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As 2013 begins, I hope to move forward in areas where I have been lax, such as writing blog posts. I’ll maintain the writing-related focus of this blog and, while I make no promises, I plan to post a minimum of once a week.

I’m at a crossroad in life and am not yet sure of what I want to do. Sort of like my cat.

Safety first!

Safety first!

He’s kept indoors 99.9% of the time and when let loose outside never ventures beyond the safety of the deck. He nibbles on the grass growing next to it, but won’t step out of his comfort zone to see what he could see. I don’t want to be like him.

I want to jump off the deck and wallow in the grass, figuratively speaking. I want to revel in whatever the new year brings me; to do things I’ve never done before—in reality, and in my writing.

 

Looking for adventure!

Looking for adventure!

 

Look out world; here I come!

 

What about you? What are you hoping to achieve in 2013? Are you setting specific goals or making any changes? Are you looking forward to anything special this year?

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I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog for the encouraging comments and support. Blogging is my favorite hobby, and I feel very blessed that so many of you have signed up to follow my posts via e-mail or have returned repeatedly despite my haphazard posting schedule. I’ve been distracted by family matters during the last few months, but things are settling down and I’m hoping for a more normal posting pattern in the upcoming year.

Rather than making a New Year’s Resolution post with promises to myself that I probably won’t keep, I’ve decided to list a few of the blessings I’ve received during the past year. Being grateful for what I have and for what I’ve accomplished is more important to me than listing things I wish I could change. So, not necessarily in order of importance, here are the top 10 blessings 2011 brought to me:

I’ve learned to trust that God’s plans are better than my plans.

My husband survived a delicate heart procedure.

My kids have been home to share the good times as well as the tough ones.

I am physically in better shape than I’ve been in several years.

My family and friends have been unwavering in their support through some difficult times.

There is currently nothing I really need that I don’t have or can’t get.

The future looks bright for my 3 children.

My 91-year-old mother is in good health.

I’ve made the decision to focus on the positive in every situation rather than on the negatives, and so far I’ve been able to stick with that decision.

I’ve realized that some things just aren’t important enough to waste my life worrying about.

 

None of these things relate to writing—that’s somewhere farther down my list of blessings. Due to the fact I haven’t been writing anything, I have no accomplishments to list in that area. However, I do still have a passion for the book I was working on last year, and I’m determined to devote more time to writing during 2012.  (That’s not a Resolution! It’s a goal. ;) )

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At Grandmother's house

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What are some of the things you’ve been blessed with during 2011? Do you have some goals for 2012 you’d like to share? Did you have a pleasant holiday season this year?

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My daughter turned 21 last month. She’s a full-time college student, works 2 jobs, and is moving into her own apartment this weekend. One of her brothers is an honors student working as an intern on a government-funded study with one of his college professors. Her other brother has been working part-time while trying to get a computer-related business started.

Each of my children is awesome. Each is also different, with ideas and goals of their own. Looking at them now, I’m amazed by how quickly time has flown. They’ve grown from babies dependent upon me for just about everything, to young adults. I’m extremely proud of them.

 

Looking at my own life, I’ve grown, too. I’m at the stage where statistically speaking there are more years behind me than ahead of me. I’ve changed in many ways, hopefully for the better. Yet some of my ideas, dreams, and goals are still the same ones I had as a child. As I approach my own birthday this month, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it is that I’ve achieved and what I still hope to accomplish.

Though there are several things I still want to do, the one that’s relevant to this blog’s theme is this: I want to write a novel that brings warmth and hope to another person’s heart.

I’m working toward that goal slowly, but surely. It’s been sidetracked this spring due to family commitments, but I’m getting back to it today. I’m also trying to get back to blogging regularly, but may still be a bit sporadic with my posts until my kids get into their summer routine (and the laundry gets caught up!)

Please be patient with me as I get it all together. And to those of you who’ve asked me questions I haven’t answered yet, I apologize, and will respond as quickly as I can gather some useful resources for you.

Thanks all!

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What are your goals? Are you making progress toward them? What is holding you back from achieving what you hope/plan to do?

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I had a wonderful Thanksgiving week with my family, but my kids headed back to college last night–so here I am, back to posting.  As this is a busy time of year for me, I’ll only be blogging twice a week (or less) through December, but hopefully more often in the New Year. I’m still checking other blogs regularly even though I may not post a comment each time I visit.

I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas next month. Our tree is up, along with most of the traditional decorations, and I’m starting on my Christmas cards and shopping. I’ve also created a musical e-card at Jibjab again this year, and am sharing the link here for those of you who might enjoy a bit of holiday silliness. It will be available until 1/11/11. http://elfyourself.jibjab.com/view/wt4g3TiGT3OVrptJXl19

I hope each of you has a wonderful and safe holiday season.

 

Is your writing schedule affected by holiday busyness, or do you stick to a regular routine no matter what time of year it is? What holiday traditions do you enjoy most? What are you putting on your “wish list” this year?

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Laura Best, author of Bitter, Sweet, which was recently nominated for the prestigious Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, has generously awarded me the Versatile Blogger award. Thank you, Laura.

