Lilly Maytree is in Alaska today...

Lilly Maytree is in Alaska, today...looking for adventure and divine appointments. Want to follow along? Enter her ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS PORTAL


Blogging Secrets...

This week, I am so excited to have Elaine Stock, author of the EVERYONE'S STORY blog as my guest. As writers, most of us wrestle with blogging of some type. But why are some so much more successful than others? 

While there aren't any "silver bullets" to answer that question, I have found that successful blogs have certain things in common. The most important of which is take-away value. Something Elaine's blog has plenty of. How does she do it? Well, here's a few questions I just had to ask her, to find out...

Welcome, Elaine, it's great to have you here. You have such an uplifting blog, what gave you the idea to have other people's stories as a blog theme?

Oh, thank you so much, Lilly, for your kind words. And thanks for having me as your guest. A couple of years ago as a pre-published author I felt the heated push to establish and grow an internet presence in addition to joining social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I was plagued by the thought: who would really want to know anything about “Me”? So, fascinated by the dynamics of what makes people the way they are, and wanting to encourage others, I started to invite weekly guests. Since I’m a writer and reader, and seem to hang out with other like-minded people, I targeted EVERYONE'S STORY for readers, writers, and all those in-between.

Well, it was an inspired idea, that's for sure. How do you find so many people with the encouraging kind of stories you like to write about?

I have a confession to share: I’m addicted to seeing what has shaped people, and seeing how they’ve risen from unenviable circumstances. Actually, what I think I’m truly addicted to is encouragement. I think one needs more constructive and kind feedback, especially as the world seems to be getting tougher and rougher these days. Hooking up with people and sharing on Twitter, FB, or through one connection or the other, introduces me to many beautiful people. I am grateful when they accept my invitation to be my guest. I also have received queries of people asking to be on my blog…who would have thought?!

With so many positive responses, I'd say it proves you're on the right track. Were you a "novice blogger" when you first started EVERYONE'S STORY, or had you already enjoyed blogging on other subjects?

EVERYONE'S STORY is my first blog—I was definitely a novice. Actually, I’m still learning so much about blogging. For instance, take formatting. If you look at the first year of my blog segments I think the formatting was pretty hideous, or at least unprofessional. I’m not saying it’s gold right now, but I do try to make it presentable.

I’d also accepted guest spots on others’ blogs about the same time as I started blogging, giving me a feel for things on the other side of the table.

That was a good move, too. Mind if I ask why you choose to go with Blogger? Are you happy with that decision?

My neighbor, who sat beside me and “held my hand” while she helped me set up my blog, showed me Blogger vs. WordPress. There are probably other private blogs available via website designers, but at the time I wasn’t ready for that, nor had the means to cover design expenses. I chose Blogger because to my eye, it has a more cozy appearance to it that seems more suited for one’s individuality. But, that’s only my opinion. Many writing industry professionals seem to bow down to WordPress, but Blogger works for me and my present needs. It’s a personal choice.

Definitely the right one at the right time for you. Other than the technical side of things, what factors do you think have contributed most to your success?

Although I receive praise for EVERYONE'S STORY, my head isn’t swelling with “success.” But, thank you, Lilly, for thinking that! Blogging is the proverbial labor of love. I put a lot of sweat into it, though I’ve discovered a few ways to conserve time. I think the biggest tip I can give anyone who wants to blog—since blogging is an invitation to others to comment back—is to thank/acknowledge each commenter for bothering to take a couple minutes of their time to pay a visit. It’s very humbling and necessary. And nice.

It is, indeed. What is your opinion about sticking to one style and subject area for a blog, as opposed to branching out? Do you have any opinions on maintaining multiple blogs?

Power and blessings to anyone who has the time and energy to run their own blog or blogs and engage on multi-contributor blogs. I do not have time. I can only handle so much. Whatever works for you, go for it! Just enjoy it. Have fun.

A very important ingredient, I'm sure. What have you enjoyed most about writing your blog?

The interaction with my guests and commenters. I have been so blessed by their generosity, compassion, support, and the sharing of life lessons. 

Sort of one of those "the more you give the more you get" type things, right? You know, Elaine, so many bloggers start out strong, get tired of the same-old-thing, and then fade away. Do you have any advice for staying in it on a long-term basis?

Make it work for you. Enjoy it. If you’re feeling too pressured and bored by it, maybe time to reconsider things—like anything else.

Well, you definitely have a great thing going with EVERYONE'S STORY, and it's a blessing to me whenever I get a chance to stop by. Meanwhile, what are your plans for the future?

I daydream of publishing these stories floating around my head and when I do I’d like to establish an eye-appealing website that is linked to my blog. Maybe somehow expanding on this whole interaction thing that seems to be developing on EVERYONE'S STORY. Please, don’t laugh. Indulge my dreams.

Wouldn't think of laughing, as all success starts with dreams. Thanks so much for visiting with me, Elaine, and here's wishing you many blessings and much success with those dreams! 

Meanwhile, dear readers, you can check out some of these encouraging stories, yourself, by visiting EVERYONE'S STORY.


Famous People...

There's a reason I write about famous people. It's because I have walked awhile with them and heard, in their own words, about some of the experiences that shaped their lives. Described so perfectly, that I usually feel as if I had been right there beside them. 

Some of these experiences have tugged at my heart (often moved me to tears), and I've come away having learned something so deeply profound that I wanted to make it a part of my own life. Never wanted to forget it. Most of all, these unique experiences have made me want to be a better person. To maybe do something worthwhile with my own life. At the very least, I have wanted to introduce them to others, so that others might experience these things, too. I didn't care that they were dead (these famous people). It didn't matter to me in the least. 

Because the experiences themselves are not dead. 

One day, a young woman (barely twenty-thee), wanted a job on one of the most prestigious newspapers in New York, so badly that she offered to get herself committed to the most notorious "insane asylum" of her day. In order to "get a look at it from the inside out." This because there had been rumors of the deplorable treatment of patients within those walls that were hidden away on Blackwell's Island, which stood in the East River of New York City. It was said, that even if you were put there by mistake (which an alarming number of people were, especially if they were vagrants), there was no way to get out, again. Oh, and what a sensation of a story that would make for the great newspaper!

The publisher said if she could actually pull it off, she could have that job.

She only required one thing. The famous man must do whatever it took to get her out, again, after two days. Which he promptly promised to do. Except he had no idea when he made that promise, that it was practically impossible to get anyone out of there, no matter how much influence they had in the city. Here, in her own words, is some of what Nellie Bly was feeling on the night she went out to get herself arrested, and subsequently committed...

"I remembered all I had read of the doings of crazy people, how first of all they have staring eyes, and so I opened mine as wide as possible and stared unblinkingly at my own reflection. I assure you the sight was not reassuring, even to myself, especially in the dead of night. I tried to turn the gas[light] up higher in hopes that it would raise my courage.

...when I thought of what was to come, wintery chills ran races up and down my back in very mockery of the perspiration which was slowly but surely taking the curl out of my bangs.

…who could tell but that the strain of playing crazy, and being shut up with a crowd of mad people, might turn my own brain, and I would never get back. But not once did I think of shirking my mission. Calmly, outwardly at least, I went out to my crazy business…"

Well, she barely did get out, and very nearly went mad waiting for that rescue. Because it was a whopping ten days (with no word from the outside) before the publisher finally succeeded in appealing to the highest authorities in order to get her released. But because of her daring mission, Blackwell's Island was exposed, laws for the treatment of the insane were changed, and Nellie Bly rocketed to fame. Which was only the beginning of her many audacious ideas.

To read Nellie Bly's writings is to be influenced all over, again by her daring and her nerve. Under which she had the golden heart of an amazing Christian woman. Which is why I wanted to introduce her to more readers by way of THE PANDORA BOX. Because, you see, I was wondering just what might happen if someone were to try and do such things, today. I might even go so far as to say I am making a small effort to do some of those things, myself. In my own way, of course. Except I found out I'm not half so brave! But more importantly...

I found out that part doesn't really matter.

Have you ever been influenced by a famous person? Tell me about it in the comment section to have your name (and email address) put into the Captain's Hat. The winner of a complimentary ebook copy of THE PANDORA BOX will be drawn out, next week (don't worry, he's very fair, and promises you won't be put on any lists for anything else).


The Story Behind the Story...

Week Two of 

I don't always have such an interesting "story behind the story" for the plots I think up, but for THE PANDORA BOX, I do. It happened a very long time ago. A time when the Captain and I were, once again, living aboard a boat. That one was a forty-three foot sloop that we also shared with our three teen-aged children, and one derelict cat.

I never liked that cat. Mostly because it was some half-wild thing my daughter dragged home that she found living under a house one winter. It was not a kitten, just some scrawny feline that never trusted anyone but her. Ever. I won't go into why we even considered letting her bring that cat aboard the boat. Suffice it to say that when you have a tender-hearted daughter you do all kinds of things you never would have thought of.

Anyway, that left me as the cat caregiver when daughter was away. Which didn't amount to much more than leaving a porthole open so she could come in and out for food and such. However, once the glories of catching minnows off the docks was discovered, we didn't even cross paths for meals. Even the litter box was clean. Hmm... 

Which is why, one night, when I was coming home late from the newspaper (I was a journalist back in those days), I happened to see that cat come out of the porthole of someone else's boat. Not just any boat. A beautiful classic ketch from days gone by. Rather run down, but you could tell it had once been luxurious. So, there in the moonlight, I climbed aboard and peeked inside. Not that I could see much of anything. But I immediately got a horribly distinct whiff of cat. I felt mortified.

The next day, I hunted up the secretary at the marina office and confessed that my cat had been using someone else's boat as a litter box. So, what could I do to make things right as I couldn't exactly fit through the porthole. Could she give me a telephone number for the owner, maybe? 

"Oh, that old thing?" She replied after seeing the one I pointed out the window to. "Don't worry about it, honey. It's going up for auction, again, at the end of the month, but no one ever buys it because it used to belong to Hermann Goering. Everyone thinks it's cursed. Sailors are superstitious about things like that."

At which point, my writer antenna began to inch up like a periscope in dark waters. Which led me to some intensive research, and the discovery of the infamous man's strange fetish for hoarding stolen jewels. Of how he would even carry a vase of them around on his wartime travels during WWII. How he liked extravagant living, and would often charter local boats in various countries for several days at a time. And especially how most of those cases went unsolved because nearly all of the owners were dead. In fact, a lot of that stolen plunder was still missing. Not to mention there are still old Nazi war criminals being caught and prosecuted for their war crimes to this very day.

Anyway, that's how the story of THE PANDORA BOX got its beginnings. Of course, it immediately took off in directions of its own, but that's the mysterious part of writing fiction. Because for the most part, I really don't know where all these ideas come from.

Don't forget...

Did you get your free copy of NIGHT VISITORS, yet? It's the story of how Dee Parker (my heroine of THE PANDORA BOX) met the best friend she took along on her great adventure (they say there's safety in numbers). There's also a recipe in there for one of my favorite... oh, but I'll just let you find that out for yourself.

Meanwhile, my first winner of the four complimentary copies of the ebook version of THE PANDORA BOX is Kathleen. Congratulations,  Kathleen! I hope you enjoy reading this story that was more than a typical story for me... in many more ways than one!