Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Merit Badges for Grown Ups

Today I found a really cute website aimed primarily at writers for the moment. It is called Merit Badger and it reminds of the fun I had in Girls Scouts, both as a member and a leader. I must admit I still have my green badge scarf and my leader's pins around somewhere. I thrive on reading directions, plotting a direction and staying with the task until it is complete. It is too bad we don't receive badges like this occasionally! As adults in corporate worlds, our "badges" are often pens, notepads, and coffee mugs often given to us through our networking contacts.

If I could design badges for myself one would definitely have to have a picture of a cell phone on it. As mobile communications coordinator at my corporate job, I spend a great deal of time dealing with major wireless carriers. Dealing with Internet issues this week would earn me a nice big blue "e". What badge would you design for yourself?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Generate writing ideas and organize your thoughts!

I recently took on a software project at work that will require extensive documentation and the occasional update. Right now the directions for installing, troubleshooting and administrating the software are all in my head or written on different scraps of paper. All of the customizations that I have done to suit our users are scribbled inside of a notebook. My dilemma is how to communicate all of these instructions to other members of my team and the process sequence they need to use to insure the software runs smoothly.
I stumbled upon this article about the mind mapping process on the ProBlogger website. I am a visual person, so all of these little bubble images caught my attention. I immediately knew this would be a great way to improve my blog and to work on some of my story ideas. The process of mind mapping allows you to take one idea or theme and by brainstorming you end up with many new ideas.

I downloaded trial versions of two different programs designed for mind mapping. While looking through some of the predesigned templates, I came across several for business use. I was thrilled to see how I could incorporate this idea into my software instructions. The various shapes can list the steps needed to be performed for a successful installation and a hyperlink can be added to each “bubble” if a technician needs further instructions. Once a technician has performed several installs and memorizes the instructions, they may just use the map for a refresher on the steps needed or for troubleshooting.

Another feature of both of the programs I tried, is the compatibility with the Iphone. Each developer offers a version on ITunes for use with the programs, making it easy for the technician to have the instructions right in their hands. Both offer excellent tutorials and help files.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trial usage but I am sorry to say I will not be investing in either program in the near future. The cost of a whiteboard and 6 dry erase markers does not even compare to the hefty price tags each program carries. Thankfully, the ProBlogger article “Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping”, suggests other methods of mind mapping. I am off to fill the wall above my desk with various colors of post it note ideas!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SENSE of Happiness

I love reading the Prosperous Writer Ezine by Christina Katz. This week her article focused on number 17 of the 52 qualities of a prosperous writer: Happiness. When I think of the word happy and being happy, a scene from the movie Legally Blonde pops into my head. The law students are working on a case and sitting around a conference table with their professor. They are discussing the probability of a woman's guilt of murdering her husband. Elle Woods speaks up and says "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't shoot their husbands."

I like to think that anything a person loves to do and does so passionately releases a "happiness factor". It may not be endorphins per se, but it always makes them feel better. I love attending my local Zumba class. The Latin inspired music and the exuberance of my instructor always inspires me. After the class, I may be physically exhausted but I leave the class with a sort of happy peace. Every night I write at least 750 Words on the 750words website. I write about various subjects or vent frustrations. Afterwards, I sometimes feel mentally exhausted but I still achieve the "happy peace". I also agree with Christina, that the most deeply unhappy people have no idea how their negativity impacts others. Unfortunately, some of us have experienced this first hand. Something in their lives makes them so terribly unhappy,they feel they must play your emotions until you are on the same level. The closer this person is to you, the harder it is to keep your happy mind frame. This has always been a difficult situation for me to overcome.

Catherine Pratt of Life-With-Confidence, says after listening to negative person tell their horror story, ask them to tell you something positive. I think tomorrow I will ask the people I deal with to tell me something positive that has happened to them, just to see their reaction. Positive for me is the thought of building my new desk, seeing the family this summer, and my son's promotion. Nothing that is earth shattering but these thoughts still make me feel a sense of happiness.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Great time in blogchat on Twitter tonight. Check it out on Sunday at 8 central. Very helpful folks there willing to share tips and ideas.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's the SENSE of stressing?

Christina Katz, of the Prosperous Writer had an article in her ezine this week about staying grounded. The question she asked her readers was what keeps you grounded?

In my daily life, grounding comes in the form of short periods of quiet time throughout my day. I actually enjoy the 45 minute commute to and from work during my work week. I take this time to listen to The Secret, an audio book by Rhonda Byrne, if I am in an introspective mood. On the days my mood is more whimsical; I will listen to A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd. My mp3 player has playlists such as Jazz, Easy Listening, and rhythmic Zumba tunes. I have playlist for every mood or situation. One of my favorites is a playlist encompassing many genres and dedicated to songs about Rain!

My day begins at 6 am and ends on most days at 10 pm (even on weekends. I have dogs that need to go out!) My job in a small IT department for a large company can be stressful at times. My days are comprised of many phone calls, meetings, projects, repairing computers and requests from users. Keeping a to-do list, utilizing software specific for my job, organizing my inbox, and using Evernote, helps keep me on track. Evernote syncs with my Iphone and allows me to access critical data without starting my laptop. As I move about our facility and speak with computer users during the day, I type any notes, requests, or comments into my phone and then sync it with my laptop later. I have a playlist entitled music without words that I play softly in my office, fragrant scented oils and a live plant to make my office more appealing to me.

I often check daily writing prompts before the workday begins. I contemplate these prompts during the walks from office building to office building or when installing software packages takes a long time. The ideas that spring from these prompts are later fodder for my evening writing or jotted in my little idea notebook for later use. A lively Zumba class with friends three times a week also relieves stress.

I am interacting with computers in some way all throughout my day. There are emails that require action or response and machines that must be opened and repaired. Questions requiring research or prompt answers. All of these are part of my daily routine and by utilizing all of the tools at my disposal in an effective way, I can combat stress. At 4 o’clock each weekday afternoon a reminder on my phone alerts me that it is time to finish projects, clean work areas, and gather the necessities for a productive tomorrow at work.

I tackle the anxiousness of fulfilling the creative side of my life by completing at least 750 words a day at the website These words may be totally random, a rant about some frustration, a short story, a memory or most often scene and character ideas. As I use specialized software for my work day, I use writing software to keep my creative ideas in order and flowing. Completing these 750 words gives me a daily accomplishment, whether I have worked on my WIP or not. This process leaves me calmer, more focused and often inspires me to open my software and add notes, ideas and even dialogue. Making time to read one of the 8 books beside my bed before I go to sleep also keeps me grounded. Taking a few minutes to write about the high points of the day, the things I am grateful for and even my hopes and dreams ends my day on a peaceful note.

To maintain a productive creative life, I depend on tools such as blogs, ezines, workshops, twitter, chats, and email groups. The successes of others are there not to compare myself with but to learn from. Someday, somewhere, somebody might learn something from me. I am grateful for others who take the time to post links they have found or blog about a technique that works for them. Just as I interact daily with IT peers, these tools allow me the opportunity to interact with other writers both new and experienced.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Finally, it's making Sense!

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a 5 day online workshop at The course was led by Larry Brooks of and author of “Whisper of the Seventh Thunder”. He is also the author of the ebooks, “The Three Dimensions of Character” and “Story Structure Demystified”. The workshop was targeted toward romance novelists but writers of other genres also participated. I am highly anticipating his new book, “Story Engineering: Mastering The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” which will be available in 2011.

One of the most interesting aspects for me is the idea of story planning. Never in my life have I used an outline, note cards or specialized software. (I once wrote a small YA book entirely by hand.) Needless to say, this is why I am not a prolific writer, much less a published writer. His blog post "Drumroll...Introducing the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling" made the writing process click for me.

I spent a little time this weekend really reading and digesting the aspects of books by the authors: Mary Roberts Rinehart ‘s “The Street of the Seven Stars” and Nancy Atherton’s “Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday”. Using Larry’s Six Competencies, I really tried to deconstruct each book to learn more about story structure. I will never read another book without really analyzing it and even making notes!

I was also excited to receive an email from informing me I have won a copy of Martha Engber’s book,”Growing Great Characters from the Ground Up.” My biggest fear at the moment is communicating my characters to a reader. I know these characters, their likes/dislikes, hobbies, quirks, etc. I want a reader to want to know what they are doing and miss them when the book has ended. I have been so inspired by Anne George’s two southern sisters and Tamar Myer’s Magdalena Yoder. (You have probably surmised, my current WIP is a cozy mystery.) Please check out Martha’s blog: for more information about her workshops and her novel “The Wind Thief”.

I would love to hear from other readers and authors about some of their favorite characters. What makes that character hold your interest?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Time to Get Serious

After several years of filing ideas away in my brain, I have finally decided to get them down on paper. My story ideas tend to come in scenes. I have a 45 minute commute to and from work and I generally use that time to think about what my characters are up to. I currently have a historical fiction, a motivational and cozy murder mystery in my Works in Progress file. I find it is easy to concentrate on the murder mystery characters during my commute. I actually have conversations using their point of view. I hope other drivers just think I am singing with the radio! My dilemma this week, is trying to get those characters to come alive on paper. To solve this issue, I am currently taking a workshop and reading 4 different books on writing characters. I really think I am spending more time try to learn than actually writing. This week's goal is to work out a reading and writing schedule. If I get the scenes down maybe I can add the details later. I am also trying two software programs and will have reviews soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

Current music for Monday

The little Carter girls in about 1939. I will be singing this all week!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another iPhone app

I recommend ping for posting quick updates and photos. I can post to twitter, facebook,my blog and yammer (our group at work twitter like site). I can post to all at once or select the sites I choose.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


This is an awesome iPhone app with several free kits to scrap those iPhone pics. Many nice kits to purchase as well. I will upload the two I did tonight while watching tv.

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