A new year on the 52 week organizing challenge

Last year, I took the 52-week organizing challenge. Each week, you are assigned a new organizing task to improve your household. I did pretty well with sticking to the challenge last year.

There were some weeks where there was nothing to do (no basement or attic here) and then there were other weeks that I just couldn’t get the whole task done (such as organizing all the papers cluttering my office.)

At the end of the year, my house was more organized than before but no way was it where I wanted it to be. I then decided to do the challenge again this year. This will allow me to finish getting organized and hopefully establish a routine to keep it that way.

Since I completed many of the weeks at the beginning of last year, this year I have been looking at each week’s challenge and deciding if anything needs to be done. If I completed it last year, I have been checking to make sure that area is still organized. For example, I had done most of the cabinets in the kitchen, and they had stayed organized. But there was one cabinet I meant to get to that I had put off. So on that week, I tackled it.

On another week when it was time to organize the pantry, I found mine already to be where I wanted it organizational-speaking at least. So instead of doing nothing, I went ahead and looked at the next challenge.

I will say that while some of the challenges are in the same order as last year, the site has been reorganized, and some challenges have been moved to other parts of the year. This works in my favor as I then may not be trying to tackle the same challenge while busily preparing for a school event or a kid’s birthday party.

With my work-ahead plan in motion, while today is Week 12 of the challenge (Morning/Evening Routine), I am working on Week 23 (Home Office). Actually, I have been working on this one and all the filing system/paper clutter ones for a while now.

IMG_4265I hate filing, and my drawers are packed full of files from previous years. I have had to fight the urge to look at what is in the files and have been trying to take her suggestion to just purge that old stuff. Of course, this means I am doing a lot of shredding and filling up the recycling bin.

But I will say I have finally got all of my kids’ art filed in their keepsake books, which means my dresser has been cleared off. And while my desk is still a slightly cluttered mess, I am slowly chipping away and making progress. Hopefully, I can get this bit of organizing finished before the challenge catches up to me in 10 weeks!

Today’s Featured Author – Michael K. Eastman

Today, I welcome author Michael K. Eastman to my blog. Here is an excerpt from his short story, The Story of Little Beth.

Excerpt

“I’ll tell you how it all began… “

Uncle stood and walked towards the window, taking a long puff of smoke with him. He held out his pipe and gently tapped it against the glass bubble.

“It’s been almost twenty years since that day… I shall always remember we gathered at the harbour inn to bless and celebrate our newly built boat. We named it the Pelican. It was a fine specimen with many sails. There were ten of us including myself. All the necessary provisions had been taken on board and we set forth on the following day.”

“The clouds finally cleared and gave rise to a gentle breeze that filled the sails. Our new ship had bought us good luck. It seemed our labours had rewarded us all with an abundance of good stock… Several days later, our fishing boxes were full. Our skipper was an old sea dog, a sailor of old  traditions… to celebrate our success he cracked open barrel of rum and gave each of us a noggin.”

“Good luck and fortune had been with our ship for most of the voyage. We made good progress on the last day of our fishing, but our stores were now full to the brim, so being left with no further room to keep any extra fish, the skipper gave the order to pull up the nets, and prepare for our voyage home.”

“It was then we saw them…I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone gathered round. There was seven or more. They cut through the swell like a spear …They were keeping a fast pace as fast as our ship.…”

“What did they look like?”  asked Beth

Uncle opened a locked draw and removed a wrinkled rolled up canvas. “I’m showing you and Billy a true painting of a mermaid… No one else has ever seen this apart from your auntie.

As you can see for yourself, they look beautiful…Long slender faces large wide eyes and long silver hair… Legends say they will live for one hundred years and have magic powers to heal the sick.”

Uncle’s face suddenly turned to sadness. “That dam cutthroat of a man, he nearly killed one of them…He wanted to catch one and take it back…We tried to stop him but he overpowered everyone. And before we got on our feet, he callously fired into her side…I shall never forget that awful sound she made…I jumped over the side of the ship and swam towards her. Holding her in my arms, I could see her blood on my hands. I shouted to my shipmates for help, but their hands were full keeping this cut throat at bay.”

“Suddenly out from nowhere a huge wave fell upon the ship. It creaked and snapped and rolled from side to side splitting the thick wooden masts as if they were made of straw. As much as I wanted to help I couldn’t have done anything for either of my shipmates, but I was determined to save my ocean friend. ..She laid her head back and closed her eyes.”

“I prayed to the Lord to save her…give me the strength to hold on I ask of him. My last thoughts during that terrible time were of holding her tightly and praying that if fate has destined to take a life…Take mine alone.”

Book Blurb

Little Beth_Take your imagination back a hundred years to the rugged shores of wildest Cornwall, where the adventure and mystery of the dark currents enthrall two young children with ancient mermaid legends you would swear are true… Thus begins ‘The Story of Little Beth,’ the first in two captivating tales in this magic fantasy collection of short stories, where mermaid legends and black magic sit side by side with a hoblin’s adventure. The dark currents of fate twist in strange ways about our heroes, inexorable and inescapable. Let the lives of these strangers mingle as their extraordinary stories unfold in this fantasy collection of short stories by Michael K. Eastman, woven with secrets of magic, myth and legend to tempt any reader.

You can buy The Story of Little Beth as part of a collection that also includes The Story of Plum and Pepper on Amazon and Amazon UK.

Choices for Authors: Marketing vs. Writing

You can’t write a book and expect it to be an instant best-seller. (Or if you do, you will most likely be disappointed.) It takes time and effort before most authors make consistent sells. And the only way to do that is to market yourself and your books.

How much marketing you need or what marketing strategies work best is so dependent on each individual author that there is no right or wrong answer. There simply is no one-size-fits-all plan for marketing.

The stories about authors who succeeded without any marketing are rare. Most books, even the really good ones, will become lost in the jumble of the millions of other available titles unless something is done to make them stand out, to make them become discoverable to their target audience. Remember that even successful authors like Stephen King and John Grisham do marketing (or pay a marketing firm to do it for them).

Now many new authors ask about marketing and the best advice I can give them is to simply keep writing. By having multiple books, you increase your credence as an author. With each published book, you broaden your appeal and add credibility to your name. There are many readers who scoop up every title an author has written previously if they like your book. I know one author that said it took until her eighth book before she had established enough of a following to really take off and need less marketing.

Of course, the best tip for any author is to write a good book. Good word of mouth is the best advertising.

But I think one of the biggest problems that I and many other authors fail to do is establish a marketing plan. Many authors don’t even figure out who their target audience is. You need to find who will be interested in your book and then target that market.

But no matter how you market your book, remember – marketing takes time. Not just the time to do it but the time to see results. Your ad this week may not cause a spike in sales, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t work. People have to see something – a new author, a new book – multiple times before they take the time to investigate to see if they want to know more or perhaps even buy the book.

You have to keep working at marketing to be successful. Remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. You need to be in it for the long haul. You have to be a relentless self-promoter. Unfortunately, many people don’t have the time for that. But anything you do whether it is something daily or just something once a week will help.

A Minecraft Birthday party for my 8-year-old daughter

Lexie turned 8 this month. When asked what type of party she wanted, her answer was simple: Minecraft.

modloader-for-minecraft-02-700x406For those of you who don’t know, Minecraft is video game that allows players to build and construct a world out of textured cubes. Players can play in an open world where they can build and explore or opt to play in survival mode where players are required to build certain things such as a shelter to protect themselves and to hunt for food.  It is a VERY popular game.

Originally the idea was just to have Minecraft invites and a Minecraft cake at a party location as we have always done Lexie’s parties away from the house. But two years ago when Jase was in second grade, we started doing his parties (Lego and How to Train Your Dragon) at home so it seemed fitting that Lexie should get to do hers at home too now that she is in the second grade.

She was excited and had so many ideas of what she wanted to do. A quick look at Pinterest brought a plethora of ideas on everything from decorations to food to games and activities. It would be easy to go all out on this party.

minecraft inviteInvitation – Since I use to design invites on Etsy, I already had a Minecraft invitation done. Lexie had me change up the animals on the card. We then printed them out at Wal-mart. We invited her whole class plus 6 other friends. Thankfully everyone didn’t show up. We had 12 kids including my own two.

IMG_1824Decorations – Decorations for a Minecraft party are easy. You want everything to be square so square plates and bowls were in order. Decorating in lime green and brown would be an obvious choice but we pretty much just stuck with lime green. IMG_4272My husband also 3D printed some Minecraft Ore Cubes which he added lights to so they would glow. And Lexie insisted we have lava. (A red plastic table cloth cut to fit the floor of the arch between our living and dining room.)

Food – It was easy to get ideas online for food to serve based on Minecraft. I made my own food tents to let everyone know what they were having to eat.

IMG_1313

Snack Bar – sorry the apples and watermelon were not out when I snapped the photo.

Snack Bar – We offered Minecraft themed snacks: carrots (Cheetos), sticks (pretzels), apples (sliced apples), melon (watermelon), IMG_4269water (blue jello), lava (red jello), obsidian (Oreos), cookies (chocolate chip cookies) and of course the drinks: Creeper juice (apple juice), potion of swiftness (bottled water) and potion of healing (Root beer).

 

 

IMG_1312Candy Bar – As part of their goody bags, we let each kid fill a snack size plastic bag with candy. Here is what we had: gold (Rolos), fish (Swedish fish), coal (Nestle Crunch bites), redstone (cherry Lifesavers), Diamonds (blue rock candy), Emeralds (green rock candy) and TNT (red licorice). I also had some mini-candy bars wrapped with a “Thank You for coming to my party” message.

IMG_1307Cake – You can’t have a party without cake. I looked at many online before coming up with this cake. It is two boxes of chocolate cake mix baked in 9” x 13” pans and then cut and stacked to resemble a Minecraft scene. We used Minecraft figures that the kids already owned for decorations. Since I wasn’t going to write Lexie’s name on it, my husband 3D printed her a Happy Birthday sign which she painted herself.

Games/Activities – Again, Pinterest offered a lot of ideas on games. It was tough to narrow it down.

Making Necklaces – My husband 3D printed some Minecraft swords and pick axes. We had the kids color them with markers. Add a bit of string and poof, you have a necklace. It was a simple activity but the kids loved it. (As a second craft, while we waited for all the kids to arrive, they decorate their own goodie bags using the markers or some Minecraft items I had printed out.)

Feed the Tamed Wolf – Lexie came up with this as a version of Pin the Tail on the Ender Dragon (which we had seen online.) I simply printed a large tamed wolf  (photo above with decorations) and some bones (with the kids names on them). The object is while blindfolded to land the bone perfectly on the wolf’s open mouth.

IMG_4273Creeper Bean Bag Toss – Again, something from Pinterest. It is simply a cardboard box painted green with a Creeper face cut out of it. The kids tossed bean bags through the openings to earn points. (The smaller eye holes were 20 points and the mouth was 10 points.)

IMG_4274Creeper Tower Block – This was made out of floral foam blocks that I bought at the Dollar store. I then drew Creeper faces on them. We stacked the blocks and had the kids shoot arrows to knock them down. (We had covered each block with Modge Podge to help protect them from the arrows.) The bow and arrow was from the Dollar Store too. This was the hardest game because most kids couldn’t shoot the bow and arrow. I probably would change this game to either a bean bag toss or get a better bow and arrow.

Creeper Tag – Lexie insisted on having a game called Creeper tag. I had to hone her ideas down into something that would work for a party game. In the end, we took the blocks from the creeper tower game and placed them at one end of the yard. The kids had to retrieve them without being tagged by one of the “creepers.” If you were tagged, you became a creeper.

IMG_1347Enderman Pinata – One of the best things about having a party at home is the option to have a piñata. I made my own – something I started with Jase’s Lego party. I simply take a 24 can soda box and cover it with crepe paper streamers. My husband created a wooden Minecraft sword for the kids to whack the Enderman. As always it was a hit.

The party went well. All the kids had a blast. Lexie declared it was her best birthday ever. Whew….

 

Today’s Featured Author – Adrienne Thompson

Today, I welcome back author Adrienne Thompson. Her latest book, After the Pain (Latter Rain Series Book 1), came out in January.

Excerpt

My tea cup rattled on its saucer at the sound of his voice. I didn’t dare look up at him as I set the cup down and forced myself not to rush to him and wrap my legs around his waist.

