Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Importance of a Positive Book Review....

by Valerie J. Steimle

I celebrated the publication of my 6th book (Home Is Where the Learning Is For High School) two weeks ago with the availability of purchase online.  I did the normal promotions to get the word out on Facebook, Goodreads and other internet websites. Next came the release of the kindle version of this book which was not my forte.  I thought a Word document copy of the manuscript for kindle would suffice as I was worn out and in a hurry to just get the e-book on sale. 

Boy, was I ever wrong.  All of my other books had been on kindle and I knew they were marginally formatted. In reality, I should have waited another week to really take the time to do the kindle version correctly as it resulted in a negative book review. I was lazy and at the time didn’t think it mattered, but it did.

As Michael J. Fox says:           "If you don't take the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

Even better....after correcting the blunder and doing it right when will people realized you fixed your mistake? You only get a first impression once....
I learned an interesting lesson through all of that. I learned  that no matter how you are feeling about pushing your book out there the kindle version is just as important as the printed version. A bad book review will somehow undo all the good ones, especially when there are only a few reviews posted in the first place. Bad book reviews leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and it is very painful to read.

So, to those independent authors who are responsible for their own manuscripts, I say take the extra time with the electronic version that you did with the printed version.  Since that time I studied and learned very quickly how to reformat my manuscript into an e-book and it’s not difficult at all; just very time consuming.  Now all of my books are reformatted into a beautiful kindle format so they will be bought and read with ease.  The kindle people are sending emails to all those who had purchased these books prior to the newest version and hopefully all of those people will download and read what I have done.

So now I can move forward, promoting my heart out wherever I can and hopefully that bad review will be forgotten and replaced by wonderful reviews to come.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Embracing your fears with the help of the X-Men

by Suzanne Warr

This post was brought to you by a plugged up nose and Professor X of the X-men.  Thankfully, the plugged up nose was mine, and not his.  He has enough to worry about.

You see, I've got a cold, and for the last couple nights haven't been able to breathe easily.  Not the end of the world...but the back of my brain thought it might be.  Each time I couldn't comfortably breathe through my nose (while sleeping), I had a dream where I was drowning.  This, despite the fact that I love water and am a pretty good swimmer!

Enter Professor X.  This past week we watched X-Men: Days of Future Past (and I'm not even going to bother warning of spoilers, cause if you haven't seen it yet, you're just asking for it!) and I enjoyed the bit in the last quarter where the young Professor X reaches through the past/present Wolverines' mind to communicate with his future self.

Got all that?

And he tells himself "Just because someone stumbles and loses their path doesn't mean they're lost forever."

Which is really incredibly wise, and also kind of becomes the theme of the movie.  But, he also says a bunch of stuff about how it's not others' pain Charles is afraid of--it's his own.  And that if he lets himself feel that pain it will make him stronger, and let him access his greatest strength: hope.

How exactly he's supposed to do that isn't spelled out, but I liked it all the same.  Since I've also been thinking about why my nightmares would have burning buildings sometimes, when I love fire, and as mentioned above, feature my drowning, I've been think about the relationship between fear and love.  Or, just as important, fear and hope, or fear and joy.

I'm not wise enough to know with certainty all the deep metaphysical or psychological reasons these apparent opposites would be linked, but this is what makes sense to me: vulnerability scares us.  It means we're in a precarious place, and our survival is on the line.  But we're also stretching, growing, and experiencing something new when we're vulnerable.  Maybe something terrible will come of it, or maybe we'll metamorphose into something wonderful and new.  This potential for change is what frightens us, and yet, we can't grow without risking that change.

What do you think?  Am I on to something?  Do you have any scary choices you've been hiding from, for fear the resultant change will be too much for you to live with?  I've got one that I've decided to stop backing away from.  Something that's big to me, and has been in the works for going on 5 years now.  What it is I can't share yet, but I'm excited to embrace my vulnerabilities, and hoping against hope I don't get singed in the process!

Best of luck with your growing changes!  If you're feeling brave, share them here!  I'll share mine, too, just as soon as I'm able. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I discovered Drops of Awesome

Some may consider this cheating, but I'm giving full credit where it is due. 

Half a year ago, a friend referenced a blog post called Drops of Awesome. You can find it here: 

Yes, I know. You skipped clicking on the link. Go back and read it. Kathryn says it so much better than I can. AND she said it three years ago, and people are still referencing it, clicking it, and sharing it. Someone tell her to publish it as a pamphlet and make .99 a copy! She could've bought a new bra by now. ;) (You have to have read her story to get the reference.) 

I shared this with my church girls age 12-18 earlier this month, complete with the object lesson. They thought it was, well, awesome! 

But lately, I've forgotten my own lesson, or rather, Kathryn's lesson. 

Each day I have opportunities to put drops of awesome in my bucket/bowl. Every drop counts. Most importantly, drops cannot be taken away once they've been earned. They flow on and on and spread to those around you, spreading joy, spreading awesome. 

I'm human and I tend to get down on myself on what I'm not getting done/not accomplishing the goals I've set for myself, just like so many of you. For those who have perfected the art of positivity, you may skip the rest of my rambling. 

I tend to focus each day on the half of the glass that is empty instead of the half that is full of drops of awesome. This focus in the wrong direction makes me anxious and irritable. Not exactly the description of someone you want to hang out with or, for that matter, that I want to be around. 

But when I focus on the good, those negative feelings diminish, and I can be so much better company and be more productive. I'm sure it makes a difference to my family, at least. 

So, here's my list of drops of awesome for the day. 

Got up on time. Drop. Read my scriptures. Drop. Fed my kids. Drop. Got them to the bus on time with healthy lunches. Drop. Worked out. Drop. Finished watching Downton Abby. Drop. Showered. Drop. Edited a chapter in my next book. Drop. (These chapters currently take 2 hours to edit so it's a commitment. Reference Tristi's post on procrastination.) Braved the snow to pickup my kid from school who is running a fever. Drop. Brought in the recycling bin so my husband wound't have to. Drop. Set up sick kid with Star Wars while I write this post. Drop. 

I'm only half way through the day with a long To Do list to go, but if I look at all the eleven drops of awesome I've already accumulated, and banish that stupid voice in my head that says 'Big deal', then I'm doing pretty well. Plus I'm motivated to continue adding to my drops. 

Don't worry about perfect. Focus on the Drops of Awesome instead. They'll take you a lot closer to perfect than most other things. 

Now, go. Be Awesome!

Monday, January 19, 2015


I was going to sit down and write a really awesome article about procrastination.  But then I realized that I hadn’t checked my e-mail in at least an hour, so I thought I’d do that instead. After I replied to all the forwards and clicked on all the YouTube links, I looked down and noticed that I was still in my pajamas.  So I hopped in the shower and then discovered I was down to one clean towel.  I threw in a load of laundry, and thought I’d better do a few dishes too. 

Then I sat down again to write that article, and remembered that I hadn’t checked on CafĂ© World for at least three hours.  After I served up all the food, visited my friends and left them servings of dumplings - and moved up a level in Delicious Chocolate Cake - I realized it was time to start making dinner.

This is starting to sound like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” isn’t it?  While my little scenario is fiction, it is meant to prove a point—we all live busy lives, and it can sometimes become impossible to get all those little things done that we need to do, and even harder when motivation is a missing factor.

I’m by no means the authority on all things procrastination-related. I get distracted by anything and everything and … squirrel!  But I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I’d like to share with you.
        Make one day of the week your errand day, and see if you can schedule all your stops in one trip. I like to hit the post office, bank, copy center, and library in one trip instead of making four separate runs.  True, it takes me longer to do those errands, but compare two hours once a week to an hour at a time, several times a week.

2.       I like to break my tasks up into days of the week.  For instance, back when I was a Cub Scout leader, I’d do all my Scout planning on Wednesday.  I’d read through the book, see what I needed to do to prepare, put those things on my errand list, and then not think about it again until the next Wednesday.  This kept me from worrying about it all week long.  I assigned my other responsibilities to other days in the week.

3.       If there’s a particularly odious task you must perform, like a difficult phone call you need to make, write down on your calendar the day and time you’re going to do it, and then hold yourself to it.  When the clock strikes that hour, just grab the phone.  Don’t let yourself think it through—you have an appointment to keep.

4.       We all have those daily tasks to perform that we just hate doing—set up a reward system for yourself.  One of the most effective ways I ever found to make myself exercise was to decide I couldn’t check my e-mail until I done at least twenty minutes on the Healthrider. Because I love checking my e-mail, this was an effective tool for me.

5.       You can save your rewards for later, too.  I’m a big Netflix junkie, and some nights I’ll tell myself that if I get certain things done during the day, I can curl up with a Netflix movie that night.  Bribery works on kids—and it works on grown-ups, too!

6.       Sometimes we procrastinate because we don’t have uninterrupted time to accomplish the task.  Trade babysitting with a neighbor and use that time to knock down your to-do list.  Or if you’re at work, see if you can delegate another task to an employee while you finish up, or trade projects with a co-worker. You can also talk to your spouse and agree on a time for you to sit down, without distraction, to polish it off.

7.       As you go down your to-do list, rank them in order of importance, with 1 representing those things that must get done now.  We often spend time taking care of things that rank a 2 or 4 or 9 while neglecting the things that rank 1, and then regret the lack of time to finish everything up.  By organizing your tasks according to importance, you’ll always get the most crucial things done first.  And if that’s all you’ve been able to get to in the course of the day, at least you accomplished the most important thing.

Of course, you’ll want to find the methods that work for you, but one thing remains constant: we all like to be recognized for our hard work.  As long as you feel rewarded for doing those hard tasks, you’ll be more likely to get them done, and then you’ll feel more personal satisfaction. That’s a reward in and of itself - but if it's not enough to motivate you, throw some chocolate into the mix ...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Off to college

Well, today I am writing about an event all moms face, sending your first child off to college. My eldest daughter just started for winter and spring term and I went with her to set her up in her apartment.

I was so excited to go. It has been 20 plus years since I've been on a college campus and I still remember the incredible times and amazing friends. As I traveled with my daughter I couldn't help but wonder what her experience would be like. She is rooming with three other Freshman girls and right from the start I knew that they'd all click. Phew. One worry down. 

Next thought, will she have enough to eat? When I left she had enough food to last for a month, lol. I couldn't help myself. I filled her pantry and then some. One of her roommate's even asked me, "Where is she going to put all that food?" I went to three different grocery stores and scoped them out. The night before I left I took her to one that delivers food. We went aisle by aisle and wrote down the name and cost of everything she might ever order. Yep, total overkill, but I'm a mom. Another big issue- food allergies. I made sure each roommate knew about her peanut allergy and then made her duct tape her epi-pen to the fridge. Another worry down.

I stayed long enough to help her add and drop classes. She finally ended up with what I think is a peachy schedule. I was thrilled that she took my advice.

But, now I am home and the real trial begins- missing her. How do other mom's deal with this? I miss her so much. My other kids introduced me to Skype, and I've done it almost everyday. I can tell she's getting sick of it. When I walk passed her room with all the clutter everywhere it still feels like she's here. My girl is growing up. What a journey! Moms any advice?

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Beginnings by Monique Bucheger

My blog post today is going to run a lot closer to the mommy side of me than the author side. I completely forgot about my December blog post because quite honestly, I was very caught up in trying to be a supportive mother and grandma: both of my married daughters were due to have a new baby within 10 days of each other during the 2014 holiday season.

Levi--a cornucopia of  sweetness

Ammon: A stocking full of joy

Originally, the babies were due December 5th and 15th. My older daughter had been having issues most of her pregnancy and had extremely uncomfortable contractions for weeks—we spent several hours on 3 occasions thinking the baby may come way too early and then thankfully,  just a little early. It was a worrisome time. As you all know, every day a baby has in utero to grow is a good thing—no matter how uncomfortable the mom is.

During that time, I gained a greater appreciation and remembrance for the sacrifices moms make: my daughter was very uncomfortable, more so than I had been during my eight full-term pregnancies.

Being near Thanksgiving, I counted the extra days that my first grandson could stay in utero among the greatest blessings I knew at the time. After dinner on Thanksgiving Day, my daughter did the last of her Christmas shopping. Her water broke as she carried the gifts from the car to the house.  At my home, I had just put away the last of the Christmas gifts and was sitting down with a cup of cocoa when I got the call: “It’s baby time! Meet us at the hospital!”

What a fun way to end a Thanksgiving Day. J My fourteen year-old daughter and I drove to the hospital to help (I as a labor coach, my younger daughter as a cheerleader.) We arrived around 11 pm. My other pregnant daughter and her husband showed up to visit and encourage my laboring daughter around midnight. I marveled at how things changed from when I delivered my first child almost 27 years ago when you could only have one person in the laboring room, to now, when anybody the mother wanted could be there.

Samuel Levi
During the actual delivery, the room was cleared to just the parents, the medical staff, and myself—as the labor coach and “mamarazzi.” I took a hundred pictures  after little Samuel Levi arrived: being weighed, bathed, checked out, bundled, cuddled by everyone, his first bath, the first family photos. What a marvelous occasion, the arrival of a baby. Life has a way of fading away the crazy moments and focusing in on what is really important when you hold a newborn in your arms.

My birthday twins and me

Fast forward a week later to Levi’s actual due date, Friday, December 5—which also happens to be my youngest son’s and my birthday—my other pregnant daughter is feeling “weird.” She was due Dec 15th, but would deliver no later than Dec 8th. My son-in-law, daughter, and I decide to do a little 4-wheeling  to a site on some back roads where my son-in-law likes to shoot soda pop cans for target practice. I held out a small hope that her baby would come on my birthday, but it was okay that he didn't.

Ammon Ryder

Fast forward to Monday morning—induction day! As soon as I dropped my youngest five kids off to school, I hurried to the hospital to see how my daughter’s labor was progressing.  All in all, well. Water broken, Pitocin introduced, discomfort rising. Then relief in the form of a professionally administered epidural.  This daughter had witnessed the birth of her youngest brother and had marveled over the years: “Mom, you made childbirth look so easy.” On the day of her first delivery, she made a comment about feeling a little deceived. The world was righted when her epidural kicked in. J

In a few hours my second grandson, Ammon Ryder was welcomed by grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from both sides of his large extended family. His arrival made me marvel at how people who used to not know one another, could come together to share the great blessing of welcoming a new member—further uniting strangers who have become friends... and family.
Ammon on Christmas Eve

Because I am writing this post at the beginning of a new year and featuring two sweet little boys who have a lifetime of wonder and possibilities ahead of them, I am reflecting on new beginnings.

Each of us has been gifted a new year with 365 empty pages to fill with meaning and purpose for our loved ones and ourselves. Go forth and make the most of them!

Ammon as "Sully", Levi as "Mike"

Make choices that bring joy to those you love. Embrace your dreams and GO for them! Time will pass whether you actively pursue your dreams or whether you do nothing and just let life pass you by.

Be the wind blowing the leaves of your book of life toward a grand adventure, a new romance, a new friend, or new skill, rather than the leaf buffeted about without your permission or input.

Laugh lots, love much, write on!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Balls in the Air!

Motivation has become my new nemesis.

I'm not sure if it's because I feel guilty being idle in an empty house for six hours a day while my kids are at school, or if my 38-year-old body can't keep up with my 18-year-old ambitions. I suffer from OCD - obsessive creativity disorder (self-diagnosis)- and as my husband and children know, I'm not happy if my hands aren't busy. Stop by my house at any given moment and you will likely find me cutting out a new sewing project, cross-stitching yet another whimsical cow, or trying my hand at embroidery.

Usually a good project is a cure-all for me, but lately even the things I love to do make me go "ugh . . . I'd have to get up to do that . . . never mind!" And these are my hobbies, mind you - the things that give me the creative outlet I need, a much-needed break from reality, the "me time" that allows me to act less like a bear coming out of hibernation when my kids start coming off the bus. We're not even talking about the unpleasantness of dishes, laundry, coming up with something halfway decent for dinner, etc., etc. And I haven't even mentioned the taxi duty we find ourselves on with doctor/dentist appointments, music/dance lessons, church activities . . . is your brain starting to hurt yet?!

 As you may imagine, if I do accomplish any of the above, I'm exhausted by the end. So my question is, how do we find time to write? How do we walk away from all those balls in the air and give our story-telling its dues? And even if we find the time, what about the emotional and mental energy it sucks out of us? I don't know if any of you struggle with these same concerns, but as we're all writers and mothers I'm sure you've felt the pinch. Here are just a few things that keep my writing (and sometimes even myself) from falling by the wayside:

 1. SCHEDULE WRITING TIME. Treat it like any other commitment you couldn't or wouldn't neglect - like an appointment. Put it on your calender or in your phone or wherever the schedule portion of your brain lives.

 2. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I'm much more accountable for my writing when I'm not at home, being distracted by all those balls. And let's face it, sometimes having my uber-comfy king bed upstairs is too much of a temptation in the afternoons.

 3. IF THE WRITING ISN'T FLOWING, SPEND SOME TIME IMAGINING SCENES. I do this when I'm in the car. Sometimes I even monologue it out, ignoring the strange looks I get from the drivers of passing cars. At least in our day and age I can pass it off for a phone conversation on my blue tooth.

 4. TEAM UP WITH OTHER AUTHORS FOR A WRITING SESSION. This works every time, unless we get sidetracked chatting. But chatting has its benefits too - I have worked out quite a few plot issues just talking it out with another writer.

 5. TAKE LITTLE SNATCHES OF TIME FOR WRITING. Be happy with the result, even if the word count leaves you feeling anti-productive. A book is made up of words, so every little bit helps.

 6. TURN OFF THE TECHNOLOGY. Ignore the little yips and blips your phone makes every time you get an email or text, or every time a friend creates a new Pinterest board. Anything truly important usually comes in the form of a call. Even then, don't answer unless it is your significant other or the school!

 7. PUT PEN TO PAPER WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES. I realize this isn't always possible. Most the time the writing bug bites me when my whole family is home and wanting my attention, or on a Sunday when I shouldn't be "working". But if you're all lying around watching the latest episode of The Voice and the urge hits, grab your laptop and go for it. Ask yourself if the thing you're missing out on is more important than getting a good scene down.

 8. BE WILLING TO LET GO. This is super hard for me. Sometimes I schedule that writing time, I get out of the house, turn off my phone, and the stars seem to all align . . . until I start typing and I can't get a word down. If this happens, give yourself a break. Be willing to move on and try again another day. If you're having trouble getting a scene down, work on character development or plot or some other aspect of the process. And don't let it sour your mood and ruin your whole day!

Now I think I'll go take my own advice! Happy writing to you all.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy New Year!

For me, 2014 was a mixture of major ups and downs. We were trying to sell our house and ran into all kinds of obstacles. It was a huge trial of faith, but I knew we were supposed to move. When the actual sale took a month and a half, I thought I'd go crazy. But after being in this house for eight months (We finally moved in on April 1st - yes, April Fool's Day. I thought it was quite appropriate after what we'd been through), I knew we had to be ready for the neighborhood we were about to move into.

Our kids have friends now. Really close, very good friends. Our house is constantly filled with laughter as friends come over to play. We also have chickens, and rabbits, and cats, and we'll get a few more animals this year. Our kids fight over who gets to feed them because they love having the animals around. And we have space. Lots and lots of space.

The blessings go on and on. Those little things made the headache and heartache I went through at the beginning of the year all worth it.

So now we move onto 2015. We had quite the start when I took my daughter to the doctor and found out she had pneumonia. Poor girl. Hopefully things only get better from here.

We can pause and laugh for a bit.

So, anyway, what do you have in mind for goals this year? Have you figured out where you want to go with your writing? How about life in general? I haven't been one to make resolutions in the past, but then, I wasn't one to make to-do lists either. Apparently I grew up a little in the last couple years. Or my memory is nothing like it used to be and I have to have help remembering things ...

Two years ago, I was bound and determined to get a book published, so that was my resolution. Last year I just wanted to make it through the year with no surgeries. I managed to make both happen. You'd think the surgery one would be easy, but then we had quite a 2012 and 2013.

Anyway, I was at a loss for what I wanted to do this year. I could go all out and say "make a million dollars, reopen my bookstore with a museum and theater attached (in the works for our city arts council that I'm a part of), go to Ireland, and find a prize agent/big five publisher."

But let's not get crazy. Or am I crazy? Can't I take each one of those ideas and just build on them? I can work to improve my writing so that one of those agents might pick me up. I could save up my earnings for a ticket to Ireland. And, like I said, we're working on the theater/museum/bookstore.

I think both goals and dreams are good to have, and when you can intertwine them, it's even better. Come up with where you want to be a year from now, and find ways to get there. Find small things that be accomplished and go from there.

Besides those above, my actual goals are to branch out and hit a few conventions out of state, and find an exercise plan I will actually do. Between the two resolutions, find out-of-state conventions is by far the easier resolution for me.

Good luck with your goals, and I hope 2015 treats you well!