Looking Ahead at 2017

busyThis post comes about a week late, but that’s okay. The kids and I were all sick last week and needed the time to recover. What a blessing that time was! But now we’re (mostly) recovered, and it’s time to embrace our time with renewed vigor.

Normally, in the week between Christmas and New Year, I take an evening to go off by myself and start considering my goals and such for the New Year. I take time to praise God for the stuff that happened in the previous year, and to pray about what’s to come. Then I start listing goals in different life categories:

Spiritual

Health

Relationships

Business

Education

Homeschool

Financial

(Most of these categories have sub-categories.)

I usually try to limit myself to 3 goals in each category. Then, each new month, I pick about 3 goals from different categories to work on. Even though I might have a few other goals during that particular month, those 3 are usually my focus.

 

Word of the Year

I could go through and list each goal for the year, but that would be at best cumbersome, at worst boring. I will say that most of the goals center around my word of the year.

to-michelle

Consistency has been something I’ve struggled with, especially given my health issues, for many years. I am always sick(ly), and I struggle to find the time to do everything when I’m in a perpetual state of catching up.

Inconsistency leads to more stress, more illness, more of all the bad things. In order to get myself off of this circle I seem to be riding, I have to break the cycle.

Of course, this is a big undertaking. I know that I cannot do it alone–I’ve tried time and again. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13), is definitely the Bible verse I’ll be clinging to this year (among others).

 

January Goals

So, what are my first few goals for 2017?

Health: I am focusing on menu planning and portion control as I aim to get my blood pressure under control. Each week, I’ll review my menu for the month and shop from that (cutting out most junk food). And with each meal, I’ll be sure my carb level falls within appropriate ranges.

Overall: Write out a new routine/schedule that will allow me to include all the necessary aspects of my life and business in a more orderly (less stressful) way. Be sure to include “me” to help me relax.

Business: Write 40,000+ words on Soter, the 2nd of the books contracted by Elk Lake Publishing (releasing in the fall, most likely). I will be writing 2,000 words in the evening after the kids are in bed.

I’m already plunging my way through the first 2 goals. Sadly, I haven’t even started on the 3rd goal, but I’m getting to it! I just have some catching up to do!

 

So, what are your goals for January? Do you have a word for your year?

Bellanok: An Urgent Quest is Here!

I know, I know . . . it’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. The next installment of Bellanok is now on Amazon. The same characters you enjoyed in The Reluctant Savior, but with a whole new set of obstacles and dangers on the island of Bellanok.

Ralene Bellanok 2 an urgent quest final coverHere’s the blurb for Bellanok: An Urgent Quest:

Brian made it to Bellanok alive, but he’s not sure he’ll get out that way. From the time he arrives, things are not as he expected. The demon’s influence is everywhere. And then there’s the drums that only he can hear.

Fauna brought Brian back like she was told, but now what is she supposed to do? Bellanok is succumbing to evil, her link to Father is severed, and she fears she’s set everyone up for failure. A recurring vision may turn out to be the first clue as to the next step.

I’m really excited to share An Urgent Quest with all of  you. Enjoy!

If you haven’t read the first installment, The Reluctant Savior, you can also check it out on Amazon.

If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss each installment as they come out. There’s 3 more to come! You’ll also enjoy writing tips, story insiders, encouragement, and other fun stuff in your Inbox a couple of times a week.

What are YOU reading in the last week of 2015?

Fab 5 Friday: Chaos Edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve finally made the transition from summer to school, from conference planning to conference prep, from business to writing . . . In other words, it’s been completely crazy around here. And the craziness will continue at least through next week, which is when I will attend ACFW in Dallas.

Books:

So, I saw that one of my friends was publishing her 3rd book in a YA speculative trilogy. I had no idea that she had even published the first 2, much less that they were spec in nature. Excited to learn this, I bought the first book–and devoured it in 2 days. I bought the 2nd, and then the 3rd. I finished all 3 in about a week. I won’t tell you much about them, but I will suggest that you check out The Gifting Series by K.E. Ganshert, starting with The Gifting.

Business:

There are some exciting things going on in my business world. If you’ve been following my blog or social media, you already know that I have a book coming out next month–you can see the cover and blurb here. I’m super excited to share the first part of this 5-part mini-series with you.

Homeschool:

We’re officially into our new school year. The girls have been so excited as we’ve been studying the early Native Americans as we are into the early American History. They’re particularly excited for me to get back from ACFW so we can start our astronomy course and the typing software. So cute!

We decided to try the whole homeschool co-op thing this year, after a year-long break. The girls are taking a sign-language class and one called 50 States. Connor is taking a 2-part class where they study different countries around the world. Yesterday was their first day, and they had a lot of fun!

What did I do during this time? Worked on planning my book launch!

Conferences:

In June, I had KY Christian Writers Conference. In August, it was Realm Makers–a conference for speculative fiction writers who are Christian. And this month, I’m headed to the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. For the first 2, I was on the planning committee and did a lot of working during the conference for both. I’m excited to head to ACFW where I can kick back and hobknob, maybe learn a thing or 2.

QOTW:

What have you been reading lately? Which ones would you recommend to fellow readers?

Tea with Me: Marketing and Muppets

boldtcastle_library2I’m so excited to bring back the Tea with Me posts. It’s so much fun getting to know people and to be able to help them where I can. Welcome to our newest round-table sit down. Grab a drink, pull up a chair, and let’s get down to business.

Cindy: Do specific marketing efforts actually do anything useful or should I just focus on writing the next story?

Ralene: This is actually a 2-part question, so you’ll get a 2-part answer. Yes, specific marketing efforts do make a difference, but which ones are a matter of knowing your target audience and yourself well enough to bring the right marketing plan into play. That right there is a whole 3-part series of blog posts, though.

But ultimately, the best marketing for you is getting your next book out there. Authors need to balance their time between writing and marketing, with a weightier balance on writing. That’s why, with marketing, you need to work smarter–not harder.

Cindy: How many Muppets does it take to change a lightbulb?

Ralene: After thorough research, I have determined that the answer is none. Either they don’t have lightbulbs in the Muppet Kingdom, or the glow from the TV screen is bright enough. (No muppets were harmed in the development of this answer.)

Robert: If you do plot arc critique, what do you do if the author isn’t receptive to your take on their work?

Ralene: Sadly, not everyone in the world agrees with me. I think life would be so much better if they did, but, alas, it is an imperfect world we live in. So . . .

Honestly, if I were to find an author who isn’t receptive to my take on their work, I don’t know that there is much that I could do. I do know that I would not argue with them. If they ask for examples of something I said, I’d be happy to point that out, but I’m not going to argue every little point just to get my way.

And if they aren’t receptive to anything that I suggested, then I would just assume we weren’t the ideal team to begin with, wish them the best, and move on.

Do you all have anything to add to my answers? Join in the discussion now!

Also, would you all like to see the Tea with Me posts once or twice a month? 

Have a great weekend!

Winners and a Plan

file0001024202589Wow! What an exciting and fun time I had last week. It was so neat to see all the responses on the survey, and such a blessing to read all the comments on the posts, especially the ones on the sweepstakes post. You guys are awesome!

So after going over the results from the survey, I’ve determined a few things . . .

You guys are overwhelmingly women . . . but there are still a couple of men floating about. I like to think I can appeal to both genders if you’re looking for tips on everything from writing to marketing.

The majority of the people who responded are in my age group! This is nice because I know that we can relate to life stuff on a similar level.

Most of you are pre-published or self-published. This tells me that I am branding myself the way I intended and attracting my target audience. Look out because I have a lot of stuff coming up in the next few months to help you all get to the next level!

It looks like you all are interested in the tips on writing/editing and marketing, not so much on the goals, organization, and life stuff. While I don’t think I’m going to cut those out completely, since I do think they are important, I’ll try to keep them down to once a month.

cohdra_100_8690And it looks like I’m going to be making a series of checklists for my website freebies. You all want to see an editing checklist, a social media checklist, and a marketing checklist. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get the first shot at these as they come out this summer/fall.

As for my Friday posts, it looks like I’ll be kicking out the Happy & Healthy posts. It didn’t seem that as many people were interested in it now as there were at the beginning of 2015. So, I’ll have two Fab 5 Friday posts with one Tea with Me and one writing update post.

Thank you all so much for your input. I appreciate your help in making this blog serve you based on your needs–and not necessarily just what I want to write.

So, without further ado, I’m excited to announce the winners of the Blog Re-Launch Sweepstakes . . .

 

Winner of the $50 Amazon Gift Card is . . . 

Colette Pedersen

 

 

And now . . .

 

The winner of the FULL COPYEDIT (by me!) is . . .

 

BETHANY JENNINGS!

 

 

Congrats to both of these amazing ladies. E-mail me soon so we can talk details.

 

If you have any questions you would like me to answer for this month’s TEA WITH ME post, please leave them in the comments below!

Otherwise, what are you looking forward to most this summer?