Celebrating Joyce

Life in the country during summer means sweet corn and tomatoes, cooking, cleaning, and preparing for celebrations of one kind or another.

My daughter is coming home this weekend, bringing friends, and we’ll have a thirtieth birthday celebration with her at our cabin. There will be some games, and boating, a fire pit, and food. Plenty of sun and some firewater, too. The usual summer party things. My husband and I have some work to do yet to prepare for this. The inside of our cabin is almost ready, but the sand beach needs to be raked, the wood for a fire needs to be gathered, and I’m determined to figure out a better way to arrange the patio furniture. And then I’ll need to buy and prepare food. It’ll all fall into place. I have all week, I hope. But, then again, none of us know how much time we actually have.

Last week was a week to have a different kind of celebration — one of life and family. My sister-in-law Joyce passed away; too young at 70. She was one of the most interesting and intense people I’ve ever known; Intelligent, fierce, giving, and brutally honest. The church absolutely overflowed for her unique memorial service. The gathering afterward was a true celebration of life, dotted with hugs and tears, memories shared, lots of toasts—beers held high—Joyce enjoyed a good gathering and a beer or a margarita or two. She’d have liked seeing so many of us getting to know each other, reestablishing relationships, and making new friends, too.

So, here’s to another week full of work, family, friends, and celebrations. Here’s to these last days of summer with sweet corn and tomatoes, lakes and parties… and losses, too, which we only experience if we’ve had something special to begin with.

In Joyce, we had something special.

In honor of Joyce, here are words from Tecumseh, a Shawnee. No one honored Native American heritage as well as our Joyce did.

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.

Trouble no one about his religion.

Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.

Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.

Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.

Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.

When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.

Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.

If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.

Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs their spirit of its vision.

When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.

Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.

– Tecumseh
, Shawnee (1768-1813)

Joyce truly did die like a hero going home. She will be missed.

My brother Gary and his wife Joyce.




To those of us Indie authors who have been trying to figure out how to market our books for a while now…

Remember when you were writing your first book, and you started to get excited about publishing, and then some wiser author who already knew the ropes came along and told you…

“Make sure you know your market.”

If you’re like me, I understood them, yet, I didn’t. Like so many well-intended pieces of advice the old-guard give the new (in any regard), they’re delivered in a foggy cloud of words, fine-tuned over the years to encapsulate a bigger idea. It makes perfect sense to them, but it’s a bit of a mystery to a newbie until we’ve got a little of our own experience under our belts.

Simply put, here’s what “…know your market.” means: When pitching your book, speak to your audience in the best way THEY will understand. AND… YOU need to understand who your audience is because IT’S ALWAYS, ALL ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE!!

Well, my audience is “Everyone,” you may say. (I’m pretty sure I said that.)

Everyone technically includes elderly people, baby boomers, millennial, children, mothers, athletes, criminals, people from different countries, democrats, Buddhists, bipolar, scientists, and even bipolar scientists, etc… and what you need to understand as I list a small portion of the obvious is, “everyone” responds to information differently. Right?

“Everyone” likes different things. Right?

You can’t talk to “Everyone” in exactly the same way and have them understand exactly what you mean.

Now, picture this scene. You walk into a room to talk about your book. Here’s the catch… you have NO CLUE who the audience will be until you’re in front of the mic.

You open the door, and there sits two dozen… elderly people in wheelchairs. Absolutely no one is less than 80. Hearing aides are squealing all across the room. Some are nodding off. A couple of women in the back are arguing. An odd smell hits you the second you walk in, a combination of Bengay and hairspray… and yes, smattered throughout the group, there are some delightfully chipper, intelligent people. One of them is even texting someone on her smart phone. All these people have strong memories from the fifties and sixties, from long careers now finished, from raising children and loving grandchildren, and losing spouses, and having operations. Their attitudes and perspective are simply different.

Question? Would you talk about your book in a different way to that group, than say, a group of teenagers? Or a group of immigrants who just passed an English class? What about a group of kindergarteners? Or a sleek group of art critiques from New York? How about a bunch of college students in Sweden? Wouldn’t your words change for each group? Your tone? Your humor? Mine would.

Each of those groups will respond better to different types of pitches. Some of those groups won’t respond to you at all! kindergarteners don’t care about your book on Glass Blowing in the thirteenth century, or the mating habits of naked mole rats. If you even say, “Naked Mole Rats” to a group of kindergarteners, they won’t even hear anything else you say because they will have dissolved into giggles. Say the same thing to twelve-year-old boys and within three minutes they’ll all be making fart noises anyway.

So, “Make sure you know your market” simply means… when you pitch your book, whether on your website, in an advertisement, or at a book club… speak in a language your audience will best-understand. Think about TV ads. Commercials to promote buying gold, or nursing home insurance are very different from commercials for amusement parks and toys. The advertisers know their markets. They’re talking to their audience using language they’ll best-understand.









marketing, networking

Guild Networking Works

Pictured is Nebraska author, Faith Colburn, from North Platte. She’s holding her book, Threshold, a Memoir, one of several books she’s published. Faith spoke on Sunday, June 25th, at The Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room in Seward, Nebraska, and gave a wonderful presentation.

Networking works. I cannot stress this enough. You’re a writer. You’re an introvert. Nobody gets that as well as I do. But when you go out and mingle amongst other writers, you will grow in your knowledge of writing, in your knowledge of marketing, in who you know, and who knows you! Today’s event at Red Path was a wonderful example.

Faith and I know each other through The Nebraska Writers Guild. She is one of so many writers I’ve met in the Guild, who I respect for their quality of writing, their work ethic, their support of other authors, their willingness to better themselves, and their willingness to get involved in the work of the Guild. Faith is currently a board member of The Guild, and she’s also the Winner of the About a Nebraska Town writing competition I sponsored last spring. She’s smart and high energy and I’m here to tell you… if you’re looking for a wonderful speaker for your library, club, event, or anything where you want to hear a wonderful story about Nebraska people from a Nebraska author… you should absolutely consider reaching out to her. Prairie Wind Press.

The owner of Red Path Gallery & Tasting Room, Jeanne Wiemer, also a member of the Nebraska Writers Guild, graciously provides a wonderful room in her lovely business in Seward so we can promote Guild members who speak on the third Sunday of each month throughout 2017. The art is always fresh and changing and the wine is excellent… I recommend the De Chaunac. I provide cookies, those who attend the free events, titled Sundays at Red Path with NWG Authors, can purchase a glass of wine and enjoy this free event, an hour with a Nebraska author.

I’d like to see more people attending because it’s always a wonderful experience. There are generally several NWG authors in the audience there to support the Guild, and they almost always bring a friend or relative. This time, Nebraska author Margie Lukas brought her daughter, an artist, who networked with Red Path to create a showing of her work there at the Gallery. Another Guild author, Dee Schmid has attended the last two events. At the previous event, Guild author and past president, Hugh Reilly spoke about the trips he guides through Ireland. Dee and I plan to go next year. (We’ll even take our husbands!) We certainly wouldn’t be doing that if we hadn’t been at the event… or met in the Guild! And this morning we have a new member of the Guild. Her name is Vickie, and she was in attendance at the event at Red Path yesterday. I hope to see her in the fall at the next Guild conference. She already knows five members of the Guild.

Oh, and we all learned something about marketing, research, blogging, and each other. Faith talked about Sell Sheets and Scream Teams. Dee, during discussion, talked about asking librarians to do reviews. I always learn little things from other writers.

So, when you see opportunities such as Sundays at Red Path with NWG Authors, or 6 Corner Events, or if you hear about authors speaking at a library near you… go. You have no idea what connections you may make because of it. Oh, and keep your eye on Faith Colburn. She has a new book coming out this fall titled The Reluctant Canary. She read some scenes from the book and this is surely a story that will give you a wonderful glimpse into the dirty thirties and the big band scene of the day, as well as hard-scrabble life for those trying to make it and what they had to do to survive.


Controlling your Style?

In The Elements of Style, by Strunk & White, style is defined as “the sound ‘words make on paper’.” I love this definition! Of course, in our world today, our “paper” ranges from digital books, social media, texts and Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Our style labels us. The question I have for today is… are you in control of your style?


Every time we type something on our “paper” of choice, we set our style, our logo, our “sound.” We affect our audience, and oft times, narrow our readers. Thin our herd, so to speak, for better or worse.

Now, far be it from me to define right or wrong regarding opinions of… well, anything. I mean, who the hell am I, anyway? Just a person. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I have opinions. And opinions on writing, I’m willing to voice sometimes, but I have some degree of knowledge on the topic and therefore my opinions have a least some validity. Yet, they’re opinions… not facts. So this post really is an opinion… but as much, a point for your consideration.

So, my opinion is, as a writer, I think it’s best to have some idea how I want people to see me since I try to promote my books using social media. I need to be in control of my style.

I see others who step right off the political cliff and wave their party’s flag all over the internet. And there’s not a darn thing wrong with that. Everyone can do whatever they want to do… I’m happy to live and let live. My question is, are they aware they’re labeling themselves? Are they in control of their style… or as we’ve become accustom to saying… their brand… like we’re cattle, or candy bars… “Now with Extra Caramel!”

At the same time, we can ask if broad appeal is the be-all-end-all to marketing, or can we break the barriers and just go balls-out with our social media, tell the world just how we feel about every little thing like it’s our job, and damn the torpedoes… “like me or don’t!” Shrug. What-ever.

For me, posting my opinion on any social media forum, whether it be about politics, parenting, fashion, movies, religion, sexual orientation… anything really, in our ultra sensitive climate, is as good as flipping the bird to those who don’t agree with my opinion.

Is that who I am? The kind of person who walks around saying whatever I think regardless of the company I’m in? It’s something for me to consider. It’s something for all of us who write books to consider.

And what about manners?

There was a time when manners were a big deal. Do you recall the clichés used to help us remember our manners? Don’t put your elbows on the table. Never discuss politics or religion in polite company. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Don’t chew with your mouth open, or talk with your mouth full. Don’t interrupt. These were things my mother taught me. We can go back a bit further in time to more rigid manners, such as when men stood if a lady left the table or room. Gentlemen would open doors for ladies, or help them with heavy loads they were trying to carry. Children gave up their seats to elderly. Women went to the restroom to powder their noses.

The more I think about “manners,” they aren’t such a mystery. They’re just acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others.

A lot of these rules have gone the wayside, such as not wearing white after Labor Day. Many old-time manners were stuffy, and certainly, life is different now… I mean women can open their own doors and carry heavy things, and wearing white shouldn’t offend anyone. That’s a good example of why manners got a bad name. Wearing white had nothing to do with kindness or consideration for others. Goodness, if that offends you, just going to Wal-Mart would cause you to have a mental breakdown!

I’m fine with silly rules going out the window. But manners… in their true sense of being considerate of others… I think it would be nice to start thinking about those more. Which takes me back to establishing our style on social media. Is it really our moral responsibility to school others about our opinions on politics and religion on Facebook or Twitter? I mean, sure, if that’s one’s job… if I wrote books on politics, then yes, that would totally be the style I wanted to establish. But if we write mystery or romance or young adult fiction… poetry, memoirs, plays… or hey, how about if we just run a business? Is that the style we want people to associate with us? Is that our label? Maybe people who do this don’t consider social media as their marketing tool. Should they? I guess that’s the question I’m asking.

If I truly felt I couldn’t possibly keep my opinions to myself, and believed it was my responsibility to educate people about my opinions on whatever topic, I’d want to use appropriate methods for persuasive argument.

I’ve been reading a book called, Keys for Writers; one of those college books kids pay too much money for when they take creative writing or journalism classes. It’s a useful little guide. There’s an entire section about writing an argument—the point of doing so is to persuade. Not force… persuade. In this section of the book, there are many great points about how to argue a topic in writing, such as making a clear claim, and supporting it with specific evidence, but here’s another point they give about how to make a good argument: One should establish common ground with their listeners or readers, and avoid confrontation.

Establishing common ground and not being confrontational is a style I’d like to be known for. It’s not my job to wag a finger or marshal other people’s opinions. I don’t believe doing that would make me a better-selling author, and I do believe social media colors my style.

Again, if that’s your style, that cool, as long as you’re in control of how you “mind your manners” in public. On paper, whatever paper our era recognizes, make your “sound” count. Your sound is your style. I’d say it’s best to be in charge of it.

But that’s just my opinion.