Whether you’re working a side hustle or running a solo business, you will need to be able to make the most of your work time, and often there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day to get everything done that you want to complete on every given day. Therefore, it is necessary to find ways of using your time most effectively. Here are a few ways that I have found to make the most of my time as a solo entrepreneur.

I am Prioritizing Activities

Every day, I determine that I have one major project that I want to complete that is directly related to my major goals that I intend to accomplish during the next month and year. For the most part, I make it the first thing that I do each day and after that, I work on other business-related projects.

I am Batching Tasks

Easy, small activities are often necessary to make a business work. Reaching out to a single potential client may in itself be a small task, but if you don’t send out emails or make phone calls, you’re not likely to get the results in your business that you would like. You need to make time to do these mini projects. I often batch similar tasks when it’s appropriate. For instance, after making progress on my major morning project, I might send out a series of personalized emails to potential clients based on templates that I have created.

I am Creating Templates

I have created several templates that I use regularly to help save me many hours of work over a month. I choose a specific template to use for the business, and then personalize that template for that specific customer. This one strategy alone saves me many hours of work because I don’t have to rebuild every email from scratch.

I have several different kinds of templates. Some inform others of specific products or services that I am offering. Some thank others for purchasing and informing them of a related product or service that I offer. Some are regarding questions I want to ask them about their needs, and some are just to say thank you for anything that they did for me. I even have some wishing a person “happy birthday” or happy work anniversary.

The way I start developing these templates is simple. Whenever I need to write an email, I save a copy of that email in a folder marked “templates” and then organize them under different headings. Then whenever I need to write another email, I go to the file and copy the email and personalize it to the specific receiver.

I Am Streamlining Communication

When communicating with others, it’s best to use the most expedient method possible. When I can, I contact a lot of people all at once through email marketing, but if that’s not a good option, I do it through a direct email, if not an email, then a text, if not a text, then a phone call. I might use direct mail for the initial contact. I try to only meet someone in person if I contact them first in one of these other ways and have an appointment with that person or entity. It does save me a lot of time.

I keep a list of all my previous contacts and other information so that I can keep them informed on what I am doing. I send them email marketing campaigns so I can keep in touch with all of them. Every time I send one, I remind them of what I have to offer while at the same time giving them advice based on my expertise. I make it an added benefit to what I have already done for them.

To connect with new customers, I often do that via social media and lead them to my email newsletter so that they too can get the information that I’m giving to my existing customers.

I Am Creating a Procedure Manual Even Though I am the Only Person in my Business

Every day, week, and month, I measure how I spend my time. “What you write down and measure improves exponentially”. Writing down how you use your time will help you improve your time use exponentially as well. Keeping that information all in one place will help in this process.

I write down everything I do and every habit that I develop and create a procedure manual. I observe how I can improve my productivity in every part of my business and brainstorm the various ways that I can improve that production and experiment.

There’s another added benefit. Once you know what needs to be done, you can create positions to fill with people who can do what you don’t do as well as what someone else might be able to do it. No need to spend hours trying to decide what their job description should be, you’ll have everything you need to determine that in one place.

In addition, as you develop trust in those who work for you, you will be able to get others to not only do what you no longer want to do but also do those things that you love doing when you need a vacation.

Revising the Plan as Business Grows

As my business grows, this business model will grow with it. As my business grows, my business will become more complicated, not less, so having a plan to utilize my time better is definitely an important step in the business planning process. I will be able to bring more people in as I need them and do it more efficiently.


Anyone who has followed me for a long time knows that I am a follower of Jesus Christ. However, because of what has been occurring during the Evangelical Christmas movement, I have been silent about where I stand in all of this. I have talked around it, but now I can no longer talk around that elephant in the room. I must deal with it.

The Enemy is Not People

According to Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The rulers of the darkness of this world are not people, but there are people who are controlled by this darkness, but it is not those people who are the problem. It is their ideology.

Conspiracy Theories are Agendas

Conspiracy theories fall into that category as much as anything else does. They are almost always lies and are used to control us with fear. The first time I realized the insidiousness of conspiracy theories had to do with a military installation in Crane, IN. Someone had taken pictures of the parking lot that was inside the Naval Surface Warfare Center made the parking spaces look much smaller than what a normal parking lot would look like. The commentator pointed out that FEMA was going to use the installation for keeping people rather than for cars and that the fence around was to keep people in.

I knew that wasn’t the truth, because I worked with several reservists who would go to the installation for training and used classified information. The reason that there was a fence was to keep people OUT not to keep people in. The parking lot in the photo didn’t have any cars in it so it was hard to distinguish the actual size of the parking spaces inside the lot. A good photographer could position his camera so that it appeared that the parking spaces were smaller. The conspiracy promoted fear that the government was out to get them and that they would be put into concentration camps if they didn’t stay on top of this.

This incident taught me to be weary of conspiracy theories because people often have agendas that they are trying to promote. Sensational conspiracy videos offer the most outlandish ideologies that people believe because they want to believe that the government is out to get them and that the enemy is on every corner and wants to destroy them.

People become convinced that what they are watching is true because of algorithms. Algorithms on the internet feed you more of what you are watching and don’t give you the alternative so you keep hearing the same ideology over and over again until you think that it all must be true because it appears everywhere.

No King but Jesus

Another aspect of the lie that we are being fed is the idea that some one person is going to save us from those powers. Again, it’s the fear of the darkness that makes us look for a savior to save us from that darkness. The sad thing is that any savior that we see except for THE Savior is a phony. It has happened throughout history. We often are just too lazy to see that any person other than Jesus Christ, no matter how benevolent he might seem in the beginning will succumb to the dark powers.

I saw this happen firsthand under a pastor that I sat under. He was a young man who wanted to do something great for God. He encountered a man who was on the radio who convinced him that God had chosen him to lead a church to greatness in the town where I lived. He then picked up and insisted that our church read a book that insisted that churchgoers were required to follow and not question their leaders.

This started him on a campaign to kick out anyone from the church who did not completely agree with him including the church board. I stayed long enough for the pastor to say that the church secretary and her husband (he was on the board) were holding seances and conducting witchcraft incantations on Saturday evenings at their house! I knew that wasn’t true! I attended the Bible studies that occurred there every Saturday night. There were no evil things happening there! I continued going even after that and sat right in the front of the church and then the pastor came after me and said that I had no business sitting there judging him. I told God there was no way that I could sit another service there and I got the impression that God was telling me that he wasn’t the one keeping me there. I left.

A few months later I heard that he had chased everyone out of the church and that he had convinced the last of the parishioners that since there were so few of them that they should sign the parsonage over to him as payment for his services. Shortly after that he chased those last ones away and then one Sunday, he and his family were the only ones left so he took the keys to the church and sent it to the denomination leaders saying that the people in the area were a backslidden wash that wanted nothing to do with the truth. He had murdered the church body one by one. He sold the parsonage and moved away.

Developing True Faith

How can we know what is true and what isn’t? Well, first, you must realize that fear is the opposite of faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” Hebrews 11:6

When it comes to spiritual things, we tend to be lazy and depend on another person to tell us what God wants to tell us. We try to depend on someone else’s faith rather than developing our own faith in God and therefore we are duped by conspiracies and teachers who have their own agendas.

Our faith is developed through heart-knowledge of the God who saves us and I leave you with this from his word. “For God so Loved the World, that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him will not perish but have everlasting life for God sent not his son into the world but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3:16 & 17. I urge you to meditate on these words this week.


If your home looks like this, It’s time to declutter!

Too often when people declutter, they have a once-and-done attitude about the process only to discover that they must go through the whole process again in just a short time. It’s better to take time every day or at most every week to declutter your home.

Begin a Daily Decluttering Habit

Determine when the best time is to do your decluttering each day. Now, pick a second time in which you could do the decluttering during the day if you can’t do the first. Finally, pick a third time that you could declutter earlier in the day if you know ahead of time that you won’t be able to declutter at your scheduled time.

Now, gather what you need to organize what you’ll need to do the decluttering. First, you’ll need several boxes one for donated items, one for donated items to specific people, one for items to return to other parts of the house, and a trash bag as well as cleaning supplies.

Set an Alarm

Set an alarm to go off at the original time that you planned to do your decluttering and set it for that time every day. This reminder is important for making decluttering a habit.

Now determine what you want to declutter that day. If you were working in a specific area of the house the day before, you may want to continue in that area. If you simply want to work on a little here and a little there, you might want to designate a different part of the house.

Once you decided where you’re going to work, take all your decluttering tools into the room where you plan to start working. Set your phone alarm for fifteen minutes.

Pull Out One Item at a Time

Now take one item out of the area where you’re and determine whether you will keep it, toss it, donate to a general collection, or donate to a specific person. If you’re keeping it, put it into a pile ready to return to the area after fifteen minutes.

Keep removing items from the area you are decluttering and determine what you will do with each item until the alarm rings and the fifteen minutes are up.

Put Everything Away

When the time is up, use cleaning supplies to clean the area if necessary or possible. Neatly put the items you’re keeping back into the area you are decluttering. Put the trash bag away. Put the items that belong in the other areas of the house away in those areas and put donated items in your car so you can deliver them when you get a chance.

Enjoy the Process

Do this every day and it won’t be long before clutter will no longer be a problem for you and your family. Do you have a method similar to this for decluttering or do you do something different?


My husband and his friends found pawpaws along the river this past weekend

This past weekend, my husband and some of his friends spent several days on the river, and on the bank they found a pawpaw tree. They brought me home a bag of them. I looked them up online. Here’s what I discovered.

The Pawpaw Tree

The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a temperate climate member of a large, mainly-tropical plant family (Annonaceae), and produces the largest edible fruit native to North America. It is a small, understory tree, unlikely to ever grow into the forest canopy.  

The Pawpaw Fruit

The pawpaw fruit is a late-season fruit, which begins to ripen in late summer and peaks in September and October. The flavor of raw pawpaw fruit is similar to bananas, but with hints of mango, vanilla, and citrus. The fruit looks like a small green potato and occurs in clusters on the tree. Successfully foraging for pawpaw fruits can be a challenge. Pawpaw is self-incompatible, which means that pollen produced on a plant cannot pollinate flowers on that same plant. Instead, to produce fruit, a pawpaw flower must receive pollen from flowers on another tree, and sometimes this “other tree” is farther away than it may appear at first glance! Although pawpaws frequently grow in patches, the trees in a patch are often genetically identical and connected underground making it the same plant. Pawpaw’s pollinators include flies and beetles and pollinate some flowers so that plant produces fruit.

Opossums, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, and birds all love pawpaw fruit and will be watching for ripe fruits. Pawpaw fruit can often be found on the ground under a fruiting tree.

Making Pawpaw Bread

When my husband brought the pawpaw into the house, I tasted the flesh of the pawpaw and it tasted like a cross between a papaya and a banana In my research of the pawpaw, discovered that the fruits don’t last more than 2-3 days once they are ripe, and since the pawpaws wouldn’t last more than a couple days and I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat all of them in that length of time, I decided to make it into a bread and because the flavor is so similar to bananas, I used my favorite banana bread recipe. Here’s how I made the bread. I made a double batch, but here’s the recipe for a single batch of pawpaw bread.

Pawpaw Bread Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

Mix Ingredients:

1 ¾ cup of all-purpose flour

2 ¼ teaspoons double-acting baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup shortening or vegetable oil

2/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 to 1 ½ cups pawpaws (seeds removed)

1-2 beaten eggs

½ cup chopped nuts (optional, I used pecans, but I am sure English or black walnuts would also work)

Pour mixture into baking pans bake for one hour or until bread is done.

Taste

The resulting bread immediately after taking from the oven tastes like banana bread but had a hint of what reminded me of grapefruit.

Saving the Seed to Grow My Own Pawpaw Trees

I have decided that I enjoy pawpaws enough that I want to grow a few of my own here in my permaculture orchard. I plan to plant them in the flower bed on the back side of the orchard. The reason I’ll be planting them there is that it’s a shaded area and pawpaw trees don’t like direct sunlight. In the meantime, though, the seeds need to be stratified. To do this, I rinsed the seeds and placed them in damp (not wet) paper towels. The instructions I read recommend damp (not wet) sphagnum moss, but I don’t have any of that so I am using paper towels. I now have them in the refrigerator and will keep them there for 90-120 days or until spring when I will plant the seeds. They can be planted in 10-inch pots, but according to what I have read, they do best if planted directly into the ground about an inch deep.

I hope to let you know if the pawpaw seeds and resulting plants faired in a future article.


I’ll be adding another rough draft for The Locket Saga

When most people think about annual traditions in November here in the United States, Thanksgiving comes to mind. For me, the most significant tradition is NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and I participate almost every year. NaNoWriMo occurs every November from 12:01 am on November first until 11:59 pm on November 30 and millions participate all over the world. The objective of the event is to write 50,000 words of the first draft of your novel during the month.  Most years I win, although one year I didn’t and another year I didn’t participate at all, but NaNoWriMo has been significant in getting the first drafts of my novel written.

Most years, I write the first draft of one of my novels in the Locket Saga series. The series is a historical fiction story about a family where the bride inherits a locket to wear when she weds. Each story is about the courtship of the relationship of that novel. Because the book is about the ups and downs of one family member’s courtship, (for lack of a better word), each book in the series is independent of the other stories in the series. Several of the books in the series was started on NaNoWriMo.

 One year I wrote a story that was more contemporary, and it is still sitting in the drawer waiting for me to dust it off and bring it back to life. (I don’t know if that will happen.)

This year I am thinking about writing a book that has been in my head to add to the Locket Saga for many years now, and since before I published When God Turned His Head, but I still haven’t written it yet. The story idea is set during the discovery of oil in 1859 in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Because it is considered unlucky to share too much of the plot at this point, I will let you know more about that later.

In the two months coming up to November, I will be working on certain aspects of the novel. These aspects include creating a summary of the book, adding character sketches to the series bible, the title, the outline for the book, doing research for the time of the book, and creating the rough draft blurb for the back of the book. I like to do as much of this as possible before writing the first draft because I like to have a working knowledge of what I want in my first draft before I write it. This saves a lot of the editing that I must do when I begin that process.

NaNoWriMo is an annual event that I don’t like to miss and I won’t this year either. Even though my son has his wedding this November, I can almost guarantee that I will have a successful win when I write the book. Are you participating NaNoWriMo this year?


When we learn to do anything, it is hard at first. When we learned to walk, we fell down a lot. Then we got good at walking and now we can get up and walk across a room without consciously thinking about what we do. We were walking in flow.

When you learned to drive, you had to think through each move you made. You thought out every move we had to make. Think about what it was like when you came up to your first traffic sign. You had to know when to let off the gas when to put on the brake, and when and how to put on the blinker. You needed to remind yourself to look both ways before crossing an intersection. You had to think about how to turn the steering wheel. After practicing those driving skills over several weeks and months, you no longer had to think about what you were doing. The actions became automatic. You were driving in flow.

When you learned to read, you had to learn the alphabet, the sounds the letters made, and the words that the sounds produced. You had to string the words together to make sentences and then those sentences to make paragraphs. Soon you were reading and not even thinking about the words that you were reading instead, you were picturing the scene and feeling the emotions of the characters. You read in a flow state.

The same thing can happen with writing. You can develop writing skills that make writing flow just as easy as walking. You can learn to write in such a way that all you need is an idea and a few subtopics, and you can write a scene or an article very quickly because you learned how to write in flow.

Here are a few skills that every writer needs to learn so that they can best write in flow.

Learning Spelling and Grammar

Knowing how to spell words and knowing how to put a sentence together is the backbone of writing in flow. If you don’t know how to spell or how to put words down into a meaningful pattern, it’s difficult to write anything that makes sense.

Reading and reading a lot of good contemporary literature can help you in this skill.

Making a game of learning “spelling words” that you are likely to use regularly is a good practice if spelling is difficult for you.

Writing and writing regularly will help you over time develop this skill as well.

Learn Touch Typing

Years ago, I was in school, I had to write a lot of essays about the subject matter. In one class we had to write something that was due every Friday. The assignments took me about an hour to write, however, another student complained that the assignment took her over five hours to complete.

It wasn’t that I was smarter than she was. It was that I could type faster than she could because I had learned touch typing. QUERTY touch typing is a skill that helps me think of a word that magically comes out of my fingers onto the screen. I hadn’t learned touch typing until after I was out of high school, but it really came in handy when I was in college and for me as a writer of both articles and fiction. I don’t have to think about the individual words because I learned the fingering on the keyboard to the point that it is automatic. Yes, it took time to learn but it saves me so much time now.

Learn to Compose on the Computer

Right along with learning QUERTY keyboard fingering, I learned to compose on the computer. This is probably a skill that younger people know because they grew up writing on screens, but we old folks had to learn after the fact. Back in the old days, I wrote things out on paper and then had to transpose them to the computer screen. Now it is as simple as thinking the word and letting my fingers do the rest.

Journaling

Getting into the practice of sitting down to write every day is another critical skill that writers should do. Not knowing what to write is probably more crippling to a writer than not knowing how to write. Therefore, journaling is the next skill I recommend developing for learning to get into the flow.

Journaling is simply sitting down and writing your thoughts on the screen. Unlike many people, I don’t journal on paper, but I journal on my computer as a document in Microsoft Word. I type the date and then start typing. If I don’t know what to write, I write I don’t know what to write but. . . and then write whatever comes into my mind next. Often, when I don’t know what to write,  I will set a timer for fifteen minutes before journalling and then just keep typing until the timer goes off. Sometimes nothing of any value comes out of the journalling experience, but most of the time I find something that I can use.

Gathering Ideas

Writer’s block happens when you don’t have any ideas or ideas that you think are good for moving forward in a project. Writing a list of ideas that you can go to when you need an idea is one of the ways that you can avoid writer’s block and find your way into the flow.

Creating an Outline

Some people seem to think that there’s something constricting about writing using an outline, but I find that I get into the flow better when I have an outline. Writing an article or a story without an outline is like driving a car to a place where there are no signs indicating where to go. It’s easy to get lost.

I remember one time a co-worker of mine invited me to his house. He lived down a dirt road where there were no signs. He told me that if I just kept bearing to the right, I would eventually find his place. Instead, I ended up coming out where I started. I never did find his place.

The same happens when writing. Without an outline, it’s easy to go down a lot of rabbit holes that end up needing to be deleted or where I realize that the storyline isn’t going anywhere, and I must start over.

Putting it All Together

Any one of these skills will help you improve the flow of your writing but putting them all together will exponentially help improve your ability to get into the writing flow.

If getting into the flow of writing is difficult for you, which skill do you think would help you the most?


I am making money selling articles online! I have been writing a lot on a platform called Medium lately. I wrote almost every day in June last year and now as of July 27, 2022, I have started my own publication on the platform!

Medium Reader Program

The Medium Reader Program is a paid reader-supported platform where readers support writers on the site by reading articles on subjects that they want to read.

The cost is five dollars per month or fifty dollars per year and you can read as much or as little as you like. You can allow yourself to be put on the email list of your favorite authors on Medium so that you are able to read what they wrote. Once an individual subscribes to Medium and has paid for their month or year, the individual becomes a Medium Member, and they get access to every article or story that Medium carries. Click this link to become a Medium member.

To find topics or stories that you’re interested in, you can type a subject into the search bar in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. A drop-down bar will bring up people, publications, and tags based on that topic. Click on a person, publication, or tag, and the articles will display on your screen.

Medium Partner Program

Medium offers an online money-making program to writers called Medium Partner Program. These authors write articles or stories on their own profiles and many also include their articles in publications. These publications include stories by other authors that are related to the author’s story that is included in that publication.

In your profile, you can write on any subject, niche, or genre you prefer. You can also request a publication to take you on as a writer so that your article has the exposure of that publication.

Getting Paid to Write

Authors start getting paid once they have 100 followers and getting 100 followers on Medium is easy. I even wrote an article on Medium about that subject. Here is a FREE friends’ link to an article How I got Over 100 Followers in a Month.

Create Your Own Publication

One thing I just started on Medium on July 27, 2022, was creating my own publication which I call Tightening the Belt. It is about how to save money every day. For a FREE taste of the articles on Tightening the Belt one of my articles is Eat Less Meat for a Healthier Body and a Healthier Wallet

 Once you’re a writer on Medium, If you would like to write for my publication, I would love to have you. Check out Submitting to Tightening the Belt.

I really enjoy writing for Medium. It is a great way to start writing to make money.

Would you consider supporting me and other writers on Medium? For $5 a month ($50 per year), you get unlimited access to all the fantastic articles by the writers on Medium. Click this link to become a Medium member. https://donnabrown-18232.medium.com/membership

To read my future posts on Medium, feel free to follow me. I look forward to keeping in touch with you there!


Starting your week on the previous Friday, your month during the last week of the previous month, your year in December will make your business more productive. (Public Domain Photo)

In my book The Ultimate Keystone Habit, I wrote about ways that I like to start the day the night before. On the days that I incorporate this habit, the following day goes so much better, and I am so much more productive. On the other hand, on those days that I don’t start my day the night before, things don’t go as well the following day.

I like starting my day the night before. I set out my clothes, set up the coffee maker, have the dishes done, make up my plan for the next day, and journal what I am grateful for. Then I go to bed and in the morning because I know what I need to do, there’s no room for procrastination. I begin my morning routine and then get to work doing what I planned for the day.

I recently realized that prepping for the next step isn’t limited to the next day. I can prep for the next week on the Friday before.  I can start then next month the last week of the previous month. I can even start the year at the end of the year before. It is something that no one talks about, but it is a surefire way to 10x a life or a business.

Setting up a plan for the next week would be something that any of us can do. What do you plan to do next week? What are your priorities? Prioritize your week so that you are doing things that move your goals forward and don’t just keep your wheels spinning. Even fifteen minutes working on your goals on Friday for the upcoming week move the “progress can down the road” in a good way.

Getting Ahead for the Week on Friday

As a writer, I like to go over the ideas that I gained during the week on Friday mornings. That’s what I am doing this morning. I am writing down this idea for a story for a publication on Medium called Tightening the Belt. I also have an idea for next Wednesday’s blog and several for my Medium stories.  I am trying to write a new article every day for the entire month of August. What’s amazing is that doing this also gives me time to work on my latest novel Two Rivers each day.

This doesn’t only apply to me as a writer either. Different people can use this system in different ways. If you’re a salesman, you could start your calls the Friday before-when you call if someone says, “Call me next week”, say ‘well, I have you on the phone right now, how about if we scheduled to meet up early next week. Which would you prefer Monday morning or afternoon?” If they say Monday morning works good for them, after your call give a ‘hallelujah’! If you normally have a boring Monday morning meeting, this might be your ‘get out of meeting’ free card because you have a potential sale in front of you. Ask to be excused and ask for minutes to the meeting so that you don’t miss out on any important information. Later in the week you can talk to a colleague about any questions you have about that meeting. You’re following up on a lead, missing a meeting that is a waste of your time, and you already have a great start to your week. You’ll also have a potential sale on a Monday morning where you would have had to use the morning and the afternoon setting up for future sales. Now, you can still do that in the afternoon, but you’ll also already have momentum for a good week ahead of you.

Getting a Head Start on Next Month

As a writer, I can get ahead for the next month first by setting up the plan for the month. I can do this the last week of the month. It only takes a few minutes each day.  The first thing to do during the week is to revisit my goals and determine what I have accomplished and what I want to accomplish toward my master goals that month. Once that’s done, I can assign a specific project for each week to accomplish thereby purposely scheduling those projects to take action on and make headway on my long-term goals.

In addition, I schedule in appointments and other activities that I already have planned for the month and plans. I can also brainstorm ideas that improve how I handle different aspects of my writing business.  

Getting Ahead for the Next Year

Many people start the new year in January and end up getting started with the new year either late in the month or in February and don’t really get the year in full swing until March. I have found that when I get started with the new year in December, I able to get more done in January and February than I would if I had started in the first week of January.

With everything else, it starts with revisiting the long-term goals and creating the annual plan. Every December, between the holiday festivities, I plan the next year. I determine what I would like to get done during each month of the year. I schedule and plan out launches for the year. I plan what January will look like. They don’t have to be detailed, and they will often change over the course of the year, but the plan is there because it is true that if I fail to plan, I plan to fail.

This system of organization can easily be adapted to a team or an organization. Fewer Fridays are wasted, and Mondays are less dreaded when people in your team or organization are encouraged to start at the end of the last period. It may seem like more work in the beginning, but soon you’ll realize that work gains momentum and you’re much more productive than you ever thought possible.


A man using blacksmithing tools
Blacksmithing became a barter skill on the Lewis and Clark expedition.

As I was doing my research on the Lewis and Clark Expedition (also known as the Corps of Discovery) Most of the information I am using for this blog comes from archives of the actual journals of the explorers themselves.

In my research, I have discovered that these men didn’t take most of the food or supplies that they needed with them. They either procured or built what they needed. Though Captain Lewis bought surveying equipment, medicine, and trinkets to trade to the Indians in Philadelphia and had the original boat built in Pittsburgh, some of the boats were built in Camp Wood (Dubois). They hunted, hunted fished and foraged for much of their food. If something broke, they either fixed it or replaced it. The men got good at making tow ropes on their trek upriver.

They didn’t simply hunt and fish to supply them with all their food and other supplies. Nor did they just trade trinkets to the Indians for what they needed. They also bartered their skills with the Native Americans.

The skill that proved to be best for bartering with the indigenous people was blacksmithing.

Two blacksmiths accompanied the expedition. One was Private Alexander Willard, and the other was Private John Shields.

Private John Willard

Willard was recruited at Fort Kaskaskia from Captain Amos Stoddard’s artillery company, He was convicted of sleeping while on guard duty, which was punishable by death. He was given 100 lashes instead.

In the Mandan village, both blacksmiths set up shop and spent the entire winter of 1804-05 fixing Mandan tools and weapons in trade for the corn they ate that winter and the corn they took with them on their continued trek west.

Willard often assisted Shields in his work during the first year of the expedition. Because of his misconduct, he was detailed to the return party in 1805. He later served during the War of 1812.Willard later served during the War of 1812.

Private John Shields

Shields was such an invaluable blacksmith that Captains Lewis and Clark broke one of their own rules and allowed him, a married man, to go on the trip with them. (Only unmarried young men were wanted for the expedition.)

During their winter on the Pacific coast, Shields demonstrated his talents to repair their weapons including Captain Clark’s favorite gun.

Shields proved so valuable that Lewis requested that Shields be given more than the salary given to most privates in the Army at that time.

I am enjoying learning about people behind the scenes of this great adventure by the Corps of Discovery. If you enjoy this series about these amazing explorers, let me know in the comments section below.


Having Trouble Hanging onto these because of food costs?

With the price of food cutting into our purchasing power, here are some ways that I am not only able to make ends meet but can store some food away for this winter.

  1. Shop using Sales flyers, Coupons, and grocery-saving apps, but buy only what you normally eat.
  2. Use a Weekly Menu Plan-Even a simple meal plan helps. A simple meal plan that I used was one where I decided that I determined that I would eat beef one day, pork the next, and chicken the next and continue that rotation. If I had leftovers of specific meat, incorporate the leftovers into a casserole or pasta dish.
  3. Buy in Bulk (a pound of flour equals 3 ½ cups of bread flour, 3 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 4 cups of cake flour, or 4 ¼ cups of pastry flour. A fifty-pound bag of all-purpose flour equals 183 cups of flour.)
  4. Avoid eating out-Think about it. For the cost of a single meal that your family eats out, you can buy a bag of rice and other food items that will last you a month. With the money that you save by not buying your coffee at Starbucks, and instead making your coffee and taking it with you every morning you can purchase all the bulk foods you will need this winter.
  5. Making food from Scratch-Bread that I make myself costs me (using bulk ingredients) about fifty cents per loaf of whole wheat bread and is much more flavorful than the bread that I purchase at the store for two dollars or more per loaf.
  6. Utilize Leftovers-Get creative with leftovers. Plan what you’ll do with your leftovers when you make the original meal. Leftover rice from today’s meal can be used in a casserole for tomorrow’s meal.
  7. Grow at least some of your vegetables in a fall garden-plant leafy greens and root crops like carrots, turnips, parsnips, and beets this fall for vegetables that you can eat well into the winter months and in some cases use in the spring.
  8. Use season extenders in your garden-drag out the cold frames and row covers to help conserve heat when temperatures drop to below freezing. If nothing else, use old sheets and blankets when the danger of frost threatens your garden.
  9. Make meals with fewer meat-discover casseroles and pasta dishes that your family enjoys.
  10. Use what you purchase- food that rots in the refrigerator costs you money, even if you purchased it on sale. Forty percent of what Americans purchase for groceries end up in landfills. Don’t play into this statistic. If you find something that your family has never eaten, but you’d like to try, purchase one and try it.  

SOFFing is a system that I use to complete my goals. SOFF is an acronym for Starting, Organizing, Focusing, and Finishing a project of any size whether it is a tiny series of tasks to be completed within an hour or as we saw last week, it can be used to complete a huge project spanning a long period. SOFFing can be used on the individual project level, the daily level, and on a weekly level. It can also be done on by the month as well.

Planning the Month Begins With Where I am now 

“To discover how to get where you’re going, you have to first know where you are.”

I start my month by assessing how I did in the previous month. In May I:

*Planted the garden. and so next month I know I will be maintaining, harvesting, and canning. I will be talking more about what I plan to do gardening in my next article on my other blog: The Perpetual Homesteader.

*Research is Done on Two Rivers-in June I want to get the word count of the book up to 80 thousand words. (I currently have written 60 thousand words If I add more dialogue and more scene descriptions, I’l have the 80 thousand).

*I have made Some Progress on Organizing my House-I want to continue with a single project in which my husband and I put two sets of shelves in the master bedroom.

*Made it to the farmer’s market every Saturday in May.

*Did some marketing online with a little luck in views and book sales this is my biggest challenge for June.

“It matters less whether I meet my goals than it is that I made progress toward those goals and that I will make more progress in the immediate future.”

Cygnet Brown

My Biggest Win and My Biggest Fail (or in other words, next month’s challenge)

Biggest Win-The Garden is growing well and producing some crops.

Biggest Challenge: Online book marketing and sales.

June’s Challenge

Since my biggest challenge in May was in the area of online book marketing, I plan to make June the month where this is my primary focus. Marketing is my biggest bottleneck. If I can break through and get consistent high-dollar book sales of the books that I have already written, I will also be able to get more sales from future books as they come out.

 I have learned that some of the comments that I made on other people’s content where people asked me specific questions and I posted a link have received some hits, especially in articles that I wrote online, but not much more than that. I also found that if I used hashtags related to the subject, I get views from Twitter as well. I am thinking that perhaps I need to do more in that area. I found a system that someone else has used and will try it this month. I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the month. Beginning later today, I am going to use it for all fourteen of my books this month.

I will post one Blog Post Per book (permanent) (every other day) be sure to include a link to the sales page on Amazon. Check out the first ten pages! Also, I will include within each post a link to the related books Locket Saga, Gardening, and Career Enhancement.

I will post two Pinterest Posts per book this month (every other day) I’ll be sure to include a link

I will post four Tweets EACH DAY for a duration of a week to THOUSANDS of followers (focusing on the book focus of that day. (28 total per book) be sure to include a link and related hashtags!

I will post four Tweets promoting each blog twice through the month-(books other than the most recent book blog created). The tweets for the first three blogs will be at the end of the month.be sure to include a link and related hashtags!

I will post to four Facebook READER GROUP Posts each day of June (one per each of the four most recent book blog posts. (Other than my own.) I will be sure to include a link to either the book or to the blog related to the book.

I will post four Facebook page posts sprinkled throughout the month for each book on my own Facebook pages (I have several). I will post on the pages on which the book is related. I will be sure to include a link.

I will save these social media posts in a Word Document so that I can easily access them for future use.

I will use Social Oomph to schedule as many of my posts as possible that way I don’t have to spend all day, every day working on this project, after all, I also have a garden, a home, a husband, a farmers market, and a house to run.

There you have it, my “S” and “O” of my SOFF of June., “the Start and Organization” for June’s goals. What are your plans for the month of June? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

At the end of the month, I’ll show you how it all played out by focusing on the challenge and how much of what I was able to finish.


I continue to think about life. Perhaps it’s because I can see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel of this life. I see that I have a limited number of these days left before I follow the light to its ultimate destination. However, I am not morbid with the idea of my final reckoning, I am, however, more interested in how I make the best use of what time I have left. I am seizing each day and making the most of every hour of each day.

Not that anyone’s day is likely to make that much difference. Each day simply is a pixel in my life. Each light of each day that shines is not bright alone, but when I stand back, it provides a picture of the life I have lived. I am determined to seize each day. Carpe Diem!

How do I seize each day? I seize it by using a system called SOFF. Start Organize, Focus, and Finish.

Start

The first important thing to do each day is to show up. I get up at a reasonable hour and start with my morning routine which gets me ready to begin the first of my daily projects.

I try to plan each day the night before so that I don’t waste that precious time that I have. Will there be distractions? Sure, there will be, but once I deal with the distractions or any emergency that comes up, I know what I will do next. I go back to my plan and do what’s next on that agenda. That’s why I need to plan only one or two or at the most three major things that I must complete each day to move ahead on my projects.

Get Organized

I know that there is only so much that I can do in one day, so I choose to do what is most important to reach my goals. The next most important thing that I need to do is organize my time and my space toward reaching each daily goal simply and easily. This means that I need to look over what I must do today to reach my monthly, weekly, and annual goals.

My current annual goals that I am working on involve growing my own food, writing my two blogs each week, and writing the second draft of my next book in The Locket Saga. I also have other ideas that I want to write There’s The Perpetual Homesteader book series, I also want to write a gardening book for the Ozarks, and there are other books in The Locket Saga that I want to get to, but I am putting those on hold for now. I organize those projects that I am working on by designating certain times of the day to work on them. I have organized the materials that I use for these projects so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time deciding where what I need is located. If I need a tool or a piece of research, I can find it easily and quickly because I am organized.

Focus

I designate specific times during the day to work on the big projects. I got this idea from Stephen Covey who told a story about filling a jar. He said that if there was a pile of rocks (representing big important projects), pebbles (smaller urgent, but less important projects), gravel (unimportant urgent projects), and sand (unimportant not urgent projects).  if you start by filling the jar with sand, there will be no room for anything else. If you put pebbles in your jar, there’s room for gravel and sand, but not for the big important things. Therefore, it’s important to start with the big rocks or in other words, the big important projects, and fill in the time with those other less important but often urgent tasks that we face each day.

The time provided for the big important projects needs to be focused on. If I know exactly what I need to finish each day, even a little time can be enough time especially if done on a consistent daily basis.

Finish

Finishing involves completing the designated project that we assign to a specific day. I complete the aspect of the project that I have assigned for that day. If I plan to plant a row of beans in the garden, I do that. If I intend to write a blog post, I write it and it isn’t done until it is posted and scheduled.

It also determines what it is that I want to do the next day. If on the next day, I intend to research one of my books, I set things up to make that happen as efficiently as possible. If I intend to do the laundry, I put it on my to-do list for the next day.

Once I’ve finished this day and set up for the next day, I’ve makes the strategy of SOFF an ever-rising spiral. I have already set up to start for the next day. I made a step forward and am prepared to take the next step.

Want to Seize Your Day

For more on how to make the most of each day, check out my book: The Ultimate Keystone Habit


apple blossoms
Things change. A few weeks ago the apple tree only had a promise of blossoms, now there’s the potential for the fruit.

Years ago, when I was working as a neuropsychiatric technician, I had a roommate who was in Al-Anon and she invited me to an Al-Anon meeting where they recited The Serenity Prayer which states “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can and to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.”

A quote by Maya Angelou

Now years later, I am reminded of this when I read a quote by Maya Angelou who had said something quite similar, “If you don’t like something, change It. If you can’t change it, change your attitude about it.

This fits my philosophy of life. I often choose to write about what I don’t like and rather than just complaining about it on paper, I would try to determine a solution for whatever it was that I didn’t like.

What are those things that I can change? What are those things that I cannot change?

The things that I can change are things that I have control of right now. I can change what I am doing right now. I can change how I feel about a situation.

I can’t change anything I have done in the past, nor can I change anything in the future, but I can change how I react to any situation I face today.

One Day at a Time

I can determine how I will spend my time today, but when I think about it, I can never actually do anything tomorrow. Tomorrow will never come. Think about it. When tomorrow comes, tomorrow will no longer be tomorrow, it will become today. The question I need to ask then is “What can I do today so that when tomorrow becomes today?”

Nothing can happen in just one day, but string several todays together, and by doing the right thing, I am in a better place today and every day after today if I stay on the same path. So, how do I better use the time I am given?

Writing Career Betterment

If I write every day and work to get better at writing every day, even with just one percent of changes made every day, I will become a better writer. If I work to improve my marketing skills every day, I will sell more books.

Financial Betterment

 I cannot change the fact that I have debt, not today anyway. Debt reduction is a marathon, not a sprint. I know better than to think that I am going to win the lottery. The only way to become financially independent is to develop better financial habits. What I can control is what I am spending my money on today. I can also determine if I am going to work today so that I can pay my debts. I can decide whether to save money or invest it. I can focus on changing my spending habits, my income, and my investments over the next series of days, months, or years, and I will be considerably better off than I am today. I just must do it one day at a time.

Relationship Betterment

I cannot change any of the mistakes that I made in the past with my parents, my siblings, my spouse, or my children, but I can determine to forgive myself. I can also determine to forgive anything that my children or my spouse have done. Until I discovered forgiveness, I didn’t realize how powerful forgiveness was until I learned to forgive. Forgiveness puts me at peace. It gives me serenity. It’s not for the other person that I forgive. It is for me. No one understands its power until they learn to forgive. Becoming a forgiving person both of myself and others is something that I can change.

Social Betterment

I cannot change the fact I will someday no longer be in this world, but I can determine how I will make the most of this time that I am given.

I can stop being a taker and become a giver. I can change how I relate to the earth I can give back to the earth that has supported me all these years. I can plant a fruit tree today and someday that tree will bloom and grow fruit, but today all I can do is support that tree in whatever way it needs right now and that is the same with anything I want to change for the better.

If you liked this article, you’ll love my book:

Living Today, The Power of Now

Available on Kindle


Waiting doesn’t have to get in the way of the rest of what you need and want to do today.

As an author, I find time to do the things I like to do by becoming creative with the time that I would otherwise be doing nothing. Today I’m sharing how I constructively use the time in which I am waiting.

We all have a busy life, and it seems like those times when we must wait that we find ourselves wishing we could do all those things that we can’t do because we are waiting. Whether it is waiting for a service person at our home, waiting for our turn at the doctor’s office, waiting for our children to get out of class, or even being stuck in traffic for an extended period, if we plan to do things during this time, we’ll find we could get things done that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we had not had to wait.

Be Prepared to Wait

At one time, I had a briefcase that I carried with me in the car that I kept available with all kinds of things for me to do during those long waits. I kept pens, paper, books, and other items available for me to use to accomplish some of my goals for the day.

Planning your day with appointments in mind will help you know what you should have with you. If you are writing a book, have tools like paper and pens available so that you can jot down ideas or notes as they come to you while you’re waiting. Perhaps you have a book that you what to read. Be sure that you have it available no matter where you are. Before we get to what you can do while away from home, let’s go over what you can do while you’re waiting at home for a service person.

Waiting for a Service Person

Waiting for someone to install or install something in my home used to be a frustrating experience. Sometimes I’m told that the service person will be in my home before noon or afternoon and then I would wait all day and would find that I had nothing done because I had spent the day wasting my time waiting for the service person to arrive and almost every time, the person arrived at the end of that period or would call to say that they weren’t able to make it that day and had to reschedule. I know that I cannot change the situation, but as a wise woman once said:

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou

So, I have come to the decision that if I can’t change someone else, I can change my approach to waiting for someone to arrive. I can determine that no matter what that other person does, I will make the most of my day by getting as much done as possible.

While I am at home, I start doing those things that I need to do at home. I begin by making a list of all those things that I need to do at home. I then separate the tasks from the projects. A simple definition between tasks and projects is that tasks are things that I can do within a few minutes say in 15 minutes to an hour. Projects are things that take more than an hour. Next, I look over the projects that I have to do and break them down into tasks that we have already defined as things to do that take between 15 minutes to an hour. Once that’s done, I determine what tasks need to be done next in these projects. Now I am ready to prioritize all the tasks that I have to do that I can do while at home that day. If I must pick up an item at the store to continue a project, I don’t worry about that project while at home that day. I let it go for now. It’s not on the list of tasks during that time.

Before starting my list of tasks, however, my first task is to be sure that I have done everything that I can do to make the time of the service person easiest. If the plumber is there to repair or replace the garbage disposal, I want to be sure that everything is out from under the sink before that person arrives. I might even wipe out and disinfect under there so that everything is clean so that when I put everything away, the area is clean as well. If I need to move my car to give the service person access, I may want to do that as well. If the service person is coming to deliver living room furniture, I want to have little things cleared out of the way so that the person has easy access to the room.  If they are coming with a new appliance, I make sure that they have easy access to where I want that new appliance. Once I have done all that I can do for the service person, it’s time to start my list. I like to do as much as possible at a time. For instance, I like to start laundry, change bed linens, start cooking in the crockpot and clean the kitchen appliances all at once. Keep in mind that you don’t do things that will get into the service person’s way.

Waiting for a service person could also mean that you are doing work from home rather than going to work that day. In this case, plan your tasks as related to the job and do projects involved in your day job. Plan your breaks to do things around the house if you’d like to be able to get even more done during your work hours. If you do that, however, plan some relaxation time at the end of the day. All work and no fun is not what life is all about.

No matter how long before the service person comes, I want to be sure to have done as much as possible so that by end of the day I feel justified about the way that I have spent my time.

Waiting for an Appointment in a Waiting Room

The opposite of waiting at home is waiting for an appointment in a waiting room. In a waiting room, I don’t want to get stuck with a lot of different things so usually, I do one of two things when I am waiting here. First, I might read a book that I want to read, and second, I write out lists or write down a few ideas that I am able to think of for one of the books or articles that I am writing or want to write. It’s much easier to use a notebook to write than it is to use loose-leaf paper. One thing, if I had one, that I could use would be a tablet. I could do a lot of work on the table and then when I get home, I could transfer it to my computer using either Microsoft Word or Google documents.  I don’t have one, so I use paper and a pen.

I do much the same when I am substitute teaching. I have been known to write out many ideas for articles or books and then later transfer them to my computer. I also do a lot of my reading when teaching. It’s just a matter of writing down ideas and organizing them. If I need to do research for the work, I write down in the notebook what items I need to research.

I wrote the idea for this article and several more the other day while substitute teaching.

Waiting in My Car

Waiting in the car is a cross between working at home and waiting in a waiting room. Perhaps you wait every day at your children’s school to pick them up. This is a good time to plan to make phone calls or answer emails. It is also a good time to listen to podcasts or watch specific YouTube videos.

Even time stuck in traffic can be used constructively if you develop a plan to utilize that time.

You could even plan to clean out your purse or pick up the trash inside your vehicle and use a wipe to clean off the dash and the door. Stop on the way home and wash and vacuum the car and you’ll have gotten a lot done because you structured your waiting time.

Now it’s your turn!

How would you prefer to spend your time waiting? Perhaps getting things done isn’t what you do, perhaps you consider this downtime. Share your opinion in the comment section below.


