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The Good Life.
I am a professional musician  , worship leader  , small business owner  , songwriter  , aspiring author   and freelance nonfiction writer   with a chemical engineering degree  .

But that's just my resume.

My profile of qualifications is only one of the ways in which I am unique. Here I chronicle my personal and professional goals and my efforts to achieve them. Occasionally I fail. Mostly, I take daily baby steps toward all my long-term goals. Much like the stories I pen, the songs I compose, and the businesses I run, I am always a work in progress.

Merit Badge in Music
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  To a dear friend whose talent for writing music is sensational. May you have a fabulous New Year, (((Brandi)))!!! *^*Kiss*^*

Big hugs,
Sherri *^*Heart*^*  Merit Badge in Organization
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I don't know how you do it, but I assume there's magic involved *^*Bigsmile*^*  I have really enjoyed this month of planning and preparation for NaNoWriMo and I love how organized it all is.  Thank you for hosting a great challenge and for your dedication to helping so many of us prepare with confidence and trepidation for National Novel Writing Month (known to sane folks as 'November' *^*Laugh*^*) at your  [Link To Item #1474311] Merit Badge in Leadership
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For your hard work, commitment, talent and innovation in running the October NaNoWriMo Preparation each year, which helps many of us get our scattered thoughts together for November's novel-writing. And also because this badge has ducks on it.
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October 6, 2016 at 8:50am
October 6, 2016 at 8:50am
Traditional outlining involves organizing your plot information by act, chapter and scene and using indenting and numbering/lettering conventions to reflect levels.

Formal traditional outlining (not necessarily as it is applied to fiction outlining) uses the following conventions:

I. Roman numerals for the highest levels.
         A. Capital letters for the second level.
                   1. Numbers for the third level.
                             a. Lowercase letters for the fourth level.

The conventions are arbitrary, and you might do just as well with "Act 1" instead of I, "Chapter 1" instead of A, and "Scene 1" instead of 1. The point is to be consistent so that, at a glance, you can easily identify which level you're seeing.

In the context of a story, an outline might look something like this:

Act 1 or Book 1: Title or description (if applicable.)
         Chapter 1: Title or brief summary.
                   Scene 1: Description

You might also want to add another layer to include information like the characters who appear in the scene.

Act 1 or Book 1: Title or description (if applicable.)
         Chapter 1: Title or brief summary.
                   Scene 1: Description
                             Character 1: Name

Personally, I use a spreadsheet and don't bother with numbers or letters. I indent by one cell, and I can clearly see levels based on spreadsheet columns (which is basically the equivalent of indents.) Not numbering also allows me to easily insert rows or grab scenes and drag them around without renumbering my scenes every time I change the order.

But that's me. *Laugh* I'm a spreadsheet junkie. Word processing applications have built-in outlining features, and novel software like Scrivener and YWriter format outlines automatically.

Here's an example without numbering:

Act 1: The Journey
         Sally gets the bad news and must quickly move away
                   Robert calls Sally
                             Character: Robert
                             Character: Sally
                   Sally quits her job
                             Character: Sally
                             Character: Mr. Boss

Scenes in this format can be easily shuffled around using cut-and-paste or just highlight-and-drag.

Happy outlining!
September 5, 2016 at 7:47am
September 5, 2016 at 7:47am
I'm obsessing...

First, motorcycles are dangerous.

Keith and I were on his Harley, and our brother-in-law Scott was behind us on his. We were headed down a back road approaching town when we came upon a backlog of traffic, with half a dozen cars skewed at weird angles. Keith saw the problem before I did: two crotch-rocket motorcycles on their sides in the middle of the road, missing large chunks of body, with a trail of debris behind them, and no riders.

After a minute, my eyes found one of the riders, quite a ways away from the bikes, on his back in the middle of the road, with maybe two or three people leaning over him. I got off the bike called 911, but I wasn't the first caller. They already knew and were on the way.

Then I ran over to the man in the road, and as I approached, my eyes found the other rider: off the side of the road, in the grass, with a small crowd leaning over him, as well. I never got to see the other driver close up because I stayed with the guy in the road until the ambulance arrived. If you've never been in that situation, the ambulance takes FOREVER.

His buddy knelt behind his head, talking to him, and his girlfriend paced, texting and wiping tears from her eyes. I held the victim's hand and talked to him. For a minute, I held the girlfriend's hand, too. The scene was pretty bloody, but not as bad as it could have been, considering. His face was beat up, his lips and eyes swelling up as I watched, and he had a giant cut - a hole, almost - above his right eye, which, along with the hole in the back of his head that I learned about later, probably contributed to the puddle of blood at my feet, about a foot away from his head.

Two women who had been eating at the McDonald's a couple hundred yards away were off-duty EMT's and responded to the scene before the ambulance did. One gave instructions to the buddy, who told her the victim's name was Eric. She told the buddy to hold his head still by placing his hands over his ears. The buddy took off his shirt and the EMT helped ball it up like a pillow under the victim's head. Eric was squirming and asking the same questions over and over: Where am I? What happened? How did it happen. The buddy gave the same answers: On route 40. You and Travis crashed. I don't know; I think you hit each other. Occasionally, Eric called out for his buddy and his girlfriend, and they reassured him that they were right there.

The EMT asked Eric how old he was. He thought about it a moment then said, I had a birthday. I was born in '89. She asked if he knew who was president, and he didn't. He couldn't remember his birthday. He started complaining that his face hurt, and his buddy, the EMT, another woman, and I kept telling him he had a fat lip and a "little" cut over his eye, but reassured him that it was fine, not a big cut. (Bald-face lies.)

The ambulance eventually did arrive, and they got both men on stretchers. I asked the other EMT how the other guy was, and she shook her head with a grave look and said, "He has an open skull fracture." Since they were loading up the ambulances, I got out of the way, talked to the police, etc. The police spray-painted the locations of the debris and victims and dumped sand over puddles of blood and spilled oil and fuel. A helicopter arrived, and they loaded up Eric, but not the other guy, and that worried me - a LOT. As the emergency vehicles started driving away, Keith, Scott and I got back on the bikes and headed off.

I'd heard Eric's last name, and I was able to find him on social media. Eric's sister and I share a mutual friend (things like that surprise me less and less), so I texted the mutual friend and asked her to message the sister and make sure the family knew they were on the way to the hospital. She did already know but said she appreciated the message.

One of Eric's brothers posted on social media last night, which is how I found out about the cut on the back of his head:

"Update on Eric:

Hes doing as well as we can ask considering the situation. Major cut above his right eye and cut on the back of his head. Both required staples. Minor fracture of his right eye socket that needed no medical attention. Broken left wrist and in alot of pain throughout his body (dr informed us there was nothing else wrong, just roughed up). Continued positive thoughts for a speedy recovery. "

After feeling gratitude that he sounded like he was going to be okay, my next thought was to think, oh, no, I was holding his hand, and he had a broken wrist! Then I remembered it was the right hand, not the left, and felt better.

But I'm still creeping on this family, because I can't figure out who the other victim was or if he's okay, and it has me worried sick. No news outlets responded to the scene, and so far, Google searches have produced nothing. The brother's post about Eric's condition is the only thing I've seen about the accident online, except for Eric's mom posting to ask if anyone would take her work shift today (the commenters all clearly knew why), and I wouldn't have found either of those things if I hadn't known his last name and been able to identify his photo.

Keith was obsessing over it last night, too. He doesn't wear a helmet because he doesn't want to, and I don't because the one we got for me is too tight and gives me a headache, and we haven't gotten out to buy me a new one. But beyond saying we're going to wear helmets from now on, Keith was even talking last night about getting rid of the motorcycle... that he just bought this spring. Don't get me wrong; we ride at slow speeds, on back roads, with caution and close attention to our surroundings, whereas these two kids were riding crotch rockets and, judging by the length of the debris trail, were going way too fast. Still, the whole thing scared the shit out of both of us. These guys had literal holes in their heads.

I just wish I could find some news on the other guy. I lost sleep over it.

Motorcycles are dangerous.
May 31, 2016 at 8:55am
May 31, 2016 at 8:55am
It's been a long three weeks. All-weekend recitals, graduation ceremonies and parties, an employee out having surgery and I had to help cover on my normal days off, and we got a new puppy (see Facebook or Instagram!)

Yesterday (Monday, Memorial Day) was my first day completely off - where I didn't have to go to church or school or Potbelly for one thing or another - since, um, I dunno, Monday, May 9th? It was bliss.

I spent the whole day yesterday refusing to leave the house. When Keith asked if I wanted to go for a motorcycle ride and/or get ice cream at Graeter's, I declined both offers because, "I have showered, I don't want to get dressed, and this is the first day in three weeks I haven't been required to leave the house for some reason or another." I played Minecraft all day and binge watched The X-Files.

The good news? I accomplished a really big goal in Minecraft (conquer an ocean monument) and I may be over the Minecraft bug for awhile.

My mother-in-law is losing her short-term memory. She's had several strokes and TIA's which have done irreversible damage to her brain. Sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it's frustrating and sad. My husband does a good job of teasing her and keeping it light so we can all - including my MIL - find humor in the whole situation.

I've decided to start logging Roberta memory incidents. I'm not sure what I'll do with them later. Maybe they'll go in a book. Maybe I'll start a dementia blog. Maybe we'll just reread them later to track changes in her symptoms.

This is a recurring story now, having happened at least three times of which I'm aware. Yesterday, she brought Blaine into the story.

Roberta came upstairs from her basement apartment yesterday. I was on the couch covered in puppies. She asked where everyone (meaning my husband, Keith, and 18-year-old stepson, Blaine) was. I told her Keith and Blaine had gone to Keith's nephew's house to help him move.

Roberta said, "Oh. Well, my TV just quit all of a sudden."

I started to get up, dumping the dogs off my lap, to go help her. Technology problems are common occurrences, which is one of the reasons she lives with us now. We used to drive 20 minutes away to help her get her TV back onto Channel 4.

But then, Roberta continued, "I can't find the remote."

Ruh-roh. I knew what was coming next.

"I think Keith took my remote."


I replied, "Keith didn't take your remote. It doesn't operate anything except your TV."

"Really? It doesn't? Well, he came downstairs for something! What was that? Oh, that's right. To get ice cream."

That part was true, so I nodded.

"Well, I'll just go look for my remote. Maybe it fell in the couch cushions." She headed back down the stairs, pulling the door closed behind her.

I relaxed back into my seat, and puppies climbed back into my lap.

Five minutes later, she was back.

"I can't find my remote. I swear Keith took it."

"Keith didn't take your remote."

"Maybe Blaine took it." (That was new. She'd accused Keith, but never Blaine.)

"Blaine didn't take your remove. Why would he take your remote?"

"I think he said he needed to borrow it."

"He didn't borrow your remote. It doesn't operate anything in this whole entire house except your TV."

"Really? It doesn't?"

She was getting distressed, so I dumped the puppies off my lap and walked across the kitchen to the basement door.

"Come on, Roberta, I'll help you find it. Maybe the dog thought it was a chew toy." To Thomas, the new puppy: "Did you run off with Grandma's remote? Did you think it was a chew toy?"

I knew he didn't, but that was my way of lightening her distress.

We went downstairs. I pulled all the cushions off the couches, and she checked down the sides of the recliner. While I disassembled the couches, she said, "I already checked there, I stuck my hands down in between the cushions and didn't find it."

"Maybe you walked off with it and left it somewhere. That's something I would do."

That was my way of calming her down, telling her that it's okay that she lost her remote, because people lose things all the time.

"No, I was sitting here watching it."

She can be very stubborn and argumentative. (I don't know anyone else in this household like that.)

"Oh!" she cried. "Here it is! It was on the bookshelf."

She had moved it from her little table to the bookshelf to make room on the little table for her tablet.

"Oh, good!" I said. "And next time you lose your remote, the bookshelf will be the first place I check."

Later, when I recounted the story to Keith, after laughing at the whole getting-accused-of-taking-the-remote thing, he said, "That's always where she puts it. On her bookshelf."

May 20, 2016 at 7:57am
May 20, 2016 at 7:57am
I used to make a lot of money. I earned an engineering degree and worked in management in manufacturing. I managed employees in production, maintenance, and quality assurance at different points in my career. I had good health benefits, and I was "breaking the glass ceiling" as an upwardly-mobile female in a largely male dominated world.

I left it all behind.

When I opened the music school, I had experience working for a competitor and thought, "I can do this better." I was right. I also thought I could make a lot of money. I was wrong.

Back up a minute... that's not true. I *could* make more money. I choose not to.

What?! Why would anyone do such a thing?

...apparently, because I'm a bleeding heart.

Every time I had the opportunity to increase my income - every time my revenue exceeded my expenses again (that's called a "profit," if you didn't know) - I chose to improve the lives of the people around me instead. My reception manager complained that the employees couldn't get everything done. Instead of challenging her to work harder, I gave her more hours. I gave raises to two managers because, frankly, I don't pay any of my employees enough. I approved budgets for better teacher snacks and student prizes. I gave people more hours and better pay.

My family suffers for it now. When my husband lost his job (again), I couldn't help but feel bad about that. But for the most part, I'm personally content with my own income.

Yet I waffle at times. I remember my old job, with the boss I hated and the us-versus-them politics, where I was taking strides toward that glass ceiling. When my little brother (he's 36) passed six figures in his job, that coveted level both my parents had already achieved, I lamented the fact that I could be there right now, too. I choose not to because I'm happier, I love my job, and I feel like I'm making a difference to my community and the people around me. But sometimes, I'm jealous.

When Keith lost his job, I calculated our family budget and determined that we could afford for him to cut his salary in half. His high-paying jobs are stressful, and he hates the stress. I've counselled him repeatedly that if he would just choose to pay for the cheaper cable, live in a smaller house, and keep his cute little 900 Kawasaki instead of trading it in for a limited edition Harley Davidson, he could earn even less. "Live below your means." Live happy.

I want to be a writer. It's a crazy goal, considering I already balance three jobs and en unemployed husband (who requires sooooo much more of my time now than he did when he went off to work every day.) And, sometimes, I want to make a lot of money doing it.

Recently, I had a conversation with myself. (Don't judge; you do it, too.) I realized that I secretly hoped to be the next Rowling (or whomever; insert-your-favorite-wealthy-author.) I wanted to hit it big.


Is it for the money? How hypocritical would that be after all the advice to the contrary I've given my own husband? I've promised him that I can be happy with a much lower standard of living, and yet, I secretly dream of wild financial success?

Or maybe it's the fame. Is it the fame?

I thought back to what makes me happy as a musician, music educator, and business owner. I remembered that in practice, I'm really a bleeding heart. Even if I earned huge success as a writer, I would probably use it to pay my editors, illustrators, and publicists more. I'd probably hold lavish giveaways and throw money or free books at my fans, like Oprah does with cars.

Here's the thing: The fear of failure has been holding me back. And somehow, I've defined failure as anything less than that Rowling-level success.

What if I approached writing like I approach my music business? What if I didn't worry so much about the success or the money, but just worried that the lives of my music students readers are improved by the service I offer? What if I just teach perform write with wild abandon, with oodles of love in my heart, and just let the fame and fortune fall where it may?

I've done that with my business. I may not be earning a lot of money, but I've made up the difference in friendship and loyalty. Maybe that should be my writing goal, too.
May 3, 2016 at 9:21am
May 3, 2016 at 9:21am
After seven months of unemployment, my husband landed a high-level job at a large local banking corporation. He was very excited about the high salary, higher than the already-high salary he had been earning at his previous job before they shut down and laid everyone off.

...until he came home from work the first week. They had thrown him in like a frightened puppy in a pond full of piranha. When he reached out a hand, he was told to swim faster.

After two months in the job, despite the sheer amount of vocabulary, political hierarchies, and general culture he had learned, he was told that he was not meeting expectations... though the bosses (two of them) could not wholly articulate which expectations he failed to meet.

I think part of him was relieved to be out of the piranha pool.

But the other part is lost and confused. This whole process has taught him that he does not enjoy the work he's qualified to do, the work he's done for nearly two decades. He's starting from Square 1.

Luckily, we live well below our means and can afford for him to earn less - significantly less. Unluckily, we don't live so far below our means that he can start over with an entry-level position.

We're exploring options.

April 25, 2016 at 6:28am
April 25, 2016 at 6:28am
My favorite new setlist addition: Hey There Delilah by Plain White T's. I forgot how awesome that song is, and it has some fun acoustic fingerwork on the guitar.

Here's the list, including some re-launches I haven't played in awhile:

* Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
* When I Come Around - Green Day
* Ordinary Day - Vanessa Carlton
* Nightswimming - REM
* Leap of Faith - Michelle Branch
* Edge of Seventeen - Stevie Nicks
* Every Breath You Take - The Police
* Daniel - Elton John
* Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight - James Taylor

I also added but have not yet tried to play:
* Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty
* Is This Love - Bob Marley
* Criminal - Fiona Apple

I'm just not sure if Criminal is going to work, since Fiona's songs are so piano-heavy. It might take actual work to adapt it to guitar.

And it's time to break out some new current music. Last week I had a request for - shudder - Sorry by Justin Bieber ........anyone else think that song sounds like a ripoff of Fireflies?

Ooh. I should learn Fireflies.

In the meantime, I leave you with this for your entertainment.

April 8, 2016 at 9:00am
April 8, 2016 at 9:00am
New songs I've added to my setlist this week:
- Baby, I Love Your Way by Peter Frampton
- I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base
- A Thousand Years by Christina Perri

Theoretically I already launched I Saw the Sign but I didn't like my arrangement on the first run. I rock me some Christina Perri. *Mic*

Food log:
7:00am 6pt Coffee and Larabar
9:00am 2pt Half English muffin w/ham & cheese

Running total: 8 pts


April 7, 2016 at 7:35am
April 7, 2016 at 7:35am
Food Log for Thursday
7:00am 2 pt, coffee
7:30am 2 pt, half English muffin w/ham and cheese
10:00am 2 pt, half Zone Perfect bar
2:00pm 7 pt, skinny roast beef sammich
4:30pm 3 pt, Cheetos
6:00pm ??? El Vaquero: cup Azteca soup, Guatalajara salad, and uncounted tortilla chips that weren't even that good.

Total pts so far: 16+??? pt
Target pts per day: 27-30 pt

I had a cold in January, and the cough lingers still. I think I got a new bug last week, and the cough suddenly got worse again.

I played at Potbelly Polaris. I left my gear set up to save time on Sat.

I coughed all through praise band practice, so I called out sick at Potbelly.
Keith took me to urgent care, and I got a prescription cough syrup.

I went to church, but felt lightheaded. Told the band I was on promethazine, and Wes (who's a cop in addition to an amateur electric guitarist) said, "You know that's a narcotic, right?" and demanded to see my pupils. I ended up lying on a couch outside the sanctuary mumbling instructions to my group that they couldn't hear, like, "sing MELODY, Rachel!" I taught youth praise band practice (and discovered my almighty influence over the kids when all I had to do was raise both hands for the room - full of a dozen 7-to-12-year-olds with a variety of musical instruments in their hands - fell utterly silent.) Then I went home and slept from 1pm until 7am Monday morning, with a brief 7pm dinner break.

As much as I wanted to stay home and sleep all day, I had to teach that night, and nobody was available to sub. I worked from 3:40pm - 9:00pm.

I stayed home and mostly slept, though I worked on my "Lists! for Elle's Lists! activity just for fun. I had no trouble sleeping through the night despite sleeping on and off all day, which means I'm either legitimately sick, or that's one kick-ass narcotic.

Since I left my gear set up in Potbelly Polaris on Friday and then called out sick on Saturday, I had no gear when I tried to play at Potbelly Reynoldsburg yesterday. Oops. All I had was my guitar, so I had to sing with no microphone (I screamed for two hours, which felt great on my throat. See: "sick" and "cough meds.") I loaned my capo to Wes Sunday and have no idea what I did with it when he gave it back, so I had to sing things lower than usual, which is hard to hear (see: "no microphone.") And the WiFi kept dropping, so I had to play from memory and remember songs that specifically don't need a capo and which are in good keys for screaming. (see "screamed for two hours.")

After that, I went to work in Gahanna for a staff meeting, and I was supposed to go to Polaris afterwards to teach. I found a sub and went home instead. I felt like a fraud when I left Gahanna to come home because I had high energy, but Wes informs me that promethazine has conflicting effects: it both wires you and knocks you out. And, damn it, I want to kick this cough! Teaching for two hours is not conducive to kicking a cough. So I let my students down and sent them a sub.

This morning, I woke up determined to drop the meds and get back to life. I came downstairs and broke into a coughing fit while prepping the coffee.

....I took the promethazine. *Rolleyes*

Peace and *Sleeping*,


April 6, 2016 at 8:36am
April 6, 2016 at 8:36am
It's time to try this again.

7am: 2 pt, coffee
7am: 2 pt, half English muffin with thin sliced Swiss and ham
9am: 1 pt, coffee
9am: 4 pt, apple Laerabar
10am: 2 pt, tbsp peanut butter (REAL PB)
11am: 2 pt, half a Zone Perfect bar
2pm: 7 pt, Skinny beef on multigrain
6pm: 6 pt, crustless pot pie (Healthy Choice micro meal)
7pm: ? pt, two scoops double churned caramel w/Hershey's choco sauce and three cherries

I was at 26 (which is very good!) until I went nuts on the ice cream. That's what happens when I stop keeping track. Pthb It was low fat ice cream, at least.

Target max: 27 pts? probably more like 30 until I get down to 180.
Current wt: 199, if you believe the doc's scale at the urgent care Saturday.
Target wt: 180, then 160, then 150
March 17, 2016 at 10:50am
March 17, 2016 at 10:50am
Sigh. I'm pushing 200 lbs again. I was once down to 145... three quarters of my current weight. It's time to take action.

I fucking hate the control food has over my life.

6:30 - 1 pt: Coffee
7:00 - 3 pt: Half multigrain English muffin w/turkey sausage & American cheese
9:00 - 6 pt: Froot Loops (which I just kept eating like an idiot)
10:30 - 1 pt: Thin-sliced swiss cheese and a slice of ham
1:45 - 7 pt: Skinny roast beef sandwich
4:00 - 3 pt: Fiery Cheetos
6:30 - 2 pt: Two Do-Si-Dos

Running total: 23 points. Target: 27, but I'll be happy with 30.

More to come.
March 16, 2016 at 11:07am
March 16, 2016 at 11:07am
Kidding, it's just a food log.

Recording my food again. Forgive me for being boring. I'll start wisecracking on a routine basis again, I promise. For now, I give you, my uber-healthy meals thus far today:

6:30 - 1pt: Coffee
7:00 - 2pt: half multigrain English muffin with thin-sliced Swiss and ham
9:00 - 2pt: tablespoon of peanut butter
11:00 - 4pt: cal, one bratwurst......
1:45 - 7pt: Skinny roast beef sammich
4:00 - 4pt: Larabar
5:30 - 7pt: McDonald's cheeseburger
5:45 - 4pt: McDonald's caramel sundae
8:30 - 4pt: Larabar

TOTAL: 35 points

This has to be more interesting than the current US political situation, right?

More later,


February 7, 2016 at 7:43am
February 7, 2016 at 7:43am
I'm looking for feedback about this article before I publish it in the church newsletter:

I love traditional worship. I grew up on LBW Setting 2, and I find comfort in its familiarity. I believe traditional worshippers prefer the traditional format for the same reason: because it brings them comfort.

Contemporary worship is comfortable for people who did not grow up in the church. The songs sound like something they might hear on the radio. The pastor's message resonates with their everyday lives. It brings them comfort, and they want to come back.

I realize that worship is not necessarily supposed to be comfortable. Worship is our expression of love for our God, and love should be unconditional and sometimes sacrificial. And sometimes, those messages from the pastor and the songs make us think really hard, or bring tears to our eyes, or make us realize the things we want to change about ourselves.

But I'm not just a worshipper. I'm a worship leader. And how can I be a fisher of men if I can't bring people to God in the first place? How can I be a fisher of men if I can't keep people coming back to worship again?

God called me to lead contemporary worship by giving me two intersecting gifts: leadership and contemporary music. It turns out that I can both rally a group of volunteers and play and sing modern music, and that makes me the ideal contemporary worship leader.

I believe that traditional and contemporary worship are equally important because they bring different groups of people to worship. God has called me to lead contemporary worship, and so that's what I do.

Hopefully you didn't skip ahead to this paragraph, because I'd like to know your untainted reactions to the article. I wrote the article because I got the brush-off from a traditional worship person again. I've been leading contemporary worship in my church for fifteen years now, since 2001, and there were people at the time who scoffed and acted annoyed that there were drums in their worship space and who generally don't like contemporary worship. They associate me with my worship service, and therefore, give me the cold shoulder and otherwise treat me disrespectfully. It happened again yesterday, and I think it's ridiculous that it hasn't stopped in fifteen years. I want to know if my annoyance comes off in the article. I'm trying to be political without being obvious about it. I'm trying to lovingly chastise, if that's even a thing. Your thoughts?
October 8, 2015 at 6:22am
October 8, 2015 at 6:22am
Yesterday, the Prep assignments centered around marketing and audience. In the Prep forum, several discussions have cropped up about building a writer's platform. Participants have had some good advice about establishing a website, maintaining a blog, and creating a presence on social media. But in my opinion, all the advice I've ever read on this topic, while not incorrect, has been missing one key ingredient, and it's the ingredient that makes the difference.

My two cents, reposted from the forum:

Your platform isn't just about your writing. It's about YOU.

This is a BRAND you're building. Have you chosen a delicate border for your website laced with pretty flowers? You must be feminine... even if you're trying to write a war novel, your brand gives you away as having a softer side. Bright colors on your blog? You're either young, or you love young people (and probably target them as your readers.)

What's your personality? What are your interests? If you have a hobby, but it's not something you necessarily write about, it's part of your brand. Passionate about political topics or social concerns? Part of your brand. Are you a forklift operator in your day job? IT'S PART OF YOUR BRAND.

Just like your characters should be whole, well-rounded people, so should your author persona. Why? Because it makes you more memorable. Do you have any idea how many authors out there are saying things like, "I want mass appeal," or "my target audience is all readers!"?? If that's truly your goal, then expect to get lost in the crowd.

Readers will not magically stumble across your book. Even with a publisher, you will have to work to grow your readership. Word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool in literature (out of the last dozen books you read, how many did you read because someone suggested it to you?) - but word-of-mouth only works if you have initial readers to start spreading the word. The stronger your grassroots following, the faster word of your book will spread (assuming your followers enjoyed it.)

And where do you think those grassroots followers will come from? They're your friends and family. Your writing peers here on WDC. The people you do that hobby with on Tuesday nights. The folks down at the soup kitchen where you serve the homeless on Saturdays. The coworkers who drive forklifts with you at your place of employment.

So build a platform - a brand - that celebrates you, the author. Be intimate with the world. Stop with the safe, uber-professional author platform that makes you just another one of the masses who are all trying to accomplish the same thing in the same way. Put yourself out there so you stand out, because YOU are the only YOU, and you are more than just another author making a cookie-cutter blog and website and trying to catch a break.

You're so much more than that.

October 2, 2015 at 8:33pm
October 2, 2015 at 8:33pm
This transcript comes from an IM dialog, but it summarizes the scope of my story arc and my potential 2015 projects. Any thoughts or questions are welcome.

Synopsis of the Story Arc:
*Bullet* The Elements and Elemental Magic rule. If they don't stay in Balance, the world ends or something.
*Bullet* The Elements almost take each other out (in antiquity) so they created the Druid Order to maintain Balance.
*Bullet* To prevent the Elements from being too powerful, they created their Champion Races and imbued them with a portion of their power
         *Bullet* Leviathans represent Water and contain a portion of Water's power
         *Bullet* Witches, Air
         *Bullet* Ursae, Earth
         *Bullet* Dragons, Fire
*Bullet* Merlin (an early Druid) fell in love with Nimue (a leviathan) and proved interspecies love was possible.
*Bullet* Quiver woos the witch Midge as an experiment since it worked with Nimue.
*Bullet* Midge bears the half-witch, Molly
*Bullet* The dragons launch a plot to overpower their peers and their patron (Water) by overpopulating and taking more and more of his power - Fire weakens.
*Bullet* A prophecy says the heir of Quiver will bring about the destruction of the Elements. The ursae think that means Molly and declare war on the witches and Druids.
*Bullet* The dragons join the ursae against the witches and Druids mostly for fun and in the end, all the witches die except Molly and Mildred (the youngest witch) - Air fades almost entirely.
*Bullet* Wisdom (Quiver's apprentice) steals the Butterfly Stone (the source of magic), proving she was the object of the prophecy, not Molly.
         *Bullet* The fairies are the neutral party among the Champion Races, peers to the witches, leviathans, etc. but not beholden to an Element... and therefore they're the Keepers of Magic
*Bullet* With the Elements out of Balance and the Butterfly Stone gone, the fairies all die
*Bullet* Kaleb (a young Druid) falls in love with Mildred (legitimately, not the way Quiver did) and they bear children...

And, essentially, Life Magic is able to replace Elemental Magic.

The overriding theme of the story arc, besides things like friendship and loyalty and bravery, is "change is inevitable."


I just like the character Tan'rothia, and I feel like she's got a story to tell. But it's got to be a tragic one, because they only thing that really happens in this story arc is that they all die. They step in now and then before that happens - but just to send messages, sway opinions, nothing plot-worthy. I can just see the death of the fairies because a fantastically tragic story. Wisdom steals the stone, and their powers start to fade. They take steps to try to replace the magic, but with the Elements out of Balance, they just don't have enough oomph to do it. Throughout the story, more and more of her close friends and family will die, along with statistical scores (and therefore less tragic) of her people... that will be tragic for Tan'rothia but less so for the reader because we'll never meet those fairies. But we WILL meet her sister and some other key characters that are close to her. And she'll watch them all die before she dies herself. Fairies are the keepers of magic, but magic also sustains the fairies........

I'm having an idea.


Okay, and remember I might be messing some of the details of the story arc up... it's long and complex and I haven't gotten through all my rereads yet this year. But basically... I was wrong about Quiver, he didn't know about Life Magic (I knew that felt wrong) - the Healers are the only ones who know, and they've been passing it down for generations. Kaleb is the Druid Healer when he falls in love with Mildred, so he knows about Life Magic and is able to create the magic when they fall in love. If he were any other Druid, I'm not sure it would have happened.

But I've always had the fairies as the representative of Life - I said they were neutral, but actually, they're just neutral with respect to the Elements, who represent Non-Life. In fact, there's a courtyard in the center of the Druid Fortress with statues honoring the four Elements - and a giant butterfly (I'm not kidding, colossal coincidence, lol) representing Life. The fairies are the champions of Life. So it seems to me that if Kaleb manages to bring about Life Magic in time, he might save the fairies. Probably not all of them. Maybe even just Tan'rothia.

But here's the problem - the stories are concurrent. They're not the same book!! Tan'rothia has her own story, while Kaleb (known later by his Druid name, Emergence), has his own story. They have their own book titles, lol! (Tan'rothia and Emergence, of course)


I have several other projects I was thinking of writing first, though. Incomplete stuff:

1. Quest of the Last Witch
The Elements give Mildred a quest, which is basically to impregnate her and revitalize Air, who is almost vanished. Traditionally, witches procreate via magic (that's how Mildred was born, she had nothing to do with Quiver.) Mildred succeeds in the quest and gets pregnant. I started this book, I think 2012? and never finished it.

2. Warrior's Redemption
Probably last on my list. It has to do with Wisdom (who trains Betsy to become a warrior) running off with the Butterfly Stone after hurting Betsy pretty badly. Betsy is looking for revenge, and meanwhile, a Druid is trying to get the Stone back. They fail... I think... this is starting to make me think even more that maybe Tan'rothia's story should be built into the other books. But I'm not sure. I like her so much I'd like to give her a book of her own.

3. Quiver's Heir
The third book of the War of the Witches trilogy that I didn't finish last year, which is when Wisdom steals the Stone. Gah! All my books are so freaking tied together.

4. To Woo a Witch
Love story between Quiver and Midge. I'm not sure if I'll give it a happy ending or go a little farther to the point where Midge discovers his deception and it ends tragically between them, except for the birth of her little girl, Molly. I'm leaning that way because the reader will either have clues or know outright that Quiver is deceiving her. Hence, this is the "tragic" love story I mentioned.

5. Emergence
The story of Kaleb and Mildred falling in love, and the creation of Life Magic.

Then I also had Tan'rothia on the list. I just dunno.

I think it's between Emergence and Tan'rothia, or possibly a combination of the two, but I might also finish Quest. I'll scratch off the other three. I sort of need Quest finished to write Emergence. Because she succeeds in her quest and gets pregnant, which brings about a new hope that Air will grow strong again, so it's a happy ending. But she loses the babies later... that's what Emergence is about. Kaleb (Emergence) is the Druid Healer, and the last witch - pregnant, and the only hope for the recovery of Balance - is very ill, loses the babies, and is in danger of dying. So Kaleb goes to heal her, and that's how they fall in love.

Or I could tell Tan'rothia with the tragic ending, where only she survives, maybe because she's queen and transcends the need for the magic (that seems backward, somehow.)

But the bottom line, her story ends before the climax of Emergency. Then Emergence comes along... and we bring Tan'rothia into the book, AFTER her tragedy, after she loses her nation of fairies, for a sort of bittersweet new ending for her: she's lost her people, but maybe because of Life Magic, she will be able to rebuild the nation.

I've got a time problem anyway...

In 5100, the War of the Witches ends, the witches die, Air fades, and Wisdom steals the Stone.
Eleven years later, we meet Mildred and the children, and stuff starts to really happen... the quest, Mildred gets pregnant, she and Emergence fall in love (probably in year 12.)

So it's a dozen years from the time the stone is taken until Life Magic replaces Elemental Magic. Which means - either the fairies hung in there for a really long time, or they died years ago and Tan'rothia hung on that long.

I think I like that option. Her story takes place BETWEEN War of the Witches and Poor Witch. And it's tragic.


September 30, 2015 at 7:05am
September 30, 2015 at 7:05am
I create these giant projects for myself - you know, like Prep and NaNo - to avoid "real" work (which, for me, is essentially other giant projects of which I've grown tired.) I shouldn't NaNo, or Prep, or I Write, or perhaps even run the Prep, but I shall, because "sorry, I can't attend that staff meeting because I have to write" just sounds like such a fabulously legit excuse. Who's gonna argue with that? "I have to go binge watch Supernatural" or "I have to spend about twelve hours checking out the new Halo game" make people roll their eyes, but "I have to write" makes people gape in awe.

At least, I think that's awe in their eyes. ?

Food Log: 9/29/15
Krispy Kreme donuts. Two of them.

I ate other food, but it all pales in comparison. I have an excuse, though: I had a day:

*Bullet* Generally busy day already with back-to-back appointments

*Bullet* Two employee resignations
----- both mostly welcome but I still have to find time to replace them
----- one gave zero notice due to "powerful connections" he needs to pursue immediately
----- "powerful connections" offered to sit down and give my advice about running my business

*Bullet* Two barely-operational toilets in Gahanna

*Bullet* I yelled at my MIL because she was yelling at my husband to "do something" about the fact that it was raining outside and my cats were getting wet in their gazebo

*Bullet* I felt sick from overeating.

About the cats: They've been outdoor cats since about 2003. They each have their own dog house, which in the past has been outfitted with a heating pad, piles of blankets, and insulation (just layers of fabric) applied to the interior ceiling. Since my husband, mother-in-law, and I moved into a house together, they now have their very own gazebo, furnished with a comfy wicker patio set that looks like living room furniture: love seat, two armchairs, and a coffee table. PLUS the dog houses. And MIL nags, nags, nags, nags every damn day that the roof in the gazebo leaks, it's wet in there, and Keith needs to fix the roof so those poor (outdoor, remember) cats can stay dry!! When she complains about it in front of me, she's cautious and mostly polite, but when she doesn't know I'm there (so I discovered yesterday from the privacy of the foyer powder room), she literally yells at him and will not back down. I was so pissed. They're not even her cats. And she just doesn't have anything better to do. So I flushed (ahem, I'm in here, MIL!), stepped out of the restroom, and unloaded my day on her. Not literally - good heavens, we don't tell her things because, remember, she has nothing better to do, so every little thing becomes the biggest drama. I didn't tell her about my day. I just shot her down about the stupid cat situation, venting all of my built-up frustration in this one dialog. I probably hurt her feelings.

Go, me.

So, yeah. That was my day yesterday, and I ate two Krispy Kreme donuts. I felt better after the donuts. The overeating happened at dinner, when my unemployed and very sweet husband made us salads with wayyyy too much grilled chicken and egg, and I ate the whole thing (after my 2-donut afternoon snack.)

It was an uncomfortable night... we both had too much egg on our salads.

But on the bright side:



September 29, 2015 at 6:49am
September 29, 2015 at 6:49am
I don't want to talk about it. I had birthday cake (after I'd already had birthday key lime pie the day before) and tortilla chips at the Mexican restaurant (decidedly fewer than usual, but more than the zero I was supposed to be allowed.)

I decided that I'm going to continue restricting my diet through October, but I'm going to quit with the PB&J's or even the plain PB. I'm still addicted to sugar, people. Maybe I should even try half-n-half in my coffee instead of sweet creamer. It's sugar free, but sweetened with an artificial sweetener. I've heard that artificial sweeteners continue to trigger sweet cravings.

You guys, don't let me neglect work and church in the quest for Prep and NaNo... I fear it's happening already...
September 28, 2015 at 7:52am
September 28, 2015 at 7:52am
Today is my mother-in-law's 77th birthday. We took her out to dinner yesterday...

Food Log: 9/27/15
- Coffee
- Peanut butter
- Pumpkin roll *
- Pizza
- Nuts (variety, raw)
- Rosemary cabernet filet, broccoli, bacon mac & cheese
- Key Lime Pie **

*Yes, a slice of pumpkin roll clearly does not comply with my rules. But I was STARVING. I forgot to eat breakfast, didn't bring my purse with its supply of protein bars and nuts, and I knew I would be grumpy at church if I didn't eat something. So I justified it by stating it did meet my rules: it provided nutrition because it was food and I was hungry. An interesting take-away: it didn't satisfy me at all, and I even found myself hungrier after eating it. I just wanted protein. I call that progress. Smile

** This one is legit! I established an exception to my food restriction: I'm allowed to eat birthday cake. This wasn't birthday cake but Longhorn was Roberta's birthday choice, and we had dessert. I split a slice of pie with the hubby.

It counts.

But I think I'm going to continue the restrictions to 30 days instead of 21. And then I'll implement new a new rule: no PB&J! I wasn't sickened by the overly sweet dessert, which means I haven't broken the addiction yet. I'm obviously cheating. *Rolleyes*


September 27, 2015 at 1:36pm
September 27, 2015 at 1:36pm
I finished binge watching Buffy, Angel, and Bones, and I'm ready for Prep and NaNo... except that I haven't picked my project yet.

Food Log: 9/26/15
- Coffee
- Peanut butter
- Banana
- ZonePerfect bar
- Veggie & rib soup
- Fruit salad
- PB&J
September 26, 2015 at 8:25am
September 26, 2015 at 8:25am



...and there shall be a promo contest. Smile Watch for today's 5-day warning email.

Food Log: 9/25/15
- Coffee
- Peanut butter
- Half bagel with ham and cheese (2, had one later in the day as well)
- Banana
- Zone Bar
- Almonds
- Spinach salad with grilled chicken in bbq, tomatoes, onions, and catalina
- Homemade veggie soup w/potatoes, celery, carrots, and leftover ribs
- PB&J (half)


September 25, 2015 at 8:33am
September 25, 2015 at 8:33am



I plugged "October NaNoWriMo Prep Challenge [13+] on both the Contests and Activities pages, which I've done for many years. Yesterday, for the first time, a moderator pulled one of the plugs and stated that an item may only be posted on one or the other, not both. I reread the rules on both pages, and nowhere does it explicitly state that. It says the Contest Page is for contests only, and the Activities Page is for non-contest activities only. But the Prep meets both criteria. It includes four weekly competitive contest rounds, which are optional, and which writers may enter without completing a single other assignment. So the contest portion of the event and the activity portion of the event, while connected, are primarily independent of one another. I am hoping we get an exception so we can maximize participation in the event. Not only does the Prep bring new writers to WDC, raise and spend large amounts of GPs, and encourage community, but it also clearly meets all of the stated rules on both pages. And frankly, neither the Contests page nor the Activities page moves so quickly that removing the Prep from one of the pages serves any beneficial purpose at all.

I've submitted a request for an exception.

Food Log: 9/24/15
*BulletR* Coffee
*BulletR* Peanut butter
*BulletR* Half bagel w/ham, cheese, tomato
*BulletR* Bratwurst on bun with onion & mustard
*BulletR* ZonePerfect bars (2)
*BulletR* Serving of almonds
*BulletR* Healthy Choice dinner w/turkey, mashed potatoes, veggie medley

I've been peeking at Artemismad 's blog. My food choices seem so unrefined and unclassy compared to hers, lol.


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