2015 Writers' Blog Hop

Blog Hops in 2015: Come join the fun!

Thank you to those who gave input into the type of blog hop you would be interested in participating in. I’ve taken the feedback I received and compiled it, deciding to run several shorter blog hops in 2015. Look over the topics and let me know which one(s) you will participate in by sending me an e-mail. I also need to know which day works best for everyone to post – leave a comment below. (Most posts will be made the same day, but the link will be live for a week.)

General Writers’ Blog HopWriters Blog Hop
#1 Writing Goals – share what you’re planning to work on this year (Week of Jan 5th)
#2 Writing sample – share a sample from your current Work in Progress (Week of Jan 19)
#3 Favourite character – this can be a real person or a character from one of your fiction stories (Week of Feb 2)
#4 Lifelong learner – Writers need to be continuously learning. What did you learn in 2014 that helped make you a better writer? (Week of Feb 16)

Social Media Blog HopSocial Media Blog Hop
#1 Favourite Social Media Site – Tell us where you spend most of your time/energy and why (Week of Mar 2)
#2 Graphics for social media – Share your favourite source/app (Week of Mar 16)
#3 Scheduling posts – How often? Do you use a program like Hootsuite? Other tips? (Week of Mar 30)
#4 Content of posts – What do you share? Where do you find content? Ratio of promotional/other? (Week of April 13)

Parenting Blog HopParenting Blog Hop
#1 What do you find most challenging about parenting? What helps you get through the tough days?(Week of May 4)
#2 What parenting tip would you give to new parents? (Week of May 18)
#3 Share a family tradition with us (Week of June 8)
#4 Share your favourite holiday destination and/or how you make long family trips more enjoyable (Week of June 22)

Bloggers’ Blog HopBloggers Blog Hop
#1 Share your goals/mission statement for your blog and why/when you started blogging (Week of July 6)
#2 How do you engage your readers? (Week of July 20)
#3 Where do you find your blog graphics? (Share your favourite sources/apps) (Week of Aug 3)
#4 Share some blogs you guest post on and why (Week of Aug 17)

Christian Writers’ Blog HopChristian Writers Blog Hop
#1 Share your testimony with us (Week of Sept 7)
#2 Tell us about your favourite writing conference and how it improved your writing (Week of Sep 21)
#3 Share how your world view affects your writing (Week of Oct 5)
#4 Share a book which impacted your spiritual life and writing (Week of Oct 19)

Writers’ Marketing Blog HopMarketing Blog Hop
#1 Share your most recent published book/article with us (Week of Nov 2)
#2 Share a marketing idea that has worked well for you (Week of Nov 16)
#3 What advice would you give to someone who is wanting to market a book or article? (Week of Nov 30)
#4 Which websites/groups/social media sites have you found helpful? In what ways? (Week of Dec 14)

If you have any concerns or questions, let me know. I’m looking forward to learning with you in 2015 πŸ™‚


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Experimenting with Word Swag

Psalm 121: 7, 8

I find learning fascinating. Not just what we learn, but how we learn, and the incidental learning that happens. Serendipity, if you will. Yesterday I attended a webinar on how to use Pinterest effectively. As I was listening, I received a notification that I had a new e-mail from the Social Media Examiner on How to Create Sharable Social Media. One of the apps recommended was Word Swag.

The links I’ve shared above will give you access to the app (if you have an Apple product of some kind) and show you how to use it. I’ve tried several different apps and this is by far the easiest to use and gives me the results I’m looking for. (I decided to pay $2.99 to obtain more functionality.) Both images included in this post were made with Word Swag. Now my only problem is time πŸ™‚ In one of my next posts, I’ll share what I like about Canva.

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#Snapit: My Favourite Place to Study

My Favourite Place to StudyBy the time you read this post, I will be flying across the country to Guelph, Ontario, in order to attend Write Canada. One of the prompts for this week’s blog hop with the Proverbs 31 crew was, “Share a picture of your favourite place to study or write.” This chair is situated in a corner of our dining room, between two windows. I usually come downstairs just after 5 a.m. to read my Bible, pray, and get some writing done before the rest of my family gets up for the day. This chair is my private sanctuary where I sit with my Bible, books like Limitless Life by Derwin L. Gray, and my iPad. It’s a place where I can turn on the light without disturbing anyone, and also easily walk into the kitchen to grab a cup of lemon water or Rooisbos tea.

When I read, I enjoy sharing what I’m learning by participating in these blog hops, posting pictures, and sharing on social media. Here’s a quote I highlighted in my book this week:

“Jesus is the living water; He alone gives us His life for our life…so that we can live the life we could never live …” #quote D.L. Gray click to tweet

I also like to sit in this same chair to write. My iPad allows me to write without the distracting bells and whistles (notifications) I have on my iMac computer. For more information on my works in progress, check out this post.

What about you? Where do you like to read, study, and or write?

share a picture of your favorite place to study or write – See more at: http://proverbs31.org/online-bible-studies/current-study/#sthash.0YpgMzOu.dpu

7 Keys to Hosting a Successful Twitter Chat

#ReaderWriterChat on Twitter Mondays from 12-1:00 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time

Twitter chats are online, public conversations that take place on Twitter at designated times around a unique hashtag like #ReaderWriterChat. The #ReaderWriterChat will be starting, Monday, April 7th and taking place every Monday at 12 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Twitter chats are a great way to learn, engage with your followers, grow your community, and network.

How do you host a successful Twitter Chat?

1. Choose a unique hashtag. There are many Twitter chats already taking place. You can check out Twitter Chats for Writers, 15 Essential Twitter Chats for Social Media Marketers or any other topic you’re interested in. If you want to host a new chat, use the search function on Twitter to make sure there are no other chats using the hashtag you are thinking of using.

2. Invite people to participate. The whole idea of a Twitter chat is to have many people participating in the conversation. Make sure you let people know about the event by posting the hashtag, day and time of the chat on the social media sites you’re on, especially Twitter. Creating a graphic like the one at the top of this post may help people pay more attention to your invitation.

3. Use TweetChat to host your chat. (You can also use it to listen in to any chat you want.) All you have to do is go to the TweetChat site, choose the hashtag you want to follow, and press “Go”. TweetChat will filter out all the other tweets and allow you to monitor the specific chat you’re hosting. While you’re using TweetChat, each tweet you add will automatically have your chat hashtag added and the page will update periodically unless you manually pause it.

4. Sign in to the twitter chat at least 15 minutes before the start time. This gives you time to work through any technical difficulties you may encounter and enables you to start the chat on time.

5. Ask questions focused on the needs of your audience. Besides having a general topic, each week’s chat usually has a specific focus. Your questions should engage your community and get them sharing information and responding to each other. Figure out how often you’re going to post questions (e.g. every 5 minutes) and then make sure you have enough questions to take you through at least 50 minutes of the chat. You’ll probably fill some time at the beginning with introductions and end the chat by providing information about the specific focus of the next chat.

6. Favorite tweets during the chat. After you post a question, look for answers that are interesting and engaging. Go ahead and respond to them or retweet them, but make sure you also favorite the ones you want to capture. That way you can easily search, capture, and share them on your blog or another platform later. Then after the chat is over, use a platform like Storify to pull the tweets into a transcript you can share. There is a WordPress plugin for Storify that allows you to embed it into a blog post.

7. Use Hashtracking, which allows you to determine the effectiveness of your chat hashtag. Hashtracking allows you to track the reach, how many impressions were made, the number of people contributing, the number of tweets, and other hashtags that were used during your chat. You can use this information when you plan your next Twitter chat, making better use of what was effective and changing what didn’t work.

I hope you’ll join us for the #ReaderWriterChat on Mondays. If you have other tips for making a chat effective, or questions you’d like me to pose during the chats, let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a Twitter manual for writers. If you’d like to know when it’s available for purchase, please fill out the contact form below.

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My Current Works in Progress

Blog Hop for Writers

This is the sixth and final week in the blog hop I’m hosting for writers. Our topic this week is current work(s) in progress. If you’d like to share your current WIP with us, write a post and then come back and link in by clicking on the graphic above. If you’re a reader, click on the graphic and check out what authors are working on. We hope you’ll follow our blogs so that when our books are published, you’ll be among the first to know πŸ™‚

My last post was about the San Francisco Wedding Planner Series I’m working on along with five other authors. You can find more information here: San Francisco Wedding Planner.

In this blog hop, I’ve written about Anna, (Olga’s mother) one of my favorite characters from Olga’s Discovery, which is a full-length historical fiction novel I’m in the middle of writing.Β  Here’s the synopsis:

Twenty-two-year-old Olga Tymchuk, a newly graduated teacher, eagerly anticipates marrying her fiancee, Viktor, in July 1959. However, before they marry, Olga is committed to teaching for a year in Glendale, Alberta as a requirement for the bursary she received in university. Viktor and Olga are separated when Viktor accepts a challenging job as a scientific researcher for the National Research Council in Ontario.

Olga is enjoying a challenging first year of teaching when Viktor is injured in a chemical accident. He seems to be recovering well, but then Olga receives a telegram that will change her life forever. Olga is drawn into a search for the truth, which forces her to deal with uncooperative hospital officials, death threats, and a sudden disappearance.

I’m also putting together a Twitter manual for writers. There are many different ways to share information now and I’m researching several options to share this information and make it practical.

Cover for Cecile's Christmas MiracleMy other project will be a fiction series about Cecile and Colin, characters from my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle. Cecile has decided spending Christmas in the desert doesn’t have to be depressing and Colin is on his way to join Cecile. However, they haven’t seen each other for over a year. Will the attraction between them endure? There is also the threat of the clinic being closed, and the village being resettled. What part should expatriates play in solving political issues?

If you have questions about any of my works in progress, please ask me in the comments below. Thanks πŸ™‚


Sorting through the time crunch

Weekly CalendarToday’s assignment in the Balanced Challenge is one that I know I’ll have to keep coming back to. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s often a challenge to figure out how I’m going to make the best use of each 24 hour segment God gives me. There just isn’t enough time to do everything.

Tricia Goyer shares one way to sort through the time crunch: Sit down and make a list with four categories.

  1. Things I have to do (non-negotiable items like work or feeding and clothing your family)
  2. Things I should do (no one will die if these things aren’t done, but they are very important. e.g. reading the Bible)
  3. Things I want to do (those things that bring me joy and make me feel more alive e.g. my work with InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship)
  4. Things I’m doing to “look good” or doing out of guilt (usually volunteer activities that are good, but may be zapping our energy)

Tricia then challenges us to cut ALL the items listed under #4 and schedule the rest of the items into some sort of calender. I’ve shared the beginning of my calendar at the top of this post. It still needs some work – my husband and I plan to compare notes and calendars.

This exercise has been an important reminder to me that I can’t be everything to everybody. Some things have to give. Tricia reminds us that there are different seasons in life and sometimes we have to wait to do things until a different season.

How do you plan your schedule? What do you struggle with the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

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So many stories and so little time

Exam_tnsI’m enjoying my interactions with fellow authors and readers on Helping Hands Thirsty Thursdays. (Check out Helping Hands Press Facebook Page for more details.) Last week the publisher announced a number of new releases. As the announcements were made, I responded by saying I was adding certain books to my reading list and made the comment, “So many stories, so little time.” Several of us joked around about using a time machine to help squeeze more writing and reading time in, but joking aside, finding time for everything is a huge issue for authors. We are expected to write, read, edit, participate on social media sites, blog AND fulfill our other responsibilities in life.

Balanced coverA couple days ago I was happy to discover that Tricia Goyer has released a new book called Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. The book is now on my iPad and I’m making time to read it, a chapter a day. I appreciated Tricia’s disclaimer:

This book may not be for you if you are looking for a simple how-to manual with only schedules, outlines, and agendas. You don’t think your spiritual life impacts your work and home life. You think the whole balance issue depends on you and not on your dependence on God. . . . as someone who’s been working at home nearly all of my twenty-four years as a parent, I’ve discovered three main things: 1. What I do isn’t as important as who I am. 2. What God can do in my life and what He’s capable of doing can be two very different thingsβ€”I don’t want to limit Him. 3. My outward goals are only reachable if I submit my inward soul to God.”

