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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nano… Nano… Nanowrimo…

I had my first writer’s nightmare last night.  I dreamt I was working for Sony Pictures on a very popular television show.  I, for whatever reason in this technologically advanced world, had to fax them a printed copy of the episode’s script.  I finished in time and shipped it off, then realized I had put in the wrong fax number.  I had faxed my script to a doctor’s office.  Frantic, I called the Sony in my dreams and got the recording to tell me their fax number… but the recording was muffled and interspersed with laughter (as if people in the office at the time of the recording didn’t realize there was a recording going on).  In a panic, I called again… and again… until I finally woke up.

I’m not going to go into all the little dream meanings… I don’t think a fax machine has major significance.  I’ll tell you what I think, though… I’m under a lot of pressure.  I’ve been reading like mad on how to gear up to self-publish and the learning curve is like the straight side of a ninety-degree angle.  I’ve been piling on information on formatting for print and ebook, how ISBN’s work, how to get a Library of Congress Catalog Number, how to ensure I am visible on Amazon, on my blog, on my Twitter page, on my website, not to mention how the publishing world works in general and why my local bookstore won’t carry my Createspace book unless its on consignment.  And that is all just the beginning.  In two days the real work begins… it’s almost time for Nanowrimo.

First, I should explain why nanowrimo1I’m writing the book I’m publishing during Nanowrimo.  I wasn’t going to publish anything.  I did Nano last year and won, completing a novel in 30 days, 50k words.  It was a great feeling, a good idea, and I was proud of what I created.  I never anticipated doing anything with it until far in the future… you know… when I was a traditionally published author.  (Okay, give me a second while I stop laughing.  Just a minute… I have a couple more giggles in there…. okay.  Whew.)  No, it’s not that I didn’t think I could do it at some point in my life, in fact, many years and rejection letters in my past, I decided to go to college to become my own publisher.  (This was before the ebook revolution… I digress.)  I decided to do Nano this year because I loved the thrill of a deadline.  To make this piece of art as good as you could while hammering it out, never having time to stop and look up a word, or rewrite a paragraph, or rename a city, or check my email, or go outside and garden… Nano erases every distraction.  You have to write, you have to let it flow, you have to just plug ahead or risk failing the challenge… and it is a challenge.

Second, why publish this book, why self-publish at all?  I suppose I got a fire under me for a change.  I write all the time, I never publish it.  Not everything is publishable regardless, I have some first drafts that would make your nose hairs curl, but I have a lot of stuff.  I started thinking… why not?  Why everyone else and not me?  Aren’t I worth a chance?  So, in a flash, I decided I would not only write this book, but publish it, and let EVERYONE know I was going to do it and when.  Nano taught me one thing… a deadline can be golden when you respect it.

I began to read like a mad woman.  Thus far I’ve discovered that there are a lot of folks out there that, like me, tried to break into the big world of traditional publishing but couldn’t for one reason or another.  Like me, they felt they had a story that was worth sharing with the world.  I decided to put every ounce of my energy and passion behind this endeavor to do everything possible to make sure it’s all done right.  There is nothing I’m holding back, and like Bambi on ice, I’m wobbling my way through dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.  If I fail, I’m going to fail like Hayley’s Comet screaming through the universe on fire while trailing ice.

So, two days left until I bury my head in the written word.  After all the marketing and socializing and reading… I’m actually dying to start writing the book.  I have had time in between to look at all the characters in my mind, visualize them, and get to know them.  They can’t wait to tell me their tale, I can’t wait to write it down.  That, after all, is what I love to do most.   Nanowrimo… here I come.

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Nicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Her short story, “Millsburg,” is available on Amazon.com and Smashwords.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.
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Posted by on October 30, 2013 in Writing

 

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dogs

 

 

“Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.”  ~Milan Kundera

Dogs in Paradise

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Quotes

 

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It’s the Little Things: Music

I think it goes without saying that music has tremendous power.  Imagine Jaws without those infamous two notes.  Imagine Dances With Wolves without that incredibly expansive theme.  How about Star WarsInception?  Of course, what I’ve mentioned is only film scoring (and a tiny sample at that).  Music for the vast majority is part of everyday life – when we get in the car the radio is on, or a CD, or if you’re really old school a tape (though I don’t know that many people are rushing around in car that still sports a useable tape deck).  We tend to make our own scores to our lives… I know I do.

