Call Tech Support- by Brenda Poulos

My computer just went crazy. I couldn’t get on the internet, the track pad wouldn’t work, I couldn’t type on my word processing program without the cursor jumping lines, and the response time was ever so S-L-O-W!!!!!

I humbled myself and called customer support. After a series of “Have you tried…?” I was transferred to high level tech support. Albert calmly suggested that he help me update my operating system.

Two hours later, my patience having long past worn thin, EL CAPITAN was put in charge. It seems that my old operating system simply hadn’t been capable of running the many new programs that had been added since the last update.

It’s not just our computers that need updating from time to time. We have to keep ourselves up-to-date with the trends and techniques necessary for our craft.

Writers–even unbelievably successful ones–keep abreast of all the changes that are happening by viewing webinars and podcasts, reading the latest books, talking with other authors, and attending conferences.

People of all professions are required to earn so many continuing education units per year. Writers who want to do well, must follow the same principle by keeping updated, too. I have to be honest and say that sometimes I resent taking the time to study the craft (I just want to sit in front of my computer and write!) but I know the only way to improve my writing is learning as much as I can and putting it into practice.

Where can you start? Newsletters by such helpful writers as Randy Ingermanson and C.S.Lakin are one good way. They share what they know at no cost. I recommend signing up to get them on a regular basis, if you don’t already.

We are so fortunate to live in the age of the internet where you can ask just about any question on line and get an instant answer, including links to almost anyone you are wanting to follow, so that’s another way to stay on top of things.

So, whether it’s your computer, or your skills that need updating, it’s all possible with a little tech support!

You Want a Beta Reader?

Who are beta readers and what do they do?

Since beta readers are usually strangers, they provide unbiased comments, whereas our family and friends don’t want to hurt our feelings. Beta readers come from different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common. They like to read.

Below are some details about working with Betas.

* Send your manuscript to the beta using Google Doc, print, or e-reader, but always                   send your finest work. Critique groups can help get it the best it can be.

* Send a questionnaire with your manuscript listing areas you want focused on i.e.                    character growth, dialogue real and natural, etc. Since many betas read for                                content, inform the beta before you send your manuscript if you want something                    else.

* When you receive the beta’s suggestions, remember, we all have different tastes.

Discuss any comments that you don’t understand. Later review their remarks. Use only the suggestions that are beneficial to your manuscript. Place the rest in a file to review later. Be sure to thank the beta reader.

* Betas aren’t usually paid, however, if your beta is a writer offer to read her                                 manuscript.

* Make sure you thank the beta in the acknowledgement section of your book.

* Ask people at conferences and writers’ clubs if they know a beta reader. Online the                 best site I found was Wattpad. When searching for one, find one that loves to read                 the same genre as your manuscript.

Have you ever used a beta reader? If so, please, share your thoughts.

Sprouting the good Word

It was time for a change. Quit eating junk food, Nanc’, I said to myself. My choices were not serving my body well. Intrigued by a lush display of green sprouts at the farmer’s market, I decided to begin eating healthy by growing my own sprouts.

I went shopping for a seed-sprouting kit, and happily found one on clearance. The tag read, “$2.48. As is.

Hmmm, “As is.”  Was something missing? I opened the box. Everything was there: one lid, two sprouting trays, water reservoir. Nothing broken. Seed packets included, too. Aha! The missing item? The instructions! But no worries, for a few small photos on the side of the box showed how to place the seeds in the trays.

When I got home, I looked at the photos on the side of the box for guidance, and spread the tiny broccoli seeds in each growing tray. I sprinkled water through the lid and watched it drip through the chamber. There. In a few days I would have my own sprouts!

With anticipation, I watched…and waited.

Day one: I kept the seeds moist, rinsing them two different times.

Day two: Two tiny seeds began to sprout! I added water to the trays, just as I’d done previously.

Day three: When I got up this morning, only a few more seeds had sprouted. What was taking so long? I researched the internet, and felt reassured I had done everything correctly. Okay, maybe a bit of patience was in order…

Day four: Disappointment! The seeds should have completely sprouted by now, but instead, only a scant few had grown at all. My efforts to grow sprouts had failed.