“Thank you, August. Want some tea?” Ms. Dorcas asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I’d love some,” he replied, and then he did something that made my entire body stand at attention; he sat right next to me on the loveseat. From that point on all I could do was sit there and remind myself to breathe as my body temperature began to slowly rise. I shoved my unsteady hands under my thighs and fixed my eyes on the floral-patterned rug beneath my feet. I could smell his sweat, a scent that was beginning to become both familiar and appealing to me, and though I kept my eyes away from him, the image of his face dominated my thoughts.

I glanced around the now painfully quiet room to see all eyes on me—including August’s—and I reacted in the only way I knew how. I stood from my seat and softly said, “Um, excuse me.” And before anyone could reply, I had swiftly left the room, made it to the stairs, and was heading back to Room Ten.

“Wait!” I heard him call.

But I couldn’t stop my feet from ascending the stairs. As I fumbled with my door key, I felt him rest his hand on my shoulder. “Von, wait. Why do you keep running away from me? Is it this?” He spun me around and kissed me again… and I let him. As a matter of fact, I felt relieved, like this was what I’d been needing for a long time. Maybe it was.

His lips left mine and I instantly missed them. “Yes,” I whispered, my eyes downcast.

He lifted my chin, held my eyes with his. “You didn’t like it?”

“I did. That’s the problem.”

“Well, what about this?” He leaned in and gently suckled my neck.

I shuddered, grabbed his head, and held it in place. Then a wave of shame hit me and I pulled away from him. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You’re enjoying me,” he whispered as he pinned me to the door and went to work on the other side of my neck. “And I’m enjoying you…”

“I don’t even know your last name,” I said breathily.

“Donovan. August Donovan.”

“I don’t know you.”

He lifted his head and gently kissed my lips again. “Meet me on the path after breakfast tomorrow.”

I looked into his chocolate eyes and almost involuntarily said, “Okay.”

Book Blurb

ATP2_smBarely grasping on to her sanity due to past trauma and unhappiness, LaVonda Ingram leaves her home in search of peace and finds it in the love of a beautiful man. But will she be able to hold on to the healing and peace his love provides?

This is book one of the Latter Rain series—stories of women over forty finding love.

Check out the book trailer!

About the Author

adrienneAdrienne Thompson has worn many titles in her lifetime: teenage mother, teenage wife, divorcee, registered nurse, and author. This mother of three young adults currently resides in Arkansas in her newly empty nest where she writes and publishes her stories full time.

You can find out more about Adrienne on her website or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can purchase After the Pain on Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.

You can also read an excerpt of Your Love is King – her book that was featured on my site in 2013

Keys to marketing as an author

You’ve written your book or maybe you are on your second or third or perhaps your book isn’t even out yet, but your mind has turned to marketing. How the heck do you get your book noticed in the sea of other books out there?

There really is no sure-fire method for marketing. What works for one author may or may not work for you. But there are two main keys to marketing.

YOU are the BRAND.

The first thing you need to realize is that you are marketing yourself and not your book. Your marketing efforts are building recognition of your brand, which is YOU.

By working on name recognition, your marketing efforts will eventually lead to sales. The key word is “eventually.”

It works the same way as a company running TV commercials. The viewer of the commercial is not often in the position to buy that product right at that moment, but the company wants the viewer to remember their name so when they are at the store, they will see and buy their product.

You need to apply this principle to your marketing. You want people to recognize your name so that when they see your book, they want to buy it (or at least be interested enough to click the button and read the book description.)

That takes me to my second key to marketing….

Marketing takes TIME

So you began marketing – a Twitter campaign, a guest post, a contest or even an ad on a website – and then there is no spike in sales. That does not mean that your promotion failed. You should not expect instant results.

People typically have to see a name (or book title) many times before they take the time and effort to learn more. So you need to look at this from a long-haul marketing plan.

This means you need to be advertising at all times – not just when a new book is released. You may choose to do something once a week or once a month, but you need to consistently work to get your name out there.

And of course the best bet would not be to pick an activity at random but to look for something that will reach your target market. Go where your readers are. This might mean connecting with readers on Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat but remember that social media may not sell books but can build the relationships that help you sell books.

The main thing to remember is that it will take you months to see results of your marketing efforts. Patience is the key here. Remember marketing is more of a long-distance marathon than a sprint. And of course don’t forget who you are marketing – yourself!