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Writers Helping Writers: New Blog Direction

Writers Helping Writers: New Blog Direction

A decade ago when I got serious about writing, I found these amazing blogs by authors who shared tips and advice. I learned so much about the craft of writing, how to network, what to look for in a critique partner, the whole “build a platform” hoopla, as well as insight into the publishing industry. I’ve been blogging for nine years–wow, nine, really??–and my posts have always had a healthy dose of writing-related information.

 

Writers Helping Writers

 

This year the blog’s been quiet. Instead of my previous twice a week posts, I dropped to once or twice a month. There are a few reasons.

  1. I decided to challenge myself to write more this year. (The challenge is working!)
  2. The advice to “use a blog to find readers, not other writers” never resonated with me. Maybe it’s because blogging has taken a sharp downturn in the past two or three years. Or because smartphones make commenting more difficult. Maybe it’s because we’re all really busy! I don’t know, but readers never flocked to my blog, and I lost my ambition to come up with engaging content specifically written with readers in mind.

For three months I’ve been getting the internal nudge to get back into blogging. I still have these obnoxious writing goals, so rather than resuming my twice a week schedule, I’m dropping to once a week. And because I am so thankful for all the writing blogs that helped me, I’ll post something writing-related every Wednesday.

I love helping writers–aspiring, debut, multi-published–and I want to provide a spot for us to get new ideas, brush up on craft concepts, share platform strategies–you get the idea! A decade of writing hasn’t dampened my desire to get better. I’m always learning, always asking questions, always striving. I hope you are too.

If there are topics you’re interested in exploring, please let me know!

Writers, what are your concerns right now? What are you trying to improve?

Leave a comment or email me at jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com.

Happy writing!

Striving and Setbacks

Striving And Setbacks

This year I set some pretty high personal and professional goals. With all the striving came setbacks, and I thought I’d share a few with you. Granted, the year is still young, so who knows what the rest of 2017 will bring? I’m pushing hard for my goals no matter what!

 

 

Striving and Setbacks

Striving for:

Consistency with my weight.

Last December I added two healthy habits: exercising and drinking a fruit and veggie smoothie every weekday. By March I knew these two wonderful additions would not be enough to get me back on track with my weight. The sad truth? I’ve gained fifteen pounds in three years. I simply cannot continue to gain weight at that rate and maintain my health. Soooo…I resumed tracking my food using the MyFitnessPal app. I also set a daily calorie range for myself. It’s made a huge difference. I’ve lost nine pounds so far, but I’m realistic. I know I will have to continue tracking the food I eat for a long, long time. If I don’t, I immediately eat more, hence the fifteen pounds!

Setback:

In April, I had a down week where I felt physically and emotionally depleted. My eating habits and activity suffered. Thankfully, I didn’t let it throw me into I-might-as-well-quit mode. I just kept tracking my food and told myself I’d get back into my exercise routine the next week. Yeah, I gained a pound that week, but no biggie. It’s the long haul that matters.

Striving for:

Fast drafting a novel while releasing my first nonfiction book and setting up promotion for my upcoming novel.

The release of GAME ON: THE CHRISTIAN PARENTS’ SPORTS SURVIVAL GUIDE involved new-to-me tasks and was more time-consuming than I anticipated. I was able to write and revise a contracted proposal during the release, and once the proposal was finished, I attacked the promotion for my May release.

Setback:

Once the proposal was finished, I planned on writing the rest of the book quickly. However, two weeks of unexpected opportunities and appointments killed my writing plans. I still added to my word count, but it wasn’t even close to my original goal. Thankfully, I’d built a sizable cushion into my deadline for the full manuscript. The draft doesn’t have to be finished early. However, if I finish it soon, I can turn my attention to a new project. That’s incentive enough for me!

Striving for:

Increasing my audience through my social media platforms, including my newsletter.

For two months I did very well gathering and sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog. I also hosted two month-long giveaways (one is still going on now, so be sure to sign up! The entry form is at the bottom of this post).

Setback:

Given my time constraints in April and May, I had to step back from my social media efforts to focus on writing and my family. The home life won’t be as busy in a few weeks, so I’ll be able to spend more time on social media again.

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The thing about striving? You’re going to have setbacks. Period. But setbacks can’t make you quit. If you just keep pushing through–even if you take time off–and continue chipping away at your goal, well, you win! It’s vital to constantly remind yourself that you can succeed. You will succeed. It won’t be easy. Striving for something better, something more, is never easy. Just keep regrouping and trying until you meet your goal. I have an Inner Beauty Pinterest board with tons of motivational quotes to keep me inspired. Feel free to go over there and pin any quotes that will help you!

