Blogging · Blogs · My Thoughts

Eight Years of Blogging—So What?

Eight years of blogging

Eight years of blogging brings up some interesting insights. I love to look back over the previous year and compare it to past years and see what’s happened.

First, a big thank you to all my readers. I think of you every Sunday as I write my blog. The topic percolates during the week, and I have kept a list of topics and tried to keep up with my schedule, but serendipities make me veer off the path. I keep an imaginary snapshot of my readers in mind as I write and I write to you!

During 2021, I addressed the following topics:

  • Marshall Flippo—monthly
  • My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?
  • Square dancing
  • My life during this continued pandemic
  • My poetry
  • Holidays

During the year, I posted regularly about Flippo, and I continued to address my experience in the limitations of the coronavirus pandemic. In my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, I included the inspiration of these posts. In looking at my statistics, I realized how often I wrote about holidays. I love writing about any current holiday, featuring all major holidays and my experiences, traditions and beliefs.

On November 2, 2021, a writing friend told me about the Ultimate Blog Challenge, an opportunity to write a blog post every day during the month of November, so I succeeded but missed the first day. What a challenge that was! This challenge increased the “Likes” and comments on my blog posts, which has historically been a problem area for my blogs. I thoroughly enjoyed it and came up with an outline of what I would write about each week:

  • 1—A variety of writing topics
  • 2—Where my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? came from
  • 3—Gratitude topics for Thanksgiving week
  • 4—Feature some of my poetry and future poetry books
  • 5—Daily topics suggested by Paul Taubman, the organizer of the Ultimate Blog Challenge

Visitors vs. Views Stats

I watch these two statistics regularly and am happy to see an increase in visitors vs. views from 78% to 83% this last year. What does that mean?

Views and Visitors

The two main units of traffic measurement are views and visitors:

~A view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page.

~A visitor is counted when we see a user or browser for the first time in a selected time frame.

visitor is an individual looking at your site. A visitor can view many different pages of your site or view the same page multiple times. Therefore, the views number is typically higher than the visitors number.

The significant growth of 5% tells me that visitors saw something they wanted to view in my blogs. Significant movement. But my total numbers decreased this year from last year. Last year’s high in views happened because of the pandemic and people being home more than this year. Also, Facebook changed their ads, making it hard to advertise to the world market, which limited the exposure I had enjoyed in previous years.

The good news about this year is the difference between my visitors this year was less than one thousand. I got all this data off of where I have my website and blog, but the numbers off of the Facebook ads surpass these numbers. With my Facebook ads, I reached 1,594,301 people and 44,836 clicked on the blog post, which doesn’t match my numbers from WordPress, so I’m not sure about that, but those are outrageous numbers to ponder!

Here’s how many posts I have published in eight years:

  • 2014 – 7
  • 2015 – 16
  • 2016 – 6
  • 2017 – 22
  • 2018 – 54
  • 2019 – 66
  • 2020 – 64
  • 2021 – 80

For a total of 315 posts in eight years! Each post is about 750–1000 words, so that’s over 236,250 words! Wow! That’s a lot of words!

My Audience Spans the World in eight years!

I continue to touch a worldwide audience, which is shocking to me! In 2019, visitors came from 154 different countries to my blog. My audience expanded to 176 countries in 2020! In 2021, 171 countries visited my blog, decreasing from the previous year. Facebook changed its selection of “Worldwide” for ads, so I’m sure this affected the number of countries who saw my advertisement.

The United States continued to be my biggest market, followed by these countries with the most to least visits: Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Ireland, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, China, Mongolia, Venezuela, Turkey, Canada, Libya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Laos, United Kingdom, Bolivia, Peru, Cambodia, Brazil, Colombia, Armenia, Germany, Lebanon, Bhutan, Somalia, Albania, Sweden, France, Ecuador, Australia, Belgium, Vietnam, Tunisia, Netherlands, South Africa, Japan, Romania, Morocco, Ethiopia, Hong Kong SAR China, Switzerland, Palestinian Territories, Guyana, Serbia, Suriname, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Denmark, Yemen, Taiwan, Argentina, Nicaragua, Haiti, Guinea, Jordan, Timor-Leste, Paraguay, Spain, Fiji, Guatemala, Ukraine, Comoros, Honduras, Malaysia, Italy, Azerbaijan, El Salvador, Macedonia, Georgia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Maldives, Israel, Senegal, Russia, New Zealand, Uganda, Madagascar, Moldova, Burkina Faso, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, Eritrea, Trinidad & Tobago, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, 95 Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Mali, South Korea, Liberia, Croatia, Portugal, Samoa, Norway, Austria, Greece, Mauritius, Malta, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Congo – Brazzaville, Kosovo, Chile, Tonga, Micronesia, American Samoa, Ghana, United Arab Emirates, Namibia, Cape Verde, Djibouti, Belize, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Bahrain, Montenegro, Zambia, Andorra, Belarus, Burundi, Swaziland, Puerto Rico, Cote d’lvoire, Lesotho, Uzbekistan, Luxembourg, Finland, Tajikistan, Cameroon, Oman, Réunion, Guam, Gambia, Botswana, Norfolk Island, Panama, Congo – Kinshasa, Curacao, Cyprus, Jersey, St. Lucia, Qatar, Papua New Guinea, Chad, Palau, Lithuania, Aruba, Slovenia, Northern Mariana Islands, Dominica, Jamaica, Mozambique, Solomon Islands, Slovakia, Isle of Man.

Top Five Favorite posts:

The top five favorite posts of 2021 cover a variety of topics.

  • Haunted by a Favorite Poem
  • Vaccinated: Short, Sweet & to the Point
  • Writing Groups—A Best Kept Secret for Writers?
  • Will Square Dancing Survive the Pandemic?
  • Is a Nativity Set Important?

So, I’d like to share the take-aways from this in-depth look at my blogging history:

  • I continue to love writing my weekly blog.
  • Potential readers moved from just visiting my blog to viewing it. I like that.
  • I continue to have a worldwide audience.

Future Plans

I plan to be more selective about my topics this year. In the past, I wrote about whatever came up, and I will continue to address current events, but I have five areas I will focus on:

  1. Writing—my current project and writing topics
  2. Flippo & square dancing
  3. Poetry
  4. Baby boomer topics
  5. Holidays

If we return to traveling, I will add that specific topic because my readers love my travel tales.


After eight years of blogging, I’m proud of my results. Suggest any topics you’d like to hear about. Regular readers, please “like” my blog post, then leave me a comment. How about—read, reflect and respond! Then we could truly be an international community!

~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: or at Amazon.

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks:

My Books · My Thoughts · poetry · Writing

Future Possibilities & Poetry

what's possible? possibilities

Possibilities? As I face the future as a writer, I wonder about posts I read online, about authors needing inspiration. I don’t have that problem. I have five or six books lined up in the future. Three or four of them are poetry books! These pieces whisper to me often in the dark of night, begging me to breathe life into them.

I also have a couple of short stories I’ve played with, and I have a delightful collection of Christmas memories.

As a self-published author, I do all the work, so I have kept busy promoting my books, especially my last two. I’ve concentrated on my book business the last couple months, wanting to expand possibilities. I recently realized I need to focus on my e-book sales online and boost that in all the different formats.

So, along that line, I just finished training to create audiobooks, so that’s my next venture. The training is Audiobooks Made Easy by Derek I bought the training last December then got busy finishing up my new book. I started the training immediately last year. I bought all the supplies suggested: specialized mike for audiobooks, sheet music stand, recording microphone stand, ear phones and pop filter. Sadly, they have gathered dust in my walk-in closet (where I plan to record) until now, but I plan to start recording this week.

My plan is to start with my shortest book, Let Me Tell You a Story, to learn the process. Then I plan to record my current book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?. Then I plan to continue with This Tumbleweed Landed and When Will Papa Get Home? Right now, I doubt if I will record my two longer books: A Time to Grow Up and Just Another Square Dance Caller.

Future possibilites

Future Possibilities—My Line-up of Books:

  • Three or four poetry books
    • Watch a Poet Grow: Where It All Began #1—my early poetry
    • Watch a Poet Grow: Look at Life Look #2—my later poetry
    • Watch A Poet Grow: Haikuin’ Life #3—haikus about my daily life
    • Watch a Poet Grow: The Death of a Marriage #4—poetry record of my third divorce
  • I Said, “Yes!”—how to write a biography or memoir
  • Eye Witness to Life—a fiction I wrote in 2016 during NaNoWriMo
  • This Tumbleweed Landed #2—continuation of my first poetry book

How about some Cinquains?

“The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines.”

In 2002, I took a poetry class from the University of New Mexico’s Continuing Education, and I wrote the following cinquains. They are cinquains loosely-defined but have no rhyming pattern.


light playing on

my skin, a reminder

that life will go on no matter!

I shine!


fresh food ready

green cut aroma fills

the room and the space in my heart.


Land where?                                           

A tumbleweed

bounces against barbed

wire fence, gets caught for a moment!

Now gone!

My words 

my life caught in

a box, limited yet

real! I want to communicate.

Let’s talk!


touches the deep.

I move to the beat. My

soul reacts to the sound and moves!

How come?


childlike laughter,

like bells ringing in the

chapel — angels swinging their wings

out loud.

Life force

Sensual light

burns deeply in my heart,

ignites with any willing soul


Of what 

are my dreams made?

Fluff, a sprig of cedar,

Flesh and bone and sawdust sprinkled!

Gone soon!

As you can see, I’m not done! As I referenced yesterday, I’m a Baby Boomer with a purpose! I love having future possibilities to look forward to—that’s the only way I can live!


This week, look for poetry—a variety of it, ranging from my early poetry to some of my recent haikus. Recently, after my walks, I have recorded a couple of haikus that came to me as I enjoyed being out in nature. I believe in possibilities, and I see them everyday all around me.

What are your future projects? Do you plan ahead? Share your thoughts below!

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme - possibilities

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks:

My Thoughts · Writing

Writing Groups—A Best Kept Secret for Writers?

Writing groups

Are writing groups one of the best kept secret in the writing world? Not for me! Currently, I take part in two groups, each one focusing on a unique part of writing.

East Mountain Writing Group

In 2016, I joined the East Mountain Writing group. This group has played a key role in my preparation for the publishing of my last three books. Presently we have four in our group, but we have had six. We meet monthly for a couple of hours and submit work to be critiqued. These in-depth critiques substantially breathed life into many of my submissions, which later became my published books.

I can’t compliment this writing group enough because of their dedication to specificity. Each time they critiqued my work, I always looked forward to their comments because I knew my writing will improve. Also, I have the privilege of reading and critiquing their amazing work.

Over the years, our socializing time has grown because we’ve become deeply acquainted with each other’s lives. Because of our longevity, our familiarity with each other’s work causes check-ups on long-term projects. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop us from meeting. Immediately, we jumped on the Zoom wagon for our meetings.

Colorado Writing Practice Group

In March and April 2021, I took part in Natalie Goldberg’s “The Way of Writing” class, focusing on her “writing practice.” In 1986, Natalie’s book, Writing Down the Bones, began a new practice for writers, a ten-minute timed writing practice that changed the writing world. I used this book and her idea when I taught writing to my sixth-grade language arts classes, but got away from it.

Fast forward to this year—during her class, Natalie suggested we join a writing group that focused on writing practice. So, using Zoom, I joined one in Colorado and one in New Mexico, but the New Mexico group didn’t continue.

The Colorado group started out small, with just a couple of us. Then we had some writers join and leave, but currently we have five committed members. We meet weekly at 4:00 PM MST for an hour.

This is how this group differs: our faithful leader comes up with two thought-provoking writing prompts, and we do “writing practice.” The rules are simple:

1. Keep your hand moving. 2. Don’t cross out. 3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. 4. Lose control. 5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. 6. Go for the jugular.

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986): 8.

In 1990, Natalie added a couple more rules:

1. Be specific. 2. You are free to write the worst junk in America.

Natalie Goldberg, Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life (1990): 3-4.

After we have done the timed writings, then we each read our writing. How it differs is the response of the listeners: all we do is listen and thank the writer—no comment, no critique! So, you might wonder about the benefit of this writing group. We’ve met weekly since March, so we’ve become familiar with each other’s’ voices, and I can see how each writer has grown as a writer during our time together. When I write, I know beforehand that I can write “the worst junk in America,” so I can risk going deeper, being authentic! My writing has improved because of this group and this discipline.


Each writing group offers something different. Each one feeds my writer’s soul distinctly. If you haven’t joined a writing group, find one that meets your needs and then commit to attend regularly.

Are you in a writing group? If so, how does it help you? Share your comments below (Scroll down)!

Starting on November 2, I joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge, a challenge to write a blog post every day of November. For the first week, I focused on writing topics.

Last Week’s Ultimate Blog Challenge Posts:

Recent Weekly Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? ad

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo
Add Flippo’s biography to your own personal library

HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Blogging · Blogs · My Thoughts · Travel · Writing

Blog Topics—How Do I Decide?

Blog Topics—make your choice

My blog topics are up for grabs—I never run out of ideas. So how do I handle them? How do I manage them? Here’s the system I’ve used for seven years, and it seems to work well.

Normally, I write ideas on posits and scraps of paper scattered everywhere around my computer on my desk, but I knew I had to handle this differently, so I did. For my blog topics and dates, I create a database for the upcoming year that becomes my blogging calendar. I usually write my blog weekly on Sunday afternoon and post it that night, so that’s the date I have in the date column.

My Blog Topic Calendar

Then I create the following columns:

  • Date to post blog
  • Title of post
  • Facebook Ad–Check button
  • Cost for ad
  • Two Results columns for Facebook Ads
    • People Reached
    • Clicks
  • Notes

At the first of the year, I enter topics that go with specific holidays and personal dates like birthdays and anniversaries. Also, in my first blog each year, I have done a statistical analysis of my blog for the previous year—that may be more for me than for my readers, but the data shocks me each year. The readers get to see the worldwide neighborhood they are in when they read my blog.

Specific Topics

In 2020, I published a biography of a world famous square dance caller, so I dedicate the first Sunday each month to a topic about him. I identified the specific area of his so I wouldn’t duplicate.

Also in 2020, I wrote many posts about my experience during the coronavirus pandemic. Then those posts became the inspiration for my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, so I often write about current events.

What topics do I write about?

Most bloggers pick a specific area of interest and write about that. I wish I could do that, but I have such a variety, I can’t. I’m an author and writer, but I’m a square dancer. I have strong connections to country living, growing up in a small ranching community in southeastern Colorado, and now am co-owner of a ranch there. So, I have to talk about the current drought.

So, my blog topics jump all over the place because I have a rich full life and many interests. During my daily walk, driving to town or watching TV, an idea springs up, and I grab my iPad and add it to my calendar. Right now, I have half of the topics for 2022 already identified.

One Big Change

I need to change the day I write my weekly blog post though. I’m a Bronco fan, having grown up in Colorado, so I have a crunch on my writing time every Sunday, and I don’t like that. But it’s a habit of seven years, and it’s hard to break!

