Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fifty States of Pray

Mark Koopmans is one of those people. Those people who are generous, kind, creative and so very thoughtful. In a moment of brilliance he came up with the blog hop called Fifty States of Pray. This adventure calls for a short post thanking, wishing, remembering anything you might have want to give a prayer and thought to during this wondrous time of year. Mark is hoping we have bloggers joining in from all fifty states and many, many countries besides the good ole US of A. Thanks Mark for organizing this idea. Visit his blog for the others on the list. And because it's the holiday and family time, take your time and spread the visits out over the next few days.

Though it seems like a cliché, I pray for world peace. Think what it would mean if no one had to spend money on wars. All those funds could go to health care and education. All that research done on weapons could be spend in the medical fields, working for cures. All those people fighting in foreign lands could be home with their loved ones. World peace would solve every problem mankind faces or at least give us a better chance at conquering them.

And a special thought today for my very close friends who lost their twenty year old son to cancer a few months ago. I can't imagine what this holiday will be like for them, but I wish them some moments of peace and comfort in the love of their family and friends.

Merry Christmas to all my blogging and reader friends. I hope the holiday brings you peace and joy in your heart. No comments are necessary. I know you're there.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It's Always Something

I know some of my blogging friends work in a field where they have to use technology everyday. I had to use it as a teacher, and my knowledge and experience sufficed and even surpassed many of my colleagues. That's not really something to brag about.

I continue to learn. I recently bought a Kindle Fire and am working on ways to get the most out of it. But sometimes something happens and I just can't figure it out. Last spring I finally bought a new laptop. A nice, thin lightweight model that is so portable and easy to use. I also bought a new printer at the same time. A multi-tasking wireless model. I've really enjoyed the ease of use. Except, about a week ago, my printer and laptop stopped talking to each other.

They say they are, but they're not. I've done all the easy checks. Wifi is working fine but the message just isn't getting through. I've tried everything but can't get it to work. I get so frustrated when I have to spend time on that when I'd rather be writing. I like to print off the first draft of my WIP and then use it as the outline for the second, cleaner version. Now I'm at 63,000 words and no printer. Arrgh!

I know many of you are taking some holiday blogging vacations. I'll be posting again on the 24th for Mark Koopmans's Fifty States of Pray but skipping this Friday.

So has technology ever stumped you? Any new tech you've learned lately that makes life easier? Are you going on 'blogging' vacation?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Best Christmas Ever

As the big day nears, I start to worry a little bit that my children will have a good, or better, a great Christmas. The past few years, even when the budget was tight, have been filled with fun as the family just enjoys the time together. Our three oldest sons live on their own now, one with a wife, one with a daughter and one with his girlfriend. Because they now have other families to consider during holiday celebrations, we started having our big family get together the day before Christmas. The gifts exchanged don't even matter. We just have a great six hours or so together. Then Christmas morning, we exchange gifts with the three children still living under our roof and eat leftovers from the day before.

Those of you who have children know that as they get older, they have very specific requests for holiday gifts. I still try to surprise them with something I know they'll love even if they haven't asked for it. Usually it's not something that expensive. I hope as they start their own families they remember Christmas days that were unforgettable.

As a child, our large family worked hard on a family farm. Money was tight but my parents managed to pay for our college with all of us doing our share of the farming. Usually for Christmas, we received mostly clothing and one gift that was a toy. The best Christmas ever for me as a kid was the year my parents bought my little brother, my very best friend at the time, and me Red Ryder BB guns. I can't tell you the hours we traveled the farmlands and woodlands hunting with our BB guns. We never shot anything except targets but we felt like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, tracking and sneaking around. I'll never forget that time.

What makes your current Christmas celebrations unforgettable? What was your most memorable Christmas as a child? Have you started or continued any family traditions at your house? Don't forget to visit IWSG today and check out the winners from the contest.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Smaug the Terrible vs Kerik the Conflicted

Today one of the most famous dragons in fictional history takes to the big screen. Smaug the magnificent, terrible scourge of death and destruction. The epitome of greed and self-centered existence, Smaug lives in infamy.

Kerik, my dragon, is a more complex character. Not that he doesn't feel many of the same things as Tolkien's scaly creature, but he fights against his dragon nature. As a dragon, Kerik knows he's a superior being compared to mere humans. But because of his upbringing, he cares for some of those puny humans. The dragon Kerik knows that humans are his only natural enemy, yet he takes a side in the human war.

What are the chances more people read about my dragon in the next year than will read about Smaug? Probably about as much chance as me running a 5:30 mile today. But I'm still hoping a little dragon love will spill over to my book, First Dragon. It's had a little sales bump this past week, so I'm hoping.

Are your heading out into the next winter storm to see The Desolation of Smaug in its opening weekend? Did you buy any Tolkien books for gifts this Christmas? Don't forget, today is the last day to get your name in for the wonderful contest at the IWSG site.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Where Are You, Christmas?

I'm getting pretty good at setting writing goals for myself and reaching them. But this is a busy time of year for most of us. In between sessions of writing and keeping up with my blogging, I've been shopping online, addressing Christmas cards and decorating. And finding myself with a definite lack of Christmas spirit.

I love this holiday and the time together with family. But my brain can't quite get around the idea that it's only two weeks away. But starting today, I'm going to indulge in some of my favorite Christmas movies, one per day until I start to feel the warmth of the holiday. There are a very large number of movies to select from.

George C. Scott in A Christmas Carol is probably my all time favorite. As a family, we like to watch the first Home Alone and of course, A Christmas Story. My daughter and I enjoy Prancer together at least once per season. My husband enjoys an annual showing of Jingle All the Way, corny but funny.

So for the next two weeks, I'm going to try to find that lovely anticipation for Christmas and still reach my writing goals. Is there a favorite holiday movie that you watch every year? What gets you in the holiday spirit? Have you set your writing goals aside for the next few weeks or do you keep pounding away at the keyboard among the wrapping paper and ribbons? Don't forget to sign up for the contest on the IWSG site.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Against the Big Boys

I do love football. My sons played in high school and one played in college. Those years were fun and I miss watching them play. This year I've had the pleasure of watching my oldest son coach high school football. They had a great year and on Saturday they played in the state semi finals for AAAA football, which of none PA fans means the big school division. Our high school, the one I recently retired from, is the smallest school in the state in the big school division so our playoff run was very unexpected.
Cold and snowy in Altoona
They didn't even clean the bleachers.

To make the football story short, our beloved Falcons had to play against a huge private school from the city of Pittsburgh. We lost. By a lot. It was sad for my son, the coach, and for our hardworking players, most of them boys I've had in class in the past few years. It was a heart breaking loss to end their season. But today or the next day when the bruises fade a bit, they'll take a look back on the season and know they had a great year. Considering the size of our school, they had a great run.

Doing a little Christmas shopping, in a bookstore of course, it's difficult to miss the 'bestsellers' and 'big name' books being promoted. There are entire tables with Hobbit trinkets and dozens of possible selections of paperback and hardback copies of Tolkien's books. Then there are the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones tables. I'm sure you can name a few. Big revenue generators. Lots of money spent in bookstores at this time of year. Will anyone be spending it on my books?

After Christmas, there will also be a lot of gift cards waiting to be spent. There will be new tablets able to easily download and purchase books. New laptops and smartphones. Will any of those buyers look at my books to purchase or will they mostly buy books from those big names with all their promotions?

The playing field isn't necessarily fair, but sometimes the little guy, or girl, does win. I'm hoping I'll find the magic I did with The Marine's Queen that sent it to the top of the list, ranked above some of the big boys even if only for a while. Like our little football team, I'll work hard with the skills I have and believe it will pay off with a good run or success.

What displays have you found front and center in the bookstore lately? Tired of seeing Duck Dynasty everywhere? Did the snow storm interfere with your weekend plans? Have you signed up for the contest over at the IWSG blog yet?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Are We Reading?

As the year nears its end, the stats will start to come out in many writing magazines, telling us how many books are being sold. What genre of books are being sold. What format books are being sold in. Google it and you can find all kinds of graphs and numbers.

One of the thing all book buying research agrees upon is what gender buys the most books. Some articles claim as much as 58% of the money spent on books comes from the purses of females. Women buy and read more books than men.

Some romance writers feel a need to defend their genre. Criticism of romance writing and reading is rather common but why should a romance writer feel the need to convince other writers or readers of their genre legitimacy? The numbers alone validate the genre. I love writing and reading fantasy and science fiction, but I make my writing money on my romance. Or you could go here and buy more of my fantasy to make that statement a lie. LOL

As a teacher (now retired) and the mother of some very successful students, parents often ask me about reading material for their children. I've always answered that what is important is that their children are reading. If the young ones fall in love with the written word early on don't stifle it by forcing them to read something they're not interested in. Read anything!

But are we as a people reading? I saw a disturbing statistic about reading among adults in the USA. In 2008, just over half of all adults had read at least one novel, short story or a poem. One. In 2012, less than 47% of adults claimed the same thing. Can you imagine not reading? It's so difficult to believe that when my house is so full of books and readers.

I'm sure there will be more articles referencing buying and reading stats in the course of the next two months. Do you have any expectations of what the stats might tell us? Do you see proof around you that supports the fear that people aren't reading as much as they did a few years ago? Did you join the contest at the IWSG yet?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IWSG: Join Us in a Contest

The first Wednesday of the month is always special as hundreds of bloggers join each other in support in the IWSG bloghop. The brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, this wonderful, knowledgeable group help each other out with small tidbits of wisdom. Not long ago, Alex took the group one step further with the formation of the IWSG website. The pages of that site contain links to nearly everything a writer needs to know to make their way in this business. And I'm not just saying that because I'm part of that website. By joining the IWSG website and the IWSG Facebook page, you'll not have to take your writer's journey alone.

And to add to the many benefits of belonging to this wonderful group, today we're running a contest of prodigious proportions. Please join us and maybe take a bit of the generosity home with you.

And now to share a little wisdom and insecurity today I wanted to talk about failure. Everyone who has ever tried to be a writer has experienced failure of one sort or another. Rejected stories, published stories that don't sell well or receive negative reviews, and don't forget those book signings where no one shows up but your family. But each failure can teach a writer something. Without failure, there would be no drive to improve. The more we fail as writers, the more we write and try again. Don't take failure to heart, but use it as a step up to the next level.

So please visit the IWSG blog and join up today. You could win!!!! Also like our Facebook page. It's a pretty busy place.

Have your failures helped you learn something? Care to put a number on your rejections? Have you joined the IWSG blog or Facebook page?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Plan Your Work

I spent Black Friday visiting family and definitely not shopping. I have a very short list of gifts to buy and most of them will be done on this machine I'm preparing this post upon. I miss that special joy of surprising my children when they were little on Christmas morning. But now that they're older, the enjoyment comes from spending time in each other's company. It saves me money and shopping time.

On the other hand, usually right before Thanksgiving there is something I start searching for. The exact, perfect planner for on my writing desk. This isn't the calendar I put on the wall in the kitchen to mark dentist appointments on but the one I use to jot down all kinds of things related to writing. Book releases, promo ideas, blog post ideas, writing meetings, and any other bit of info I might sometime need.

As I look over last years, I find something written in for almost every MWF as I planned blog posts. April was really full with the A to Z craziness. The first Wednesday of every month reminds me that it is IWSG post time. I haven't missed one in a long time, maybe never. Don't forget it's post time on Wednesday.

I like a planner that has a spiral binding so it lays flat on my desk and if it has pretty pictures in like my Audubon Society one did in 2012, so much the better. 2013's model was plan but I had to go cheap last year. This year I spent only a few dollars more and picked up The Old Farmer's Almanac. It has lots of cute tidbits and recipes scattered among the pages. I'll probably share some of those with you. This is the perfect time or year to find the perfect planner. Of course, if you wait until after Christmas, you might score a really cheap price though the selection might not be great.
January, 2014

I wanted to suggest a visit today to Mark Koopmans' blog to hear about 50 States of Pray. This is a terrific idea so check it out.

So do you use a planner for your work and/or your writing? Do you keep your schedule on a digital device or rely on pen and pencil like I do? Make sure you visit the IWSG blog and check out something special happening this Wednesday.