Summer Break 2014

LittleGirl_ID-100246232I checked my to-do list last week and tried to decide how to get everything done that needs doing this summer. I came to the quick conclusion that I need to take my annual break from blogging a bit early this year.

Besides twice-a-week conditioning hikes (building up to six hours a day) for a Scotland hiking vacation in late summer, here are a few things I hope plan to accomplish during the break:

  • redesign the book cover for This New Mountain
  • start on the second draft of my fantasy novel The Last Bonekeeper
  • finish a short story collection for publication
  • enter a handful of contests
  • dive into webmaster duties for SouthWest Writers
  • spend two or more days a week with my granddaughter (fun times!)
  • take several weekend holidays around the state of New Mexico (go to my Pinterest board to see some of the neat places I hope to visit/revisit with my husband)
  • prep two bedrooms for upcoming family visits (I’m sure you’ve heard of junk drawers – these are junk rooms)

I’ll be posting off-and-on in the next few months, especially if I have a finished book cover to share. Have a great summer!

So how about you? Are you planning a crazy summer this year or hoping for a real break?

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Image “Little Girl” courtesy of Naypong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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7-in-1 Award Nomination

I’m honorereaderappreciationaward2_1d to be nominated by author and blogger Diana Jackson for the 7-in-1 Award – a collection of seven shiny awards all rolled into one.

The blog-o-sphere is full of great people with wonderful stories to share, and discovering these gems is one of the best parts of the blogging experience.

cracking-crispmouse-award-sammy-cat_1Last year my Internet travels brought me to A Selection of Reflections where Diana posts real stories about real people. Her articles consist of interviews and guest posts, as well as tales taken from the life of Norman Campbell. I’m glad to have discovered Diana’s website and grateful for the opportunities she’s given me to be one of her guest bloggers.

Here are thshineon1_1e rules for the Seven Awards:
1. Display the logo on your sidebar
2. Link back to the person who nominated you
3. State 7 things about yourself
4. Nominate 15 (or so) bloggers for this award
5. Notify the nominees of their nominations

7 Things About Me
dragonsloyaltyaward1_1
1. I climbed telephone poles in the Army.
2. I’ve dressed the dead.
3. I love cats and think dogs are a bit silly.
4. My least favorite thing to do is exercise.
5. My favorite desserts involve chocolate.
6. I think a rainy day is the best kind of day.
7. I’m a terrible cook, but I love to eat.

My Nominations:
Many of the blogs I follow combine encouragement
with wrthe-versatile-blogger-award_1iting advice, and most of my nominations for the 7-in-1 Award reflect that.

♦  The Gray-Haired Hipster: living proof that you CAN teach an old broad new tricks!
♦  Snapshots: Writing Your Story – thoughts on words, writing, and storytelling with Alice Carney
♦  Kathy Pooler: hope matters; we are all enriched when we share our smost-influential-blogger-e1364230844577_1tories 
♦  777 Peppermint Place: from writing posts to snippets from ordinary life
♦  Patricia Woods: encouraging practical solutions
♦  Lisa-Jo Baker: surprised by motherhood; believes motherhood should come with its own super hero cape

♦  Kathi Lipp’s Project Blog: humor, hope, how-to’s; fun and simple steps to better living

♦  The Procrastiwriter: because you could be writing right now

♦  Kristen Lamb: sharing about writing and life; she reminds us We Are Not Alone (WANA)

♦  Positive Writer: create work that matters

♦  Writer’s First Aid with Kristi Holl: to ease the pains of the writing life and help make your writing dreams come true

Thank you, fellow bloggers, for your encouragement on the journey of life and writing. I appreciate the time you take out of your days to share your stories and musings, and so many lessons learned.

Free Photos for Your Website and Blog

"Help Enter Key" ID-10067752Using images on a website and blog adds visual interest and can help tie the bits and pieces together. But if I don’t want to be sued for copyright infringement, I can’t just take whatever photos I like from the Internet and make them my own.

My options are limited, though. I can use photographs from my own camera, but most of those won’t work with my topics (unless readers want to see blurry vacation snapshots or my granddaughter sticking out her tongue). I can also buy images, but I don’t have the money to pay for blocks of photos with a subscription plan from places like iStock, fotolia, or PhotoSpin. I haven’t been entirely happy with the third option, either – searching royalty free sites. Many sites aren’t clear about their use policy (Microsoft, and now Bing). And weeding through image sites listed on “Wikipedia: Photos in the public domain” is too daunting, as is researching each photo on Wikimedia Commons to find out which license it’s under.

But I’ve recently discovered a place to get free photos without jumping through a bunch of hoops. FreeDigitalPhotos.net offers downloads of free stock photos and illustrations for use on websites, blogs, forums, Facebook and Twitter pages (read the terms and conditions for your own understanding, and for purchasing an extended license for something like selling merchandise bearing one of their images). The free downloadable versions – about 400 x 267 pixels, resolution: 72 pixels/inch – are the perfect size for adding interest to blog posts. All that’s required in exchange is to credit the source.

Take these three simple steps to start using free photos: search, download, cite the source.

"Spaceship and Planet" ID-100125978Browse the Categories or Enter Search Criteria
Some photo sites only allow one search term. The “Help Enter Key” image at the top of this post was found using “computer,” but you can also enter multiple search terms. When I looked for a cool picture that might fit in my new speculative fiction blog, I did a search using “stars planet spaceship” and found many great digital illustrations and digitally enhanced photos, including this one titled “Spaceship and Planet.”

Download
After clicking on the photo you want, a page comes up with the information about the image. The screen image shows a watermark, but it won’t appear in the download. Click the download button to the right of the photo and follow the instructions. You’ll need to agree to their terms and conditions, which is to publish a credit to the image creator if you download the free version. Enter your email address if you want a record of the attribution information – but you can take note of this information on the photo’s page instead (see the image below). Answer the security challenge (to prevent automated downloads), and click the download button to get your image.

 This is the page associated with the image “Spaceship and Planet.” Free Digital Photos Screenshot_2A

Attribution: Cite the Source
Like painting and drawing, photography and digital illustration are art forms. It’s only right to give credit to artists – regular people like you and I – who make a living from their work. And in this case, payment for use of their work is simple attribution (but if I pay for the image, I don’t have to give credit). This site suggests using the following format when giving credit, and has more instructions about how to do this for single or multiple images:

Image courtesy of [contributor name] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Check out my speculative fiction blog (a work-in-progress as of the date of this post) to see how I handled the use of multiple free images – one for the background, and four in the header. I’ve added the attribution to the bottom of the page.

There might be extra steps to the process of getting images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net (compared to the single “Save Picture As” click used to capture photos from the Internet), but I think it’s worth a few more minutes to do what’s right and be safe from a possible breach of copyright law.

Images from top to bottom: (1) “Help Enter Key” courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net; (2) “Spaceship and Planet” courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

To Blog or Not to Blog

After taking several months off from blogging, I’m back with a few questions I’ve had to answer for myself. Why blog? Why Not to Blog?

WorldPeople2You do not have to blog, and if you don’t have much interest in the form, then please don’t pursue it. As with any form of writing, it takes a considerable investment of energy and time to do it right and get something from it. ~ Jane Friedman

Why Blog?

Reasons for blogging vary from one person to another. Apart from any business goals of selling yourself and your goods or services, there are a few basic reasons to blog:

  • We all want to make a difference. Sharing knowledge or experience is one way to do that.
  • Some people have a lot to say. Blogging is another way to express themselves.
  • We all have a desire and a need to be heard. Done in the right way (and with the right intent), blogging can be a good outlet.

Initially, my purpose in starting this particular blog was to give my 12-year writing project a home and to encourage others to face their fears. AJ Jackson – the fearless private investigator and repo-mama from This New Mountain – has impacted me from the moment her red-headed spunk and energy rushed into my life more than fifteen years ago. My reasons for contributing to the blog-o-sphere were a natural by-product of my relationship with her. Later, including posts about writing style and writing as it pertains to memoir also seemed a natural addition to the blog. I am still (and forever will be) perfecting my writing skills, and I’ve felt the urge to encourage writers on their own journeys whether toward publication or “perfection.”

Why Not to Blog?

Again, the reasons not to blog (or to stop blogging) depend on the individual, but there are some standard things that come with the territory.

  • Blogging takes time. There’s the planning, the research, the writing, the proofing. Even just coming up with ideas to write about can take up hours every week. Do you have this time to spend?
  • Blogging takes commitment. Even if it’s once a week or once a month, keeping up a blog is one more thing to add to the To-Do List. How committed are you willing to be?
  • Blogging takes energy. Okay, it’s mostly brain energy. But you do have to drag yourself to the computer, then to the bathroom, then to the computer. And what about all those round-trips to the refrigerator and the bowls full of peanuts, pretzels and chocolate to carry back with you. That’s got to count for something, right?
  • Blogging can be a distraction. Blogging can keep you from something more important such as family commitments, health goals, or other dreams and creative pursuits. Will you use blogging as an excuse not to do some other thing?

It’s a physical fact that adding one thing to a finite space results in less space for something else. In deciding whether or not to blog, we each have to weigh our personal desires and goals against the added commitments and the affects blogging has on other more important aspects of our lives.

For me, I’ve decided to keep blogging. I’d like to continue encouraging writers to pursue their dreams and push through any fears that might be holding them back. But I’ve also come to realize I need to implement some major changes in time and goal management (a topic for another post).

Why do you blog? Have you found that the good outweighs the bad?