Summer wave of online writing courses, including my new Elements of Editing course!

I’m launching the next wave of professional writing courses, along with a BRAND NEW “Elements of Editing” online course. I‘ve been teaching online writing courses since 1997 and many of my students have gone on to become part-time or full-time freelance writers and editors — as well as published authors. If you or someone you know would like to take a course (they cost roughly $20 to $25 per week), contact me and I’ll get you set up.

You can pay for your course in weekly increments if you need to. Again, courses range from $30 for a weekend to $20 or $25 per week for a maximum of four weekly lesson presentations, handouts, instructor feedback and homework/exercises. You will get one-on-one instruction (yes, personalized instruction with me — not sharing time with others in a virtual classroom). I will bill you in weekly increments if it helps. I accept PayPal, credit cards, eChecks, regular checks or money orders. Doesn’t matter.

Even if you don’t want to take a course, you can give one as a gift and pay for someone else. Just let me know who you’re paying for. I will accommodate in any way I can. Here is the link for my course listings: http://www.abraxasediting.com/contact.html

Let me know which course you want to take and I will send you the outline and instructions for setting up your payment options. You can fill out the contact form at the end of this post or email me at bev@nocturnalmuse.com. If you are ready to enroll, select your course and register via PayPal by sending your payment to bev@nocturnalmuse.com. Once your registration is received, I will send you a confirmation and instructions for beginning your course. It’s that simple! Your course will start right away.

“Elements of Editing” is a NEW course (and one I’m VERY EXCITED ABOUT!). It’s four weeks long and costs only $25 per week. If you want to self-edit or are looking to break into professional editing, this is the course for you. Click here to view the syllabus and to sign up!

Thanks for taking the time to read about and/or sign up for one of these courses. Courses begin on the day you sign up. You have up to 90 days to complete the course, so it’s easy to fit into your schedule. If you sign up within 48 hours I will send you a free copy of Sun Signs for Writers AND Secrets of the Professional Freelancer as my thanks to you. πŸ™‚

Finally, I am currently open for any and all editing jobs. If you have a written document, sales copy, website copy, short story, book manuscript, academic paper or anything else, I will do a professional edit for you with a quick turnaround time for only $2 per double-spaced page (allowing for 12 pt Times New Roman font in MS WORD or similar). Email me at bev@nocturnalmuse.com and I can get started right away on your project!

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[Article] Eco-friendly ways to effectively cool your home

Yesterday I had an article published in The Acorn, a newspaper that serves several California communities, including Calabasas. If you’d like some tips on how to cool your home in an eco-friendly way, pop on over and check it out. πŸ™‚

Eco-friendly ways to effectively cool your home.

Seven Ways to Jump-start Your Writing

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By Bev Walton-Porter

It’s unwelcome, but inevitable: someday you’ll face the dreaded affliction known as writer’s block. This damnable malady may wreak havoc on your creativity for a day, week or month (let’s not even consider a full year!), but you don’t have to be a willing victim! You can combat and conquer writer’s block with these seven, sure-fire remedies designed to crank up your creative urges and jump-start your writing for the new year.

1. BEGIN A DREAM DIARY

Some of the best scenes and storylines are those which spring unbidden from the deepest recesses of your unconscious mind. If you’re not inclined to snapping on the nightlight to frantically scribble down the remnants of a fast-fading dream, buy an inexpensive compact tape recorder and record your impressions upon awakening.

If you’re unable to recall every last tidbit of your dream, don’t fret! Just as snippets of newspaper articles can be used as a catalyst for your next story, dream snippets can provide unique bits and pieces which can be woven together later on to spice up plots, characters or spark ideas for nonfiction articles.

2. KEEP A PRIVATE JOURNAL/BLOG

Keeping a private journal is one of the most effective ways of combating writer’s block. Make your journal or blog as nonrestrictive and nonthreatening as possible. No one will be sitting behind your shoulder counting off points for grammar, punctuation or paragraph structure! Silence your inner critic and write honestly about what you’re sensing or experiencing. Are you angry? Sad? Euphoric? Why? Be as specific and descriptive as possible. Don’t set limits on the frequency or length of your entries; instead, concentrate on consistently writing in your journal/blog, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly.