When I travel, I write several posts in one day and then schedule them to publish weekly. That’s what I should do all the time—take a day and write several posts. But I percolate my topics for days, sometimes changing the whole gist of it after going over it for days. So, that won’t work.

How do you select your blog topics? How do you manage them? Let me know in a comment below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? ad

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks:

Book Promotion · Books · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

SWAG Strategies for Book Promotions

Money & books

I’m sure you’ve heard the term SWAG and loosely know what it means—cool stuff given away for free to promote something. People love free stuff, and it’s a great way to advertise your books and reward your current readers or future readers. So, SWAG works well with book promotions, but it must relate to your book somehow: the cover, characters in the book or the setting.

Here’s where the term SWAG originated:

The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items.

When I first started my book business in 2014, I started with bookmarks for SWAG.


A key SWAG item for authors is a bookmark, so I have created bookmarks for each book and given them away for free anywhere I can. I also include all of my bookmarks in any book order. I order them from and have been happy with everyone. Most are two-sided which you pay extra for, but the newest one is only one-sided.

In 2020, I released the biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo. I created a book pre-order system and had a monthly drawing for SWAG—items I purchased with his picture on them. Now that sounds expensive, but it wasn’t.

Inexpensive SWAG Sources:

I used two online photo companies:

I have bought from each of these fantastic companies regularly for several years, so the SWAG for Flippo’s book promotions cost me nothing but the shipping. Weekly I get advertisement from them, and often they offered several items for free—my cost, the shipping. So, I waited until one company offered the suitable items for free and ordered them. I stockpiled several for the Zoom Launch Party and gave them as door prizes.

Look at a sampling of some I bought:

SWAG Samples

I also made book bags, spiral notebooks, and coffee mugs. The most popular were the deck of cards and the coasters. In reality, the choices are limitless. If you do not receive emails from these companies, sign up for one or the other (or both if you create photo gifts). You’ll probably need to buy something to receive the emails with the free promotions.

Ultimately, the recipient of the SWAG connects it to your book and might encourage a sale or two. That’s its main purpose: advertisement for your book.

What do you do for SWAG? Share your ideas in the Comment section below.

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks:

Blogging · Blogs · My Thoughts · Technology

Wondering What’s Going On?

Wondering What's Going On?
Wondering What’s Going On?

Are you wondering what I’m doing? Normally, I write my blog post weekly, but something changed this week. As of yesterday, I joined the “Ultimate Blog Challenge” and will post a blog every day in November—yes, daily! I plan the post to be shorter, and I have created an outline of my topics:


  • Week 1 – A variety of writing topics
  • Week 2 – Where my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? came from
  • Week 3 – Gratitude topics for Thanksgiving week
  • Week 4 – Feature some of my poetry and future poetry books
  • Week 5 – Facing the end of 2021 & yet another crazy year

Wondering about blog secrets

Blogging Technology Secret

I have a blogging/technology secret to share with you. Today I created drafts for all thirty blog posts with the social media button string in the post, using one of my favorite computer tools: copy and paste. I love having the social media string of icons at the bottom of each blog, but you have to recreate it each time you write a blog, and that can be tedious. So I came up with a solution. (I use

Wondering how I did it:

  1. Create a new post.
  2. Select “Social Icons” from the block menu.
  3. Click plus to add one.
  4. In the search menu, type the social media site name, like Facebook.
  5. Then, in the little window, type in your URL address for your page.
  6. Click the plus and add the rest of your social media sites.
  7. Save this as a file named, “Social media icons” as a draft.
  8. Create a new post for your current blog post, name it and save it.
  9. Go back to the draft of “Social media icons.”
  10. Go up to the top of the window and to the right where you see three dots and click.
  11. Select “Copy All Content” midway down the menu. It will say on the bottom left side, “All content copied.”
  12. Go back to the current blog post and put cursor in a block, and paste! Voile!

I love sharing technology shortcuts because computers should make our lives easier, right? Wondering about anything to do with technology or blogging? Leave a comment and I’ll help if I can!

Wondering about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

Visit my website to find out about my new book and my other five books and three cookbooks:

Holidays · My Thoughts · Writing

A Vampiress & an Alien Go into a Bar—Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween - vampiress

Not really! A vampiress and an alien became the subject of two writing practices in my writing practice group a couple of weeks ago to celebrate Halloween. I had so much fun with the topics (everyone in the group wrote wildly humorous pieces); I decided to share them with you. To enliven them a bit, I’ve doctored them up just a little!


Vampiress under a full moon

A Vampiress: First Halloween Writing Practice Prompt

For my first ten-minute writing practice, our leader assigned me the following three items: a bakery, banana bread and a vampiress.

Halloween finally arrived! My lips crave your gorgeous neck, but I have to control myself. I move around behind the display case at our family bakery, Delicacies from Transylvania. We specialize in all kinds of exotic breads and pastries, but what’s surprising today is this handsome man-creature wants plain ole banana bread.

