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Is it real…or it is AI?

Is it me writing this blog post right now? Are you sure? I mean, someone at my house might have borrowed my computer and decided to pretend to be me for a few minutes and write a blog post. That’s pretty unlikely, though, since the computer scans my face for security. My child looks kind of like me, but not enough to access my computer. And my husband would just, well, never do that. So it’s probably me, right? Sure. I assure you today that it is me. But what if someday, it’s not? I could go to an AI app and put in a few key words about what I want in my blog, and the AI would spit out a full article, most likely saying the gist of what I want it to say. Boy, that would save me time, wouldn’t it? I could be a writer, but I wouldn’t even have to write! I wish they had AI for social work, too. I could just stay in bed all day while the AI counsels people and provides them with resources. Oh, what’s that you say? You say that you can do text therapy now, and the AI therapist just responds appropriately to what you tell it? Uh…

I like the idea of AI for some things. It’s kind of fascinating. It would help for some of the drudge work of research, for one thing. I mean, do we really even need to learn how to do research anymore if there is a mechanized way to do it? It would open all sorts of time for other scientific projects and thing. But I draw the line at the AI writing up the paper after the research is done. There is, and always will be, a human side to experimentation and learning. I don’t want to read a paper that was produced by a machine. I want to know who it was that wrote it, and I want to know a bit about their background. It would be like I decided to become a writer, plugged an idea into AI, let it take off and write the story, and then let it market the story on its own, by producing ads and videos. Then all I would have to do would be to show up to book signings. Maybe. I mean, maybe the AI can somehow make that work, too. Does this sound appealing to you? Because it doesn’t to me. My brother Jonathan decided to give it a try recently. He plugged the main premise of my newly released book (May I Have Your Attention Please, found on Amazon) into an AI app and set it free. The idea was, a boy and a girl are reunited after being in different schools for a year, and they fall in love. It is 1984. They both have some issues they are dealing with at home, and they are also dealing with the ups and downs of growing up and falling in love. So my brother read me what the AI wrote. And it was pretty close to my story. Not perfect, but close. It took the story in another direction, but it probably just needed a bit more information to get it right. Ok, that scared me. Is my talent as a writer going to be obsolete in a few years? Are writers going to be a thing of the past? I can see committees sitting in a room coming up with story ideas, and then passing them off to AI. I really, really don’t like that idea.

What else can AI do? It can produce images from key words. So that means that pretty soon, once everyone has access to these resources, stock photos will be a thing of the past. We can all create our own images, and they will belong to us. So far in this post, I have shown you two pictures of girls. These are images that I produced with AI yesterday in an experiment. I plugged in a description of my main character, Sally Bachman. Here is what I asked for:

“Sixteen-year-old white, Jewish girl in 1984, pretty, full length image, blue eyes, shoulder length brown hair, solid pink button-down shirt with puffy sleeves, wearing blue jeans, 1984 style hair and makeup, 34-inch chest. Show all of the girl.” And here is what I ended up with (in addition to the two photos above):

The first girl, on top of this post, looks like a mannequin. There is no escaping that fact. The second one looks like she is at her own murder trial. The third looks like some sort of weird portrait from the 1800s, the fourth is missing a face, and the fifth is most definitely possessed by the devil. NOT ONE OF THESE GIRLS LOOKS LIKE A REAL PERSON!!!! And none of them are wearing the clothing I specified. And what is the AI definition of pretty? Apparently not the same as mine. I might have been able to be a bit more specific, but not one of these girls has a 34-inch chest, amiright?

The next picture still isn’t right, but it’s at least, right-er:

She doesn’t look like I’d imagine Sally, but she looks more in the area of what Sally would look like. And why no blue jeans??? Maybe AI just can’t make real people. I have seen some drawings and other images that were pretty cute with cartoons. I might be asking too much. Just for funsies, I’m going to show you a few I got of James. The clothing is pretty good, but, ugh, the boys:

What, may I ask, is going on with those eyes? ALL of those eyes!

These next two are pretty decent. I changed James’s age from 16 to 17 and specified wavy hair, which made it a bit longer.

But still, someone needs to work on making the AI eyes a bit more realistic. These two guys look like people I might have actually gone to junior high school with. And James’s appearance is actually based on one of those people. Okay, so one win for AI images.

So that is all I am going to show you. I also tried to make some images for my future book covers (although I have an excellent cover designer. I was just goofing around) and they weren’t bad. I am thinking, AI just not good at faces. At all. But I’m glad a had a chance to play around. With Dall-E, you can get a free account with fifteen credits and month. I used up all my credits just trying to get Sally and James right, so no more credits until a month from now. If I want more, I have to pay. That doesn’t seem right. Maybe for fifteen results. You couldn’t have to use your credits for an image that doesn’t come out anything like what you were looking for. Heavy sigh. I just hope that AI keeps having problems. I guess it will be really good for my job(s) security. Small blessings.

Here again are the links to my Facebook page, Debby Meltzer Quick Author, and TikTok, @dbmquick. Please follow me on these pages. And please explore my page here at debbymeltzerquickauthor.com.

Thank you for making it to the end of my blog post! Have a great week!

Marketing, Promoting, and Social Media…A Trifecta of Fun!

And so the games begin! I am getting much closer to my goal of self-publishing my first book, May I Have Your Attention Please. I am hoping I can push the publish button on KPD in about six weeks if everything goes as planned. As I may have mentioned before, writing the book is the easy part. Editing is tedious, but it is necessary to perfect (as much as possible) my art before I get it out to the public. Formatting seems like kind of a bear, but I’m figuring it out. So what is the hard part then, Debby? Please do tell?

It’s that part where you know that some time soon, your book is going to be released into the wild. And wild it is. No one knows what’s out there in the dangerous world of books and book sales. What becomes a best seller? Will people read my book, and if they do, will they like it? Or will they find out the horrible truth about me: that I am an imposter.

Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and it is very common in writers and authors. According to Wikipedia, “Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud…Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck.” Yes. Who am I to believe that others could like words that came out of my brain? But I do have one thing on my side: I have enlisted Beta-readers, several wonderful people who have read my first book and given me feedback. And guess what? They didn’t hate my book. As a matter of fact, they really liked it, and some of them weren’t even people I knew or family members, and I wasn’t paying them to like it! So, I know I have some good stuff, but now I have to convince millions of people out there that I have good stuff, and they should shell out their hard earned money to buy and read it. I mean, I could just give it away for free, but to be honest, if you pay for a book, you are much more likely to read it. Seriously. A lot of the time, I don’t even read the books I do pay for. You should see my To Be Read pile. It’s up to my waist.

So how do I let people know to buy my book, and the right people? First, I have to decide who I think the right people would be. My book takes place in a high school, with high school kids. Does this make it appropriate for high school students? Well, maybe. I mean, they can relate to the kids, even though the setting is the 1980s. Kids are kids. But not all kids might like it. I think a lot would. There is some, shall we say, intimacy, in my books. It’s not explicit, but it’s there, and it’s clearly implied. That is why you never let your family read your books. Just kidding. They did, and I was horrified. But I digress. So high school kids, young adults. Ok. But as my series progresses, my stories start in high school, move out of the high school setting, into college, and in some, beyond college into adulthood, with adult issues. And my books start delving into some pretty serious subjects, like grief and loss, mental illness, substance abuse, religious abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse. Not graphic or horribly described, but the topics are there. They are a main part of the story. So new adults might enjoy these books as well. What are new adults? They are part of a new genre of readers that have turned or passed the age of 18. They are learning their way out there in a world full of responsibilities. They are coming of age, just like my characters. Who else can relate to my characters? 1980s kids. Generation X. My characters were mainly born in 1968. If you were born around that time, and you read my series, you will get a nostalgic feel from them, and you might be thrown back in time for a short while. Hopefully your 1980s were not filled with angst and pain. If so, maybe skip my books, or rewrite your own 1980s story, like I did with mine. And the last group of people I know enjoyed my books? Men in their late 40s-late 50s! I had four of these men read my book, and they all enjoyed it. That was a pleasant surprise. So maybe my books are for everyone (over the age of 14).

But to be honest, when people look at my book cover and read the blurb on the back, I am guessing they will think teen love story, and they are not wrong. It is a sweet love story about Sally Bachman and James Newell. And it has a happy ending, at least for the main characters. So it’s probably best that I market toward young women, YA and NA genres, Coming of Age Romance readers. And hope that their moms and dads pick up their copy someday and get hooked. So here’s the 15 million dollar question: where to you find these young people who would maybe want to read my book? And the most obvious, and truest answer, is TikTok. I mean, all social media, but have you been to TikTok? I hadn’t. I knew my teen child is obsessed with it, and always has their eyes glued to something on the screen, but I wrote it off to being a kid magnet, and never even bothered to look. But then I did. And you know what? It is a kid thing. But I’m absolutely hooked now! I love it! I found Booktok, a group (millions of people) who love books and reading and love talking about books and reading. And these people? THEY BUY BOOKS! Lots of them! And they review them! And they have thousands and thousands of followers! So if you can tap into these people (primarily young women) you have found a gigantic door to best seller heaven.

But the 20-million-dollar question is how do you tap in? And that, my friends, is where TikTok loses me. I have posted videos of me talking, of funny things my pets do, of text, and now, today, I made one of me coming to the coffee shop to show my writing process. Some of my posts have gotten 600-700 views and close to one hundred likes. Some others, which are similar have gotten around 100 views and maybe 15 likes. I know some of the formula. You need to use hashtags. You need to find out what is trending and get on that trend. Ok. Each time you put in a hashtag, you get to find out how many times that hashtag has been used by others. So you want to choose the ones that have 13.4 million uses, as opposed to “created a new hashtag.” So I do that. Then, there is the music. You can attach a clip to your video or post, or not. TikTok will automatically attach one if you don’t, and then you will have to either switch it to one you like or delete it. So again, you want songs that are trending. What do you do if your brand is the 1980s? You want to use 1980s music. It is very distinctive, and as soon as people hear it, they know where it came from. But unfortunately, most of it isn’t trending. I tried using “Running Up That Hill,” which I never even heard in the 80s, but apparently was very popular. It was trending due to the show “Stranger Things.” But I guess I missed that bus, because it didn’t seem to help me much. But, seriously, the music that’s trending? Like my mother used to say about my Eric Clapton CDs back when I was a teen, “that stuff hurts my ears!” Ugh. I’m old, I know. But 2020s music does not go with a pitch to sell a 1980s themed book, and series. I asked my followers what they thought would help. I was told little snippets from my book. So, I’ve been doing that. And I included the first few in this post so you can see and be intrigued, in case you are one of everyone, and might like my book. And I did the “behind the scenes at the coffee shop” that I am going to post later in the day, after I attached a trending noise song, but turn the volume all the way down so it can’t be heard, a trick someone told me about yesterday.

So, my plea to you is check out my TikTok, see my pitches, and buy my book, for your teenage niece, your Gen X sister, and your 55-year-old male coworker. But if you give it to him, maybe put in a discrete brown paper bag. He has an image to maintain, you know!


Here again are the links to my Facebook page, Debby Meltzer Quick Author, and TikTok, @dbmquick. Please follow me on these pages. And please explore my page here at debbymeltzerquickauthor.com.

Cover Reveal is Near!

Here it is, my first teaser for my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please,” which will hopefully be available for sale in late March or early April. It all depends on when it gets back to me from the copy editor, and how many corrections need to be made! Then I have to fumble through the formatting for both e-book and paperback and hope it all turns out the way I want it! But at least, by the end of next week, you will all know what to look for as far as a cover when you are searching for my book on Amazon. Soon.

