Tag Archive for: New Years resolutions

My Word for the Year: Communicate

by Paula Gail Benson

Last month, I wrote about receiving the book One Word that Will Change Your Life, which advocates that you select a word to focus upon for the year instead of making resolutions. In the comments to that post, Saralyn Richards and Gay Yellen responded that “gratitude” and “kindness” were words that had significance for them. Debra H. Goldstein asked me, “have you found your one word and has it been sustainable?”

After a month’s delay, Debra, here’s my answer: “the word ‘communicate’ seemed to find me and keeps returning to my attention.”

From Google’s Oxford Languages Dictionary, the first definition of “communicate” is to “share or exchange information, news, or ideas.” The sentence illustrating this definition is “the prisoner was forbidden to communicate with his family.”

At my church, we are anticipating a visit from an Estonian pastor whose grandfather (also a pastor) spent years in a Soviet slave labor camp. I’ve read some of the book Grandfather Pastor Harri Haamer wrote about his prison experience, We Shall Live In Heaven. When he was housed with hardened criminals, one of them asked if he was a “smasher.” He did not know that meant “burglar.” He quickly learned that these inmates claimed fifty percent of any package received by someone in the cell. When a package came for Pastor Haamer, he demanded they give it to him, which earned him respect. Then, he proclaimed, “I’m sharing all the contents of my package to you.” Some protested, only fifty percent, but Pastor Haamer insisted they take all. The oldest criminal told him, “at least come and share with us.” That formed a bond between them.

Pastor Haamer also heard the odd terminology of calling one of the prisoners a “cow to be milked.” He learned this inmate was a spy for the prison officials, who withdrew him from time to time to “milk” him for information he heard in the cell.

The Google Oxford Languages Dictionary’s second definition of communicate is “to convey or transmit (an emotion or feeling) in a nonverbal way.” This reminded me that even when people speak different languages or have no language at all, they may be able to communicate through expressions or gestures. We humans sometimes receive our most delightful and useful nonverbal (at least not “spoken”) communications from our pets that purr in delight or bark in warning.

Communication also may falter if translation is missing. One of my former law clerks was blind. He loved science fiction and fantasy stories. I remember discussing the initial Star Wars (now known as Episode IV) with him and stopping myself after mentioning how I felt seeing one of the opening scenes as a space vessel seems to be traveling overhead. I apologized thinking I had intruded in an area he could not share, but he told me he knew exactly what I meant because a version for the blind had descriptions of the visual actions taking place.

What I have noticed in my own communications this year is that what may be clear in my mind is not always successfully conveyed by spoken or written word. Often, I’m in a rush and leave directions that indicate there are multiple steps, but don’t adequately spell out each one. I rely that someone else remembers as I do, which may or may not be the case.

Already, just by focusing on “communicate,” I’ve noticed areas where I can improve clarity. It’s a continuing process, but I do find myself stopping to ask, “did I make that understandable for the person who will be reading or hearing it?”

Debra, so far, the focus on “communicate” has been sustainable. I’ll keep you updated as the year progresses!

photo of champagne glasses and 2024 numerals

Doing More of What Works

by Sparkle Abbey

Wish for it, hope for it, dream of it

Happy New Year from us to you! Since it’s the beginning of a new year everyone’s talking about resolutions or goals. It appears that there’s a bit of a divide on whether New Year’s resolutions are considered a good thing or not anymore.

On the one hand the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to take stock and see how you’re doing. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and perhaps good time to set some goals. Or at least establish some better habits.

A recent Forbes article states that according to their survey 62% of us feel pressured to set a new year’s resolution. With 87% feeling optimistic about keeping it throughout the year. Most goals revolve around improved fitness, finance, or mental health. In the writing community, we find that there are usually similar goals being made around writing, publishing, and reading.

We’re big fans of goals and in previous years we’ve shared our views on making your goals specific and measureable. As well as on planning your path to reach them and tracking your progress.

This year we’re taking a little bit different approach and the simple version of what we’re doing is focusing on what’s working and doing more of that. A recent read “Getting More of What You Want” by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys focuses on the latest advances in psychology and economics to negotiate well. In short, to get what you want. You can read more about that here: Getting More of What You Want by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys | by Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys

But isn’t achieving your goals really about negotiating with yourself?

Our previous approaches to goal-setting weren’t wrong. SMART goals are smart, right? (The letters stand for: Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realistic-Timely.)  But this approach can fall a bit short when you’re reaching for a creative goal. You see, some of those things are outside your control.

Another recent read, “Start More Than You Can Finish” by Becky Blades also provided food for thought. And who can resist a book named MUST READ by the Next Big Idea Club.  An excerpt and more about the book and the Next Big Idea Club here: Start More Than You Can Finish

Because for us this is always an evolving process, where we’ve landed this year on setting goals is this:

  • Make a list of what’s working and figure out a way to do more of that.
  • Make a list of what’s not working and stop doing that.

At its essence, it’s still about defining what you want and planning how you’re going to achieve your goals. But it also acknowledges those things that you’ve accomplished. Things that are going right.  And it also defines what got in your way and how you’re going to eliminate those things. Because maybe the most important thing about achieving your dreams in 2024 is getting started.

What are your thoughts? Do you set goals at the beginning of a new year? Do you pick a word or a thought to focus on for the year? Or are you in the anti-resolution camp?

We’d love to hear your thoughts.

book cover for Desperate HousedogsSparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Ashford and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installments (book nine) BARKING WITH THE STARS and  (book ten) THE DOGFATHER continue Caro and Mel’s murder-solving adventures. And PROJECT DOGWAY is a short that brings the cousins together – sort of.

But here’s some great news, if you’ve not yet started the series (or would like to share the series with a friend) the first book, DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS, is currently on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats!

Find it at your favorite place to buy books! 

Clicking Our Heels – Our New Year’s Resolutions

Clicking Our Heels – Our New Year’s Resolutions

Every year, we make New Year’s Resolutions (or at least most of us do). This year, we are going to share our resolutions with you and have the courage to check back and report to you how we did later in the year.

Kathryn Lane – Balancing work and play, being consistent about exercising, and making time to relax.

T.K. Thorne – I want to spend less time on a computer.

Shari Randall/Meri Allen – I’m the worst about resolutions. My resolution is not to make any!

Mary Lee Ashford – 2022 was a big year for me as I retired after 32 years of working in local government. So needless to say, it’s been an adjustment year for me. In the past, I’ve always started the year with a list of goals – some work related, some writing related, and others more general and personal. This year my New Year’s Resolution is to slow down and take time to focus on the most important things.

Donnell Ann Bell – As I write this, I am really working hard at diet an exercise. (I’ll let you know how I’m doing by New Years. I have a book due!

Lynn McPherson – My New Year’s Resolution is to be more organized. Yes, it’s been on the top of the list before and I have yet to succeed, but maybe this year I’ll sort myself out. I also want to bake more. Cupcakes, muffins, and cookies. Fresh baked everything is my favorite!

Debra H. Goldstein – To relax and accept what I cannot change, but to go full steam ahead with the things I can control.

Barbara J. Eikmeier – I don’t make Jan 1 resolutions.  I use my birthday as my personal New Year and I do make a list of “goals”. They generally have to do with wellness but in 2011 I set of a goal of teaching myself how to bake pies!

Debra Sennefelder – I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I stopped that a long time ago. Instead, I focus on goals. Right now I’m in the process of working on my goals for the upcoming year.

Dru Ann Love – I learned not to make resolutions.

Lois Winston – I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago.

Linda Rodriguez – I’ve stopped making New Year’s resolutions. I do always try to take the last few days of year to do some reflecting over what has happened during the year and what I feel about it and also to look at things I would like to carry with me into the new year. So, rather than resolutions, I tend to set one or two guide words or phrases for the coming year, such as Peace, More Pleasure, Health and Strength, etc.

Saralyn Richard – My most memorable New Year’s resolution was made when I’d lived in Chicago for about three years. I promised myself I wouldn’t complain about the winter weather. (Complaining accomplished nothing, anyway.) What I found when I stopped complaining was that the winter months went by quite painlessly. I don’t live in Chicago anymore, but my resolutions are always based on that theme–I try to be as grateful as possible throughout the year, no matter what befalls me. Gratitude is my resolution.









Top Ten Writing Tips

Top Ten Writing Tips

By Cathy Perkins
I can’t believe it’s already the middle of
January! How are you coming with your New Year’s Resolutions?
One of my resolutions was to transfer the
organization I always implemented in my day job to my writing life. Since my
writing space and habits were a bit (cough, a lot) disorganized, I got together
with some author friends. What quickly evolved was a set of writing tips. Many
of these I’ve done without conscious thought. I’m attempting to be more mindful,
however, and plan to use this structure as additional motivation to, as one
friend puts it, finish the damn book.

So, without further fanfare – the writing

Ten – Make lists. Every day I make a list of the things I
want to accomplish that day. (I’m not sure what it says about me that I love
drawing a line through an item when it’s done.)
The first line (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. Long-term-goals are listed
on my white board: things I want to be sure I don’t forget, but I don’t have to
do today.

Nine – Sprint.  A group of us grabs our first, or next,
cup of coffee and checks in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the
internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a
mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without
interruption. I write until I meet my word count goal for the day. (Thank
Steven King for this one.)

Eight – Work on one series at a
I try my best to immerse myself
in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m working on a
first draft or revising a draft. Avoiding the “new shiny” keeps me

Seven – Finish what’s due
Except #8 blows up sometimes.
I’ll be in first draft mode on Pony Ring and edits will come in from Beaver
Pond. I operate on the First Due principle. I knock out the edits, because they’re
due in a week or two, then get back to the longer work. The problem with doing
that, of course, is getting back up to speed with the work-in-process, so I can
re-immerse myself in that world.

Six – Take time away from the
By the end of a writing session,
my creative brain is mush. I usually go for what I call my plotting walk,
especially if I’m writing a first draft. There’s something about the rhythm of
walking that brings the next scene or a plot problem into focus. It makes the dogs
happy to get out of the house, too.

Five – Separate creative time
from admin time.
most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is,
Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings. I try
to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, record-keeping, and all
the other business stuff for the evenings.

Four – Work ahead. Know what you want to accomplish – I’ve written
my goals for the year and set up a time table to implement them. That means I
work now on upcoming items instead of
waiting and scrambling at the last minute.

Three – Outsource what I can’t
While I tinker with art and
photo-editing, I know my limits with graphic design. I hire a wonderful cover
artist. I like formatting my books, but it’s something I can do in the evening
while my husband watches TV. The key point is identifying what I’m good at and
enjoy, versus what I can outsource. Why waste time on things it would take me
forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing

Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full flask of water on my desk.
Fluids in, fluids out. It makes me get up and move around every hour or so. And
if I forget, my Fitbit buzzes at me with a reminder. I try to eat lean fresh
foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t always a sweaty gym workout.
And the exercise doubles as creative time – see #6!

One – Butt in the chair, fingers
on the keyboard. 
This is
really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or
simply don’t do the writing, then…I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my
job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held, I’m lucky and blessed to have this one I

What tips
can you add?

An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.  Visit her at http://cperkinswrites.com or on Facebook 

Sign up for her new release announcement newsletter in either place.

She’s hard at work on sequel to The Body in the Beaver Pond, which was recently presented with the Claymore Award. 

New Year Promises

by Sparkle Abbey

Happy New Year from us to you! Since it’s the beginning of a new year everyone’s talking about resolutions. We’d have to say it appears that there’s a bit of a divide on whether they’re a good thing or not.

On the one hand the beginning of a new year seems like the perfect time to take stock and see how you’re doing. It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, and perhaps good time to set some goals.

But according to U.S. News and World Report 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by February. Wow. We’re optimists but even we realize those are really terrible odds. We can see why this January some are just saying “no” to resolutions.

Psychology Today recently published an article on the Four Common Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. The article is a great read, so please check out the whole thing, but in short the main reason we fail is that our goals aren’t clear. That makes sense to us. The best type of goal is a very specific one. We’ve all heard of SMART goals, right? The letters stand for: Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realistic-Timely.

Turns out the research mentioned in the article covers some of the other parts of the SMART acronym. Another piece of the puzzle is that change is hard and we don’t always take the time to figure out the best path. So maybe rather than just jumping in, we should figure out where we’re going and understand that slow and steady (and one track) can win the race.

Another point made in the article is that it’s easy to get discouraged and so we need to look at whether our goals are realistic. As we go forward we may need to make adjustments. We love this recent blog Practical Resolutions by Hank Phillippi Ryan at Career Authors. Hank’s advice involves Writing (a lot), reading (a lot), and also things like listening, respect, patience, perseverance, and getting better.

When it comes down to it, that last one is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Getting better. So, whether your goals involve writing more, reading more, eating healthier, or getting more exercise, you can always get better. And you can start on January 1st or some random Tuesday in May. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start!

We like to write our goals down as a reminder of what we’re focusing on. And we enjoy working with SMART goals, but like everything else you have to figure out what works for you. We’re all made differently and motivated differently. Some people, like our friend Holly Jacobs, picks a word for the year. We love that idea! Check out Holly’s Word for 2019.

What are your thoughts? Do you set goals at the beginning of a new year? Do you pick a word or a thought to focus on for the year? Or are you in the anti-resolution camp? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sparkle Abbey is actually two people, Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter, who write the national best-selling Pampered Pets cozy mystery series set in Laguna Beach. Their series features  former Texas beauty queen cousins, Caro, a pet therapist and, Melinda, a pet boutique owner. The most recent installments (book nine) BARKING WITH THE STARS and  (book ten) THE DOGFATHER continue Caro and Mel’s murder-solving adventures.

But here’s some great news, if you’ve not yet started the series (or would like to share the series with a friend) the first book, DESPERATE HOUSEDOGS, is currently on sale for 99 cents in all ebook formats!

New Year’s Resolutions – Can I Keep Them?

New Year’s Resolutions – Can I Keep Them? by Debra H. Goldstein

2016 has arrived!  Anticipation of the new year has faded into pleasant memories of the ball dropping in Times Square, friends blowing noisemakers, popping champagne corks, and children peering around the stairwell to see grown-ups partying.  For writers, this is the time when excitement and happiness is replaced by the fear of keeping our resolutions.  I tried to keep mine simple this year, but I’m going to share my writer’s resolutions with you:

1) Write every day when possible – I’ve been a hit and miss writer.  I wrote when I had blog deadlines, when the muse moved me, or when I had a deadline.  Unfortunately, those days were few and far between with the result that since I became serious about writing two years ago, I’ve wasted a lot of time.  I envy the production of those who force themselves to write daily either to a word or page count or simply until they see some words on the page.

2) Don’t envy other writers – Envy is a green-eyed form of jealously.  Rather than envy them, join them by doing the work to make yourself equally accomplished.

3) Continue to learn – Read, Listen, Observe – the day you stop learning is the day they bury you.

4) Be humble – Dance for joy when something is published but don’t forget to count how many rejections you’ve received, too.  Remember, every story or book published had a lot of people who helped you along the way – whether by teaching you, offering words of encouragement, being a sounding board for gripes and ideas, or opening a door for you.

5) Extend a hand to others – you may never be a mid-lister or a NY Times author, but you can be a human being.  The only way you got this far was that others helped you so pay it back by paying it forward.

I hope I can stick to these and to one more personal one:

1) Be kind, considerate, thoughtful and loving to your family and friends…..writing isn’t everything, but they are.

Any resolutions on your end you’d like to share?

New Years Resolutions or Not?

Hey gang….
It’s been six days since the New Year started. How are your goals going?
Do you set goals or resolutions?
For me, I’m a goal setter. Resolutions seem too dreamy. A goal is
specific and time centered.

So here’s one of my goals – Make healthy choices and increase fruits/veggies in my
diet. My hope is to lose 20 pounds by year-end. Now, it’s not going to get done
just by adding a few apples and celery sticks. I’m also going to have to work
out regularly and keep a log of both food and exercise. One day at a time. Kind of like writing a book. Or eating an elephant. (Although that might be a wrong metaphor to use.)
One way I can do this is using Myfitnesspal.com I love this website. Free
and filled with excellent tracking programs. And, you can buddy up with friends
and have an online push when you’re not reaching your goals.
Today I found Panera Breads is sponsoring a fitness challenge. Lose five
pounds in six weeks. They have a mobile app called Lose It. It’s a lot like
MyFitnessPal but it’s on my phone. Although, I think you can do that with
MyFitnessPal too. Check out https://www.panerabread.com/en-us/home.html
for more information.
Watching hulu plus while I rode my stationary bike I found another program
I might like—Daily Burn. Apparently, it brings a variety of exercise programs
to you every day – kind of like P90X which is one of my favorite workouts but my doctor banned me from using due to health issues. Right now, I’m
playing Biggest Loser on Xbox with Konect. Love the workouts. And the weather warms up and I can get back to walking places like Chain of Rocks bridge, it’s indoor work for me.
Technology rules.
One last hint for today – find a farmers market that delivers. Our local
farmer’s market in the St. Louis are does a Fruit your Cube program, bringing
fruits and veggies to your office for a reasonable cost. I never have to say, I
should have gone to the store because the store comes to me. The only guilt is
when I don’t use up the veggies before they go bad.
Are you on the health wagon for 2014? Do you like the on line programs,
or good, old-fashioned meetings?