A word of advice: although some writers use online journals or blogs, the aesthetic experience of journaling with good old-fashioned pen and paper appeals more to the writer within me. It’s your choice, but regardless of your preference, the basic idea is to give your creative self free rein. You may be hard-pressed to sit down “cold” and produce the first chapter of your book, so allow yourself a “warm-up” by journaling.

3. PURCHASE A BOOK OF BABY NAMES

The purchase of a pocket book of baby names can not only be a tool in naming your next character, it can also be used as a way to recharge your imagination. Each week, choose a name or two from the book and develop a character sketch out of the impressions you receive from saying and thinking about the name you’ve chosen. What would this person look like? What personality traits would they possess? Who are their relatives, and what are their names? Where would a person named Beauregard be born, and under what circumstances? How would they dress, and what foods would they prefer?

Whether you’ve chosen Maribelle or Myrtle, develop a person from that name using your impressions and personal poetic license. The stable of characters you create can then be used to people your upcoming short stories or novels, and the plot twists will evolve naturally from your characters’ flaws and weaknesses.

4. HONE YOUR POWERS OF OBSERVATION

If you’re not already an avid people watcher, become one. Begin ferreting out expressions and mannerisms of members of the general public engaged in daily activity. Note any habits that could be used as an effective “tag” for your fictional characters. Carry a small notepad and record not only people’s characteristics or witticisms, but the surroundings, as well. People tend to behave differently depending on whether they’re attending church or attending a football game.

Jot down the flora and fauna of your hometown surroundings, as well as any areas you visit or vacation. Observe the similarities of people living in small towns, mid-sized cities or large, sprawling urban areas. Use these simple notes and observations as a springboard for setting in your next story.

Although your fictional setting may not be a real town, you can easily fool your reader into believing there is a town by adding authentic sights, sounds and smells borrowed from your people/place-watching notes.

5. BRAINSTORM/FREE-ASSOCIATE

Brainstorming and free-association ranks at the top of effective ways to energize your brain cells into a more inventive mode. Simply allow yourself five minutes to jot down any words that come to mind. Put your pen to paper (or your fingers to keyboard) and write as many as you can within the time allotted. Don’t allow your internal critic to censor anything–write every single thing that pops into your mind.

That done, take an additional ten minutes and read each word you wrote down, writing the first words that come to mind when you go back over your initial list. Don’t just shoot for associated words, dig deeper into your subconscious and give voice to any impressions you receive. Once your time is up, study the words you’ve culled from your subconscious. Are there any obvious storylines or characters there?

Play the “what if” game with each of the words. Pair the words together, using different combinations to spark your imagination. Then re-pair them, using the resulting combinations as a beginning for a whole new range of plot/character possibilities.

6. CUT IT OUT!

Cut pictures, photographs and headlines from magazines and newspapers. Anything that strikes your fancy or piques your curiosity should be perfect targets for clipping. Use both people and objects, as well as beautiful scenery that inspires you. Add your collection of clippings to a large basket or box and randomly withdraw five clippings.

Use the clippings to develop a story, asking yourself who, what, why, where, when and how. Who is the little girl in the picture, and where are her parents? What is her hometown like, and how long has she lived there? When is she due home for dinner, and why is she happy/sad in the picture?

7. RELAX, DON’T DO IT

Sometimes one learns to do by not doing. Meditation, creative visualization and guided relaxation may sound like New Age buzzwords to the practical, no-nonsense writer, but any or all of the above can actually help your writing performance. Go to the local library or bookstore and check out the latest books on relaxation. Just as an athlete’s body needs cooling down after it’s been stretched to its physical limits, we as writers need a mental cool down as well.

Choose one day per week to relax by taking a walk, meditating or utilizing creative visualization. Allow your mental processes time for recuperation and repair. If you’re using creative visualization, actually see yourself as successful and productive; explore the feeling finding a check in the mailbox instead of a rejection letter. Let your mind conjure up as many positive, reinforcing images of writing as you can. See yourself in your own mind, and notice how confident and optimistic you are, excited to send off that next book proposal or query letter. Envision how relaxed your shoulders and neck feel; in you, there is no tension, no anxiety. You are a writer; you are doing what you truly love.

Though there are as many ways to inspire your creative self as there are to write a book, these are just some of the little things you can do day by day to stretch your imagination and enhance your productivity. Some may work for you, others may not. But if one single idea benefits you on your quest to become the best writer you can be, then that minuscule amount of effort will reap words upon words of reward.

