Audiobooks · Books · Memories · My Books · My Thoughts

When Did I Start Writing?

When did I start my writing? My uncle extolled an essay I wrote in high school which surprised me. I didn’t see myself as a writer then! After reading it, I shocked him when I told him my plans after graduation in 1971—business courses. But his compliments lingered in the back of my mind—hiding in my subconscious.

Larada's graduation picture - start
My graduation picture, 1971

Then on a visit back home a couple years later, my journalism teacher simply said in passing, “Send me a copy of your first book!” Shocked, I just stared at her, but she was serious! So in 2014, I sent her a copy of This Tumbleweed Landed. She had an emphasis on my start.

My Publishing & Writing Timeline

Larada's Five books meme - start
Winter meme - Flippo Book

1985—I wrote When Will Papa Get Home? after a visit to the ranch and I found a blue marble at the Phillie homestead. I did nothing with it until 2015.

1987—Working at the middle school as a language arts/literature teacher, I wrote an article for the Raton newspaper, Raton Range, about a flamenco dancer who came to the Shuler Theater.

1991—I wrote This Tumbleweed Landed in a professional development workshop and did nothing with it until 2013 when I started revising it. I self-published it in 2014.

1993—Mom and I self-published Let Me Tell You a Story as a gift for my dad for his 70th birthday. We published it here in ABQ at AlphaGraphics. A friend of mine worked there (manager of the store), and they turned out beautiful. We printed a copy for everyone in our immediate family, and I printed twenty-five extras to use in my classroom.

2007—Tom Cummins, lifelong friend and historian, and I self-published Branson-Trinchera Historic Photos with This was my introduction to online publishing and POD (print on demand). Before POD, you had to print 10,000 copies of a book. POD allowed you to print whatever number you wanted, which made self-publishing affordable.

2012—The year before I retired, I researched self-publishing companies and found the top 3:, (an affiliate with Amazon and has become and I decided to go with and now

2013—I edited and revised This Tumbleweed Landed, adding prose (essays I wrote in the 1991 professional development workshop) because of the Black Mesa Writing Workshop with Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron.

2014—I self-published This Tumbleweed Landed and had a fantastic response to it which so surprised me. Really, I hadn’t planned on doing much more. I still questioned myself as a writer.

2014—For family Christmas presents after mom died, I self-published From Grannie’s Kitchen: Pies, Cakes & Christmas Candy, Volume 1, and family members said I needed to sell them.

2015—I edited, revised and self-published When Will Papa Get Home? Which I wrote thirty years before.

2015—I created another family Christmas present and self-published From Grannie’s Kitchen: Beverages, Bread, Cookies, Meats, Vegetables, Mis. & Records of a Rancher’s Wife, Volume 2. Mom had too many delicious recipes to put in one cookbook, so I created a three-book series.

2016—I re-released/self-published Let Me Tell You a Story, originally released in 1993.

2016—For another family Christmas present, I self-published From Grannie’s Kitchen: Casseroles, Mexican Dishes, Relish, Sandwiches, Salads & Desserts, Volume 3.

2016-2017—Giving myself a couple years after my mom’s death, I edited, revised, and self-published A Time to Grow Up: A Daughter’s Grief Memoir.

2017-2020—I interviewed, edited, revised and self-published Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo.

2021—Because of the coronavirus pandemic, I edited, revised and self-published Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?.

2021-2022—I recorded, edited, revised and released my first audiobook, Let Me Tell You a Story.

2022—Enjoying my first audiobook so much, I recorded all thirty-one chapters of Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, then I edited and revised six chapters for the audiobook, but shingles stopped me initially and then the neuralgia afterwards.

2022—After learning so much from writing Marshall Flippo’s biography, I started writing I Said Yes!: How I Learned to Write a Biography, but shingles stopped me on this project too.

Looking to the future, I have the following projects lined up:

  • A Colorado Country Christmas: A Collection of Memories
  • An Extreme Costa Rica Trip: A Travelogue from 2020
  • 3 books poetry series
  • 1 Haiku poetry book
  • Eye Witness to Life—a novel I wrote in 2016

How does a writer start? Kind words, encouragement, years of trying? As you can see, my start came years ago. Have you read any of my books? If so, which is your favorite?

If not, why? Wholesome, family-oriented stories! Country-life, nostalgic stories and poetry about a simpler life—try one!

News, News, News!

~For me, it’s Christmas all year long! Here’s a variety of Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas”:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme

~My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? WON the 2022 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards in the Body, Mind & Spirit Category. Have you bought your copy yet? Vist my website:

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marsahll Flippo

~Have you bought a copy of Flippo’s biography yet? Believe it or not—it’s been two years. Go here for your hardback or paperback: or at Amazon.

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

Flippo in the sand—self-publsihing
Flip for Flippo!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! 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: