Dec 31, 2015

What Kind of Goal Maker Are You?

By Susan Allred

Several days ago, Marsha Ward discussed some of her writing goals for the upcoming year. As I read her blog, I got to thinking about what I will be doing in 2016.

I'm totally into goals. I have pages and pages of goals...or to-do lists...or both, strewn all over my house. It's a running joke in our family. My husband refuses to sit down with me when I'm bit by the goal-making bug for fear I will suck him into my frenzy. Instead, he rolls his eyes and exits the room as quickly as humanly possible, hoping I don't follow with pen and paper in hand.

At any given time, I have a list of financial goals, spiritual goals, educational goals, family goals, fitness goals, writing goals, etc. There are so many, I couldn't possibly hope to achieve them all in one year. But to me, it's more about organizing all my thoughts onto paper and focusing on what's truly important. Writing down desired outcomes helps me avoid the shiny penny syndrome which, admittedly, happens way more often than I'd care to admit.

This year, I'm opting to depart from my preferred methods, instead weeding through the cacophony of demands on my time to choose only three major goals. It's been nerve-wracking, but I've managed. I figure everything achieved beyond those goals will be icing on the metaphorical cake.

This year my goals are:
  1. Go to the temple six times.
  2. Hit goal weight.
  3. Submit my first book to be published.
These will be written on a piece of paper and they won't get lost in the clutter of daily life. They'll stand like sentinels on my wall – big and bold – reminding me of my priorities and where my time and energy should be focused.

As you step in to the new year, what do you hope 2016 will have in store for you? Are your goals lofty and scary? Or is the goal to simplify and enjoy life more? Do you even make goals at the beginning of the year?

I'd love to hear what you have hope to achieve this year. It's exciting to hear the different stages each person is at in their lives and to cheer them on along the way. May 2016 be filled with adventure, happiness, love and peace. Happy New Year!!

Dec 26, 2015

What I love about Christmas

By Cassie Shiels

I love Christmas time. I know it is the same for many people and I am sure their reasons are similar to my own. I love the lights, I like snow (most of the time) I love all the fun treats, I love the music and I love sharing the joy and excitement with my kids.

My favorite time during Christmas time is Christmas eve. That night when I was little we decided to make extra special. It's what we all look forward to the most. One year when we were small we decided that we wanted to do a special performance for my parents. It would be a present from all of us. So we found some funny song and preformed to it. The laughter and joy we saw on our parents faces made a tradition out of it, and for every year since then we have added to our night.

We now read Luke 2 and act out the Christmas nativity story and we perform our kids' program as we call it. It makes for a fun night that we plan and plot all year long. We may look goofy but the whole idea is to make our parents smile. We do something different every year, which is causing us to keep getting more and more creative. We are adding the grandkids in to perform with us and it just keeps getting better because of that.

Isn't that what Christmas time should be about more? Bringing a light, a smile, a gut full of joy and laughter?

I like all the presents and things too. We do put out cookies and hot cocoa for Santa and do all of those fun things too. But nothing is better for us then seeing our parents eyes light up.

We had a fun year this year and as usual we got our parents to laugh and smile, as we dressed up as elves and sang, "we are Santa's elves," in goofy costumes. It was awesome!

How was your Christmas?

What is your favorite part of Christmas time?

How do you find your smiles and laughter?

Dec 24, 2015

A Picture of Christmas

by Kari Diane Pike

Delicate sugar cookies covered in mounds of icing and piled with red and green sprinkles (How does a five-year-old figure out how to get it all stay on there?).
Chewy ginger molasses cookies drizzled with white chocolate.
Hand-dipped chocolates--strawberry cream, peppermint, butter rum, vanilla and chocolate covered cherries--nestled in white paper cups.
Lights glowing on a tree covered with thirty-something years worth of macaroni wreaths, hand print reindeer,  clothes pin ballerinas, and  collections of angels and nativities. 

The house is filled with the scent of cinnamon, oranges, and ginger. Even better, the sound of children's voices once again echoes throughout the house as all of our children and grandchildren come and go, filling the days with family activities.  I love seeing how our married children work with their spouses to blend family traditions and create their own. I also appreciate how they always manage to set aside time to fulfill my yearly desire to go caroling. I know it's not easy to drag all the little ones around, in and out of the car, over and over. 

Today we will make our yearly trek to the Phoenix Zoo and gather in the evening to eat more yummy food and share the story of the Savior's birth. I love watching the faces of our grandchildren as they discover the wonders of the earth He created just for them. A couple of weeks ago we had a video chat and talked a bit about the symbolism found in the traditions and decorations at Christmas time. Candy canes, wreaths, red and green decorations, bells, bows, gifts, angels, and even jolly old Saint Nick himself. 

The moment I saw this picture, my heart melted. My cousin gave me permission to share this photo of her children with you. The first thing I noticed was the look of wonder and joy on Adi's face. I couldn't stop thinking about Heavenly Father giving me the the gift of His Firstborn Son. 

Maybe these pictures speak to me because I know of some of the struggles that took place before they were taken. That's not my story to tell. What I can say is this: I know that God lives. I know that He sent His Son, a newborn babe, to live and love and die and live again just for me! Because of this wondrous gift, I know that no matter what happens, everything is going to turn out alright. Trials come and go, like sunrises and sunsets. And wrapped inside every challenge is a glorious gift--because He loves me.

This coming year, how am I going to show my love for Him? 

Dec 22, 2015

Making Goals for 2016

by Marsha Ward @MarshaWard

I've talked about Goals and Goal Setting before. In 2012 I suggested that our goals be obtainable, that is, that we have control over the outcomes, and in 2013, I wrote about three categories into which I had broke down my writing business-related goals for the past year. I noted that writing down the goals in an achievable fashion made them so much easier to accomplish, and that I had completed many of them and had a productive year.

I continued making goal lists in 2014 and 2015, expanding the categories and seeing a lot of forward progress and accomplishments.

For 2016, I have further refined my categories, and have a very ambitious writing and publishing program outlined for myself [Lots of prayers needed for keeping my nose to the grindstone!].

Here are the categories I've defined for 2016 and roughly what they include:

WRITE (works in progress and proposed projects)
WORK WITH OTHERS (cover designers, mostly, but also possibly audio book narrators)
PREPARE/FORMAT (mostly book bundles or new print editions, with some solo releases of previously bundled stories)
MAKE COVER FOR (upcoming releases)
PUBLISH (proposed schedule)
MARKET (expand frequency of mailings to Reader List, updating product interiors, re-doing keywords/categories)
PROMOTE (advertising and co-op sales)
INTERNET PRESENCE (blogging commitments and website upkeep)
EVENTS (what I plan to attend or where I'll present)
SERVICE (how I will give back this year)

I also outlined several business questions I have to address during the coming year.

Now, these goals still have nothing to do with my life outside of writing: my family, church commitments, educational pursuits, friends, and social events. Someday I probably will work them onto the list, but for now, my written goals still focus on the business side of my life.

What process or method do you use to set yearly goals? Does it work to help you achieve them? If not, what changes will you make for 2016?

Dec 19, 2015

Writing in December

By Cindy R. Williams

Christmas and writing. Tough when you put these two together for several different reasons.
How can a writer write when it is difficult to find the time to write:

1.  Christmas is a busy time for decorating, baking, buying gifts, making gifts, addressing cards, mailing, visiting friends . . .
2.  Then, there is the real reason for Christmas, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The only difficult thing about that, is making sure you keep the focus where it should be.

Answer:  Write a book about Christmas. Choose a POV and go. Just run with where ever it takes you.

Dec 15, 2015

Back to Non Fiction Writing

by Terri Wagner

Taking the technical and breaking it down to layman's terms is what excites me in writing. While I love, read, and appreciate fiction, my forte is non fiction. Why? Not really sure. But when I lay out a technical manual and start reading it, I start editing it in my head. Now why did you start with instructions and not explain what A, B, or C is? Why would you not begin with here is what should be included in your package? The main reason is that the engineers were writing the how to. On the surface that sounds about right. The persons in charge of creating the products ought to be the ones who tell us how to say put it together. However, most engineers will be the first to say I did not do well in English classes. And if you read their first drafts, you would believe them!

The advent of trade publications continued the confusion. The author of the article was generally the creator of the process. As a result you got a lot of information you did not need, or worse, missing information. This is because if you already know 2+2=4 you are probably not going to put that step in. And sometimes a layman following your directions needs to at least be reminded that a mathematical step has just been inserted. I saw this so very much when I worked for a trade publication.

The founder of the magazine was an engineer by trade, a writer by heart. He made a difference. His technical articles made sense to anyone who picked up the magazine, in the industry or not. His fellow engineers not so much. It reminds me a bit of common core math. If you memorize the multiplication table, you know over the years that 2x2=4. Common core math makes you draw two and then two more squares and add them up. Advantage: the memorizer. Drawing small squares will eventually take over the math problem. Although when it comes to math word problems, I could use a few artistic hints. Companies that hire "real" writers take a chance. Not everyone writes things down in sequential order. I do. I leave no step out even the most obvious. Because in reality it is not always quite so obvious.

When the technical got too technical, I had the advantage of calling the author and asking him to walk me through it. That never got old.

Bottom line: it would behoove any engineer to enlist the aide of a writer to assist him in providing technical information to both those in his field or those outside the field. It makes a difference.

Dec 12, 2015

Respecting other Artists

By Cassie Shiels

As writers we are creative people and there are various forms of creative people, the song writers, the crafters, the poets, the painters, the drawers, sculptors… etc. There are so many of us who are artists.  Usually we understand "our own kind" as it were, but sometimes just because it isn't our particular talent we don't quite understand others talents all the way.

Well I have suddenly gotten a new perspective and a growing respect and new understanding for Illustrators. I get the writers process from the initial ideas, through the many, many edits, to a product we think is finished, to more edits etc. But I never quite understood how long of a process it was for illustrators.

I recently published a new Children's book where I took on the hat of both author and illustrator. WHAT? Yeah I know. Craziness! But I knew I wanted this story to be published and I knew it needed pictures and I knew I had zero in the budget to higher and illustrator. So I went for it. And wow what a insight it was for me. It made me think that every Children's Author should try to illustrate at least one book so that they can see what I did.

The process of creating the pictures, tweaking them, the process of drawing them, coloring them, and converting them into a document to be published. It was a lot of work and it took double the time I expected. SO I am here to say hats off to Illustrators. I now get it a little better. I get why their prices are what they are. I can see how much work it is, and how the pictures can really help or hinder a story depending on what they are.

I am in no way saying I am any sort of a great artist, so I can only imagine those illustrators taking triple the time I did especially if they are painting the pictures. WOW.

I have chatted with some Illustration friends in the past and talked prices for various projects and I admit to hearing their number and my eyes bulging. I get it now friends, I get it. And they are worth it. They like us writers do so much for so little. And those who don't write don't know the countless hours we put into creating a book. The same I am sure goes for anyone who is a creative person who works on creative projects.  I may not understand all artists, but for right now I have to say to illustrators, I so respect you!

Dec 10, 2015

You Don't Get Rainbows Without a Few Storm Clouds

by Kari Diane Pike

How should I begin? Back story? The  "everything turned out okay" spoiler? Or somewhere in the middle? I already gave you the spoiler. I am alive and well. More importantly, I've had a few corners chipped off and polished - dramatically changing the lens through which I look at life.

Back up to late October -the day before my husband and I were scheduled to leave for our first trip as "empty-nesters." A doctor noticed my blood pressure was too high. When it continued to be high the next morning, I picked up a blood pressure prescription on our way out of town. And so it began.

Something didn't feel right. I didn't feel right. At first I thought it was just stress. My heart kept skipping beats and I had an uncomfortable tightness in my chest that came and went. Sometimes I would wake up in the night with a sharp pinching sensation in my chest. The Monday I started to pass out driving north on the freeway convinced me something was terribly wrong. I tried calling my cardiologist. I spoke to his triage nurse. She switched me over to scheduling. I got an answering machine. I left a message. They never returned my call.

The skipped heart beats and fluttering increased throughout the week. The pressure in my chest became more constant. I had several more fainting spells. By Friday afternoon, the pain in my chest had spread through to my back and down my left arm. My fingers started to tingle. I called (or my husband called) the triage hot line on our insurance card. She urged me to call 911. I didn't want that much attention. The hospital was close, so my husband drove me to the emergency room. A full cardiac workup showed everything to be normal, except for some minor pulmonary edema - hence the pinching sensation. When they suggested I follow up with my cardiologist and my primary care doctor, I questioned their reasoning. Didn't they just prove that everything was normal? I even asked if they thought I should talk to a PhD instead of an MD. At least I made them smile. One of the ER nurses called me at home the next day to check on me and to persuade me to make sure and get in to see my physicians. I asked her if she had any magic words that would get me in the door on such short notice. She laughed. And said no, but I should try anyway.

Fast forward through the next couple of weeks. The cardiologist's PA ordered a nuclear stress test. I talked my PCP into taking me off the new medication since that seemed to be the starting point. She went with that...and put me on a new blood pressure medication. I took it. It made me want to crawl out of my skin. She said I would get used to it. At least all the other negative reactions disappeared.

In the mean time, our BYU kids were coming home for the Thanksgiving holiday and we had planned an incredible schedule for the weekend with a family dinner, ordaining our youngest son with the Melchizedek priesthood (have I mentioned that Levi has his mission call and will be serving in the Moscow Russia mission?), taking two of our children through the temple for the first time and baptizing a grandson. 

Wednesday, my mom called and said that Dad was acting strange. He had fallen and hit his head a couple of days earlier. He said his head hurt whenever he tried to lie down, and he slept a lot. He fretted about a list of things he wanted Mom to do if he didn't wake up in the morning and even went off by himself to purchase Mom's birthday present (her birthday is in July) just in case he wasn't around by then. She took him to the emergency room where they found a couple of brain bleeds. Worrying about Dad made my morning discovery of a leaky kitchen faucet and flooded cabinet pretty trivial.
I woke up about 4:30 a.m Thanksgiving day gasping for air. I felt better sitting up, but I could feel my throat continue to swell. I prayed and felt impressed to take some Benedryl. I didn't want to ruin the day for everyone by spending another day in the ER. The Benedryl helped, but I still couldn't breathe lying down, so I had Doug take me to urgent care before everyone woke up. Drug allergies stink. On the upside, large doses of steroids gave me energy to spare. 

We had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and the ordination took place that evening. Mom called after she drove back home - and discovered she had been burglarized. The patio doors had been kicked in. The police said Mom must have scared them off when she activated the garage door opener. They snatched her brand new laptop (a beautiful red one - only a few weeks old), and damaged a couple of cabinets, but left other valuables. It could have been much worse. 

Friday and Saturday flew by as we focused on family and the temple and the baptism. One friend, upon hearing about all the drama, said "surely there's a rainbow around the corner, right?" Her comment startled me because, despite all the challenges, I was so focused on how blessed I felt to watch my children making good choices and succeed in their lives that what I saw was a few storm clouds trying to obscure my view of a glorious rainbow. After giving it more thought, I realized that without the storm clouds, I wouldn't have been able to see the rainbows. 

There's another part to this story. You see, earlier in the year I had to give up something very precious to me. And my heart was breaking. I'd spent months trying to solve problems with my vocal chords that make speaking or singing difficult. Singing a simple hymn can be painful and exhausting. Singing has always been a huge part of my life - and I had waited years to have the time to sing in a vocal ensemble with my brother Paul. Singing was huge part of my identity! I offered heartfelt prayers begging to be healed. I shed a lot of tears. Those other challenges created opportunities to serve my family and shifted my focus outward. 

My stewardship as a seminary teacher (yet another blessing I had perceived as a challenge) has also played a huge role in shaping my perspective. I love how Heavenly Father gives me answers - even humorous ones - through scripture study. For example, after a particularly difficult day, I read Numbers 11 while prepping for a seminary lesson. Moses was feeling pretty burdened by those whiny children of Israel (because who wouldn't feel overwhelmed with somewhere around a million people demanding to be fed). He took his problems to the Lord  and said something to the effect of, 
Have I conceived all these people?...whence should I have flesh to give unto all the people?...I am not able to bear all this people alone...And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in thy sight.... Numbers 11: 12-15
Can't you just picture this? How many times have I said, "Okay, Lord, just kill me now, instead of by degrees, because [insert challenge here] is really hard!" That is how my thinking went when faced with the idea of not being able to sing anymore. But my thinking has changed. I've changed. I've gained a greater testimony of prayer and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I've learned that when I focus on the light of Christ, it shines through storm clouds and reveals breathtaking rainbows. The polishing that I receive during those storms helps me reflect that light so that I can share it with others and help serve them in their time of need.

The children of Israel failed to recognize and remember the great blessings the Lord gave them. That's another part I learned. Remember. It's one thing to recognize blessings. That's important. True gratitude involves remembering - remembering who I am, why I am here and who the Lord is and what He has done for me. I am grateful for answered prayers - even when those answers come in unexpected ways.

I pray that I will always remember the blessings the Lord has heaped upon me. He always nourishes me and strengthens me and helps me accomplish everything He asks me to do and become who He created me to be. Jesus Christ is my light. He prepared the way before me and He will lead me back home to my Father in Heaven.

Life is magnificent.

Dec 8, 2015

Trust Your Creative Voice

by Marsha Ward

Do you have days where you just want to crawl back into bed?

Me too!


I think because I'm getting over a nasty sinus infection, and because I got very little sleep last night, it's a case of both. I'll just have to go with that, and give you a writing tip.


The Creative Voice comes from the part of your brain that knows how to tell stories, as opposed to your Critical Voice, which keeps you out of danger by preventing you from writing, 'cause, you know, that's too dangerous!

If you detest outlining, here's a book that may just lift you up to the stars with elation: Writing Into The Dark: How to Write a Novel Without an Outline, by Dean Wesley Smith. Yes, I did write about this book before. But after reading it, I had a scare. I couldn't find it anywhere!

Fortunately, when I went to Amazon to order another copy (yes, that's how valuable I found the book to be), I discovered that since I had purchased the print copy, I could download the ebook free!


Two days ago, I looked at the bottom shelf of a bookcase from a different angle than usual, and discovered that my print copy had slipped off something and become lodged on the bottom shelf.


Now I'm re-reading the book, and I'm highlighting crucial points in bright pink, a practice I never allow myself, except, you know, in very important cases, this being one.

Okay, I'm done, and my bed looks better than ever.

But first, tell me: Do you have to outline before you write, or do you sit down and trust that your Creative Voice will lead you into a rip-snorting good tale?

Dec 5, 2015

Time to Step Up!

by Cindy R. Williams

      Life is changing fast, and I'm going to change too. I have watched many of my writing friends indie publish both ebooks and hard-copies. I decided to jump on the bandwagon. I have been writing for some years now and stacking up the stories, with ten now complete. I will send a few out to agents but some I want to experiment with and see what this new writing world is about.
 I own my own LLC already that I use to run my music studio, and sell my two books (CHASE MCKAY DIDN'T GET UP TODAY,
and an anthology which includes a few of my short stories titled, VALUE STORIES FOR A YOUNG WOMAN.)
With my LLC, I purchased a packet of 10 ISBN numbers, and have an account set up with Lightning Source-Ingram. I have CHASE MCKAY for sell on Amazon, Barnes, and my website,
      So . . . I have a start. My platform is out there and moving forward.
     This year though, I want to learn how to format books on Create Space and Kindle. I have two great books I am studying called:



      I have been doing research by gleaning "how to" information from my ANWA friends whom have successfully indie published.
      I will continue to post what I am learning on this journey. Maybe it will help you take the plunge and get your completed and polished WIP out to the world.
      Fast changes are a comin'.  This is exciting!

