Volunteering–How Do You See It?

My head is down this week, with a lot of great activity. My fuzzy list of things on my mind includes:

  • A wedding this weekend!  I am so excited.  My “little” sister is getting married to a man who seems to make her heart sing.  In fact, he actually sang his proposal to her. Is that wonderful or what?  And this sister is such a treasure, I’m hoping for many happy years for both she and her new husband.
  • As always, I have work for clients to finish up before I can take time off for the weekend.  As a freelance writer and marketing consultant, my schedule is unsteady, even at the best of times.  Lately, a couple of big projects have had me neglect a couple of smaller ones, and it’s time to get back on track there.
  • Volunteer projects.  Oh my goodness!  Volunteering? Say it isn’t so.

I have put in a lot of volunteer hours in the course of my lifetime.  Not half as many as some, and quite a bit more than others.  I’m not sure what that’s all about.  Why do we need so many people to give away time and talents that others get paid well for?  Hmm. Perhaps it’s the causes we work for, or the belief in “giving back” we seem to share as a community value.

picture of Volunteering HandsDid you know that statistics show over a quarter of our American population donated approximately 7.9 billion hours of service in 2012, worth a staggering $175 billion?  We work at fundraising, food collection and distribution, physical labor and transportation, and tutoring or teaching.  Even in this spread-out community of Facebook friendships and tweets around the world about life being a pain-in-the-you-know-what, people make time to help each other out. Is that cool or what?

And I’m lucky.  I’ve been volunteering lately for the two writing groups I’m part of–Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America.  Both organizations would probably wither and die but for the work many people put in, often without pay or worthwhile recognition.

But there are hidden benefits to volunteering.  According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering can bring you these terrific benefits:

  • Connection with others — I have to say, this is really big for me.  I remember when I used to write in a vacuum, wishing I could get feedback and grow as a writer. Now I can, thanks to people who voluntarily set up critique groups, and both my organizations’ pubic meetings (not possible without tons of volunteer hours by others)
  • Volunteering is good for your mind and body–combating things like depression and increasing people’s self-esteem.  I’ve witnessed this over time and have to agree.  The site also claimed that volunteering keeps people living longer. As humans we need our social connections to survive–literally.
  • Volunteering can advance your career–I’m more skeptical of this claim. I’ve put in a lot of hours and have never seen it turn into anything much. In one place, I voluntarily organized a big event, and three months later got offered a job–at  minimum wage. Hmm. Meanwhile, some of my non-volunteering friends were making the six-figure incomes I coveted. Perhaps I just had a bad experience. Maybe you can give me a better case study.
  • Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life. Well, again, that’s a great claim.  Not sure about it when at midnight, I’ve been known to be up doing work on something I just want to throw out the window.  Yet, then I think about the smiles, hugs, and joy I shared with a small group of kids for six years and feel that happiness each time I remember them.  Yes, I felt fulfilled with that.

Yes, volunteering is good. I’m going to go back to a booklet I’m working on, and layout for a sign one of my groups needs.  I just wish that only people who volunteered could buy lottery tickets. Volunteers deserve big wins in life.


The Mighty May Lay on Lies

Whew!  I’m into round one of edits for Sliced Vegetarian, and the terrific Alice Duncan has been my editor once more.

Alice Duncan, Author

I’m lucky to have Alice Duncan as my editor

You may know Alice by one of her pen names: Alice, Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson, Anne Robins, and even Jon Sharpe.  She writes historical mysteries, historical romance, and even, under the name Jon, westerns. Obviously, I’m working with a well-experienced writer and am lucky to have her as my editor.

I submitted my copy to Alice at the end of July and she went right to work.  Mind you, I’ve had several people read the Sliced Veggie story now, so you’d think the work would be pretty polished.  Not so, my friend.

The edits I received from Alice challenged my grammar, punctuation and storytelling skills a lot.  I love this!  I feel like I’m learning all the time, and to me, that is truly exciting.

For example, on several occasions, Alice challenged me to change “may” to “might.” Growing up, I remember my elders correcting my “Can I have an apple?” to “May I please have an apple?” quite often (but that is a story for another time). Somehow, I got that may and turned it into a statement like, “I may go to the store.” Oops. Though the sentence is structurally correct (thus no help from Microsoft Word), the meaning of the sentence was often incorrect.

Alice's latest book, Dark Spirits

Alice’s latest book, Dark Spirits

May means to have permission to or admit that the possibility exists:

I may go to the store; mothers says I may.

I may think differently about it in the morning.

On the other hand, might, other than being a word of force, means permission or possibility, but in a past tense way:

If you had your wits about you, you might have seen the knife next to the dead body on the floor.

To be honest, I’m going to have to study those two words more.  The line between them is as slim as hope on a dark and stormy night, but obviously there’s a big enough difference to be caught and questioned in the editing process.

And here’s another set of words that challenge me to bits: lay and lie. I know that to tell a fib is definitely a lie, but does something lay on a table or lie on it?  And when do you use which tense?

Thing is, I looked up lay in the dictionary and found it has fourteen definitions–and that in the transitive verb form alone.  Just wait until you get to the intransitive verb form. Wow!  All this and I haven’t begun to explore lie.

Needless to say, if you are a wordsmith and have any happy tips for remembering the differences between may and might and between lay and lie, please send them along.  Not only will I publish your clever thought, but I will probably ask you to be my BFF.

