Friday, March 30, 2012

Conversations and Commenting

On a regular basis, new features come along to enhance our blogs. One thing I've longed for is a threaded comment section, which allows you to reply to a comment, not just the blog post. WordPress blogs have used this type of commenting for a long time, but it wasn't available on Blogger until recently.
Conversation
Photo by sepblog

Earlier in 2012, Blogger added its own threaded comment system, and while not perfect, it is a step in the right direction. You are now able to reply to each comment after the post, but you can only reply to the original comment, not to replies of replies.

I had been considering adding Disqus to my comments, but I've heard too many complaints about its long loading time, not to mention I would have to alter my template again. I'm keeping it in mind for the future, though. In the meantime, I decided to try Blogger's system, so please tell me [you can e-mail me at jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com] if you're unable to leave a comment of if anything about it isn't working.

Why mess with it?

Conversations. I love having conversations with you all, and I'm honored when you take time out of your busy day to pop in with a comment. I've been spending more time at Between the Lines, the blog of Books & Such Literary Agency because they've instituted threaded comments. It feels more like a conversation, and I want that on my blog too. :)

Last summer I heard so many complaints about Blogger that I seriously considered switching services. I'm glad I didn't. I still really like Blogger. With easy-to-implement widgets, the ability to create pages, a user-friendly interface, and a fabulous new dashboard, I have little to complain about. Both Blogger and WordPress have commenting issues occasionally--but the kinks get worked out and we survive. 

Do you have threaded comments on your blog? Why or why not?

Update: **The threaded comments worked earlier but now I'm getting an error code. It's been reported to the Blogger Help forum (others are having similar problems). I tried switching back to pop-ups, but I'm having problems posting a comment there too. I'm sorry if you're unable to leave a comment today. Doing my best to get the comments back up and running! Thanks for your patience!**

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Jeanette Levellie!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Jeanette Levellie!!

Jeanette and I met through blogging, and if you aren’t familiar with her, be prepared to fall in love! She’s such a generous, warm, hilarious writer. I’m thrilled to be hosting her—and get this—her debut humor devotion book, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, releases April 10! Congratulations, Jeanette!

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

5:30 a.m.: coffee, dark roast, prepared in a French press. My bushy-bearded hero gets up at 4:30 a.m. to grind beans and brings me coffee in bed. In the afternoons, I usually have a cup of Tazo Awake tea, and drink herbal tea and water the rest of the day. I am a water fiend.

2. Any pets?

No pets. But I have four babies wearing fur suits. Rocky is a long-haired white and orange male, who purrs whenever he’s near a human; Happy is a brown tabby who snuggles with Rocky, Puddin’ is a pure black female who hides when company comes, and Jolly is a black and white who’s so gregarious that the neighborhood kids ask if he can come out and play!

3. Dream vacation?

Do they have a cruise to Ireland? When I pay off my car this year, I’m saving for a cruise, and I’ve wanted to visit Ireland for many years. My grandmother was a Kelly, and I’d like to see the thousand shades of green Ireland is famous for.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Nothing. Blissful peace and quiet after a long day at the office supply store I manage. My customers are mostly great, but I get a few who pinch my patience and increase my prayer life. When I see them come in, I beg God for grace, or run to the bathroom and “let” my admin assistant deal with them.

5. What's for dinner?

Tonight I cooked Italian Chicken Chests. This is the only recipe in my book, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, which releases April 10th. The recipe accompanies the chapter entitled, Can Preachers Have Sex on Sundays? The reason we call them chicken chests is that, well… you’ll just have to get the book and read it for yourself!

***

Jeanette, your bushy-bearded hero sounds wonderful! Coffee in bed? Yes! And I snorted in laughter about the customers who increase your prayer life. I was a waitress for years, and I know exactly where you’re coming from. Your furry babies sound so sweet! Kitties are my favorite.

I would love to go to Ireland. There must be a cruise, right? It would be amazing to see the green hills from the sea. Is that even possible? I don’t know! It sounds good, though! And I’m dying to read the chapter about the chicken chests. Ha!! Thanks so much for being my guest today!