Here is a nearly sad truth about me, a little secret… I don’t write as well without music.  I have playlists for every mood I need to create, and when the music is in my ears, the story spills itself out on the page.  There are some pieces of music (songs included) that when I hear them, I have the incredible urge to write.  The most amazing thing I’ve discovered is that on rare occasions, when I’m listening to something classical, I am typing in time with the music – as if I am playing the music.

I’ve found myself thinking about art in general.  Most people who create art need inspiration, and art spawns art.  Imagine for a moment that all art is a translation of the act of creation: The paintings you see are inspired by music.  The music you hear is inspired by painting.  The writing you read is inspired by music.  The movie you watch is inspired by writing.  Somewhere in time there might have been an original spark of creative energy that has simply been translating itself endlessly, in all variations, over and over.  Perhaps the translation is so vast we can only interpret the information bit by bit through the myriad of minds capable of expression.  Some people might consider it God, some might consider it the Universe, some might consider it simply the infinite fractal design of science laying itself out in natural order.  Whatever you call it, its powerful and ancient.

Back to music, it’s WB_burbank_labeljust part of me.  When I was young we had a hi-fi in our dining room.  I’d play record after record with my chin on the stereo, soaking up not only the sounds through my ears, but the vibrations through my bones.  I’d watch the record spin round and round, company logos – Epic, Arista, Capitol, RCA Victor, and who could forget the beautiful tree-lined logo of Warner Brothers?  I listened to everything from my father’s bluegrass and country albums on one side, learning to love Marty Robbins, Conway Twitty, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Seals and Croft, to my mother’s albums on the other, The Gap Band, Michael Jackson, Karen Carpenter, Barry Manilow, Halls and Oates.  As I grew older, I found rock – AC/DC, Alice in Chains; Grunge with Nirvana; Alternative with Toad the Wet Sprocket, Stone Temple Pilots, Live; Classic rock with Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett; Blues with B.B. King… and it’s only continued to grow as my tastes expand and change (Rory Gallagher – exquisite).  I can go through every genre except death metal to give an example, and I’ve listened to the obscure non-mainstream as well, though admittedly not as much as many of my audiophile friends.

For me, life isn’t life without music.  The movement of vibrations is coded into our DNA – even back to the first star bursting in the universe – albeit in the silence of space.  Still, remnants of radiation can be picked up on earth and heard – the soundtrack to the big bang.  Vibrations, our music, are primal.  We danced around the fires thousands of years ago, clapping and singing, acting out the animals we hunted and the spirits we felt moving over the face of the earth.  It’s spiritual.  It’s deep.

It’s the little things.  There’s no where I can go where music isn’t a necessary.  Even in complete silence, my brain goes about playing music in perfect pitch (though there are times when the words aren’t quite right, but hey, if you sing out loud in your car you know how easy it is to compensate).  My most inspired writing comes from translating the moods and emotions in music.  And nothing can beat sitting in the perfect spot, with the perfect cup of tea, listening to the perfect track, while banging on my keyboard in the hopes of creating the perfect story.

So what is your soundtrack?  I’d love to see what you listen to and check it out if it’s someone I’ve not discovered or heard.  Drop me a comment and send me some good tunes!

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Experiences: Roadrunner Food Bank

In May of this year, my kids and I were watching Madonna’s documentary, “I Am Because We Are.”  My kids enjoy a good documentary as much as I do, and we often spend time pausing the movie, talking about what we see, and really discussing human behavior and interaction.  We are watching this movie, discussing the plight of Africans and their struggles with AIDS and HIV which is ravaging their communities and decimating their families.

