Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

Category: Writing Life (page 1 of 4)

7 Easy Design Tricks Digital Writers Need To Know

I’m very excited to introduce you to Kayleigh Alexandra who wrote this amazing article below about ways to make your digital writing look fantastic and make it easy-to-read. This is a great post for anyone who blogs or who writes for the web. She also included some great links. One of my favorites is in the last section–alternatives to Canva. I use Canva, and I didn’t know there were alternatives! Anyway, I hope you find this useful.

Take it away, Kayleigh! 

Writers usually like to write — the clue is in the name — but the work of a digital writer is a far cry from the tapping-at-a-typewriter demands of yesteryear. It’s great having the option to be a digital nomad, yes, but content for the web (or at least digital publication) requires significantly more polish to meet the demands of readers who are capricious and rich with alternatives.

Now, some enjoy the design element to today’s copywriting, but others find it a significant obstacle that slows their progress and leaves their work looking weak relative to that of comparable writers — something tremendously frustrating to those who’d prefer to be judged by their textual output.

But worry not if you’re in the latter camp: maintaining solid design fundamentals doesn’t need to be so arduous. In this piece, we’re going to cover 7 easy tricks you can start using right away to make your digital writing work much smoother. Here we go!

Draw from your inspirations

Light bulb image credit: Pixabay

As a writer, you’re no doubt used to consuming the written word as fuel for your efforts. You gather up high-quality books, articles, and scripts, then melt them down and use the material to forge something new and different. However, you might not have thought to apply this kind of process to any design elements — you may not have even realized that you do it.

I’m quite certain of this, because I didn’t know when I started writing that I was drawing from my inspirations. The ideas had lingered in my head and jumbled together to the extent that I’d forgotten where they came from; so when I remixed them for my copy, they felt spontaneously drawn from the heavens.

When you find yourself struggling with design elements for your digital writing, do yourself a huge favor and visit some sites that do similar work. How do they structure their pieces? What shapes do they use? See what things you like and dislike; then use that information to reach conclusions about how you can design your content.

Split your content into sections

Start at the start and end at the end — that’s how I wrote to begin with, and it has its advantages, particularly if you like to get into a stream-of-conscious kind of flow. But it doesn’t suit digital writing, for the most part. When you barrel forth with no plan, the text you produce will be lacking, and the design will be incoherent.

Consider the importance of digital writing being digestible. You’re not addressing someone settling down in an armchair to read a novel, after all, but someone probably looking for fast information in a standard format, so they don’t need to put time into parsing anything.

Make this easier by laying out your sections before you get too deep into the writing. Note down where you’ll need headings and subheadings, then establish paragraph themes, and perhaps throw in some elements, such as bullet points or quoted highlights, to mix things up. Splitting your time evenly between sections will ensure that you don’t end up with an opening that’s longer than the rest of the content.

Embrace the space

Negative space is vital for digital content, whether it’s consumed on a mobile device, a laptop, or even an ebook reader. Not only are screens not as comfortable to look at as text on paper, but you also must accommodate for the required interface — the reader can’t physically turn a page, for instance.

If you have a habit of producing dense copy, try going through your first draft and spacing things out. Just split up your paragraphs wherever it makes sense to do so. You might dislike the notion of a one-sentence paragraph or the prospect of having any inconsistency, but long paragraphs are a tough sell in digital formats.

Even in this piece, aimed at writers, I’ve tried to keep the paragraphs under control. Readability isn’t something to be taken lightly!

Answer questions

Question marks image credit: Pixabay

Journalists have long had the five Ws of who, what, when, where, and why. Reducing stories to these essential components allows them to write very quickly while giving the reader what they’re invariably looking for. And though digital writing doesn’t need to stick to that rigid format, it does help greatly to address reader questions as a structuring technique.

If you’re stuck trying to puzzle through a content design, try setting out questions as headings. For an article called “The Beginner’s Guide to Cheese”, for example, you might write down “What is cheese?”, “What types of cheese are there?”, and “Where can I get cheese?” as your opening questions. Having these questions to answer will keep your copy very focused, and leave you with clear segments perfect for piecemeal digital consumption.

Use complementary colors

Even if you don’t believe in the countless color associations designers like to talk about, you can’t deny that color is important for design. Light text against a light background isn’t going to prove very effective, for a start, and using clashing colors throughout your design will likely end up giving the reader a headache and eliminating their interest in reaching the conclusion.

To find some complementary color selections, try sites like Paletton or Coolors — they’ll allow you to pick a color and immediately identify several others that will work well alongside it. Spread those colors throughout your design, and you’ll establish a nice sense of consistency.

Include relevant stock images

We’ve covered the importance of negative space and stylistic features such as bullet points, but you can (and should) also spread things out by including relevant images. Visuals are eye-catching and give the reader brief chances to let their attention slip a little before returning to the relative complexity of the text.

And while you shouldn’t rely on them for important images (because they’ll make your work look very generic), you should absolutely make use of all the free images available online. Note that I’ve distributed some simple images through this piece. Here’s an additional tip: if you use Google Docs, you don’t even need to visit free resource sites, because you can find and insert copyright-free images directly through going to Insert > Image > Search the web.

Use free design tools

Tools image credit: Pxhere

Tasked with creating something more visually rich like a featured image or an infographic, you may find yourself torn between reaching out to a dedicated (but expensive) designer and spending a lot of time trying to manually cobble something together — but this is a false dichotomy, all thanks to the wonders of online tools.

Canva tends to attract the most plaudits, but there are numerous great pieces of design software to be found and used for free. With drag-and-drop functionality, templates and helpful tutorials everywhere you look, there’s really no reason not to give this trick a try, even (or especially) if you have no design-related knowledge whatsoever.

Well, there you have it: 7 easy tricks to make the design work that comes with most digital writing significantly less stressful. Do a lot of research, use all the resources of the web, and build content simple enough to read on a mobile — not too hard!

Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups, a site with a goal of giving through growth hacking. Stop by the blog for news and insight about startups and charities from across the world, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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From The Muffin: A Marketing Exercise That is a Must for Your Critique Group

One of my freelancing jobs is to blog on WOW! Women On Writing‘s amazing blog, The Muffin. If you’ve never checked it out, you’re missing out on a great resource–there are posts about the writing craft, writing tips, interviews with authors/agents/editors, inspiration and motivation, marketing ideas, and more. Today, I blogged about a marketing exercise everyone in a critique group could do. It starts like this…

In the past week, I’ve had two Editor 911 clients ask me to write marketing materials for them. I had edited the manuscripts for both of them, so I was familiar with their work. One client asked me to rewrite her Amazon book description, back cover material, and bio, so that her Amazon page popped when people found her book by doing a search on the book site. The other client lives in New York City and has an opportunity to present a minute pitch in front of a panel of writing professionals. She was having trouble narrowing her entire novel into a few words pitch that would make it stand out from everyone else’s. I love doing copywriting like this, and both of these writers hired me because they were too close to their work to do it themselves.

This led me to the idea that this happens to writers all the time! It happens with query letters and synopsis, which is commonly known and discussed all over the blogosphere. But it also happens with marketing materials–website copy, book cover copy, taglines, pitches, and more. However, many writers are poor, and so they can’t hire someone to write this material for them. Also, if the copywriter is not familiar with the writer’s work, she might have to charge more than if she was because it would take longer to review the work first before writing the marketing material.

But my thinking cap was still on!

To read the rest of the post, which includes steps for your critique group to follow to complete the marketing exercise, click here. 

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Adaptation To Your Surroundings: Living In Another Country To Inspire Your Writing Career

(contributed post)

Writing is fast becoming the most popular nomadic pursuits of professional freelancers. Of course, the great advantage any writer has is that they can do the job from anywhere; and with the amount of online publications nowadays, and the fact that most of the money for freelancers comes from writing online, this gives the average freelancer options to go and work from anywhere in the world. But can you make your life and career better by moving to another country as a writer? Let’s try and answer the question.

Inspiration

Many of us fantasize about packing up our lives, moving to another country, and looking at the sunny horizons of a faraway land, while sitting on the beach, sipping an espresso, and getting to work on our dream project. This seems to be a common goal for many entrepreneurs. In fact, Tim Ferris’s New York Times bestseller, The Four Hour Work Week , is almost exclusively structured around that notion. We can aspire to have that type of lifestyle now, and it’s certainly more achievable, due to the fact that there are so many different projects available.

Different surroundings can provide various inspirations. Compare working in the British Isles to the Far East, for example. A complete contrast in climate and lifestyle can provide various inspiration points for any writer. But,  the vast majority of jobs out there for writers consist of blogging and content related roles, so, is moving to another country worth it as far as inspiration is concerned? Well, it is if you’re looking for a new lifestyle. You can write from anywhere in the world, but the new surroundings of a different country mean you could feel inspired by their culture. The choice of literature and cultural benchmarks could push you off into new directions as far as writing is concerned. It doesn’t even matter if you write content about the most mundane of topics; the fact is, by surrounding yourself with different approaches to culture: from the art, to the literature, to the theater, this is going to feed into every aspect of how you create. You could find a completely different angle, or hopefully a different way of creating work that excites you, even if you are writing about something that you aren’t particularly keen on. The life of a freelance writer means that you have to create content about topics the don’t particularly enthuse you. And so, this leads very nicely onto the next topic.

Motivation

If you surround yourself with new horizons, new people, and new lifestyles, the motivation to create could be difficult, but of course, a freelancer has to work, or they don’t get paid! Exchange rates and currency can mean that going from one country to another can result in a huge leap in income.  The great thing about being nomadic, if there is a culture that doesn’t work for you, where you feel uninspired and unmotivated, you can just get up and move on. There are so many properties for rent across the world, like https://www.rumah.com/rumah-disewa/di-area-depok-idjb10 in West Java, variety can truly be the spice of life, and you can reap the benefits of a well-paid writing job in comparison to the cost of living.  Not only this, but you can also align yourself with the working habits of the country . A lot of countries in the western world focus on the ideal of living to work, whereas there are more that focus on working to live. But a lot of us make the mistake of going where the money is, and we soon pine for the comforts of home.

Home And Away Comforts

Yes, even though we are seemingly living the high life, when moving to another country, where our money goes further, we feel well rested, and we have our fair share of sunshine–this may still not be enough. After all, we could feel homesick for a place that we spent a lot of our life trying to get away from. But when you are looking for creative inspiration, you need to actively seek out new experiences. There are going to be times when you feel dry and bereft of inspiration wherever you are; and if you are feeling homesick, or alienated in a foreign country, this can overwhelm us. But if you are struggling, it’s important to get involved with your local community, which can be very intimidating, but there are some useful hints on https://culturalvistas.org/blog/exchange-tips/6-ways-to-get-involved-in-your-host-community, and this can help to inspire you in so many different ways.

Whatever your reason for going abroad, whether it’s to broaden the mind or not, you are in a different environment, so you should let it feed into your creativity. If not, is it time to go home? Because a lot of people chase the money, and move abroad for more lucrative prospects, and now as social media can provide that shield between you and the world, you don’t necessarily have to ingratiate yourself with a community. And if you are seriously pining for home comforts, something as simple as a postcard, some tea bags, or a Skype chat with a friend might help you to realize why you left in the first place.

At What Point Should You Go Home?

Some people leave and never return, whereas others feel that they’ve scratched that itch. Some people return home after an adventure of a few years, because life duties have compelled them to return, such as family members, too many missed weddings and funerals, or even the fact that your working visa has simply run out. Going home can feel a bit deflating, or it can feel like you’ve had your fill of the world, and you want to go back to what is comfortable and that you inherently know. And it’s this that can help to fuel your creativity here on in.

Writing is a job that can be done from anywhere in the world, and if you feel that you’re getting stale, or you have concerns that your ability is going to be trumped by the next generation of freelancers, you owe it to yourself to broaden your mind, to open yourself up to new possibilities, because it’s this curiosity that will fuel your creativity. It’s something we should all do in our lives, live somewhere else; and when you are a writer armed with a laptop and a suitcase, the possibilities are endless. You will know when it’s time to go home because you will feel continually inspired. You will have a wealth of experiences to draw on, different cultures, different music, various literature and art, and it’s these things that will make you a better writer, even from home. 

 

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Tips For Finding a Hobby Your Child Enjoys

The picture above is of my daughter at our local library reading to the dogs in the Love on a Leash program. I thought this was a great photo to go with this contributed post because it covers two hobbies–a love/interest in animals and reading. I agree with everything this post says about finding hobbies for your children that they enjoy. I think that is the key–that they enjoy. Also, in my family, we try very hard (although it is not always successful) to not sign up for too many activities at a time because we also need time at home as a family. 

Just like adults have interests and hobbies, so do kids. What are some hobbies you can help your child explore and decide whether or not they are right for them?   If you want to see your child’s eyes light up, it’s the extracurriculars that they are involved in that often excite them and can even lead to an early career path. Of course, there are plenty of children who find joy in mathematics and science; but if you ask most children if they want to sit and learn in the classroom, or go out and play in the sunshine, it’s a no-brainer.

Activities outside the classroom are what help to shape their personalities and their interests, with their physical and emotional health being nurtured by the hobbies they choose. As a parent, you want to have well-rounded children who are secure and happy. One of the best ways that you can do this is to encourage them to get involved in activities they like. Hobbies are the way that children can dip a toe into activities and figure out what they love the most.

Finding the right hobby could take some time. Some children don’t realize, for example, that they have a love of collectibles until they start taking an interest in location magnets, badges, figurines, or even rare coins, like the ones that you can find on this link. Collecting has been a hobby that goes back for years, and it isn’t a limited one when you can basically collect everything and anything.

You can teach your children how to find a hobby that they love by doing the activities with them and helping them to spread their wings. Here are some ideas:

Music.

One popular hobby that parents encourage in their children is music. Instruments, singing, and even dance are all ways to explore music. By exposing children to music from an early age, you can encourage a love of expression. They can learn which instruments they may want to learn to play; and if you yourself have a talent for an instrument, you can get them involved that way. Not only does music bring you closer together in this case, it helps your children to learn how to read music and understand it on a whole new level. Always encourage enrolling in music and singing lessons from a very young age if you can, as a talent for playing an instrument can be invaluable as they get older.

Art.

When it comes to hobbies, crafts are probably up in the top five that children love to do. Anything involving glitter, paint, chalks, crayons, pastels and charcoal are all messy but all very expressionist. You can encourage your children to go wild and embrace the mini artist within. If you want to go one step further, think about enrolling your child into sewing classes. It’s a bit of a lost art in schools at the moment where textiles are concerned, but the talent to be able to repair their own clothes doesn’t just encourage them to learn a skill. It teaches them the value of repairing before replacing, which can feed into their rest of their lives. There is nothing that limits craft projects for children, because you can choose to buy supplies or head out into nature and learn rubbing with charcoal and rocks or finding different colors in leaves to then put together for an autumn collage. This hobby can really help your children to be creative and expressive.

Sports.

Schools across the country are big on sports, and for good reason. Sports teams help to foster a sense of community, teamwork, and togetherness; and the skills that children learn in sports can stay with them their entire lives. To continue to play the sport that they want once in junior high or high school, they have to keep their grades up, which is an incentive . Children who are encouraged to play sports often live very healthy lives, and prefer to be outside on their bikes and in nature than cooped up indoors doing nothing. The friendships that are fostered while on a sports team can last for an entire childhood, cementing memories when they’ve grown up.

Reading.

It’s not a hobby that most think of now that we live in an age of digital books, rather than paperback, but there is a huge base for those who enjoy the smell of a new tome, or cracking the spine of a new story. Sitting with your child and reading with them creates a strong bond, especially where you are then able to discuss the story with them and help them to learn about the characters. You are encouraging them to have an imagination when you are encouraging them to read. You also help your child to develop their vocabulary and their language. There’s nothing more exciting than knowing you have a child with a creative and reflective imagination, who uses their hobby of reading to make up their own stories and have fun doing it.

Hobbies can change the way that your children think.  Watch your children grow and develop, simply by encouraging new hobbies within them.

What hobbies do your children and grandchildren enjoy? 

 

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Teach a Child To Read and Open Up Her World

I am so very honored to have children’s author Fiona Ingram on my blog today with her WOW! Women On Writing blog tour for her latest book,  The Temple of the Crystal Timekeeper. This is a middle-grade adventure book that is part of a series, but this book can also be read as a standalone. In this book, Adam, Justin, and Kim  are hunted by their old enemy and readers will wonder if they can survive long enough to find the Third Stone of Power. With only a young boy, Tukum, as their guide, the kids make their way through the dense and dangerous jungle to find the lost city of stone gods, where the Stone of Power might be located. River rafting on a crocodile-infested river and evading predators are just part of this hazardous task. Of course, their old adversary Dr. Khalid is close behind as the kids press on. But he is not the worst of their problems. This time, Adam will clash with a terrible enemy who adopts the persona of an evil Aztec god, Tezcatlipoca, and is keen to revive the ancient tradition of human sacrifice. Adam, Justin, and Tukum must play a dreadful ball game of life and death. Will Dr. Khalid find the third Stone of Power before they do?

The post below will give you a good glimpse into Fiona and her writing.  This is a beautiful post about how she taught a young girl to read, and this  young girl became someone very special to her. At the end of the post, you will easily see why she titled it–“The Rainbow Child and Her Paper Mom.” 

The Rainbow Child and Her Paper Mom by Fiona Ingram

Anyone who has read some of my articles will know that one of my passions in being a children’s author is child literacy. I can’t imagine any author not being concerned with literacy. Literacy is a skill that must be learned, and this simple skill can deliver a child from a life of drudgery to a life filled with opportunity. It all starts at home, where children should grow up surrounded by books, and with parents encouraging them to read and discover the wonderful world of books. That’s in an ideal world, of course.

The truth is that in many places around the world, “at home’”for thousands of children offers no source of education when their parents are either still illiterate, or simply do not have the skills to assist their children with homework. Poverty also means that food comes before books. When South Africa (my home country) achieved democracy, Nelson Mandela called the country a “rainbow nation.” Sadly, there aren’t many pots of gold at the end of the rainbow for a lot of children there. But one little girl, my rainbow child, has found her pot of gold. Here is the story of the rainbow child and her paper mom. I hope it will inspire others to help children read.

I never imagined myself as a mother. Growing up with four brothers, three of them younger than me, meant I had my fair share of bottles, diapers, homework, bedtime stories and all the things big sisters do. My studies and career came first for a long time and the men I dated weren’t interested in having kids. Then the biggest drawback of all: I never felt “grown-up enough” to take on the responsibility of my own child. The year I went overseas with my two nephews, the year that inspired my first children’s book, (The Secret of the Sacred Scarab) I suddenly had this desire to adopt a child. Not give birth, please note, but adopt some little mite who needed a home. Two weeks in Egypt with my nephews aged 10 and 12 were enough to rid me of any maternal feelings and make me decide to just stick to being a good aunt. I had changed my mind about children.

About three months after this trip, I had a visit from a domestic worker who had worked for me a few years back—she had a problem. She arrived with her daughter Mabel, now aged eleven. I remembered Mabel as an enchanting child aged six, all arms and legs and a big smile. But I got married, Josephine left my employ, and we didn’t see each other for another five years. Josephine came straight to the point and asked me to foster Mabel, so she could get a better education.

Thinking for the briefest of nano-seconds that nothing would change, I said yes. Of course, everything changed. Mabel had already failed Grade 2, was advised to repeat Grade 4, and was basically illiterate. How is that possible, I asked myself? I began the slow and often painful task of teaching her all over again, supplemented by many extra lessons. It was not easy. Mabel was scoring only 19% for English at school. Opening the doors into the wonderful world of books seemed insurmountable because she simply did not understand the connection between the written and spoken word. What to do? Begin at the beginning seemed a good idea. Mabel baulked at first, never having had to apply her mind or develop motivation. She’d been told so many times she was a failure (stupid)—what else was there to look forward to? I rose to the challenge and, happily for her, so did Mabel.

I started off with my old favorites and Mabel loved them. Although we grew up poor (five children to feed, clothe, and educate), my parents always had books in the house. And then of course, there were the books we inherited from my grandparents. My very old copy of The Wind in the Willows, with those simple yet beautiful illustrations, is still on my bookshelf. Ratty and Mole were my heroes (and still are!). Other old friends are The Secret Garden, with exquisite color plates; The Water Babies; Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series; my collection of the Lucy Fitch Perkins’ Twins series, with her poignant stories of children of all eras and places around the world. I particularly loved Anne of Avonlea, The Little Princess, and many others.

I began with the Twins’ series. Suddenly, the words were not frightening because Mabel was hearing about places and people she’d never imagined. She’d lean over my shoulder, breathing down my neck as I read, my finger tracing the words as I sounded them out. The pages began to surrender the magical words, and she found them enchanting! Fired with success, we moved on to the rest of the library, slowly devouring my children’s classic book collection in very tiny bite-sized pieces. I was still doing most of the reading.

One day, Mabel decided she’d help with the words and began reading to me. It was still incredibly slow, but I began to see the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. We got movies of books, watched them, and then read the books, just in case the moviemakers had left out some important bits. We expanded our repertoire book by book. I found other ways to sneak words into her day, not just when we were doing serious reading. She read recipes with me when we baked; she read the instructions on the packaging to me while we prepared dinner; she read advertisements to me when we shopped. Suddenly words were a constant part of her life.

Mabel also began to show her imaginative side at school. Her poems and creative writing pieces began to change, reflecting more color, bigger words, more complex themes and emotions. Her first big word was “camouflage.” Sounds silly, but for Mabel it was a breakthrough! We still laugh about it. In all her subjects, her marks began to inch up. The final moment of success came when she turned to my mother and said, “Gran, will you buy me a book?”

My mother nearly fell off her chair and replied, “You can have as many as you like, darling.”

Mabel grinned. “Oh, then can you buy me all the Twilight books please?”

Mabel has developed more serious reading habits since Edward and Bella (phew!), listing Angela’s Ashes, To Kill a Mockingbird, and (Mary Shelley’s) Frankenstein, among her ‘fave books. I adopted Mabel in 2009 at the specific request of both her parents, thus becoming her “paper mom,’”her mom on paper as she describes it. Mabel is in regular contact with her biological family and considers herself fortunate to have two families!

Isn’t Fiona amazing? Don’t forget to check out her middle-grade book series! Find everything you need to know on her website here. 

 

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3 Books I Want to Tell You About Plus One More

Looking for a book to take on vacation this summer or to read on those nights when the kids are in bed and it’s still light out? How about one of these…

Breaking Up and Bouncing Back: Moving On To Create the Love Life You Deserve

What I love about this book is how comprehensive it is. It’s divided into three parts: dealing with the breakup, learning about yourself and practicing self-love (and figuring out what kind of healthy relationship you want), and getting back out into the dating world. This is not a book that you have to sit down and read through all at one time. It has exercises. It has real-world applications. It gives practical advice and things to try. I see this as a manual for your life after a breakup. And Samantha Burns has done her research. She has an extensive bibliography in the back of the book and other books you may want to check out, depending on where you are in your life. She does use some of her own experiences, but the whole book is not based on that. She has done the work to write a book like this!

I will admit that I was skeptic–how much can a book really help someone with dating? But here’s the thing–she isn’t really telling you what to do. First she is telling you about her experience (after a bad breakup) and how she found someone. Then she is explaining what YOU deserve and this is all based on your life, your choices, your goals, and your morals. She provides plenty of examples, and the message she makes loud and clear is: If you don’t feel like someone is treating you correctly, then REALLY examine why you are settling. She also asks you to look at any hand you might have had in past breakups and ask yourself why that happened. So if anything, when you finish this book, you will love and understand yourself more and know what type of partner you are looking for. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to really learn from past relationships and work on finding a new one that is healthy. BONUS: I was able to interview Samantha for WOW! Women On Writing, and so if you want a taste of her writing style and advice, then check that out hereLink to buy the book on Amazon.

Murder is a Dirty Business

This is a cozy mystery book with a fantastic new amateur sleuth, Cece Cavanaugh. Besides this book being extremely well-written, it is funny and unique. How can a mystery book be unique you ask? Well, Cece is no regular heroine. She is going through a divorce from a rich, country club husband, and she has to figure out how to support herself. So, she gets a job as a crime scene cleaner, and this is how she discovers a murder with the wrong person (someone she knows!) being accused, or at least she hopes the wrong person is being accused. That’s what she is trying to prove!

The author has stated that her husband is a retired police officer, and I didn’t notice anything in the book that seemed unbelievable. There’s also a bit of a love story developing–CeCe is in her late 40s with two daughters–one still at home with her–and so she is not really looking for love, but she can’t deny the attraction she feels for one certain man that pops into her life.  This is the first book in a planned series, titled, “GCrime Pays Mystery”.  If you are looking for a new series, you must check this out on Amazon.  The second book is Death, Diamonds, and Freezer Burn and is due in November! Here is an interview with the author.

Emergence (Voodoo Butterfly Series Book 2)

If you like New Orleans, voodoo stories, intrigue, strong female leads, romance, and a bit of magic, then you will like this book! So Emergence is actually book 2 in the Voodoo Butterfly series, so you may want to start with book one. Emergence just came out this summer and is available on Amazon. People who read book one (like me) have been anxiously waiting to find out what is going to happen to Sophie, Taj, and Poppy, and if Sophie is really going to embrace her powers and her role in the New Orleans voodoo scene after inheriting her grandma’s voodoo shop in book one and narrowly escaping death! Book two starts with things going well for her and the new man, Taj, in her life, except she hasn’t told him about her secret Voodoo life, and maybe he has a few secrets of his own!

In Emergence, there is a mystical monster lurking in New Orleans, sucking blood from children (not as gross as it sounds, LOL) and a fog that is hurting her best friend and co-worker at the shop, Poppy. Blackbirds are falling dead from the sky! What can Sophie do to solve all these problems while figuring out what it is that Taj is keeping from her? This is what you will find out in this well-written, page-turning sequel to book one. You can find book one at the link above and book two here.  To read an interview with the author, go here.

 

And finally, I’m currently reading The Lemonade Year!

Amazon description: 

Nina’s once-sweet life has unexpectedly turned sour. Her marriage is over, her job is in jeopardy, and her teenage daughter is slipping away from her. Then her father dies and issues with Nina’s mother come to a head; her estranged brother, Ray, comes home; and her sister, Lola, is tempted to blow a big family secret out of the water. They say the truth will set you free, but first it will make a huge mess of things.

All Nina’s got left is her final photography assignment shooting images for the book 32 Ways to Make Lemonade. Well, that and the attention of a younger man, but Oliver’s on-again-off-again romantic interest in her ebbs and flows so much she is seasick. And then Jack, her ex-husband, shows up, wanting to get back together.

As Nina struggles to find a way through her complicated relationships and to uncover her true path, she discovers just how valuable a second chance at life and happiness can be.

 

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I Need To Write 500 Words a Day

All right, enough is a enough! That’s what I’m telling myself and you today. No more excuses. No more self-pity. No more being overwhelmed with life. I am writing 500 words a day even if this latest novel I’m working on goes nowhere!

What’s it about? Well, it’s for adults–that’s new for my fiction, most likely it would be considered women’s fiction. And it’s about a woman who has her first serious relationship with a narcissist in college, and she has an alcoholic sister. She doesn’t know who she is (maybe that’s the reason for my true self post the other day!) except for being connected to the narcissist her entire adult life and being a caregiver for her sister–so yes, she’s totally codependent. In this novel, I explore if it is possible to break free from these habitual patterns of unhealthy behavior and choose yourself over codependency.

And I need to work on this every day. I will write at least 500 words a day.

When I vowed on here to do Morning Pages, I did pretty well. I’m still writing in a journal in the morning several days a week, and it’s very helpful. So I think vowing on here to write 500 words a day will hold me more accountable than if I just tell myself I will do this.

Want to join me?

 

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Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez (A Review of a GREAT Novel)

I was excited to read Wendy Brown-Baez’s novel, Catch a Dream, when I read the synopsis that it was about a woman on a healing journey in Israel.  Someone very dear to me is from Israel, and this blog (and my life) is often about self-care and healing, so I thought this book fit into my life at just the right time. And I was not wrong! I loved Catch a Dream, and I think you will too, if you enjoy well-written women’s fiction with complex characters and an interesting setting.

Here’s a quick synopsis (by the way, I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review AND as part of WOW! Women On Writing’s blog tour):

A woman’s healing journey begins in a country embroiled in relentless turmoil. In Israel, the first Intifada has just begun. Palestinian frustration for a homeland erupts in strikes, demonstrations and suicide bombings; and Israel responds with tear gas, arrests, and house demolitions. Lily Ambrosia and Rainbow Dove arrive in Haifa with their children on a pilgrimage to sow seeds of peace. Lily’s fascination with Jewish culture inspires her to dream she can plant roots in the Holy Land. She falls in love with the land itself, with its people, and with Levi, a charming enigma, dangerous but irresistible. Eventually she is fully immersed in Israeli life, earning her way as a nanny, hanging out in cafes with friends, and attending Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Her son rebels against the lifestyle she has chosen, and war with Syria looms on the horizon. Will she be able to stay? What does she have to give up and what will she be able to keep?

What I really enjoyed about this book besides the setting of Israel was two things:

  1. The love story between Lily and Levi
  2. Lily’s struggle, determination, and strength at being a single parent (even though she does have help!)

I’m sure these two plot lines resonated with me because of where I am in my life–dating after divorce and raising my daughter as a single parent (and I also have a lot of help and support). Because Wendy’s writing is beautiful and honest, the book is easy to read, and I flew through it. It’s also not too long–only 181 pages with book club questions in the back. (One last thing, the main character does suffer a traumatic event (which I don’t want to put a spoiler here), but I always think it’s important to let readers know to ask about this, in case certain things trigger them. )

Any reader who enjoys women’s fiction, stories about life-changing events and other cultures, and well-written prose will love Catch a Dream. Check it out! 

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Congratulations to These Reading Challenge Winners and the Amazon Gift Card Winner

I’m happy to announce these 6 people finished the Pre-Summer Reading Challenge!

  1. Kathryn S.
  2. Sara L.
  3. Sue B.
  4. Sophie L.
  5. Sebastian L.
  6. Katie B.

And the winner of the $20 Amazon Gift Card, which will be awarded on June 15, 2018 is….(pretend drumroll here)…

Sara L.

(The winner was chosen randomly using random.org.)

Besides being entered to win the gift card, each person will receive this digital badge:

 

They also receive a 25 percent off coupon for editing services.

Thank you to everyone who checked out the reading challenge and who decided to sign up. And thank you to those who finished! I know it’s not easy to read every day, especially at the end of the school year, and then to also keep track and turn in your sheet. Congratulations again to Sara L. for winning the Amazon gift card–it will be coming by email on June 15, 2018.

What’s a good book you are reading this summer?

I’m currently finishing up a great book–Catch a Dream by Wendy Brown-Baez, which I will be reviewing tomorrow AND was lucky enough to host a great guest post on motherhood that you can check out here.

 

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A Few Odd Things About Me, Why I Don’t Like Air Conditioning, and Please Take My Poll About Yanny

Did you listen to the Laurel or Yanny sound clip? What did you hear?

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I start with that poll because it’s what inspired this blog post. I was scrolling on Facebook at my daughter’s bedtime, like I usually do, and I saw a post that said: “I’m Team Laurel.” I was thinking: Is this a How To Get Away With Murder thing I don’t know about? Is there another season of Bachelor already? What is Team Laurel? So I go on to read the comments, and I see that most people know exactly what he’s talking about and they’re saying either: “Me too” or “Team Yanny”

First, I commented: What are you people talking about? And then I googled. Even after reading the explanation of the Laurel and Yanny craze, I was like: How is this a thing? It’s just like the dress debate a couple years ago, which I also didn’t get. So then, another friend of mine told me to google the Yanny/Laurel debate, and I told her (still all on Facebook because who has real conversations any more? This stuff is much more important): “I did google.” She said, “Well, what did you hear?” And I said, “I didn’t listen. Am I weird or what?”

Does that make me weird? Does it make me NOT curious enough?

Here’s something else I discovered yesterday. I don’t like air conditioning. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for it. I live in St. Louis, where the humidity is ridiculous in the the summer. I also don’t have a good cross breeze in my home. But I mentioned this dislike to one of my friends, “I don’t like air conditioning.” And he said, “Why not?” (as in–are you crazy? How can you not like air conditioning?)

I didn’t really have an answer for him, but the biggest thing I kept thinking is: It makes me feel closed in. (I also don’t like air conditioning when it is on so cold in a place that you have to bring a parka in the summer either.) But, a furnace and heat don’t make me feel closed in during the winter. I guess it’s because on those in-between weather days (temps in the 70s and 80s) when my dog is panting and begging me to turn on the air conditioner because the temp in the house is reaching 77 degrees F, I like the windows open and the breeze hopefully coming in, and it feels like I am more productive and energetic.

Does that make me weird?

And here’s the last one I’ll share with you today because goodness, I hope you come back and read this blog again, and don’t think: She’s weird. Why would I listen to her advice/opinions about parenting or self-care or finance or dating?

I love writing. I love working on my novel. Whenever I do, I feel good–I get lost in the words, and I’m not constantly thinking about my problems, like I usually am. But I don’t do it on a regular basis. If I didn’t have my lovely critique group, I probably wouldn’t work on my novel at all. WHY DO I DO THIS? Why don’t I make time for something that brings me a natural high?

Does that make me odd?

 

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