Meanwhile, I need to run along today.  Big project up in my other life as a marketing person.  Thanks for sharing time with me, and have a great week.


Special Edition–It’s a Blog Hop!

Hey, it’s Monday!  So why am I writing a blog today?  Because I’ve been invited to be part of a blog hop.  This is a fun, social engagement with writers and authors around the Internet and a chance for you to browse for your next read.  Is this cool or what?  Please check out the links today because I’m hoping you’ll find enjoyment with two author-friends of mine, and they have links to other writers. Good luck and happy author-hunting!

P.S. This post will take the place of my normal Wednesday edition this week.


Author Catherine Dilts

Be sure to check out the Stone Cold mystery series by Catherine Dilts

I met Cathy at a Left Coast Crime book convention a couple of years ago.  We became instant friends over lunch at a fast food place and have never looked back.  I hope to have Catherine Dilts as a guest blogger later this fall. She writes a rock-shop mystery set for those who enjoy a little fossil hunting and a nice chill up your spine.  Stone Cold Dead came out last winter and she’s just had her second novel, Stone Cold Case, accepted for publication.  Cathy has also had several stories published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.  I think hers is a name that will continue to grow in the publishing industry. Thanks, Cathy, for inviting me to be part of this hop.


Pamela Nowak

Award winning author Pamela Nowak could be your next best read!

Pam Nowak is a historical romance writer who is focusing on the wild west.  I loved reading Choices from this award-winning novelist.  Pam is one of the “big names” from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and each time we meet, she shares a great smile and a totally fun spirit.  But I’m rattling.  Here’s Pam’s official bio:

Pamela Nowak writes historical romance set in the American West. In addition to widespread critical acclaim, her books have won multiple national awards. Her most recent book, CHANGES, won the Colorado Book Award for Genre Fiction. In love with history and rich characters for most of her life, Pam has a B.A. in history, has taught prison inmates, managed the Fort Yuma National Historic Site and run a homeless shelter. She was named the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year in 2010, chaired three conferences, and now serves as president. Pam and her life partner, Ken, live in Denver. Their combined families include six daughters and several grand-children. Together, they parent a dog and a cat. Pam loves hearing from readers and invites them to visit her on her website (www.pamelanowak.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com/pamela.nowak.142), or Twitter (www.twitter.com/readpamelanowak).

Changes  by Pamela Nowak

Changes by Pamela Nowak

Be sure to check out her newest offering, Changes, when you can.


Part of this hop, is to answer the same four questions in order for new readers to get a chance to know you, so here goes:

What am I working on?
For me, it’s always best to be working on a bunch of things at a time, even though I try to focus on one big project. I try to keep an ideas notebook, and have lists, character ideas, settings and more organized into a nice bright binder.

Right now, my big project is the third Daisy Arthur mystery, called Pot Shots. Colorado is acting as one of the experimental states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. But with the federal government holding firm on not legalizing the drug, marijuana stores work one hundred per cent in cash. That was just too much temptation for a writer like me to keep away from. Now, how is a nice romance writer edging into her golden years going to get involved? Lots of fun here, I hope.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Anyone who writes has their own voice and is therefore, by definition, different from others. Still, I like the way Daisy has no pretense about being an amateur detective. She’s simply someone who makes the most of what life throws her, and that, I hope, is a positive message for us all.

Why do I write what I do?
They say you should write what you know. Given that, I always thought you had to have actual police experience to be able to write a mystery. Then I started reading cozies and fell in love. When I saw a book on how to write mysteries, it helped solidify a vision I was working on already, and Daisy was created. I think a lot of cozy mystery solving comes from being intrigued by the puzzle-solving aspect of it all. And I love (though am not very good at) puzzle play—sudoku, spider solitaire, name that celebrity, logic problems and more. At last! My penchant for play is rewarded in writing. How cool is that?

How does my writing process work?
Ooh. That’s a hard one. Believe it or not, I usually start with a flash that makes me giggle. That flash can be a scene in my head or, even more likely, the title of a book. I play with that flash until I think I have a real idea. Then I start gathering thoughts and ideas for a few months. I’m not really sure what’s taking hold in my subconscious at this point. The idea is to talk with people who may be involved or passionate about a subject and listen to them. Then I have to noodle around what sort of motive might be around that subject that would cause someone to commit murder. If I’ve been sitting around for six months or more, the guilt gets to me. I stop trying to find the perfect plot and start scolding myself for being so lazy. Once that puzzle is solved the play begins.

I write the story from a few different perspectives. I do this long hand, as I believe it’s easier for my subconscious to come out to play when I write long hand.

When I have four or five perspectives complete, I copy them paragraph by paragraph onto three by five cards. I suppose it would be smarter to type them up, print them and cut them apart, but I love index cards. The cards have been a real friend for keeping me organized throughout my adulthood.

When the cards are complete, I mix them up, shuffle them about and spread them all over my dining room table. Then I number them, stack them up and essentially have the outline for my next book. From there it’s a simple matter of discipline (which sometimes I have in abundance, and sometimes I don’t). At this point I try to set a deadline for sending the work into beta readers and the publisher, all in hopes the next book will be something they want. Fingers crossed.

Hope you’ve enjoyed your visit. If you’re new to this blog, please drop me a line and let me know what you like to read about.  If you’re a returning friend, thanks for spending time with me today.  There will not be a post on Wednesday.

Make a great week, my friends!