Friday, December 19, 2014

Lobster Award - Uh, Say What? Self Correcting Computers…UGH!

by M. J. Joachim



Annalisa Crawford was kind enough to present me with the Lobster, I mean, Liebster Award today. Unfortunately, it’s a hit and miss with my Internet since yesterday, so I’m not even sure I’m going to be able to post this and make it live.

I was able to briefly read Annalisa’s post this morning. Recipients are supposed to share information about their work in progress. These days my main task is Christmas, a holiday that never takes me by surprise, but always surprises me just the same.

Since my Internet was so bad yesterday, I turned off my computer and took care of a few things like decorating and wrapping presents. I’m about halfway through a book I’m reading for a review. I’d hoped to have it completed and the review up at least a week ago, but that was not to be. I’m eager to read the next book I have in queue…did I mention Christmas? That one will be the first book I review in 2015. 


Regarding my WIPs…I’ve a couple in the works. Two don’t have characters at all. One is in its earliest phases and I’m not sure what I want to do with the main character yet. I can tell you it’s a girl. I can also tell you the background deals with some pretty hefty social issues, and the villain is very easy to hate. I’m still working on placement for this fictional story. It wants to belong in a city, and yet the country seems to be beckoning me to make events take place there.

Everything in me wants to write a book of short stories based where I live/have lived. Yes, Annalisa, you get credit for this inspiration too. Arizona and California make nice backdrops for all sorts of short stories. I’m sure I can created some very detailed scenes for my stories in both of these states. This is a project for 2015, when everyone’s schedules change and the house gets quiet again. 




Other than that, I’m plugging away keeping up with my blogs for the most part and trying to clean them up a bit. I managed to unfollow some blogs of folks that haven’t blogged in years this week. No sense following bloggers who have long since moved on. I’ve much more to do in that regard. It will be nice to get the list of blogs I’m following up to date and current. 

The screen shots you’re seeing in this post are of various Liebster Awards. I Googled it and these are some of the images that came up. I really like the berries and the lighthouse one. Flowers and hearts are nice too. Simple works well to share the badge of honor, which I’m sharing with all of you. It’s Christmas and on that note, you’re all invited to get this award. Simply write a post about your work in progress, whatever that might be. Since I can’t get on the Internet right now, I can’t access the questions, so I’m making this a easy for you.

Take a screen shot of any or all the awards you see in this post, or get creative and make a new Liebster Award Badge, and write a post about your work in progress. How about using the Giant Lobster Sculpture as your badge, unless your computer corrects “liebster” with some other letters, or doesn’t correct it at all. It’s a screen shot too, a public domain picture taken by Andrew McMillan. I found it on Wikicommons and he grants anyone to use it for any reason.



Okay, it looks like my Internet is working right now, so I’m going to try and get this posted asap. With the busyness of the season and a strange web connection, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to post again until after Christmas. On that note,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Should I Write About Today? How to Develop New and Exciting Writing Topics

by M. J. Joachim


Choosing good topics to write about takes practice, but it’s not difficult to do. All you really need to do is think about what you already know or are learning. If you have a hobby, take the time to define it, literally. Analyze it and break it down into several different pieces. Use these detailed descriptions of intimate aspects of your subject matter to develop topics to write about.

Develop Clear Focal Points

Everyone washes laundry. By itself, that’s a pretty broad topic. However, when you start to analyze all the steps involved in washing laundry, you begin to realize that there are several different things you can discuss on this topic. You can write about different types of washing machines, doing the laundry at home or in a Laundromat, sorting clothes, removing stains, pre-soaking. The list is never ending. All you have to do is pick a focal point and write about it as your topic.

Debate Pros and Cons

People love to take sides about things. Pick a topic like mowing the lawn and discuss the pros and cons of using different types of lawn mowers. You can write one article discussing electric mowers, one article discussing push mowers, and another one discussing gas mowers. Simply list the pros and cons of each type of mower and let your audience decide if they agree with your assessment or not.

Compare and Contrast

While we’re on the subject of mowers, you could compare using an electric mower against using a gas mower. You might even conduct a little experiment detailing time, energy and expense of using each to include in your article. Stress the pros and cons of each mower, and then list them to show your readers how the two items are the same and different.

Consumer Reports does this all the time. They pick several similar products and test them. Then they share the results with the public so consumers can decide how to best spend their money.

Enhance a Narrow Topic

Instead of narrowing down a broad topic, work backwards and open up a clearly defined topic. Take for instance an extremely focused article on how to make New York Style Cheesecake. You can develop topics based on the history of New York Style Cheesecake. How did it get its name? What are the origins of its ingredients? Where can you find the best recipe adaptation of it? How do you make cream cheese? And let’s not even get started on all the topics you might come up with related to New York.

Finding new topics to write about can be turned into a bit of a game. Write down a main theme in the center of your paper, and then make a web with all the different things you might be able to say about it. Once you make the first tier, expand on it, ever extending your web further out into new and different possible topics. In no time at all, you’ll have more topics to write about than you ever dreamed of. The hard part will be finding time to write all your new articles.

I’m so glad you stopped by and visited me today. I hope you find this post helpful and informative and would love to read your comments on it. Oh, and if you really, really like it, do feel free to click the share button. Thanks again for your much appreciated support of my work here.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Nansoriginal, Inbound Marketing Process, CCA-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

How Coded Pictures, Badges and Book Covers Can Mess Up Your Blog

by M. J. Joachim

You know what they say, one bad apple spoils the whole bunch! I read a blog post over the weekend that really got me thinking about all those badges out there, and how their codes might not be so good for our blogs. The thing is, we all use different computers that interact with different blog platforms. Who’s to say how adding code to include pictures and badges on our site will affect us?

I’ve taken to the idea of making screen shots of photos, badges, blog awards, book covers and anything picture related at all lately. It prevents the unnecessary code of all things coded from messing up my blogs. If I need or want to add a link, it’s easy enough to do. I simply grab it from wherever it’s found and attach it to the photo or badge in turn.

As a woman, I know it is very necessary to clean out my purse from time to time. No harm, no foul. The darn thing just gets very full and cluttered with receipts, other people’s junk, change, pens and pencils, make-up etc. I need to clean it out periodically, because it weighs too heavy on my arm if I don’t.

The same holds true for our blogs. Added code from anywhere - photos, badges, blog hops, book cover reveals etc. weighs down our blogs as well. They run slower, don’t format correctly, get glitches and are difficult to navigate, which is why we need to keep them clean.

Oh, that and the fact that that post I read over the weekend mentioned something about spammers using badges and blog hops to steal our page views from us, or give us computer viruses and such. Spammers can write any code they want, and if we are none the wiser, we might get burned by including their code on our blogs. While this is a valid and important concern, my main thought is that I just want my blogs to run as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Here’s to keeping the blogosphere clean. Take a screen shot and leave the unnecessary code off your blog. After all, it’s your blog and you alone are responsible for how well it works and what it has or doesn’t have on it.

Thanks so much for visiting, commenting on and sharing my post today. I hope you find it helpful and informative.

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Screen shot, Oh How I Miss You Blog Hop Badge

Monday, December 15, 2014

Alex J. Cavanaugh, IWSG and Juggling Writing Responsibilities



Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Alex J. Cavanaugh to discuss how he juggles being a writer and juggling all of life's many responsibilities. It's not easy, but Alex offers some sound advice and writing tips, sharing how he makes it work for him. 

Juggling for Writers

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot to juggle in life.

I’m a very active blogger. I’m on Twitter and Goodreads. I maintain the Insecure Writer’s Support Group website. I’m a co-host for the A to Z Challenge. I write books. And I have a life outside of the internet that involves family, work, church, and music. Despite the rumors that I employ clones, I manage to keep it all flowing.

Want to know how? All it takes is a little planning…

First, we have to know our limits. We only have so many hours in the day for work, family, friends, writing, social media, life… You get the idea. It’s a lot! And for each of us, it’s different. We have to know our limits and how much time we can devote to each item on our list.

Once we have a handle on that, we can set our goals. What do we hope to accomplish each day? What do we NEED to accomplish? And the goals need to be realistic. We want to stretch, not break.

Now we can prioritize. Make a list. What’s most important? How much time can we devote to each item? We can’t forget the personal stuff, either. (At some point, our families really do need us.)

Next step–organize! Map out the day. What will we do when? What’s our time limit? Make a schedule. If we know a certain two hour block is for writing only, we’re more likely to get it done.

The last part is maintaining connections. Really! I believe in balance. Even when we’re in writing mode, we still need our connections. We can’t lose contact with our family, friends, and social media. Relationships need to be cultivated to survive, both online and in the real world.

Can it be done? You bet! If I can manage it all, so can you.

One of the things I juggle is the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. It began when I casually told another author he needed such a group. The idea took hold, and in September of 2011, we did our first blog post for the IWSG. From that point, it has grown to almost three hundred members who post every month, a website that’s a database of writing information and resources, and two Facebook groups with almost 2000 members.

That in turn led to our latest venture–The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond. We invited members to contribute their expertise in the areas of writing, publishing, and marketing. The book is packed with information and spotlights some amazing writers–and it is completely free!

Enjoy the book, check out the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, and may you be a better juggler!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
http://twitter.com/AlexJCavanaugh


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. His next book, Dragon of the Stars, comes out next April. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond - ISBN 9781939844088, 235 pages, Free!


Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer. Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool. Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.

Available at these fine bookstores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Goodreads

Join the Insecure Writers Group at these locations:

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSGCC/

Thanks again for sharing this important information with us today, Alex. I read the book, and it's really good. Here's wishing you lots of success in all your ventures. And may we all be successful jugglers with our lives, writing tasks and this month, the holidays. Here's wishing you all a stress free and very wonderful season of joy!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: Peaks & Valleys by Spencer Johnson M.D.

by M. J. Joachim



Starting a business takes the right attitude to succeed. There will always be ups and downs as you trudge through the process. These can be discouraging, frustrating and downright painful, but they don’t need to prevent you from pursuing your dreams to the point of giving up. You can learn to deal with ups and downs, peaks and valleys, in constructive ways that will actually help you succeed at your new business venture more quickly, all the while making you happier as you go through the process of reaching your goals of success.

Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson M. D. is a wonderful little book that takes you through a psychological process of visualizing your business plan and developing realistic goals to achieve it. This is not a get rich quick resource, but rather a life’s resource type of book, enabling you to recognize and rely on your own abilities to conquer fear, tap into personal creativity, set reasonable goals and achieve realistic results in a timely manner.

At the beginning of the book, you learn to recognize and come to terms with a true definition for the word “valley”. You come to terms with your own self defeating ways that have often led you to give up on ideas that might have been achieved very easily, if only you’d given them a chance or taken the time to think about them.

As you make your way through the book, you begin to understand the power you have through positive thinking to acknowledge your own ability to change the outcome of events, thus lessening the pain and discouragement of setbacks and trials, while minimizing their impact. Of course your ultimate goal is to have as few challenges as possible when starting your business, but life happens and with it, ups and downs.

You begin to understand that while there will be low points and setbacks when you start your business, these don’t have the power to determine any final outcomes. They rarely have to last for long periods of time, and they can be overcome with the right attitude. Sounds too good to be true, I know. But since no one can live a life of complete success and happiness without having a few tough times along the way, it’s a good idea to find tools that help us deal with low points, making them more bearable and less severe.

Peaks and Valleys is such a book. It shows us how to enjoy the high points by staying humble and acknowledging the low points we went through to get to them; it also shows us how to appreciate the low points when we are in them, enabling us to move through them a little easier.

I strongly recommend anyone thinking about starting a new business to read Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson M. D. In fact, I recommend it even if you’re not starting a new business. It will help you in your relationships with your co-workers, friends and family too. It’s that good.

Thanks so much for stopping by, commenting and sharing my post today. It’s a thrilling boost when I see that you enjoy my work, and it really does keep a smile on my face.

Best to all,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Pisang Peak & Marsydagi Valley, Greg Willis, CCA-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

’Tis the Season…and oh, what a busy season it can be too…

by M. J. Joachim


It’s been a crazy and hectic week so far, but then the holidays are upon us and while I’ve started my shopping, preparing the packages for mailing is still a work in progress, one that needs to be completely finished by tomorrow, since Friday is pretty much packed with a few other things that need to get done.

I have the worst time writing when I’m scattered and going in too many different directions at once. I need quiet, calm and limited interruptions. Add on a list of things I didn’t expect - no details, just a big pile of work that needs to get done. I didn’t see it coming and yesterday it landed on my desk. Here’s a brief attempt to describe the scene.

She sits at her desk facing the window that looks out into the shaded patio, pool and backyard. By all accounts it is a comfortable day for writing. Her dark hair is pulled back into a relaxed bun. The aroma of homemade jerky drying in the oven fills the house. She’s deep in thought when the shrill sound of the dog’s bark startles her, causing her to scream and jump.

She regains her composure, calmly telling the dog to be quiet or go outside. The dog makes a beeline for the couch, looks at her rudely, circles and lays down. She starts typing again when an email with several very large files arrives, its contents needing to be addressed in a timely manner. Then more files, another few emails and more files follow.

She looks at the citrus green yarn on her desk, the 9-patch crocheted square only one piece of the afghan she wants to keep working on, and her kindle. “Crocheting and reading will have to wait today,” she sighs. “Ah, but that jerky sure does smell good,” she smiles and opens the first of many files.

I’ve seen something floating around the web lately. When there are dishes in the sink, most people see dishes in the sink. When the garage door doesn’t close all the way, someone retraces their steps to close it. A chair not tucked in at the table is merely a chair that needs to be tucked in. For writers, however, these things are writing prompts. They are stories in the making, full of color, detail and emotion, waiting for a description, act and characters to enter the scene. Nothing is or should be ordinary to a writer. Everything can come alive, taking twists and unexpected turns, tempting the audience with scintillating tidbits capable of surging energy through one’s veins.

I’ve been watching too many episodes of Sons of Anarchy and The Following lately. Can you tell? Edge of seaters, both and very entertaining too.

I’m giving a big shout out to my son who turns 19 today. I’ll save that story for another time.

The Book Gurus has asked me to share the following invitation with you:

#romcom #festivus #holiday #celebration

Come and join Penny Reid, Daisy Prescott, M. Mabie, Jennie Marts, Z.B. Heller, C.C. Wood, A.C. Netzel, Zack Love and N.M. Silber as they celebrate the holiday. A Festivus for the rest of us! December 16, 2014 from 4:30-11pm est.
https://www.facebook.com/events/569040546560417/

Now I must get back to that email with all the files, finish wrapping for the boxes I’m mailing tomorrow and do some promised reading for the next reviews I’m planning to post here. Here’s to blogging during the Christmas season. Oh, what a busy time of year it can be!

Best to all,

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Santa Claus, Jonathan Meath & Heather Morey, CCA - Share Alike 2.5 Generic License

Friday, December 5, 2014

Responsible Writing and the Need to Perform Our Duty

by M. J. Joachim

Writing is hard sometimes. It knocks the wind right out of your sails, takes your breath away and depletes your energy store. I was there yesterday after finishing three articles for the 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive. Today’s the second day and there’s still a lot more work, reading, research and writing to be done. Mind you, I started immersing myself in this work last month when we decided to have an online food drive.

Studying hunger statistics is grueling, often depressing work. Reading and watching videos about the plight of those less fortunate and relating to them enough to write about their suffering, that’s not an easy task. Yet, as writers we have a responsibility to do just that. We have a need to tell the stories, raise the awareness with our words and try to make a difference.

It doesn’t matter how we do it - fiction, prose, poetry, non-fiction or pictorials, blogs, books, the list goes on. Thinking outside the box, there are probably as many ways to tell a story as there are to experience one. That’s our job and our passion. It’s what we do and what we can’t not do. Thankfully, not all the stories are so intense. Many of them don’t require as much in-depth research or kick us in the gut as hard.

Those that do must be told regardless. Our voice matters. It doesn’t matter if we’re telling our first person story about suffering from going hungry, promoting organizations that help people who are hungry or sharing statistics and news about our world hunger crisis. The goal is to keep the discussion going, perhaps engage a few more people in it and try to help wherever, whenever and however we can.

This is Day 2 of the 2nd Annual Holiday Food Drive taking place everywhere online. I hope you’ll join us by participating in the discussion, raising awareness about hunger as each new opportunity arises and assisting whenever and wherever you can, because it’s our world and while there will always be those suffering from hunger in our midst, we can make a difference. We can work together to ease the suffering of the many and help those in need.

Thank you for being a writer. Thank you for sharing your words and making an impact in our world with them. I appreciate and respect you, and I will always applaud your efforts!

M. J.

©2014 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Pinterest, World Hunger Free Photo