Quote of the Week – January 10

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Making changes – my non-resolutions for the start of the New Year

It I that time of year where many people make resolutions to change something in their life. And in a few weeks, those resolutions will probably be forgotten. That is precisely why I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions.

Image result for resolutionsAccording to a quick internet search, about 45% of Americans will make one (or more) resolutions this New Year. The top three resolutions are losing weight, start exercising and stopping smoking. Other popular resolutions include better money management and debt reduction.

My concern about not following through on a resolution is definitely supported by my online search.

Resolution length:

  • Past the first week: 75%
  • Past 2 weeks: 71%
  • Past one month: 64%
  • After 6 months: 46%

In 2013, I posted about New Year’s resolutions. I refused to call it a resolution, but I wanted to lose about 5 lbs or at the very least slow down the weight gain. And if you look back at my other posts, weight gain (and counting calories to lose weight) have been the topic of several posts. Just so you know, the counting calorie thing does work. I did lose 13 pounds in 12 weeks. But the holidays hit and bad habits crept back up.

As for that non-resolution from 2013, I can’t say whether I stuck with it our not. But one of my top non-resolutions for this year is…you guessed it. I would like to lose weight…oh and starting exercising would probably help me get in shape. But the memories of all those times where I start a program or plan and then get off of it as soon as I get busy or sick flash in my head.

So here are some things I would like to do in the upcoming year. And no, I will not call them resolutions as I don’t want them to fail.

Lose Weight

Image result for healthy choicesUgh. This again. Yes, even though I have successfully lost weight in the past, my problem is reverting to my bad habits as soon as I stop watching what I eat. So, I cannot go back to counting calories because as soon as I stop, any weight I loss will probably come back. This means I need to look at ways to change my behavior.

My worst habit is snacking/eating when I am not hungry so that is the behavior I am going to try and change. If I can make some low-calorie or healthier options at the same time that will be a bonus.

Exercising

I have never really enjoyed exercising. But I know I lead a pretty sedentary life. When Jase was in kindergarten, we walked to school every day – pretty much no matter whether it was cold or hot outside. I think we ended up only driving twice that year and it was due to rain. When I needed to go to the school, I walked. Fast forward to now and I find many reasons for us to drive rather than walk. And that lack of walking to the school consistently has taken a toll on my fitness.

It would be impractical of me to think that I am all of a sudden going to love exercising or find the time for a good long work out. Instead, I think I am going to aim for 10 to 15-minute blocks – at least once a day and to start walking to the kids’ schools more often.

Organizing

Image result for organizingFor two years in a row I participated in the 52-week challenge that helps you organize your house by doing one task/area each week. It really did help. But some of the areas need more work. I have already cleaned off ½ my desk and gone through all the clothes in my closet, eliminating those items that don’t fit or I don’t like anymore. But there are a few other areas – my dresser and the other half of my desk – that need some organizing. My goal is to break these projects down into smaller steps and work on them in the evenings while watching TV.

Now whether I can keep up or accomplish anything on these non-resolutions, we will just have to wait and see.

For those of you who made a New Year’s resolution, here are few tips gleaned off the internet to help you achieve them:

  • Make only 1 resolution
  • Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to set your goal (Might be too late for that one.)
  • Don’t attempt previously failed resolutions
  • Don’t base your goal on what everyone else is doing
  • Break your goal into a series of time-based steps
  • Make your plans and progress concrete by writing it down
  • Tell your friends and family what you are aiming for
  • Regularly remind yourself of the benefits
  • Give yourself small rewards for achieving each step
  • Expect small set-backs, and don’t make these a reason to give up altogether

As you can see, I made a few mistakes already by picking three areas instead of one and by picking areas that I have failed in before. I think I will just ignore these tips and stick with my three areas and see how it goes. I’ll plan to do an update at the end of February and let you know if I kept up with any of these.

Top 10 Writing/Publishing Posts of 2017

Since this is the beginning of the year, I thought I would recap some of my better posts from 2017. I already did my Top 10 Parenting Posts and my husband’s Top 10 Recipes. Today, I will look at posts on publishing, marketing or writing from 2017.

Publishing/Marketing 

Pen Names: when you might want to consider one

Image result for Pen name

You want the character name to be memorable. Even more so, you want your name to be memorable. You want readers to be able to recommend your books to others.

I host authors every Friday, and I have seen some pretty hard to pronounce names and ones that I imagine are impossible to remember or spell correctly. How do you expect readers to recommend you? How are readers going to be able to search for your books on Amazon when they can’t figure out how to spell – much less pronounce – your name?

This is where a pseudonym or pen name comes into play. A pen name allows authors to select a catchy, memorable name. It allows them to switch genders or even nationalities, which depending upon the circumstances could mean more book sales. (Click here to read more.)

