Reality TV Reality

Of all the “reality” television options, we watch The Amazing Race and American Idol.

I love to travel and have been to some incredible locations like New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, and Ireland. I get a charge out of seeing places I have been as they appear on The Amazing Race. That connection makes it “real” for me.

Dave and I watch together and will discuss which tasks we will or will not do. Eat gross food, search for needles in haystacks, jump off bridges, etc. Which is hilarious when you consider that he will not get on an airplane.

Our other reality show vice is American Idol. We’ve watched every season since the finale of Season One. I was so impressed with Kelly Clarkson when they announced her victory. She sang, she cried, she glowed. I hadn’t seen a single weekly episode, but she gave the show credence, so we watched the following season…and every one since then.

The reason this topic is top of mind is because we saw Scotty McCreery, AI 10th season winner, in concert Friday night here in DeKalb. It was great to see a national act sell out our beautifully restored Egyptian Theater.

A few years ago, at the last minute, we decided to go see Daughtry at the Rockford Metro Centre (or BMO, if you’re looking for accuracy instead of nostalgia). We had front row seats! Chris Daughtry placed 4th in Season 5. I don’t know what America was thinking.

There have been a couple of contestants that we rooted for because we had seen them play live locally. Gina Glocksen, 9th place Season 6, made it the furthest.

But my FAVORITE Reality TV Reality moment was in the DeKalb Wal-Mart parking lot…where Idol Season 3 contestants, #10, Amy Adams, and #7 JENNIFER HUDSON, sang live. On a makeshift stage. In the parking lot. At a Wal-Mart. In DeKalb, IL.

Ah, good times.

What brushes with “reality” television have you had?
Would you consider being ON a show?!
Do share!

 

 

 

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Warrior Pride

1984 was a great book. A decent movie. A groundbreaking commercial. It was an Olympic year, back when they were held every four years. And also an election year. But, by far, the reason it was the BEST year was because 1984 was the year we graduated from Rockford West High school.

It’s been 35 years! Our classmates are over half a century old. Our high school isn’t even a high school anymore. Times have certainly changed in those three and a half decades…we no longer have Geri’s Hamburgers, Machesney Park Mall, or phones attached to the wall with curly cords stretched and tangled from hours of use. Instead we have Uber Eats, Amazon, and smartphones.

Luckily we still have Diet Coke (1982), Cabbage Patch Kids (1982), and Bon Jovi (1984).

In our 50+ years of life, my fellow graduates and I have experienced much love, extreme loss, and personal growth. We have had our ups and downs and hopefully find ourselves all these years later in a good place.

Whenever I think about my high school, I hear this cheer in my head:
Stand Up, Be Proud
Say Your Name, Out Loud–
We are the Warriors!
The Mighty Mighty Warriors!
Say hey!
Hey!
(repeat)

You might deduce from the tone of this post that I liked high school. I did.
I love that I still have friends from that time (some even longer) to experience our life adventures with and reminisce as needed. I realize not everyone has positive memories of that time, but I trust things are better now and I hope you’ll attend the planned get-together and share your successes.

With our 35th Reunion coming up this summer, I thought it would be interesting to share our Warrior Pride. I need your help with this.

The premise is simple–
I want to know what makes YOU PROUD. Send me details about something you have achieved, overcome, or accomplished that you are proud of. A couple of words, a few sentences, a paragraph or two. It could be anything from purchasing your dream home to finding a satisfying job or dedicated relationship. Overcoming an illness or physical limitation to being the delighted grandparent of one or many. Whatever has happened that took effort and deserves recognition. I will post the stories to our class Facebook page–so make sure you are prepared for the accolades and recognition!

For those readers who are not Warriors from the Class of ’84, but are equally PROUD, I encourage you to consider applying this exercise in your own lives. Call your friend and tell them why you appreciate them. High-five a co-worker and give kudos for a job well done. Share your own story with someone who could benefit from it. Reminisce and take pride in what you’ve accomplished over the years, whether it be five or fifty!

Life is all about growing and changing and dealing with challenges.
Let’s celebrate the good.
Be mighty.
Be PROUD.

Send your Pride stories to MFLamphereAuthor@gmail.com
Or Private Message me on Facebook.

Rockford West High Class of 1984 35th Reunion
Saturday, July 13, 2019  7 pm at The Olympic Tavern
RSVP to the Class Facebook Page for updates and details.

 

 

 

 

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Spring Cleaning

There’s just nothing quite like the first real day of open windows and cross-breeze in the spring. That day was Sunday for me. Sure, it was kind of humid, it rained a little, but honestly, the air felt fresh and soft and I welcomed it.

I did a deep clean of my closet. Packing up the bulky sweaters, optimistically moving the capris and shorts to the front shelves, and organizing the piles and stacks that seem to accumulate over the winter months. For the first time IN MY CLOSET LIFE, I organized my shirts on hangers by category. No, I do not have OCD. Trust me on this. I do, however, have a decent sized closet all to myself.

For this once in a lifetime sorting, my t-shirt categories included: Fave shirts (corgi, JHS, etc), Sports tees and jerseys (White Sox, Icehogs, Blackhawks), Writer shirts (In Print, Word of Art, NaNo, etc), and Band tees, of which I have 36. That seems like a lot. Is that a lot? I proudly wear a handful of classic bands like the Beatles, the Ramones, and Prince (none of whom I’ve seen live), and a ton of those I have seen. Everyone from Cheap Trick, Billy Squier, and Kaleo to shirts I’ve made myself for local faves like the Dog and Everything, Ophur, and Jonathan Richman.

I packed up a LARGE box of clothes to donate, which I’ve already loaded into my car for drop off.

I know it’s only a closet and NO ONE will see it, but I feel good.

The forecast for today is promising…maybe too promising. There’s spring cleaning weather, then there’s go outside and PLAY weather.

Either way, it’s a win-win.

 

 

 

 

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Free Time, a short story

I was talking to a reader about my novel Pocket Money yesterday and in a slip of the tongue, it was called Pocket Change. That reminded me I had written a short story titled Pocket Change. Pocket Money is a psychological thriller about four friends who reunite for a day of memories…and murder.  (And it’s available on Amazon!) It’s told from a male perspective. The short story is the tale of a young woman escaping an abusive relationship–she realizes she’s as disposable to him as pocket change.

I thought I’d post that story today. It’s been a while since I shared my writing with you. (The next novel is coming, I promise!)

Of course, I couldn’t find Pocket Change, but I did come across this Prompt Club submission I originally wrote in March of 2012. I hope you enjoy it.

Free Time

I don’t think there was a single person on earth who recognized the initial stages of the invasion. It happened gradually and seemed like a blessing at first.

I was happy to be so productive! I’d set my ten-minute project timer and actually make headway before it dinged encouraging me to move onto another task. I have found that I’m more productive if I break my day into little bites. Ten minutes up – cleaning or walking on the treadmill, then ten minutes on my butt at the computer doing work. Well, ten minutes of work and then a timer reset for goofing around, playing online games or checking email. But then ten minutes up again. No, really!

I remember bragging to my husband about finishing several hours of work in half the time. I was completing projects, lots of them, despite the usual distractions and life interruptions. He matched me brag for brag, proud of the efficiency of his entire office.

Soon, it seemed, I could get through a full day’s to-do list in barely one hour, checking the clocks regularly with disbelief. My time-wasting skills were obviously improving, too, as I could play my games, read my books, check my social networks repeatedly and still have time to spare. There was no need for the timer anymore. With all this free time I was able to get everything, plus some, done. For the first time in my adult life, I was bored.

I began taking breaks throughout the day. More than a luxury, a catnap became a necessity. I also found myself snacking more frequently but I didn’t seem to gain weight. Must be all the running around getting things done, right? Who was I to complain?!

My two dogs, Alvin and Nomi, were showing signs of incessant unrest, their behavior erratic and unbalanced. They slept fitfully, ate and drank constantly, and barked often for no apparent reason. The cat, Poobah, on the other hand, registered no visible changes.

Our evenings were off, too. I’d have dinner ready when the hubby got home, as always, although the planning got tricky because preparation went faster. We’d eat and settle in for a night of relaxation and television. I’m a big fan of the DVR and the ability to fast-forward through commercial breaks, but I had to wonder how long the shows were since we could zip through four “half hour” programs and the digital clock on the cable box would only have jumped by a dozen minutes. Then we’d need a nap. Barely a quarter past eight and we couldn’t keep our eyes open! We joked about getting old, but then we began to adapt. We’d watch a couple of shows, nap, wake up, eat, watch some more, maybe read… Repeat as necessary. It grew ever more necessary.