Fuel-efficient cars are nice, but there are things you can do to save on fuel even without buying a new car.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the problems with the electric cars and at the end, I suggested that there are ways that we can conserve fuel without everyone driving electric cars.

One of the reasons that energy conservation related to driving is so important has to do with what is currently happening in Europe and in other parts of the world. Some countries’ economies are being held hostage by other countries simply because most of the petroleum products that they use come from countries that could soon be at war especially if they were to follow their own convictions.

Because the United States produces more petroleum than any other country in the world, but also because of our consumption of oil products we also import a lot of it as well, we could do a lot here to conserve energy produced by petroleum products and share more of that oil with other countries than what we do.

So many ways exist for us to conserve our use of petroleum products especially here in the States, and one of the ways that we can do it is in how we travel around. Conservative ways of getting from place to place will not only assist Europe but by doing so will save you money in the long run.

If you doubt that conservation would make a difference in petroleum product usage, look back on what happened at the beginning of the pandemic when we all stopped traveling and stayed home. The price of fuel dropped to rock bottom prices because we weren’t using oil like we had been. The reason the price of oil went up at first was that we were using it again. Now with that war in Eurasia, the prices are at an all-time high. Supply and demand. If we cut our demand, supply will be less of a problem than it had been.

This doesn’t mean that we all need to stay home and never go anywhere, however. What it does mean is that we need to get smart about how we travel. Let’s start with getting smart with how we travel to work.

Traveling for Work

This is a lesson that we learned during the pandemic. We don’t always have to go to a job to get a paycheck. We might be able to work from home at least part of the time. Hybrid work situations can work for many people and now is the perfect time to do this especially since there is a worker shortage.

In some situations, skype or other conference calling situations could be used for meetings with associates, colleagues, or potential customers. Customers can also be found just as easily and possibly even more quickly by email, phone, or webinar than by visiting them in person.  

Not every job is set up for every person in the country to work from home, of course, nor do we necessarily want to. However, what we may want to do is try to get together with others that we work with and carpool when possible.

You might also be able to take mass transit like the bus, train, or subway to work. Biking is also an option as well.

With so many people renting rather than buying homes, it might be in your best interest to live closer to your job and perhaps walk to work rather than driving or taking mass transit or riding a bike.

When You Have to Drive

There are times when not driving is not an option and there’s no one to carpool with. For those of us who live in rural areas, it is often not possible. Therefore, learning how to drive more economically is most beneficial.

First, if possible, consider getting a more fuel-efficient model of vehicle.

Second, if that isn’t possible, make sure that the vehicle you do have is properly maintained. Be sure that your car’s tires are inflated to the right tire pressure for your car. Check your tires when they are cold. Also be sure that your car has routine oil changes, and the air filter is changed when needed. In addition, be sure that your fuel firing system is properly functioning. Replacing a fuel filter, cleaning injectors, and changing plugs and points will offer improved gas mileage. Check with a trusted mechanic to see what options might benefit your vehicle at this time.

Next, change some of your driving practices. Accelerate gradually and smoothly, especially from a stop.  Use a light touch on the gas pedal until you’re going about 25 miles per hour. Then continue to accelerate until you reach the speed limit. Don’t exceed the speed limit. When driving on a level highway, use your cruise control, but avoid using cruise control on hilly parts of the highway because you’ll use more gasoline rather than less.

Anticipate traffic and traffic lights. Try to maintain speed. As much as possible synchronize with the traffic lights so that you don’t have to stop and wait for red lights. Pass only as necessary and don’t slam on the brakes any more than necessary. If traffic is stopped for more than thirty seconds, turn off your vehicle and restart when traffic resumes. Take the route with the fewest stops and lefthand turns. Turn off the car whenever you are stopped and waiting for someone or something.

Remove excess items from the car that weigh the car down.

When using the air conditioner less is better. When starting out and driving at lower speeds, drive with the window open then close and use only as much air conditioning as you need to feel comfortable.

Plan Your Trips

Batch errands that need to be done at the same time in the same part of town. Go shopping when you have an appointment. Pick up the dry cleaning when you pick up the kids at school.

When Traveling on a Vacation or Get-Away

Plan activities that don’t require driving at all! Consider hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or camping near your home.

Plan other destinations where you don’t have to drive much.

Consider how you can incorporate walking into your vacation plans.

Eat meals at locations within walking distance of your hotel or wherever you are going. Eat at home more often rather than going out to eat.

Take mass transit at your destination location whenever possible during vacations. My daughter and I went to Pennsylvania from Missouri by Amtrak several years ago and another time my family visited St. Louis and took the train from downtown where our hotel was to the zoo on the other side of the city.

Make it Fun!

Whatever you do, plan every trip you take as much as possible. Give yourself enough time to go where you want to go without rushing. This includes to work, running errands, or while on vacation. Challenge yourself to reduce the amount of gasoline you’re using every day. Make a game of it. It doesn’t have to be a drag. Imagine the pleasure you’ll get by not supporting the oil industry.

Now it’s your turn. How do you save on fuel when driving?


Two hundred and forty-seven years ago this week on April 19, 1775, was the shot heard around the world. No one knows who shot the musket that started the American Revolution, but that shot was discharged on Lexington Green, Massachusetts. It was just the first shot of many that lead to the birth of The United States in a war that would continue until its formal end in 1783.

Several years ago, I started researching for my books in The Locket Saga series and several of the books in this series including Soldiers Don’t’ Cry, A Coward’s Solace, and Sailing Under the Black Flag are all based during the American Revolution.

Here’s a blog post about The Locket Saga

Although the events in this book occurred prior to the American Revolution, I would be remiss if I failed to mention When God Turned His Head. I posted about the first book of this book series which started from an idea that I got the idea of Soldiers Don’t Cry even though When God Turned His Head was the first book in the series.

Over the past several years, I have done a lot of research and written several articles and blog posts about this time in American history. Here are a few.

The Boston Massacre-Powder Keg of the American Revolution

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Boston-Massacre-Powder-Keg-of-the-American-Revolution

The Unsung Hero: Lucy Flucker Knox

This is the story of the wife of Henry Knox. She is a patriot in her own right.

https://discover.hubpages.com/education/An-Unsung-Heroine-Lucy-Flucker-Knox

The Hidden Cause for the American Revolution: The Thirst for More Land

This article explains how the French and Indian War brought about limitations on land attainment and forced the British to limit forts on the American frontier.

https://hubpages.com/education/The-Thirst-for-Land-The-Unseen-Reason-for-the-American-Revolution

How Changes in English Farm Practices Influenced the Colonization of the Americas

See how the change in weather patterns brought changes in the British agricultural system and caused migration to the Americas.

https://hubpages.com/education/Changes-in-English-Agriculture-Brough-About-American-Colonialization

Songs of the American Revolution

Music has always been an important thread in the American fabric. So exactly what tunes did Americans sing during the American Revolution?

https://hubpages.com/education/Songs-of-the-American-Revolution

The French Intervention

How the French intervened to win the American Revolution-We Americans talk about our independent spirits, but we couldn’t have pulled off the revolution without our friends the French.

https://medium.com/lessons-from-history/the-french-intervention-cf6a5c8f0da

Even though I went to dusty old books for information, I loved it when I discovered actual members of the Eighth Pennsylvania when I was in Waterford, Pennsylvania. Here’s an article I wrote about the event where I meant the Eighth Pennsylvania regiment of the American Revolution.

When Historical Writer’s Research and Re-Enactors meet

I hope you enjoy these articles, and they help you appreciate the value of the freedoms that we have in this country that started with that shot on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775. If you have any questions about my articles and blog posts or if you have any comments, please do so in the comment section below.

Also, be sure to check out The Locket Saga series all books are available in paperback and on Kindle!


Electric vehicles have been around since 1830, and were overtaken in use by the gasoline combustion engine, but are now seeing a resurgence.

On August 5, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order mandating that half of all vehicles be electric by 2030 as a challenge to the executives from Ford and GM joined Biden at the White House as well as leaders from the United Auto Workers. In addition to setting this 50 percent-by-2030 goal, the executive order reversed former President Donald Trump’s more relaxed emissions standards with stricter ones.

This goal of having new electric vehicles to provide zero emissions would include battery electric vehicles, and plug-in Hybrid cars that fall back on gasoline only after the electric powered battery has run out. In addition, this includes fuel cell electric vehicles that burn hydrogen and emit no carbon dioxide.

But are electric cars really the solution? There are a number of reasons I think that they might not be.

They’re Not Very Reliable

Newer electric cars aren’t always the most reliable and when they do break down, it’s difficult to find someone who can fix them. The traditional mechanic doesn’t necessarily have the equipment or expertise to repair them. As they become more common, however, this will be less of an issue.

You Pay More For What You Get

Electric cars depreciate faster than their gas-powered counterparts. That means that if you purchase an electric car, the car won’t be worth as much when you go to trade it in for a newer model. In addition, the parts are expensive to replace. Three to eighteen thousand dollars. An electric car is not for the penny pincher.  

Challenges in Charging Your Vehicle

Charging an electric car can be a challenge. To put in a charging station in your home, a home EV charging station costs $350 to $900 alone, and labor costs $400 to $1,700 to install, and then there’s the increase in your electric bill.

On average, it costs around $0.30 to $0.60 kWh to charge your electric vehicle; therefore, a smaller vehicle could cost around $11 to $25 to charge fully. For larger vehicles, it can cost between $22 to $45.

If you’re traveling across the country in your electric car, you’d better be sure that you know where your next charge will occur before you ever need it. According to statistics, as of January 2022, there are 113,600 charging stations in the US. Almost half of those are in California and many of those are in the hands of private individuals. That means that the rest of the charging stations are spread out over the entire country and most of those are around big cities so if you live in small-town, USA, you might be out of luck when it comes to charging your vehicle when you’re away from home.

In addition, it will take you longer to go across the country in your electric car. Public chargers are split into the standard wall-box type which takes one to six hours to charge your car and rapid or quick chargers. Rapid/quick chargers can recharge the latest electric cars in less than an hour, perfect for a lunch stop on a motorway journey.

Most cars charges last between 10-12 hours but some last only about 4 hours. That means that at the optimal value of the charge, the cost of a charge is comparable to the cost of a fill-up at a gas station. If driving across the country, a charge of your electric car would cost about as much as the cost of a tank of gas in the same time period.

Of course, this problem should be better resolved as electric vehicles become more commonplace.

Does Having an Electric Car Really Help the Environment?

I think, however, the idea that electric cars are good for the environment might be a little premature. I have my doubts about the idea that electric cars will help protect the environment first because we heard this same song and dance when we were told that biofuel would help protect the environment. The fact is, growing grains used in the production of biofuel and the conversion of those grains into biofuel costs more than ten times the energy that the biofuel produced. That, of course, is not what the US government documentation says, they say that the fuel produced requires less energy. But that documentation only considers the cost of producing the fuel AFTER the grains are produced. It doesn’t consider the fact the fuel that is used in the fields are plowed, the grain planted, and the grain harvested and delivered to the grain silos at the biofuel production locations.

The same type of scenario can be said about using electric cars. Electricity is the least efficient form of energy because it is a secondary source of it. The electricity must come from somewhere and if that electricity is something like coal or nuclear power or even natural gas, it relies on a non-green energy source. Solar and wind farms may be produced directly from the sun, but they require expensive metal components that must be mined and in the process of mining, those items are highly destructive to the environment as well.  Hydroelectric power is limited use in that hydroelectric plants require creating reservoirs that disrupt animal habitats.

Conservation Is Always A Better Solution

Sometimes the best solutions are the low-tech solutions. Perhaps a better solution would be in figuring out how we can avoid driving so much and learn to be content with staying closer to home more often. We can save by avoiding getting into our cars at all. There are, of course, many ways to be more conservative getting from place to place, and this sounds like content for another post.

If you have any questions or comments or would like me to write about a specific topic, please let me know in the comments below.


Eating fresh vegetables from the garden can save energy in so many ways.

Last week we discussed how we could save energy in the home. This week we are going to talk about saving energy in food production. I bring this up because how we get our food is one of the ways that decrease the increased cost of energy that we are facing.

My thoughts are that if everyone could have a garden, grow it, and utilize their gardens in the most thoughtful manner, we could save an amazing amount of energy in the process.

Your Food Travels Farther Than You Do

The average meal in the United States travels about 1500 miles before it hits our dinner plate. This long-distance, large-scale transportation consumes large quantities of fossil fuels. We currently put almost 10 kcal of fossil fuel energy into our food system for every 1 kcal of energy we get as food.

Long-distance transportation requires huge quantities of diesel fuel Some forms of transport require more than others. Airfreight requires more energy than sea shipping per pound. But sea shipping is slow, and in our increasing demand for fresh food, food is increasingly being shipped by faster and is more energy-consuming.

In order to transport food long distances, much of your food is picked while still unripe and then gassed to “ripen” it after transport, or it is highly processed in factories using preservatives, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport and sale. Scientists are experimenting with genetic modification to produce longer-lasting, less perishable produce.

Cutting the Energy Consumption of the Food We Eat

To cut down the number of miles that the meals that my husband and I eat, we purchase many of the things we cannot grow ourselves in bulk when possible. We purchase sugar, different types of flour, oatmeal, coffee, tea, dried beans, spices, salt, vinegar, canning supplies, and herbs that we can’t grow. By purchasing them in bulk I not only save money, I am also saving the energy needed to process the food before it gets to my home.

I then have started making more of my food from scratch. The bread that I make is the freshest bread I have eaten in a long time, and it doesn’t have any preservatives. I also make things like pies, cookies (that for six months out of the year I sell at Farmer’s Market allowing those who live locally to cut down on their energy usage as well), and granola.

I also produce and use my own garden produce to decrease even more fossil fuel energy. That fresh produce is not traveling all those miles because I am growing as much as possible in my own backyard. I am also eating as much of it as possible from the fresh state as well. The less processing that I do, the less fossil fuel I am consuming. I’m not canning, freezing, or dehydrating any more than I must. I eat my fruits and vegetables in season as much as I can.

The energy savings I have from gardening isn’t just in growing what we eat either. We save energy in the gardening process. Instead of using a gas-hog of a tiller, I use a broad fork to work the soil. I am keeping down weeds by using recycled cardboard and sawdust from a local sawmill. (a broad fork doesn’t expose weed seeds that would sprout if brought up by tiller either.) I sell excess produce directly to the local population. I do have one gardening tool that is gas-powered. I  use a grass-catching self-propelled push-lawnmower so that saves some of my own personal energy. It uses far less than a riding lawnmower and saves me quite a bit of time in the process.

Harvesting of garden produce is done by hand. We eat fresh seasonal foods as much as possible. I tell about how we can produce vegetables all season long in my book The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden.

What we don’t eat fresh or sell, we store as fresh food whenever possible. I tell about the vegetables that you can store over the winter without processing in my book The Survival Garden. Available in Kindle Edition or in Paperback

Preserve or Not Preserve?

Contrary to what these two latest books might suggest, however, I do not believe that preserving food has no place in our home garden setup. We do utilize canning, freezing, and dehydrating, but we first try to eat our foods fresh as much as possible. The less we process food ahead of time, the less energy we will be using in the end.

I hope this post has given you something to think about. If you have a garden, make it a little bigger this year and eat produce as it ripens. Don’t have room for a garden? Grow a few herbs under lights. Can’t grow herbs? Visit your local farmer’s market and get your produce there. At least your food won’t be going more than a few miles to get to you.

For more on gardening, check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader.


We may not be able to produce more oil on a dime, but we can easily cut back on what we are using!

As the price of gasoline at the pump rises, we are told that there really is nothing that we can do to alleviate the problem other than extracting more petroleum than we have and according to the oil producers, because they can’t just turn on the spigot to get more, we either have to pay what they say and have increased prices at an alarming rate.

However, what they are telling us doesn’t make sense. Why should the prices be going up so much? According to statistics, the United States only used four percent of Russian oil. The question becomes why is it that if the United States is the biggest producer of the world’s oil that we need to import any oil in the first place and what can we do to fight back to avoid paying those prices.

This increase in price has little to do with the manufacturing sector because our country’s manufacturing sector has been decreasing over the past several decades. Yes, we use plastics and other petroleum products, but much of it is made in China, so we can’t blame manufactured petroleum products for that. Much of what we use is based on personal energy consumption. If we want to fight back on the price of energy, let’s start in our own homes where we have at least some control.

What we can do is something that we learned two years ago. At the beginning of the pandemic, we learned a very important lesson concerning our use of petroleum products that we learned that we can utilize now. Stay home or at least close to home and decrease the demand for oil and price will come down.

But most people are tired of staying home. Are there other alternatives to not being able to travel?

Over the next several weeks, I will be addressing these issues in some very practical ways that if more people in the US does them, the demand for crude oil will go down and we’ll pay less at the pump.

There are numerous ways we can save money on energy, and they are not necessarily as painful as the American oligarchy would suggest. All we need to do is develop a few habits that decrease our need for petroleum through the decrease in energy use to make it so that we wouldn’t need to ever use that source of foreign oil.  This week we’ll be discussing how you can save on home energy costs.

The Use of Energy in Our Homes

Many areas to save energy exist within our homes and this is a good place to start decreasing our dependence on petroleum. First, we must learn how we actually use energy. Here’s the breakdown of the average usage of energy in the home. Here in the United States, we use 47% of our home energy for cooling and heating, 14 percent for water heating, 13 percent for clothes washing and drying, 12% for lighting, 4 percent for running the refrigerator. The other 10 percent is used in cooking and entertainment.

Decreasing Energy Use at Home

Heating and Cooling-We can decrease our energy use at home very easily if we just start changing a few small habits. We can turn down the thermostat by a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees. If you were to adjust your temperatures when you’re not there and at night, you’ll cut energy costs by one percent for every eight hours for every degree you adjust the temperature up or down.

If you have some money to invest, and you own your own home, insulation will also improve the efficiency of the energy used as will getting a high-efficiency furnace.

Living in a smaller home that has good insulation and a high-efficiency furnace is a better investment than a large home of equal efficiency.

Water heating can be improved by finding ways to use less hot water. This can be done by timing your showers to make them as short as possible, not running hot water any longer than possible. If you have some money to invest in your energy, consider insulating your pipes, getting a more energy-efficient water heater, or better yet, getting an on-demand water heater where you’re not dragging hot water down yards of pipe.

Washing and Drying Clothes-The cost of washing and drying clothes can be decreased by using cold water to wash only full loads of clothes and using a clothesline to dry your clothes.

Lighting can be decreased by turning off lights that we’re not using and using the most energy-efficient light bulbs that we can. Use a flashlight instead of a nightlight. Turn off the porchlight when you’re not expecting anyone to need it. Use solar lighting instead of on-grid power for outdoor lighting. Use motion sensing light instead of constant lighting.

The Refrigerator-though the refrigerator only uses a small 4 percent of our home energy bill, there are ways to decrease the cost of refrigeration. First, purchase an energy-efficient refrigerator and only have as big of a refrigerator as you need. Second, don’t open the refrigerator any more than you have to, and don’t keep it open longer than necessary.

The Final Ten Percent-Numerous things can be done to decrease that last ten percent of energy usage. First, decrease fantom energy usage. Unplug appliances that you’re not using. Use smaller appliances rather than using the cooking range when possible. Smaller appliances often use less than half what the range uses because the range runs on 220 current (if electric) whereas the appliances use 110 current. Use the cooktop instead of the oven, when possible, as well. If you are using the oven, do all the baking all at once.

What Suggestions Do You Have for Saving on Home Energy Costs?

I’m sure that this one article has not been all-inclusive regarding how I can save energy used in my home. What have you done to decrease the energy usage in your home?

Next week, I’ll be talking about how we can decrease energy usage regarding how we get our food. Be sure to like and follow this blog to explore how we can save energy on an individual level.


Here’s a sample of my most recent creation, my super-simple version of the peanut butter cream pie.

Can a Writer Find Time to Make Dessert When She’s Facing a Deadline?

I have those days when I spend the entire day just writing. Like right now. I have a self-imposed (I am an indie-author, after all) deadline for the end of this week for my book The Four Seasons Vegetable Garden. My plans are to spend as much of this week as possible so that I can get the Kindle edition published this weekend. I am also redoing research on my next novel in Book VII of the Locket Saga–Two Rivers. I wrote the first draft of this novel several years ago for NaNoWriMo, but since the demise of my old computer, I no longer have that draft, so I have decided to start over. The good news about this book is that the research is mostly straightforward, but it is taking time. Plus, spring is upon us and there are gardening chores that are coming front and center.

Therefore, over the next several weeks, my life is going to be very busy. Therefore, something must give and some of that will be time with my husband, cooking, and cleaning. However, I do want to please my husband, so I like to give him something from time to time to remind him that my writing and gardening aren’t more important to me than he is.

Despite my busy schedule, I like to give my husband something from time to time to remind him that my writing and gardening aren’t more important to me than he is.

Cygnet Brown

One of the ways that I like to show him that I still love him is by making something special from time to time and nothing says special as much as dessert. A crockpot meal or a pasta or rice casserole always seems more special when there’s a decadent homemade dessert to follow. The problem with this kind of dessert is that most of them take a lot of time to prepare and I don’t have the time for that. Therefore, I have created a simple but decadent cream pie that is to live for! And the best part is that it only takes about fifteen minutes to make including clean up!

The Original Experiment

I created this dessert based on a product put out by the Tastefully Simple Company. They had (maybe they still have, I don’t know) a key lime pie mix that you add certain ingredients, and the result is a key lime type cream pie. I discovered that I could make a similar product using lime gelatin instead of their mix.

Key Lime Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker pie crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz package of lime gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping (like Cool Whip)

Jellied lime candy slices or slices of fresh limes

Mix the cream cheese and lime gelatin and add the contents of one of the containers of whipped topping. Spoon mixture into graham cracker crust. Top with whipped topping and decorate with lime candy or fresh limes. Cool in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Store any uneaten pie in the refrigerator.

Once I knew that I produced a winning product, that led me to create other similar desserts using similar desserts. Here are a few of my successes.

Strawberry or Strawberry-banana Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz. package of strawberry or strawberry banana gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping

Fresh strawberries or fresh strawberries and fresh bananas

Make like the key lime cream pie but instead of lime gelatin, use strawberry or strawberry banana gelatin. Also, I put just half of the gelatin mixture into the graham cracker crust then add fresh strawberries or fresh strawberries and bananas, add the rest of the gelatin mixture, top with the whipped topping, and then decorate with sliced strawberries or sliced strawberries and bananas.

Raspberry Chocolate Cream Pie

Ingredients:

1 Oreo pie crust

1 package cream cheese

1 4 oz. package of raspberry gelatin (dry powder)

2 small containers of whipped topping

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Fresh raspberries

Chocolate syrup

Make mixture like the strawberry pie, but instead of strawberry gelatin, use raspberry gelatin. Place half of the gelatin mixture into an Oreo rather than graham cracker crust, then add a layer of fresh raspberries then add the rest of the gelatin mixture onto the raspberries. Now, take the remaining container of whipped topping and mix into it a teaspoon of dry cocoa powder and top your pie with this. Next, drizzle chocolate syrup onto the chocolate whipped topping and decorate with fresh raspberries.

Peanut butter Chocolate Cream Pie

This is my most recent concoction and has somewhat similar ingredients but doesn’t have any gelatin at all.

Ingredients include:

One package cream cheese

¼ cup of peanut butter

½ cup vanilla yogurt (Greek or regular vanilla yogurt)

1 container whipped topping.

¼ cup of powdered cocoa

1 graham cracker crust.

Chocolate syrup

Mix the cream cheese, peanut butter, yogurt, cocoa, and 3/4s of the container of whipped topping. Spoon into the graham cracker crust and then spoon the remaining whipped topping. Decorate by drizzling chocolate syrup onto the top of the pie. Like all these cream pies, cool in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Now It’s Your Turn

How about you? Are you an author? Do you have a fantastic easy quick dessert or meal recipe that makes your family feel special but still allows you the time you need to write? I would love to interview you here on my blog! Let me know in the comments below or message me on my Facebook Page and I will get back to you.


Over half a million people crossed the plains and the mountains toward the west coast in the mid-1800s.

Back in November, I was writing the first draft of my latest NaNoWriMo project. My working title is Little Africa. (for more about Little Africa, check out my article about this place) I know that there will be a better name for it, but in the process of writing that story, I decided at the end that my characters would go west with a wagon train.

Even though I know I will be ending the book with them going to the west coast by wagon train, I decided that I wasn’t going to write any book about the topic, but I am putting this information in the footnotes at the back of the book as some of the added material that I include. The reason I am not writing that story is that the story of people crossing the prairie to the west coast has already been done many times. However, that doesn’t stop me from writing about it at all.

The wagon train experience began In 1834 when a merchant from New England named Nathaniel Wyeth and an Episcopalian missionary named Jason Lee led the first eighty people to take the 2170 mile trip from Missouri to Oregon on what became the Oregon Trail.

By the end of the 1860s, half a million pioneers had traveled overland to the far West in search of new land, gold, and a new life. These pioneers gave up almost everything they possessed and left behind families that they might never see again. These people walked across half a continent through prairies, high deserts, and snow-covered mountains. They passed through territories that would later become Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.

Approximately ten percent of the travelers died along the trail usually, not from Indian attacks but, from disease or accidents. The wagon train routes across the country were considered by many to be the longest cemetery in the world.

Why?

Why did they take this journey? Some were escaping frequent outbreaks of diseases like malaria and dysentery in the crowded Eastern states. Many were the children of pioneers who had homesteaded in Indiana, Illinois, and the Michigan territories. This younger generation was forced to move further west because all the best river-bottom land for farming had already been claimed, and the competition for even the less-desirable farmland was fierce due to immigration.

Seventy percent of the travelers were farmers. They knew that in order to get the best land, they had to get there first. In 1850 the U.S. Congress ceded land in the Western territories to settlers by granting a square mile of land to each married couple and their children would inherit it.

Gold discoveries in California also drew people to the West Coast. Congress gave actual settlers 640 acres in California. In 1849, many folks began the journey as “49ers,” heading for the newly discovered goldfields of the Sierra foothills of California.

Later in the 1860s, some went west to escape the looming Civil War. But no matter the reason, there was one underlying sentiment shared by nearly every pioneer. Manifest Destiny was a deep-seated belief that the growth of the United States was divinely preordained.

The Trail

With a few exceptions, all the major Western trails started near the frontier town of Independence, Missouri. From Independence or at various branches further to the west, the traveler could head southwest on the Santa Fe Trail, west to Sacramento on the California Trail, or continue northwest to Oregon. The Mormon Trail, which lead to Salt Lake City, began in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois, and crossed the Missouri River north of Independence at Council Bluff, eventually joining up with the Oregon Trail near Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

They needed to leave late enough in the spring to provide grass for the livestock, so they did not leave any earlier than mid-April. However, they also didn’t want to leave in June because of the possibility of facing early snows in the mountains. They had to leave sometime between mid-April and during May. However, this meant facing swollen rivers, violent thunderstorms, and blistering mid-summer heat while crossing the deserts of southern Wyoming, Idaho, and eastern Oregon.

Preparing for the Trip

Before leaving, these pioneers acquired travel guidebooks like The Emigrant’s Guide to Oregon and California, written by Lansford Hastings. All the travel guides provided commonly known details about travel distances, river crossings, the cost of food and equipment, and what dangerous situations they might face.

Oxen were much preferred over horses or mules by experienced travelers. These animals were more easily managed, were not likely to run away or die because of the hardships, cost less than horses or mules, and were worth more in Oregon. In addition, if the situation because necessary, they could always eat the oxen. Wagons with three yoke of oxen (two oxen per yoke) were required to make a successful journey.

Most of the wagons we see in movies are not the wagons that they used. Those wagons are Conestoga wagons, but these large freight-moving vessels were far too heavy to navigate open prairie, muddy river crossings, and mountain passes.

The wagon used by most pioneers was the “prairie schooner.”  This wagon was four feet wide and ten feet long. These light but strong wagons had vertical or slightly canted sides with waterproofed canvas covers supported by bent-wood ribbing. This wagon carried a maximum of 2,500 pounds of supplies. This made it necessary to walk rather than ride in a wagon.

Because of the weight limit, family members walked and guided the oxen. The only people to ride in the wagons were those too ill to walk. Some people set up their wagons so that they could sleep in them, but usually, these pioneers slept in tents or under the stars. They needed as much space as possible for storing their needed goods.

A complete wagon, three yokes of oxen, and the food needed for a five-member family cost a minimum of Six hundred dollars or equal to fifteen thousand dollars in today’s money. Poor farmers weren’t always able to come up with cash for these journeys so they did what they could like selling their land to a neighbor for what they could get or getting someone else to sponsor their trip cross country with the understanding that they would be paid back after they started making money from their new farm. Single young men and women were often hired on as “trail helpers” to wealthier individuals who were making the trip.

The food that was recommended for the trip for each adult was two hundred pounds of flour, thirty pounds of pilot bread, seventy-five pounds of bacon, ten pounds of rice, five pounds of coffee, two pounds of tea, twenty-five pounds of sugar, half a bushel of dried beans, one bushel of dried fruit, two pounds of saleratus, ten pounds of salt, half a bushel of corn meal; and a half-bushel of parched ground corn, as well as a small keg of vinegar.

Flour in the mid-1800s was not the bleached and enriched flour available today. Then, the pioneer had to choose between three types of flour: shorts, middlings, and superfine.

“Shorts” was a coarse-ground flour somewhere between wheat bran and whole wheat. It was poorly sifted and retained a high degree of impurities. Shorts flour was often the least-expensive option.“ Middlings”  was a remainder product formed during the separation of bran from white flour. High in gluten, “middlings” became a waste product for many mills and were often sold as an inexpensive flour without further refinement. “Superfine” flour was as close to modern white flour but was more like unbleached flour than what we have today.

They baked bread on the trail every day. They used small sheet-iron ovens, or dutch ovens, or they fried biscuits in a skillet.

Building fires on the trip was problematic because firewood was in short supply. Instead, on the prairies, they used small piles of “dried buffalo chips” or dried buffalo manure. These chips burned steadily and had little odor. When chips were in short supply, sagebrush was used.

Commercial yeast was not available at the time. Any yeast used had a short shelf life and was delivered from breweries as a by-product of beer making therefore could not be used on these cross-country endeavors. Sourdough starters were also problematic because it required a long time to make bread rise and rising bread or pastries required a place that wasn’t moving.

The answer to the problem was saleratus, a precursor to our modern baking soda. This was discovered by chemists in the late 1700s. It was a form of bicarbonate of soda that, when added to the dough, released carbon dioxide upon heating, causing the bread to rise. A natural source was found along the Oregon Trail near Independence Rock, Wyoming.

The other staple of trail life was bacon. Bacon then was any pig meat from the sides, hams, or shoulders that received a salt cure. This bacon rarely survived the entire journey and often became rancid or suffered insect infestation because of its fat content.

This was sometimes remedied by purchasing bacon at various forts along the way but at much higher prices.

Unlike salt pork or beef (which was kept barreled in a brine solution), bacon was stored dry in bug-proof bags or boxes. In hot climates, bacon was buried in bran,  supposedly this kept the fat from absorbing it.

Parched corn (corn whose kernels had been sun-dried or roasted in an oven) was very popular with the pioneers, if for no other reason than because it did not spoil easily. It was usually ground into rough flour and cooked as mush, which was served with milk from the traveler’s cows.

Dried fruits were a staple, not only amongst the pioneers but for practically everyone in 19th century America. Dried vegetables were less common with pioneers. This changed in 1859 with the publication of Randolph Marcy’s The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions in 1859. Where he suggested each traveler have desiccated vegetables, or dried vegetables,  a product used extensively in the Crimean War.

Coffee was not just a staple on the trail, it was often the only thing left near the end of the journey. Trail coffee was green (unroasted) beans because roasted or ground coffee traveled poorly and quickly lost flavor. They roasted the beans in a skillet over a fire, then ground them in a coffee grinder.

Medicinal Supplies

Disease was the big killer on the trail. In the mid-1800s, effective medical supplies were limited. A medical kit included “a little blue mass” which was mercury-based and used for many different diseases from constipation to tuberculosis. Opium and quinine were used for pain.

Weapons

They also carried a five-gallon drum of “medicinal spirits” a benign name for whiskey, brandy, or rum.

Everyone carried weapons for protection and to provide meat along the trail. Most travelers had a muzzle-loading long gun musket or rifle. Pistols were rare and expensive. Every wagon was equipped with gunpowder, shot molds, and lead for casting rifle balls.

Other Items

They also took clothing, camping supplies, day-to-day tools, livestock supplies, and a few keepsakes many of the family heirlooms were discarded along the route. Seed and plow blades were brought by farmers. Skilled craftsmen often brought additional wagons with the tools of their trades. Many family Bibles made the trip across the country along as did family cows.

The Trail’s End

While on the trail, couples married, gave birth, or broke up.  They suffered wagon mishaps. They developed a kinship with fellow travelers.

Many of the emigrants who arrived in Oregon or California were starving, with no provisions left. Others had some preserved food but had become sick and worn out from the journey. Many had also spent their last dollar.

The pioneers who had already made the journey were there to help the new arrivals. They helped stragglers in need.  Most of the new settlers arrived in the late fall or early winter, too late to put in a crop or do more than hastily construct winter quarters. Neighbors, churches, and civic committees worked together to keep the new arrivals alive, at least long enough to help them to get in a crop and “prove-up” their homesteads. Many of them considered that having thousands of new neighbors both armed and starving was a disaster waiting to happen. Anyone who wanted to work was offered employment even if their labors were rewarded in food rather than gold.

The Locket Saga

The research above was done for a future book in the Locket Saga series. In this series, a locket is passed from generation to generation of ordinary Americans who are a part of extraordinary events as family members are born, live, marry, and as they pass the torch and the locket to the next generation.


I am improving daily. I am amazed at the progress I am making every day!

There are three principles that I use every day to make the most of my time including Parkinson’s law, the 80/20 principle, and One Percent Improvement. My goal daily is to complete no more than three priority items per day and to improve my life by one percent every day.

Parkinson’s Law

The first one is Parkinson’s law. That principle says that a task will fill up the time you allot for it. Because of this, I have determined that I do certain things only at certain times of the day. I give myself a schedule and I try to stick to it. By sticking to it, I find that I can be more productive because I’m allotting only a certain amount of time to finish that task that day.

I’ve divided my day into Home and Personal Care Time and Work Time

I do personal care and housework until 8 a.m. Then from 8 a.m. to 12 noon I work.

I have lunch between 12 noon and 1 p.m. If I am not running errands during this time, I do housework during this time as well.

I then work from 1 p.m. to 5 p. m. and I am off work and doing housework or personal care or relaxing for the rest of the day. I go to bed at 9 p.m.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been organizing my schedule. Here’s how my mornings have been going lately.

The first thing that I do in the morning is my morning routine. I get up, brush my teeth, do a quick clean of the sink, mirror, and toilet and then go into the living room where I have my office. There I put in a few minutes on Duolingo where I am learning Spanish and Swedish (was doing French and Russian too, but that got rather confusing) while the coffee is brewing. I then have breakfast and do the breakfast dishes.

At 8 a.m. is when I plan to start my business day. At present, I am working on my book The Seasonal Garden. (You can read about that on my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader {Resource}. After forty-five minutes or so I take a break. During that break, I get up and do a few tasks on my to-do list. After that, I work on preparing blog posts or writing online articles, and then at about 11 am I take an hour lunch break where I do a few more household chores

In the afternoon I either work on the garden, or I work on improving my book and article marketing. (That depends upon the weather.) It is during the afternoon that I also read and answer emails which I consider part of my marketing process.

At the end of the workday somewhere between 4 and 5 pm. I look back on my day and celebrate my accomplishments of the day, (no matter how small). Next, I determine what didn’t go well and what I need to do to fix it. Finally, I determine the most important work that I want to do the following day and then I quit writing for the day. I close-up shop and that’s the end of my workday.

Evenings are often spent catching up on housework and perhaps enjoying a movie with my husband.

My goal is not to do much work on the weekends but to spend more time relaxing and enjoying the weekend rather than using it to catch up on the week. It is also on the weekends that I will likely have events that I will attend.

The 80/20 rule

Next, there’s the 80/20 Rule. in the late 1800s, Vilfredo Pareto discovered that a small number of peas produced most of the peas.  He found that 20 percent of the peas produced 80 percent of the peas. Because he had an analytical mind, he decided to see if this principle holds for other things. It did although sometimes the percentages were closer to 70/30 and other times, they were closer to 90/10 but always a large discrepancy when comparisons were made. This became known as the Pareto principle or the 80/20 rule.

It isn’t in everything that we do every day that helps us grow, but it is in a few select things that contribute to great improvement. It is in those things that we do that become steppingstones to our greatest goals. We, of course, need to first know what that goal is before we can know what that 20 percent is that will help us obtain our highest goals.  That is where the one percent comes into play.

The One Percent Improvement Rule

The last principle that I am utilizing is the one percent improvement rule. this rule is closely related to the 80/20 rule. I make it a point to improve something in my life by one percent every day and work toward doing more of the 20 percent that makes me 80 percent of the gains I am looking to make.

Every day I am moving forward in my goals at least one percent. Recently my daily one percent per day has been involved in organizing my living space and my time. This will save me time in that I don’t have to hunt for things. Everything has a place and everything is in its place. More recently I have been writing my book and marketing as well as getting ready for the gardening season all by making one percent improvements every day in those areas. The more I do now, the less I will have to do later. This may not seem like much, but one percent improvement equals more than one hundred percent in one hundred days. The compound effects make the efforts even more valuable than that!

I see this working out in real-time. At first, I couldn’t believe that one percent would matter, but once I began improving one percent per day, I began to see more and more ways to improve one percent per day. It hasn’t been very long since I started making these one percent improvements and I am already seeing great improvement in these areas.

How about you? Have you used any of these three principles in your life? I would love to hear how you’ve applied them. Let me know down in the comments.

Also if you want to know more about my gardening experiences, check out my other blog The Perpetual Homesteader!


No, it hasn’t been this bad, but it has been interesting!

As you can see, I am back!

We’ve Been Experiencing Technical Difficulties

It has been a while since I wrote here is because I have been technically at a disadvantage. The problems began when my laptop malfunctioned back last June. I wore out my laptop’s keyboard, but it didn’t end there.

I have had it for five years so I really can’t complain. The laptop I had before that one lasted me three years and when I bought that second one, the guy at Best Buy was impressed that the original laptop had lasted as long as it did and he said that he didn’t think the one I was purchasing would last me as long.  Well, that was five years ago, so I think it lasted me very well. As my husband always says, the computer owes me nothing.

Then in November, the gussets that held the screen to the rest of the laptop broke and that broke the screen too! It happened in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I got the laptop fixed just in time to finish the first draft of the manuscript I was writing.

On the first of December, I started working on my newest nonfiction gardening book which I call The Seasonal Garden.  I made some definite progress when again, in the middle of December, the gussets gave out. Back to the repair shop went the laptop. Weeks passed. My repairman became sick with the virus. Then he said the gussets were lost in transit. Finally, at the end of January when I still hadn’t gotten it back, I broke down and purchase a new laptop. Because I have always had good luck with Lenovo products, I ordered another one.

You’d think that would be the end of the trouble, but of course, it wasn’t. No, not a pandemic or a supply chain issue it was something else.

The Weather Turned Against Me

I was supposed to get the new laptop on February fourth. I anxiously watched as the package came across the country. The package made it to Kansas City, Missouri by Wednesday. Under normal circumstances, the laptop would have come early, but it wasn’t the case a major winter storm came through that affected the country for several days. The weather was so bad that the laptop stayed in KC from Wednesday morning until Saturday. The laptop finally arrived on Monday, February seventh.

For two days I worked to catch up with the emails that I was behind and at the same time, I have been working on the next draft of my most recent book The Seasonal Garden. This book is supposed to be out by the first of April, and it would have been easy to do it if it hadn’t been for all the problems that I’ve had to get a working laptop.

Now Everything Is Happening All at Once

It would have been great if I could have been working on my book when the winter was at its height. The weather already feels like it is about to change and my cat is starting to shed her fur which means that the worst part of the winter is over. Gardening season is upon us.

In addition to that, the sawdust that I have been waiting on all winter has also just arrived so I am having to really hustle to get everything done this winter that I have wanted to complete during the slower season.

Making the Best Use of My Time

Not that I am complaining though really. The truth is, I have been completing other projects that I have also needed to get done. I have my spring cleaning done. I have the gardens dug for the spring garden. I have focused more on organizing my time which I will discuss in a later blog post.

Anyway, it is good to be back to writing on the laptop. As I am finishing the first draft of this blog post, I have six first drafts written for this blog and my other blog (The Perpetual Homesteader) this week, and a big chunk of the book was reworked. I won’t be able to catch up with the lost time, but I am intent on making the most of the time that I do have.

How about you? Have you had challenges lately that you’ve had no control over? What have you had to do to reprioritize things when you have had to wait on someone or something else?


Where will the journey of the 2020s take you?

Welcome to 2020, a new year and new decade! Here on this blog I am taking a turn in my life’s journey and devoting How my Spirit Sings down a slightly different path! This new path can be summed up in one word “LEGACY”.

This brings up the question of what does legacy means to me and how will I present that legacy in this blog—How My Spirit Sings?

Back in January 2019, I started immersing myself into prepper, gardening, and permaculture YouTube videos. I realized quite early on that prepping could only take an individual so far. It’s fine for short term, limited area disasters, but if a major event crippled the entire country’s systems, we would need to involve our entire local community if we were going to survive and that community included the natural community. That’s where permaculture came into play.  

For the past three months I have been working on a 22 Lesson course called “The Advanced Permaculture Student” hosted by Matt Powers. I watched all the videos and am now reading through the book and participating in the meetups whenever possible.

Permaculture involves working with the forces of nature rather than against them and it isn’t just some throwback hippy idea either.  During the past couple of decades, many modern farms have abandoned the green revolution of chemical agriculture and turned to cover crops, compost, and regenerative grazing practices. Some, like Greg Judy of Central Missouri, Gabe Brown of Bismarck, North Dakota, and Joel Salatin of Virginia  have created highly profitable farming systems that in many ways exceed the production of neighboring agribusiness farms, at a lower cost, with greater profitability, and without government subsidies at the same time building their soils often by inches per year!

Others like Curtis Stone have taken permaculture principles and brought them into urban settings to produce salad greens and microgreens in front and back yards to sell locally and make a reasonable living.

If you’re thinking that permaculture has to do with permanent farming practices, you’d only be partially right. It is that and much more. It involves recycling and conservation as well.  It involves creating a healthy emotional, mental, physical, creative, and economical environment for the individual, family, community, nation, and even the entire world! It is about creating a legacy for not just for my future posterity, but potentially for all future generations.

My PDC project will be a design of my own land. My advanced permaculture project will be starting to create my legacy of building a permaculture homestead and The Jerjoboch Permaculture Learning Center on my place in Oregon County, Missouri. I’ll be moving there this spring. (I’ll share more about this in the coming months.) On my place, I’ll demonstrate the rudiments of the practices mentioned, but other concepts as they relate to living in harmony with nature and other people with an eye on the future. I see it as a springboard for helping raise Oregon County from being one of the poorest counties in the state and we’ll do it by building soil.

This little sweet potato plant, like my plan for the future, might not look like much yet, but wait a few months and see what develops!

Over the past year, not only did I absorb copious amounts of information regarding permaculture, but I also started doing what I could on my patio here in Springfield. I grew tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, herbs, and potatoes. Just after Thanksgiving I started a sweet potato plant in an ice cream container that will be part of my bigger garden next year. I have regular potatoes wrapped in paper in the refrigerator and seeds in a container waiting to be planted in the ground. I have twelve flowering trees and a dozen strawberry plants waiting to be planted. I am talking with my son Jeremy and his wife about getting farm animals onto the land and I am thinking about getting an LGD (livestock guardian dog) to raise. Everything waiting for the weather to break in a couple months.

In the future, I plan to get into help others locally design their own permaculture homestead and holding workshops and other events and of course writing about my adventure. This past week, I started a new website: Jerjoboch Learning Center check it out! You can check it out here. In addition, here’s The Jerjoboch Learning Center Facebook page where you can follow my progress as well.

What are you planning to do this year regarding your legacy for 2020 and beyond?


Tell a Story, Any Story

One of my favorite teachers in school was our POD teacher—Mr. Schwab. I did because he used to tell us stories about his military experience during WWII. He had been a prisoner of war in Italy and had escaped and spent a night in a haystack on an Italian farm as he made his way back to Allied lines. 

We have several ways that we can hook a reader into our stories. You could write a quote from someone you know or from a famous person. You could write a joke or a riddle or pose a question. You could set a scene. You could use an interesting fact or definition. My favorite way is to tell a story.

Stories in one form or another make what’s being written or what’s being said more interesting. All civilizations since the beginning of time have loved hearing stories. Aesop’s Fables wouldn’t have been as interesting if they had been written like the Ten Commandments.

The story of the tortoise and the hare wouldn’t have been as interesting if he had simply said: “Listen kids, you need to take your time and do your best to take one step at a time if you want to complete your tasks in a timely fashion.”

The same goes for writing nonfiction. People love stories. They want to hear your story and they want to hear your struggle. They don’t want to think that you were able to do everything perfectly the first time. They want to know that you are human, not super-human.

They want to hear stories from your experience that demonstrate what you are telling them.

When you tell a story, they remember what you said better than if you just give them the information.

Where to Find Great Story Ideas

One place you can find great story ideas could be from your own experience. Take some time to think about events that have occurred during your life. Is there a story that you can make relate to this part of your book?

Think about great stories that you have heard others tell. When I was a kid, I used to listen to what everyone was saying. One of my aunts used to say that I was the one to watch because I was always quiet and always listening.

Think about story lines that you have heard on television, seen in a movie, read in a book, or read in social media. Is there a way you can create a fictionalized story that you can make relate to your book?

Think about story lines that you have incorporated into fiction. There are also the story lines that you have already incorporated into your fiction. No one says that your stories have to be true stories. They just have to be interesting stories.  

When you determine that you have a noteworthy story, but don’t have a place to put it in your writing, write these story ideas down in a document or notebook. Keep track of as many stories as you can think of. When you hear new stories, write them down in this same notebook. If it’s interesting to you, write down as many words as you can so that you will remember what the story was about.

Find a way to organize the stories so that you can retrieve a specific story at will. Perhaps you can organize them in order as it relates to the subject matter, but whatever way you use, make sure that it works for you. There’s nothing worse than knowing that you have the answer, but don’t know where to find it.

Start your notebook of stories today. Incorporate what you can into your nonfiction as well as your fiction.


When I started writing this blog at the beginning of the year, I also started writing my nonfiction book Beyond the First Draft—Editing Your Novel. I first decided that I was going to write a book and the blog about editing a novel. I knew that the book would include everything from the time I finished the first draft on to the finished product. I started the process with an outline.

I refined the topic down from editing any type of book down to refining a novel. I decided that with the material that I would use, I could edit any type of novel, not just historical fiction like I write.

Every nonfiction book benefits from the creation of an outline. By outlining your ideas before you start the writing process, a nonfiction book can have its facts laid out in a logical way before the narrative ever begins. The outline will make the work go faster because you won’t meander from one topic to another. Later, as you’re writing,  If you have an idea for a certain part of your book, but you’re not to that part of the book yet, you can plug in that information exactly where it will go in the book thereby avoiding wasting time in a part of the book your mind has not processed yet.

Determine Your Book’s Specific Theme

In order for a nonfiction book outline to make sense, you must determine one central theme for the entire book. This theme must be developed into a refined thesis that can be stated in one sentence.  Instead of looking at general topics (building a house), look for specific topics that can be covered (Plumbing for the average Joe).  By having a specific thesis, you’ll be able to gather the necessary facts to make the key points you’ll want to make in your book.

Setup a Logical Content Progression

Some writers prefer to staple their pants to a chair and just write whatever comes to mind. I believe that those writers are heading for burnout and writer’s block. Not every writer can do that and I personally think doing so makes the work far more difficult than it needs to be, so a nonfiction outline should also involve a content plan. This will let you know where you intend to take your book before you begin the narrative. I think it helps to create a Table of Contents which will contain the various structures you wish to include in your book.

Imagine that you are looking at the finished book and you are looking at the table of contents. Think about what you will put in each chapter and in what order. Arrange it in the most logical order, if you realize something needs to be earlier or later in the book, rearrange the table of contents to reflect that change.

Using the Table of Contents as your basic outline, determine some of the information you will want to write about. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be much more prepared to begin writing.

Under each chapter heading, include topics that fit within that heading. Again rearrange subjects as necessary.

Jot Down Any Research

Once you have your Table of Contents in place, you’re ready to determine what kind of research you’ll need for your nonfiction book. You can write down this research next to each outline item. You may even wish to note where you want to do this specific research:  online, at the library, or wherever.

If you need to do personal interviews for certain topics, write down some experts on this subject as well. You also may want to color code your research types onto your calendar using different colors for each type of research so that you can visually reference it quickly.  

Create Writing Plan into Your Schedule

At this point, you’ll have a general sense of what needs to be done to complete your nonfiction book, so you can now plug this plan into your schedule. How many words per day are you going to need to write to reach your goals? How much time will you need to gather information for your book?

If you need to interview others, block out specific time during the week so you don’t have to rearrange your schedule. If you have no interviews during that time, use that as extra research or writing time.

Complete Your Outline

The writing process is much smoother when the nonfiction book outline and schedule include plans to research. Instead of hunting down the various documents, media, and recordings that you need for your book, you’ll have it all together in one specific place. Arrange your research materials into folders that are in the same order as the headlines in your table of contents.

This helps to improve your writing speed. The average writer types about 750 words per hour. With materials gathered, if you know how to touch type, you should able to reach 1,500-2,000 words per hour. If you’re forced to hunt down materials as you write, then you might be lucky to type 500 words per hour.

Staying Committed to the Process

Once you know how much you can write every day, you’ll have a ballpark idea about how long it will take you to write it.  Schedule your day in such a way so that you can write your word count habitually. Make writing a habit. Sit down and write your book instead of watching television or chatting with your friends on Facebook.

If you write 1,500-2,000 words per day, using nonfiction book outline as your guide, you could have the first draft of your narrative completed in just 30 days. That’s why knowing how to write a nonfiction book outline is such a valuable skill.

Write Using the Outline

Creating an outline, but not using it is definitely a waste of time, but using it will save tons of it.

Use headings and subheadings for each chapter when formatting. Assign names to each chapter and be clear in the names of each subheading. Be sure to save the document.

Within each chapter and subheading, include several sentences to summarize that chapter or subheading. Include the main points of the chapter and each subheading. Be as detailed as possible in as few sentences as possible. Don’t worry that it changes as you create your outlines. You’ll find it easier to edit this outline now rather than having to edit out huge sections of material later if you realize that what you’re planning to write doesn’t fit.

Now that you know that you’ve got your summaries organized within each chapter, write a heading for introduction at the beginning of each chapter and then write main point 1, 2 and so on. If your nonfiction book is a how-to book, consider adding a call-to-action at the end of each chapter.

Use research material focused on the topic being written about as guidance through the outlining process. Let your outline act as a guide throughout the entire project to keep you from going down research rabbit holes.

If you think of a story that relates to your book, plug in a few words to remind you the story’s content. These often makes a good introduction to chapters and keeps the reader interested and more importantly reading.


At the beginning of this year, I started writing these blog posts about book editing. My plan was and still is to take much of the content of this blog and turn it into a book called: Beyond the First Draft, The Editing Process.

Much of the information that I have written during the past year is going to be in this new book. I have added other information as well.

So far, this experiment seems to be doing well. I have been able to write almost an entire year about the editing process. With the information in the blog, I have been able to get the basics of the book written.

Writing a nonfiction book where your blog focuses on doing something or solving a problem (like this one) it works well.

A nonfiction book isn’t the end of the road, but it is just another way to expand your audience for your services.  

When Turning a Blog into a Book Isn’t a Good Idea

Books and Blog posts are different. Blog posts should be optimized for online reading with                keywords/SEO, current events/discussions, and whatever is popular with online bloggers in your genre. In addition, you need visual, interactive content and links to make the blog come alive.

You’re not likely to get a book deal just because you have written a series of blog posts about the idea. Don’t think that you can use a book to simply repeat that has already been written online. Amazon, for one won’t accept material that can be readily found online even when that material was something that you wrote yourself.  When writing a book based on material that you wrote on online, always remember that you will need to develop it further and then do a complete edit of your material.

Planning a blog that you will later make into a book requires that you plan the blog with the book in mind and with an idea of how you are going to expand the blog material when you create the book. That is what I did in order to write this new book of mine: Beyond the First Draft, The Editing Process

As a novelist or memoirist, the blog-to-book phenomenon is difficult to score. However, Information-driven categories like the blog series that I have just finished is easier to accomplish.


Many authors are now hybrids, using both traditional and indie forms of publishing for different projects. Whether you go with traditional publishing or indie publishing or a combination of the two, you have more options than ever when it comes to publishing your novel.

Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing is the established system of getting a book deal. This system requires that the writer submit their manuscripts through their agent to publishers and receive numerous rejections and then if they are lucky, are eventually accepted and a contract is signed. The book will then go through more edits and is eventually be published.

Why Traditionally Publish?

Almost every author I ever met (including me!)  suffer from self-doubt and wonder if their work is any good. By making it through the process of getting an agent and then a publisher, the approval of these gatekeepers validates your work as good enough for publication. Even if the book doesn’t sell well, somebody thought it had value. If your definition of success requires a traditional deal, Indie publishing is not for you!

Print distribution in bookstores is easier. Traditional publishing excels at this and  their model is primarily designed to facilitate print distribution to bookstores and even libraries. Salespeople go around the stores and make it very easy for book buyers to choose books and the publisher minus any returns. Books are usually in the store for a month and only remain if they are perennial sellers. (Few books reach this perennial status.)

Authors expect traditional publishing to include editors, cover designers, formatters and marketing to help provide as part of the contract. Marketing effort is usually related to how much is invested in the project, and marketing for publishing companies is usually to booksellers rather than to individual consumers. You should receive a sales team to take books to bookstores. If you’re one of those authors who say you “only want to write,” and let the publisher handle the rest, traditional publishing would be your best option.

If you are asked for money, then it is NOT a traditional publishing deal. It’s likely to be a vanity publisher and you should be very careful. With traditional publishing, you have no upfront financial costs, and you’ll usually get some kind of advance against royalties. The typical advance for a first novel is $5000. The typical advance for later novels, after a typical number of 5-7 years and 5-7 books is $12,500. Having an agent at any point increases your advance. If you get an advance of $5,000, you then have to earn more than $5,000 out of your royalty rate on book sales before you get any more money.

Literary prizes and critical acclaim are more likely through traditional publishing, and many literary prizes aren’t even open to indie authors

You’re more likely to become a brand-name author if you go with traditional publishing.

The Downside of Traditional Publishing

Writing and editing will be the same regardless of how you want to publish. After that, you will need about a year or two to find your agent. After that, it might take you another year or two to get a publishing deal. Once you have a publishing deal it might take another two years or more to get your book launched. (If you self-publish, once your book is edited, your book will be up on Amazon within a few hours and you can get your first check 60 days later.)

Once you sign a contract with your publisher, you’ll loss of creative control. I have heard horror stories about authors whose books have titles, covers and marketing angles that aren’t to their liking. You may disagree with an editor, and not be able to do anything about those changes that you dislike.

You’ll find that you have low royalty rates. Royalty rates are a percentage of the sale of the book. They’re likely to be net, so all the discounts, returns, marketing costs and overheads are taken off the total before your percentage can calculated. Royalty rates for traditional publishing will usually range between 7% and 25%, with the latter on the unusually generous end. The rates will also differ per format (e-book, hardcover, paperback, audio). Royalty reports may come every six months for a specific period of sales and many authors say those reports are difficult to understand. What you get in your bank account may not agree with those reports, so you won’t know until you see the money in your account what you’re actually getting.  

More often than not, authors have to do their own marketing and agents will often seek out authors who have a ‘platform’ or at least an email list of readers. If you do want a traditional publishing deal, make sure you ask them what is included for marketing and that your book is not just a part of their bookstore catalog.

Potentially prohibitive contract clauses are also a problem. You might find an agent who is willing to represent you, but their contract might insist that they get a percentage of everything you write even if they didn’t negotiate the contract (including self-published work). If you come across that keep looking until you find an agency who really will help you build your brand and not just skim off the top of your earnings.

Don’t agree to ever allow the publisher to take World English rights in all formats.  Your agent’s job is to keep as many rights as possible when you’re doing a deal so you can exploit them in other ways. For example, you could just sell the US and Canada rights and then self-publish in the rest of the world. Be careful with formats as well, especially audio books. Many publishers take audio rights as part of a contract and then they don’t actually end up recording it. You don’t want that to happen. Either keep audio rights or specify a length of time the publisher can keep rights before they revert back to you.

Look at the term of the contract and the rights reversion clause. It used to be that there was an out of print clause. However, because of print on demand and e-books, a book never goes out of print. You have to consider when you want to get your rights back.

Once you sign a contract for your book, the book may legally belong to the publisher for the life of copyright which is the life of the author plus 70 years after you die. You should also look at the do not compete clause, because this may stop you publishing during the term of the contract under the same name, in the same world, or with the same characters.

You have to really consider whether the money for the contract is worth it. This is where many authors think, “Perhaps this will be the only contract I’ll ever be offered and might just lose out.” These authors will sign deals because they’re grateful to be offered anything. They don’t value their own work. They don’t realize that publishers are there to make a profit. They are not doing you a favor by publishing your book. They are businesses and they want to make money. What they are offering you is simply that an offer. You have to determine for yourself what you’re worth. Don’t under-value yourself. If they don’t offer you a better contract, take your manuscript to someone who will or go out on your own.  Your publishing choice is more a question of the outcome that you want to achieve and your definition of success. Don’t let the publisher think they have the upper hand. You have more control over the situation than you realize.

The difference Between a Self-publisher and an Indie Author

Some people like to differentiate between a self-publisher and an Indie Author. They believe that self-publishing implies that you do everything yourself and you do it as a hobby. On the other hand, they believe that being an indie author or Independent author is a person who has decided that he or she was in charge of the process and that the indie author is a freelance professional who creates a quality product for their business.

I personally don’t create a distinction between self-publishing and being an indie author. I see myself as a publisher who determines how my book is published. I determine who edits, who designs the cover, I determine my bio and my book description, I even determine how my book will be formatted. However, that doesn’t mean that I do all of the work myself.

I didn’t become an Indie author or self-publisher as a last resort because I couldn’t find a publisher either. I chose to be an Indie author because I like the control that I have over my own creative process and the end product.

Pros and Cons of Being an Indie Author

As I mentioned before, I personally am an Indie author because I have complete creative control over content and design of my book. Many authors who were in traditional publishing and are now in self-publishing talk about how painful it was to have a cover or title they hated, or to have editorial choices imposed on them whether they liked them or not. As an indie, you can work with freelancers of your choice and you can choose the ultimate look and feel of your product. If you don’t like a freelancer’s work, you can choose to go with someone else. If you title a book or get a cover design that you decide you don’t like, you can retitle or redesign the cover. Just upload another file. The start-up mentality that mistakes are how we learn. Failure is just a step along the way makes this easier for us indies. Print on demand and e-books make it so we don’t even have to have a warehouse of books lying around.

Being an Indie Author gives us a sense of power that traditionally published authors don’t have.  Many traditionally published authors feel insecure and downtrodden by the publishing process. They feel they can’t make a decision alone or take action to improve their situation. It doesn’t matter that they are the creative individuals who created the stories in the first place.

After signing a contract, traditionally published authors have no control over anything about their books from the creative process to how the book is marketed. Indies, on the other hand, have a locus of control making them happier and empowered. The Indie Author can learn new skills, work with other professionals, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. You don’t have to ask for permission, you’re the one in charge.

As an Indie author you are able to get your book to market much more quickly.  Once the writing time and editing are finished, you are ready to publish your novel to Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Draft2Digital, Smashwords and any other stores. Your e-book is usually for sale within 4-72 hours. You’re paid 60 days after the end of the month of sale. If you’re doing print on demand, you can get that up within 24 hours if you approve the formatting online. Next you get a copy of it and look it over to be sure that the book is as perfect as you think it is and then you can order books to sell or give away to reviewers

Indie authors get higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 (on Amazon), you can get a 70% royalty. Traditional royalty rates usually fit in the 7-25% bracket, averaging 10%. It’s clear that you need to sell far fewer books in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing. However, don’t think that you’ll get rich overnight.  You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make as many sales as you would’ve done with a traditional publisher, or indeed, any sales. That is more to do with genre, investment in marketing and sometimes pure luck. An author doesn’t build a business on luck. You have to learn about marketing. However, you have to learn that anyway no matter if you do it independently or if you’re working with a traditional publisher.

You can sell in any format, in any global market because you own the rights. You could even sell movie rights. Many traditionally published authors have sold World English rights for all formats and yet have barely sold outside the usual country markets because their books aren’t even available in most places in the world. Many have also sold audiobook rights. but the books have not been produced. If you’re in this situation, revisit your contract. What do you have the rights for? You can self-publish in countries where you haven’t sold the rights.

Indie authors can reach significant audiences with their niche books that traditional companies will never take. Publishing houses expect a certain number of sales so if you’re writing a niche book on a particular style of business, for example, then you might find the market is too small for a major publisher. However, the market size may well be enough for you to satisfy your own definition of success with smaller sales and lower income. You can also price as you like because your book will appeal to a very particular reader who might pay higher prices for this rare information.

You can use indie publishing to get you into publishing in general. If you self-publish and do well, agents and publishers will come to you. You don’t have to beg and plead for attention. The power balance is reversed, and as an empowered indie you’ll get much better deals than a first-time author with no book sales history.

Those the Positives, but What are the Negatives?

One problem is that you need to do it all yourself or find suitable professionals to help. As with any new skill, it’s a steep learning curve. You still obviously have to do the writing and marketing, but you also have to do the publishing. You have to find an editor (or two would be better! One for content and the other for proofreading) and a cover designer. Then you need to work with them, determine the title, get your work formatted into e-book, print and any other format you want. It does pay to find suitable professionals to help. If being in control is your definition of success and you need to run all aspects of the business isn’t something that you want to do, then going the indie route might not be your best route. You have to love all aspects of the writing business. You have to love everything from idea generation to creating words on the page, to the technical side of things and everything in between.

You’ll get no prestige, kudos or validation by the industry. Though the stigma lessens every day, success is still connected with traditional publishing. If it hurts your feelings to be considered inferior, then maybe you should not consider going indie.  

For professional results, you’ll need to pay for supporting services upfront. If you’re any kind of writer, you’ll need to spend some money on professional money anyway before submitting to an agent and spend money on writing books and courses.  So even if you intend to go with a traditional company, you will need a budget upfront.

It’s difficult for a self-published book to get print distribution in bookstores. It’s certainly not impossible and if you care about print distribution then take a look at Ingram Spark. However, you’re much more likely to get bookstore distribution with a traditional publisher, as that’s essentially their business model, has been, and probably will be for a long time. They are the experts for printing and distributing physical products. My personal choice is to use Print on Demand through Lulu.com so my print books are available on most online bookstores.

Most literary prizes don’t accept indie books and most literary critics for mainstream media won’t review them. If your definition of success is literary acclaim, the traditional route is your best option.


Now that your story is ready to put out there, if you are still planning to get your book into a traditional publishing company, the only way you are going to get your book in front of one is through your query letter.

What is the Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal?

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written.

The Novel Query

According to the NY Book Editors Website, This one page document of about three hundred words is most important, and in some ways even more important to than the actual book This letter is sent to literary agents (and some publishers directly) to woo them into checking out your book.

Don’t put your query on pastel paper with stamped roses, it won’t get you further than the trash can. Instead, follow this tried and trusted formula.

Format with your address at the top of the page, right justified. Next, type the agent’s address, this time left justified.

Use a personalized greeting where you acknowledge the agent by name.

Keep the body of your query letter from three to five paragraphs.

In paragraph one, you hook the literary agent. Share any connection you have with the agent. Did you meet this person at a conference or know someone in common? At least be able to mention that you’re a fan of specific authors that this person represents. The job of this first paragraph is to get the agent reading.

After you hook the agent, share the title and genre of your book and your book’s word count.

Now that you’ve hooked the agent, summarize your story in paragraph two. Discuss your main characters, what happens, and what choice they must make now. But don’t give away the entire plot. Leave the agent wanting more by structuring this paragraph in a cliffhanger.

In the next paragraph, add your bio, but make sure it’s relevant to writing. Impress your agent with writing awards and credibility or related writing experience. Limit your bio to no more than two sentences.

Use short paragraphs and short sentences, when possible. Imagine this: your letter is one of hundreds that your potential agent must read through this week. (It probably is). Make it as easy as possible for them to skim through your letter.

Write in a tone similar to your novel’s narrative. Your query letter should evoke the same tone as your novel. If your book is funny, make your query letter funny. Is it ornate? Use elegant but not remember not to be wordy.

Always Follow Submission Guidelines

Before sending any letter, be sure to follow any submission guidelines. Not every agent wants the same information, so don’t think one form of query fits all. Some may only accept email submissions while others accept both.

Address each agent specifically. Never use “to whom it may concern” if you want anyone to actually request your novel.

If possible, let the agent know why you are pitching your book to him/her. Again, if you love a specific author that this agent represents in a related genre yours, let the agent know that you would love to have the same agent as THAT author.  

Give Credit Where Credit is Due 

Mention that your book has been edited by a professional editor. Agents love a polished manuscript. They notice writers who’ve taken the extra step of getting their manuscript edited by a professional. By doing this, you as the writer appear more professional and serious. This will add more weight to your query letter.

Remember that querying agents is a hit or miss proposition even when you have done your homework on the agent. To find the right agent at the right time, you often need to send out numerous query letters. If you follow these recommendations, you still may not be picked up by a specific agent. There are many reasons why an agent doesn’t pick you up and it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you personally so don’t take it personally. Just keep sending out either written or emailed queries and soon someone will ask to see your novel.


One of the biggest roadblocks new writers face, especially if they are writing about something personal and important to them, is the fear of writing their own book biography or bio. Putting yourself on paper, and exposing your story to the world, can certainly be intimidating because it takes a lot of courage to bring your experiences and narrative to a broad audience.

Don’t worry. Every writer goes through this, and you can too! Just keep the following in mind when these apprehensions arise, so you can continue to move forward, and add your own unique voice to the literary world.

It’s Your Story

When your story is in print, it will linger well after you have sent your final draft to your partner publisher. Your story is something you can share with friends, family members, loved ones, and the world as a whole), and is a piece of you that will truly last a lifetime. So lay your fears to rest, and leave your mark on this world, by getting your words in print so they can resonate for years to come!

It’s Therapeutic

Many people don’t know this, but just before I determined that I was going to focus on writing my novels, I was going through severe depression. Over the course of a year I lost my job. My Husband lost his job. We lost our car, and we lost our home. I went to two psychologists who suggested that I journal my anxieties.

For me, writing isn’t just a relaxing activity. It was a healing exercise that brought me peace. Writing helped me work through my own issues and allowed me to explore the ideas that I had for writing my novels and nonfiction stories.

By writing down my experiences and thoughts and putting into words any coinciding emotions that popped into my mind, I was able to solidify those thoughts into print both into fiction and into nonfiction.

The Power to Connect with Others

Once I had my first book done, I realized that I had to create a bio for that book. Because I had to deal with depression and anxiety, I was hesitant of putting who I thought that I really was out there to my readers. I had what I realize now is what is called “the imposter syndrome.”

What I hadn’t realized was that countless people have had similar experiences to my own. They don’t see themselves as worthy of calling themselves an author. This is especially true with authors who are writing their first novels. What do you write? How do you write anything that will impress the readers? Who cares if you have three kids, a cat and two dogs? Who cares which part of the country you reside? Who cares that you graduated from a now defunct college?

Who cares? Well, if your potential reader has children, pets, or lives in your part of the country, that reader might just identify with you. If the same person identifies because he or she went to the same college, this person might also identify with you because they see you as human.   

Remember that you have the ability to bring comfort, camaraderie, and joy to a large audience. Your audience identifies with you. If your audience has any inkling of wanting to purchase your book, your bio just might be what convinces they should read this book.

What Should Be Included in Your Bio?

Be prepared to write three different versions of your bio. Write about yourself in the third person. Write a lengthy bio for your website, proposals, interview sheets and media kits. Write a medium length bio for your queries (more about this in next week’s blog post!), guest spots on other websites and shorter marketing material. Finally write a short bio to include in your signature line and limited character social media sites.

The easiest place to begin writing your bio is with a draft of your longest bio. Start with your longest writing accomplishments. Write down everything you can think of that you have ever written especially if this is your first book. Include that poem that you wrote for the third grade and the writing prize you won as a young author in middle school. Include the inspiration of how and why you started writing fiction. If you have written previous books and you are including them in your bio, be sure to put the titles in italics rather than in quotes. If you get any writing awards (or awards related to your subject matter), be sure to include them as well. Put your demographics at the end of your bio after you’ve established yourself as a writer. If you have a degree, be sure to include your level of education. With each subsequent book or editions, be sure to update your bio to include that information.

How Should You Write Your Bio?

Before editing your long bio, be sure to look over the bios of other authors and emulate the ones you like. In addition, in writing your shorter bios, look at those written by others for creative ideas especially in your genre of ways they write their bios.

When you have finished your bio, read it out loud and if possible, have another author in your genre read over your bio to look for ways you can improve your bio.

Now we are ready for the next part step in the marketing process if you’re writing to an agent or publisher. We’ll cover that next week.


The Difference Between a Query Letter and a Book Proposal

Before you write to either a publisher or to an agent, it is important to know the difference between a query letter and a book proposal.

A query letter is a request for a publisher to read your proposal for a request for reading your fiction book and a book proposal is a proposal for a request for reading your nonfiction book. A query letter is usually written after a fiction book is written and a book proposal is often written before the book is written. Since you have written a book of fiction, if you are going the traditional publishing route, you will be writing a query letter.

Of course, you no longer have to go the traditional publishing route. Many people are self-publishing or going through small press publishers or even doing what is called hybrid publishing which is a cross between traditional publishing or self-publishing. This post, however, is about how to contact a publisher or agent.

What is the difference between a publisher, an editor, and an agent?

A publisher can refer to an organization or the individual in charge of an organization which releases books. However, an editor is an individual who works with authors directly. In cases where the publisher refers to an organization, it simply means the publishing company as a whole which employs many editors. Editors are the people who work to adapt your book to the publisher’s audiences.

A literary agent (also known as book agents or publishing agents) act as authors’ representatives for the sale and/or licensing of their books with large domestic publishers. As well as smaller domestic publishers. These individuals work to connect you with the publisher and then help negotiate the contract between you and the publisher.

To secure either the services of a publisher or an agent, you can’t just call them up and ask them if you if they will accept you and your book. You have to write a query and send it to them.

It used to be that in order to send a query letter, you had to mail it in and wait weeks for a reply. Now days, contacting literary agents and publishers are usually done via e-mail. You send the query letter and then they let you know whether they want you to submit your manuscript. They may also want to do it some other way. The best way to find out how they want you to submit your manuscript would be by reading their submission guidelines.

Look at a publisher or agent’s website before submitting a query letter or your manuscript.

Study the publisher or agent’s website and learn everything you can about what this person accepts and doesn’t accept. If this agent focuses on selling science fiction, don’t try to get this agent to represent you if you write historical romances. If a publisher doesn’t publish horror, don’t think that that publisher is going to change for you!

The better you’re known by the publisher or agent, the more likely they are to represent you. However, even if they do represent your genre, don’t think that harassing them is going to make them represent you. Calling them on the phone and asking to speak to someone in charge could be a nail in your authorship coffin.

So how do you meet a publisher or an agent? You might go to an event where publishers or agents are present and get to know them at a writer’s conference.

It is also possible that you could get to know them through someone you already know. If you know another author who has published through a specific publisher or has been represented by a specific agent, that person might just be the connection you need.

Whether you’re contacting a publisher or an agent, your query letter should be perfectly written, but that will be a message for another blog post.  First, before writing the query letter, you’ll need to work on dressing up your bio. That will be the topic of next week’s post.


“You’re not done with a book until you pass it to another reader.” Donalyn Miller

We spend so much time on our own manuscripts that we can’t see them objectively — no matter how diligently we self-edit. We create anticipation or an expectation early in the book but forget to deliver on it. We describe events in a way that is clear to us. However, they are not necessarily clear to a reader who can’t see the pictures in our head. We leave out vital steps in an explanation and don’t realize it, because we know what we mean. The characters in our books are not convincing, because we know them so well. We simply don’t always realize we haven’t developed them as thoroughly as we thought when we committed them to paper.

Why Do We Need a Beta Reader (or ten)?

This is why we need a beta reader. A beta reader is someone who gives you feedback on your finished manuscript. This person lets you know how you can adjust your manuscript before you set it loose on the world.

The beta reader’s report cuts through this noise. A beta reader will read your entire manuscript and respond personally to it. They are uninfluenced by the opinions of others. The thing I particularly like about this is that reading is generally a solitary pursuit, and books ‘happen’ in the mind of the reader. So, it’s an authentic way to encounter your book.

A beta reader will tell you if your story seems plausible or if your work has numerous obvious proofreading errors. Sometimes your beta reader might even see content errors. This happened to me. One of my beta readers was reading A Coward’s Solace when she discovered that I had written that George Washington was riding a “white roan”. She said that there was no such horse. I therefore had to research further and learned there actually is such a thing as a “white roan, but that George Washington’s horse was not a white roan, just an ordinary white horse. A white roan is a horse that is born white and is always white whereas an ordinary white horse is born gray and turns white as he ages.

The best beta reports are not always the ones you pay for. In fact, most people get beta reads by an exchange of favors with other writers.

The best beta readers will give you a written report on their responses (which could be several pages long), and they often also will make notes in the text, to show their reaction to specific sections of the book. A beta reader can tell you if a sub-plot is too involved and it overwhelms the main story. You can trust a good beta reader to tell you more was expected from your secondary story line and that it didn’t do much for the story. If they wonder why it was even there, your sub-plot needs work.

Beta readers might have trouble explaining a problem with a secondary plot that’s too detailed or that overshadows the main plot. Yet if several readers tell you they like a secondary character more than your protagonist or that a second bad guy makes a better antagonist, you’ve probably invested your sub-plot with more compelling events or dialogue than your main plot.

Seeking a beta reader is a professional move, not an amateur one. Although they weren’t called that by publishers, publishers have used beta readers for years. The concept of getting another opinion about a manuscript is almost as old as a Gutenberg printing press.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


You’re Ready for One Last Go Over of Your Novel

You’ve finished the writing, the rewriting, the editing and the polishing. What’s next?

You’ve been through your manuscript front to back and back to front and weeded out and added in.

You’ve straightened out your characters and tightened the plot and you’ve proofed for every conceivable error you’ve ever read about.

Both protagonist and antagonist get what they deserve and what they’ve earned and what your readers will love.

You’ve got conflict and chapter-ending hooks and emotion-evoking phrases.

You’ve got an opening that delights, a middle without sag, and an ending that satisfies.

You’ve got ups and downs and breathing space and breathless action. You’ve included emotional responses for characters that are guaranteed to touch the reader as well.

The number of modifiers—both adverbs and adjectives—doesn’t overwhelm.

Dialogue is strong. Setting is clear and works for the story. Characters are unique. Style is consistent.

Your favorite unusual sentence construction. The unusual gets noticed. Don’t overplay those touches that stand out.

Your favorite words. We all have them, and they sneak in despite our desire to keep them out. Can you cut one or two more instances of each?

The overuse of character names, especially in dialogue. People just don’t call each other by name when they talk to them.

The opening line and opening page. Do they accomplish all that they can? Does the opening set up the story arc, get the plot rolling, introduce your protagonist, introduce tone and/or setting?

The ending. Does it address the story opening and the character’s problem? Does it finish the several hundred pages that come before it? Is the last line a memorable one?

Do you find any words that don’t fit?

If you’ve changed a character’s name, make sure you’ve not left any instances of the former name.

Space holders. If you use space holders for unsure elements—asterisks, blank lines, hash tags—be sure you’ve filled in the blanks and be sure to remove them.

Words used too often. They might not even be favorite words, but their use and overuse can weaken your scenes. However, remember not to include so many synonyms that it aggravates the reader.

That one scene that niggles at you, the one that still doesn’t seem quite perfect.  Yes, make the time for one more try to fix it. If it bothers you, it’s going to bother the reader.

Chapter breaks. Make sure chapters begin on new pages. Make sure chapter numbers are sequential.

Manuscript format. Before submitting, format your manuscript in the proper format. Don’t forget page numbers and the correct info for the headers. Check for consistency with scene breaks—have you used asterisks or hash marks or simple line spacing?

Spelling. Remember you can’t depend on spell checker, but run your story through spellchecker one last time, especially. If you make any changes during this go round.as a final step in your cleanup. And repeat as many times as necessary if you continue to make changes.

This is not an editing checklist, but a helpful last step before you submit your manuscript whoever you choose for your next step.

When Is It Time to Let Your Story Go?

These suggestions are not meant as a tool for procrastination: please don’t hesitate to submit when your story is ready. Do what’s necessary for making both story and manuscript error-free and then let the story go. Start your next project or complete another story you’ve begun. Put an end to this one.

Trust me as someone who has been through it many times. A few errors are likely to slip through even with your best proofreading. However, as a writing aficionado, you want to do your best with this final draft. A few simple errors will not be what keeps your story from being accepted or if you are a self-publisher, may keep readers from reading your next book. Submit your manuscripts when you get to the point where you just can’t edit any longer.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Most writers know about when to use a period, a question mark, and exclamation point. Be sure that every sentence has one of those three at the end.  Back on April 29ths post, we went over how to punctuate dialogue. I am not going to go over that again here, but you should probably review that now as well. In addition, go through and make sure you didn’t miss any of your quotation marks. Like the previous forms of punctuation, commas, semi-colons, colons, apostrophes, and dashes indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought. Experienced writers know that these marks are not interchangeable.

Once you’re sure that every sentence ends properly and every piece of dialogue is properly punctuated, let’s move onto commas.

Commas

Use a comma after an expression

Of course, you may use my pen.

Add a comma when a participle phrase is used

Carefully watching what she was doing, she poured the liquid into the cylinder.

Include a comma when an adverb clause is used

After we go to town, we need to put away the groceries.

Use a comma to separate parts of a date

Her birthday was Thursday, June 27, 2002.

Use a comma when two complete sentences are combined. (Remember to use a conjunction so you don’t end up with a run-on sentence.

He went to see his mother, and she waited in the car.

Use a comma when setting off quoted words

“She seemed embarrassed,” he said.

Semi-Colons

In most modern fiction, semi-colons should be edited out.

Colons

Use a colon to introduce an item or a series of items. Do not capitalize the first item after the colon (unless it’s a proper noun)

A capital letter generally does not introduce a word, phrase, or incomplete sentence following a colon.

Avoid using a colon before a list if it directly follows a verb or preposition that would ordinarily need no punctuation in that sentence.

When listing items one by one, one per line, following a colon, capitalization and ending punctuation are optional when using single words or phrases preceded by letters, numbers, or bullet points. If each point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end the sentence with appropriate ending punctuation. Otherwise, there are no hard and fast rules, except be consistent.

A colon instead of a semicolon may be used between independent clauses when the second sentence explains, illustrates, paraphrases, or expands on the first sentence. (Not recommended in modern fiction either. Instead, separate the sentences with a period or a comma and a conjunction)

Capitalize the first word of a complete or full-sentence quotation that follows a colon.

Capitalize the first word after a colon if the information following the colon requires two or more complete sentences.

If a quotation contains two or more sentences, many writers and editors introduce it with a colon rather than a comma.

For extended quotations introduced by a colon, some style manuals say to indent one-half inch on both the left and right margins; others say to indent only on the left margin. Quotation marks are not used.

Apostrophes

The apostrophe has two main jobs in English: to mark contractions and to indicate possession.

Never use an apostrophe to designate plurals.

Use apostrophes to form contractions, where two or more words are combined to form one, with letters omitted. Words most frequently affected by contractions are verbs and pronouns. For example, in the contractions “I’m” the apostrophe replaced the a in I am. The same goes for the word doesn’t where the apostrophe replaces the o in not like don’t in place of do not. The apostrophe is placed where the letters are removed.

Use an apostrophe plus -s to show the possessive form of a singular noun, even if that singular noun already ends in -s.

Some style guides (including the “Associated Press Stylebook” but not “The Chicago Manual of Style”) recommend using only an apostrophe after singular proper names ending in -s

To form the possessive of a plural noun that already ends in -s, simply add an apostrophe.

When two or more nouns possess the same thing, add an apostrophe plus -s to the last noun listed.

Don’t Use an Apostrophe With Possessive Pronouns including its, yours, hers his, ours, and theirs.

Add an apostrophe plus -s to form the possessive of some indefinite pronouns including anyone’s, somebody’s and one’s.

Dashes

Words and phrases between dashes are not generally part of the subject.

Dashes replace otherwise mandatory punctuation, such as the commas after Iowa and 2013 in the following examples:

Without dash: The man from Ames, Iowa, arrived.

With dash: The man—he was from Ames, Iowa—arrived.

Without dash: The May 1, 2013, edition of the Ames Sentinel arrived in June.

With dash: The Ames Sentinel—dated May 1, 2013—arrived in June.

Some writers and publishers prefer spaces around dashes.

Example: Joe — and his trusty mutt — was always welcome.

Be sure to include how you handle these forms of punctuation in your own personal style guide and be sure to be consistent in how you apply them in your novel.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


This week we are identifying and replacing spelling errors. Now is a good time to run a spell check to see find words that are spelled wrong or you have written using British spellings rather than American spellings (or visa versa if you’re aiming to sell to British audiences). You wouldn’t want to insult your reader (or publisher!) with the wrong gray or grey. Now’s a good time to run your spellcheck over your manuscript before going onto the next steps.

Check for the Consistent Name Spellings

A common error that pops up in the proofreading stage is the incorrect spelling of names. Be sure you’re not the author who spells the person’s name at the beginning one way and another way in the middle. Go back and review names to make sure they are correct and consistent across the whole document.

No one wants to be that person who spells the name of a place or famous person incorrectly. When in doubt, do a google search on how the name is actually spelled. If you find such an error, use find and replace feature on your word processing program to replace your spelling with the correct one.

Be consistent with contractions

Check with your style guide on whether to use contractions. In academic writing, words like “it’s” or “can’t” are spelled out fully as “it is” or “cannot.” Some people feel the contracted style is too informal for some kinds of writing. This is usually not a problem with a novel, but you might want to go back and look at your dialogue again and have your characters who are more formal not using contractions and those who are using them.

Words that Sound the Same But are Spelled Differently

Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently. These words include principal/principle, right/write, and currant/current. When we’re writing, it’s easy for our fingers to spit out one when we mean the other. This is often such a major issue with many people that I have devoted the entire next blog post to this subject.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series.  

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Here we will practice applying one of the most basic and yet also most troublesome rules of grammar: in the present tense, a verb must agree in number with its subject. Put simply, this means that we have to remember to add an -s to the verb if its subject is singular and not to add an -s if the subject is plural. It’s really not a hard principle to follow as long as we can identify the subject and verb in a sentence. Let’s have a look at how this basic rule works.

Compare the verbs (in bold) in the two sentences below:

Sadie washes and Mary dries the dishes.

My sisters wash the dishes.  

Both verbs describe a present or ongoing action (in other words, they are in the present tense), but the first verb ends in -es and the second one doesn’t.  In the first sentence, we need to add an -es to the verbs (washes and dries) because the subjects (Sadie and Mary)) are singular. We omit the final -es from the verb (wash) in the second sentence because there the subject (sisters) is plural. Remember, though, that this rule applies only to verbs in the present tense.

Here are four tips to help you apply the principle that a verb must agree in number with its subject:

  1. Add an -s to the verb if the subject is a singular noun: a word that names one person, place, or thing.
  2. Add an -s to the verb if the subject is any one of the third-person singular pronouns: he, she, it, this, that.
  3. Do not add an -s to the verb if the subject is the pronoun I, you, we, or they.
  4. Do not add an -s to the verb if two subjects are joined by and.

So, is it really that simple to make subjects and verbs agree? Well, not always. For one thing, our speech habits sometimes interfere with our ability to apply the principle of agreement. If we have a habit of dropping the final -s from words when we talk, we need to be particularly careful not to leave off the -s when we write. However, if we are writing dialogue where the character drops that “s”, (to indicate his lack of education), it would be appropriate.

Tips for Adding that S

We have to keep a certain spelling rule in mind when adding -s to a verb that ends in the letter -y: in most cases, we need to change the y to ie before adding the s. For example, the verb carry becomes carries, try becomes tries, and hurry becomes hurries. Are there exceptions? Of course. If the letter before the final -y is a vowel (that is, the letters  a, e, i, o, or u), we simply keep the y and add -s. Say becomes says, and enjoy becomes enjoys.

Now have at it. Make sure that every subject and verb are in agreement. Next week we will handle spelling issues.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Now we are in the heart of proofreading. You’ve found missing words.  You’ve found double words, now its time to improve your sentences by eliminating overused words.

You probably have a number of words that you personally overuse, so you should probably add this to your personal style guide. Until you develop your own list, here is a list of words to use cautiously.

List of Overused Words

While it would be awkward to avoid these words all the time, you should take care to substitute more interesting words whenever appropriate.

Adverbs

Adverbs can often be substituted with more accurate verbs.

 Awfully

Really

Very

Almost any word that ends in “ly”

Adjectives

Just as adverbs can be replaced by more appropriate verbs, boring adjectives can be replaced with adjectives that are more descriptive or you can describe your subject using better “show not tell” description. Here are a few adjectives to consider replacing.

amazing

awesome

bad

beautiful

big

fine

good

great

happy

interesting

look

nice

quite

said

so

well

Other- This word appeared over five million times in a day across Grammarly.

Try these alternatives: alternative times, further suggestions, different opinions.

More

New

Good- using good as an adjective is just good enough. Next time you qualify something as “good,” think about how good it is. You could be referring to something that’s slightly better than something else, something that’s suitable, or something that’s really good. Chances are, there’s a word to suit each situation.

