Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enough With the "Issues," Already.

I thought I'd seen a peak on this twenty years ago. (20! Yipes!)
But, apparently, it's still an Important Thing to some authors.
That Important Thing being...the "issues" your books deal with.

If I had a dollar for every author who tried to convince me her novel was a serious book because it dealt with "issues" on some level...well, I probably wouldn't be able to retire on it, but I could at least buy dinner.
Probably a couple of times. If not more.
And I just wish we'd all Get Over this.

RWA went through this phase during that 20-year-ago period I talk about, to the point where there was a special mention during the awards ceremonies of what "issue" each of the RITA award nominees centered around. It was pretentious, embarrassing, and--mostly--a bore.
I classified that under an exaggerated idea of one's own importance  then, and I still do.

People, we're fiction writers. We make stuff up.
In the case of romance writers, we make stuff up that has to do with some of the "softer" emotions of life, albeit also with conflicts that need resolution, with some character growth, and with happy endings.
In many cases, what we're retelling bears more resemblance to a fairy tale than it does to anything real, gritty, or down in the trenches.
That's not a criticism, however.
That's a strength.
Why can't we just go with it?

Why are we seemingly ashamed that that's "all" we do?

Fiction writers serve a purpose on their own, without having to appropriate additional meanings, layers, or significances to their work.
Romance writers in particular serve a purpose on their own. Who doesn't love a love story?
Even guys who disavow "chick flicks," when cornered, have some sentiment in their souls.
And all kinds of people love happy endings.
That's because we, as human beings, need them. 

We always claim to be the generation who needs them "as never before," but let's not kid ourselves about that, either. Romance stories endure because human nature needs, craves, and is reassured by a happy ending. It needs the brightness, and it has for thousands of years. That's why many great romance stories are also the stuff of great literature. 

But even if "all" we're writing are paperback romances, murder mysteries, cozies, adventure stories, or thrillers that are here today and gone tomorrow...
If that's our calling...
That's still a perfectly good and valid reason to keep writing.
And it's still a perfectly good and honorable way to make a living.

Sheer enjoyment is highly underrated in today's society, and in certain circles of certain societies, it always was. But that hardly makes it unimportant.
Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, after all. Go on. Tell the Holy Spirit that that's not important. I want to be a fly on the wall when you do that. :-)

I don't think, when we get to our last judgment, God's going to ask us what "issues" we dealt with in our fiction...and burn off everything else.
I think God's going to ask us if we used our gift to its fullest--whatever we wrote.
And if we did, I think that's going to be just fine.
We won't have to justify, excuse, or apologize for that.
And we shouldn't now, either.

Please understand this. If you're writing a story that happens to come out of some trauma, some struggle, some issue, and you've delved into the dark sides or tough sides of things in the process--that's great, too. That's what great storytelling can do for us.
But that doesn't mean that in order to be great, storytelling has to have more to it than a simply wonderful yarn, well-told.
Putting yourself into the box of having to have an "issue" to make your stories "important" is just another way of handcuffing yourself--and in the process, dishonoring the craft and the stories God's giving you in the first place.

Don't do it.
Don't fall victim to the pressure.
You don't need to tell me an "issue story" to hook me. In fact, one of the main reasons I will AVOID certain books is because they're specifically presented as dealing with a specific theme, "issue," or aspect of society.

When I want social commentary, I'll read the op-ed pages.
I don't want that in my stories...at least not superimposed upon a tale that would be perfectly good without any added "weight" that's artificially applied or implied.
For the same reason I despise "study questions," I despise issue books.
If you want me to read yours, don't tell me about the issue.
If I'm meant to get that message, I'll get it.
If not, and I enjoy your story anyway....
...maybe it was a perfectly fine tale in and of itself.
Which is, after all, what we're supposed to be doing in the end, anyway.

So can we please get over this?
Before we stifle all the life--all the "juice," whimsy, and fun--out of our books in a mistaken effort to make them "important"?

What you do is already important enough, if you're telling the best stories you can, in a way that fires your blood and makes you excited to read and write every single day.
If you're not feeling this anymore, then stop telling stories. Period.
Don't try to make them "important" or "valuable" by layering on additional "relevance."
Because what the world definitely does NOT need is another "issue" novel.
EVER.

Thoughts?
Janny

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Best Part of Wakin' Up...