It wasn’t until I re-opened the box that the sprouting kit came in that I found the problem. The date stamped on the side of the seed packed read, “11/10.” No wonder the seeds didn’t grow.  They had expired. Truly, I had dead seeds.

My experience attempting to grow the sprouts reminded me of the parable Jesus told about good and bad seed. In Matthew 13:27, the owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?” Jesus told them an enemy did this.

The servants asked Jesus if they should go pull up the weeds, but Jesus told them not to, for in doing so, they might root up the wheat with them. He said the two would grow together until the time of harvest, when the weeds would be gathered and burned, and the wheat would be brought  into the barn.

Back to the sprouting kit. I got what I asked for when I bought the kit for $2.48, “As is.”  It wasn’t just the instructions that were missing–the “good seeds” were missing. They may have been good in 2010 (when this item was sold at full price), but they had lay dormant too long, and were of no use now. They might as well have been weeds.

Evil and deceit are like the weeds in the field that try to choke out the good seed, the Word of God. In my desire to eat healthy, I had looked forward to good results with the sprouting kit, but hadn’t looked closely enough at the label on the seeds, noting the expiration date.

I was careful when I bought a new sprouting kit, and checked the date (twice) on the seed packets. The seeds sprouted within three days, and made more than I thought possible. I was happy with the results. The sprouts were a delicious addition to our salads, sandwiches, and wraps.

As I learned to make better food choices, I thought about watching out for the “bad seed” that could also affect my spiritual life. The “good seed” (God’s Word) prevents “spiritual dormancy,” and for that I am so glad there is no expiration date!

May you also maintain a healthy eating plan, and may your spiritual life thrive, like good seed, that serves you well in your speaking and in your writing. .


Was I Crazy To Be Doing This? – Brenda C. Poulos

Truth be told, I had dreamed about retirement more than once during my last year of teaching. I’d be getting a check each month and that, along with my Social Security income, would make it possible for me to continue the same lifestyle I enjoyed “pre-retirement.” So what was causing my sleepless nights?

I loved children. I still enjoyed teaching. Was I giving up my career just because I was now of retirement age? Just because my friends were retiring? Just because I could?

I wasn’t getting any younger. My aching back and feet could attest to that. And, I needed more sleep. (The alarm going off at 5:00 A.M. was getting harder and harder to answer).  And, now I had grandchildren. I could spend more time with them…

Or, was it possible that my heart had been stolen by another? Was I experiencing a tug in a new direction? Did I want to experience a second chance at fulfilling my life-long dream of becoming an author?

I had always loved reading and being the editor of my high school newspaper, and the frequent opportunities to publish editorials had added to my desire to write. I had written well-enough to win a couple of awards from local newspapers, but my real interest wasn’t in the “news”. No, I loved telling stories.

As I turned in my retirement paperwork at the district office and walked back to the parking garage, I hesitated. “Was I crazy to be doing this?” I almost ran back up the stairs to snatch the envelope from the outgoing mail bin.

I had to be sure. I pulled my list of pros and cons from my coat pocket and went over each entry one more time. I closed my eyes and had yet another talk with God.

A peace came over me as I turned the key in the ignition. I had always loved being a teacher…a mother…a wife.  And, now I would be thankful for the opportunity to be a writer.

Was I crazy to be doing this?

No. I’d be crazy not to.

WRITING PROMPT “I was crazy to be doing this!”

My four friends stood behind me as I rubbed sweat from my forehead. I glanced at each of them then turned to study the wooden door set in the cave wall.

I stepped toward the golden handle set into the middle of the door but stopped a foot away. Something pricked my hand, like reoccurring electric static surging up my arm.

To my left, Joan smiled and nodded.
I shook my head at her. No matter what—it won’t cost her anything.

I peered over my other shoulder at my brother, Luke, who shook his head.

I dropped my hand. Curiosity had me, but I trusted Luke’s opinion more than my own.

