Aug 22, 2017

Twitter Usage Part 2

by Terri Wagner

Susan Allred's blog post about Twitter Pitches got me to thinking. How successful is social media to actual books sales. I am old enough to remember the first Star Wars movie was pitched by regular joes going to see it and spreading the word among their friends. As we now know it's a worldwide hit still ongoing. So I was thinking is Twitter like the old word of mouth. And is it effective? And if so, how so? So thank you Susan for starting me on this journey. Here's what I found out.

What Not To Say on Twitter was an article I ran across by accident. What do you think? I keep referring in my mind to the ancient way of communication and wondering if Twitter is just the digital means to the word of mouth way. Another source that suggests using Twitter wisely is a guaranteed way to boost your sales. Here's one that addresses the whole does Twitter work which seems to indicate Twitter is great for reaching out to writers but not so great for reaching out to those who will actually buy your books. Follow this up with how to actually measure those Twitter stats.

I followed up with two authors with divergent views: Ewan Morrison who was basically a no, and Anna Belfrage who was a yes. And finally I offer up Derek Murphy's opinion.

John Lewis found out what Tom Clancy will attest to...better than Twitter get someone famous to toot your book negatively or positively.

Aug 19, 2017

One Foot in Front of the Other

My cute baby granddaughter thought about Up. She watched her brothers running through the house, her little brow furrowed in concentration. How do they do that?  One day, at the ripe old age of eight months, Babykins pulled herself to standing, using the sofa for support.

 The first couple of weeks didn’t go well for her. She hadn’t learned how to un stand; when her little legs fatigued, she fell backwards. She quickly learned how to roll her spine so as not to whack her fuzzy head every time. Feet were another issue. Sometimes her little feet slid out from under her, and she ended up doing splits. They sometimes slid away from the sofa, leaving her at an untenable 45 degree angle, clutching the sofa, squawking for help. Her mother rescued her, picked her up for a hug, chuckling at the baby’s determination to get back and down and try again.

This all reminds me of the baby’s mother at that age. Once my daughter learned to stand and take two steps, she refused to crawl ever again. It was simply beneath her. That was fine once she could walk capably, but the first couple of weeks were rough. She’d stand up against a chair, take a few wobbly steps, invariably tip over, and scream as if she’d been attacked by lions. One of us would have to go stand her back on her little feet; she simply couldn’t bear to crawl the two feet to the chair. A pride issue, I think, along with early evidence of a stubborn streak wider than her head. She kept on practicing, and as other adults, she now walks without a thought.

No one criticized her when she was learning, and no one scolds Babykins for not doing it right, for falling over yet again. We praise her for trying again, clapping, smiling, telling her, “Good! Now try again,” knowing that, with practice, she’ll learn to walk like everyone else.

I’m an author of sixteen books. I suppose I know what I’m doing, to some degree, and I keep on learning daily, constantly improving my craft. Some of the phrases I string together are flat, hokey, even syrupy. Other times, I read over a paragraph in delight. Sometimes I kick paper wads in frustration, knowing what I want to convey, but unable to get my point across. 

I suppose what babies and toddlers deal with effects writers, too—the terrible twos are partly about being frustrated because you’re smarter than your motor skills or your mouth, you want to color the picture, ask for the toy, and you’re bumbling, incoherent and no one gets it.

My advice to writers is WRITE. Write a lot, good stuff, worthless stuff, keep on writing.  My baby granddaughter will be chasing after her brothers in no time, but it’s not only time that propels a child onward to more sophistication and skill. It takes effort and practice, and occasionally falling on one’s head. Write, write, write because the road to good writing is made of words strung together and not all of them are well-arranged words. With practice, it gets better.

We don’t scold a child for stumbling when learning to walk. We value their adorable attempts, and pick them up when they tip over. Do that for the writer inside you. Praise the good parts, encourage the weak parts, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

Aug 5, 2017


by Deb Graham

Racism is a hot-button topic in our society these days. I’m not sure why: I really thought we’d be at a place beyond that by 2017. I’m happy to report I failed utterly at teaching my kids about racism, just as my parents failed to teach me.

I lived for the first ten years of my life in a blue-collar town in New York, only seven miles from Niagara Falls. Quite a few residents were a couple of generations, if that, from the Old Country, wherever that was. I knew people had different backgrounds, and I knew that made them different. I learned our Polish neighbors made the best cabbage rolls. The Lebanese woman down the block was legendary for her paper-thin bread and baklava, and our German friends played music I didn’t hear at home. In my little-girl mind, I registered differences.

My parents neglected to teach me that other races were Bad or Less Than. I knew some people were not worthy of respect; lazy, cruel, mean-spirited people who wouldn’t rise about their raising, those who did not value their family, mouth-breathers who put sports or card-playing obsessions above their wives. They were Not Good People, and I felt the shame when I heard my parents speak of them.

But my parents neglected to teach me about race. At age ten, my family moved to a small town in Georgia. I learned it was where the Ku Klux Klan was established. The calendar insisted it was 1969; the people there acted more like 1949.  Segregation was in the rearview mirror, but not there. Signs reading “Whites and Coloreds” still lingered over drinking fountains and doorways.  Proprietors excused themselves with “well, I ain’t got around to repainting that wall yet.”  Mom was shunned at PTA meetings. It seemed wherever we went, we heard whispers of “Yankees. They don’t know their place.”

 School was hard for me. On my first day, I was faced with a classroom full of resentful eyes turned on me, children on the left, children on the right, empty row of desks down the middle. I was shy, and felt I had done something wrong just by walking in the classroom. The teacher barked, “Ya’ll take yer seat nah.” I slid into the first available seat, just to get away from those accusing eyes.

Before long, I noticed the teacher stood in front of the left side of the classroom, never glancing at the students on the right. Children from the left were always chosen to be classroom helper and office runner and to answer questions, as if the others were not even in the room. The only time the teacher moved to the right side of the classroom was to break her ruler over the desk of a child who'd committed an offense; leaning into the aisle to retrieve a pencil he'd dropped. Even then, she never spoke, as if the child wasn't worth the words required for a scolding.

 It finally dawned on me that the kids on the right side of the room were uniformly white, while the other side was made up of black children. Puzzled, I looked closer, to see what valid differences had caused them to be shunned like this. Both sides wore similar clothes, overalls without shirts, or cotton shifts, some barefoot, some in tattered sneakers with holes cut out for toes. A few wore dungarees, which I later learned was almost worse than wearing nothing at all. I felt terribly overdressed in my new plaid skirt and white blouse with rosettes at the collar. I kept my shiny penny loafers tucked under my desk.

Culture shock was awful at school, bad in public, uncomfortable even at church, and nothing we could do helped one bit. I learned never to speak up in class, because the teacher led the taunts of my Yankee accent. Reading aloud was torture. I could plan on being mocked every time. How was a little New York girl supposed to know how to pronounce "victuals"? I'd never seen that word in my life, and sounding it out was a disaster. The teacher screeched, "It's vittles, stupid girl! Vittles, like ya'll eat at home!" No clarity there; I still didn't know what a vittles was, Mom never cooked it for dinner. 

After the longest four years of my family’s life, Dad took a new job and we moved North, to a Chicago suburb. I think my first day in the new school was the first time I’d drawn a full breath in months.

I vowed that whatever prejudices I had witnessed and experienced would not define my life. And I determined to not raise my children to discard whole classes of people differentiated solely by accent, geography, or skin color. If you dislike someone, you have to get to know them enough first to make sure your opinion is valid, not just by sight.

Years ago, my young daughter was excited about me being Room Mother. Before my first visit to the classroom, she jumped up and down telling me about her new friend. Jill had the cutest little braids, she liked to wear yellow, her favorite item was a ruffled sweater, and she had a pompom on her backpack. I looked forward to meeting Jill, and getting to know the rest of the class. 

I chuckled as I politely shook hands with Jill later that morning. My little girl had neglected to mention Jill was the only black child in the whole first grade. That detail completely escaped her. As they've grown, I've listened to the way my kids talk about their friends. The old prejudices my Dad taught shine through, about lazy people or willfully ignorant folks, but they interact with other races as easily as they do with other age groups and hair colors, and I love it. 

I succeeded. Now, what’s up with everybody else?

Aug 3, 2017

When the Family Gets Together

by Kari Diane Pike

About thirty years ago, my husband's parents came up with a plan for a family reunion every three years. Each of the seven siblings has taken turns as the "event planner" with everyone else pitching in to help make things happen. The location has varied: Mom and Pop's house in Calabasas, CA, Bear Lake in northern Utah, an empty school in Cottonwood, AZ, a beach side campground near Santa Barbara, CA, and even the Redwood forest. Activities have ranged from surfing and swimming to hiking and card playing and the giving and receiving of lots of hugs.

This year marked our tenth such reunion. We returned to Mom's house (Dad has been gone for nine years now) to celebrate "Grandma the Great turns 88".  For the first time in many years, all seven of the Ken and Delores Pike children were able to attend. Even most of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren made the journey from as close as living in the same house to as far away as Anuktuvuk Pass, Alaska in order to celebrate our much beloved matriarch.

Dad Pike's family has a long history of family get-togethers - usually geared around Thanksgiving and Easter. With nine children in that family our numbers regularly fell between 80 and 100 people. This year was no exception. We laughed, talked, body surfed, browsed museums, discovered hermit crabs, sea anemones, and the occasional scorpion, and played games with about 117 links from our family chain. I'm happy to report that only one child wandered off and went missing for a few minutes at the beach and no one got run over.

We can't forget about the food. One night alone, we consumed 18 large Costco pizzas, three watermelons, 7 pineapples, 10 pounds of strawberries, 6 pounds of grapes, a #10 can of mandarin oranges, 4 large bags of Caesar Salad mix- plus croutons, and two entire sheet cakes. On other days, parents and grandparents alike pitched in to feed the masses with countless pb&j sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, granola bars, bagels, cold cereal, french toast and the requisite s'mores.

Our daughter Kati played a video she had created from snatches of old home movies taken over the years. Seeing the smiles and hearing the voices of children now grown and older relatives  who have passed on brought tears to my eyes. My sister-in-law Penni provided stories from the lives of Ken and Del and from each of their parents. We played a family trivia bingo game based on the stories and sang "Love is Spoken Here" and  "A Child's Prayer." Old wounds received healing and love and the hearts of the children truly turned to their fathers as we remembered who we are and why we are here.

Getting together is getting more difficult as our family grows and spreads around the world. Del is the last of her generation still living from her side of the family and only one of Dad Pike's siblings remains. The Pike reunions of days past fell by the way side as the older generation passed away. Some how the baton got dropped. I hope that we never drop this one. Families truly are forever.


Aug 1, 2017

A Useful Podcast for Writers from Joanna Penn, with Dean Wesley Smith

by Marsha Ward

I don't listen to many podcasts, because, well, you know, time. But recently I listened to one from author Joanna Penn's series at

The title is "Your Magic Bakery Of Intellectual Property Rights With Dean Wesley Smith" and it's found at

If you know me at all, you know I count Dean Wesley Smith as a mentor, which is really why I listened to the program in the first place. I love Dean's view on many things, including keeping your intellectual property rights intact. I'm a control freak like he is, I guess.

The podcast lasts just over an hour, which includes an introductory discussion from Joanna, but if you can't bear to listen all that time, the site includes a transcript. DO read it. Go take a look here.

Marsha Ward is the Founder of American Night Writers Association. She is a writer and novelist who grew up with a love of American values that are reflected in her body of work. Her historical novels in "The Owen Family Saga" are Gone for a Soldier, The Man from Shenandoah, Spinster's Folly, Ride to Raton, and Trail of Storms, all available in print from her website, at, from online booksellers such as and; and in ebook formats at as well as the booksellers above. Her latest work is That Tender Light, the origin story novella for the Owen Family series.