Plants were growing so fast, you could watch them develop. Crops were abundant. Until they withered and died on the vine before they could be harvested. And the weeds! It was impossible to keep up with mowing, spraying, and weeding. Even the most dedicated of lawn-tenders became overwhelmed by the junglelike growth.

The rest of society was equally advancing, and regressing. The headlines screamed efficiency, blared productivity, and blasted down-sizing and the increase of unemployment. Unexpectedly, fifteen employees could get the work of fifty accomplished in roughly one day’s shift. Sudden “advancements” allowed trans-continental flights and cross-country truckers to deliver in record time. It was amazing and unreliable since it messed with predetermined schedules. Unable to adapt as proficiently as individuals, the industrial world began tumbling like a row of dominoes.

The morning I awoke to Alvin’s stiff and aged body, I cried and cried for what seemed like hours, but of course, it wasn’t. Poor pup was only three years old! Barely legal in dog years. By that afternoon, Nomi was staggering on geriatric joints, her breath labored and her fur almost completely white. I held her as she huffed her last exhale. She would have been two next month, still a puppy. Poobah had gone out for her evening prowl a couple of nights ago and not returned.

The days expanded, filling to their brim. First with swollen seconds, then with bloated minutes, followed by engorged hours. Our clocks read familiar, keeping the same time as always with no inkling of exaggeration. They were ticking off seconds, the same sixty it had always taken to complete a rotation, but they were ticks of lies.

Time became international news. Scientists and science-fictionists joined forces to theorize. The conclusion was Hyper-deceleration. They believed the time that humanity had always known was losing velocity. Slowing down.

The death toll rose exponentially with the expanse of each moment. Children grew as if on time-lapse, their tiny bodies ill-prepared for the kind of forced maturity the overstuffed hours generated. Fatigue, starvation, heart conditions, hastening of cancers and even treatable disorders; life as we knew it was no longer the rule. Globally, people were dropping like fruit flies on day three. Our corporeal bodies could not keep up with the extended hours.

Sunrise to sunset became an unbearably long day.

When we were exhausted and overwhelmed, completely confused on all levels, and thinning out with mad swiftness, they made themselves known.

By then, what had it been? A month? Six weeks our time? With very little technology still functioning, they managed to hijack a signal and relay a message. “We awake in peace,” a mechanized voice uttered unhurriedly, followed by what sounded strangely like a chuckle.

It was difficult for the remaining survivors to understand the concept of time as a physical thing. Aliens, sentient beings with their own agenda. Lying dormant for thousands, maybe millions, of years while man evolved on man’s time.

They had awakened and their activity wreaked havoc on humanity.

I outlasted my husband by, oh, who’s to say how long? Maybe two years in human time, maybe milliseconds now. It’s irrelevant. Life, I mean. And time.

(Author’s note: This is a version of the original story. Yes, seven years later, there are things I would like to change, lol, but that’s one additional affect of time, right?)

 

 

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Thank You Social Media for making Me a Better Person

Yes, you read that right.
The subject for this post came to me the other morning as I was looking up a “fact” I read on Facebook. I usually hit delete on incendiary posts, things that shock, mock, attack, or outright lie. But this one intrigued me. Instead of scrolling through the heated outrage listed in the comments, I took the time to actually look up the information being promoted.

You know what I knew about this particular post?
Um, not much. (Happens often.)
So, I Googled it.

I wondered why all the hubbub and persecution regarding this topic.
I have the power to look it up!
Now I know.
I am sympathetic, perhaps empathetic, most definitely knowledgeable, of the facts.
I am confident I could participate in a conversation regarding said topic without name-calling, swearing, or otherwise throwing shade.

Let’s admit it–
We spend a LOT of time on social media.
Reading, tweeting, liking, sharing, commenting, etc.
We are being influenced. We are influencing.
Time to take responsibility.

If you’re reading posts on social media, you’re probably online.
The next time you come across something that seems too good (or too bad) to be true, look it up. It probably is.

I wish people would stop sharing memes that propagate misinformation and hate.
Just because you want to believe it’s true, doesn’t make it true.
And to that I ask, why do you want it to be true?

I’ve noticed an uptick in positive posts in my feed lately.
Some days I laugh, I cry, I feel encouraged.
Is the social media world changing?
Becoming sympathetic, empathetic, more knowledgeable?
I’d like to believe we have that kind of power.

 

 

 

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The Devil Made Me Do It

It’s been a very long winter…and much television has been consumed. I’ve referenced binge-watching a couple of times in my posts. I’ve always mentioned how it’s not really my thang. With the DVR and Netflix, we already watch enough TV in the evening hours, I don’t need to be filling my days with idiot-box viewing also.

Or do I?

Like I mentioned, long winter.

I eagerly watched the entire series of Sex Education. 16 episodes, each less than an hour. The relationships and interactions are wonderful. I adore BFF Eric.

Be warned, it’s pretty graphic. Not overly gross or anything, but if they don’t open with nudity, are you even watching Sex Education?

I zoomed through Russian Doll. At only 8 half-hour episodes, there is NO reason NOT to watch this show. You have the time. Right now. Go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also kind of graphic. But everyone is a grown-up, so it feels less obvious.

I’m also enjoying The Magicians. 4 seasons, 13 episodes each. I am into the third season. The magic and mythology informs my Pandora series.

But, my current FAVORITE is Lucifer, a character inspired by Neil Gaiman. Seasons 1-3 air on FOX, but it has been picked up by Netflix for season 4. I’m making ridiculous progress through the series…I blame the set-up and mere seconds between episodes for my addiction. One episode ends with a cliff-hanger but it’s okay because the next starts NOW! It’s silly, predictable, crime-solving fun but with a twist of religion tossed in. Also good research for my contemporary mythology novels.

I have to tell you, I was getting a little nervous…season three episode twelve begat episode thirteen begat fourteen, etc and I thought, OH NO! I’m almost at the end…but THEN! Then I realized it’s a network program with network seasons and I get 26 episodes! That made me very happy.

Honestly, it’s the little things.

What are you watching? Enjoying? Binging?
If you haven’t watched what I’ve watched, there’s still time.
Winter in the Midwest will last a couple more weeks, don’t let those “nice” days fool you.

Go ahead and binge.
Then, let’s discuss.

 

 

 

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Does Word Count Matter?

Word count for novels comes up frequently at my meetings and conferences. Yes, there are guidelines. There are averages and expectations. Agents, editors, and publishers might actually give you a number goal, but I hold to the idea that the story takes as many words as it takes, and not a word more. Or less.

A friend and fellow writer is working on an historical novel that runs 220,000 words. My six publications probably do not total that word count. That does not make her wrong, it just makes her reaaaaaaally dedicated to her story. That’s how many words she needs to tell her tale.

At a recent writer’s meeting, we were each discussing our progress. I said I guessed I was about 30,000 words shy of completion. A newbie asked me how I knew that? Where’d I get that number? First of all, it’s not a hard and fast number. It’s not like if/when I hit 80,000 words I will stop typing. Mid-sentence. But that would be funny. If I fall short, I also will not fill to hit a set target. I told him I’m about 50k in and I’m more than halfway through telling my tale. Plus, experience shows, my stories run about 80 thousand words.

With the expansion of indie publishing and the continued growth of e-books, word count matters less now than it used to. An industry big five may not be interested in the major investment of printing a 220k sweeping historical romance by a debut author, but that author could self-pub. It may cost more for print books and they’d have to raise their price point to make a buck, but it’s absolutely their option. And hybrid publishers, vanity, and indie presses are always eager to take your money and print your book.

That same sprawling novel on Kindle probably costs the same as Pocket Money, my 50,000 word count e-book.  (That’s $2.99, in case you were wondering.) Without paper, ink, and print costs, digitalizing levels the reading field.

As you are writing, you may certainly use word count as your guide. Most YA stories run between 55,000 and 80,000 words. Historical fiction is between 80k and 100k. Sci-fi/Fantasy novels are usually about 90k to 120k. Those’re mighty broad windows, don’t you think? Plenty of wiggle room to write your best words. Guidelines, not hard-and-fast lines. If your story is perfect at forty-seven thousand words, congratulations, perfect stories are hard to come by! 

When you talk about how long your novel is, always use word count as reference. It’s a language other writers speak. When asked “How long is your book?”, one should never respond with page count. That factors in margins, page breaks, font, size, formatting, etc. and can imply wildly different results.

The most important thing is, and always has been, to tell a good story.
And use as many, and few, words as it takes to do just that.

Word count? Make your words count!

“Three carefully stringed words are worth more than a book of gibberish. It’s not the word count but the impact of those words that counts.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich

“It’s not about how many words you write, but how good those words are.”
― Oliver Markus Malloy, Inside The Mind of an Introvert

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