Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raquel Byrnes and Plot/Character

Hey everyone! The end of June is almost here--time to make that transition over to my new website! Please come join me over there as I would be sad to lose any of you during this transition. I'm offering the same content, the same dry humor, growing faith, fun content that you've grown accustomed to. Let's continue this journey together, as I am just as excited to learn from you as I am to have the opportunity to share with you.

This week on the new website:

Today: Character Tour-Raquel Byrnes' character shows us how a real writer treats her characters. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who tortures them!

Yesterday: Plot or Characters? Which is more important? My take...and some discussion from the readers.

Monday: What Makes Suspense Different? You know, I didn't start out writing suspense...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Keven Newsome AND My Website


Ok, ya'll...listen up! :)

Keven Newsome's first novel just released this month. Yay! His main character, Winter, has begrudgingly taken time out of her schedule to rant and rave with me over at the new website. She's quite the feisty character, let me tell ya! So come on over to the new webiste and drop us a line--at the new website.

Did I mention the new website?

No?

You remember...I'm moving this blog to my website. So, if you love me, you better go join up over there b/c I'm going to quit posting here permanently at the end of the month. Sad, I know. But I promise I'm just as awesome over at my new website.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Who's Indie?

Hey all! I hope you're getting ready for the weekend.

If I could steal a bit of your time, head on over to the new website to find out who Indie is. I mean, a feisty lady, for sure...but that's all I'm saying. :)

My new website is really taking shape and I'm excited to share it with you all. Remember, at the end of this month, I will stop posting on here--so hurry over and save the new website so you don't miss any of the other great posts on the Character Tour this summer!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Come visit with Jo Walker

Hey all!

The Character Tour is hosting Jo Walker today. Come on over to my new website to visit with the protagonist from her novel!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Win a free book!

I forgot to post this earlier today--my brain just isn't here these days.

The Character Tour is off to a great start! You can visit with Amber Miller, and her character, Raelene (great name, huh?). If you leave a comment, you're entered to win one of Amber's books.

So hurry on over to the new website and show Amber your support!

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Character Tour Begins!

Hey everyone,

The time has come. I am now going to be posting only at my new site. I'll post reminders on here for a couple of weeks, and then it'll be all crickets in here. So, if you haven't already made your way over to my new blog, go. Now. What are you waiting for?

Need more motivation?

The Character Tour I've been going on about starts today, and you can only read about the crazy antics of characters and writers THERE! <-- Click. Link. Now.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

June 3in30



Oh goodness gracious! Is it June already? May seriously flew by way to quick. Sadly, it flew by quicker than I could accomplish my goals. No worries, though, I’m pushing them aside and not giving them a second thought—at least not on this post. The power of prayer and positive thinking!

I thought I’d take a key from my friend, Aurie, and go with all new goals this month. I’ve been so focused on water/exercise, and obviously I’m not ready to make those commitments yet (although, with a unit ball and an awards ceremony coming up in a couple of months, I kind of need to!).

So…new month=fresh start. Here we go:

1. Finish Dividing Spirits by June 10th and get started on editing The Impossible Choice. For those who are in the know—The Impossible Choice, while not my first novel, is my most cherished. I’m going to breathe new life into it and see if I can’t have it ready for the ACFW conference in September. That’s going to be a lot of work, but as long as I can focus, I know it’s possible! Keep me accountable, okay? Anyone want to be accountability partners?

2. Get back into my diabetes diet. Yes, I fell off the horse again this month. I was doing so well in March/April. Then Connor got sick, and after being in the hospital for a week—well, I just didn’t get back into the swing of things. So, this month, I’m really going to focus on meal planning ahead of time, to make sure we aren’t relying on eating out or pizza three times a week. I KNOW my plans…now to put them in action!

3. Keep up with my Bible studies! Through my local homeschool group, we’re going through a book entitled “Ministry of Motherhood”, and then I think the PWOC might do something this summer. Not quite sure yet. Anyway, I tend to commit and then fall behind on these. My ideal is to wake up 30 minutes before the kids do in the morning to have some quiet time—however, it seems the earlier I get up, the earlier the kids get up! It’s a conspiracy!

This month has so many exciting new things in store for me, I just know it. May found me adding in assertive couponing, and June will find me officially homeschooling Kindergartners (I was going to wait, but the girls are so insistent about wanting to start now—that’s a good thing, right?). Now, hopefully I can take this juggling act on the road! Wish me luck—and pray for me! I’m going to need it!

Head over to my new website for chances to win points toward May's Grand Prize!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Google Friend Connect

We’re nearing the end of the month—but we still have points up for grabs! Next Tuesday is the last day of my BeachFest Birthday Bash, and the first day of the Character Blog Tour—from one exciting activity to the next!

If you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you can still earn up to 10 points by doing so and leaving a comment here.

GOOD NEWS! I have added the Google Friend Connect gadget to my website! You can earn 15 points by heading over to my new blog/website to follow me there (as Faith, Hope, and Suspense will be closing)—www.raleneburke.com The Character Blog Tour will take place completely over there.

Short post today as I have lots going on and trying to organize through it, but will be back on Thursday with my normal, witty posts. Until then, enjoy Hump Day and I’ll see you on the flipside! Remember, the weekend is almost here!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Perseverance--American Idol Style


Perseverance American Idol Style

I have a confession to make. I love American Idol!

It’s funny because the first couple of seasons, I didn’t care to watch it. Then I caught a couple of episodes when some network moved my typical TV show to another night/time. After that, it was all downhill—I was hooked.

Every year, along with millions of others, I choose my favorites early on and cheer them on (until they are voted off). Still one of my favorites typically ends up in the final 3. This year is no different. Scotty and Lauren were favorites from the start. I just love their obvious charm and their vocals are stellar for their age.

This week, as you all are probably aware, American Idol hosts their Season 10 Finale at the Nokia Theatre. As I look back on the last several weeks, I’m reminded of all that these people have been through, which, in turn, reminds me of all I’ve been through.

The American Idol journey is quite similar to the writer’s journey. While I can go through and make comparisons of each step of the Idol and writer’s journeys, I’ll refrain to keep this post within an acceptable limit. Yes, you can thank me later—when that post really does show up.

Anyway, one thing that I notice that both an American Idol and a writer have to have is PERSEVERANCE.

Dictionary.com describes perseverance as a “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” Sound familiar? Here we are on this course (insert chosen passion) where we still face the everyday. Families, work, obligations—the list goes on.

When you want something so much, be it singing, writing, an education, there are always things that stand in your way. It’s how you handle those situations that gage not only your character, but your dedication to that which really matters to you.

So, you tell me: Who are you cheering for on American Idol? Who do you think is going to win?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ProACTIVE in 4 Steps!


Last week, my husband and I faced some possibilities that really brought our whole lifestyle into question. Due to some issues (mostly health related), my husband may not be in the military for more than 2-3 years—a lot of things up in the air with this.

These developments called to the forefront one of the main aspects that God charged us with in life—taking care of our family. If my husband were to get out (especially before he finishes his degree), depending on how things play out, we could be in some serious trouble financially.

Now, I’m not asking for prayers on this, I’m merely sharing a bit of my life to illustrate the point of this blog post.

My husband and I could sit around on our laurels, waiting to see what happens, but that would do nothing but cause us more worry and grief…and increase the number of gray hairs on our heads exponentially! Instead, after a day of venting and complaining, we got proactive. The military wife’s motto is: prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I’m not sure it has any Biblical basis, but I will say that it is a good motto anyway. God charges us to be good stewards of everything entrusted to us (see, I knew I could make a link between the two!), and it’s our responsibility to do what we can.

FOUR STEPS TO PROACTIVE!

1. Brainstorm! The next step for us was go over our budget to determine the best ways to stretch our dollar, see how much we could get into savings. Living in Hawaii is not cheap! There’s a reason that they give soldiers a cost of living allowance—so far I haven’t been able to save much. So, hubby and I sat down and discussed what could be done.
2. Research! Once we had a list of ideas, I jumped on the computer and did some research. One way we decided to pursue was to cut our monthly grocery bill in half. Right now, we’re spending about $800/month for groceries and eating out. As I’ve seen Extreme Couponing more in the last week than ever before, I see the value in taking some time to clip coupons. While I don’t think I would ever be as diligent as the people on the shows, I can afford a few hours a week to ensure we keep our bill within our budget.
3. Plan! Now that I’ve taken our brainstorming to the next level with the research, I formed a plan of action. In the couponing aspect, I created a price/coupon binder. I also signed up for several coupon sites and “liked” many of my favorite companies on Facebook.
4. Action! Once I have a plan in place, all that’s left is to DO whatever it is that needs to be done. With coupons, this means keeping up with circulars, printing coupons off the web, sorting/storing coupons, and making more precise grocery lists.

