Posts Tagged 'blogging'

Three Small Things

The problems with the email continued on from my last post, as I vainly sought to get the default mail program of Windows 8 to actually handle my mail. Remember in my last post on these matters, I had called the GoDaddy helpline about the failure of my new website url to take me to a login page. The guy on the phone saw at once that something was pointed in the wrong direction and quickly pointed it in the right one. Solving the problem.

If only I’d hung up then.

Instead, he suddenly asked me why I had the email account that I did. It was way too much for what I needed, way too complicated. “Why did they give you this one?” he asked. Well, at the time I was consumed with why was the webpage login not working and my email was far from my thoughts. When I told him I didn’t know (actually it was that I couldn’t remember) he quickly moved to reorganize everything so that I could save $30 and not have these extraneous unlimited business emails complicating things.

Several days later, after trying repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get Win8 Outlook to receive and send karenhancock.com emails, the memory of  WHY I had gotten the other package drifted up from the shadowy, convoluted corridors of my brain: because the other package came with IMAP and was compatible with Windows 8 while  the new one was not and would have to be used only as a web-based email program.  I’d forgotten all about that when I called to find out about the webpage url, and thus allowed the sales rep to “help me” by setting me up with an email client that doesn’t do IMAP and isn’t compatible with Win 8 Outlook. This despite the fact that every one of my three email clients are called Outlook. Talk about confusing!

Anyway, a tiny element, forgotten, caused the entire ship to turn in a direction I’d originally wanted to avoid.

It wasn’t the only one. Last Thursday, my hubby had left on his hunting trip and right before going, made sure there was air in all the tires on my car and everything was good.  Two hours later I came out with Quigley to drive to the park for our evening walk, and discovered one of the tires was flat. Flat as a pancake flat. Rim to the ground flat. I stood there staring at it in disbelief.

But from the start Quigley had been in a panic to get going, and now his insistence overwhelmed me and we started up the street. Or rather, we ran. As we did, I acknowledged that the earlier, very soft dropping he’d left in the back yard (which he never does) had indeed been a harbinger of worse to come.  We ran up the street until I found an acceptable spot for him and he let go. The entire rest of the walk was all about that.

So in addition to no car I had a sick dog. Well, Fast Balance GI to the rescue. At least for the dog. It’s a dark, thick paste of good bacteria and other stuff that you have to squirt into the dog’s mouth while he tries to escape. As big as he is, Quigley has to get three doses of it throughout the day. After the first dose, I had to close the door to his kennel or he’d run in there to hide as soon as he saw me with the tube. In the end, it did the trick, though, thank you, Lord!

Next day, after a neighbor helped me change the tire, I took it down to Discount Tire. They could find nothing wrong with it.  However, when they had filled it back up and put on the valve stem cap, they could hear hissing. So they took the cap off, handed it to me and told me what had happened, but that all was well. The tire was Fixed!

Well, it didn’t seem very well to me. Why would the cap being on cause it to leak? Was there something wrong with the valve stem? Did they give the cap back because they only fix flat tires, not valve stems?  I didn’t know but thankfully my husband returned early — Sunday night in fact.

Turns out a tiny o-ring that was supposed to be inside the cap, up at the top had fallen out, allowing an inward/downward pointing extrusion in the cap’s top to press on the valve and let out the air.

How weird is that? Another very tiny thing, that completely changed the direction of not just one day, but several.

And well do I know how frequently that can be the case with computer issues. In fact, as I’ve been writing this, I was trying to back up my database on my hosting service server, so I could do an upgrade, but of course there was an error and so…

Since I haven’t really done anything with the website yet, choosing to do some research first, it may not hurt to skip the back up part and just do the update. Or maybe I’ll just do more research…

I probably don’t need to mention that during all this I’ve done NO work on the book… 😦

Reprise: Why I Turned off the Comments

In view of my references yesterday to this decision — made in June of 2007 — I am reposting it here today.

Why I Turned off the Comments

Thursday, June 14, 2007

In a phrase, because God told me to. In rather stern and shocking terms. I know that sounds wacky, but… guess I’ll just have to sound wacky.

