Friday, March 29, 2013

Have a Blessed Good Friday

It's Good Friday. A sad day and a glorious day. A time for sorrow and a time for gladness.

In a few days,  it will be Easter, and no, I don't celebrate it for the bunny or the Cadbury Mini-Eggs (although they are one of my fave parts of the season). I celebrate holy week because I'm deeply grateful.

Eternal life. Forgiveness. A clean heart. A perfect Father who loves me beyond reason.

On Good Friday, Jesus washed away my sins. On Easter Sunday, the Lord granted me the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven.


Have a blessed Good Friday, and never doubt or forget how much God loves you. Enough to send His only son to the cross to take away your sins.

Happy Easter!!

*I will be taking most of next week off for spring break. Join me here next Friday, April 5, for a new 2-Minute Resolution Vlog, and have a terrific week!!*

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why I Spent 3 Hours Writing 600 Words

I can be a fast writer, but I can be a slow writer too. Throw a 1000 words in 1 hour challenge at me, and I'll come close or go over the word count every time.

But the first draft I'm working on...well, I needed to step back instead of rushing forward.

Over the weekend, I kept thinking about the opening chapter in my current work-in-progress. The structure was fine, but the details nagged me. I did a bit of research and knew I needed to revamp a few things.

Before I started adding and deleting words willy-nilly, I read through the chapter, noting spots that were off. Then I layered in the new details, re-read the passages, and moved sentences that didn't flow well.

I also discovered areas to add more emotional depth--to give the reader more insight about the characters. Love when that happens.

At the end of my session, I logged three hours but I only wrote 600 words. Not a great rate of return! But because I took the time to fix some opening chapter problems, I'll be able to move forward at a fast pace. Nothing slows me down more than the niggling sensation that what I'm writing is off.  That's why I'm willing to sacrifice a high word count in order to fix a story problem.

Do you have slow, low word-count writing days? Or do you refuse to touch your story until the first draft is complete?

Have a terrific day!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dealing with Adware Viruses

My post is late today because I had to send my laptop to the computer doctor over the weekend. It got a nasty case of adware--a virus that adds bogus promotional pop-up links to every site you browse online. Left untreated, adware can slow your computer, reroute you to other virus-infested sites, and crash your computer. Some spyware viruses can steal your passwords and other secure information.

How did I know I got an adware virus? On Thursday night, I turned on my computer and clicked on Internet Explorer. My Yahoo! homepage did not come up. A homepage I didn't recognize did. I asked the family if anyone had switched it--no one had.

That's sign one.

*If a homepage other than the one you set comes up, you probably have some sort of spyware.*

Then I headed to my blog and noticed a link in a word I did not link. When I hovered over it, a pop-up add showed up. I have not and will not authorize ads on my blog, so I knew something was wrong.

That was sign two.

*If you notice links to ads where they don't really make sense, you probably have adware.*

Back at Yahoo!, a weight-loss ad showed up at the top and it jiggled. I've never seen this on the homepage before. When I went to my e-mail, a pop-up ad appeared in the middle of my e-mails!

That was sign three.

*If you notice odd ads in places you didn't have them before like your e-mail messages, you probably have adware.*

I have MalwareBytes and Avast anti-virus installed on my laptop. I ran full scans on both, and they did not find the adware virus. After a little research, I decided to purchase Norton Internet Security, since it was rated highly for eliminating adware, malware, and spyware. Unfortunately, it didn't detect anything.

I tried two free spyware clean-up programs. One found the viruses but couldn't get rid of them. The other refused to open on my computer. I'd spent six hours trying to kill this adware--I knew I was beat!

We have several local computer repair places, and Best Buy's Geek Squad is always an option too. But I like to support local companies, and I've found they are usually pretty quick with repairs. I took my laptop in on Saturday morning, and it was virus-free and cleaned up by 10am today (Monday). The service didn't come cheap--I spent 80 dollars, but it was worth it.

I've had adware take over my computer a few years ago. None of my installed programs found the virus. It slowed our computer down, rerouted us to other unstable websites, and finally crashed the computer. Eighty bucks is a lot cheaper than buying a new computer!

If you suspect a malicious virus has attacked your computer, take care of it right away. Try the free options--MalwareBytes (it's found many, many trojan horses on my computer) and Avast free anti-virus (it's killed too many known viruses to count). If that doesn't work, go to a professional.

Have you ever had adware, malware, or spyware on your computer that you couldn't get rid of? What did you do to take care of it?

Have a terrific week!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Using Flow Charts to Plot

I'm writing a new book. I have the main plot points and progression in my head, but I didn't want to write a standard scene list this time. I wanted to change things up, so I pulled up Power Point (part of the Microsoft Office suite) and played around with flow charts.

*As of this morning, I've noticed there are links in this blog to ads I did NOT place. Please do not click on anything that looks suspicious.*

The first chart I made was a Tree Diagram for my main character. I've never used one before. Seeing the layout made me think it was perfect for her story goals. Branching out from the goals were ways for her to meet the goals, which sparked ideas for scenes.

The  picture is hard to read, so here is the breakdown:

Main Character
Goal 1        Goal 2         Goal 3
Solution1   Solution 1    Solution 1
Solution 2  Solution 2    Solution 2
Solution 3  Solution 3    Solution 3

I also made a Flow Chart for my book. Each rectangle contained a major plot point, and the arrows going down connected the plot points with possible scenes.

The print-outs are pinned to the bulletin board above my desk. Perfect for reminding me where I need to go!

Have you tried something new lately? I'd love to hear about it.

Have a fantastic weekend!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

3 Tips to Overcome Disappointment

We all deal with disappointment. Sometimes we deal with it on a daily basis. Maybe at one time our lives sailed along in a way that made sense to us, but a storm directed us somewhere unfamiliar. We adjust to find our destination, but the journey takes a toll. The blue waters that once enchanted now seem We're desperate for land, for the sight of a seagull--anything but the sea we're surrounded by.

It's hard when friends or acquaintances not only find land, but they find it quickly and shout out their joy to the world. Yes, we rejoice with them, but we're still in a boat, far away, with no real idea when or if we'll ever find what we're looking for.

Some of us live with disappointment that will not be solved. It might lessen, but it will never go away. A barren womb, the death of a loved one, terminal illness, financial burdens. Life can be ugly.

I've always been fascinated by the idea of contentment. I don't believe contentment is something we find--I believe it's something we practice. How else to explain why some people with extreme wealth don't always enjoy their spoils, or why some people living deep in poverty find joy in so little.

While we strive for contentment, we need to overcome disappointment, and this is not a one-time occurrence. I routinely fight it, often daily. Here's how.

1. Rely on God

Read the Bible. God assures us He created us to be powerful. This isn't to say we should be boastful or proud. It means we do not need to be victims, cowering in a corner, wondering if everyone else is entitled to blessings while we rot.

     2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV) "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."

Sometimes we are called to wait. Instead of assuming we've been forgotten (even when we have a very long wait), we must remind ourselves that God gave us a spirit of POWER, of LOVE, and of SELF-DISCIPLINE.

When the wait is long, the self-discipline part becomes vital. We must not sink into envy, despair, or martyr-mode. We must make the most of our time and live lives of meaning.

2. Avoid Disappointment Triggers

I've been trying to get published for years. I know my wait has been long, but I also know all the behind-the-scenes blessings the years have given me--things I wouldn't trade for anything. Knowing this doesn't stop my heart from twisting when I see others get what I want. I'm human.

When I'm tired or discouraged, I try not to spend much time on Facebook because that's where I see good news from my writer friends. And when I'm tired or discouraged, these updates do not bring a spirit of power and love and self-discipline to me--they bring out the opposite. Yes, I'm happy for them, but more than that, I'm sad for me. These announcements have a way of pushing me down the spiral staircase of disappointment.

I know my triggers and I avoid them when I'm weak.

You know what you want. Maybe it's a baby. Maybe it's a promotion, a boyfriend, your own home, a dream trip--whatever. When you're having a down day, avoid hanging out where you're bound to hear that someone else just got what you want.

I'm not saying to drop out of life or to hurt people close to you by avoiding them. I'm saying to be smart. Don't put yourself through needless pain.

3. Distract Yourself

We don't have as much control over life as we like to think. Someone trying to get pregnant has little say in if the test comes out positive or negative each month. Working for that promotion? Great, unless your boss hires her best friend. The house you desperately want to buy? Maybe someone puts an offer on it before you save your down payment.

Life doesn't always go our way.

We can't make life go our way.

We can go forward with life.