Getting book reviews

Last week, I wrote about whether book reviews were an important marketing strategy. As it turns out, a good, well-written book review can benefit your sales. When choosing between a book with numerous reviews and one with only a few or no reviews, many readers will pick the more “popular” choice.

So how do you go about getting those reviews? (Click here to find out.)

Tips for a well-written book description

Your book is done. You have your eye-catching cover and a great title. But your job is not over. It is time to write what is probably the most important words – the book description. (Find out what does and doesn’t go in a book description by clicking here.)

Choosing Categories and Keywords when publishing with Amazon

When you publish your book on Amazon (through Kindle Direct Publishing), you are allowed to pick two categories and seven keywords. Here are some tips to make those choices work for you and help increase the number of books you sell. (Click here to find out how to increase your exposure on Amazon.)

Writing

Outlining your Novel

snowflake

One of my very first posts was about whether as an author you outline your novel before you write or do you just sent down and write. Basically are you a plotter (outliner) or a pantser (someone who flies by the seat of their pants).

I have never been one to plot out my whole novel in advance. I tend to have an idea what the novel is about and maybe some ideas for some scenes. As I begin to write, I generally plot out what will happen in the next scenes. Since this is a very loose outline, I am free to let the characters drive the story.

Now there are many benefits to have an outline of your novel before you begin. It helps to create a well-developed plot and there is less rewriting involved. If you write just whatever comes to mind, you will most likely have a lot of editing and pruning during subsequent drafts than if you had it planned out in advance. (Click here for outlining methods.)

He said, she said: 4 Tips on Using Dialogue Tags

For readers to know who is speaking, you need dialogue tags such as he said and she replied. And while they are necessary, you don’t need them every time someone speaks. (Check out the tips here.)

9 Questions to Consider When Choosing your Novel’s Setting

eiffel_tower_postcard-01ver

Last week, I gave a recap of some of my posts about writing various scenes in your novel. But before you can write a scene, you need to know where your story is set.

The setting is the location where the events of a scene take place. This could be Las Angeles, a farm in Iowa, the White House, on a space ship, on another world or any of a thousand different places. (To read more, click here.)

Using internal dialogue

One of the biggest advantages of writing a novel versus writing a movie or TV show script is that authors can use internal dialogue as a tool to tell the story.

Internal dialogue is what your character is thinking. It is not the same thing as narration, which is when the person telling the story (the narrator) talks directly to the reader. (Read more by clicking here.)

How many drafts does it take to complete a novel?

You have finally finished your first draft of your story. Now comes the real work. The cutting, the editing, the rewriting, the expanding to make your first work closer into a publishable novel.

So how many drafts does that take? (Find out here.)

Editing your novel with the help of a revision outline

Last week I wrote about the different drafts your story will go through on the way to becoming a novel. During those drafts, you need to strengthen the characters and plot as well as reduce wordiness or strengthen your writing.

To do this, I find it helps to have something to keep me on track and remind me of all the areas that I need to focus on. (To view my revision outline, click here.)

In August, I started a series on writing a novel. Many of the above topics will be (or already were) addressed. There are currently 21 posts in that series. Here is the last post. At the end of it is a list of all the other topics. 

Keeping things realistic in your novel

You are watching an action movie, and during the fight scene, the two sides shoot and shoot and shoot some more. And while you are engrossed in the action, somewhere in the back of your mind you are wondering “Shouldn’t they run out of bullets or at least need to reload?” (To read more or to see the other 20 topics in my writing series, click here. Next week, post number 22 in the series will be posted.)

My Husband’s Top 10 Favorite Recipes

The first week of the new year often brings the “Top _____ of 2017” posts. I already did one on my Top 10 Parenting posts, and tomorrow I will be doing the Top 10 Writing/Publishing posts. Instead of doing the top 10 recipes from 2017 I thought I would recap the recipes that are my husband’s favorite.

1.) Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas (shown above)

2.) Bean Chapula

3.) Posole

4.) Beef Enchilada Casserole 

5.) Creamy Potato Sticks

6.) Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice Skillet

7.) Oreo Pie

8.) Italian Flank Steak

9.) White Lightning Chili

10.) Beef Stroganoff

Happy New Year/Top 10 Parenting Posts from 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope your 2017 was good and that 2018 will be even better.