So not a long post today. I am busy writing away on book 6 in the series, and I also completed a 5035-word side story for book 5. It was fun! Now, I am concentrating on making videos for TikTok and posts on my face book author page, to promote the cover reveal. My designer made some nice graphics for me, and I look forward to sharing them. I am also spending an ungodly amount of time on TikTok and Facebook following people, so they follow me back. I am close to 500 followers on Facebook, which is hard to do, because Facebook puts restrictions on you when you try to follow pages too quickly. They think you’re a bot. I mean, it’s great that they check for these things, unless it’s happening to you. I get logged off of my page at least 20 times per day lately. Find followers, Facebook tells you. But don’t do it too fast, even though we didn’t tell you this before you started! TikTok limits how many people you can follow, but you can come back shortly after and follow more. I’m at about 2200 followers on TikTok. Please be one of them! Oh, also, I was restricted from Instagram, and I have no idea why, except for not using it for months. I had to send them a selfie of me holding a paper with numbers on it to prove I was actually me. Ugh, I hardly ever post anything on there anyway, but I thought it might be fun to put my cover reveal teasers there. Not so fun after all!

Here again are the links to my Facebook page, Debby Meltzer Quick Author, and TikTok, @dbmquick. Please follow me on these pages. And please explore my page here at debbymeltzerquickauthor.com.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you come back next week!

C’mon and Zoom Zoom

The news was not good for us Gen X kids this week. We lost Lisa Marie Presley, Jeff Beck, and Adam Rich. Lisa Marie and Adam were both the same age at me. So was Ken Block, who I have never heard of, but also died this week. Does that make me feel old? No, they both died very young. It’s tragic. And bad things happen in threes. Usually.

What makes me feel old is that Adam Rich was the youngest child in my childhood favorite television series, “Eight is Enough” from 1977 through 1981. He played Nicholas Bradford, the adorable but bratty and lovable imp with seven older siblings who were always getting into mischief one way or another every Wednesday night starting when I was in fourth grade. No, what makes me feel old is that fact that in my mind, Nicholas Bradford is still 12 years old, and always will be. But he was not. Adam Rich was 54 years old, and “Eight is Enough” was on TV FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO! How can that even be, when I’m clearly not a day over 31? When I was in fifth grade, my friend and I would watch the show religiously every week, practically taking notes to compare the next day so we could then reenact the scenes we loved the most, with the characters we admired and loved the most, on the playground during recess. Yes, it’s pretty corny to look back at, but 42 years have gone by since those lunchtime games, and she’s still the first person I thought of when I heard that Adam Rich had passed away. Safe passage, Adam.

It’s also hard because I am deep into writing my series, “McKinney High Class of 1986,” and my brain has been firmly planted in that era for hours each day since November 2021. I think in the 80s now, I think about what the kids would be doing, and saying to each other, what they would be wearing, what music they would listen to, and of course, what shows they would be watching on TV. Well, if we were talking about fourth grade, I can tell you it was “Eight is Enough.” But what else captivated our time and attention back then? What did TV have to offer in the days just prior to and during the music video era, when we turned our attention to MTV, VH1, and “Friday Night Videos?”

Looking back at it now, I cringe to think about what we watched back then. I’m going to share a list of the shows I was enamored with back then, and a little bit about them, and then I’m gonna wonder what it was that made us watch. Remember, this was an era when to change the channel, we actually had to get off our butts from our cozy chairs and couches and actually approach the television sets to turn a dial. So we had to be committed to what we were going to watch for the next hour if we didn’t want to be bothered to get up again. So let’s take a look:

