Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Let's Get Technical: Your iPhone, Friend or Foe??

Welcome to the next installment of “Let’s Get Technical,” a column geared towards better understanding the technology we use in our daily writing life. Here you will find monthly tips and tricks about the software or devices we use to conduct the business of spinning the tales of our imaginations.


Let’s face it, our devices are the link by which we are connected, check our social media accounts, quickly log notes of writing inspiration, and snap pics we want to use in our latest creations. We use them every day to keep in touch, plan our day, and record the impacts from our store visits. When they are not working correctly, it can affect our entire day and even disrupt our ability to conduct daily communication (and let's face it, time is money).

Here are a couple of things you can do to keep your iPhone running smoothly:

1. Power Cycle your device once a week. This clears the cache, refreshes the behind the scenes processes, and re-establishes/updates your connection to the cellular network.

2. Keep your apps up to date. You can have your iPhone automatically update apps when connected to power and a Wi-Fi network, or you can manually check for updates if you want that control. Settings>iTunes & App Store> Automatic Downloads

3. Update your main iOS software. Apple has added new preference controls for this to either happen automatically, downloaded only, or only triggered manually. Settings>General>Software Update>Customize Automatic Updates. I do recommend waiting a few days when new software is released to let others find the issues.

4. Check Available Memory (reminder: there are 2 types of memory)

a. Physical memory: Settings>General>iPhone Storage. This represents the physical storage capacity on your device and NOT the processing memory or iCloud usage. You can identify what exactly is taking up all the space on your iPhone (which is usually Messages and Texts). You can also delete some of those files directly from here.

b. iCloud Memory: Settings>at the top select the arrow to the right of your iCloud Account name>then tap iCloud. This shows you the storage in iCloud and the apps that are using it. This also includes backups your iPhone makes, if you set that up.

5. Installing Apps: Read reviews before installing apps, delete unwanted apps to save space, and avoid installing apps that have not received an update in over a year.

6. Battery life can be improved by turning off background App Refresh: Settings>General>Background App Refresh. This will keep apps from running amok.

  • Keep toggled on those apps you do want to be running: Flowfinity, Outlook, Maps, and Google Maps so that if you close those screens they are still running (meaning you can pick up where you left off). 
  • Keep in mind some updates automatically turn this back on, so you need to check this from time to time.

7. Close all your apps down from time to time to clear out available processing memory. This varies for each version of the iPhone, but generally involves double clicking the home button and then swiping up to close windows.

8. If your vehicle has CarPlay, be sure to use it. It’s a great way to keep your iPhone charged on the go (since it’s plugged into a cable) and you can view directions on your vehicle screen, control music, and make calls. If you use the “Hey Siri” function, you can dictate commands and messages as well.

9. Make use of Apple’s Knowledge Base Guide to help you learn and understand how things work.

  • https://support.apple.com/

These are all great steps to ensure that your device is running at top efficiency, stays charged, and will continue to help your day rather than throw a wrench into it. Knowing your device…and what to do when things go south…can make the difference from a minor bump in the road vs a full-on landslide.

NOTE: While this article applies specifically to the Apple iPhone, other brands follow similar guidelines to help keep those devices running smoothly.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Finding Writerly Inspiration in these COVID Times

 A few days ago, a caring soul inquired, “How are you holding up?”

I knew immediately what his rather generic question referred to—my natural yearning for connections of the people variety, that had been hampered in an incredible way by the coronavirus. Although we don’t share this particular personality trait, he understood that the isolation wrought by the pandemic had been difficult for me.

I have so missed people and conversations, events, activities, and gatherings as well as the planning for, anticipation of, and the lingering memories of heretofore taken-for-granted occasions.  

And boy, did I miss opportunities to connect in-person with other writers. Even during “normal” times, my longing for time spent with fellow writers would compel me to seek out any and all chances to connect with my tribe. Thankfully, my local writers’ group rallied to organize video chats and later outdoor gatherings. ACFW Indiana “went virtual” to continue with a slate of scheduled instructional events, minus the sharing of lunch, of course. The national ACFW Conference adopted an online format that brought educators and authors at every level together for instruction in the craft of writing.    

Guess what? I took advantage of each of these opportunities to learn and connect with others who share my passion for words. While nothing completely replaces that in-person experience, both my mental state and writing skills benefited from these virtual experiences.

While I certainly hope that normal returns next year, allowing for group gatherings of every variety, I’m thankful for these interim arrangements that allow us see and hear each other and to share “space” with folks who understand the workings of a writer’s mind.

Plans are already in the works for the 2021 line up of speakers to address a variety of topics for ACFW Indiana members. We’ll begin the year with a gathering via Zoom in January. While attempting an in-person state-wide meeting during the deep freeze of winter would not have been advisable, an online coming together will not be bothered by the likelihood of snow and ice. And what could be better than sprucing up the dull, slow month of January with writerly companionship?

Another plus to meeting online? With much less hassle and expense, we can invite a guest speaker from across the country to join us—even from the far reaches of the globe, if we can work around the issue of time zones!

I’ve always prized the trait of resourcefulness, admiring the figure-it-out-despite-great-obstacles skill some folks seem to have in abundance while other poor souls possess not an ounce. If only resourcefulness could be bottled and sold to the masses! I’m hoping that the challenges of the pandemic have ignited resourcefulness where it may have become puny as well as introduced resourcefulness to others who have never developed this mighty trait.

So, how and where have you found writing inspiration during these isolating times? What COVID inspired events/activities have you taken advantage of? Are you aware of online workshops, conferences, or other writerly happenings in the near future? Please share info and links in the comments. 

P.S. If you need assistance with the ins and outs of meeting via Zoom, PLEASE ask! It's easier than most folks fear it will be. Shoot an email to acfwindianachapter@gmail.com with questions or concerns.  


Beth immerses herself in the YA world via substitute teaching, connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claims the back booth as her office, and reading YA fiction.

She’s a cheerleader for saving sex for marriage. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage and “renewed waiting.” In her “Choices Matter” YA series, a relevant cast of high school-aged characters face real life choices and consequences in the often-messy, rarely simple world of friendship, family matters, and dating relationships. The mini books of the “Waiting Matters” series offer practical, candid advice for making wise life decisions. 

Beth is also a genetic genealogy enthusiast who used DNA to find her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers”. Her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life. All of Beth’s writing endeavors can be found on her website at https://bethsteury.com





Saturday, November 7, 2020

Way Station or Fire Escape?

On a recent visit to Mounds State Park, my wife Maribeth and I were delighted to find a butterfly way station. This small patch of land (perhaps a tenth of an acre) is a place of respite for migrating butterflies, especially monarchs and swallowtails. On the chilly October afternoon we visited, a pungent smell of decaying leaves dominated the breeze, announcing the next act in the forest’s continuing drama of life. Except for a small clump of maroon asters, all vegetation at the butterfly way station had died as well. Our local garden club had cleared the blackened leaves away, raking the soil to receive snow melts sure to come in the next few months.

A plaque said that the spot is normally a colorful thicket of wildflowers that provide nectar for mature butterflies, succulent milkweed leaves for caterpillar hatchlings, and thick foliage where these insects at any life stage can hide from their feathered predators. It’s a place where weary migrants find rest and refreshment before they travel on.

Sequestered by the Covid-19 pandemic, most of us have had more time for reading lately, so I have been thinking about the reasons people read Christian fiction. I reflected in an earlier blog that escapism might be one reason, but is it our foremost objective as Christian authors? Is it the primary reason for people to read our work?

Impressed by Christian authors like Flannery O’Connor who wrote for the secular press, former advertising executive Richard Doster observed, “It might be time to reconsider our neighbors and their need to make sense of the world; their need for books, poems, and short stories that probe life’s mystery, that offer hope without flinching from the Fall’s consequences, that don’t—by their sentimentality—mock our true state, or the price that was paid for the world’s redemption.”[1] So Doster began writing Christian novels. Perhaps his convictions resonate with yours.

We live in trying times, as this week's election demonstrated. When the stress is intense, we instinctively look for a fire escape, yet quality Christian fiction doesn't serve that purpose. It doesn't offer us an easy exit from the world where God has placed us.

I believe instead that Christian fiction is a way station for travel-weary people in today’s world. Sometimes it gives us a fresh perspective, sometimes new resources to cope, and sometimes a personal transformation. But by no means does it allow us to avoid the tough problems of our world.

[1] Richard Doster, “The Calling of Christian Writers,” https://www1.cbn.com/biblestudy/the-calling-of-christian-writers