Live image
(image from savior.org)

Eucharistic Adoration. We've got it at Peter & Paul's on Wednesday mornings, and at St. Mary's on Fridays. If you've got that, and a good supply of coffee...you've got your morning covered. :-)

Janny

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anyone Know a Good (Cheap) Body Shop?

...because this morning or some morning this week, I'm going to have to go out and retape my Stratus together.

Yep. You heard that right.

We have a perfectly good 2004 Dodge Stratus in a lovely silver color...with a LARGE owie on its rear driver's side fender. We're talking shattered rear end, large holes, etc. Courtesy of an ex-boyfriend of my daughter's who backed it into one of those gas-station barricades. Made some five years ago.

Body work is expensive. We didn't have "expensive" in our budget then, and we still don't.
The ex-boyfriend promised to pay for it.
He disappeared shortly thereafter.

So this week, I get to take silver and gray duck tape and do my annual Retaping Of The Fender. The good news is, when I tape this sucker, it stays for a year. :-)

The bad news is...when and if we trade this car in eventually, that tape job will not substitute effectively for the real thing.
It is to sigh.

I just had to vent that. :-)

More later,
Janny

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Best Reason For Monday...

...bar none.

It's Choral Union time again! 
Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad! 

Looking forward to another dynamite year with Dr. Mitchell...

Janny

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Non-Culinary Thought for the Day

It's tough turning 60.
Just sayin'.

Just looking at that number, in one sense, makes me want to cry.
There's so much still undone.
There's so much I'd do differently.
There's so much more that the nasty evil gremlin in my head tells me I should have accomplished by now.

And there's no longer any chance that people will tell me, "Gosh, I never would have thought you were that old." They did that when I had red hair. They don't anymore. :-P

Just sayin'.
It's tough turning 60.

I think I'm going to go lose myself in a book now.

Janny

Culinary Thought for the Day

Many, many, MANY good recipes start with homemade chicken stock. :-)
I've got a couple I'll be posting shortly. In the meantime, go make yourself a couple of quarts of stock and stick 'em in the freezer. They'll come in handy anytime.

And for those of you who are stock-impaired, I can even suggest how to make THAT.

More in a bit!

Janny

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Unplugged.

I admit it...I love to blog.
Proof being that the last entry I made, a little over two weeks ago, I made with a 101-degree temperature, in bed. 

But I see, over and over again, that there are only 24 hours in the day-- and I'm beginning to think that, for sanity's sake,  I need to start spending an increasing number of those hours  (brace yourself) OFFLINE. Out of the network. Hanging around someplace OTHER than on a social site, job board, or place to "become more visible."

Interestingly enough, things are starting to happen whereby, bit by bit, I may be able to do just that without feeling in crisis.

First, the major cash cow contract I talked about three months ago bit the dust.
Second, one of the other major steady income sources I've had for over a year abruptly sent us all an e-mail telling us to stop working in their present database, that they were going to have to reinvent themselves--and they weren't sure how long that would take, or how successful it would be when they did so. Within a week, they had closed the contract I had with them, with much thanks and well-wishes...but no promises as to when, or if, I would ever get work with them again.
And now, I'm on temporary hiatus with my other steady contract. That hiatus is only until September--but it still represents almost a month off. 

These, however, are not disasters for several reasons.
First off, the "cash cows" I mentioned were not the most rewarding work I've ever done. Steady, yes. Doable, yes. Something I was good at, again, yes.
But was it soul-enriching work? Did it get me "juiced" to work every day?
...not so much.
The third steady client is a touch more interesting, in that I'm doing actual writing rather than proofreading or editing.
But it's still a nice break to have.

What am I left with?
I still have some creative writing to do for one client.
I have coaching to do for another.
And I have two more books to edit, a third I can take on when I want to.
But I don't have those looming, steady gigs waiting for me to plug in whenever I feel like I need to do "piece" work.

So what am I going to do instead? 
Some folks say, "Hey, this is a perfect chance to get that Book Promotion machine running full-tilt.  Appear everywhere. Get your name out. Don't pass up the chance or you'll be left behind!!!!"
However, with all due respect--and at the risk of having 10 million overachiever believers jump all over me--I have one word for that notion.
BUNK.

