Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ring in the New Year With a Word

Photo Credit: 123RF

Instead of making wishes or New Year's resolutions, we each claim a word to focus on for the coming year. What follows is our chronicle of this year's reclaimation--The Eight's Word of the Year for 2013!

My word this time around is Bounce! Punctuation most definitely included. I choose bounce because it captures three essential components I want to embody in the coming year:

1. The Tigger Bounce! Tigger is joyful, ebullient, and bounces along to his own idiosyncratic rhythm. Sounds like an excellent role model to me.

2. The Weeble-Wobble Bounce! Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down. They bounce right back up. They are resilient, if egg-shaped. To counter my writerly propensity for egg-shapedness, I end with . . .

3. The Trampoline Bounce! Perhaps the most prosaic on my bounces, this one implies movement, action. Exercise. Kind of necessary, kind of dull. But, come on, it’s a trampoline. By law, that makes this bounce fun, desirable, and addictive. Right? Yes, most assuredly right.

Keely, who looks forward to bouncing her way through 2013!

My word this year is Attentive. In the story of my life, the internal goal of writing well, completing manuscripts and getting them published is constantly threatened and derailed by the external conflict--that is, my life. As family, career, and community activism heats up for me, I will have to be attentive to claiming and protecting my writing time.

After a 2012 full on changes, I intend to get my groove on in 2013. Therefore, Groove is my Word of the Year. In the past year, I had a blast scrambling to finish my master's degree, signing with my agent, and plowing through revisions. I also struggled to take care of family after loved ones passed away, major surgeries sidelined those close to me, and Mr. Christoff got ready to take on new professional challenges. Now, as we all ring in the new year, I'm looking forward to settling into a new groove, with a new manuscript, new experiences, and even a brand new house to call home. I'm getting my groove on this year!

My word for this year is Trust. I need to trust in the writing process. Trust that the words will come when I need them. Trust that whatever needs to be worked out in my story will work out. Trust in my own instincts and abilities. Trust enables people to do great things.

When Candy first prompted me to start thinking about my word for the year, a word immediately popped into my head. But it was the unlikeliest word I could have come up with. Laughable. Ridiculous. As the days slid by, though, it kept coming up.

Then, a couple of weekends ago, out for dinner with a friend, I told her I needed help coming up with a word for the year. She thought for a minute and said: Love.

"Get OUT," I said, slapping the table.
"What? Why can't love be your word for the year?"
I just shook my head. "Because . . . it kicks my ass!"

Which explains everything, right? So we'll see how this word works out for me. I make no predictions. I've attached no preconceptions to it. Particularly considering how well the word “open” worked for me last year . . .

My word for 2013 is Persist. Sometimes the universe throws a up a lot of roadblocks: money or job trouble, loss of family or friends, health concerns, or even just the countless pesky inconveniences we encounter every day. But when you're headed in a good direction, you've got to keep going. Climb over, navigate around, push through. Continue steadfastly in your course. Persist. So that's my word for the coming year.

Hope is my word for 2013. I believe one day pigs will fly.

Once again this year I have two words. My words for 2013 are: Strength and Surrender. Strength as it pertains to body, mind, and spirit—practicing holistic health and a continuation of my development of balance from the past year. And surrender as in, well, yielding control. I’m a control freak, so there are times that I dig my feet in and fight even when the fight just isn’t worth it. This year I’d like to surrender to the journey (at least a little, when it’s appropriate) and enjoy myself instead of stressing over being in the driver’s seat.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holiday Cheer!

H A P P Y   H O L I D A Y S !
From our table to yours, may your holiday season be filled with warmth, love, and  an abundance of good cheer!
The Eight

Sunday, December 16, 2012

We'll Muddle Through Somehow

I'm not really tuned in to the Happy Holidays wavelength this year. My life got turned upside down and I'm still struggling with the fallout. But it's my turn to post for the R8, so I'm going to give you a few  songs that make me smile no matter what I'm struggling with, a recipe that might get you through the office cookie exchange (fingers crossed!), and last but NOT least, a chance to win a copy of MacKenzie Lucas' debut novella!

To Have and To Hold is the first story in the Derkesthai Mage series. Is that a great cover or what? And the story is sexy and hits that emotional chord that I just love. Plus, did I mention, DRAGONS?!? Yeah. So leave a comment (and contact info) and at the end of the week I'll give the lucky winner the ebook of To Have and To Hold.

