Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Happy Grackle

Ha!!! The joke is on me today.  I was getting ready to post a short blog today and saw this title in my listing of posts and it said DRAFT in the status column. So, I thought, let me check this out and post this... Well,  I opened it to look it over for final edits. Blank... except for the title.

And, that is how you TAKE A BREAK.  Words not needed.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Helpful Blogger Returns...

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog.  As you can see, I have several blogs and a busy life painting, drawing, and writing. But, it's been nagging at me that I should resurrect this blog and start being helpful to the community out there.

You see, a while back I got a phone call to renew the domain name - The Helpful Blogger- and the tech commented on what a great name that was. Instead of looking to sell the domain name, I decided to put it to good use. 

For now, if you're interested, please have a look at some of my artwork while I prepare a blog post or two to get started. And please send your friends this way too...

Hope you have a Helpful Day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Photography Tips: How to make good family pictures.

Many people line the family up and snap a picture. So often that’s what we see on Christmas cards or in photo albums. Although it documents what each person looked like at that point in time, it’s not very interesting. Here are some photography tips that will pump some interest into your family pictures and will make you proud when you post them on line or send them to relatives and friends:

1.       Think before your snap. Photography is much more than just snapping a picture and hoping for the best.   Family photographs should be more than just people lined up according to height and taking a quick shot before they move. Think through the composition of your photograph and create some interest by doing more than just documenting who was at a family event. 

2.       Take a look at the components of the potential picture and don’t be afraid to move family members around to make a more interesting picture.  For example, if you are taking your family Christmas photo, don’t be afraid to use a few props to give dimension to the photograph. Use some props to make it more real.  Nothing says you can’t wrap up a few presents in September to use in the photo. And there are no rules that the children can’t be opening the presents in the picture. 

3.        Another way to ensure that you take good family pictures is to take lots of them during an activity. Let the activity unfold naturally and take frequent pictures. The great advantage of digital photography is that you can take all the pictures you want and you can delete the ones you don’t like without costing anything. So, snap away and catch those candid shots that are so interesting. Your family may ham it up for you at first when you begin shooting frequently, but eventually they will get used to you shooting pictures and will ignore you. That’s when you will catch the good shots.

4.       Create a story of your family pictures. Before you take the pictures, think how they will fit together in a story of your event. For example, if you are taking the family on a picnic, take some pictures at home when the family is preparing the picnic, take a couple while packing the car, when setting up the picnic, when cooking the hot dogs, when eating, when playing catch, etc. The result will be a nice story of your day. 

It’s good to take notes while you are taking pictures. This is especially true if taking family pictures while on vacation. Your notes can remind you of the significance of each picture. This will make it easier to put them into a scrapbook or to make a slide show out of them when you return home.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The pros and cons of making your hobby into a career.

We'd all love to make our favorite hobby into a career. In many cases, it is possible to do so if you approach it from a business standpoint. But before you quit your day job, it's important to consider the pros and cons of making your hobby into a career. And, it's important to carefully plan out the move, so you can do it without too much disruption to your life. Here are some pros and cons to consider:


1. You will be doing what you love.
2. You may be your own boss. In some cases, you might work for others while making your hobby into a career, but usually people who make their hobbies into their careers work for themselves.
3. You will be able to schedule your time and not have to punch a time clock.
4. You will not have the stress of your former job.
5. You will meet new people who share your interest in your new career. You may have time to join professional organizations and associations that are centered on your new career and you will learn new skills.


1. You may not be able to make enough money to support yourself. Before you quit your job in order to make your hobby into your career be sure to study the market and determine if there is a need for what you will be doing. Consider whether you will be able to find sufficient customers and be able to sustain income necessary to meet your needs and those of your family before making the change.
2. Assess your skills realistically. Are you as good at your hobby as you think you are? Try selling your service or product on a part-time basis while you are working in order to determine if you will be able to find sufficient clients or customers to make a go of it.
3. When you do find the customers, will you be able to keep up with the demand for your work? As a business of one person will you be able to keep up by yourself?
4. Do you have the start up costs and do you know how to set up your hobby as a career? One of the downsides of turning your hobby into a career is that you become the boss and will have to run the business in addition to enjoying your hobby. To make a go of it, you need to secure start-up costs, to meet with a lawyer and establish your business entity, to set up accounting and billing systems, and to ensure that you keep up with obtaining and maintaining current permits and licenses. 

You'll need to do research on all this to determine what is required in your locality.
Before turning your hobby into a career, be sure to think through all these pros and cons carefully and determine what is best for you and for your family.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to research a niche market.

There are a variety of tools available on line to research niche markets. Most of them relate to establishing your niche on line as topics for a blog or on-line shop, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the market and sales in that market will be strong. These tools merely tell the researcher what people like to read about on blogs. That research can lead you in the right direction, but the data regarding whether it translates into sales is not complete. Here are steps to follow to attempt to research your niche market:

1. If you are already marketing to a niche market, your first step to researching that market is to determine if you have chosen the right size niche. Is your niche too large, too small, or just right? 

2. To determine if it's too large, study whether you have trouble keeping up with the number of products/services in your niche? Take a look to see if all of your products are selling and if you need to weed out some and narrow your scope in order to become more efficient.

3. Is your niche too narrow?  You might determine that your niche is too narrow if you feel as if you "have all your eggs in one basket." Are there times when, if your product doesn't sell, you don't bring in the money you need? If so, this might be an indication that your niche is too narrow.

4. Investigate the size of the market. Does your niche market consist of a finite number of customers? If so, you need to either broaden your market or widen you niche. For example, if you are advertising and distributing your product or service only to your small home town, one way to increase the size of your market is to add towns surrounding yours by including them in your advertising and distribution of your products or services.

5. One way to determine if you need to make some changes to your services or products is to gather information from your current customers to determine what they think of the scope of your business. Through a questionnaire or survey, you can determine those aspects of the business your customers might think need to be changed. 

6. If you are considering starting a business in a new niche, a survey or questionnaire is a good way to find out if your product or service is needed. You can do this on-line or through a mailing. For example you could develop a sample product and offer a special on it and see what type of response you receive. This may give you an inkling as to whether your product will be successful or not.

In business, it's always good to continue to evaluate your niche market and to revise it according to the results of your evaluation. In order to keep your business fresh you'll want to keep up with similar businesses.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Let your inner artist inspire you.

What and where is your inner artist? 

Some call it muse, some call it inspiration; the inner artist is that inner creativity that that gives you that brilliant insight just when you need it. We all would like to bottle the good points of our inner artists so we can keep that muse singing our song all day long. Perhaps it can’t be bottled, but there are ways to get in touch with your inner artist and to make it work for you. Whether you're a writer, photographer, or artist, here are some tips on doing just that:

1.       Spend a certain amount of time each day concentrating on your creative endeavors.  Your inner artist will respond to the repetition of spending each day being creative. When you tap into your creative powers, it’s not so easy to shut them off. When you routinely work on your painting or novel, rather than letting it sit for a week or a month at a time, you keep this recent activity present in your mind and ideas will come to you more easily.  Having thoughts of your piece nearby rather than buried gives you a running start for the next time you sit down to work.

2.       Seek out inspiration. Visit galleries, read books, study, etc., to get your creative juices flowing. Viewing creations of other artists, writers, photographers can’t help but inspire you to work on your own. Magazines and books are also good for providing inspiration to your inner artist. 

3.       Join art or writing associations and visit with other artists or writers as often as you can. Meeting with other creative people and hearing what they are working on often will give you a pump of adrenalin to work on your own creations. Clubs, organizations and associations are a great place to meet others who are facing the challenges and triumphs that you face each day. If there is no artists' or writers' league in your area, why not start your own group. It needn’t be a big group to accomplish what you want. You just need to gather together a few people who understand your language and what you’re going through.

4.       One way to contact your inner artist is to continue your education. You can do this through a local college, but if that is not available in your area, private lessons with someone you admire will stimulate your creativity all the same.

Whatever the case, keep your work up front in your mind and a priority in your life and your inner artist will continue to inspire you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fiction writing: understanding the importance of “show, don’t tell.”

Show me, don't tell me...!
The goal of a fiction writer is to bring a story to life so the read will live the story rather than being told the story. Showing the story rather than telling the story makes all the difference. For example, you could tell the reader: Sally was angry at Bill. Or you could show the reader: Sally grabbed the vase and heaved it at Bill, aiming at his head.

Both sentences convey anger, but with showing the reader (the second version), the reader is plopped down right into that room and is dodging the flying vase with Bill. It’s a much more exciting way to experience a story. It will keep your reader’s interest, keep him/her turning pages, and keep people reaching for your writing.

Showing instead of telling in writing fiction is important for several reasons.

1.       As in the above example, showing pumps life into the action. The characters in the story are moving about in real time and talking to each other. If instead of being told: Karen told Sally that she didn’t want to go out with Jeff; the writer says: “I wouldn’t go out with Jeff if he paid me a million bucks,” the reader becomes part of the conversation. As readers, we find it much more enjoyable to be in the scene rather than on the outside watching the scene. 

2.       In showing, the writer uses more dialogue and more action. These increase the pace of the book. We always hear how important it is for a book to be a page-turner. Showing readers what is happening is one way to turn your book into a page-turner.

3.       Showing plays into the senses. Writing is often flat if you are telling the reader only the story. If a writer, through showing, brings in all the senses, each scene takes on added vividness. In showing, the reader is afforded information about what the characters see, hear, smell, feel, etc. This makes each scene more alive for readers.

4.       Showing changes two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional characters. It’s easier to care about a three-dimensional character who moves fluidly through the story and engages the reader as well as other characters. If you character are two-dimensional cardboard cutouts, your reader will have a more difficult time caring about them and what happens to them. Keep your characters alive by showing the readers what they are doing and what’s important to them.

The most important reason to use showing rather than telling is to increase the believability of your characters, their actions and your story.