Happy Groundhogs Day

Today is February 2nd, and like everyone else across the United States, I have been wondering if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow.

What is Groundhogs Day and how did it get started?

Like so many of the holidays, it appears to be a cross between Christian customs and local lore.  The date, February 2nd, falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Pagans called this day Imbolc and as Christianity spread, Christians called this day Candlemas.  If the day was sunny, Christians believed it meant there would be many more days of winter.

On February 2, 1887, a local newspaper editor named Clymer Freas in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania declared Phil, a groundhog that lived at Gobble’s Knob the one true forecasting animal in the country.  According to legend, the same groundhog is still alive and will turn 132 years old this year [2019].

In 1993, Bill Murray starred in the movie Groundhog Day and since then Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, gets many visitors each year to see if Phil will see his shadow or not.  If he sees his shadows, it means another six weeks of winter.  If he doesn’t see his shadow, it means an early spring.

What about the groundhog (Marmot monax)?  It is also called woodchuck, land-beaver, and whistle-pig. It gets the name whistle-pig because when it gets alarmed it will emit a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of his or her colony.

The groundhogs live in underground burrows, usually buried five feet deep.  These burrows can be elaborate: up to twenty-four feet long with two side chambers.  One side chamber is used as the groundhog’s restroom area. The other side chamber is used as a nesting area.  There are usually two to five different entrances into the burrow that provide different routes of escape from predators.

So how correct is Punxsutawney Phil in his predictions?  According to his handler, Phil is one-hundred percent correct.  It is the president’s, of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, interpretation of Phil’s prediction that is not always accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Literature Fellowship – Non-matching $25,000 Grant

The National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships deadline is March 6, 2019.

If you write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction, apply for a non-matching $25,000 grant.

https://www.arts.gov/grants/apply-grant/grants-individuals

 

 

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February Fun Holidays – Promote your book around these days

Looking to add fun to your book promotions?

When you combine your characters, themes, etc. to a holiday, you never know what kind of engagement you are going to get from your audience!

February 1 – Bubble Gum Day – Example: Check out Julia Cook’s Bubble Gum Brain Activity and Idea Book or The Bubble Gum Girl by Jim O’Brien and Michele Phillips.  They could have a contest to giveaway, well, bubble gum!

February 2 – Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

February 2 – Ground Hog Day

February 3 – Feed the Birds Day – any book about birds, have a bird in it or a type of bird mentioned in the title

February 3 – Superbowl Sunday – books about football or football players

February 4 – Stuffed Mushroom Day – think cookbooks and books with recipes.

February 5 – National Weatherman’s Day

February 6 – National Chopstick Day

February 7 – Send a Card to a Friend Day

February 8 – Kite Flying Day

February 9 – National Pizza Day

February 10 – Umbrella Day

February 11 – White T-Shirt Day

February 12 – National Lost Penny Day

February 13 – Get a Different Name Day

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

February 15 – Singles Awareness Day

February 16 – Do a Grouch a Favor Day

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day

February 18 – National Drink Wine Day

February 19 – National Chocolate Mint Day

February 20 – Love Your Pet Day

February 21 – Card Reading Day

February 22 – Walking the Dog Day

February 23 – Tennis Day

February 24 – National Tortilla Chip Day

February 25 – Pistol Patent Day

February 26 – Carnival Day

February 27 – Polar Bear Day

February 28 – Floral Design Day

See all of February’s Holidays at Holiday Insights.

 

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3 Things I Learned Promoting Other Authors’ Books

Happy 2019!  January is almost over.  While I have not been writing blog posts, I have been writing, researching, and promoting other authors’ work.

Here are three things that I have learned while promoting other authors’ work/books.

One:

If you agree to promote/market someone’s book, never, under any circumstance agree to accept a percentage of sales as payment!  Just don’t do it!

I recently saw on a social media post where an author was asking for proposals – what percentage of sales would you accept to promote their books. One hundred percent of zero is still zero! You could easily spend 40-100 or more hours per month promoting a book for someone and there may be no sales. Again one hundred percent of zero is still zero.  If you do this, you can see that you will spend lots of energy and get nothing in return.  Again, don’t do it!

Two:

Publicist charge for their work and give no guarantee that the book will sell.

Decide in advance what you are willing to do to promote the book.  Are you willing to write press releases?  Will you distribute the press releases?  Where will you distribute them?  Give the author this information upfront in a contract with a disclaimer that you make no guarantee their book will sell.  If this is the first time working with an individual ask for all the money up front, then provide that individual with a weekly report of the work you did- how many news releases did you write (they get a copy of these as they may know of other places to distribute them themselves), how many places did you distribute them to- online press release sites, newspaper book editors, libraries, bookstores, promote on your own social media site, contacted podcast hosts looking for authors to interview, etc.  (Note – if you decide to market and promote someone’s book, do lots more research on what you should and should not do.)

Three:

Before you decide to promote a book, read the book.

Those promoting and marketing books make contacts and those contacts trust you when you recommend a book to them.  Before sure the book is worthy of promotion.  I used to market and promote books for a local small publishing company.  I assumed (you know what they say about assuming – it makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me’) the person I was working with was actually reading the books they were publishing. WRONG!  They were not.  I promoted a book to a company with all the spit and shine I could muster.  They agreed to look at the book and I made arrangements for the publishing company to send them a free copy of the book to review.  A few days later I was contacted and asked how could I market such rubbish.  I didn’t understand until I read the book.  It was total rubbish.  The book was ridiculed with bad grammar and punctuation and the story plot was all over the place.  If I had bothered to read the book, I would have seen this beginning with chapter one.  I took the publishing company’s word that this was an excellent book.  Because I had not read the book before agreeing to market it, I not only lost sales for the publishing company, my reputation took a hard hit.  (NOTE – you probably won’t have this issue with a traditional publishing company, but be wary of the vanity presses).

 

(NOTE – well-known authors will probably not contact you to promote/market their books.  They usually have a traditional publishing company to do that for them.)

 

 

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Review of The President Is Missing

The President is Missing

By: Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Publisher: Little Brown and Company and Knopf

Publication Date: June 4, 2018

 

One of my summer reads was Bill Clinton’s and James Patterson’s book, The President is Missing.   I give this book 5 stars as it is definitely a page-turner.

President Duncan, recently widowed and with health issues, is the main character.  His daughter asks him about “Dark Ages,” a code word about cyber terrorism known only to his cabinet of eight.  With this new found knowledge, the President realizes he has a traitor within his cabinet, but who?  At the same time the Speaker of the House, Lester Rhodes, wants to impeach him for, supposedly, letting Suliman Cindoruk the leader of the Sons of Jihad and a cyber terrorist escape.

Nina, a cyber hacker contacts the president, but she doesn’t know who she can trusts.  So, she gives the president instructions to follow.  President Duncan follows Nina’s instructions and meets her partner, Augie who knows only how to locate the virus but does not have the password to delete or stop it.  When the President and Augie are close to meeting up with Nina, she is killed by an assassin named Bach.  But, who hired, Bach?  During the shootout, Augie is hustled into the vehicle with the president by the Secret Service.  Close to the White House, the President’s motorcade is attacked and the president decides to go into hiding at a cabin deep in the woods.  Here the president is surrounded by only a few trusted secret service agents and a team of cyber experts from the United States, Germany, and Russia, who are trying to find the virus that has been planted into the United States infrastructure software. If the virus isn’t stopped, the country could be thrown into total chaos.

Who is behind the cyber attack?  Suliman Cindoruk or someone else?  Who is the traitor in the White House and why?  Who is the assassin, Bach?  Who does Bach want to assassinate?  Who hired Bach?

I wanted to know the answers to these questions and other readers will want to know too.

In this day and age, there is a possibility of a cyber attack occurring somewhere in the world.  It gives me some comfort knowing that there are people who are working every day to prevent a cyber attack.

 

 

 

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4 Steps to Getting Unstuck

For a few months now, I have been unstuck.  I just haven’t felt like writing blog posts.

In order to prepare for a workshop on “How to Do Biography” I conducted earlier this month, I had to read and write.

Here are the four steps I used to get myself unstuck.

  1. I scheduled a time to read books about biography.
  2. I set a goal of writing 50 words a day.  Writing 50 words was actually easy and I found myself writing more than that.
  3. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t let those who might attend the workshop down.  This helped me pay attention to what was happening in my life, both at work and at home.
  4. I asked co-workers if I could run my presentation past them to see if what I was talking about made sense.  I also asked for feedback.  You know, kind of what a writing support group does.

I conducted the workshop on October 6, 2018, and heard good things about it from those who attended.  So, I guess, the hard work in writing and in preparation paid off.

 

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Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is an event celebrating the freedom to read and is held the last week in September.  Banned Books Week brings together the entire reading/book community in support of the freedom to seek out and express ideas.

Books that have been on the banned books list include (an by the way, you can vote for these on the Great American Read:

F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby.

Joseph Heller. Catch-22.

Zora Neal Hurston. Their Eyes Were Watching God.

J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter series.

Jack London. The Call of the Wild.

Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Margaret Mitchell. Gone With the Wind.

Toni Morrison. Beloved.

George Orwell. 1984.

J. D. Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye.

John Steinbeck. The Grapes of Wrath.

Alice Walker. The Color Purple.

 

And so many more books.

 

 

 

 

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Proofreading – Wrong Words and Quotation Marks

A writer often has a hard time proofreading their own work.  I know that I do.

Even if you run spell check in your writing software, use Grammarly or some other proofreading software, you still probably did not catch all the errors in your work.

For instance, if use the wrong word and it is spelled correctly, a spell checker may or may not pick up this mistake.

 

Example of wrong word usage:

Did you catch my illusion to the National Geographic article?

The word “illusion” is spelled correctly, however, it means an error in perception of reality.

The correct word to use in the above sentence would be “allusion” which means “reference.”

 

What about those quotation marks?

When quoting another author, you need quotation marks to show where their words began and end.

Example of using quotation marks:

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Without the end set of quotation marks:

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.  Do you see how quotation marks are used?

Since the end set of quotation marks are not in place, a reader may think that everything was written by Frost, when in fact, the question is not part of the quoted poem.

To proofread the above, I would need to add an end set of quotation marks because Frost’s poem does not include the question, “Do you see how quotation marks are used?”

The correct way would be:

Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”  Do you see how quotation marks are used?

 

Some authors use Beta Readers to help proofread and to catch those pesky inconsistencies in a story.  You know what I am talking about.  On page forty you read about an electrical fire and the fire department has spewed gallons of water and foam onto the structure, then on page forty-two, the structure has electricity.  Or a character dies on page fifty-five just to magically appear alive on page eighty without an explanation.  Yes, those inconsistencies.

Some authors hire proofreaders and editors.  This is not always possible, especially if you do not have the financial means to pay someone.  And if you do, you need to find the best possible proofreader and editor you can find and can afford to pay.

 

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Do you like great deals?

Today is Prime Day at Amazon and that means GREAT SAVINGS for You!

Deals start at 3 p.m. Eastern Time in the United States and runs through July 17th!

Here are some deals that might interest you:

 

Gamers – HUGE for Prime Day 2018 especially for gamers and college students! Prime members get exclusive benefits on Twitch, the world’s leading social video service and community for gamers, video game culture and the creative arts. There will be a free daily video game starting today exclusive for Twitch Prime members! 

 

 

Get 4 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for only $0.99. That is a great savings as it is usually $7.99 for Prime Members and $9.99 for Non-Prime Members.

 

 

Do you like to listen to books on Audio?  Get the Audible Romance Package toady and save 66% off a 3-month membership of Audible Gold!  That’s a $30 savings!

 

 

 

New for Prime Day this year a special limited time offer of $0.99 for 3-months of Kindle Unlimited for new subscribers (regularly $29.97)!

Or get 30% off 12-month paid membership plan or get 40% off for a 24-month paid membership plan.

 

 

 

HAVE CHILDREN?

Amazon FreeTime Unlimited is an all-in-one subscription for kids that offers unlimited access to thousands of kids’ books, videos, movies, TV shows, and growing library of Audible books, skills and music. Available across Fire, Echo, Kindle & Android compatible devices. For a limited time, parents can get a 3-month pre-paid plan at $2.99 (regularly $29.99)!

 

 

Do you shop online for food, cleaning supplies, and other items?  Sign up for Amazon Pantry and Amazon Fresh today for great savings!

New Amazon Pantry customers get $10 off a $40 Pantry order and free delivery.  So skip the trip to the store and enjoy free deliveries of regular everyday-sized pantry items when you spend $40 or more!

Start a FREE trial of Amazon Fresh today and get $30 off your first order by using PROMO CODE: 30FRESH.

Existing customers can also use this same promo code through July 17!

 

 

 

The links above go to my affiliate link at Amazon.  If you click on the links above and purchase anything, I get a small amount of money which I donate to a local charity.

 

 

 

 

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Author Bette A. Stevens, Inspired by Nature

Today Bette A. Stevens is joining me for the Wednesday Author Interview series.

Welcome, Bette.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?

A: I am a writer inspired by nature and human nature.  As a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five, I live in Central Maine on a 37-acre renovated farmstead where I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature.  I advocate for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies–an endangered species (and milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).  My husband and I raise our own fruit and vegetables organically and share the bounties of our labor with family, friends and neighbors.  We retired in 2005 after spending several years working at traditional jobs in Maine, California and Virginia.  My childhood years were spent in California and New York, enjoying daily life and hoiliday events with family, including dozens of cousins.  Now that our human children are grown, we have had the privilege of being the adoptive parents of a delightful black feline named Midnight.  Life is good and adventures abound.

Q:  When and what made you decide to be a writer?

A:  I’ve been writing most of my life–initially it was in the form of photo blurbs and poems to celebrate family outings and events over the years.  During the 1980s I worked in the business world as an editor/writer/photographer, honing my skills in business writing.  By the early 1990s, after taking courses in journalism, creative writing and poetry at University of Maine Orono while pursuing a degree in education, I discovered that writing was a strong point in my repertoire of skills and one that pursued with passion.  Teaching became a career and sharing my passion for reading and writing with upper elementary and middle school students for over a decade before retirement was a genuine delight.

Q:  Can you tell us something about the genre of your books and why you write in that genre?

A:  Children’s Books–written to educate, entertain and inspire (Ages 4-11).

Amazing Matilda, A Monarch’s Tale (Children’s picture book based on the life cycle of the monarch butterfly inspiring kids to reach for their dreams)

The Tangram Zoo & Word Puzzles Too! (Children’s educational/activity book integrating language arts, science, social science and math)

Historical Fiction–written to inform, entertain and inspire (Middle grade-Adult).

Pure Trash, the Story (Short story prequel to Dog Bone Soup)

Dog Bone Soup, A Boomer’s Journey (Novel) (Compelling family drama-Shawn Daniels grows to manhood in a society where the poor are often quickly wrongly judged)

Q: Where do you get your ideas from?

A:  Ideas come from the world around me–whether in people, places, or things-inspirations abound.

Q:  Are you working on a new book at the moment?

A: Front and Center is a poetry collection that follows my personal journey through Maine’s four seasons.  I’m also working on another poetry collection that centers on gardens and nature in addition to historical research for a novel.

Q:  Which writers inspire you?

A: There are so many, but here are the first ones that come to mind: Beatrix Potter, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, C. S. Lewis, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Diane Siebert, Tony Johnston, Khaled Hosseini, and Shel Silverstein.

Q: What book are you reading at present?

A: Nomadland (Surviving American in the Twenty First Century) by Jessica Bruder.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A: READ. READ. READ.  Reading is the first step to becoming a better writer.  One of the top writer’s resource on my shelf is On Writing by Stephen King.  It’s not one of those stuffy book of Do This and Don’t Do That, it’s the story of King’s own writing journey and the book is packed with the nuggets he’s discovered along the way.

But the reading doesn’t stop there.  I belong to local and virtual book clubs, where we read and discuss books.  I’ve never read a book that I didn’t learn something from–and when I’m engaged in a book, my writer-self is right there with me learning how to improve my craft.

WRITE. WRITE. WRITE.  Get writing. Yup, that’s what writers do.  One a single piece for my blog, I may write, edit, and rewrite several times before publishing a given post.  When I’m working on a book–now that’s a different story.  Ask for editorial help from two or three readers along the way.

Save a copy of every draft just in case.  Email those drafts to yourself, labeling each one.  If your computer crashes, you’ll be so glad you did.  For novels, I do this chapter by chapter and date them.

Between edits, take breaks so you can look at the work with fresh eyes.  It’s amazing what you’ll discover as you travel the path to publications.

FINALLY--Be sure to hire a professional editor before you publish your book.

Q:  Do you have any advice on how to market your books?

A:  For me, marketing is all about building relationships.  Join groups that share your interests and book themes.  Don’t forget to actively support fellow member writers.  Be sure to use tags and categories for all of your blog posts and include descriptions and book links for your book covers and photos.  Follow, read and share book marketing posts that are helpful to you and thank the bloggers who post them.

Q:  What would you consider to be the worst thing about being an author?

A:  When it comes to being an author, getting any book to the stage where I’m ready to publish can be exhausting.  But after all the hard work, once that book is in my hands, I’m exhilarated.

Q:  What do you like to do when you are not writing, your hobbies, etc.?

A: Spending time with family is top on a very long list.  Then there’s reading, gardening and preserving our abundant produce  from the farmstead (and watching for those amazing monarch butterflies searching for the milkweed interspersed in our flower and vegetable gardens), bird watching, playing with Kitty Middie, walking trails on the farmstead and taking photographs, reading to children at our local library and schools, visiting with family and friends, Bible study on Tuesday mornings, day trips to the coast with hubby Dan, supporting friends who are involved in local theatre productions, book club at our local library and the list goes one…

Q: How long on average does it take your to write a book?

A: For me it’s been about a year from first draft to publication.

Q: What is your schedule like when you are writing?

A: Being a night-owl, I generally write for two or three hours in the evening.  But, my schedule changes drastically when a new book is about to be born and life gets CRAZY!

Q: Who designed your book(s) cover(s)?

A: I’ve designed all of my book covers with CreateSpace’s Cover Creator.

Q: How are your books published?

A: I use CreateSpace for print books and Amazons KDP for eBooks.

Q: What is your favorite quote?

A: The quote below always reminds me that books provide us with a free and fantastic mode of transportation that can take us anywhere any time.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness…” Mark Twin, (“Innocents Abroad”)

Q: What is your favorite books?

A:  The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye.

Q:  How can readers connect with you?  Facebook, Twitter, Website, etc.

A: Website/Blog: http://www.4writersandreaders.com

Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorbetteastevens.officialfanpage?ref=hl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6037707.Bette_A_Stevens

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BetteAStevens

Q: Where can readers purchase your books?

A: All of my books can be purchased on Amazon where I invite you to take “A Look Inside.”

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author.betteastevens

Q: Would you give us an excerpt from your book or one of your books?

A: Here’s an excerpt and a page illustration from Amazing Matilda, A Monarch Butterfly’s Journey (Children’s Literature/Ages 4-110 written and illustrated by me.

Excerpt:

“I do so want to fly,” Matilda sighed. Just then a cottontail rabbit hopped up onto the ledge where Toad had sat.

“Why, you don’t look like you can fly,” chuckled Rabbit. “You don’t have any wings!”

“Sparrow said that I must have patience and follow my instincts. You and Toad say that I need wings, too. Where can I find all of those things?” Matilda asked Rabbit.

“As for wings, I don’t know where you can find them. In fact, I don’t care anything about them. But I am an expert on patience and instincts,” Rabbit boasted as she twitched her black nose, making her whiskers sparkle as they danced up and down.

“When I was just a bit of a bunny, Papa told me that I must have patience, too. I so wanted to bound up onto this rock ledge where I could see the whole world. But, I could not do it. I could barely hop a short distance before I would fall backwards, flip-flop, right into the tall grass. But, Papa said that I must not give up. He told me it would take patience to learn to do all of the things I wanted to do. He said I could do anything that I wanted to if I only tried long enough and hard enough.

“Papa was right. I kept trying. I kept hopping and hopping and hopping, until at last I could bound. Every day I would land a little farther. Now I can reach this very ledge any time I want to see the whole world,” Rabbit boasted as she bounded across the field.”

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Filed under Authors, Awards, Books, Children's Books, e-books, Genre, Historical Fiction