Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Favorites: Journaling

If you don’t journal you may have no idea why it’s one of my favorite things.  If you do keep a journal, then I feel safe in continuing on with the expectation you will understand completely where I’m coming from.
I’ve been keeping a journal ever since I was a kid.  I remember my very first diary as a young child, given to me for a Christmas present.  It came with a lock and a key and was a place where I could write my daily thoughts, special memories and also my most secret feelings. 

Ever since I began making daily entries in that very first diary as a kid, writing has been a way of life for me but I never really looked at it that way until recently.  I never looked at my journals as a form of writing; I viewed them as a form of expression and not necessarily a part of myself I would ever share with anyone else.  For me, journaling is a great release…whether I’m happy, mad, upset, sad, exhausted, confused, or all the above, writing is a way to release those feelings and it helps to work things out and possibly answer lingering questions in my mind.
There are times when reading back through old journals is therapeutic for me.  For most of us, we have many memories but it is easy to forget the details of the past.  I journal because having it all written down means I don’t have to lose the details of my past memories.  I pride myself on a fairly good memory but if I am fortunate enough to live a very long life, there will be many details I will forget as new memories are constantly being made or as my mind fades when I eventually grow old. 

My favorite journals to read back through are the ones I filled with entries as my husband and I dealt with the day-to-day parenting of our sons, which has now consumed almost half my journaling life.  These journals include the highs and the lows I experienced as a new mother and later the joys and worries I expressed as I have watched both my sons mature into young men.  While the journals remind me how truly exhausting it was to raise young children, reading through the entries is a treasure trove of stories, funny exploits, cute quotes from my sons and some of the fondest memories I will ever have.
So why did I only recently view journaling as a way of writing?

Last month I wrote a post titled, Time to Manage TimeManagement, and in that post I spoke about a few new books I had come across.  One of them, Writer with a Day Job, had a chapter about journal writing.   In that chapter, the author, Aine Greaney, speaks about the writing workshops she provides and how she asks her students to complete a short exercise to get started.  With these exercises and based on her own experience, she can usually tell which of the students most likely kept journals.
Greaney went on to make some very interesting points.  She believes there are common traits among journal writers, starting with how many of them might swear they are beginning writers while their work really never sounds or reads that way.  The journal writers instead show a practiced fluidity to their writing which also shows a familiarity with language and the written word.  The writing also appears to be written by someone who has built up their writing muscle and who has spent a lot of time up close and personal with words.

Why did this particular excerpt from the book strike me? 
Because it made me look at myself differently.  Even when others have read my work and praised me for it, I wasn’t convinced I could call myself a writer.  From the very beginning when I finally decided to tackle a book, I was afraid to call myself a writer because I thought I had to complete a book to earn that title.  I had faith in my abilities but I was looking towards what I would become in the future, not realizing what I had already become in the present. 

I was finally able to admit I have been a writer all my life. 
Now that I’ve written a book, I consider myself an author.  And very soon, I will be calling myself a published author.

With each step, my writing life is growing and it just keeps getting better and better. 
What do you do to remember the good times, the bad times and everything in between?  Do you keep a journal?  Have you kept a journal all your life or only recently?  Do you think it helps you?  What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Editing…Friend now more than Foe?

It’s been a week since I posted and while I’d rather stick with posting two or three days a week, it is sometimes just not possible.  This past week was extremely busy; not only with birthday plans and time spent with family but also with a lot of time spent on my book. 

I’m thrilled because I am extremely close to finalizing the edit on my book.  I am excited to be at this turning point and I cannot wait to get on the road to publishing.
While the book took me only four months to write, I realize now it has taken the same amount of time to edit.  There may be some necessary changes here and there that I will have to contend with before the book is published but I am satisfied because my story feels whole.

The editing process has finally become a friend rather than a foe.  You may have read one of my earliest posts, Edit…another four-letter word, where I discuss my difficulties with the editing process.  The editing process involves working and reworking the text, pacing, grammar, details, and everything in between until you are positive you have a story that not only reads well but will completely entertain the reader.
What have I learned throughout the editing process?

I learned what I should try to avoid, such as weak words, helping verbs, stacked adjectives, redundant prepositions, clichés and passive sentence structure.  In a nutshell, the trick is to look for unnecessary words and focus on using strong nouns and strong verbs. 
It’s difficult sometimes but the more you “show” a reader what’s happening, rather than “tell” them, it helps to keep the reader on the same page with your characters, rather than with you.  You want the reader to forget they are reading a story so that they feel as if they are living in your story.

