Sunday, April 28, 2013

Launch Out Into the Deep

 “Grasp every ennobling experience available to you. Embrace every dimension of living that challenges you, educates you, elevates you. Live for purposes greater than yourself. Lose yourself in the service of others. Reach beyond the shallowness of selfishness, of complacency, of mindless conformity, and of indulgence… This is the promise: launch out into the deep, and your nets will be filled... Your worldly success will partly be a function of your choices and capabilities, but will also be subject to the vagaries of life and chance. Fortunately our relationship with God depends on none of that. It is entirely at our control. For He is always at the door and knocks for us. Our worldly success cannot be guaranteed, but our ability to achieve spiritual success is entirely up to us, thanks to the Grace of God.”

-- Former Governor Mitt Romney in his Commencement Address at Southern Virginia University, April 27, 2013.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Raise Your Glass!

While sitting here drinking my morning DP, I came across this-

This is a screenshot of an infographic created by Cuvee Coffee, based on a survey done in 2011 by Dunkin Donuts, and if you substitute the word caffeine for the word coffee, you have my life.
Better yet, both of my professions (marketing and writing) are in the top 5. And while I would never actually call myself a financial professional, it isn't lost on me that I write about finances, giving me 3 things in the top 10.

Cheers, mates!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Numbers Don't Lie

I have a confession to make.
I like reading and studying up on the stock market and the economy.
As you may know, I write for the stock market advice site The Motley Fool. When I first started writing for them it was a painfully stressful experience. I admit, I knew only about as much as your average non-investor knew about the stock market. (Which is to say I knew "buy low, sell high," and not much else.) There was a steep learning curve this past year!
But I've actually come to enjoy and appreciate what I now study and write about each day. I now understand why it is important to be able to understand the numbers. It isn't always about how much money you can making buying and selling stocks. Sometimes it goes much deeper and broader than that.
For instance, I recently wrote an article about energy drinks and soda. If you were to believe everything you read on Facebook or Pinterest, (or anything Mayor Bloomberg says), you might think that Americans are drowning in their soda addictions. Not true! The numbers don't lie! And the numbers show that soda sales are on the decline, and they have been going down for 3 years. Energy drinks, on the other hand, are increasing. So much so that companies not yet on the energy drink bandwagon are scrambling to get on it- case in point, Pepsi/Mountain Dew just launched "Kickstart" a morning energy drink.(Because that's what people need- Mountain Dew for breakfast.)
I've written several articles on fracking (more professionally called "hydraulic fracturing"). Again, if you believe what Matt Damon/Hollywood has to say on the subject, you might think that fracking is ruining the environment. Truth is, that about 4 years ago major changes were made to the fracking process. It is much much safer now. And it is done more efficiently. And as a result, several different industries are benefiting from it. And so is the economy overall. Don't be fooled thinking government did much to help the economy. Look at the way the energy industry has started to go up, and you'll see that the rest of the economy followed. And it all ties back to an increase in LNG and fracking.
The numbers don't lie. The numbers fascinate me. Sure, there are days when reading up on this stuff can put me to sleep, but for the most part, I like it.

Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Friday, April 19, 2013

What YOU Need to Know About New Blogger and Google+ Settings and Your Privacy

Like many of my fellow Bloggers, I received an email yesterday from Blogger (Google- the owner of Blogger). As far as I know this is the first email I have received from them in 9 years!

Here's the email-
Writing a thoughtful post and seeing how people engage can be really rewarding, so we’ve made it easier to reach a broader audience and see more of their reactions.
Once you enable Google+ Comments, people can share the comments they make on your blog to their circles in Google+, helping you reach people that they know. And there's more: mentions of your posts on Google+ automatically show up right in your blog's comments, so you can see more of people’s public conversations about your content (and private conversations you’re part of).

I want to make sure my readers and friends know about this change.  I have enabled the Google+ Comments, although I do realize I have a choice. I don't want anyone to feel their privacy was violated (although it certainly does have that feel to it). I've always been somewhat of an early adopter, and because I work in social media, I like to be able to test and experiment with these things personally before I attempt them professionally.

Like many of you, I find Google+ somewhat annoying and invasive. Just a few weeks ago I clicked on something innocuous, trying to look at something on Google+, (I was testing out a feature before I used it professionally), and it forced me to "add my friends back." One would assume this meant that my friends had added me first, and I should respond in kind. Instead, it suddenly added 200-300 people from my address book (hundreds of professional contacts I did not want to connect with)! And now, hardly a day goes by without getting 2-3 emails saying "this person I've never heard of before has added you back on Google+."

I'm not a fan of this site. I don't like how they keep making changes to one Google product, link it to another product, and then make it all tie in with Google+, forcing people to use it. For instance, this new comments feature.

However, in my experience, early adopting, and figuring out how it all works together, tends to work to my advantage (and others' advantage too, as I often seem to be giving friendly tutorials and advice!). 

So forgive me for enabling the comments. Feel free to leave a comment here to test how it will work. I'm not sure (yet) if you have to be my friend, or in my circles, to make it work.  (You can join me on the site here.)

One more thing to know-
If you engage with a post on Google+ (for instance here is one of mine- ) and you leave a "plus one" or a comment, your response will partially show up on the blog post, even if you don't go to the blog post itself.  Feel free to check it and try it. First go to my actual blog post - and look at the social media bar on the left. You'll see the Google Plus icon with a number in it. Now, go back to the Google Plus link in this paragraph above. "Plus one" it, or leave a comment. Go back to the blog post, reload the page, and you'll see that number has changed. As far as I can tell, there is no way for the blogger to track those number backwards. Except of course it is trackable by going to Google Plus and looking for it.

If you are finding this blog post because of an interest in understanding more about social media marketing and ebook sales, check out my book-

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pro-Marriage, Anti-Marriage

First, let me make this one point clear- I support the traditional family movement. I have read the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' statement on marriage, and choose to endorse it. I want to make that clear, because everything else I am about to say, may lead you to think otherwise.

A little bit about me. I am in my late thirties, a product of the 1980’s and the Mtv generation. I grew up in the suburbs, in a family with a mother and a father who have been married over forty years now. I am the oldest of four children.
Most importantly, I know that my “traditional” upbringing makes me unique. I can think of few friends who grew up in similar environments, with a stay-at-home mom, a dad in the picture, and siblings. Most of my friends, by far the majority, did not have this same arrangement.
To the best of my knowledge, most of my friends were raised by a divorced mother. They knew their fathers, but his presence in their lives varied from person to person. Some had dads that lived in his own house in the same neighborhood, others had dads in far off places.
Single mothers who had never married, and yet “kept the child,” were still unusual, and mostly unheard of. It is my generation that would grow up to change that.
Each time I read another pro-family, pro- “traditional” marriage article, I want to argue with it, in spite of the fact that I try to be on their side. I often want to punch holes through weak, biased, straw man arguments.
If anything, I feel far more sympathy for the gay marriage supporters. But, I have made the decision to follow the prophet, keep the commandments, and in this case, that means I must accept the Church’s position on this issue. It may very well be the ultimate trial of my faith for years to come. I expect that it might be. But nonetheless, I choose it anyway.
Traditional marriage supporters often seem delusional to the opposing side. The arguments that a “child needs both a father and a mother” fall on very experienced, very deaf ears. I wonder if the traditionalists understand that? My generation- the generation with the political money, voting power, and the ones who have brought about much reform in the last 15-20 years, we don’t understand that way of thinking. We (the general we) were not raised in two parent homes, and we turned out just fine. The argument that in order to be smart, healthy, well-fed, loved, and cared for requires a father and a mother is inane to a generation that was not raised that way. Life experiences will always trump statistics.
If traditionalists want to convert or sway the other side, they have to understand that not only does the other side disagree with them, they have life experiences that prove the arguments invalid. All the “research” studies done by biased organizations (who knows how long ago), will never convince a college graduate raised by a single parent that they need both parents.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wake me up, when .... ends

I've yet again reached one of those weeks where my entire future could change with a simple phone call.
Or the call could come and nothing will change.
Either way, that call is coming.
And there is an expensive and painful dental appointment in my future.
Really, I'd like to fast-forward and get it over with. I'd rather just get to Friday and find out how it all turns out and not live in limbo all week.
But mostly, I just want to get to Saturday to see Doctor Who again.

Hey You! Check out my new novels, "You Heard It Here First" and the sequel "This Just In!"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Need Something to Read?

"This Just In!" is available on Kindle and Nook for just $4. And for a limited time, "You Heard It Here First" is available for $1 (Kindle and Nook) as well. If you don't have a Kindle or Nook, you can still read e-books courtesy of Smashwords!

I'm looking for some book reviewers. I can't/won't pay for a review, but I will send you the e-book for free. (Or both books if you haven't read the first one yet!) In exchange, I ask for your honest and fair review to be left on a few different sites (doesn't have to be a blog). If you are interested, send me an email! erinannie at yahoo


Friday, April 05, 2013

A Single Mormon Woman Reflects on Women Holding the Priesthood

Dear Friend,

Yesterday you asked about women in the Mormon Church holding the priesthood. I fired off some fast and too easy “internet responses.” I want you to know that your questions and comments were not ignored. In fact, I’ve thought about them quite a bit. I hope you'll forgive me my thoughtless responses yesterday, and accept my much more in-depth and thought out response below.

You raised important issues- why can’t women hold the priesthood? Why do men run the meetings? Why can’t women?

I’ve given this topic (and others I am about to address) a lot of thought over the years. My response today is not just the culmination of 24 hours of ruminating on current politics, but my cherished, deep-rooted beliefs, and understanding of the Gospel of Christ.

One of the key details that sets Mormons apart from other religions is found in a small verse in the Book of Mormon. As you know, we believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, another testament of Jesus Christ. Many other religions scorn us because of this book. But anyone who has actually read it will know that there is nothing in there that conflicts or contests the Bible. Many of the commandments and scriptures are nearly identical to what is found in the Bible.

But there is one small verse or scripture that truly sets us apart. Mosiah 3:19 reads, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

In my eyes, nearly every commandment given in scripture is a directive, suggestion, or instruction on how to overcome the natural man or our natural instincts. For instance, the Ten Commandments include no coveting, no stealing, no murder, obey your parents, put God first. We are taught from infancy not to murder or steal (hopefully). Why are we taught these things? Because it is natural to do them.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Will we see the Mormon Moment reflected in baptism numbers?

Cebu City, Philippines Mormon Temple

If you are one of my [awesome, welcome, much appreciated, fun, very cool] non-Mormon readers, the following post will require a bit of explanation. Keep reading, I explain things. If you are a Mormon, go ahead and jump down to the bold words.
Every year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hold its Annual General Conference in the spring, and the Semi-Annual General Conference in the fall. It is held in the same sort of format any business or corporation might hold an annual meeting- key speakers, addresses from general officers, and the reading of membership numbers. It is held in 5 sessions over 2 days. And it feels a lot more like a church meeting than a corporate annual meeting.
You can learn more about it here-

General Conference is upon us. Sometimes we watch conference in hopes of hearing answers to questions in our hearts and minds. Sometimes we watch expecting to hear answers to questions we didn’t know we have yet. But this year, amongst the spiritual growth and knowledge I seek, I will look for one much more tangible piece of information. A detail I have never given much thought or consideration to before.
The annual reading of the numbers. It’s usually ignored, overlooked, forgotten, or read while I take a quick bathroom break, or go off in search of snacks. It is rarely the moment in conference that brings much clarity or enlightenment. But this year it is different.
There are several sets of numbers read off during the “Statistical Report.” The number of stakes, missions, districts, wards, membership, convert baptisms, missionaries, and temples, are read for the general membership. And this year I will be listening for two specific numbers- number of convert baptisms, and the number of full-time missionaries serving.
The reason for listening for the growth in full-time missionaries serving is fairly obvious. With the age change for missionary service, it is expected this number will have grown significantly. I look forward to hearing it!
But the number of convert baptisms may not be as obvious. (It’s a little too soon to see results from the increase in the number of missionaries.) I want to see if the campaign of former Governor Mitt Romney, the resulting “Mormon Moment,” and the new Church public relations and advertising campaign, has resulted in new baptisms.
A few weeks ago I sat down and looked up the past numbers over the last decade for convert baptisms and number of missionaries serving full-time missions. In case you would like to follow along with me, here they are-

    Convert Baptisms    Difference in Year Before    Percent of Change
May-02                        292,612        
May-03                        283,138                                            (9,474)    -3%
May-04                        242,923                                          (40,215)    -14%
May-05                        241,239                                            (1,684)    -1%
May-06                        243,108                                               1,869     1%
May-07                        272,845                                            29,737     12%
May-08                        279,218                                               6,373     2%
May-09                        265,593                                          (13,625)    -5%
May-10                        280,106                                            14,513     5%
May-11                        272,814                                            (7,292)    -3%
May-12                        281,312                                               8,498     3%

I see no obvious pattern or expectation for growth (or decline) in the number of baptisms from year to year.

What is interesting is the very predictable growth in numbers of overall church membership. Over the last ten years the number for overall growth is consistently 2-3%.

Year    Overall Membership    New Members    Percent of Growth
May-02                         11,394,522        
May-03                         11,721,548                    327,026     3%
May-04                         11,985,254                    263,706     2%
May-05                         12,275,822                    290,568     2%
May-06                         12,560,869                    285,047     2%
May-07                         12,868,606                    307,737     2%
May-08                         13,193,999                    325,393     3%
May-09                         13,508,509                    314,510     2%
May-10                         13,824,854                    316,345     2%
May-11                         14,131,467                    306,613     2%
May-12                         14,441,346                    309,879     2%

And as for missionary numbers? Not a lot of growth, or decrease, over the last 10 years. It's a pretty steady number, that seems to only fluctuate with birth rates.

May-02             60,850
May-03             61,638
May-04             56,237
May-05             51,067
May-06             52,060
May-07             53,164
May-08             52,686
May-09             52,494
May-10             51,736
May-11             52,225
May-12             55,410

I don't know that there has been enough time yet to see if the "Mormon Moment" (which is the culmination of the Romney campaign and the Church PR blitz of the past year, not to mention the Broadway musical, "The Book of Mormon") to have truly have quantifiable numbers. I don't know that the Church really looks for a return on investment (ROI) when it does its campaigns. (Mormons, "the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" brings new meaning here, when deciding how exactly how you would calculate the ROI. "If it so be that ye should labor all your days, and bring but one soul unto me...") And then again, maybe the "Mormon Moment" doesn't have to pay off or result in baptisms. Maybe it just results in higher awareness and understanding of Mormons? (The marketing professional in me is having a field day comparing these things to marketing metrics.)
What do you think? And what do you think we'll hear in the numbers on Saturday afternoon?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Pie Chart of My Brain

Do you ever have so many things on your mind that you have to make a list of them so you don't forget what you were thinking about? It's not even a to-do list. It's just a list of things to think on? Or is that just me?
Well, there you have it. That's my life right now. There are tons of things to think about, but not that much going on. Well, nothing beyond the usual activities that is. But my brain is on overload with things to contemplate.  I think having so many things to think about is the result of not thinking about dating/love/one particular man.
I'm a serial monogamist, but I take it even one step further. I can't get over or give up a guy until the next one comes along. Even if the relationship is dead and gone, I tend to not move on until there is something to move on to. The heart and mind are willing and open, but something has to occupy my thoughts until there is something new to think about.
But this time it is slightly different. I'm not even sure if I have ever successfully done it before. And the odd part is that I don't know that I am over the last one. Nonetheless, my thoughts have moved on. And the pie chart that is my brain suddenly has wedges for dozens of other topics, of which he is only a very small sliver. (He used to be a very large piece of the pie chart.)
So behold, Gentle Readers of the Internet, the inner workings of my mind for the past hour-

Monday, April 01, 2013

Adventures in Self-Publishing

I finished and published "This Just In" a few weeks ago. Shortly after that I bought and downloaded my own book, so I could see it on my Nook. Funny thing happened.
It wasn't right.
The first paragraph of the first chapter was wrong.
So I went to Amazon and checked, and to Smashwords, and every other way possible. Somehow I had managed to publish the draft version of my book! And not the final copy!!
Don't ask me how it happened. It's a long story. A lot of it has to do with always trying to do writing and publishing stuff in my "free" time, which tends to happen after midnight. You know what else happens after midnight? Mistakes. Not to mention, it was a result of originally publishing unedited serial editions, group sourcing the edits, compiling them into one, and somehow accidentally not paying attention to the thing I swear I pay great attention to, and probably just giving files stupid names. Really, it was probably all because of the file names, and then deleting the old files, because at one time I had about 15 different files of the same book, and it was getting confusing.
I have spent the last 2-3 weeks re-editing my book all over again. (So not fun.) This was a TON of work. And I raised the price of the published version so that no one would want to buy it, and did nothing to promote it. Thereby hopefully reducing the chances of anyone buying the embarrassingly bad published version!
(I hang my head in shame!)
But the good news is that the newly revised and edited version is now up and running again! (And the crowd goes wild!) A few tiny discrepancies were fixed in addition to the grammar.  (For instance, I corrected Hank's age between books 1&2. No one called me out on it (thankfully it's an incredibly minor detail), but with the details given in the two books, he would have been over 100 years old. Oops. You know what else no one called me out on? (And this one cracks me up. And also makes me think I can't trust any of those people who claimed they edited it!) Some of my funnier phonetic mistakes. I do most of my writing really late at night. And sometimes I get sleepy while I write and make really odd mistakes, most of them phonetic. I think the best one I found in the book was that I typed coffin instead of often. And no one told me. You know what mistake I never made though? There/their/they're and your/you're. Another mistake I make and have to double-check no matter what time of day I wrote it- passed/past. And my high school French teacher would be proud to know that I was consistent in writing blonde for a girl, and blond for a boy. Even though in English all that matters is that you pick one and stick with it.)

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