Mountain Sunrise – Sky Watch Friday – 1-13-17

062Sky Watch Friday is a weekly Link Up where participants share a photo of the sky with others in the Link Up and those who stop by to watch the sky. This is my first time in a while, but I have been collecting sky photos so I could try again. This is a southeastern facing sunrise across my neighbors fence toward Whitetop Mountain and Mount Rogers in Virginia.


Posted in Blogging Challenge, Photo Challenge, Photography, Skywatch Friday, Writing | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Transcript – Bridging the Past

This is for the weekly Discover Challenge. This week the subject is Transcript.

I am one of those who has the knowledge of before and after the digital age. I can remember when everything was either written or in print. I still remember the fascination of bring able to create something before I sent it off to a printer to have it in physical form. It is quite a difference from the reality of today. That is why this particular Discover Challenge is coming our way this week.

When I first started writing I was in my teens. At that time I did not have a personal computer because they were hardly personal. Beyond that the price was in the thousands of dollars for basically a souped-up typewriter that could save files. My first hand written novel pages were on loose leaf paper written in pencil with a mechanical pencil.


This is some of the hand written pages of my first novel series.


Eventually I began to assemble them in binders for better access.

Shortly after this I finally got the new technology of a personal computer that significantly improved my ability to get my writing in a form more presentable to show another. During that time I was able to print my manuscripts and enter three of them in a local writing contest. Unfortunately these particular manuscripts are now only available on paper because the word processing program I used at that time became obsolete about as quick as computer operating systems improved.

So now I have the unenviable task of transcribing these manuscripts into a current word processing program. I am thankful that I now am familiar with the Microsoft suite of programs that will not likely become obsolete any time soon. I wonder how many others have experienced a similar situation in their writing adventures.

Posted in Discover Challenge, Novel, Technology, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Names – Graduating Seniors

DPname.JPGI needed a minute to think of a photograph I have that suits the Weekly Photo Challenge theme of Names for this week. But eventually I remembered the perfect photo to use. My daughter graduated from high school in May of 2016. She was one of four students in our church to reach this plateau. As we begin to think about the graduation party the potential issues with four separate parties and the distance between we considered having one big party. In order to do this we had to have one huge cake. I called it the L.A.I.M. graduation party which was a big joke, but I think it was exactly the best way to accommodate these friends and their wish to share their achievement.


Posted in children, Family, Photo Challenge, Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Reason I Write – One Liner Wednesday – 1/04/17

“To write a story is to create a new world with the positive and negative traits we choose as our favorites.”


I am new to Just Jot It January from Linda G. Hill, but it looks like a lot of fun. This is the January 4 response.


Posted in Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Just Jot It January, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

1 Million Steps to 2017 – SUCCESS!

Early in 2016 I remember a specific illustration used by my pastor during a Sunday morning sermon relating to goal setting. His point was that if you set a single goal when you head out for a work day you may find yourself taking your entire day to finish the one task. But if you set multiple goals you are more inclined to attack more goals. Of course this needs another caution not to take on more than you can finish, but that is implied.

Now I have seen my share of moon cycles, meaning several hundreds of them so this knowledge was nothing new, but it was presented in a way that stuck with me even to this day. Having goals or direction means you are more likely to accomplish something you can point to as your success. I just finished a post yesterday laying out several writing golas I want to achieve in 2017. With this in place I have a solid, mapped out direction which will serve me well.

If you have been on this blog before you know I also had a goal for the last quarter of last year to measure of 1,000,000 steps on my Fitbit over the 92 days from October 1 through December 31. I tend to favor round numbers and while 1,000,000 seems a mighty number when you divide it out over 92 days it becomes much more manageable. In fact it is just 869 more steps on a daily basis than the standard goal delivered to you by Fitbit of 10,000 steps per day.


In the beginning of this journey during October the weather was much warmer and dryer, so getting the steps in was not too tough. But eventually the cooler, damper weather caught up with me causing more effort to accumulate the needed activity. Of course my dog doesn’t care about weather, so she still wants her daily exercise so I have an ally in getting me up and out often each day.

As I begin a new year I will set new goals so I can continue to make strides toward being more active and hopefully more healthy while shedding a few pounds accumulated during the holidays. I know some of you probably got a fitness tracker for a present this year so I hope your experience is something like mine if not better.


Posted in Blogging, exercise, Fitbit, Fitness, Personal Goals, Personal Health, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Writing Goals for 2017

joesAh the new year dawns! The time when all possibilities fill our tables. I particularly enjoy this time of year because I find a full tank of enthusiasm and little resistance to set new goals and dream new fantastic dreams. Sure the execution of those goals and dreams will have to withstand all the impediments, hurdles and stop signs, but the more developed plan in place the more likely you are to succeed.

I saw the evidence of this in my second attempt to complete the 30 day National Novel Writing Month this past November. On the surface it doesn’t sound so intimidating to attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but execution is key. I approached the process different in my second attempt, laying out twenty chapters to begin the month. With this plan I was able to skip to a chapter I was excited to write when I felt myself getting bogged down.

So what are my goals for 2017? To increase and improve all phases of my writing. Not only do I want to write better, I want to write more. You see my goal is to finally break through this year and sell to a publisher. If I can do that I hope it will require me to produce at a higher rate. So here specifically is what I want to accomplish in 2017.

  1. Submit a manuscript for publication. With the completion of NaNoWriMo 2016 I have the equivalent of seven manuscripts in my stable. Of these I have enterd three in writing contests with two honorable mention awards and a second place for creative writing. But as of today I have not sent them to an agent or publisher. This year that is going to change.
  2. Find an agent. This is a function of the first goal, but no less important. To capture the interest and attention of an agent is something I do not have a lot of experience with obviously. I am working hard to leverage all the helpful tips and posts by authors on WordPress and Twitter as far as this task is concerned.
  3. Find a publisher. Again this is just an extension of the main goal. Here is my first obvious statement, but I would love to find a publisher that wants to publish all my work. I have reworked one of my ideas to create franchise characters because I see the value in a book series. I would love to be able to roll out a continuing set with these characters.
  4. Write more. I began adding posts on WordPress just over four years ago with a single blog, Joe’s Musings. Since then I have added other blogs, including a faith based one, Living the J.O.Y. Principle, Chasing the Blooms about flowers, Fiction Playground for my fiction and Alpine and Clinchport Railroad which is about my newfound hobby of model railroading. In total I wrote 119 posts over all my blogs during 2016 which generated 5,502 views. I try to rotate posts between blogs so I can build the number of followers on each, but in 2017 I would like to write at least 250 total posts.
  5. Write every day. I got a Fitbit the last day of January in 2016. Since then I have a daily reminder of how much activity I accumulate from the time I wake until I pack it in for the day. As a result I am on pace to accumulate over 4 million steps for the full year. I think I can accomplish a similar goal if I commit to write at least 500 words ever day. Right now I am around 600 words with this post and have already posted a fiction post of 200 words so I can check off today as meeting my goal. If I write 500 words every day of 2017 I will total at least 182,500 words. That is roughly the equivalent of two novels! Of course if I do NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano I will be doing more like 2,000 words per day so that number could be much more. I even snagged a nifty new calendar to use to chart my daily progress.006
  6. Develop my stable of writing friends. Online friendships are tricky, but can be beneficial. There are many of you I have come to know and respect for your insight, wisdom about writing and publishing and just how to manage the entire process. I would like to develop my network of particular talents such as editing because I know that is a need. I also realized during NaNoWriMo 2016 that encouraging others is a huge need. This dream we all have is brutal at times and giving others a little of yourself is a small thing to you but can mean a whole lot if you are struggling.
  7. Attend Writing Classes and Conferences. I see so many offers for classes and conferences to help you learn more about all phases of the process, from plotting and character development to Querying, developing your pitch and dealing with agents and publishers. I could use help with all the above and I know it. The difficulty is knowing which is worth taking the plunge.
  8. Enter writing contests. I have done some of this, but it is a matter of finding out about contests with enough lead time to get a work written, edited and polished in time to get it submitted. Time management is always a struggle for anyone trying to accomplish broad goals, so nothing spectacularly surprising in the pursuit of this goal.
  9. Read more. I like to read. Not as much as I like to write, but I love a good story. I realized that when I was made aware of how much I like television. Seeing a story in visual format locks you in to a specific interpretation however. When you are reading the author gives you a framework, but you can color in the lines however you want. I also love to interact with authors. This happened with a book I read a couple of years ago and wrote a review on Amazon.
  10. Read and watch more critically. What I mean by this is to learn how the best and most successful tell their stories. Understand what it is about the books and programs I watch that draws me in. That will pay benefits as I work to get my writing noticed and published by the industry.
  11. Find a good place to try out my new story ideas. As I said in another paragraph I love to tell a story. One of the pitfalls is that I can get deep into a work in progress when another germ of a story idea bubbles up into the development space. I need somewhere to give these ideas a “fly test” to see if they are worth a flash fiction run, short story treatment or something with novel potential.

As I reach the 1000 word mark of this post I seem to be running out of ideas for the goals I want to achieve. Maybe I will revisit this post as other goals come to me, but if I can take a solid swipe at what precedes this paragraph I will feel 2017 is a success. Perhaps I can even add selling X number of copies of my published book during the next 364 days. I invite you to return to see an update to this post in the coming months. Series posts such as this will help to fulfill the more writing and posting goals. I saw other ‘goals’ posts in the Reader feed this morning so I will be checking other’s posts to see if they have goals that trigger something in me.



Posted in 2017, Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Fitbit, Novel, Personal Goals, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Photo Challenge: Path

Weekly Photo Challenge – Path


This photo was taken when I visited Belize in 2013 on my second international mission trip. It was an overcast day so the picture is not as nice as I would have liked, but this path certainly was enticing.


Posted in Belize, photo, Photo Challenge, Photography, Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

Can I Be A Published Author? – Discover Challenge – 6 Dec 2016

DisChallenge1206.JPGThis week the Discover Challenge asks this: This week, tell us about a moment in which someone asked you a question you weren’t sure how to answer, whether because you didn’t know, were too uncomfortable, or thought you might offend or confuse the other person.

There is one question constantly on my mind. Years ago it was this: Will I meet someone? What will I do for a job? Will I have children? Where will I live? These are all questions most people have in their life at one time or another. With time all these questions found their answer. But there is one question I ask my self many, many times. Can I be a published author?

I have been writing for a long, long time. I won’t bore you with my age, but you can know that I have authored six manuscripts, but as of yet have not published one. Part of it is fear I suppose. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. I believe I am a good writer but what if no one agrees? Another part is the mystery of the process. Traditional or Independent? Self-publish or let the professionals do it? It is enough to make me stark raving mad!

Over the years I have received feedback to buoy my belief I know how to write. I submitted three of my novels in writing contests, receiving awards all three times. But the ugly specter of doubt came to visit and questioned how many competitors I faced. Other writers know what this feels like as you have likely felt the same thing. I also have had friends read my work and give me great feedback. But they are friends that mean well, but may not be truthfully helpful when it comes to an honest opinion.

But I want you to know something. I am tired of the questions that remain unanswered. I want to beat the odds. I want to finally say I am a published author. I want to se my work in print.

But understand me when I say published author I just don’t mean a book in print. I mean an author who routinely sells his work. I want to launch a career for the rest of my life. I want to see my novels on a shelf in whatever bookstore I visit. As it is now I feel such a yearning for this when I enter a bookstore that I avoid them quite often. It is such an unquenchable thirst that sometimes I get pretty troubled about it.

Thankfully through this year’s National Novel Writing Month and through making connections on Word Press I feel like I have found others with the knowledge and insight to help me move forward. I feel more confident now than I ever have that I will begin to answer this question. I cannot wait to enjoy the answer.

Posted in Discover Challenge, Fiction, Fiction Series, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Photo Challenge: Relax WPC 12-2-16

via Photo Challenge: Relax This week’s theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge is Relax. Can someone tell me how we do that I think I have forgotten what that means. AS we hurtle past Thanksgiving on our way to Christmas we not only move into the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” but also the most hurried.


In October I spent a wet day tromping through a corn maze with my daughter and two of her close friends. I found that to be relaxing as well as tons of fun. I even scared them more than once by tossing a random ear of corn off the side of the trail so they thought there was a spook nearby.


Another relaxing thing we have done recently is to visit one of our region’s most impressive natural wonders, which is Natural Bridge near Lexington, Virginia. The beauty is breathtaking and gives you a bit of perspective on how big you are in the world.

Perhaps I can recall these two relaxing days when the busyness of the holdiays gets to be too much.

Posted in Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Blue ridge Mountains, Mountains, Photo Challenge, Photography, Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

1 Million Steps to 2017 – Update #2

It has been over a month since I last took the time to collect the information I have about my long term goal of amassing 1 million steps between October 1st and December 31st. I have showed the math before, but for anyone who is making their first visit to the post series let me lay it out for you.

I have Fitbit HR, which measures steps, Heart Rate, Distance, Calories and the Number of Floors you navigate each day. Since strapping it on in February of this year I have totaled over 3.6 million miles. In fact, if I can manage to accumulate 343,280 steps by December 31 I will reach the 4 million mark in 11 months.


My walking buddy.

The goal that the Fitbit is tied to is at least 10,000 steps a day or five miles. I have a job where I sit all day so I needed something to make sure I get my exercise. Combining a Miniature Sheltie named Sydney with the Fitbit I am definitely getting up more regularly. As if I need another complicating reason I also have a clotting deficiency which puts me at risk for blood clots, so sitting for long periods is not only unhealthy for my weight but hazardous to my health.


Okay, I need to get back to the topic of this post, the 92 day challenge I set for myself to step off 1,000,000 size 12 footprints. I was excited when I clicked on the metrics tab on the Fitbit site for November because it showed me I accumulated 326,000+ steps. It was a bit less than October, but the weather here in the mountains of Virginia as grown much cooler. But 2/3 of the way into my challenge I am in a great position.


Stay tuned for the next update which should come before Santa makes his trip around the globe. If you see us out give a wave!


Posted in Blogging, Dogs, Fitbit, Fitness, Personal Health, Pets, Weekly Writing Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not This Time of Year Without… Family! Weekly Photo Challenge – 11/25/16

famphotoTday2016.jpgShow us the one thing without which your holiday season could never be complete.

I love taking part in the Weekly Photo Challenge. Photography is certainly no skill of mine, but I do like to take plenty of pictures. Especially with my family, whom I would not enjoy the holiday season without. My children are both college students and my son has a long term girlfriend so the dynamics of our holiday celebrations have changed since they were little, but spending time together with our extended family is still something we all enjoy.


Most of all I love spending holidays with my wife. For twenty-five years we have spent every holiday together, so it is one of those good habits everyone needs in their life. Above is one of a series of personality photos my eighteen year old daughter took of us clowning around. The smiles should tell you how much we enjoyed the day.



Posted in children, Family, People, Photo Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Writing A Novel in 30 Days – Nanowrimo2016


This is a blog post I have waited more than a year to write. Not so long as some perhaps, but long enough for me. Last November 1 I began my first attempt at something called National Novel Writing Month. I came with what I thought was a solid story and plausible plot which should mean I could write 50,000 words in 30 days.

So what happened? In short life happened. Writing at least 1,667 words every day for 30 straight days is harder than it seems. I got off to a great start, fueled by the excitement as well as enthusiasm of creating a new novel. Then I had a three day bout with sickness that brought me off my pace. Throw in an international mission trip that started the day after Thanksgiving which knocked off six days and it all ended in a failure to finish.

Following this I took time to rethink my approach to the novel in which I decided could change the main character to a pair of F.B.I. agents who were partners that could develop into a franchise. When I did that the story began to grow in my head. That is the way I write by the way, I form the germ of the plot in my head and allow it to bubble for a few months before I begin to write. It helps to fill in some of the possible plot holes.

As 2016 progressed I began to develop another novel in the franchise with the idea I would try again with #NaNoWriMo. Because I did not get all the way through the first novel I had some character development to complete. I also began to add depth to the characters lives by adding family members.

Another positive addition to the 2016 attempt was an outline of what I wanted my first twenty chapters to be. As with all writing when you actually get involved the story has natural outshoots that are necessary to fill in some blanks, explain plot lines and carry the story forward. Also with the outline I could write a chapter I was excited about when I hit a slow spot in the chronological timeline.

On Wednesday, the 23rd day of November I finally crossed 50,00o word hurdle with 50,725. Now don’t think just because I was able to put that many words together I am ready to seek out an agent or a publisher today. My VERY rough manuscript is just over 100 pages. I will be working to move the total to 80,000 words or so and will be doing quite qa bit of editing and revision, BUT . . . I did FINISH!






Posted in Fiction, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Novel, Suspense Novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

NaNoWriMo 2016 – Try, try again

Shield-Nano-Blue-Brown-RGB-HiRes.pngFor over two decades I have constructed plots, developed characters, revised, revised and revised again. I have dreamt of how my characters might look, sound, act and walk. Yes I feel I am confirmed with the disease, the one where you are destined to produce a published work. One day soon I will have the pure joy well up in me when I see my first published work.

Over time I have come to understand that authors write a series of books in the most part with a flagship character. At least the books I read and have read seem to follow this script. Authors like Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn and Andrew Peterson are my models and they have these iconic characters at the center of their novels. So when I dove into the NaNoWriNo pool last November I had delusions of grandeur about how that might work.

In truth when I started I had plans to have the MC be a different character. Halfway through I realized there was no way to make her the basis of a series, so I kind of stalled out. In the twelve months following I re-shuffled the plan and now I feel my franchise potential is much stronger. But what else is different this year? My prep is more robust. I have set myself on a path more likely to end in a win. And trust me, I need a win, very bad!

I also want to take the opportunity to connect with other novel writers so I can build a community to encourage and to receive encouragement from as we go through this adventure together. No matter how well-meaning friends and family are only another writer can truly understand the experience and the desire and days of anguish and doubt that comes along with the ride. Some people will believe the longer you go without a published work the less you want it. Well I can only speak for myself, but when and if I go into a bookstore I crave having my book on the shelf in a way like I crave not much else.

So there you go for a confession from an aspring novelist. If you are wanting someone to give you a good word along the way I promise to look in as often as I can. You can find me on the site here: Dobson

One last thing, whatever happens keep writing. There is too many bookstores with room on their shelves for us to ever stop. Fill those shelves!


Posted in Fiction, Fiction Series, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Novel, Suspense, Suspense Novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Million Steps to 2017 – Update #1

Thanks to those of you who have read the first post in this quarter-year long series which began with this post: 1 Million Steps to 2017. If you have not read that yet the gist is that I have set a goal for myself to measure off 1,000,000 steps between October 1st and December 31st. I am using the Fitbit HR I won at a work Winter party as a door prize and it is quite the motivational tool. I am a Quality Assurance guy and metrics are something I can sink my teeth into, so the Fitbit’s numbers give me qualitative as well as quantitative results.

So if you have taken the time to figure the math the pace needed to achieve this feat is 10, 869 steps each and every day. Sure you can “cheat” and do less one day and more the next, but if you are wise you try to load the cart from the beginning with extra for those days you may not feel like walking as much or you just do not have the time. You have to just make it a priority and get it done.

How  has it gone so far I want you to ask? I’m so glad you did! Eighteen days into this challenge my tally is at 227,070, which is just under a quarter of the way. Over eighteen days that is an average of  12,615 or 1,700 steps above the pace necessary. While I am still a long way from being there, I can tell the difference in the way I feel, think and look forward to my time outside.


The Fitbit encourages you to achieve a minimum of 10,000 steps each day which they equate to 5 miles. Another 900 steps is not that much more and reaching the goal by year end will be a great accomplishment toward keeping fit. I hope more of you will join me in this, even if you have a late start.

If you have been considering buying an activity tracker like the Fitbit line but need more information about what they will do for you I invite you to read this post I authored back in May: Why Buy a Fitbit?

Posted in Activity Tracker, exercise, Fitbit, Fitness, health, Personal Goals, Personal Health, Writing | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Million Steps to 2017

It is the time of the year when countdowns are the rage. The countdown to Halloween, when the spooks and candy collectors reign is only 24 days. Perhaps you like thanksgiving the time to feast, watch football and count your many blessings. For that you must wait 48 days. All the United States retailers have circled November 25th, which is Black Friday  and 49 days from today. Then the granddaddy of them all is the countdown to Christmas, which is now only 79 days away. Finally there is 92 days between October 1st and Deecember 31st.

But I want to introduce a new and different type of countdown. This one is related to my Fitbit that I have had since the first of February. I decided to motivate myself to get back to what I started in the spring with a new personal challenge. I want to log 1 million steps between October 1st and December 31st. That sounds like a monumental goal, but in fact it really is not.

Fitbit and other activity trackers are consistent in  providing you a target for fitness of at least 10,000 steps each day. While 10,000 steps can seem to be a tough goal you have to think about the quantity of steps you can collect just doing your daily activities. True you must increase some of your moving to get this, but the benefit is well worth it.

If you do the math 1,000,000 steps divided by 92 days from October 1st to January 1st of 2017 equates to 10,869 steps on average every day to reach the goal. This is day 7 of 92, but all I have counted so far is up through 6 days of my personal challenge. So far I have knocked out 53,216 steps of the 1 million, or an average of 10,643, just slightly below the pace I need. I have made more of a conscious effort to get up and get moving as I try to achieve this goal.


To achieve this I will need others to help keep me accountable and ask about my progress. I invite anyone who reads this to do just that, to ask about how it is going and to join me if you have a fitness tracker of your own. We can work on getting fit together.

I will be posting frequently to update the progress, so keep checking back to see how this adventure progresses.



Posted in Activity Tracker, exercise, Fitbit, Fitness, Personal Goals, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment