The 411 for Readers: Reviews
The world of publishing has changed and is still evolving at a super-fast pace. Authors can’t keep up with it and most readers are mystified by it. So I want to share some basic information with readers in general… I’ll call it the 411. The first topic is REVIEWS. You may have noted how much authors are talking about the need for reviews now. I was like most readers before I plunged into the world of writing and saw things from “the other side of the fence.”
Authors pour out blood, sweat, and tears to put words on the page that make sense and will please editors and readers. Nowadays, we also must be marketing savvy as most publishers provide marketing on a limited basis. To be successful, we have to have readers and those readers need to help us be attractive to publishers and Amazon by providing reviews on our books. I know I would read a book and then when the page popped up asking me to provide a review, I would simply ignore and sign out as I had other things to do. Besides, what difference did it make?
Well, it makes ALL the difference. Those reviews are watched by Amazon and publishers and future publishers checking on an author to see their ‘track record’. The more reviews, the better. And this is also good to help counteract ‘trolls’ who are those individuals who do nothing but relish finding new authors and placing bad reviews on books they really haven’t read…just because they can. It amuses them.
Please take time to complete those review forms when they pop up on your Kindle or Nook…honest reviews are always welcome by authors. Some authors won’t read their reviews and that is their personal preference. I know I read each one and I learn from the comments and use some to help me grow in my writing. Besides, when you have had a rotten day of writing or something has gone wrong in another part of your life, the arrival of a really nice comment from a reader can do a LOT to keep an author moving forward.
Amazon has its analytics and they do this and that with them, but the number can mean good things for authors such as placement on their site and that is what we have worked hard for… to please readers, grow our reader base, and to keep providing you with stories you can enjoy and allow us to hone our craft.
Reviews don’t have to be a page long comment. I have had those and I enjoyed them. I also enjoy the one or two sentence reviews. All I, or any author ask, is that it is your honest opinion and how you feel after completing the book. We will be grateful for your support and the time you took to partner with us in understanding this part of the publishing world!
SPRING IS COMING!!!!
My favorite time of year is spring…especially in Texas. The Bluebonnets are making their appearances along highways and in fields across the state. In another two or three weeks they will be in full bloom and magnificent. (So says the proud Texan!) I am doubly excited this season as my new book, His Country Bride, a contemporary romance, will debut on April 11th. PLUS…to celebrate my book and my brand and my love of things Texan…I am taking a special road trip to central Texas to photograph and enjoy the sights and sounds (and smells of delicious cooking) along the highways and hidden pathways.
If you have visited my author page on Facebook or my website, you might have seen information on the two Giveaways I have planned for this spring. EVERYTHING’S PEACHY IN TEXAS…this celebrates my book…His Country Bride. Readers will be able to enter more than a few times for a chance to win this awesome package of items…more like a bushel of them! There will be amazing peach jams and jellies (perhaps even a box of fresh, hand-picked peaches) from the orchards of Fredericksburg, Texas. Add some peach lotions, fragrant peach candles, and even a cookbook! Who knows what else I might include?
The second giveaway involves my favorite Bluebonnets…for volunteers for my street team who will help get the word out about His Country Bride…there will be items featuring these blue darlings. I will be attending the Texas Bluebonnet Festival in Burnet, Texas, and then taking some great side trips to Kerrville, Llano, and Marble Falls for photos and items celebrating my brand…Bluebonnets and the beautiful Texas countryside. The really exciting added feature to this giveaway…each person will receive a copy of the DELETED wedding chapter from His Country Bride!! (I loved that chapter).
If you haven’t seen my book trailer for His Country Bride…please give it a view! Kate at Tulip Romance did a great job on capturing the feel of the romance and storyline. Would love to hear your comments on it. I always love to hear from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. And do check out my new book and some others that will be coming out soon (I hope)…listed on boards on my Pinterest page…Debra Holt Books. It’s fun to find the photos that give a flavor to each story I have written. I update them daily.
I hope each and everyone has a fabulous spring and I can’t wait to share news of my new books and photos of my trip!
Ready or not, here come the holidays! They are upon us whether we are ready for them or not. I am one of those people who like to think I will do my shopping early…say, in October…but really end up the week of Christmas running around like crazy with my list. How about you?
If travel is in your future, I hope it is safe and easy…no airport delays, long lines, etc. Most of all, take time to enjoy your family, good food, Christmas lights, candlelight worship services and all the things that make your holiday season special to you and your loved ones.
Do yourself a favor and find some quiet time just for you…grab some hot chocolate or favorite beverage…a warm wrap, comfy chair…and that book you have been putting off reading for pleasure or for when you had time to just sit still and enjoy.Whatever or however or wherever you celebrate the season, I wish you peace, happiness, and health. I will visit you all in the New Year with news about my forthcoming books in the spring, summer and fall of 2016.
November 9, 2015
When it rains it pours…..
That is the theme of my life right now. I am certain it is the same for many of you. Don’t you wish it would just let up for a little while? Being from the south….more specifically, Texas…I have always lived with the mantra, “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Well I must be super strong then.