It has little to do with the quality/nature of the comments themselves and everything to do with my motivations and the fact that I am too easily led into the wrong ones. When I started this blog it was something I was doing as unto the Lord, something I believed He was moving me to do for His purposes and not my own. But then came the comments and my own predilection toward fretting about them. Writing something, posting it, then wondering if anyone said anything. Worrying about what people might think of certain topics, and then sometimes hesitating to write what I was feeling led to write. And then, regardless of what I wrote, checking a bunch of times to see if anyone had left something — when I was supposed to be writing. If no one commented, then I might feel dismayed, and that in turn disrupted my mood and confidence for writing, and pretty much annihilated whatever concentration I had before I broke down and checked.

In short, it became a distraction. To make matters worse, the absence of comments would often lead me to start surfing, reading blogs, even checking Amazon, heaven forbid. And if none of that yielded anything, then I would fall into unending repetitions of the entire process. The upshot was… I wasted a lot of time with it all, last year and now. The Lord pulled me through it last year — got the book done in spite of me — but now that I see it happening again, I am convicted of the need to make a change. And I have to say that so far I’m pleased with the peace and the ability to focus that has been restored to me because of this.

I’ll admit that at first I was afraid of offending people because, after all, the accepted, generally publicized reason for a blog is to get out there and start conversations, generate all this cross linkage, interact with readers, draw a lot of attention. Turning off the comments would stop all that and possibly chase readers off. Ultimately though I had to bow to what the Lord was telling me to do and not worry about that. If that’s what happened/happens, so be it. It’s not my intent to offend, and if you wish to comment on a blog post you can always email me through the address in the profile in the side bar. You might even generate a new blog post with your emailed comment!

With WordPress, I’ve not turned off the comments, because I haven’t had the same problems with them that I described in this article. The other stuff though — the likes, the idea that I must go and read other blogs, the supposed requirement of all the cross posting, and etc., so far that’s been the stuff of distraction for me. So, while I’ve not turned off the comments, I have turned off the function that sends an email to me every time someone “likes” a post (an email which then encourages me to go to their blog out of gratitude and leave a comment or like in return).

It’s not that I’m ungrateful, just that I don’t have time or as, Sherlock Holmes recently put it in the new show Elementary, not enough “attic space.”

LOL.

I’m Back

Quigley wearing free dog antlers from PetCo

Quigley wearing free dog antlers from PetCo

Hi everyone!  And a happy 2013 to you all!

Yes, I’m back. Not necessarily back from physical travels, though we did get over to Southern California to visit the kids and grand-daughter, as well as my 92-year-old stepmother. I am back from that, and also, apparently, from my recent and unexpected blogging silence.

I have no explanation, other than that I had neither  motivation nor words with which to generate a blog post for almost a month now. I haven’t even kept up on my emails. In fact, I’ve done very little on the computer since last I posted, except for Bible Class.

Part of that was the shingles and the fact that it was hard to even look at the screen for a while. Plus I had a regimen of eye drops and pills to take there at first, and kept going back to the doctor for them to gauge my progress. This, added to Christmas preps, demolished my normal routine, which had been suffering anyway. I was also consciously trying to avoid the computer, not only to rest my eyes but in hopes of getting a handle on my addiction to reading blogs and news articles.

Pastor John spoke about this awhile back, how reading the things on the web — things invariably from the world — mess up your mental attitude and make it harder to go back to your work — in his case, studying the Word and preparing his lessons, in mine, working on the book. I had already noticed that effect on my own, but didn’t really give it the attention it deserved. I thought it was just me having no discipline as opposed to information and enticements from the world registering with my sin nature, which in turn agitated for “No More Struggling With that Lame Book! Who’s going to like it anyway? It’s not going to be any good, and you have no discipline…” or…. “You’re just not into it today. Tomorrow will be better. Why not take a break now and go do something else?”  To which I answered “Okay” far too often.