When I'm weighed down under disappointment, I remind myself I have a choice. I can wallow in it, or I can distract myself. My favorite ways to run from disappointment?

a. Choose to celebrate with my friends who have succeeded, reminding myself someday I will be celebrating too.

b. Read. Sometimes it helps to read about people who have it worse off than you do. For instance, I'm reading George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (The Game of Thrones television series is based on it). Trust me--everyone in these books has it worse off than you!

c. Listen to uplifting music.

d. Journal. Not the spew-angry kind--I try to journal about what I'm doing to meet my goals or about something pretty or happy. Puts me in a grateful frame of mind.

e. Relax with loved ones. At the end of the day, my husband and kids love me as-is. I have nothing to prove to them, and it's nice to just be me.

f. Press forward. Disappointment has an ugly consequence. It can dupe us into thinking we don't need to work toward our goals any longer. Not true. Keep on.

g. Get away. Go to the mall, walk through a park, drive to a beach, buy some flowers, do anything! Just get out of your bubble for an hour or two.

h. Watch a movie. Movies bring the drama--they prod our emotions, anger us, inspire us. Go ahead, live someone else's life for 90 minutes.

Disappointment can be short-lived or chronic, but we don't have to wallow in it. Fight it! Aim for contentment.

What is one of your disappointment triggers?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Crisp Salad All Week Long

I have a ton of tricks up my frugal sleeve. Some of these save our family money; some keep us healthy; and some do both.

One of my best tips (I'm sure I learned it from a magazine!) makes getting raw veggies into my diet a snap. Buy fresh greens and chop them up as soon as you get home from the store. Then you'll have the base for individual salads or for a side dish.

I like trying different greens for my salads.  Boston lettuce has a creamy, fresh taste but loses freshness quickly. Romaine is versatile, as is iceberg. In my humble opinion, the salad starter that holds up with crunchiness the longest is actually a type of cabbage--napa cabbage. It has a mild flavor (not cabbage-y) and goes great with most salad toppings and flavors. Off season they can be yellowish. Skip those--you want a nice, light green one.

I also pick up a bag of pre-sliced carrot shreds. Buy any raw vegetables you like, pre-sliced or whole.

Once I've put my groceries away, I immediately slice the salad starter (in this case, napa cabbage) into little shreds. You can also chop them smaller.

When the whole thing is chopped, I put the pieces in a Ziploc bag. Next, I slice any other fresh vegetables to snack on for the week.

Sure, you can buy a bagged, pre-cut salad mix--I do all the time--but they tend to brown and wilt quickly. Napa keeps its color and crunch all week.

You now have everything you need for a quick, healthy snack. I like to add sunflower seeds to my salad too for extra protein and crunch.

If you'd like a fancier salad to serve as a side, use 3-4 cups of your prepared napa cabbage. Slice up 1 cup of strawberries. Toss in 1/4 cup of sliced almonds or walnut pieces. Toss with raspberry vinaigrette. Delicious!

Fancy Strawberry Napa Salad
4 cups chopped or shredded napa cabbage
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup sliced almonds (or walnut pieces)
Raspberry vinaigrette. (around 1/2 cup, depending how much dressing you prefer)

Toss together and serve.

Do you like salads? What are your favorite toppings?

Happy Monday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good Books, Fun Projects!

I'm working on a few fun projects this week, and I got so excited about them, I forgot to write a blog post for today! Besides the projects, I'm on a reading marathon. I'd ordered several must-read books from our library, and four of them arrived last week.

When it rains, it pours, right?

Last night I selected one of them. I'll read the first couple of paragraphs and see if it grabs me. If it does, I'll read a few chapters...

Yeah. Well, it grabbed me all right, and it's the first lengthy volume in an epic series. Could I put it down after a few chapters? Of course not! And I'm itching to pick it up and find out what happens next. Maybe tonight!

Oh, and the book is A Game of Thrones (Book 1, A Song of Fire and Ice Series) by George R. R. Martin. I have never seen the HBO series, but I've heard the books are great. So far, I agree!

Anyway, I'm taking the week off from blogging. :)

Are you working on any fun projects? What's the last book you got sucked into?

Hope you all have a lovely week!

Friday, March 8, 2013

15 Minutes a Day to a Dirty House

I saw a Pin on Pinterest with the title, "15 Minutes a Day to a Clean House." I thought, well, I could give all kinds of advice on keeping a dirty house.

