Archive for the ‘Blog Hop’ Category

Beginnings   2 comments

How’d You Start Your Business, Blog, Or Freelance Career?
People always want to know how to start out in their niche. This means the nitty gritty details on how to do it all. Teach them how to start one of their own.

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Wow, this is an interesting topic that I don’t think I can teach anyone else. I didn’t start writing as a business. I wrote a story in the 5th grade that I hated and decided to write a better one and I haven’t stopped in several decades.

Image result for image of wordpressI love writing so much that I thought I would enjoy making my living at it, so I went to college to get a degree in journalism. I did enjoy the writing part and even some of the reporting part, but the office politics part turned me off so I eventually drifted away from journalism.

I wrote some freelance magazine articles to keep my hand in, but then I had kids and I didn’t have time. I hear tell of the mythical freelancer out there who makes a living freelancing, but I’ve never actually met such a legend. My day job does include some writing, but it is not a “writer’s” job per se.

Still, I always wrote fiction. It is a part of who I am. I don’t know that I can stop. And all of that is something I can’t teach anyone else because it’s my personal journey and I think we all walk different paths in artistry.

Starting a blog was really pretty easy. When I decided I was going to self-publish my first book The Willow Branch, someone told me I needed to start blogging to build an audience. Yeah, okay. I quickly realized that Facebook is not a blogging platform, so I decided not to go that way. As part of my day job, my boss asked me to look into a local blog which happened to be hosted by Word Press. I thought this would work. I signed up for a free account and started playing. There are still a lot of things about it that I don’t understand or make full use of, but I get my message out. Ah, but … the message ….

Image result for image of wordpressThe hardest thing about blogging is that you have to have content. I stared at the blank computer screen and went “hmm.” One thing I was certain of was that this wasn’t going to be a personal blog where I talked about ME. Not my thing. I quickly realized by looking at other blogs that writing only about my books would be boring … and not just for me, but for the readers as well. That’s no way to grow an audience. So I stared at the screen some more and then … someone posted something really nasty on Facebook and my first real blog post was born. I was working through a series on who I was – writer, non-partisan, fiscal conservative, Christian, but that hate-filled vitriolic Facebook post caused me to launch full-bore into the overriding theme of this blog “political philosophy” with Shouting Across the Chasm. It is actually kind of surprising to see how little my message has changed since 2012 and how the problems we’re addressing today are the exact same problems that existed when President Obama won his second term of office. It’s kind of amazing really. It’s like I wrote those posts just a few months ago.

Starting a blogging is really easy. Just go to wordpress.com and follow the instructions. Weebly is also a good site with some features that I wish Word Press had … and some features I’m glad Word Press doesn’t have. Find a platform that works for you and use it. Content is the hard part. Don’t be boring. Don’t be self-absorbed. Find something interesting to talk about.

We were supposed to get into the “nitty-gritty” details of starting our business or blog, but the fact is that blogging is easy to get into and Word Press makes designing the site relatively simple. There are some things that I struggle with and if I weren’t so cheap, I would hire someone to fix. Yeah, that’s a thing and you can find these people actually on Word Press. Pretty much anything I could teach you … if I remembered how I did it from 5 years ago … is available on Word Press’s website. Good luck. May the Force be with you and, if you learn something amazing, post it in the comments so I can learn it too.

Then there’s the novelist part of my business, but I’ll leave that for another post at another time. Lots of moving pieces to that one.

A Day in the Life   2 comments

What Is The Day In The Life Of An Independent Novelist Like?

Walk your readers through the hour-by-hour day in the life of (your title). Also, don’t forget to share pictures. It’s always a lot of fun for people to peak into others’ lives.

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Okay, so I’m not going to talk about my day job. My employer might consider that a conflict of interest. I’m an administrator. I support people who have a key role in keeping Alaska rolling along. I don’t agree with them politically and I think they’re engaged in slowly-evolving economic suicide, but otherwise they’re very nice people and the job pays well enough. I’ve said all that I should on that topic.