Or… “But I really want to find out what happened/why he did it/more on this subject! I’ll work on the book later…”

On another day, in another lesson, he talked about how sometimes God will shut us down in the operation of our spiritual gift in order for us to realize that it’s His power that’s doing it, not ours. That really resonated as well, but I haven’t really been able to get my arms around it all enough to write about it in any way that makes sense.

A third concept that keeps floating through my awareness is the fact that all this with the blog… specifically the call to do a post 5 days a week, was really more than I could handle and actually write a book, too. Add to that the notion that since this was supposed to build my readership I should be trying to do posts that people would like, and keep track of the numbers and all that… and it only piled on more pressure. And, I see in retrospect, drained energy away from whatever it is in me that comes up with my stories.

Long ago I had determined that God was not calling me to be a marketer — He would do the marketing, and the promoting and publicizing, and my job was to concentrate on writing the book (which He would also do, but that was where I was to focus my attention, not the other stuff).  He told me that in a very vivid and compelling way, and I immediately obeyed and stopped thinking about the marketing.

But the world is relentless in promoting its positions, and after ten years, I became infected with it again. Maybe I had grown enough, I thought arrogantly, that I could handle it now. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to at least try it out, see if it was what I was to do. After all, everyone else is doing it.

No. Not what I’m to do. All the things they suggest one do to build a readership distracts me from my calling. It takes away my time, changes my mental attitude and focus, really seems to mess me up when it comes to my primary calling, which is to write my novels. I learned that once, but as with so many things, forgot the lesson and went back to try it again.

If I’m honest, I have to admit I like the idea of me doing stuff to get folks to read my blog and books. Well, no, actually I don’t like it at all, at least not the actual doing of it. I just like the idea of having some control over it and that’s probably the main issue right there. That I’m going to control things, when God’s the one in control.

Anyway, I’m not going to be doing five posts a week, but 4, and that may not be all the time. I’m not going to be trolling about various strangers’ blogs to see if I might “like” them. I might like them, but I don’t have time to read them. I’m not going to be going out to comment on other folks’ blogs, like they tell me to, in hopes they’ll visit my blog and like it. I’m not going to be trolling about on the internet looking for good ideas for content that will bring in a lot of readers.

I’m going to go back to what this all started out as: me writing my book, posting thoughts that spring primarily out of that and my life and lessons and research. The book comes first. The blog second.

And if the world thinks that’s dumb, I’m okay with that. If I only have six readers, I’m okay with that, too. As our recent lessons on spiritual gifts have taught me, God is the one in charge of the results of my gift, not me.

“For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised (or unknown), God has chosen, the things that are not (ie, humble) that He might nullify the things that are (ie, proud), that no man should boast before God.”   ~ 1 Co 1:26 – 29

A Compelling Product AND a Platform?

So says Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, a recent book I’ve acquired, and part of the cause for my recent toe-dipping into the sea of marketing gurus.

Early in the book, he quotes from “an aspiring author trying to make a name for herself amidst her literally millions of competitors,” who asks,

“Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?”

His answer is no, it’s not enough to simply write a good book, and yes, “you will need to be proactive about creating the who part of the equation.” By equation, he refers to the time-honored saying, “success isn’t so much about what you know as who.” And that “who” is your platform.

He’s not alone in this assessment. I’m coming to the end of my reading of Merchants of Culture, a book describing the recent history and resultant status of the publishing world, and it also paints a discouraging picture of just how much writers need to stop focusing on writing and start focusing on courting readers.

I’ve said before that I am not comfortable with that, nor suited for it (it seems vaguely hypocritical to be trying to make friends with people just so they’ll buy your book… but maybe that’s not what everyone means). I also don’t t have the mental and emotional space for it. Nor do I have the time, not if I’m actually going to write this next book.

I wrote all that almost three weeks ago, and got derailed in part because I didn’t know what I wanted to say after the fragment above. Or, if we get right down to it, what I really thought about it.

I think I’ve mentioned that I attended a webinar on all this, presented in fact, by the same Michael Hyatt mentioned above. In fact,that’s when I bought his book. (And I have to admit it was pretty clear that he was probably doing the webinar in part to have that exact effect.)

In any case, that was back in June, and was what started the chain of events that led to last Monday’s crazy-makers post. According to Hyatt, blogging, done right, is the means by which you build your platform of “who’s.” He advised us to start blogging if we didn’t and if we already had a blog, to commit to a certain number of blogs a week, then rigorously stick to that commitment.

At the same time, we were getting messages from the pulpit of Lighthouse Bible Church encouraging us to step out in expanding the ministry associated with our spiritual gifts. The confluence of the two events caused me to pay a bit more attention to Hyatt’s advice than I might otherwise, and thus I allowed myself to at least consider the notion of doing things that might expand my readership.

After all, as many Christian writers have said, if it’s the word of God you are proclaiming and promoting, why wouldn’t you want to find ways to expand the reach of your ministry?  Paul didn’t just hang out in Antioch waiting for people to come to Him. Jesus didn’t operate that way either.

So… I decided to see what would happen if I took a few tiny steps in that direction, if in fact, I would even be able to do so. I already had a blog, and had been doing about 4 posts a week, so why not see if I could add one more and commit to being consistent about it?

Yes, yes, I know: here we are with some more Rules again!  Am I just putting myself into some other kind of bondage?

That’s a strong possibility. It certainly was what happened at the start of this.

But still, I know our God is not against routine, because He’s set up the world that way… day and night,  full moon and new, season and season, sowing and harvesting, year and year.

I guess, what I’m seeing more clearly is that it’s not the having of goals or routines or guidelines for your work that’s the problem, it’s making everything hinge upon them. You can develop them, but the fulfillment of them isn’t to be the source of your happiness or misery. My flesh just has a very strong tendency to abuse them. Maybe it’s the organizational version of drug addiction.

Having rules and order and systems have always spurred me to me think I’m finally  going to be in control, able to do whatever I am wanting to do, and having done it, feeling good about myself and thus happy. Not one word of which is true!

If I can remember that, then as I go forward with the guidelines as tools instead of Master and keep my eyes on my true Master, perhaps they could do what they were designed to do.

Besides, it seems you must have at least some sort of guidelines by which to operate or there’ll just be chaos and confusion, and you’ll never get the thing done you’ve been called to do.

So. Guidelines, then.  Being always ready to dump them should the Spirit lead otherwise, or God just reach in and change things. But not afraid to use them should the situation warrant.

Thus I implemented the objective of trying to get in 5 posts a week.

It was bumpy at first, and though I haven’t succeeded 100% of the time,  there’ve been a number of weeks that I have succeeded and that’s cool.  And more and more I’m getting accustomed to the routine…

The questions that remain unanswered thus far are… can I keep it up long-term? And can I actually write the book while doing it?

If I can’t… well, then I guess the posts will have to be pared back.  I have to say, though, that for the moment, Sky seems to be coming back alive where for so long it’s just been dead, and so far, so good…

How To Drive Yourself Crazy

You start out having a contracted book that you are supposed to be writing and having so many different difficulties, intrusions, interruptions, distractions and delusions that you are proceeding at a snail’s pace, seemingly no matter what you do.

Combine with a previous book repackaged and on the market again, and generating  feelings of responsibility in the author for doing something to let the world know.

Add an invitation to join a website that will provide much information and help on how to market your books in a world that is rapidly becoming a continuous, never-ending, deluge of advertising.

Accept the invitation because… um… well, it sounds good, and maybe I’ll learn something.

Attend the first seminar. Take ten pages of notes and end up with TONS of things to do to have a profitable web presence.

[Yes, yes, I know — I’ve said in the past that I’m relying on God to promote my books and what in the world am I doing falling for this? Well… what can I say? I’m weak. Frail. Easily led astray. Rethinking that stand. Maybe it was good for then, but this is now and perhaps I could do some of that now. Not a lot. But some… Maybe this would be a form of stepping out in new ways of using my gift of encouragement.]