Vampiress' Bakery
Delicacies from Transylvania

I catch my reflection in the window and gasp at my pale coloring. Forgetting my bloodless appearance, I forgot to put on enough rouge to rosy up my cheeks. I have to stop licking my lips, too—it causes my fangs to grow!

As our eyes meet over the bread display, I’m having trouble controlling my cravings. We exchange casual words, but I feel a mutual attraction. We continue our nonsensical back and forth. I see him scan my left hand and ring finger. In its absence, he asks me, “How about dinner tonight?”

My heart jumps in my chest—I can almost feel my fangs growing, so I cover my mouth with a pasty hand and fake a cough. I nod my head yes. After settling down some, I turn back to face him and say quietly, “I have to work until 11:00 PM here because I’m one of the bakers. Can we meet then?”

He chuckles and replies, “A late night get-together—how romantic! Yes, I’ll come by and get you.”

“That works because I live downstairs.”

Banana Bread
Banana Bread

As he walked out with the banana bread in hand, he looked back over his shoulder with a knowing glance, like he was as excited as I was with our late-night rendezvous.

The rest of the long day went by uneventfully. I baked until 10:00 PM, then raced downstairs to shower. After a speedy spitz, I put on my best red, shiny, sexy gown, red lipstick and black eyeliner. I survey myself in the mirror, more than satisfied with my appealing results.

At 11:00 PM, the door to the bakery opened, and he walked in with white roses—how did he know those are my favorite!

He took my hand in his and reached over for a kiss. Before I knew it, my fangs came out, and his neck became my destination, and I savored his delicious blood! What a start to the night for this precocious vampiress! Now pizza!

Vampiress drinking blood

An Alien
An Alien

An Alien: Second Halloween Writing Practice Prompt

For my second ten-minute writing practice, our leader assigned me the following three items: a beach, poppy seed muffin, and an alien.

Beach scene

I’ve never seen a beach before, but those earthlings seem enthralled with it. That wet stuff moving along the edge of the gritty stuff called “sand” is “water,” or they call it, “Ocean.” How crazy is that! On my planet, “ocean” is a dirty word. My pals back home would be howling.

In our world, our law enforcers have outlawed water because wet stuff deteriorates everything it comes into contact with. In fact, I saw a friend of mine dissolve right before my eyes when he accidentally spilled some on his appendage.

Even though I’m still fascinated. That big orange thing hanging over the edge of the water we see often at home, but when we see it, it’s cold, not warm like it is here on Earth. What a difference our two planets have. In my earthly travels, I’ve learned some words, and it seems they call it the sun, but at home we call it “boomerang.”

I’ve disguised my skinny body today to look like an earthling beach bum with a wide-brim floppy hat and dark sunglasses, so I could walk along the beach with these earth people. So many shapes and sizes amaze me. Some of them don two pieces of clothing but very skimpy to cover their bodies. Those have two bumps on the top they try to cover, but it’s questionable, and the bottom barely covers anything. The others wear only one piece to cover their lower part, and they have hair growing where the others have those two bumps that vary in size. Strange attributes for each.

I see a group sitting down near the water but not in it. My curiosity gets the best of me, so I sit on the edge of the group, making sure I’m not near the water.

Poppy seed muffin
Poppy Seed Muffin

They’re putting a round piece of something crumbly into the hole in the top part of their bodies, right under a part that sticks out some. They’re making cheerful sounds and saying, “Delicious poppy seed muffins.”

As I watch, the part they put in disappears, and they then take more and put that into that hole. Its holding capacity seems bottomless because they keep adding more.

One of them realized I was watching and asked me something—I’m not fluent in earthling language yet, so I shook my head up and down which on our planet means “No.”

The person jumped up and gave me one of the “poppy seed muffins.” I followed their lead and put it in the hole under the sticky-out part. Suddenly, the flavor exploded in my mouth! How delicious! But back home, this would be sinful—that much pleasure! What was I to do?

I sat, mouth full of the piece—I did not know what to do. I watched more closely and saw them swallow, so I tried it and almost gagged! Aliens can’t eat food from this planet. What to do now?

I zapped myself over to New York City to avoid swallowing that gooey stuff and embarrassing myself. Let’s see what’s going on here!

A vampiress and an alien—two Halloween characters to enliven your day! I hope you enjoyed my playfulness with a couple of Halloween prompts. What do you think? Do you like to tell Halloween stories? (Scroll down below to make a ghoulish comment!)

Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflection: Bitter or Better?
Read, reflect and respond with a cup of coffee!

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo
Add Flippo’s biography to your own personal library

HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Book Production · My Books · My Thoughts · Writing

Writer/Author, Promoter—Which One Am I?

Inspired writer in a meadow

Writer/Author, promoter—roles I have to play as I self-publish yet another book! But which am I? As I pondered each one of these, I wondered, “can I do it all?”

Just last week, I released my current book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?—my sixth book. Several blog posts I wrote last year during the pandemic inspired this book. I had originally planned to just publish the posts with no revisions, but my editor said I couldn’t do that—that people wouldn’t buy what I gave away free. So, with her help, I enlarged the chapters, added a quote at the beginning of each chapter and sprinkled relevant photos throughout the book, and now it’s done.

As my promotional list grew and grew for my new book that faces a controversial topic, I wondered about each role and how I’ve learned to do each.

Yes, I am a writer and an author. In fact, that’s my favorite part of the process. Each book I’ve written has offered me a delightful experience in the writing process.

Collage of all of my six books - writer

I wrote the poetry and prose in This Tumbleweed Landed when I took part in the Rio Grande Writing Project in 1992, and I put it aside for twenty-one years. Often it spoke to me from its secluded place, but I was too busy living to do anything with it. Then I retired after Mom died, and I had plenty of time to dust it off and work on it. Originally, I wanted the book to be short poetry vignettes about the people, places and activities in my small country town, but after attending a writing workshop in December 2013, I added prose I had written about my country life that enhanced the book. In 2014, I received the boxes of my books. I will never forget opening the box of books and seeing my words in print for the first time—unimaginable!

I wrote When Will Papa Get Home? years ago, when the creatives juices flowed like never before and have never after. On a visit home to our family ranch, I found a blue marble at the Philly Place, an old homestead, and I wondered whose it was. As a teacher, I was on summer break and I had brought a clunky Apple 2E computer home to use. I went home to Denver, and wrote day and night, consumed with the story, letting it unravel as it would. I did not know the ending.

Again, I put this one away for twenty or more years. When I finally pulled it out and revised it, it needed more “meat.” I totally enjoyed researching homesteading in Colorado in the early part of the 20th century and details about life then. The creative process took over again, and I got lost in the words, the revisions, the possibilities, and I saw it in print in 2015.

It took me four years finally to write A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir. Mom died in 2013, and I published this book in 2017. I turned to poetry to deal with my grief, so I filled this book with reflective poetry and prose about both of my parents’ deaths. It deeply healed my heart.

In 2017, I started the biggest writing project of my life—Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized biography of Marshall Flippo, the most famous square dance caller in the world. I recorded forty hours of interviews with Flippo. After transcribing those interviews, I faced 258,000 words, so I had the daunting task of cutting, cutting, cutting. I also had to do research and make sure his memories of World War II were factual, and they were!

Flippo wanted to tell stories about sixty plus callers and cuers he had worked with, so I added a chapter of favorite stories from callers and cuers about him. What a mammoth task this was, but I feel I created not only a wonderful biography but a history book about square dancing.

Even though I work across several genres, I love the writing piece! I’ve written and self-published six books now (that’s shocking to me) and three cookbooks. I took each project all the way through the process and actually published them, so that’s much more than being a writer or an author. Whew!

Now we come to the promoter’s part. I have been a promoter for years in the square and round dance world. Because of my computer skills, I’ve created hundreds of flyers, emails and events on Facebook. My love affair with Desktop Publishing goes way back—my masters’ degree is in technology, and that’s where I learned many of my computer skills preparing lesson worksheets and projects for my students. Early on I bought an education bundle of Adobe programs and became familiar with Photoshop and its capabilities.

Now, as I face the following list of promotions, I muse over what I have to do to advertise my new creation:


  • Create iBook
  • Create Nook  
  • Create Kobo 
  • Create page on website
  • Add thumbnail to sidebar in website
  • Order proof copy from KDP
  • Order 25 paperbacks


  • Create ad on Kobo for September 9 – 19, 2021 for Australia & New Zealand at discounted price
  • Create a new Kindle Countdown Deal – September 21 – 28 – 9:00 am, starting at $1.99
  • Posted on & upgraded to Gold at $50
  • Created new release on Kobo
  • Listed on Alignable
  • Buy 15 Kindle e-books for giveaways
  • Use Buffer to send out weekly emails to post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter & Instagram
  • Add book & e-book to my Etsy Shop
  • Create giveaway on Goodreads
  • Create giveaway on Librarything 
  • Create ad on BookBub when I have e-book listed on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble & iBook
  • Create ad on Amazon
  • Email two lists I have
  • Create campaign on MailChimp
  • Have Launch Party
  • Post on Facebook pages
  • Connect with guy on Instagram who messaged me about this book a couple months ago
  • Email Sue Ready to post review on Amazon
  • Email ARC readers to post review 
  • Search for spiritual/religious book Facebook pages
  • Amazon-30 days after launch important for rating
  • Add to Reedsy Discovery
  • Send paperbacks to 4 ARC Blurb readers
  • Once your book is live you can email Amazon and request to have your book put into eight additional categories.
  • Online Book club listing – – Requested review bit won’t be available for 2-3 months
  • Get Kindle link to Fiverr promoter

Yes, the promotional part of this job seems overwhelming. But after seven years, I’ve found the places I need to focus on. What’s time sensitive is that some of these tasks depend on the completion of one before the other. For example, I have created e-books at Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble, but I had trouble with the iBook e-book, and I need links to all four popular e-book formats for the BookBub ad.

Many years ago, I created my first e-book on iBook when I was a support staff for Albuquerque Public Schools. This time, it took hunting for the correct app to upload the file—I had an outdated one. Also, I had trouble with the app accepting my password for my Apple ID which was bizarre. I use that Apple ID all the time, but finally it accepted it. So, I’m waiting, but the minute I get the okay for my iBook, I’ll launch that ad on BookBub.

As I look to this next week, I will attack this list, promoting my new book as many ways as I can. Writer/author and promoter—I have to do all these jobs to make my book a success.

Do you struggle with writer/author and promoter roles? Do you like one of the roles over the other? (Scroll down below my promotions and make a comment.) I’d love to hear from you.

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Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? ad - writer

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? is now available:

Just Another Square Dance Caller
Add Flippo’s Biography to Your Library!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page:

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces:

Book Production · My Books · My Thoughts · Writing

Self-Publishing—How Difficult is it?

Woman looking at books—self-publishing

As a self-publishing author, I usually do most of the tasks to publish a book. It isn’t easy, but I love it. I write the book. Next, I have always hired a professional editor because I know it’s impossible for me to distance myself enough from my work and not make mistakes. Because of my computer skills, I love laying out the cover, and I have done four of my six books. In self-publishing A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir, I paid someone to do the cover, but I suggested the total layout and added to it.

Also, I do the interior layout with Vellum, a Mac program that creates the print version and four e-book formats. I also enjoy this part because it lets me express myself creatively in how the book’s interior looks.

See how my current book has gone! My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? has been hanging on the edge of being published for several weeks. After reading and studying many marketing books, I decided this time I would pay to have the cover done, and that’s been the hold-up. They asked me to send all the parts for the cover in one email and here’s what they required:

  1. Trim size/page size (5X8, 6X9, etc.)

2. Paper type (cream or white)

3. Exact page count of your fully finished formatted manuscript (to determine spine width)

4. Back cover text (the book description usually works for this)

5. Short author bio and picture (this is optional, and please make sure any picture you send for the back cover has a resolution of 300dpi or higher)

6. Your publishing venue (Ingram Spark, KDP, both… if Ingram Spark, please also send the ISBN)

6.5. If you want an Ingram Spark hardcover, would it be a case laminate, dust jacket, or jacketed case laminate?

Normally, when self-publishing, I do everything for the book and am in total control. Then I have total control of the timing. The book cover company I hired for this book finished the e-book cover about three weeks ago, and I liked it.

Then I had a delay with the book description for the back cover of the book which I never write. With my first book, someone advised me to never write my own book description—that I was too close to the work. So, I always hire someone to do it. Recently I was traveling, and she was too, so we had delays because of that. Then she missed the meaning of the book at first, so we had several rewrites. So, this delay held up the cover getting done. Finally, she got the message from the book and wrote an acceptable description.

Then, off to the book cover layout company with all 6.5 items listed above. I provided pictures I wanted used, so I created a Drop Box shared folder. When they did the first paperback cover, the front was easy—it was the e-book cover. They had lots of trouble with the back cover.

I shared a picture with them in Drop Box of Lin’s gorgeous garden for the back cover because I loved the whole idea that so many people adopted gardening and an appreciation of nature during the pandemic. This book addresses a hard topic, so I wanted that positive result reflected in the cover.

After waiting and waiting, I emailed the representative of the company, and he said he emailed it to me three days before—I never received it. So, he resent it. First cover they sent me to approve had no picture on the back cover—it was a bland back cover with only the book description, my picture and a super-short bio.

Then, we started the revision process that took several days—much longer than necessary. When they added the garden picture to the back cover, they overlaid a green shade over it, so you couldn’t see the garden clearly.

So, I asked them to fix that, and they did after several days. Finally, they sent me three choices. Here are two of them. My husband, Lin liked one; I liked the other. Help me select the cover for this book by responding in the Comments section below.


Choice #1 has the green overlay of the garden. Choice #2 has a colored picture in the background of the Lin’s garden. Vote for one!

Choice #1 – Green overlay
Choice #2 – No green overlay—Colorful

In my future of self-publishing, I don’t know if I will hire someone else to do the cover. If I don’t, I would avoid the frustration of working with an outsider and the expense. But I like the two choices provided for this book, because it looks professional and they did creative things I would not have! What a dilemma!

Are you self-published? How do you handle the stress of self-publishing? AND BE SURE TO VOTE ON WHICH BOOK COVER I SHOULD USE—#1 OR #2? (Scroll below to the Comment area and respond about which cover you liked and your self-publishing experiences.)

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Flippo in the sand—self-publsihing
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~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

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My Thoughts · Writing

How I Prepared for My Next Book

My Next Book
Photo by rikka ameboshi from Pexels

I had my next book in the back of my mind—a how to book on writing a biography after tackling the gigantic job of Marshall Flippo’s biography. Lin had suggested I keep a journal while interviewing Flippo and writing his book, so I did. I already have over 5,000 words towards that book. In writing that biography about a well-known figure, I learned so much in the writing and a lot after-the-fact. I even had a title picked out, “I Said Yes!”

            But life interrupted my plan! 2020’s coronavirus disaster sidetracked me because first, I wrote poetry to process my feelings about what we experienced. Then I shared them in my weekly blog posts for over thirty posts.

