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Browsing Category "The Writing Life"
15 Mar
2017

Calling Fans and Friends

Sarah's Secret on metro building

“Sarah” and I need your help.

Self-publishing authors like me depend on word-of-mouth and social connections to help sell books. In addition, breaking my arm and having surgery put me behind in my marketing efforts. As a friend or a fan of “Sarah,” would you be willing to help spread the word?

Team Sarah Needs Your Help

I’d love you to join “Team Sarah” to help in any of the following ways.

• Identify bookstores where I could do a reading from Sarah’s Secret. Finding out the name of the person who schedules readings would be really helpful. With the book now available at IndieBound, it’s a good time to reach out to bookstores.

• “Think outside the bookstore.” I can do a reading at a different venue, such as a private “book party” for friends, at a writing class or library.

• Order Sarah’s Secret from your favorite independent bookstore. Talk to bookstore staff who are interested in local authors and new titles.

• Publish a review on Amazon.com, I-Books, Goodreads, or any other retailer or book readers’ website. Thank you to all who have already posted a review.

• Go to Goodreads.com, add Sarah’s Secret to your “book to read list” and make me your Goodreads friend.

• Post a question for me on my Goodreads.com author profile: Ask the Author! I promise to post an answer.

More Ways to Help

• Ask your book club to read Sarah’s Secret this year. A book club reader guide is available in the book. I am willing to come for the discussion for local groups or use Skype if the groups is too far away.

• Refer me to local hiCalling Fans and Friendstorical or genealogy groups. I would love to talk about my genealogy research journey, women in the West, homesteaders in the Great Plains, or similar topics from Sarah’s Secret.

• Connect me with blogging sites focused on history of the West, genealogy and family research, women in U.S. history or other related topics. I’d love to get your ideas and referrals.

• Post a recommendation of Sarah’s Secret on your social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest and Twitter. Re-post announcements from my sites or use my website link to refer your friends.

• Recommend me as a presenter or speaker for special events or conferences. Let me know who to contact.

• Introduce me to print, radio or broadcast reporters covering books, lifestyle features, local interest or similar topics willing to do an interview or short feature.

• Ask your local library to order Sarah’s Secret.

• Include an announcement in your own websites, newsletters and blogs about Sarah’s Secret with a link so people can sign up for my updates: http://sarahssecret.subscribemenow.com

Send me your ideas for marketing Sarah’s Secret. Be creative.

Contact me for background info, descriptions and announcements. bev@bevscott.com

Sarah and I thank you for joining the Team!

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13 Dec
2016

The Season of Sharing or the Season of Taking Back?

“What matters nowSeason of Sharing or Season of Taking Back

in these dimmer days

when gloom and doom

conversations occupy the tables

in every corner of concern?…”

(From: What Matters Now by Minx Boren)

It is the “season of sharing” and the “season of hope.” Hope for peace and a better future. Yet, I find myself, like many of those around me experiencing these as days of “gloom and doom.” This year of blame, name calling, fabricated lies and divisiveness is coming to an end. I would like to feel optimistic and confident about next year, about our future. But it is hard.

In the research for my novel based on the lives of my grandparents, I was inspired by the grit and determination of the pioneer homesteaders who lived in lonely isolation on the prairie, daring to find hope, support and community. They held values of generosity and sharing, even among those with very little themselves like my grandparents. Giving to those most needy was a common practice. For homesteaders who often lived miles from their nearest neighbors, Christmas was a time of sharing and  gathering in community. I imagine my grandparents and their children dressed in their “Sunday best” traveling by horse and wagon or by sleigh to visit with neighbors. Perhaps they gathered at the small community church to meet for religious services, share potluck meals and sing carols around a piano or accompanied by a guitar or a banjo.

This is our heritage of the “season of sharing,” remembering those less fortunate and sharing what we have in community. In the analysis of the election results, we are hearing that the messages which tapped into hunger and nostalgia for our past were successful. Minx Boren captures some of the longing in the next stanza of her poem…

“What counts now

when countless folk

feel harried and hungry

for the richness of more

fulfilling times

when gold stars of hope

are needed to illuminate

their heavens and give weight to

their wishes?…”

baby-203048_640Unfortunately, that nostalgia reflected in the election results is for a past where the “richness of more fulfilling times” offered narrow benefits primarily to the privileged who were mostly white and male. Many of us do not want to return to that past. We believe in the advancement of our human rights and we appreciate our health care and our creature comforts. I have no nostalgia for my grandparents’ life in an underground dugout, traveling by horse and wagon and suffering illness and the early death of loved ones. However, I do find myself longing for the prairie heritage of community, willingness to share and to offer freely given support to those in need. That heritage contrasts with the individualism, meanness and greed… what seems to me to be the “season of taking back.” Looking for the “gold stars of hope,” described in Boren’s poem, is very challenging as I listen to the pronouncements of our new President and the appointments he is making to his cabinet.

He is taking back hope, dreams, protection, human rights and probably jobs, too. No wonder we are discouraged and dismayed by what this picture of the future suggests. However, I believe that we must not succumb to numbness, depression and despair that will keep us from envisioning the opportunities of what a brighter future could be. We must not normalize greed, meanness and bigotry. The future I want for us is a future that requires us to get involved, take action, build community, keep the vulnerable safe, speak up for individual rights and in the spirit of giving, be as generous of heart, soul and material goods as we can be. Boren says it well.

203109085159854.qYotWm8aebebBJhG5fmT_height640“…What matters and what counts

are imagination and inspiration…

and a roll up our sleeves movement

of such magnitude that the future

can hear us coming

with our heads held high

above the cloudy predictions

and our knap sacks filled with

our gumption and our grit

our gifts and our gratitudes –

the building blocks of new

cornerstones of possibility.”

Let’s create our brighter future!

(Poem excerpts from What Matters Now by Minx Boren, poet and author.)

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20 Oct
2016

“Women Writing the West” Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Women Writing the West conference 2016


“We are all profoundly creative” – Julia Cameron


The amazing Julia Cameron who has written over forty books, opened the conference with her keynote, “The Right to Write.” Author of The Artist’s Way, she is a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet. She has credits in the theater, film and television. She is incredibly prolific!

She’s a very talented and creative writer, but she argues that “we are all profoundly creative.” But how does she find the time to be so creative in writing in so many genres? She suggests that time is not the answer nor the question. And she laughs, while she confides to us that she is going to let us in on her secret.

Women Writing the West is an organization founded twenty years ago

to support authors and other professionals in promoting the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West. More than simply a recognition that women played broader and more complex roles than being wives or prostitutes, the new view of the Women’s West speaks to the diversity of women of all cultures and all time periods. It acknowledges the rich variety of ways women responded to, and continue to respond to, the western experience. The Women’s West is based on a tradition that includes such fine writers as Willa Cather, Mary Austin, B.M. Bower, Mari Sandoz, Dorothy Johnson, Juanita Brooks, Laura Ingalls and Rose Wilder, and Helen Hunt Jackson. Women Writing the West exists to nurture today’s writers of the Women’s West, and those to come.

Since I’ve been writing a Western tale inspired by the lives of my grandparents, I wanted to attend this conference to find kindred spirits, other women writing about women in the West. I was not disappointed. I met women who were still struggling to write their first book, women who were still doing the research and women who had written several successful books. Everyone I met was welcoming, inclusive and encouraging. Women Writing the West is a supportive community.

The two-day annual conference held this year in Santa Fe, was structured to cover the Business of Writing and the Art of Writing. On the Business ofBookmark Women Writing the West Writing day we learned the rules of stand-out covers, the tax responsibility of authors and how to get a book into the library market. The Art of Writing was more memorable to me because it built on Julia Cameron’s secret tool.

What is the secret? Morning Pages: three handwritten pages at the beginning of the day in which we can dump all of the extraneous thoughts that cross our minds. “I forgot to call Sally back.” “I need to buy milk today.” “Why didn’t Jim tell me about his reservations?” Morning Pages are a tool to clear the mind and all the dark corners to help us be more conscious and focused as we move through the day. Morning Pages provide permission to write anything without worrying about grammar, punctuation, wording. Morning Pages helps to minimize our internal critic. The brilliance of Morning Pages according to Julia is that they can free us from internal censorship and perfection.

During the Art of Writing day other presentations picked up the theme of negative self judgement. One presenter, an author of several books, Jane Kirkpatrick called this self-talk “harpy chirping.” We found ourselves in reassuring company as we realized that most everyone had “negative harpies,” that internal judge who mocks our work with the stories we tell ourselves. “I am not as talented or creative as ….” Or, “My writing is not good enough to submit for publication.” Or simply, “I can’t write like that.”

Morning Pages is one tool to help us get those negative stories out of our minds and enable us to focus on writing. Another suggestion is to focus on the goal which we each have when we began our writing. Another option is to repeat “I, ____, am a creative writer”, inserting your own name, each time that negative judge shows up.

As writers, our goal is writing, writing the best we can. It is not to become as Julia told us, the “curator of the Museum of Perfection.” Instead, find your “believing mirrors,” people who mirror back to ourselves as strong, powerful and creative. And use the tools of Morning Pages, focusing on the goal and reminding ourselves that we are creative writers.


What tools or tips do you have to minimize the negative self-talk and the internal critic?


(Note: don’t forget to sign up as a VIP Reader for my book “Sarah’s Secret.” You’ll get sneak peeks at chapters, pre-publication, and more!)

 

 

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29 Sep
2016

Get a Sneak Peek of Chapter One: Pre-publication Special for VIP Readers

prairie-1542099_1280

JOIN MY VIP READERS. GET A SNEAK PEEK!

READ CHAPTER ONE A PRE-PUBLICATION EXCLUSIVE

To sign up as a VIP Reader and get your exclusive preview of my book, sign up here:

Sneak Peek for VIP Readers!

My debut historical fiction will be published in a few weeks.

TITLE:  SARAH’S SECRET: A WESTERN TALE OF BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS

As friends, supporters and readers of my blog I want to give you an opportunity for this exclusive offer to read early chapters of the book.  So please sign up now to become a VIP Reader!  Announcements and more chapters will be available in the future.

Please share with your friends. Thank you for your support. I hope you enjoy Chapter One.

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22 Aug
2016

My Final Book Title

A final title! I am excited! Thank you to all of your who contributed ideas, re-wording, themes and ideas.

Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness

Sarah's Secret, final book title

The book title is so important. It must compete with all the other options available to readers…other books as well as other activities. The title must engage potential readers and interest them in reading this book. It needs to show up in search engines and be enticing on the bookstore shelves.

Beyond all this competition, I want a title that reflects the story being told. A story from the West and homesteading days, a secret never revealed and Sarah’s emotional journey. I remember reading a book a few years ago with a title that was very misleading given the content of the book. Perhaps it was chosen for search engine optimization but the inconsistency left me puzzled. Consequently I wanted to hue closer to the actual story, even if it doesn’t have all the key words for search engine optimization.

Thank you for helping me choose a title that comes as close as I think possible to these criteria:

Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness.

Now on to the cover design.

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8 Aug
2016

Thank You! Now, the Sub-Title

Help Me with My Book Sub-Title!

 

Thank you to those of you who made suggestions and contributed ideas for the title of my new book. You are great friends and supporters! It was so helpful for me to see what you liked and endorsed. I gave it much thought and as a result I have narrowed it to the following title:

SARAH’S SECRET OF BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS

BUT I would love your suggestions and thoughts about a sub-title. I am interested in getting either words or images of the West or Western themes. What are your suggestions???

Thanks so much for your help.

Here is a short summary of the book or you can read the longer synopsis of the book I included in my last post requesting your help in choosing the title.

SUMMARY

The story is told from the perspective of two protagonists. In the 1880’s, Sam, irresponsible, lonely and untrustworthy has abandoned those he loves until he seeks redemption and marries Sarah. In 1911, Sara, struggling to find the inner strength to overcome loneliness, poverty and illness to support her children after Sam’s death. After a perilous journey by wagon from New Mexico to Nebraska, she learns of Sam’s betrayal. Will Sarah find forgiveness in her heart and the resolve to accept her new life alone?