As early as my next shopping trip, I should be seeing the fruits of my labor. I don’t expect to get $600 worth of groceries for $1.50 (and I think I’d feel kind of bad if I did), but a little bit can go a long ways!

These steps can apply to just about any circumstance—not just money. Too often, we sit back and let life happen to us, without putting ourselves out there. We complain. We moan. We bury ourselves under blankets and pillows or social media or food (I’m guilty, guilty, guilty) instead of facing our problems head on.

What gets accomplished then?

Nothing.

What do we have to show for all the pouting?

Nothing.

What do we get out of it?

More pain. More frustration. More avoidance.

So get up, get pumped, and get proactive!

Is there anything that you could be more proactive about in your life?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ASK ME Revealed! (Winners, Too!)


I believe that the best way for writers to reach their audience is to be open to vulnerability and the sharing of knowledge, experiences, and all that jazz. So, when I blog, I try to be honest--I don't put on a show if I'm having a bad day, I don't pretend that I agree with everyone, and I don't make excuses for who I am or what I believe.

It is under that statement of connection, that I opened my blog up for questions from followers on Tuesday. In addition to the fun of birthday week, it is a chance for people to get to know me a little bit better.

So, without further ado--here we go!

Aurie asks: What is your favorite state?

As most of you know, I was a military brat who married into the military, so we know that I've been all over. I think my favorite state is Virginia. I love the mountains in the summer and fall, and there is so much to see and do. Plus, my family is there!


Wendy asks: What's one, silly, non-writing talent you'd like to have. (i.e. Being able to stand on your head and drink and entire gallon of milk before you fall over.)

Oh, goodness--can I have that one? I'd be the life of the party! If I knew I wouldn't break anything, I'd love to be able to break dance. I've always found it completely fascinating. Or pop-n-lock. I know, I'm such a nerd!

Sarah asks: What curriculum or curriculums are you currently using? And how does writing fit around schooling?

Alana and Kyra are starting Kindergarten this year. I have most of their curriculum planned out--okay, not planned out, but chosen. Math-U-See Primer for Math, All About Spelling Level 1 for Phonics/Spelling, Etiquette Factory to learn proper manners, ABC Bible Verses for Bible memorization, and Lesson Pathways for Science/Social Studies when the kids are anxious for more! Throw in some arts and crafts, some life skills...and you'll have our homeschool in a nutshell. Oh, and I am big on the Charlotte Mason style of learning.

Writing happens mostly at night from seven on--something my husband and I agreed upon. Blogs/emails/social media happens mostly from 6-8 in the morning, homeschool from 9-11ish, Reviews/Blog writing/articles/etc from 1-3 (during rest/reading time), and then working on my novels happens after 7. I grab what I can get!

Annie asks: What do you like the most about yourself? And what quality do you seek above all else in others?

LOL! We all know how insecure I can be! So to be a little corny, the thing I like most about myself is that I am beloved by Christ. I may not see myself as anyone worth much of anything, but Jesus loves me, cherishes me--who could ask for more?

In others, I value honesty and compassion above everything else.


WINNERS!

Congrats to Wendy! She won C.J. Darlington's Thicker Than Blood from Monday's post!

Congrats to Annie! She won John B. Olson's Shade from Tuesday's post!

The score for the Grand Prize Giveaway is:

Sarah: 60

Annie: 22

Aurie: 30

Wendy: 16

Don't worry! There will be several chances for points next week! Don't forget, if you go follow my new blog/website: www.raleneburke.com, then you'll get 15 more points! Hurry, there's still time to catch up!

Ralene's BeachFest Trivia Question:

Where did I attend college (even though I never graduated)?

This Blog is Moving...


I've finally decided to take the advice of so many wise people in the publishing business. I've read it time and again, but I kept putting it off. Finally, though, after some reflection on the next steps I need to take, I made the tough decision.

I'm moving my blog.

I've had a blog here on Blogger for some time. I haven't ever been able to successfully connect it to my website, though, which has also kind of pushed me to ignoring my website, and in turn, I've been wasting money with it just "sitting" there. So...

I've completely revamped my website so that it runs through WordPress. I can host my blog and my website in the same place! So, now comes the arduous process of directing you all, my favorite readers, to my new place. I figured, what better incentive than to start when we have an ongoing contest!

Whoever goes and follows my new website/blog during the month of May will earn 15 points toward the grand prize. PLUS, I will be drawing from those people for a $20 gift card to Amazon. Sounds great, right?

I'll maintain this blog for awhile. I'll be "double" posting through the end of May. Then I'll move to posting reminders on here starting in June. At the end of June, I'll quit posting on here completely. This means, though, that the whole Character Blog Tour will be hosted on the new website--so hurry over so you can join in the fun!

But, Ralene, where do we go?

GOOD QUESTION!

www.raleneburke.com

Once there, up in the top, left corner is an RSS feed button. Click on there to follow my blog! Then leave a comment here, so I can credit you with the points and enter you into the drawing.

Guess what? TOMORROW IS MY BIRTHDAY! YAY!

I'll be answering all the questions from Tuesday and sharing the other winners and updated scores!

God bless!

Don't forget...

www.raleneburke.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Ask Me


Ralene's BeachFest Challenge:

ASK ME!

Okay, as you all know, over the summer I'm hosting a Character Tour right here on my blog. There is an awesome line up of authors from all genres! I am so excited to have everyone join in to make this tour a huge success--and even more, to show these writers the support they deserve!

On top of that, this week is my birthday AND the beginning of the last part of the month--so the amazing prize package is still up for grabs! The score right now?

Sarah: 30

Wendy: 6

Annie: 2

Now, I know Sarah looks like she's WAY ahead, but we have some MAJOR points available over the next two weeks, starting with todays challenge. There are THREE ways to earn points.

1. Ask me a question! Leave an appropriate question in the comments and you earn 5 points, easy-peasy.

2. Refer your friends! Use your email, blog, Twitter, Facebook--whatever to persuade your friends to visit my blog. Have them leave a comment (or a question!), along with YOUR name, and you earn 10 points per person who drops your name. Oooo... I know, right?

3. Go follow me on Twitter or Facebook to earn 5 points a piece! (You have to leave me a comment to let me know you did). And b/c I love you all, if you already do both, then you automatically get 10 points...you just need to remind me that you are.

To top it all off...if I reach 100 followers before the end of the month, I'll award 2 people 30 points a piece...if it happens before the end of the week, I'll choose 4 (at random)!

In case you missed the post about Ralene's BeachFest prizes, here's a reminder:

Grand Prize: A homemade basket filled with goodies! These baskets are made by my parents, they sell them at various craft shows around the country. You can check them out at Heartworks Crafts. The goodies include a combination of yummy goodies, reading goodies, paper goodies, and whatever other goodies I get excited about. :)

1st Prize: $20 Gift Card to Amazon

2nd Prize: $10 Gift Card to Amazon

Doesn't that all sound like a lot of fun? I'm excited to see what questions you all come up with for me! I'll be answering the questions in Thursday's post, so be sure to stop by again!

MORE FUN:

I'll draw a random commenter from today for John B. Olson's SHADE.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mid-May 3in30

So...it's mid-month, how are you doing with your goals?

The month of May is just getting away from me! It's been crazy trying to keep up with everything. Doctor appointments ruled the first two weeks. Between myself, my husband, and our son, someone was at the doctor just about every day during the work week. Whew! That can be exhausting!

What did all this craziness mean when it came to my goals? Well, it meant I did not accomplish as much as I had hoped.

1. Reducing the amount of Diet Coke I drink: The first week, this was actually going pretty well. I was alternating soda and water throughout the day. This kept me down to about 3-4 sodas, which was a start! However, when week number two rolled around and life wasn't settling down, my will power gave way-esp when in line at the McDonald's drive-thru.

2. I have actually made quite a bit of progress on the line edits for Dividing Spirits. I'm about 1/3 of the way through, and anticipate finishing well before the end of the month. Yay! On the downside, I did find out on Friday that Dividing Spirits did not final in the ACFW Genesis contest. I moped around Friday, but pulled myself together on Saturday and dove back in!