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I have two giveaways going on right now!

My Hometown Hero’s Redemption prize package is still open! Enter below. (US only)

Hometown Hero's Redemption Prize Package!

 

 

I’m giving away three signed copies of Hometown Hero’s Redemption on Goodreads, too! Here’s the form.

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hometown Hero's Redemption by Jill Kemerer

Hometown Hero’s Redemption

by Jill Kemerer

Giveaway ends May 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

How do you handle setbacks?

Happy early Mother’s Day! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Messy Desk {Writer Wednesday}

I’ve been quiet on the blog. Last week I was sick, and I’m playing catch-up. With all the tasks piling up, I’ve let my desk get VERY messy. *sigh*

Here’s a picture of my work space. I think it’s funny my Bible promise book fell on top of the chaos. Maybe God is trying to tell me something!

 

Messy Desk

 

What you don’t see is the mug of tea, scratch paper with scribbled notes, cell phone, pens, ponytail holders and who-knows-what-else. The trash can is overflowing. Much like my brain and day-planner entries for this week.

This morning  I’ll spend ten minutes organizing and tidying. I’ll push the papers into a neat stack. Throw away the baggies of pretzels and Chex Mix. Light a candle. Empty the trash.

And then I’ll mess it up all over again because that’s the kind of week this is!

Does your work space get messy when you’re busy? Or do you keep it tidy at all times?

Have a terrific day!

{Movie Romance} Inferno

My husband and I have been watching a lot of movies at home lately. Last weekend we watched Inferno, the third installment of the Robert Langdon film series, loosely based on Dan Brown’s books. I haven’t read the books, so I can’t tell you how the movies compare, and I’m not reviewing the movie. Instead, I’m focusing on the romance elements in the film.

SPOILER ALERT!! If you haven’t watched Inferno but plan on doing so, do NOT read further! I give away several key plot points in this post!!

 

Dr. Robert Langdon (played by Tom Hanks) is the main character, and he interacts with two women throughout the movie. One is the ER doctor, Dr. Sienna Brooks (played by Felicity Jones), who looks to be in her late twenties and is thrust into a dangerous situation when she treats Langdon for a head wound. She’s a prodigy, a former child genius, and knows Dr. Langdon (he’s a professor) from reading his books and attending one of his lectures. The movie takes place in Italy. After a police officer tries to kill them in the hospital, they’re forced to go on the run, searching for clues to prevent a deadly plague from being released.

They are being hunted by several government agencies, and they don’t know who to trust. Langdon has few memories of the previous three days due to his head wound. He recalls meeting a mysterious woman but he doesn’t remember if he can trust her or not. Later, he remembers the woman was Elizabeth Sinskey, a World Health Organization agent and former girlfriend.

As the movie progresses, Sienna double-crosses Langdon, and we learn she was the lover of the man who invented the deadly plague. We also learn that Langdon and Elizabeth were in love when they were younger, but neither wanted the other to give up their life’s work to be together.

While the movie was action-packed and not a romance by any means, I was struck by the fact the writers never gave in to the temptation of letting an attraction blossom between Langdon and the much-younger Sienna. A decade ago, these two would most likely have made googly eyes at each other and possibly shared a kiss or, at the minimum, an embrace. Personally, I’m glad we were spared that. The only time a romantic connection was hinted at was by another character, and Langdon seemed appalled at the thought. It was very refreshing to have the older-man/younger-woman element off the table.

On the other hand, Langdon does  have a romantic past with Elizabeth, and the race to find the plague draws them closer together. Elizabeth is played by the talented actress, Sidse Babett Knudsen, whom you might have seen on the new HBO series, Westworld. She’s a fantastic actress–and get this–she’s in her late forties. Yes, Tom Hanks just turned sixty and that is still a sizable age gap, but the romance felt spot on. These are two mature people who shared a past and deeply cared about each other. It was very believable, and one of the reasons was because they shared common goals. They were both dedicated to helping others and willing to sacrifice their personal lives to achieve this.

The movie was entertaining and action-packed, if confusing at times, but the romance element was my favorite part. 

What movie have you watched recently? Was there anything about it that struck you as inspiring?

Have a terrific weekend!

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

{printable} Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

2017 has been a year of changes for me. Most of the changes have been little, but hey, small steps equal steady progress. One of the things I’m doing is tracking my progress in two areas. I created a year-at-a-glance spreadsheet that can be used for any goal. I’m tracking my exercise habits and how many hours of “important work” I accomplish each day.

Below is a snapshot of it. Notice there are spaces for each day of the week as well as notes. For my health spreadsheet, I use my own code. FY stands for Foundation Yoga. BC stands for Boot Camp. GS stands for Green Smoothie. 2W stands for two miles I walked. Obviously, the number changes with the miles. This allows me to see my consistency over the course of an entire year. It’s been motivating!

 

Weekly Progress Spreadsheet

For my Important Work spreadsheet, I printed the exact same form, but each day I simply jot a number in the slot. The number represents the amount of hours I spent doing things on my Important Work list. (You can see my list below.)

By important work, I mean tasks that directly contribute to my income, which is based on writing and selling books. I got this concept from Cal Newport’s excellent book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I don’t track my “deep work” hours because some of the things I consider important do not fit the Deep Work philosophy.

Your list will look different than mine. We all have our own concept of the most valuable tasks in regards to our work. The things I don’t include on my Important Work list are necessary parts of my job, but I place less value on the because they don’t directly contribute to my income based on writing and selling books.

Things I track as Important Work:

  • Doing research for a book
  • Plotting a novel
  • Outlining a nonfiction book
  • Creating a synopsis
  • Writing the actual book
  • Revising a manuscript
  • Any editorial tasks required
  • If Indie publishing, any cover research, formatting, uploading
  • Setting up promotion for a new release

What I don’t track as  Important Work:

  • Reading and responding to emails
  • Being active on social media sites
  • Administrative tasks (income/expense report, etc…)
  • Volunteering to judge contests, help writers, etc…
  • Writing blog posts

Again, the things I don’t track are necessary to my job, but I don’t log the hours I spend doing them.

If you’re interested in tracking any aspect of your life, feel free to print your own Weekly Progress Sheets. Just click on the link below! I’m also including this pdf file on my For Writers page if you’d like to print more out in the future.

Click for the printable PDF Weekly Progress Spreadsheet.

I find this especially helpful for reluctant writers. If you find yourself going days on end without writing, try this. It’s evidence of how much or how little time you actually spend working on a manuscript.

If you’d like to track your Important Work hours, spend a little time determining what equals important work to you. Enjoy!

Does charting your progress motivate you? Have you ever tried a year-at-a-glance weekly spreadsheet?

Have a terrific day!

Reading Goals

Do you set reading goals for yourself each year?

I’ve always been an avid reader, so setting goals for reading books comes naturally to me. Last year, my goal was 50 books, and I ended up at 53. I added more Christian living books as well as several business/productivity books to the mix. I’m glad I did! They were terrific additions to my list.

 

 

 

The first book I read in 2017 was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. What an inspiration! I learned so many things from this one. Dayton, Ohio was a hotbed of new ideas around the turn of the twentieth century, and many inventions originated in Dayton. Wilbur and Orville Wright fascinated me–how in the world could two brothers work together constantly, not to mention live together, and not drive each other bonkers? The book does mention their tempers and stubbornness, but I’m impressed by their dedication to the pursuit of flight.

Right now I’m reading Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. This book isn’t for everyone, but it IS for me. I love data and theories and trying different ways to get more done. It’s really helped me think about how I structure my day.

I’m still debating what my first novel of 2017 will be to read, but I’m guessing it won’t take me long. Fiction is delicious! The bulk of fiction I read is Christian romance, but I throw a classic or two in and sometimes I even try a new genre. Last year I read my very first cozy mystery. It was a fun read, and I plan on trying another author this year.

Here are a few titles I added to my Must Read in 2017 list:

If by Mark Batterson (Christian living book)

Their Surprise Daddy  by Ruth Logan Herne (Love Inspired)

Still Life by Dani Pettrey (Christian Romantic Suspense)

True to You by Becky Wade (Christian Contemporary Romance)

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan (Classic Literature)

The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (General Fiction)

Additionally, I always read several Love Inspired novels, a few random novels from the library, a handful of business books and any nonfiction that catches my eye. Fifty seems to be a good number for me, so I’m sticking with it!

Do you always read the same genre? Do you add non-fiction to the mix? Any reading goals this year?

Have a terrific weekend!

Self-Discipline and Meeting Your Goals

Although I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago, when January rolls around I usually take some time to think about my life. What worked well the previous year? What didn’t? In what areas have I slipped into poor habits? What habits are improving my life?

 

Self-Discipline and Meeting Your Goals

 

I also think about my goals, professionally and personally. Did I meet my goals? Exceed them? What allowed me to gain momentum? What halted my progress on goals I didn’t meet? Is my current schedule supporting my goals? Am I wasting time? What needs to change?

If I hide away to a quiet place, this reflection period comes easily. I’m able to identify what habits are hurting me and which ones help me.  The solution to my weak areas is usually self-discipline.

When I consistently exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables, my clothes fit better and I don’t have a lower backache. When I automate both–setting a time each weekday to exercise, and prepping my fruits and veggies ahead of time–taking care of my body suddenly becomes easy. I know this. I’ve done it in the past. So why do I slip out of the habit?

It’s the same way with my writing tasks. When I take time each month to set weekly goals, then take a few minutes each week to set daily goals and review these goals each workday, I get a lot done, more than I think is possible. But when I leave each day up to chance, I tend to meet my goals, but I don’t always feel great doing it. And there’s never extra time to work on a pet project. I like pet projects. I must make time for them.

Self-discipline, for me, is a breath of relief. A sign I’m investing in myself. I trust I’ll see results when I stick to a plan.

So why is it so easy to stray from the plan? One day without exercising becomes two, and by day four, I’ve completely forgotten how great I felt on day one! I no longer believe I’ll achieve what I want. And for some crazy reason, I have this false idea that at some point the work ends while the results remain.

The work doesn’t end. I will always have to consistently exercise and eat more produce if I want to fit in my clothes and avoid the lower back pain. I’ll always have to carefully schedule my working time if I want to meet my professional goals.

You might be different. In fact, I’m sure you ARE different! We’re all individuals with unique habits, schedules and demands. But if you want to improve an area of your life, you will need self-discipline, too.

The biggest problem I face with new routines is not sticking with them long enough for them to become a habit. Turns out, I’m not alone and there’s a reason for it. In the Forbes.com article, “5 Proven Methods for Gaining Self-Discipline,” Jennifer Cohen states, “When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do.” This information is based on Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit.

It makes sense. When I’m trying to establish a new exercise schedule, I find myself questioning if I want to do this workout or that one, which, sadly, sometimes resulted in me not doing any workout. But when I decide in advance what workout I am doing on certain days and set the time for these workouts, I no longer have to make the decision. I just have to show up. This tells me I need to avoid having to make decisions about a new habit. I take as much guesswork out of it as possible, because my brain is already resisting the change.

As for my health goals, I automated my workouts in mid-November, and it’s working well for me. Sure, I skip a day here or there, but not having to think about when and what I’m doing each day has made a world of difference. And my writing? Scheduled well in advance. I’ve got this!

How do you approach new habits?

Have a terrific day!

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season! As much as I adore Christmas, I can’t ignore the fact my Facebook feed tugs my heart. Not everyone is happy and jolly right now, and that’s okay.

 

Merry Christmas

 

You might be struggling. Health scares, job problems, relationship troubles, money issues, grief, loneliness–all hit us hard around the holidays. If you are less than jolly this year, I’m sorry. I pray God brings you comfort.

You might be overwhelmed. Yeah, I get this, too! Too much to do, too few hours to do it all. Hang in there and be kind to yourself.

You might be overjoyed. A new baby, great job, the love of your life, reconnecting with family–all are exciting, wonderful things to celebrate. I’m cheering with you!

Whatever you’re going through, I pray you find the peace that only comes through faith in God this Christmas season. As Philippians 4:7 states, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Eat a cookie for me and heat up some cocoa! It’s Christmas!

I’m taking a nice, long Christmas break, so I’ll be back to blogging in January.

Have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!!

12 Days of Christmas Giveaway~Day 8!

12 Days Of Christmas Giveaway~Day 8!

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

It’s Day 8 of the #12DaysofChristmas giveaway! If you haven’t heard of it, ten inspirational authors joined forces to shower readers with gifts! Each day a new gift is added, which means the prizes are growing. Woohoo!

 

12 Days of Christmas Givewaway!

 

Each day the prize builds with another book or book-related goodie, AND the Rafflecopter entries roll over so every day you have a new chance to win!

The winner of Day 8 will receive:

 

Yuletide Redemption

YULETIDE REDEMPTION:

A Mother’s Christmas Wish 

After an accident leaves Celeste Monroe to raise her baby nephew, all she wants is to provide one-year-old Parker with a happy life. She hopes taking a job caring for injured Sam Sheffield will help fulfill that goal. But Sam’s determination to avoid the world throws a wrench in her plans. Despite his best efforts, Sam can’t take his eyes off the pretty caretaker. Her strength and her loving nature has him falling for her—and her baby. But he refuses to burden them with a man who’s not whole. Can Celeste convince Sam he’s daddy—and husband—material in time for them to celebrate Christmas together?

And that’s not all! Day 8’s winner will also receive:

The Gingerbread Pony by Patricia Bradley
Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson
His Prairie Sweetheart by Erica Vetsch
A Family Arrangement by Gabrielle Meyer
Concealed Identity by Jessica Patch
Watercolor Dreams audio book download by Sherry Kyle
Hazardous Holiday by Liz Johnson

Are you as excited as I am?? Wheee!!!

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below (US only) by following some of your favorite authors on social media and signing up for their newsletters. Every entry carries over–so the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win. Here’s the entry form!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 Be sure to stop by Susan Tuttle’s blog, Steps, tomorrow for Day 9’s prizes! (FYI, Steps is one of my favorite devotional blogs. If you need a pick-me-up and some Bible truth, follow her blog!)

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Chapter Five of A Cradle for Christmas released on Monday! If you’ve been following my FREE Christmas novella being released one chapter at a time on Harlequin’s Online Reads page, you’ll want to jump right in to the next installment! If not, you can catch up below. I have all the chapters linked! You don’t need to download them or anything–you can read them right from Harlequin’s website on your phone or tablet, or you can print them out!

A Cradle for Christmas Graphic

 

A CRADLE FOR CHRISTMAS

With just days to go until Christmas, Heather Springfield is nine months pregnant and all alone. So she escapes to her family’s old cabin in Michigan. The happiest summers of her life were spent there…all until that last one that ruined everything. But she’ll have to do her best to focus on her baby and avoid Mason Aldridge, the boy next door and the one who got away

Mason’s never forgotten the sweet girl who once held his heart. So when Heather arrives one snowy night, her very pregnant belly triggers a fresh round of regrets. If things had been different, he might have been the man fortunate enough to call her and the baby his. But in the spirit of the season, forgiveness is in the air, and two old friends may just find their way to the best Christmas gift of all—a brand-new family.

Chapter Five

Chapter Four

Chapter Three

Chapter Two

Chapter One

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Who is baking Christmas goodies? I haven’t started, but I always find time to make Christmas cutouts!

 

I’m busy with a few deadlines, so I won’t be posting on Friday, but have a delightful weekend!!

{Friday Five} Books & TV

Fall is always fun for entertainment. There are new shows on TV, a few books I couldn’t fit into my summer schedule, and summer blockbusters coming out on DVD. With the weather getting wet and cooler, I don’t mind settling inside for entertainment.

 

 

 

Friday Five: Books & TV

October 2016 Edition

1. This Is Us is a new drama on NBC, Tuesdays 9pm EST. I’m really enjoying this one. It revolves around adult triplets who all have interesting personal issues, and the series employs a flashback thread that is very well-done. All the storylines work together. The writing is excellent, and the acting is too. I’m not a big fan of Kevin at this point because his self-absorption annoys me, but I have a feeling I’ll like him more as he matures.

2. Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty. This women’s fiction came out in the summer. I ordered it through our library, and due to numerous holds, I was finally able to check it out. As with all of Ms. Moriarty’s books, it explores tricky relationships involving three women, their families and each other. It has a suspense thread and jumps back and forth between one eventful day and its aftermath two months later. I really enjoyed the realness of the characters and the tension throughout.

3. Ink Master is a reality show on Spike TV, Tuesdays 10pm EST. For years my husband and I have watched this reality show where tattoo artists fight to be named Ink Master. I can’t explain my fascination with it since I have an aversion to needles and tattoos! But it’s interesting to see the art the contestants come up with. This season features strong female artists, too. I’m rooting for Kelly and Ryan.

4. Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnson. See Wednesday’s post, “{giveaway} Where Two Hearts Meet,” for the full feature. The giveaway is still open and will be until Sunday, October 23 at 9pm EST. Scroll to the bottom of the post for the easy entry options! (US only, 18+)

5. Michigan FootballMy husband and I watch games every Saturday. We bite our nails, jump up at each touchdown and wonder if this will be the year we beat Ohio State. Please let it be the year… 🙂

So that’s my Friday Five! What are you watching and reading right now?

Enter the giveaway below:

 

 

Have a lovely weekend!

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