It’s a Circus Out There! Which social media sites should I try? By Joanne Jaytanie




Are you one of those people on the pulse of the newest social media site? It seems like every day there is something new coming out.  I’ve signed up on sites such as MeWe and Alignable. I’ve looked at the sites – but I’ll likely never use them, especially if they want me to pay for connections. 

And let’s not forget, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Quora, Snapchat, LinkedIn – just to name a few. My gosh, the list goes on and on. WhatsApp – what’s that? Google+- it’s still hanging on? Reddit – I have no idea. You could spend your entire day and night wading through the bottomless depths of the monstrosity known as social media.



What should you do? Ignore it and hope it will all go away? Become an expert on every media app? Not me. I consider myself techie-less. I’ve come a long way from not knowing how to turn on a computer, but I’ll never be an expert. 

Even so, I am an author, and the computer is my workplace. I’ve found my best strategy is to work with a core of social media apps. Meaning I limit myself to a few choices and try to get a handle on just those apps. Some I enjoy spending time on. Others I get on, get what I need done, and get off. Of course, there’s a downside to spending time on the apps I enjoy – I tend to spend too much time. Every bright shiny picture pulls me in. Every new recipe, how-to, repurposing, new releases—call my name. Have you guessed which app – Pinterest! It can suck you in for hours. It can also be a great place to find new followers and sales.




Pinterest is where people go for inspiration, new ideas, and new purchases. Over 70% of Pinterest users are women. Approximately 90% try new things that they discover on the site. Nearly half of all Pinners use the platform for purchases or to plan purchases, both large and small. 

Pinterest is also a great place to do research. I set up a new board for each book I write. I have even used my boards as storyboards for my WIP. 


Things are happening on Pinterest. Over 80% of the users are on a mobile device. Therefore the layout of your pins should accommodate this format. That will get you the most views. I have been testing animated pins and find that they do get more interaction. 

Currently, the top categories for pins in the United States are ~ Art, Art Supplies, and hobbies. Seventy plus percent of weekly Pinners have discovered new products and brands on the site.
One of them could be you!



Amish Country ~ by Darlene Kuncytes

Last month I shared a bit about the city I call home – Cleveland.

This month I wanted to share a place that I truly love – pretty much right in my own back yard.

Holmes County, Ohio – or as we Ohioans call it, Amish country!


I have lived in Ohio my entire life and had no idea what a wonderful place was just a little over an hour and a half from me!

Years ago, I was invited to a weekend up in Holmes County by some friends, and as someone who is always up for an adventure, I of course, said sure! Count me in. I was positively blown away! It was amazing! Like nothing I had ever seen before.
Homespun Heaven!

There is Sugarcreek. Walnut Creek, Berlin and Guggisburg - all within minutes from each other! There are two flea markets that are filled with the most fabulous vendors. Candles, quilts, kitchen gadgets, …the list goes on and on!



There are cheese markets that will make your head spin with all the delicious choices that they offer.


There are farmers markets and bakeries! And restaurants that have the most unbelievable broasted chicken!
I love going there a few times a year and just soaking up the culture and food they offer. There is beautiful hand-made furniture that is beyond breath-taking.

I’ve been going there for probably fifteen years now and I STILL don’t think I’ve seen everything!

And fall!

Oh, the colors of the valleys. The vibrant reds, golds, oranges and yellows! People come from all over to experience and enjoy it!


I love hitting the open markets for my fall plants. The mums, home grown, are absolutely gorgeous.

It’s a great place to escape for a day, or overnight.

My mother loved going there, and my sister and I always made it a point to take her at least once every year. It was a special time for us. With loads of laughter and over-eating! Lolol

We would go with friends and family, and laugh until our sides hurt, and I treasure those memories now that she is no longer with us. I still smile every time we travel there, remembering them with such love.

It’s a place of simple pleasures that should be experienced by everyone. It’s just that beautiful.

Thank you for taking the time this month to read about a place that has a special meaning to me. I can’t wait to go again and will for many years to come.


Stay safe!
Dar

SERIOUSLY, SERIES ~ Laurie Schnebly Campbell


Would you ever consider writing a series?


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Seriously, it’s hard enough to write the first book – why on earth would you want to write two more? Or (gasp) five more? Or (clutch your chest and stagger) an open-ended series that lasts for 10, 25 or even 50 books?

Well, there are people who do it and love it. Which is lucky for readers who love series...and there are a lot of ‘em!


THE BEST OF SERIES

After all, we each have our favorite series. More likely, we each have our favorite six or eight series -- of which some may be relatively obscure and others are followed by millions of readers. While the less celebrated ones can be fabulous, those ranked as favorites tend to become bestsellers simply from word-of-mouth.

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Because, really, who HASN’T heard of Harry Potter? Stephanie Plum? James Bond? Katniss Everdeen? Eve Dallas and Roarke? Whether or not you’ve read their series, you very likely know something about ‘em...whether it’s just “yeah, I’ve seen those books” or “the next title is due out in __ weeks.”

What makes these series so popular?

There aren’t QUITE as many opinions as there are readers for each series, but most fans agree on at least some of what they especially like. The characters. The plots. The setting. The suspense. The humor. The drama. The voice.


Yet those are the same things readers love about stand-alone books, as well. So why do the series books tend to rank higher on the bestseller lists?


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It’s because there’s strength in numbers. If a reader can choose one fabulous stand-alone title or one fabulous series of books, they’re more likely to choose what offers them more hours of enjoyment. Same as choosing an exquisite piece of sushi or an exquisite five-course dinner, when the quality is good either way most people tend to go for quantity.

But does that mean you want to write a series?

Well, there are some advantages. And some disadvantages. Which speak more loudly to you?

WHY TO WRITE A SERIES

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If you have a story that’s just too big to contain in a single book, a series gives you the freedom to provide all the fascinating details and plot twists and character development that you’d have to leave out if the story had to be confined in a shorter space.

We already know, readers love series. They’ll happily grab Book Three or Book Twelve as soon as it comes out, whereas before buying a stand-alone they might need a bit more persuasion that this IS a book they’ll enjoy. Once they’ve committed to a series, they’re likely to stay on board.

Setting and character development are easier when your series features the same characters in the same place. Sure, it’s the same amount of work up front establishing who & when & where these people are, but once you’ve figured that out you don’t need to repeat the same amount of work for subsequent titles.

WHY TO AVOID A SERIES

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It may take more time than you have (or want) to invest. If your schedule doesn’t allow for much writing, you might rather use what few hours you DO have to create a book that can stand alone and be enjoyed as is -- without needing additional books to support the overall story arc.


If you love the adventure of creating new people and new worlds and new situations with every book, you might feel too constrained by a series. Why commit to something that’ll leave you bored and frustrated while readers are demanding more of the same?

Readers have higher expectations of a series. If the shop sign has changed color or the character’s motivation seems to have shifted between Book Two and Book Three, they’ll complain about it. They want things to stay the same, but they don’t want TOO much repetition...which is a tricky balance.

So, weighing the pros and cons, suppose you’re thinking about a series. That leads us right into: 


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WHAT TO CONSIDER

Before embarking on a series, there are several issues to address besides the fundamental one of “do I really want to do this?”


Type: What kind of series will this be? Is it suited for the genre you write?

Arc: Along with the individual story arc for each book, what will your series arc be?

Character/s: If there’s a main character, will this person be static or dynamic? How about the secondaries?
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Exposition: How will you keep long-term readers engaged without confusing the newcomers?

Time: How much time can you commit?


Style: Will this be first or third-person? What will the books have in common? What will make each story different?

Evolution: How long should this series last? How can you keep it fresh for you AND your readers?

Those are just a few of the things to consider, and they lead into

THE PRIZE QUESTION
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What makes you decide you DO or DON’T want to write a series? Or if you’re not a writer, what makes you decide you do or don’t want to read a series?