Try these alternatives: excellent solution, decent option, worthy substitute.

Best- Similar to “good,” “best” isn’t the only way to provide a superlative.

Many-“Many” may seem like a go-to option when referring to an indeterminate group of things. However, if you have an idea of the volume, try to be as exact as possible. Try one of these alternatives to express a vague number: a multitude of ideas, a handful of times, numerous occasions, thousands of data points

Great-although “great” is a stronger word than “good,” it still doesn’t describe anything. Allow your characters to use grea but not by much. If you’re already expressing enthusiasm for something, set it apart.

Try these alternatives: awesome ideas, fantastic opportunity, wonderful work.

Able

You may not think of “able” as an oft-used adjective, but this word appears whenever someone  “is able” to complete a task. Next time you, use another phrase.

look, looked, looking (one of the most common verbs used for sight)

there (stood there, sat there)

over (walked over, ran over)

felt, heard, saw, watched, thought (you don’t always need to report that a character is doing these things)

Words/phrases that add nothing and might in fact dilute a scene.

at this time

at [in] this moment

in my opinion

any three-word phrase at the end of a sentence (search for prepositional phrases you use often)

try and [verb] (use try to rather than try and)

for example

suddenly

hopefully

already

just

there is, there are, there were (especially to start sentences and open paragraphs)

oh, well, and oh well (especially in dialogue)

Substitute With Synonyms

Using the same word too many times can seem somewhat redundant to the reader. Here are synonyms for the 96 most commonly used words in English

Amazing — incredible, unbelievable, improbable, fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, astonishing, astounding, extraordinary

Anger — enrage, infuriate, arouse, nettle, exasperate, inflame, madden

Angry — mad, furious, enraged, excited, wrathful, indignant, exasperated, aroused, inflamed

Answer — reply, respond, retort, acknowledge

Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz

Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant

Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable

Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling

Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate

Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous

Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome

Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize

Bright — shining, shiny, gleaming, brilliant, sparkling, shimmering, radiant, vivid, colorful, lustrous, luminous, incandescent, intelligent, knowing, quick-witted, smart, intellectual

Calm — quiet, peaceful, still, tranquil, mild, serene, smooth, composed, collected, unruffled, level-headed, unexcited, detached, aloof

Come — approach, advance, near, arrive, reach

Cool — chilly, cold, frosty, wintry, icy, frigid

Crooked — bent, twisted, curved, hooked, zigzag

Cry — shout, yell, yowl, scream, roar, bellow, weep, wail, sob, bawl

Cut — gash, slash, prick, nick, sever, slice, carve, cleave, slit, chop, crop, lop, reduce

Dangerous — perilous, hazardous, risky, uncertain, unsafe

Dark — shadowy, unlit, murky, gloomy, dim, dusky, shaded, sunless, black, dismal, sad

Decide — determine, settle, choose, resolve

Definite — certain, sure, positive, determined, clear, distinct, obvious

Delicious — savory, delectable, appetizing, luscious, scrumptious, palatable, delightful, enjoyable, toothsome, exquisite

Describe — portray, characterize, picture, narrate, relate, recount, represent, report, record

Destroy — ruin, demolish, raze, waste, kill, slay, end, extinguish

Difference — disagreement, inequity, contrast, dissimilarity, incompatibility

Do — execute, enact, carry out, finish, conclude, effect, accomplish, achieve, attain

Dull — boring, tiring„ tiresome, uninteresting, slow, dumb, stupid, unimaginative, lifeless, dead, insensible, tedious, wearisome, listless, expressionless, plain, monotonous, humdrum, dreary

Eager — keen, fervent, enthusiastic, involved, interested, alive to

End — stop, finish, terminate, conclude, close, halt, cessation, discontinuance

Enjoy — appreciate, delight in, be pleased, indulge in, luxuriate in, bask in, relish, devour, savor, like

Explain — elaborate, clarify, define, interpret, justify, account for

Fair — just, impartial, unbiased, objective, unprejudiced, honest

Fall — drop, descend, plunge, topple, tumble

False — fake, fraudulent, counterfeit, spurious, untrue, unfounded, erroneous, deceptive, groundless, fallacious

Famous — well-known, renowned, celebrated, famed, eminent, illustrious, distinguished, noted, notorious

Fast — quick, rapid, speedy, fleet, hasty, snappy, mercurial, swiftly, rapidly, quickly, snappily, speedily, lickety-split, posthaste, hastily, expeditiously, like a flash

Fat — stout, corpulent, fleshy, beefy, paunchy, plump, full, rotund, tubby, pudgy, chubby, chunky, burly, bulky, elephantine

Fear — fright, dread, terror, alarm, dismay, anxiety, scare, awe, horror, panic, apprehension

Fly — soar, hover, flit, wing, flee, waft, glide, coast, skim, sail, cruise

Funny — humorous, amusing, droll, comic, comical, laughable, silly

Get — acquire, obtain, secure, procure, gain, fetch, find, score, accumulate, win, earn, rep, catch, net, bag, derive, collect, gather, glean, pick up, accept, come by, regain, salvage

Go — recede, depart, fade, disappear, move, travel, proceed

Good — excellent, fine, superior, wonderful, marvelous, qualified, suited, suitable, apt, proper, capable, generous, kindly, friendly, gracious, obliging, pleasant, agreeable, pleasurable, satisfactory, well-behaved, obedient, honorable, reliable, trustworthy, safe, favorable, profitable, advantageous, righteous, expedient, helpful, valid, genuine, ample, salubrious, estimable, beneficial, splendid, great, noble, worthy, first-rate, top-notch, grand, sterling, superb, respectable, edifying

Great — noteworthy, worthy, distinguished, remarkable, grand, considerable, powerful, much, mighty

Gross — improper, rude, coarse, indecent, crude, vulgar, outrageous, extreme, grievous, shameful, uncouth, obscene, low

Happy — pleased, contented, satisfied, delighted, elated, joyful, cheerful, ecstatic, jubilant, gay, tickled, gratified, glad, blissful, overjoyed

Hate — despise, loathe, detest, abhor, disfavor, dislike, disapprove, abominate

Have — hold, possess, own, contain, acquire, gain, maintain, believe, bear, beget, occupy, absorb, fill, enjoy

Help — aid, assist, support, encourage, back, wait on, attend, serve, relieve, succor, benefit, befriend, abet

Hide — conceal, cover, mask, cloak, camouflage, screen, shroud, veil

Hurry — rush, run, speed, race, hasten, urge, accelerate, bustle

Hurt — damage, harm, injure, wound, distress, afflict, pain

Idea — thought, concept, conception, notion, understanding, opinion, plan, view, belief

Important — necessary, vital, critical, indispensable, valuable, essential, significant, primary, principal, considerable, famous, distinguished, notable, well-known

Interesting — fascinating, engaging, sharp, keen, bright, intelligent, animated, spirited, attractive, inviting, intriguing, provocative, though-provoking, challenging, inspiring, involving, moving, titillating, tantalizing, exciting, entertaining, piquant, lively, racy, spicy, engrossing, absorbing, consuming, gripping, arresting, enthralling, spellbinding, curious, captivating, enchanting, bewitching, appealing

Keep — hold, retain, withhold, preserve, maintain, sustain, support

Kill — slay, execute, assassinate, murder, destroy, cancel, abolish

Lazy — indolent, slothful, idle, inactive, sluggish

Little — tiny, small, diminutive, shrimp, runt, miniature, puny, exiguous, dinky, cramped, limited, itsy-bitsy, microscopic, slight, petite, minute

Look — gaze, see, glance, watch, survey, study, seek, search for, peek, peep, glimpse, stare, contemplate, examine, gape, ogle, scrutinize, inspect, leer, behold, observe, view, witness, perceive, spy, sight, discover, notice, recognize, peer, eye, gawk, peruse, explore

Love — like, admire, esteem, fancy, care for, cherish, adore, treasure, worship, appreciate, savor

Make — create, originate, invent, beget, form, construct, design, fabricate, manufacture, produce, build, develop, do, effect, execute, compose, perform, accomplish, earn, gain, obtain, acquire, get

Mark — label, tag, price, ticket, impress, effect, trace, imprint, stamp, brand, sign, note, heed, notice, designate

Mischievous — prankish, playful, naughty, roguish, waggish, impish, sportive

Move — plod, go, creep, crawl, inch, poke, drag, toddle, shuffle, trot, dawdle, walk, traipse, mosey, jog, plug, trudge, slump, lumber, trail, lag, run, sprint, trip, bound, hotfoot, high-tail, streak, stride, tear, breeze, whisk, rush, dash, dart, bolt, fling, scamper, scurry, skedaddle, scoot, scuttle, scramble, race, chase, hasten, hurry, hump, gallop, lope, accelerate, stir, budge, travel, wander, roam, journey, trek, ride, spin, slip, glide, slide, slither, coast, flow, sail, saunter, hobble, amble, stagger, paddle, slouch, prance, straggle, meander, perambulate, waddle, wobble, pace, swagger, promenade, lunge

Moody — temperamental, changeable, short-tempered, glum, morose, sullen, mopish, irritable, testy, peevish, fretful, spiteful, sulky, touchy

Neat — clean, orderly, tidy, trim, dapper, natty, smart, elegant, well-organized, super, desirable, spruce, shipshape, well-kept, shapely

New — fresh, unique, original, unusual, novel, modern, current, recent

Old — feeble, frail, ancient, weak, aged, used, worn, dilapidated, ragged, faded, broken-down, former, old-fashioned, outmoded, passe, veteran, mature, venerable, primitive, traditional, archaic, conventional, customary, stale, musty, obsolete, extinct

Part — portion, share, piece, allotment, section, fraction, fragment

Place — space, area, spot, plot, region, location, situation, position, residence, dwelling, set, site, station, status, state

Plan — plot, scheme, design, draw, map, diagram, procedure, arrangement, intention, device, contrivance, method, way, blueprint

Popular — well-liked, approved, accepted, favorite, celebrated, common, current

Predicament — quandary, dilemma, pickle, problem, plight, spot, scrape, jam

Put — place, set, attach, establish, assign, keep, save, set aside, effect, achieve, do, build

Quiet — silent, still, soundless, mute, tranquil, peaceful, calm, restful

Right — correct, accurate, factual, true, good, just, honest, upright, lawful, moral, proper, suitable, apt, legal, fair

Run — race, speed, hurry, hasten, sprint, dash, rush, escape, elope, flee

Say/Tell — inform, notify, advise, relate, recount, narrate, explain, reveal, disclose, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, enlighten, instruct, insist, teach, train, direct, issue, remark, converse, speak, affirm, suppose, utter, negate, express, verbalize, voice, articulate, pronounce, deliver, convey, impart, assert, state, allege, mutter, mumble, whisper, sigh, exclaim, yell, sing, yelp, snarl, hiss, grunt, snort, roar, bellow, thunder, boom, scream, shriek, screech, squawk, whine, philosophize, stammer, stutter, lisp, drawl, jabber, protest, announce, swear, vow, content, assure, deny, dispute

Scared — afraid, frightened, alarmed, terrified, panicked, fearful, unnerved, insecure, timid, shy, skittish, jumpy, disquieted, worried, vexed, troubled, disturbed, horrified, terrorized, shocked, petrified, haunted, timorous, shrinking, tremulous, stupefied, paralyzed, stunned, apprehensive

Show — display, exhibit, present, note, point to, indicate, explain, reveal, prove, demonstrate, expose

Slow — unhurried, gradual, leisurely, late, behind, tedious, slack

Stop — cease, halt, stay, pause, discontinue, conclude, end, finish, quit

Story — tale, myth, legend, fable, yarn, account, narrative, chronicle, epic, sage, anecdote, record, memoir

Strange — odd, peculiar, unusual, unfamiliar, uncommon, queer, weird, outlandish, curious, unique, exclusive, irregular

Take — hold, catch, seize, grasp, win, capture, acquire, pick, choose, select, prefer, remove, steal, lift, rob, engage, bewitch, purchase, buy, retract, recall, assume, occupy, consume

Tell — disclose, reveal, show, expose, uncover, relate, narrate, inform, advise, explain, divulge, declare, command, order, bid, recount, repeat

Think — judge, deem, assume, believe, consider, contemplate, reflect, mediate

Trouble — distress, anguish, anxiety, worry, wretchedness, pain, danger, peril, disaster, grief, misfortune, difficulty, concern, pains, inconvenience, exertion, effort

True — accurate, right, proper, precise, exact, valid, genuine, real, actual, trusty, steady, loyal, dependable, sincere, staunch

Ugly — hideous, frightful, frightening, shocking, horrible, unpleasant, monstrous, terrifying, gross, grisly, ghastly, horrid, unsightly, plain, homely, evil, repulsive, repugnant, gruesome

Unhappy — miserable, uncomfortable, wretched, heart-broken, unfortunate, poor, downhearted, sorrowful, depressed, dejected, melancholy, glum, gloomy, dismal, discouraged, sad

Use — employ, utilize, exhaust, spend, expend, consume, exercise

Wrong — incorrect, inaccurate, mistaken, erroneous, improper, unsuitable

Don’t Overdo the Synonyms

The objective for using synonyms is to keep your reader from thinking about how you’re writing rather than what you’re writing. Just as using the same word over and over again can seem like a redundancy, Using substituting synonyms can draw your reader to the fact that you as the author are using synonyms of the same word. There are cases when you will want to use synonyms, but not always. For instance, instead of using a synonym for the word “said”, a better technique than “substituting with a synonym? would be using Deep POV which we delve into in a previous blog post.

What other techniques can you identify that would help you with editing out overused words?

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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One of the things that I often have had difficulty with when editing a novel has been that I have forgotten to include small but critical words or, just as bad, I write a word twice. This often happened when I was in a hurry to write what was in my head and then later when I was editing that same passage, I missed that I had forgotten to write the word. Instead, I read the passage as though the word was actually there. Most of the time, I would totally miss the word even after numerous drafts. However, my editor caught them right away. (This is one reason that every writer should have an editor edit the book before publication).

For instance, I might write a sentence like this:

Melissa road bare on her horse through the woods.

What I meant to say:

Melissa rode bareback on her horse through the woods.

I hate leaving editing to my editor, so I have determined to find way fix this kind of error before my editor ever sees it.

Ways to find those Missing Words When Proofreading

  1. Read your book starting with the last paragraph and read each subsequent paragraph until you have read your book back to the front.
  2. Read each paragraph of your book out loud.
  3. Take frequent breaks. You miss more when your eyes are fatigued.
  4. Focus on what you’re doing. Don’t allow distractions to get in the way of proper editing.
  5. The more you edit, the better you become.

Eliminating Double Words

I know why it happens. You’re writing along and you get distracted. When you come back to writing, you start where you left off and you don’t know it, but you’ve doubled up on your words.

The easiest way to find double words is by using grammar checker software. You shouldn’t depend on a grammar checker for every grammar error any more than you should trust a spellchecker for fixing every spelling error, but for finding double words, using a grammar checker is very affective.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Last week we discussed how to write great paragraphs, now let’s fix the problem of run-on sentences. What exactly is a run-on sentence?

A run-on sentence is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined together without an appropriate punctuation or connecting word. In other words, trying to join two complete sentences with just a comma. A definite amateur mistake. The good news is, fixing run-on sentences is among the easiest proofreading skills to master.

How to Fix Run-On Sentences

There are five different ways to fix run-on sentences.

  1. Separate the run-on into two or more sentences.
  2. Add a semi-colon between the clauses.
  3. Add a comma, then a conjunction after the first independent clause.
  4. Add a subordinating conjunction to one of the clauses.
  5. Change the second clause to a phrase starting with an __ing word.

Now that you know what a run-on sentence is and know how to fix it, it’s time to search out and destroy those run-on sentences!

If you have a novel that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


During the past two weeks we discussed overall aspects of proofreading, this week we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. We’re editing paragraphs. We all know that a paragraph is not just a random group of sentences but is a group of sentences organized around a central topic. Paragraph writing focuses on a single idea. A well-written paragraph takes its readers on a clear path.

A basic paragraph structure usually consists of five sentences: the topic sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. Of course, not all of your paragraphs will be basic paragraphs, but knowing how to expertly edit a basic paragraph will help you edit every paragraph in your novel.   

Determine Your Paragraph’s Why

Before you can begin writing, you need to know what you are writing about. First look at the purpose of your paragraph. Is it description? Does it describe action? Is it a transitional paragraph?

Next, develop your topic sentence or in other words, determine your one main controlling idea.  

Now, after stating your topic sentence, provide information to prove illustrate, clarify your point. What are some examples you can use to support your point? What information can you provide to clarify your thoughts? What specific data, experiences, factual or descriptive information do you need to include in the paragraph. Equally important is what to leave out.

Writing a Great Paragraph

The four elemental essentials for writing a great paragraph are: unity, order, coherence, and completeness.

Unity

 Unity in a paragraph begins with the topic sentence. Every paragraph has one single, controlling idea that is expressed in its topic sentence, which is typically the first sentence of the paragraph. A paragraph is unified around this main idea, with the supporting sentences providing detail and discussion. In order to write a good topic sentence, think about your theme and all the points you want to make. Decide which point drives the rest, and then write it as your topic sentence.

Sometimes, you’ll need to add transitional or introductory phrases like: for example, for instance, first, second, or last can help guide the reader from the previous paragraph into this one.

Order

Order refers to the way you organize your supporting sentences. Whether you choose chronological order, order of importance, or another logical presentation of detail, a solid paragraph always has a definite organization. In a well-ordered paragraph, the reader follows along easily, aided by the pattern you’ve established. Order helps the reader grasp your meaning and avoid confusion.

Coherence

Coherence is the quality that makes your writing understandable. Sentences within a paragraph need to connect to each other and work together as a whole. One of the best ways to achieve coherency is to use transition words. These words create bridges from one sentence to the next. You can use transition words that show order (first, second, third); spatial relationships (above, below) or logic (furthermore, in addition, in fact). Also, in writing a paragraph, using a consistent verb tense and point of view are important ingredients for coherency.

Does your paragraph add meaning to your novel? Have you given the reader enough information to see and understand your characters’ point of view? Is the information in this paragraph relevant, meaningful, or interesting? 

Completeness

Completeness means a paragraph is well-developed. If all sentences clearly and sufficiently support the main idea, then your paragraph is complete. If there are not enough sentences or enough information to prove your thesis, then the paragraph is incomplete. Usually three supporting sentences, in addition to a topic sentence and concluding sentence, are needed for a paragraph to be complete. The concluding sentence or last sentence of the paragraph should summarize your main idea by reinforcing your topic sentence.

The last step in good paragraph writing is proofreading and revision. Look over your work at least one more time. Read your paragraph out loud to make sure it makes sense. Also, ask yourself these questions:  • Does my paragraph answer the prompt and support what I am trying to say in this chapter and this scene? • Does it make sense?

Now that you have edited one paragraph, go to the next and then the next until your paragraphs flow into one beautiful story.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


As you proofread your manuscript, there are several things you can do to make your process easier. Here are a few commonly recommended tips:

Print a copy of the novel and mark it up.

Having a hard copy in front of you allows you to work with your draft on something other than your laptop or desktop screen. You’ll want your printout to be double-spaced so you have plenty of room to make edits.

Be consistent in your marks.

A question mark might indeed convey the appropriate emotion when you find passages that don’t make sense, or where the pacing drags, or where there’s a glaring plot hole or a character who seems to act out of character. But a question mark doesn’t really help you recognize one problem from the next when looking back over your notes. Be specific and consistent in your marginalia, coming up with a clear method for identifying and distinguishing types of problems you encounter. You’ll of course want to keep a legend of some sort to help you keep the marks straight. Or, you might want to include these in the master document you make below.

Make a style guide.

Create your own proofreading checklist on Microsoft word or google docs or some other word processing program and follow these guidelines every time you proofread your writing. Keep a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make and then refer to that list each time you proofread.

Publishers always create a style guide in which they make clear the stylistic, structural, and occasionally substantive needs for the project. You might want to make a master guide of your own, divided into different word spellings (like there their and they’re) that many people have difficulty distinguishing between.

If you don’t feel confident creating your own style guide, there are lots of great style handbooks that can help clear up questions, such as whether a certain word is capitalized, or if you need to hyphenate a specific phrase or adjective.

Developing your own stylebook can enhance your database of writing knowledge!

Keep track of problems as they occur to you.

If you realize some problem or inconsistency in the novel, though it’s not part of the proofreading process,  you’re currently working on, don’t file it away in your head and promise to come back later; find an appropriate place on your style guide to note the problem immediately, while you still recognize and understand what the problem is.

Keep a sharp mind during this proofing stages and keep a good attitude. Revision shouldn’t be considered drudge work or punishment for writing a novel. It is an opportunity to see your work in a new way. Remember that by now you have rewritten this draft several times and that your vision of the story has been sharpened and is getting closer to the perfect volume you wanted to create from the beginning.

Give it a rest.

If time allows, set your text aside for a few hours (or days) after you’ve finished composing, and then proofread it with fresh eyes. Rather than remember the perfect paper you meant to write, you’re more likely to see what you’ve actually written.

  • Look for one type of problem at a time.

Read through your text several times, concentrating first on sentence structures, then word choice, then spelling, and finally punctuation.

  • Read your text aloud.

Or better yet, ask a friend or colleague to read it aloud. You may hear a problem (a faulty verb ending, for example, or a missing word) that you haven’t been able to see.

  • Use a spellchecker.

The spellchecker can help you catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many other common slip ups–but it’s certainly not goof-proof.

  • Trust your dictionary.

Your spellchecker can tell you only if a word is a word, not if it’s the right word. For instance, if you’re not sure whether sand is in a desert or a dessert, visit the dictionary (or our Glossary of Commonly Confused Words).