Will I always refrain from these writing sins when I write?  Probably not but editing is necessary so that you get a second, third, fourth or even fourteenth chance at making the book the best it can be.
But editing is definitely not all about grammar and sentence structure…

You have to focus on the scenes to enhance them and to determine whether each scene moves the plot forward or adds to the existing conflict.
The characters need to be someone you can love, hate, root for or hope to die but either way, the characters need to bring about some sort of emotion or connection with the reader.

The pacing needs to work and work well; some like it fast, others like it slow but usually we all prefer it somewhere in the middle.
Plot holes need to be filled – no, not pot holes, but plot holes.  Holes in the story that will either completely baffle the reader of totally irritate them because the mistake wasn’t caught before the book was published.

And, very important, you must make sure your timeline makes sense.
For all the so-called rules involved with editing, you can see why it did not begin as my most favorite task.  It is a necessary evil we must accomplish as we grit our teeth and bear it.

Believe it or not, I did have a favorite assignment when it came to editing.
One piece of advice was to look at the first and last sentence of each chapter.  While it may be difficult to always start each chapter with a killer line, even if that is the advice given, it does make sense to check whether the last line of each chapter would compel the reader to continue on with the story. 

Copying all the first and last lines to another document so that I could review them without being distracted by the rest of the story was actually a fun task.  It was also very rewarding when I discovered I hit the mark most of the time.
There was also a suggestion I hadn’t thought of and another I hadn’t yet heard about.

The first is to watch for what may be called “pet” or “crutch” words…or certain words you don’t realize you use often, oftentimes without realizing how often you use them so often.  It’s more than redundancy though; pet words are little stinkers that slink in to a sentence without you even realizing it and more often than not, the words don’t need to be there.
The second suggestion was one with regard to formatting and it threw me for a loop because it goes against everything I have learned ever since I began typing on a typewriter in high school. 

Shoot, did I just date myself again?
Anyway, the suggestion is apparently more than a suggestion but a flat out rule…use only one space after a period, not two.  Well, like I said, ever since I began typing in high school, two spaces after a period was always the requirement.  That rule stuck through college, as I began working in law firms and during my career as a legal assistant and a private investigator.  It is a trained habit I will no sooner break than my love of coffee or chocolate.

Thankfully, we now live in the world of computers and the very task of searching for each double space to replace it with a single place is an extremely easy task.  My search found 5,457 double spaces overall…an easy task for the computer, not so much if I had to do it myself.
I’m sure I’ll mumble and grumble again about the editing process when I begin these tasks all over again for my second book but at least this post will remind me there is a light at the end of the tunnel…and that I must be persistent as I also remain patient with the process.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Not Just Another Day

Today is my birthday. 
Yes, thank you, happy birthday to me.

Some might say it’s just another day and from a certain perspective I guess it is.  I’m a year older, but I don’t feel it (and hopefully don’t look it).  I spent the day at work, even though I would have enjoyed taking the day off to write all day with no interruptions (between birthday phone calls and texts, that is).  I will go out to dinner with my family to celebrate but yet we could go out to dinner for any number of reasons (we like to find reasons to eat out). 
But when you really think about it, the day is really so much more.  Why?  Because it is a day when friends and family can come forward and make you feel special, appreciated and remembered.

You might disagree and say we should get that type of treatment every day and I agree.
But that’s just not the case in this whirl-wind fast-paced to-do list type of life.

We often forget to make those around us feel special and needed.  It’s not a purposeful act.  We just get busy.  It is due to this that I believe birthdays should not be called just another day. 
First, for the ones having the birthday, it helps us to remember there are those out there who do care and who do love us even if we don’t see or hear from them often.  Second, for the well-wishers, birthdays make us stand up and remember those around us.  We might not offer enough of ourselves to others on any given day but it is these special days which turn our attention away from ourselves and towards others instead.

Our birthdays give our families the license to either gush even more about how much they love us and it gives those family members who remain emotionally distant an opportunity to say what they cannot usually say.
Our birthdays remind us our friends care and are always there for us.  I have a friend who I have known for 25 years.  We have had some good times, some bad times and probably everything in between. Somehow when our boys were young, we were able to get together weekly to watch our favorite night-time soaps (remember Melrose Place?) while we would cross stitch and catch up with each other.  As our boys grew, our lives got busier not only with work but also because our boys were actively playing sports pretty much all year long.  Our boys were usually on the same team so we saw a lot of each other but boys do grow up while activities and schedules do not always mesh.  It is not often that I see my friend now (unless Facebook counts) but I know she is and always will be someone I can count on.  How do I know this?  I just know.  But it didn’t hurt that she made a point of reminding me with a happy birthday wish and this saying: “Good friends are like stars…you may not always see them but you always know that they are there.”

Those are some good things about birthdays but that’s not all a birthday can do for you.
Sadly, they also remind us of those who are no longer here to celebrate with us. 

An example would be my grandparents who have already passed.  My grandpa shared the same birthday as my husband and it was always special to celebrate their birthdays together.  My grandpa was a truly special person and every year now when we celebrate my husband’s birthday, it is bittersweet as we also remember the man who is now only sharing that special day with us in spirit.
Another example would be my father-in-law, who did not care much about his own birthday but found great pleasure in teasing me about mine.  I never failed to receive a phone call from him so that he could sing to me, “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be…” 

Oh, yes, it was funny…to him.  I took it in stride knowing he was just giving me a hard time.  Now, I’ll admit that after having two birthdays since his passing, I actually miss getting that birthday phone call from him, even if it did give him glee at calling me an old mare.
Birthdays may be just another day to some but I will say again birthdays are much more than that.  It is a day to remember or show appreciation to others or a day where you can take to heart what others say you mean to them.  These days should never be pushed aside as just any other day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Simply Sunday

Truth be told, this weekend was not a good weekend for writing.  There was just too much going on…too much to do.  With company overnight both Friday and Saturday, plus yard work, limb cleanup and other paperwork that took priority, I wasn’t able to find any good blocks of time for editing or writing. 

What am I doing now, you ask?  Well, this doesn’t count and I won’t be here long enough to tackle working on my books.
I just wanted to write a simple note to say how simply wonderful a simple Sunday can be.

I enjoy staying home on Sundays.  I love to sleep in, make a big breakfast, drink a whole pot of coffee with my favorite creamer and then have the rest of the day to do whatever it is I feel like doing. 
Today the weather was beautiful so I spent most of the afternoon outdoors.  My time was spent playing around on the riding lawnmower, burning limbs and digging around in my raised beds to see what has already decided to start sprouting.

You may wonder how I view these tasks as simple or even enjoyable.
It’s easy, really, to enjoy sprucing up the yard.  It’s even more fun to start a bonfire.  And I am always in my own little world when I get to play around in my gardens. 

So, yes, this was a great way to spend my afternoon, as I also made quite a few discoveries…
Once I finally cut the grass, I saw little Easter lilies still in bloom at the edge of the yard.  I guess no one told them Easter was over but it was sure nice to see them.

And it was nice to see some daffodils still in bloom.  You might not be able to see it but there is a yellow spider hiding in the petals.  I’m afraid he was a bit camera shy.

In my gardens, I discovered that the Lemon Thyme was completely taking over one portion of the raised beds while my Rosemary and Lavender plants were doing what they could to stake out their claims in the garden.  I consider the Lemon Thyme more like my wild child, always pushing others around and taking control, but I absolutely love that plant.  There is nothing I like better than to rub my hands against the Lemon Thyme…it is such a wonderful smell.

I also found my rhubarb plants were thriving well and already pretty big.  While some eat rhubarb raw and it is also good as a sauce (on vanilla ice cream!), the best use for rhubarb is in a recipe my grandmother gave me for strawberry rhubarb cake.  It is, in my opinion, the most delicious cake you will ever smell or taste.
So while my afternoon involved what may sound like chores, those chores left me feeling accomplished and content.  It is an afternoon like this that reminds me how it really is the simple things in life that often bring fulfillment and joy.

If plants could speak, I believe they would have plenty to say to us but I think this quote by Eric Butterworth is perfect:

“Don’t go through life, grow through life.”
Simply put and well said, I’m sure it’s exactly what the lilies, daffodils, rhubarb and herbs were thinking.  Maybe even the spider too.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How do you Unwind on the Weekends?

After a long week at work, what do you do to unwind, shed off the work week and try to enjoy the time off before you have to think about putting on your worker bee hat again?

Is this what you feel like after the end of your work week?

Many spend their days off the same way, whether it’s time spent with family and friends or doing absolutely nothing but what interests them at a particular moment or catching up on chores they get behind on during the week.

Others might have something new to look forward to…maybe a wedding, or baby shower, or even the birth of a baby.  Special occasions are always a great way to spend your free time.

So what do I do to unwind?
Some who know me might think I never relax.  In all honesty, maybe I don’t until I actually go to bed to sleep.  But what others might see as constant movement is often times exactly what I need to help me relax.

Whether I write, read, work a Sudoku puzzle, put together a puzzle, work on my scrapbooks, work out in my raised gardens or rose garden, take a walk, cross stitch, or play games with my husband and my kids, all those activities and more keep me moving and thinking but are also relaxing. 
This weekend has started out with one of my favorite activities…playing board games with my family.  With my husband, my boys and two guests, we had a fun time playing both Pictionary and PayDay.  Yes, the games may sound old school but my kids actually enjoy them.

While much of the weekend will involve chores outside, I am really looking forward to it because we have been promised some great weather.  We have to enjoy it while we can, as the rain is always right around the corner.  I am making plans on what I want to do with my gardens this year so I’m excited to come up with some new ideas.  I’m also looking forward to cleaning up more of the limbs left over from our January ice storm.  That clean-up job has taken way too long.
Whether you stay busy all weekend or do nothing worth writing about the full 48 hours, I hope you get the chance to relax, take a load off, unwind, uncork, unravel…whatever best fits your results, and I hope you get to take advantage of your free time so you feel as if you’ve accomplished something, even if you didn’t do anything.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where are You on the Web?

I wasn’t planning to post tonight because I thought I’d go relax in front of the tube once I got a good amount of editing completed.  However, before my shows saved on the DVR could tempt me from my office, I had to check out what our task was for the Platform Challenge today.

Yesterday was Day 9 and I’ll admit I flunked that task.  We were asked to respond to at least three tweets from other tweeps on Twitter.  For now I have opted out of the Twitter task which, I guess, makes me a twerp.
But I’m glad to say I did not flunk today’s task. 

Today we were asked to do a little research on the web…on ourselves.
This was a task I could not resist.  I love research and I enjoy searching for people.  I’ve done this before, just to see how people were finding me and my investigative agency but I hadn’t yet run a search on myself since I started my blog or my alter-ego writer Facebook page. 

I’m still in the infant stage when it comes to my blog and especially to the newest Facebook page so the results were interesting.  I searched using Google, Bing and Yahoo and I also played with some others Brewer suggested: DuckDuckGo, Dogpile, Yippy and  
I first ran a search just using my name as I have been using it in my blog and my Facebook page.  Yahoo gave me a big goose egg, Bing listed a bunch of other Paula’s who use Facebook or LinkenIn while Google listed someone else with my name who had died!  The only saving grace is that Google listed my actual Facebook page…at about #6.

So I tried another tactic.  I searched for myself with the word “writer” after my name.  I’m very happy to say my blog was listed as number one on Bing and Yahoo but curious enough, it was in the number two spot on Google underneath my Facebook page. 
Next I searched my name with the word “blog” after it and that pushed me down to #2 on both Bing and Yahoo and all the way down to #9 on Google.  Even though my Facebook page was #1 on Google, my blog was pushed below articles about someone else with a similar name that had been arrested.  Isn’t that nice?   Now, I’m getting a bit concerned.  After all, I’m using Blogger, by Google, yet it is Bing and Yahoo who have my blog at the top of the list while Google does not.

I decided to try the other web pages Brewer suggested.  Using “writer” as the key word with my name, my blog was in the first or second spot on DuckDuckgo, Dogpile and also Yippy.  Apparently, has no idea who I am because I was nowhere to be seen on that list.
One of the things I’ve learned when it comes to blogging and social media in general is that it can take quite awhile before it catches on.  Blogging itself is not a quick fix to get your motor running but instead it is a very slow Sunday drive.  Traffic might go up and down at times, your race might quicken at the unexpected rise in readers after you have offered an intriguing post everyone seems to appreciate but it can takes months and months and even more months before you gain the real momentum you are looking for.

Speaking of that, my professional identity has been on the web for years now so I decided to search for my other persona, the investigator, to see where that compared to my new writing and blogging personality.  I did not have a business website and I did not blog as a P.I. but the proof is in the pudding, I’ll say.  As I searched my name with the investigator title, each web search offered pages and pages of links to sites who say they know about me (they really don’t).  My business has been around for more than 10 years so it’s no surprise to see many websites offering what they believe is useful information about my business. 
But something did surprise me.

I discovered my name had been included in a Court of Appeals opinion after the defendant in a rape case I worked filed an appeal when the jury found him guilty.  It’s not surprising that I was unaware of the document, as the attorneys who handle the appeals do not usually need to make contact with me regarding a case, but it was interesting to see my name brought up as the defendant offered a list of the reasons he was requesting a new trial (not because of something I did/didn't do, if you are curious). 
You just never know what you may find but this was a fun and very useful task for me.  You can imagine I will now be looking at ways to make sure Google keeps me at the top of the list where it concerns my blog.  I’m sure Brewer will also be offering some suggestions on how to make that happen but if he doesn’t, I’ll be researching for some advice on that issue. 

If you’ve never searched for yourself and you do have some type of presence on line, try it and see what you come up with.  You might also have fun as well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Motivation fueled by Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration?  What keeps you motivated? 

It’s so easy to be inspired and even motivated when you do something you enjoy, but not so much when what you need to accomplish is something you’d rather put off indefinitely.
So if you’d rather be doing something other than what you’re doing, how do you stay inspired and remain motivated?  Motivation gives you the incentive to want to do something while inspiration stimulates your creative thoughts and activities.  If you are motivated enough, will you remain inspired in the task at hand or do you need inspiration to remain motivated?

To be inspired means to be motivated by something but do the two usually go hand in hand?  Motivation can be based on positive and even negative reasons while inspiration, by definition, is a positive factor.  I believe it is possible to feel motivation without inspiration but difficult to ignore motivation if you truly feel inspired.
Our day jobs (or night jobs, for that matter) are probably the best example of what keeps us motivated.  We work to make money because money is what pays the bills, allows us to stay in our homes, puts our kids through school and offers some guarantee we can afford to continue to drive our gas-guzzling vehicles; although, let’s be honest, these days any vehicle is a gas guzzler with the gas prices the way they are.  We also work to take care of our children, our spouses, and maybe even our elderly parents.  We may not be completely inspired by what we do but we have a reason to remain motivated.

It’s important to be motivated but we can do so much more when we also feel inspired.  Motivation fed by inspiration can only lead to positive results.  So how do you remain completely attentive and inspired in the present while also working towards where you would like to be in the future? 
I’m sure everyone has their own idea of how to respond to that question and that’s because it is probably a different answer for every person.  Many will offer advice about what inspires them and what keeps them motivated.  Rather than offer my own advice, I’ll provide to you a quote I believe fairly articulates some of what I’m trying to say:

“Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant.  There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.”  Johann Gottfried Von Herder
I found the spark needed to ignite the fuel in me because writing is my inspiration.  It is what also motivates me. 

There are so many reasons we are motivated to do what we do but so that inspiration fuels your motivation, find what inspires you and in doing so you will find what ignites the fuel in you. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Platform Challenge, Days 7 & 8

Happy Easter!  I am satisfied after a nice family dinner and I’m tired after a nice long walk to work off some of the extra calories I ate but I’m thankful for what I consider a very nice Easter holiday.

So today, I’m posting just because rather than about anything in particular. 

I know what you’re thinking…I’m slacking from the Platform Challenge.  Well, I’m taking a break, sort of, only because I’m opting out when I choose to do so.  I posted yesterday with regard to our task for Day 6 of the Platform Challenge but so that I do reveal what my tasks were for both Day 7 and Day 8, here they are:
Day 7 was to add share buttons to our blog by using a particular site at – while they might offer some analytics that I might enjoy accessing, for now I’m happy with what Blogger offers me so I’m sticking with the status quo for now. 

Day 8 was to create a LinkedIn profile.  I’m opting out of this task for the same reason I decided to wait on creating a Twitter account.  I may change my mind before the 30 days are up but for now I’m happy managing what I have while I also work on my book projects.
Now, I’d like to share with you are few sights I saw over the weekend.  I thought I’d share with photos too.

First, meet Spunky…my mother-in-law’s new dog.  I hope I got his name right…I kept confusing him by calling him Spunky, Sparky and also Chunky (his old name).
I met him for the first time yesterday and after circling around me for about five minutes, he finally warmed up to me and sat in my lap only to fall asleep.  I generally like big dogs better than small ones but his personality warmed my heart and the fact that he’s become such a good companion for my mother-in-law makes him very special in my book.

Here’s a side shot of his Mohawk…for some reason he reminds me of a Gremlin.

This next shot is what I love to see during the spring…blossoms galore.  This is a tree/plant farm near our family’s farm and I’ve always been partial to the pink blossoms.

Blossoms in Bloom

Spending time with loved ones is even better when they reside in an area with awesome views.  Here’s a shot of our State Capital:
WA State Capital

And here is one of Mt. Rainier, although the clouds above made the view a bit hazy and not as clear as it might be otherwise:

Mt. Rainier

As I said earlier, my day ended with a nice long walk after dinner.  The trails were nice, unobstructed and well-maintained.  I truly appreciate the time and effort someone has put into these walking trails.  When the trails were made, they kept in mind that hills can get tricky so these steps were a nice addition. 

I hope you enjoyed your day.  I’ll be back for more serious writing tomorrow.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Platform Challenge, Day 6

I am a day late in posting the task for Day 6 of the Platform Challenge but I have a very good reason.  Yesterday was a work day, of course, but after work my husband took me out to dinner and there is no way I’m saying no to a night out with my husband.  Since he too started a new job recently and his days off do not always match my own, we have to take advantage of whatever time together we can squeeze out of any given week.

You might wonder why I didn’t get right on the computer when we arrived home after dinner but going to dinner is just the beginning to a night out.  Once we arrive home we don’t separate and do our own thing, me on the computer and he in front of the television in his recliner…I’m glad to say after being together for 25 years we still like spending time together.  No, we take advantage of the time we have and we do something we’ve done ever since the very first day we ever met…
We play games.

I’m sure that’s exactly what you were thinking - I’ll give you a minute to get your mind out of the gutter.
Seriously, we love to play games, whether it’s cribbage, Mario Kart, cards, pool, board games, it doesn’t matter.  We both love to compete.  The very first day I ever met my soon-to-be husband was while I was playing a game of pool and he instantly fell in love with me when he saw I could shoot bank shots (I’m not joking).  I don’t think he realized at the time just how competitive I was when he challenged me to a game…can you guess who won? 

So I took the night off from writing but now I’m ready to get back to it.  The task for Day 6 was to read a blog post that spoke to us and then leave a thoughtful comment on it.  I scoured the list of blogs I read regularly and semi-regularly and I have to admit, none of them jumped out at me or really spoke to me…
Until I read Dale Mayer’s blog post on Magical Musings titled Easter – a new beginning!

Why did this particular post strike me when others did not? 
It wasn’t about writing, or building my platform, or how to finally finish editing my book.  It was about change and Easter and what this time means for you.

Dale spoke of the fact that changes in her life seem to always happen around Easter, for one reason or another.  Due to that fact, she looks at this time of year as a time to reflect on how she is doing with regard to her plans, her goals and her dreams.   
When Dale spoke about how the biggest changes seem to happen to her around Easter, she made me think about all the change that has occurred for me and my family the past six months…I have a new job, my husband has a new job, my oldest son has a new job and is also attending college, I wrote a book, I started a second book, and I created my blog.  The changes have been good but the varying schedules have been difficult to get used to for all of us.  I have never really been good with change and I’ve done my best to alter my attitude about change but this weekend hit a new nerve. 

What nerve could be struck during what should be such a pleasant holiday weekend? 
It was disappointment and even sadness when I realized my husband would not be celebrating Easter with me and the boys for the first time in 19 years.  It has been a traditional holiday for us and for the first time in my boys’ life, their dad will not celebrate the holiday with us because he has to work.  A new job means new hours.  The boys are old enough to understand but for me, it is a huge change in our routine for this holiday and not one I was taking lightly.

But then Dale went on to remind us that life is what we make it.  I could be miserable about the change and show my sadness about the fact that my husband was not spending the holiday with us or I could suck it up and enjoy the fact that I still get to spend the morning with my boys and the afternoon with family members who I enjoy spending time with. 
It’s all in the attitude and how you show your appreciation for what you have been given, rather than showing disappointment for what you feel has been taken from you.

How about you?  Have you read something recently that struck a chord when you least expected?  Did it cause you to seriously review your attitude towards anything in particular?  If so, share the post, whether it’s here or with others through your own social media.  You never know who else might appreciate it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Platform Challenge, Day 5

After feeling tired from a day at the office, I’m now beginning to catch my second wind.  I think it helps that the light coming through my home office window is a wonderful bright glow, what you get just before or just after a big rain storm comes through.  We had some rain but what we also had was quite a hail storm.  It was an enjoyable sight, really, as I watched the hail hit the ground and bounce continuously like little rubber balls.  Even now, as I glance outside, the ground is still covered in white.  But what I also see down the road are some nasty looking clouds…it would appear the bright glow may soon disappear in place of more rain. 

So I’m betting you have no clue what today’s platform challenge might be, correct? 
Well, it wasn’t to give you a weather update, I can assure you.

Today I can actually say the challenge was a breeze.  (Sorry, couldn’t help yet another reference to weather.)  Why was it so easy?  Because the task for today was to create a blog!  I already have my blog up and running so now, rather than work at creating a blog, I get to actually create a blog post.
If this is your first time visiting my blog, let me introduce myself…I am a writer, a mother, a wife, a legal assistant, a private investigator (no joke), and after a few months at the task I feel I can also call myself a blogger.  I finished writing my first book the end of last year and while I continue to work on editing that book I am also writing a second book.  I began my blog on New Year’s Eve when I finally decided to let the cat out of the bag about my interest in writing and becoming a published author.  Not many knew my secret about wanting to be a writer but even fewer knew I was actually working on a book.  This blog was a way of putting myself out there and it was also put in place to help me remain accountable to the schedule and the goals I still hope to achieve.

I will admit to a huge amount of fear at putting myself out there with a blog.  Now everyone could follow along with me as I continued on my journey as a writer.  Of course, all the thoughts in my head weren’t, What will I do if I succeed? How will I manage my new life as a famous author?  No, those thoughts weren’t even close.  It was more like, What if I fail?  What if I go through all this and can’t even publish a book?  What if no one likes the way I write?  What if no one likes my blog?
Ugh!  Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not being liked…they are all feelings I wish we could completely ignore.

There is a great quote by Steven Spielberg… “I had to get over my fear of running through the world naked and learn to say, ‘take me or leave.’”
And Spielberg is right.  Do what you love to do, even at the risk of exposing too much of yourself.  If others don’t like it, don’t let that deter you.  I decided not to let the fear of the “what if’s” hold me back so I posted my first blog, put myself out there and kept on writing.

And then the day job came along…
Writing is not an easy task when you have other obligations throughout the day but I was self-employed and was able to manage my time on the job and at my desk writing so that I could spend an adequate amount of time on each.  I have been self-employed as a private investigator working in criminal defense for over 12 years but then life threw a curve ball and changes had to be made.  A job became available with a group who I had already been working with and I decided it would be beneficial to accept the position.  Taking the full-time office job meant my writing schedule would be greatly affected but I have continued to remain focused and very goal-oriented.  While the past six weeks on the new schedule have taken some getting used to, I have done a fairly good job at mapping out a new writing schedule and sticking with it.

So there you have it.  I am a writer, an aspiring author, some might call me a dreamer or say my head is in the clouds, but if you read my very first post, When Dreams Wake You Up, or my follow-up post, Don’tlet Life rule your Passion, you will see why I stopped dreaming and woke up so that I could fulfill my dreams and finally do what it is I completely enjoy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Platform Challenge, Day 4

Day 4 of the challenge will be my first hiccup. 

What do I mean by that? 
If you’ve read my first three posts about the platform challenge, you’ve seen how good I’ve been about getting the tasks done.  They took some time and some thought but they were tasks I found to be helpful as I attempt to follow Brewer’s advice on platform building.

However, I don’t always do what I’ve been told to do.
That trait comes with age, experience, a defiant personality…whatever you want to call it.  It might also have something to do with the fact that I’m an Aries.

But that’s beside the point.
I’ve decided to skip tonight’s task because the task is to create a Twitter account.  I don’t use Twitter and I never have.  To create an account now would be like buying myself a new set of golf clubs…neither would ever get used! 

As much as I want to stay on task with the platform building challenge, this task will have to wait until I feel comfortable using a Twitter account, should that day ever occur.
So I’m taking the night off from platform building tasks but I’ll be back again tomorrow to see what day 5 of the challenge has in store for me.

Good night everyone.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Platform Challenge, Day 3

I’ve never blogged three days in a row…this challenge is doing wonders for me or it’s going to completely wear me out, I’m not quite sure.  As long as you don’t get tired of reading what I have to say, I guess it’ll be okay.

Now that doesn’t mean I’ll continue to blog every day, even to keep up with this challenge but my intent is to finish the platform challenge Robert Brewer threw at us and daily blogging may be what it takes.  I don’t want to get too far behind on the tasks because I might not be able to catch up.
So, what’s the task for today?  I am happy to say the task was so easy I didn’t have to lift a finger.  Well, I guess I had to lift my finger(s) just to type this post so it has taken some effort but the task itself was easy…

We just had to create a Facebook page. 
Mine is already done! 

Brewer suggests having a public Facebook page.  Why?  He believes we should be easy to locate and easy to contact.  Eventually, as writers, he’s hoping that we become worth contacting.  I’ll argue that I’m worth contacting now, but I guess that’s besides the professional point of view.
Regardless of what Brewer suggests, I don’t want to make my Facebook page public.  My Facebook page is for me, my family and my friends.  I guess its possible Brewer may be asking us to create a completely separate Facebook page for our writing.  Well…shoot!  I bet that’s what he meant!

I’ll be right back…
Okay, I’m back.  Here I thought I had the night off from working at another task after what has already been a very long day.  I’m not sure I want yet another account to manage but I’ve completed the task and created a new Facebook page (using the new Timeline; not sure yet if I like it).  This will be a public page just for writing so you can find me under Paula J Howell.  I’m not sure how much I’ll post on a regular basis but for any newbie writers and authors out there, I’d love to network with you so find me, like me and post on my page.  I’d enjoy hearing what challenges you have faced and what you have been able to accomplish.

Thanks for tagging along with me as I participate in this challenge.  Until tomorrow…

Monday, April 2, 2012

Platform Challenge, Day 2

Day 2 of the platform challenge is to set your goals, both in the short-term and the long term.  One of my main goals is fairly obvious…I wish to finish editing my book and get it published and then I wish to finish my second book and get that one published and so on and so on.

It’s pretty straight forward as far as I’m concerned.
But what would I list when it comes to both short-term and long-term goals?

Well, first off, you might wonder what difference this makes when it comes to the platform challenge.  In his post for Day 2 of the April Platform Challenge, Robert Brewer maintains that defining and creating goals are important steps in platform development and that a successful platform strategy should communicate who you are and get you to where you would like to be.
That’s a fair statement, don’t you think?

He also says: if you don’t have any goals then you don’t have any direction or purpose for your platform.
I also agree with that statement, not only when it comes to platform building but in all aspects of life.  Without goals it is difficult to find direction or purpose.

So what are my short-term goals?  Well, to complete this challenge, for one.  To get through my birthday this month without having any negative thoughts about what goals I wish I had reached by this time already.  To finish the very last edit I hope to ever have to take part in on my first book so that I can move towards publishing this summer.  To plant another garden this year and find the time to tend it so the weeds don’t take control.  To finish with my second book so it too can move towards publishing by the end of the summer.
Based on my short-term goals, it appears I’ll be very busy this summer!

What are my long-term goals?  To have a number of books written and published.  To be able to spend more time writing and less time working.  To see both of my sons live a good life as they move on towards whatever goals they hope to accomplish in life.   To enjoy life and know that whatever I’ve done, I’ve done well.  And last but certainly not least, to grow old with my husband. 
I don’t think that’s too much to ask, is it?  There are many goals you can strive for and hope to accomplish – some you may have control over, some you may not.  Either way, it doesn’t hurt to have tunnel vision when you have goals in mind.  You just have to remember that sometimes you may come up to a fork or a “T” in the road and whether you take another path or stay the course, if your goals are squarely centered and you keep control of your focus, you will eventually get there... even if it takes a detour or two.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Platform Challenge I’ll Accept

I have decided to take on a challenge offered by another blogger so bear with me if I post odd bits and pieces here on my blog throughout the month of April.  The challenge is called the April Platform Challenge and the challenger is Robert Lee Brewer, Senior Content Editor with Writer’s Digest Community and the author of the blog My Name is Not Bob. 

Why am I taking the challenge?  Well, Robert’s intention is a good one…he hopes to help writers build their online platforms and he has offered this month-long challenge in an attempt to do just that.
Plus, there’s a prize.

What’s the prize?  Don’t get your hopes up, it’s not money.  It’s a book.  But not just any book.  It’s the 2012 Writer’s Market Deluxe Edition edited by none other than Robert Lee Brewer himself.  From the way Robert describes the book, it will be a very handy resource for someone such as myself.
But if I don’t win the book, that’s okay.  The real prize is what might happen should this challenge do what Robert hopes…help writers build their platforms.

So I may post to my blog whatever challenge has been given to us for the day – yes, he’s asking us to do something every single day – but since I only post three times a week, what you’ll see might be daily posts, or they may be sporadic as I share only the ones I wish to share or they may be thrown at you in bulk as I try to play catch up.  I guess it’ll be interesting to see what happens as I have no clue what types of tasks Robert will request of us the rest of this month.
I will post here the first task of the challenge, which you would think at first glance should not be too difficult.  However, if you aren’t used to talking about yourself or having to describe yourself, it is more difficult than you can imagine. 

The first task was this - Day 1:  Define yourself. 
Here goes…

Name:  Paula J Howell
Position:  Legal Assistant with public defender’s office, self-employed private investigator, writer aspiring to become published, editor/writer for local sports booster club, and blogger.

Skills:  creative, organized, investigations, report writing, interviewing, newsletters, multitasking, and crafts by hand of all sorts.
Social media platforms:  Blogger, Facebook

Accomplishments:  I put myself through college; I worked as a legal assistant at a law firm for 9 years before branching out to get my license and open my own business as a private investigator; I have owned and operated my own P.I. business, specializing in criminal defense for 12 years; I’m still a defense investigator but am now also working full time as a legal assistant with the public defender’s office; I have raised two wonderful boys; I met and married my soul mate (I wish this for everyone) and after 25 years the love is still strong; I finished my first book in 4 months after making the decision to finally put my ideas on paper (but I’m still editing the darn thing); and I’m also now working on my second book.

Interests:  my family, writing, reading, scrapbooking, photography, gardening, my dogs, birds, road trips, and the little things in life we sometimes overlook in this fast-paced world.
In one sentence, who am I?  I am a wife and a mother who currently works as a legal assistant with the public defender’s office but who is also a licensed P.I. on the side as well as a writer and blogger in the leftover hours of the day who is attempting to build a platform while aspiring to become published.

That one sentence is quite a mouthful but it pretty much says it all. 
If you had to describe yourself, would it be easy or difficult?  Would you appreciate the positives of what you have accomplished or would it make you see the areas in your life where you’d like to accomplish more? 

Try it and see what you come up with.
And if you are a writer or you are trying to build your own online platform, be sure to check out Robert’s blog and get in on the challenge yourself!