Should I upgrade?

Hey WordPress blogging world!! I have a dilemma.

I am considering an upgrade offered by WordPress. Has anyone else done this and how has it helped your blog experience? There are the two upgrade options of premium or business so if you did one of these why did you choose that specific upgrade? Did you go to another blog hosting site?

I have 60+ following my blog and would like to make my blog reach an even wider audience (I am totally grateful for my followers by the way!!) and wondered if one of the upgrades would really help expand my blogging reach.

This blog has inspired my fiction writing and I love coming up with stuff to blog-imagining what people think while reading my often rambling prose.

Another question I have is about an author page on Facebook and if it would encourage traffic to my blog? Anyone done this or some other option to promote blog readers?

I sit here in my library/office wondering if anyone is really reading this. Please share your experiences.

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Cheers!

-N

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Is a re-do a good idea?

As I have written earlier I have been working on a contemporary mystery/romance that’s taking me a while to construct. I have several pages of notes but it seems to have stalled. I watched a movie a couple of nights ago titles “Bag of Bones”. The main character is a writer who loses his wife who is also his muse. He is having a painful writers block. His agent is pressuring him to complete the next book. In frustration he pulls out his first manuscript that was never published and submits it.

Is it a good idea to revisit an old manuscript? I have one that I completed several years ago. I pulled it out and read through it, did a lot of editing and cutting, but before I put more time into it I wondered if this is a common issue with authors. After re-visiting this story I remembered how much fun the story was to me and I worked to be critical as I read it again.

My initial genre interest was historical romance, but I have since grown into other areas. The draw for me was the history. I’m a history nerd. My first finished manscript, which was started and completed after I had written the first story, is currently undergoing Beta readers critique. Researching the history is fascinating and really moves the plot along. Inserting my characters into history is my high. This old story I knew wasn’t fully complete, there was a lot to cull out of it but I was excited by the history and my people.

So my question is…do I go back to this story and hope the work will open my mind my new work? Do I walk away and leave it as a lesson learned? I know that I don’t want my work to be pigeonholed in one genre any more than I want to read only one genre.

What are others writers experience in this situation? I have a notebook full of plot ideas for multiple stories in multiple genre’s and I guess I’m trying to find the proper steps for progress.

I write every day whether it is blogging, plotting in my note book or putting words on “paper”. I need to know how do I triage when they each cry out for me to get them out and pay attention.  I would love to hear from others out there with ideas about my babies.

Is this what the mother of triplets goes through? Which baby gets fed first?

I covet your opinions.

-N

It’s not my party!

There was a party at my house last Saturday night. It was a pretty big party and one I notified the neighbors about so they would be prepared for the traffic, people, noise and a yard full of lights. But this wasn’t my party. I wasn’t the host. I was essentially the venue.

My great-nephew Kristopher (see My Graduate) is graduating from high school and his parents threw his party at my house.  They made the plans, bought the supplies and food and spent the time stringing up a mile of lights around my house. Tables and chairs filled the back yard and food/beverage tables were set up on the back porch deck. A jumping castle that could hold adults was set up in the front yard (fondly called the football field) was a dead giveaway there was something happening here to passing vehicles.

I was the venue. It was also my gift. I have this big place that Kristopher, along with his siblings, grew up coming here. It was an interesting dynamic for me not being the host. I am a pretty good party planner and most people enjoy a party at my place. But this was about Kristopher and his parents. Indeed, there was family I am related to and mutual friends in attendance, but I found a balance helping my niece with the steady refilling of food dishes and running interference when something needed attention so she could spend time with her guests.

A day later and the only signs of a party are the full garbage cans ready for Wednesday’s collection and the occasional glow necklace or bracelet in the grass. My home is at peace now, gathering energy for the next party, my own or otherwise. I’m open.

-N

My graduate

My great-nephew is graduating from high school. This is a young man who struggled in school when he was younger. In fact I home schooled him for his third grade year because the school he was attending had no resources to tutor him. So I quit work and spent the year bringing his math skills up to the appropriate level.  This was a child who could read at a fourth grade level but couldn’t add.

I was not going to let him fail and I was the one who could help him. After researching into what his math block might be I found that as we are starting to learn our brains break the concept of numbers into the visual-the number we see and the conceptual-what that number is in quantity. For example the number 3 is visual. The number III is conceptual. But they are equivalent. He had a disconnect between these. In his mind 1+3 and 3+1 required separate calculations. They were independent of each other. This was a young person who required the old-fashioned memorization process.

Once this process was put into place using math flash cards he started making progress. By the time our year was complete he could add, subtract and had started to learn multiplication. He could tell time and make change.

The most amazing thing was I could reward his hard work with history and literature. This little fella loved history. We learned about all fifty states by the history of each state.

I also helped him become a student. I tried to impress on him that the teacher was there for all of the students but it was difficult for a teacher to work individually with their students and he needed to make sure the teacher knew when he needed help. We worked out the way for him to ask for help and what to expect in a public school classroom of 25-30 students. He did well one-on-one but was shy in expressing himself in the classroom.

He is graduating from high school and my heart is happy.

Congrats Kristopher.

-N

Writing research

I have been spending lots of time doing research on how to improve my writing . Topics have included agents/editors, Beta readers, query letters, improving plot lines and POV, and self-publishing. The more I search the more I realize how much I don’t know. I just know I like to write.

I have two notebooks with plots for two stories. Do most people work on two stories at the same time?

I have also been reading a lot more. My Kindle has been working overtime.

I have so many questions about being a published author. Is the best route getting an editor or agent first and then breaking into that area or going the route of self-publishing to get my work out there and hope for the attention of a publisher? I have two complete manuscripts, and the genre seems to be very popular but in looking at agents accepting queries my genre isn’t on their lists. What does this tell me?

The two stories I have in process right now are different from the two other works. Does this say I’m changing or growing in my interests? I know that I read the books I like to write.

Blogging is turning into a very fun outlet for me. I see it as a side of me growing directly from the messy thoughts rushing around in my brain that have nothing to do with the fiction competing for my attention. I can compartmentalize them both because I know where they come from. My imagination finds a home in both. I will continue to tease them out and hope there will be a place for them in the literary world.

-N

Morning

I’m sitting on my back deck drinking my French roast coffee with stevia and cream surrounded by birds chatting, the occasional mosquito and barking dog, wondering what to write.

I live in the desert but you wouldn’t necessarily know that by the look of my yard. At least the tame part of it. My house sits on an acre near the Santa Catalina mountains. We are a little higher in elevation than Tucson and because of our proximity to the mountains we always have a bit of a breeze. It keeps us a few degrees cooler than the city.

Half of the acre where the house sits is surrounded by grass, trees, honeysuckle vines and roses. It doesn’t look like the Sonoran desert and I am glad of that. Most people say the desert is beautiful. I say it is brown, dry and full of things that stick you, bite you and suck the fluid from your body. I’ve lived here for too many years.

To me the desert is the best during monsoon season. When it is wet and plants that hide until the rains come make it look welcoming. When it is hot and dry even the mountains seem to shrink from the sun and look drab, but when the rains come they seem to swell and appear lush and dark. I’ve pointed this out to others and they can see what I mean. It’s almost like they are waiting to suck up the moisture.

Happy, that’s how they seem.

It is like humans. When we are lacking the support, love and fellowship of others we flounder. Our minds are so wrapped up in what we are lacking it is hard to feel good about ourselves. We know something is missing. I see children who need to feel cherished and their hearts are thirsty for acceptance and love. Sometimes they start seeking this outside of the home, many times making this worse and their souls start to dry out.

Just like my plants, people look happy when they are nourished. My plants give back by providing cool shade or soothing color. My herbs, fruits and vegetables provide me with the nourishment I require. I take care of them and they take care of me. Isn’t this what we need to do for each other as humans? It is the continuity and connection of all life God has placed on this little planet in the middle of an massive galaxy and an unimaginably immense universe.

I am but a speck on this earth, but the birds I feed and the plants I water depend on me. Much the same as the humans in my life need my love and encouragement. The true desert plants and creatures don’t need me to care for them, they wouldn’t miss me if I were gone. They belong here-that is the plan. The ones I placed here for my comfort require my attention and nurturing. If I go away the desert will continue as it always has. My place as a steward of the others requires me to place them in the care of another should I leave. It is my responsibility to them.

It is the same with the people in my life. I make sure they have what they need to continue wherever they are and they give back by flourishing where they are planted. I have two children who have grown into balanced, loving individuals who are pursuing their goals and making good lives for themselves. They give back to me with their success and happiness.

Who do you need to cherish? Who needs to nourish you?

-N

A Haunting

Michael
By Nancy Vaughn

It began when I found the grave of Michael, the little boy I used to babysit who died in a tragic car accident. I was a freshman in high school and I was stunned at the loss. Michael was the sweetest and kindest little guy there ever was. He always seemed to need something, but I never understood what it was. There was always a sweet sadness about him. His parents were divorced and had moved on with their lives. Michael and his sisters lived with their mother. His mother was a beautiful woman who worked hard and tried to take really good care of them. She also enjoyed going out to meet men, and there were plenty of them in at the Air Force base in Tucson and the Army fort in Sierra Vista. On her way back from taking her boyfriend back to Ft. Huachuca she lost control and the car flipped and crashed. His sisters and his mother survived but he was thrown from the car and killed instantly. It was 1970.

In 1983 my husband, my two children and I moved into a trailer space in a park that was next to a cemetery. I have to admit to a fascination with cemeteries inherited from my mother’s side of the family. We always were visiting old graveyards on road trips. So after we moved there I used to wander through the one near my house looking at the names and dates. It was an older cemetery with green grass and huge trees and dozens of beautiful statues. I remember when I discovered the part of the cemetery designated for the children. It had a peaceful, comforting feeling and a beautiful statue of a child angel was centered in the middle of the resting places of the lost children. Most of the graves had flowers and tokens laid on them. I used to take flowers from some of them and put them on the graves that had none. That was when I found Michael. His grave rarely had flowers. I began to go see him as often as I could. I also started taking my own flowers to him.

We had gotten this cat, a beautiful silver/grey cat with brilliant green eyes that we named Betsy. She and I never liked each other. I couldn’t figure it out. Betsy and I tormented each other regularly. I don’t know why but we just didn’t get along. One night after going to bed my husband and I heard a low growling sound like a cat squaring off with another cat. Betsy was in the living room at her usual post on the back of a chair. Her cries got louder and then I heard the footsteps. The steps were walking toward our bedroom door. It was a mobile home so footsteps were easily heard. The steps came to our door and stopped, then they walked back down the hall toward the other end of the house. Then I heard the cat again. This began a pattern that went on for weeks. Betsy was even weirder to everyone than before. She tended to sit, looking suspiciously at everything. She never wanted to be around people as it was, but now she was even more reserved.

I talked to my husband about it and he had no explanation for the sounds and the way the cat was behaving. He always did a better job of handling her than I ever did and he is a die-hard sceptic.

Then things got more interesting. Everyone was in bed when the footsteps started. We lay there listening to them and they came to a stop outside our door. Chuck got up and opened the bedroom door expecting to see one of our kids, maybe sleepwalking, but no one was there. I could tell he was bothered. We lay back down trying to fall asleep when there was a loud bang in the bathroom. It sounded like someone big had fallen in the tub. We sat bolt upright and he got up again and rushed to the bathroom. Nothing. It was dark and empty with no sign of anything that could have fallen into the tub. He came back, got into bed and we lay there thinking.
“What do you think a ghost is?” He asked quietly.
“Don’t know.”

The banging in the bathroom continued along with the cat growl and the footsteps. We quit reacting to it and I didn’t find out until much later that my daughter, who was ten at the time had heard the sounds as well. She would cover her head and talk and pray herself to sleep. She never said a word to us at the time. I had told some members of my family and a few friends about the sounds but they laughed it off. We had trouble laughing off the experiences we were having so we quit talking about it.

That is until my middle sister suggested it might be Michael. She also remembered him and his story and had been his babysitter occasionally and had gone with me to see his grave. We were sitting on my back porch talking, listening to music and drinking. We both heard a loud thump and a bang on the washer which was just inside the back door.
“There your go, now you’ve heard it for yourself.” I said.
Her eyes were wide, her mouth open and she just sat there. I got up and went inside to check, as usual there was no sign of anything out of place. It was at this point she told me that on one of her visits to Michael’s grave she thought she saw something around the top of the child angel statue in the cemetery. She said she saw an angel fly up the statue and away into the sky. As we talked about it my heart warmed to the idea that perhaps sweet little Michael was reaching out to me. Maybe he needed my comfort.

I told my husband about what she said and how I felt about it and he warned me to leave that stuff alone. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, thinking about Michael. I made my first mistake by calling out to Michael to tell him he was loved and remembered. One night after that I had fallen asleep and I’m not really sure how late it was but I felt my covers being pulled. I am not a heavy sleeper and it woke me. Sometimes when my husband rolls over it will pull the covers so I yanked them back and tried to go back to sleep. My eyes flew open as I heard the sound of laughter. It was a child’s giggling laugh, then the covers started to be tugged down. I wanted to explore this so I didn’t wake my husband. This began the fun play each night. The problem was I needed my sleep. I had two kids to get to school and myself to work. One night when I was awakened from a deep sleep by the play I said “Michael stop, I need to sleep. Please.” I heard one more giggle and then it stopped.

Chuck and I had a timeshare vacation planned for Puerto Vallarta for a week, and my kids would be staying with my parents who lived in the same trailer park. Because we had Betsy I asked my dad to stop by the house to check on her and the house. We had been broken into a few months before so I felt safer if someone was around regularly as a deterrent. Little did I know my dad’s world would be rocked by his experiences. When we returned home and everything looked fine a first glance. Then I noticed there was tape over the knob on the stereo and the cable box connector was disconnected and on the floor and every door was closed. I looked through the house to see if there was anything else out of order. We called dad to thank him for his help and he said he never wanted to do it again. I asked him to come over and tell us what happened. He insisted we come to their house, so we did.

Dad said that the first night he came by he walked around the outside of the house and it was fine. He came inside and walked through the house. When he opened the bathroom door he found that the toilet paper roll had been completely emptied on the floor. However Betsy wasn’t inside there. The door had been closed firmly. He cleaned it up, replaced the roll and then left. The next night he did the same thing. Betsy was sitting on the chair, so he went to the bathroom to find the door closed again. He opened it and flipped on the light to find the toilet paper roll was again emptied. Then the bathroom light went off. He turned it on, picked up the paper and didn’t put on another roll. He left feeling very strange. He didn’t go back the next night. The next night was one that gave him his first real scare. As he approached the house he could see that there were lights on in the house. He came close to the door and stopped. Before he opened the door he said a prayer. When he opened the door every light in the house was on. He hurried through the house turning off lights and opening closed doors and after putting food in Betsy’s bowl he left never looking back. The last night he came over the lights were on again and the doors were closed. To his horror the TV was on and so was the stereo. He once again went through the house quickly opening doors and turning out lights and turning the TV and stereo off. Just as he closed the door the stereo and TV came back on. He was scared and a bit pissed so he got electrical tape to cover the power knob on the stereo and disconnected the cablebox to the TV. He never ever came over if we were gone.

One Christmas I invited a dear friend to spend the night of Christmas Eve and spend Christmas day with us. After we were all in bed the nightly activity started. My friend was staying on the foldout couch snuggled down for the evening. I heard Betsy start her growl and then I hear my friend hush her. Then the footsteps started. I asked Chuck if he thought I should check on her but he said to wait a little while. I was asleep by the time it all stopped. The next morning I got up to start coffee and get breakfast ready. I found her sitting up, her knees pulled to her chin and looking as if she hadn’t slept. I asked her if she was ok and she said she wasn’t going to stay again that night as planned. When I asked her what happened she said that when Betsy started to growl the room became ice cold. She snuggled down trying to get warm and when she heard the footsteps she covered her head, drew up into a ball and tried to sleep. She felt someone sit on the end of the bed but she was so frightened she couldn’t look. “What is wrong with your house?” It was then that my children started telling us their experiences with child’s giggling, cold air, footsteps and Betsy’s cries. Chuck told me if it was Michael (remember he was skeptical) I should tell Michael he needs to go be with God. That God wants all children with him. I did what Chuck suggested. I would tell him we would never forget him but that his place was with God and the angels.

We heard no more laughing and other activities seemed to slow down. I hoped Michael had found peace and comfort. We went without anything happening for several weeks until a very unsettling thing happen one night. I was sleeping when I woke to the feeling of my covers being lifted off my feet. They weren’t being pulled like before but lifted. I kicked out and it stopped. This began a nightly occurrence and then one night I felt a hand grab my ankle! I kicked and cried out. This woke Chuck and stopped the contact. I began to pray every night about it. I didn’t think it was Michael anymore but my openness to contact with Michael had made me a point of contact a spirit conduit. Whenever it would happen I would say no and kick out and it would stop. I thought I could get it under control.

My first aggressive attack happened when Chuck was working an evening shift for a guy. Everyone was in bed and I had fallen asleep. It was probably around 11pm. You know that feeling when someone gets in bed but you are asleep and yet you can still sense it? This is what happened. I was dreaming he was home and getting into bed. After a few minutes I rolled onto my back and it was then I felt pressure on me. It was as if someone was pressing me into the mattress. Pressure on my shoulders and neck. I started to fight it. My eyes were open but I saw nothing. I just felt the heaviness. It was as if a 300lb offensive lineman was astride me and trying to stuff me into the mattress. As I fought it I started to call out to God and Jesus-I needed help or I would die. A sound like a low breathy moan filled the room, then the pressure lifted. I caught the glimpse of a dark shape fly out of the room through the ceiling.

One of the last attacks happened when Chuck was there. It began as the others had and my cries and fighting against the pressure woke him. He could see me pushing against something invisible that was so strong I could only lift my head an inch off the bed. He saw tears in my eyes and he sat up and yelled “Stop it! Go away!” It was gone. He held me as I finally calmed and fell asleep.

I decided we needed to bless the house. I went to a Christian bookstore and found a pamphlet with a prayer used to do battle with evil and bless the home. I also found a bottle of holy oil to use over all the doors and windows. After coming home and telling Chuck and the kids what we were going to do we spent an hour going to every inner and outer doorway and all the windows praying the blessing for the house and all living in it and calling the warrior angels from heaven to cover the house with protection. After this was done I stood outside and said goodbye to Michael and anyone else cast out and asking them to leave this place of the living and go to the place waiting for them.

I did have a couple of experiences where I would wake on occasion to see a dark shape over me but I was never touched or heard anything. After continuing to pray to cast out whatever was lingering and to prevent anything from coming inside these spirits left and have never returned.

The End
01 Dec 2014

A man’s perspective

I was talking to my husband last night about the story I am currently working on and as I told him about some big changes I am making he started to ask some questions about my characters. As we talked he shared his ideas about their development and the ancillary characters. His perspective was enlightening and really made me think of the way I was drawing them.

His ideas were refreshing and the male perspective drew out thoughts and new directions for the storyline. I was given so many ways to pull the best of the their personalities into focus and make the story flow. The power of defining the characters instincts based on their true natures is a basic part of a character driven story. Showing the reader who they are inside and playing it out in their actions gives depth to their lives and brings the reader into an understanding of motivations.

When I described a scene I thought would be a motivation for my lead male he said a man like my lead wouldn’t respond that way. As he explained what would be a better response it was more realistic for the storyline and transferred the beginning for my characters iinto one that reconciles who they are and why they react the way they do to the circumstances they are thrust into.

I am lucky that I am married to a reader. It is interesting because though we read very different books there is always the format for books that cross genre’s and give additional perspective that can be applied to any work. It is always good to get that other point of view.

-N

When did she grow up?

My husband and I were about to walk into World Market and just as the doors opened I looked at the smiling cashier who greeted us and a moment of recognition flashed across my face. At the same moment it flashed across hers. “Hi,” we both said excitedly.

It was Zoe and she was grown up. When did that happen? We both did the how are you, it’s been a while thing and say hi to your folks and then she started ringing up her next customer.

That was weird.

I had the same experience the night before when my friends came over with their kids. These little humans were still very young in my mind but here they were so grown up, with lives and friends and it was strange to me.

When did that happen?

I asked my husband once when did he first feel “grownup?” He kind of mumbled and I don’t really remember what he said. For me it was that moment when I realized I could take a road trip and I didn’t need anyone to tell me how to get there. When I was young and our family would travel it amazed me that they knew just where they were going. How did they know which road to take and which turn to make? How did they figure out where to go in the airport to find the gates and get on the right plane?

I can do that now.

Is it the decision making process for humans that make them a grownup? Getting up on time and being appropriately dressed for work? Is it paying bills and taking out the garbage? Is it the process of figuring out whether another person is a good person or bad? Is it knowing how to get across town or across the country and arriving where I intended to be?

I have always felt young at heart and I still am surprised sometimes at my chronological age. I remember being twenty and thinking people my age now were really old and had no life left. Once you are past that are you a grownup? Commitment to work, relationships and life are part of it. When does it happen?

I would like to hear when you felt you were a grownup.

-N

Stories are keeping me awake

I spent most of last night’s insomnia story plotting.

The historical story that needs the big showdown, the 1886 setting that needs to be converted to present day, the contemporary set in Hawaii with characters that need to find a way to each other and so many more. These people kept pushing into my mind insisting that I focus on them and their lives.

I couldn’t shut their voices off.

These people are real in my imagination. I know what their voices sound like, the way they walk and the good and bad of their personalities. I can see the way they move their hands and hear the way they laugh. Their lives are reality in my imagination and the way they respond to the situations I put them in is as predictable as the real humans I interact with in my real life.

I am fortunate that my husband is very helpful in providing a male perspective when I’m not quite there or stuck on how my character will express himself. He can also help with motivation for why my character would react in a certain way or where the confusion comes from that my lead man is experiencing.

It surprises me how often I will write for a while constructing a scene that, as I am writing, I am having so much fun. It pours out of me as it is unfolding. I will stop for a break and then come back and after reading it I think, “Where did this come from?” It doesn’t work. It is so out of character for my people or it stops the action in a way that I have to let it go if it cannot be adapted or modified. It is hard to let go of words that came from my heart.

Time to get going. Rock on!

-N