Hello World!

Word for the day: Busy: back to writing a novel again! 10/19/16

Household Tip: When you get the mail, take the time to handle it all right away. Yes, even filing what you want to keep. 10/20/16

Word for the Day: Weekend: Coming up. Let’s relax a little! 11/4/16

GETTING CONTROL OF EMAIL AND USING IT TO STAY ORGANIZED

I’ve come up with a couple of tips I hope will help you get a handle on some time-management problems when dealing with email.

First I use folders to sort my mail into very small areas. I have a business one where I place sub-folders to throw in payments, orders, and so on for each business. I have folders for people I do a lot of correspondence with. I have them for family members. And so on.

But I had a brainstorm the other day, and started one for personal emails to answer, and one for marketing ideas. Now I see at a glance how many I need to answer that are personal, and how many I should go through for marketing. I even send myself marketing ideas (usually links) when I find them.

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The system has helped with my usual overwhelmed feeling when I look at my inbox. And the marketing idea is great because when I sit down and decide to work on marketing, I can go to that folder and find ideas to carry out. Examples include using Notes in Facebook to put up my most current blog post, update my bios at Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. I try to work on one a day. (Think about it—that would be 365 marketing attempts a year!)

Let me know in the comments if you have any special email tricks

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BOOKS READ, AUGUST, 2016

I’ve decided to list the books I’ve read in the last month on the first Wednesday of every month with some thoughts about each one. My favorite of the month will be listed first in case you don’t have time to read the whole thing. The rest are in no particular order. I will only list those that I consider to be at least worth four stars on Amazon. The vast majority of books I read rate at least that many stars because I look for authors I like already, and/or for plot lines given in descriptions and reviews that interest me. I’ve noted when I’ve done full reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

If Morning Ever Comes by Anne Tyler

Okay, I’m prejudiced. Anne Tyler is one of my top five favorite authors. This is the first book she had published at the age of twenty-two! When I found this out, I was, of course, very jealous. It’s the story, told in the male viewpoint, of Ben Joe and his strange, dysfunctional but funny family. Mostly, it’s about love—all kinds of love. What’s not to love about that?

A Time of Torment, by John Connolly

Five star review up on Amazon and Goodreads. This is a Carlie Parker series thriller, the first in the series I’ve read. It involved a cult which I admit always fascinates me, and some very interesting characters. Very hard to put down.

So Many Steps to Death by Agatha Christi

I enjoyed this because it was an attempt by Ms. Christi to do a spy novel. Most reviews I’ve read put it down somewhat for that. I guess their expectations weren’t met. But if you like something different and love good plotting, good characters, and good writing, this is a very enjoyable book to read.

Dying in Style by Elaine Viets (a Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper #1)

This is the first in the Dead-End Jobs series by Elaine Viets. You can always count on some humor with stories by Ms. Viets. Josie Marcus is a mystery shopper. I knew this when I ordered the book, and I bought it because I wondered about how the whole mystery shopping thing worked. Although the plot is pretty improbable, this was a quick, fun read.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is one of those books that I’ll never forget. It’s the story of two sisters during WWII in France. One cautious; one impetuous, filled with heartbreak and suspense. I love stories where I learn something new, especially when there is excellent writing, as is the case here. Highly recommended.

The Limping Dog by J.R. Lindermuth

Another five-star review up on Amazon and Goodreads for this one. See my review on my blog: http://www.janchristensen.com/review-the-limping-dog-by-john-lindermuth/

New England (good start!). A sailboat washes ashore. Gavin Cutter, a local artist, rushes aboard to help. But the only living thing he finds is a limping dog. Isn’t that a great opening? I thought so.

The Last Mile by David Baldacci (Amos Decker, #2)

Another suspense novel where I learned something new, this time about a condition of total recall called hyperthymesia. Amos Decker has it, and it can be both helpful and annoying. Melvin Mars, awaiting execution in Texas for killing his parents, is saved by a man confessing to the murders. But did the confessor really do it? Many twists and turns in typical Baldacci fashion and hard to put down.

My Sister, My Love, by Joyce Carol Oates

And here’s an author I sometimes like okay, sometimes don’t appreciate at all. But I am very glad I read My Sister, My Love. It was just fascinating in so many ways. Very long, detailed, but the story pulls you in. It’s based on the JonBennet Ramsey case, but the little girl is an ice skater, not a model. Another book told in the male point of view by a female author, it’s of course exceedingly well-done. Highly recommended for people who love long, intricate novels.

Broken Harbor by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

Although I figured out what happened early on, this story pulled me in, and I had to finish it to see if I got it right. I did, but there was one more twist. You actually get two stories for one, and the writing is so good, nothing is confusing. Briefly, there’s a wonderful setting where a great detective is trying to figure out who killed two children, ages four and six, their father, and stabbed their mother who lived but remains unconscious for several days. I need to read the others in this series soon.

And that’s it for last month. See you next time. What’s the favorite book you read in August, 2016?

BALANCING WRITING ITSELF AND MARKETING THE WRITING

The other day I was reading about finding time to write and the reminder of Anne Lamont’s advice in Bird by Bird that you do as much as you can each day, and keep building on that, and you will finish, if you keep at it long enough.

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So, I have that down pretty well. I get stuff written—last couple of years two books a year plus articles, a short story or two, and email. Oh email doesn’t count?

Now I have nine (!) books published, and, I admit, they are languishing. This is probably because I’m not a good marketer. No, this is definitely because I’m not a good marketer.

So, my new plan is to set aside one hour a day for marketing. Yesterday, I was all set to do that when a big household project came up, and I ran out of time.

I guess today is another day.

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FIVE MAJOR INFLUENCERS OF MY NOVELS

Lewis Caroll

Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass

Entranced during childhood and beyond by the quests with very quirky characters and fun situations.

Influenced and still influences everything.

Mad Tea Party

Anne Tyler

Love her quirky characters, the humor, and the interesting plots. Locations are also often well-drawn.

Influenced almost everything, but especially my first published novel:

Sara’s Search

Nancy Drew

Influenced:

Tina Tales, especially Cluttered Attic Secrets where a group of friends—both female and male, but grown-up–attempt to solve a mystery. Sassy, pro-active protagonist.

Organized to Death

Buried Under Clutter

Cluttered Attic Secrets

Donald Westlake

Dortmunder Series, but all his books are great with engrossing situations and amazing characters.

Influenced: The Artie Crimes series:

Artie and the Long-Legged Woman

Artie and the Green-Eyed Woman

Artie and the Brown-Eyed Woman

Artie and the Red-Haired Woman

and upcomming, Artie and the Big-Footed Woman

Sue Grafton

Influenced, of course, my female PI series about Paula Mitchell:

Perfect Victim

A Broken Life

Secret Exposure

Front cover final I recommend composing your own blog post about the five major influencers of your writing.

(Sorry about the formatting. I don’t know why WordPress won’t let me do single spacing in this post, and I don’t want to take the time to figure it out when i could use the time better by writing my fiction!)

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A HUGE GOAL BROKEN DOWN TO DAILY GOALS = SUCCESS

If you only do these things, you will succeed:

  • Keep track—make your own scoreboard
  • Work to perfect your talent—study every day
  • Push through the bad days
  • Dig deeper by upping your daily goals, studying harder, and figuring out how to lessen your bad days
  • Never give up

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REVIEW: THE LIMPING DOG BY JOHN LINDERMUTH

Limping Dog LindermuthNew England. A sailboat washes ashore. Gavin Cutter, a local artiest, rushes aboard to help. But the only living thing he finds is a limping dog. There is no discernible damage, and no obvious reason for the boat being abandoned. A strange-appearing woman who was walking by with her dog when the ship ran aground disappears. Who was she? No one can find her.
Gavin recuses the limping dog, and the mystery of the ship’s missing passengers goes unanswered.
Then an insurance investigator shows up, asking questions, seemingly suspicious of Gavin Cutter. A woman insists Gavin take some money for rescuing the limping dog, but he refuses.
When even more questions are asked about the sailboat, Gavin becomes involved in getting some answers.
This story has great characters and a fascinating plot. The setting is picturesque and well-drawn, too. What more can you ask for? It definitely gets five stars from me.

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PRODUCTIVITY TIPS FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE

If you do creative work, you might consider how to get more done in less time. In the world of multitasking, creatives can become lost because they scatter their thoughts and feelings among too many things to do. I’ve read advice for creatives about making chores into activities. Run all your errands in one afternoon. Cook and freeze enough meals all day to feed everyone for a week or more. Answer routine emails once a week until your inbox is empty.

Of course, I’m going to talk specifically about writers here. You probably know that I’ve done a lot of research on time management and personal organization. And I’ve come up with a set of guidelines from all the research to use myself.

Over the last two or three years, though, I’ve become frustrated with my schedule, which in theory should work so well. I kept wondering why it didn’t. I’m going to show you what I used to do, and what I’m doing now. And why I think what I’m doing now is better.

My days had a set schedule/routine, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I take Thursday and Sunday off—Thursday to shop instead of the weekend, and to do other errands, perhaps see a doctor, whatever comes up. Sunday is my unplug day—I check email morning and night, but the rest of the day I [try to] stay away from the computer.

This is what my schedule looks like:

  • Get up, get dressed, get coffee and orange juice, turn on computer, make bed while computer warms up.
  • Drink coffee and juice, read and respond to emails.
  • Write 1,000 words on work in progress—fiction
  • Exercise.
  • Eat lunch while reading newspaper (resting eyes from computer glare)
  • Housework, more email, odd jobs—not my best time of day to do creative work. I have one chore planned for each day—bathroom and kitchen day, dust and dry mop day, vacuum day, and so on—more about this later.
  • Four o’clock, put computer aside, no more housework, relax for an hour, reading a book.
  • Five o’clock, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up kitchen, read or do email until seven.
  • Seven o’clock, work for one hour on a writing project or marketing.
  • Eight o’clock, downtime or more email, Facebook.
  • Nine o’clock, more writing projects
  • Ten—finish up on computer, shut it down. Read until bedtime.

Okay, I left out personal grooming, talking to my husband, goofing off.

You’ll notice I don’t watch TV. Well, rarely, I watch football games once a week during the season, and the occasional show my husband is recommending, or a movie he’s watching. Not really my thing, though.

Looks really good on paper, doesn’t it? Not that many hours of work.

The trouble is that the marketing also gets interspersed in there—Twitter, Facebook, blog articles, a newsletter every so often, and lots of other stuff I can’t even remember now. If I don’t schedule those times to relax, I don’t relax.

And usually, by 7 o’clock, I don’t want to do anything more. There’s simply too much stuff! Scattered stuff.

So, I have a new plan using the project idea.

  • Mornings stay the same except the writing new stuff switches to marketing when I’ve finished a project until I can’t think of another way to promote that project, then I go back to new writing.
  • Afternoons stay the same except I do projects instead of small bits of housework—my plan is:
  • Monday, major project, will differ each week.
  • Tuesday groceries, some cooking in advance.
  • Wednesday, catch up on email/home office work.
  • Friday/clean house.
  • Saturday laundry..

But evenings become either more writing/editing or marketing—in other words, not doing both every night, again, until it’s done for the latest project.

I’m not saying this is going to help, but it might. I’m a bit excited about this experiment. But would it be better to continue in the afternoon working on writing and marketing, and doing the other chores after dinner? Like with a regular job? Or reverse it and do the housework/chores first thing, get them out of the way, then spend the rest of the day writing? I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.

So, I’ll report back in a month or so. Stay tuned!

TIPS FOR USING THE CLIPBOARD TO COPY AND PASTE

I have a three-pronged routine for saving stuff I need to copy and paste somewhere else. I use a PC, so I have no idea if all of this will work on a Mac.

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(I wish my posture was this good!)

First, if it’s a website link, I use a free on-line program called Bitly to shorten it for use mainly on Twitter, but also in emails and other miscellaneous spots.

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https://bitly.com/

Copying whatever I need automatically goes to Ditto Clipboard Manager, another free, downloadable program whose icon sits with those other tiny icons at the right bottom of our screens. You can edit the items you copied to Ditto right in the program. You can delete them, too of course, or keep them around.

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http://ditto-cp.sourceforge.net/

Third, I made my own document called LINKS where I put those items that I am sure I will need to use over and over again, maybe only for a week for promotion, or forever. They tend to get lost during the day of using only Ditto. Plus I can make the type as big as I want in my own document. Ditto uses tiny type. Most importantly, I put that LINKS document right on my desktop so I can click it on first thing and use it all day as necessary, adding, using, and deleting as I go. I still use Ditto for a quick copy and paste of many things and leave them in there for a few days for future use, if needed.

Until I started using number three, I often had to go and hunt up the link or other stuff in Ditto, and if it had been shortened by Bitly, was not sure if it was the right one. In my LINKS document, I can spell out what it’s for.

I love finding easy ways to get the small stuff done. This approach is one of them. Anyone have more tips for copying and pasting?

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OUR 2016 TRIP EAST

We spent most of June traveling. A total of ten days travel to visit two locations where we spent eight days total, not counting the days we arrived in each city.

Two days to get to Meridian, MS, where I finally got to meet an on-line writer friend, John Floyd, and his lovely wife for dinner. We had a great time.

Two more days to get to Washington, DC, for an annual Vietnam Helicopters Crewmembers reunion. We’ve been going off and on since the late 1990s, so there are a lot of familiar faces. My husband served two terms in Vietnam and retired from the Army. He’s on a “crewmembers net” on-line, and many of the members attend the reunions. It’s great to put faces to names and actually chat with people. Many of the wives show up, and in the beginning, rarely a child or two. Now the children are grown and they love coming with their own children. It seems as if about half the attendees were family, the rest actual veterans. Many stories are swapped, much food and drink consumed, and lots of fun and laughter. It was great to see old friends and make a few new ones. We arrived on a Tuesday and left on Sunday for Newport, RI.

Because of an enormous amount of traffic, it took longer than we expected to get to Newport.

We both have a lot of history there. My husband grew up in the town and didn’t leave until he joined the Army. My aunt and uncle lived there, so from the time I was thirteen, I visited often, and when eighteen got a summer job there. Then now-husband Chris and I met later that year during Christmas holiday time in the church his family and my aunt and uncle attended. The Young People’s Association was decorating the church for the Christmas celebration, and I went to help. Ended up handing Chris ornaments while he put them on the tallest branches (he’s 6’4”). A couple of parties attended by both of us after that, and he asked me out. We ended up getting married in the same church where we met and have been happy ever since.

So, in Newport we visited Chris’s family (I have none left there, unfortunately). A brother-in-law, two brothers, and one of their wives, an old friend who hosted one of those parties from way back when, a couple who also met each other around the same time Chris and I did—the man went to school with Chris and we’ve gotten together with them every time we’re up there. Plus two women we’ve known, independently, since our teenage years who happened to meet each other in California and ended up living together, for years now. They are both Episcopal priests. I went to high school in New Jersey with one, and Chris attended church camp in northern RI with the other. It’s one of those coincidences that gives you goosebumps. Chris’s friend grew up in Bristol, which is right outside Newport, and the two women are now renting the house she grew up in and are in the process of buying another one.

I got to eat some lobster, Chris got to eat his whole clams, and the weather was glorious. We both love going back, but hate the trip itself.

It took five days to drive back, and again, the traffic in the northeast was horrendous. You wonder why we don’t fly. That’s just as bad, or worse in other ways. Seating is way too small for both of us who are so tall. TSA and cancelled flights are another big issue. Rental car places a huge hike away from the terminals. Difficulty finding anything and everything. Just not worth it.

Now home and rested, I plan to work on my writing some more. As soon as I make that first million, I’ll get a jet card, and we’ll fly up there every summer for a month or so.

It’s good to have dreams. And good to be home, but we’re so glad we went.

May I recommend a short story collection of mine called Warning Signs? I thought I’d suggest it since the cover is kind of on-topic. It’s an ebook available on Amazon (click on the cover). But if you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll send you a print autographed copy for free. Just email me your snail mail address.Warning Signs 160 pixels

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ARTIE AND THE LONG-LEGGED WOMAN

It’s December, and many people don’t have time to take a break and read a book. I have a great solution–short stories. I’ve written a slew of them, but some of my favorites star Artie, a hapless burglar who keeps bumping into beautiful women who need help. Artie and the Long-Legged Woman was the first I had published in this series by Untreed Reads, and so I’m particularly fond of it. There’s more info about it on my short story page–click on the cover there. But here’s a taste of what’s to come–the first two paragraphs of the story:

Artie watched with horror as first one beautiful leg emerged from the white limousine and then a second equally gorgeous leg followed. He held his athletic bag tightly in his gloved left hand, his right hand on the doorknob, ready to leave the jewelry store out the back exit into the alley. But there were the limo, and the legs, and here he was, holding the goods.

Artie sighed. He closed the door quietly behind him and started to walk away. Maybe the woman belonging to the legs wouldn’t notice. Sure.

Artie_Long-Legged_Woman_finalAnd also, the first paragraph (the rest of which you can see on the page dedicated to this story) of a very nice review:

I think I’m in love! Artie, why couldn’t you really exist, you conniving thief, you. Unfortunately, even if you were a real live person, I’m sure I wouldn’t fit the bill. No long legs here. Could I maybe win you over with a smile? I’d love to have those jewels you steal in my hands, even if just for a few minutes. I admit, I would be overly worried that you would get nicked by the po-po though. Now that would make for many a sleepless nights.

Isn’t that great? Really, I did NOT write it myself. I hope you will check out all the Artie stories, 99 cents or less,, depending on whether you buy them at Amazon or Untreed Reads (the publisher), links on the dedicated page. Or anywhere else you can buy ebooks, in any format out there.

HAPPY DECEMBER!