Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When there's nothing to say...Do you say anything?

Lately I've been clicking over to my blog and thinking I should post but then I can't think of anything to say. Ever have that problem? It's happened to me a lot lately, and I'm wondering if perhaps I've outgrown the blog. Or maybe the blog has outgrown me? I feel the same when I go to Twitter. Just kind of bored with it. How long can a social media site stay viable anyway?

That's a lot of questions in the opening paragraph, so feel free to weigh in on any of them. As for Instagram, I've been hearing a lot about it but never set up an account until I replaced my smart phone in December. My old BlackBerry got stolen, a loss since nothing works as well as a BlackBerry for organizing-- but as a smart phone it left a lot to be desired.

How do you feel about Instagram? I enjoy it more than about any other social media site right now. Definitely more than Twitter. Pinterest is fun as a light magazine-type read. I can follow links on all kinds of things to keep me busy for hours. I don't see Pinterest dying out anytime soon.

And as for blogging, well, we shall see. It seems there's always something to say even when there's nothing. Meanwhile, here's a picture to look at. My kids who came to visit us for Christmas, leaving for the bus stop. Kind of a bittersweet shot, isn't it?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Resolutions, Goals, Changes

The New Year is one of my favorite holidays. For me, it lasts all of January because I like to ponder and reflect and take my time about it. It's the wonder and excitement of New Beginnings. The promise of realizing goals, making changes.

This January my husband and I are in the process of moving from Guatemala to Mexico. It's taking a bit longer than the typical U.S. move where you hire a van or bribe your neighbors with donuts and pizza to get it all done in a few hours.

We are going via the local transport system and need 4 trips. But that's the fun of it. At this point in our lives, we are all about adventure and discovery.

Our first trip was to decide where we'd live in Mexico. We had chosen Comitan, Chiapas but we needed to see the town and if we liked it, find an apartment.

We found a hotel downtown for $17 a night and stayed 3 nights. Our hotel was through this glowing hallway and then up the stairs to our second floor room. I felt like a fairy tale queen, or maybe Jack and the Beanstalk.

At night the central park in the historic downtown area was still lit up and decorated for Christmas, even one week into January. It was a happy place where people gathered to enjoy the mild evening, eat dinner out, stroll around the plaza.

A marimba band was playing in the square with chairs set up, inviting us to relax and listen to the music. A few couples ventured into the cleared area to dance.

We weren't brave enough to dance, just sat in awe of this magical night, having fallen in love with Cometan.
The next day we found our apartment, a small but lovely place in a nice neighborhood. Altogether a wonderful start to the new year.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Christmas from the Land of Nada

I usually take a blog break this time of year but at the rate I've been posting, it looks like I'm already on my holiday blogging break. I did however write a post for Christmas on my website:

I was layering on the decorations on the Christmas tree at the hotel in San Pedro where we live now. Adding more lights, more shiny balls, beads, red and gold wrappy things. One of the workers came by and complimented my work.
I said, “Is it too much?” He said, “No, it is pretty. It’s good that you are doing that.” I said, “In the U.S., Christmas is a time of excess. It’s all about too much. Too many decorations, too much food, too many sweets, too many presents, too much everything.”
I asked him if it was like that in Guatemala, although I already knew the answer. He smiled and said, “Nada.” (nothing)
Go here to read the rest, and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. See you again in January!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Amazon Reviews: A Joke or Not?

There's been a lot of news lately on author blogs about Amazon's latest clearing out process of reviews that don't "fit their guidelines."

I don't review books on Amazon since as both an author and a publisher, they don't allow it. Plus they might look more closely at my own books and start eliminating positive reviews. And leave the one-star reviews like "worst book I ever read."

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Amazon's review policy, it's always fun to discuss. Here's a few on WiDo books that have made me chuckle.

"I honestly can't remember this book at all even though I know I've read it. Here, Amazon, here's your review. Now you can stop asking me." (Predator Girl by S. B. Roozenboom)

"Hi I am going to the store with my family and my dog we need lots of dog food." (Arizona Guy by Raymond Spitzer)

"Maybe more stars if I were in my teens and I was a girl. Good story though." (Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner)

"and one good looking author. I look forward to seeing more of your books, so keep it going. and I be reading." (Predator Girl by S. B. Roozenboom)

And another one clearly annoyed by Amazon's repeated requests to submit a review:

"Cannot give any good rating on this book as I didn,t finish reading because I thought it was boring." (Red-tailed Rescue by John Irby)

So on one hand you have Amazon begging people who have downloaded books to please, please, please, for the 40th time will you tell us how you liked it. And on the other hand Amazon takes off reviews from serious readers.

A thoughtful review comes down while a comment about going to buy dogfood stays up. I don't know about you, but regardless of where the discussion takes us, I'm amused by all this.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tweaking a Book After Publication

My novel Lighting Candles in the Snow (WiDo Publishing, 2012) never sold as well as my other books, an understatement since it never did well AT ALL. Ever. It's the only one that dropped below a million ranking on Amazon Kindle and stayed there.

Finally, it came time to do a bit of tweaking. The ebook has a new cover, and the summary has been tweaked also.

Newly divorced Karoline London needs to heal and find her normal again, as older sister Suzie keeps reminding her. But what does Suzie, married to the ideal husband, know about the shattering effect of living with someone tormented by addictions? 

When Karoline meets a handsome new man, things just might be looking up. Until the day she learns about a tragic event in ex-husband Jeremy's childhood. 

Faced with the horrifying experience that shaped the man she used to love, Karoline reconsiders what she thought was real. In the process, she comes to know the true meaning of love and forgiveness.

My husband said, "As long as we're making changes, how about you take out some of the swearing?" He and I do not swear in real life. However, this book isn't about us. It's about a divorced couple, the divorce driven by a troubled man and what happened to make him who he is. There are characters in this book who do swear, although not that much since I toned it down. But in the world represented by my story, yes, there would be swearing.

Seriously, I don't believe that's what affected sales of this novel. I write different genres and each of my books has its own audience. The audience for Farm Girl will be different than the one for Lighting Candles in the Snow. And generally, those who read Candles gave positive reviews. My favorite is from an unknown reader: "my life is played out in her story. I'wonder how this woman can know enough about addiction? seems so very real. o hell it is real."

As I've stated on this blog, I write what I want and don't concern myself with genre. It may hurt book sales overall, but I don't worry about that. When a story idea comes to me, I go with it and let it come to life with the characters that show up. I don't turn any of them away, even if they swear.

I'd like to see this book get more attention. What do you think about the new cover? And any feedback on the summary? I'd love to know what you think. It's gone to WiDo's summary expert for review so may change again when he gets back to me, but please share your insights!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Karen Walker on Turning Negatives into Positives

Today I'm hosting my longtime blogging friend Karen Walker! I really connected with her memoir Listening to the Whispers, so I'm eager to read Karen's debut novel, The Wishing Steps.

Thank you Karen, for hosting me today.

If you’re a glass half empty kind of person like me, if that’s what comes naturally to you rather than seeing the glass half full, you tend to view things from a negative perspective. The problem with this is that it keeps us stuck feeling badly about ourselves and the people and world around us. So I’ve had to train myself to find the silver lining when the bad stuff happens. And the truth is, I’ve either learned something I needed to learn or some powerful insight was revealed, or whatever it was I thought I wanted or needed wasn’t really going to be good for me.

I’m here at Karen’s blog because I’ve written a novel, The Wishing Steps. I actually can’t believe I’m able to write that sentence and have it be the truth. I. WROTE. A. NOVEL. Okay, here’s the negative: Who do you think you are – you think you can write a novel? You’re a nonfiction writer. You can’t write fiction. You get the idea, right. These are the things I heard inside my head through most of the six years I was pulling this story out of the depths of my soul. Now, here’s the positive. I. WROTE. A. NOVEL. I did it. Despite the voices. Despite the doubts. Despite the fears. And here I am telling you about it.

After I completed the book, I decided I wanted to be published traditionally. Nice dream, yes? I knew in my heart of hearts that the likelihood of that happening was slim to none, but I needed to try. I don’t think I was being negative in that regard. Just realistic. Anyway, I heard back from one of the publishing companies that they wanted to read the manuscript. Yippee. I’d never gotten that far before. Days passed and I anxiously waited. Two readers from the company wrote critiques explaining why they thought the manuscript wasn’t okay. I was devastated. It validated all those voices I’d been hearing about my inability to write fiction.

But then I shifted into a peaceful, grounded, meditative state and read the critiques again. Both readers had read the book as if it was historical fiction and every criticism was related to why it didn’t work as historical fiction. Ahhhh! The book isn’t historical fiction and I’d neglected to say that. The positive which came from this experience is my writing an Author’s Note that appears at the beginning of the book which addresses the issues these readers had.

Life is difficult. We have moments of joy, perhaps even days or weeks. But then something happens to pull us off our center. I’m learning, one day at a time, to tune into my thoughts and feelings so that I’m not operating on automatic pilot. When I stay tuned in, I can catch those negative thoughts and shift them before they become stuck in me and I become stuck in the muck of negativity.

Now that my book is out in the world, I know there will be people who won’t like it, who will criticize it and perhaps me for having written such a book. All I know is that I was called to write it and I can’t allow other peoples’ opinions to make me feel bad about something that is so deeply meaningful to me.

 Here’s the scoop on The Wishing Steps, Three Women and a Single Story That Unites Them Across the Millennia

“Totally engrossing. A must-read for today’s wise woman!”Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, minister/priestess
Brighid, Ashleen and Megan: Bound through time by a curious light, a mysterious voice and a call they dare not ignore. Yet in obeying this strange force, the women must face soul-searing trials that call into question everything they know and believe — about themselves and about the world around them.
“Guaranteed to inspire you to a deeper level of spirituality and a new appreciation for Goddess.”Rev. Clara Z. Alexander
Karen Helene Walker is a widely published essayist and author of the 2009 memoir, Following the Whispers. When she isn’t writing, you will often find Karen performing in nursing homes and retirement communities as part of the Sugartime or Sophisticated Ladies musical groups, traveling with her husband of 20 years, Gary, or relaxing with a good book at their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit the author’s website at
Author photo
The Wishing Steps is now available for purchase in both print and ebook versions at: You can also purchase it as an ebook on Kobo, I Tunes, and at Barnes and Noble.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Refined Art of Doing Nothing

My husband and I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to the US for a son's wedding. It was refreshing to see friends and family, rewarding to shop at Dillards for designer clothes at 65% off, fun to drive everywhere and pop in and out of convenience stores for 2 for 1 hot dogs and giant cups of fountain soda, exciting for my husband to realize he's still a master behind the wheel in traffic.

Back in Panajachel, we took a deep breath and slept like babies, wakened by the chorus of tropical birds welcoming the dawn. I easily and quickly fell back into the routine of my simple life:

Washing clothes by hand and hanging them on the line to dry.
Sipping hot water with lemon while seeing the sun play on the drifting curtains.
Watching the butterflies and hummingbirds taste our garden flowers.
Weaving my way among the honey bees to pick basil, glad I didn't get stung.

In the States we were constantly on the go, meaning "in the car". We bled money. We couldn't sleep longer than 5 or 6 hours a night. There was no time for naps. There was no time to do nothing.

Although happy to have enjoyed precious moments with loved ones, at the end of it we returned to Guatemala exhausted and broke.

It's good to be home.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Storming the Castle

I was asked to do a guest post for the IWSG website about submitting to a small press. Many writers seeking publication with a traditional publisher may not realize how many options are available for them beyond the Big 5.

And as I say in my post, "After many rejections, writers can feel like publishing companies are the enemy and their editors the army blocking entrance to the castle. In fact, editors want to open the castle gate and usher in the right person. Publishers don’t exist without writers and manuscripts but it needs to be a good fit."

To see the full post go here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Calm down Everyone, it's only the End of the Ebook Boom

If you're an author watching your ebook sales and rankings, you've no doubt noticed the decline and may be wondering what happened. It all relates to the ebook boom and its subsequent collapse. In order for something to go down, first it had to be up. And ebook sales were up, up and up.

When Amazon came out with the Kindle, customers not only bought it like crazy but downloaded books in huge quantities to fill their new devices with reading material. This led to the ebook boom of 2009, and it lasted about 2 years before things changed. What happened?

In 2011 and 2012, ebooks were being published as fast as people could write them, everyone wanting to get in on the big money. In 2013, the ebook market had become highly competitive, with new titles still flooding Amazon while readers had become more discriminating.

As a result of these two converging elements, sales dropped considerably. Also, during this time, Netflix and Amazon Prime with their streaming of movies and TV shows were growing larger, their offerings expanding as more people began live streaming entertainment, a strong competitive force to books and reading.

In 2014 and 2015, publishers who rode the ebook wave from 2009- 2012 and invested unwisely began closing up shop. Many writers have become discouraged because they aren't seeing strong sales, when the promise was so sweet only a few years ago.

Being sensitive artistic types, we tend to take it personally, thinking it's our fault for not marketing enough or not writing well in the first place. Some blame the publisher for not promoting, or for a weak cover, wrong pricing or any number of mistakes they imagine were made.

Poor sales are not your fault, not the publisher's fault, not even Amazon's fault, although you'll see numerous complaints about what Amazon has done to hurt ebook sales.

Don't look for someone to blame. It's simply the nature of the book publishing business reflected in ebooks. In the time it takes to write and publish a few new books, this market went crash and burn. Both publishers and writers have felt the pain.

For a couple glorious years when ebooks were new, high sales fueled high investment, and people were making money. Those who in the past wouldn't have sold many books, like the self-published selling not very good books for .99, and small publishers who normally struggled to break even, were surprised and astounded to discover a gold mine with books on the Kindle.

But like all bubbles this one had to burst, and it has. About the only entity not feeling the pinch is dear old Amazon. Besides their highly profitable self-publishing services, Amazon is also a traditional publisher with a dozen imprints. No matter which way the coin falls, they're prepared to win big in the book industry.

In addition, they've consistently pushed for lower ebook prices. I can't fault this thinking. For a few dollars a month, people stream unlimited entertainment into their homes, creating very strong competition for books. This explains Amazon's Kindle Select program, which offers the consumer unlimited ebooks for a monthly fee, similar to Netflix for movies.

The current lull in ebook sales is due to very real reasons. A million new books a year! All while Kindle owners are jaded, swamped with promotional notices, and no longer downloading free or bargain books in huge numbers. Everyone has become much more discriminating with what they download to their devices.

The bubble has burst. I'm not happy about it but I accept it. What to do next?

Believe in your talent. Believe in your work. Believe in the joy of writing and reading. But be extremely realistic about book sales, and try not to get discouraged when they don't happen like you hoped.

Also, in such a competitive arena, now is no time to give up on marketing!

 For me, if I hear about a book on Kindle Unlimited that looks interesting, I'll download it since I'm a member. If it's not on Kindle Unlimited, probably not. KU has been a huge selling point for me as a reader.

What kinds of promotions do you feel work best as an author or as a reader?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Writing and Wellness and My Darkest Moment

Author Colleen Story maintains one of the most helpful, informative writer websites I've seen. It's called Writing and Wellness, dealing with every kind of trouble we writers may experience from depression to writer's block to chronic back pain, along with a lot of positive encouragement too.

On Colleen's blog I regularly find inspiration, motivation, helpful publishing information, marketing tips, as well as that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you find another writer going through the exact same thing as you.

Colleen asks each writer she interviews about their darkest moment, which of course being a glass half empty kind of person, is my favorite paragraph to read. It's always hopeful to read about what miserable thing someone else has experienced and overcome.

This week I'm honored to be the featured writer on Writing and Wellness. I explain how blogging helped me get through my darkest moment. The link to my interview is here.

Speaking of darkest moments, today is the 14th anniversary of 9-11, the bombing of the Twin Towers, which for most of us alive now was the darkest moment in our nation's history. I suppose for the previous generation it would have been the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I do remember the assassination of President Kennedy, as I was 15 years old when it happened.

And then the Viet Nam War I remember also as a dark time in our nation, where US citizens screamed obscenities and spit on our returning Viet Nam war veterans. These young men were just kids who'd been drafted. It sickens me to think of that particular time in our nation during the late 1960s when our country was bitterly divided over a war.

Although 9-11 was a tragic event one of the good things that came of it was unity, although temporary, within the various political factions in our nation.