I've done all kinds of promotion for both books I've had out.
I've solicited reviews.
I've put press releases out.
I've had postcards, bookmarks, "one-sheets," and brochures.
I've plugged the heck out of them on loops, Facebook, even tried Twitter for awhile.
I've taught online workshops to "get my name" in front of people.
I've done interviews for e-zines.
I've even done other freebie work for various sources, as yet another "get your name out" exercise.
What has all this stuff netted me?

I think I may have sold 100 books, total, on From the Ashes.
Maybe.

For Voice of Innocence, my sales so far haven't even approached that.

That's despite having a long-running blog, a bunch of Facebook friends, a regular online presence with Chapter One and Writer's Oasis, and being acknowledged in no fewer than a half dozen other authors' books over the years.
That's despite winning a Golden Heart, years ago, with all that comes with it.
And that's despite being willing to do such humiliating things as participating in an "author's day" at Sam's Club stores...on the same weekend as a new Harry Potter book came out.

In short...it doesn't work, folks.
And I now know why many, many authors do no promotion at ALL. 

Them that is already best-selling authors online will STAY best-selling authors online.
And, once in a while, an author catches lightning in a bottle and magic happens.
But there's a reason it's called "lightning in a bottle." 
It's because it doesn't happen very often.
Certainly it's not a guaranteed, or even necessarily a probable, result of endless promotion.

I've decided that, therefore, I'm not going to waste my time or energy.
I'm not going to waste it on piecemeal work that drains me of soul,
and I'm not going to waste it being online trying to stump for books no one's heard of, when almost no one's heard of ME, either. Even after all that time.
There's just too much competition out there, all screaming, "Buy my book!" or "Get my book for free!" or "Enter my contest!"

Contests, online messages and updates and tweets, friends, "likes," and all that chatter probably did work pretty well when social media sites were younger and fairly uncrowded.
Now? I can't tell you how many author contests I've seen where writers are begging for entrants.
I can't honestly recommend ANYONE go on a blog tour--not because they're not fun, but who has time to read even a small portion of the good ones out there,  much less discover new authors through them?
Above all, I can't begin to tell you what a waste of time Twitter is.
And now, Facebook is increasingly becoming much the same.

We have too much information, promotion, chatter, and "liking" out there.
We have too many people who think they can write, who've put unspeakably bad books out there that they're all too willing to give away--while good books get buried.

We have too many authors trying to get attention, but we're all talking to each other.

I say....enough.
What am I going to do with any time I get freed up?
I'm going to write new books.
I'm going to do my best to sell new books.
Because in the end, despite what the "cloud" wunderkinds will tell you about the "long tail" and "online presence" and "the new publishing world"...
...one truism still stands:
Nothing sells your next book like your previous book...
...and nothing sells your first or second book like your third book.
It's a quantity game now, folks.
Yes, there's already too much of it out there. But much of it will also be by the proverbial "one-hit wonders." Much of it will be specialized book work, aimed at special niches, which will make both the author and those niches happy when the book is out there.
For the rest of us, who are still telling stories...
...for me, at least...
...it's going to be about largely unplugging from social media and replugging into my own writing.
It has to be.

Because I still have books to sell, and I still have a TON of people who haven't heard of me.
It's time I fixed that by the best way out there:
Reach people other than people who are trying to do the same thing I'm doing.
Reach readers.
Writers, too, if they want to read.
But my audience has got to be the 94% of people out there who aren't writing anything, and who don't want to write anything--they just want to read something terrific.

Hello, all of you.
I'd like to introduce myself...

...with a handful of books.
You might like one of them.
I hope you do!
...and don't worry.
I'm writing another. :-)


Thoughts?
Janny
*P.S. Yes, the irony of talking about being "unplugged" by writing about it on a BLOG hasn't escaped me. :-)  I told you I love to blog!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Progress Report, Part Trois

At last! We're at the sixth and final resolution evaluation.
Yeah, the previous ones have been rather long-winded. (!)

Number 6 was to get my "contrarian" nature a little better under control.
In other words, to resist the repeated temptation to jump into every fray and say, "Yeah, but..."

I can only report that I've had mixed results on this one.
Sometimes, it seems, I just HAVE to say something. 
I'm not quite as bad as that cartoon where the person is saying they can't come to bed yet because "Someone is WRONG on the Internet"...but close.
And I was this way before the Internet ever came into the picture.

If you do a search under Jan Butler, even today, you can still see some places where I'm accused of being a writer "behaving badly," where I get abuse heaped on my head that NO ONE has the right to do to anyone else...and if you search the RWA magazine for early 2007, you'll discover that they even conveniently forgot their own rules in allowing at least one person to take potshots at me BY NAME on their pages (something that is strictly forbidden, according to the disclaimer at the end of the same column in which it happens).

All of that came, by the way, because I opined about something that RWA STARTED in the first place. 

I've been called the "conscience" of several groups because I don't take surface things as being the whole picture. EVER.
I always ask, "But what about...?" or "Do we know...?" or "What's the other side of this?"

Most of the time, I'm here to tell you, people don't WANT to have anyone asking that.
When a group gets fired up about something, generally, the LAST thing they want is the other side taken into account--no matter how valid that other side may be, and in some case, no matter how ill-informed their initial opinion appears to be.

More than once, I've blown the whistle in small ways on stuff that turned out, in retrospect, to be a bad idea...and a few people have thanked me for it.
But while you're DOING it, no one thanks you for it.
And 99% of the time, even if you're proven RIGHT, no one thanks you for it later.

And, no, it doesn't count when people write you timid little notes on the side, saying, "Yanno, I actually agree with you. You're saying what we're all thinking."
To which one can only ask, "Then why aren't you all SAYING it?"
And to which, to be blunt, the only answer is, "Because we're chickens."

Well, chickens certainly live less stressful lives than those of us who are always pointing out that emperors are naked. 
And I really, really want that less-stressful life.

I've gotten the reputation over the years of being a tough broad in some circles. <G> If you know me at all, you're laughing hysterically at this point, because "tough broad" is definitely NOT how I grew up.
But when I see something that smells fishy, I'm usually the one who says, "Where's the trout?"
For which I get pelted with a lot of anchovies...and not a whole lot of hot fudge sundaes.
(For the record, I LIKE anchovies--but they're not considered a treat in many circles. Hence, the metaphor.)

Bottom line?
I have to wake up every single morning and repeat the mantra:
"Not every fight is YOURS. In fact, most of them are NOT. So don't feel like you have to fight all of them."
If I succeed in getting myself busy enough with the writing--and if I only SKIM Facebook and most of what's on the Internet--I can actually manage to remember that.
But only for 24 hours at a time.
And the temptation--one might say a compulsion--is always there.
So I suspect this is one resolution that will never be accomplished and struck off the list as "done" completely.

I can only hope when I get to the end of my life, Jesus won't ask me, "Why didn't you fight more for what was right?" That's the nagging fear, you know. That there will be something I could have done something about, and I failed to do it.

But overall, I think I've done a lot of what is my share to right what I see wrong in the world...
and in many cases, little that I say or do is going to affect the world in the end anyway.
Sad, but true.
But it should also be liberating, and it's that liberty I'm trying to seek.

As Uncle Bobby used to say about certain troubles, "It's easier to STAY out than to try to GET out later."
For most fights that, in the end, I get abused for taking a stand on...that's wisdom worth remembering.
There's voluntary martyrdom, and then there's just being a pain in the ass.
Sometimes they're one and the same.
I don't want to be either.

So I'm going to try to remember that wisdom, and RESIST...as much as my "contrarian" nature and conscience will allow me to do.
There are only so many hours in the day, and I've got stories to write.

Thoughts?
Janny

Friday, August 03, 2012

Progress Report, Part Deux

When we last left our heroine, she had made a resolution to stop taking her writing "so damn seriously" and get back to where it was fun again.

What this translated to, of course, was Making Money With My Writing--or, Writing For Pay, versus Writing For Love.

Do not kid yourself. There are times when they ARE the same thing...but not nearly as often as some people would lead you to believe.
UNLESS you are not a novelist by trade and inclination.
If you love nonfiction, as in reportage, true crime, biographies, documentaries...you can write for money and love and the two merge all the time.

But if you do not love nonfiction--and I do NOT--they are almost NEVER the same unless you are among the rarefied people who hit a fabulous harmonic convergence in which an editor wants precisely what you've submitted, precisely when you submitted it, falls in love with it, and--it sells.
And sells.
And sells.

For all the rest of us, however, it ain't such a charmed existence. And that can turn into a real grind.

However, sometimes life (or God) does for you what you cannot do for yourself.

Just when I had reached a point where, by putting together several steady clients, I was going to bring my freelancing income to the point where it would equal that of of full-time employment, the BIGGEST cash cow of those sources cancelled their contract with me. 
They cited my error rate, which was a joke; a couple of us did some calculations and figured my error rate was probably less than 2% overall (some sources say less than 1%), so I suspect there were other monetary reasons for their pullout.

First, I was stunned, and more than a little hacked off.
Then, I said, "Oh-oh. Now I have to get another cash cow."

Until I stopped myself and realized that was precisely the problem.

Don't get me wrong. This particular contract was lucrative. Sometimes I made $100 a day with it.
However, this was also with working, sometimes, well into the night to complete as much work for these people as possible. I did regular stints of being at the keyboard past 10:30 or even 11 PM.

Now if I'm at the keyboard at that hour doing MY OWN writing...that's another story entirely. :-) I've had times when I went to bed so jazzed that, if it had been physically possible to stay up all night and continue without doing myself harm, I would have injected whatever stimulant was necessary to keep writing all night long with clarity and productivity.

But doing proofreading of executive bios and/or article pieces, many of them written by people who can't be bothered to check that they've spelled the person's name right from word 1 to word 200 of the piece...which then the EDITOR gets blamed for missing?

Trust me. That's not the kind of thing you self-inject to keep doing all night. :-)


So the conclusion out of this is that, clearly, this was not what God put me on earth to do.
To which part of me says, "Duh. Of course not."
But I did not allow myself to let that painfully obvious fact matter. Because, you see, as an Adult...a Grownup...
I had to Make Money and Pull My Own Weight.
Which meant that, in effect, I had to become the major breadwinner, because I was just that before my full-time gig dropped me.
Which meant any paying gig that disappeared was a disaster.

Then I looked at how I'd been working, what I'd been feeling, and how much fun I wasn't having. And the loss of that gig turned into a relief.

You see, the main reason I was pushing so hard to Do The Mature Thing with my writing was to keep my house. But even as hard as I was working...I wasn't making enough money to do that.

We won't be able to keep my house. We're putting things in boxes, we're getting ready for a garage sale, and it's all over but the official foreclosure and sheriff's sale.

Which means I've lost heaven knows how many months of happy writing time and worn myself to the bone...only to have that sacrifice not do what it was intended to do.

Yes, it paid some bills.  A LOT of bills.
It just didn't pay the biggest one that mattered. The one I was trying so hard to keep afloat by working myself 14 hours a day.

So I paused, sat back, and reconsidered what kinds of writing gigs and editing gigs would be more rewarding for me, in EVERY sense of the word. I'm making progress on this resolution. I think. I'm not where I want to be yet. But I think I may get there by the end of the year.

Now, I'm starting to do much more BOOK editing, which is at least partially "what God put me on this earth to do." It's certainly not the be-all and end-all. But I'm very, very good at it, and it beats the heck out of proofreading endless bios.

Now, I have two clients who are using me for coaching and editorial consulting. Which is even MORE of "what God put me on this earth to do." 
(And it pays better than almost any proofreading job, anywhere.)

I did have a chance to put together a sample lesson for an online educational source, which is something I THOUGHT was "what God put me on this earth to do"...
...only to imitate precisely the tone and depth level they gave me in their training materials,
and then be rejected because my stuff sounded like too much "fluff."
So there is no teaching gig on the horizon for me with that organization...which was going to be one of the few places I would be able to teach writing without going and getting an MFA behind my name just to prove to some college board that I know what I'm doing.

That would have been a nice cash cow, even if it didn't pay off for a year or more, which it probably wouldn't have. Not $100 a day, certainly. But not bad for what they were proposing their instructors do.

But bottom line?
I'm still a novelist.
My first love is still fiction.
Of all kinds, from the paper back romance and mystery to the made-for-TV movie.
I love STORY.
That's what this blog is ultimately about, as you see on the tag line at the top of the page.
That is actually what I believe I'm "put on this earth to do."
The question is, how far do I step out on the ledge at this point...
...where do I draw the line on what not to apply for, versus what I CAN do comfortably and still make decent money...
...and whether the money really needs to be as plentiful as I thought it needed to be.

One of the blessings of this house thing, if we work it out right, will be that we simplify and weed out. Right now, some stuff is still going to a storage locker, but I anticipate a lot more tossing, giving away, and garage-sale-ing than storing.
I had already started to sort things during Lent, when I tried the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge. I didn't quite make 40 bags and boxes...but I did 25. Not all bad.

But the key to this will be...the simpler our lives can end up, the less cash we'll actually need to survive.
If that number gets low enough...I may be able to write for love, AND money...
and not have to burn myself out 14 hours' a day worth in the process.
I can't believe that's "what God put me on this earth to do."

The end goal, of course, is to support myself by writing novels.
That isn't anywhere close yet.
But that doesn't mean I have to stop believing in it and stop giving time to it...which I had.
I think I owe myself, and God, better than that.

One final note on the final resolution--about the "contrarian" in me--in Part Three of this.
(Don't worry. THAT part's gonna be short. <G>)

More to come,
Janny

Progress Report...Six-Month Version

Evaluation time!
At the beginning of this year, I made six resolutions:

1. I would lose 10 pounds.
2. I would send the thank-you notes and birthday cards.
3. I would stay, as much as possible, away from Catholic media, for particular reasons.
4. I would make two new friends.
5. I would stop being so damn practical about my writing and start enjoying it again.
6. I would calm the "contrarian" within. 

So...how has she DONE? 

As we used to say years ago, "mensa mensa." (A phrase that, oddly enough, had nothing to do with MENSA itself.)

1. Not only have I not lost the 10 pounds, somewhere in there I believe I put on 5 or so. That inevitably happens the moment I declare to the universe that I'm going to lose...something happens and I gain. It also happens in the transition from winter into spring and summer--the fat layer I burn off keeping warm, I put back on. :-)

I think I've finally traced down to what the problems were.  The fix? I need to eat "cleaner" again. Which means almost no carbs at all. Basically fruit, protein, vegetables, nuts, and some dairy. I'm also boosting my iodine intake (to speed up the thyroid) and taking some over-the-counter HCG drops.

Now, before you yell at me for that stuff, rest assured that if I DON'T like what's happening with those things, I'll discontinue them. But I've tried pretty much everything else. I've tried  patches, metabolism-booster drops, bitter orange, Metabolife, Sensa, been on Atkins and then Weight Watchers online, done the "Weigh Down" workshop, even tried those godawful soy "meal replacement" shakes (ala Slim Fast). Trust me. If there was a system out there to try to lose weight, I did it.  The system I had the most success with was Atkins, and even then, I dropped 10 pounds and then stopped cold.

When I lost 50 pounds, some 30 years ago, I basically followed a low-carb regimen as well.  (Some people say I followed a low-FOOD regimen, and they may be partly right. :-)) The disadvantages I have now are a 59-year-old metabolism instead of a 29-year-old one (and it makes a difference)...and, of course, my penchant for BAKING...

(sigh)
I'll keep you posted. :-)

2. I've done pretty darn good at the birthday cards. The thank-you notes? There haven't been a lot of them to write, but even those, I've had trouble with. Of course, considering that I'd be writing them for presents my husband got (!), maybe that wasn't my problem to begin with. :-) I'll endeavor to keep up with the anniversaries, birthdays, and whatnot as the year goes on.

3. I have discovered that it's almost impossible to stay away from Catholic media, even online. One Facebook membership and a few prominent Catholic friends send me more *stuff* than I can read, even if I want to, and most of the time I DON'T want to. I AM, however, a subscribed to Jimmy Akin's Secret Information Club.  I will always enjoy EWTN and Fr. Z's blog (What Does the Prayer Really Say?), which are voices of sanity amongst all of it. I do need to cut myself off further from the rabble and their rousing, however; that way lies madness.

4. Making two new friends, unless you count making clients INTO friends, is more challenging for a person like me than it might appear. The good news is, I have plenty of people I know peripherally online whom I could cultivate to becoming closer friends. This needs to be worked on, which is also tough to do with the amount of sheer other WORK I also do online. (Sometimes, you just like to be unplugged.) As for making friends face to face in this local environ...that is also easier said than done. That in itself could be the subject of an entire blog post, but just suffice to say that a lot of people here KNOW they're not the friendliest creatures God placed on earth--they admit it freely. :-) Which, in an ironic way, makes them all the more approachable. So there's progress. Just not big numeric progress.

5. I'm having mixed results on the "taking the writing more from the heart" approach. This is still in a simmering stage. More on the last two of these things in a future post, since this one has become loooooonnnnnnger than anyone should have to read on a blog site!

More in part 2 of the Progress Report, which will follow shortly. <G>

Janny