I typically begin each year by recapping some of my top posts from last year. Since Mondays are my days to write about parenting, today I am listing the Top 10 Parenting Posts of 2017. These are listed in no particular order…in other words, these aren’t ranked as to which ones are better than the others. If you missed any of these, simply click the link after the first few lines/paragraphs of each post.

family-dinner-clipart-screen-shot-2012-10-19-at-9-34-16-am-300x220Making a point to eat together as a family 

Growing up, my husband’s family didn’t sit at the dinner table. His father was a high school basketball coach and often gone at dinner time so my husband and his brother ate mostly in front of the TV. Sitting around the table wasn’t done except on holidays or when company was over.

I grew up with a totally different scenario. We ate dinner together – every night at the table. My brother and I always knew to be home by 6 p.m. for dinner. It was considered a treat to eat in front of the TV. (To read more, click here.)

Anti-Bullying seminar: Don’t Stand By, Stand UP!

This past week, I brought in a speaker to talk about bullying and how to empower your child to Stand UP.

The presentation was called “Don’t Stand By, Stand Up!” and it was presented through the Texas PTA’s Ready, Set, Achieve program. Our presenter was Dr. Sylvia Reyna, a retired Texas teacher, principal and superintendent. (Click here to read part one & here to read part two.)

Sticking with my No TV or computer in my kids’ bedroom

Ever since Jase was young and would easily fall asleep in front of the TV, my husband has occasionally brought up the idea of putting a TV in his room. And as Jase uses a computer more and more (mostly for play instead of homework), my husband has also suggested we give him his own computer for his room.

On both these accounts, I am firmly against it. I don’t see any reason Jase or Lexie need to be holed up in their room watching TV or glued to the Internet without any contact from the rest of us. (Click here to read more.)

The problem of telling little white lies in front of your child

I’m busy that day.

I already donated to your organization.

The meal was delicious.

Thank you. I love it.

Many of us tell these little white lies without a thought believing these “harmless” fibs spare feelings. We say these things to make our lives easier and to avoid conflict. (To read more, click here.)

Figuring out how to get my ADHD child to sleep

Lexie has always had a problem falling asleep. I am jealous of those parents who report that their children are in bed and asleep by 7 p.m. Heck, I am even jealous of the ones who get them asleep by 8 p.m.or even 9 p.m.

Lexie, on the other hand, is usually up until 10 p.m. or later even though her bedtime is 9 p.m. My husband originally dismissed it as her taking after him. He has always had trouble falling asleep. But now we know he is right. Her sleep problem is related to her ADHD (which my husband was recently diagnosed with too so it is something she inherited from him.) The problem is that she can’t stop her racing mind long enough to fall asleep. (Click here to read more.)

Waiting for a growth spurt

Jase wasn’t a small baby. He was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 22 inches at birth. In fact, in those first few months he was quite a chunky baby.

When he became a toddler, those pounds shed as he became active. And for those first few years, he was actually quite average, falling right at the 56% for height for his age.

But as he has grown, those percentages began dropping. And now at 12 years old, Jase is 55 inches which makes him in the 10th percentile for height. In other words, he is short. It means that out 100 boys, 90 of them will be taller than him. (To read more, click here.)

Deciding on when to get your kid a cellphone

Jase turned twelve in May and just finished elementary school. Some of his classmates already have cellphones. Jase does not.

As an elementary school student who I walk/drive to school most of the time, there was no need for him to have a phone. His extra-curricular activities (soccer and karate) were done with me in attendance. Only when he stayed after school for violin practice or tutoring did he walk by himself (or with his sister). But we are just two blocks from the school. There was no need for a phone.

But next year, Jase enters middle school. And as I understand it, most of the kids there have cellphones. Teachers send messages via the Remind app. Homework requires different apps, and students even can use their phones during class to watch videos or utilize apps as part of a class exercise. (To read tips on making your decision on a cellphone for kids, click here.)

Shy or just reserved?

There he stood, leaning against a tree. He watched the other boys playing but didn’t approach them. I knew he wanted to, but he still held back and watched. Ea he hung out in the pool alone while the other boys dove off the diving board. It wasn’t fear of the diving board that kept Jase away. It was the awkward shyness of not knowing how to join his friend who is playing with other boys he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

This was the scene recently at a birthday pool party that Jase, Lexie and I attended. It was a joint celebration for Jase’s friend Aidan and for Aidan’s sister, Morgan, who is Lexie’s friend. While Lexie had no problem running off with some girls, it was Jase I knew who might struggle at the party.

(To continue reading, click here.)

Encouraging my nine-year-old to save money

When Jase was 5 years old, we started giving him a small allowance as a method of teaching him how to handle money. We stopped buying him candy or toys when we were at the store and insisted he uses his own money for these extras. Jase is willing to do extra chores to earn money and is good about savings. Even now, he has $100 in savings and is often reluctant to spend his money.