Someone who answers will win free registration to my class on “Writing A Series,” which will be held from June 1-12 at https://groups.io/g/Series with insights on all the issues above.
I can’t wait to see what you say!
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After winning Romantic Times‘ “Best Special Edition of the Year” over Nora Roberts, Laurie Schnebly Campbell discovered she loved teaching every bit as much as writing...if not more. Since then she’s taught online and live workshops for writers from London and Los Angeles to New Zealand and New York, and keeps a special section of her bookshelves for people who’ve developed that particular novel in her classes. With 43 titles there so far, she’s always hoping for more.

Summer Residents ~ by Jennifer Daniels

Living in the North country brings all kinds of summer visitors. Yes, there are some spring and summer residents you get used to seeing that come back yearly, like Philibert and Phyllis, our groundhogs.














We look forward to their arrival every year, they are so fluffy and cute to watch. They pretty much stick to themselves not bothering anyone. They are quiet and very respectful guests. Every now and again we shoo them out of the road, but for the most part they are a pleasure to have as visitors.



Then you always get those visitors that come that are such a loud nuisance like Bonnie and Clyde, the raccoons. 


They're cute and they know it, but that is no excuse for them to show up at 11 pm or later and start the partying. These two can throw down and party and when they decide to leave, they don't even bother to pick up the mess they have left behind. 

I have no problem with them eating the seeds out of the feeders, but when you are done hang them back up where you found them!















They had the audacity to throw my favorite feeder into the bushes two nights ago. How rude! Philibert and Phyllis never leave messes. But you will see here in exhibit’s A, B, C and so forth they have zero respect.

Tonight, our family will have a serious conversation with Bonnie and Clyde. If they do not straighten up there will be some serious consequences!

Until next month, stay safe and make sure to be practicing social distancing or you too may end up with a Bonnie and Clyde.

**All photos property of Jennifer Daniels and may not be used or replicated without her permission.

A bit about Artist Josh Kirkham

My name is Josh Kirkham. I'm a Landscape Painter out of Las Vegas NV! I’ve been painting for just over 13 months and I have more than 90 sales in my young career.

My intro into painting was a sad one... My wife lost her mother in late 2018. In order to cope with the sadness of our family’s loss, I started watching Bob Ross’s old shows on Netflix. For my birthday in 2019, my wife bought me the Bob Ross Brush Set and Paints! I quickly got to work painting using the techniques I learned from Ross' tutorials.


After a short while, I stopped trying to copy Ross’s Paintings and started creating my own compositions using the Wet on Wet technique his books had taught me.

Today I have my own YouTube channel where I share the
techniques I've learned over my short career in an attempt to help inexperienced painters get over the anxiety of trying something new.

Josh would love hearing from you. You can connect with him and/or purchase his work by clicking the links below.




**Photos used in this blog post are the property of Josh Kirkham and may not be reproduced without his permission.

Emeralds The Beauty of May ~ by Grace Augustine

The beautiful green emerald is the birthstone for May and the
suggested gift for 55th wedding anniversaries. This gem is one of the most desired and cherished for its color. Traces of chromium and/or vanadium in the mineral cause it to take on a green color. If the stone has trace amounts of iron, it will take on a bluish or yellowish green, depending on the stage of oxidation.

Emeralds are a hard stone, but because of its many inclusions, or flaws,  it is not very durable. Most of the gems are treated with oils or waxes that make the fractures less visible. When cleaning your emeralds, be careful. Use warm water with a mild soap and only when they need it.

Most of today’s emeralds are produced in Brazil, Colombia,
Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Sedimentary rocks, such as black organic shale or carabonaceous limestone are mined for the green beauty. Emeralds are also lab generated. Prices for lab generated stones can soar into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Emeralds are called the stones of successful love. They bring
freshness, unity, patience, compassion, and vitality to your spirit as well as healing on all levels.

To learn more about the precious emerald, please visit these sites.

Lakeside Living 9: Beaver Fever by Ruth Ross Saucier


               
The lake began life as a marsh more than fifty years ago. In a move that would not be allowed today, a developer dammed up the northern end of the stream with an earthen dam, and the marsh soon filled up creating a small lake. Well, it was really a large pond in most peoples’ eyes, and some used-to-be Texans I know remarked that in Texas it would be nothing more than a pothole. But it was water, and the local wildlife approved of the lake and the dam.

