Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it." ~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Trouble with Blogging

INTERNET PROBLEMS

I've always said that blogging should be an interactive social media--why it's called social media. If you aren't inclined to respond to others and visit them like they visit you (or Like as in Facebook, or RT as in Twitter, or share as in G+) then why even be here?

Only now I'm on the other side because of our spotty Internet in Guatemala. Links not connecting is my biggest frustration-- that "can't connect" or "problem loading page" notice. It definitely puts a cramp in my social media style. When it's bad, I give up and do something not involving the Internet.

It is one-sided, I know, and I apologize. I'm not intentionally ignoring people, it's just life in a third world country.

BOREDOM

When I was new to blogging, I read everything, commented everywhere, and followed everyone, since blogging itself was a novel activity. I am now way more selective.

After five years, one can get bored with a blog if it's the same topics over and over. When I started, I was connecting with other writers and posting mostly about writing and publishing. I no longer blog like it's 2010. Besides, the publishing scene has completely changed since then.  Instead of how to get an agent or a publisher, it's announcements like "why I chose to self-publish."

Self-publishing has taken the blog world by storm, and since I'm not really into it, blogs with that focus aren't relevant to me. We've gone different directions. I wish you well, but I'm probably not reading your blog anymore. Unless you have a fresh and original approach to an old topic.

I'm fascinated most of all by life. I like to know what people eat for meals, where they work, how they shop, what kinds of clothes they wear, where they go for entertainment. I am way more interested in these topics than blog hops, memes, book reviews or book launch announcements. I can read book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Why do I want to read them on blogs? Especially when it's not my genre of choice. So, yeah, I get bored by that too.

Unless book reviews and author interviews are your platform and people go there for exactly that, like Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress, or Women on Writing, it's best to stay with one's own focus or platform. Now, more on that.....

PLATFORM

As writers, our posts should not only be fascinatingly original, but also applicable to the kinds of books we write. My books are about families and food and places and loss and hope and forgiveness. What a broad platform that provides for me! I have so many topics to blog about it's a wonder I'm not posting every day. I could, too, except it would be overkill.

The problem I see with platform in writer blogs is that it's either limited or non-existent. If you write fantasy or dystopian books then why are you blogging about gardening and lollipops? If I'm a fan of your dark, realistic fiction, then I'd have a hard time relating to your blog about Legos and the third grader's latest school project. See? This is not a platform. Which is fine if that's how you want to blog, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's a platform for your author persona.

You write romantic fiction, say chick lit? Then your platform and your voice should reflect it. Talli Roland is a perfect example of someone who does it right. She writes about cupcakes and wine and meeting up with friends and dates with her husband and pictures of her adorable baby. Not to mention mouth-watering photos of where she lives in-- ahem--LONDON. Her blog is like a romance novel come to life.  Now that is a platform.

VOICE

The voice of a blog makes it or breaks it. If I like your blogging voice, I'll read it, regardless of what it's about. Or regardless of what your platform is or your books are about. I go for a clear, strong voice like my dog goes for raw egg. It's irresistible to me.

Some examples of bloggers whose voices I enjoy are

Terri Tiffany
Mirka Breen
Jan Morrison
The Midlife Farm Wife
Ten Lives and Second Chances
The Blutonian Death Egg
Karen Walker

This is a very short list. There are tons of blogs I rarely miss, regardless of the other topics I mentioned. And it's because I enjoy the topics they choose to write about and especially the voice of the writer.

SPAM

Don't you hate endless notices on your email about new spam comments? I finally disabled the email notification for comments. I rarely respond anyway via email, and I regularly check the blog for new, non-spam comments.

I can't stand captcha, but I do have moderation of comments set up on any that come in past 10 days of a new post. This catches most of the spam that otherwise would show up on archived posts.

What I don't understand is when a blogger has both captcha AND moderation of comments on their new posts. This punishes the legitimate visitor. I have to really love you and your blog to fight through all that and leave a comment.

So disable your email notification, disable captcha, and add moderation of comments only for the older ones. In other words, do what I do and we can all be happy.

IN CONCLUSION

I really doubt that I'll ever stop blogging, despite the above-mentioned problems. Blogging isn't perfect but it is an art form like none other, one of a kind, and why it's still around despite all the competition for our Internet attention. It's also how I connect with writers and other interesting people online, which I love to do. To me, it's worth it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Did I Really Need 3 Refrigerators?

When my husband and I decided to sell everything and move to Guatemala, we had the usual American overload:

A big house filled with our valued possessions.

A minivan and a sedan, along with a car needing repair parked in the garage

A tractor mower and every other tool known to man, collected by my husband for over 40 years. Giving up his tools was absolutely the hardest thing for him to do.

Antiques and family history passed down from generations on both sides

A fully equipped kitchen

3 refrigerators, yes 3 of them, all plugged in and using electricity

Okay, you've got the gist of it. After 4 decades of marriage, we had collected a LOT. And in six months time, we sold or gave away everything. Except for family photos and a few extras in a very small storage unit. These are items we plan on bringing down with us our next couple of trips back.

One of the problems people have in downsizing is letting go of STUFF. You work a lifetime to collect it, and it's hard to say goodbye. That six months of unloading was probably the most stressful six months I've experienced in a very long time.

And please don't get the idea we were pack rats. Not at all. I could dispatch clutter and fill the garbage bins in no time. We did not have a cluttered home. In fact, I was stunned at how long it took to get rid of it all, simply because I hadn't realized how much there was.  

And now that we are moved to our third world paradise, we talk about what we miss. Except for our family, the word is nothing. We love not having a car. We love not owning a home. We love that we can pack up our 4 suitcases and move if we want to.  Letting go of all those things that filled our home and garage and basement was extremely difficult. But was it worth it? YES!!!

I can hardly explain the lightness of feeling that comes with disposing of all those possessions. I never thought I could live without a dishwasher, a vacuum, or a washer and drier, or my husband part with his beloved tools.

We took the first leap into the darkness, then one step after another, and came out on the other side lighter, happier, freer than imagined. We all have to do it eventually when we die, right? I'm glad I didn't wait until then to leave all that stuff behind.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Writing Life


Today my Writer's Creed post for the month is on my author website. I hadn't updated it since January and figured it was about time. The link is here if you want to know--

1. What writing books I'm currently using

2. What inspirational quote is keeping me going

3. How the move to a third world country has inspired my creative life

4. What this is and how I'm using it--






Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Rainy Season

After months of sunshine and perfect 70 degree days, the rain comes to the Lake Atitlan region. Every day, sometimes all day and throughout the night, it pounds against the roof of our house so we can barely hear each other speak.
Lake Atitlan during the rainy season


The nearby mountains are covered in gray clouds, the storm appearing much worse there than in the valleys, and I wonder about the Mayan people who live on the mountain, in their small villages far above town. How they must travel through the relentless pouring rain to work in their fields on the hillsides. They will navigate the steep, slippery, muddy paths down toward the local market to sell their vegetables. They can't afford to wait for the rain to stop, as the rainy season starts in May and goes through September. It is the Guatemalan winter.

The storm seems ominous and threatening as I think about these people in the hills around Lake Atitlan.  They manage, sun or rain, regardless. They tend their crops, come to town, carrying huge loads on their backs, to sell what they have grown, crafts they have made. Like all people everywhere, they need to survive, maybe get ahead, wanting a better life for their children. Maybe one day they can get enough money for the children to stop working in the fields and go to school.

I'm embarrassed at myself cowering from the rain in my large house with a garden, upset that I can't hear the sound on my Netflix movie.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Saying One or Two Things about Blogging

After finishing my A to Z series on life in Guatemala, it's been difficult to come back. I wonder, what more can I say?

My husband and I now live in Guatemala, I am a full-time writer, along with managing editor for WiDo Publishing, and we both have very busy daily routines. We are definitely not on vacation. The more I'm working on my books, and on WiDo's books, the less I have to say on my blog.

And I think that's okay. Like my author website, it's here, whether I am or not.  Blogging is a rewarding activity, but I don't want to be one who posts out of habit.

As I scroll through sites I follow, I appreciate those who share real content, regardless of the subject matter. I found some amazing new blogs to follow from the A to Z Challenge. Content and Personality (or Voice) are what I look for. To me, they appeal more than consistency.

In blogging as in life, it's okay not to say anything if there's nothing to say. And with that, I'll go away for a while, maybe long maybe short. Until I have something more to say.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Zarahemla: Where was it and does it matter?

Zarahemla is a city of Ancient America, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, a companion book to the Bible. Zarahemla could have been located in Central America, possibly in an area of the United States-- scholars differ on location. Some people believe it is in Guatemala, perhaps the Tikal area.

The people of Zarahemla originally came from Jerusalem right before the Babylonian invasion. They were led to a promised land by the prophet Lehi. Once in the Americas, they spread and grew, creating cities, industry, education and of course governments and nations. The various groups often fought against one another, with wars becoming a defining point in the eventual end of their civilization.

The message of Zarahemla, and of the Book of Mormon, is that living the commandments of God brings peace and happiness, while disobeying God brings sin and unhappiness. It is the message that matters more than the exact geographic location of the areas talked about.

The Book of Mormon stands as another witness of Jesus Christ, as He visited the people in the American continent after His resurrection. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10: 16)
While my husband and I are living in this area where so many archeological digs have unearthed ancient structures, we appreciate the added insight that comes from the Book of Mormon about these "other sheep." They worshiped God, built temples, kept sacred records, raised families and strengthened their communities through education, religion and industry. 
Visiting the ancient sites helps to bring their stories alive. There's a small one in the Lake Atitlan region. The largest site in Guatemala is in Tikal, the site of numerous cities that have been discovered.



 I discovered the Book of Mormon when I was twenty, and it changed my life. Whether you read it for spiritual guidance and inspiration, or simply to learn about the journey of people from Jerusalem to the Americas, it is well worth the time spent. Zarahemla is just one of the great cities you will learn about in the Book of Mormon.