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Thunderbolts and Firewires: The Year That Was 2016, #Farewell2016 #Writing #Podcast

I am feeling a little like I am frozen, and I’m warm while I say that. I don’t need to be out in a snow bank to say it. It is January, a new year, and I am frozen by many fears. I am afraid I will accomplish nothing, that this year of 2016 will be empty and a blank void in my life. I feel frozen by indecision and by uncertainty, but I hope I can find a way to thaw from that feeling of being frozen by all of this, that I can find the courage to take risks and keep moving forward.
I am equal parts afraid and optimistic. I am a lot hesitant and somewhat hopeful. The fear that I could go a whole year and not get anywhere at all clings on tight. On the other hand, I see a wide open year ahead as full of unknown possibility and promise of something great.
You never know the experiences you might have, the events in life that you just can’t plan for, and the people you may meet, who may come into your life for all kinds of reasons, for the short term only or for longer.

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Here I am, a year on from the fear and those remarks I made on my blog at the start of 2016, and a good year for me personally and creatively, trying new things, all by deciding to focus on myself is how 2016 actually turned out.

And now, I end 2016 and begin 2017 by looking back, at the year I’ve just had and ahead to the year to come.

I did it at the end of 2015 with:
My Top Spills and Thrills
of which there had been enough of both to go around.

What a ride! Would 2016 be anything else?

And so, I give you – 2016!

JANUARY

As the January 2016 quote from my blog showed,
I began my year afraid and uncertain and on a bit of a lower note,
with a little
Just Jot It January fun.

Then, to kick things up a notch, I thought the best way to focus on my writing was to take a writing workshop with a Canadian writer I’ve admired since I began blogging and seriously writing.
Carrie Snyder – Obscure CanLit Mama
Her style to creative work was just what I needed and it made me open up and here I am, one year later exactly, off to broaden my writing workshop horizons.

In reality, my brother had just come off a close medical call and was becoming himself again. I had lots to be
thankful for.
I just needed a bit of a push,
some creative inspiration,
and a path for a new direction in my life.

The year 2016 would, by many, be labeled “The Year All the Greats Died…the cursed year” even if you look at that with perspective from other years, past or future.

It began with David Bowie, but for me,
it all started with Snape,
as Bowie hadn’t quite meant to me what he’d meant to many others who felt his loss.

A new year maybe, but a new month meant another
#1000Speak,
focusing on the subject of forgiveness.

With the start of 2016 I decided to start a new Friday tradition.

Thanks to Kristi from
Finding Ninee
I decided to participate in a new blogging exercise
for the first time.

Another first included
Dungeons, Dragons, and Sorcerer’s Spells
but, in the end, it wasn’t for me.

Turns out, the magic of this month has been that I could just write, jot really, and I started to see that I didn’t need to have the rest of the year all figured out in the first thirty-one days.

FEBRUARY

This second month of the year is designated for a cause I know well. It ended up to be my chance to speak my mind about my personal cause and became my first published article of 2016:

To the People Who’ve Never Heard of My Rare Disease – The Mighty

February would end up being a month of
mindfulness and music.

Ten days in, I turned thirty-two and decided to check a big one off of my
bucket list,
and so I went out and rented myself a violin.

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned another year older.

Harper Lee dies

MARCH

This third month of 2016 would bring more music, as I would discover my theme song for the year and forevermore:
Scars – Emmanuel Jal Feat. Nelly Furtado
and I would officially begin to learn how to play the violin, with lessons that would challenge and reward me, in both big and small ways.

Then, in honour of International Day of Happiness, I wrote a piece for
March’s #1000Speak
about how music makes me happy.

By this point in the year, I decided to cut back on blogging and write more of the memoir I’ve always planned for.

This was the best I could do.

I will keep at it.

March brought with it guest blogging spots and more opportunities for publication, other places than my own blog,
with my second attempt at the #BeReal challenge.

Following this, feminism seemed to be the topic of March as a month.

An interview I’d done with
a proud male feminist
and then a piece I’d written on
International Women’s Day
were both picked up by
The Good Man Project.

As for those we lost in the month of march:

Rob Ford (former mayor of Toronto)

and

Patty Duke, at the end of Women’s History Month, March.

APRIL

I got myself a writing mentor and my lyrics were finally heard.

Don’t Look Back

I was trying to focus, to look ahead, and to plan for what I wanted.

Why Oh Why

The writing mentor was a big deal, for that, as great and knowledgeable as she is and as much guidance as she’s been so far, but it was a sign that I could make writing my future – only I could do that.

April’s #1000Speak was all about vulnerability.

Once again, like during the spring of 2015, I was losing my tool for communication and self expression. This makes me feel vulnerable.

So I appreciated
the share from a friend
and another
guest posting opportunity
from a blogger, a young woman I really admire and have interviewed here before.

Spotlight On Single Strides

The end of April brought with it the death of Prince.

It also brought with it
the death of the loner laptop I was using
and a beautiful gift from a stranger, one which would allow me to write another day.

MAY

Back And Better Than Ever

I’d been pondering the idea of doing a podcast for a while, but couldn’t figure out how to make that work. Then, I brought up the idea with my brother and an idea, our idea, was born.

Taking A Chance

Next, it’s the month to celebrate mothers.

Solid As A Rock

I couldn’t do this without thinking back twenty years.

Frozen In Time

For May’s edition of #1000Speak I focused on
Loving My Self-ish.

The end of May and onward to June always causes me to pause and reflect.

Born Again and Forever Grateful

This time these thoughts would grow to become my next piece to be featured on The Good Man Project.

JUNE

My first Song Lyric Sunday on more than just any old Sunday day.

Following “the month of the Mother,” –
Her Dad Gave Her New Life and Rebirth–Where’s the Father’s Day Card for That?
June will always be a month for me and my father.

Electric Blue Compassion, #1000Speak

JULY

We started with a Facebook page,
and soon that followed with
Episode 1 – Intro To Us
with Ketchup On Pancakes.

On top of the release of the podcast, I jumped at an amazing offer, an invite, which would require a whole lot of planning and a wait of nearly six months.

Would the moment ever get here?

I bet my sister was thinking that same thing, we all were, but her good news was finally a dream come true.

A chance at independence and a new life for my writing and for me and a second child for her.

And so I applied for a newly updated passport and began to count down the months.

I read and wrote one of my rarer than I’d like book reviews.

Then I was approached and invited to write another
guest post
about my life and my day as a blogger.

What is courage anyway? #1000Speak

AUGUST

More lyrics for a second song written and, in celebration of and motivated by that accomplishment,
I decided to return to the visual art of my childhood and an old, familiar kind of creativity.

Up next, speaking of being reminded of being a child,
I reviewed a movie about motherhood,
that I’d gone to see, with my newly pregnant sister, in our own empty theatre.

Weeks before, at the end of May, the lead singer of Canada’s own Tragically Hip announced his fight with brain cancer and all his fans of Canada were listening, especially all across the country, one night in August.

The World Can Learn a Thing or Two From Canada – The Planet D

One beloved Canadian spoke up about his oncoming struggle and we lost someone in our family. I’m glad I got to meet Gerti, at least once that I’ll always remember.

As August came to an end, I made a few hard choices about my writing and what I wanted done with it.

If I made a mistake somewhere in there, I guess it will be mine to make and to own and to learn from.

The questioning would and will continue, no matter the month or the year I’m in.

SEPTEMBER

The first day of this new month was one I’d been waiting for, with the release of a new publication, focusing on what travel should be, the kind I’d like to see.

Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel

I remembered what it was like, moving into my house that I bought with my sister, ten years ago.

Collecting Furniture, Memories, and Emails

Ten years later, my nephew started school and my niece began the first grade. Another loved one passes away. RIP Erica.

I got to feature an interview I’d done with one of my favourite editors/writers.

The Other Awkward Age: My Interview with Jennifer Niesslein

This felt like a giant win and one of the best things to ever happen to this blog.

OCTOBER

Episode 2 – Ingredients Listed with Ketchup On Pancakes

But we weren’t the only ones with the idea of doing a podcast. Apparently, the idea had spread.

The Brevity Podcast

I took an autumn trip, to say goodbye,
with more than just the fall colours
as backdrop.

NOVEMBER

The U.S. makes a big mistake and it’s time to get writing – all the more reason to write.

Nano Nano Nano

“Regarding the influence from his poet-balladeer father, Cohen has said, “He’s tremendously helpful. Forget that I am his son. I was tutored in lyric-writing by Leonard Cohen and I had his sensibilities to draw upon. And I’m not just talking genetically. I could literally talk to the cat and he could lean over my notebook and point to a couple of phrases and say, ‘These are strong, these are weak.’ How can I consider myself anything but incredibly fortunate.”

Canada loses a great artist and the world all feels it, a distraction, in the form of
RIP Leonard Cohen,
just following the chaos in the United States.

Stalemate, #1000Speak

Could this possibly spell the end of 1000 Voices Speak For Compassion?

DECEMBER

Canada announces the first woman, other than the Queen, to appear on Canadian money.

Black rights activist Viola Desmond to be 1st Canadian woman on $10 bill

One month after November’s U.S. election, we share our Canadian perspective.

Episode 3 – The Great Gong Show of 2016 with Ketchup On Pancakes

I focused on my own personal growth for a greater part of 2016, but managed to fit in a little, last minute dating during the final days. Also, I made new and face-to-face connections with a few local women writers. So, a balance of personal and social, for good measure.

A few of the final famous deaths of 2016 would include daughter/mother pair Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, but for me, it was the loss of this guy that brought me back twenty or so years:

I watched Days of Our Lives multiple days a week, while I was sick at home from school or stuck on dialysis. It was my favourite soap opera of the late 90s, as ridiculous as the storylines always were.

Joseph Mascolo, ‘Days of Our Lives’ Villain, Dies at 87 – New York Times

No villain was ever more evil than Stefano DiMera (Joseph Mascolo).

Special Snowflakes and Safe Places – Wham! Bah Humbug! Whoosh! #10Thankful

I featured a George Michael shoutout, in my final 10 Things of Thankful post for 2016 and this was before the Christmas Day announcement of his passing.

I am no fortune teller, but some of my predictions did happen,
as I sit with what did indeed come to pass and look back on what 2016 became.

Ketchup On Pancakes (the podcast) had a final episode for the year, a catch up on all that was 2016, by a cozy fireside.

Episode 4 – Farewell 2016…By The Fireside with Ketchup On Pancakes

And now, here I am, and another January is upon me.

It is a bit of a contemplative month, with the new year so new and fresh, but I value it for its melancholyish quality. It is a quiet time of reflection and so much possibility ahead.
As a new year begins I search for the motivation I see all around me, the kind that is going to get me to the places I strive to get to. I feel the blueness of January and hope I can find some momentum in the months to come.

My 2016 Resolutions were:
I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.
Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, NANOWRIMO 2014, Poetry, Spotlight Saturday, Writing

Review of One Word at a Time

“A successful writing career will humble you more than almost anything else I can think of.”
– Eric Vance Walton

Welcome to this mid-November edition of Spotlight Saturday.

I have several author pages on my Facebook newsfeed, but one such author stands out as I scroll through.

Eric Vance Walton, Author has written novel “Alarm Clock Dawn” (his debut) and, his newest book, “One Word At a Time: Finding Your Way As An Indie Author” is out now.

Being smack-dab in the midst of November and NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be the perfect time to introduce a practical, how-to guide on how to reach for success as an author in the new, developing, and always changing world of indie publishing.

Author’s Publish Press knows all about that and they have brought, along with Eric, us some useful tips and advice and an insightful step-by-step guide for how to navigate through the world of writing and publishing.

Eric says:

“Writing isn’t just something we do. It’s something we are.”

Truer words have never been spoken and after reading this in the first few pages of the book, I already felt comfortable and able to relate to this writer and his experiences.

He tells his story to help others avoid mistakes he, himself has made. He knows about the struggle to manage the events of everyday life with the need to write.

Here is a frank, honest, and open account of the life of a writer. It is a refreshing look at the possibilities of indie publishing, straight from the mouth of one who has traveled the journey and come out on the other side.

All the years of unfocused writing while living life brought him to the awakening he had on turning forty. Sometimes this is just the sort of push we, as writers need, to take that step and he did..

He has been living the writer’s life and he speaks openly about how he climbed that ladder of success. This is a story of the adventure he embarked on, over the last twenty years and he has the firsthand knowledge any working writer can surely use.

He has written novels, children’s stories, poetry, and freelance articles. Many writers are doing this, getting by, but they lack the awareness and the push forward to truly tell the story they are meant to tell.

Eric has a blueprint that he is very willing to share. that is what this book is all about.

He shares achievable strategies such as developing structured blocks of writing time, the perfect writing nook, how to work through writer’s block by walking the dog and getting fresh air and jus the right amount of physical exercise, and ways to keep both mind and body healthy so that the best writing can be produced without the help of artificial substances such as alcohol, drugs, or caffeine.

He relays the tools he has found to be most useful in producing his best work: adequate amounts of sleep, the right environment for a peaceful night’s rest, and one of his biggest tips being meditation. Exercise and a reviving walk, meditative gardening, yoga or Tai Chi. These things that have worked to relieve stress for him are mere suggestions for any writer looking for ways to bring forth their best work.

He shares his battle to walk that fine line between a day job to bring in a steady paycheque and finding the time to truly devote to the writing life he wanted. It wasn’t all roses all the time and he shares his triumphs as well as his defeats.

He shares how the biggest mistake, to not have a concrete plan and set out goals, will leave you unsatisfied and unable to reach any attainable writing career success or fulfilment.

Sometimes, more often then not, sacrifice is required and compromise is the key. He makes it clear that you must decide what is your end goal and what are you willing to give up to get it, such as satellite television or material items and how to be frugal while walking the fine line of giving up something such as the steady pay from a day job, for the somewhat uncertain life of a full-time writer.

“Clear goals and dicipline,” he says. “Smarts, luck and persistence,” are, according to Eric, what it takes. HE is offering another path to the starving artist path a lot of writers and other creative types often go down. He shares his concrete plan that worked for him, exactly how to save enough money and to give a specific amount of time to get a novel written.

He compares novel writing to military bootcamp and proposes that writing can be a formula, with such tools as NaNoWriMo to help get the words down on paper or on the screen.

He shares tips for bringing in multiple revenue streams while walking the road of being an indie author, how the two big things to consider in this journey are time and money. His tips on making money through blogging and how to build confidence and experience through public speaking are direct and specific, with directions and clear-cut references to Google and other surveys, showing evidence on how to be successful as a writer. Having a budget and being mindful are his best pieces of advice on how not to be that dreaded starving artist.

Marketing and promotion are just as important as the writing. This book speaks on social media, on other authors who have done something right and have made a name for themselves, in this day and age and in the digital world we now live in, how important a blog can be in making a name for yourself in writing.

Motivation is an important topic he speaks about throughout and how the “non-writing” and the fear of never producing anything, by the end of his life, are the best motivators for him and perhaps for you too, to get the writing done now, and not to wait for tomorrow.

Mentioned are important tips on becoming a better writer: polishing, tweaking, and learning. He advices taking classes, reading books, and brushing up on proper grammar rules. It takes time to become a good writer and his years of practice have brought him to this book.

He talks about the fundamentals of fiction: proper story pacing, writing realistic dialogue and proper dialogue tags, and communication and body language. All this and more are the mechanics of writing and are at the heart of it all. With this, he includes actual examples to help anyone who wants to learn to grow as a writer.