Don't get me wrong. Cleaning is good. It is. It's just not my top priority. It's more like thirty-seven on my list. It falls somewhere between daydreaming about making a bundt cake and the idea of rolling quarters.

Since I'm so nice and generous, I'm sharing my top five secrets to keeping an unclean house. (You're welcome.)

1. Walk on by the piles. Consider them decorations. Magazines feature oodles of homes with stacks of books and collections. Why not call your piles "collections?"

2. Don't glance at the bathroom sink. What the eye doesn't see, the mind won't want to clean.

3. "Forget" to buy cleaners. I think the benefits of this are obvious.

4. Decide the vacuum is too traumatizing for your pets. Park that machine in the closet. For good.

5. Use the fifteen minutes you could have been cleaning to prop your feet on the couch and close your eyes. You deserve some me-time.

Come on, share your best tip on keeping that house dirty!!

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Why I Love "Rehab Addict"

I'm a fan of the DIY network. "Renovation Realities" has given me more chuckles and guffaws than most shows on television! Last year, I came across a show on DIY Network called "Rehab Addict." It follows Nicole Curtis, a home renovator, who buys old homes and restores them--on a budget.

I find the show compelling for a variety of reasons.

1. My husband and I have had homes built, and we've tackled many renovation projects. (The credit goes to my talented hubby--I'm more of a "where do you want me?" type of helper.) Last year we completely remodeled the first floor of our house.

2. I'm frugal and always on the lookout for innovative tips. Nicole Curtis recycles and reuses materials in a way I find awesome. I don't think I've ever seen an episode where she drives to Home Depot or Target for new materials.

3. Nicole herself--she takes care of her body and appearance. I can easily fall into let-myself-go mode, so I get inspired to work out, do my hair, and eat better by watching this fabulous lady.

4. The house projects. I'm a "before and after" junkie! I can't get enough of watching rooms or people transform. It's why I also adore "The Biggest Loser."

5. Set in Minnesota's Twin Cities, "Rehab Addict" features little snippets of people riding their bikes or a pretty pond in a park. It satisfies the armchair traveler in me. :)

The bottom line? Nicole Curtis is one of those ladies who won't let anyone stop her from living her dreams. She's a hard worker, believes in what she's doing, and her hair always looks good while she's doing it!

(I really want to perfect the ponytail the way she has!!)

Are there any women on television who inspire you? What is it about them that makes you want to try harder too?

Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Do You Avoid Adminstrative Tasks?

I don't always work in my office. One reason I stay away is that I let administrative tasks pile up in there.

As a writer, I consider myself a small business owner. All businesses have someone doing the secretarial work, and in my business that person is me.

I prefer plotting. Writing. Revising. Texting my friends. Gabbing on the phone. Scrolling through Facebook. Pinning on Pinterest. You get the idea.

But I loathe spending money needlessly. I like easy access to important papers. That means spending precious time on the least favorite parts of my job.

We don't have a wireless printer, so I hoard the online documents I need to keep and print them all at once. Often, I don't have a designated file for the receipts and sports' schedules I print, and that means hauling out a stack of manila folders and labeling them. Thirty minutes gone.

Since I'm frugal, I hate wasting paper. After I print and red-line a manuscript, I fold each sheet in half to use as scrap paper. I prefer to do this at night in front of the television. As a constant note-jotter, I'm saved the expense of buying mini legal pads.

Sometimes my mind wanders when I'm in the middle of these tasks. Next thing you know, I'm sidetracked stacking my to-be-read pile, creating a binder for writing articles I want to save, and perusing old CDs to listen to.

Oh well. I think this is a sign I shouldn't avoid my office, even if I get sucked into the vortex of puttering!

Do you avoid administrative work? Or do you stay on top of it?

Have a fabulous Monday!

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Teas! 2 Minute Resolution Vlog

March is here and I'm trying new tea flavors! I drink a ton of hot tea, so it's fun to go beyond my usual and get a little exotic.

Black teas are my favorite. I love the depth and rich flavors. Herbal teas typically are too weak or something for me, but I have a few I sip now and then.

Last month, my resolution was to sketch every weekday. This didn't happen, but I sketched more than I had in three years, so I'm happy!

Do you have anything you're focusing on this month? I'd love to hear it! And let me know what you're sipping lately!

Have a fabulous weekend!