People often ask me, what do you do in your spare time? After a long pause, while I try to contain my hysterical laughter, I smile and say, “what spare time?” As I haven’t attained that rarified status yet of being able to be a full-time writer at home, I must work at a day job. ..which in itself is a misnomer. My job is sometimes a day and night job. I work for a large university where my primary responsibility is taking care of a large marching band…400 strong. When I say I take care of, I mean just that….paperwork, plan their travel, move them across the state or country if we go to a Bowl game, clothe them, feed them, burp them, etc. They are my 400 little chicks going in all directions….literally at times. But I love them and cherish all the students who come through the program and then fly off on their own. It is great when they come back to visit and you see how they have progressed with their lives.
Once I step out of my office, my mind goes into writer mode. I am blessed to have two books published, one about to be published, one under contract, and hopefully, fingers and toes crossed…a series to be pitched by my agent shortly. But all that puts me in that writer’s Armageddon…the deep hole of EDITS. It is an especially interesting place for me as I have three edits going on with three different editors. It is a challenge to keep them all separate. However, the truly interesting part is where one editor tells me to write something one way…grammar, punctuation, etc. And another editor tells me the opposite in the other manuscript! One says it is okay to do it this way, the other says never do that. As for me…I simply shake my head, bite my tongue, and keep writing the way they instruct. When you are a newbie, you must do that and the sooner you learn that rule, the better off you will be. In the midst of edits, my mind is still popping out new stories and it does get crowded in this little brain of mine!
Above all else, in my life is my family and those special set of ups and downs all families have each day. Right now, my offspring are going through career decisions and their own issues, which being their mom, I want to jump in and make all better…but know that I can’t and shouldn’t. But it is hard at times. My husband, the workaholic, has some health issues we are going through at this time also…some very intense. We are part of that large and growing element of the workforce couples that live apart most of the time for our jobs…in our case, across state lines! So another piece of my crazy puzzle life is in the mix of my ‘spare time’.
In all of this, I need to keep reminding myself…it could always be worse. We all need to remember that in our lives. Look at your neighbor or the stranger you pass in the grocery store…their lives could be a lot worse than yours. For whatever reason, we each have a path handed down to us. I just wish it came with a DETAILED road map and GPS.
Keep your head up and a smile on your face! Have a Happy Thanksgiving to all and….here is a parting thought for you….only 6 more Saturdays until Christmas! LOL
August 28, 2015
WOW! What a few days it has been! Writers live for days like this. It helps to ease the pain of the other days that have rejections or endless re-writes or procrastinating people filling them. It began with notification that my book cover for Mercy’s Rescue, has made the final four in the Highlighted Author cover contest. It is such a beautiful cover and so proud of it! The Killian Group did an amazing job on it. Check it out at http://highlightedauthor.com/golden-star-cover-art-contest/romance-cover-category/ .
That was just the beginning. On Friday evening, I found out that Amazon had Mercy’s Rescue ranked at number 19 in Inspirational Romances. I was overjoyed. Saturday morning had an even better surprise for me!! From speechless to over the top happy dancing in my living room (scaring my dogs) I could not share with enough people fast enough. I wanted to hug each and every reader who had made it possible. Of course, that won’t be possible, but the thought is still there!
What people don’t realize about this writing business is that you can’t rest
for long on these nice laurels. I did allow myself time to have a nice
celebratory dinner with some friends and then came home and got to work
on my next writing project. One cannot let up on this crazy ride known as
being a published author. That is my belief at any rate. You are only as
good as your next book. I read that somewhere once and it stuck with me.
Again, thanks to all the wonderful friends and the unknown readers who
took time to read Mercy and leave a review on Amazon (counts a lot!).
I appreciate your time and will never take it for granted. I hope you will find
the books that will come out in the future to be to your liking too. They are
romances where romance is always front and center. As always, I value your
comments. Drop me an email anytime at debraholtbooks.com and there
is a giveaway going on until August 31st, for readers who share my book
with your friends…so check out my Facebook author page
https://www.facebook.com/DebraHoltBooks for more details.
Back to writing I go!
Mercy’s Rescue debuts on Monday, August 10th! Seeing those words in print just now produces a bit of queasiness in the stomach. The birthing of a book is a lot like the birthing of a child. The process has been a lengthy one with highs and lows and unexpected surprises along the way. One thing is inevitable…there’s no turning back. And just like the birth of a child, there is also a lot of joy involved.
I am excited to have my characters see the light of day and meet all of you. I may be partial, but I think you’ll like my feisty Mercy, tough enough on the outside to do her job but has her heart hidden behind a fragile shell. Her hero Josh, is a strong and dedicated sheriff, but is also compassionate and head over heels for her. Their story will have some surprises and an ending worthy of some smiles and good feelings for the reader.
The story itself came together one day when a red medical evac helicopter caught my attention. The story immediately came pouring out of my brain and onto paper. It found a home with an awesome lady, Sandie Bricker, managing editor for Bling! Romance, the new imprint for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. The rest is history as they say. The journey hasn’t been without pain along the way. But just as with the delivery of a baby, the pain is forgotten when you hold your new creation in your hands. The first time I saw the cover of the book I held, it was one of those moments not to be forgotten.
So dear readers, I hope you take a couple hours of your time to settle in to your comfy spot, your favorite beverage beside you, and open the pages of this book with its beautiful cover. Spend time with Mercy and Josh and all their family and friends on the adventure to their happy-ever-after. May you enjoy it and even take a few moments to leave a review for me and the folks at Amazon. I welcome readers’ thoughts. Happy reading!