Dec 4, 2015

I Survived NaNoWriMo and Lived To Tell About It

For writers, November 1st is much like January 1st is for the rest of the world. November is our month of resolutions. Many of us dig deep, take a deep breath, and resolve to write an entire novel in just
one month.

I don't know about you, but NaNoWriMo is a process for me. This year, I spent weeks pouring over different story ideas I'd jotted down, trying to find just the right one for November. Then, I plotted out in my mind where I wanted my story to go. I only have a month, after all. Every minute is precious and I'm certainly not going to waste those valuable moments sitting at the computer wondering what to write next.

Then, I declare to the world I am doing NaNoWriMo, in hopes that by declaring my intentions, I will somehow solidify my resolve to spend inordinate amounts of time typing away on the keyboard while the rest of the world buzzes on around me.

Next, I make sure to have each of my favorite writing implements. You've gotta have a notebook and at least 37 pens. You know, in case the other 36 quit working. And a pencil in case it decides to rain inside the house, or we have a Spokane, Washington...300 miles away. Well, a person can never be too prepared.

Then there are the snacks. Bottles of water, veggies, fruits, and a stash of comfort foods for the really difficult scenes when a cucumber just won't do the job of filling the gaping hole I just ripped into my heart when I killed off one of my favorite characters. And don't forget the tissues. Oh, and a garbage can, for said tissues and food wrappers. And pages ripped out of the pad of paper because all sixteen variations of the story were decidedly stupid and I decided to start over.

On the first night of NaNoWriMo, I donned my favorite pair of sweats, put my hair up in a messy bun, and locked the office door. For hours, all the family could hear was the pitter-patter of excited fingers tapping away at the keyboard. I think I finished nearly 7,000 words that first day. Wahoo!

I fell into bed at three in the morning, only to be woken up by my five-year-old three hours later to start the day. He pulled me out of bed, dragged me to the kitchen, and insisted I actually feed him breakfast. Seriously? Didn't he realized I was up all night? The nerve of that little boy! I let him live only because he's so doggoned cute. And because murder is frowned upon in certain circles.

That night, I managed another couple thousand words before I found myself falling asleep at the keyboard, leaving several rows of unintelligible characters on the screen. Sweet little five-year-old Jake was kind enough to wake me at four thirty the next morning. He must've known I had work to do. By the time I sat down at the computer that night, my eyes were crossing, and I felt a cold coming on. I logged 12 words.

Then there was the wind-storm heard around the world. 189,000 houses without power. My husband, an employee at the local utility company, logged 100 overtime hours in a week. I got to see what it's like to be a single mom. I do not recommend it. I bow in the general direction of any woman who has to raise children on her own.

And whose idea was it to put NaNoWriMo in the same month as Thanksgiving? Don't they realize there's relatives, and baking, and cleaning, and vacations from school, and children running around, and chaos to be had by all? Someone clearly did not consult me when choosing NaNoWriMo.

For whatever reason, it seemed all of my efforts
to sit and write were thwarted by some unforeseen, and a few totally expected, but ignored-until-it-was-too-late, event. By the end of the month, I logged in a paltry 24,211 words. A far cry from the number I was shooting for, but it is still 24,211 words more than I had when I started. I am right where the story gets exciting, and I try to add a few hundred more words per day.

I may not have “won” NaNoWriMo this year, but I did break through my writer's block, gain several new writing buddies, finish nearly half of my story, and managed to avoid any scenarios that would necessitate the use of my pencil. In all, I'd consider the month a success!

Dec 1, 2015

Book of Mormon in a Month

by Terri Wagner

For some years now I take this challenge. I like the idea of reading the BOM in a month (any month with 30 days will do). Somehow reading the entire book in really one setting paints a picture of a family, a land, and lessons passed down. It's tough, because if you miss a day, you are seriously behind. Take the challenge. Share your thoughts on FB. Read 8 chapters a day. Simple right? Remember you can listen to the scriptures, read them online, in your hand and enjoy the experience. The FB page to check in with your progress and enjoy others is Read the Book of Mormon Challenge.