After the film is done, my daughter asks me why it was that people weren’t giving.  There are kids that need school supplies and tuition that sometimes only totals ten dollars, yet they couldn’t afford even that.  She asked about giving a portion of her allowance to the charity and speculated on just how much these kids would get if everyone gave just a dollar.  This topic gradually evolved into how there were people living right here in our own city who were hungry and homeless and in need of help.  She then asked what we could do about it.

It is interesting for me that out of the mouths of children can sometimes come our greatest motivations.  I went online and looked up Roadrunner Food Bank.  I have to admit, before this, I had never volunteered to do anything.  Sure, I’d given money to charity, but it isn’t until you have it hit you that money only goes so far, that you can be motivated to go beyond simply giving cash into giving time.   These places need people to make them work.

We set up our first session wRoadrunner Food Bankith the food bank and my introverted nerves were jangling and jittery.  I didn’t know what to expect, but if my kids could be confident enough to want to go, so could I.  I honestly don’t know why I was nervous.  We got there to be greeted by smiling faces and people eager to have us dive right in and lend a hand.  We were assigned pallet loading.   Picture a warehouse much like your local Costco or Sam’s Club where each of the pallets is lettered and numbered.  Now, you have a pallet jack and a slip of paper telling you what aisle to go down, what product to get, and how much of that product to load onto your pallet.  It’s like a grocery list, but instead of the food going to your kitchen, you’re sending it to churches, food pantries, and shelters.

It was hard work.  Over the course of two hours, my daughter and I (we were on a team while my son worked with another girl who had volunteered) stacked seven pallets, destined for various locations around New Mexico.  The pallets were likely six feet tall when we were done, full of everything from canned goods and dried beans to snack bars and coffee.  There was, however, something troubling me as I walked through the place and that was how much it looked like a Costco (albeit not quite as well stocked)…

I went up to the lead coordinator and asked her where they got their food.  She got a small smile on her face and told me how they buy some with donated money, how they get government donations as well as business donations, (never quite knowing what they’ll get from businesses), but that they make do with anything.  I asked her then, what about all the donations from people?  Her smile faded a bit and she pointed to the last half-row where a jumble of mismatched cans sat in cardboard boxes.  I should correct the idea that it was a half row…  Let’s picture a Costco aisle again.  Now, take off one half of the aisle.  Now, cut that half aisle in half.  A quarter of a row.  That’s the food coming in from individuals.

I was speechless.  Here is a place that serves over 60,000 people in the state of New Mexico.  Here is where your imagination comes in again.  Picture one single Costco, not filled to the brim, feeding a population large enough to be a small city on a constant basis.  That is the Roadrunner Food Bank.

After our long day, the kids and I left with a great sense of accomplishment.  They were so happy that it made my heart glad.  They immediately asked when we were doing it again, and thus began more volunteering.  We have packed beans into two pound bags, as well as pallet loaded again – leaving the place sweaty and well worked.  Score a win for humanity!

I want to thank all the people at Roadrunner Food Bank for their kindness and for the work they do, and I want to encourage anyone out there that has a spare hour or two to donate their time to a good cause.  There are many charities all over the country that are always in need of a helping hand.  If you don’t have the time to donate, then send money.  Even cutting out just one fast food meal and giving that ten dollars to a charity instead will go a long way.

There is so much that we can do as a society to give a helping hand to those who aren’t as fortunate, and we need to help.  Humanity depends on humans being humane, and it takes so little to make a big difference in someone elses life.  I encourage you to call or email your local food bank or food pantry to find out what help they need and whether it is something you can do… and there’s always a job for everyone – be it office work or on the floor doing the heavy lifting.  They need your help, so get out there and give!

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Find your local food bank:  http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx

Find a food pantry in your area:  http://www.foodpantries.org/

Roadrunner Food Bank:  http://www.rrfb.org/

Some stats that are really difficult to see but necessary for understanding: http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts/hunger-and-poverty-statistics.aspx

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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Experiences

 

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It’s the Little Things: Chickens

I think it was in 2009 when I first got the notion that I might want to have hens.  It was my evolution phase – where I was waking up from the “American Dream” (you know the one, where it isn’t about getting a great job and house, but how much stuff can you have to show you have stuff no matter if you have nowhere to put the stuff?  That one…).  I had begun the transition after some great documentaries on our food system (Food Inc., Forks over Knives), and it came in full swing when I started working at Whole Foods.  There was this burning desire that started innocently enough, as all vices do when we begin them.  I just… looked… at pictures of chickens. 