P.S. Please join us at the Facebook Launch Party on Tuesday night, the 11th, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be fun and some really great giveaways…and I do mean GREAT!! Stay tuned for more on those.
P.P.S…And if you have the paperback book and would like to have it personalized by me…just let me know via email and I will be happy to have you send it my way and I will autograph it and send it back. You just need to include the name of the person you would like it personalized with and a complete return mailing address. Contact me at
UPDATE COMING TOMORROW! Stay tuned.....
How many of you like riding roller coasters? Feeling that rush of adrenaline and then that sudden drop into the unknown? Well, it occurs to me that the time preceding the debut of your latest book is a lot like that. I was going along in my newbie author ignorance, knowing my book launch was a few months away. Then the phone rings and my editor gives me the news…my book has been pushed up…by almost three months so I have less than two months to make things happen! I am now poised at the tip top of that high drop, looking over the precipice into the unknown.
It is a scary feeling. It is also exciting and daunting and challenging. My baby….my story and its characters are about to be introduced into the world. Up until now, I have cared for them and shielded them and kept them safe. Soon they will be out in the big world and I can only stand back and let go. In the meantime, I am rushing around with pushing promo work into high gear, scheduling blog tours, writing press releases, planning a Facebook launch, and all the things that go with letting you, the readers, know about the birth of my book…Mercy’s Rescue.
On August 10th, this book http://www.amazon.com/Mercys-Rescue-Debra-Holt/dp/1941103936
will officially launch. However, you can pre-order now from Amazon: There will be a great Facebook Launch party to celebrate it with some amazing giveaways on August 11th from 7 pm to 9 pm EST I hope each of you will stop by and join in the fun.
Mercy’s Rescue is a special book that has a wonderful home with Bling! Romance and an awesome fairy godmother in my editor, Sandie Bricker. If I haven’t said it enough, let me say it again to the ends of the earth…Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas is a great group of people and I am sincerely gratified to have been chosen to launch their newest line. With all of that being said, August 10th is fast approaching…and that roller coaster seat of mine is over the drop!
SURPRISE!! It’s me again…so soon!
I am trying my best to write more on my blog on regular basis but somehow those pesky characters and their story ideas keep getting in the way and I have to write them down before I forget them! LOL I am told by my readers they really want me to hurry up and get another book out, etc. Hard to try to please everyone but I do try.
The other factors that keep me from writing more on my blog are those associated with just plain everyday life. Funny how that keeps getting in the way of our best-laid plans we make for ourselves. I’m told readers like a glimpse into the lives of their favorite authors on their blogs. I really have never been one to talk about personal things or my mundane life which could be of little interest to others. And certainly not on such a public platform. Although, I have a wealth of friends who keep saying, “why aren’t you writing about your life experiences? They’re so cool!” Well, I guess I never thought about them in that way. But one of these days (don’t you hate that saying we all use?) I just might sit down and put some of my unbelievable wedding planner stories on paper, or my interactions with exotic zoo babies, or on a more solemn vain… my experience in the dark side of human nature in working with abused children and other victims of crime. When I sit still and look back on my life…guess I really have done more things than a lot of people will ever get to experience. One of these days….
My third book launches on Monday. It is unreal when I look at those words. Right now, reviews are coming in from one of the blog tours…10 reviews in 10 days. Each day, I take a deep breath and hold it until I read through the review and then I can expel it. Thankfully, they have all been very good reviews and my days have begun on a positive high! These reviewers are able to grasp the bottom line of my books…they are romances. I write romance. True, some of my books to come are written with a lot more passion involved (per the editors’ requests) but there will always be that simple caveat underlying each story…romance. It is that intangible, gossamer- shrouded, fleeting as a mist, butterfly-fluttering feeling that we all experience (hopefully all) at some point in our lives. It knows no boundaries…it is ageless, not held back by level of education, nationality, bank accounts, geography, politics, etc. Two hearts recognize each other and then the journey begins. How it ends? Does it ever? Such mysteries to explore. And so many books to write!
Until we meet again, have an awesome weekend reading a NEW romance (if you haven’t pre-ordered His Country Bride, it is on Amazon right now!)
My Ladybug Tale
I have always loved ladybugs…even before they became so popular as they are now. As a child, I believed my grandmother Sallie when she told me that a ladybug in your garden means you are special and she will bring you happiness. From that day forward, I would remember that and treat each little lady with the respect and care she deserved. But then we grow up. And while I still smiled if I happened across one, I wasn’t in awe as in my youth. Or so I thought.
One day, I found myself on a trip in Dallas, to do research for one of my books. In fact, I was trying to arrange my notes at the table in the hotel room…on the 11th floor…with the drapes open and a view of the city below. Then out of the corner of my eye, a tiny something caught my attention. I wasn’t the only one looking out upon the view. At the bottom of the floor-to-ceiling window was a beautiful red ladybug. I am certain if I could have been low enough and had magnified lenses, I would have seen her little eyes with a wistful expression wishing to be out in the world below instead of in hotel room so high above it. Perhaps she was frightened?
How did you get here? Of course I speak to ladybugs… doesn’t everyone? Now, I could have just ignored her…left her to the maid and her vacuum later…gone on with my work. But that wasn’t happening. I did give it my best shot at ignoring, I really did. But I caved. I stood up, very gently approached her, slid my hand down on the carpet and soon had her in the center of my palm. Naturally, ladybugs don’t stay still for long. I cupped my other palm over…mindful to give her room and air.
Then came trying to maneuver through a heavy hotel door while not causing more stress upon her ‘ladyship.’ It slammed shut behind me…oh well, and that was the same time I remembered my room key was now behind me on the desk. Great. No time to contemplate that issue. I had a mission and it had to be accomplished. On the elevator, I had hoped for a speedy descent. Nope. Stops on three floors…me hunkered in the back corner with a fixed smile on my face and my hands folded in an angelic pose in front of me. No one would ever guess my hidden stowaway…still tickling my palms with her anxious movements. All the while I am thinking that this might be one of the silliest things I had ever done. Although, for those who know me best…they just nodded their heads when I have shared the story with that look that means it sounds like typical Debbie to them… not sure if that is good or bad at times.
Across the lobby I went and out to the parking lot. Then came another predicament. Where to set the ladybug free? Asphalt wasn’t an option. Ever notice how much there is when you are needing a green space? So I walked around the perimeter of the hotel. What would make her feel happy and safe? Forget the work upstairs waiting for me. The happiness of this little lady became paramount at some point along the way. I came to a hedgerow. Okay. But then I looked at the sharp edges and thought this wouldn’t be MY choice had I been a ladybug. So onward we went. There was a green lawn ahead but someone could come along and step on her. Onward still. The thought actually crossed my mind that perhaps I should get in my car and drive to a nearby park…was there one? I was losing it. I turned the corner and there was what I searched for. Across the street I spied a very pretty rose garden in the corner of a shady yard of a private home. Stealth mode. Surely they would welcome such a beautiful ladybug to their garden! Do not hesitate now. I aimed for a beautiful pink rose bush… ladies like pink. One thing I hadn’t counted on was that she had become used to my hand and didn’t want to let go. I am standing in someone’s corner garden and trying to rid myself of this tiny little body…preferably before the owners discover me and call the police.
Finally, she scoots off onto the lovely green leaf and I step back. She can’t speak. But at that moment, words are not necessary between two old friends. She looked happy. After five years, I still remember that little lady and wonder how she is doing in that beautiful garden. Guess most people would think I was crazy doing something like that. But I do not care. She was a beautiful creature who needed a helping hand. And I still remember in my heart how that felt to be the chosen one to help her. Our paths crossed for a reason which I will not question. And I will not think that my getting my first book contract a couple days later had anything to do with a certain little ladybug. But who can really say?
Until Next time.....
I was going to say, “Summer’s coming soon,” but it’s already here! Where did May go? Suddenly, the calendar is moving far too fast. I have to say I am not a real big fan of summer. I love to go swimming, but you can keep the heat! Although, there are ways to enjoy those hot days and one of them is by cranking up the ice cream freezer. How many of you have fond memories of sitting and cranking that handle (the old-fashioned, fun way of ice-cream making) before the advent of the all-electric freezers? Anticipation was half the fun! Of course, you needed more than a couple of freezers to make it a real party, because so many people had their personal favorite flavors. What was yours? I am split between vanilla and peach. Never could get into Big Red or Oreo or any of those other fancy ones.
My giveaway for the launch of His Country Bride is Everything’s Peachy in Texas. Of course, that ties in with the location of my book, and the attempt of my heroine to make her own peach jelly. It also brings back fun memories I have of summers in the Hill Country of Texas. One particular memory involves a couple of our fun trips over the Fourth of July, to the area around Fredericksburg and Medina, Texas. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law and my husband and myself, would get a cabin in the hills and then plan day trips to do fun things like arts and craft shows, great food stops in out of the way cafes, etc.
Well, one of us, who shall remain nameless (ok…it was me) decided it would be lots of fun to stop at an orchard and pick our own peaches for some homemade peach ice cream that evening back at the cabin. We stopped at this great place with acres of trees. They also had other items you could pick too….apples, figs, watermelons, and LOTS of peaches. So off we four go, armed with our empty baskets. We felt so empowered “getting back to the earth”, rolling up our sleeves, gathering our food the old-fashioned way and not from the produce section of the local grocery.
I picked with one eye open for anything slithery on the ground, as is my habit. Since spending long summers on a farm in west Texas, I learned that you can meet some not nice creatures in the rows of gardens…but that is a story for another blog. Anyway, we were all enjoying ourselves and gathering our treasures. The sun got to be a little warm and so about an hour or less later, we headed in with our baskets to be weighed. That’s when we noticed one small problem… the size of the vehicle’s trunk might be an issue. The next problem…overabundance. We ended up with several baskets and bags of food…for just four people and three days of meals. To say we got a tad bit carried away in our exuberance of our “farm experience” would be understating the problem.
We ate apples, peaches, figs, watermelons until we didn’t want to look at them again for another year. We made a small dent in our quantity. That is the year; my sister-in-law Janet became a supreme “canner” of the highest order. Our treasures were turned into lovely glass jars and given to MANY deserving friends and family members! And they are still coming….LOL
Such are the memories of summer… more to be shared later! Enjoy the peaches and homemade ice cream wherever you are,
August, 2016… Vacation Reflections
Whoever said the line about how you need a vacation after your vacation… SO TRUE! For the first time in a long, long time, I actually took two weeks off. And I kept to my promise to myself to not answer the emails, texts, calls, etc. I managed to maintain that… at least 85% of the time. So I think that is very awesome! However, that only meant when I returned to ‘civilization’ and ‘duty’, my inboxes had triple digit messages. But I won’t dwell on that, as I prefer to think about all we managed to do during those two weeks to have fun.
We began with seven days in the Texas Hill Country. We love going to the area around Kerrville, Bandera, Fredericksburg. We usually plan this along with another couple, Janet and Ray, who not only happen to be a fun couple but also relations. People tend to remark that we four seem more like best friends out for some fun than blood relatives. I have to agree! Anyway, Janet and I have been likened by many to closely resemble another dynamic duo in history… Lucy and Ethel. That would mean our spouses would be Fred and Ricky (enough said on that one). I can honestly say that we have found ourselves more often than not, in some pretty hilarious… and slightly dangerous, but always memorable… predicaments. But that’s what makes our vacations fun and keeps us young. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)
I won’t go into detail because you never know when some of these incidents might just make it into the pages of one of my books. Suffice it to say, this trip was no different for us. We managed to find a road in Texas that might not be on too many maps. At least we didn’t see another soul on it for a couple of hours! It was getting pretty touchy there when the gas gauge kept going down and no sign of civilization. There was immense relief when I pulled into a little countryside store and my brother-in-law didn’t have to resort to pushing the car along.
It was on this trip that we had another ‘great idea’ involving us making a pilgrimage to a very high hill while a thunder and lightning storm danced around us. I recall saying to Janet that this might not have been one of our more brilliant ideas… just before I ran straight into Jesus. I will leave the story at that point, but it will definitely have to be in a book! Bottom line… we lived to tell about it and have more adventures.
No visit to the Hill Country would be complete in the summer without going to a country rodeo and old-fashioned outdoor dance hall. Talk about more ideas for my books… couldn’t have asked for better. I am just disappointed that the speakers of the band blew too early in the evening… and I never got Ray on that bull. Maybe next year!!
My husband and I moved on to spend a lovely day and night on the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk. If you have never visited San Antonio, nor the Riverwalk… you must! But do it in early spring or late fall…when the weather is cooler and less humidity. Also, the crowds of tourists aren’t as large. Of course, in honor of our visit, it poured down rain the moment we stepped out of our hotel onto the Riverwalk. But I was not going to let a little water stop me. We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel concierge and off we went. It was great… as there was only about a dozen other hardy souls like us taking the stroll. And I didn’t have to wait in line for a table next to the river at one of our favorite Mexican food restaurants, Casa Rio. With umbrella in one hand, I managed to enjoy my dinner and feed the ducks, too. It was definitely an evening to remember.
We ended up our trip in the state of Oklahoma. Other than the fact there are way too many Sooners (football reference) in that particular town, it was a nice time. I spent a lovely day with my son, touring the National Museum in Oklahoma City commemorating that cowardly act of terrorism on our soil. If you have never visited it, you should. It is one of the best museums I have seen. They have truly honored the victims and survivors of that tragedy.
Did I do any writing on vacation, you ask? Silly. YOU BET. Actually, I came home with notes for two new books, plus a seven book series… yes, seven. And I will get to those nine books right after I finish the series on my desk right now, along with edits for two books, and cover work for my book launching in October. But you don’t see me complaining. I am blessed to have editors who love my books and readers who want more.
Time to pack away the memories of the summer vacation and full steam ahead into fall and work, work, work. Hope you all had time to make great memories this summer!
July 12, 2016
What was the best job you ever had? Have you ever had one where you couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and get to it and was last to leave work in the evening? Once upon a time, I did. I was lucky…strike that. I was blessed to have the opportunity to work in humane education at a major zoo. All who know me know of my love for animals. Growing up, I was often brought orphaned animals by game wardens to hand raise. It wasn’t unusual for people to visit our home and find raccoons, possums, deer, foxes and more under foot. (More about my raccoon adventures in a later blog.)
There are so many great memories and stories I have shared with friends over the years of my time at the zoo. Often they ask me why I don’t publish them in a book. Maybe… someday. In the meantime, I believe I will share some of them on my blog page during the coming weeks.
It took a while, but I figured out that the key to getting my hands on some of these animals was to make a friend of the gruff mammal director. He was somewhat skeptical of ‘animal lovers’. But I did a couple of things that he noticed. First, I literally memorized the thick educational handbook they gave us on each animal…country of origin, classifications, diet, habitat, etc. I read even more information in other books. And I watched and I listened to the keepers who knew these animals the best. I asked good questions. My crowning achievement? Did I mention I am not above bribery? I found out that this man loved fresh, iced lemonade. On those hot Texas summer days…guess who just happened to walk by with a gallon jug of it? Yep.
It took small steps of building trust, not just with him and the keepers, but of forming a respect with the animals. Therein lays some great stories and memories to last a lifetime. How many people in this world can say they have stood face to face (literally toe to toe) with a white Rhino and lived to tell about it? I even managed to rub his horn and saw that it really is made of hair! Who would like to have your cheeks licked by the long tongue of Molly, the giraffe each day? To take a baby llama and teach her to walk by your side through the park? And the most magical of all… to hand raise three baby lion cubs when their mother would not. The list goes on.
If you are an animal lover, then stay tuned. I will share memories of these magnificent creatures…great and small… and the times they allowed me the honor of being in their world. Until next time, happy summer reading!
