My Writing Life

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Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

I have been writing fiction for a very long time and I love it. It is my favorite thing to do. However, it takes a very long time to make any money as a fiction writer. Yes, I have a completed historical fiction novel, but only the first draft is completed. I am working on revising/editing it, but time is another problem I struggle with.

As a homeschool mom with one remaining child/student, I spend every morning working with my child, which means I don’t get to do any writing related items until the afternoon. So, roughly three hours a day, then it’s time to make dinner. Then I may or may not have two hours to work on writing related items after dinner before I get too tired for my brain to focus on such tasks. So, on a good day, I get about five hours to work on writing related items.

What writing related items do I have to work on? Well, I have this blog, which I really enjoy writing posts for. As a writer, it is also suggested that I have a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, which means posting on all of these media sites daily. But I don’t. I have found that I am not very interested in social media, so I try to have a presence by connecting my blog posts to my Facebook writer page and Twitter accounts. At least that keeps me present there.

I have been writing for Almost an Author, a popular website for writers, for about a year now. I am one of the regular columnists for the site and am required to post four romance and four historical posts each year. This is not a huge commitment, but it is a commitment nonetheless. I am also a regular interview writer for Faith Filled Family Magazine and have been doing this for almost a year. I love the writing I do for both of these. However, none of these wonderful jobs offers a salary, but I am not willing to give them up. I enjoy them too much. Besides, they give me material for my portfolio.

Back to the part about homeschooling. Being a homeschool mom means being there for your child(ren) all day every day. This was an important decision my husband and I made seventeen years ago, and it was an important decision we haven’t regretted.  However, it can be quite challenging to live on one income in today’s world.

Therefore, I have entered a new writing world–the world of freelance writing. I have also taken my freelance editing skills with me, and have become active on a reputable freelance website, where I am applying for writing and editing jobs that I will actually get paid to do. However, the writing is not fiction. So I am learning and experiencing writing in the “real” (nonfiction) world. It’s very different and quite challenging as compared to my preferred fiction world, but I am finding it enjoyable so far. But, it is time consuming–time to look through the “want ads”, time to write proposals to apply for the jobs I am interested in and believe I am able to do, and then, time to do the jobs. So now, I am working with solid deadlines–no procrastinating is allowed or tolerated.

In conclusion, my writing life has changed once again. For now, I need to put most of my time into the freelance writing that will enable me to earn an income. That may mean that my fiction works, like my novel, will have to wait longer to meet the world. But, as in every part of my life to this point, I have always been one to do what needs to be done and to keep my priorities straight.

There are three more years, after this one, until my last child graduates, then I’ll have eight or nine hours a day to write. (At least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

Why and How I Choose to Eat Healthy

A little about my background — I have struggled with weight issues since I was in high school. About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and put on oral medications. Four or five years ago, I had my gall bladder removed. You would think because of all these things, I would have been committed to a more healthy lifestyle a long time ago. So, why wasn’t I?

Here are some of the reasons: 1) during my high school years, whenever I wanted to try dieting to lose weight, my mom wanted to support and encourage me, but another family member made a habit of sabotaging us; 2) born and raised in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, the land of whoopie pies, shoo-fly pie, chicken pot pie (not baked in a pie shell), and many other high carb high sugar foods, unhealthy eating is a normal way of life; and 3) as a mom, I am much better at taking care of others than I am at taking care of myself because I always put others first.

So, if you look at the above photo, you will see the third book from the left is the most recently published THM (Trim Healthy Mama) cookbook. Three years ago, a friend encouraged me to try THM and I did, and with that friend’s constant encouragement, I succeeded in sticking to the THM healthy eating way of life for an entire year and lost fifty pounds. Then two years ago, right before Christmas, our oldest son had to have major jaw surgery, and his poor face was so swollen and bruised when he first came home, and he couldn’t really eat anything. So I committed to taking care of making sure he was getting enough nourishment in the few items (smoothies, broths, liquids) he could receive, then gradually graduating to soft foods, before slowly being able to begin incorporating normal foods back into his diet. So, because I focused all my energy on caring for him, I fell back into eating the way I had been raised to eat–the Pennsylvania Dutch way. Amazingly, though I did gain some weight back, I did not gain all fifty pounds back, even though I continued on this path for just about two years.

Then, July 10th of this year, I went to the ER with chest pains. I was given and EKG, chest x-rays, and bloodwork — all came back normal. I then realized the pain was similar to what I’d had before having my gall bladder removed, and I told the doctor, who told me that just because I didn’t have a gall bladder anymore didn’t mean I couldn’t still get gall stones. So he decided to check the ducts in my body, so I was given an ultrasound, which they had a difficult time with because my stomach was filled with gas. However, my pain was completely gone after the completion of that test. Then I began to wonder if it was all due to my bad eating habits. Well, the doctor order one more round of bloodwork, and the only thing he found was that my liver enzymes were extremely high. He decided to send me home with the stipulation that within the following three days, (this was a Wednesday), I would call my family doctor, have him order the bloodwork again, then see my family doctor. I did that, with the same conclusion. My family doctor sent me home with orders to get the bloodwork redone in a week and to get back to healthy eating, then I may or may not have to see a gastroenterologist. I went home with a new determinate to commit to the THM plan for the rest of my life because I knew it worked for me in the past for a whole year.

I returned to eating according to the THM way that very evening and haven’t looked back since and don’t plan to, because the following week’s bloodwork came back with my sugar level lower and my liver enzyme count back to normal. No trip to the gastroenterologist.

So, what is the THM way to eat, you may ask. Well, I struggle to understand the entire plan, but in a nutshell, it’s eating high protein, low-carb, and no white bread, no white sugar, and no white potatoes. It’s also eating healthy fats, but separates fats and carbs to allow the metabolism to function at its best. It’s focus is low-glycemic.

My biggest problem with the plan, in the past, is all the prep work for many of the recipes. I don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, nor do I really want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. That’s why you see the other two cookbooks in the above photo. The internet is full of women who eat the THM way and who enjoy creating their own THM friendly recipes. My favorite is Brianna Thomas. I’ve been following her blog since I started THM, and she has created two cookbooks of her THM friendly recipes, and she uses simple, everyday ingredients, and because she’s from a similar background to the Amish and Mennonite community in my area, many of her recipes are healthy versions of foods my family is used to eating, and the majority of her recipes are not time-consuming.

Now, I’ll just touch on the four products you can see in the above photo: the little green bottle is liquid stevia. Stevia is a natural, plant-based sweetener, not a chemical, and I love to use this liquid version in my THM drink recipes, especially the cold ones, because I don’t have to struggle to get it to dissolve. The little bag next to it is Pyure, which is a stevia/erythritol blend (natural sweetener) which I like to use in my baking. The box of 100% pure Oolong tea is a staple in the THM shrinker drink, which helps in the aid of weightloss. The final product is THM’s brand of whey protein (non-flavored) that can be added to smoothies and baking products and shakes to boost the protein, and I like that it doesn’t have a flavor that will affect the taste of the final product.

In conclusion, I am back on track with the THM plan and it wasn’t hard to get back on board, and I am committed to sticking with it for life so that I can remain healthy and live as long as possible to be here for my family and to continue writing good stories, especially since the first one is almost ready for publication. This really plan does keep my sugars and weight under control.

Sorry for the long post! I hope you found it interesting, informative, and helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post in the comments section.

 

What I’ve Learned About Church

This will be a post that has to do with my Christian beliefs and what I have learned about church throughout my life. You may or may not choose to read it, and you may or may not agree with me if you do read it, and that is certainly your prerogative.

As a child, my family didn’t attend church much, but my mother took me to church sporadically. When she did, we always went to the same church. After my high school graduation as my friends moved out of the area or went off to school and I stayed behind, I decided something was missing from my life, and I decided to go back to church. Because I was only familiar with one church, that is the church I went to and I remained at that church for more than twenty years.

However, as my husband and I were raising a family, at one point we felt we needed a to attend a different church. We prayed about it and God led us to a church that was a forty minute drive from our home, but we believed it was where we needed to be and we remained a part of that church for ten years.

Both of these churches were good for us during the time we attended them. However, as we learn and grow in our walk with the Lord, we sometimes feel a need to move to a different church. Sometimes it’s because of something we are struggling with inside the church. Sometimes it’s a change our kids need. Sometimes it’s because of something we are struggling with inside ourselves. And sometimes it’s a combination of things, but one thing I have learned in the few churches I’ve been a part of is that people put too much emphasis on theology and not enough emphasis on the Bible.

You see, the Bible, according to my beliefs, is God’s word, His truth–the one and only real truth, and I measure everything against God’s word. In other words, if it contradicts God’s word, it’s not true. And what I have learned, in the two churches I was a part of, us that when you focus on theology, you are focusing on one man’s teaching or interpretation of Scripture (the Bible). One church we went to was Armenian and focused on Scripture that supported the teachings of John Wesley, and one church we went to was Reformed and focused on Scripture that supported the teachings of John Calvin.

However, what I came to realize is that the Scriptures that supported both these teachings are ALL part of the Bible–God’s word. Therefore, ALL of those Scriptures are true. So my question became: is there a church, a pastor that teaches ALL of these Scriptures, ALL of this truth. Because what I came to realize is that when you focus on one teaching, you focus on the Sovereignty of God, and I believe God is Sovereign — nothing happens that He is not aware of and that doesn’t fit into his perfect plan for us. (Yes, He is aware of all of the bad things that happen, but those things happen because of man’s sinfulness, and though bad things happen, God never leaves or nor forsakes us. He is always there to help us and to pick up the pieces.)                                                                  If you focus on the other teaching, you focus on man’s free will and man’s responsibility. Focusing on just one or the other creates problems because if we focus only on God’s Sovereignty, we don’t think that anything we do matters, so why should we share the message of Jesus with anyone? It’s like we’re robots or something. And if we focus only on man’s free will and responsibility, we can’t believe that Grace is a free gift that only requires us to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ. We don’t have to DO anything to earn salvation. And, so we’re always trying to do something that’s good enough.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to do good works, but if we believe in God and Jesus and feel the love He has for us, then we will want to do things to please Him, not to EARN something, but just to please Him. Like a child who recognizes his parent’s love and because he loves his parents in return, he wants to please them.

So, what I have learned is that we need to accept that God is Sovereign and also do good works and share Jesus Christ with others because we love Him, not because we have to earn our way to heaven.

And I am thankful that we have recently found a church whose pastor recently preached a sermon, putting these two things together, and whose focus is on The Word of God (the Bible), not a specific theology. That is how I know we have found the church that is right for us now, because it is what I prayed for because I want All of God’s Truth from All of God’s Word.

I welcome comments, whether or not you agree with me, as long as you are respectful in your use of language.

My Broken Heart

This post will be more personal than most of my posts, and I will be sharing some things about my beliefs. I posted the previous sentence as a warning, so if you choose to read this post, DO NOT leave a comment saying you were offended.

Recently, I have been reading about actions and decisions that some churches or denominations have been doing and making, and it has literally broken my heart–how the church can turn its back on the truth of God’s word and cling to and teach lies because they don’t want to offend anyone, or they find the truth of God’s word uncomfortable.

I’m sure in Bible times, when Paul was preaching, especially to the churches who were doing wrong or showing wrong attitudes, people were uncomfortable. I know that before I gave my life to Christ, I sat in church and squirmed in my mind at some of the truth that was preached from the pulpit because I WAS CONVICTED! That is what the TRUTH of God’s word does — it convicts people of their sins and opens their eyes to the freedom available through belief in Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection. And when someone knows and experiences this truth, freedom, and the unconditional love of the heavenly father, they WANT to PLEASE the heavenly father by being obedient to His Word.

My heart is aching for the churches in this world. They need to get back to the Truth of God’s word and not be afraid to preach it boldly for there are many who are hurting or are just hungry for Truth, and Only the real TRUTH can set them free.

I am praying that God will send revival to the churches and the country of the United States. If you are a true believer, won’t you join me in this prayer?

Okay, this post is finished, and if you chose to read this entire post and you choose to leave a comment, whether in agreement or disagreement (and I welcome both), do so respectfully, for that was the reason for my warning at the beginning of this post. Any disrespectful comments will not be posted and will be deleted, but I welcome a respectful debate using appropriate language.

A Poetry Hiatus

Hello Everyone,

I’m sorry if you are a fan of my poetry. I know I missed posting a poem last week, and this is not what you were expecting today. However, poetry is a struggle for me. I started writing and posting poems when a friend challenged me to participate in the National Poetry Writing Month about two years ago, but poetry does not come easily to me.

Also, my life is rather busy right now as I have a son preparing to graduate from Bible school and go off to a foreign country on a missions/preaching trip for three months. I also have another son who will be coming home from college today and will remain home for the summer and the fall, then return to take his final semester in the spring of 2019 and then graduate from college. I also have a son who is of middle school age that I homeschool, and we are finishing up our school year.

In addition to all of that, I continue to read books for authors who request that I read their book and write a review because I enjoy helping other writers. I also continue to work as a professional freelance writer, as well as, continuing to work on my first novel, which I hope to have completed by the end of the summer if not before.

Therefore, I have decided to take a break from poetry, and I’m sorry to say that I do not know what to fill my Friday space with here on my blog at this point. So, if you have any suggestions, I would love for you to leave me a comment, but for now, I will simply take a break from Fridays at least until the end of May.

Enough Time to Write

If you’ve been visiting or following this blog for long, you probably already know that in addition to being a writer, I am a homeschool mom and I am doing my best to live a healthy lifestyle – eating the Trim Healthy Mama way and exercising.  This means making everything from scratch, no processed foods. It also requires protein at each meal, low carbs and no sugar. It’s going well, but it can be time consuming to make everything from scratch, though not overwhelming.

My family has to take priority over my writing during this time in my life, which I know is the right thing, but I sometimes get frustrated because I WANT to write everyday, but that is just not possible right now.

Then, when I attended the Super Saturday writers’ conference this year, the keynote speaker, Mike Dellosso, addressed this very issue. He works a full-time plus a part-time job, is the father of five daughters in a homeschool family and writes books, and, like me, his family comes first, so his keynote speech was of great encouragement and help.

You see, I’ve been frustrated and feeling guilty because I’ve had so many people say, “If you really want to be a writer, you need to write everyday, AND, you need to treat it like any other job, which means you can’t NOT do it. You have to schedule time and park your behind in your seat and write — no excuses!”

Well, that’s fine for those whose children are grown and no longer living at home, but that is not where I am at. Therefore, when Mike talked about how we have a dream for writing much more than we do, but that might not be God’s plan for us right now, that made sense.

Mike reminded us of the story of Joseph from the Bible and how he had dreams that took twenty-two years to come to fruition, but that during that time, Joseph kept his faith and remained patient and made the most of each and every circumstance. (This was both encouraging and a bit discouraging to me because as a 50+ woman, I want to complete as many books as I possibly can before I am either unable or unavailable to do so anymore.)

However, Mike went on to say that wherever we are on the road in our writing, that’s where God’s want us at this time, and we should simply be content in that AND do our best with the time we have.

So, that is what I am trying to do in my writing life right now. I am trying to be content with the time that I have to write and use it to the best of my ability. I am working on cleaning out our spare room to organize my books on the bookshelves in that room and put my little desk up there, so that when I have time to write, I will have a place where I can go and not be distracted by other things that might need doing, or by interruptions and other distractions, so that my writing time will be as fruitful as possible. I am also trying to write at least twice a week and the first chance I get at the beginning of each month, I try to write and schedule a month’s worth of blog posts, so that I can concentrate on my WIP for a month at a time, since I normally get about four hours of writing time twice a week for the most part. That plan seems to be an encouragement for me as I actually feel like I am accomplishing something and making progress.

What about you? Where are you at in your writing journey?

Reading and Writing

Reading and Writing are my two most favorite things to do. I spend as much time as I possibly can doing these two activities, which as long as we have child(ren) still living in our home, is not as much as I would like, but the fact that I have lots of friends who love to read and write as much as I do is a huge plus. It allows me to share with other like-minded people, which is great, because even my husband doesn’t really understand my artist/writing ways.   🙂

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. To be a good writer, it is imperative to do a lot of reading, and not just books on the writing craft. Actually, sometimes you can learn more about writing from reading a fiction or nonfiction book than from some of the books on writing.

I’ve been told that I must spend a lot of time reading the type of books that I want to write because that’s extremely helpful. However, I love so many different genres that I read from a wide spectrum, which I think is also extremely helpful in many ways.

Since reading and writing are solitary activities, it’s important to be purposeful about getting out and spending some time with people. After all, that’s one place a lot of story ideas come from. Also, to just spend time with other reader/writer people helps to feed our creativity and helps us to be encouraged because, let’s face it, writing is hard work!

If you visit my blog regularly, then you’ve probably seen many of my Monday posts that are reviews of books I have read, so you know that I read a wide variety of genres and stuff that’s been published recently as well as many years ago.

What about you? What do you like to read?

A Big Change in my World

My husband and I are the proud parents of three wonderful boys, two of which are now grown. Our oldest went off to college last year, so this year he is a sophomore. It’s been a bit of challenge adjusting to his being gone. We miss him but are pleased to see him boldly going forth in the next stage of his life.

Now our middle son has decided to go much farther away than our oldest to attend a two year Bible school, with a third year option. Being left with just one in the house seems a huge difference and will most likely take a bit more time to get used to. Again, we are pleased to see this son also boldly going forth in the next stage of his life. We only hope this one will call us frequently since he will be much farther away.

Now, I am down to homeschooling my final child. We are enjoying this school year and it seems quite strange to only have to teach one child. This should also open up a bit more time for me to write, provided I use the extra time wisely.

Change is constant in our lives whether we like change or not. Some of us struggle more with change than others. I am not one who struggles very much with change.

How about you? What kinds of changes are you dealing with in your life right now?

Between Plotting and Pantsing

I have written here in the past about writing as a pantser and my attempt at becoming a plotter, and what I have found is that what works best for me is something between the two. I know there is a lot of talk about plotting and pantsing and many writers try to fit into one mold or the other or struggle to find their fit, so I am going to share my writing process in hopes of helping other writers who might find it more comfortable somewhere in between.

When I began my current WIP, I wrote down my two main characters’ (protagonists) physical descriptions, personality traits and their back stories. I did the same thing for my antagonist. Then I found some great sheets, that are FREE from a great website for writers:  Writers Helping Writers in their “Tools for Writers” section, called “Reverse Backstory Tool” and the “Character Pyramid” which I found helpful and not overwhelming, and I filled one of each of those out for my two main protagonists and my antagonist. I also wrote down the main plot and conflicts that I knew I wanted to include in the story.

Since I have decided that clean historical romantic fiction is the genre I am passionate about writing, I also did a little bit of research in regard to  the setting: historical time period and the real life towns that would be mentioned in my story and that would be home to my main characters; and into the life of some real life people who did the job I wanted my main male character to do so that I could make him as realistic as possible, and so, of course I also had to research that particular job. This sounds like a lot of work and plotting, but I didn’t feel that way, and writing something historical requires historical accuracy. I enjoyed the research almost as much as I enjoy the writing.

After that, I began my writing. In the midst of  working on this novel, I participated in two writer retreats where we did a couple of cool exercises that gave me a bit more insight into my main male character. I have also attended one writers’ conference, where I spoke with two published authors and shared a portion of my writing and they gave me helpful feedback. I am also a part of two different critique groups where I frequently share a piece of this novel for feedback. All of this feed back helps me to improve the story, and think about what I might be missing, which led me to contact a museum for more information about the historical aspects of my story (you can read about this here.)

I have also had to pause to research a few more things I needed to know about horses and riding and caring for horses. So, as you can see, because I do most of my writing as a pantser, I end up having to occasionally pause to research something I didn’t think about or anticipate before I began writing. Also, just because knowing that I have mistakes or missing parts in what I’ve already written, I cannot continue writing without fixing, changing and/or adding as needed during my writing sessions, so that interrupts my writing as well, but I’d much rather take care of those things as soon as possible and not have to go back and do ALL of those edits after finishing the entire novel. Taking care of it in bits and pieces is much less overwhelming to me. That’s why I submit to critique groups.

Some say that I am creating extra work or that it takes a lot more time to write the way that I do with these interruptions, but I don’t see how it takes any more time than all of the plotting some people do, and then writing the entire novel, and then going back and having to edit the whole thing. I think if a plotter and someone like me actually wrote down our time for the entire process, it really wouldn’t be that much different, assuming we are writing the same genre.

I hope that this information will be helpful for at least one of you out there.  Let me know if you’ve found it helpful or would like more information on any of this by dropping a comment in the comment box below.

Happy writing!

Coffee Shop Chat

Coffee Shop Chat

My friend Laura at Caffeinated Fiction found this neat little idea on Tessa’s blog and encouraged me to participate, so I decided I will participate here every other week on a Monday, since I already have specific things I post each day.  So now Mondays will be one Monday I post something about writing or my personal writing journey and the next Monday I will post a Coffee Shop Chat. I hope some of you will joins us in the Coffee Shop Chats as well. (I’m not a coffee drinker, so I’ll be drinking tea).

What’s a Coffee Shop Chat? 

There are a ton of writers out there in Blog-Land, and sometimes it’s just hard to connect. We are so focused on writing our next blogpost/ working/ schooling/ dealing with family stuff – we forget how much fun it can be to just sit and talk! 

Coffee Shop Chats are one way you can connect with other writers, readers, bloggers, whoever! It’s a time to just share, laugh and drink a cup of coffee or tea (or two.) You can share exciting events from the week, the latest book that’s inspired you, a great movie you’d like to recommend, or even share prayer requests. All the things you would share if we were sitting in a coffee shop together, spending an hour away from the cares of the world. 

You can post whatever, whenever you like! Don’t forget to add your ‘link-up’ to the bottom of the original post on my friend Tessa’s blog (listed above). That way we can all find one another and can respond to one another’s blog posts. Click here to go directly to her blog and scroll down to see the Guidelines section and the How to Post section, once you’re ready to participate! Don’t forget to comment on another blogger’s posts first (mine counts!)and to answer and include CONVO STARTERS!

Ready? Ok, let’s get together!

Music I’ve Enjoyed:

I am a HUGE Toby Mac fan and I LOVE his latest album, “This is Not a Test”.

Why do I love Toby Mac and his music? Because Toby is the real deal. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk. He donates to charities, reaches out to communities, spreads God’s word through his music and in his concerts and helps other Christian artists reach their goals.  And there are many times that something that is said in our Sunday school class or  our Pastor’s sermons that brings a Toby Mac song to my mind because it applies.

What I did this week:

I started school with my youngest son. We are homeschoolers and we finished our 2015-2016 school year at the end of April and had off the months of May and June and the week of the 4th of July, and because we like extra time off at the Christmas holiday time, we start school while summer is still going on. This week we had one day of Physical Education and Science and three days of History, Math and English Literature.

Here’s what we are reading:

We are studying the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder for history.

We are studying The Chronicles of Narnia for English Literature.

My son is doing lapbooks on these books. He is artistically inclined and loves doing lapbooking and notebooking.

I had to laugh the first day we started these books this week. I read from Little House in the Big Woods first and my son said, “This is a good book.” Then I sent him to complete two math sheets.

After math, I read from The Magician’s Nephew and when I stopped, my son said, “No, you can’t stop. You have to read more!” Yes, my son could read these books on his own, but one thing my boys and I enjoy is for me to read some of the main subject books out loud to them.

The two convo starters I will answer are from Tessa’s Christ is Write blog:

  1. Do you write more during the summer or take a break?

I write more during the summer because I have more time for writing.

2. Do you prefer summer or fall?

I prefer fall. Here in Pennsylvania, we get quite a lot of temperatures in the upper 80s to mid 90s that are accompanied by high humidity making the temperature feel ten degrees or more than the thermometer reports. I much prefer the comfortable temperatures of fall.

Now here are some Convo Starters for You:

  1. What’s your favorite book of all time?
  2. What’s your favorite hot beverage and your favorite cold beverage?
  3. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
  4. If you could have lunch with any author (alive or passed), who would it be and why?
  5. What is your favorite childhood memory related to reading or writing?