Image result for image of typing on laptopSo my weekday starts at about 6:30 am when my second alarm insists it is time to get up and go to work. Right now, in the midst of Alaska’s 24-hour daylight, sometimes my day starts at 5 am because our dog is confused and her bladder is full. She can’t read a clock, so I get up and take her out and then I might crank out some writing. I’m usually wide awake after standing on the lawn watching Goldeneyes check out her favorite spots, so I get at least a page (about 200 words) written. But most mornings, I drag out of bed like a normal human being with time just to make some breakfast, pack my lunch and warm up the car to go to work. The dog goes out in the time it takes to toast my bread. There is a lengthier process during the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, but I refuse to think about that in July. During the school year, I drop our son at school on the way to work. I then have about 10 minutes to write in my head while I drive. Right now, I have 15, nearly 20 minutes to head-write.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena river

I often use my lunch hour to deal with the social media time suck. I work out after work 2-3 evenings a week (and Sunday afternoon because I feel guilty about partaking in the breakfast they offer at church). I either watch television news as research while I work out or I write in my head. Some of my best writing happens when I don’t have the means to write it down and when my mind really needs to be occupied to get through the drudgery. Working out, mowing the lawn, a huge filing project or shredding at work is a very productive writing time for me. My coworkers think I’m nuts that I’m not bored enough to pass it to my subordinates. Shredding … what shredding? I’m sword-fighting or riding dragons, thank you very much.

After I’m done sweating and maybe a little closer to getting back into shape, I then go home to make dinner for the family. It’s usually Brad’s job to collect the teenager from the rock-climbing club where he has gotten himself after school. Since he blew a disc in his neck, Brad is not climbing himself, which means I don’t get alone time except on Thursday evenings. At around 7 pm, I sit down with a plate of food and usually a gigantic mug of tea to write. Hey, an indie author had better learn to multitask because there’s only so many hours in the day.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverOften the television is on (except Thursdays), so I’m multi-tasking. I spend the first hour doing something for the blog and then I’ll turn to one of my writing projects. As I’ve explained before, I often have more than one project because if I get bored or stuck with one, rather than give myself writer’s block by obsessing, I can switch to the other and get myself unstuck or less bored so I can go back to my primary project refreshed. Fount of Wraiths (Book 3 of the Daermad Cycle) is on long-term hiatus because I can’t stay focused on it. I write a scene and then I need a break. My next published book will be A Threatening Fragility (Book 3 of Transformation Project). It is the beta project that won the alpha-beta wrestling match. I’m writing the other book. I’m not stuck. It’s just taking a long time to get it out. It sure beats engaging in crippling self-recriminations because I’m not keeping my promises to myself.

Speaking of shattered promises, I promise myself I’ll go to bed by midnight. For most of the year, I can do that (you need more sleep and feel sleepier during that season we don’t discuss), but during the summer, I frequently find myself up until 2 am (and once a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t go to bed). At midnight, the sun finally dips below the horizon and than at 2 am, it starts to rise again, all visible from the north-facing window, so … yeah, that’s my signal that I’ve lost track of time. I’m chronically sleep-deprived in the summers. Fortunately, sleep deprivation seems to ignite my creativity, but I was slightly goofy at work the day after the night I didn’t sleep. Most of my coworkers are sleep deprived too this time of year. I fit right in.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverI try to write every day and even on a workday, I’ll produce about 1000 novel words (not blog words), but my big writing time is the weekend … unless we go hiking, camping, fishing … you get the picture. I get up at 8 am, make coffee and toast (take the dog out … we really need to teach her to use the toilet), and turn on the radio. Patriot’s Lament (KFAR 660 AM) starts at 9 am and I get my weekly dose of anarchism. My family generally sleep in very late on weekends, so it’s just me and the dog and Josh Bennett and Michael Anderson. These guys, their guests and callers give me so many ideas for Transformation Project that I am doing research while I listen, but I also spend time writing. This is my big day. This is the day when I will often produce 3-5,000 words. I take breaks to listen to the guys, but often they’re just background chatter as I really pound out the words. But, wait, they’re talking about why the 4th of July is a secular religious rite and the American flag is an idol. Maybe the writing can take a rest to listen. And then there’s toast and coffee and rubbing the dog’s butt with my foot. Sometimes you just have to take a break.

The show’s done at noon, which is usually about the time Brad starts a project in the basement (or the yard in the summer). I’m not bothered by noise (my mother operated a daycare center in our living room; I do react to blood-curdling screams, but mere skill saws … why would I?), so I keep writing, getting up occasionally to throw laundry in the washer or dryer (just outside the door) or to remind the teenager that Saturday is the day “we” vacuum and scrub the tub. He’s not sure who this “we” is I keep referencing. But I scrub the toilets, so he doesn’t argue because he knows he’s getting the better end of this deal.

Image result for image of yellow lab chena riverAbout three pm is the heat of the day around here (solar apex is 2 pm), so I take a break in the summer to go out on the deck and get some rays. Alaska homes are set up to deal with the cold of that season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, so we don’t have air-conditioning and it does get into the 90s here on a summer day. I will take a book with me. Sometimes that’s the markup manuscript for one of my books, but most often it’s a fantasy novel. It has to be a paperback because I can’t see my laptop screen in the sun. This is a good relaxation time for me. I’ve finished The Hunger Games trilogy this summer and Terry Brooks’ Elfstones of Shannara. I’m currently reading a history of Alaska, which is actually a fantasy novel because not everybody here experienced statehood as a benefit. (During the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of, we gather in the living room from about noon to 2 pm to catch the wan rays of the sun as it inches up over the neighbor’s roof. Yeah, it’s up about 2 1/2 hours. Occasionally, Brad will insist we drive up into the hills overlooking town and have a picnic lunch in the car so we can catch 3 1/2 hours of sunlight — yeah, and waste a lot of gasoline and create some air pollution, but it’s sunlight and … meh).

Back on the summer deck, the sun starts filtering through the birch trees around 5 pm, and it cools down slightly, so we do some yard work and then make dinner. The sun is still up, of course, and it’s warm enough to sit out on the deck, but not so bright I can’t see my computer screen, so I often will get in another hour of writing on the deck after dinner. If Brad hasn’t found a movie or TV show for us to watch, I’ll often write until bedtime, but I do recognize that I live in a community and should interact occasionally. Sometimes in the season-that-shall-not-be-spoken-of we play cards or board games. The teenager is getting really good at Cribbage, but reports that he’s the only 18-year-old he knows who plays it with real cards.

Related imageOne thing we try to do most summer evenings is go for a walk around 9 pm. Understand, it’s still broad daylight here then and it’s hot out. The sun is still above the horizon. People are out on their decks or throwing sticks for the dog down at the river. Often that’s where we’re headed too. Although my writing day might not be over, it’s a pleasant break and a time when writing is set aside, because it’s important to back up now and again and see things with natural eyes. It clears the cobwebs away and sometimes what I see on that walk works its way into a scene. And that’s why I included a lot of photos of what we see down on the river.

That’s a day of my writing life.

Chillin & Thrillin in a Tropical Paradise   7 comments

Image result for images of maui

What Is The Next Vacation You’d Love To Take?

Dream away. Share the fun. Or if your blog or business is made up of a team, you could always share where each of the team wants to go on vacation next. This is another one of those blog ideas that really help an audience get to know you better.

 

 

 

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Most of our vacations involve a road trip, often in Alaska, where everything is so far away from everything else, but if I were planning a “dream” vacation, I’d go back to Maui and stay at a Best Western in Kehei.

Yeah, simple tastes. Before Brad and I honeymooned on Maui, I spent four days in Kehei a couple of years before. I stayed in a cheap motel that was on the beach. That motel is now a boutique hotel with an Italian restaurant in its parking lot and … well, the beach is still there. When we were on our honeymoon, we couldn’t get into the motel, so we stayed at a “beach” hotel without a beach. We’ve since been back to other islands in the chain, but I would love to return there and thoroughly enjoy it.

Image result for image best western kiheiThe motel is sandwiched between upscale residential estates and high-rise condos, but it is only two stories, so as not to make you feel separated from the ocean that is only a few yards away. And that’s why you come to Hawaii, right? The beach. Ah, the beach. We might never leave the property. A lot of people are skeptical of this boutique property, but I’ve known people who have stayed there more recently and they all say the same thing — “It’s on the beach. It’s clean and has the Best Western customer service. And, oh, Temperpedic mattresses and Sargento’s in the parking lot and great restaurants in the nearby hotels … and a grocery store just down the way … and fruit stands just a few blocks away, and ….” Yeah,  you get my point. Yeah, we could spend hundreds of dollars a night on a luxury suite on the 8th floor of some Kanapali resort, but I prefer the more intimate, on the beach experience of a simple motel.

Image result for images of mauiI was an extremely recent college graduate when I stayed there, so I couldn’t afford all the nice restaurants along the Keawakapu Beach, which is part of a string of four of the best beaches you’ll find anywhere that runs along Maui’s Kehei shore. This time, we would have saved the money to truly indulge ourselves.

I think I might be a little old for body surfing now, but snorkeling right outside the door sounds like heaven. (Breaking the rule about not putting my image on the blog, that’s me snuba-ing about 18 years ago … on Kaui). This section of Kehei doesn’t have a rip tide, so it is perfect for viewing fish and coral formations, of which there are many just off shore. I think we’d go in late winter because that is prime whale watching season and Kehei is on the whale migration route. We were on the wrong side of the island last time, so we didn’t see any whales.

AImage result for images of mauis I said, we might never leave the property unless walking to a nearby restaurant, but we’re active people, so we would want to visit some of the places we saw as young honeymooners. I would love to hike the Io Valley, a lush rainforest in the interior of the island that we visited with inappropriate footwear. One of us (I say Brad) forgot to put the tennis shoes in the trunk that morning. We still hiked some, but the risk of turning an ankle or stabbing our toes with tropical bark limited our adventures and we just didn’t get back to it during the remainder of our stay.

We’ve never done a luau, so I think we’d do the feast at Lele. We’re not getting any younger and we might never get back there, so this time we would do it. I choose that one because it has been around a long time (we almost went to it on our honeymoon, but another adventure got in our way) and has intimate tables, so Brad and I would not have to interact with strangers. I love to talk to locals, but I have a low tolerance for tourist chatter (having worked in Alaska’s tourist industry for several years), so that would be important for us. And west Maui sunsets are delicious!

Image result for images of mauiOf course, we would return to Haleakala to hike … bringing adequate water this time. When we did it last time, we underestimated how hot things can get at 10,000 feet. It was still really fun and Brad likes a little possibility of death in his adventures, but I think we would enjoy it a great deal more because we would be better prepared this time. We would probably allot two trips to fully explore Haleakala – do the hike one day and the sunrise and bike ride another day.

Of course we’d visit Lahaina and I really want to check out the Maui Ocean Center, which didn’t exist the last time we were there. We’d allot a day to hike the King’s Highway, way south on Makena. We didn’t know it existed when we were there last, but history buff that I am, the old fishing villages draw me.

We were young and dumb when we were on Maui before, so gave the upcountry short shrift. We’d go back to Makawao and Kula to enjoy a quieter atmosphere, or and including the zipline that starts at Waikapu and goes to Maalaea, which is near the coast. This is actually a series of zip line, all of them amazingly long and just scary enough to be exciting without risking a heart attack. We’re Alaskans. We hike in forests with bears. We ain’t afraid of no heights or speed. No, siree! On the shortest line, you have the option to zip backwards. I probably won’t for fear of blowing chunks (can’t ride in a car backwards either), but I’ll bet you Brad will. Ridgewalker likes his vacations to be thrilling and at least slightly death-defying.

We definitely want to go back to Hana, but this time, take our time and enjoy the Road to Hana. I know people who think the road is a nightmare, but for Alaskans, it’s just a curvy drive to the next town. And, man, what a drive! It’s like a fairy tale jungle trail. Back then, Brad was still stuck in the Lower 48 rule of private property and needing parking areas, so he didn’t feel comfortable stopping to enjoy the hidden pools and waterfalls that are everywhere along the road, but this time we would take full advantage. We’d book a B&B in Hana so we wouldn’t need to be concerned with getting back to Kehei. Back when we drove to Hana on our honeymoon, we sort of ignored Paia because we’d already been there to attempt wind-surfing. Again, my windsurfing days ought to be behind me, so I do want to poke around the town now because I hear it has remade itself into an organic farmers paradise. Hana itself, though, was fascinating because it was not so touristy. I really love talking to locals and learning about their real lives. The 50-mile-long winding highway keeps most of the crowds away, so I love the idea of spending the day just wandering about a real Hawaiian town. Maybe there will be water in the Sacred Pools this time.

Back when we were there before, Kapu road was driveable, but rental car agencies didn’t recommend it. We did it anyway. Today, the Kapu ranches are embraced tourism, so we would try to find something smaller and intimate to go see the ranches.

Related imageAnd then there is kayaking. We kayaked on Kaui and it was a great way to see the island, so we’re looking forward to doing it on Maui, where it promises to take you places you can’t see by road. Again, that would be a return to Makena and a small tour company to keep things intimate and low key.

You might notice I didn’t mention a lot of night life or shopping. That’s because I’m really not into night life or shopping. Sure, we’d poke around in some shops while we’re in Lahaina. We thoroughly enjoyed the dancing at Spats in Kaanapali way back when, but the places that have replaced it sound … uh, grubby. Maybe it’s us, but the Dirty Monkey and the Sly Mongoose sound just plain creepy. And we probably won’t go cliff diving as we did on our honeymoon. Some things are just better left in the past (yeah, that’s me again). Besides, we’re in our 50s and a sunset meal on the beach after a day of snorkeling sounds more like our style.

 

 

Advice Well Received   2 comments

What Advice Has Stuck With You For A Long Time? And Who Gave You That Advice?
Did someone give you some great advice at a certain time in your life? Think back to that time and write down the advice as you remember it.

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So last week, I alluded to a period in my marriage that was not easy. I didn’t go into detail because I wanted to use it for this week’s blog hop article.

Image result for image of christian adviceBrad doesn’t make a secret that he’s a recovering alcoholic. We have a rule where we try not to bring up things from decades ago to shove in each other’s faces today, but I have to sort of do that to make this blog post make sense. I’m doing this with his permission.

Relapse happens with alcoholics, but recovery is not guaranteed. About 22 years ago, Brad went off the rails and I decided that for the sake of our daughter and myself, but also for Brad’s sake, he couldn’t be with us for a while. This coincided with the younger adults of our church choosing to dis-fellowship Brad until he straightened up. As a friend of ours put it, “If you show up at our door asking me to drive you to an AA meeting, I’m all in, but if it’s for anything else … don’t bother.” That might sound cruel, but Brad now credits those people as some of his best friends.

My choice to make an ultimatum (get help or lose us) came from advice I received at Alanon, but how I did it was entirely based on advice from my friend Theresa.

Theresa had been a missionary’s wife who discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their sons. By the time of my crisis, she’d been divorced from her husband for 25 years. She’d never remarried, which I had always assumed was because she had so many kids, but when my decision became public knowledge in the church, she came to me to give me some time-honored advice from a modern perspective.

I HATED that we were moving toward divorce (and at that time, it didn’t look like there would be another outcome). I knew that divorce outside of the exemption for desertion of a Christian spouse by a non-Christian spouse or adultery was not Biblically allowed. It bothered me that I was deliberately sinning. But Theresa explained things to me in a different way.

 7:10 To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.  1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Take a really good look at that clause in verse 11. Theresa chose to remove herself and her children from a damaging situation. She divorced her creeper husband. More power to her. We should never seek divorce lightly. “Irreconcilable differences” is a trivial excuse to end a covenant relationship sealed before God, but some marriages are not salvageable for deeper reasons than he leaves the toilet seat up or he watches football all weekend. There are husbands who beat their wives (and women who abuse their husbands). There are spouses who gamble away every dime and others who drink it away. Alcohol shuts down important centers of the brain having to do with reliability, self-control and judgment. Brad was doing things that needed to stop and he just couldn’t see that through the amber haze he was shrouding his mind in. I needed to keep a roof over our daughter’s head and I couldn’t afford his habits any longer. I provided him with a way back to us before I closed the door on him. But it looked like he wasn’t going to take that lifeline and I felt guilty that I was disobeying God by divorcing my husband.

Image result for image of christian adviceAnd then Theresa showed me this one little clause and my perspective changed.

“If you leave (for a good reason), remain unmarried or be reconciled.”

When Theresa left her husband, she did so to protect her children. He remarried (and there’s tales to tell about that one), but Theresa never did. She understood that she was still bound by the covenant they had both made before God. She was certain that (we’ll call him) John was a Christian, so his remarriage didn’t absolve her of her covenantal responsibility. She remained unmarried as an act of honoring God’s standards.

God blessed her by the way. Jobs fell out of the sky for this woman and her younger children, who had escaped their father’s predations by her choices, turned out to be wonderfully committed Christians who married wonderfully committed Christians. Some of her older children worked through their issues and are adults to be proud of. She was a respected elder in our church and among Christians throughout the state. And, she was happy, surrounded by grandchildren, financially secure, knowing she had obeyed her God to the very best of her ability.

Of course, I was at the other end of that decision. Divorcing without committing a sin wasn’t my only object in view. I had made that choice in hopes of driving Brad to a healthy choice. Would I still be there if he made it? How long was I willing to wait?

If I was going to remain “unmarried”, I could wait until God gave me other instructions. I could still have friends and a life. I didn’t have to grieve or fret about being alone because my relationship with Jesus would fill the voids. I could accept God’s will for my life and live that life.