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21 Jul
2016

Help Me Choose the Title

I am excited to be finalizing my manuscript for publication. But I can’t decide on the final title. Would you be willing to help? I have listed four of the finalists below. I would be so grateful for your help.

Book Titles, Bev Scott

Which title do you like best?

Let me know which title is most likely to attract your attention if you were looking for a book to read. You might have other ideas or combinations, which is fine, too.  Let me know your choices and your thoughts in the Comments section of the blog.  Thank you!

Here is the synopsis to give you context for the title.

Synopsis

The story is told from the perspective of the two key protagonists, Will and Sarah.

In 1878, Will is on the run after killing a man in a bar room gunfight. He escapes the Texas Rangers by joining a cattle drive headed to Dodge City, as the cook. He struggles with the dilemma of saving his life or attempting to return to his pregnant wife and five children. Just when he thinks he might be able to return home, he is confronted by a bounty hunter who captures him and plans to return him to Forth Worth, Texas to be hanged. Will is freed by his trail boss and a buddy from the cattle drive. He finds himself “riding the owl hoot trail” in Kansas as a wanted man.

Will finds refuge on an isolated homestead with Peggy, a widow and her daughter, Margaret Ann. He helps her with the livestock, building a corral and a “real” house while he hides out from the law. He struggles with his responsibility to return to his wife and family and his increasing attraction to Peggy. When Will learns that his wife and children may have perished in a tornado, he gives in to his desire for Peggy, only to find that he is too afraid to take on the responsibility Peggy asks. He abruptly abandons Peggy and finds himself on the dodge from the law again when he meets an itinerant preacher named John who saves his life. John recognizes Will’s guilt and challenges him to grow up and be a man. When Will struggles with his culpability in abandoning the women in his life, he turns to John who guides him to find redemption. Will decides to homestead in Wyoming ready to settle down with a good woman.

In 1911, Sarah, a widow with five children struggles to find the inner strength to overcome betrayal, loneliness, fears, and self-doubt. Her husband, Sam, thirty years her senior, died with a curious and defiant declaration, “I won’t answer!” Despite poverty and a crippling illness, she is determined to keep her family together, leave New Mexico, and return to Nebraska to be near her parents and siblings.

Horses, great PlainsDuring the perilous journey home, Sarah must face her fears as a woman traveling without the protective company of a man, confront her son’s sometimes reckless attempts to be the man of the house, and cope with real dangers which threaten their lives. Still grieving from the loss of her husband, she ventures into unknown territory desperate to find help for her sick infant daughter and then learns of the death of her beloved father.

When Sarah returns to Nebraska, she receives staggering news which complicates her efforts to support her children. She is shocked, angry and emotionally devastated. Since she is attempting to establish herself in the community as a teacher, she believes she must keep her husband’s betrayal a secret even from her own family.

Title Choices for You!

Again, here are the titles I’m considering for the book. Let me know what you think in the Comments below. Which of the following seems to fit the story line best? Do you have any other thoughts, ideas or critiques of the title choices that could help me? Or do you have an completely different title you might want to suggest?

I’m all ears!

A. Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: A Western Tale

B. A Family Secret: Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness

C. “I Won’t Answer!” A Secret from the American West

D. Trust, Betrayal and Forgiveness: She Kept the Secret

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13 Jul
2016

“Killing My Darlings?!”

old cemetery headstoneAdvice, often passed along to novice writers, includes that we have to learn to “kill our darlings.” This advice has been attributed to many famous authors such as Falkner, Wilde and King. As writers, we can become very attached to what we consider a brilliant piece of writing, a scene or a character description in earlier drafts, that no longer fits or is not appropriate for the story as it has evolved. Recently, as I worked through needed manuscript revisions and feedback from “early readers” and my editor, I came to the realization that I needed to “kill one of my darlings”. Let me share with you an excerpt from the original story which takes place in Texas in 1878:

 

Susanna

Will stepped up to the door of the tiny house off the noisy main street in Fort Worth… The door opened, he saw the flash of welcome in Susanna’s deep green eyes as a smile spread over her face. He gathered her up to carry her inside, kicking the door shut behind him. With her arms around his neck, he buried his face in her copper hair breathing deeply the sweet fragrance that always seemed to float around her. She giggled as he carried her to the back room depositing her on the bed. He began fumbling to unbutton her dress with one hand while he dropped his overalls with the other. His withered finger didn’t help.
“Let me help you.” She laughed as she finished the buttons and dropped her dress revealing her smooth unblemished skin the shade of Colorado alabaster.
Afterward, he felt more relaxed as he teased her, “I bet you let all the cowboys who come along into your bed like this?” 
Susanna lowered her eyes guiltily and then burst into the laughter that sounded like bells ringing. “You shouldn’t care. You’ll go back to your wife in a few days anyway. You can visit again the next time you’re in town.” 

I resisted this act of murder for a long time, despite advice that I should “kill this darling.” I liked Susanna’s independence.

As a beautiful woman living on her own, Susanna was used to adoration from the cowboys who came into town. Most of them would never settle down to get married. Besides, she liked her own freedom and independence. Of course, the stuffy, nose-in-the-air women in town whispered about her. But, she didn’t care. Their opinions didn’t matter to her. Their lives were controlled by weak men who tried to act powerfully by ordering their wives around. She didn’t want to cater to the demands of such a man every day.  

“Killing” Susanna

This story continues when a former lover/patron of Susanna’s barges into her house, Will gets involved in a gunfight, Susanna is killed and the Texas Rangers are looking for Will. I thought the story helped explain Will’s later behavior as he runs from the law. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that instead of explaining Will’s later behavior, this story only made him more puzzling and really didn’t explain his character at all. I did need to “kill my darling”, dump Susanna and do a major re-write.

But what would be better? The other problem was that “killing” this story meant that something needed to replace it. It is easier to delete than to create. I finally had an idea and as it unfolded, I was excited. When I finished writing, I realized I had a much better story. I needed to overcome my resistance and “kill my darlings” to write a better story.

The Revision

Here is the opening of the revised story:

The hay was tickling his nose but Will didn’t dare sneeze or even move. The voices and footsteps were coming toward theGhost town, Old West scene stables. Will held his breath and wished his pounding heart wasn’t so loud. His throat was dry, his body tense.
“I thought I saw him run this way.” One voice sounded tentative.
The second voice responded chuckling, “Didn’t expect a hay-shoveler to be that fast with a gun.”
“Well, no-one’s going to miss Graham too much, not even his wife. He was a mean SOB,” the first voice spoke again.
A third voice spoke up, “Yea, that’s true but that sod buster did kill him. Maybe he’s not really a sodbuster. Bein’ a Texas Ranger, I…”
“Hey, looking for someone?” He had heard that voice before. Will tried to place it. 
Then the third voice answered, “Yeah, mister, we’re looking for a sod buster in overalls and a vest. Bushwacked a man in the saloon. Have you seen him?”
Will’s breath caught in his throat. Did this guy see him dive into the hay? Who was he anyway? Would he turn him in? He was worried and listened intently. 

As a writer, have you had to dump a favorite passage of your own? Have you had to “kill your darlings”? Or as a reader, do you wish that a writer had deleted a section that didn’t add to the plot or make any sense?

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28 Jun
2016

Why Do You Write?

I have been asked recently why I am writing especially since I am retired and I am not building a career.  Here are my thoughts in answering that question.

I was standing in the Heritage Center in Dodge City, Kansas looking foWhy Do You Write? by Bev Scottr clues about the life of my grandfather before he met my grandmother.  We had also been to Weatherford, Texas where he lived with his first wife.

I had been on a search to find information about my mysterious grandfather for several years.   Although I had easily been able to find information on my grandmother’s family, I had reached dead ends in my search for information about my grandfather.  The documents in the National Archives had been an exciting find and had provided clues I wanted to explore further. (See my blogs on my genealogical search)

But I found nothing.  I could not fill in the gaps in the intriguing family story that many friends and family had encouraged me to document.  Could I write the story as fiction using the facts I had uncovered and creatively fill in the missing pieces?  I lacked confidence that I could be creative and write fiction since my previous writing experience had been non-fiction.

After taking a couple fiction writing workshops which built my confidence, I decided to try writing a historical novel inspired by the lives of my grandparents.  It has now been almost five years since I visited the library in Dodge City.  As I reflect back, I discover how much I have enjoyed the experience.

I loved the research and learning the historical details of longhorn cattle drives from Texas to Dodge City. To my surprise, I have treasured my alone-time, writing and the opportunity to imagine the life of my grandfather in 1878 or my grandmother in 1911.  I am excited when the words flow and I have written a description that creates a vivid picture of a character or the surroundings.  Working out the plot brought days of frustration and then delight in resolving the arc of the story.  I thrill when someone tells me they like my writing style.  And there is nothing like the satisfaction and exhilaration of completing a final draft.

Why Do You Write, By Bev ScottI not only needed to learn about writing fiction but as I have described in a previous blog, I needed to learn about building an “author’s platform”, the following of friends and colleagues interested in one’s writing.  Recognizing the importance of marketing and promotion, I reluctantly plunged more fully into social media.  I have increased my knowledge of publishing as I explored the options of self-publishing.  In fact, my forays into learning…learning to write fiction, book promotion on social media and choosing a publisher…have also brought new friends and colleagues into my life.  It turns out becoming a writer doesn’t have to be a totally lonely existence.

I’ve discovered that I write because I want to tell the story, because I found rewards in writing, because I found opportunities to learn new skills and knowledge and because I met new friends.

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1 Jun
2016

Self-Promotion, Writing and Social Media

Social Media and Writers

“I want to write.  The last thing I want to do is market my book!”

My own feelings about marketing were similar when I got serious about writing a novel inspired by my grandparents.  In fact, I frequently had avoided marketing during my former consulting career.  Self-promotion does not come easily for many of us who are consultants or writers.

But, in 2014 I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.  I realized how naïve those words are for a writer who wants to publish in today’s topsy-turvy market.  I also better understood why the second edition of my non-fiction book, published by a trade press, had not been promoted by the publisher as heavily as the first edition.

Writer’s Platform

What I learned at that Conference and in subsequent writing conferences and workshops, is that writers must market and promote their own work if they want to sell their books.  Writers need a “platform” composed of friends, colleagues and contacts who “like” or follow them.  To build that platform, writers must join two or more social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, Instagram, Google + or Goodreads.  They must also build a website and send out blogs.

Yes, you are right.  Building a platform takes time.  Frances Caballo, who has specialized and written books about social media for writers, declares that authors need to spend only thirty minutes a day posting on social media.  However, I have found that it takes a much larger time investment to learn the rules and practices of the specific platform, craft my profile and get comfortable in using it.  The effort to reach followers and build a platform must not be too flagrant, too frequent or too frustrating to your “followers”.   But what does that mean?

It means an author/writer should spend about 80 percent of her communication with her “followers” giving interesting tidbits, advice, suggestions, information and links that her readers might like or enjoy.  The other 20 percent of her communication on social media, she can write some tasteful self-promotion of her work.

Thirty Minutes?  Really?

Building a platform takes time from writing her book.  It means spending time writing a blog or finding content to post or link on social media.  It is time figuring out why the photo she wanted to post turned sideways.  It means spending some of those thirty minutes commenting and engaging with her followers.  And, there is no guarantee that engaging in all this social media will actually build a platform of followers interested in her writing.  There is only hope.

Another recommendation from the Writer’s Conference was to begin building the writer’s platform long before the book is due to be released…Two years?  At least one.  And the six months before publication when she is busy doing final edits, choosing a cover design and finalizing a publisher, she must really step up building that platform.

Publishing in Six Months

I am hoping to publish this year, in the next six months.  So, I am stepping up my social media efforts.  And I want to spend some of the twenty percent of my communication with you to boldly ask you to:  Like my Facebook page; sign up on my website to receive updates about my book in your in-box;  share my postings on your own social media; and tell your friends.

Thank you!

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