Thursday, December 31, 2015

FOCUS: My Goal for 2016

Now Christmas is past, the themes being expounded tend to fall into two categories:

1. The best of last year (choose your category--they are myriad)

2. Resolutions for the coming year.

When it comes to books, there are too many I have read and enjoyed to narrow them down to a recommendation list.

But, when it comes to resolutions regarding my writing, I have been letting that one tumble around in my conscious and subconscious for months. When one of my Facebook friends started a string asking us to choose one word for 2016, I looked over other suggestions and liked them all. But my choice was FOCUS.

FOCUS - Part One

For starters, like so many people I know, life is full of distractions. 
  • There are the mundane chores in life. Do you really think I want to spend my days grocery shopping, preparing meals, laundry, dishes, housecleaning--you know what I mean.
  • Life is full of people who believe that you really want to fulfill their wish list (or it needs to be done list). After all, what are family and friends for? It's not like I still have a job where I validate my existence by bringing in a biweekly paycheck or I have a boss that will fire me if I don't show up to work when scheduled.
  • Then there are the activities in which I voluntarily involved myself, only to find that once I accepted a volunteer position--along with the extra projects and board meetings--I really shot myself in the foot as far as being the owner of my own schedule.

  • When I started writing, it was much easier. While working around my schedule of weekly obligations, I blocked several hours per day on several days per week on my cell phone's calendar. I refused to schedule anything during those times. Then my obligations changed. On top of everything I was doing, I started to spend more time on promoting my published books. That included writing monthly posts for blogs offering spots for other authors to share their books on my blogs--sort of a mutual cross-promotion effort. I also started administering a group blog under my pen name, Zina Abbott. At the time I decided to do this, I had no idea how much time I would lose to communicating with authors and organizing in order to keep everything straight. Now those times set aside for me to actually write are more of a wish than a scheduled event.
I'm back to square one. If I really want to WRITE, I need to FOCUS. Will that mean refusing some of those secretary, treasurer, newsletter editor jobs and their accompanying board meetings? Will that mean paying closer attention to my calendar so when the secretaries at my (and my husband's) doctors' offices want to schedule a time, I be more assertive about which days and times I'm available? Does that mean I need to become even more adept at saying NO? Probably YES to all of the above.

FOCUS - Part Two

I have not joined every professional organization for writers available. I notice that several authors spend a lot of time going to conventions, conferences and retreats. I did the convention circuit when I was in the Rural Letter Carriers' union, so I have a lot of that out of my system. 

But, one professional organization I am thrilled I joined is Women Writing the West. I attended their convention last fall. I not only touched base with a lot of writers that made me feel right at home, they widened my perspective. Sometimes, in order to know where you need to focus, you must first broaden your perspective.

Once I set aside the legal/technical writing I did as a union steward putting together grievance files, I have been a fiction writer. (Yes, some managers thought I wrote fiction, but I truly did try to be as accurate as possible without throwing my grievant to the wolves.) As much as I enjoy romance elements in my writing, I prefer women's literature, particularly in a historical setting. But--face it--basic genre romance with its "happily ever after" endings sells. Much of my writing, particularly under my pen name, Zina Abbott, is historical romance usually set in the West.

Some of the perspectives I gained at the WWW conference were these:
  • Fiction sells, but once the book had been published over six months, many readers consider it "old" and often opt for a newer release. Online sales can diminish quickly. In a book store, if the books don't sell within a few months, in most cases, they get shipped back to the publisher
  • To have slow but consistent sales, consider publishing with a company that focuses on marketing the print version of books as opposed digital sales. If a writer finds the right topic for the right niche market, their print book will not as quickly become "outdated" and end up in the bottomless pit of remainder books where authors earn nothing for their work. Quite often that means writing non-fiction books.
  • Once I am finished marketing my two self-published books, it is time for me to focus on how much time I want to spend on continuing my writing for my present publisher and if I also want to write something that can be sold to a different market.
Then there is this insight I received especially during the past three months. Love it or hate it (and I hate it), if I am going to write and self-publish historical western fiction, do so for the Kindle Unlimited (KU) market. The "why" of it is a whole other blog post. 

In my opinion, KU may be great for readers, but it has killed the fiction market when it comes to the average writer without a huge nationwide following being able to make decent money on longer, well thought out and heavily researched novels containing multiple subplots and depth. To make money on KU, it is better to stick to the shorter, formulaic pieces that can be whipped out every one to three months. 

But, I enjoy research. I enjoy giving historically correct information in my stories. I enjoy writing multifaceted novels with twists that give the readers something to think about and something to learn. I enjoy depth.

So, if I am going to accomplish MY writing goals and still make it worth my time financially, I need to FOCUS on exactly what I want to write. 

Before I do that, I need to continue to BROADEN MY PERSPECTIVE of what options are out there and what ones appeal to me.
Like everything else involved with my writing, that means I need to finish up my current writing project and then buckle down and do the RESEARCH on what my options are. General goals are nice, but details are what make it happen.

After I get my ideas and options together, then I need to plan the work so I can work the plan. That's called getting ORGANIZED.

Once I get it all organized, then I have come back to full circle to FOCUS. Don't get distracted. Don't let myself get waylaid. Don't give up.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Today's Wednesday Wonders features Gail Jenner's  
Ankle High and Knee Deep: Women Reflect on Western Rural Life.

About the Book:

 Colicky horses, trucks high-centered in pastures, late nights spent in barns birthing calves--the trials and tribulations of farm and ranch life are as central to its experience as amber waves of grain and Sunday dinners at the ranch house. Ankle High and Knee Deep collects together essays about lessons learned by ranch women, cowgirls, and farmers about what they’ve learned while standing in or stepping out of “mud, manure, and other offal” in their day to day lives on the land. This collection of entertaining and inspirational voices offers unique perspectives on relationships, loss, love, marriage, and parenting and other universal issues. These are contemporary accounts of women struggling to keep a lifestyle intact, recollections of childhoods spent in open spaces, and tales of overcoming obstacles--inspirational reading for city dwellers and country folk, alike.

You may purchase Ankle High and Knee Deep from Amazon by clicking HERE.

It is available on Barnes & Noble by clicking HERE.


“Farming seems easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from the corn field.”  ~  Dwight Eisenhower

          Life is all about the learning, and the “family farm” is a great schoolhouse. Ankle High and Knee Deep represents what 40+ rural/farm women have learned while standing in or stepping out of mud, manure, and other “offal.” It is a collection of entertaining and inspirational essays that offers a unique perspective on love, marriage, parenting, relationships, loss, and other universal issues. These women’s connection to the land and to the people and animals in their lives is documented here.      
          Concepts that the general public has now adopted, words like sustainability and renewable/recyclable, come to us directly from the life of a farmer or rancher. Working within a landscape that can change with the seasons or alongside the forces of nature that demand commitment and sacrifice develops deep character; interestingly, the word “character” comes from the Greek word meaning “to chisel.” That describes perfectly what living and working in an often harsh physical environment does to the human soul.
          Several of the best lessons I’ve learned have come from forty-two plus years spent onour fifth-generation ranch:

          *Sometimes the mud and muck gets ankle deep, but it can always be washed off.
          *You’ve got to plant the seeds before there’s anything worth harvesting.
          *Waiting is time well spent. After winter comes spring, and after spring rains comes the summer harvest.
          *Never think anything is not worth saving; sometimes it’s just the odd piece of baling wire that keeps things from falling apart.
          *Don’t be in a hurry; that’s when you run through fences or get stuck in ditches.
          *Always watch out for the soft places:  Anything that looks that good has got to be dangerous.
          *Don’t ignore the rotten apples. They can destroy the entire barrelful if overlooked.
          *Don’t be afraid of hard work and sweat. There’s nothing finer than a shower or warm fire after a day well spent.
          *Love your job. It’s what you do, all day, every day.
          *Just because a skunk is cute doesn’t mean he won’t stink!
          *Don’t look back: that’s when you find yourself belly up in a low spot.
          *Don’t hold onto trouble; you’ve got to spread the manure around in order to make it effective fertilizer.
          *Do things right the first time so you don’t have to do them twice.
          *Be willing to invest – not only money – but sweat and time. In the end you’ll have something worth keeping.
          *Out of the garbage heap grow the seeds you ignored.
          *Good fences make good neighbors; know what people’s boundaries are and learn to respect them.
          *To have a good garden, you’ve got to live in it; weeds take over quickly.
          *Weaning time can’t be ignored; there’s a right time to let go.
          *Most of the time there’s no choice:  Success requires frequent sacrifice and persistence. 
          Though not a faith-based book, this collection of essays does underscore traditional values while providing an ofttimes humorous look at life spent at the wrong end of a tractor, cow, or horse. Many reflect the lessons learned from a life centered around work, work, and more work. Trivial moments become significant moments of transition – revealing that maybe the destination isn’t as important as the road that leads there.
          Maybe that’s why farmers eventually become philosophers.

About Gail Fiorini-Jenner:

Gail Jenner is an author and editor who has completed two novels and five regional histories:

ACROSS THE SWEET GRASS HILLS, WINNER 2002 WILLA Literary Award from Women Writing the West
WESTERN SISKIYOU COUNTY: Gold & Dreams, Arcadia Publishing (2002/2005)
IMAGES OF THE STATE OF JEFFERSON, Arcadia Publishing (2006)
THE STATE OF JEFFERSON: Then & Now, Arcadia Publishing (2008)
BLACK BART: THE POET BANDIT, Infinity Publishing
HISTORIC INNS & EATERIES IN THE STATE OF JEFFERSON, including a chapter of recipes, from Old American Publishing
She also edited/contributed to the 2014 anthology, ANKLE HIGH & KNEE DEEP, TwoDot/Globe Pequot, a collection of memoir/reflections by 40+ rural/ranch women, from all over the West. In its first week on, it reached #3 in the Top List of books on Rural/Country Living.

Enjoy and follow Gail's Amazon Author Page to see all the books she has written by clicking HERE.  


Jenner Family Beef:

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40+ rural women talk about farm life in ANKLE HIGH & KNEE DEEP edited by Gail Jenner #WedWonders