Lexie too has been receiving an allowance. But she has the exact opposite reaction as Jase. If she has money, she thinks she needs to spend it. If she gets $5, she wants to buy something right then. She made $9 at her Nana’s garage sale and immediately handed it to me to buy an app for her iPad. (To read more, click here.)

Two wrongs don’t make a right

The other day while online, I was reading an advice columnist. A woman wrote in about an incident with her boyfriend’s parents. The mom made a comment that she thought was rude. She responded with a sharp remark. When her boyfriend told her that what she did was rude, she didn’t believe him, hence the need to write into an advice columnist for an unbiased opinion.

The columnist sided with the boyfriend. The woman’s response was indeed rude. I agreed with the columnist but when I read the comments below the article, it seemed many other readers didn’t agree. Some of them even thought the woman should have been more direct. They thought she should stand up for herself rather than let the rude comment stand.

I didn’t read all the comments but none of the ones I read sided with the columnist. And I thought, “This is what is wrong with society.” The fact that the mentality was all about getting even or putting people in their place seemed wrong. Since when did two wrongs make it right? (Click here to keep reading.)

Keeping things realistic in your novel

This post is the twenty-first in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

You are watching an action movie, and during the fight scene, the two sides shoot and shoot and shoot some more. And while you are engrossed in the action, somewhere in the back of your mind you are wondering “Shouldn’t they run out of bullets or at least need to reload?”

Just like watching that action scene momentarily jars you out of the story, many things in your novel can have the same effect on your reader. And there is nothing worse than reading and enjoying a book when you come across something that pulls you out of the story.

I’m going to give some examples. Many of them are based on fantasy writing situations but hopefully you can correlate them to something in your novel that you need to make sure is believable.

Magic

Magic use to be prevalent only in fantasy novels but more and more, magic shows up in other genres, including romance and suspense.  Magic can certainly enhance a story, but you need to make sure it is believable. You need to clearly define (at least to yourself) what can and cannot be done with magic. There must be limits on magic otherwise the person using magic would always win and there would be no conflict in your story. Magic cannot be the answer to everything. Or as Rumpelstiltskin in ABC’s Once Upon a Time said, “All magic comes with a price.”

There are countless ways to limit magic: power is drawn from magical lines through the ground, and if you aren’t near one then you have no magic; magic is based on knowing spells, so you are limited by your knowledge; magic makes a sound other sorcerers can hear and thus can find you, and the list goes on and on. Decide which rules you want to use and then make sure you stick to them in your story.

Food

In a fantasy world, food is one area that can pull readers out of the story – or at least those readers paying attention.

Yes, this may be another world or time period. And, yes, food choices and eating habits may be different there. But everyone is familiar with food, so you should at least have the food choices make sense. Writers of fantasy novels too often ask us to believe that a roadside meal is cooked in the time it takes to water the horses or set up camp or that fresh fruit is available at all times – even the winter.

A quick search on the internet could spare these mistakes. Take rabbit stew for instance. A quick look reveals that in a modern kitchen, it takes two hours to cook and that doesn’t include prep time. So this isn’t practical for a roadside meal – or at least not a quick one. As with any camping trip, authors need to consider how all the supplies – food, tents, weapons, clothing – are going to be hauled. A lot fits in a car but you can carry less in your saddle bag.

Eating is such a big part of life that you can’t ignore it in your novel. Of course, you need not focus on it unless it advances the plot somehow such as a grain shortage. But do take the time to learn something about some of the foods that you mention so that you don’t jar the reader out of the story with something improbable.

Travel

Another thing I see in many novels is how fast it takes someone to get somewhere. Here again you need to be practical. You don’t want to have your character fly across the country in just four hours when it takes at least seven on a commercial airliner or travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in two hours when it takes six. People in New York will know how long it takes to get across town and will be surprised if your character does it super-fast. And with fantasy writing if your characters are walking long distances, riding a horse to another city, or traveling by wagon, please research how long this will take. (For more you can check out this post.) https://wp.me/p2Dhbj-Dq

Details

To me it is a lot of the things that jar me out the story are part of the little details.

In one book I recently read, a woman won a lot of money. She spent quite a bit of it but supposedly still had millions to invest. I kept thinking that the numbers didn’t work out especially after she bought a large house and paid cash for it.

But it can also be something as simple as wearing a blue shirt one moment and a red one the next. Or have a character join a conversation when they are supposed to be elsewhere.

Being consistent with your details, whether they are about magic, food, travel or what someone is wearing is very important in allowing your reader to be immersed in your make-believe world. And when it comes to areas that you aren’t knowledgeable about (perhaps traveling a long distance on a horse), then make sure you do the research, so you can accurately portray the scene in your novel and not jar your reader out of the story with something as ridiculous as a gun that never runs out of bullets.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel