Becoming Vegetarian

In February of this year, I became a full vegetarian. Not a hard decision and one I’m glad to have made.

I was born on a dairy farm, and we raised our own beef. In fact, I bottle-fed the baby steers that one day would lie on our dinner table as steaks, hamburgers, and roasts. I rarely ate any of that meat because my mind’s eye still saw the sweet faces of those little calves that I helped to raise.

Funny how many people think I’ve fallen out of my tree, but for me, leaving behind a food that never tasted good to my palate, that frequently upset my stomach, and that sometimes drew tears to my eyes because of its origins was an easy choice. I replaced meat with nuts, seeds and legumes, and I reinforce my diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Anyone who has been playing around with the idea of becoming vegetarian won’t find it difficult if they make a serious commitment.


Help Save the Confessions of April Grace!

There is a possibility that the third “Confession of April Grace” will be the last.

This breaks my heart, of course. April Grace Reilly, her family, friends, and neighbors have become an important part of my life. With your help and support, we can save this series from being discontinued. The problem? Sales are not what my publisher expected.

Word of mouth and increased sales are what it will take to keep the series going. It’s obvious to me from fan mail I’ve received, Facebook and Twitter comments, and dozens of glowing reviews that the series has potential for becoming very popular given time and opportunity.

So what’s holding back the sales of books that so many people seem to love and relate to? I’m not sure, but I have a theory or two.

One is that the series is still so new that not enough readers have discovered it yet. Growing a stronger readership takes time and the continuation of good product.

My second theory is equally valid. Over and over I receive comments like these: “I’d read your books, but I’m not religious” or “I don’t like books about God” or “I’m not of the Christian faith.” So let me address this concern right now: I wrote the “Confessions of April Grace” for anyone, and I mean anyone, without any particular audience in mind. To me, I’m simply telling a funny story of life in the Ozarks. The wonderful folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers chose to take on the series and they happen to be a Christian publisher. However, if you won’t take my word for it, here are a few examples from reviews:

  • This is classified as a Christian book, and while there were themes of faith and Christian messages in the book, they were not dominant, so the book can still appeal to a mainstream audience.” Cliques, Hicks and Ugly Sticks (Confession #2)
  •  “Even though this book is a “Christian” book, it is not overbearing and really does have a great story that should appeal to any mainstream tween/teen audience. Please don’t let the Christian reference throw you off of reading this book.” Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks
  • Although promoted as Christian fiction, it’s not the in-your-face writing that some authors use as their style. There is of course talk about church and God but not specific beliefs that could turn off some readers.” In Front of God and Everybody (Confession #1)
  • One of the things I like best about this book is that although it is Christian-based, it does not scream or preach at you.” In Front of God and Everybody
  • …thinking on the matter now, I believe that the title itself is part of a lesson you can only learn if you are brave enough to open the book and begin reading the words within. I strongly encourage you to read this book – don’t judge it by the title like I did and if you do, don’t let that stop you from reading it.” In Front of God and Everybody.

Other concerns seem to be that the books are for girls. As I said above, I had no particular audience in mind at the time of writing, and that includes ages or genders of the people who would enjoy reading them. Adults and kids play equal roles in the stories. Narrated in the sassy, witty voice of April Grace Reilly, these books will make you smile, if not laugh out loud.

Will you help me save April Grace Reilly so she can continue to relay her hilarious confessions to the rest of the world?

In you haven’t already, would you please purchase In Front of God and Everybody (click on link on the right side of this page) and introduce yourself to the clan, with all the zaniness that goes on? If you like that book, get a copy of Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks. This November, the third Confession will be released, Chocolate-Covered Baloney. Excerpts from the first two books are available on this website, as well as a video trailer on the welcome page.

I have great plans and story ideas for upcoming books, and I’d surely love to share them with you. I yearn for that opportunity.

If you enjoy these stories, recommend them to your friends. Remember, Harry Potter wasn’t an overnight success, but the ones who loved his story passed the word along to their friends and neighbors, and look where he is now.

Let’s get the buzz going and make April Grace one of the most popular girls in fiction!

Potato Chip Cookies

This quick, simple recipe is one of my favorites. It has plenty of fat in it, but very little sugar. These shortbread-type cookies are exceptionally good if you keep them in the freezer and eat them cold.

1 c. butter

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. chopped pecans

1 t. vanilla

1/2 c. crushed potato chips

2 c. sifted flour

Cream butter, sugar & vanilla together. Add potato chips and pecans. Stir in flour then form into balls (about a tablespoon of dough each). Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and press flat with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.

Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes. Baking time varies according to you preference.

Blogging, and Facebooking, and Twittering, Oh My!

“You need to blog.”

“You must open a Facebook account.”

“You have to be on Twitter.”

Oh, please.

When I first started hearing this, I was on dial-up. Can you imagine creating status updates and comments or tweeting when it takes at least five minutes just to load Yahoo’s homepage? I could usually get the beds made and dishes washed while waiting. Plus, I wanted to spend my precious time writing my books, not flitting around on the Internet. Needless to say I was resistant, big time, against the pushy pushiness pushing me to participate in social media networking. And I did not appreciate feeling like a relic from the year 1126.

I did create a blog site, however, and faithfully wrote posts two or three times a week. But after a while, when it seemed hardly anyone visited it, I doubted the value. Why did I write these posts and snippets just to have them clutter the ether? Discouraged, I slacked off, then quit.

When I moved to an area which actually offered high-speed Internet service, I opened a Facebook account. It irritated me at first, and I kept thinking, “Why do I care if Mary Smith went to the store and bought toothepaste?” or “Why is Joe Jones telling the world he needs to buy new socks?” Obviously, I wasn’t moving in the right virtual social circles yet. Or maybe Mary and Joe needed to do something more exciting in their lives than brush their teeth or poke toes through socks.

I approached Twitter with guarded enthusiasm which soon flourished into full-fledged antipathy. Here is what assaulted me:

  • “Buy my book!!!!!!”
  • “Read my blog!!!!!!”
  • “My book is great!!!!! Buy it!!!”
  • “My blog is insightful and life-changing!!!!! Read it!!!!!!”

Repeatedly, all day long. Are you kidding? This is what I was expected to do when I had books write? What was so great about that? The exclamation point overload alone gave me a headache.

Timidly, I tweeted some innocent little comment, because at that point my blog seemed too dreary to tout, and none of my books were published yet. I should have written that tweet on paper and flushed it down the toilet for all the response I received.

As my uneasy relationship with Twitter continued, I enlisted the help of several friends who love, love, loved it. They gushed with unbridled fanaticism about the virtues of Twitter.

“I don’t get it,” I stubbornly told them. “Do people really respond to that madness?”

“You have to tweet.”

“I do tweet. I tweet little comments, not ‘Buy my book!!!!!!‘ My tweets get crickets. I may as well look in the mirror and talk to myself.”

“Then you’re not doing it right,” each one told me, and offered suggestions. I’d follow those suggestions with renewed hope. I witnessed other Twitter folk chatting and giggling with one another online. It rarely happened with me. I felt like I was back in high school, the shy little mouse.

Those darn crickets.

The marketing specialist at my publishers nudged me, graciously but rather forcefully, toward using Twitter to “build your readership.” When she told me this, I literally got sick to my stomach. I did not want to fail the publishing company that had invested so much time, money and faith in me.

“I don’t know what to tweet,” I insisted, (read whine) “and I get crickets.”

I think she sighed. I’m pretty sure she did. Not that I heard her, but it’s what I would have done if I’d been her.

Last week I decided to throw in the towel. I was stressed and depressed, confused and guilt-ridden. Twitter folks just did not like me. I did not have the magic, or the gift, or the smarts, or whatever it was that everyone else seemed to possess.

I posted this pathetic farewell: Twitter keeps me humble far beyond my imagination. #egocrush

I figured no one would read it, or if they did, they’d ignore it. But, no. A lovely young woman who is a dear Facebook friend, Karen DeLabar came galloping out of the virtual dark night of my soul to rescue me. I poured out my little heart, and she assured me my experiences actually were par for the course. Tweets often went with any replies (and I thought mine were the only ones!) Often people will exchange a couple of tweets then drift away (and I thought they decided I had bad breath or major b.o.)

Karen salved my wounded pride by telling me what to expect, realistically, from Twitter, because mostly, all I’d heard up to that point was what a great social networking site it was. She encouraged me to keep putting out my friendly, inspirational or funny tweets because they were being read.

My lovely young writing friend and Twitteraholic, Valerie Haight (bless her) challenged me to build my following. Now. And she told me what to do, step by step. One thing I like is challenge. I took her up on it.

So this weekend, I focused on building my Twitter presence. Valerie had more or less triple-dog-dared me and Karen had shored up my flagging confidence with some realism. At last it all seemed to make sense. I now knew what to expect. I tweeted, I RT’d, I replied, I hashtagged all over the place. I offered “thank you” and a  nice little comment to almost every one of my new followers. Already I’ve met some folks I’m looking forward to having as friends.

I have a lot of my plate (5 book contracts this year) and don’t want to over-extend myself, but I’m making some changes. I have made the decision to blog more often, utilize Twitter with realistic expectations, and continue having fun on Facebook. Time management is the key and I’m working out a reasonable schedule for myself.

Won’t my publisher’s marketing specialist be proud?

So today my question to you is this: Am I the only one who has felt intimidated, discouraged and confused by social media, or has your experiences been as easy and pleasant as devouring a piece of double chocolate fudge cake? I’m interested. Let me know!