  • Miami Vice: Wow. I used to love that show so much! I couldn’t wait to see what kind of adventure Crockett and Tubbs would have that week, and what cool outfits they would be sporting, what color blazer over what color tee shirt. Basically, they were lovable and macho cops, in mild Miami, hitting the hard streets to eradicate crime and lock up the bad guys. And they had a wicked good soundtrack. Glenn Frye actually guest starred in one episode, “Smuggler’s Blues,” which featured his hit song of the same name. And Phil Collins was in “Phil the Shill,” featuring his song, “Life is a Rat Race.” Those guys were way awesome. Still are (RIP Glenn). Okay, confession: I used to go to watch Miami Vice at my high school with the boys in the dorm (I didn’t live in the dorms), and I felt so cool, hanging out with the guys, watching the coolest show on TV at the time. Well, then they watched “Damien, Omen 3” and that was totally uncool, and I can still see the guy pulling back the hair to reveal the “666” on the kid’s head…but I digress. Miami Vice: Cool in the 80s. Misogynistic, campy, and horrible in retrospect. But good memories, nonetheless.
  • Murder She Wrote: I don’t have much to say about this show that I watched, which had about 10 other variations of older, professional type people who somehow got themselves sucked into murder mysteries they had to solve, week after week. There were doctors, writers, lawyers, ex-wives of millionaires, actually millionaires with nothing better to do, and many others. The interesting thing is it took about 40 years for viewers to finally figure out the big twist. The question was: why did these people always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when these murders happened in the first place? Well, the answer is actually pretty obvious: IT WAS BECAUSE THEY WERE THE REAL MURDERERS! Couldn’t anyone see it back then?? Were we that oblivious to the truth? They framed all those innocent people at the end of each show! They were actually serial killers!!!! Okay, okay, I’m alright now. All is well. “Murder She Wrote,” “Diagnosis: Murder,” “Matlock,” and “Hart to Hart:” Good back then, and since many of the repeats are still shown in syndication today, still good today, if you can get past the whole SERIAL KILLER thing.
  • The Love Boat and Fantasy Island: I put these two together because they were inseparable. They were on every Saturday night for, like, my whole childhood through college. When I was a teenager, I babysat for my cousins every Saturday night; I had a raging social life as you can see. After I put the kids to bed, the only option to keep me occupied until the parents came home was these two shows. And God forbid they came home before the dramatic conclusion of that night’s Fantasy Island! So, Love Boat: Basically, go on a cruise to meet your soul mate, and a few days later, you leave the ship announcing your engagement. Or go on with your horrible spouse, and rekindle the romance, and have a renewal of vows. Or maybe you go on the cruise to have a wedding at sea, but learn that your fiancĂ© is a turd, and fall in love with his best friend, or brother, and in the end, the wedding is cancelled, but no one cares, because you found true love. And then there is the lovable crew of misfits who run the place under the strong guidance of Captain Stubing (Murray from the Mary Tyler Moore show). If you are really lucky, you will disembark from the ship and catch a plane right to Fantasy Island to have your biggest wish come true. But maybe, watch out what you wish for… Mr. Roarke, your host. And you get to watch his witty rapport with Tattoo, his, what? Assistant? Mr. Roarke always freaked me out. Who the hell was that guy? Some people think he was some kind of angel, but I’m pretty sure he’s, well, the other thing. But on one episode, he actually did battle with Roddy McDowall (the guy from Planet of the Apes) as the devil. Hmm. I don’t think so. Okay, prognosis: Loved the shows in the 80s, don’t know how I would have lived without them every week. Maybe I would have read a book, who knows. Now? Yikes. Yeah, no. I have seen the repeats. No thank you. Uh uh. And recently I saw a remake of Fantasy Island. People. Please. Leave well enough alone. We had to live in the 80s. The kids today don’t deserve the torture! And what was with adding a kid to the cast of Love Boat? Jumping the shark? Vicky Stubing (the captain’s “illegitimate” daughter whose mother died, who he never knew about, and who stowed away on his ship and became part of his crew, intending to add cuteness (?) to the show?). No Vicky ruined the show. And does anyone remember Typhoid Julie?
  • Sitcoms that we endured watched lovingly in my youth: “Charles in Charge” (I deeply regret how Scott Baio turned out), “It’s Your Move” (Jason Bateman: swoon then, swoon now), “The Cosby Show” (which should never be on TV again for obvious reasons), “My Two Dads’ (but not in the way you would think), “Night Court” (Classic, but why the remake?), “Alf” (okay, wicked funny), “Cheers” (the best comedy in history, unchallenged), “Growing Pains” (again, sorry for Kirk Cameron, ew), “Family Ties” (a favorite…ahead of its time, and introduced us to the unparalleled Michael J. Fox), and lastly, “Saved by the Bell” (oh come on, those kids were not real. Did those kids go to your high school? They certainly didn’t go to mine!). Back then: Loved them all except “Saved by the Bell,” even if I did watch it from time to time…Now: Cosby-no. 2 Dads-had a chance to do something awesome, but didn’t, still love Paul Reiser. I later met one of the guys in “It’s Your Move” in college, so that was cool, so yes to that one (and did I mention Jason Bateman? Oh, I did?). The rest were pretty good. I would maybe watch them again. Oh, not Charles in Charge. I forgot that one. No. I think we’ve had enough of the down and out kid who ends up getting the hot blond girlfriend at the same time as endearing small children and their parents. And Scott Baio. No.

Okay, so that was sort of fun, going back down memory lane. Man, TV was really different back then. Thank goodness for music videos. Back then: awesome. Now: today’s kids: “what the heck is a music video? What’s a VJ? Isn’t that a female body part??? Wait-TVs had dials? What’s vertical hold?”

One last note: I will be starting the cover reveal for my upcoming book, “May I Have Your Attention Please,” starting next week on my Facebook page, Debby Meltzer Quick Author, and on TikTok, @dbmquick. Please follow me on these pages. And please explore my page here at debbymeltzerquickauthor.com.

As always, thanks for reading to the end! Have a great week!

What’s in a Name?

Seventeen years ago, I had to name a child. I mean, I guess I could have NOT named the child, but that would have led to much mayhem and confusion. I poured over baby naming books, asked friends, looked at surveys of popular names, and asked my family. I finally came up with a name for a girl and a name for a boy (I didn’t have a reveal of gender, and I’m glad I didn’t because I am not a fan. Our kids tell us their gender when they are ready). I told my mother what I wanted to name my child if it was a boy. Her reply? “…Oh.” Now it’s funny, but back then it was frustrating. You can find a reason to not name your child any name. They could be teased, or there could end up being a mass murderer with the same name. Imagine what it must have been like for Adolph Smith back in the 1940s. So how did I end up naming my child the name I chose? Well, I spent one night in desperation two weeks before my due date looking at every name in a book with 500 names. I tried each one on in my head, looked at their meanings, and thought if I would want to call my child that name when I was angry at them (along with the requisite middle name, which had already been chosen-both of my grandmothers had the same first name. No brainer). Finally, I found a name that I didn’t have any problems with, and it just happened to be the name of someone I really cared about in the past, and I had my name.

Now it’s seventeen and a half years later, and my child hates their name. Oh well. Best intentions, right?

What other things do we have to name? Pets, businesses, a tune, a price, etc. Some people name their cars, and others, their genitalia. Bomber planes and rocket ships. Ocean liners, trains. Lots of modes of transportation, and most likely they are women’s names. My favorite is Enola Gay. It always stuck with me, even thought that plane was a vehicle for an atomic bomb. It was probably also the name of some pilot’s sweetheart or daughter.

What does naming things have to do with writing, you may ask? No, you probably already know the answer. Authors have to name tons of things, and I often get asked how I come up with names. There are titles, chapters, characters, fictional agencies and school, towns, businesses. And in my universe, the characters’ hometown is Eastboro, Massachusetts, a fictional place eerily similar, and next door, to my actual hometown, so I had to make up everything. I will start with how I came up with the name Eastboro. I have to credit my brother, Jonathan (which is his name, don’t call him Jon) for coming up with this one. He figured out that Massachusetts has a Northboro, a Southboro, and a Westboro, but no Eastboro. So now there is an Eastboro, and it lives in my series of books. Now I will talk about Titles, Chapters, and Characters (including names of places) and how I came up with them.

  • Titles: I have written 5 books and I am in the process of writing the 6th. They are all part of the same series. They are love stories, but not just loves stories, so it’s hard to express everything they are in one small title. But so far, just like most things, my books have told me their names. The most recent one, #6, was more elusive, because I had to add some dimension to my universe, and I had to get to know the characters in a different context. So now I will tell you my titles, all except for one, because it’s too revealing of the ongoing story.
  • Book 1: May I Have Your Attention Please, so called because the main characters would like to get each other’s attention, both in the past and the present. And also, because they have difficulty with attention.
  • Book 2: I Just Can’t Say I Love You. Pretty literal. And also a line stolen from the book.
  • Book 3: Absolutely and Totally Smitten. Obviously contains love, and lots of it. Unexpected love. And big, overwhelming love.
  • Book 4: The Stories That Must Be Told. This is my most dramatic book, that deals with some real-life problems, and some very special people who help each other. And there are lots of stories to be told. They must be told.
  • Book 5: Not revealing this name, because it includes the name of the MC, and I don’t want you all to know who I’m focusing on. You’ll see why when you read my books.
  • Book 6: Secrets, Big and Small. This is my work in progress (WIP) and I had a really hard time with this one. I knew it should include secrets. There are some in the book. Some are big, some are small (I feel compelled to add an LOL here).
  • Names of Characters: Naming characters has a lot in common with naming children. In a way, the characters are your children. Sometimes, I name them after people I know. Sometimes, I name them and then delete them and name them again. One of the reasons I didn’t want to go with traditional publishing, is that I didn’t want anyone to tell me I had to change the name of my characters.
  • Sally: I do have a cousin Sally, but that’s not where this came from. I was looking for a name that would be appropriate for the 1980s, but not the name of anyone I knew back then. It fit the criteria, and soon, Sally was her name. No question. And then someone reminded me that it was also the name of someone from another part of my past, and maybe I might want to change it. But it was too late. It was her name, and she didn’t want to change it. She wouldn’t answer to anything else.
  • James: I wanted a good, basic male name, that could have a popular nickname, but could also be used as a full name. I wanted him to have the possibility of a cute pet name from Sally. And it really works. Every time I see the name James anywhere now, I have a feeling of warmth. It’s a good, strong name.
  • Darlene, Kim, Traci, Carl, Chris, Pete, Michelle: The group of friends started out as a generic support cast, but all of them eventually get a part as an MC. But these are all names that were popular when I was growing up. Michelle started as a tribute to a junior high friend of mine (whose name isn’t Michelle by the way) and then she morphed into her own person. But the red hair and glasses come from my friend.
  • Last names: Sally Bachman, James Newell. Sally is Jewish. I wanted her to have a name that reflected that. And I am a big fan of classic rock. Bachman Turner Overdrive. And Sally (and I) share a birthday with Tim Bachman. Newell is kind of generic. It was a name I saw written down somewhere when I was trying to choose a name, and I just loved it for James. And it also hides half of his ancestry, which will be revealed not too long into the book. Other character last names (Gorman, Cooper, Bishop, Feinman, Walsh, Drake) are all names that would be common in a place like Massachusetts. I also used the last name Wells, after a very dear friend who died of cancer early in the COVID era. She will live on forever in my writing. I used a lot of Irish and Italian names in my stories because there are a lot of Irish and Italian people where I’m from. And many of them came from Google searches.
  • Businesses, streets, school: These were really fun. I had to do a lot of research, because I didn’t want to use real people or businesses in my names, but I wanted the places to have a back story. Everyone who lives near the lake in Eastboro has some connection to Aries Corps. This is constant through all 6 books, but to be honest, we never find out what it is that Aries Corps does, or why it is named what it is. It’s not after the God of War or the zodiac sign. I think it’s named after its founder, and that may lead to some story sometime. The mall is called the Main Street Mall. The popular Italian restaurant is called Luigis because, well, the Mario Brothers. The two high schools in town are McKinney and Murphy. Both were famous Eastboro people. DeMarco Elementary and Randall Junior High. Both made up people. Abraham Lincoln Elementary. I think you might have a vague idea where that comes from. Street names: I just use street names I’ve seen before or make them up. Twin Bridges Park in Eastboro: Anyone who is from my hometown will know how I got that name after reading the book.
  • Chapter Titles: I love to name my chapters rather than just use numbers. In “May I Have Your Attention Please,” I use a gimmick. It was so fun. So far, readers have enjoyed it. For my other books, I have just come up with a word or phrase that I like that fits the topic. I have to say, for some reason, I’m really good at naming chapters.

There’s a bit of insight into my process. I hope you found it interesting. I hope you are curious enough about book 5 since I wouldn’t tell you the name, that you read the first four so you can get to it! But, 6 is pretty cool, too. 4 is still my favorite, but the first 3 are my babies, so…read them all! And probably in order.

I hope that whatever your name is, you are having a wonderful week and enjoying the vivid dreams that this time of year brings us all. Stay warm and dry!

Field of Dreams vs. My Book

I didn’t know what to blog about today. I knew I wanted to write stuff about writing and about my upcoming book, but, you know, sometimes the muse just doesn’t hit you. Then I was talking to my brother on the phone earlier (those of us that grew up in the 70s and 80s still “talk” on the phone sometimes) and I was telling him how I thought that “Field of Dreams” should be considered a Christmas movie. He asked why. Well, I don’t know. I guess it’s just because it’s my favorite all time movie, and it’s awesome. I think the only reason that “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie is because it takes place during Christmas. Well, a lot of people think that Christmas is magic, and “Field of Dreams” contains a lot of magic. Ergo, Christmas movie. Actually, why I really wanted it to be a Christmas movie is because we have MLB on our cable (yeah, some of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s still have cable. We remember what it was like before cable existed) and they were playing repeats of past World Series games. I was hoping that on Christmas day they would be playing “Field of Dreams.” I mean, “Dad, do you want to have a catch?” makes me sob so much more than “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” Okay, that line is touching too, but it doesn’t make me ugly cry like the final scene between Kevin Costner and Dwier Brown (the ghost dad). So “Field of Dreams” wins.

So, the reason I’m writing about this now is because I told my brother that I didn’t have any ideas for my blog today, and in his infinite wisdom, he challenged me to find a way to compare my book to the movie “Field of Dreams.” Challange accepted! Except, I have no idea what I’m going to say next. My book and “Field of Dreams” have very, very little in common.

Well, I guess one thing they do have in common is that they both feature characters. Yeah, characters! “Field of Dreams” features Ray Kinsella and wife Annie as main characters, along with Terence Mann and Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham. They were all very engaging, and you just grew to like them so much. And we can’t forget “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and the amazing John Kinsella, everyone’s favorite ghost dad.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has characters. They are James Newell and Sally Bachman. They are the main characters, or the MCs. They are sixteen-year-old kids starting their junior year in high school. They have no idea what is about to happen to them, and how it’s going to change their lives forever. They have a vast supporting cast. They are part of a group of friends that grow closer as the year moves on. There’s Chris, the original bad boy leader, who has been in charge of his posse since second grade. Chris has a cousin, Carl, and he seems like a bit of a tag-along, but there is definitely something brewing inside of him. He and Chris have a huge family of cousins, many of whom will be mentioned in this book and those that come after. Pete is another friend, but he had to go to the other high school in town. He still plays a big part in supporting his friend James. Then there are the girls. Kim is a bit bossy and abrupt, but very pretty. Darlene is Kim’s shadow and biggest supporter. Traci is nice, and caring, and a really good listener. She also has a secret talent that will be revealed in later books. And Michelle is the nice little red headed girl that won’t put up with any of your crap. And she’s Sally’s best friend. And of course, these are sixteen-year-old kids. There are parents, siblings, and teachers. But, you know, this book isn’t so much about them. But they matter.

What else? Oh, yeah. They both have story lines! Yeah, that’s a big thing in common. “Field of Dreams” tells the story of Ray and Annie and their farm, and Ray having weird visions about plowing under his corn and building a baseball field. Weird, right? But as the movie progresses, it starts to make so much sense why this is happening. We WANT it to happen, and we cheer for it to happen. There are obstacles on the way, roadblocks (it is a road trip after all) and people who don’t believe in the dream. And guess what? There is a happy and touching ending.

“May I Have Your Attention Please” also has a story line. We are introduced to James and Sally, two really good kids who just can’t quite seem to pull it all together at home or in school, but they have dreams. And they want to dream them together. They have obstacles along the way, people who may not want them to realize their dreams, and situations that might be a little bit too complex for teens to have to deal with. But maybe, just maybe, their dreams are strong enough to see them through. That would really lead to a happy ending, wouldn’t it?

Other things these stories have in common:

  • FOD takes place in Iowa but has a scene at Fenway Park in Boston. MIHYAP also mentions Fenway Park, and the story takes place in Massachusetts. I don’t think there’s anything about Iowa in the book.
  • FOD had a character named Joe. MIHYAP has a character named Joey. A minor character, but a character, nonetheless.
  • FOD takes place mainly at a farm with a crop of corn. I’m not sure, but there is a chance that either James or Sally eats corn at some point in story. But I could be wrong.
  • FOD takes place in the 1980s. So does MIHYAP.
  • Ray Kinsella is a huge baseball fan. So is Sally Bachman.
  • FOD has a bitchy, opinionated protagonist at the school. So does MIHYAP.

Okay, I think that might be enough comparisons for now. This isn’t the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, although I think Kevin Bacon would have done well in FOD or MIHYAP when it gets made into a movie or miniseries. When I was a kid, he could have played the part of James Newell. But by now, I think most likely he would play the part of Nonno Angelo Romano, James’s Italian grandfather. Sorry, Kevin. We’ve all aged a lot since the 80s.

So, the next time you think of “Field of Dreams,” think about me and my little (108,000 word) book, “May I Have Your Attention Please” from the series “McKinney High Class of 1986” to hopefully be released in March, or maybe April of 2023, and then go to Amazon and buy it!

Thanks for making it to the end of my blog entry!

Write or Wrong?

This is what I look like when I am writing in the coffee shop and I find out the wifi is down.

I love to write, but sometimes, writing doesn’t love me back. Take last week. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and of course things were a bit hectic. Then I had plans to go to a friend’s house for lunch on Saturday. I planned to spend my afternoon on Sunday writing at the local coffee shop (they have the best chia pudding, and music I like playing in the background), so I packed up my laptop, wrapped myself up in my warmest winter wraps, and headed out to the car. I waited in line for my chia pudding and herbal iced tea for about 10 minutes. Then I sat down, situated myself at the counter near the power outlet, and opened my computer. I clicked on my most recent work in progress (known in the author world at WIP), and waited for it to load. I got a message on my screen…”loading, loading, loading…” I took my first spoonful of chia pudding, savored its deliciousness, and waited. Then, much to my dismay, I overheard the barista speaking to a customer. “Our wifi is down,” they said, “and it’s not likely to come back up today.” So, my document would just continue to try to load indefinitely. I swore quietly into my hibiscus iced tea with one packet of stevia and fumed. I was going to write for an hour or so, then complete a blog entry. Grr. The best laid plans. So, what does one do when one cannot open one’s document in Google Documents? One reads their previous FINISHED stories on Word. What can I say? I’m the biggest fan of my old (read: written before last week and still unpublished) books (I think my fourth one is the best)!

When I bought my current laptop, I loaded all of my documents and files, which had been saved in a backup drive by the good folks at the Best Buy Geek Squad, into my new device. And I was very happy to see my first novel. Well, that’s if you don’t include the handwritten ones from junior high. Those still count, but those will just be for my own personal perusal, okay? So, I started to read the novel that I had started more than 18 years ago. And you know what? It was pretty good! I was surprised. All these years, I had thought I would have to go back and edit the living daylights out of it to make it halfway decent, but it wasn’t so bad. I mean, I’ve learned a lot in life since the days when I first started that novel, but the concept was still sound, and the dialog was compelling (at least I think so). I thought maybe I could change enough of it to make one of the characters become one of my McKinney High Class of 1986 grown-up kids, but as I went along, I learned that Maya and Tyler (I love those names) really needed to have their own, separate story. So, I decided that they would. It would be a stand-alone book and not part of my current series. Until, ugh, the worst thing happened. I tried to open the second half of the book so I could see how it ends (Ha, I knew how it ended…it actually needs one more chapter to wrap up), and all of the chapters were in Works. Or maybe Perfect Works (different from Word Perfect). So, I called for reinforcements: the family members who know computer stuff. I am not included in that group. And they offered to help. So, I sent them the files and they made assurances that they could figure out how to convert them to be read and edited in Word. Well, it turns out even they were stumped, and they do this crap for a living! So…either I find someone else who can do it (“Hello, Geek Squad?”) or I plan to rewrite half of the book that I mostly wrote over 18 years ago. So, for now, novel number one sits in virtual obscurity.

And you may ask why I never finished the story of Maya and Tyler. Good question. For anyone who has ever been pregnant, you may understand. Babies are born with brains. And somehow, they have to grow those brains in utero. So where do they get the material for their brains? You guessed it, from their gestational provider’s brain. In this case, me. My darling child sucked out every last bit of creativity I had, until I had to actually drop out of my writing group, because I had no capacity to bring in any new material from week to week. It all paid off, I guess, as my child is very smart and creative (we all know where she got those traits). But what was my excuse after my child was born? Uh, 18 years of raising a child. I don’t think I need to say anything further.

But then, one dreary night in mid-November, 2021, in the midst of the COVID Omicron variant outbreak, I had a dream. Yes, an actual dream. And the dream was compelling. It led me to think, “what if.” What if things had gone differently for me when I was a teenager? What if I had gone to this school instead of that school? What would my life be like? And then a floodgate came open, and I started writing about Sally. Soon after, I realized that Sally’s life was nothing like my life would have been in that situation, but so what? Then, James came into being. Then her friends captivated me, and I needed to tell their stories, too. So here we are one year later, floodgates still open wide, nearing the end of book number 5.

So, I guess I say all this to say, nothing can really stand in my way of writing. Let the wifi be down. Let my mind be decimated by growing a zombie brain-eater inside my own body. Let the computers crash and the sky fall down. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is going to get in the way of me completing my stories. So, I hope you enjoy them.

If you are interested in the best Chia Pudding in NE Portland, Oregon, leave me a comment and I’ll tell you where I get it. And let’s hope the wifi is back on tomorrow!

Coming up next: What it takes to get from start to finish: my experience so far of being an indie author

And coming soon, but I just don’t have the date yet: COVER REVEAL of “May I Have Your Attention Please.” (It’s really cool)

Real Life Problems

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am first, and foremost, a social worker. I have been a social worker for many years, even more years than I’d like to admit. Well, I have already admitted in earlier blog posts that I grew up in the 70s and 80s and was in the class of 1986, so do the math. Maybe I wanted to be a sports caster on Boston TV when I was in junior high, but that hope came crashing down when I didn’t get into the communications program at the college I chose to attend. It was probably a blessing in disguise. I have seen women sportscasters in the past 30 years. It would have been a huge challenge to make it in that field, and it would have been very competitive. Sometimes degrading. But it was pretty easy for me to fall into the social services after majoring in Sociology in college.

I was very quickly typecasted into working in the field of mental health. My first job out of college was working in a group home for adults with mental illnesses. It was a huge wake up call. I didn’t know anything about mental health, but I was about to learn quickly. One of my main characters in the fourth book of “McKinney High Class of 1986” has a very similar experience as me, even though her experience is made up, for obvious reasons. It was really challenging to learn everything that needed to be learned about mental health while already employed in the field. I attended many trainings and got on the job training. I learned about interpersonal communication skills, and crisis management. I was exposed to various people, with various diagnoses, and I quickly realized that you cannot define a person by their mental health diagnosis. And people with mental illnesses need so much support and advocacy. It actually turned out that I was pretty good at this stuff, so eventually I decided to pursue a master’s degree and a career in social work.

Through it all, writing was still my true love. I wrote my first “novel” in the early 2000s, but it was basically abandoned when I had my daughter. You lose a lot of creativity when you have a child, and you no longer count sleep as something you can depend on each night. So I didn’t sit down at the computer again and attempt to create a new story until the world was struck by the Omicron COVID variant in November of 2021. And then the words just exploded out of me, non-stop. It was a bit exhausting, but it also felt like something inside of me had woken up. For me, it was a relief from the anxiety brought on by the pandemic. It was an escape. I got to imagine a different reality, one where there was no COVID, and I was not stuck working from home for another six months because new variants delayed our return-to-work date, yet again.

I had some very certain ideas for my first real novel. I wanted to see what would happen if I took someone out of their comfort zone, dropped them in the middle of a different world, and then brought them back where they came from after a year. And boy, do things change. People change in a year. Feelings change. But one thing doesn’t change. People, even fictional people, have real life problems.

There is never any question in May I Have Your Attention Please about whether the protagonists are going to fall in love. I even state it clearly on the cover blurb. So this book is not full of “will-they-won’t-they” tension like a typical romance. But what does happen, is the world continues to spin in the same direction, even when people fall head over heels in love. They still have to deal with their own reality. And they are teens, so there is the fear of not being accepted for your reality. Hell, most adults feel that way too.

So there are problems in Sally and James’s lives. Real life problems. People get sick. People misbehave. Not everyone likes you. And sadly, sometimes people in your own family are suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues. And sometimes, there are things that you just don’t know about or understand. So our couple tries to work these things out.

As hard as it is to be a person with a mental health or substance abuse problem, it’s sometimes just as hard to be someone who loves that person. There is a feeling of helplessness, of unpredictability. Of just not understanding what is going on. It helps when there are adults in your life to listen, and to explain, but it’s still a lot to work through. And who better to write about this stuff than a seasoned social worker?

As my series progresses, the problems get more intricate, complex, and severe. There are issues with parental abuse and neglect, unexpected traumas, dangerous secrets, loss, and powerful grief. Through it all, there is love and support, and coming of age. And yes, a good deal of romance and intimacy. Because all of these things are not mutually exclusive.

When you read these stories, again, please understand that they are fictional. These are not taken from my own life or the lives of anyone I have ever worked with or helped. They are figments of my imagination, but they are very real issues, and they are issues that we have all had to face sometime in our lives, even when we were teens.

I hope my stories touch you, teach you something, and even make you laugh or roll your eyes sometimes. But also, I hope they make you think, and make you want to learn more about the topic I write about. It’s really interesting stuff, and it’s only a Google search away.

If you or someone you love is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call your local crisis line, call 988 (in the US), call 911 (in the US) or go to the closest emergency department.

For resources for mental health or substance abuse treatment, please call 211 (in the US) or go to 211 online. There is help out there.

TikTok

Ok, this was an unintentional post. I meant to put it on my “about me” page, but it’s hard to see what you are doing from your phone!

But since it landed here, I will keep it up, and let you know that I do plan to post some stuff on TikTok once I get my nerve up. Stuff about my book, of course. Right now, I am planning a cover reveal, but first I have to compete the photo shoot for my author picture. That will be next month. My photographer and I have some great ideas!

So hop on over to TikTok and follow me now so you can be ready! My user name is dbmquick. Please don’t laugh too hard at my upcoming videos (unless they are intended to be funny)!

Thank you, and please keep reading. (Aren’t QR codes FUN???)

Attention, Please!

Photo by Pressmaster on Pexels.com

Squirrel! Just kidding. But no, seriously, a pretty butterfly!

That was my whole childhood experience, and to be honest, also my whole adult experience. It doesn’t have to be an animal, or something pretty flitting by. It can be a speck of dust floating in the air, or a scratch on a desktop. Don’t get me started about the music in my head. It draws my attention away from my task at hand.

I’m not alone in my dearth of attention. Many children and adults deal with similar challenges. For me, it started when I was in elementary school, or that was probably just when it became obvious. It was the late 1970s, and I was in fifth grade. I had broken my arm ice skating over winter break, and was pretty preoccupied by my limitations. Mr. K. was talking about geometrical shapes, specifically the octagon. I was re-wrapping my ace bandage around my splint. Mr. K. made a comment about there being an octagonal shaped church on the corner of Salsbury Street and Kadidawapa Way. He looked right at me and said, “right, Debby?” I looked up, baffled, and responded, “What? Oh, yeah.” The whole class laughed at me. There was no Kadidawapa Way in my city, and Mr. K. knew I wasn’t paying attention. Everyone laughed at me. That kind of hurt.

In sixth grade, I stopped doing Math homework, and only did other homework at the last minute. I still got A’s and B’s. In eighth grade, I finally got called on my behavior, and got an F in effort in Math class. I was mad, and I mouthed off to my teacher. But it was kind of a wakeup call. As we get older, our teachers start to pay more attention to our behavior. But I didn’t.

I squeaked through high school doing the bare minimum and relying on my procrastination and natural ability to retain information. I somehow made it through college. And grad school. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30s that a medical profession finally suggested that I might have ADHD.

What would have happened if I had been born in the 2000’s? I probably would have been evaluated at school, maybe by a developmental pediatrician, and diagnosed young. I probably would have been started on Ritalin, or some other stimulant medication. My teachers would have been made aware. They might have dealt with me differently. But as it was, I grew up in the 1970s and ’80s. The only kids that got attention for not paying attention were the ones that were disruptive. They were usually boys, and they were usually ridiculed by teachers and other students. We were told to pay no attention to them. They were just trying to get attention. Girls would just grow out of their daydreams and pull it all together someday.

One thing that I could concentrate on back then was writing. I loved to write. The ideas popped into my head unprovoked. Characters would develop in my subconscious and start dialogs in my brain. Some of them I wrote down. The stars of my stories were me as a Boston sportscaster, always married to a famous Boston professional athlete. Hey, I had a type! I found one of these “novels” not long ago. It wasn’t bad, for a twelve-year-old.

So, it makes sense that when I finally got serious about writing as an adult, I created a character who is a lot like me in some ways. A character that struggles with schoolwork and gets very scattered. She has no verbal filter, and sometimes her friends find her to be all over the place. Her story mimics my story in some ways, but she is not me. Her experiences are different. Isn’t that what we do when we write? We take our characters and put them in different situations and see what they would do. Sometimes, it’s different than what we would do ourselves, but it’s always a good story. Sally has some good times, and she has some struggles. But they are not my struggles. But we all have struggles, unique to ourselves.

My book, May I Have Your Attention Please obviously deals with attention, but we all know, there are many definitions of attention. And they all apply. Make up your own mind about what it means. Now you know what it means to me. I hope my story ends up meaning something to you, too.