Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Do You Have an Apple in Your Toolbox?

Ok, so "Apple" here is in reference to an "Apple" Device and NOT a delicious fruit.  

I know many of us use Apple devices to write, chat, post, text, and revolve our writing world around such devices. There are many, many apps geared towards writers and some only available for the Mac operating system.

Tech is great, when it works but stops us cold when it doesn't.

I know that no one has time to read a giant tech manual; therefore, today's post is short, sweet, and laser focused on keeping your Apple Device (in this case, computer) running smoothly with some solid best practices. Do not fall into the trap that turning a Mac on for the first time means you are safe. There are many tweaks that you need to do to button up security options.

Apple Laptops and Desktops

  • Keep in mind that only MacOS Catalina and higher are receiving updates now. Apple tends to only support OS for the most recent 3 Major Upgrades. Once is a blue moon, an older device will get a core update when it's something uber critical.
  • When major or minor updates come out (aka Security Updates,) wait a day or two to ensure the update isn't causing major headaches.
  • Keep up with your Time Machine updates so you have a backup plan in place if something goes wrong.
  • From time to time, make a copy on a USB of  your most precious files (this is different from a Time Machine backup).
  • Find 2 or 3 good sources of info and check those often.
    • Apple Insider is one of my key points for updates.
  • Bookmark key Apple Support knowledge base documents or reference.
    • Make use of the Apple discussion community. Lots of good, free advice.
    • The support section really cover a lot of ground, but can be overwhelming. 
  • Use one Apple ID for all to keep all your devices in sync.
    • If you use one for personal and one for work, be sure to set up Family Sharing to cover both.
  • Do I need an Anti-Virus, Malware cleaner, or other Utility?
    • This is an age-old question and one of major debate.
    • Contrary to belief, Mac's can still have issues. Virus, no. Malware or Adware, yes.
      • In some cases, most of the issues are because users mistakenly overide the basic security through mis-informed actions.
    • Best Defense is a good offense.
      • Use the built in App store.
        • Update your security settings to use only App Store and Approved vendors.
      • If you purchase a 3rd party app outside of the app store, be sure it is legit.
      • If using another browser besides Safari, make sure you keep it up-to-date.
        • Chrome defaults to automatic update
        • Firefox has controllable settings
        • Safari updates via the the mac app store or Software update (depending on your OS).
      • There are 2 apps I recommend
        • Etrecheck: a utility that can tell you a lot about the health of your machine and can identify real issues.
        • Malwarebytes for Mac: one of the only apps suggested by Apple and can be found as references on the Apple Discussion forum. They offer a free passive scanner and a paid active scanner. The free trial gives you everything at first and then reverts to a passive scanner once that is over. Well worth it with little to no stress on your system.
      • There are some other reputable apps out there, but most geared towards a specific function. Do your research before you install anything.
      • Turn your Firewall ON and don't forget the sub-setting for fine tuning.
Knowing what to do when things go wrong, keeping your tech updated, and knowing WHERE to look for help is 50% of the battle in keeping everything up and running smoothly so you can spend your time writing and NOT rebuilding your Mac from the ground up.

-Darren Kehrer

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

From Spinning Out of Control to Settling Into the Holy Center


Have you ever experienced moments when life seems to spin out of control? You find yourself flat on the ground, still dizzy, and wondering, “What happened?”

It all seemed so logical way back when. You were growing in writing skills. You felt ready for more responsibility. You volunteered to help. Maybe it started with a church newsletter. You added a little job here, a little job there…until one day you discovered you were juggling that newsletter, three blogs, your novel, a local news column, AND you just took on the presidency of your local PTA! All it would take is the weight of a fly added to your juggling act, and the whole thing would come crashing down.

That’s what happened to me two weeks ago. I’d already sensed the instability. Those little obligations were not allowing me to get to my “real” writing. I’d get the weekly critiques out of the way, then remain stumped as to my next blog post. Or, where was I going with this next chapter anyway? Frustrating. And then covid happened.

The first couple of days were like the flu. Okay. I could handle some body aches. But the next twelve days after that, I morphed into Sleeping Beauty. Friends and neighbors sent soup, comfort food, warm socks. I have fuzzy memories of thanking them and of my husband nearly force-feeding me.

I lay on the couch and wondered how I could possibly write my blogs and make those deadlines. Then I drifted off. It wasn’t important anymore.

Did you catch that? It wasn’t important anymore!

Sleeping Beauty woke up yesterday. The fog had lifted from my brain. I studied my writing calendar. I had one obligation. This blog post. I could do that. And I also realized I needed to re-prioritize some things in my life. No more juggling feats! As I get stronger, I’m sure I’ll add some responsibilities. But I’ll be praying about it first.

 I’ve been reading Thomas R. Kelly’s A Testament of Devotion, and other than the Bible, it’s the biggest influence in my life right now. Kelly was a Quaker who deeply held to the precept of the Holy Center when communing with God and obeying Him. The beauty of the Holy Center is saying “yes” to God but free to say “no” to man, especially if God hasn’t given you the go-ahead.

I know God has called me to write. I know I am to write some blogs and I am to write some books, and I will write on His timetable. I know He calls me to serve others for He never puts Christians on earth to simply serve themselves. The tricky part is learning to stay in the Holy Center so I will hear His voice clearly. And that is my goal for 2022 and forever.

I'll leave you with a quote from Thomas Kelly: “Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time but it occupies all our time. And when our little day is done, we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.”


Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.

Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.

A wife, mother of three, and grandmother to eight, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!



Where Linda can be found on the web:








Thursday, February 10, 2022

Fiction Pet Peeves

Long a fan of fiction, I began devouring novels in elementary school, methodically reading my way through The Boxcar Children series. I still hold dear the novels penned by Carol Ryrie Brink. And Mr. Popper’s Penguins will forever remain on my most-loved list. I moved to the biography room of our school library when the retellings in story-like form of men and women from the past called to me. Through middle school and high school, I often juggled two books at a time, one for pleasure and another specific to an assignment.

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash

The love of reading followed me into adulthood. I was heartbroken when extreme all day “morning sickness” while pregnant with my daughter made reading nearly impossible. By this time, I was reading as much non-fiction as fiction. While I’d always loved immersing myself deep into a story, a number of little things began to irritate me, sort of like a prickly tag on a comfortable t-shirt rubs a spot on your neck. 

In the next few years, I commenced a journey to learn the craft of fiction. As I learned and wrote, what I liked and didn’t like in the novels I toted home from the library jettisoned to the surface with alarming clarity. A list of pet peeves fell into place and reading fiction became less satisfying.

I’d become a critic whose internal editing pen refused to be idle. I missed the days of reading with nary a thought to story structure and voice and characterization. And don’t even get me started on the suspension of disbelief. I get that fiction is, you know, fiction, but pa-leeze! I still miss those days.

Topping the really-gets-under-my-skin list then and now—

  • ·        plotline details that materialize out of thin air
  • ·        relationships that flourish with not a drop of effort OR fade into the horizon with nary a word or thought
  • ·        important-to-the-story concepts that get dropped into the action with not one word of explanation, often resulting in a severe case of whiplash for the reader
  • ·        characters who act, react or say something totally out of character because it’s convenient to the story—that’s a biggie
  • ·        and the resolution/mystery/dilemma getting wrapped up in a paragraph or even a page—seriously? An invested reader deserves a more complete and satisfying conclusion!

I once read a book by a well-known author who had spent chapters detailing an elaborate mystery-filled story only to attempt to tie up the numerous loose ends in a half page of vaguely strung together, unsatisfying details. I felt robbed and never read another of this author’s dozens of titles. I suspected a pre-established word count may have been a contributing factor. A topic for another day . . .

The same list of pet peeves applies when I watch movies or a television series. Apparently, my husband’s objectives when viewing a televised drama/thriller/comedy are clearly different than mine. He is perfectly capable of watching—and enjoying—without fussing over what may be missing, unclear, contrived, too farfetched, or just does NOT make sense. He appears genuinely content to not question the WHO or WHY or HOW of unexplained, sudden, or out-of-character happenings. I must note that he is, generally speaking, paying attention as it’s not uncommon for him to figure out whodunit before I do.

But when I bring up a particularly troubling-to-me matter from the previous episode as we prepare to view the next installment, he has nothing to offer. Neither sympathy nor empathy for my distress. No words of comfort or even a brief discussion about the matter. It’s possible, though, that he’s already tuned me out in anticipation of the murmured questions and mumbled grumblings that will inevitably be part of the viewing experience for me, and hence him, in the adjacent recliner. Currently, we are deeply engaged in a series that, so far, has given me little to fuss about, that allows me to simply watch and relax. Ah, so nice . . .

Now it’s back to work on the final book in my YA series. As I strive to bring the cast of characters and their individual stories to an end, my lengthy list of fiction/storytelling pet peeves insists on traipsing through my mind. But that’s okay because I do not want in any way to confuse my readers with out-of-nowhere plot details, portray unrealistic relationships, or ruin the carefully crafted characters I’ve spent hours and hours developing. And that satisfying conclusion the readers are clamoring for? Hmm .  . . That could well be what’s drawn out this long-awaited third book far longer than I’d hoped. My readers are anxious for a satisfying ending. One that does not give them whiplash or leave a dozen questions but is deserving of the time they’ve invested in the story. And I most certainly want to deliver.

What about you? What things gets you steamed when reading fiction? What would make you walk away from a book? Please share in the comments. Inquiring minds want to know . . . 


Beth’s combined experiences teaching the high school Sunday School class, substitute teaching in the public school, and connecting with the teenage staff at the fast-food joint where she claimed a “back booth office” helped inspire her young adult “Choices Matter” fiction series. She's a "cheerleader" for saving sex for marriage and for "renewed waiting" because it's never too late to make wiser choices. Her “Waiting Matters … Because YOU Matter” blog helps people of all ages navigate the choppy waters of saving sex for marriage while her “Slices of Real Life” posts find GOD in the day-to-day moments of real life.

 As a genetic genealogy enthusiast, she writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website, https://bethsteury.com

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Well Matched

Creative people often partner to do their best work. One reason Maribeth and I felt God leading us toward marriage was to facilitate our writing together, and that has proven true. We’re well-matched in the work we do together.

We have a two-day prayer retreat at Brown County State Park every January. There our year begins by praying, both separately and together, and discussing ideas for the future. We’ve learned that the fireplace at Abe Martin Inn is a delightful place to reflect and talk, and the thin off-season crowd doesn’t distract us.

Maribeth and I are attentive observers, but we observe different things as we travel. Our mealtime conversations often begin with, “Did you notice…?”

We married late in life, so we bring a lifetime of separate experiences to our writing. However, we lived through the same period of American history, so when one of us starts humming a 1950s ad slogan, the other begins singing the words.

We grew up in different denominations, so we have separate perspectives on theology. We both graduated from seminary. One of us earned a master’s degree and the other a doctorate (guess which one).

These differences and similarities play into our writing. Before I write a short story, I’ll make a list of a half-dozen or so ideas, then ask Maribeth which one she would most like to read. Before we prepare a series of sermons, each of us will make a list of Scripture texts and topics, then discuss their relative merits in light of the congregation’s needs.

Sometimes we divide responsibilities for the writing itself. Perhaps each of us will take a section of the outline. Each of us may write an illustration for the piece. Or one of us may write the opening while the other writes the close. Most often, though, one partner writes the piece in its entirety.

Then comes the heavy lifting. The writer asks the partner to read and critique the first draft. Editing begins. We discuss the edits—it’s usually quite a spirited discussion!—and more editing follows. Only when we’re both satisfied have we reached the final version.

Who’s your writing partner? Perhaps you assume that writing must be a solitary pursuit, but your spouse, another ACFW member, or an online friend may become a valued creative companion. This kind of relationship often begins with a critique partner, someone familiar with your genre whose judgment you respect. A research partner could also improve the quality and speed of your work. 

I liken it to playing tennis. If you have a partner whose skills and experience are well matched to your own, you'll win more often than you could playing alone.

Joe Allison writes both fiction and nonfiction, and has been a member of the Indiana chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. His most recent book is Hard Times (Warner Press: 2019). He lives in Anderson, IN, with his wife Maribeth.