***

“Nutty with a dash of meat” best describes Jeanette Levellie’s speaking, writing and life. She has published hundreds of humor/inspirational columns, articles, greeting cards, and poems. She also speaks regularly for any size and flavor of group, both secular and Christian, and loves to infuse her messages with mirth and worth. A spunky pastor’s wife, Jeanette is the mother of two, grandmother of three, and waitress of four cats. Her debut humor devotional book, Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top releases in April, 2012 from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

For more information about Jeanette, head to her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

February showers brought March flowers here. Is the weather cattywampus (not sure how to spell that gem) where you live? Or is it just Michigan?
Have a wonderful day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

WSG 7: And Life Goes On

Writer's Survival Guide Part 7: And Life Goes On

It's easy to get so caught up in my writing dreams that life around me goes by in a haze. At times nothing feels as important or immediate as my work-in-progress, writing a blog post, checking Twitter, or any of the other tasks I attend to each weekday. I routinely slip into "the zone" when revising, writing, or even thinking about these things.

Tranquil River
Photo by me'nthedogs

Since I am excrutiatingly aware of this all-or-nothing tendency in myself, I work hard to practice present moment awareness. Sometimes I'm more successful than others! And sometimes I cringe when I realize my kids have been talking to me for three minutes and I have no idea what they said. Being a writer can be humbling in more ways than one.

Writing with the intent of being traditionally published has been a long, intense journey for me. I don't want to wake up one day with a contract in my hand and no recollection of the previous years outside of writing.

On Friday, I woke up to no Internet. Our modem went wonky. I ended up at our gorgeous library for most of the morning. With a soaring glass wall overlooking the river, spacious tables wired for technology, and free WiFi, the library is a soothing oasis, ideal for the frazzled writer in me. I enjoyed it so much, I might make it a weekly habit. I imagine some of my fondest memories from this year could be of me sitting before the view of rushing water, Great Blue Herons, Canadian Geese, and an island full of trees.

We had a busy weekend, one of those rush around for this and that weekends, and I fell onto the couch last night completely exhausted. But I was happy too. I'd been able to cook three delicious meals, take my kids to various birthday parties, and give back to our community through MVRWA's Spring Book Lover's Event. Sure, I had two novels I would have loved to read, a stack of magazines begging for my attention, and a mini-wiener dog ready to snuggle, but again, I knew the activities we chose would fulfill me and my kids. I don't regret a thing.

What I'm trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that while writing is important to me, the rest of my life is too. Rather than putting my life on hold for years, I'm living it. And loving it. And still losing myself in my work-in-progress for hours on end!

Do you ever find yourself turning down activities because you "should write"? How do you prevent yourself from disengaging from life?

Have an amazing Monday!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Writers, Time, and Social Networking

The comments from Wednesday's post opened my eyes to how pressured many writers feel today about marketing, building and maintaining a platform, and how it affects the time they spend writing.

I get it.

Dining room #1
Photo by dicktay2000

We already struggle to find time to write; adding all of the social media responsibilities takes even more of our precious minutes away. The tug-of-war between doing what we love, writing, with something that feels vague and at times uncomfortable , social networking, exhausts us.
Maybe we want to hear, "you don't need to do anything but write a good book," from the experts? Maybe it would be nice to hear, "all that social media stuff is just a bunch of hoopla." Maybe we even long for, "the right book will sell itself."

Maybe, ten years ago, we would have heard all these and more.

But times have changed. Publishing has changed. Most of all, the competition has changed.

We are now competing against millions of other writers who are just as eager, even desperate, to get their books published and in front of readers. Yes, we need to write a good book. But even that sometimes isn't enough. There are plenty of good writers out there. Judge a contest. Head to your fellow writers' blogs. Good writing isn't scarce.

Building a strong platform doesn't guarantee a writer will land an agent or clinch a contract. It doesn't even mean she will sell 10,000 books. We can have a fabulous blog, a ton of Facebook fans, a huge Twitter following, a well-crafted book, and still not get any interest in our queries. That's one reason many writers have opted to self-publish. They've done everything "right" and still can't get a foot in the door.

I'm not saying this to discourage, not at all. It's just good to keep things in perspective. Writing isn't about earning a degree and landing a job. It's not about annual performance reviews and raises. We aren't employees. We're entrepreneurs. That's right, we're business owners, and our business is more than just our writing.

Imagine you're a chef. You decide to open a small restaurant. You find the perfect location, renovate it, create a menu, hire employees, put up a website, and advertise it. You easily spend 80 hours a week to start this venture, and when it opens, you continue to devote well over the conventional 40 hours per week there.

Why are you willing to spend so much time and energy at it? Because you love cooking and you want people to recognize your food. Sure, you could work as a chef at someone else's restaurant, but for some reason, your heart calls you to cook the meals you want to cook.

We could write for someone else. We could ghostwrite someone else's stories and not worry about all the social media. We could write content for a large company or type up technical manuals. But most of us have a powerful desire to write the books we want to write. It's not just about the writing. It's about our writing.

We say we just want to write. The chef might just want to cook. But he knows to make his business successful, he has to do more--much more--than just cook each night. He either does all the extra tasks like managing, advertising, accounting, and purchasing, or he hires someone else to do it. He doesn't have the luxury of "just cooking" anymore.

Don't you think it's worth it when he walks out into the dining room on a Friday night and sees a line out the door and every table filled? Will he wonder if he advertised enough? If the website was worth it? I doubt it. And since his food is divine, the customers can't wait to tell their friends about the delicious meal they had. More customers come. Ah, the beauty of word of mouth.

On the other hand, if he doesn't advertise at all, he might head into the dining room that same Friday night and see three customers, all family members. He might regret not putting the ad in the paper or forking over the money for a website.

But the food is good, right? Yeah, but no one is there to eat it. No one is spreading the word. Even if he starts advertising now, it might be too late. Restaurants are a risky start-up, expensive to run, difficult to make a profit at. He won't have much time to build a customer base if he doesn't have deep pockets, and unfortunately, he just wasted the prime time, the store opening, to get those customers in the door.

If you're at all discouraged by the amount of time you spend doing non-writing things for your career, please don't be. You're a business owner. Increasing your potential for profits is part of your job. Think of the time spent networking online as similar to the chef who places an ad in the paper or hands out fliers around town.

Teachers just want to teach. They do much more. They grade papers, create lesson plans, deal with parents.
Actors just want to act. They do much more. They grant interviews, go to red carpet events, travel at inconvenient times.
Doctors just want to help patients. They do much more. They deal with paperwork, insurance, staff.
Engineers just want to design. They do much more. They collaborate with other departments, order materials, create reports, hunt down blueprints.
Writers just want to write. We do much more. We study, query, create proposals, network, market ourselves and our books.

We don't know what tactics will make a difference in our future sales, but we do know we've given it our best shot.

If we reframe the idea of social-networking as part of our job description, we feel less guilty about the amount of time we spend doing it.

Do you consider social networking (blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, e-newsletters, etc...)  a smart way to build an audience and possibly grow buzz about your projects? If not, what are smart alternatives to build an audience in today's changing publishing world?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Author Platform: How Much Is Enough?

All you have to do is scan the Connect page of my website to see I'm into social media. Sure, I could claim I interact on these sites because I'm building a fiction platform. Or I could talk about how being active on Facebook helps sell books. Both are true, but the real reason I'm active on multiple sites is because I believe in doing everything possible to make my name recognizable.


02.LapTop.CyberStop.WDC.9jul06
Photo by ElvertBarnes

Sometimes I wonder if all the fun I'm having on Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and all the other places I check-in with will have an impact on my future book sales. Yesterday, I found this fabulous blog post (Steve Laube's blog, News You Can Use, provided the link) by Penny at Author Marketing Experts, Inc. titled "Why Your Book Isn't Selling." Catchy title, isn't it? The full article is linked.

Penny urges authors to have seven access points for readers to see their books.

"The rule of seven: You need to be everywhere. A lot." She says that seven different avenues of sharing news about your book is the amount most marketers recommend.

In her words, "Count the ways: How many different ways can a reader access you? Count them. I’m serious. You should have at least seven access points. Maybe you are syndicating articles, maybe you are on YouTube, maybe you are on Facebook, Pinterest, whatever it is it’s an access point. If you don’t have seven of them and aren’t sure where to start, go back to bullets two and three."