3. Exercising: ugh. This is one that I keep meaning to do, but can't seem to work it into my schedule. About the only time that I can see a possibility of fitting it in is from 3:30-4:30 in the afternoon, which just seems like a strange time to try to squeeze in a sweaty workout that requires a shower. Anyone else want to weigh in on that conundrum? On the up side, though, I have been "moving" more. I've cut my computer time during day, and have been playing with the kids, cleaning, etc. Things that require me to get up/out and move!

The nice thing about a mid-month check up is that it gives you time to evaluate and refocus. I still think my goals are attainable, I just need to buckle down and work hard!

What are you looking forward to in the latter part of this month?


Ralene's BeachFest Trivia Questions: (Points are doubled this week!)

What was my dad's profession growing up?

What does my husband do?

What is the name of my current work-in-progress?

MORE FUN:

I will draw a random commenter from today to win C.J. Darlington's Thicker than Blood.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A CLEAN Birthday


Okay, the first BeachFest Challenge was to tell me about your favorite birthday in 300 words or less for 30 points toward the grand prize. Unfortunately, this round I only had one entrant. So, congratulations, Sarah Tipton! Below is her favorite birthday.

But before I let you read that, I'm also excited to announce the winner of Brandilyn Collins' book--Rebecca Burgener! Rebecca, email me your address at raleneburke at yahoo dot com and I'll get the book out to you ASAP.

Now, on to Sarah's favorite birthday!

My favorite birthday was my fourteenth. That year, I received one of my best presents ever. A clean room.

A few weeks before my birthday, I decided to thoroughly clean my bedroom. This meant emptying my closet, bookcases and every drawer and piling all of the junk in the middle of the floor. I planned to sort through everything and organize it back where it belonged. Except, this was me. I am not a neat and tidy person. So my bedroom was an ankle-deep sea of stuff. Looking back, I’m surprised my parents allowed me to have a slumber party that year. But they did. Four friends came over to celebrate and spend the night. We did the usual--pizza, movies, junk food. Since I am not a night owl, I was the first one asleep in my sleeping bag on the living room floor. I vaguely remember someone trying to pull me back into the party, but I’m not so nice during the dark single digits.

Of course, being the first one asleep meant I was the first one awake the next morning. Leaving my sleeping friends on the floor, I went to take a shower. When I walked into my bedroom, I found an amazing sight. Carpet. And a neatly made bed. Every single thing was put away. Pillows and stuffed animals covered my bed along with a sign: “Happy Birthday!” What an awesome gift.

Then I found a gigantic spider on the bathroom floor. Oh well. Balance in the universe and all that, I suppose.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Registration Complete!


I did it!

I made the big leap.

I crossed the line.

I'm free falling....

AND

I'm going to the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference in September! *happy monkey dance*

I went to the ACFW conference in 2009--my first conference--and it was the experience of a lifetime. I learned so much and I made connections with writers that have lasted me over the last two years.

Last year, because of finances and my husband's work schedule, I was unable to attend. Okay, so the three month old baby had a lot to do with that decision as well. I just couldn't leave him!

This year, it's all thanks to the Lord's providence! We had some financial things come through. And, though my husband still has to work, MIL is THRILLED to come out and help take care of the kids for a week. And why shouldn't she be...we're in Hawaii!

I feel so blessed and honored that with the Lord's blessing (and my husband's) I can take on this adventure once again. I've got some stellar roommates (already!) and the promise of some great workshops and speakers. Granted, there's still the pulse-pounding TERROR that comes with agent appointments, I signed up for two! Now, how to talk myself into going to them?

And the Awards Banquet...how fun! We get to get all glammed up and support our friends as the staff hands out awards for Genesis (unpubbed)awards, as well as Agent of the Year and Mentor of the Year. Eek!

So...

Praise the Lord--St. Louis, here I come!





Ralene's BeachFest Trivia Question:

What STATE was I born in?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Top 11 AMAZING Facts About Me



First, let me say a hearty HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! to all my fellow mothers out there. We have a tough job, but the rewards are many and well worth it. I pray that God blesses each of you today. On to today's regularly scheduled program...


I don't know that there's that much AMAZING about me. But, well, here's some fun facts about me. I was going to wait until closer to my birthday to post something like this, but since Wives of Faith insisted…

1. I had surgery when I was 2 days old to remove a large tumor in my neck (think man’s fist in baby’s neck). The doc’s said there was a 95% chance I would be physically/mentally handicapped to the point of being unable to take care of myself. Other than a paralyzed shoulder that limits how much I can lift, I’m completely normal. Well, you know, as normal as I can be.

2. When I was little (like 6 or so), I tricked my sister into thinking a tomato cage was a Chinese trap. With her arms pinned to her side, she attempted to hop to my dad and fell flat on her face—result? Not good…she had to black eyes and a big goose egg on her forehead. Yeah, is it any wonder I still don’t like tomato cages?

3. I was published in the city-wide literary magazine when I was in the 3rd grade for a little piece on Martin Luther King, Jr.

4. I am the blessed mother of three darlings. I wouldn't trade this job for the world!

5. I’ve been to Disney World TWICE! I went with my high school band my junior year, and the school dance team my senior year. Fun times! I so intend to take my kids in a couple of years!

6. I’ve lived in 6 states (one state four times) and one foreign country.

7. I graduated Top 10 in my high school class.

8. I married the love of my life and he still surprises and delights me.

9. My first pregnancy/delivery was my hardest. I had diabetes and eclapsia by the time they induced labor. It took 20 hrs of labor and almost 2 hrs of pushing, but Alana was finally born. Both mother and daughter recovered from the experience nicely!

10. My passion is to share the extraordinary ways that God works in our lives through fiction writing.

11. I am human. I know, shocker. I make mistakes, but I am redeemed by a loving Savior and share an inheritance befitting a princess.

Now that you know a little more about me, what about you? Tell me something AMAZING about yourself.


Ralene’s BeachFest Trivia Question:
Alana starts Kindergarten this year—where is she going to school?

DON'T FORGET! Last night to enter a short 300 words on your best birthday for 30 points toward the grand prize package! Also, go back and leave a comment on Friday's post for a chance to win Exposure by Brandilyn Collins!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Top 11 Fun Things I"m Determined to DO in Hawaii!




Yesterday, one of my 11 reasons I love being a military wife is the opportunity to make the most of every place we go. Somehow, my husbanded landed a much coveted duty station—Hawaii! Now, while I wasn’t totally excited at first, I am loving it here. Due to some circumstances beyond our control, we haven’t actually been able to get out and do much, but boy do we have a list!

1. Island-hop. There are like 125 islands that make up the Hawaii chain. While I don’t intend to visit that many, I do want to visit Maui and the Big Island.

2. Spend a day out at Diamond-head.

3. Take a leisurely drive around the entire island (except for the one little part where there’s no roads).

4. Take in an official luau.

5. Visit the Polynesian Cultural Center.

6. Visit the Dole Plantation.

7. Have a weekend with my hubby at the Hale Koa.

8. Spend a day at Pearl Harbor.

9. Visit the zoo and the aquarium.

10. One day, when I have more stamina, I want to go on one of the several beautiful hikes.

11. This one I’m almost embarrassed to say I haven’t done yet—hit the Stadium Swap Meet!

There are several other things we plan to do while we’re here, but these are what I’m most excited about. We have 2 ½ years left here, so plenty of time to take it all in! What do you want to do where you are? (even if you’ve been there for years!)



Ralene’s BeachFest Trivia Question:
For what website am I the newborn/baby blogger? Hmm…

DON'T FORGET! Email me your best birthday in 300 words or less for a chance to win 30 points toward the grand prize package! (due tomorrow night)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top 11 Reasons I LOVE Being an Army Wife!


Some people may be giving me that crazy look. You love what? Seriously? What meds are you taking? But I do. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I was raised in a military home, or maybe it’s just that I’m people-oriented—but I love being an Army wife.

In honor of Wives of Faith’s Blog Carnival, here is my Top 11 Reasons:

11. It teaches your independence and self-reliance. I’ve talked to some women who wouldn’t have a clue what to do if their toilets, mower, etc broke. I know other women who have complained about having their husbands gone for a weekend. Trust me, you learn quickly in the military.

10. An inside look on how the military works. I’m sure it looks a lot different to those on the outside not “in the know”, you know?

9. People are impressed when I tell them all the places I’ve been. Not that I’m trying to impress them, but you know. Hehehe…

8. Okay, I hope that I don’t sound greedy/selfish here, but I love the discounts. If you know anything about the military, you know we don’t get paid nearly as much as we should. *cough, cough* Although there are several other perks that we enjoy. Still, with the economy the way it is, every little bit helps. I am so grateful for the way that businesses treat their soldiers/military families.

7. My kids will have so many experiences that they would not likely have if we were settled in one place for the majority of their childhood. From learning how to make friends to learning how to let go, from interacting with different types of people to living in different cultures, from the importance of values to the importance of discipline—my children will grow in many ways just from living the military life.

6. Amazing opportunities to encourage and minister too other women. Programs like PWOC offer ways for military wives to fellowship and study the Bible together. Other volunteer positions in program like the FRG (Family Readiness Group) and Spouse groups offer chances to meet other women. Online, one can find a plethora of groups for the military spouse (like Wives of Faith!).

5. The most interesting places. No matter where the military sends us, our home is what we make of it. I wasn’t too happy about going to Hawaii and being secluded from the rest of my family. But now that I’m here—I still miss my family—but I’m making the most of it. The scenery is downright beautiful—we see rainbows on a daily basis around here. Yet even in the most mundane of places (like Ft. Leavenworth, KS), there’s still so much to see/do nearby.

4. Meeting new people! In the many travels of a military family, you run across all kinds of people from different races, religious, cultures. You realize just how diverse this world is and how connected we all are.

3. This one may sound a bit off, but I love being a military wife because it forces me to rely on God. Whether my husband is deployed, or safe at home, or I’m moving from my home state to a completely different culture, or I stress about normal, everyday things—I have to turn it all over to God or I’d completely use my sanity. God and I have done nothing but grow closer over the years.

2. The bonds we form with other military wives. I don’t remember where I saw/heard this, so I’m paraphrasing here. But as military wives get to know each other and go through the stuff that we do, our friends become our family. They become who we turn too when it all gets too much. They are the ones who know how to encourage us, who know what we need. It’s a very unique bond that I think little others know, especially because it can form so fast

1. The number one thing I love about being a military wife? The honor and pride in being married to a man not afraid to lay his life down for his family and his country.

As you can see, I enjoy many aspects of being a military wife, but I most cherish the relationships forged and the memories made. Join me tomorrow when the Wives of Faith Blog Tour subject is 11 Fun Things I want to See or Do in Hawaii!



Ralene’s BeachFest Trivia:
What genre do I write in?

Leave a comment about your favorite thing about being a ______ wife/husband to be entered to win a copy of Brandilyn Collins’ Exposure! Winner drawn Monday.

Character Blog Tour Announcement!

Today, I have an exciting announcement. I’ve already been proclaiming this on FB, Twitter, and on some email loops, but I’ll go ahead and post it here too. After all, this is where the big event is going to take place! Mark your calendars, people!

This summer, I am hosting a Character Blog Tour here on Faith Without Limits. Exciting, I know! I’m going to have a slew of writers, published and unpublished, visiting every Tuesday and Thursday for the months of June, July, and August. The fun part is they will be blogging as/with the main characters from their novels! Yes, yes, all sorts of creative juices will be flowing for this one. Some people are even going to offer giveaways. This will be an event to remember!

If you’re a writer and would like to participate, sign up now! I have 2 slots left! All you need is an MC to do the talkin'. The guest post can be about whatever you want as long as your MC is involved.


If you are a graphic artist of some type, or just good with creating stuff on the computer, I'm looking for someone to make a logo I can use for these posts for cheap (read: free).


In other news, for those who were wondering, Connor is doing great. He's completely recovered from his stay in the hospital. I took him for a follow up on Monday, and the only new development is he can't stand the doctors. Now, he's just toddling/crawling around getting into anything and everything not tied down or hidden away. Don't you just love toddlers? I do!


Ralene's BeachFest Trivia Question:


How many siblings do I have?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Prizes Announced!


I have finally figured out the prizes for Ralene’s BeachFest!

FIRST PLACE: A homemade basket (pictured above, but different material) full of all kinds of goodies—books, candy, coffee, stationary, cards, and more are all possible goodies to be found in this basket!

SECOND PLACE: $20 gift card to Amazon

THIRD PLACE: $10 gift card to Amazon

So come on and join in the party! Remember, the daily trivia is worth one point, but today I also introduce Ralene’s BeachFest Challenge—the winner gets an automatic 20 points!

Ralene’s BeachFest Trivia Question:

Where did I graduate from high school?

Ralene’s BeachFest Challenge (due by Sunday, May 8th):

Tell me about your favorite birthday in 300 words or less. Email them to me at raleneburke at yahoo dot com and I will post the winner next Tuesday.

Taking a Hold of Destiny!



As I move into the next decade of my life this month, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on what I’ve done so far. It’s nice to think back on the things I’ve accomplished over the last 30 years.

Normal stuff like graduating from high school, getting married, having children.

Career stuff like working my way up to restaurant manager before realizing that wasn’t where I needed to be, making the big decision to focus on my writing, going the extra mile by attending the ACFW conference.

And not so normal stuff—surviving surgery at 2 days old, growing up with little evidence of physical disability (and no mental disabilities), surpassing everything the doctors ever said, adjusting to life with diabetes/high blood pressure.

Lately, I’ve felt like my life has reached a point where it’s not going to change much for the next several years. A rut as some would call it. I don’t feel like I influence much beyond the inner circle of my family. That’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong. But I just have this big faith that wants to set the world on fire—to get out there and DO something. Then that fire dwindles to an ember because I tell myself that I have responsibilities—kids, a husband, a home, the military. Like I can’t have it all.

But there’s good news. God is bigger than me! God is working all around me. I have to be open to both the BIG and small ways. I’ve said it before on here (and we all know how good I am at taking my own advice), but if you want to change the world—start with one person, one act, one choice.

I’m turning 30, and I don’t feel that I’ve made my mark on this world. But—who cares? I am only 30, and it’s not like I have one foot in the grave. I’m still young. Yes, I might have limitations because of my family (whom I adore!), but that doesn’t mean that God can’t use me in BIG ways.

So, this year, I’m pulling my head out of my self-centerness, and opening my eyes to all the possibilities. A good friend of mine, Kimchi, told me before I moved to Hawaii that she knew that God was going to use me in BIG ways while I’m out here. I, of course, doubted her and said sure, sure. But I’m going to take her words and raise them to the Lord. I am His servant and I want to be used!

Can I get an AMEN?



Ralene’s Beachfest Trivia Question:

What is my favorite color?

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 3in30



Okay, so if you followed by blog at all last month, you know that April was one of those up and down months. I semi-finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest (yay!), but my 10-month old son also spend a week in the hospital (boo!). So, when it came to my goals for the month, I seriously lacked focus, motivation, and time.

I did make some progress on one of the goals: Drinking more water. Yay! I figured out how to make the yucky Hawaii water taste better, so am more inclined to drink it. I pulled out my trusty, green water bottle and filled it up, stuck it in the fridge. And there it sat. So pretty. I did manage to get through at least one water bottle a day, so now I just need to keep using it more and more. Take it with me when I leave the house—stuff like that. One thing that I’m going to try to do to help with my water intake is the basis for my first May goal.


1. Limit my soda intake. Right now, I probably drink the equivalent of a 2-Liter of Diet Coke a day. Yes, it’s THAT bad. My goal over the next 4 weeks, is to start replacing some of that soda with water. I hope by the end of the month, Diet Coke becomes an occasional treat (like when eating out), instead of a daily necessity. This will also help me save a few bucks in the budget department.


2. Finish up this round of edits for my WIP as well as the query letter/synopsis to go along with it. After I find out about the finals for the Genesis contest, I plan to start the querying process with this novel.


3. Exercise! I want to start exercising 3-5 times a week. Over the last month, I acquired a few new accessories to help me with this. Hubby got a great deal on a Kinect that a buddy who is moving to the mainland was getting rid of. It came with Zumba! I also invested in The Biggest Loser workouts for Kinect as well. On top of that, hubby finally cleared out the garage and set up his weight bench and my Gazelle. Now, we really don’t have an excuse not to workout. I hope to start walking a bit too, even if it’s just to take the kids to the park that’s not right next door.

So, there you have it folks. My plan for May.


Ralene’s Beachfest Trivia Question:

What is my middle name?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May is My Birthday Month!




Everyone already knows that I'm weird, so I'll just add to the pot. I LOVE my birthday. Seriously. I don't even mind that this year is a doosie--the big 3-0. That's right, I'm rockin' into a new decade, and I'm gonna do it up right!

So...

We're going to be celebrating for the ENTIRE month of May. Hey, it's my party, and I'll make as long as I want to. As much as I enjoy getting presents and being treated like a queen, I also am all about the giving. This month is going to be crazy with giveaways, contests, trivia. Oh man, are you in for it! You readers will probably make out better than I do!

My big contest for the month is Ralene's BeachFest! Here's how it works. Throughout the month, I'll be hosting different contests, challenges, and trivia to help you earn points. I have an spreadsheet where I'll keep track of names and points. The top 3 scores at the end of the month will win some great prizes from ME! I haven't quite decided on them yet, but I promise they will be awesome. When I do figure it out, I'll announce them and then post on the side of the blog.

Every day, I'll be posting a Ralene trivia question at the bottom of my post. These are worth ONE point to the first person with the right answer. Some of the answers can be found throughout the web at places like Facebook, Twitter, Writing.Com, Wives of Faith, this blog and my personal website. Some of the answers you're just going to have to guess. Yes, I can be evil like that--it's my birthday! :)

So for the first point...

Who can tell me on what day I was born? (Month/Day)

Have fun!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You Can Find Me...

...Still at the hospital. Yes, today (Wednesday) should be Connor's last day in the hospital. He has been doing wonderful--he's off IV fluid, his appetite is back, and he is getting sufficiently annoyed with the confining crib in his room. Too bad he has to be hooked up to a pulse oximeter or I'd just let him run.

You can also find me over at my good friend, Jill Kimerer's blog. She asked me five questions...I answered five questions. Go join in the conversation! :)

For all you military wives out there, you can find me over at Wives of Faith, I haven't posted anything in the past week, but you can look me up or just read some of the other great articles by fellow military wives.

Do you have any news to share? Any place around the web we should be looking for you?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Update on Connor


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you are probably already aware that my son is in the hospital. Let me catch you all up:

Connor has been sick since last Monday night. On Tues, the doc said it was a cold and gave us an inhaler to use when he had trouble breathing. During the day on Tues and Wed, he was fine except for a runny nose. But at night he had trouble breathing and was unable to sleep except when I was holding him upright on my shoulder.

Thursday morning it didn't go away. In fact, it sounded a lot worse, he was literally sucking air. By the time my husband got home from work, I was frantic with worry b/c he had quit eating and just wanted to be held all afternoon.

After a little emotional breakdown on my part (after all, I hadn't slept much since Monday night and my son was really sick), hubby told me to take Connor to the acute care center on post. (Acute care center is kind of like an ER, but they aren't open 24/7 and they only handle small stuff...everything else they rush off to Tripler Army Medical Center or a closer ER).

They immediately took him back and started him on steroids and breathing treatments. After they got him a little more comfortable breathing-wise, they called an ambulance and took us up to Tripler. There we had various tests run, including chest x-rays. The diagnosis basically came back as some viral infection was causing his bronchial tubes and trache area to swell, causing strider (the sinking in of the chest on inhale), and use of accessory muscles to help with the extra strength to breathe.

We were admitted late Thurs night. Since then, he's been getting breathing treatments every 2-3 hours. They decided that he has a bad case of croup that is causing the swelling. Every time the doc thinks he's sounding better and starts to extend the time between treatments, he gets worse and his O2 stats drop.

Today he finally started coughing up mucous stuff and his O2 seems to have leveled off in the mid-90s (not great, but def better). Doc said that he will still need treatments for several hours, so he will be staying overnight again.

Hope against hope, and praying, Connor will get to go home tomorrow so we can celebrate Easter at home! So, please, keep praying that God will heal him. Thank you for all your love and support!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Writing Moral Dilemmas by Alex Lidell


It is my pleasure to once again welcome Alex Lidell to Faith Without Limits. Alex has been a long time critique partner who is a fantastic writer. Her novel, Service of the Crown, will be published by Dial Books soon! One of the aspects that I love about SOC, is that she peppered the novel with moral dilemmas that really make the reader reflect on the situation. So, I asked her to write a blog post about just that! Without further ado...



WRITING MORAL DILEMMAS

My muse savors moral dilemmas – with savage consequences for my characters in Service of the Crown. Nonetheless, when Raregem asked me to write a blog post on the topic, I found that dissecting dilemma creation is trickier than I presumed. A moral dilemma is a conflict between two opposite but ethically comparable choices: should you tell on a friend who broke the law? What if you are a police officer? What if the friend had a good reason? You get the idea.

So far, so good. Things get interesting when you start writing this stuff, because, unlike real life, you get to control not only the dilemma but also the definitions of right and wrong. In fiction, mass murderers (“assassins”), robbers (“rogues”) and juvenile delinquents (“misunderstood teens”) can be beloved protagonists. Lots of strings to play with here.

Let’s get practical. There are two types of dilemmas and you need to know which one you are going for. The two types are

1. Dilemma your character experiences. This deepens characterization and is easier to control.
2. Dilemma your reader experiences. This taps the reader’s emotions directly and is more dangerous.

Character dilemma

Here, the character, Jane, is caught between two choices. The reader will judge Jane’s actions largely by Jane’s own values. Should Jane skip church to go to a party? is only a dilemma if Jane if a faithful churchgoer to begin with. Whether or not the reader goes to church is secondary. At the end of the scene, the reader will get a deeper understanding of Jane, and not necessarily a deeper contemplation his own approach to spirituality.

Yes, yes, yes, I hear your shouts of indignation. Readers identify with characters. I agree. But at the moment we are comparing the two types of dilemmas to each other. A character’s dilemma primary examines the character, any introspection the reader does is a second layer.

Reader dilemma

Here the characters are clear on what they want, but the desires of sympathetic characters conflict each other, leaving the reader to judge right from wrong based on the reader’s own values:

Jane protests greedy Norm’s plan to fire Kate, an elderly employee who’s been with the company over thirty years.

But

Norm knows that Kate does nothing, and has kept her position thus far through blackmail. Plus, he has to let someone go.

But

Kate has no other income and will be homeless without a job. Plus, back in her twenties, she worked hard and saved the company.

But

Kate purposely turned down an offer of free housing to “ensure” Norm can’t fire her. She’s done nothing for the past twenty years because she’s entitled to a break after the sacrifices she made for the company in her youth.

You get the idea. The reader is left torn between Jane’s desire to find an alternative solution, one that would not turn an old woman out on the street and Norm’s plight for fairness and keeping the company afloat. Show that both Jane and Norm are contentious, compassionate and good human beings, and you’ve got the reader torn and involved. The danger is that the reader’s conclusion may not be the one you want him to make.

What do you think? Do you introduce dilemmas into your work? What have you read where dilemmas have been handled well… or not so well? What made them work, or not? Curious minds want to know!

By Alex Lidell
www.alexlidell.com
Author of Service of the Crown, upcoming from Dial Books for Young Readers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are Blogs and Websites Necessary?




The BIG question.

Gone are the days when a writer can shut themselves away and forget the world exists except on the days when their precious novel ships off to the editor. With the advancement of technology, readers want to connect with writers, to get to know who they are and why they write. On top of that, people just like us are on the lookout for tips and tricks on how to make it all work. Like we have it all together…pfft.

So, then we start hearing all about blogs and websites. Do we or don’t we? When? Now? How much attention does it require? Oh, the questions!

Here is what I have garnered from my own research mixed with my personal opinion: Blogs are a must. Unless you have something else to offer, a website can wait until you’ve signed with an agent (at the earliest).

BLOGS

Okay, I’m sure you’re looking at me all cross-eyed now that I’ve declared blogs a must, but let me explain. Blogs are a must for every writer the minute they decide to become a writer. I think their blog should start out as more personal and grow into a professional blog. This may sound a little counter-intuitive—hear me out. I think one thing a lot of writers need, especially in the beginning is some sort of accountability, as well as something that will hold us to deadlines. Blogs can do that. A lot of experts say that when you start up your blog, you should choose a niche that way you can attract the most readers from an audience that will want what you have to offer. I agree that your blog should be that eventually, but in the beginning, it shouldn’t be about the readers.

Blogging, in its rawest form, is a lot like journaling. It’s an opportunity to share your experiences, your hopes and dreams, what makes you tick, etc. For writers, this is an important, and often untapped, resource. Our writing is based on who we are deep down, and we best express ourselves through words. So, in the beginning, set up a blog with this in mind. It’s just a journal. Make up your mind to post only as often as you can fit it in—but at least once a week. You probably won’t garner many followers at first, and that’s okay.

The more comfortable you become with blogging, and the further you progress in your writing career, you can start to channel your blog into what you have to offer—what you’ve learned, what you are working on, what you’re exploring. If you’ve followed me long, you know I’m all about three things—faith, writing, and family. I talk about life as a Christian, military wife, homeschooling-mama who wants to be a published author.

As you take your blog to a more professional level, you’ll want to increase how often you post. The adage is that you will attract more readers the more often you post. So, once you hit professional level, it’s best to post AT LEAST three times a week. I typically post 3-5 times a week depending on how busy I am. The next is my downfall—be consistent about it. If you’re only going to post M-W-F, then post M-W-F. Your readers will come to expect it—and readers can be rather fickle. We still love them though.

Blogging can be a great marketing tool once you’ve been contracted. If you’ve spent the time building up your following ahead of time—when your dreams come true, you’ll have a team of people ready to support you after all you’ve done for them! Mutual giving.

WEBSITES

I don’t have a lot to say on this at the moment. Websites are not necessary in the beginning stages of writing, or even as you get into it. Websites are where people go to find out more about you and your product. If you have nothing to offer, there’s no reason to have a website beyond your blog.

Once you become contracted to be published, a website is good to help promote the upcoming book. It gives you an opportunity to display more about you and your writing and invite people to interact with you.

Now, if you do have something else to offer—maybe you’re a freelance editor, or maybe you write historical romance and also make handcrafted items indicative of that era—then a website will help promote both sides of your world in one, central location. Something to be considered.

What about you? What are your opinions on blogs and websites? Please share!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Lil' Boy...


So, my plan for today was to post a reflection on Easter as it approaches in less than a week. However, this morning, all I can be is a worried mom.

My son woke up at about 3:45 this morning wheezing like crazy. I could hear him breathing from another room! It was very scary. I got dressed and rushed him to what I thought was a 24 hour urgent care (that's what we'd been told) on post. We were told they'd assess him real quick and if need be put him in an ambulance to rush to an ER. Yeah, it wasn't even open.

By this time, his breathing had returned to normal, so I turned around and went home. I figured I'd either take him to the urgent care when it opened at 6, or if Connor was doing better, I'd just make a same day appointment.

We got home and he pretty much went straight to sleep. I stayed with him just to listen to him breathe until I was sure he was fine. Then I went back to bed for an hour (days like this you wish the older kids would just sleep in).

Now, I find myself plagued with worry. My reflection on Easter has turned into a prayer for help and of thanks. Without the sacrifice made on the cross that day, and the fact that 3 days later, Jesus rose from the dead--I would not have the humble ability to go before my Savior and lift up my son.

When Connor woke up again, he sounded awful! Wheezing again, stuffy nose. Poor baby. He has an appointment in a little while. Hopefully we can find out what's wrong with him. I'll keep you all updated!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stories, Articles, and Blogs...Oh, My!




Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked about steps to take toward making writing a career instead of just a hobby—to include making a schedule that includes writing time and a special space to write. Now it’s that time. We push everything else aside to sit down with a blank computer screen for a couple of hours. What do we do next?

For many, they just want to sit down and start on that novel they’ve had simmering inside for weeks, months, even years. That’s great! It’s exciting to have that motivation and desire to get it all out on paper. If you can think of nothing else you would like to do—go for it. Just start writing. That’s how I wrote my first couple of novels (the ones that are in the back of the closet and will probably never again see the light of day).

Take a minute, though, to consider a few other options. In Jerry B. Jenkins’ book on writing, Writing for the Soul, he ventures to suggest that we should start small—articles and short stories. He began his writing career with articles for his local newspaper on area sports; it was many years before he joined with Tim LaHaye to write The Left Behind series.

For the most part, I agree with Mr. Jenkins. When we start writing, we should use articles and short stories to teach us how to make our writing tighter and to use stronger verbs/nouns to make the prose pop. This doesn’t mean we can’t work on our novels—after all, sometimes those characters won’t let us rest!

This is where a good writing schedule comes in. It’s nice to set aside at least one writing day a week just to focus on articles and/or short stories. The continued practice will only help you in your overall writing style, but there’s an added bonus.

Articles and short stories are a way to get your name and style out there before you reach the end of your novel. If you’re looking to earn a little extra cash, selling articles to magazines and online content offer a quicker turnaround (and slightly better odds) than waiting on your novels.

Don’t think you have what it takes to write articles? Take a moment to take stock of your interests and expertise. For me, I can say that I am a follower of Christ, a wife, a mom, a writer. I am into homeschooling, learning how to cook and organize my home, reading, accomplishing goals…the list goes on.

There are many different types of articles, from how-tos to devotionals to features. While you may find it harder to break into features, starting out with how-tos and short devos will open many doors. Study up on the different types of articles and match them up with your interests/expertise. Then start looking for places that want what you have to offer. Check out the market guides, local/regional options, do a little research online. You’ll find there is a lot out there for you to get some experience under your belt.

I cannot express enough the benefits of incorporating articles and short stories into your writing routine. Even poetry and blogs can help. Poetry allows you to use more colorful, flowery language, often with even tighter word restrictions. You also learn more about rhythm and flow, meter and cadence. Blogs…well, we’ll talk more about that on Wednesday!

Join me tomorrow as I reflect on my journey with Christ as we venture into the last week before Easter. Wednesday, we’ll talk about blogs and websites…do writers need them and when. Thursday, Faith Without Limits will welcome my CP and good friend, Airdale, as she talks about moral dilemmas in our writing. Earth Day is Friday and we’ll see what I can whip up for then! Something about Easter and Earth Day…there has to be a way to connect the two. Welcome to another week at Faith Without Limits!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Schedules: Get Your Family Involved!


Know what’s harder than putting a schedule together and making it work?

Putting it together and making it work when it involves people other than yourself.

Everyone is different. They have different priorities, different strengths and weaknesses. Different routines. And they don’t all fit into the nice-sized gift box that is our own vision of a schedule. Son is more active in the morning and can accomplish his chores as soon as he wakes up, while Daughter has to be dragged out of bed, kicking and screaming. Hubby’s mornings are rushed, but he gets off at a decent time and has some spare time between work and dinner.

I hope that you kept that in mind as you built your personal-slash-family schedule. Now that you’ve got the schedule planned out, it’s time to get the family involved!

Call a family meeting. Relate the schedule as you see it…don’t forget to include the why and wherefore. Sometimes people are more cooperative when they understand where you’re coming from.

Listen. Really listen. The kind of listening that workshops talk about. That means open your mind to the possibility that the schedule is not yet perfect (trust me, it’s probably not). My hubby and I had to discuss in depth how much time I would to devote to my writing, and when it was best to work in that time. We came up with an excellent schedule that actually afforded me more time than I had anticipated!

Work out the kinks they point out. If Son thinks his grades would improve if he dropped one of his three extra-curricular activities because he’d have more time to study. Go with it. If hubby says it’s too much of a stretch to make it home for dinner at 5:30, but he could definitely make it more consistently at 6. Go for it. It doesn’t hurt to try.

One big fact to realize is that, just like a schedule isn’t right for every family, it may not be for every person in the family either. Some people freeze under such structure, others thrive in knowing exactly what comes next. As long as the routine is understood and everyone is knows what is expected of them (i.e. Son takes out the trash at night before he can watch TV) then you are on the right track.

When your family is on board, it makes everything easier. You don’t have to fight them tooth and nail at every point in the day. In fact, isn’t that the point of a schedule? To make sure you get the necessary things done and out of the way so you can enjoy more time with the ones you love?

God bless and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Make Your Schedule Work for YOU! Pt 2

Welcome back to our exploration of that thing called a schedule. In the last post, we discussed the first four steps in my 10 Steps to Creating YOUR Schedule! We made a list of everything we do in a typical week (to include boring, everyday stuff like cleaning). We made a list of our priorities in life. We then combined the lists, placing each activity with a priority, and then we prayed over the lists.

Today, after having a day or so to think and pray, we can sit down and continue.

5. Grab your calendar and mark down anything that occurs on a weekly basis at a specific date and time. Bible study, church, meetings, playdates, work, school…you get the picture. Your schedule has to work around these.

