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Friday, January 17

Sometimes it's Just One Day

by Margie Senechal

Happy New Year! I for one, am happy to see 2019 in my rearview mirror. Especially the last couple of months. I am now just finding my way back to me.

Just before Thanksgiving, one of our leadership team was let go because of a failed random drug test. And then, the assistant store manager was fired for theft a week into December. So, we were down to a three-man, one trainee management team going into Christmas. 

In my first years at Walgreens, we were building Walgreens everywhere and I helped open close to twenty stores in a few year period. Sometimes I was just a worker bee, but other times, I had more responsibility. And there were times that you wondered if you were ever going to get everything done by opening day. Then a couple days before opening, everything began to fall into place like a string of dominoes. And we opened beautiful new stores.

That's how Christmas felt this year to me. Thank God for Amazon because otherwise everyone on my list would have to have been happy with Walgreens gifts--and while I like Walgreens, their gift department leaves a little to be desired.

I don't like to do New Year's resolutions, because once I've said it, I promptly forget it. Even when I've picked a word, I don't really embrace it until it comes toward the end of the year and I'm thinking about my new word.

So, this year, I'm working on setting realistic goals, and I'm going to do a few vision pages in my goal notebook (see Kristi's last post). And I'm going to focus on decluttering my life in every aspect--starting with my garage.

And I'm going to write. And read. And pray my sister who had a breast biopsy yesterday is going to be all right. And take one day, one failure, one step, one success, at a time.

But, right now, I'm going to head off to work and aim for having a great day, which is what I wish for all of you.

Tuesday, January 14

How to Make a Vision Board ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

Hiya, WordWrangler Readers! For those of you who have been around here for a while it will come as no surprise that I didn't make any resolutions this year. I don't really believe in resolutions, although I do think they can be helpful for people whose minds are wired that way. My mind just isn't. Making a goal? I can totally do that. Picking out a word for the year? Yep, doable. But resolutions, while they sound good as I'm coming up with them are just not something I can stick with. I'm not quite sure why.

Last year, for the first time, I made a vision board to go in my planner and I liked that a lot. Having a vision of what I want for my career and family that I saw every day? That was really helpful to me in making decisions and saying yes to a few things that came my way. So I decided to make another board this year - only I ended up making two: one for Writer Kristina and one for The Family Knight. I thought I'd share a little bit about how I make a vision board, just in case any of you would like to make one.

First, the supplies you'll need: a two-page spread in your planner (two pages means plenty of space but not too could use a single piece of paper, though, if that suits you better). You'll also need several old magazines, preferably those with lots of pictures. Travel magazines work well, women's magazines, even some kids magazines can be a good choice. If you don't have a bunch sitting around, hit up your local thrift store or call your local library. They usually have tons of magazines that they eventually have to toss...I picked up a stack of about ten magazines at our thrift store for $1. You'll also need a pair of scissors and a glue stick, double sided tape or those sticky tabs that scrapbookers use to tack down pictures. Some fun/inspirational/quote-type stickers would be good, too.
Kristina's 'family' vision board

The next step is simple: you're going to go through the magazines, cutting out pictures and headlines and quotes that speak to you about your vision for the coming year. Do the same with the stickers - pick out a few that speak to you. Maybe there are beach pictures and the beach makes you feel creative. Maybe there are pictures of a small town street and that speak to the settings you choose for your books. Maybe it's a phrase that makes you feel peaceful or excited. Go through your supplies and cut out anything that inspires you or makes you smile or makes you think YES!

When you're done cutting you'll probably have a stack of clippings that you feel is way too big to use, that's okay. Go back through the stack and choose just one image or quote that is your absolute favorite/top of your line. Put it right in the middle of the planner page (or printer or notebook paper, if you don't use a planner) but don't tape it down yet. Just let it sit there while you start going through your stack looking for other images or quotes or ads that speak to you.

You want things to be in different sizes and in some cases you'll just want a little piece of a bigger ad, image, or quote so don't be afraid to cut things down. I tore out a full page ad of a purple night sky with the word 'wonder' on it. I love the whole ad, but I couldn't fit a full page magazine ad on a planner page so I cut around the word wonder, leaving just enough of that night sky there for inspiration. Another thing I did: there was a full-page ad with packs of pens and little notepads. I tore out the entire ad and then cut down the pens and pencils and papers from it. Anything goes, just start with one image and add to that.