This is the first year I’m focusing intensely on writing. I have a LOT to learn. Here are some things I’ve discovered already:

  • I’m human and it is utterly impossible for me to do everything and do it well. Therefore, I need to chose my goals carefully.
  • It’s very easy to get side-tracked by Facebook, e-mail, and social media. Therefore, I need to limit my time on these items.
  • When I’m writing, I’m intensely focused and “living” in a different world. I find distractions very frustrating because it takes me time to come back to real life. Therefore, I have to organize my writing time so that I’m writing when my husband and children don’t need my attention.
  • Large goals overwhelm me. (I admit it, I don’t like to make goals I don’t think I can achieve!) A novel of 80-100,000 words seems unattainable. However, when I break that down into 1,000 word scenes or 2,000 word chapters I’m able to enjoy the process.
  • As a wife and mother, I don’t often have the luxury of having all day to write. However, I’ve found that it’s quite easy to fit in 1/2 hour here and there. If I’m able to write 300-500 words every morning in 1/2 hour, that brings me 1,500 – 2,500 words closer to my writing goal(s) every week.

I’m still discovering what works for me, and probably will be for years to come. Tricia Goyer puts it this way:

“The only thing we can be certain of is that as soon as we achieve a small measure of balance, something is going to overturn the applecart so all our good intentions will spill out like crabapples, becoming scattered and bruised.”

What have you discovered in your writing journey? I’d love to hear from you.


Advice to Beginning Writers

NOTE: This is week 4 of our Writers’ Blog Hop. The theme this week is advice I’d give to a newbie writer. Click on the link below to check out what other writers have to say about the topic.

Button for blog hopDear Beginning Writer,

It wasn’t too long ago that I stood in your shoes. Although I’ve been an avid reader who enjoyed writing for most of my life, I never considered myself a writer until after I attended my first writers’ conference. The best way for me to share advice with you is to tell you a bit about my personal journey as a writer.

I entered The Word Guild’s God Uses Ink contest (Now called Fresh Ink Novice Writing Contest) in 2009 and won first prize in my age category. The prize was free registration for the Write!Canada Conference. I stepped out in faith, booked my flight and attended a conference where I knew no one.

At the conference I learned many things:

  • Writing your book is the “easy” part
  • There are several avenues to having your work published
  • It’s important to start building a platform before you publish anything
  • It’s helpful to belong to organizations where you can interact with other writers and learn from their mistakes
  • If God has called you to write, be obedient and walk through the doors He opens for you

I still remember feeling like I was walking in a fog on a dark night. I knew I was supposed to be at the conference, but I had no clue what to do next. People at the conference were friendly enough, but most of them were from Ontario. I wondered what I would do for support after the conference.

After I arrived back home I decided to do what I could. I sought out support from groups I could access online. The groups I linked up with are:

I didn’t think I had time for a blog, so I joined Twitter and began using it as a mini-blog. I also started a personal Facebook account and enjoyed the opportunities to interact with my friends and family. A few months later, I decided to start a blog as a way to share information from my work as a school board trustee with Northern Lights School Division No. 69.

Testimony January 2010One of the most helpful books I read was Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz. One piece of advice she gives is to research markets, write, submit, and start over. In other words, you don’t sit around waiting to see if one piece is accepted before you start on another piece. And if your piece is rejected by one market, you do some more research and send it out again. I started my journey to publication with the winning entry I wrote for the Word Guild contest. It took several months (and many rejections), but my memoir piece entitled Gifts from a Loving God was accepted by Testimony magazine in November 2009 and published in January 2010. It was subsequently reprinted by two Sunday School papers.

Something else I found helpful was Brian Henry’s Canadian Writer’s Contest Calendar. I purchased my first copy in 2010 and began entering contests as a way to learn how to follow writing guidelines and also to receive honest feedback on my writing. The contest I enjoyed the most was Fiction in Five, where I won several prizes and had a few of my short stories published. One of those short stories became the basis for my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle,Β which was just published in December 2013.

Cecile's Christmas Miracle Book Cover Although I live in a fairly remote rural area, I’ve been able to take advantage of several writing courses which have helped me hone my skills. The Christian PEN offers courses throughout each year, where lessons are sent by e-mail. Class members are added to a Yahoo listserv and able to send in homework assignments, ask questions, and interact with each other. Long Ridge Writers’ Group and the Institute of Children’s Literature offer writing courses where you receive materials in the mail and may either submit by mail or e-mail. In these courses you are matched with a published author who acts as your instructor and gives you detailed feedback and suggestions.

My writing journey continues with many ups and downs. My prayer is that I’ll be faithful to God’s calling on my life. The rest is up to Him.

If you have questions or suggestions you’ve found helpful, please leave me a comment. Thanks πŸ™‚