I didn’t have to adjust to long-term singleness. Brad entered sobriety several months later, although he chose for us to remain physically separated for several more months because he didn’t want to put our daughter through a roller coaster ride while he got his head screwed on straight again. It also gave us time to enact the other part of Theresa’s advice.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. It sucks when someone hurts you. It sucks more when you hold a grudge. It sucks for you more than it sucks for the person you’re angry at. Theresa never reconciled with John … more power to her … but she forgave him. She prayed for him. She wished him well. In the 1970s, there were no laws against what he’d done to their sons, but she did what she could to protect people from him. She managed to prevent at least one woman from marrying him by telling her about his past. Then he moved out of state and back in those days, it was impossible to intervene long distance. When she heard he remarried, she prayed for that woman and the children she was bringing into that marriage. She prayed every day for them, I suspect until her death just a few years ago. She never forgot, but she did forgive. She wasn’t bitter. Her daughters are friends of mine and they say that she taught them a great deal about what it takes to sustain a marriage that doesn’t have a sexual predator as a partner.

When Brad and I were working out how to reconcile, we discussed that forgiveness thing a lot. It’s not something either one of us grew up seeing modeled. His parents have been married five times between them. My mother would bring up decades-old hurts whenever she was mad. When two people get married, they have to deal with each other’s baggage. We rely on an old Amish tradition. When a person repents of sin in the Amish community, they have to do it in front of the whole community, but once they do it, there is a prohibition from ever bringing it up again. The Amish will actually discipline the person who breaks that rule. Brad and I try to practice that at all times … which still means occasionally having to bite our tongues. Every now and then one of us will say “You’re not being very Amish”, which serves to remind us that the past is dead and we need to leave it buried. That’s usually enough to make us laugh and knock it off.

Not only do we do this for those unfortunate months way back when, but we try to practice it as an ongoing discipline.

To boil Theresa’s advice down:

  • Remember, you two Christians made an unbreakable contract with God for your marriage. You can walk away legally, but God won’t. (This applies only to Christians married to Christians, btw.)
  • You can divorce, if you have a good reason, and provided you’re prepared to reconcile or remain single.
  • Regardless of the outcome, forgive. Don’t leave that anger hanging in your past so that it ruins your future. Forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who did wrong. It’s for you, so you don’t have to live with all that pain.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Because God created us to have free will, there are times when He can’t fix something that really needs fixing. Trust that He’ll be with you even when things don’t turn out the way that you want, and … because He’s there with you … you can be happy even when other people think you shouldn’t be.

On the Potter’s Wheel   1 comment

What Life Events Shaped You Into Who You Are?

If you could think about all the events that unfolded in your life, which ones shaped you into who you are now?

ALL of the events? How about just the highlights? I suspect I am shaped even by the minute interactions I have with people in the grocery store line … I’m just unaware of it.

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When I was six years old, Fairbanks Alaska experienced a 100-year flood. It’s such a big deal here that people still date things as pre-Flood and post-Flood. A lot of us spent a couple of weeks living out of the backs of cars and eating WW2 K-rations salvaged from the flooded bomb shelters. My parents struggled with housing after that due to a string of rental houses with ruined furnaces and I ended up spending the winter with a friend of theirs who had a bunch of kids and a working heating system.

Image result for image clay on potters wheelThat experience taught me a lot about being tough to get through something because the water will eventually go down and your parents will eventually stop moving and you’ll get to live in a house with a bedroom again. But it also taught me to not really trust that this reality will be permanent and good. It won’t be. Rivers can raise again. Don’t get too comfortable. Keep some food in reserve and be ready to move what you care about to higher floors. Borrowing from a blog hop post a couple of weeks ago … winter is coming. Be prepared.

When I was 11, a teacher made me write a story for a class assignment. I HATED it. It was way too regimented for my tastes. But it set something off in me that made me the writer I am today. It certainly didn’t turn me off writing. It made me want to do a better job. Maybe I would have become a writer anyway, but I count that as a formative event.

My dad died when I was 12 and my mother promptly remarried her ex-husband. Earl had always been around. He was my brother’s father and Fairbanks was a small town. My dad tolerated his woman’s ex. I have a photo of them sitting on the bleachers at a baseball game. I guess they were friends … sort of. My brother says my dad was his model for being a stepfather … not bad considering he never lived with us. Earl had just moved back to town and happened to have his trailer parked in our back yard when my dad died of a stroke at a young age. He was supportive during a tough time. He still loved my mom. She may have felt she needed a man in her life. He wasn’t a bad guy … mostly. But I swore to myself that I would never be as faithless as my mother had been. I didn’t hate my mom for her decision. I didn’t hate Earl. I simply didn’t agree with their actions in that area and that meant that I have been much more careful in my relationships than they were. I noted their path and have tried very hard not to walk it.