Infidelity — not something to brag or be flippant about (at least to me)

WARNING — PROBABLY TLDR; THIS IS MY OPINION,SO WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH ME OR NOT DOESN’T MATTER; I’M MERELY EXPRESSING MY REACTION TO A BOOK I’VE READ: Erica Jong’s book, FEAR OF FIFTY, is an enjoyable book — but only when she’s talking about writing. I don’t enjoy when she discusses cheating on her husband(s) with numerous men without a care in the world. It’s so much about her needs and (it seems to me) no thought was given to her then-husband(s). Or, somehow, she makes it seem like they deserved it.

I guess this makes me more conservative than you would imagine, but this is the same reason why I didn’t like THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I found it uncomfortable. I don’t know — it seems very simple to me: if you aren’t happy in your marriage or relationship, separate FIRST or start preps for divorce before you think about hooking up with someone.

Mind you, she wasn’t doing those things much of the time when she was screwing around — she just felt like doing it and she needed to have a tryst, so she pretty much fucked around if she got a yearning or desire to do it, all while carrying on with her marriages.

Now, I know some of you will think I’m too harsh and may disagree with me; however, this is MY view and I do not expect everyone to agree with me. Am I a perfect person? No. Do I make mistakes? Yes. Have I ever fucked another man while married to my husband — either one of them? No, and I never would. To me, marriage IS a sacred agreement.

As for my husband, if I ever found out he was cheating on me, that would be IT. No second chances — period. My view is if they cheat on you once (male or female), they will do it again. A rigid view? Probably. But there are some things I do not forgive. I am married to Paul and I plan to stay that way until one of us shuffles off this mortal coil.

There’s a big difference between looking at the menu and ordering. When you’re married, you do NOT order. Of course, why would I WANT to order off the menu when I have filet mignon at home? Seriously…everything else is inexpensive chopped steak to me (or McDonald’s!) Paul makes me feel like the sexiest, most desirable woman in the world. He also treats me with respect, kindness and honesty (even when I don’t want to hear honesty, lol!) He “gets” me, and that is a RARE thing.

I guess I’m open-minded on many things, but gaily sleeping with numerous men while married (and bragging about it!) is not one of them. I know some couples have open relationships/marriages, but that’s not what I’m talking about here — I’m talking about Erica Jong’s marriages (she’s had many — wonder why? /sarcasm) and my negative reaction to what I see as her frivolous behavior, and a total disrespect for her marriages.

Now, I’m not looking for an extended debate or discussion on this; I’m simply voicing my reaction to this book. I DO enjoy her writing, especially when it’s about her life when she was growing up and her family as well as how she came to be a writer; however, I find myself having a distasteful, negative reaction when it comes to screwing other men (while married) as a way to show how liberated she was/is.

Am I being judgmental? Yes, I am. I have a feminist bent to my personality, but I wouldn’t ever consider fucking another man besides my husband — ever! If you start to think like that, then it’s time to separate or start divorce proceedings. Too bad my reading experience with this book has been marred by such things — but then again, it IS Erica Jong. I should expect it, after all.

I think it’s her flippant attitude that bothers me most. If she felt remorse in some way or, upon reflection, said she maybe didn’t do the right thing, I could respect that. Hell, we all make mistakes and nobody’s perfect. But instead, she brags about her conquests, gives NO thought to her husband (and even if they were not good husbands, they are people and you should at least CONSIDER their feelings!) and seems to celebrate her infidelity as if it’s some sort of huge accomplishment or challenge she HAD to conquer.Anyway, it just hit me the wrong way.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, I can’t count how many women hit on my first husband while we were married (we were married 16 years before he died). I’m not forgiving about that, either. If anyone hits on my husband, they should be prepared for my wrath, ’cause I DO NOT play that shit. Even jokingly. But then again, Paul doesn’t like for people to get too close to him or touch him, anyway.

We had one female client jokingly sit so close to him she was nearly on his lap and she started rubbing his arm and I thought he was gonna gnaw his arm off to get away *laughs*

Not a touchy-feely person with the general public or even acquaintances. We are both like that, in fact. Three feet, 36 inches — keep that intimate space WIDE, people. πŸ™‚

As for Paul, unless you want to lose a limb or be maimed, I wouldn’t recommend it. I’m not tolerant in that way.