Okay. Lets start with some music to make you smile. I know I need it! So here's a link to Misty Mountain Wonderland, a genius melding of Winter Wonderland with Led Zeppelin's Misty Mountain Hop, by Fleming and John.

And if that doesn't work, here's South Park's version of O Holy Night. Actually, I might be the only one who finds that one so funny . . . but I'm linking it anyway because I read somewhere that it's important, this time of year, to do things just for YOU, too.

Or in this case, just for me. LOL.

And now that you're smiling--I hope!--here's the recipe I'm bringing to the office cookie exchange. If anyone out there can explain why I signed up for this thing, 4 weeks into Weight Watchers, please tell me in the comments because I can't for the life of me figure it out . . .

Blurry but delicious!
Anyway, I'm sure this recipe was on the bag of Nestle's chocolate chips at one time, but my mother got it from her sister-in-law (who my father--the annoying little brother--called Granny Annie), so we've always called them:

Granny Annie's Seafoam Chocolate Chip Bars

1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 egg yolks (reserve whites)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 12 oz bag of semisweet chocolate chips

2 egg whites
1 cup brown sugar, packed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan.

First, sift together the dry ingredients and set the bowl aside.

Next, in large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla extract. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and blend together. Gently press dough into greased baking pan.

Sprinkle the bag of chocolate chips evenly over the pastry and press down lightly.

For the topping, in a medium bowl, beat the two egg whites until soft peaks form. (Tip: let the egg whites warm to room temperature first.) Gradually beat in brown sugar and blend until stiff. Spread evenly over the pastry and chocolate chips.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Topping should be light brown.

Remove pan to wire rack to cool.

Cut in squares when almost cool. Freezes very well. Tastes divine!

And finally, as a performer at the concert I attended last night reminded us, sometimes, for some people, the best holiday song is a melancholy one. So I leave you with Judy Garland.

And the hopes that next year, all our troubles will be miles away.

Happy Holidays!

p.s. Don't forget to comment for a chance to win To Have and To Hold!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Gifts for Writers

           With the holidays upon us, scrambling to find the perfect gift can be difficult.  But if you have a writer on your list, I have a few suggestions to make your shopping easier. 
            A reference book would be a great addition to any writer’s library.  Bird by Bird by Anne Lament is one of my all-time favorites.  It’s not a book that teaches the mechanics of writing but it brings back the joy of creativity.  And, as a bonus, it’s funny, too.  Nicole Christoff swears by 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias.  I love that one as well.  Candy Lyons recommends Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer by Renni Browne, Dave King and George Booth.  She says this book has helped her the most with editing. 
            For writing implements, Nichole Christoff loves Papermate's Flair felt-tip pens in a variety of colors. They're perfect for color-coding revisions in hard copy. The 10-pack would make Roy G. Biv proud.  I recently ordered the “Tech 3+ Multifunction Pen by Cross” from Franklin Covey.  It has black ballpoint, red ballpoint and a mechanical pencil, changeable with a twist of the bottom half of the pen.  I purchased the frosty pink and had my name engraved on it.   It’s available at   
            Keely Thrall suggests the gift of a class, whether online or in a classroom.  Margie Lawson has several good online and in-person classes.  Keely and I just saw her in November and she was excellent as always.   Margie’s website is  She also suggests a Laurie Schnebly Campbell class such as “Plotting Through Motivation.”  Her classes can be found at  In addition, your community college or county may have noncredit courses on writing topics.  Keely thought that a membership to a writing group might be a good gift as well.  Since writing is often a lonely pursuit, a membership to a club might just be the creative kick in the pants to get your writer started on the road to success.
            Another good idea might involve making the writing experience more comfortable.  Keely suggests gift cards to friendly writing haunts like Panera or Starbucks.  Gift cards to places such as Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or your local indie bookstore could be great gifts.  Writers love nothing better than to browse bookstores for that perfect acquisition.
            Candy recommends an e-reader.  She loves her Kindle Touch.  I received a Kindle Fire for Mother’s Day and I’ve read more in the last seven months than I have in awhile.   A gift card to fuel it (see above) could be the perfect addition to get started.
            How about something fun for the writer’s desk?   CafĂ© Press has a mousepad that quotes Chekov—“If I had listened to the critics I’d have died drunk in the gutter.”  The “Chekov ‘The Critics’ Mousepad” has a cool-looking black and white picture along with the quote that would be perfect for anyone.  There’s nothing like a little inspiration every time you touch the mouse.   They also have a “writer’s wall clock” that I love.  Each of the numbers from one to twelve reads write, stare, margarita, write, curse, writer’s block, chocolate, start over, edit, revise, proof, and publish.  Each of these gifts is available at
            Hopes this list helps in the quest for the perfect gift for the writer in your life.  Good luck shopping and have a happy holiday. 
            If anyone has any suggestions for great writer gifts, please let me know.  I’m always looking for new writing boys, gadgets and toys.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Effortless Social Media

That's a lie, of course. There's really no such thing. While technology has certainly made some tasks easier, the opportunities it presents have conversely gunked up the speedway of our lives. Now it's not enough to write the novel, you've also got to blog, tweet and have a lively Facebook page. All of this social networking takes time, time away from writing, time away from your relationships.

But, there is way to get the speedway zooming again, to manage the social media so it's not managing you. I use Hoot Suite, a free social media management tool that is both efficient and effective for planned social media activity using my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Planning is the key word here. There are two ways of engaging in social media: impulsive activity and planned activity. I think you should have a good mix of the two and this is where Hoot Suite comes in.

Current research indicates that most people tweet from their smartphone. It's immediate—you have a thought, whip out the smartphone, type, and boom, you've told the world something important :) in less than a minute. It's very gratifying and at the same time seems efficient. I really like efficiency, so you'll find me tweeting my ass off while standing in line at Whole Foods or waiting for my son's ball game to conclude.

But, there are some challenging aspects to just tweeting from your phone and even from your Twitter account on your PC. This is where planning and Hoot Suite can help.

In my writing life and Day-Job, I plan tweets and Facebook posts following completion of a blog or other promo activity such as an e blast, update to website, news article about my organization or mention of me as a writer (those are far and few between). The tweets and Facebook posts are necessary to extend the reach and life of the other promo activity. But I find it hard to do that impulsively and from my smartphone. First of all, I hate using precious character count on long URLs. Of course you can always go to Bitly to shorten your URL but that's an extra step (and I can't do it from my smartphone). Second, if I don't plan it, it won't get done.

So, here are the three reasons why Hoot Suite is my go-to social media management tool:

One-Stop-Shopping – Hoot Suite can host both your Twitter and Facebook accounts in one location so you're not hoping from site to site. Best of all, if you have multiple accounts –for instance, at my office we have two Twitter and two Facebook accounts—you can see them all on one screen. Plus you can view your feed, mentions, direct messages and sent tweets in one screen. You have to scroll across the screen, but it's all there. No hoping around.

Schedule Posts and Tweets. I’m so busy that I can easily forget things like picking up the dry cleaning and remembering to tweet about my newest blog. So I plan and schedule. Right after I publish this blog, I'll go to my Hoot Suite account and schedule a series of tweets that relate to the blog. I usually do three scheduled tweets a day for the week of the blog. If I used my Facebook account (I don't), I'd schedule posts to it. As my social-media-whiz friend Megan says, this might be counter-intuitive to the rapid fire nature of Twitter, but when you're very busy Hoot Suite can keep your social media ball rolling. Over the day, I check my Twitter feed to see if anyone responded to my scheduled tweets. I can also tweet impulsively during the day—or not! Scheduling gives me that freedom.

Shorten URLs. Have you ever wanted to share a website with your Twitter friends only to find it has a mile-long URL? Of course you can go to Bitly--the Samurai sword of the Internet--and shorten it, but that's another step, another website. In Hoot Suite, just dump the URL in the URL Shortener right there in your Compose Message box. It will shorten the URL for you.

So is Hoot Suite a panacea? NO. It can be a pain the ass to get started. If you're not a techo-whiz don't try to rush this. You'll get frustrated. You'll need your log in info for your Twitter and Facebook accounts and I'd recommend checking out the Hoot Suite help articles on getting started. Like new things, there will be bumps in road when you start. But don't give up. Hoot Suite can save you time and keep your account active even when you're asleep, or writing, or settling down with a good book—maybe one you've written with all your extra time!

Do you have a social management tip or tool that works for you? Share it please by commenting.