Can you Believe that 2017

is Almost Over?

2017 was a good year for me. What it good for you?

It is hard to believe that it is almost the end of 2017.It seems as though it just started, and here it is the end of the year. This past year has certainly been busy for me. I started two different part time jobs. I did some public speaking. I attended two live events. I self-published four books.I did all this, and I wrote at least one blog post every week of the year.

Most Popular Posts in 2017

Even though the year isn’t over yet, I am close to breaking my previous record number of blog views (and counting) which was set back in 2012. Though some of the posts were written in previous years, a number of these posts were written this year. Here are those posts.

#10

The tenth most popular blog post on How my Spirit Sings was the photo of Character Stereotypes.

#9

Coming in at number nine is Make the Last, First

#8

The eighth favorite post of 2017 was Embracing Failure written on April 24, 2017.

 

 

Tracy Gregory

#7

On July 24, 2017, number Seven Interview with Tracy Gregory was written.

#6

Sixth was Fictional Character Archetypes written August 26, 2016.

Tierney James

#5

Fifth place goes to Seven Things I Learned from the Got Marketing Workshop with Tierney James Which was written June 12, 2017.

#4

The Fourth most popular post this year was Parallels between First Century Corinth and Our Present Culture written on August 1, 2012

 

Elizabeth Zguta

#3

Coming in Third place and written during the summer of 2017 is Elisabeth Zguta’s Latest Book in the Curses and Secrets Series: Seeking Redemption

#2

Second–Written November 11, 2015-What are the Enemy’s Strategies?

#1

First, Originally written April 15,2015, it is still the most popular this year.  —Who was Mary, the Mother of Jesus Really?

Which ones did you like best? Which type of article would you like to see again? Write your answers in the comments below and include the number of your favorite.

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Never Let a Blank Page intimidate you again!

I was listening to a commercial for an interview the other day, and a woman said that a her writer friend “never had a blank page”, in other words he always had something to write about. It is another way of saying that he never has writer’s block.

Nora Roberts once said that a poorly written page is better than a blank page. I totally agree.

I Never Sit In Front of a Blank Page

I am like that myself. I never have writer’s block. I always have plenty to write. Sometimes I have too much. For instance, I just finished a month long project of writing a first draft of a fiction book in   30 days. This program is called NaNoWriMo.

I finished this project on November 29 and spent the next two days distancing myself from that project and didn’t write anything for those two days. The reason I took the break is not because I didn’t have anything to write. Last year during December, Every day I started a new book. So I have numerous projects I could work on. The fact is, I simply needed a break from writing. I took the break because I needed to evaluate where I should go next. Sometimes just helps to stop and think things through. That’s what I did the past two days.

I currently have three NaNoWriMo projects that are still unpublished. One of them is Sunrise on the Mississippi which I just finished its first draft. I have one book ahead of it in The Locket Saga series called Two Rivers which I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. I plan to publish that this year. Another book that is in the series which is actually much later is On Mercy’s Wings which is set during the American Civil War.

One of the things that I was thinking about was projects that I have in the works. For a couple of years now I have been working on two nonfiction books that address the phenomenon of “writer’s block”. One addresses tips to nonfiction writers writing and the other addresses tips to fiction writers. I may be working on those books and work to get them published this year. Neither book will take long to complete. I just had projects that I thought that I needed to finish first.

However, what I thought about most during the past few days is something that has been bothering me for a while and that is, I have not had the sales on my previous books that I know I could have if I spent less time writing and more time marketing what I have already written.

A Tip for Getting Past the Blank Page

If you have trouble writing anything, the first thing I would suggest is to get away from the blank document and think about what it is that you want to say. Take about fifteen minutes to do this. Write down what comes to mind.

If nothing still comes, sit down in front of the document and whine on paper about how you are unable to write anything and then start writing down all the reasons (or excuses) that you can think of for not being able to write anything. Spill everything that comes to mind out on paper even if it has nothing to do with your current project. Write down things that you need to research before you write. Write down people that you need to see before you can write. Write down ideas about your project. Write down all of those things that you have to do that do not relate to your writing project but are on your mind. Do this for fifteen minutes.

This is called a brain dump. Now look over what you have written and delete your rants. Put those things that don’t relate to this project on a list and promise that you tell yourself that you will get to after you have spent time on this project.

Now you no longer have a blank page. You may not have much, but you will have something left that relates to this project. Organize the information related to your writing project into a logical sequence and start filling in some of the material that you know. Include questions that you need to research. You may find that you are no longer blocked.


Question: How do you eat an elephant?
Answer: One Bite at a time.

How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was great! My husband was home. My son came to visit from Washington, DC and the food was great! However, I find that I have not been doing as much as I had in the past. Lately I be getting fewer and fewer projects finished. I am sure that a lot of it has to do with my second job as an elementary after school tutor. Then came NaNoWriMo, my husband became sick in the hospital, and then my son and his girlfriend came for Thanksgiving. Now Thanksgiving is in the past and I can start thinking about getting back on track.

Using Fifteen Minute Sprints

I haven’t been doing this all the time, but when I know that I have a lot of work to do on various projects from housework to writing to editing to marketing, I like to prioritize the projects that I have to finish. Next I set a timer for fifteen minutes, focus and get to work at whatever I have to do that day.

 

Take Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, for instance. I had a number of projects to do. I had to clean house for the weekend. I had this blog post to write, and since it is NaNoWriMo month, I had to make a specific word count for Saturday and every day this month.

 

I started first thing in the morning by sorting out a load of clothes and set the alarm for fifteen minutes. During that fifteen minutes I took dishes out of the dish washer, cleaned off counters, took a few things upstairs, cleaned the coffee maker, cleaned the microwave, and took out the trash. I made a serious dent in getting the kitchen clean. During the next fifteen minutes I wrote long hand a scene for my book. The fifteen minute task completions went on for the rest of the day. I got a lot done, including taking my daughter to and from a school activity.

Rejecting What Doesn’t Work

I have tried other techniques that didn’t work for me.  It might work for others, but they just weren’t a right fit. For instance, I have tried the Pomodoro technique where I would work for twenty-five minutes on a project and then taking five minutes off to get away from it for a few minutes. As I said, I tried, but I really never was able to get into it. since I’ve tried it and it didn’t work, I am letting go of the idea of using it and going back to what I know does work.

I have decided that  I will go back to the fifteen minute sessions because they are short, and I am amazed at how much I can get done in that length of time.

 

Eating the Elephants

Goals are like elephants that have to be eaten one bite at a time. I have found that goals have to be broken down into projects that have to be broken down into smaller and smaller segments until I have bite size tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes. I have learned that if I have something on my to-do list, it needs to be broken down into something that I can do in fifteen minutes.

I start out the first fifteen minutes deciding how I am going to break the goal down into projects and use subsequent fifteen minute sessions to break the projects down to tasks that can be done in fifteen minutes.

Making Plans for the Future

November is coming to an end this week, and I am almost finished with NaNoWriMo. (Just 3 more days left!) Next month is coming up fast and my goal for December is to make plans for next year especially in the area of book marketing.


When I originally started thinking about writing this blog post, I knew that I would write it about gratitude because it was to be a Thanksgiving blog. What I didn’t realize is that my gratitude would be tested this year.

About a month ago, my husband was on the road (he’s an over-the-road truck driver) when suddenly he had sharp pains on the right side of his chest. That following Monday he went to his general physician. He complained of the pain and he was also spiking temperatures and having night sweats. The doctor told him that was his gall bladder and he gave the impression that he didn’t think that it was so bad that Jeff would need surgery for it. He had ordered some blood work that showed that all things seemed normal although he did have “a bit of an infection” the doctor never ordered any x-rays or antibiotics for the infection.

My husband did not want to get gall bladder surgery, so he used every alternative medicine he could find to cleanse his gallbladder. He’d say he felt better and go back to work for a run and then he’d feel sick again. From what I gather, he never really felt better. He just got used to being sick. He went to see his work’s physician for his DOT physical. They gave him a clean bill of health.

