Thursday, November 13, 2014

Web sites: Keep them Simple

After just returning from a Heart of America Christian Network Writers conference in Overland Park, Kan., I took stock of what I learned during several workshop sessions. One great workshop was on how to create an effective Web site. The workshop was facilitated by Jim Watkins of Wesleyan Publishing.
    Pay close attention to detail and keep it consistent, he said, highlighting Rev. Billy Graham’s site as a good example of a well done Web site. What makes it a good site is its simplicity. It is not  cluttered with material, is easy to read and navigate, Watkins added. Here is a link to that site:
    A key to a good Web site is to define the blog or Web site's purpose, he said. Is its purpose for people to become acquainted with you through your author biography (which, according to him, is a must), get a taste of your work through reading samples of your material or is it have people buy your products, books or more? If your ultimate purpose is for visitors to purchase your goods then make sure no more than two clicks takes them there or anywhere else on your site, Watkins said.
    What you are offering? That needs to be shown on your home page, he said. Also, include a way viewers can search your site and contact you, he continued.
    The most important item is to keep the site simple without fancy colors and fonts, Watkins said. Black lettering on white background still is the best. Also, use easy to read fonts, such as Helvetica, and do not employ point sizes smaller than 10 to 11 points, he said. You can, though, utilize bold and italics to vary the font you chose. Also, he advised participants to never use all capitals.
    We read from left to right so place the most important item(s) there, he said. Size means significance. Thus, your largest lettering denotes prominence whereas each size degradation portrays lesser value, Watkins continued.
    You can add color to your Web site but try to find a color which represents you and when seen throughout media spectrums it becomes recognizable as "your color," he said. Through my experience, I would not use white lettering because when the item is printed out it will not show up on white paper.
    Do not overload your site with images, he cautioned. These take time to load and through my experience it is something which instead of be inviting to viewers could make them instantly leave your site. People are busy so design your site accordingly. 
    Yahoo small business is good. They have several templates you can choose and cost about $120 a year and are easy to use, according to a person familiar with this method. Most blog sites also are easy to use, and you can use your blog as your Web site.
    How do you promote your Web site once it is done? Ask questions on Facebook which provides interaction and visits to your site, Watkins suggested. In conjunction with this, I have a question for you. To those who have read Courtships and Carriages, what character would you like to see as my main character in Book Two of the Great Plains series? Please respond here. I will post this question at a later date on Facebook.
    Well, my hope is that this post was informative and until we meet again many of the Lord’s blessings to you.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writers Need Team Work

Just as a sport’s team needs to work as a team to win games so must a writer.  
With the completion of my sweet-Christian romance, Courtships and Carriages, I reflected on how those behind the scenes make a product successful. In other words, an author needs a good team, including an eye-appealing cover, excellent editors and a good story which keeps readers' interest and makes them turn pages.
It is important to have an eye-appealing cover like the one above for Courtships and Carriages. The book is released Oct. 17 in e-book with paperback to follow. 
However, it is not easy to get a good design which matches your novel. For one thing, you need the right photograph which tells your overall story. Mine says sweetness and romance, all fitting this story. But other genres would need different qualities, such as a horror book would include dark elements, denoting evil lurking in the shadows. 
At a glance, readers must be able to know what lies behind the cover. Currently, I am reading, Doctored Evidence. What is on its cover? A picture of a doctor’s stool and the type of bed you would find in his office or in an emergency room. As indy publishers or with certain traditional publishers, some authors can have input on their cover. But if the author is not allowed to give his/her input then the graphic designer, who never read the book, makes that determination.This could lead to disastrous results like a cover depicting a man wearing pajamas, but no scene contains anything of that sort. 
A good cover also should not contain more than three concepts. Otherwise, it becomes cluttered and leaves readers confused about what your story really is about. My Courtships and Carriages has three -- the girl, the basket and the yellow-wheeled carriage. Each of these are important to the storyline. 
If you are a self-published author, you need to hire a professional graphic designer or be proficient in that area. I met an author a couple of years ago who used his mother’s painting of their Alaskan cabin for the cover. It was terrible. After talking to the man during an author fair, I became intrigued with his family's experiences in Alaska, such as a bear peeking into their window when a certain television show was on air. So I bought his book, however, if I only had seen his cover I would never had purchased it. 
Also, you must line up a good team of editors. This is extremely important. I have readers who look over my manuscript and give me their take from a reader’s perspective. One reader is especially knowledgable about farm animals since she grew up on a farm. She also is a great resource for lanterns and cooking without electricity because she experienced these. She has caught several of my mistakes in this regard. 
However, I also have wonderful editors. They are a great team and they look for grammar and spelling errors, historical inaccuracies, if the story flows smoothly and how to improve the overall work. I am so grateful for them. If it was not for them, my work would not be the best it could be nor would people want to read it. 
A key, though, is to have a story which carries readers on an unbelievable journey. Last year I was heartsick when a special person told me I should make major changes to my story. I thought of all the work I had put into it and how now I would have to rewrite it. But she was right, it just was not going to work to make the villain in my Lockets and Lanterns into a good man in this novel. So I changed a lot of it and started a new series -- one where I now had the freedom to create characters I like. Thanks to her input my story flows and the characters shine. 
So line up a great team which may take time. But it will come and with that you will develop a team which works for you and produces the best product possible. God bless. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Watch for Facebook Scam Artist

As writers we need to be out there for people to learn and know about us, but this also makes us vulnerable for scams. Last week, for example, I received a scam and wanted you to be aware of this in case you are targeted as well.
The scam was prevalent and widespread as I saw other friends' posts who also experienced the scam. 
        It began with a message from a high-school friend who I never had chatted with before on Facebook. Thus, I was delighted to hear from her and knew she was a good and honest person. This also was why I did not discount the validity of the message from the beginning.
Her message started with a hello and I responded with a “hi” and continued with a few lines of conversational banter but after that the scam began. It ran something like this: Did you know Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is running a $90,000 lottery promotion?
Lottery promotion I thought. This is unusual since lotteries are run by municipalities or states and is a form of gambling so how in the world could he offer a lottery promotion, which would not only include the United States but all over the world? This could not be legal. 
        In Nebraska, there was a ballot issue to allow for casino gambling (in order to compete with Council Bluffs, Iowa, which has several casinos and lies across the river from Omaha). The Nebraska measure was defeated, but my point is it had to be legally approved. So the word, “lottery,” was a red flag, especially since I am a political junky and a former journalist.
My supposed friend’s wining portion was “delivered” to her. Delivered? What an odd choice of words. Money is either sent to your checking account or a check is sent to your home but “delivered?” This gave  me an uneasy feeling.
It proceeded, saying they saw my profile as a winner, and I needed to contact this claim agent to receive it. I thought at first my friend was kidding so I wrote yes and answered I sure would not want to miss my 50 cents worth. After this, the person provided a link to this particular claim agent’s Facebook link. If the Internet has taught me anything, it is to not click links from unknown sources.
The message continued. I could see my friend was serious. I replied, "I thought you were kidding but you are serious, aren’t you?" The person replied with a yes. At this point, I stopped communicating with my friend and really got an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my gut.
I called a friend and asked her advice. She too thought this whole thing sounded too good to be true and mentioned a fact I had not thought of and this was what were the odds that both of us could win? 
So I discounted the message and returned to my regular tasks. About a half hour later, a writing friend asked me to befriend her. I confirmed the request since I did know her. The message again started with a “hello” then asked if I heard about the $90,000 lottery giveaway. That is when I knew the whole thing definitely was a scam.
What did I do? I deleted the messages and reported the scam to Facebook. You can to do this on your page and select different options, such as “delete” or “delete and report scam.” I soon discovered the person who requested my friendship was already my Facebook friend so I unfriended the fake one and, as with anything of this nature, it is suggested you change your password. 
Anyway, I thought I would alert you to this scam since writers use the Internet to interact with friends and provide updates on what you are doing in the writing arena. May this post prevent you from this scam and others. Remember most people are honest brokers, but there always are those scammers. God bless. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Buildin' the Dream Conference

From left: Janet Syas Nitsick (me), Ruth Ann Nordin, Judy DeVries and Rose Gordon

Flying away to Phoenix for a writing conference was one special time not only in what the conference offered but also in the flying experience.
I never flew first class. Heard about it but never dreamed about doing it. However, the trip to Phoenix changed that. 
I experienced a full-course meal including wine and dessert and bags arriving first in the baggage terminal. It was a great and sure beats my last time flying where my youngest autistic son ran out the plane while waiting to take off from Omaha Eppley Airfield. You can read about this in my first book, Seasons of the Soul
Of course, the Phoenix setting was spectacular. A little too hot in late May for even this cold-blooded individual with temperatures around 107 degrees. However, how could you not love the sand domes in the horizon? The sight took your breath away!
But back to the conference. What I liked about the Buildin’ the Dream Conference was the ability to interact with fellow authors, publishers and workshops speakers. It was more informal. Yes, there were workshops, but you could enjoy eating in the hotel’s breakfast buffet where conferees gathered and intermingle with them or in the lobby area. 
You got to know them. In other words, you were not going off to one workshop after another with no breathing room because the rooms were packed. You did not have to walk a mile or more in high heels to find food. Everything at the hotel was at your finger tips.
The nice advantage of attending a conference like the Phoenix one is you get wonderfully named speakers, such as USA Today best-selling author Rose Gordon, a top book-cover designer Anya Kelleye and a Phoenix attorney, Megan D. Scott, who is an entertainment and copyright lawyer. 
Rose Gordon gave two presentations. Her first was “Mistakes Authors Make - Historical.” As a person who knows how to sell and make money, her insights were highly valuable. She knew of what she spoke and you listened. 
Rose writes Regency and American historical romances. Think of the setting as your wallpaper where people wear clothing and interact to those time-period dictates, Gordon said. Remember the focus lies in the romance so do not get caught in details which overshadow the storyline. She said your office needs to include a dictionary, access to Web resources, a book on that age’s idioms and a trusted friend who knows more than you about the period.
Adding to Rose’s last point, I have a friend who read my Lockets and Lanterns. She is knowledgeable about farms, farm animals, reading by kerosene light and attending a small country school. This friend is an excellent resource. I cannot tell you about the number of times she caught something wrong. 
Her second workshop was “Your Books, Your Business.” Gordon told attendees to write with their hearts but think with their brains. Thus make sure your book is done, edited, formatted, has an attractive cover which sells and is marketable. Study your genre, engage the readers, condense descriptions to a sentence or two and become visible like through blog tours, giveaways, promotional items and advertisements, she said. Each piece, though, has its pros and cons. For example, an author blog is where people interact and learn about you. The con is the time involved, she added.  
Anya Kelleye showed us some of her cover designs. A book cover must include a strong focal point, evoke emotions and she cautioned against using a script font. Keep it simple. Too many images or text overtake the cover, she said. Remember, she added, your cover does not need to tell your whole novel’s story. 
Scott was a great resource. Each state is unique in its own laws, she said. However, no matter where you live when you bring your idea to physical material it is copyrighted even before it is published and recorded with the United States Copyright office, she said. 
Besides the above, there were many other wonderful workshops. The smaller arena had such advantages of being able to talk with speakers for a short time after their workshops as well as having room to sit and take notes.
However, some downfalls did exist. One was the Buildin’ the Dream author conference, and the Arizona Dreamin reader event shared the same Web site page. The two headers used the same colors and unless you paid close attention you could easily sign up for the wrong one. I pointed this out on their feedback form. This, though, was the first time a readers’ event was held. So as with anything done for the first time, there always are problems to work out.
Would I go again? You bet, in a heartbeat. It was a wonderful trip, the conference was fantastic and it was awesome meeting people you interact with on the Internet, such as Lauralynn Elliott and Judy DeVries. It also was great seeing Rose Gordon again. laughing with her, Judy and Ruth Ann. They even taught me some new words. It was a beautiful trip and traveling and sharing a hotel room with Ruth Ann Nordin made it the best. The Lord’s blessings to you. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Boxing this Giveaway

Ruth Ann Nordin and I did a Facebook and blog giveaway recently. Ruth organized it and made the whole affair work. I am so grateful for her expertise and the time she spent in this endeavor. There were wonderful prizes, which included the winning of a Kindle, a Western candle and a rectangular-treasure box to place small items, a bread-sized Western chest and the winner’s choice of either e-books or paperbacks. However, what I learned was how much fun a giveaway can be.
People who won shared their appreciation, such as one winner who expressed her gratitude that the Kindle came right at the best time. Her mother was in need of one. She downloaded recipes and sweet romance books for her. Is that not awesome?
The interaction with our book readers (Ruth’s more than mine) was also a blessings. Some people shared personal information, and your heart ached for their hardships, health problems and more. We also got a chance to know our audience, and this giveaway in turn gave us a way to express our appreciation of their support. 
In February, Ruth and I picked out the Western items. We planned to do a giveaway in March, but with our busy schedules the giveaway never materialized. So I kept the items to await our next move. Since we were having a joint book signing of our anthology, Bride by Arrangement, May 10, Ruth made some cards about our giveaway. We distributed these and gave them out during our book signing. 
We were able to get the word out through this and our blog postings. Ruth thought ahead while my brain still was in the clouds. This is why it is good to do these together because what one does not think of the other does. 
It also is a good idea (if you have a place to store them) to keep boxes. My husband is not pleased with my basement Christmas collection, but it sure comes in handy in BOXING THIS GIVEAWAY. I have all sizes of boxes. Being a pack rat does come in handy at times.
Besides this, I keep those disgusting store plastic bags. They make great box stuffers to keep the items from breaking and rolling around. Do you hear that Paul? My husband. He wonders if sometimes I have lost my mind. 
Doing a giveaway together also provides other benefits, such as getting to enjoy lunch out together after selecting your store giveaway items and keeps the expenses down as well as making the giveaway a happy time instead of a chore. 
At a previous Nebraska Writers Guild conference, one of the speakers said giveaways are important. Why? Because it gets your work out there and could build relationships and readers! 
When my first book, Seasons of the Soul, was released, I hesitated to give away my books. One less book sold. But as the old adage states: You need to invest money to make money. This is the same with books. People need to read them before your book will produce sales.
I hope this post was helpful and if you choose to do this you will find it as rewarding as Ruth Ann Nordin and myself did. Boxing a giveaway is, indeed, fun so package that giveaway up and send it out! God bless. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comparing Your Work with Others

When you compare your writing to another author, it can be positive or negative. 
A few authors slam a fellow author’s book with one and two star reviews. Some reviews are honest assessments while others are not.
Base your evaluation on readability, storyline, plot durability, realistic dialogue, grammar and more. If you cannot do do this, then do not write a review. Nothing is wrong with that because 
authors need time to write their own stories, engage in social media and do whatever else to promote their work. Doing this leaves little time to read others’ materials and write reviews and that is okay. 
I write reviews for two reasons: (1)it keeps my followers informed on what else I am doing besides my work in progress and (2)it assists me with my own writing. 
Reading (when I have time to do so) helps you gleam a lot in the way of word choices, character names, plot ideas and descriptions. 
Currently, I am reading Mary Connealy’s Calico Canyon. The villain is Parrish. I like the way Connealy describes him. “But his temper goaded him. He hungered to make her sorry for what she’d done. The image of her cowering under his fists kept him awake at night and rode him like a spur [my italics] all day.”
Playing off one another is fine as long as we do not take their words and ideas verbatim. There are only so many story lines out there, but adding our own bends and twists do make the difference. The Twilight series is an example of this. The story is romance but what is different is the werewolf twist. 
Write your way. Do not write like another author because if you do you will fail. After all, God gave you your own gifts not another person's. My way is to set a scene with the five senses. 
In addition, I include historical details, such as I did in Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, set in Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. The book includes two novellas. Ruth’s story is The Purchased Bride and mine is She Came by Train. Below is an excerpt from my novella highlighting an old hymn: 
“As the afternoon sun rays glimmered on the pearly keys, Opal settled herself on the piano stool. Opening one of the hymnals, she turned the page to ‘When the Roll is Called up Yonder.’ Stroking the keys, her fingers graced the notes. She sang as she played the tune. 
“‘When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, And the morning breaks, eternal, bright, ...’ Footsteps approached. ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. ... When the roll is called up yonder., I’ll be there.’ Finished with the chorus, she turned to Mr. Crowley, who stood in front of her. ‘Yes?’
“‘Miss Preston, you have two visitors. One is named Ada Wilcox.’”
  My brother loved reading an author who added Native American details into his work. This helped set that author apart from others. If you are one who does not care for research (which takes time), then write what fits you. Learning about time periods and how people lived is fascinating to me. By the way, visiting historical homes is one of the best ways to gather information. 
I read a variety of genres, which includes romance, mystery, suspense and non-fiction. I read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. It gave you a wonderful feel for that era which helped me with my own writing. Even heartwarming, spiritual true stories, such as Heaven is for Real, enables me to capture emotions and incorporate these into my own work. 
In conclusion, it can be good to compare yourself to others if you do this with the right intent but never deviate from your true self. Write your own story. Garner methods and styles from others, but fashion your own story and your own descriptions. God created you so devise your writing as you want. The Lord’s blessings to you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Write your Heart

People tell me I should write about my autistic children, and I have done that to some extent in my best of year book, Seasons of the Soul. But there are other stories about them, especially my youngest high-functioning, verbal son, which I cannot share.

At one time, I thought I could write about our experiences of sitting on pins and needles not knowing what the youngest's behavior would be like. But my heart would not allow me to do this. It also exposes our family, and my youngest to the public eye which I do not feel comfortable about right now. He is doing better and lives in a group home. All is well. Praise God! So, when others tell you to write about certain topics, don’t do it if it is not in your heart. 

Recently, I heard about an author who wrote teen novels but her heart was not in her work. She now is entering a new genre - one she is comfortable in pursuing. 
Many years ago I heard this man on the radio. He would advise listeners on business and recommended to callers to not choose a profession based on the money but, instead, go with your passion. For example, if your love is writing, then write what interests you not someone else. Of course, there are times you need a paycheck and have to supplement your income but do not forgo your passion.

Author Stephen King was a teacher and pursued his writing in his downtime. He started with short stories before his novels were published, his work turned into movies and his name became a household word. Remember nothing comes overnight.

I laugh when I think about my first book. I was so excited and thought everyone in my community would line up around the block for my book signing. I did have a good turnout, but it was not what I expected.  

You need to work for what you get because no one gives you anything. There are local billboards which say, "Earn It," and that is so right. Anything done well takes time.

Coming from a journalism background, I had to learn the technique of writing fiction. Think about it. A journalist writes what he sees and hears. He does not add emotion, but in fiction your story cannot survive unless it does. Heart racing, she climbed the dark-narrow stairs. 

Learning this technique is like going from night to day. I have made great progress, but my education has not stopped. You must persevere to get anywhere. 

But you also need to be realistic. If you are writing poetry, the odds of becoming a poet laureate are not good. However, what you can become is a poet who reaches peoples' souls. My one sister-in-law makes her own digital cards. Each card includes poetry which rhymes, but what is amazing is how she captures that relative’s personality. We look forward to these cards. They warm our hearts. Remember not all value is monetary. Sometimes what we do provides comfort and eases others' pains. This is what my books, Seasons of the Soul, and Lockets and Lanterns, have done, according to people who purchased them. 

In closing, remember to write from your heart. Nothing is as satisfying as to pursue your passion whether it is a full-time or part-time effort. God bless. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Descriptive Writing

Have you watched the movie, “Charade”? If not, go and watch it. This film keeps you on your toes after each scene takes you in different directions. The movie stars Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. 
When I taught writing, I showed part of this fast-paced film to my pupils and told them to write down what they saw. This made them pay attention. What often happens is we observe the world without really studying our environment.
Many years ago I took a course titled, “Writing for Children and Teenagers.” In their lessons, they told you to keenly observe the people in your life. Watch them and listen to the way they respond to you. Look for such items as the way they speak, their eye colors - not just green but a grey-green - to how they grasp your hand from strong to weak or what? 
When you “keenly observe,” you notice those hidden things taken for granted. Jot these down. Take a notebook and go outside and just watch life. As I drove Saturday to a writing-group event, I glanced at the sky. It was blue but not just blue it was aqua-blue with pure-white clouds. Notice I used specific words here, and you need to do the same in your writing.
A place becomes “real” in writing when readers see and feel it. This includes the five senses - sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Of course, not every scene allows you, for instance, to have a character sip tea, for example. However, when you can incorporate these, it adds “reality” to your work. Here is a scene from Lockets and Lanterns, which critique readers said made them feel as if they were there:
“Florence pulled her cuffs over her knuckles. Her fingers cool [touch] to the spring breeze, which drifted in from the window behind her. The pot roast smothered in gravy sat on the china platter [taste]. She inhaled [smell] the potent onion aroma and passed the plate to her left.”
Descriptive scenes are important. It lets readers know if the work is an imaginary place, such as in science fiction and fantasy, or something they are familiar with either in today’s world or in the past. In Ruth Ann Nordin and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, I set the scene for my novella, She Came by Train, included in the anthology as such:
“The train chugged toward the station. Smoke bellowed from the engine’s stack. Standing underneath the roof of the brick-and-mortar depot, Opal gulped as she watched it approach.” 
What words give you clues to the time period? They are the smoke bellowing from the engine’s stack (denoting a steam-engine train no longer in existence) and her standing underneath the roof of the brick-and-mortar depot (giving you the impression of a past railroad station). 
Thus description brings in your audience and helps them experience that period. However, you do not always need a long span of descriptive words to set a scene. In Ruth Ann Nordin’s Return of the Aliens, a few choice words show that the setting is contemporary. 
“‘Thanks for the reminder.’ She walked over to the closed door of the dressing room in the bridal shop.”
How do you learn to make scenes come alive? Write, write, write and learn to add such items as a breeze (touch), a fragrant flower (smell), a food (taste) and a character’s voice breaking as he/she remembers or experiences something tragic. You cannot do this in every scene, but you can, as previously stated, do that in most of them when you make an effort. Lead the reader in and let them truly “live” with your characters, and this can be done by simply watching your surroundings and remembering to choose specific words and include the senses. 
Remember also to use your thesaurus whether it is the old printed copy or online. Take the simple observation test to get you started.

Observation Test 

Ask yourself questions as you watch your everyday life. Do you see the details and/or remember them?
1. What specific colors are the sky and the clouds today?
2. How many doors are there in front of the school nearest you?
3. In a traffic light, is the red or the green on top?

Now, come up with some of your own to stimulate your mind. Have a pleasant day and many of the Lord’s blessings to you. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Scouts motto: Be Prepared

 The Boy and Girl Scouts’ mottos are “be prepared.” However, I failed at that this year. How about you?
After the recent release of Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, published by Parchment and Plume, I realized I was not prepared. 
(The anthology includes two novellas - Ruth’s The Purchased Bride and mine She Came by Train. The story is where two women meet on a train traveling from Virginia to Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. They live separate lives but keep in contact. The Purchased Bride is a mail-order bride story. Who is this quiet man, Pete Kelly, whom Ada is to marry? Janet’s character, Opal, becomes a governess of a widower businessman with two children. Her employer and a preacher vie for her affections. She Came by Train but only her heart will determine if she will return that way.)
But writing She Came by Train took many late nights and wee-morning hours to finish. Because of this, I did not update my social-media sites before the anthology was released in e-book last month. I failed. My only salvation is to complete this before the paperback Feb. 1 edition is released. 
So be prepared by not waiting to the last minute to finish your book but also by remembering to update your social-site profiles BEFORE your book is out. Doing this, acquaints people with you, your book and its cover, such as our anthology. 
Ruth taught me to publish excerpts of my work-in-progress on my blog or on social-media sites. In this way, readers get acquainted with your work, which entices people to purchase the product - an excellent marketing tool.
Also, respond to blog comments because this shows them that you value their input, which builds relationships. What else can you do to become more efficient? Setting goals helps. Some people do longterm goals, such as planning when a book will be released in a year. Other people are not as intense. This month I will sit down with realistic expectations in completing my Cameos and Carriages, a prequel novel to Lockets and Lanterns, which was released in 2012. 
However, my short-term list is more valuable to me. I ask myself what I want to accomplish this week. A weekly planner (another great Ruth tip) sits beside my computer to assist me with this. 
The small calendar allows me to see a week at a glance. I jot down my daily entries in pencil. Using a pencil is a great idea since if the day goes haywire I can erase and move that entry to another day. Entries include when to submit stories, join or rejoin organizations, write blogs, post work-in-progress excerpts and re-examine certain e-mails. 
How do I know what e-mails to re-examine? I star them in my e-mail system. There are days I am too busy to digest long or confusing e-mails, thus by starring them I can return to them at a better time. Additionally, I do the same with Facebook birthday notifications. But watch that you do not pass your Facebook friend’s birthdate.
Thus do what you can to be prepared. However, also remind yourself that you will fail at times. Humans always do as you know. Well, start out the new year right and perhaps you will want to incorporate some of these tips, and may the Lord richly bless you in 2014.