Most likely, you're reading this post because you're a believer too. You're probably on at least three sites, possibly twenty. One thing Penny doesn't say is that you have to spend time equally at all seven venues.

If you love Facebook, spend the majority of your time there. Just make sure you post a book trailer on YouTube too. If you aren't comfortable committing to a blog schedule, work hard to guest post at other people's blogs around the time of your book release (of course, provide links on these guest posts to your website and where to buy your book).

Get creative! Regina Jennings's sister recently created a beautiful Pinterest board about Regina's debut book, Sixty Acres and a Bride. Creating a Pinterest board doesn't have to take tons of time, and it can be left up forever.
If you're contemplating sending out a newsletter, look into services. I use MailChimp, which is extremely user friendly and free up until you hit 12,000 subscribers. I'm not in any danger of having to pay!

There are tons of low-time-commitment ways to hit seven access points. Have fun with it!

As always, I love helping writers dip their toes in blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc... If you have any questions, feel free to ask them! You can also leave your e-mail address if you have a detailed question or need help. I enjoy this. I like helping. Don't be shy!

What stresses you out about author platform? Please share. I'd like to write a post addressing your concerns.

5 Easy Questions will return next Wednesday.

Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, March 19, 2012

WSG 6: Produce for Productivity

Writer's Survival Guide 6: Produce for Productivity

Ambiguous title or what? I've been focusing on my health lately, and obviously, eating right plays a big part. Exercising, for me, is the easy portion of the health equation, while phasing out baked goods and replacing them with carrot sticks is harder.
spring vegetables
Photo by summertomato

I like fruit. I like vegetables.

But I'm lazy. And I'm a creature of habit. I routinely choose the path of least resistance food-wise.

Is it easier to open a bag of chips or shine an apple? I can't imagine either is considered difficult, yet, I choose the chips every time!

Last week I read The Biggest Loser: Simple Swaps 100 Easy Changes to Start Living a Healthier Lifestyle. What a great book! Very motivational with plenty of input from past contestants, the book emphasizes eat less, move more, and eat a wide variety of foods, limiting the processed, empty calorie ones.

When I finished it, one thing stuck out in my brain: we have to plan our health. We have to schedule exercise and actually think about our food choices before the day even starts. One of my goals this week is to schedule what fruits and vegetables I'm going to eat each day and how much and what type of exercise I will do. I'm putting the schedule on the fridge.

One way to add more fruits and vegetables is to make them grabbable. As soon as I unload the groceries, I chop celery into sticks and toss them in a Ziploc bag. I also rely on bagged salads, baby carrots, and sliced mushrooms. My family loves smoothies, so once or twice a week, I'll whip up a strawberry-banana smoothie for us.

Jill's Recipe for Strawberry-Banana Smoothie:
1 quart of strawberries with tops taken off
1 medium banana peeled
2 cups ice
1 cup milk (you could also use Soy milk or Almond milk)
1 small container yogurt, approximately 1/2 cup (I like vanilla flavored Greek yogurt, but I'll use whatever we have)
2 scoops protein powder (you can omit this, but if you have protein powder, throw some in for extra vitamins and energy)

Put everything in a blender and blend until no chunks remain. This makes a big batch and should serve 3-4 people. I don't have nutrition stats because it depends on what type of milk, yogurt, and protein powder you use, but it's a great source of fruit and calcium. Also, feel free to substitute other fruits in. We use blueberries, peaches, or more bananas. It's fun to experiment!

If you have children who turn their nose up at the idea of fruit smoothies, keep having them try it. My kids didn't jump up and down the first few times I had them try it, but they love them now. Sometimes we just have to make healthy food accessible and normal for them.

Adding more produce to our diets increases our productivity.

How? My unscientific explanation is below.

I've already been munching on more celery sticks and strawberries, and you know what? They're really good. After I eat them, I feel better about myself because I know I'm doing something positive for  my health.

When I feel better about myself, I get a surge of energy. I might use this toward my work-in-progress, and since I'm feeling great, I get more done. Or I may capitalize on the energy burst by exercising. If I walk outdoors, ideas pummel me. Again, this is fantastic for my writing.

Every drop of increased energy adds to the feeling we are capable. Capable people, or those who feel that they are for whatever reason, are more willing to take chances to get what they want.