He was Sicker than Anyone Thought

Finally, last Wednesday, I woke up in the morning and heard a strange sound. It was a rapid rattling noise that I had not heard before. It was Jeff’s breathing! I told him. “There is no way that is a gallbladder issue. There is something else really wrong.” He decided to go to the doctor. I told our daughter to expect the worst. He was going to the doctor and would probably end up in the hospital. She needed to be prepared for that. I had to take her to school and to not depend on her Dad to do it for her.

His doctor was not in that day and would not be in the next day either so the staff at his practice told him that he would have to go to urgent care. I was teaching my first class of the day when he texted me that he was being admitted to Cox South for pneumonia.

When I got to the hospital that evening, I found out how bad his situation really was. He was going into surgery the next morning to get tubes put in his lungs. He was on three antibiotics. The surgeon thought he would be in the hospital for five to six days. b

From Bad to Worse

The next day, Thursday, I went to work and his mother sat with him as he waited for his surgery. The doctor had said that his surgery would last two hours. It lasted over three hours. When the doctor called us in, he didn’t give us much hope that he would recover quickly or that he would recover at all. He wasn’t even certain that Jeff was coming off the breathing tube they used in surgery. He had said that they drained one and a half liters of fluid off of his lungs. He said that he was very sick.

My daughter and I went to see him after he went to CVICU that night. His body was cold and clammy. He was pale and still. He was covered in tubes and wires and he really looked bad. The nurse was having difficulty getting his pulse and respirations under control.

In one sense, I was extremely angry with the doctors that had seen him during the month prior to his admission to the hospital. His surgeon said that he had been sick for a very long time and yet those doctors had not picked up the diminished lung sounds when they were supposed to have put their stethoscopes to his chest.  When the doctor saw that he had an infection, he didn’t give him any sort of antibiotics. No one even did an x-ray to rule out pneumonia.

I also felt fear. I was afraid. One of the things that went through my mind was that it was during Thanksgiving week that my eldest brother (a year younger than I) had become sick and then died that Saturday after the holiday. My husband born just a couple of months before than he was.  I was afraid I might end up facing the same situation with my husband. I went home that night and knew that I needed to take the day off because I might have to face making decisions. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I had to leave in the middle of class.

This may sound strange, but I did feel some gratitude. I was thankful that my mother-in-law had been there while I was working. I was grateful that urgent care was so quick to realize that he had something serious going on. I was grateful that he was at the best hospital in Springfield. I was grateful that his surgeon was thorough and didn’t sugar coat anything.

Miracles Happen

The next morning, about nine hours later, after my daughter gave blood at her school, she and I went to the hospital to see him again. Things had changed dramatically. Though he was obviously on pain medications, he was alert and knew what was going on. The breathing tube had\ been removed. He was able to talk to us. Everyone was amazed by how fast he came around.

We stayed until visiting ours were over and went home, took naps ourselves and returned that evening. He was even doing better. He had a full liquid lunch and then had eaten a regular dinner. He had even walked while we were gone. Barring a major set back, the nurse agreed with me that it was not unreasonable to think that he would probably be going home by Thanksgiving. I saw the surgeon on Saturday night and he told Jeff that he was amazed at how well he was doing after what he saw during surgery. It was, in my opinion, a miracle. ,What a relief!

Previous plans changed. My husband\ and daughter were planning to go to visit her sister’s family in Colorado over the holiday. That obvious wasn’t going to happen. However, my son and his girlfriend from Washington, DC had also planned to visit me during that same holiday. They are still coming and my husband\ and daughter will be part of that too, so it will still be a good day. All the more reason to be grateful.


The other day I was talking on twitter with a novice novelist about how I am able to write and publish eleven books. (Two of those books coming out the twenty-third of this month.) Since I am working on yet another book this month for NaNoWriMo, writing fast is my own focus this month, so I gave her a couple of tips. I decided that this would also be a good post for this blog. I therefore expanded those couple of tips to a full ten tips for writing a novel quickly.

 

  1. The first tip that I would give a novelist who is new to the genre is to never call him or herself an “aspiring novelist”. Begin to think of yourself as being rather than aspiring. You either write novels or you don’t. You’re either a writer or you’re not. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never made a dime from writing. You write, therefore you are a writer. You write novels, therefore you are a novelist.

 

You may wonder how being called a novelist helps a novice write faster. It all comes down to “it’s not what people call you, but what you answer to”. I believe that fast writing can only be done by those who believe that they can. They don’t make excuses not to write fast. They do it.

 

  1. If you don’t know how, learn to touch type. I was amazed at how much faster I could get information down since I have been able to type directly from my thought process. Until then, you could use google docs’ dictation feature.

 

  1. Start writing promotional material as soon as you have our idea for your book. Begin writing the book description or blurb. Write your short, medium and long length author bios, determine words that have high ranking search engine optimization. Begin researching and pinning down a title for your book. Create a full synopsis for your book.

 

  1. Research local events where you can promote your books. Connect with other authors online and offline both in your genre and out. Start a blog. Review books by other authors within your genre. Interview those same authors.

 

  1. Let your muse play most of the writing session, especially when writing your first draft. If you have to edit, limit your editing time to five minutes immediately after fifteen minutes of writing.

 

  1. Get to know your characters, the better you know your characters, the better the flow of the story. Your characters will dictate the story to you instead of the other way around.

 

  1. Create a main plot outline and then outlines for subplots and put them in proper order. Taking time to create a map of your story through an outline will help keep you from going down too many rabbit holes that steal writing time.

 

  1. Schedule time to write every day. Even fifteen minutes a day adds up over time. Use Parkinson’s second law which says that you will fill up time with the activity that you give to it. In other words, focus your time by limiting your first draft writing to sprints of fifteen minutes or if you’re just starting out, try five minute sprints. Stop for five minutes, edit a little of what you just wrote if you have to and do another sprint. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done using this method.

 

  1. Know when you do your best writing and optimize that time. Work the rest of your schedule around that rather than your writing around the rest of your schedule. Making writing a priority will make your written pages pile up like nothing else can.

 

  1. Evaluate your progress and look for ways to improve your writing process. If you’re not satisfied with the progress that you are making in your writing, figure out ways that you can increase your writing speed. Go over these tips and see where you can improve your writing speed. Take a speed typing class. Google, “write faster”. Don’t let yourself make excuses for not being able to write better copy, faster.

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Strange Dreams Lead to New Ideas

Last night I had some vivid dreams. I dreamed about my husband. I dreamed that he was at work with me and we were working with young children. He seemed to enjoy the time with them better than I did. Then I started\ dreaming all over the place and my mind was trying to make sense of it all. I became suddenly confused about what was real and what wasn’t. I dreamed that I lost my phone. When I awoke for real, the first thing I did was look to see if my phone was on the side table and it was. Now I knew I was out of dream world and into the real world. So what was going on in my dreams that they were so vivid yet so confusing?

I think what my dream was trying to do was to try to help me find a good topic for this blog as well as give me some fodder for my current NaNoWriMo project. The hours I slept did both. After finding my phone, I had the ideas for what I was going to write for both. I have ideas for two scenes in my next book that I now call Sunrise on the Mississippi (book 8 of the Locket Saga). The dream sequences are no direct part of this blog nor of the book. What they did do was remind me the value of the muse in the writing process, especially writing the first draft.

Yesterday I wrote a scene in my book, but realized that I also needed an earlier related scene. I just didn’t know how I was going to make it happen. Also I started two topics for this blog that didn’t seem to be exactly what I wanted to write for this blog today. So I slept on it and the dreams were the result of allowing my muse to take some time to play.

What Made the Muse Rebel

I think it all started with something I did a few days ago. I was teaching some students about metaphors and similes. We worked on poems about feelings.

They went something like this:

Love is pink.

It smells like apple blossoms on a tree.

It tastes like chocolate in my Easter basket.

It sounds like birds twitter-pating.  (a term from the Bambi movie)

It feels like a baby bunny’s white fur.

It looks like a field of white clover.

It makes me feel alive again.

I believe this triggered my muse to complain that I haven’t allowed her to play for a while. The past few months I have been neglecting her. I have been editing old material, researching historical events and writing nonfiction. Even as I started writing this new book, I haven’t given the muse much room. I have been organizing the material that I researched, but not allowing my creative juices to flow. Today that ends.

Today I take heed of my muse’s complaint and give her a chance to play. Today my NaNoWriMo project turns a page and I will allow my muse free range on the pages of my manuscript. Today she can play all over that book’s draft by allowing her the ability use the five senses to create metaphors and similes and most importantly, emotions for the reader to experience.

Can I Allow the Muse out more often?

I think it a shame that I have kept my muse under such a short leash for such a long time. NaNoWriMo is a great way to give the muse a chance to do her think, but I really need to find ways of allowing her to play more often. One of the areas where I can utilize her talents is in identifying with my readers. Most people buy books not because of need or rational thought, but because they are moved by emotions. When this NaNoWriMo project is done (at least for the day), I am going to look into how I can create emotion for potential readers that encourages them to purchase one or more of my books.I am sure there are more ways to tap into the muse for better writing results.

When and why do you let your muse out to play?

 

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October 30, 2017

My Research Uncovers Story

During the past several weeks I have been researching for the first draft of the next book that I am writing which I will be writing during November 2017 in NaNoWriMo. This book is about Andrew Mayford, the son of Jonathan Mayford, Lacey’s younger brother. During this past week, I found a legend that I had never heard before about how the Welch Prince, Madoc came to America in 1170, over three hundred years before Columbus founded the West Indies.

The Welch Account

Madoc sailed west from Wales in 1170, allegedly becoming one of the first Europeans to reach the Americas. At the death of Madoc’s father, Prince Owen Gwynedd of Wales, saw his brothers struggling over the throne. He desired no part in the conflict, so Madoc sailed west across the ocean with a small fleet of ships. Sometime later he returned to Wales, telling of an unknown country, pleasant and fertile. Convincing some of his countrymen to accompany him, he set sail again and never returned. This is the story as it presents itself in Wales.

The American Account

The story does not end here, however. With the colonization of the Americas, the legend of Madoc was renewed. It became common belief among the early settlers that Madoc’s explorers had intermarried with local Indian tribes. Their descendants were said to still reside somewhere in the country. Stories emerged among the colonists detailing encounters with the Welsh-speaking descendants of Madoc. According to historian Reuben T. Durrett, the Madoc tale was especially popular among the early settlers of Kentucky and was often told on long winter nights.

 

The Falls of the Ohio area became connected with the Madoc mythology. A story related to early settlers by local Indians meshed with the Madoc legend. A tribe of “White Indians,” remarkable for their light hair and blue eyes, was said to have resided in the falls area at one time. However, hostilities broke out between the “White Indians” and another neighboring Indian group. A final battle between the two tribes occurred on Sand Island at the Falls of the Ohio where the “White Indians” were massacred. Contemporaries to this account soon connected the story of this “White Indian” tribe with the Madoc legend, believing they had found the descendants of the Welsh voyagers.

Further Discoveries

Further discoveries seemed to confirm this conclusion. A large burial ground was found on the North side of the Ohio, opposite the Falls, with the haphazard arrangement of the skeletons indicating they may have been the remains of the “White Indians” who were massacred. Earthen fortifications discovered at Devil’s Backbone were also believed to be the work of the “Welsh Indians”. Most intriguingly, an account circulated of six skeletons found near Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1799. Each skeleton was said to have been encased in a brass breast plate emblazoned with the Welsh coat of arms. Where  this armor is now unknown, if indeed, it ever existed at all.

True or Not, A Wonderful Story

Perhaps the story struck a chord with a group of people who were inhabiting a new country—a people who were delighted to find something familiar in a strange land. Perhaps the story also served as an explanation for evidence of advanced civilization among the Indian societies of the Americas—evidence that did not mesh with the prevailing view of the Indian as barbaric and uncivilized.

Whether this story is true or not, I think that the Madoc legend is a good story that was included as one of the main forms of entertainment at the time. The Madoc legend is a compelling story with an element of mystery. Like the tale of the lost colony of Roanoke and Viking civilizations, the ending is unknown. One can only imagine what might have happened to Madoc and those who sailed with him and incorporate them into this or her own stories. This is exactly what I intend to do.

 

 

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