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In an attempt to finish many incomplete projects, I’ve set monthly goals for myself. So, how am I doing on the April and May 2016 goals I set forth on April 1st?

What’s done?

Murder_Cover_CS_front1-Complete my science fiction novelette (such a charming word!) and get it into the hands of my publisher. Done! Murder on Marawa Prime was published by Pole to Pole Publishing in May 2016. If you like science fiction murder mysteries – this one is for you.

2-Finish crocheting an afghan for my granddaughter. Done! And given to her. (pastel colors)

3-Revise and add another story and poem to my fantasy story collection, The Greener Forest, so it can be re-released with a new cover, etc. Done! Now, all that’s left to be done are to get some cover comments from fellow fantasy writers.

4-Finish at least 2 short stories and submit them to publishers. Done! I await the editors’ responses.

5-Finish crocheting an afghan for youngest grandson. Done! (greens, blues, and black) Plus, I finished crocheting an afghan for my oldest grandson, too. (reds, blues, and black) Both were given to the boys earlier in June.

6-Went on a 2 week RV trip to see a niece and her husband in Indiana; visit Lincoln country in Illinois; see Mark Twain sites in Hannibal, Missouri; visit Lewis & Clark sites in St. Louis, Missouri; visit Graceland in Tennessee; visit Shiloh Battlefield in Tenn.; see Ruby Falls & Cave and Look Out Mountain in Tenn.; visit Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia; visit godmother in Greenville, South Carolina; visit uncle in Sparta, North Carolina, see sister and brother-in-law in Staunton, Virginia; and get back to Maryland in one piece. Done!

So what’s NOT done?

1- I haven’t gotten all the letters home from World War II from a great-uncle typed, or begun research for this nonfiction book.

2- I’m still polishing one story for a publisher, and working hard on another for a science fiction anthology. I’m hoping they’ll both make it to the Table of Contents.

3- The embroidered samplers still await their borders and framing – though I have gotten out the fabric to finish the projects.

4- The black and white drawings await their scanning. Why is this not done? I want to make a few changes in each drawing.

Where do I go from here? Set goals for June and July, of course!

By the end of June, I will:

1- send in a final version of a story I’ve been working on since last June!

2- send in the first draft of a science fiction story to an anthology.

3- type at least 10 more letters from World War II.

4- add borders to and frame one of the samplers.

5- put a border and backing on a vintage redwork quilt top which has suddenly become mine. (More on this unfinished project later).

By the end of July, I will:

1- send a final version of the science fiction story to the anthology.

2- begin reading books to prepare to submit to another anthology.

3- type 10 more letters from WW II.

4- revise my science fiction and fantasy collection, Owl Light, in preparation for re-release.

How about you? Are you trying to finish up unfinished projects, too? Any tips for me?

Now, back to work on an unfinished story! – Vonnie

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Happy April Fools’ Day! One of my not-so-foolish goals for 2016 is to become more productive. For me, I know my productivity is hampered by my lack of organization. In other words, I need to get rid of the clutter (both literal and figurative) and focus.

Sometimes, thinking outside of the box, organizing in fluid ways, and having lots of pots on the stove can result in a flock of fabulous ideas. The problem is, without focus, those ideas are often not completed. And time spent on half-done projects is wasted until those projects are completed. I thought I’d take you on this journey, too:

My completed project list – March 31st

Writing: completed a science fiction novelette – time to get it in the hands of my publisher

Non-writing: finished a crocheted afghan for granddaughter

My projects to be completed by April 30th

Writing: 1- finish typing letters home from World War II from a great-uncle and begin research for this nonfiction book

2- revise and add a story to The Greener Forest for re-release by a new publisher

3- finish at least 2 short stories and submit them to publishers

Non-writing: 1- finish a crocheted afghan for youngest grandson

2- add a quilt border to 2 embroidered samplers and frame them

3- gather and scan at least 10 black and white drawings, then submit them to publishers

Even as I type this, it feels ambitious, but I think I can manage. I came across an interesting article on becoming more productive by Lisa M. Gerry: Three Ways to be Instantly More Productive in which she enlists the help of The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg to share 3 tips for becoming more efficient.  Here’s the link.

How about you – do you have any other ideas for increasing productivity?

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 The blueberry bushes in the front of my house are producing their usual abundant berries, but I’m not getting many to freeze. What’s going on here?

In the past, the animals and I have had an understanding. No one gets greedy and everyone enjoys the blueberries. The cardinals, mockingbirds, Northern Orioles, robins and assorted other birds gobble their share of the sweet blue-purple globes from the bushes. A chipmunk or two scurry about grabbing a bit of fruit for their lunch. Three large crows gather many of the fallen berries for their meals. The ants clean up the rest of the ground berries, and the bees take care of those still clinging to the bushes that are torn open and oozing juice.

I still have plenty of blueberries to pick and enjoy fresh, and there are lots left to gather and freeze. In fact, I usually invite friends over to pick a bucket of berries in the relative coolness of a July evening. But not this year. This year, the other critter in the mix — the squirrels, have gotten greedy.

The squirrels have taken to breaking off entire bunches and carrying them to their nests. Thus, they’re not just picking a few, but stripping the bushes so no one else (yes, this is personification at its strangest) gets their fair share.

Balance is what’s needed here. Just like in a painting or a quilt or a flower garden, balance is necessary. Colors, textures, shapes and sizes need to be distributed in an even-handed manner.

In the case of writing, a story needs to be balanced, too. Too much description and the storyline gets lost. Too much action and the characters get confusing. Too much back story and the reader loses interest. Too many characters and the reader can’t keep the cast straight. Just the right mix of action, description, plot, character, foreshadowing, flashbacks, and location are need. The important thing is to balance the amount of each of these pieces of the story-quilt.

Now, back to those thieving squirrels. What is my course of action? This year, I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. The out of whack distribution of blueberries caused by the squirrels’ greed has destroyed the balance. Next year, all but humans, bees, and ants will suffer. I’ll drape the bushes with bird net, and only uncover them when picking berries.

The animals will not starve. There are wild raspberries and blackberries in the nearby woods. Many of the trees by our lawn are wild cherries. There are abundant acorns and pine cones, too. The grasses in the field next door provide seeds for the birds, and there are insects galore for the eating.

Lack of balance in fiction, poetry, painting, or quilt or garden design results in a finished product that is far from perfect. And in the case of writing — probably not publishable. So chase away your greedy squirrels, and remember: Balance is important in life whether sharing blueberries or planting a herb garden or drafting a novel.

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 Beginning a story, a relationship, a quilt, a painting, or a garden is exciting and a bit scary. You start with a blank canvas, an empty plot of ground, a pile of scrap fabric, a character, a smile and “Hello,” or a wag of a tail. Wag of a tail?

Yup, this blog is about my new dog acquired from the local animal shelter. Sandy, (and, yes, I loved Little Orphan Annie’s pup) was a stray who obviously came from less-than-wonderful circumstances. On her first visit to the vet’s office it was determined she had Lyme’s Disease & worms. She was also intact (hadn’t been spayed yet) and wasn’t fully housebroken.

Yikes! There was going to be a big vet bill to get her healthier. Plus, I was going to have to spend lots of hours helping her understand it was wonderful to pee on the grass and not acceptable to pee on the rug. And she was weak and lethargic. But there’s always a price (time, money, sweat, etc.) to be paid to get something in good shape.

We visit the vet again tomorrow for some more shots. The spaying surgery is just a few weeks off. Sandy seems to understand where I want her to pee. She’s eating better and she’s building muscles in her legs. And best of all, she sleeps by my bed at night, can’t wait to see me in the morning, begs for belly-rubs and back-scratches, and looks at me lovingly with her chocolate eyes. Has the time I’ve spent working with Sandy been worth it. You bet!

Now, back to writing, quilting, painting, and gardening! The time you spend in learning the how to’s necessary for these tasks, the mistakes you make and grow from, the small successes, the support of friends and others interested in the same thing, and the finished project are all a part of the creative process. Will we all write a best-seller, stitch a first-prize quilt, paint a masterpiece, or have a garden worthy of a photo feature in a magazine? No, of course not. But each of us can do our best and be proud of our efforts.

Sandy will never be a champion dog (heck, we’re not even sure what breed/breeds she is) — but she brings me joy. And in the end, isn’t happiness, whether from writing, quilting, painting, gardening, or having a pet, what life is all about?

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