Here are some of those things you can do to build your “platform”:

Integrate your website with your blog. Redo both blog and website so that it’s more professional looking, maybe hire someone to do that, which means shop around for various web designers. Or figure out how to do it all yourself.

Write more blog posts. Write better blog posts. Answer every comment.

Go to other blogs and read them. Comment there. Answer any responses to the comment you left. Maybe quote from someone else’s blog and then write about how you disagree. Maybe they’ll link to you and rebut. Then you can rebut the rebuttal and get into an argument. That’s great for getting links to your blog and the attention of the world, which likes controversy and argument.

Learn what Google Analytics is.  Get on Google+.

Learn to write better titles/headlines. Study other headlines. Keep a headline file. Spend as much time writing your headline/title as you do writing your post.

Take a bunch of photographs to use on the blog, because They say that you must have images on your blog. Guest blog as much as possible. Get in as many discussions as possible.

Learn how to start a Facebook Author page and then do that. Find out what a Landing Page is. Maybe set one up.

Interact daily with those who come to your Facebook Author Page.

Make an author page for Amazon.

Learn how to optimize your website/blog and do that .

Get on Twitter. Learn how to write good tweets…  And don’t forget to come up with your own daily blog posts…

Oh yeah. And get that contracted book written. The sooner the better. (That would be The Other Side of the Sky…)

And thus we get to crazy. Too much to do even aside from all that. And with that I am over the top. Which of all those things should I do? For how long? When? How can I balance that with working on the book and the work I have to do around the house?  Where’s the peace in all this? Not there. Maybe I’m just weak… Well, yes. I am weak. But His power is manifest in my weakness, so that’s a good thing.

He’ll do what needs doing. I just have to turn it over to Him and let Him.

And so I’ve taken a little trip without even leaving home these last few weeks. I’ve learned a few things.

Like “A Tomato, A Coin and A Die” is a really bad title. (I should have called it “Two Techniques That Helped Me Get Past Writer’s Block”. Actually I might go back and retitle it just to see what will happen.)

I’ve learned that there are a lot of blogs out there that are highly “successful” (in that they have hundreds of thousands of visitors) in telling other people how they can be successful on their own blogs. Which seems mildly ironic, even a bit disingenuous.

I’ve been praying for direction in all this from the start. And I am pretty sure that I have come full circle on this crazy ride yet again, and am getting off at the platform now, ready to go back home and just focus on writing Sky.

Because the thing it’s all shown me — once again —  is that, yes, indeed,  all that other stuff takes up not only time but mental space.  At least for me. I tend to want to focus deeply on things when they engage me, and when I try to do all that stuff, well, the focus gets fragmented and I get farther away from the world of Sky than ever.

I won’t say I won’t do any of that, but for now I do know that the focus has to be on my WIP.

A Request for Ideas

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to do a guest post for the Christian SF/F blog Speculative Faith and given a range of openings throughout the summer from which to pick. Since Arena in its repackaged version is due to release the first of July, I thought a guest post on something relating to that might be a good idea and picked July 6 for my publish date.

I’ve been brainstorming and thinking about the Spec Faith post for a week or two, but so far haven’t come up with anything that keeps going past a paragraph or two. So I decided to see if you all, my readers, might have some suggestions of things you might be interested in seeing a post about. If so, please let me know, in the comments or by email.

So far I’ve thought of:

telling the story of how Arena/Light of Eidon were published;

talking about how things have changed in the publishing field since those times;

discussing the idea that sex, violence, and dark events are not appropriate subject matter for Christian reading and should not appear in books;

grappling with the still prevalent idea that fantasy is only for kids, and why that isn’t necessarily so;

examining some of the specific elements of the allegory in Arena;

pr relating some of the responses I’ve gotten to Arena, both good, bad and wacky…

If any of those ideas seem particularly appealing, or you’re curious about a particular aspect of them I didn’t mention, or one of them triggered an entirely different idea or…

Please! Feel free to fire away.