The photos I found on the web – people holding their hens, people building beautiful mini-coops for their hens, people parading the beautiful Rhode Island Red, or Buff Orpington, or Wyandot, or… you can see where this began.  It evolved into looking at pictures of chicks (and not the sexy kind), mentally measuring our back yard and dreaming up placement for a coop, calculating how much we spent on eggs at the store vs. how much eggs would be from the back yard.  It incubated (oh please, pardon my pun), and in the summer of 2011 we suddenly became the owners of four hens.

The first four! Joy, Kiki, Grace, Cheeky

 

Now, I have to be honest with you.  The initial idea was that once the girls were too old to lay eggs, we would eat them.  I would do the dirty work and was all geared up to do so… but in that time of transition my family went from eating meat to being vegetarian.  It was then that I would slaughter them and give the meat to a friend… then I leaned toward Buddhism.  Now we have girls who are here on a permanent basis – what is called in the chicken community, a “forever home.”  Even beyond this, what came from having these girls was shocking, something I never expected since I bought into the notion that chickens were not very smart.  I love my hens.

The concept in society among those that even think about where their food comes from, is that chickens are idiot animals.  I will attest, sometimes they really can be, erm, less than 25 watts.  For example – whenever we would have a stray plastic bag blow into the yard, everyone raised the alarm, clucked loudly, and flapped wildly until I went out to get the horrible plastic monster.  There is also the fact that when we wash the dog, she suddenly becomes a different and more dangerous version of herself because that dog with suds is not their dog.  They have their moments.  But the other half of this is an animal that names you.  Each member of my family has a different cluck, and I can tell by the clucking who the hens are watching through the door.  They are inquisitive – anything you do they want to see what it is and how you’re doing it.  They are chatty – I’ve never had an animal that used so many different vocalizations.  I know when they’re upset with each other, I know when there is a hawk in the sky, I know when they’re telling each other they found something tasty, and even when they’re a little concerned but not quite afraid of something new.  I’ve sat outside before when I’ve felt down and watched these girls come over and look at me and even cluck softly to ask what is wrong.  It sounds like anthropomorphizing, I know, but it’s real… ask anyone that owns hens.

Our initial four girls were two-years-old when we added three more babies.  We raised them for a couple weeks in the house, then transitioned them outside where I had to play mama hen to keep the older girls from tearing them to bits (hens can be mean when they want to be).  The new girls were even more docile than the old.  They want to sit on your lap, be picked up and held… it’s something else!

It’s the little things.  I feel an incredible sense of peace when I go outside and sit with my girls.  I love hearing them “chat” to each other.  I love watching them scratch in the dirt, preen, and just be chickens.  On a final side note, however… don’t ever let them near your garden.  If there’s one thing chickens love more than bugs, it is your greenery!!!

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See more of my “Little Things” at:  http://www.pinterest.com/nicoleagramlich/little-things-that-bring-me-joy/

ImageNicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Musings

 

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Findings on Homelessness

As I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you who may not know), I have been reading about homelessness and schizophrenia.  The more I read about the people affected by one or both, the more I realized there was a whole lot I didn’t know.  There was an entire world, in fact, on which I had hung a lot of stereotypes and never bothered to correct them.   I would like to share here a quick look at some statistics which have changed my view.  (Please note:  These statistics are for my city, Albuquerque.)

One of the most startling things I discovered was the fact that of the homeless shelters we have in Albuquerque, only one, Joy Junction, allows men and women to stay together.  I truly had no idea that if you were a married couple – homeless and looking for shelter – that your options were so limited.  In one interview conducted by Joy Junction’s CEO Jeremy Reynalds, the couple being interviewed talked about having to choose whether one slept in a shelter while the other remained outside.  In fact, according to the Albuquerque Homeless Needs Assessment, only 30% of homeless families were actually being sheltered in 2012 because of the lack of family-oriented shelter.1  Albuquerque is apparently not alone in this, as many cities segregate men and women, even those who are married.