6. Create your priority schedule. With the remaining activities on your priority list, start filling in your schedule. Start at the top and work your way down. For me, I start under my God priority. The first thing I work in is my quiet time at 5:45-6:30 in the morning. This way I start my day off in the right mindset! Then comes my husband—gotta make him a priority, so I schedule date night before my week gets too cluttered. Keep working your way down until you reach the bottom.

7. Make a cleaning schedule. I used to be one of those that didn’t have a schedule and I would end up spending hours on Saturday making everything just right, or hurrying to clean up the house before company came over. Then I discovered Flylady… If you’ve never heard of her, run over to Flylady.net, you won’t be sorry! Talk about a time (and sanity) saver. But here is what my general cleaning schedule looks like:

Monday—Great Room plus Daily Mission (DM) from Flylady
Tuesday—Bedrooms (wash linens every other week), DM
Wednesday—Bathrooms, Meal/Grocery planning, DM
Thursday—Laundry Room/School Room, Grocery Shopping, Errands, DM
Friday—Van, Great Room, DM
Saturday—Yard/Porches
Sunday—Laundry catch up (my goal is to not have to do this, but some weeks…)

***Side Note: These are intense cleaning days, it doesn’t mean I ignore the room completely until the next time I’ve scheduled to clean it.

My suggestion is to work cleaning into your schedule 15 mins at a time. Flylady’s motto is that you can do anything in 15 mins—you’d be surprised on how much you can accomplish! I can clean the entire bathroom, to include sweep and mop, in 15 mins!

8. Don’t forget down time! There is nothing wrong with watching TV. There’s nothing wrong with reading a book. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sitting on the back porch sipping iced tea while the kids run around in the backyard. Everyone deserves, and is better for having, some downtime. If you know you won’t give it to yourselves (I’m mostly talking to the perfectionists out there…you know who you are), schedule it in. Now. It’s a must.

9. Move things around, try something new. Now you’ve got this schedule all laid out. Maybe one or two things aren’t looking right. Maybe you realize you’re not devoting enough time to one area, or maybe too much to another. Change things up. Like I said earlier, I used to do my quiet time at night, but because I was so tired, I only had that time maybe once or twice a week. Since I’ve moved it to the morning, it happens almost every day without effort.

10. Put your schedule to work—but be flexible and open to change. This is a work in progress. Every Sunday night for the first few weeks, sit down and tweak the schedule as you see fit. Once you get the hang of it and everything falls into place, you’ll be all the happier, and more accomplished!
Know what I did today?

Changed the bedding, cleaned the kitchen (a doc apt through off my schedule yesterday), 2 load of laundry, homeschool (2 hours for preschoolers), a review for my critique workshop, 2 blog posts, caught up on emails/blogs, and spent time with hubby and the kids—and it’s just now 3:00 pm. All I really have left to do today is to vacuum the bedrooms and make dinner. Then I have an FRG meeting later tonight, and maybe some writing time.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we have a plan. No matter how loose or strict it is, it’s a blessing if it works for us!

Make Your Schedule Work for YOU!


Every discussion I’ve encountered concerning schedules often has at least one person (often more) who say, “I just can’t stick to a schedule” or “I prefer more flexibility”. This is all well and good, but we still need some structure or we will whittle away time with laziness, selfishness, or busy-ness. In case you’re curious, I have definitely been guilty of all of the above! So they say, better to have a plan and not need one than to not have a plan and need one.

If you’re a writer, working in time to write/review/read/study the craft is necessary. If you work outside the home, making time and inventing way of accomplishing household tasks is a must. If you’re a homeschool parent, it’s likely that you’ll lean towards focusing too much on school or not focus enough as you let housework, activities, etc take over.

We all need some sort of routine to keep us on track. The key is finding the schedule that will work for us, not just a schedule that will make us work. So here is my 10 Steps for Creating YOUR Schedule:

***First, you will need a pencil/paper, a calendar, appointment book (if you have one), and some time to sit alone (or with your spouse) and think/talk.

1. The first step is to make a list of everything you need to do during a TYPICAL week. If you have a few things that happen on a regular basis in a month (but not necessarily every week), list those as well. This should be as complete as you can make it. Be sure to include stuff like housework, grocery shopping, church, etc.

2. Next, put that paper aside, and on a separate sheet of paper, consider your priorities. List them, leaving a few spaces between each. Based on Biblical principles, mine looks something like this:
*God
*Husband
*Kids/Home
*My Health (if you knew all my health issues…)
*Extended family/Friends
*Ministry
*Church activities (not church itself)
*Other activities (FRG, MOPS, etc)

3. Now, assign each of the activities from the first list to your priorities. What this exercise does is find areas in your schedule that are unnecessary or not being used adequately. This is just a visual for you and something to get your brain firing up before you start making your schedule. For instance, I recently cut out most of my TV time, because I found that I could have more time for both my kids and my writing, if I put that aside. Sounds like a duh-thing, I know. But sometimes you don’t want to give up shows you like. Now I just stick to two or three favorites, which I DVR so that I can watch them on MY time.

4. Pray over your lists. Take the time to consider what is important and why. Does Sally really need to be in soccer, dance, AND cheerleading at the same time? Would it be better for spouse to pick up Bobby from football on his way home from work, so that you can squeeze in 45 minutes of exercise/cleaning? Make notes as they come to you, but don’t start trying to work a schedule yet. To keep from making any rash decisions, these thoughts need to stew and simmer until…

THURSDAY!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Day in the Life of Ralene


Last week, we discussed the steps anyone who wants to be a writer should take. One of the suggestions was to make time in your schedule to write. After all, how will you ever be a writer if you don't get to write?

Now, I know in this day and age we have so much to keep us busy. If you're anything like me, you have everything from work to family to house to writing. Oy! It all adds up!

People keep asking me, both on the blog and in real life, how I do it all. Honestly, I'm bewildered because I definitely don't think I have it all together. There are days when I am stressed beyond belief. Still, I thought I'd give you a peak at "A Day in the Life of Ralene". Then, on Wednesday, I'll offer tips and tricks for carving out a schedule that works for YOU (not me, YOU).


A Day in the Life of Ralene:

5:45-Alarm goes off

5:45-6:45-Quiet time and morning rountine

6:45-8:00-Emails/Blogs/Social Media
7:00-Wake up kids (if they aren't already)
7:30-Breakfast (yes, I'm a horrible mother, I check my emails during breakfast)

8:00-9:00-Misc, sometimes I clean, sometimes I finish up emails, sometimes I help the kids get ready for the day

9:00-11:30-School
9:00-Baby goes down for nap

11:30-1:00-Lunch and cleaning

1:00-3:00-Kids rest time, me writing blogs/reviews

3:00-5:00-Free time to hang with kids/watch a TV show/read

5:00-Start on dinner, we usually eat about 5:45/6

7:00-Hubby takes over with kids, writing for me

8:00-Bedtime for kids

10:00-Reading

10:30-Lights out for me


For me, this is a good balance. It offers time for the things that need to be done (housework, school) with the things I like to do (writing, spend time with family).

Of course, this is an ideal day. I have to keep myself flexible for the needs of those in my life--family, friends, church family. Sometimes I'll have a week that needs to be more writing focused (like when I am prepping for a contest), or one that is more family dependant (like when I have a sick kid or there's a holiday).

The first thing that suffers if things get out of whack is the houskeeping. It's my least favorite, so I have absolutely no qualms with putting off dusting until tomorrow...or the next day, or the next. If that goes on for too long though, I go into cleaning overdrive!

So, that's a glimpse at my day and what goes on. Stay tuned because on Wednesday, I'll offer tips and tricks for making your schedule work for you.

In the meantime, what about you? What do you do to get it all done?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Get Real Friday

UPDATE: Yay! I'm a semi-finalist in the ACFW Genesis contest! We're going to party here on FHS next week. :) Schedules and a party? Do those even go together? lol...



Hey everyone--Happy Friday!

I don't know about you, but I am so excited the weekend is just about here. I need the break! So, a little update from me:

*Yes, the above photo is the actual picture of our washer and dryer. Aren't they pretty? lol... The piles of laundry are gone AT LAST!

*The Genesis contest semifinalists should be announced sometime today. Eek! I can't tell you what a ball of anxiousness I am. Originally, I thought I wouldn't care if I made it to the next round or not, I really just wanted some professional feeback. However, if I'm completely honest--getting cut in the first round still sucks.