Consistency. Continuity. Creativity. Characterization. Clarity.

One of the most important pieces of advice, in my opinion, is the one about not falling for the lure of social media and the urge to publish before giving a piece of writing all the attention and clarification it needs. this is the biggest problem with easy access to technology and the revolution of the indie writing universe.

He provides resources and offers tips on finding the right beta readers and the best editor to fit your needs, for your particular book project.

He quotes and refers to Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Veronica Roth, John Green, J. K. Rowling and Harry Potter and others when talking of creativity and how to tap into it. He lists reading, going to plays, and listening to music, all things that inspire to surround yourself constantly with creativity from all sides. This includes being around others in the creative fields, for a learning experience from others who have the same sorts of interests.

“Creativity is self-doubt.”

Here Eric quotes Sylvia Plath, and this single, simple line becomes an important topic throughout this book.

Voice, genre, brand. He offers a lot of advice on what is badly needed for creative people who can’t seem to get out what they want to say. This book outlines a strategy for discovering, developing, and growing an author’s brand.

It is easy, for most writers who are naturally loners, to stay hidden, but this last piece of becoming an author is key. Learning how to work with other people is strongly recommended and is the last thing to be discussed in this book.

It was a friend’s question about how his first novel was going that sparked something in Eric, a seriousness toward the task of completion.

He is honest about the reality, the highs as well as the lows, and he is grateful for all who have assisted him in his writing journey.

He provides real-life examples from his own life on what success in writing meant to him as a younger man and how that definition has changed over the years, offering practical advice on setting goals and adjusting expectations.

He is open about the fear and self-doubt that often plague writers. He is genuinely appreciative to his readers. Finding his niche audience, launching and releasing his novel, and receiving reader reviews; he speaks about all the stages of writing his first novel in a relatable way that any fellow writer can see themselves in.

Although he, like most writers, first dreamt of being published by a traditional publishing house, he lays out a writer’s alternate options: self-publishing or through a smaller, independent press.

He explains writing in a clear and concise way, with the help of quotes and websites for more information, he lets the reader know that it isn’t always a smooth road with self-publishing, that a writer must be all things: writer, editor, graphic designer, etc. However, this can only be the case up to a point, and then hiring experts becomes necessary for a more professional looking product. This, however, is becoming, more and more, the way to go if a writer wishes to hold control of their own work.

He is up front about the costs that still go along with indie publishing and the pros and cons of having both hard copies and ebooks created. These pros and cons still do apply to making the decision to go the indie route and then, in future, changing to the traditional route if it suits.

He speaks on technology and how it can be utilized in ways (Facebook/Twitter) that weren’t possible only a few years ago. He knows, realizing his responsibility as a writer, to offer advice to others who are where he has been and who hope to be where he is now.

Balance and gratitude are the two key elements, that stood out to me when reading, for success as an indie author or a traditionally published author. This book is part writer’s memoir and part mechanical writing guide.

I have enjoyed Eric’s Facebook page for a while before reviewing this book. Eric posts poems which are beautiful and moving and he has a lot to say on his many years growing and developing as an indie author himself, what it took him to get to where he is today.

On Saturdays he opens up his author page to others who want to share links to or bits of their writing: Showcase Saturday. He is generous enough to give others a chance to shine.

Find Eric at his website:

https://ericvancewalton.wordpress.com

You can check out his book here,

One Word at a Time: Finding Your Way as an Indie Author, on Amazon.

Or you can follow him on Facebook,

Eric Vance Walton, Author on Facebook.

I promise you won’t regret it.

I was given an early version of this book to review. I am sure there have been final touches and fixes since then and now this book has been released and I recommend it for anyone looking for a guide for writing success, especially in the indie world.

You can be a writer and produce your best work, one word at a time.

“Although writers spend lots of time crafting fictional characters, ironically, the act of writing develops the character of the author more than anything else.”

Thank you, Eric Vance Walton, for that and for this helpful guide on writing.

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