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Monday
Jul202015

Change of Scenery

We all get in ruts, right? And what's the best way to get out of a rut? Change your view. Literally.

Recently, I traveled to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was for work (day job), but while I was there, you better believe I did some Nurse Nate stalking.

"How do you stalk a fictional person?" you might wonder. Oh, please don't underestimate my "crazy." Let me show you how it's done.

First, after a hellacious day of traveling (that will have to be the topic for another blog post... or purged altogether from my memory so I don't suffer from PTSD as a result of the events), I arrived at my destination after midnight to find that my rental car for the week was this:

That's right. It's a Toyota Prius. Just like the one Nate Bingham drives in the Nurse Nate Trilogy. The one pictured above is obviously not the exact one I drove. This was the best picture I could get of it... in the rain... after midnight... in the very dark car rental lot that would be the perfect hangout for rapists... if people in Green Bay weren't too nice for that kind of thing.

I did get some interior shots, though, in the light of day. I needed proof that it had more buttons, bells, whistles, and doohickeys than the Starship Enterprise bridge.

 

I drive an older car, so this thing was like learning how to drive a spaceship. About halfway through my trip, I discovered a quick-start learning guide in the glove compartment. It would have been super-nice of the rental car agent to tell me that thing existed when she gave me the keys--or what passes for keys in a push-button car--but whatever. I guess she looked at me and thought, "This one's adventurous. She's going to want to fumble her way through learning how to drive that car in an unfamiliar city in the middle of a rainy night. I'd hate to spoil her fun." Actually, she was probably thinking, "I can't believe I had to work late for this frazzled weirdo." So anyway. I eventually made it out of the rental car parking lot with a much better appreciation for Nate's car and his driving skills. And I may or may not have thought the following weird and nerdy things throughout my week of driving the hybrid:

"This is how Nate turns on his wipers."

"I wonder if Nate ever forgets to turn off the car... must write that into next book." (Because I did that one day at work. And through some miracle of technology, the thing still started at the end of the day. Must have gone into hybernation--a.k.a., "idiot," mode. As in, "Oh, this idiot forgot to turn off the car, but she took the key fob with her, so she's not coming back. Shutting down now...")

"I want a Prius like Nate's... er, this one."

"I'm sorry for all the Prius jokes I've told in my books. They may look silly, but they're really fun."

It was sad having to hand in the keyish thingy and go back to driving my regular old car at home.

I also got to swing by Lambeau Field for a visit. Yeah, yeah... I know... Nurse Nate hates football, BUT he does attend a game in Let's Be Real, so it wasn't a betrayal of the Nurse Nate experience. I didn't get to actually see the field (all of the tours were full), but just walking through the atrium and seeing this two-story statue of the Lombardi trophy was amazing.

I also visited the pro shop, where the people who come up with t-shirt designs revolving around the Packers "G" put my creativity to shame. I mean, how many ways can you make it different? A lot. And they're just getting started. Camo, sequins, every color combination known to mankind. And the jewelry... You can get a replica Super Bowl ring. I really wanted to get these, but I couldn't think of an occasion when I'd get a chance to wear them.

 

Finally, I did my own version of the Lambeau Leap with these delightful bronze fans. They love me.

Other things I saw in person that I'd mostly only read about in my Nurse Nate Trilogy research efforts:

Younkers, which Betty mentions in Book 1: I didn't go in (malls aren't my thing), but it was close to my hotel, so I saw it a few times on my way to and from other places.

Roundabouts: Green Bay loves 'em. We have a couple in Springfield, but not on any of the streets or routes I regularly travel. While I was visiting Packerland, I had to use them every day. Very European.

Cheese curds: I ate some deep fried cheese curds at the Farmer's Market, and they were amazing. Heart attack in a cup, but it would be a delicious way to die.

The Sardine Can: a cool, indoor-outdoor bar in the heart of downtown that features live music acts. It's not quite the same as The Cheesehead, which is a bit... quieter. And less crowded (The Sardine Can ambiance is exactly as its name would suggest: they pack 'em in there). A ton of fun but not conducive to conversation.

Below-boiling temperatures in July: While I was away from Missouri, they experienced a major heat wave with heat indexes up near 110 degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously). This was the temperature on Thursday evening in Green Bay, right before a lovely, gentle summer shower:

The next day, the temperature soared to the upper 80s (91 in some nearby areas), but the humidity was low, so it still felt like the most heavenly summer ever. Summer is supposed to be hot, right?

Upper Midwestern Nice: Apparently, Wisconsin and Nebraska are competing for the "Nicest People in the World" title. I didn't think people could get nicer than the ones I encountered in Nebraska last fall (yeah, I'm becoming quite the mid-American traveler), but I didn't meet a single sour-faced person in Wisconsin. Not even when I cut them off (inadvertently, of course) in my clueless navigation of the roads and highways while trying to figure out how to drive my car (I really was a hazard, and I'm sorry). My co-workers were amazing hosts and tour guides, going above and beyond, never letting me sit alone in my hotel after work, eating fast food and binge-watching Broadchurch.

Taken AFTER many cheese curds were consumed with friends.

Even the woman who had to wait for me until after midnight at the car rental desk was chipper and sweet (although I think she was getting back at me in her own way by not warning me about the robot car I was about to drive). Everyone made me feel like a rock star. And I was just not-so-little ol' me, bumbling my way through unfamiliar territory, trying to pretend like I knew what I was doing. They played along fabulously.

And then it was time to come home. I had to gas up the spaceship...

Sidebar: I only used $1.88 in gas those five days, and I was motoring around town, let me tell you. A Toyota dealership's going to be getting a visit from me soon, I think. Maybe I can get a discount if I show them this shameless advertisement of a blog post. I'll conveniently forget to show them the jokes in my Nurse Nate books.

...return the key fob (sob), and make my way through airport security and the exhausting obstacle course that is flight travel in the United States (horrible, horrible, horrible system). I even saw a real rock star, Alice Cooper, in the Green Bay airport. We nodded at each other like rock stars do while the security agents went gaga over handling his carry-on baggage and making him take off his shoes and looking at him in the X-ray machine. Actually, he didn't look at me at all. And I almost missed seeing him altogether, because my nose was buried in my book (The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow, which is wonderful, by the way) while I tried to keep as relaxed as possible before setting off on my stressful journey home. But the airport security staff's inability to play it cool saved me from missing my brush with fame altogether.

And I was happy to be able to say that seeing a celebrity didn't even come close to being the highlight of my visit to Green Bay. I met a lot more interesting, funny, and amazing people than that. And I saw firsthand their turf and that of the imaginary characters I love so much.

Speaking of those characters, it's good to be home, getting back into my normal routine. Only now, I have some fresh perspective and feel as charged as that Prius. Back to work!

 

Thanks for reading! This post is part of the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. To return there and read more participating posts, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

Monday
Jul062015

Summer Reading Suggestions

I'm a crappy friend. I am. I'm not saying that so you'll say, "Aw, no you're not!" I'm saying it because it's true, and I know it, and no matter how many times I acknowledge it, it's a reality I can't seem to escape. Never is it more obvious than when I release a new book. It doesn't matter how holed up I've been, how neglectful, how hermit-like; when I release a new book, my friends gather around and congratulate me, share the news with their readers and friends, and flood me with offers to help me promote my new book baby. And I think, "Wow. What a swell person to jump to my promotional rescue! I've retweeted and shared a few things on behalf of that person in the past few months, and that's it. What else can I do to thank them?"

My blog isn't a review blog, nor do I host guest writers. I don't write reviews at all (scarred for life by a few experiences), and I generally keep myself too busy with my own writing to beta read for others. My favorite word when approached with projects or opportunities that would impinge on my sacred writing time is, "No." (See? I told you I was a selfish jerk.) But I know myself and my limitations. I know when I overextend myself, I'm useless to everyone, especially my family. And despite how it may seem to those who have heard me say, "No," on more than one occasion, I'm a major people pleaser who will drive (and has driven) myself crazy trying to be everything to everyone. I've been there a million times. It sucks.

But I do have this blog. And I do have readers ask me for recommendations now and then. I have a few favorites I always give off the top of my head, but I decided to solicit links from those who have been there throughout the publication process for Let's Be Real. They write women's fiction, chick lit, and rom coms that I think you'll enjoy. Have I read all of these books? Nope. Are they all on my Kindle, waiting to be read (or pre-ordered, in some cases)? Yep. Are the authors amazing people who would make great additions to your online friendships? Absolutely. Give their books a try and find out for yourself by seeking them out on FB, Twitter, or your social media site of choice.

And now, in no particular order, here's the list. Click on the book to find out how to purchase and download.

Jay Walking by Tracy Krimmer

Available now for pre-order. Releases August 4, 2015.Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr

The Marrying Type by Laura Chapman

Cutters Vs. Jocks by Elizabeth Marx

Bad Medicine by Caroline Fardig

Available now for pre-order. Releases July 7, 2015.

The Other Wife by Kathleen Irene Paterka

Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb

Vegas to Varanasi by Shelly Hickman

Geek God by Victoria Barbour

Happy reading!!!

Saturday
Jun272015

Launch Day for LET'S BE REAL

I have mommy guilt. Not about any of my real, biological children (although I have plenty of that on any given day, too), but about my latest book baby, Let's Be Real, the sequel to Let's Be Frank.

This was a surprise baby. And while I'm also no stranger to that phenomenon in real life, in writing, it's a little more difficult for something like this to take you by surprise. After all, writing a book is a pretty deliberate act. So is the other thing, I suppose, but... the results are a little different. Anyway! So here I am, writing away on another project, a project that is the first in a trilogy, when BAM! Nurse Nate pops into my head again, and I get this full-blown vision of what his life is, post-Frank. And it's a fun idea. And it won't let go. So I write it. And then I realize, this isn't the end of the story, either. So I plan one more book in Nurse Nate's scrubs and call the trio of books the Nurse Nate Trilogy. And I'm currently writing that third book.

Meanwhile, the book I was working on when the Nurse Nate Trilogy idea hijacked my brain is waiting patiently to be released in the fall. It's about American football, anyway, so that's a better time for it to come out. But still. I've never released books "out of order" before. It's a weird experience.

Anyway. Back to the baby metaphor... Let's Be Real was a "surprise," and like both of the real surprise babies in my life, it's been a blessing. I enjoyed being pregnant with the idea. I enjoyed giving birth to it. I've enjoyed diapering and dressing it. I've even enjoyed losing sleep over it. I've especially enjoyed showing it off to people, first beta readers and now YOU. But there's guilt.

Because this is my eleventh baby, so... I mean... I don't have much to say about the experience. I wouldn't say this is old hat, because I still enjoy writing as much as ever. I still love publishing and sharing these silly stories of mine, too. But launch days... they're just another day in this writing life. So poor Let's Be Real is like the kid whose parents never take any pictures of him. And I'm kind of relying on his big brothers and sisters to do some of the work. After all, readers will come to him, thanks to Let's Be Frank and the other books I've written that they've liked. And I'm already well into the process of bringing his little brother, Let's Be Friends, into the world. Plus, his little sister, Out of My League, will make her debut in October, and he'll just be another one of my middle children. I'm like an out-of-control book baby factory! "Don't you know where book babies come from?"

Okay, this metaphor's annoying me and making me feel like a redneck reality TV star. The point is, I'm happy this day has arrived. I'm overjoyed I finally get to share the full Let's Be Real story with you. BUT I know the majority of people aren't actually going to read the book TODAY, so launch day is just... well, it's just a distraction from doing what I love most: creating. As a matter of fact, on launch days, I have to participate in one of my most hated parts of this process: promotion (although you guys make it a lot more fun than it would be without you).

So, please. Buy the book, read the book, enjoy the book, review the book (if that's something you like to do). You don't need me to throw confetti in your face and say, "Look how great I am; I wrote another book!" Trust me; that's not what I'm doing today. I'm sitting here in my pajamas at 10 a.m., writing this post, drinking my third cup of coffee, and berating myself for not giving my new book baby the launch it deserves. No balloons and confetti here. But definitely plenty of satisfaction and excitement and relief and nerves.

Maybe that's not a very attractive picture. Maybe it's actually a little depressing (although I don't mean it to be), and I shouldn't have shared that with you. But I'm nothing if not honest. And I strive to be authentic. And I think most authors, especially the indie author-publishers like myself, would admit, if pressed, that their book launches look a lot like mine does today. I hope I didn't bum you out by pulling back the curtain a little too far. If you'd prefer to picture me sitting in a tiara and a ball gown, sipping champagne and being doted on by an adoring public, please... go ahead and maintain that image.

The un-sexy truth of the matter is, publication day is just one small part (one of the smallest parts, in fact) of a book's birth and development. A story is nothing until you, the reader, have read it and projected your own experiences and thoughts and interpretations onto it. Please, let me know when you've done that. That will be a day for me to celebrate.

HOWEVER, I do want to thank you for your support and enthusiasm throughout this book's development and launch. You guys have been amazing, and your faith that I would accomplish this June 2015 publication date was more convincing than any of the doubts I had. And look! You made it happen. Thank you!

Friday
Jun192015

Sneak Peek of LET'S BE REAL

Usually, when I offer sneak peeks, I go with the first scene in the first chapter, and let 'er rip. But this time around, I thought I'd do something a little different. First of all, the first scene includes some details that would spoil the end of LET'S BE FRANK (more than the blurb to LET'S BE REAL already does), and we can't have that, can we? I'll answer for you. No. So I thought, what's the next most compelling thing I can show you? A new character! In LET'S BE REAL, Nurse Nate's a man in an otherwise all-female office. Now there's a new man in town: Dr. Dan Chancellor.

We’ve really rolled out the cot paper for this guy. In the staff room, the table we usually reserve for school fundraiser packets, “for sale” notices, church activity fliers, and takeout menus has been cleared, wiped, and clothed. Assorted pastries, their gelatinous fillings shining like patent leather under the fluorescent lights, rest in the middle of the table on a platter, complete with quaint paper doilies. A gallon of orange juice sweats next to a stack of plastic cups. The coffee urn—we busted out the urn!—squats nearby, belching its fragrant steam. And above the table, hanging across the top of the whiteboard we use for notes in meetings, hangs a custom-printed banner that reads, “Welcome, Dr. Dan!”

Oh, buh-rother. Could we look any more desperate?

I wipe my sweaty palms on my Batman scrubs and dispense a serving of coffee into my travel mug before taking a seat in the second-to-last row of folding chairs facing the whiteboard. (Want to strike that balance between too eager and too apathetic.) Feet spread, I lean forward and brace my elbows on my knees, ready to meet the man of the hour. My new boss. Whatever.

We cut two appointments off the schedule this morning to accommodate this meet-n-greet. That’s two time slots we couldn’t afford to slash, either, considering our bursting patient loads. But nobody asked me what I thought about completely disrupting the day’s routine to make a big deal about some dude who puts on his scrubs one leg at a time, like the rest of us.

Actually, I sit down and put on my scrubs two legs at a time. Because that’s safer. And more efficient.

But I’m an open-minded guy. I’m willing to give this Dr. Chancellor a chance.

It would be better if he were on time, but… since I’m the only one here besides Beulah, the office manager, who’s fluttering around as if she’s expecting the Queen of England, I guess there’s no rush.

“Here. Put this name tag on,” she says, holding the already-labeled and peeled sticker out to me.

I look at it like it might be germ-laden, and I’m about to object when I realize that would make me look like an uncooperative a-hole. So even though I’m wearing my official name badge, as usual, I take the label from her and press it to my pec. Checking the time on my phone, I ask, “Where is everyone?” careful to soften the edge in my tone.

“Dr. Reitman wanted the front office folks to be out there to greet the doctor when he arrived.”

“And the nurses are…?”

“Powdering their noses, I guess. I hear this guy’s a looker.”

“Oh, for crying out— Well, that explains why I’m the only one in here.” The words are no sooner out of my mouth when the two RNs, Janet and Mary-Kate, come through the door, giggling like a couple of high schoolers. “Has everyone lost their minds but me?” I grouse, less under my breath than I intended.

Beulah tilts her head down and looks at me over the top of her glasses. “What crawled up your posterior and died this morning? Dr. Reitman wants us to give Dr. Dan a warm welcome, so you better cheer up and find that sweet smile all the mommies go gaga over.” She hands name tags to the arriving nurses, neither of whom questions the superfluousness of the stickers but eagerly affix them to their scrubs.

“First of all, nothing’s wrong with me except that I’m sitting here, twiddling my thumbs when I could be working, getting ready for today’s patients… or seeing patients. Second… ‘Dr. Dan’? Third… if I were Dr. Dan, I would appreciate everyone treating my first day as business as usual, so I could see what an efficient and professional practice—presumably—I’m now calling mine. And fourth… ew. Just… no.”

Janet flicks my ear on her way past me to a chair on the back row. “We call you ‘Nurse Nate,’ so what do you have against ‘Dr. Dan’? It’s what he wants the patients to call him. It’s easier to say than Dr. Chancellor.”

Before I can continue the name debate, Mary-Kate taunts, “You’re not going to be the only guy around here anymore. Relieved or threatened?”

“Neither. Right now, I’d describe myself as ‘annoyed.’ Or ‘impatient.’”

She laughs as she takes the seat directly behind mine. “Yeesh. I haven’t seen you this crabby since… Well, never mind. A long time. Is that sweet baby girl keeping you awake at night again?”

“No. Although she did get me up super-early today,” I say, taking the out. Anything’s better than people thinking I’m jealous of Dr. Tardy.

That does the trick, and I might as well not be here anymore as they trade their own stories about infant-induced sleep deprivation.

After a few minutes, Mary-Kate pats my shoulder. “It’s only temporary. And it must not be as traumatic as we all think it is at the time, because as soon as you’re no longer walking around in an exhausted haze, you think, ‘We should have another baby!’”

“Sometimes the exhausted haze is part of that decision,” Janet cracks.

The ladies are still yucking it up when the rest of the staff members parade in, a tall, blonde, tan dude following closely, walking next to Dr. Reitman. He pauses at the door and motions for her to enter first. She smiles tightly but complies.

Lynette, the clinic’s lead receptionist, sits next to me, like she usually does in our morning meetings. But instead of complimenting my scrubs or asking about Georgia or Betty, she keeps her eyes glued to the front of the room… and Dr. Chancellor. (I refuse to call him Dr. frickin’ Dan, thankyouverymuch.)

I poke her in the side of the knee. “Psst. Good morning.”

She moves her head slightly toward me but only mutters a quick, “Hey,” then, “Shhh. He’s about to talk.”

Oh, Lord. Not Lynette, too!

I slurp my coffee, which earns me the first direct look from my friend since she walked in. “Do you mind?”

“Yeah, I kind of do,” I hiss. “I’ve been sitting in here forever, waiting for you guys. What the heck took so long?”

She shrugs. “Dr. Dan wanted to see how everything was organized up front before we came back here. He loves my color coding system. Called it ‘rad.’”

Thinking she must be joking, and sure he didn’t use that word, I laugh.

She pulls her head back. “Just because you don’t appreciate what I do…”

“What?! You know I do! But ‘your’ color coding system is standard in all medical practices. If Dr. Chancellor called it ‘rad,’ he’s either being a smug, sarcastic a-hole or patronizing you. If you’d like me to start patronizing you, you’re out of luck.”

“Seems like you’ve taken the smug, sarcastic a-hole option already.”

“Hey!”

“All right, everyone. Let’s get started,” Dr. Reitman says with a quick clap of her hands. “Today we welcome Dr. Dan Chancellor to the practice. As you all know, Dr. Chancellor—”

“Dr. Dan,” he says, taking a tiny step toward his colleague to correct her.

“It’s easier for the kids to say,” my Bat-signal-covered ass.

I snicker when it’s obvious Dr. Reitman is thinking something similar—perhaps even more profane—at being interrupted. She clears her throat. “Dr. Dan. Right. As you all know, Dr. Dan is going to be taking over the practice when I retire at the end of the year, but in an effort to make the transition as smooth as possible, we’ll be co-leading this clinic’s operations from now until December. As the months go on, I’ll be taking on a lighter patient load while Dr…. Dan… gradually increases his. The rest of you will be doing your usual stellar jobs and helping him become acclimated to the practice. It’s all pretty straightforward. Any questions?”

She stares straight at me, but I quickly look down and fiddle with the spill guard on my travel mug. I’m afraid if she looks at me like that for too long, I’ll erupt with a huge, whiny “WHYYYYYY?” and that wouldn’t be very professional.

Dr. Reitman waits a few more seconds, clasping her hands behind her back and rocking on her feet. “Okay. Hearing none, I’ll turn it over to, uh, Dr. Dan.” She nods at him, then sits in one of the chairs in the front row.

To my dismay, my co-workers greet the new doctor with applause. I join in so I don’t look conspicuously dickheaded. He fans his open hands in front of him, as if to tamp down our clapping. Only too eager to oblige him, I wrap my hands around my mug and extend my legs, crossing them at my ankles.

“Good morning, everyone. In case you’re having a hard time keeping up on this Monday, I’m Dr. Dan Chancellor, Dr. Dan, to all of my patients… and friends, which I’m sure we’re about to become. A little bit about me: I’m a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, where I got my undergrad degree what feels like forever ago…”

Bitch, please. The man’s not much older than I am, probably Nick’s age, thirty-seven tops. And he knows he looks good. Barf.

“…after which I attended med school at Johns Hopkins in Maryland, where I specialized in pediatrics….”

But somehow missed the class about being on time.

“Kids are my passion…”

Said every pervert ever.

“…They’re our future…”

Sing it, Whitney.

“…I can’t think of a more important job than the one we will collectively do here in this clinic every single day….”

No pressure.

“…Which brings me to something I want to emphasize right away. You and me are a team….”

You and I. Or how about ‘we,’ dude? I guess grammar wasn’t a big emphasis at ol’ JH, either.

“…There’s no hierarchy here. Without you, this place couldn’t function, and I couldn’t do my job. As far as I’m concerned, that makes us equals…”

What is this egalitarian nonsense?

“…so there will be no ‘pulling rank.’”

Riiiiiight…

“And each of us will do what needs to be done to treat each and every patient. If you see something that needs doing, and you’re qualified to step in and do it, you do it. A phone’s ringing and poor Lynette’s already on another call with three calls on hold? You pick it up. A patient has had an accident in the hallway, and you’re not already busy with something else? You put on your janitor cap and clean it up. The dishwasher needs unloading in the break room? Your mother doesn’t work here; you do. You see a need, you make it your responsibility. No one person is greater than that ideal. Including me.”

An appreciative chuckle ripples through the room.

Nice one. I can totally see this guy risking his manicure on a puke slick in the hallway.

“Hey, dude,” he interrupts my skeptical inner grumbling and squints to read my ID badge and/or name tag. “Nate, right?”

I straighten my legs and scoot my butt toward the back of my seat. “Yes.”

He laughs. “No need to get all stiff and formal, Batman. You’re the clinic’s FNP, right?”

For some reason, I’m suddenly hesitant to admit something I’m normally pretty proud of, but I reply, “That’s right…”

“Big deal.”

“Excuse me?”

He smirks. “You heard me. FNP, MD, PhD… they’re all just letters, man.”

“Okay… Well… sure. But—”

“No! No buts. The only butts I care about are the ones that need medical attention.”

While he and the others titter at his cleverness, my chuckle is borne more out of nervousness and hides my extreme efforts not to lose it as this guy insistently flicks my last nerve.

Finally, when the laughter stops, and he focuses his eyes on mine, as if he’s waiting—nay, daring—me to respond, I say, “With all due respect, I worked my butt off to earn those letters.”

“And that’s great. But what do they mean?”

Trusting he knows they literally mean “family nurse practitioner,” I dig deeper to try to answer his question. “They mean I’m qualified to diagnose and treat and make recommendations regarding patient care.”

“They help you to better, more fully serve, in other words.”

“Exactly.”

“They’re a privilege.”

“Yes! Absolutely.”

“Don’t forget it.”

I swallow. “I… I… don’t?”

“You sound unsure.”

My pulse stutters, and my eye twitches. “Actually, I am unsure why you’ve singled me out.”

He tousles his hair. “Dude, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent. I guess my point is that in some practices, there are certain people who are top bananas. Your doctors, your nurse practitioners, blah, blah, blah. But my philosophy is that each person is every bit as important as the next, regardless of the initials—or lack thereof—after someone’s name. You dig?”

Oh, I ‘dig’ all right. I dig this guy’s grave.

Leaning back in my chair, I prop my ankle against my knee and shake my foot. “Everyone in this room will tell you what a team player I am, Dr. Chancellor.”

He puts his hands in front of his chest. “Peace, man. It’s Dr. Dan, and I didn’t mean to ruffle your feathers. I simply want everyone to be clear—”

“I think we get it,” I say, standing and earning my incredulous co-workers’ stares. “I have a patient in ten minutes. And I see a need for someone to unlock the doors and man the front desk, so I’ll be heading that way.” I peel the sticker from my chest, crumple it, and drop it into the trashcan by the door on my way out.

 

*****


To read more about Nurse Nate and Dr. Dan's red-hot rivalry, pick up LET'S BE REAL, available now for pre-order on Amazon.com and officially launching on JUNE 27, 2015.

Monday
May042015

"Casual" Doesn't Equal "Lazy"

It's been a while since I've published a ranty post, and I really hope this doesn't come off as too ranty, but... I can remain silent no longer on something that has been bothering me for a while. For people who claim to be writers and lovers of the written word, some of us aren't representing ourselves very well on social media.

I get it's an informal "setting." I get that we're posting from mobile devices and are often the victims of the dreaded autocorrect. I get that we're humans and don't have editors and proofreaders on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever the latest thing is. I get all that. And I'm not claiming everything I post online is perfect (far from it). I also understand there are legitimate challenges some people face that make spontaneous message-writing a nightmare (e.g., dyslexia).

But those things aside...

What the heck, people?!?!?!?!?!

Social media is both a beautiful and scary thing. Beautiful because it's FREE. Scary because it's free; therefore, people think they can toss any old thing out there and call it good. You can show people who you are and give them a taste of what they'll be getting from your writing for absolutely no cost. No cost, that is, except to your reputation, if you come off sounding like a drunk kitten who couldn't conjugate a verb if your life depended on it. (Who's going to buy a book from that person?)

Here are some routine mistakes that damage your credibility online:

1. Routine grammar and mechanical mistakes. Maybe you routinely use "that," instead of "who." (Ex. "I know there are some lovely people out there that would like to buy my books.") I see some lovely people WHO do this all the time, and it makes me stabby. This is just one (very petty) example, of course. More egregious is the use of text-speak ("U"? Really? You can't be bothered with the two other letters in that word?), a refusal to use capital letters and punctuation, and blatant misspellings.

2. You don't know the difference between your homophones. (Or don't know what homophones are.) (Ex. "I am to lazy to put to o's on the word that means 'also' or a 'w' in the number. Its to much work, and I don't no how to be smarter than autocorrect.") Ay-yi-yi. Your editor doesn't live online. Learn how to do some things for yourself. And show autocorrect who's boss!

3. You often leave words out of sentences, so they make little to no sense. (Ex. "I could gone back and proofread this before hitting 'post,' but it too much trouble, and anyway cares?") I care. Your readers care. And your readers want YOU to care enough to read something before you send it out there for everyone to see.

This brings me to a valid question you may be asking at this point: "Does anyone except this nit-picky hag actually give a darn about any of this?"

Maybe if you polled people, the nicest, most relaxed of the bunch would say, "Online, I've learned to filter typos and mistakes, and as long as I can get the gist of what they're trying to say, it doesn't bother me." But do you want to be the person who requires other people to constantly filter and interpret what you mean? Is it really that hard to get one to three sentences or 140 characters correct? If you consistently post "kind of correct" statements, aren't you sending a comprehensive message you'd rather not send, specifically that you--a writer--don't have a firm enough grip on language to effortlessly converse online, much less write a book that someone would be willing to purchase and read?

Whether you like it or not, everything you write is an advertisement for you as a writer.

So what can you do? SIMPLE STUFF.

1. Proofread. Boo-boos are still going to slip through, sometimes even after you read something several times, but fewer mistakes will go public, and the ones that do will be anomalies, not, "Oh, Brea's posting on Facebook while on the riding lawn mower and inhaling exhaust fumes again. For the fifth time today."

2. Spell check! Please, for the love of all things holy, utilize the built-in spellchecker.

If you stump the spellchecker, then GOOGLE it. When all else fails, use a different word. Preferably one you know how to spell.

3. Correct mistakes. If you notice something after it's out there (I always do my best proofreading after I hit "publish" or "send" or "comment" or "enter"), take advantage of the "edit" feature. It's there. Use it. If it's not working or not available on the platform you're using, copy and paste your post into a new one, fix your goof, and re-publish it. Then delete the old one. Too much work, you say? Maybe it's too much work for readers to slog through your next release, hmmm?

Listen (or read). I'm not saying we should speak the Queen's English in social, casual settings. This post is a good example (I hope) of writing that breaks a few rules here and there for effect and for the sake of conversational style but is still coherent and mechanically correct. And it may sound like a stream-of-consciousness rant, but I proofread it and edited it before I hit "publish." Maybe some typos still slipped through. It happens. Maybe you've resolved to never buy a book from this infinitives-splitting, angry hack. Okay. (No, actually, that makes me really sad and a little panicky, but... I accept the consequences of my compulsion to air this latest grievance of mine.)

Bottom line is this, though. I like to support fellow authors. Sometimes that means reading their books and recommending them, but I don't have time to read EVERY book by EVERY author, so the easiest way to vet someone is by looking at their social media posts. If I see too many sloppy, half-baked, semi-literate offerings by that person, I hesitate to recommend them to anyone. I've worked hard to build trust with the [admittedly few] readers I have. If those readers, based on my recommendations, regularly spend their hard-earned money on books that fall short, quality-wise, they're going to get a bit pissy with me. And rightfully so.

You may say, "Big whoop. One stuck-up grammar nazi won't share my links or retweet me or whatever," but I guarantee I'm not the only person using this shortcut to measure the quality of your writing. People much more influential and possibly vital to your future success (i.e., agents and publishers and paying READERS) are doing the same thing. You can bet on it.

So don't be a social media slouch. If it's worth posting, then it's worth getting it right.

*drops microphone and walks away*

*comes back and puts microphone in its stand, because it's not cool to do that to expensive audio equipment*

When I'm not wasting time on social media, I write novels of the chick lit variety. Check them out on the "Books By Brea Brown" tab on this site. You can also follow me (and feel free to nit-pick my posts and tweets, some of which are written before 6 a.m. and are bound to sound like that drunk kitten I mentioned above) by clicking on the icons above (I think they're on the upper right of each page on this site).

P.S. I like parentheses. Don't hate.