  • Read your text backward. Another way to catch spelling errors is to read backward, from right to left, starting with the last word in your text. Doing this will help you focus on individual words rather than sentences.
  • Watch for punctuation!
  •  Look for repetition

A common mistake that new authors make is repetition with a certain word or phrase. So watch for repeated word use, and utilize a thesaurus to find other means to relate what you have to say as needed.

Keep an eye on the big picture

When it comes to editing, be consistent!

Watch for errors that can pop up throughout the book, such as a different tense or style that may seem jarring and out of place if it contradicts with the rest of your writing style. Add this to your personal style book!Above all else, ask for help!

You don’t have to go it alone! Ask a teacher, utilize high level and strategic coaching, or enlist the help of a partner publisher.

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

 FREE EDITING CHECKLIST WITH SUBSCRIPTION TO THIS BLOG


Here it is, August, and together we have gone a long way down the editing process. If you have come this far with me, you have worked through the major aspects of content editing. You have looked at the macro-editing stage. You have looked at the story as a complete project. We have looked at the story scene by scene. Today, we turn a corner into the micro-proofreading stage. In this stage, we break things down into individual paragraphs and sentences and word choices. In this stage you will begin to do the following:

  1. Cut down on long sentences.
  2. Check your commas with that and which When used as a descriptor, the word “which” takes a comma. But the word “that” doesn’t. For example: “We went to the house that collapsed yesterday” or “We went to the house, which collapsed yesterday.” Confused about when to use “that” vs. “which?
  3. Avoid using “ing” words like I was starting to. . . .
  4. Don’t be too formal, use contractions
  5. Eliminate there is and there are at the beginning of sentence.
  6. Refer to people with who not that
  7. Use stronger verbs “Make” is sometimes used in the same way as “start to,” in place of what could be a stronger verb.
  8. Eliminate very and really and other ly adverbs. Replace with stronger verbs.
  9. Replace “thing” with a better word
  10. Avoid using “that”
  11. Don’t use “start to”
  12. Cut “in order to”
  13. Reduce prepositions
  14. Remove redundancies
  15. Replace ornate words with simple ones
  16. Remove extra punctuation

Now, before you continue, pat yourself on your back. You’re just a few weeks away from having a completed manuscript!

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series. 

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Kelp for Gardening

A number of years ago I was reading about gardening and I learned about using kelp in the garden. The article that I read said that kelp offered all the nutrients available in seawater and all of the nutrients needed for life and in a form that is readily available.  

I started sprinkling kelp around the garden. One thing I discovered right away was that when I sprinkled the kelp at the bottom of my tomato planting holes, I had no problems with blossom end rot that year. In the years that I didn’t use the kelp, my tomatoes did suffer from the ailment.

Kelp for Livestock

I decided to do some research about kelp and learned that kelp wasn’t just good for my garden, but also for my animals. I learned that a number of farmers are free choice feeding their livestock and chickens dried kelp with good results.

Here in southern Missouri much of the health of the soil is locked and unavailable to animals. When kelp is offered to the animals, it contributes to animal health.

Kelp for Me

 I learned that taking kelp myself helped me get those same nutrients. Kelp is one of the main ingredients in sushi. Even if I didn’t like the taste of kelp or suchi, I could still use kelp as a supplement. I just put some into a gel capsule and washed the capsule down with water. Then I learned I could buy kelp in tablet form or add the kelp to some water, swallow the mixture then chase it with the apple or orange juice that I am having for breakfast.

I noticed that when I used kelp, I had fewer aches and pains. Arthritis diminished. I had more strength and energy.

Disclaimer

Now I am not a doctor nor am I a veterinarian. I am telling you what I have learned from my personal experience. Kelp improves my life and the life around me.

Help from Kelp

For more information about how using kelp improves health, read my book: Help from Kelp. Get Your Copy Today


How does your garden grow?

I think that I would grow vegetables even if there weren’t good reasons for growing them. I love gardening.

The only thing that I like better than writing about vegetable gardening is the act of gardening itself. I absolutely love gardening! I love the faith that I have that when I put the seeds in the ground. I love the excitement of seeing those green first leaves as they push through the soil. I love watching that first flush of growth as the little plants sprint to see which one will grow the fastest. I love watching blossoms appear and am even more excited when the first fruits start to form. Those first fruits seem to take the longest to ripen, but then every ounce of energy goes into the fruits and what seemed to take weeks for the first fruit takes a matter of hours for fruit that comes on later. Finally the day comes when I can pick what’s ripened. I love it when I can use what I pick for that evening’s meal, or I can put it up in freezer or with the canner.

However, not only do I love the process of gardening, but I love the fact that there are some very practical reasons for growing a garden. Here’s a few reasons you might consider.

Food Security

By learning to do food gardening, you become less dependent on the grocery store. The next economic downturn could mean a loss of your job. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your food system is more secure because you have a garden that you can fresh vegetables? A long-term crisis could take 10 years or more to recover. You need to eat during this time. When you grow your own food with your health in mind, use water catchment, recycle home and yard wastes by composting, and save your own seed, you develop a sustainable food source that can get you through that rough patch.

Aquaponics systems are interesting, but not always practical and can be quite expensive and require special skills to set up. Starting a traditional vegetable garden just requires a few hand tools. A shovel, a rake, a hoe, a watering can and a place to start a compost pile is all you need to convert a small spot in your yard into food production.

In addition, aquaponics systems need electricity in order to function. In case of an EMP or even a short-term blackout caused from grid overload or ice damage to the electrical system, all your plants and fish will die. Unless you have a home electrical plant such as solar or a gas generator, this system is not sustainable.  

 A food stockpile can be expensive and hard to rotate and maintain as it grows. It isn’t a bad idea to have some food storage stockpiled, but space is limited and once it is gone, it’s gone. You never store as much as you think you have. What seems like a lot of food during times of plenty ends up being far less when you need to use it.

Food Safety

By raising your own garden, you know more about where your food came from and how it was handled. There have been numerous recalls on fruits, vegetables, meats, and processed foods where salmonella and e-coli have been blamed for illnesses and deaths from consuming those foods. Most of the time, these illnesses are caused either by animal waste from CAFOs (a potential subject for another future article) or from workers who didn’t properly keep their hands washed. When you raise your own garden, you have control over the sanitary conditions upon which they are raised.

In addition, many crops are grown using GMOs in which the primary reason for creating the GMO is for allowing the use of the herbicide glyphosate (brand name-Roundup) in the fields where the crops are grown. Recently 2 billion dollars has been set aside for individuals who have contracted Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma because there is a strong probability that glyphosate causes this type of cancer. In addition, this chemical kills earthworms, and other healthful flora and fauna in fields. These organisms help create the symbiosis required for the plants to absorb the nutrients into the plants that we eat.

Food Quality

The nutrient density of food has decreased anywhere from 15 to 65 percent in the past 65 years. The reasons for this have a lot to do with the way that our food is grown. In many cases the same crop has been grown on the same land for years. The farmers add nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to the soil and the plants will grow and produce a crop, but since the farmers are not adding micronutrients, the plants lack the nutritional value. When you grow your own food using homemade compost created from household and yard wastes and adding other organic amendments, you’re not just feeding the plants, but you’re feeding the soil as well.

Even plowing itself has been linked to the decrease in food quality. When a field is plowed and it rains, nutrients are washed downstream. Exposed soil is also subject to other aspects of weather. Exposed soil is subject to rapid change in the weather. Plants planted in exposed soil are more likely to succumb to frost and heat alike. When growing your own garden, you can avoid these pitfalls when you mulch your garden or even use gardening methods like the Ruth Stout method, Lasagna Gardening, and Back to Eden Gardening to name a few of the most common.  

Food for Thought

When you grow your own food organically, you can become part of the ecosystem rather than an enemy of it. You start recycling yard wastes and household food wastes back into your garden through composting. You learn that it’s not about feeding plants, but about feeding the soil.

The more you learn about growing your own food in a responsible way, the more you’ll learn about how what you do affects the world around you. You’ll lower your carbon footprint because tankers and trucks won’t need to haul food from where it’s grown to where you live. You’ll feel a connection to nature. You’ll see yourself as doing something positive for the environment.

Food Connoisseur

You’ll learn that home grown food really does taste better. When was the last time you ate a fresh ripe tomato right off the vine or sweet corn picked at the peak of sweetness and cooked within minutes of picking? It is an experience no human being should miss.

Where Do You Start?

Start where you are right now, doing what you know how to do and then research what you know you don’t know. I am writing this in the middle of the summer, but It doesn’t matter what time of year you are reading this. You can start your garden at any time and in any place. Matter of fact, right now I have the seeds that I will use for my fall garden that I am currently growing on my patio. I have had gardens all my life and I have learned that even if I don’t have a yard, I can start growing plants in an apartment or on a balcony.

Make a list of what you know about growing your own food and then start researching what you still need to know. One resource I suggest is my book Simply Vegetable Gardening. To learn more about this book, Click Here.


The other day I was writing and wrote Thursday, June 27, 2002. As I looked at it, I wondered what day of the week that date actually was, so I googled it. Sure enough, it was actually a Thursday.

There are numerous factors I have to consider when writing and using facts, especially historical fiction like I do in The Locket Saga. When I was writing A Coward’s Solace, I had access to information concerning what the weather was on a specific day. Several times, I needed to know if a certain machine had been invented yet. If I were writing about a specific place, I need to be able to see that place in my mind’s eye and see it in a way that someone who actually been there would see it. In addition, if I were a native of that place, I would need to see it like a local sees it. If I am a native of Paris, I would see The Arch De Triumph differently than a tourist would.

The research you do in the third draft phase of your book is this kind of subtle research that you ignored or missed during earlier editing phases.

 Don’t think that you can just get by with a little general research. Even if you are giving a fictionalized version of a personal memoir, you’ll need to do a little research even a little at this stage.

Relying on Your Own Experience

Research can be a simple as going over your own notes or reviewing your own memories. Some of your own readers might have had a similar experience to one that your character had in the book. If you’re off the slightest bit, your reader could lose interest in your story. This one last micro-bit of research might be exactly what it takes to keep your story authentic to the discriminating reader.

Call a Friend

Make a phone call. Do a quick Google search. Go to the library and look over that reference book one more time. Go to a museum. Look for the smallest detail that supports your story’s authenticity.

Did you mention a movie or play in your story? Include part of a scene in your novel. Don’t remember specifics? Watch it on YouTube. Need to describe a specific skill? Watch YouTube videos where the subjects are performing that that skill. What several people doing the same thing and write what you see.

Add levels of texture to your scenes. Picture that skill by using all of your senses. What does it taste like, smell like, feel like? The other day a friend of mine was wondering what burning peat smelled like so he bought peat incense and determined that it smelled like burning leaves.

How Much To Include

Just because you do the research, doesn’t mean that you have to include all the material. Just as you don’t include everything from your character sketches, don’t bore your readers with all of your research. Include only what makes the scene appear real, no more.

Your made-up world, even if it is fantasy, must seem real. Science fiction and fantasy must be identifiable as being like real life. Even though our invented tales didn’t really happen, we must utilize a framework of real-life facts.

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Use these techniques to speed up or slow down time.

Pacing

Pacing is a tool that controls the speed and rhythm at which a story is told and the readers are pulled through the events. It refers to how fast or slow events in a piece unfold and how much time elapses in a scene or story. Pacing can also be used to show characters aging and the effects of time on story events.

Pacing differs with the specific needs of a story. A far-reaching epic will often be told at a leisurely pace, though it will speed up from time to time during the most intense events. A short story or adventure novel might quickly jump into action and deliver drama.

Pacing is part structural choices and part word choices and uses a variety of devices to control how fast the story unfolds. When driving a manual transmission car, you choose the most effective gear needed for driving uphill, maneuvering city streets, or cruising down a freeway. Similarly, when pacing your story, you need to choose the devices that move each scene along at the right speed.

Seven Literary Devices for Pacing Your Story

You need speed in the opening, middle, and climax of your story. Sure, you’ll take a breather from time to time, especially to pause for significance and to express characters’ emotions, but those times will usually appear just before or after a joyride at lightning speed.

There are lots of tools to hasten your story. Some are better suited for micro-pacing—that is, line by line—and some are better suited for macro-pacing—pacing the story as a whole. Let’s take a closer look at each device.

ACTION

 Action scenes are where you “show” what happens in a story, and, when written in short- and medium-length sentences, they move the story along. Action scenes contain few distractions, little description, and limited transitions. Omit or limit character thoughts, especially in the midst of danger or crisis, since during a crisis people focus solely on survival. To create poignancy, forgo long, descriptive passages and choose a few details that serve as emotionally charged props instead.

CLIFF HANGERS

When a scene or chapter is left hanging, the pace picks up because the reader be anxious to discover what happens next. Readers both love and hate uncertainty, and you are responsible to deliver plenty of unfinished actions, unfilled needs, and interruptions. At the end of a scene or chapter, you want your characters in the middle of a conversation, prepared to end the scene with a revelation, facing a threat, or discovering some other challenge.

DIALOGUE

Rapid-fire dialogue with little or no extraneous information is swift and captivating and invigorates any scene. This type of dialogue is pared down and abbreviated. It volleys back and forth with tension. Reactions, descriptions, and attributions are kept to a minimum. With these conversations, your characters never discuss or ponder. Instead, they argue, confront, or engage in a struggle.

PROLONGING OUTCOMES

Suspense and tension are created when you prolong outcomes. It may seem counterintuitive to prolong an event. You would think that it would slow down the story, however,  this technique actually increases the speed. The reader wants to know, has to discover is your character get rescued from the blizzard. Will the train will arrive before the village resorts to cannibalism?  Will the FBI will solve the case before the terrorist follows through on his destruction?  

SCENE CUTS

Also called a jump cut, this is probably the most common ways to pass time quickly in a story. In this technique, a scene cut moves the story to a new location and assumes the reader can follow without an explanation of the location change. The purpose is to accelerate the story, and the characters in the new scene don’t necessarily need to be the characters in the previous scene.

A SERIES OF EVENTS IN RAPID SUCCESSION

Another means of speeding up your story is to create events that happen one right after another. Such events are presented with minimal or no transitions, and definitely no interspection by the characters. The narrative rapidly leaps from scene to scene and place to place.

SHORT SCENES AND CHAPTERS

Short segments are easily digested and end quickly. Since they portray a complete action, the reader passes through them quickly, as opposed to being bogged down by complex actions and descriptions.

SUMMARY

Instead of a play-by-play approach, another technique is to tell readers what has already happened. Because scenes are immediate and sensory, they require many words to depict. Summary is a way of trimming your word count and reserving scenes for the major events. You can also summarize whole eras, descriptions, and backstories. Summaries work well when time passes but there is little to report, when an action is repeated or when a significant amount of time has passed.

WORD CHOICE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE

Words you use are the subtlest tools of pacing. Embed concrete words (like prodigy and iceberg), active voice (with potent verbs like zigzag and plunder), and sensory information into your text. Break up any long, involved paragraphs.

Fragmented, short sentences, and paragraphs quicken the pace. Crisp, punchy verbs, especially those with onomatopoeia (crash, lunge, sweep, scatter, slurp, rattle) also add to a quick pace. Invest in verbs that enliven descriptions, build action scenes and prolong suspense.

Harsh consonant sounds such as those in words like claws, crash, kill, quake, and nag can push the reader ahead. Words with unpleasant associations can also ratchet up the speed: hiss, grunt, slither, smarmy, venomous, slaver, and wince. Energetic, active language is especially appropriate for building action scenes and suspense, and for setting up drama and conflict.

A fast pace means trimming unnecessary words from every sentence. Eliminate prepositional phrases that you don’t need: Trade passive verbs for active one.

If you’re looking to improve how fast or slow your novel moves, learn to utilize all of these literary devices to help you manipulate time

Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

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The Locket Saga is currently the only fiction series by Cygnet Brown.

I can’t remember when I first started writing my historical fiction series The Locket Saga. I think I was living in Pennsylvania when I first started writing Soldiers Don’t Cry. It wasn’t that I first started writing back then because I had been writing fiction since I was about 12 years old.

You might ask, “But isn’t When God Turned His Head the first book in the series?”

I am glad you asked. Yes, When God Turned His Head is the first book in the series, but Soldiers was the first book that I started in the series. The book started as a dream. I dreamed that a young woman and young man were sitting on a puncheon log bench in front of a log wall. She was sitting on one end and he was sitting on the other. He said to her that they had met each other when they were children. Then I awoke and knew that there was a story there.

When God Turned His Head came about while I was writing Soldiers. There’s a scene where Elizabeth and Rachel are talking about their parents and that they had been indentured servants. That made me wonder what happened to their parents? It was around that time when I learned of the John Codman murder.  I decided to make the story part of The Locket Saga. Once I had written the story, I wrote the prologue to Soldiers.

At the same time, I started the first chapter of Book 3 of the Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace where I brought back a character from When God Turned His Head who was supposedly dead.

(If you look back at the prologue of Soldiers, you’ll know who actually survived although it is not obvious at the time.

Sailing under the Black Flag also came out of Soldiers Don’t Cry, The Locket Saga Continues when I decided that I wanted to know what happened withthe impetuous Jonathan Mayford who sails the seven seas for an American privateer. The story ends just after the end of the American Revolution.

At the end of Book 3 of The Locket Saga: A Coward’s Solace, the characters go to the then frontier town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Book 5 of The Locket Saga: In the Shadow of the Mill Pond picks up a decade and a half after the end of Sailing Under the Black Flag. In this book, the Thorton, McCray, and Mayford families are in the middle of a feud between the United States government and the frontier corn farmers on the western frontier. In addition, a man is murdered leading Lacey Mayford into a search for the truth that will free Matthew Thorton from being hung by vigilantes.

Book 6 of the Locket Saga: The Anvil picks up with Robert McCray in love with a young aristocrat and the Thorton and McCray families going up the Allegheny River and French Creek to build their homes in what would be Concord Township in Erie County, Pennsylvania.

This last book actually represents what the McCray family faced when they came to Northwestern Pennsylvania around 1800. I have particular interest in this family as they were my own ancestors. I am a descendent of Robert the Younger who told the family story. I, of course, have taken a lot of literary license in the events of the novel, but I believe I have written a book that captures the character of the people who settled there.

Is This the End of the Series?

Will this be the last book in the series? I doubt it. I still have first drafts and subsequent drafts of the series that I want to share, but I have recently been drawn in other directions. (More on that as plans get more structured.)

So, tell me. Have you read any of The Locket Saga? Which book was your favorite? Who’s your favorite character?


Do you have money left over at the end of your month or month left over at the end of your money?

Have an end-of-the-month budget balance evaluation that works for you.

In every area of your life, it is a good idea to evaluate how you did during the previous month and to plan for the next. Your financial situation is no exception.

The first question you must ask yourself is, did you have money left over at the end of your month or did you have month left over at the end of your money?

I hope you took a percentage of around ten percent off the top of your income for savings. You want at least $1000 (or equivalent in your area) in easily accessible savings that you can use in case of an emergency.

Give yourself a pat on the back if you still have money in your bank account at the beginning of the month. You are doing better than 64% of people living in the United States. If you find yourself short however and your bank account is empty at the end of the month, now is a great time to evaluate what happened that made you short. If you cut into the 10% that you took off the top for savings, you’re still not where you need to be, so if you come up short, ask yourself these questions. Was there an illness, or was there some other emergency that came up? Did you have a major unexpected car repair? Did you go on a shopping spree or out with friends on an unplanned event? Look at all possibilities and then strategize how you might be able to avoid that next month.  If you had an emergency, then be sure to put money back into your savings account next month.

Look at how it is that you have money left over at the end of the month. Did you work overtime? Did you make an unexpected windfall from your business? Did you do that well in saving money? By determining how you were able to have money left over at the end of the month will help you determine if you can continue doing that or if you might want to change things so that you don’t have to work so hard.

If you paid off one of your credit cards or loans, celebrate in some way. You have increased your financial situation considerably and have more money each month to invest in yourself instead of someone else. It’s like money that you no longer have to work so hard to get because that bill is no longer part of your financial equation.

If you find that you’ll have more money next month, designate as much as possible to your emergency fund as necessary. If you already have a solid $1000 in your emergency fund, I suggest that you consider investing your savings into food, especially in the autumn months.

Take Advantage of Fall Harvests

Food is one of those expenses that each of us needs to invest in every day and you’ll get the biggest return on the money you invest when you invest in food in the fall.

During the fall months, especially this year, it will be important to make certain that you have a sizable amount of food to last several months. Farm and garden harvests come in during the late summer and early fall so getting food in bulk during this time and preserving it to last for the next several months is an excellent way to make your savings work for you—big time.

Many kinds of fruit and vegetables can be bought during this time. I remember when my eldest son was a baby I went to an auction and bought a bushel of pears for about $4. I canned it and had it for several months. Around here there are a number of these auctions that occur every year. If canning is your thing, this might be a good way to invest any money you can spare during the next few months.

Also, a lot of ranchers are cutting back on stock right now and meat is apt to cost less in the autumn than it will be in late winter and into the spring so if you have freezer space, invest in meat if possible. We talked to someone this week who has beef for sale for $4 per pound and we’re buying 20 pounds.

The same is true for grains. Grains have also been recently harvested and are more likely now to be more available than they will be later in the winter and in the spring. Grains can be bought in bulk which can then be used for making bread and breakfasts. A fifty-pound bag of oatmeal at half a cup per meal and be used for 571 meals for one person. A fifty-pound bulk bag of oatmeal costs me about $30 dollars where I live.

Six Months’ Worth of Food

I like to keep six months’ worth of food available in my home at any one time. I would suggest to anyone that getting extra food to last for six months should be the next step after having established an emergency fund.

And Beyond

If you have six months’ worth of food, then you can go ahead and either work to pay off debt, invest in your business, or increase your savings so that you have six months of relatively liquid assets to use to pay expenses for that long.

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