The end of this year is coming to a close. Thank Heavens! That was my first thought. It’s been quite a year of shock, grief and loss, and a few nice surprises thrown in to soften the rest. But as I sat to write my blog for this final month of 2016, some other thoughts came to mind. Thankful thoughts I will call them. So bear with me as I meander through them.
Thanksgiving comes once a year and we often save all of our thanks giving to that one day… often around the turkey in the center of our dinner table. But giving of thanks comes more often than that… or it should. Most of us are guilty of not giving enough thanks when we should. As I look back over what I am thankful for in 2016, I came across a few things… and people.
I am thankful that I have a family…who loves me, warts and all. I have a daughter who stands up for those who cannot. She fights the good fight every day of her life. My son has a deep heart and a soul to match… also for others in this world. He may not be as vocal as his sister and mother, but he is steadfast in loyalty to those he protects with fierceness. He is a good man… no mother could ask for more. I have a husband who might not be as wealthy as others, but who has never shirked from hard work since he was a child. That hard work day in and day out earned him a failing heart. But along came some miracle workers disguised as doctors and nurses this year and we have him with us for some time still to come. And yes, he is still working long, hard hours but that is who he is and his way of protecting this family. If there was ever someone who comes close to being George Bailey from “It’s A Wonderful Life”, then that would be my husband… a huge and giving heart and wealthy, not in money, but because of the people whose lives he has touched and the unbounded love and optimism he gives to all.
I am thankful for a handful of dear, life-long friends who have seen and heard it all and still manage to bring laughter and love to my life. It is true that you may not see someone for quite a while between visits and over long distances, yet your hearts stay as connected as if they were in the next room. That is so true of my dearest compadres. And for those friends who have entered my life only recently, you know who you are, too. You have shown caring in thoughtful ways both big and small. I cherish our lunches, our day trips to search out new adventures and back roads, and sharing hopes and sad times, too. You help to smooth the sharp curves that life’s road throws in our pathway.
I am thankful that I have a job that is both maddening and wonderful… often all at the same time. I get to stay young at heart because of the wonderful young people who cross my path…first as timid freshmen far from home and then I get the privilege of watching them walk out the door in four years as adults with their eyes trained on the stars ahead. The best times are those when they come back for a hug and shared laughter, often with their own spouses and new babies in arms. I am reminded that the cycle of life and hope for us all is still in our grasp and will continue.
I am thankful I was born to a family that wanted me. I knew great love and still feel it around me when times are darkest. The strength I was given as a child has served me as an adult and a parent of my own now-grown children. I was also given the ability to stand on my own feet, reach for my own dreams, accept defeat and learn from it, know the greatest joy and wealth comes not from dollars but from finding like souls to share the earth with and still be able to expect the best is yet to come.
And I am most thankful I was born a Texan and an American. I love Texas with a fierceness that often surprises folks who meet me (such as New York editors!) and that love is only second to that of being an American. This country had too much blood shed for her over centuries to protect us and give us a way of life and freedom that few others have…. but all envy. And when it is under attack from forces outside and now, inside, its boundaries, then I will stand up and use my voice to fight for her. When she is threatened, we all are. And when those who are weaker than I are threatened also, then it is my duty as an American to stand beside them. I don’t shirk from that duty whether the opposition is friend, family, or stranger.
This year saw my writing and publishing of books continue to grow and that is something I will never take for granted. To be able to write a book that brings a smile to someone’s heart that I have never met is an awesome thrill and an inspiring responsibility. Thank you readers and I hope the stories I have still to put on the page will continue to make others’ journeys just a bit easier if only for an hour or so… that is my greatest thanks.
The best is still to come….happy holidays and a peaceful 2017 for all,
Here we are in 2017. A few months ago, I promised readers I would be writing on my blog about my experiences working with exotic animals in a zoo’s education department. People tell me “you should write a book about those days.” Well, I am busy with a lot of books right now so these remembrances will have to be told in short snippets in this forum. I hope you enjoy.
Where to begin? How about a good snake story? Let me say right up front that I have always been a lover of all things animal from my birth. With the exception of reptiles. Let’s face it… living in Texas, our reptiles are generally the type that will kill you if you get too chummy with them. So they have their place… which is far, far away from my place.
Working around exotics, or any animal, you learn that they can sense fear in you and that is not a good thing. At the zoo, in our extensive training to be educators, we were told that you do not need to touch any animal that you do not feel comfortable with. Great…no snakes. I had worried about crossing that bridge. In fact, one of my fellow educators had a phobia toward anything with feathers. We made a pact. I would show all the feathered creatures for her during our demonstrations and she would show all the reptiles for me. Brilliant!
All good plans come to an end at the worst moment. Beautiful day, great group of 200 third graders gaining knowledge and appreciation of animals and the environment, etc. I had just finished my program and was waiting outside while others gathered the children for their return trip to their schools. I hear some commotion behind me and turn to see the issue and find the fellow educator running up to me, saying “there’s a problem inside and they need me… here!” I automatically reach out for her animal and off she goes.
Several things hit the brain at the same time. One… the gasps of the 200 children alert me that they see the animal I am holding and it could be a great teaching moment. Two… their gasps aren’t all of the ‘wow’ variety. Three… there is a four and a half foot, Ball Python named Sweetheart now residing in my hands.