Self-Disicipline is a Boxing Match

A couple of weeks ago, on the advice of my agent, I attended an online Webinar by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and its present chairman. He’s a “professional blogger, author and speaker whose blog is consistently ranked in the top three for Productivity, Leadership, Publishing and Social Media Marketing.”  This last from the jacket copy of his latest book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

The webinar was very informative, and I took a lot of notes, though I have yet to go back through them. I ordered his book, as well, though I have yet to officially read it. I have sampled here and there, and it looks good.

My lack of reading notes or book, however, is due to one of the first pieces of advice Mr. Hyatt offered during his webinar, which was that if you’re going to blog, commit to doing it regularly. He has himself committed to posting five days a week for some years now (though he invites guest bloggers to present material on Fridays). 

Since I’ve been anything but consistent with my own blogging  for the last few months … years?… I thought maybe I’d make a change. I know I had a schedule of four posts a week for some time, so I’m pretty sure that’s doable. For the last  couple of weeks though, I thought I’d try out five days a week and see if that might work, reserving Fridays for something fun and easy, like pics of Quigley.

And so I have done that. 

In addition to that, using a technique I discovered through Hyatt’s website, I’ve been working steadily on Sky. Well, until last Thursday when I sort of wandered off the track. Sometimes things come into my life that get my flesh going… it can be anything from worry, frustration, self-pity, guilt… and it’s hard to turn that off and get to work.

I also got caught up in the blog posts and the comments and… just never seemed to get around to Sky again. I don’t really know why.

Sometimes at the end of the day I can’t recall how I ended up doing the things that I did. I wonder… am I getting dementia?

Or might it be…

lack of self-discipline?

Oooooh nooooo!  Not THAT again! I thought I’d put all that to bed. I thought I was done wrestling with all that. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve learned well and truly that I can’t do much with it apart from Him.

But… have I consistently asked Him to help me in this area? Have I confessed my sin of self-indulgence when I wandered off? Or maybe not self-indulgence, because often  it’s more… mindless distraction. Sometimes I feel like the dog in one of Koontz’s books (I think it was Dragon Tears) who had been given an assignment but on the way kept getting distracted:

“Ooh! An old shoe! What a lovely smell. must stop and investigate this … and what’s this? a puddle of water… and a bee… ooh, chase the bee…. now the smell of cat… there it is!  Off!  After it! “

That was all a paraphrase. I no longer have the book to quote from, but it was something like that. I particularly remember the bee. And the whole portrayal was so spot on….

But I digress. The fact is, this bugaboo of self-discipline has returned for another round. And why not? The last time I wrestled with it, I ended defeated, not really understanding how it was to be implemented.

If it’s a fruit of the Spirit, are we to TRY to have it? But then might we not run the risk of doing it in the flesh? It’s clearly something those who aren’t saved can exercise, like the very athletes that Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Strong’s definition of hupopiazo, which is the Greek word for “discipline,” means “to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist), that is, (figuratively) to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions), to keep under, to weary.

That is not at all the notion I had of “disciplining the body”. My notion was of one who ALWAYS ate the right amount of food, got up at dawn to exercise, went down the gym on schedule every day to train… whether you felt like it or not. The above definition gives quite a different image.  One of a battle.

A boxing match where you’re hitting your opponent again and again with a lot of effort while he keeps hitting you back. Paul’s seeking to make his body a slave, and slaves don’t want to be enslaved. They rebel. They fight. They run away. Especially arrogant and willful slaves like our flesh, determined as it is to set itself against the Spirit.

This metaphor implies a lot of effort and tenacity. A lot of sweat and blood and bruising. The opponent is not going to go down easily.  And in fact, the only way it’s going to go down is if you are boxing under the power of the Spirit.

So that would mean confession of sins, so as to be under His control,  and bringing the word of God to bear upon the situation. Not necessarily in recalling this verse where Paul talks about what he’s doing, so much as the part about why he’s doing it. So that he won’t be disqualified for reward — that imperishable crown he mentions first. 

Wow. I never thought of it like this. It definitely warrants further consideration…


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