New book by Jeanell Bolton

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Planning, Organization, Goal-setting–What, again?

picture of children climbing mountainside

Set your goals.

I’ve been getting multiple emails lately from self-help gurus offering to help me set goals, plan, and organize my life.

I know it’s good for the gurus. All of us who are success junkies will click into the videos and sign up for the free webinars, always thinking that maybe someone has found a new secret method to re-align our lives. Some of us will buy.

And do we find new secrets to success?

Not really. What is there is what you see in the free samples sent to your inbox… attractively packaged reminders of things you already knew. Maybe some concepts will be worded in fresh, memorable ways. Maybe the speaker’s enthusiasm will inspire you. But as old King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Do we get our money’s worth? 

I believe that sellers of success strategies do provide value. They remind us of things we know. They encourage us to act on our knowledge. These programs are like re-gifted presents–the wrapping paper is new, but what’s inside is not.  And that’s okay.

Generally what’s inside are good, solid concepts that have stood the test of time. Sometimes new research is cited that empirically verifies age-old wisdom. Personally, as a scientist, I like objective verification. It makes me smile. But the bedrock on which success is built remains unchanged. Part of that bedrock is what Stephen Covey called “beginning with the end in mind.”

Setting goals increases achievement

I am an inveterate goal-setter, but not great on follow-through. I seldom remember to revisit my goals once they are written. They sit gathering dust as the days and weeks roll by. (I do not recommend this as a strategy–it just happens to be my reality.)

And yet…

When this time of year rolls around and  I am prompted by the reminders of success gurus that planning time is upon us, I pull last year’s goals off their dusty shelf to see how I’ve done.

I am always surprised at how much has been accomplished. Inevitably, it seems, my subconscious will have steered me to completion of goals that I actually forgot I had set. The books have been written; the academic programs have been developed. And for that reason, I absolutely believe in goal-setting.

Do all my goals get met this way? No. I have a few stubborn repeat offenders–the weight that won’t come off, the idealized perpetually-organized desk that usually isn’t. It is those that keep me clicking on video-ads and signing up for free webinars! But overall, the majority of my specific goals get met in an almost magical way.  Setting goals works.

 

Join the conversation. Share below:

What might make goal-setting more effective for you?

I’ll go first. Scroll down to see my latest idea, then add your own.

Until next time,
Susan Craig.

 

 

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Three behaviors that help with any transition

Transition is an ongoing theme in my life. Perhaps in all of our lives. We transition from childhood to adult life, from singleness to relationship, from youth to age, from job to job, from house to house, from place to place. We transition from sickness to health, from school to the real world of work, from work to retirement, and from life to death. For most of us, I suspect it would be fair to say that our lives are always in transition of one kind or another. If that is so, it makes sense that we should learn to handle transition well. Yet we know that transitioning well does  not always come naturally.

Having, perhaps, transitioned even more then the normal amount in my life, I have three brief suggestions on how to transition successfully.

1. Leave the  past behind. Let go of the things you used to have, and the places you used to go, but keep the people. Hold on to memories–set them aside in a safe place to peruse later.

2. Focus on the present. Do what needs to be done. Try not to make comparisons just now with what used to be–for better OR worse.

3. Give yourself time. Every transition brings with it a learning curve and an acceptance curve. It takes time to learn to navigate new circumstances, and sometimes even more time to learn to accept those circumstances. Persevere.

Those three behaviors will get you gracefully through most transitions, be they minor or major, easy or difficult.

Hoping all your transitions will be graceful.

Until next time,
Susan Craig.

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Back to the Heartland

Nebraska Summer Corn

Nebraska Summer Corn

Today I am driving to Seward. It’s been nearly two years since we moved away, and this is my first trip back.

I had forgotten how beautiful Nebraska can be. As afternoon drifts toward evening, soot black trees stand etched against a pale blue sky. Some are near, others at the edge of vision. The full circumference of the horizon is visible. Close to the land, the sky is light and has a few wispy clouds, but as you lift your gaze to the zenith the color deepens to a clear, perfect blue with no sign of cloud at all. Reflected by lakes and ponds, the blue becomes an incredible deep azure, a color so rich it looks unreal. Winter grasses surround every patch of azure water with shades of pale gold—each one a warm, sweet, dry, rustling color.

At the far edge of fields where trees are thick, early blooming brush and silver maple crowd together, their overlapping twigs forming a matrix that looks like red-brown cotton batting. Against this background, tangled black walnut branches and the sweeping arms of elm trees are punctuated by the dark, dark green of eastern red cedar. Clusters of cottonwood, tall and dun-colored, look out over the tops of the other trees, and in low places where water might pool stand slim white poplar.  Scraggly lines of cedar and brush grow along fences sectioning the landscape.

But the best are the old trees. In the middle of some fields, magnificent, solitary green ash stand amid the corn stubble, their branches curving majestically outward—iconic images reminiscent of an older time.

In Austin, there are laws protecting trees beyond a certain measured girth from destruction by property developers. This is good. But here in the Heartland, fields and trees are protected by respect. Respect for nature, for beauty, and for the perseverance required to survive heat and cold, drought and flood.

I drive along, surrounded by mile upon mile of open land and gradually I leave the concerns of life in Austin behind. The sturdy beauty of the land seeps into my soul.

I wasn’t born in Nebraska, but it is here that I come home.

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Covers and Blurbs… Day 219

I got the first mock ups of the cover design for Tossing the Caber (my ebook in the making) last night. So exciting! It took me a long time to decide to go with indie publishing but I am enjoying this wild ride.

The Christmas anthology from Bluestocking Publishing

The Christmas anthology from Bluestocking Publishing

Actually seeing the potential covers caused me to rewrite my back-cover blurb completely. My first touchstone was already the hero, but the original blurb didn’t grab the power of his sensuality. Inspired by my favorite of the mock ups, the new blurb capitalizes immediately on the essence of who the man is and drops the heroine into that context (and conflict).

It is a huge improvement over the original!

Note to self: From now on wait to see the cover before writing the blurb.

Well, maybe not. The original blurb, written early on, acted as my guiding light while I wrote the novel. It encapsulated the story for me and kept the tone of my writing consistent. Given that, it wasn’t a waste of time to write the blurb twice—it was a strategy! (I like that!!)

Now I am super-eager to see what she comes up with for the next two novels. And I am fired up to keep working on the details of getting the first book out there. Only one of the editors-for-hire has responded thus far. Her price was per page and too high. I use a lot of dialog and am much happier with a price per number of words rate. So I am off to hunt up more editors and then—ISBN numbers, here I come!

Don’t you just love leaping into the unknown?

Until next time…

–Susan Craig

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Designing Covers… Day 217

Since the release of our Christmas romance anthology, my writer friends and I have been busy flexing our indie publishing muscles.  At least I expect that is what we are all doing—I know I am hard at work to get a completed manuscript online.

But I need a cover if I plan to publish. I’ve spent hours flipping through stock images while fretting over my lack of design expertise. Finally I decided to do something about it. Though I have only two novels in my Toss Trilogy completed, I contacted a cover designer to work her magic on all three books.

She responded last night and we spent the evening emailing back and forth. I picked covers from her gallery that I liked—to give her a sense of the style I was looking for. Then I sent her the code numbers for some stock photos I liked.

Wow! She emailed back moments later with a quick evaluation of each photo I had chosen.

So fast, and totally on target! She pointed out things I could see—but hadn’t noticed until she brought them to my attention. And therein lies the difference between me and a professional cover designer. I am very glad I made this contact!

We discussed what to put on the cover—the heroine, a couple, scenery, the hero, etc. And decided to go with the hero alone. That saves money (as opposed to a multi-image cover) and gives a clean look to the design that I like.

(Semi-random aside: Have you ever clicked on a thumbnail because the characters were so tangled together you couldn’t tell what they were doing without a closer look? I have, but it annoys me, and so I’m never inclined to actually buy those books! Now back to the cover design process.)

I emailed her my character descriptions and the cover blurbs from each manuscript to give her a feel for the style and story line of each book.

She was happy to have that information and requested that I pick more images from a stock site she named, then send them to her grouped by manuscript.

With her initial comments to guide me and (let’s be honest) with more hope and enthusiasm than I ‘d had when stumbling through stock photos on my own, I soon found four or five good images for each of my manly men.

She will get back to me in a few days with some mock-ups to look at, comment on, and—perhaps—choose.

I am delighted with this woman thus far. She has been so accommodating and has made many suggestions to save me time and money. Paying for her expertise is going to be a bargain, I am sure.

No, I’m not saying who she is yet. When the deal is sealed and done I will happily reveal her identity. Until then, no names. But even without names, I hope a peek at the actual process will encourage and inform those of you who are newbies like me.

Until next time…

–Susan Craig

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Sales Excitement… Day 207

Wow! The anthology is selling faster than expected. Every few days the president of our group sends a sales update. We have clearly passed the ‘bought by friends and relatives’ benchmark. That alone is an accomplishment!

Of course, the  anthology does have the traditional “something for everyone.” The stories are all different because the six of us are very different people:

Christine Wingate, whom I interviewed for my Ideas, Information, and Insight blog (click here for that post) is a clever, witty kind of gal with a zany sense of humor. Her story is tongue-in-cheek, crazy, chick-lit style.

BJ Akin writes historicals with western or pioneer settings, homey and warm.

Jeanne Kern gets a kick out of mysticism–in her story a stressed-out young career woman hires a fortune teller to learn what to buy relatives for Christmas. I could use help like that!!

Karyn Cole has a very contemporary style and a story that is laugh-out-loud funny. Very talented!

LK Lien has more interesting facts in her story than do any of the rest of us–astronomy, Australia, and aborigine culture are all mixed together into a surprising romance. I loved it.

And mine is… Well, maybe traditional with a twist would be an accurate description.

The reviews on Amazon have been good, but they rate the book overall–which is natural. However, what I really want to know is if people are enjoying my story. If you read it, please let me know what you think!

The first cut of any money we make is going to a local Lincoln Nebraska charity supporting literacy, and we are on track to have enough for a significant donation. That is exciting, too.

By the way, I mentioned the Toss Trilogy in the introduction to my story. It isn’t online in full yet, but parts of it are at Work in Progress, my new web-place (it isn’t a traditional blog). Please feel free to check it out. I will be posting bits of the novels and more information on them there while I work at getting them ready for Amazon. There is also more info on the trilogy at my author webpage… or there will be. I’ve sent it to my busy web-guru, but it isn’t up yet. Maybe in a few days.

And as long as I am linking all over the place, check out my monthly column, A Mother’s Turn, at Her-stories.com. I’m sure you’ll find something you enjoy, if not this month’s effort, then in the archives.

Have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving!

Until next time…

–Susan Craig

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