When I was 16, I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. It wasn’t something we did as a family. I started going to church on my own and my parents thought I’d lost my mind when I tried to tell them about it. More than anything else, this changed my perspective on the world and my life choices. I’ve skipped a lot of rough roads that were options for me because I would pause often and ask if this was something a Christian ought to be doing. It has shaped many of my choices in my adult life.

I chose to work my way through college rather than take out student loans. My parents came from a debt-adverse generation. My father turned 16 the year the Great Depression started. My mother was six. They were careful with their money and only took on debt for houses and even then, the longest mortgage they ever took out was 10 years. They saved a little bit for me to go college, but I had to pay 75% of it. When the high school counselor was talking about student loans, I felt this big lump in my chest … like a lead weight threatening to drag me to the bottom of a deep, dark ocean. I decided to get a job and work my butt off to pay for college. I had help from Pell grants, but mostly, I paid my own way, either working while I was in school or working 2 or 3 jobs seasonally so I could concentrate on school during the winter. Except for two years when my daughter was little, I’ve been gainful employed since I was 14 years old, sometimes with more than one job. There is a great deal to be said about paying your own way and understanding your own value. It has a lot to do with why I view the world as I do.

I married Brad when I was 25. He makes me laugh until I can’t breathe and almost wet my pants. He has also made me cry … a lot. When our daughter was little, her dad and I went through a very rough time in our marriage when we decided it would not end in divorce, but we were separated for a while. I learned that you can’t change someone, but you can change your response to them so that, if they want to be with you, they will (sometimes) choose to change themselves. And if they don’t, then the choices you make won’t be fun, but God will be with you even then.

My life is not a field of clover today. Life will always hand you challenges. My daughter is a gypsy bluegrass musician who appears to be hiking through Canada with low-lives. It’s not my choice and I wish I could step in and intervene, but my own past teaches me that I can’t. People have to learn on their own and a long walk through Canada is maybe just what my little vagabond needs to grow up. She needs her own formative experiences. I have to trust God that He has a plan in all of this and I’ll understand it next year or a decade from now. Or maybe Bri will in 30 years.

We are the sum total of our experiences. God is the Master Potter Who has tossed me on His wheel and is shaping me to His purposes. “A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn’t he? He can make something for a special occasion or something for ordinary use from the same lump of clay.” Romans 9:21

Vagabond Writing   5 comments

How Do You Work While Traveling?
Many people work remote and travel with their work now. It really helps to see how others work and reach their goals while they’re traveling. Share your tips.

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Okay, I live in Alaska, where we are still in 3rd world status when it comes to connectivity, so working remote is different depending on where I am traveling.

Image result for image of a stenographer's notebookIf I’m traveling to Anchorage or the Lower 48, I bring my laptop and continue working like I always work … although I did stay at a friend’s house a while back who would not allow me to use his wi-fi. I still worked off-line and we went to Starbucks often enough that I could continue to do things on the Internet, just not on my own schedule. The cloud is very accessible these days and I also carry a thumb drive because it’s a lot harder to steal a thumb drive in my pocket than my laptop.

In reality, though, there are a lot of places I go where my laptop shouldn’t. It would just be a really stupid idea to take it camping, hiking, hunting, fishing or white-water rafting. The Alaska Marine Highway doesn’t have connectivity, but it also doesn’t have places to plug in. There are just a lot of places where I go that I can’t take my trusty writing tool.

But that doesn’t stop me. All I need to write is a spiral-bound stenographer’s pad and a pen. Those are almost always in my backpack as I hike into the woods. I take it with me when I’m going somewhere without connectivity. I usually carry one with me even when I travel in the Lower 48 because sometimes we have odd friends with issues about wi-fi. I can write anywhere with my steno notebook and pen. What I lose in efficiency by having to transcribe into the computer later I sometimes offset by the burst of creativity that writing long-hand affords me.

Sometimes the simplest approach is the best.

Weekly Treadmill   5 comments

June 5, 2017 – How Do You Schedule Your Work Week?

Walk your audience through how to schedule their work week productively. As humans, we always want to know how to get more done in a week. If you have anything that has helped you schedule your time throughout the week, put that into the post.