Particularly the beavers. Except, of course, they knew that it could be improved, so they set about nestling in and re-engineering the lake in ways that pleased them.  The stream and its new earth dam were a good start, but the beavers had bigger dreams. By the time I moved in and went
exploring, the beaver dam was a wall six feet high holding back a pond sixty to seventy feet across and fifty feet wide.

My home on the lake was bordered by woods mostly consisting of alders and fir trees. Beavers cut down trees and brush for both eating and building purposes. There is nothing more enticing to a beaver mama and her babies, though, than a lovely tender alder between three and eight inches in diameter—the perfect size for munching, cutting down, teaching babies, and ferrying to your perpetually growing home.  So it was inevitable that one day we found an alder eaten mostly all
the way through. Did you know that beavers typically eat about two thirds of a tree and leave it for the wind to blow down? While their motives are unclear, I suspect a beaver OSHA safety regulation. After ascertaining that the tree could slam into the house, we ended up having to cut the tree down ourselves.



In addition to the large beaver dam at the southern end, our local beaver colony had also built a small den on the northern end, directly across from my house.  This locale appeared to be the place for babies to be born and nurtured. Every spring and summer, baby beavers appeared, swimming purposefully in the cove, intent on nipping small brush and carrying it away to their local den with an underwater entrance.  The new babies hadn’t quite gotten control of their tails yet: their tails tended to float and they sculled with their tails up high, slapping the top water with great industry but little effectiveness at first. With time and practice they learned to zoom, but at no time did they ever forget themselves and just play like otters; their lives were busy with purpose and visions of damming the world.

But it was the huge beaver dam at the far end of the lake that was a marvel of engineering. The sheer volume of water it contained gave credence to a bit of local folklore.  Several years before I bought my house there, a few of the locals had evidently taken exception to the remodeling of their beaver neighbors. Not only had the beavers built a huge dam at Lake Symington, they had built a string of dams farther upstream as well. So some of the locals decided to blow up three of the beaver dams —simultaneously.  Each destroyed dam disgorged thousands of gallons of water, trees, brush, mud, and rotting muck into the stream, gathering momentum and volume as it flowed downhill into the lake.  The lake experienced a mini-tsunami, swamping yards and trampling boats and docks.  The homeowners were reputed to have been displeased; but I’m betting the beavers just saw it as a chance to remodel.




Writing Therapy ~ by Beth Worsdell

At a very young age, I fell in love with words and began to write poetry. It was a great way for me to pour out my emotions, and process everything that I didn’t understand, such as my parents’ divorce and a new life in a different city.

I also fell in love with books, which fueled my imagination and made my poetry more creative. Before long, I was writing poems for family members and special occasions, and I realized that words held power. Power to touch people's hearts, make them realize how special they are, and also give people comfort. As much as my writing was therapy for me, my writing was benefiting others too.

When my kids and I were T-boned by a truck in 2007 and I was left permanently injured, I turned to my poetry writing as a way to cope with the physical pain I was in. It was a wonderful distraction from my pain, a way to express my feelings and frustrations. It was a huge transitional phase for me. I was no longer the person I used to be, and I had to come to terms with the new me, with new physical limitations. What I didn’t expect, was my poetry evolving into songwriting.

As I sat at my kitchen table, trying to write a poem about two little girls, who had recently been murdered by a school janitor, I thought about the loss of these innocent children. I poured my words onto the paper before me. My words began to flow, but also a melody started to form in my mind. I was shocked, as I never even thought of trying to write songs, even though I was just as passionate about music.

I decided to go with it and find out where it would lead. Within a couple of hours, I had written my first song. Not being able to read or write music, I had to rely on my limited singing skills, to share my song with my husband and kids. When they actually loved my song, I was keen to see if I could write another. Before long I had written over ten songs, all about life, love, and the shenanigans in between.

It honestly felt like a natural progression. In my mind, I was still writing poetry, but now my poems were musical. I loved the flow of the songs and the way my words could be sung in so many ways. Some were ballads, while others were upbeat and would make you feel like dancing. While recovering from my accident over many years, my songwriting was not only a comfort to me, but it was a wonderful form of expressing my life changes. Being able to still do some of the things I enjoyed, pulled me out of the grief phase of my recovery.

Then in 2017 my writing took another turn.

I don’t usually remember my dreams, as I sleep like a log. However, one night I had the weirdest dream, that was so vivid, I told those close to me about it. I joked that it would make an epic movie like Avatar. The dream wouldn’t leave my thoughts and would pop into my mind on a regular basis.

After nearly three years, I finally decided I should write it down. Before I knew it, I had written three chapters and the story was continuously forming in my mind. After sharing those first chapters with my mum and sisters, and getting such a positive response, I decided to continue and Earth’s Angels was created.

It never ceases to amaze me, that we have so much creativity within us. Plus, the fact that our writing craft can evolve in ways we never thought possible. As a woman in her forties, who’s a mother of four, with chronic regional pain syndrome, I never thought I could be a published author. I’m thrilled that I can be an example of the expression “it’s never too late”. 


I have now published two highly rated books, and I am working on
the third of my Sci-fi fantasy Trilogy.

While writing and promoting my own books, I have also been interviewing other authors. This has been such an amazing experience. The authors I interview are all at various stages in their careers, and it’s wonderful to share their publishing journeys with other writers. So far, I have interviewed authors young and old, from fantasy to poetry, and they all have wonderful life stories to tell.

I honestly believe that we all have a story to tell, whether it's told in poetry form, a song or a novel. There are no limits for writing and I still love to write poetry, songs and books. You are never too young or too old, and it is never too late.

Beth Worsdell


Beth and her husband Ian have been happily married for over 20 years, spending most of their married life in Portsmouth, England. When Beth and her husband had the opportunity to move to America in 2011, they jumped at the chance. After five wonderful years of living in South Carolina, they now reside in California. You may connect with Beth at the links listed below.




Medieval Monastic Female Scribes by Lexa Fisher


Christine de Pisan, 1407 (Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain)

When we think of medieval monastic scribes it's likely that a tonsured male figure comes to mind. But women were also scribes! There are written records of this, such as necrologies that identify these women, and archaeological evidence that also points to these female artists.

The latest evidence to surface is the discovery of lapis lazuli in the teeth of a female monastic who lived at the monastery at Dalheim between 997 and 1162.

Why is this discovery of lapis lazuli in a nun's teeth so remarkable? This pigment was quite rare and therefore only the best artists were allowed access. Its use by female scribes indicates that they were just as highly skilled as their male counterparts.


 Silk repaired manuscript
In many ways, female and male scribes did the same work of copying manuscripts by hand onto parchment or velum sheets, most often using black ink made from oak galls. Nuns and monks also used rare pigments and gold leaf in manuscripts. But it is only in nunneries where we find silk threads used to repair manuscripts.


Alison on the right.
I became interested in female scribes during my Latin studies in college. One summer I was fortunate to have been admitted to a summer program on codicology (the study of old books) and paleography (the study of old handwriting) at Oxford University. There, I met Alison Beach, a fellow student who is now a professor of history at University of Saint Andrews. Alison has a blog on medieval female scribes at http://scriptrix.org/

While at Oxford we were allowed access to the Bodleian library. Access first required a swearing in (in Latin) by a robed librarian and signing of a pledge to treat the books with utmost care. Each item we wanted to view had to be brought from a storage area--no wandering the stacks here! All codices had to be handled while wearing white cotton gloves, and the pages were held open by beads resembling rosaries. It was a religious experience for our class of twelve, all who happened to be women.

Image from Wikipedia
During a weekend trip to London we visited the British library and were treated to a viewing of manuscripts written entirely on purple-dye vellum -- a Codex Purpureus. Purple dye came from snails found in the Mediterranean and was highly valuable. To have an entire book written on purple-dyed vellum was truly a rare treasure, and even rarer to have examples of these books today.

With the plethora of books so readily available to us today, it's easy to forget how precious these volumes were throughout history, and how much labor was required to produce them.










Following Your Dreams ~ by Diana Nixon

Today we welcome Author Diana Nixon, Founder and Editor in Chief of INKS AND SCRATCHES magazine.
                                        

Hello everyone!  It’s a pleasure to be a guest of this blog.

First of all, let me tell you a bit about myself.

So… I never thought I would become a writer. Back in high school I was sure I loved Law more than anything else in the world. Six years later, I got a Master of Law degree and dived into my new job as a lawyer. Which was never supposed to last forever.

Here goes a confession – when I was a kid, I HATED reading (smiles). That’s why it took me more than a decade to realize I couldn’t live without a book in my hands. I started swallowing one story after another, until one day I knew it – I wanted to write a book too. The ideas for Love Lines were overflowing my mind, so one month later I had a manuscript of 100k words ready to see the world.

Now what? I asked myself. Needless to say, I didn’t know anything about publishing a book. Excited about the idea of becoming a super popular author, I started sending my manuscript to different publishers. Just to receive their denials weeks later…

I can’t say I was devastated or anything. Probably because it was my very first book and I didn’t expect much from it.

Then a friend of mine came to my rescue and told me to try self-publishing. Back then, it wasn’t as common as it is now. Readers often compared self-published book with those released by the well-known publishers. And it was hard to gain their approval if there wasn’t a traditional published behind your name.

I thought I did a great job by writing a book and sending it to Amazon. But I was so wrong…

And so it was time to learn my first lesson – NEVER forget about
promotion. Now I know that promotion begins even before you start writing the first line of a new book. It all depends on how well readers know what you have in that mind of yours, and the ways to keep them on the edge on their seats until the moment they can read your new story.

Over the years, I realized that choosing to be a self-published author, you need to be ready to work 24/7, 365 days a year. Because even a short break will make you start everything all over again. Readers will lose their interest in your books and you will be as down as ever to write anything new.

One day, I came across an editor of a very popular, back then, literary magazine. She asked if I wanted to feature my works in that magazine. Of course, I was all for it. Until…

I saw how much I needed to pay for that advertisement.

I couldn’t afford it. It was beyond expensive even though my books sold well. So I declined the offer.

I think that was the moment I realized I wanted to do something to help other authors who always wanted to see their names in a magazine but didn’t know how to make it happen.

I started nursing the idea of opening a literary magazine. I talked to my friends who willingly agreed to become partners in that crime (smiles). I had an amazing designer to create a cover and there was an author I really wanted to interview because I always loved her books. So I contacted Wendy Higgins and patiently wanted for her response…

A few weeks later, I published the very first issue of Inks & Scratches with Wendy Higgins’ interview in it and her picture on the cover.

It was a true victory and I couldn’t be happier about it.

After some time, more and more authors started approaching me about featuring their books in the magazine and I knew I did the right thing by giving them what they wanted – a magazine, where everyone could talk about their stories, let their readers look inside their writing lives and maybe find new fans as well.

Today, the magazine is a home for everyone who has anything to do with writing, publishing and reading. We interview authors, we review books and we talk to readers. We discuss everything that a new author might face at the beginning of their career. And I truly hope it helps those who always wanted to create a story but were too afraid to go for it. Not to mention the happy smiles I can see on our featured authors’ faces when they receive a paperback copy of the magazine with their names in it. To me, as the founder of Inks & Scratches, it’s the best reward that I could have ever hoped for…

Visit our  WEBSITE to learn more:

Diana Nixon is an International bestselling author of contemporary
Diana Nixon
and fantasy romances. A Master of Law, she never thought she would betray the world of law and dive into fiction. She has written 19 books and can’t imagine her life without her fictional characters. She never stops thinking about the new story lines that haunt her dreams. She’s married and has two daughters - her biggest source of inspiration. She loves music, traveling, coffee, and chocolate. She believes that writing is the best cure, for everything can be healed with words.

Being Independent ~ by Bruno Skibbild

Forgive me for my spelling and grammar. English is not my first language reading is fine, talking better - and singing in English is almost ...