. 
It gets worse when Detective Sergeant Dee Jones, Gareth's sister, arrests Travis to find out if he’s involved. Together, convinced that Gareth was murdered, Travis and Dee search for the killer. They dodge terrorist assassins and British agents in their search across Wales for the truth. Suddenly, the murder investigation becomes a frantic race to prevent a terrorist attack that could change the world.

“Strap yourself in for Rickard B DeMille’s  HELLFIRE, a page-turner full of humor,  reluctant romance, and plot twists that will  have you writhing in your seat.”

  --Margaret Bailey, author of Diamond in the Sky and the Waves of Amber trilogy

1. The book begins with US Marine Travis Deacon on leave from Afghanistan and enjoying his vacation to Wales. Wales is part of Great Britain, but it’s definitely not English:

They say that Wales can change a man. I never found out who “they” were, but three grey, eternally overcast days there had certainly changed me.

I was still a hard-charging U.S. Marine, but I’d been Enlightened. I’d come to believe that Welsh dragons were real, while my memories of the sun were simply delusions. And, I’d been converted to the one true religion—Rugby.

This transfiguration had taken place in Swansea, a port city on Britain’s jagged southern coast. I’d learned that the Welsh were not English, but a separate and proud people with their own nation, culture and language—a language that seemed to use vowels as a diversion rather than for grammatical consideration. My working theory was that the ancient Romans took the wayward Welsh vowels as tribute and forced them on the Hebrews, who hadn’t had any yet.

The previous day I’d almost performed the Heimlich maneuver on a frail old lady in our hotel restaurant. Turns out, she wasn’t choking, she was just asking for a glass of water in Welsh.

 2. Travis’ host, and best friend Gareth, is killed in an “auto accident” and Travis is asked to ID the body:

 Becket had been watching me. The arrogant little jerk had known it was Gareth. For some reason, what he really wanted was to gauge my reaction to the death.

Why? How did he even know I was in Wales?

Becket forced what he intended to be a sympathetic smile and nodded, but it looked more like gas pains to me.

“Is there anything you’d like to add?”

I shook my head, grateful he’d put the request that way. I wouldn’t lie, but I didn’t want to elaborate until I could analyze the situation myself. They could find out on their own that Gareth had been tortured then murdered, but I had no doubt that they suspected something already. I was equally certain they had no idea what that something might be.

The signs on Gareth’s body were subtle, but I’d seen this handiwork before, and recently. My commanding officer had some of the same signs after having been captured in Pakistan. I had reached Lieutenant Ibarra too late to save his life, but soon enough to examine his body. If those sadistic bastards were there in Wales, then something very, very bad was about to happen.

I would make sure that it happened to them.

2. The antagonist is a terrorist from Pakistan, now loose in Wales. He owes his success to the tender nurturing of his father, a drug lord, who taught him a valuable lesson as a child:

[He and his father] sat on the porch while servants brought them hot tea. As they chatted and sipped the tea, a large man approached them hesitantly. The man stopped at the railing just a few meters from his father, removed the flat, round pakol he wore from his head, and dropped his eyes.

His father took another sip of tea then set down his cup, bidding his son to do the same. He looked at the young man seriously and explained, “You are of age now Abdul, and must learn to be a man. This training begins today with two simple truths, ones that you must never forget.” He pointed at the terrified man still standing at the rail. “Truth number one is that stupid people do stupid things. This is simply the way things are.”

His father nodded toward the man at the rail. “This man just returned from Afghanistan. He had been instructed many times that while there he was to avoid towns and valleys. He was vigorously reminded that he must have no contact with the agents of Kabul or their Russian masters.” His father glared at the man, whose head dropped so low that his face could not be seen at all.

His father went on, “This man was not wise. He did not follow instructions. As a result, he lost his entire shipment, and almost his life.”

His father finished his tea, then raised the glass above his head. A servant scurried over and took it from him to be refilled. His father slid his chair back, resting his hands in his lap. His posture had relaxed, but his face became serious. He stared at the boy intently.

“This brings me to the second truth you must learn today, my son. Since you can’t stop stupid people from being stupid, it’s best to just kill them before they make things worse.”

            His father’s hand rose from below the tabletop, holding a small automatic pistol. The gun swung quickly toward the man and fired.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Writing tips for newbie authors

When I first started to write I wanted to read about other people's experiences with writing.  How they overcame the challenges and what tips they could share.  Why re-invent the wheel?  If we can learn from others then it's all the better for us.  Rebecca Graf, author of Deep Connections, shares the FIVE most important tips she learnt when starting out as a writer.
"There is no guide to becoming a writer. They might claim their books are the way to help you down that path, but they can’t be. Why? Because every writer is different and approaches writing in a different manner. But there are some things that every writer should know as they start out." Rebecca Graf

#1 – Characters Will Talk
People think I’m crazy when I say this, but I have no idea what is going to happen in the next chapter. Why not? The characters haven’t told me what is happening. You don’t know how many times I start writing and something different than I had imagined comes out of my fingers and onto the keyboard. I try to change it, but they won’t let me. Be prepared for the characters taking over. It’s their story after all.

#2 – The First Draft is Garbage
Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. It won’t be. The story idea might be brilliant, but your initial writing will not be anywhere near publishable. My first draft of Dark Connections was only 25k words. I knew it could be better. I slept on it and went back over it. By the time I was done it was 85k in words. My first draft was garbage.

#3 – You Must Be Willing to Learn
You’re not perfect and neither is your writing. You’ll make mistakes and will need to change them. The best writers create inconsistencies. It happens. As a writer, you need to learn how to write better. There is always room to write better. You must be willing to learn. I met an aspiring author who refused to change any of her work. She did not want to be told to correct anything. She honestly felt that her first draft was the one to publish. Not!

#4 – Editing is the Hardest Part
You think writing is challenging? It’s the easy part. Editing is the hard part. You rewrite a scene to improve it only to find out that it impacts the story later on in the book. Now, you have to find all the places it impacts and fix it which might lead you to changing more scenes as you are inspired in your editing. You’ll delete whole passages and add dozens of new ones. You’ll add a new character and have to weave him in or you’ll kill one off and rewrite the ending.
Editing is hard!

#5 – Editing is Important
Don’t think your work doesn’t need editing and proofreading. The editing I mentioned above is your own editing of the material to create the final manuscript for submission. This editing is the one that a professional should do. Why? Because they are objective. They aren’t personally vested in it. They can see the problems more clearly. They can point out weak character development. As you write, you see it all in your mind. As a reader, they see something different.

Rebecca Graf worked as an accountant for 20 years before taking a chance at a dream. Starting off with writing online, she began to build a reputation and a number of followers. Now, she has one children's book, A Gift for a Mouse, published with Deep Connections being her first adult novel. She lives near Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and three children as well as two cats, Oreo and Cookie, and two dogs, Bug and Mocha. Rebecca has started her own publishing company, Silver Tongue Press, with two partners. Their goal is to help new authors to achieve their dreams. She also spends her days crocheting and knitting....
Email: writingwithsuccess@gmail.com
Website: www.abookloverslibrary.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RebbecaGraf
Twitter: @rebeccagraf
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