In other words, each step we take toward improving our health adds to our confidence.

So there you have it. Eat your produce to improve your productivity!

What is your favorite healthy snack?

Have a lovely Monday!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Most Important Question in Writing

We question our world on a daily basis. Rarely do we participate in a conversation without either voicing a slew of questions or letting them circle our brain. We want to know: How was that possible? When did he do that? Did something happen? What's her problem? What's going to happen now?

Why on car
Photo by openpad

But most of all, we want to know why.

Why does he want that? Why did she behave that way? Why did that just happen? Why does this information make me want to jump up and down, shouting hooray? Why did she say that? Why am I upset about it?

Writers take this curiosity and we apply it to our writing. Sometimes we wonder why we write. Or why we're writing this story? Why is this book important? Why is this scene important? This sentence? This word?
We wonder why our characters won't behave or why we used the same word 17 times on one page. We wonder why we haven't opened our work-in-progress in three days. Or why we hate revising.

In the actual story, we wonder why our character is acting the way she is, and why she needs her goal so badly? Why do the other characters respond to her the way they do? Why did this scene goal change? Why doesn't the ending work?

We're constantly asking why, and because we're willing to ask this, our belief in ourselves as writers and our storytelling skills grow stronger.

The most important question for writers? Why.

Tell me, why do you write?

Have a marvelous weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Rosslyn Elliott

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Rosslyn Elliott!!

I met Rosslyn through mutual blogging friends, and two things struck me—this lady is super smart, and she’s also very down to earth. Rosslyn has a generous spirit, and I’m thrilled to spread the news about her second book in the Saddler’s Legacy series, Sweeter than Birdsong, out now! Her covers are gorgeous. Be sure to head to her beautiful website to check out all of her books!

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

KAWFEE. The morning lifeline! I’m trying to switch to half-caff so I can have two cups instead of one. But two cups of full-caff will make me a scary, edgy Muppet-like creature.
2. Any pets?

Two dogs, the heavenly hound and the “other dog.” Ha! Our dog Snow is absolutely perfectly mannered. Frosty is, well, not, but we love him and squeeze him anyway.
3. Dream vacation?

Tonight I am really in the mood for a long restful vacation. So I would like to go for a week or two to a quiet retreat in the mountains, near a clear stream with a rocky bed for wading, just our small family and the dogs. I’d like to read by the fire in a nice recliner and have all meals appear on our table, prepared and served by invisible sprites, all with candlelight, china, and crystal. Everything would be whisked away and washed somewhere out of sight and mind by our fairy friends. This isn’t my dream vacation at all times—just now, when I want to rest and read.
4. What are you listening to right now?

My daughter’s sweet little snoring noises.

5. What's for dinner?

Leftover chicken casserole. Bring on the fairy cooks!
***

Rosslyn, two cups of caffeinated coffee turn you into scary, edgy creature? This I have to see! I, unfortunately, seem to be immune to the effects because I just keep guzzling it. Or maybe I do turn into a freak show but I don’t realize it since I’m alone? I’m sensing a hidden camera moment. By the way, I love the winter theme with your pets. Snow and Frosty! Cute!

Your current dream vacay sounds so, so marvelous. I love the mountains, and hiking, and reading by the fire, and magical fairies who cook and clean. Guess who’s coming along?! I won’t even wake your sweet baby girl. Promise! Thanks so much for being my guest today!
***

As the child of a career military man, Rosslyn Elliott lived in four states and two foreign countries before she graduated from high school. She attended Yale University, where she earned her BA in English and Theater Studies. After five years working first in corporate New York City, then as a schoolteacher, she entered the Ph.D. program at Emory University and finished her dissertation in 2006.
Her study of American literature spurred her to pursue her lifelong dream of writing fiction. She has won awards for both her fiction and non-fiction writing, including the 2011 Laurel Award for Fairer than Morning, which was also selected as one of Lifeway’s Ten Favorite Fiction Reads for 2011.

Rosslyn lives with her husband and daughter in the southern United States, where they enjoy working with horses and pampering their dogs. Her fiction is represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books and Such Literary Agency. To learn more about Rosslyn’s books, head to her website, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.


Music offers Kate sweet refuge from her troubles…but real freedom is sweeter.
In Westerville, Ohio, 1855, Kate Winter's dreams are almost within reach. As the first woman to graduate from Otterbein College, she'll be guaranteed her deepest wish: escape from the dark secret haunting her family. But with her mother determined to marry her off to a wealthy man, Kate must face reality. She has to run. Now. And she has the perfect plan. Join the upcoming musical performance—and use it to mask her flight. 

Ben Hanby, Otterbein College's musical genius, sees Kate Winter as an enigmatic creature, notable for her beauty, yet painfully shy. Then he hears her sing, and the glory of her voice moves him as never before. He determines to cast her in his musical and uncover the mystery that is Kate. Still, he must keep his own secret to himself. Not even this intriguing woman can know that his passionate faith is driving him to aid fugitives on the Underground Railroad.

A terrifying accident brings Kate and Ben together, but threatens to shatter both their secrets and their dreams. Kate can no longer deny the need to find her courage-and her voice—if she is to sing a new song for their future.
***

I’ve completely let my exercise and health routine slide. Who is willing to kick me in the buns today?

Tough love, people. Tough love! (No chocolate. Okay, maybe a little chocolate? That isn’t tough? Grr…)

I’ll be in and out this week because I'm teaching a fiction workshop to local 7th and 8th graders. You wouldn’t believe their imaginations. So fun!

Have an amazing Wednesday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nourishing Our Self Esteem

Writer's Survival Guide 5: Nourishing Our Self Esteem

As any writer knows, it's hard to keep a healthy ego. We might love our first draft but berate ourselves for mediocrity when we're in the middle of revisions. We might pat ourselves on the back for querying an agent, only to wonder why we even bother when we get a rejection two days later.

We see our peers online making happy announcements and feel inadequate at our lack of progression. We get that coveted contract only to dissolve into a scared mess at the massive revisions requested. Or we've published four books and no publisher wants our next ones.

Many writers find it very hard to maintain a healthy level of confidence.

Happiness!
Photo by zipckr

Every success threatens to push us toward an egotistical frame of mind, while every setback threatens the opposite.

How do we find a happy medium? Regardless of where we are on our writing path?

I don't know. I'm not always good at it.

One thing I do is allow myself to sit with whatever emotion I'm experiencing. If a long-awaited hope seems poised to come true and doesn't, I don't push back the tears. I get quiet within myself and feel the pain. Or if something wonderful happens, I dance around the house and dream as big as I can.

Maybe equalizing our emotional reactions sounds like a good idea, but it's never worked for me. Besides, we're writers. How can we write about a pain so deep it feels as if our blood is draining from our body and our muscles are withering within us if we never allow ourselves to experience the negative side of life? How can we describe the sensation of floating, spinning, dizzy with joy if we tell ourselves not to jinx things or that it could all go away?

Another thing I do is utilize positive self-talk. I don't prepare myself for the worst. I expect the best, knowing I will survive if the best doesn't happen. If my thoughts lean toward self-criticism, I shut them up. We need to talk to ourselves as we would a loved one. Because we ARE a loved one. We need to love ourselves.

The most important thing I do is pray. Maybe I'm not capable of making every one of my dreams come true, but God is. He can create paths for us where there is no path. We can rely on Him to put his arm around our shoulder and get us through the rough spots.

How do you nourish your self-esteem?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, March 9, 2012

How Do You Keep it Simple?

Have you ever see-sawed between extravagance and simplicity?


One month I'll go all out and stock up on extra groceries, splurge on little happy-makers like candles, and dream about adding expensive items to my wardrobe. The next month I just want to put on a pot of homemade chicken noodle soup, buy as few groceries as possible, and find new ways to wear the clothes I already own.

When I'm in a simple frame of mind, the way I am now, I have little desire to shop. I usually spend more time with non-fiction from the library because current events seem more complicated than I have the energy for. In fact, earlier I perused the online version of the Wall Street Journal, and few headlines grabbed me.

Often, I get more accomplished in this frame of mind. I'm calmer. Less stressed. Instead of thinking about the things I want, I enjoy the things I have. I wish I could keep this mentality going indefinitely, but inevitably, the pendulum swings and I'll be thrilled to walk the aisles of Target once more.

My schedule could never be described as simple, but I add as much peace to my days as possible. Instead of working through lunch, I leaf through a magazine or listen to music. Afternoon tea always happens, even if I work with the tea in my hand. If I can't fit in a full workout, I'll do ten minutes of yoga stretches.

Sure, I have days where nothing feels simple. Well, on those days nothing IS simple! That's okay. Life doesn't have to be perfect. :)

How do you infuse simplicity into your days? What keeps you sane in a hectic world?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Jenna Rutland!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Jenna Rutland!!

I met Jenna when I joined MVRWA, the Toledo chapter of Romance Writers of America, and we just get each other! A gifted writer of contemporary romance, a hilarious friend, and a great hugger, Jenna means the world to me. I wish you all could join us for lunch—you would laugh more than you have in years. I’m thrilled to have Jenna here today.

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Well, it depends on the time of day. I need some caffeine, but hate coffee/tea. So I knock back a few Diet Pepsi’s in the morning before switching to H2O. If I’m really dragging in the afternoon, I might have another DP. While making dinner, it’s definitely a fine glass of Cabernet. Some days it may be a big glass.
2. Any pets?

We adopted a stray kitty 14½ years ago who has brought a smile to my face every day of his life. Griffey, who was named after the baseball player, Ken Griffey, Jr., spends his days napping in the sun, eating, playing/exercising for 1-2 minutes, and using the litter box. Other than the latter, I think his life sounds pretty darn good.

3. Dream vacation?

I’d love to go to the South Pacific. Bora Bora. Tahiti. Which is actually kind of odd because I’m not a swimmer and don’t really enjoy being in the ocean. But the beautiful weather, the incredible color of the water, and those grass hut thingies that go out over the ocean call to me. Go figure. Also, I’d love to take my whole family—husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. Having us all together in that tropical paradise would be heaven.

4. What are you listening to right now?

In my car, I’m currently listening to The Fray. I’ve got Sirius, so sometimes I tune in to a jazz station while driving, or 70s or 80s music. While I’m writing, it’s either the neighborhood kids screaming and dogs barking, or smooth jazz on Pandora.

5. What's for dinner?

I love to cook and try new recipes (much to the dismay of my husband and son). Tonight, I’m relying on an old family favorite – Cashew Chicken. I love to share my recipes, so stop over to my blog on Fork It Up Fridays and see what yummy recipe I’m sharing that day.
***

Jenna, I’ve recently gotten hooked on Coke Zero, but I like Diet Pepsi a lot too. I’m guessing the level of neighborhood kids screaming affects the size of the wine glass at dinner? Ha! Your kitty sounds so sweet, and hey, 1-2 minutes of exercise is plenty! No fair teasing us with Bora Bora ideas. I’m picturing us in one of those hut thingies with a frozen tropical beverage just lounging and looking out at the ocean. Wow, I’m feeling relaxed! Who else wants in on this?

Your dinner is making my mouth water. I’m coming over. Make your cream pie recipe you shared last Friday too, okay? Not that I’m demanding or anything… Thanks so much for being my guest today, Jenna!
***
Jenna Rutland lives in a small Michigan community with her husband, son, and senior cat. While her days are spent working as a medical transcriptionist, her nights are filled writing contemporary romance—stories of love, laughter and happily ever after. Guess which one is more fun?
She is a member of RWA and her local group, Maumee Valley RWA. After several years on the board, she now chairs the MVRWA annual Brainstorming weekend as well as acts as food coordinator for several other events.

Jenna enjoys spending time with her family and has recently been given the awesome title of grandmother! She also gardens and loves the challenge of a new recipe. To learn more about Jenna, head to her website, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter!

Daylight savings time is this weekend. Do you have to adjust your clocks? We do!

Have a marvelous day!

Monday, March 5, 2012

WSG 4: Fire Your Muse

Writer's Survival Guide 4: Fire Your Muse

Last week, to prepare for major revisions, I began reading through the draft I finished in January. Can I say it stunk? It did. It was like rotten garbage with flies and maggots. Okay, maybe not that bad, but at least moldy oranges bad. By the end of chapter three I wanted to set the project aside indefinitely and move on to my next book.
Inspiration
Photo by photosteve 101

Instead of shutting my laptop down and wallowing in self-pity for an afternoon, I forged through and continued reading, all the while leaving comment balloons and remarks to myself with track changes. By the end of the first day, I was discouraged, but I wouldn't allow myself to plunge into "I'm the worst writer ever; this book can't be fixed!" mode.

Every time a negative thought entered, I replaced it with a positive one. Not a false positive. I simply assured myself I would find a way to make the book better.

Writers talk about our muse (which I consider the inspiration for a fabulous idea). Usually we're referring to the writing stage. But we can blame our muse for every level of a project.

Revising is hard? We'll put it aside until we "feel" better about it. The new idea we haven't fleshed out? We'll wait until "inspiration" strikes before we pursue it further. The platform we know we need to get started on? We'll wait until it's easier/we're less busy/a publisher offers us a contract.

Guess what? The muse is a myth. It's a convenient scapegoat to avoid whatever we are too afraid to tackle.

So I say fire your muse.

Yeah. Fire it. You don't need it.

Writing doesn't always bring the warm fuzzies. Revising can be incredibly painful. Platform building? Not for the faint of heart.

The real magic happens, not when we wait for inspiration or when we're in the mood for whatever task we're avoiding, but when we sit down and live in the discomfort.

We move beyond fear. That's where strength is built. That's where writers are made.

After that first painful session of my read-through last week, I picked up the blanket I'm crocheting and, as I added several rows, idea after idea came to me on how to fix the opening chapters.

I quickly jotted them all in my "revision notes" section of my book's OneNote folder.

If you decide to fire your muse, you'll need three tools:

1. Belief in yourself as a writer.
2. Willingness to sit in discomfort.
3. A system to capture your ideas and track your progress.

You must believe you are capable of writing a good book. It doesn't have to be great in the first draft stage or even the fifth draft. Just trust in your ability to make it good.

If you aren't willing to sit in discomfort, it will take a long, long time to finish a project--if it ever gets finished. Writing, revising, submitting--each brings joy and challenges, and you're NOT going to be equally excited and upbeat about every book or every stage of writing. It doesn't matter. What matters is that you finish. You do your best.

Finally, without a system to track your ideas and progress, you'll lose steam, or worse, you'll lose those fabulous ideas that assault you at inconvenient times.

The system I use is OneNote for all of my writing projects. I have a virtual folder for each of my projects. In it are a myriad of tabs for different aspects of the manuscript. It does me no good to jot notes on a random piece of paper only to lose it the next week. I must have all of the information for a book in one spot.

So when you're having a fabulous writing day, rejoice! When you're having a rotten writing day, push through. You don't have to feel good to write well. Fire that muse!

A quick thank you to all of the new followers. My Google Friend Connect hasn't allowed me to e-mail contacts in quite some time so I wanted to thank you here. Your support means so much to me. Thank you!

Does fear ever hold you back? How do you man-handle your muse?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, March 2, 2012

In the Kitchen with Jill Kemerer: Webisode 1

Ah, vlogging... I resisted for a while because I didn't have the equipment. Then I said no due to my scary see-through skin and not-fabulous hair. Yes, I am vain. But after testing the waters with "The Art of Not Writing," I realize I'm a total attention hog.

This did not shock me. I spent hours of my childhood doing anything to make my family and friends laugh. Maybe not my most enduring quality, but it's a part of me, nonetheless. :)

With that in mind, I've decided to embrace my frightening almost-end-of-winter appearance and my love of the limelight by launching a video series. On the first Friday of every month, you can tune in here or on YouTube for another episode of "... with Jill Kemerer."

As you will quickly see, no learning will be done by watching this series. This is more for those days when you are nurturing a third cup of coffee and don't really feel like writing a report, editing a chapter, correcting papers, vacuuming the house, or whatever it is you shouldn't have to do on a Friday.

It's a distraction. A roughly five minute distraction. :)

Welcome to Webisode 1: In the Kitchen with Jill Kemerer!




What unusual item do you have in your kitchen? Do you love your kitchen? Why or why not?

Have a fantastic weekend!