Veterans are actually a smaller portion of the homeless population, representing only about 5%, opposed to victims of domestic abuse which represent 40%.1  (Of that 40%, 60% are adults with children.1)  It is not to say that our servicemen and women don’t deserve to be cared for – far from it.  I cite this statistic because I had the tendency to see homelessness as a veteran dominated group – men and women who went to war and came home with PTSD.  While mental illness is a large percentage of the population, it is not veterans who make up the majority of that number.

Mentally ill people make up 53% of the homeless population1… leaving 47% that are down on hard times or suffering from addiction.  I can’t tell you what a reality check that figure was for me.  And as much as people look at homelessness as a situation that could never happen to them, the fact of the matter is, anyone can fall on hard times.  With the “right” set of circumstances, anyone could become homeless.

When looking at the percent of homeless that actually are mentally ill, it brings up one of society’s greatest stigmas – that a person is able to work and function because they have a fit body; that homeless people are lazy.  Mental illness, of many kinds, is a hidden disease, and one that prevents otherwise healthy people from engaging in and being productive members of society.  Without adequate treatment, affordable treatment, these people suffer just as much as those with other physical disabilities.  Mental illness is not a choice any more than being wheelchair bound because of scoliosis.

I also thought homeless people were older, but the statistics once again worked to prove my assumptions incorrect.  The ages of 18-54 make up the bulk of people, 60% as a matter of fact.1  And with those mothers and fathers on the streets, nearly 15% of the homeless population is under five years old.1  That percentage of the population is one of the most invisible of all, the ones you rarely see, the ones that make it easy for us to ignore.

One of the final facts I want to discuss has to do with the female population.  Homelessness is devastating for anyone, but it seems to affect women even harder than men.  Women are at risk for rape and abuse on the streets, a sad truth.  In 2006, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness did a survey of Albuquerque homeless women, and the results they found were utterly sobering.  Domestic abuse and drugs are the top reasons for a woman to be homeless.2  Most are on food stamps, and 88% have children, most of those under 18.2  Many are unable to work at all due to mental and physical problems, and those that can are unable to find jobs.2

So what does this mean?

First, that homelessness isn’t what you expect.  These are not simply lazy people who have decided to give up their homes.  They are not all mentally ill and drugged out.  They are people who are in need of a helping hand and compassion; people who have fallen on hard times and couldn’t make ends meet.  They are families, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.

Second and most important, homeless people need our support.  Here in Albuquerque, the summers are hot – give that bottle of water.  The homeless are hungry – give a gift card for McDonalds or Burger King or somewhere else of your choice.  The homeless have hygiene needs – donate to shelters by giving toothbrushes, hair brushes, sun screen, Chapstick, lotion, and soapDon’t forget that your time is a crucial donation!  Call your local shelters and find out what they need help with and offer to give it!

Last, don’t judge.  You never know why or how someone ended up in the place they’re in, but if we as a society take the time to learn, we can grow so much.

For more information on how you can help the homeless in your area, please visit:

Homeless Shelter Directory  – http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/

ImageNicole has written three novels, a feature-length script, and many short stories and short film scripts. Her debut novel, “Carla’s Rivet” is scheduled for release on March 1st, 2014.  Please visit http://nicoleagramlich.com for more information.

References:

  1. The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, The Albuquerque Strategic Collaborative to End Homelessness, City of Albuquerque. (2012).  Homeless Needs Assessment.  Retrieved from http://www.cabq.gov/family/documents/albuquerque-homeless-needs-assessment-final.pdf
  2. The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.  (2007).  Albuquerque Homeless Women Survey.  Retrieved from  http://www.nmceh.org/pages/reports/Albuquerque_Homeless_Women_Survey-Final.pdf
 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Articles

 

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Lover Pooch and Catfish

Pepsi and Dolphin

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
Josh Billings

Dogs

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2013 in Quotes