So now you know — I actually DO have conservative facets to my personality *gasp!* Do I have to turn in my liberal card now? So…with that said, who else has read this book and what did you think of it? (Damn…this was an unexpected blog post!)

If you don’t “get” me, this is a post for you

To those of you who don’t “get me” or are frustrated at trying to connect with me. Please read and, perhaps, you’ll understand. Or not. At any rate, this is how things are with me, and you can accept them or not. You cannot change the person I am or erase the issues I’ve had all my life. I’m pasting a conversation I had with sister Aspergirl friend, Thorne. In hindsight, I think it was meant for a blog post.

First and foremost, I am an Aspie female. I did not have a clue until last year. **And this is where I pick up from Thorne’s conversation**: “After going through life and wondering what was wrong with me, and learning how to ‘act’ in order to get along with others (the best I can) and cope with my surroundings, it was a relief to find out there was an explanation for it. Now I just wish that some people I know would take the time to understand why I am the way that I am and not ask me to change for them.

My biggest pet peeve is when someone who is not me and who has NOT lived my life tries to tell me I’m THIS but NOT that — and they try to act like they know who I am inside. I think I know myself better than anyone else, quite frankly, and I am most assuredly a female Aspie. I’m also very smart and I have learned to shift my behavior and I’ve had to learn to cope by mimicking others or learning how to respond (there are still situations where I mess it up) throughout my life. I know (Thorne) you’ve had the SAME problems with such things. It’s very annoying! Pretty arrogant for someone else to act like THEY know you better than yourself, isn’t it? Grrrr! I think I’ve lived in this body and with this mind for 48 1/2 years and have had a lot of experiences that they don’t know about, so they can either accept that this IS me or they can pound sand. They don’t get to tell ME who I am, know what I mean? I’m just thinking of the stuff you and I have discussed privately. People can be soo annoying over stuff like this. I’m glad Nan posted it and shared with me!

Like you said, this will definitely come in handy; it would be even handier if you could have a sheet that you carried around and handed out to people when they “just don’t get you.” You could say, “Here, read this!” They probably wouldn’t, because most of them don’t care enough to bother. But still, it’s tempting.”

I always find it interesting that people who would push, scream and cry against you trying to change them or tell them who they are seem all too eager to change YOU or tell YOU who you are or are not. What arrogance! I know who I am, I know all kinds of shit I’ve been through (that YOU know nothing about) and I think I’m more of an expert on ME than you are by far.

I love when I tell people I have PTSD and they try to tell me I couldn’t possibly have it (like my oldest brother did). Hey, why not talk the psychiatrist who diagnosed me (along with several other issues)– how about that? Who the hell is ANYONE to tell ME they are a bigger expert on me than I am MYSELF?! I wouldn’t EVER dare do that to someone else. It’s not my place, and it’s not anyone else’s place to do that to me.

So, the bottom line is that I’m who I am am for a reason, and if I do not fit into your tidy world view or you don’t know how to “deal” or “connect” with me, that’s your issue and not mine. If I cannot “deal” with someone or cannot “connect” with them (and I can be nice and congenial to most people, but I rarely feel a true and deep connection with them — just being honest), I simply decide to keep walking my path and if we find a way to relate, that’s great. If we don’t, I’m not interested in forcing it into being something it’s not.

I will say this — if you have publicly insulted or embarrassed me in the past, there is very little chance I will allow you an opening to do that again. Rude, tactless behavior directed at shaming someone in front of others by drawing attention to their physical appearance is NOT a cool thing to do, and if you truly had compassion, you wouldn’t think of doing that to a so-called friend.

Okay, a long post, but I needed to get it out of my system. If I’ve offended anyone, that’s your issue. You’re welcome to stay, but invited to leave if you do not understand that this is my virtual home and sanctuary and I post whatever I want on my blog without any permission needed. This place is primarily for MY expression and thoughts. You have your own place for YOUR expression and thoughts.

Also, a warning: if you are combative or mean in the comments, you will be removed and blocked. I don’t think anyone will be, but just in case. πŸ™‚ This is a statement I needed to make in a firm, yet authentic, way. It is NOT a post that’s up for debate or examination. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. πŸ˜‰