Intimate Partner Violence and the story of Anna Lynn Hurd

just-the-face-smallI think it’s safe to assume that each and every one of us has been touched by Domestic Violence in one form or another, whether we realise it or not. Even if the experience happens to be “the sister’s boyfriend’s best-friend’s wife’s sister”. At some point, you come face to face with it. As a child, I remember being shielded from people my parents knew who were involved with it, as a teenager, I saw it among my friends, and as an adult I experienced it myself. I may be unfortunate in the frequency with which I came in contact with it, but I don’t think I am alone.

Intimate Partner Violence is a widespread and much denied issue. Those directly involved can’t face the truth, and those just on the outside are afraid to broach it with their loved ones. Too often, fear and loneliness lead to the death of someone close to us. Someone we wished we could have helped, if only we had known how.

Even if that is not your experience, even if you think you are free from the reach of IPV, I urge you to think again. Because sometimes the signs are not what you would expect. Sometimes it is simply a matter of a question asked too frequently or a reaction to something benign with inexplicable anger and rage.

In the case of Anna Lynn Hurd, many people stepped up after her death to say they witnessed the toxic relationship between Anna and the boyfriend and were either unsure of what they were seeing, or were just afraid to step in and help. The result, in her case, was an untimely death that everyone agrees was a shock. The story of I Trusted Him: The Story of Anna Lynn Hurd explores the days leading up to Anna’s murder in an intimate way.

Smartphones, social media, and the Internet has exploded the number of ways our young people are exposed to violent behaviour. Anna’s boyfriend would send multiple text messages to her a day asking her where she was, who she was with, and what she was doing. And because of the “private” nature of text messages and social media accounts, research is beginning to turn up indications that this is the primary method abusive partners use to control. And while we can’t in all good conscience “spy” on our neighbours and friends and children, we can be alert for signs of trouble.

The second portion of I Trusted Him: The Story of Anna Lynn Hurd explores all the statistics surrounding Intimate Partner Violence and provides tips and resources on how to spot an abusive relationship, whether your own or someone close to you, and places you can turn to for help.

While most toxic partners may never get to the point of murder, there are many other equally horrendous acts that can occur in a relationship that we need to be cognizant of. Setting boundaries early and learning how to talk to a partner in respectful ways is an important skill, but also knowing when someone needs professional help and exiting the situation safely is the best and only option. I Trusted Him and the countless organisations out there can help.

Paradise Publishers is happy to have been a part of this project and we urge you to read it; if not for yourself, even if not for someone you know, for Anna. The more people who know her story, and are able to recognize the signs of abuse, the better off we all will be.

Read it back to me, please

ReadItToMePleaseI am perpetually in editor-mode. This is one of my flaws; one that holds me back considerably when I am writing. And the reason is that I spend far more time re-reading what I have written rather than just blurting all my thoughts down on paper (screen?) as they come to me. All the experts say just dump it all out at once; you can always go back and re-read it again later on. That’s all well and good, but when you are like me, you’re constantly re-reading your last sentence back to yourself. What that means is that the rest of the piece never gets written because I am so focused on what went before.

I sometimes wish I could just write without watching what I’m writing. And sometimes I type as I gaze out the window in front of me. I practice to just get it out at once and tell myself to go back later and “fix” it when I am done. It’s a good idea; except that … well, have you ever written or typed without looking at the screen? Sometimes what comes out is so illegible that it’s difficult for even me to interpret what I initially intended to say in the first place.

Joking aside, no matter how you do it, at some point, you end up with a finished product that absolutely needs to be proofread. There is no compromise here. Proofreading is a must-do. Too many times I have gone over my writing and found double-words, incomplete sentences, convoluted sentences, or sentences that just make no sense at all. But re-reading is tedious; especially when you get to the third or fourth reading. So what I tend to do when I have a long missive to proofread, is set my computer to read it all back to me.

This is, I suspect, one of the many reasons that many writers (among other creative types) tend to prefer an Apple machine to a Windows machine – OS X (which is the operating system that comes with most Apple computers) has a text-to-speech capability built in. No special tweaking is necessary (although I much prefer to hear a male voice speaking than a woman’s voice for some things) and it’s ready to go right out of the box. The best part of text-to-speech is that it uses the punctuation you add to your work. So, if there are too many commas (or not enough), you can immediately hear it.

But that doesn’t mean that Windows users are left out in the cold. My husband is doing an online course at home. He learns better when he hears the words rather than when he reads. The course, unfortunately, can only be run in Internet Explorer. So we needed to find him a way to have that course material read to him on Windows. We found a free software application for him to use, and although somewhat rough in its construction, it did the job well. This leads me to believe, then, that there is absolutely no excuse for turning out work that contains several grammatical or spelling errors. The tools are there; you only need to look for them.

Too often, I see books submitted with grammatical and spelling errors that are obvious. As writers, we cannot expect to be taken seriously if even we cannot stand to re-read our own work. I appeal to you as writer to writer – if you can’t find someone to proofread your work for you, find a text-to-speech tool to do it for you. It’s not the ideal solution, and it won’t yield perfect results, but it is a step in the right direction.

You know you’re a writer when …

I saw a writers’ meme (?) on Facebook the other day.

I reposted it and tagged my husband, apologising, because there have been many times when I am writing something and I burst out mid-sentence, reading what I’ve written out loud. He immediately understood what it meant. I told him I’d wait to be alone in future and his response was, “Nah. You won’t. You’ll just forget about it in the moment, and just go on reading out loud as you normally do.”

I am ashamed to say that he’s probably right.

Writer’s Write does a few of these a week. Most of them are so true, it hurts.

See how many of the following “You know you’re a writer when …” statements fit you. (And if you never considered yourself a writer before but these fit you anyway, maybe it’s time you started writing.)

I don’t get it …

‘Hope Mom doesn’t read this …’

‘For science …’

‘It’s time to write …. not’

-from The Oatmeal

‘I know it’s art, but …’

‘Just one more chapter…’

‘Must. Have. Coffee. …’

-from frabz

‘And what if …’

‘But you have so many already …’

(especially books about writing)

And finally …

‘I love you all, each and every one …’

** Source and credit to Writers Write blog unless otherwise specified.

How to Use eBooks to Market Your Business

EverWriteABookTo successfully market your business and boost revenue you need to use every tool in your arsenal. It’s no secret that social media has taken hold as one of the most powerful and cost-effective marketing avenues out there, but there’s another offshoot of the tech boom that has tremendous hidden potential as well – eBooks. By following the right steps, you can write and publish eBooks and use them to significant effect in your overall marketing strategy. If you’ve never written one, or if you have but aren’t sure how to take advantage of its marketing capabilities, read on for some helpful pointers.

1. Keep Them Concise
Just like you would with any blog post, keep your eBooks concise and to the point. Because it’s a longer form than a general blog post, organizing the delivery of your message is even more important. Avoid rambling to your readers by organizing the structure of the points you wish to make and the overall message or instruction you wish to deliver. If you can pack a 50-page eBook with loads of valuable information, your readers will thank you for it and come back for more.

2. Price Them Cheap or Give Them Away
If you’re relatively new to the game of using eBooks to market your business, don’t charge your customers a dime. If you’re further along in the process and your eBooks are known to provide readers with tips and advice they simply can’t get elsewhere, price them conservatively. People generally don’t like paying for things when they don’t have to, but if you’ve already delivered some high-quality eBooks in the past, you can get by with a nominal fee. If not, make them freebies.

3. Use Existing Content
Be cautious with this strategy. While you should never copy and paste existing content into an eBook, there is nothing unethical about drawing on previous blog posts to generate content. I did so with an eBook I created several years ago, and although all content was original, I did base it off of writings I had done previously. This can cut down on the time it takes to create your eBook.

4. Include a Preview On Your Website
Whether or not you’re charging a fee for your eBook, be sure to include a preview on your website. It could be a link to the cover page and the first few pages of text, or a preview of each chapter, depending on the length. Dangling a carrot is an effective strategy when trying to draw readers to download your work.

5. Promote It On Social Media
Once your eBook is up and running, by no means should you simply market it on your website. Include a mention on all of your social media accounts, with a link to where the viewer can download it for free. You can also link to your landing page where viewers can purchase it. Creating an eBook is important, but marketing it effectively is just as essential.

6. Avoid Excessive Self Promotion
Have you ever downloaded an eBook only to find the first ten pages filled with the writer’s advertisements? This is a great way to convince a reader to abandon your eBook. Of course you want to promote yourself, but there are right and wrong ways to do it. Most readers will respond better if they don’t feel like they’re being sold to. After all, your entire eBook may be about self-promotion, but it doesn’t have to look like it. Take the opportunity within your content to highlight your work or your product(s) such that it illuminates the information or message you want to convey. And definitely link back to relevant information on your website or blog. Do provide information about yourself and your business at the beginning of the book, but keep it simple. At the end of your book, even at the end of each chapter, invite the reader to contact you with questions or for more information.

Once your eBook is written and ready for distribution, you need to decide which format is best for your situation. Most standard eBooks are in PDF form, but publishing yours in an EPUB format may actually be more beneficial, mainly because it’s mobile-friendly. Consider getting some software online, converting your eBook into both formats, and offering your readers a choice. Using eBooks to market your business is a great complement to your current marketing initiatives, just make sure you’re crafting them to attract the most readers – and potential customers – as possible.

Have you ever written an eBook?

It’s “Banned Books Week 2013” – what are you reading?

BannedBooksWeekI start my days with checking in on Facebook. This is probably not very wise since Facebook is the epitome of a black hole for time. Nevertheless, I started out this Monday morning with a scan of my news feed and spotted the post which said that Banned Books Week started on Sunday the 22nd. That’s this week!

It seems a little sad that I have never heard of this awareness campaign before this year. It seems as if it ought to be something every reader (and writer) should be aware of. The practice of banning books is not a new thing. Humans have been attempting to censor the written word from almost the very day the first written word was produced for public consumption. The American Library Association sponsors the campaign in the United States and has done so since 1982! Banned Books Week is intended to raise awareness of books banned or challenged by different entities and promote intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstores.

Imagine my horror, when perusing the list of banned and challenged books, discovering that “Alice in Wonderland” is on the list as having been challenged at one point or another in history. According to bannedbooks.world.edu, the challenge to Carroll’s nonsensical, literary romp is that it “contained expletives, references to masturbation and sexual fantasies, and ‘derogatory characterizations of teachers and religious ceremonies.’” I found myself thinking back what I remember of Alice’s trip down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass and I scarcely remember anything of the sort – do you? The only thing I do remember about it was the Queen of Hearts using flamingos as croquet mallets and lopping off the heads of anyone who managed to displease her in any way. As the article on bannedbooks.world.edu stipulates “Royalty being a bit crazed and beheading everyone is part of history. Is this yet another example of revisionist history?” I’d vote “Yes” on that one.

As a reader, I am appalled that we are still doing this nonsense in this day and age and as a writer, I am incensed. I understand that some literature might be a little sensitive for children of particular ages to digest comfortably, but banning the books, removing them from libraries and bookstores feels judgmental and supercilious. By all means enforce parental/adult guidance and supervision, but don’t remove the books completely. (And incidentally, isn’t reading within the context of school literature classes the very definition of adult supervision?)

This week in protest to this purely selfish and prohibitive practice, I am picking a book listed on the Banned/Challenged book list to read this week (in spite of having a few other books awaiting my attention) – maybe even specifically one on the list for the year 2012–2013. It’s already more than 2 days into Banned Books week 2013, but there’s still time to make your decision and get started. Check out the lists, find a book you’ve always wanted to read, or have read and enjoyed multiple times, and give it a read in protest this week. Help us speak out in support of the freedom to read (or write) whatever we want without censorship.