*I have not been working on my 3in30 goals. I know, it's horrible. But since I've felt so good this week, my focus has been on finishing up my house. And this week was a review frenzy in my critique group, so most of my writing time has been reviewing my good friend Kurt's story.

*Connor started walking! Yes, it's very exciting. He doesn't go very far, only a few steps at the moment...but he's being very brave and letting go of the couch/table/hand. My hubby loaded a video on Facebook. You'll have to go to my page and check it out!

*I've been participating in the Bible in 90 days challenge and I'm keeping up with that fairly well. It's an interesting goal, one I've never attempted before. Still, reading through the OT now, I am enjoying those old Bible stories.

So my first week of April has been productive, though not necessarily as much as I would like. Any progress is better than none! What about you? Do you have any news to share? Spill it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So You Wanna Be a Writer? (Pt 2)


So You Wanna Be a Writer…Pt 2

On Monday, we discussed what comes next after you decide that you are, in fact, a writer. As a quick refresher:
10. Start to Budget for extras.
9. Join national/local groups for writers.
8. BICHOK
7. Start small, dream big.
6. Join a critique group.
5. Adjust your schedule to allow time to write.
4. Don’t give up on reading!
3. Write, write, write!
2. Read every book on the craft you can get your hands on.

And now for the ugly truth.

The number one thing that a new writer has to do is…

LET GO OF YOUR ILLUSIONS.

I know, I know—“But, Ralene, I don’t have any illusions. I don’t expect to be the next “insert name of famous author here”.” (Did I even punctuate that right? Oy!)

Trust me…that’s not the only myths that new writers (and some not so new writers as well). I could start a whole different Top 10 for that, and maybe I will someday, but not now. Instead, I just want to let you in on a few little secrets.

Writing isn’t easy.

That’s the biggie. You may have cranked out 70-200K words blindfolded with one hand behind your back. Sorry—it ain’t that easy. Some of the best times for a writer are when they are creating a new story. They get to live vicariously through their characters and experience things they may not otherwise (or possibly re-experience something they already went through). It’s fun to discover new people, places, and ideas.

It’s also hard work and little immediate return. When you commit to writing, something always gets sacrificed. For some it’s time with family, others it’s their social life, and still others (like me) it’s stuff like housekeeping, hobbies, etc. For some, it’s all of the above. Writing can be a very lonely profession. (And people wonder why we’re obsessed with Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, and other social media!)

Sometimes, though, we just want to give in. Give in to that TV show, give in to that date with the girls, give in to that voice in the back of our head telling us we’ll never amount to anything so crawl under a rock and hide. Writer’s block hits and we’re ready to throw in the towel—is it really worth it?

Inside we discover a strength we didn’t know we had, and we push through and move on. We do what we do because it’s our passion, our heart, our lifeblood.

Just so you know, the publication process is slow.

The average wait time for a novel to go from contract to book shelf is about 12 months. Sometimes shorter, often times longer. And that’s AFTER it’s been contracted. No one told me that it can take up to 2 months to hear back about a stinkin’ query letter…IF I hear back from them at all. Or that, even though the agent/editor sounded SO excited in their request for a full manuscript that it could be anywhere from 1 month to 6 before I hear a yay or nay.

The joys of writing.

All that to say…writing is tough. Not just anyone can write, and write well. That’s not to discourage anyone…but to reveal the ugly truth. Let go of your illusions, roll up your sleeves, and dig in for the long haul.

Here’s just a few fun quotes from fellow writers:

Diane M Graham: “One of the best parts of being a writer is creating a world and characters. One of the worst parts of being a writer is the responsibility of that world and its characters.”

Kimchi Lya McMahon Blow: “The worst thing and best thing...the creative "voice" in me never shuts up!:) Sometimes that's bad and sometimes it's good!”

Katie Ganshert: “The best thing about writing is writing. The worst thing about writing is writing.”

Do you see a trend in those quotes?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

So You Wanna Be a Writer...Now What?


Almost five years ago, I made the biggest decision in my life next to getting married and having kids. I wanted to write professionally. Of course, that’s easier said than done. I can say I’m a writer, but what makes that so? It has to be more than my verbal announcement.

The decision to write professionally means a lot of changes. Some are fun, and , well, some aren’t. Let me tell you right off the bat: Writing is not easy. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but it’s definitely not as easy as it appears at first.

When I first sat down to crank out my first novel—I had the time of my life. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The words came effortlessly, the story and characters were fun and interesting. Then, thanks to a critique group, all my hopes and dreams were dashed. What was all this about plotting and character arcs? What in the heck is wrong with adverbs? Don’t even get me started on the intricacies of query letters, synopses, and pitches.

There are things that took me awhile to discover on my own, so I thought I’d share my expertise (pfft!) with you. First things first! You’ve made the decision to become a writer. That’s great. Here’s my Top 10 for New Writers (in ascending order):

10. Start to budget for extras. Being a writer comes with its own unique set of expenses. From printer ink and paper to writer conferences, sometimes it isn’t cheap. The sooner you start saving, the more freedom you have later on. (I highly recommend getting yourself down to a good writers conference!)

9. Join local/national writing groups. There’s nothing like a group of like-minded people who get together and cause trouble! There’s also nothing like a good support group when you get stuck—whether it be research, schedule-juggling, or just plain writer’s blues. There are several out there, and for different genres. I am a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)—a fabulous group with a wealth of information and support, not to mention and kickin’ conference in September!

8. BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard)—sit down and write! Nothing is better for a writer than practice. And we all know that practice makes perfect, or at least as close as we’ll get this side of heaven!

7. Start small, dream big. I first read this concept in Jerry B. Jenkins book, Writing for the Soul, a few years ago. He suggests that a writer start with producing articles and stuff of the like, then moving on to short stories, and finally a novel if they so wish. I don’t necessarily agree with the whole of that concept—I see nothing wrong with writing articles and working on a novel at the same time! I do agree that mastering different types of articles and the art of short stories can do a lot to enhance your skills as a novelist.

6. Join a critique group. Our eyes are only as good as our brains. And what happens when our brains see the same thing day in and day out? They become accustomed to what’s put before them. We cannot be unbiased readers of our own novels. It would be like being an unbiased judge in a cutest baby contest that your child is in. There are several different ways to go about this—several online writing sites have different kinds of critique groups. I belong to one on Writing.Com and have had some really big breakthroughs with them. Some groups, like ACFW, offer critique loops that encourage the formation of unique critique groups. If nothing else, you can advertise that you’re looking for a critique group and see what happens! For a while, I also had a dedicated critique partner. She was a great asset and it was nice because she knew MY writing style and all about my novel!

5. Adjust your schedule to allow time to write. We all have busy lives. Me? I have three young kids (5, 4, and 9 months), a husband who is in the military, active in my church and local playgroups. This year, I also start officially homeschooling two oldest. I have to make writing a priority or I’d never get anything done. This does not mean that I make it more important than my other responsibilities, but I know I have to make certain sacrifices (like TV time, extra time with kids/hubby). With the help of my supportive husband, we work out a schedule that allows me time for writing and for extra stuff like reviews, blogs, and building my platform (yeah, I’ll talk about that eventually!).

4. Don’t give up on reading! Great writers and great readers. If you push reading to the side, then you’ll lose a major area of both enjoyment and opportunities to learn. Read everything—good, bad, and in between. Learn from the masters, learn from the mistakes—what worked? What didn’t? While I wouldn’t go so far as to analyze every book you read, it definitely helps to reflect on what you can learn from it.

3. Write, write, write! Did I mention this before? My mistake…it must be doubly important! You’ll never learn if you don’t try. Trial and error is the best way to find everything from your writing style, to your genre, to your voice.

2. The second most important thing every new writer should do is to read as many books on the craft as you can get your hands on. This is very important. There is so much good advice available to you out there. If you can’t afford to purchase the books, borrow them, check the library—just read! Another great option is to find and follow the blogs of published authors, agents, editors, and other publishing professionals. They are a wealth of information. Just don’t go all stalker on them…

Here's a SHORT list of some great books on writing (both Christian and non) to get you started:

On Writing by Stephen King
Plot and Structure AND The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamot
Writing the Breakout Novel AND The Fire in Fiction by Donald Mass

And stay tuned on Wednesday for the number one thing that new writers need to do! Yes, I’m completely evil that way. For those of you experienced writers, what do you think of this list? Anything you’d add to it?