Friday, January 30, 2015

5 Research Tips for Writing

I'll admit it--I know very little about real writing. All of the 'how-to' books and online experts I've read stress the importance of 'writing what you know'. That's the problem. I could fill volumes with what I don't know.

Did I let that stop me? For about twenty years I told myself that I couldn't write because I didn't know anything useful.

Write what you know, but if you don't know. . .research, research, research. Don't let not knowing stand in your way. Do your homework, look it up, find out.

I enjoy researching so much that I have to be careful not to let it turn into an excuse for putting off the reason for the research--my writing.

Research Tip #1: Is there something you have always wanted to know more about? Make a list. What is it you really want to know? Narrow it down. I love history in general, but I wanted to know more about my great grandmother and her life as a nineteenth century midwife.

Research Tip #2: Write yourself a list of questions about your topic. Be specific. These questions become your research goals.  If you want to write fiction, include 'what if'' questions.

Research Tip #3: Keep an assignment/research log. Write your assignments from your questions/goals list. Log the books or articles you read alongside your assignments to prevent duplication of efforts. Keep a copy of the author and publisher information so you can reference it later in footnotes and bibliographies.

Research Tip #4: Make a list of possible resources. Your local library and the Internet are obvious resources and they can lead to more resources. You can access almost any university library from the Internet. Are there any living experts you could interview? Check out local museums. If you can afford to travel take your camera. Document your pictures as soon as possible. If you can't afford to travel take a virtual tour on the Internet. Collect pictures, maps and satellite images.

Research Tip #5: Collecting pictures, maps and research generates a lot of clutter. Find a filing system that works best for you. You need to be able to relocate your research on any given subject to save yourself  time and frustration. Think about what you need and how you'd like to organize all of your information. For every different book I start I want to be able to divide my research into categories; 19th century daily life, places, politics, the economy, cultural aspects, pictures and maps, etc. And it  is important to me to be able to add to each category as I go along.

Some authors prefer to fill up legal pads with notes from books or Internet sources. You can see I'm about to  lose my first page, I couldn't turn the pages, I had to flip them over. Big deal? It was for me, and impossible to organize.

Other authors choose to take notes in composition notebooks. The pages are more convenient, but I still could not segregate my research.

Still others like to take notes on index cards. This allows you to keep research categories separate and add information to each category as information becomes available. You can add index tabs to organize and file your research making it easier to retrieve. With this method I wasted a lot of time copying down information I had already printed.

I do like to use my index card app I put on my iPad. I use each card for plot structure outline and then fill in the gaps. There are programs like Scrivener, but I haven't made the time to trial yet. It works better with MACs than PCs. My son-in-law likes to use Ywriter5.

What finally worked for me is the binder method. I elaborate in my next post.

What method do you prefer?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

4 Tips to get Three Loads of Laundry put away in Less than 30 Minutes so You Can Get Back to Your Book!

Ridiculous? Who does that? Who finds thirty, uninterrupted minutes?

Welcome to our Time management series--4 Tips to get three loads of laundry put away in under 30 minutes because there are books to read and posts to write.

1--Fold as soon as possible after the clothes are dry. Hang up clothes right out of the dryer.
2--Use a large, clean, flat surface to fold. It helps if it is waist high. I use the top of my bed which sometimes causes a backache.
3--Make it a game. Time yourself. Fold without distractions.

The most important tip of all:                                                     

Wait for your kids to grow up and move out.

Fold without distractions? Really? Haha, not on this planet.

I am not an efficiency expert, but when my kids were little we had a full house--5 kids, 3 dogs, and at various times, hamsters, guinea pigs, parakeet, a turtle, a cat, and a never-ending supply of laundry.

Did you know that for every child and/or pet you add to your family, the laundry grows exponentually?

While I'd fold clothes in one room, the kids would get into something far out of my reach. The level of noise was proportional to the amount of trouble; the quieter they were they more trouble they were in.

But there is something you can do.

When I went back to work full time my oldest was eight, and my youngest was six months. My husband and I taught our two oldest kids how to do their own laundry as a matter of survival.

Yes, this requires supervision, but a little time invested at the beginning pays off later.

We gave each child their own laundry basket and their very own day to do their laundry. We pulled a chair up to the washing machine and taught them how to sort, what settings to use and how much soap to add. We also taught them how to use the dryer and they learned to be responsible to move their own laundry. I don't remember any major mishaps but there were a few melted crayons.

Many hands make light work and kids learn survival skills, giving you both more time to snuggle up and read a favorite story together.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Time and Season

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, right? Theoretically, that is true, but to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. ~Ecclesiastes 3: 1

Time management looks differently, now that I am a grandma, compared to when I was a young mom of five busy kids. I have more time to myself, but it seems to zip by so much faster.

I'm not an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, but here are a few things I've learned that might help in whatever season you find yourself.
  • Reduce and Simplify your life. De-clutter wherever possible.
  • Take stock of your daily routine--eliminate the unnecessary. It's ok to say no sometimes.
  • Do the 'have to dos' first. My mom always said, "Work first, play later."
  • Delegate whenever possible. Teach your kids to be responsible for their own chores. Make it fun. Time yourselves and see what you can get done in 10 or 15 minutes, then reward well, not in food, but with a privilege, or a fun field trip together.
  • Combine trips--saves time and gas.
  • Utilize small snippets of time when you have to wait (carpools, doctors offices, etc).
    • Always keep pencil and paper handy to collect quirky characters, bits of dialogue, different speech patterns, and sensory details.
    • Use spare time to sort out plot details, ask the 'what if', 'why', and 'what next' questions.
    • If you have a smartphone check your emails or update your blog.
  • Learn ways to save on meal preparation.
    • I love my crockpot for this very reason. I can set it, forget it, and continue working.
    • Make ahead freezer meals. A one day time investment can yield a month's worth of dinners. All you have to do is thaw and cook or throw it in your crockpot.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review of Calvin Sparks and the Crossing to Cambria by Rusty Anderson

I absolutely love the cover of this book. It's charming and alluring at the same time. Magic practically spills from the open door as it invites you in.

Calvin Sparks and the Crossing to Cambria by Rusty Anderson
Genre: Fantasy, Action-Adventure, YA
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Content: Clean

“I told you,” said Perry. “I told you we’d find it.” Calvin smiled and shook his head at Perry.
“You were right, Calvin,” Anna said, standing in awe. “You were absolutely right.”

For years, Calvin's grandfather has told him stories about a cabin deep in the woods that holds an amazing secret. Then one day Calvin and his two best friends find the cabin. Inside they discover more than just the world's coolest clubhouse. This is The Crossing—a magical portal that takes them to another world.

Soon all three are in Cambria, a fantastic world filled with bizarre people, wonderful food, real magic, and even dragons! There Calvin learns that his family has a secret history and he’s swept up in the same dangerous mission that got his father killed thirteen years ago.

Can Calvin, Anna, and Perry stand up to the evil sorcerer Galigore and his grotesque minions? Or is Calvin doomed to follow in his father’s footsteps? This epic adventure story is perfect for kids and parents alike. Full of action, adventure, mystery, and magic, it’s an entertaining read that will keep you guessing.

My thoughts?
Magical and full of adventure, I found it difficult to put down. It has it all, good and evil, dragons, folklore. I got into the main characters easily; they could be my neighbor's kids. Their friendship seemed very organic. Sometimes though, I questioned their dialogue. Some of their vocabulary seemed like it didn't belong to thirteen-year-old kids.

The author did a great job of world building. I explored the woods right along with the kids.

This was a very good book, but it could be a great book. It has great potential and at least three books in the series. I can easily see this becoming a movie.

However, I was a little disappointed in the editing, but I may have been given an ARC. I found the number of repetitive phrases throughout the story very distracting. The other stuff can be overlooked for the sake of a really good tale.

Nevertheless, I know my grandkids will love reading this book.


About the author:
Rusty discovered his passion for writing at an early age. When he was in the fourth grade he was given an assignment to write, illustrate, and bind a book. He liked it so much, he wrote three––most of which were pretty awful. One of those books, however, received accolades at a district writing competition.
Originally from California, Rusty is no stranger to apple boxes and packaging tape. He attended three different middle schools and two different high schools between California and Utah. He lived in Guatemala, learned to speak Spanish, and eventually made his way back to Utah, where he graduated from the University of Utah. Rusty’s first job out of college was the editor of a monthly Utah newspaper. For the past thirteen years he has been working in graphic design and marketing.
On the weekends, Rusty stays up late playing games and watching movies with his family. He and his wife, Jayne, reside in the beautiful mountains in Heber Valley with their six children.
For more information about me, check out my website:

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Review of The Provident Prepper by Kylene and Jonathon Jones

How are your New Year's Resolutions coming along?

If you've ever thought about getting your home and supplies in order, January is a great time to get organized. The Christmas rush is over, and it's too cold to stay outside for long. In fact, January can be rather dull at our house.

The Provident Prepper by Kylene and Jonathon Jones can help you with that. This book is a great step by step tool written by a husband and wife team.

They explain every type of disaster you can think of and the consequences we might have to deal with; things that really hadn't entered my mind. Then they outline what you can do ahead of time. It is a great book to educate yourself and your family.

This is not the type of book that makes you think you have to rush right out and empty the store of their supplies and food, or buy products manufactured by the authors.

The part I liked the most was the very honest day-to-day journal they kept when they tried to live as if they were surviving on their own supplies, and the things they learned as a result. One thing especially popped out at me was the mental stress and frustration when having to learn how to do normal, everyday things differently without the usual conveniences we so easily take for granted.

New Year's Resolutions? This is a great time to take advantage of the knowledge in this book and get your family organized.