Part of Kristina's 'author' vision board
Once you've filled your page with clippings, it's time to embrace your inner tweenager and start taping or gluing things in place. Again, there is no set way to do this so just start with one image and build out from there. Add in stickers as you go, washi tapes if you like them, quotes and headlines. I like that main image to stay in the middle and everything else builds out from that core piece.

When all your favorite clippings are on the page, you'll probably still have a stack of clippings. That's okay. You can keep building your vision board, filling in every single stretch of white space on your page or you can toss them in the trash - after all, they've already served their purpose. They helped you find your favorite images or quotes to build a vision board for the year.

Do you make vision boards or resolutions or goals for the year? 
What's your process like?    ~ Kristina

Friday, January 10

Seeds... by Liz Flaherty #WordWranglers

I've been thinking, trying to put my goals for the year into some kind of linear order because linear works for me. Except for when it doesn't. When I have to scoop things together from all over the place and see how they come out.

But, anyway, here it is, the new Roarin' 20s. They started with a bang for romance authors, with RWA imploding and people making decisions they'd hemmed and hawed over for years about should I stay? or should I go? 

Before the ball had even dropped, I decided to go. The organization had provided very little that was helpful to me as a person or a writer for several years, but I'd stayed for the networking and the sense of community I got from it. I used to like the forums, too, but wearied of them long before I hit the button that unsubscribed me. It was past time for me to go and I've gained a personal lightness from it as well as a tenuous hope for the future. RWA as it was will never be again, but I have confidence the membership remaining will make something better of it.

Writing goals? I'll just keep doing it. I'll write my column, I'll hope for a new publishing contract. I'll talk about retiring. And I won't.

I didn't stress a word for this year, and ended up with helper. Because if I can't do or be anything else, that will be enough. I don't have leadership qualities, but I'm a good follower. A good helper. I have a servant's heart and I'm grateful for that.

Other than writing, what do I want to do? Travel, of course, and Nan and I are already making plans to that end. Have more kid time, more grandkid time.

Laugh more.

I want to be healthier and thinner, but mostly I want to be happy. Happiness is a work-in-progress, and some days it just doesn't happen, but most of them...yeah, most of them have seeds of joy blowing around even if I can't see any full-blown flowers. There's laughter in those seeds, and tears, and moments of...I hesitate to say it, but yes, perfection. Moments that make memories and firm places to stand on within ourselves.

And that's what I want for everyone else, too, lots of those seeds. Take them and grow something good, whether it's a book, a painting, or a comfortable place. Be happy. And help somebody.

Available for pre-order now. The latest round of stories from Christmas Town, Maine, from authors Anna Adams, LeAnne Bristow, Beth Carpenter, Melinda CurtisClaire McEwenAnna J. Stewart, Cari Lynn Webb, and me.

8 brand-new Christmas Town novellas from some of your favorite Harlequin Heartwarming authors. Valentine’s Day—and Christmas Town—will never be the same!

Christmas Town to the rescue!

An abnormally cold and snowy winter wreaked havoc in Christmas Town. Pipes froze, snowy roofs caved in, and even the famed gazebo in the town square was blown over! But the hardest hit was the historic town library, where pipes burst – flooding the main floor and destroying all the books and computers. While insurance helps, it won’t cover everything. Christmas Town’s solution?

Calling all bachelors!

The Knotty Elves decide a Valentine’s Day Bachelor Auction kills two birds with one stone – raising money to save the library while working their matchmaking magic. From a personal chef to the town’s snow plow operator, there’s one thing all these handsome, homespun heroes have in common: they’re about to find love, Christmas Town style.

Be sure to check out YOU BET YOUR VALENTINE by Anna J Stewart, the prequel novella that starts all the Valentine’s Day fun!

Tuesday, January 7

Simple Goals

Every couple of years, I break out my copy of Sara Ban Breathnach's Simple Abundance. She calls it "A Daybook of Comfort and Joy," and it truly is. If you've never read the book, I recommend it highly and it's even available as an e-book! I downloaded it to my Kindle a few years ago, which makes it easy to have wherever I am, but I’m still partial to the hardback book and it has notes in it from previous years, so it’s cool to read those, too. I am going to do the Simple Abundance meditations this year because it’s been way too long since the last time I did them, and I think I need that centering after having such a year of chaos in 2019.

Part of the meditation is to write in a Gratitude Journal. Believe it or not, blessed as my life is, sometimes I find it hard to list five things I'm grateful for without repeating the same things each day. I think that's because the exercise requires more thought than I'm willing to put into it, and maybe also because some days, I'm just not in the mood to be grateful. Gratitude is the first principle of the six Simple Abundance precepts. The first two months' worth of meditations focus on learning to be grateful for your current life, your current situation.

My life is wondrous. I am more than amply blessed with a lovely new home, a great family that includes a Grandboy who is a constant joy, a son to be proud of, and a loving and gracious husband. My sister are close by and I have several dear and intimate friends. I am a well-published author with readers who anticipate my next book. I have a great job that I can do in my jammies. I am a creative and healthy person—what's not to be appreciated?

Well, there's my's way too big. And if I don't get the size of it under control, my joints are going to turn in their notice. Food is not the enemy, my compulsive overeating is. I hate, hate, hate the idea of another round of Weight Watchers. I can't go there again. So it's going to be up to me to fix this. I can do it. I know I can do it. I simply need to start. I've been tentatively making small changes. Fewer sweets (my Red Light food) in the house, no baking, no grabbing a candy bar at checkout, or stopping for ice cream. No wine every night. I'm making smaller meals that are veggie and fiber focused and choosing to leave food on my plate if I feel comfortably full. I found a new gym close to my new house, so I’m back to the pool, which is my happy place. We'll see what happens.

There's also my inability to say “no” to job offers, which leads me to taking on more work than I should. Why? I think because I believe I need to be “earning my keep,” as it were. I need to contribute to the household income, particularly if I want to do things like do my writer trips with Liz or do some decorating in the new house or have a mani/pedi every couple of weeks. Well, I do need to earn money and help out, but I don't need to work myself into literal exhaustion just to prove my own worth. No one expects that—as a matter of fact, Husband has told me repeatedly to work as much as I want to, but not to overdo it.  And just because there is work waiting for me, that doesn't mean I have to be in my office, butt in chair, every waking moment. It's okay to watch a movie with Husband, have lunch with friends, or just knit. I'm on deadline for a book right now, too, so time management is something I need to practice better in 2020. 

I'm not a Resolutions or a Goals-for-Year kind of person—I don't make them because I always end up breaking them and feeling bad and worthless. So today, on day seven of the new year, the new decade, I'm simply going to make a promise to myself to try to be more writer and less editor. To try to be more healthy, happy woman and less aware of the size of my behind. To embrace all the good and lovely things in my life and to stop wishing for things to be different. All I have right this moment is all I need.

Life is good. Life is very good...I know that, I know it with all my heart. I'm counting on the daily Simple Abundance meditations to help me remember what a lovely life I have. 

Thursday, January 2

An Interview with Jana Richards by Janie DeVos

     What better way to get started with a new year than to learn a little more about each other, so, that’s exactly what I decided to do with fellow WordWrangler, and friend, Jana Richards.  You just never know what goes on in the life —and mind—of a writer, unless you ask.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Jana a little better.  I know I did.  She’s a pretty neat gal!

Happy Reading!

Janie DeVos

1).  Jana, when did you first realize you could write?

I’m not sure. Maybe it was when I wrote a book report in high school that my teacher accused me of plagiarizing from a “real” writer. Or maybe it goes back even further to elementary school. My very first Dick and Jane book had no words because, duh, none of us could read. The story was told in pictures and it was our job to put words to that story. I remember being pretty good at that.

2).  What was the first piece you wrote that made you realize you are a writer?

It was the first book that I submitted for critique to my writing group. They took the book seriously and didn’t mock or tell me not to quit my day job. Some of them might have even said it was pretty good. I think it was the fact of being accepted by other writers that made me feel I belonged.

3).  Have you ever worked at a job that involved writing?

I do some writing for my current job. I’ve written a couple of articles for our newsletter – riveting stuff about worker’s compensation. For several years I’ve interviewed and written short articles and speeches about members of our association who are being honored for their accomplishments. And I do a lot of proofreading. I check over documents like press releases and newsletter articles that my colleagues have written. Proofreading my own work for so many years has made me pretty good at it.

4).  Who has influenced your writing?

Probably every writer, especially every romance writer, that I’ve ever read and enjoyed. I really admire Suzanne Brockmann’s romantic suspense. You can’t beat Mary Balogh for historical romance. And I’ve always loved Nora Roberts for just about everything.

5).  What kind of novels do you enjoy reading?

I enjoy a lot of different novels. I like historical and contemporary romance and romantic suspense and mystery. Every now and then I like to throw in something more literary. And I also enjoy non-fiction from time to time.

6).  Is there any other genre of writing you'd like to try moving ahead?

I would love to write a mystery series. I’d love to combine my love of mysteries with my love of history, especially the history of World War Two. So far, that’s about the only idea I have, but some day I’d like to flesh it out.

7).  What is your favorite part of writing?

I love the planning/plotting stage of writing when I come up with ideas about what happens in the story and the people the story will be about. I love making up back stories for characters.

8).  What is your least favorite part of writing?

Writing the first draft. The first three chapters are great. I’m excited about the story and the characters. This is the best thing I’ve ever written! Then, once I get into the middle of the story, the plot I so carefully worked on no longer seems so wonderful. This is the worst thing I’ve ever written!

That’s been the pattern for the last several books I’ve written. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that if I persevere until “The End”, I can take that crappy first draft and work wonders on it in revisions.

9).  What moment stands out as being one of the best as a writer?

It was with my first published book and my first editor. I painstakingly went through the (long) list of edits the book needed. She made a suggestion about the number of times I used the word “smiled”. It was a lot. I went through the manuscript and eliminated or changed as many as I could. My editor told me that taking the time to do the work made me “a real writer”. I’ll never forget those words and I’ll always appreciate her saying that to me.

10).  What moment stands out as being not-so-good?

I went to a conference once where everything went wrong. Or at least, events didn’t live up to my high expectations. I thought I was going to final in a contest the conference was running. I didn’t. I thought I’d have the opportunity to interview a big-name writer who promised to speak to me. It didn’t happen. Some of the attendees weren’t all that friendly. The weekend was one disappointment after another, to the point where I seriously considered quitting writing. I really might have quit, except for an email I received the day I got home, telling me that I’d finaled in another writing contest I’d entered. I also received an email from the big-name author. She apologized for not having the time to meet with me during the conference and offered to be interviewed by email. There’s always highs and lows.

11.)  Do you have any advice for upcoming writers?

I’d tell new writers not to get into this business unless they plan to work hard. You need perseverance and something of a thick skin to make it in this business. You also need to be prepared to keep learning, not just the craft of writing, but marketing, too. Marketing knowledge has become an essential part of the business of writing, and one of my goals this year is to up my game in this area.

But I think my most important advice is to enjoy the process of writing. Do you want to write a book or do you want to have written a book? There’s a difference. If you don’t enjoy the process of writing, if you don’t want to make the time that it will take, then maybe this isn’t the business for you.

Friday, December 20

Christmas Memories by Jana Richards

When I think of Christmases past, it’s not the gifts I remember. It’s not even the decorations, although there are a few decorations that are dear to me, like the ornaments my grandmother made from egg cartons, glitter and pipe cleaners. The Christmas memories that are most precious for me are those spent with family sharing the food of the season.

When I was a little kid, I participated in the children’s concert at church on Christmas Eve. I’d have a part to recite and Christmas songs to sing along with all the other kids. For our efforts, we received a small brown paper bag filled with candy, nuts and a Christmas orange. How I loved that little treat bag! Today getting a mandarin orange is no big deal; you can get them at the grocery store year round. But back then, they were only available at Christmas, making them very special. I still love them.

After the concert, we gathered at my maternal grandparents’ house to open gifts. How we all got into their tiny house I have no idea; Granny and Grandpa had six children and fourteen grandchildren, yet somehow we squeezed in. I know we opened gifts, and I was probably excited about them at the time, but I can’t name one gift I received back then. What I do remember is Granny’s dining room table overflowing with food. Everything was homemade, from the fresh bread, cookies and cabbage rolls, to the pickles Granny had preserved. The potatoes and carrots and other vegetables came from the massive garden Granny and Grampa lovingly tended over the summer. But the star of the show was Granny’s apple strudel, also homemade. It was light and flaky and delicious, and since Granny’s been gone, I’ve haven’t tasted a pastry nearly as good.

Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we went back and forth each night for dinner to the homes of my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. So much food! I remember my mother baking cookies and Christmas cakes for weeks leading up to Christmas. None of it ever went to waste.

To this day the thing I most enjoy about Christmas is being with friends and family, sharing some laughs and a good meal. May all our Christmases be spent with the people we love, eating the food we love.

What are your favorite Christmas foods? Is it your mother’s famous shortbread cookies, or your Aunt Mabel’s turkey dressing?

The Word Wranglers are taking a little Christmas break, but we'll be back just after the New Year. Nan Reinhardt starts off 2020 with a post on January 7, 2020. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!