She ain’t from around here, is she?

Many of my Northern friends have commented on my Texas accent. I don’t think I have one, at least not much of one, but they disagree. I think the difference often comes down more to the word choices we make rather than the sound of our voices.

For example, in the South we use the word “y’all.” It’s a contraction of “you all.” But rather than that harsh New Jersey sound (picture Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny), it has a nice Southern drawl to it.

We also call all soft drinks “coke,” as in, “I’m gonna get a coke. You want one? OK, what kind, Dr. Pepper or root beer?”

This little guy? He’s a doodle bug.

We use the word “tump,” as in, “Don’t swing so high on the swing set. You’re gonna make it tump over.”

And we won’t get into the argument of how to pronounce pecan.

Most of the time, my non-Texan friends and I communicate well, despite our differences. We may hide a grin behind our hands from time to time, but we understand each other. However, in the past few weeks, three words I consider commonplace have stumped my critique partners.

That makes me curious. One partner lives in Illinois and the other in the United Kingdom in the Forest of Dean (but was originally from Australia). Do they not know the words I use simply because of geography?

So I’m doing a survey. Without looking these words up (’cause that’d be cheating), post your answers in the comment section below and tell me what you think they mean. Then tell me where your parents raised you. (Technically, that should say where you were reared, but nobody actually says that word and it sounds weird.) Ready?

  1. Percheron
  2. cup towel
  3. criminently

I can hear my grandmother’s voice on that last one, and it makes me smile. I’m eager to hear your definitions. If you have a word you think we won’t know down here, throw it in, too.

P.S. For those of you who have read and enjoyed Protected and A Father’s Gift, I have an update. I mailed the manuscript for book three, Accepted, to my publisher on Saturday. I hope the new book will be out by late summer/early fall. Squee!

Use Me For Good

Surprises await everywhere, every day. We simply have to watch. Not sure you agree? Read on.

My brother invited me to attend Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic music festival in Austin. Despite my extreme misgivings about spending an entire day in 100˚ heat, I accepted. Seeing Willie was a bucket list item, and time was running out on that one.

Q2 Stadium – 2022 Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic

We arrived around 3:30 pm, armed with water bottles, sunblock, and my Mexican wide-brimmed straw hat, but were delighted to discover our seats were already in the shade at the Q2 Stadium. One major blessing!

I’ve never been a huge country music fan, so I knew none of the acts for the day except Willie. Nevertheless, I settled in to enjoy the day. I’m a people watcher, and believe me, there was plenty to watch. Took about five minutes for me to decide a local drill team must’ve gone out of business and held a fire sale on their knee-high white cowboy boots. ’Cause, friend, approximately one in ten of the young women in attendance wore a pair. The only thing missing was the fringe down the sides.

Don’t get me wrong—they were cute, paired with airy short dresses that I’d have been happy to wear if I didn’t want to subject the surrounding people to the sight of my crepey, post-50-something skin all afternoon. There were just a lot of them. The overabundance detracted from the cute impact after a while.

I went to the concourse to get some food. While walking around, I came upon a distressing scene. A man, probably in his 60s, lay on the ground. A younger man stood near his feet, weight shifting from side to side, his hands clasped on top of his head as he watched, concern flooding his face.

The stadium medical team tended to the older man, quickly pulling open his shirt, running for an AED machine, inserting an IV to administer fluids. The man’s skin was gray, and after three convulsive paroxysms of his chest and stomach, he stilled. One medic began CPR.

A man behind me prayed softly. I backed up to stand next to him and gripped his hand. The fact there were now two of us seemed to imbue him with the confidence to speak loudly, strongly, claiming the promise that where two or more are gathered, God is there with them. Our fingers clung tightly, and I fought the tears pooling in my eyes.

I never heard the medics yell “Clear!” nor did the man’s body jerk as if they shocked his heart. They loaded him onto an ambulance stretcher and wheeled him away. As far as I could tell, he never moved again. All I could think was how excited he must’ve been to see Willie Nelson later that night. Dying on the concrete floor of a stadium most likely hadn’t been on his bingo card for the day.

People passed by with hardly a glance at the frenzied activity taking place at their feet. Were they more considerate than I to not stand and watch? Or did they not care? Daniel, the 6’ 4” Hispanic man who prayed so ferociously, gave me a tearful hug and left.

Music from Tyler Childers pounded on the other side of the bleachers. Life continued. Within moments, the medical team had all the plastic wrappings from the AED machine cleared and thrown away. It was as if nothing happened. Stunned, I returned to my seat.

Moments later, cameras projecting on large video screens on either side of the stage showed a young man kneeling in front of his girl, holding a small box up to her. She clapped her hands across her mouth, then nodded. He stood and embraced her, and the entire stadium cheered. The seesaw of emotions left me a bit whiplashed.

Later, a young woman moved to the back of the floor area where there were no chairs and danced to the music, alone. A young man in cowboy boots and a straw hat apparently took it upon himself to rescue her from her solitary celebration and raced across the open zone, skidding to a halt in front of her, boots sliding on the protective flooring laid on the soccer field. He placed the two beers he carried on the ground, then leaped to take her in his arms. She happily complied with his twirls and spins, following his lead as they danced together to the sounds of guitars and a harmonica. When the song ended, he gave her a short bow, collected his beers, and returned to his seat. Duty done, problem solved. Made me smile.

Jason Isbell took the stage. I knew none of his songs, and the overly loud, distorted projection from the enormous speakers made it difficult to understand all the lyrics. However, I could clearly hear the chorus in one song.

“Cover me up and know you’re enough to use me for good.”

Unable to discern what the song was truly about, I felt like those words were a prayer. Use me for good. Daniel prayed for the unknown man on the floor. The young man pledged his love to his girlfriend. The rescuing cowboy wanted to create a sweet moment for the solitary dancer. And all those white boots made girls across the stadium feel pretty.

Willie came on at 9:00 and sang for an hour. He was winded and stayed seated in a chair. But he is an 89-year-old country music icon. I’m glad I got to hear him perform.

photo by Scott Moore

Before the night was over, I’d held the hand of a stranger, laughed and sang with others. Never seen any of them before. Will undoubtedly not see them again. But I always want to be used for good. Took my lessons from a stadium full of cowboys, cowgirls, and country music singers. There is always an opportunity if we just look for it.

And, if you’re not a Willie Nelson fan, listen to this song, performed with his son, Lukas. And, sir, who may have died on the floor at a concert on Independence Day, let these words sing you to heaven.

“Just Breathe,” written by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam in 2009

Hamilton (the musical) taught all of us about history. It also teaches English grammar.

Anyone else out there a Hamilton fan? I’m obsessed. Not only is the music appealing, emotional, and interesting, but it’s also so incredibly smart.

For example, the rhyming shows up in odd places. Patterns are unusual and unexpected.

Watch this one—

“She courted me
Escorted me to bed and when she had me in a corner
That’s when Reynolds extorted me
For a sordid fee
I paid him quarterly
I may have mortally wounded my prospects
But my papers are orderly.

And Lin-Manuel doesn’t give a pfft about echoes—

“I never spent a cent that wasn’t mine
You sent the dogs after my scent, that’s fine.”

Brilliant. Simply genius. I could listen to this musical every day for the rest of my life and not grow tired of it.

But when I first listened to the music, one part confused me.

I received a Hamilton CD for Christmas in 2019, just as I started my writing journey. I hadn’t joined a critique group yet, hadn’t started relearning all my grammar rules, so I didn’t get what Lin-Manuel Miranda was saying. Read this verse Angelica writes to Alexander:

“In a letter I received from you two weeks ago,
I noticed a comma in the middle of a phrase.
It changed the meaning. Did you intend this?
One stroke and you’ve consumed my waking days.
It says, ‘My dearest, Angelica.’
With a comma after dearest.
You’ve written,
‘My dearest, Angelica.’”

This puzzled me. What’s the big deal with a comma? I’m so glad you asked.

To explain this, we must use fancy English-class words we learned 40 years ago. (Okay, maybe that’s just me. You may actually remember this word.) We have to talk about appositives.

I heard you sigh from here. Keep reading. I’ll show you how I simplified this rule so I can remember it, thus saving myself from looking it up each and every time I come across it in my writing.

First, the definition. An appositive is a noun that describes another noun.

My friend Lin-Manuel Miranda dropped by.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a famous writer, created Hamilton.

When an appositive is essential to the meaning of the noun it belongs to (restrictive), don’t use commas. When the noun preceding the appositive provides sufficient identification on its own, use commas around the appositive.

Let’s look at my first example again.

My friend Lin-Manuel Miranda dropped by.

I have more than one friend. If I leave out the appositive, my sentence says, “My friend dropped by.” Saying “my friend” is not enough information for you to know who dropped by. I don’t put commas around the appositive because we need that information.

However, in our second example, it’s different. Read it again.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, a famous writer, created Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda IS a famous writer—we all know that—so we don’t need that information. We use the commas to set aside the extraneous information (non-restrictive).

Let’s do another one.

Our vice president, Kamala Harris, is the first woman elected to the position.

Our vice president is a relatively precise identifier, so Kamala Harris is not considered essential.

We can live without the information supplied by the appositive. Use commas.

Famous composer Lin-Manuel Miranda won a Grammy Award for the Best Musical Theater Album in 2016 for Hamilton.

The way I constructed this sentence, I must include Lin-Manuel’s name in order to know which famous composer we’re talking about. Since we need his name, no commas are necessary.

Clear as mud?

Now, back to Angelica. What got her so hot and bothered?

“My dearest, Angelica …”

Alexander added the comma, showing he didn’t think it necessary to explain who his dearest was. He could live without that information. In other words, no other person in the world could be his dearest, so including her name was unnecessary. She was his dearest.

Scandalous! My mnemonic to remember?

Need it? No commas. (Both words start with N.)

Can live without it? Commas.

My mother, Sandy, just traveled to Alaska.

I know who my mother is. I can live without the extra information. Use commas.

My friend Tammy Spradley is an even bigger fan of Hamilton than I am.

I have lots of friends. We need the information. No commas.

I’m bookmarking this page because I know I’m going to have to check myself again at some point. Feel free to do the same.

“When you love what you do, it’s not work anymore.” Horse hockey.

American filmmaker Lawrence Kasden, screenwriter for several Star Wars movies, made the following statement, and it’s 100% true.

If you think you’d like to write, the first thing you must do is abolish your ego. That’s hard, but you’ve got to try. Because from day one, someone somewhere will gleefully tell you what is wrong with what you just wrote. And most of the time, they’ll be right. If you allow it, on the first day of your new career, you’ll learn something.

Those criticisms are hard words to hear because you’ve just poured your soul into what is on that paper. You’ve opened yourself up, allowed people to see inside your psyche. You make yourself vulnerable. So when someone starts methodically ripping your work to shreds, it hurts. But the pain is necessary.

I had to go through a very detailed psychological evaluation once for a company who planned to hire me. When I read his report, one line jumped out at me. He said, “Bristles at criticism.”

My response? “I do not!”

Oh. Wait. Point taken.

My default reaction to any criticism is to defend. I have learned to shut that down as quickly as I can and force myself to LISTEN. I don’t have to agree with the criticism I receive from critique partners, and I may decide to ignore their suggestions. But I have to listen. Because the plain truth is, I don’t know everything. Probably, they don’t either, but they might know THIS, so I need to hear their words.

Deb Haggerty, the editor-in-chief at Elk Lake Publishing, Inc., posts helpful articles for her authors on our private Facebook page. I always read them. If the boss thinks something is worth sharing, then I pay attention. She recently posted a link to this article, along with the pithy caption, “Please, please, please read the following article!” (And, yes, she spent a valuable exclamation point, giving the impression she felt passionate about it.)

So I read the article and added it to my growing list of things an author must know.

So, swallow your pride. Admit you just learned something. Now, go forth and start hunting. And may the force be with you.

Oh, won’t you stay with me?

Social Media is a “build it, nurture it, engage them, and they may come and stay.”

I stole that quote from Seth Godin (and that lyric in the title from Sam Smith). Seth Godin is an American entrepreneur, best-selling author, and speaker. He should know what he is talking about, as he essentially invented commercial email. As authors, we know we need to build some sort of social media platform because that is how we will gather our ever-essential followers. Whether you’re an author looking for readers, or a baker looking for cake customers, you need a method of reaching people and snagging their interest. The challenge is then keeping them hanging around for more.

According to marketing experts, if you want to gain name recognition, you need to post something on Facebook or Instagram at least two times each and every day (five times if you live on Twitter.) Ahem… please do NOT go back and notice the date of my last post on any of the above-mentioned platforms.

Enter the major problem most of us have.

Thanks to Terri Main, owner of the WordMaster Academy, I have a list to help you crank out content to fill those thirty posts per month.

Step one: Break your topic/genre into subtopics. Let’s say you write romances that take place in Victorian England. Your list might include:

  • Fashion
  • Economy
  • Architecture
  • Class Struggles (a biggie in Victorian England. Just read Dickens)
  • The Workplace
  • Marriage rituals
  • Politics
  • The legal system
Sign me up! (Not)

Those are a few ideas to get you started. Someone interested in Victorian England might be interested in any one of them.

Step Two: Choose one of those subtopics. (Or use the main topic if you like)

Step Three: Fill in the blanks below.

  • A Joke about _______
  • An Image about _____
  • A video about ______
  • A link to an article about _____
  • A review of a book/movie/TV show about ______
  • A blog post about ____ (Remember when writing blog posts, copy and paste them into the status box on Facebook and attach a photo. Links get fewer views than original posts with images)
  • A cartoon about_____
  • A picture quote about_____
  • A discussion question about ______
  • A survey about ______
  • A poem about ________
  • A piece of flash fiction about _______
  • A background piece about a problem you faced writing about _____
  • Something you learned researching _______
  • A tip for people writing about ______
  • A pet peeve about how ______ is portrayed in movies/TV/Books.
  • A Facebook Slideshow or Picture Gallery about _____
  • A post you made six weeks or more ago about _______
  • A post you made on another social media platform about ______
  • A guest post from someone else interested in the subject.

There are twenty blanks to fill in that list. If you create a post for each one, that gives you 10 days worth of content. Repeat that for two more subtopics, and you have a month of posts.

So how long will that take? I’ll do a run-through right now and time it. Since I set my book in the 1860s, in Texas, my characters either are or interact with cowboys. I’ll answer the first five prompts and see how long it takes to do. Ready, set, start the timer!

Post 1, Day 1: Cowboy cartoon.

Now I’ll think up some copy that ties this to my story. “Manny probably wished for something this easy to catch during his cattle-driving days.”

Day 1, Post 2: An image about cowboys.

Texas sunset

My copy with this photo might go something like this: Texas is known for its gorgeous sunsets (although someone told me it’s due to the completely unromantic reason of dust in our atmosphere). I like to think of what Manny or Abby might have seen each night as they made their way home from roaming on their property. Back then, a family could claim 120 acres just by filing with the General Land office.

Day 2, Post 1: A video of a cattle drive. My copy would go something like this: “In the beginning chapters of Protected, Manny and his best friend, Jonathan, are heading home from driving a herd of cattle to Kansas. They spent two to three weeks on horseback, eating from a chuck wagon, on their way to the meat market. It would’ve looked something like this.”

Day 2, Post 2: A link to an article about the life of a cowboy in 1866. I would write something like this to go along with the article. “The cowboy of Hollywood was far more glamorous than the real-life cowboys of the 1800s. Read on to discover facts it might surprise you to know.”

Day 3, Post 1: A review of a book/movie/TV show about cowboys. I would write: “Ask anyone on a book recommendation website or Facebook page for a book about cowboys, and you’re going to hear about Lonesome Dove. It is the quintessential story about cowboys, particularly for dialogue. If you want to write a story with a cowboy in it, read this book first. Maybe read it twice so you marinate your brain in cowboy-speak. You’ll love it.”

Stop. My timer was at 18 minutes, 2 seconds. I’m one-sixth of the way through. So, I’d need between 1 hour, 45 minutes to 2 hours to complete a full month’s worth of content for my Facebook and/or Instagram feeds. That’s doable. Set a reminder on your phone for the first day of every month and crank it out. Then it’s simply a matter of copy and paste to your social media of choice, and you’re done!

Let’s do a pinky-swear challenge. I’ll try it if you will.

It’s a long way to Dallas.

I served on a federal jury several years ago. I didn’t even mind because it got me out of my classroom for three weeks, and it was a particularly tough year. I wrote some musings about my experience once the trial was over. A friend reminded me of that collection of thoughts the other day. So, here is a resurrection of my memories of that good ol’ time. Enjoy.

Things I learned while on jury duty:

  1. It is a long way to Dallas.
  2. It pays to be nice and make friends. I left my purse at home one morning, and Pedro, the attendant of the lot I used each day, let me park my truck there for free until I could find someone to borrow the money from.
  3. Women in Dallas have only one toe, and it is right in the middle of their feet. I know this to be true because of the pointy-toed, spike-heeled shoes they wear. There is not room in those shoes for more than one toe.
  4. Reading glasses make a very effective crowd-control tool when used correctly. I learned from observing Judge Lynn if you perch them right on the end of your nose and glare menacingly over them, you don’t have to actually say anything. This maneuver is particularly effective on jurors who return late from lunch (not me!).
  5. It is a very long way to Dallas.
  6. You can ride the train to Dallas, but you must be at the Vickery Street station at 6:15 am to get to the courtroom on time.
  7. If you walk around the Vickery Street train station at 3:30 pm to familiarize yourself with everything so you won’t miss the train the first time you ride it the next day, you’ll feel like you’ve just stumbled into the Stephen King book The Stand, because there will be no one around but you.
  8. Walking around in a marble-floored, high-ceilinged, empty train station building in broad daylight is creepy.
  9. If you pee against the protective shelter while waiting for the train (not me!), the train conductor, who spies you doing this while he waits for the scheduled time to head to DFW airport, will not be happy and he will call the Transit Police. The Transit Police will come and take you off the train while everyone else looks on, handcuff you, and take you away.
  10. Riding the train was not as much fun as it was cracked up to be, despite it being a very, very long way to Dallas.
  11. The Spanish word for before is antes (pronounced “awn-tez”).
  12. The Spanish word for after is despues (pronounced “dez-pwez).
  13. The Spanish word for tools is heramienta (pronounced “air-raw-may-en-ta”).
  14. The Spanish word for cocaine is cocaine (pronounced “co-cah-een-ah”).
  15. The Spanish word for heroin is chivas (pronounced “shee-vas”).
  16. The Spanish word for well, as in, “Well, when you spoke to the FBI, you lied to them, didn’t you?” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  17. The Spanish word for o.k., as in, “O.K., let’s look at your testimony again,” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  18. The Spanish word for good, as in “Good, we’ve established that you lied to Mr. Delapaz,” is bueno (pronounced “bway-no”).
  19. The Spanish word for no (duly reported and translated each and every time) is no, (pronounced “no”).
  20. You can get a crick in your neck driving for 30 minutes along I-30, trying the whole while to position your head in just the right spot behind your rear-view mirror so you don’t have the sun glaring straight into your eyes. This, however, is an advantage when you walk around at lunch as it forces you to hold your head at a snooty, self-important angle, which lets you fit right in.  It also helps if you’re wearing pointy-toed, spike-heeled shoes.
  21. The Seinfeld “Soup Nazi” now lives in Dallas and owns a Greek restaurant two blocks from the courthouse. Be ready with your order when it is your turn and, whatever you do, do not ask a question about the menu.
  22. Courtrooms are very cold.
  23. Blankets, coats, and mittens are allowed in courtrooms.
  24. Cell phones are not allowed in courtrooms.
  25. You can sneak your cell phone past the security guard on the fifteenth floor if you keep it in your coat pocket (accidentally, of course) if you wait until there are several important attorneys all trying to get through at the same time you are.
  26. It is a very, very, very long way to Dallas.
  27. It is extremely hard to not watch the news, read the paper, or listen to NPR (even if you don’t normally do so) when someone tells you not to.
  28. It is extremely hard not to talk about something that totally consumes your every waking moment for three weeks.
  29. It is imperative to not wear pants that have become ever-so-slightly too small for you when you are forced to sit still for eight hours.
  30. A certain lethargy steals over your body around 1:30 – 2:00, forcing your eyes to flutter as you valiantly fight to stay awake. This will happen every day, like clockwork, and will last approximately 20 minutes. It will also earn you a glare from over the reading glasses.
  31. Vitamins, a Gingseng-Gotu Kola capsule, and an Arizona Energy tea at lunch will help combat the early afternoon nap syndrome but will not completely alleviate it.
  32. Wiggling around a lot will help you stay awake.
  33. Tapping your knuckles repeatedly—and hard—with your pen will help you stay awake, although it tends to annoy jurors sitting next to you.
  34. Chewing the inside of your cheek will help you stay awake.
  35. Taking a water bottle in with you and drinking from it will help you stay awake.  Unfortunately, you only get one bathroom break after lunch, so this maneuver has its pitfalls.
  36. Frowning with intense concentration and looking back and forth between witnesses, interpreters, and attorneys will help hide the fact that your eyes are fluttering.
  37. Listening to a trial where you learn the names of a lot of Hispanic people—many of whom have the same first name; many of whom also have a nickname; many of whom have two last names, either of which might be used by any given witness at any given time—is sort of like reading a Tom Clancy novel.
  38. Making a flow chart helps keep everyone straight. It can also be recopied each day from 1:30 – 2:00 to keep you awake.
  39. Being a teacher gives one excellent practice at picking out when someone starts to lie.
  40. Swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth (we don’t say, “so help you God” anymore) doesn’t have the effect one would expect on the veracity of testimony given.
  41. Lawyers aren’t necessarily good at math. We waited a moment or two for our prosecuting attorney to do mental math and figure out what 30 kilos times $20,000/kilo is.
  42. Jurors are not permitted to call out answers.
  43. It’s an extremely long way to Dallas.
  44. Restating a question five times by changing the first few words will not magically make a different answer come from the witness’s mouth. For example,
    1. “Mr. S, you were afraid of R. A., weren’t you?”
    2. “But isn’t it true, Mr. S, that when you found out E. A. and J. R. were going to set up R. A., you got scared?
    3. “But in your grand jury testimony, Mr. S, when you said, ‘Are you crazy?’, it was because you were afraid of setting up R. A., a known drug dealer, wasn’t it?”
    4. “But Mr. S, didn’t you walk out of J. R.’s apartment that night because you were afraid of R. A.?”
    5. “You were frightened of setting up a known drug dealer, weren’t you, Mr. S.?”
  45. Witnesses, even when they are self-confessed drug dealing, conspiring, scam artists, can be funny and smart-alec when they answer, “For the fifth time, dude, the answer is no.”
  46. Jurors who snort with laughter at funny, smart-alec answers made by self-confessed drug dealing, conspiring, scam artist witnesses will earn themselves a glare over the reading glasses.
  47. Jurors are not allowed to make objections, even when a question has been re-asked five times and answered the same way each and every time.
  48. Jurors from Mississippi use the phrase, “He musta been fed with a sling-shot when he was a baby,” to describe very focused, intense, no-nonsense attorneys who repeat questions five different times in an effort to wring out a “yes” from the witness.
  49. Never, ever, ever take your car to an auto repair shop that has any of the following characteristics:
    1. It is made of corrugated tin.
    2. It consists mostly of a field, a fence, and a shed.
    3. It looks like it has been repainted several times with very brightly colored paint.
    4. There aren’t many cars sitting around waiting to be fixed or cleaned, and the people running it don’t look very busy.
    5. There is a pick-up truck parked anywhere across the street with a person using binoculars sitting in it, watching.
  50. In fact, never, ever, ever take your car to be fixed anywhere besides Christian Brothers Automotive or Pep Boys, just to be on the safe side.
  51. When people get busted in a drug raid, everyone there gets busted, so don’t ever, ever, ever take your car anywhere to be fixed other than Christian Brothers Automotive or Pep Boys.
  52. It’s okay to use the f- word in a courtroom, and it won’t even earn a glare over the reading glasses.
  53. It’s sort of creepy to sit five feet away from a drug dealer and watch him get mad and start using the f-word when the defense attorney hammers away at his testimony.
  54. It’s a long way to Dallas.

National Authors in Grocery Stores Program

Are your sales on Amazon flat? Do you feel like you’re shouting into a void when you promote your book?

If only I had access to the general public on a regular basis where I could sell my books.

Have you ever thought that? Indie authors, traditionally published writers, or hybrids—we’re all looking for reliable, effective means of getting our work out into the world.

Well, I have a solution for you! It’s called “National Authors in Grocery Stores Program.”

This program partners with various grocery stores. It started in Texas, but now stores in the following states have joined the program: Alaska, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Authors pay a yearly membership fee of $75.00. You then pay $25 for each book title. This gets your book entered into the grocery store’s vendor program. Once you have registered your title, it’s a done deal. You pay only once per each book ISBN.

Authors set up a table inside the store and sell to passing shoppers. You retain 62% of the sale.

December is the perfect time to enroll in the program. It takes about thirty days to get everything into the system, so you’ll be ready to sell in January. This will give you a full twelve months of usage from your $75 membership fee. If you enroll in April, your renewal will be due in January, regardless of whether you got a full twelve months out of your membership fee.

How it works:

You pack in what you need. Table, chair, decorations, books, etc. You set up. You pack back out when you’re done.

You can make a copy of your book’s back cover where the ISBN number is located and give interested shoppers a copy of the cover which they use to buy the book at the register. The cashier scans the bar code, the shopper pays, then she brings her receipt back to your table and you hand over a book. Or you can hand them the book. Some authors worry shoppers will steal the book, hence the back cover copy idea. However, in my experience, after you chat with the reader and sign their book for them, you’ve developed a relationship. I have had no books go missing.

You can set up shop any day of the week, but the most popular are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Prime times are 3:00 – 7:00 on Fridays, and 10:00 – 3:00 on weekends. However, you can set up whatever day works best with your schedule. If you’re having a booming sales day, you may stay longer than you scheduled. If your sales are flat, you’re free to pack up and head home for the day. They arrange the schedule so only one author is there at a time.

Two of my friends in ACFW DFW Ready Writers have taken advantage of this opportunity, and they’ve both sold books by the hundreds. It requires a time commitment, but marketing our books is a continual hustle, and this one pays off. In four month’s time, I sold 75 copies of my books.

Interested? Contact Ray Depew at 845-699-6664 or at Ray is not affiliated with the grocery stores. He is an author, like the rest of us, but has put this program together to make the unending job of marketing a little bit easier.

So, get out there and promote yourself. Good luck and may the sales force be with you.

Click to download the official regulations.

Courage to Stand Out

As a writer, it’s helpful that I have a family member who edits Christian publications for a living. I have my own, personal, built-in networking machine. (Thanks, Lori!) I recently enjoyed the opportunity to share an article with the magazine, The Journal: A Resource for Ministry Spouses.

I wrote the story, Courage to Stand Out, from an event that occurred almost a year ago. Now that I’m not teaching, I miss my chances of spending time with fun teenagers. A fellow church member, Linda Nowlin, asked me to drive our church van to Cleburne, Texas, to deliver gifts. Linda volunteers with CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate), as do I. Linda has also accompanied me to Mexico with my mission team, so we’ve worked with each other on multiple occasions. (More networking!) Our youth had collected several presents to donate to children in foster care.

This story is what came to me after listening to the girls chatter on the way home. My takeaway? Never be afraid to be different. God made each of us exactly the way we are, so embrace your difference. Check it out on page 16.

Texas Heirloom Ornament launch party!

Save the date. More details to follow as soon as Painting With a Twist confirms the availability of the artwork we’ve chosen. When they give me a thumbs up, I’ll pass along a link so you can register.

To make it more exciting, I’m doing a raffle. We’ll have two lucky winners. One will win a frame for their lovely painting, and the other will have their registration paid for. To be entered in the drawing, send me a) a photo of yourself holding (or even better, reading!) a copy of Texas Heirloom Ornament or b) your Amazon receipt from buying it (if it didn’t arrive in time for the party).

Seating is limited, so sign up soon! I hope to see you there.

I Need Your Help!

I am planning a launch party for my second Christmas anthology book (available October 12 on Amazon). I was invited to take part in the collection with Texas authors Jessica White and Sara Meg Seese. We titled the book Texas Heirloom Ornament, and it chronicles the stories of three generations of Texas women. Each story takes place around Christmas.

The first one, In Small Things Liberty, is set in 1923. Following is In Large Things Unity, which takes place in 1972. The collection wraps up with the third novella, In All Things Charity, in 2015. An heirloom Christmas ornament connects the three women in the stories as they pass it down from generation to generation. There is also just the slightest thread of feminism as each heroine deals with challenges from her particular era.

We are organizing a Painting With a Twist party, but they offer several options. Please tell me your top three choices of the following paintings. Also, let me know if you’d be interested in an invitation!

Thank you for your help, and I hope to see you there!

Option 1 – Bulbs of the Season
Option 2 – Christmas Love
Option 3 – Christmas Once More
Option 4 – Christmas Tree
Option 5 – Enchanted Christmas Tree
Option 6 – Holiday Shine
Option 7 – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Option 8 – Rustic Merry and Bright
Option 9 – Simple Christmas
Option 10 – Snow Bird
Option 11 – Trim the Tree
Option 12 – Whimsical Winter