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Walk your audience through how to schedule their work week productively. As humans, we always want to know how to get more done in a week. If you have anything that has helped you schedule your time throughout the week, put that into the post.

Image result for image of disorganized organizer bookI have lots of moving pieces to my life. How to keep it all scheduled is a challenge. I used to work in the social work field where everybody carries around a Dayminder that could be used to bludgeon a mugger to death in an emergency. If they lost their Dayminder, my coworkers would lose their minds, which is really not attractive in mental health professionals.

Rather than be obsessive, I have different methods for keeping myself organized depending on what part of my life I am dealing with at the moment. That way, I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m writing (which is supposed to be fun, right?).

My money job takes up the largest portion of my waking life … like it does for most of us. Gotta eat to live, gotta work to eat. It pays for everything else.

I have very few hard and fast rules about writing. The big one is – I write something every day. It might just be a sentence, but I strive for 1000 words. That doesn’t always happen on paper because it’s hard to write a 1000 words while hiking a mountain and avoiding grizzly bears. But if my hands are otherwise occupied in other activities, my mind still writes.

Of course, at some point, I have to sit my butt in the chair, put my hands on the keyboard and write. Sometimes I crank out way more than 1,000 words to make up for my extra-extra-curricular activities.

When I get home from work, it is family time. I’ve usually stopped at the gym (at least three times a week) and I start making dinner as soon as I get there. Mondays are almost always a “down” night. I watch television with my husband (the 18-year-old finds our taste in entertainment … perplexing). I will still try to get a little bit of writing done after the movie is over and before I go to bed, but I accept this as a concession to a contented marriage.

Tuesdays are a workout night and so I get home a little later. I am really into simple real-food meals and my parents were restaurant people, so I have all sorts of tricks for getting dinner on the table quickly or easily. Tuesdays are often one of my easy nights where I slid a casserole into the oven and manage 45 minutes to an hour. After dinner, I usually spend an hour with my husband … and sometimes the teenager. And then I try to put in another hour writing. With the longer days of summer here in Alaska, I’m putting in two or more now.

Wednesday is workout night because its also my son’s night to rock-climb. I pick him up after my workout and we’re doing driving lessons right now, so Brad slides something I’ve preassembled into the oven. The extent of his non-breakfast cooking skills is setting time and temperature. I can maybe get an hour of writing in on Wednesdays.

I also work out on Thursdays, get home, make dinner, get in two or three hours of writing. Thursday is the one evening Brad leaves me alone because he is doing his own thing.

Friday nights we mock PBS and BBC, which can also be considered research, so I don’t usually write on Friday nights.

I make up for that Saturday morning and then in the evening, unless we’re doing something fun.

Sunday afternoon is often spent writing.

I also use lunch hours and long car drives to write in my head. And all that time on the rotary machine … yeah, you guessed it.

Maybe you see a pattern. I don’t deny myself fun activities, but any time I’m not talking with another human being or doing math, I can and will write … in my head or on the computer. I treat writing like I would a second job. I strive for 15-20 hours a week and about 8000 words a week. Some weeks I do more, some weeks I do less, and I refuse to freak myself out over that. If I publish at least one book a year, I feel like I’ve accomplished my goal, but I’d rather write a good book than a rushed book, so ….

In terms of how I keep my writing organized … I keep my research on the same drive I keep my writing. I want to be able to refer to it without a lot of effort. Sometimes, I will append it to the end of the draft novel, so I can easily go there and grab phrases or refresh my mother. I love Microsoft’s Sticky Notes program because I can leave layers of notes and deadlines on the desktop. As I accomplish items, I delete the sticky note until slowly, I begin to reveal the photo undernearth. That way I reward myself for milestones. I am experimenting with One Note, so I may have a new method for organization soon.

These days, when I start a book, I set a date for having the draft done and for potential publication. These are not set in stone, but by giving myself a deadline, I find I am better able to keep moving along rather than just dawdling as I write.

The biggest productivity booster I can recommend, though, is to set “office hours” when you don’t play on the Internet or with video games. Schedule it as writing time. Don’t scream at your kids when they interrupt you, but let the family know that these are designated hours, during which time your writing is the priority. My husband and son know that if they walk into the bedroom and I have earphones on, it’s probably best to exit the way they came without talking.

I’m sure people who write full-time have better methods than I do. I have to fit my writing in around my other life and that means I need to be flexible and not too obsessive about schedules.

 

 

Posted June 5, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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