 

The rules involved with this award require me to share 7 things about myself and pass on the award to recently discovered blogs I enjoy. After much thought, I’ve come up with a list of things that even my closest friends might not know, but also won’t embarrass me to admit. Here you go:

1. I hide the candy I don’t want to share in the top drawer of the file cabinet on the right side of my desk.

2. I totally dislike wearing shoes, but love owning lots of them.

3. My favorite ride at Disney World is Splash Mountain.

4. I cry every time I watch the movie Ghost, but it’s still one of my favorites.

5. I am a compulsive list-writer, but I seldom follow the list.

6. Of all the things I would like to do before I die, taking a cruise to Alaska is number 1 on my list.

7. My favorite way to relax is to sit on my deck early in the morning with a cup of coffee, a book, my dog, and a camera.

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I’ve repeatedly referred you to my Blogs I Like page, and still think all of the ones listed there are awesome. This time, however, I’m going to list some that aren’t already mentioned there in order to give other good blogs some exposure. I haven’t spent a lot of time on these, but they each offer a variety of posts I think you will enjoy.

My nominations for 5 recently discovered blogs I like (I’ll add more as I run across them):

http://deescribewriting.wordpress.com/  great for those interested in writing for children

http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com/ spotlights agents and gives tips for writers

http://wordsharpeners.wordpress.com/  lots of good stuff here for writers and nonwriters

http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/  useful tips for writers and bloggers

http://writeitsideways.com/  has good tips for writers

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Anyone have secrets you’d like to share today? What’s your favorite amusement park ride? What’s the number 1 thing you’d like to do before you die? What movie makes you cry no matter how many times you watch it?

 

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My dear friend Elizabeth has awarded me the Blog with Substance Award on the basis that she thinks my blog has substance. In order to accept it I must share five words that sum up my blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience. Though I may not always provide posts that live up to my ideals, here are 5 words that describe my intentions for this blog:

1. Informative: I try to provide information that I think is helpful for anyone interested in improving their writing or in learning about the writing craft.

2. Concise: I try not to be too wordy.

3. Relevant: I try not to get too far off track from my goal of keeping my topics related to writing.

4. Encouraging: I try to respond to comments in a positive way, and to be supportive of the people who read my blog.

5. Responsive: I try to reply to all comments, and to provide posts that correspond to the search terms that appear most frequently in my blog statistics.

I’m also supposed to nominate blogs that I feel qualify as blogs with substance. This is hard as all the blogs listed on my Blogs I Like page qualify for the award on that basis. Instead, I’ve decided to list the blogs I check most often. (A few of my favorite bloggers post only once a week or less, so I’m not mentioning them here even though I check for new posts weekly. I’m also not nominating Elizabeth’s blog since she’s the one who gave me the award, and therefore automatically qualifies. ;) )

In random order, I regularly read posts by the following bloggers:

Lua Fowles  http://likeabowloforanges.wordpress.com/

Barbara Ann Wright  http://barbaraannwright.wordpress.com/

Jon Strother  http://jmstrother.com/MadUtopia/

Laura Best   http://lauraabest.wordpress.com/

Carol Garvin  http://careann.wordpress.com/

Carla Gade  http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com/

What are the blogs you read most often? With so many blogs out there, what makes you choose certain ones to read regularly? What causes you to skip a blog, or a blog post, when you are browsing blogs?

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Just wanted to stop in and assure my regular blog readers that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. I’m learning technology in order to make my blog better, and it’s taking more time than I anticipated.

Yesterday I chatted at length with the tech support team at Kodak, trying to figure out why the video camera I got for Christmas wouldn’t load pictures onto my computer. The young man patiently explained how to do all those techie things some people seem to understand intuitively, like take out the SD card, remove the battery cover, and plug in the USB. He eventually figured out that I was using the charging cord rather than the built-in USB thing to upload the software on my camera—and, duh, it don’t work that way. (Yes, that’s grammatically incorrect, but used for effect. Isn’t it odd that someone so OCD about perfect grammar can know nothing whatsoever about technology, and not care at all?)

I’m doing this to give you an absolutely awesome video experience in my next post, which I’ve written and desperately want to share. However, I’m too cheap to pay WordPress $50 per year to upload my video directly, so I have to learn how to upload to YouTube before I can put the video on my blog. And of course the Kodak moment I want to share was stuck on my camera as I couldn’t figure out how to upload to my computer. Step 1 is now resolved, but today I tackle YouTube.

Learning how to do the basics is key to success in many ventures. As writers, we need to have at least a basic understanding of grammar, story structure, characterization, and setting. Building on those basics will allow us to create stories that captivate readers, and mastering them will set our stories apart from the ordinary ones.

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Have you ever posted to YouTube? Do you have tips for taking interesting home videos? How do you learn to use new technology? Is your writing hindered in any way by the inability to master some aspect of technology?

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A common question from writers is whether or not it’s necessary for them to develop a blog or join a social networking site such as Facebook. The majority of us seem to think it is. However, there are differing opinions as to when, why, and to what degree networking is important.

For those who are published, or soon-to-be published, a website, blog, and social networking may be essential marketing tools. The trend in publishing is for writers to take over much of the responsibility for promoting their own work, and online activities can make a big difference in the success of a book.

For unpublished writers not actively submitting stories or articles for possible publication, though, an online presence may not be helpful. Devoting time to blogging, participating in forums, and updating Facebook may distract us from writing and studying the craft, which we should be doing to make our work marketable. On the other hand, those activities can be fun, and help us find like-minded people who will encourage us and possibly become critique partners.

I have mixed feelings about the value of a blog at this stage in my writing career. The people who read my blog tend to be other writers, but writers also tend to be readers—so somewhere down the line, this may become a valuable asset. Since I enjoy blogging, it makes sense to keep at it. For those who haven’t started submitting work for publication and don’t enjoy blogging, I think it’s more beneficial to spend time working on writing stories and articles than blog posts.

I haven’t joined a social networking site, so can’t say from personal experience whether or not they are worth the investment of a writer’s time. My opinion on blogging may not mean anything to those of you reading this, either. So, I’ve compiled a list of sites where publishing professionals discuss this topic. If you’re trying to make up your mind on how much you need to be doing online at a certain stage of your career, you may find these sites helpful:

http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/author-platform-what-are-you-waiting-for/  Joel Friedlander on author platforms

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/03/lets-talk-about-platform.html  Rachelle Gardner talks about platforms

http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/07/social-networking-vs-writing.html Rachelle Gardner on unpublished authors and networking

http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2009/04/building-platform-for-fiction.html  Jessica Faust on fiction platforms

http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2010/03/more-on-platform.html  Janet Reid on nonfiction platforms

 http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~gct/social_networking_sites.jpg

What online activities do you participate in? Which ones do you think are useful for promoting your work? How much time do you spend each day blogging and/or networking? What topics do you talk about most often on your blog or networking site? When do you think an aspiring author should start building an online presence?

 

 

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I have a lot of things I must do today, so I’m going to refer you to some excellent posts I’ve read on various topics instead of writing one of my own. Here you go:

Agent Chip MacGregor lists skills a writer needs to develop. http://chipmacgregor.typepad.com/main/2010/03/what-skills-does-a-writer-need-to-develop-.html

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Patrick Dent provides lots of tips on writing fiction, including setting, scenes, dialog, and more.

http://www.go-publish-yourself.com/articles/scene_structure.php

Holly Lisle gives advice on how to revise a novel.

http://hollylisle.com/fm/Articles/wc2-4.html

Editor Lynn Price discusses the role of blogging in an author’s “platform.”

http://behlerblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/i-have-a-blog/

Those should keep you busy for a while.  :)

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Do you have some interesting/informative sites you can recommend for writers? What about a post you’ve written on a particular topic that writers might find helpful? Post links in the comments so we can all learn more about the craft of writing.

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My friend Stephen Book, at Powder Burns and Bullets, has bestowed the Honest Scrap Award upon me. Apparently this award is “for bloggers who put their heart on display as they write from the depths of their soul.” I’m deeply honored to receive it.

I’m supposed to write 10 things about myself, but since I used up the most exciting details in an earlier post, I haven’t much of interest to add. However, being an ardent writer, I won’t let that stop me.

Here are 10 more things you probably don’t know about me, all of which are related to writing or books.

1. My favorite suspense author is Dean Koontz, and I especially love his Odd Thomas series.

2. I own, and have read, the entire set of Tarzan books (paperback), by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

3. The book I value most is the old King James Version Bible that my mother gave to my grandmother in 1967, and then gave to me after my grandmother’s death.

4. Some of my favorite classic books are: To Kill a Mockingbird; The Odyssey; Tom Sawyer; and Don Quixote de la Mancha.

5. While in college, I wrote all my notes and stories in shorthand, including some highly philosophical essays. Years later when I tried to transcribe them, I couldn’t read my own writing. 

6. I’m currently reading Dare to Lose, by Shari Lieberman, which recommends a weight loss regime based on lifestyle changes.

7. One of my favorite children’s books is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle. I’m pretty sure I can still recite it by heart as I read it out loud to my kids at least a bazillion times.

8. One of my favorite series of books is the tales of Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card.

9. I read A Dog of Flanders once when I was a child, and I still feel like crying when I think of how it ended.

10. My favorite stories as a child were fairy tales. Now that I’m older, those same stories are too violent for my taste.

It was hard to narrow down my choices for bloggers deserving the Honest Scrap Award. I wanted to give it to people who haven’t already received it, and who touch my heart whenever I read their blogs. I spend lots of time reading blogs, but there are only a few that I check every day. Two of my favorites are Carla’s Writing to Distraction, and Elizabeth’s Ramblings. Both of these ladies write from their hearts.

Carla always has inspiring posts, and she shares her thoughts about writing and life in a sincere, interesting way. I enjoy following her writing journey, and am rooting for her to achieve her goals.

Elizabeth shares personal anecdotes from her life, and comments on what she sees going on around her. She is the friend I turn to for support when life feels overwhelming. She never lets me down.

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What book from your childhood still sticks with you? What’s your favorite genre to read? What type of book are you currently working on?   

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