            After sharing my process in my blog posts, readers emailed me amid the craziness, thanking me for voicing the concerns and feelings in a way they couldn’t. Thus, my new book came to life, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, inspired by those blog posts.

            At first, I planned to just duplicate the posts with minimal revision and get a book out as soon as possible, while the angst echoed through people’s minds. Someone in my writing group asked after reading the first two chapters, “Are you going to combine these two and revise them before publication?”

            A resounding “No” came out of my heart and soul. That would take too long and I thought getting this book out the sooner the better would be a saving grace for its timeliness on the market.


            Then I added my professional editor to the mix. I did some revisions before sending the manuscript to her, realizing holes existed between the posts. After waiting a couple weeks past the date we had planned, she let me know she was doing more than copy editing. She was doing developmental editing, too, which took much more time.


            Copy editing “is the act of fine-tuning a book’s text, otherwise known as the ‘copy.’ A copy edit will generally address grammatical or punctuation errors, incorrect facts, anomalies, inconsistencies and glaring typos. Overall, the purpose of copy editing is to ensure that the language supports the writer’s intent — while also creating the most readable version of their book.”


As opposed to copy editing, developmental editing “is a thorough and in-depth review of your entire manuscript. It examines all the elements of your writing, from individual words and sentences to overall structure and style. In fiction, this edit will also address any issues related to plot and characterization.”

            I so appreciated her willingness to make my book the best it could be, and she had many suggestions to tighten it up and make a renewed version instead of a duplication of my blog posts. My blog posts inspired this book, but because of her suggestions, I have expanded it. So, I’ve spent the last couple weeks first going over and making the first easy initial changes. Then I went back over it in depth to make the voluminous revisions suggested. I will send it off to her in the next couple days for a final read-through to see if I caught all of her alterations, which I normally do.

            I deviated on one of her suggestions, though: I had questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflections. My vision of the book is the reader reading the chapter, then reflect and respond. She suggested listing the questions at the end of the book, but that didn’t fit with one of my objectives: I want the reader to reflect and respond. I felt if the questions were at the back, the reader might skip them.


            I hired a marketing agent with the Flippo book, finding her a valuable resource. So, I reconnected with her for this book. Again, I appreciated her many directions. Here are a couple of important ones:

  • Hire someone to write the book descriptions for the back of the book, an elevator speech (a short 30 second description) and then a lengthy one
  • Contact people to be Advanced Readers to read the book before release and then write a blurb to use for promotions
    • I had fun with this one. Because I classified this book as a spiritual self-help book first and then a memoir, I asked three people in the counseling field I know: a Christian life coach, a trauma-informed psychotherapist, a Catholic priest in recovery who has been my mentor for over thirty years and the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Three of the four have read it and responded with a publishable blurb.


            I have always done the covers for my other books and cookbooks which I thoroughly enjoy. My desktop design passions have always driven me to do my own. I had one cover for A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memory done by someone else, then I had to correct too much of it, so it ended up being my design anyway.

Recently I have been reading a book, How to Market a Book: Overperform in a Crowded Market, by Reedy’s Richardo Fayet, and in the first quarter of the book, if he said it once, he said it five times, “Hire a professional to create your cover.” So, I’m taking his advice and plan to hire a company,, to do this one.


            Lin photographed the picture for my first book, This Tumbleweed Landed, and we had a memorable evening taking pictures along the road going out to our ranch. We didn’t plan it, but he got a gorgeous picture of Mesa de Mayo in the background in one picture, so we used that one.

            I took the picture for my second book, When Will Papa Get Home?. I used a picture of Dad on his favorite horse, Rusty, for Let Me Tell You a Story. A friend took my picture with Saddlerock, a notable landmark near Branson, Colorado for my next book, A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memory.

            For my last book, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, I knew I’d use one of Flippo’s vintage photographs and love the one we ended up with. I had help from a couple of square dance friends on how to lay out the back cover.

            After a hearty conversation in the hot tub one night, Lin and I came up with the idea for the picture for my new book—a reflection of me in a mirror in his garden. We decided his garden a suitable location because I identified in the end of the book the surge of gardening during the pandemic throughout the world.

            So, for two evenings, we moved the mirror (a Mexican mirror about five feet tall on a stand) around the garden, trying different places, but after the second night we realized our peril: it wasn’t working!

            Then, I had a thought: how about me in Lin’s garden looking reflective? Lin loved that idea. The night we planned to do it, Lin watched an old rerun of The Doris Day Show with Denver Pyle as her dad. He instructed me to watch the intro, and he stopped it at a still profile picture of Denver with a reflective expression on his face.

            Lin directed me, “Channel Denver Pyle in the garden,” so that’s what I did. I’ll be interested to get your opinion when you see the cover.

            In conclusion, so much goes into publishing a book, and I love every facet. I also do the interior design of my book using a program named Vellum. I’m excited about my next book!

Did you have any idea about the process involved? If you have questions, don’t hesitate! (Scroll down below the information for the Comment section.)

Previous Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Flippo's Book cover - next book

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there:

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released mid-June

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”:


~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books:

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page: MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces