Monday, December 17, 2012

Always Learning

What methods do you employ to sharpen your writing skills? Do you read writing publications and blogs? Take classes? Attend seminars or conferences? Talk to other writers? Join writing groups?

I was reminded of the importance of continued learning the other day when I took part in James Scott Bell's webinar on "Revising a Novel They Can't Put Down". It was a refreshing 60 minutes packed full of tips, tricks and tidbits that boosted my knowledge and creativity. And best of all, it was free. :)

During the webinar, Mr. Bell shared the following quote:

"A great story is life with the dull parts taken out."

Alfred Hitchcock

(FYI: It is a paraphrase of where Hitchcock said:  "Drama is life with the dull bits cut out of it.")

I see the application of this thought in fiction, but I see the value in non fiction writing too. Sharp, interesting writing is a great goal no matter what we write. There's always something to learn, isn't there?

Do you think continuing education is one way to help us reach our goals? What steps do you take to stay on top of your game?

Helping those in Sandy Hook, Connecticut

There are no words to make last week's tragedy any better, are there? My heart is heavy, to think of the horrific event and the lives cut short brings me to tears. I'm sure you join me in keeping these families and the surrounding community in your thoughts and prayers. 

Help is springing up in many forms, including the Publishing Hearts Connecticut blog. A group of writers are conducting an auction to benefit the families and victims. For more info, visit the Publishing Hearts' blog. If you have a book or writing related service you wish to list, go to the auction sign up site.

I am taking a break, but will be back on January 7. Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season.

Hug your loved ones,


Photo credit: Stock Exchange

Thursday, December 13, 2012

News and Notes

Instead of the usual Thursday's This and That feature, I decided to go with the title News and Notes for a change. I know, I'm a wild woman, right? :)

Blogger Extraordinaire Alex Cavanaugh was the subject of a recent ambush blogfest - one I missed because of a previous commitment. However, I figure it's not too late to give a shout out to Alex, and to thank him for all he's done for the blogging community.

In the words of those who ambushed him, "...Alex is an awesome blogger, he's also an enigma." True enough. There have been few sightings of Alex, so one might think he is a figment of the imagination. But he's not. He's a real live inspirational and encouraging member of the blogging community. He was among my early followers, and to a newbie blogger like me, that meant a lot. Congrats and thank you, Alex! I'm grateful for your support.

Congratulations to Angela Felsted! Her YA book Chaste hit the shelves this month. If you'd like to view the trailer, click here.  Special note - from December 12-15, Angela is donating the proceeds of the book to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. To buy or view more details about Chaste visit Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Frustrated by punctuation? Check out this post at The Writing Life, Can You Take Artistic License with Punctuation Rules? 

Here's another tricky one - ensure versus insure. Are there set rules or are they interchangeable? Brian Klems shares a simple fix in Ensure vs. Insure.

Free Software for Indie Authors has a list of great resources from word processing to converting documents to saving files and more. You don't have to be an indie author either; these tools will help writers of any level or genre.

Time for fun! Check out these Online Games for Writers. Article author Sarah Turner says, "Writers are expert procrastinators." (Um, yes I am. How did she know?) Turner goes on to say that these "procrastination tools" will put your "language skills to work." Sounds good to me!

Do you procrastinate when it comes to writing? What fun things are you doing this weekend?

Happy weekend,

Karen  :)

Image credit: Stock Exchange

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meet and Greet

Diane Estrella of That's What I'm Here For has a special blog feature called Meet and Greet, where readers get to know other writers. Diane's featuring yours truly there today, so if you have a minute, we'd be thrilled if you hopped over to say hello.

I thought it might be fun to turn the tables on Diane and host her here today. She's one sweet lady who does so much for the blogging community. I'm blessed to call her a friend.

In Diane's Meet and Greet posts, she asks writers for certain info. I thought it would be nice to get better acquainted with her through her answers to these same questions. So, here we go! :)

Name: Diane Estrella

State of Residence: Central New York (cuz if I just said NY, you'd think it was 'the City.' ;)

Height: 5'6"   

Age: 41..... AACK!

Hair Color: Boring brown, but thankfully, not too many grays.

Home life (Family, pets, etc.): One husband, Charlie. We've been married since 1995. A daughter Madeline, age 12 who loves to read and helps me with a lot of my book reviews, and a son Donato, age 10 who does not like to read, but I'm working on him. One cat, one gerbil, and five chickens round us out.

Occupation: SAHM who homeschools her kids!

Hobbies that you enjoy: In the winter, crocheting, baking (all year long), reading, and also watching movies and way too many Sci-fi TV shows on TV.

Top three favorite TV shows: Currently ARROW!!!! is my number one must see. Watching the lead character ALMOST makes me want to start working out and getting into shape. ;) I also love Psych and Shark Tank.

Favorite authors: I have "met" so many wonderful authors through blogging and doing all the book reviews I do, that I cannot honestly select any one. I will give a shout out to the girls in my writer's crit group that have been published and I am SO PROUD of them all: Elaine W. Miller, Amy Quonce, Lisa Buske, Paula A. Davis, and J.A. Zilske. Look them up on Amazon!

Go-to beverage of choice: Water. Why waste the calories if chocolate's around is my motto??!

What's your blog address?

Why do you blog? What do you hope to accomplish with blogging?

Initially, I just wanted to be "out there" and be heard. The biggest struggle I have had with my blog is figuring out what my "niche" is. It's kind of hilarious to me that I can write a post on Finding your blog's niche, but I can't find my own. I guess I see it as, I'm good at and like a lot of things, but not great or love any one thing the most. This is where the "That's What I'm Here For...." byline got its start. If you need a laugh, advice, book or product promotion, encouragement, etc. then "That's What I'm Here For...."! Whatever you need, I'll try to fill it for ya. I guess like many others, I hope to either make money from my blog or use it as a springboard for my writing and when I become a published author. I've actually had two speaking engagements this year on The Benefits of Blogging so that has been an exciting next step in my blogging journey.  :)

What's the latest goings-on that you would want others to know about?

Always lots of giveaways, book and product reviews, and Meet & Greet's going on at my site. Trying to refocus for the new year and see where I'm headed for 2013.

Any words of encouragement or wisdom to impart?

My all-time favorite quote was found on a sugar packet in a greasy diner. My sister made a cross-stitch of it for me:

If you have tried to do something and failed, you are vastly better off than if you had tried to do nothing and succeeded.  Richard Martin Stern

My favorite Bible passage is from Habakkuk 3:17-19 

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills. 

Both speak of overcoming and not giving up, which I love!

Where can readers connect with you online?

My site:
Facebook: and

Thank you, Diane, for sharing with us today! It was good to learn more about you. You are a blessing. Wishing you all the best!

Thank you, and thanks for having me, Karen! :o)

Don't forget - if you have a minute, stop over and see us at Diane's blog today. Thanks a bunch! :)

Have you met Diane yet? How has blogging expanded your circle of friends?

Happy writing,


Teacup image: Stock Exchange

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review - Against the Tide

Against the Tide                               

By Elizabeth Camden

Bethany House Publishers

Lydia Pallas is alone. Her parents died when she was young, and she’s had to fend for herself ever since. Her ability as a translator lands her a job with the United States Navy, a position generally held by men in 1891. Lydia is thankful; this post offers her a slightly better lifestyle than Boston’s female working class. 
At the Naval office, Lydia and her co-workers see Alexander Banebridge as an enigma. He visits their supervisor, Admiral Eric Fontaine on occasion, but no one knows why. Cloaked in mystery and importance, Banebridge floats in and out, seldom exchanging a word with the office staff. He too, is alone in the world, having been separated from his family under unusual circumstances when he was a boy.

Banebridge asks Lydia to help him with several translating projects. She agrees, as she is saving to buy her apartment. At first, Banebridge gets on her nerves. He seems too perfect - in looks, demeanor, and values. She warms to him though, despite efforts to keep her distance. 

Bane’s project eventually puts Lydia in danger, not because he wishes her harm, but because he needs someone he can trust. His philosophy demands that he keep people at arm’s length. However, many things change, much to their mutual surprise, throughout this deceptive and dangerous journey. 

Since I hadn't read any of Ms. Camden’s books before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Against the Tide offered engaging characters and one of those edge-of-your-seat plots that makes you want to keep reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and am impressed by Camden’s rich story telling ability. She creates realistic and relatable characters, the kind that readers care about. I look forward to checking out Ms. Camden’s other books.

What are you reading this weekend? 

Happy reading and writing,


Please note: I received this book from Bethany House Publishers for review purposes. No compensation was received.