Someone gasped.

I spun around. A soft yellow had materialized between the door and the frame.

The light brought into clarity four inched carved letters, blackened by age or fire.

What could they mean? I reached out and ran my finger down the first letter and then the next.

Behind me, someone screamed, “Sparks!”

Arms circled my waist.

The glow became brighter. Warmer. Pulling me. Calling me.

I reached for it but was too far away. I twisted, wanting to go to the light, but someone held me tight.

I swung my leg back and up.

A groan and the arms released me, sending me to the ground.

I crawled to the glowing door and pulled myself to standing.

I was crazy to be doing this! The letters were so beautiful. So comforting, filling me with hope. I have to touch them.

*To be continued sometime later.*

What Is Your Favorite Holiday Tradition? – Nancy P. Johnson

As I first thought about my favorite holiday tradition, I realized our family had several traditions over the years, at different times. So…which to choose?

When I was in grade school, my mother made Oyster Stew. My father’s heritage was Swedish/Finnish, and Oyster Stew was what we had on Christmas Eve. I hated the taste of oysters, but was happy my mother bought “oyster crackers,” which I used to soak up the milky broth. Sometimes we joined our neighbors down the street, also of Scandinavian heritage, for the meal. We attended the same Lutheran church as they did, so we worshiped together, too.

I may not have liked oysters, but I liked it when we spent time with our neighbors!

As I got older, the oyster stew tradition faded; however, my parents began the practice of smoking oysters when they held a Christmas party. One waft of the aroma of smoked oysters would send me reeling for fresh air outside (and it was cold in Colorado!) Despite the dreadful scent of the oysters, my brother and I were excited to play with neighbor kids and friends who came to visit.

When I grew up and got married, my husband and I split our time between my parent’s home and my mother and father-in-law’s home for Christmas Eve and Christmas. In between, we managed to have our own little celebration on Christmas morning before hurrying off to the festivities of the day.

In those days we didn’t have much money to spend on Christmas gifts. When we had children, I came up with an idea to elongate the gift-opening experience. For the girls’ “big” present, I made up clues on pieces of paper, which I would then hide around the house. Each clue led to the location of the next clue. Once gathered, our daughters would be able to figure out where their gift was hidden. This made for a fun time, and it definitely extended the gift-opening process.

Now that we are grandparents, we enjoy having our children and grand children over. We have an early dinner, attend the worship service, and then return to our house for dessert.

So some traditions have changed over the years, but one tradition that has held constant is attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight worship service.

My favorite part of the service is when everyone receives a lit candle. The lights in the church are dimmed, as we sing Silent Night. The serenity of that moment, combined with the sight of a sea of candles is a breath-taking and sacred moment. I reflect on the stillness of the night that Jesus was born, the light that shone down from the star over Bethlehem, and the Peace, Joy, and Love that came to earth from Heaven above.

So I guess you could say my favorite Christmas tradition is the Candlelight service, and being together with family and friends.

I suppose I could have written the last paragraph first to address the title of today’s post, but then it wouldn’t really be a story, would it?

I am glad for life experiences that turn into stories to share, and I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas!

What is your favorite Christmas tradition?









What is your favorite holiday tradition? – Crystal Acosta

For me, Christmas has always been about the music.  What a beautiful way to remember that God came to earth and took on a human form to pay the price that would restore our broken relationship with Him.

Christmas Caroling.

Growing up, we used to pile on the church bus after the Christmas Eve service to go Christmas caroling.  Like a progressive sing-a-long, we would visit house after house, singing a few carols at each.  We would visit the homes of people who couldn’t get out and about anymore.

For the last five or six years, we’ve been caroling at a nursing home.  I love to see the joy on their faces as they sing along with us.  Some respond with tears and a heartfelt “thank you.”

Christmas Cantatas.

I’ve sung in the church choir since high school, so the yearly Christmas cantata is always something special.  This year was over-the-top spectacular: two churches, a 30 piece orchestra, a 100 voice choir, and Robert Sterling directing his well-known Christmas music.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

A Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to you and yours.