My first inclination… scream. Second… toss that thing as far and high and as fast as I can. Three… freeze. I can’t instill fear into the children. I can’t do harm to the animal as I want to keep working at the zoo and that would definitely get me shown the front gates. My fear is beginning to rise. Sweetheart is beginning to flex her coils a bit. Robot Deb takes over. With a smile plastered to my face, and resigning myself to my impending death, I face the children.
I start pulling everything from memory of what I know about pythons. All the while, a crowd of my co-workers and administrators have gathered at the back in awe and amazement… or they are waiting to see me faint dead away… or all of the above. But don’t run to my assistance… nope… just stand and smirk away. I’ve got this.
The five minutes waiting for the teachers to move the group toward the gate is five hours long. Once the last child has exited, I turn and rid myself of the snake to the keeper who stepped up… perhaps noting my paleness? And then something happened. I reached for the snake again. I know…right? Insanity?
Okay, here is a teaching/learning moment. I had always bought into the description of snakes as slimy, slithery, beady-eyed, cunning aggressors. There was no slime. Sweetheart was earning her name. And I became addicted to the feel of her. I liken it to the feel of soft, supple rich leather of the highest quality. As long as she felt protected and supported, she was quite content to be in my hands and arms. Did I ever trust her totally? NO. But that is the rule with any animal… you must always realize and remember any animal can turn in a moment. But with education, you can at least open your mind, if not your heart.
Thus began a long relationship and many adventures with Sweetheart and myself. Each day I learned more… often to the delight and enjoyment of my fellow zoo peeps. For instance, the zoo outreach day at the shopping mall when Sweetheart has her head (the size of my hand) resting on my shoulder while the rest of her is coiled nicely in my arms. Lovely day. Then from my peripheral vision, I see one of my worst nightmares unfold. Sweetheart is opening her mouth…my heart is stopping. This is it. I’m dead. Knew I should have volunteered at the nice, safe art museum instead.
Looking down the throat of a snake is not something most people want to do. I certainly never planned on it. Then just as soon as she had it open, she slowly closed it. My heart moved back in place from my toes. The person next to me just grinned noting my obvious lack of pallor again. “Didn’t you know that snakes yawn?” NO… but thanks for telling me now.
My mother had such a fear and loathing of the creatures. Anytime one would appear even on the television screen, she would have to get up and leave the room until it was gone. When she came to visit and tour the zoo with me for the first time, she had me swear time and time again that I would not take her within a mile of a snake. So meeting Sweetheart was out. At least I kept my promise… so to speak.
Entering the break room after the first leg of our tour, mom took a seat on the sofa with a table situated right behind her. I sat down and then had to bite my tongue. Someone had placed a familiar container on the table right behind where mom’s head was at the moment. I knew my reptile friend was probably sleeping inside before going out for exhibition. But all would be well and as soon as mom finished her soft drink, we would leave without her being any the wiser.
And then there was a soft “achoo.” Funny… only mom and me in the room. She stopped in mid-sip and glanced around. I sat in blissful ignorance. Our conversation picked up again. And then another “achoo” with a little more volume. And that’s when my brain registered that it was my friend in the box. Of course, the fact the lid of the container had begun to lift ever so slightly in one corner compounded that discovery. (A side note to all… snakes can get out of almost anything. The power they have is unbelievable as I observed on more than one occasion and with different kinds of snakes.)
The vision of my mother screaming and running like a mad woman from the office filled my brain… or the opposite. She would keel over dead from a sudden heart attack in the middle of the breakroom floor. Neither was a good scenario. Abruptly, I stood and moved to stand in a ‘casual’ position, one elbow casually propped on the top of the container. Lots to cover, better get moving. Thankfully, she rose and with one more glance around the room still trying to understand that strange sneezing sound, she exited the room. I picked up a heavy zoology book and slammed it onto the lid. Sigh of relief. Crisis averted. I never told my mom how close she had come to her worst nightmare… and survived. I did check with the keeper and yes, snakes sneeze. Some sound close to a human’s sneeze. Isn’t knowledge a grand thing?
Wow. I suppose I could write a book about this subject because I have covered a bit more than I planned with my introduction of Sweetheart and thoughts on reptiles. Rest assured there are more stories to come with lions and tigers and bears, too!
Happy New Year to all!
It’s Spring in Texas!! Or it will be at 5:29 a.m. on Monday, March 20th, to be exact. Those who know me, know that spring in Texas is my favorite time of year and I tend to go crazy (or more crazy as the case might be depending on the person asked).
However, I will say this. It truly is not spring for me until I have sighted my first Bluebonnet of the season. So far, none in sight in my area of the state that I have seen with my own eyes. I hear rumors of some in the south toward the Hill County… but it is just rumor until I have seen them. A sea of blue always spurs and invigorates a Texan’s heart faster than anything. It is a joyous sign that life has renewed itself once again in the Lone Star State… all is well.
And that brings us to another high point of spring in Texas for the readers and lovers of pure romance. Love Beneath Blue Texas Skies is my revamped, refreshed first novel ever published and it will be available in the very near future on Amazon. The story has changed a bit and the cover is definitely new and improved. The Bluebonnets on the cover celebrate spring in Texas!
In addition to a new release, there will be my annual Spring in Texas giveaway! All readers love free items and I am on my search for some great ones for you. I can tell you one item always stays the same… your own supply of Bluebonnet seeds from the famous Wildflower Farm in Fredericksburg, Texas, shipped to the winner of this giveaway. You can have your own little slice of Texas spring next year in your yard. Stay tuned for more of the free items to come in this major giveaway to my readers.
As always, if you have friends, co-workers, relatives, librarians who have not been introduced to my romances, PLEASE SHARE and SPREAD the word far and near. Pure romance is at the heart of my books, whether they are the early ones of inspirational romance or the newer contemporary romances… two hearts finding each other in a happy-ever-after ending can always be found in my books. Great ideas for sharing… take a copy of one of my books and leave in the waiting room of your doctor, beauty salon, pet groomer, coffee house, cruise ship library, etc… and let me know about it with a photo and info. I’ll drop it in my cowboy hat and draw a winner each month and a special gift will be on its way to you as my thanks for spreading the romance!! (It could also get you an invitation to join my secret group of readers on FB… Deb’s Dream Team!)
Mark your calendars…Spring is springing in Texas on March 20th!!
Then came a sunset shot from the shoreline where we stopped for a bite to eat at a local restaurant. Texas sunsets charge the spirit of this Texan. Arrived after dark at the home of our hostess and host… the Pattersons (relatives). Or as we really refer to ourselves, the real Lucy and Ethel and Ricky and Fred. This is due in large part to the adventures we always manage to find ourselves in each time we are together. And we have shared some more than worthy of our own television show! And as is usual, we old folks stayed up until 3 a.m. catching up on news. I don’t recall hitting the pillow before I was out… happy to be back in the land of bluebonnets and Texas-sized adventures to come.
April 8, 2017
The day began with a pilgrimage to visit a sweet angel taken too soon from us… a ladybug named Brooklyn. One of these days, you may find her crossing the pages of one of my books in loving memory.
As it was the noon hour, where else would we wind up but at the famous Gil’s in San Marcos, Texas… a few steps from the campus of Texas State University. I first visited Gil’s over 4 decades ago. I keep going back because of the world-famous, incredible Manske Rolls they make there. Think of a cinnamon roll but three times better!!
The Travel Diary of a Texas Author on the Trail of Bluebonnets
April 9, 2017
Rise and shine early and hit the trail of bluebonnets. We found the best crop of blue at Pedernales Nature Park in Johnson City. They were just about to turn and go to their ‘weedy seedy stage’ but I got some shots that were worthy of the beauty of the hill country and to share with my readers. An hour down the road, my travel buddies and I reached the Texas Bluebonnet Festival in Burnet, Texas. LOTS of arts and crafts booths, carnival, street dances, and a 100-entry kick-off parade. I was soaking up the atmosphere and jotting notes because as many of you know who have read my books to date, these grandest of country customs… the small-town fairs figure in some way in my story lines. I am a people watcher and this is a great spot. While some things change, so many things still stay the same in Texas and I love that.
Lunch time arrived and it was time for some of the best tradition in Texas… BBQ. And since we were in the neighborhood, we drove over to Llano, Texas, and enjoyed ourselves immensely at Cooper’s Old-Time BBQ. The line is out the door and around the building. Charter buses come and go, and there is a never-ending supply of the food served on butcher paper for plates and lots of finger-licking goodness.
More bluebonnet photos were taken along the backroads to our destination for the evening, Marble Falls, Texas. After some stops to shop at local stores, we crashed at our hotel. And no one drives through this town and does not stop at The Bluebonnet Café. Again, the line is long morning, noon and night. But you can’t beat those mile-high towers of meringue on pies that have the diners rushing through meals to get to the best part… dessert. It was a long day, but it was FUN! Good company, beautiful Bluebonnets along with Mexican Blankets, Indian Paintbrush, pink Buttercups, etc., and great Texas food. Head hit the pillow with a smile on my face.
April 10, 2017
Bidding farewell to friends and family, we head for home. My soul and brain have been revived and refreshed from my journey to the hill country. And I came home with more ideas and stories floating around inside my imagination. Can’t wait for next spring and its crop of Bluebonnets!
I hope you have enjoyed my trip to renew and reinvigorate my creative processes. It is this land, this people, this state that underpins my writing and brings forth the stories that I hope you have enjoyed and will continue to do so. I have a LOT more to come over the next few months.
Rolling out of there, we headed for some R & R to ready ourselves for the evening’s main event… a climb into the hills above the lakes to the west of Austin, Texas. Anyone who has ever been to the Oasis, knows the best sunsets are to be had from the many terraces of this one-of-a-kind eating establishment perched on the side of a cliff overlooking Lake
Do you have a special place/routine that you retreat to when you need to recharge your mind and body? Mine is heading to the heart of the Texas hill country in spring… to the land of sparkling clear rivers, blue skies, and seas of bluebonnets carpeting rolling hills and pastures. Everything is fresh and renewing itself after a cold winter. White-tailed does and their new fawns are frolicking across green grasses, young hawks are testing their wings on the warming air currents, and the breezes are plentiful and fresh.
My first stop on my whirlwind pilgrimage was as dusk was falling across the hills and bathing the landscape with its soft golden light. We pulled off the road and positioned our cameras across a field of bluebonnets to where the timeless stone edifice of The Bluebonnet House stood just before you reach the town of Marble Falls. Photographers were already there seeking their sweet spots to capture another photo of this iconic place. I found mine and snapped away.