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boys and men, captive audiences, Faith, featured, G.K. Johnson, history, Israel, mikvah, op-ed, The Zealots

What’s a Whitewashed Tomb?

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

There’s a tree outside my office window that is currently blooming, tufts of life springing from the branches, evidence of spring approaching. Last summer a friend of ours, a landscaper, was at our house and pointed to this same tree.
“That tree’s dying,” he said matter-of-factly.

I was so bummed out! I love trees, especially living in the climate in which we do, where their shade shields us from the hot summer sun. Looking at the tree right now it seems healthy, but on a deeper level, it’s dying from the inside out. It took a warning from our friend, a professional, to know what’s coming.

It is recorded in Matthew 23, that Jesus talks about behavior that looks great from the outside but is filthy inside.

STRONG LANGUAGE

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look immaculate on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything decaying and unclean. In the same way, on the outside, you appear to people as good and helpful but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

Pretty strong language! The Pharisees were well-respected by the Jewish people and were considered to be examples of righteousness. Jesus himself was a Pharisee, but he was far different from them. While most Pharisees enforced and created additional laws for the people to follow, Jesus demonstrated grace toward the people and removed the crushing burden of the law from their backs. The people loved him for this, while the other Pharisees hated him for shining a light on their hypocrisy. So it’s easy to see why the verses above would anger them even more.

If you’re like me, you may wonder at the significance of whitewashed tombs.

We’ve recently experienced mandatory times of quarantine because of a deadly virus, so we understand what it would mean for one person to have to sequester himself or herself away from the normal goings-on around town and home. No fun! What a shame to miss out, right? And, what a bigger shame to know that because you were involved with friends and family after being contaminated, you may be the cause of their illness or death, right?

Arena-death-scene Sketch by James Dawson

Because it is natural that people do not want to be left out of parties and normal gatherings, the law is required to step in and make demands on individual behaviors.

According to Jewish law, any person who came in contact with a dead body, whether it be actually touching the deceased person or simply the grave with a dead body sealed inside, this brush with death and contagion made the person involved “unclean” for a time and required him or her to undergo a period of separation and cleansing for seven days. This was the law commanded by God thousands of years prior for the Hebrew’s protection from disease.

In order to mitigate this risk, the Pharisees had come up with a plan.

Prior to Jewish festivals that drew thousands of Jews to Jerusalem, the Pharisees commissioned the whitewashing of all tombs. This way no one would accidentally touch a tomb and miss out on the festival due to the cleansing period of seven days. Jesus was saying that the Pharisees looked great on the outside, but inside they were unclean and those who followed them were touching death without even knowing it.

Yeshua heals the Leper in GK Johnson’s The Zealots,
by James Dawson, artist

Jesus’ intense words challenge me to look at the condition of my heart. Jesus has the power of life over death. He arose from His own tomb and offers this same life-transforming power to our own grave actions and attitudes. No-one else has that power, not even doctors, researchers, or nurses. Their skills too, rely on the Creator-Savior for a cure.

How do my outer actions compare to my inner motives?

I am helpless without the mercy and power of Jesus to forgive me for the times I focus my attention on looking good on the outside, rather than bringing my broken and sinful heart into His presence in honesty so that He can heal me.

GK Johnson’s debut historic novel featuring the lives of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot is scheduled to appear on or about January 1, 2021. Watch for it.

The Zealots cover sketch by James Dawson

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captive audiences, Charmayne Hafen, Cyndi Kay, featured, Friendship, op-ed

Friends, Young and Old

By Cyndi Kay

“Thank you for being a friend” plays out as the hit TV show Golden Girls rolls the cast in the opening scenes of every episode. As we know, a friendship of the sticking kind, the deep-understanding-about-life-events kind, is not always an easy achievement. These four ladies give us hope that even in old age, we can have a best friend.

TOUGHEST FEAT OF CHILDHOOD

Book cover Return to Twilight
Sam teaches Lorna what a friend looks like.

Finding and making friends as a child has always been one of the toughest feats that we face in our lifetime. We try at an early age to find someone who we can connect to and spend time with as we go through a time when we are only concerned with what fun can we have today.

Little do we know that when we finish school, these friends will change. Honestly, it’s a rare treat if you make friends in grade school and continue that friendship into the awkward junior high years and throughout high school. We change so much as we go through puberty.

Becoming young adults together is to create a trail of breadcrumbs: into the house of post-graduation, careers, and new ties we go, building new tribes.

TWILIGHT is a modern-Celtic story where a bicycle challenge transfers children into the Land of Twilight. For third-grade — sixth-grade kids.
Big Problem, by Brianna Osaseri, illustrator

It is the trail in which we individually answer life’s choices and dilemmas, those choices will form our futures and often depreciate our past relationships, innocence, and values. So, it’s only natural that our friends change; yet there are instances when some of us maintain that first friendship from kindergarten all the way through high school graduation and beyond. Such as that of Monica and Rachel who end up living life together and being there for each other through thick and thin.

Do you have one friend whom you’ve held onto for years?

Although they were fictional characters, Lucy and Ethel always showed us how friendships should navigate life. Always getting each other into a compromising position, these two remained friends regardless of what they went through. I remember a time when a good friend had encouraged me to go with her to a gathering at a mutual friend’s house. As neither of us wanted to drive, we grabbed a ride with our friend and set out to have a great evening. However, that is not how the night turned out. Our mutual friend received a call and left, stating he would be back in about 20 minutes. Well, 2 hours later, we were walking home as I was trying to contact someone to come and get us. Thankfully, one of my other close friends was available and came to get us so we didn’t have to walk 12 miles. I learned then that friends sometimes do not have the best advice.

A DEEPER PURPOSE FOR FRIENDSHIP

Friendship and loyalty aren’t always about the fun; most of the time, the courage gained from our friends’ opinions or stature is what helps us face the hard times. When a person feels as though they have no one else to help them navigate hurt and pain, a friend is the one person they count on.

There can come a time when we lose the closeness of our friend. Because as humans, we change. When our lives change, so do the people we see daily. Things that were once important to us as friends are no longer the things that connect us as best buddies. So, there we are, doing life without the one person we thought would never leave our side.

On a good note, there will be a day we meet a new person, and soon find that person is our person. The only who truly gets us and what we have been through. We identify with our new friend because both of us have experienced many of the same things in life or because we have developed a relationship due to work. Much like Meredith Gray and Cristina Yang. They have portrayed the classic adult scenario of best friends, there for each other regardless of what they are dealing with individually. These two women taught us what it meant to be someone’s person.

What if the reason we truly understand the way our new friend feels is because the loss or pain we each feel individually is related? What if the very thing that caused one of us pain is also the reason the other one has pain.

This is exactly what happens in the latest book that I have read and highly recommend for summer reading. Indebted. This great read is a tale of a young girl seeking to find her mother. Wanting answers to questions no one will ask. Longing to know why she is blamed for something that she doesn’t even understand. Wren, the fierce young girl who leads the story, becomes entangled in deceit in hopes of finding the answers to questions she has held in her heart for so many years. Not only does her life take twists and turns, but the decisions she makes also leads her through pain and love. This is a classic story of life, friends, and love. This is a definite add to any young girl’s summer reading list as it will take them to a different place and time to find that friends are sometimes the only people, we have to push us to be better.

FIGHTING LIFE’S BEASTS

While reading the book Indebted, I realized that we all have our “beasts” we must defeat during our lifespan.

Each of us have a different “beast” that keeps us in turmoil. It isn’t always something we can easily confront. The thought of facing it alone is overwhelming, yet we do not want to place our people in harm’s way. There are times it is hidden within the depths of our soul and the only way we can overcome the hurt is to lay it at the feet of Jesus. We have to find our strength in the Word and pierce the heart of the beast with our “sword” in order to be free of the grasp of the “beast”. Once we have faced our beast and we are worn from battle, we realize, our person never left us to face it alone.

Friendships change and grow as we mature and develop different priorities. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t have anyone to do battle with you when you need them most. It simply means that each battle may have different friends standing with you to achieve victory.

Cyndi Kay, Freelance Writer
Cyndi Kay, Freelance Writer

Cyndi Kay is a freelance writer and a content writer for Christian Women Living magazine and Books for Bonding Hearts.
www.cyndikay.net

adaption, analysis, breath of joy, featured, groundhog day, Kathy Joy, op-ed, repetition, Replete

Repeating Life

By Wordsmith, Kathy Joy

I don’t know why I get this in my inbox, the “wacky, bizarre and unique holidays” calendar. I don’t know from whence it come, touting some mundane calendrical events, most days, comical.

For instance, in June there is a – “Repeat Day”. Repeat Day? The idea of it reminds me of the movie, Groundhog Day. Have you seen it?

I wonder if the calendrical messages are phishing, selling, or spying on my latest horse racing bets, but I enjoy these prompts for writing, and so I don’t complain. I’m somewhat of a human calendarist myself. I’ve been given the task of writing calendaric inspirations for my associates at work now sequestered at home.

A financial coach, Lauren Rilling, enjoys a synesthetic experience with calendars. Synesthesia is where your brain mixes two senses together. You’re seeing music and hearing something visual. There are lots of types of synesthesia. She says, “For me, I see time in my mind’s eye–almost like having a calendar in my head of how the days of the week, months of the year, even years and decades are arranged.” I’m sure that helps her tremendously with her client coaching goals.

For the rest of us, any day, including the June Repeat Day, is a good day to remember the importance of repeating life-giving phrases to each other, and to ourselves too.

Like washing your hands and face, brightening your mind to the unique purpose of why you have landed on this day in this place will start out a seemingly repetitive day better.

WHAT YOU TELL YOURSELF

Repeating your purpose for being where you are can make all the difference in the color, texture, and music of your day. See your hands? They are working through the everyday stitches of life as though they are stitching a warm sweater, a scarf, or a wall tapestry. See your feet repeating the same steps in similar spirals around work? As you look down at your feet, what you tell yourself can be more important than the feedback you receive from others.

If you believe you add value to your world, you will be happier – and it’s more likely that after all, you will do amazing things.

Doing good things bolsters your belief in purpose and the spiral of life will turn upward.

However, if you spend most of your time being an Eeyore, you won’t feel fulfilled. It’s as simple as that, and the repetition will become less synthesized with purpose and more and more of a puzzle of missing pieces to you and to everyone around you.

REMIND YOURSELF ALOUD

“Wash your hands” is society’s repetitive mantra these days. Who knew that would become a thing? Yes, go to the bathroom sink, wash your hands, but, also look in the mirror. I think we might take this idea of repetitive cleansing to a new level.

Today may not be one of those days in which you feel either necessary or essential. Want to wash those feelings away? In the routine, you may feel silly — depending on who is in the room – but saying these personal phrases aloud really helps to center yourself in how and why you are needed:

If You Don’t Like The Story You Are Telling Yourself, Tell Yourself a Different Story – Matthew Kent
  • in what you do,
  • how you think,
  • how you relate,
  • why you were hired
  • how your priorities are needed,
  • the things you offer to others in your way

Making the effort to say these things aloud can lather up and rinse away the doubt. It’s almost like you need to hear these reminders, but you are no longer a child. No-one wants to wash your hands for you. You can’t rely on anyone else to say these things consistently to you.

This is true whether you live alone, work alone, live with a crowd, and work in a factory.

REMEMBER THE WONDER OF THOSE WHO LOVE YOU

It can help to remind yourself–out loud–that you have people who care about you. Pick a person each day to say a mental thank you to for being “your person” when you needed one.

It also helps to think back to a time when you really leaned on friends and family or felt strongly connected to a community. Isn’t it happening again, sometimes under-the radar during our New Normal? Certain relationships are being given priority to lift each other up as “necessary”, “essential”.

Yes, in the repeat of the ordinary and mundane, it’s up to you to synthesize your life.

Be your own best repetition coach. Try repeating these statements out loud each day; tape them to your bathroom mirror, if necessary.

1. “My time is important.”

Let’s be real: managing our time off-site is challenging and comes with unique situations depending on the day. Your contribution to the agency is unique and important. Honor your own needs to match the day by planning your list and prioritizing it. Reward yourself along the way. Small rewards can boost your energy for all the challenges you face today; things like taking a walk, calling a friend, honoring your breaks and lunch, and keeping a stash of really good chocolate nearby.

2. “I’m uniquely gifted for this set of tasks.”

You are valued and you were hired because of your skillset. You have your own brand of approaching the tasks at hand. No one else has quite your blend of personality, education, training, problem-solving or perseverance. Avoid the trap of thinking you duplicate what someone else is doing. Remind yourself on a daily basis how your influence matters because it can only come from you.

3. “I’m not alone.”

You have a team around you, even now – when your team may not be gathered in one physical space. It’s easy to feel like the walls of isolation are closing in. They’re not.

Remember: Repetition and structures have purposes in your life and are for your good. Lather, Rinse, REPEAT. Observing the habits of cleaning your hands, face, and mind for each calendar day will launch you upward and onward in your own special way!

Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy Hoffner writes these Lunch Jabs for her co-workers at the bequest of her superiors. She is an author at Capture Books and is considered a wordsmith for life.

journal, learning, op-ed, Questions, Replete, Sequestered at home, Summer, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Standard Questions from Strangers

By Novelist, Tonya Jewel Blessing

I recently read an internet article from “The California Globetrotter” written by an American expat, Lady Lola, living in Germany.

“No matter where I go and who I meet, there are always the standard questions everyone wants to know about America, and they ask me because I’m an American.

https://www.caliglobetrotter.com/15-questions-im-asked-as-an-american-living-abroad/

“Sometimes I feel like a monkey behind a cage, everyone looking inside wanting to look at it and ask questions about why it’s doing what it’s doing. But I remind myself, everyone is just curious about the American culture and people, and they want to hear it straight from the source.”

Some of the common questions Lady Lola receives as are follows: Did you vote for President Trump? Is there really so much gun violence in America? Is racism still a problem? Do you really drive everywhere? Why are Americans so loud? Have you actually met a famous person? Why do Americans smile all the time? And, Why do Americans put bacon on everything?

Questions often present an opportunity for growth

Recently, I feel plagued by questions where the answers are not readily available.  In some cases, I have kept concerns to myself. I am worried about being judged for my personal beliefs or even misunderstood in what I am saying or refrain from saying. Questions often present an opportunity for growth.

There is an interesting question-filled story in the Bible in the Book of Judges chapter 13. There, a woman, who is unable to have children, experiences an angelic visitation. The messenger tells her that she is going to have a son and gives instructions about how to parent this unusual boy. The woman then tells her husband, Manoah. The Bible says in verse 8 that Manoah prays to the Lord asking for answers to specific questions. God is not offended by Manoah’s inquiry and, in fact, responds with the needed information.

Have you been asking heartfelt questions lately? Maybe you have voiced some of those questions, or maybe you have felt intimidated to make inquiries. Rest assured that God wants to hear your concerns. He wants to help you and to bring clarification to your queries.

Manoah and his barren wife sacrifice a ram to the angel of the Lord (above); Manoah’s wife wears a wimple in Eustache Le Sueur‘s The Sacrifice of Manoah, 1640-1650.

Tonya Jewel Blessing and her husband, Chris, manage their ministry in South Africa, Strong Cross Ministries. They have been hunkered down with a variety of hospitable family members through the Covid-19 world-wide crises, and separated from those they long to be helping. Tonya, having grown up partially in West Virginia, the Appalachian hills and hollers, is the author of unique fables: The Whispering of the Willows, and sequel, The Melody of the Mulberries. Those who have read the first two installments are hounding Tonya for her third book in the series.

analysis, Big Creek Appalachia, Faith, featured, leadership, op-ed, rethink, scrutinize, Summertime, Tonya Jewel Blessing

LEADING THE WAY

By Tonya Jewel Blessing

I am a leader. As a woman in leadership, some days I feel great about leadership and other days. . . not so much.

Leadership is the ability to influence others into following your lead. It comes in a variety of forms and is defined in numerous ways. Making presentations, forming a company, bookmaking, posting articles, publishing blog posts, teaching and coaching, and other expressions are readily available to peruse principles for leading others.  
 
I train leaders. I am a partner in ministry. I teach, inspire, and preach in a variety of settings. I also write books. For me, one of the key ways I measure leadership is through effective communication. Am I communicating biblical principles in what I do and what I say?

In a time when there is great fear… LEADERS are more necessary than at any other time. (anonymous)

In order to communicate biblical principles, I need to experience daily intimacy with God. I want to use tactical, God-inspired, insights in my communication.
 
Another way is to gauge whether others are able to hear my words. Lately, I’ve been testing whether I communicate in ways others can hear, not merely the way I voice my vowels and consonants but also hear me in a way that they are able to live out those words in their own world. It isn’t just once that my husband has told me I have talked around issues of importance so that when I am done speaking, I may have left people wondering about the heart of what I have said.

T-Junction

I’m working on direct and healthy communication by a method of asking some questions. Have I presented my point? Have I given applicable examples? Have I given too little information, or have I rambled and overwhelmed the audience with too much?
 
It is likewise vital to me that others can emulate my leadership. I want my strides along the paths we walk as leaders to be in a clear direction not just speak about guiding lights as principles. Combining my words and actions, is my model of leadership effective? Can others put Jesus-living into practice?
 
As women in leadership, my prayer is that each of us becomes great communicators through words and deeds. I hope that those who view our lives and listen to our words are personally moved forward and are able to move those around them in a good and wise direction.

Tonya Jewel Blessing
Tonya Jewel

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a sought-after teacher and speaker. She is the author of The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries. Her writing leads the way for Christian authors to write difficult scenes of gender and sexuality in fiction.

Allegheny Mountains, featured, Fireflies, meme, op-ed, Pennsylvania author, Speak Wonder

Fireflies

By Wordsmith Kathy Joy

Photo by Sabine Berzina on Unsplash and Instagram

Every summer, the woods and fields of Pennsylvania light up in a symphony of fireflies.
From the summer solstice into the second week of July, the twinkly wonders commandeer the forest for mating.

Our very own Allegheny National Forest is one of only a few places in the US where you can view the Synchronous Firefly; the other regions are the forests of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
“Synchronous” refers to a rare phenomenon: the tiny bugs flash patterns in sync with each other. It’s like a string of Christmas lights hanging in the forest.

During normal summers, you grab a lawn chair and a cooler and head to the Tionesta Creek for Nature’s Light Display. You’ll need a jacket for the cool of the evening, and some marshmallows for toasting.
But not this year …

This year, because of COVID-19, the activities are restricted. You can watch the 8th Annual PA Firefly Festival on a virtual stay-at-home online link here:

http://pafireflyfestival.blogspot.com/

Andrew Bui@andrewbui on Unsplash

Despite regulations, the lightning bugs will show up in wild, spectacular abandon.
Their light show is a whimsical mystery — and we can all use a little whimsy sometimes.

Recently I wrote a piece remembering a stand-up guy who died suddenly, 2 years ago.
I hesitated to publish it, protesting to another that I only knew Ron for a short time. 
“But you’ve known Grief for a long time,” came the reply.
With that authority, I wrote the piece.

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once described friendship as “a sheltering tree.” What a fitting description of camaraderie at work: the shelter of a tree suggests the ease and familiarity of being around a person who provides leafy green wonderment. Ron Klonicki was just such an individual in our midst.

Today marks the second year since he was so suddenly and unexpectedly silenced by a faltering heart. We lost him on June 2, 2018. Ron died on a Saturday. That following Monday, we came into work and felt a jolt of shock and unbelief. It was hard to fathom, as Ron was something of a fixture on the 4th Floor, his office a friendly landmark as you passed through on the way to the conference room. Many in the MH/ID Department carry fond memories of Ron, a good-hearted, dependable, solid person. You could count on Ron to lend his expertise, tell a story, share his culinary skills and readily identify all kinds of flowers.

Ron was a Program Director for 30 years in MH/ID. His unflagging advocacy for persons with special needs, is still sending ripples into the community. Without fanfare, Ron showed us all how it’s done – he was fully immersed in meaningful work, while at the same time remaining engaging, relatable and terribly funny.

Ron’s legacy is his laughter – he was particularly good at recalling whimsical stories of his many travelling adventures with Carol, his wife. One of my favorite memories of Ron is the day he showed me how to download and use the phone app, “My Talking Pet”. When he showed me videos of his dog, “Jasmine,” talking in Ron’s own sped-up voice, it was hilarious.

For a quick minute I almost forgot he was a high-ranking administrator; we were just two people laughing at a video of a talking Chihuahua. Whimsically, Ron was never much for hierarchy or status. He made you feel welcomed in and valued your input. Just like a tree in the robust month of June has deep roots, wide branches, and full leaves, Ron provided lots and lots of shade for anyone in his realm of influence.

In the sparks of light emanating from Ron’s openness and curiosity, one can’t help but wonder what he’d think of the strange world we find ourselves in these days: re-emerging from “The Covid Spring” and stepping backward into an echo of civil unrest. Knowing Ron, he’d probably just roll up his sleeves and see to the next individual in need of housing or mental health services. He’d bring flowers to the office, and vegetables from the garden. In the shade of his big-hearted friendship, we’d share a moment of light and peace.

Fireflies are everywhere in June, in certain regions of the country. Not everyone gets this blessing, I am reminded by my jealous editor. Not everyone knew Ron either. Maybe this is why June’s unexpected symphonies of light are synchronous with heartfelt memories of special times and special people. I’m enjoying the unexpected and so grateful for a whimsical favor of these things offered to me right now.

Kathy Joy is making her co-workers happy with daily lunch jabs. She is also a favored speaker, editor and author with Capture Books. Find her seasonal Breath of Joy coffee table books on Amazon. But, don’t buy a knock off, cheaper version. Get the quality original.



Bridges, captive audiences, featureed, ingenuity, op-ed, poetic, Replete, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Metaphor Bridge

By Tonya Jewel Blessing


A bridge is a meeting place, a possibility, a metaphor

Jeanette Winterson

Last Sunday, Chris and I, along with my sister and brother-in-law, toured the covered bridges in Ashtabula County in northeast Ohio. The region borders Pennsylvania. We viewed approximately ten bridges located almost exclusively on hard-to-find backcountry roads. The weather was delightful, and the homemade fried pies we found at a roadside stand delicious.

The quote by Jeannette Winterson is a new favorite of mine. As an author, I am also looking for a meeting place with other authors and readers; a possibility of sharing my books on numerous platforms; and direction, even in the form of a metaphor, about how to engage people with my writing.

Most of the bridges we viewed were old and worn, yet sturdy in form and function. Since my novels are set in the late 1920s, I understand the old and worn. I enjoy writing about legends, history, folklore, and people of the past. As an author, with the help of wonderful editors, I stick with writing form and function as much as possible. I do, however, lack form and function when it comes to marketing. I am constantly and consistently looking for new platforms to promote my books. Capture Books, a publishing house, has been extremely instrumental in helping me and has thankfully spurred me onward. Laura Bartnick is my representative. Her innovative ideas keep me on my toes.

This month, I am pleased to say that some new bridges have been crossed. An organization that promotes books that feature minority characters, Diversity Between the Pages, wrote an amazing blog about my latest novel. I have a podcast interview set up for next week. I am in the processing of writing an article for a Christian magazine, and I am excited about an virtual book tour with Prism Book Tours, on June 22-26.

Whether you are a writer, singer, teacher, leader, or dreamer remember to engage in bridge meetings, entertain possibilities, and examine metaphors.


analysis, better together, breath of joy, Chick-fil-A, Faith, featureed, rest and work, sabbath, Sunday Lunch, trust

The Honor of Rest: CHICK-FIL-A® Model

By Laura Bartnick

As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line.  It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?

My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.

The Chick-fil-A® company history website touts, “We change the world, and ourselves, by our response to unexpected opportunities.”  S.Truett Cathy 1921 — 2014

Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.

Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.

Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.

Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go.  But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?

Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.

Quality

“S. Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”

“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.

“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”

Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.

The Human Need for Rest

I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday. 

In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well.  And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.

My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend. 

God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?

Why Then, Closed Sundays?

“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.

According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”

Tremendous Growth Under New CEO, Dan Cathy

A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.

“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.

The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.

Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.

In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.” 

A Servant-Leader

“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”

“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”

A Renaissance Man

“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.” 

“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons.  A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”

A Community Influencer

“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth. 

He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”

A Lot of Lost Revenue

A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.

“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.

“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.

In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”

“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.

In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”

Read More: https://www.mashed.com/25923/real-reason-chick-fil-closed-sundays/?utm_campaign=clip

Blessings Stand at Federal Law

The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.

“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour.  ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’

“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.

“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.

Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.  

Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.

Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.

Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.

Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.

captive audiences, Cyndi Kay Green, family caregiving, interview, journal, memoir, op-ed, poetic, Replete

Memories

By Cyndi Kay

Books For Bonding Hearts / Blog

The stories of our youth aren’t just stories. They represent who we are based on where we were.

My sister loved watching the movie “The Way We Were” which featured the song and lyric, “Memories, light the corners of my mind”, mainly because Robert Redford was the leading actor. As I have grown older, I can understand why the movie was one that became a classic.

What we’ve experienced carries into the present on the backs of who we have become.

Have you reached into the past to pick out and relish a time that brought a smile so big your face hurt? I have. Once upon a time when things seemed easier… I can recall how much life has changed. Do we drift back in time because we are unhappy and long to smile? Or do we simply drift back because something sparks a thought of moments long ago?

I’m just as sure that you, like me, remember the pain that we’ve faced only to realize the strength and insight that we now possess because of the experience.

As I write this blog, Barbara Streisand’s famous Memories song reminds me of my sister, even though she never talked about romance, she was definitely a fan of Streisand’s. The song’s invitation to memories that two people once shared during a brief romance, asks us to remember similar feelings. Even if we haven’t experienced them yet, the song causes us to believe we did.

Memories. What causes us to take a detour from current events?

Drifting Into Yesteryear

We were young, never thinking we would have overnight shopping available or carry phones in our hands at all hours of the day and into the night. We find a different kind of peace to soothe our aches. For me, during the time when  “All in The Family” was the most offensive show on television, life didn’t seem to move so fast. Shopping shut down by 6 p.m., or 8 or at the latest during the holidays, 10 p.m. Television went static at midnight, and kids came in when the streetlamps began to light the neighborhoods in glowing orbs, halos and electric rays. At least that is how it was for me in rural America in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We could count on the Saturday Evening Post to chronicle this American life. With its meticulously drawn photos of kids, parents, and everything idyllic to an modern family, the Post brought to life the legacy of our great nation and the best part of life we had enjoyed within the states that define America.

Ask Them

Many of our elders know that life was not so ideal. After all, World War I occurred, named the great war for a reason, then the Cold War came directly after World War II. Race oppression and uprisings and the Korean War, Vietnam, etcetera, transformed perspectives and friendships and changed society so fast. The stress of cosmopolitan politics, women’s liberation, and homemade fears created amazingly complex memories full of contextual stories that are better than any Snapchat or TikTok.

Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of six with wild dandelions, herbs, and vegetables from the previous year’s garden. It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.

Our great-grandparents’ memories tell us of the poverty and mothers’ abuse or father’s abandonment, the stock market crash and the Great Depression and how their momma made a meal for a family of 6 with wild dandelions, herbs and vegetables from the previous year’s garden.  It was a time of experimental vaccines for the years of polio epidemics, Franklin D. Roosevelt as president, and the dust bowl.

Dorthea Lange captured one of the most dramatic and historic photos of that era.

The Story from a Cold War Rocket Scientist

Sometimes, we are able to get these stories into a book so that many may be able to dive back into the days of our elders. One such book is Mister B: Living With a 98-year-old Rocket Scientist. This book is a memoir written by Mr. B’s daughter-in-law. In this lively memoir, we read story after story about the life that Joe Byk has lived throughout the realities of his century. We are taken back and forth from the current neighborhood where the street is lined with perfectly mowed yards to his seemingly ordinary tales with a twist, and some of them are simple antidotes. He is not one to beat around the bush when he makes his mind up. He gives us a glimpse of aerospace and the Cold War. We can learn some lessons from this quaint book about the memories of an immigrant turned Rocket Scientist.

• Keep track of what is going on in the world in order to understand the bigger picture.
• Getting out of the house is good for the soul.
• There is a chance that being a pioneer will not get you fame.
• We live in a world where computer training is must

There are many more lessons the characters observe and learn from each other’s perspective, but these really paint a picture of how life does certainly change.

Three Little Things

If you are on a mission to delve into more memories from yesteryear is a book by Patti Stockdale, Three Little Things. In this enticing book, the author uses love letters from her grandparents as inspiration for Hattie and Arno. The book takes us through the memories of being in love during wartime, but more intriguingly, we are guided through a relationship that grows from Hattie and Arno sharing three little things with each other. It all starts before wartime when Hattie had a crush on the neighbor boy, Arno.

As they grow, she finds herself trying to let go of that “love” because she feels that it can only be one way. Not until seeing the letters during wartime, does she realize that he had loved her all those years.

The couple’s coping memories for wary yearnings take you right into the very place they are standing. Whether it be in the parlor or the barracks, you are right there as they find the love that they have known all this time.

As we grow older, our stories are the most important thing we can pass down to our children and grandchildren. Of course, not all of us will have the rocket science stories, but we each have a particular legacy to share. The stories of our youth aren’t just stories. They represent who we are based on where we were.

How to Preserve a Legacy with Memories

There are two great ways to preserve our legacy and memories for our future generations. One is to write them in a 365-Day Journal. If you do not like to write, then have a family member help you with this. You can pick up a journal at any Walmart or Costco; even dollar stores have them. They do not have to be expensive. Some choose to use regular spiral notebooks or the composition style notebooks. Another way is to create a photo album, just like the days of your grandma.

If possible, photograph the magnificent moments in life. Not just the grandiose places but capture the moments that make your heart sing. Moments like your grandbabies swinging in the backyard. Those moments that you and your husband are making dinner and mistake sugar for salt.

Most of us have a cell phone nearby nowadays, so a quick snap and boom, there it is! — No more expensive copies of your photographs needed. Then you can pick a day once a month to go to the nearest photo printing shop and have your favorite captured memories printed directly from your phone. I am sure Mr. B would be one to pass on this, but it could be a way to share your story with the future generations of your family.

Memories are what connects us to the past as well as the future. Make sure your generations are able to know the stories and lessons of the “good ol days” by passing them down.

Cyndi Kay

Cyndi Kay is a freelance writer and a content writer for Christian Women Living magazine and Books for Bonding Hearts.
www.cyndikay.net

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Lilacs and the Silence In Between

By Kathy Joy Hoffner

We’re experiencing some threshold moments: the silent in-between spaces where we have left something behind but have not yet entered the next portal. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart expressed it this way,

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between.”

Breath of Joy: by Kathy Joy

That interval between moments? That’s the space where we can be awake and ready for the next wonder.

You know what’s really beautiful in this moment?
The lilacs.

Nature considers them “essential” as they hang in abundant clusters from their branches. They have shown up to spread the fragrance of the familiar into our world of ambiguity.
With little regard for restrictions, the lilacs and magnolias, dogwoods and redbuds, are shaking off the grip of winter and spreading their glory onto a grateful canvas.

They are doing the essential work of being beautiful and sending healing.

Silent caregivers, these delicate buds nurture us back to curiosity; we are re-honing our ability to be astonished.

“Honor the space between no longer and not yet.”

Nancy Levin, Network for Gratefulness
Singing Spring, by Kathy Joy, photos by David T. Sayer, Glenn Damon

If we are stuck living inside the uncertainty, it’s at least really nice to look around at what’s real; what returns and wildly splashes color onto the landscape — year after year.

Be watchful. It only happens in the silence in-between. Let’s try to hold these moments with greater openness, in that uneasy experience of curiosity and trust.

Lunch Jab May 27, 2020

Book Cover, Singing Spring

Big Creek Appalachia, breath of joy, Coronavirus, Cyndi Kay Green, featureed, literary, op-ed, Sequestered at home, spring season

FINDING AN ESCAPE

By Cyndi Kay

Due to social distancing and quarantine requirements, I have noticed that many of us are finding ways to escape the torturous abundance of downtime. Gloom seems to be lurking in the shadows of the unknown.  So, let’s talk about some of these escape methods, shall we?

Not homebodies or entertainers, some escape artists feel that “staying put” in a family group has become very trying on their patience.

Now I am not saying this in a bad way, just the opposite, I am just saying some people would rather be outside enjoying our world rather than caught up in the latest Netflix series. Needing the fresh air, these people are the ones you’ll find outdoors building raised flower beds and Koi ponds pretty much all by themselves. Solitude is a valid and beautiful way to get lost. Creating a secret garden is the design and physical digging of dirt and life, a tiny version of the world at home by good and proportional use of God’s creations. It’s a place to bring serenity in the midst of the anxiety created by the unknown.

We move on to those who need to escape to the country.  They cannot stay put at home but don’t mind a bit of company in their explorations.

They are not thrilled with flower beds and fishponds. It’s an accomplishment if they get the yard mowed once a week. They need to go. They need to explore. They feel the need to get away from home. So where do we find these gypsy spirited people?

My first guess would be at the nearest lake or river. They could be sitting on the dock fishing and just enjoying the tranquility of wondering whether the fish will actually stay on the hook. Maybe they own a boat and they want to spend time trolling around the lake soaking up the sunshine (if there is any). Though they are not sequestered at home, they are still for the most part social distanced and quarantined.

Another means of escape this way is going on a day trip of exploration. I have a good friend who is one of those non-sit-stillers. She loves to go dancing or alternatively, be outdoors. With dancing clubs shut down, she discovered the option of taking day trips. She recently took a road trip to Arkansas and our newsfeed was full of photos of trains from this trip. Some of us in this narrowing, nervous world want to get out and enjoy the living and free world in which we still live. So, pack a lunch, grab a camera, and load up for a day trip of riding through the country.

Others enjoy staying home to learn a new hobby and escape into some future potential.

Photo by Laura Stanley on Pexels.com

These are the introverted, creative ones. Those who do not want to be near anyone in case they don’t know how to behave socially in public, especially since the 6 ft. spacing rule was instituted. They are too busy playing, learning, and experimenting with something imaginative to worry about going out and about. They have learned to build a greenhouse or to crochet, knit, and maybe even sew since there is now a demand for face-masks. Some of them have taken to creating wonderful crafts that would likely be bought up in a heartbeat if all of the summer festivals had not been canceled. These crafters will be thrilled that Hobby Lobby has once again opened their doors. But they’ll need someone else to run and get them the craft supplies.

One of the best ways to evade today’s chaos is to get lost in the pages of a different time and place.

I remember my dad, born in 1918, telling me as though a badge of courage demanded the telling, that he only made to the 6th grade and had to start working to help support the family. I thought about this when I found my own quiet, sunny nook and read a book, actually a series of 2 books, set in the 1920’s.

A trail in the Allegheny Highlands of West Virginia

The 1920s was a time of arranged marriages and families consisting of more than 2.2 children. It was a time when life was hard and if a child graduated 8th grade, then they were considered old enough to be married. The books were written by Tonya Jewel Blessing. The first one was The Whispering of the Willows and the second book was Melody of the Mulberries. Both of these were set in the Appalachian Mountains and revolved around the Ashby family, namely Emie Ashby. Opening the pages of book and partaking in a life that is not our own gets us away from the gloom and doom speculation and allows us to relax. I enjoyed being taken back in time to a place I have never been just so that I could get away from the everyday duties of being home and taking care of the house. I find it humorous that in today’s situation, West Virginia has become the great escape destination. So much so, that Governor Jim Justice has issued new state orders concerning non-residents fleeing to Appalachia to avoid COVID-19.

Overall, the world in which we live is far different than it was just 3 months ago.

As we look back, we already see how much has changed. Gone are the days of hanging out all night at the clubs or coffee shops. We don’t know who has been where or with whom, so we decide that we just can’t risk the health and wellbeing of our families. Even our esteemed Hollywood actors, such as Tom Hanks and his wife, have felt the grips of Covid-19.  Into focus has come the question of legalities and civil rights in a whole-county lockdown. As we look back in time, we see how the American way of life has been forever impacted by so many different situations. Whether it be war, terrorism, racial tensions, or viruses, America is not what it once was in the years past.

It is a hard time in this new America of 2020, but nonetheless it is up to us to find the good and know that while we have faith, hope, and love, God has more.

Travel a Prism Book Tour in June, 2020

Take this time to cherish the quiet moments of memories that you would have missed had you been rushing through your nightly routine in order to be able to get up and do it all over again tomorrow.

Whether you are finding escape into the earth, into new explorations, into the creative future, or into history, your personal preference will help you reinvent yourself and will offer a peaceful portion to a world engulfed in uncertainty.

Guest Writer, Cyndi Kay

Find out more about Cyndi Kay and her writing on her website.

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Cracked Leather, Split Soles, Tattered Laces

By Kathy Joy, author of the Breath of Joy Seasonal Coffee Table Books

“Good Shoes Take You To Good Places” Seo Min Hyun

One thing we’re not using much of these days is shoes. I don’t know about you, but I’m mostly going barefoot around the house. 

Shoe wear is optional while we remain sequestered at home.

A comfy pair of sneakers park themselves at my door for the occasional walk to the mailbox, or happily, a walk around the block; other than that, my work shoes lie dormant in the hall closet, grumpy about neglect and murmuring obscenities in the dark, behind the closet door.

There’s an artist in Fort Myers, Florida, who is busy painting sandals with messages of love and hope, decorating them with jewelry and then stringing them onto a line. Her name is Annette Brown, and her message is simple: “I think everybody needs to reach inside themselves and create something because we are all artists in whatever form.”

Annette’s neighbors are stepping up, decorating sneakers and pumps and sandals, creating visual reminders of creativity and survival. 

It has become an outdoor gallery of curated shoe art. People are out walking, and they are looking up.

Dangling Shoes
Shoes on the telephone line

Life-giving messages are written, painted and glued onto the shoes to spread cheer for all passers-by.

Shoes are a pretty accurate reflection of our personalities – much like each our own handwritten signature, they are seals of style, a unique identifier for “you”, “me”, fashionable “us”.

On a walk recently I came across an old, worn-out pair of men’s work boots on a neighbor’s front porch. The leather was cracked, their soles were split and their laces tattered. Even so, they looked amazing. 

Because inside of them, some creative person had planted a bright bunch of impatiens.
The flowers nodded in the breeze as if to say, “Look! We can bloom here and re-purpose even this ratty pair of boots!”

New life inside of worn-out containers.

No longer serviceable for feet, yet perfectly whimsical to hold a cluster of perennials.
We’re kind of like that: our bodies feel worn out at times, like a pair of old shoes.
Tired, achy, holding the shape of a hug from six feet away. But, infuse laughter, spring flowers, a hug of safety, some repurposing, and our souls fill up these bodies with sudden vitality.

If we think of our weary souls as conduits for beauty, then maybe we can feel a new infusion of love, peace, kindness and growth. With good soil, water, sunshine and God’s provision, a worn-out soul can be rejuvenated.

We, like that shabby pair of work shoes, are quietly being re-purposed for the future.
Strange soil is spilling into the holes. Unnecessary things are being shed. New and hybrid Seeds are being planted inside our worn leather, things that will sprout in due time and declare our resilience in new fruit and sweet blossoms. These things will delight our private days as well as our days when we are all back together.

Wiggle your toes and step into that.

“How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news!” Romans 10:15

Jodi Jensen, watercolor artist

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com, and Capture Books Publishing Group, timely gifts for all seasons. Please visit the link to see my seasonal books, the “Breath of Joy! series. Breath of Joy! Singing Spring is a favorite this time of year.

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breath of joy, Coronavirus, Faith, featureed, Kathy Joy, spring books, spring season

Surprise on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

By Kathy Joy

Capture Books

Breath of Joy Seasonal Gift Books

I went to Beach 1 over the weekend for a mental excursion. Keeping a healthy distance from other humans, I watched from my perch on a picnic table. Above the thundering of the waves beating the shoreline, I heard a sound I hadn’t heard in some time: laughter.

A woman, bent down to scour the sand for beach glass, was suddenly drenched in cold lake water; she’d gotten a little too close to the waves. Her response was a wail of surprised laughter. Through the wind, over the water, like a rescue rope to all our drifting souls, her laughter caught us and pulled us to safety.

I laughed along with her and noticed others looking up from their nature walks, their feet, their buried thoughts and dreams. They joined in the sudden ripple of laughter.

It was music.

picnic tables on beach near waves
Picnic Tables on Beach 1, Lake Erie Pennsylvania

It was a sacred pause on a windswept beach, lasting only a moment.

I pocketed that moment like rare blue beach glass, and carried it home with me to be sustained and reminded: shared laughter was our Sunday communion; our imperfect song; our rescue.

May you be surprised and soul-fed by a swell of pure joy today. I hope it bumps into you from unexpected places and knocks you down and jiggles out a sound you need to hear: the release of your own shut-in laughter, finally finding a way out.

Kathy Joy is the author of Singing Spring, and pursuant to the request of her employer, writes Lunchtime Jabs for her co-workers in Erie, Pennsylvania while they are working from home during the quarantine. Her Breath of Joy books are a series of seasonal pick-me-up styled coffee table books featuring glorious images of Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. On these images, her wordsmithing talents soar and dive and dig into the human experience.

daisies and sky breath of joy
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Coronavirus, dying well, Faith, featureed, L.L. Larkins, op-ed, Psalm 4, Psalm Hymns, Replete

Raise Up the Scientists & Raise Up the Faithful!

By L. L. Larkins, author of the Psalm Hymns

Have you been thoroughly confused by tuning in and hearing paradoxes like this in the news?

  • “Rest and be good to yourself.”
    • “Keep busy. Excercise. Be productive.”
  • “Post cartoons on social media for the depressed. Laughter helps people cope.”
    • “We’ll go down in history as the nation who died laughing, singing, and eating-with rolls of toilet paper stored in our shower stalls.”
  • “Together, we will get through this.”
    • “The only way to get through this is to shut our borders and take care of ourselves.”
  • “The President let the wrong people go. Losing these valuable assets put us in jeopardy of personnel, policies, and programs”
    • “No-one could possibly be prepared for a once in a generation pandemic of unknown origins.”

If you are like me (and I know I am) these soundbites provide me an inspiration to humble myself, to pray, and to research. When I find a line on an answer, I like to enter the fray with the new understanding.  There are others who have history, many facts, and a great understanding who prefer to keep their own counsel.

Yet, a Great Leveling Factor is Occurring

A leveling factor is occurring in our midst and among the nations of the world. Can we consider a few of these?

  • The smart ones are deprived of answers bringing them low. 
  • The defenseless and poor are watching their organic gardens and farms and ranches provide feasts to eat in safety.
  • The military cannot see the enemy.
  • The wealth of the rich does not help them survive.

The real question is, while world administrators gain access to humanity by following and listening in, and as they start to implement long-lasting laws and social regulations, will believers offer the hand of their Creator-Sustainer to others who need to know or will they capitulate to empty soundbites and dead-end platitudes?

Science has now shown that Covid-19 is a protein, rather than a virus. Thus, vinegar does not kill it. Hand-washing and other cleaners are still the best defense. Also, do not shake out plastic bags, paper bags, or clothing because the proteins can enter and live in the air for up to three hours.

We can only Give what we Know. 

Here’s the funnel. People can only give what we possess and know to be true. We can only know what we have submitted to learn.  We can only learn what we’ve been taught.  We can only be taught if we have teachers.

But, even scientists disagree.

  • “The mystery protein properties of the virus DNA is bad news.”
  • “There’s a patent on the virus.  Only man-made things can be patented.”
  • “There could be a resurgence.”
  • “Don’t take the anti-virus vaccine.”
  • “We’ve got to follow the science.”
  • “Alcohol is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Peroxide is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach is the best sanitizer.”
  • “Bleach was invented to kill American troops in WWII.”
  • “Vinegar and lavender are the best sanitizers.”
  • “The virus is the Evangelical’s fault because they don’t believe in science.” 
  • “It’s China’s fault.”

Sometimes in our home, we pray for those we love.  Sometimes we pray for just ourselves. Sometimes we pray for the world.  Today, we prayed that the research would increase and scientific answers would be found. We also prayed for faith to increase. And, yet we continue to hear about wild ends of the spectrum.

  • “They should open every political meeting with prayer.”
  • “A third of the world could perish.”
  • “My loved one went to heaven this morning.”
  •  “Those who praise the Lord will be spared.”
  • “Christians have a greater rate of illness because they run to help and they aren’t afraid of death.”
  •  “Isolate and protect your elderly.”
  • “Anyone over 80 will not get standard medical care.”

So, we know that life will change soon.  It has already changed. Look around. Make a list. It is changing moment by moment like it did on 9/11. Like it did with the Spanish Flu (sic) and the Black Plague and is doing in Africa with the plague of locusts. How could a global pandemic not change the world as we know it? 

We are being humbled.  But, as we are being humbled, why do only a few look up from our shoes and stand in confidence?

An expert criticized the current administration in America today: We are not looking into the distance. We are only looking at the two feet in front of us in the headlights.

Maybe we are only looking at our own wallets and our own stockpiles.

But, how about this form of modern Palm Sunday church service announced on the news?

“A church provided their community paper bags of stuffed Easter eggs for the children with no human interaction.” Some say, “Resurrection Day is not Easter. Easter is a celebration of the goddess of fertility.” Others ask, “What harm is there in sugary treats and celebrating Easter egg hunts?” It is easy to throw up your hands!

There is no-one good like God.  We can only hope to be faithful in a time of trouble because of the faithfulness shown to us by someone gone before. Has someone offered compassion and wisdom to you? Practice it. Offer these gifts to someone else who needs them.

Have you only known bad examples and poor models of nurture in your life? Do the opposite. Do what your heart is wooing you to do. Maybe it isn’t even about serving others first.

The Biggest Answer to this Life has Been-Always Will Be-Walking with God.

There is a fountain of living water from which you can drink. The water originates from the Source of Life!

When we accept the age-old story that there is a Power in the highest heaven, seated on His throne Who searched throughout the world for righteousness, and seeing none, He sent kindness and healing for us by His Son’s death to take upon Himself our lawful punishment of death. After the crucifixion, Christ descended into hell and freed the captives there, and then He ascended into heaven to mediate for us and offer continuing salvation and eternal life for anyone who believes in this substitution for the forgiveness of their sins. 

When the Judge Himself provides a Substitute for a Convicted Man’s Sentence

Yes, we should sit up and listen, but we should also be humbled when the judge allows for an innocent substitute to receive the forty lashes we deserve. Why would we care? Because the substitute-volunteer of the judge’s own son.  I personally, cannot imagine any judge or father allowing such a thing unless the judge had made the law, underscored the punishment, and had the power over life and death in order to raise up his son from the grave.

Psalm 4 Try singing to the tune: DAY BY DAY and with Each Passing Moment 

Yes, the Lord has set apart the faithful,
For Himself, the Lord will hear my call.    

Oh my soul, you tremble, but be careful;

Chill your anger, be direct and still.
On your bed, reflect on your condition;        

Offer up your righteous sacrifice!
Trust the Lord, entrust to Him the outcome,

Trust the journey for He holds your life.

Many doubt and savor speculation:

“Who can show us any lasting good?”
Now, look on with favor, Lord, and save us,

Evidence of this residing joy.

My own heart knows deep resilient laughter,

Introduced by Your creative play.
This is joy much better than their feasting,

That their grain and harvest wines convey.

I will rest and I will dream reclining,

Peacefully, in sleep, I am restored;
For I know that You alone are faithful,

You’re without exception, Lord of Lords.

This sweet safety isn’t circumstantial,

For Your care is night and day supreme;

Making me, Your servant, live in safety,

You renew my life, increasing peace.

(David’s lament for evening worship with strings, verses 2-4)

adaption, Book Blurbs, Coronavirus, Faith, family caregiving, featureed, G.K. Johnson, Replete, spring season, The Zealots

Unclean?

By G.K. Johnson

Unclean. The opposite of being clean. In our current times, people are doing everything they can to avoid this descriptor. We wash our hands. When we leave our homes, we wear gloves and masks and try to keep at least six feet between ourselves and others.

There are those for whom the word is an unavoidable description of their current condition. They are sequestered in their homes or other isolated places to wait out the virus, their bodies fighting their invisible attackers as best they can. The sickness has spread through their body, out of their control…they are unclean.

Mankind is no stranger to disease and sickness.

Thousands of years ago those with life-altering illnesses and disease had even less hope for healing. Medical knowledge was extremely limited in comparison to what it is now. Those who found themselves with incurable diseases were often sequestered in isolated places with others suffering the same fate. One of these terrible diseases was leprosy. Not only were there terrible physical ramifications from the disease, but it was also believed that those infected with leprosy earned the condition through their sin.

Imagine the heaviness of this diagnosis: the shame, fear, and loneliness that the inflicted person would feel.

“Unclean!”

“Get away!”

“Don’t infect us, scum!”

Shim’on pushed into the crowd trying to see the subject of the disruption.

People backed up and parted to reveal a man swathed head to toe in dirty white linens. The only uncovered parts of his body were his fingertips and a gap in the head covering where his eyes peered out.

Looking at his hands, Shim’on flinched. Instead of healthy pink skin, he saw white deformed stubs. The man had leprosy. Instinctively, Shim’on, Andreas, and the other two disciples stepped back.

Instead of moving away from the leper, however, Shim’on watched the rabbi walk toward him! What was the man doing? Leprosy was extremely contagious. Lepers were not permitted in populated towns; but only in leper colonies outside the village.

The disease attacked the nerve functioning of those it infected and caused sores to develop all over the body. If ever a leper were to come in proximity to a ‘clean’ person, one not tainted by the disease, he was required to shout “unclean!” to warn others of his condition. The life of a leper was lonely and filled with shame.

This rabbi was taking a gamble by approaching the leper, and Shim’on couldn’t decide if he were completely crazy or extremely brave.

Jesus continued walking toward the man until he stood directly in front of him, only a foot or so away. The crowd, which had grown increasingly large, quieted, holding their breath to see what the rabbi was going to do.

Suddenly Jesus reached out his hand and set it on the man’s shoulder. Gasps and whispers crossed over the crowd.

“Be healed,” Jesus spoke quietly, looking into the man’s eyes.

The man began to cry, tears wetting the dirty cloths wrapped around his face. He reached up a hand, and it was then that Shim’on saw that what had been decaying tissue was now healthy skin. The man continued staring at his fingers and then began unwrapping the cloth, revealing a hand, then an arm. The flesh was perfectly healthy; the leprosy completely gone!

Murmurs spread, growing in volume, through the crowd. Everyone was amazed.

“Who is this man?”

“He healed the leper with a word!”

Jesus spoke to the man quietly.

Tears poured down the man’s face and he knelt before Jesus. “Thank you, Rabbi!”

He stood in amazement and Jesus clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. The man laughed in gulps of wonder and then, he departed.*

The Zealots, author G.K. Johnson. publishing September 2020, by Capture Books.

Our Lord touches even those whom the authorities in this world say are untouchable, unclean.

Our God enters into the dirtiest, most shame-filled places of our lives and speaks life!

And it brings Him joy to do it.

The book of Mark, chapter 2, records a dinner where Jesus attends to a tax collector’s needs at the tax collector’s home. The Hebrews despised tax collectors.

These tax collectors were Hebrews who had turned on their people and accepted Roman jobs because of the financial benefits. They extorted their own people and helped to support the Roman occupation at the same time. So when Jesus invites a tax collector to follow him, imagine the outrage many of the Hebrews would feel. Can’t Jesus identify the scum in our community? Is Jesus intentionally circumventing our social bias and the rules we use to keep this kind of traitor down? The disciple, Mark, reflects that some religious Pharisees grumbled to the disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

Jesus replies, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Isn’t this beautiful? It’s the very core of the gospel. I am unclean. You are unclean. We are all physically, socially, and spiritually sick with sin. And it’s only when we can acknowledge that truth to Jesus, the Great Physician, in a seed of faith for His help, that He can administer His miracles of life and spiritual birth. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s a healing of our hearts.

Let’s be careful and wash our hands and follow other medical wisdom to not spread sickness. Yes, let’s also be mindful of the unclean around us…the obviously sick and those who may not show physical symptoms.

But, let’s also ask, How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Perhaps it’s letting His word soak into our own hearts while resting so that we have some good news to spread in a fresh way. Perhaps, it is sending a card or letter, singing hope to our neighbors from our backyard, offering to help with shopping or giving out medical gloves for commercial transactions, or maybe simply making a phone call.

Most of all, remember, dear unclean one…Jesus came to help you.

References: Matthew 8 (New Living Translation of the Bible)

To pre-order your copy of The Zealots, contact us today.

adaption, analysis, Author tools and hacks, Back Covers, Book Blurbs, Laura Bartnick, Tonya Jewel Blessing

When My Book Blurb Bustled and Bounced

Click to discover more about Tonya Blessing’s books

A Conversation with Tonya Jewel Blessing and Laura Bartnick

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Tonya Jewel Blessing: I recently learned in two quick minutes how a blurb on the back of a book cover can sell books or dissuade potential readers from choosing a book.

We all know how important spelling and punctuation are in a book. But, I don’t think I realized that English basics are just the beginning of what matters in a book blurb until two media professionals picked up my novels. Each of my books have a professionally written, third-person description on the back cover. I realize this is paramount to converting book browsers to buyers.

At a recent media convention, a man connected with a film production company selected my first historic Appalachian novel, The Whispering of the Willows based on the book blurb on the back cover. The verbiage ‘similar to modern sex trafficking issues’ also sparked a conversation about the plot of the book. He promised to buy it for consideration.

Another reader-influencer looking for compelling stories at this media convention passed over my second novel The Melody of the Mulberries based on its book blurb. The reactions of both people, who visited the author booth, initially surprised me. Then, as I perused the  other author stations, I found myself doing the same – picking up a book, reading the back cover, and making a purchase decision based on a couple of paragraphs about the story.

Laura Bartnick

Laura Bartnick: Capture Books began to market The Whispering of the Willows in earnest to the Amish/Mennonite sector and to the West Virginia readership when the publisher could show that:

a) women’s issues were creatively handled, and

b) significant community involvement absolutely changes the course of a girl’s life after she is a victim of rape.

c) timing matters. Reverberating southerners became passionate readers of The Whispering of the Willows after National Public Radio broke the news about the West Virginia opioid crises. After the report featuring the opioid documentary by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, produced in part by the Center for Investigative Reporting, where a female judge, a church social worker, and a policewoman joined forces to creatively alleviate the crisis in the hardest-hit county, Capture Books decided to offer BLESSING’s novel to this community.

d) the women in the novel did not wear pants.

While BLESSING’s exquisitely clever sequel, released in the fall of 2019, is marketable to a lover of Americana and to a Christian romance-loving readership, the acquisitions gentleman seeking a modern hook with a correlation to a “cause” failed to find that kind of subject matter on the sequel’s cover.

The lesson learned is that listing a cause as a keyword or subject-matter can reach potential cross-over markets.

Book blurbs are also written for librarians, advertisements, flyers, and online bookstore platforms. Each of these has a variety of required words, suggested keywords and phrases, and are written specifically to hook certain types of readers.

I spoke with a very frustrated author last week who reported that she wasn’t earning royalties from her publisher on her book and wanted my opinion. I looked up her title and discovered there was not a single word of book description, and her book was only listed in one category. It simply wasn’t selling because there were no keywords alerting people to the existence of her book. Even if potential readers looked up the exact title, there was no book description to explain what it was about.

Tonya Jewel Blessing: My first novel was picked up by Tantor Audio Books because of its record sales in late 2018 after we marketed directly to the opioid epidemic on Amazon. Subsequently, my sequel has been steadily picking up new readers and finding its own voice with historical romance and Americana lovers. Since I didn’t know I could write a sequel in the beginning, my publisher did not market to sequel readers. Consequently, many who read the first book think it is a stand-alone novel.

I agree with E.A. Bucchianerif in that, “There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!” YET, if the book cover doesn’t spark interest, the book won’t be read. Listed below are some tips for writing a book blurb. 

10 Tips to Write a Book Blurb That Sells

Laura Bartnick: Yes, and here are some more clues to what works and what doesn’t on the back cover:

  1. “I wrote this because…” or “My character is based on…” is better placed inside the book as a prologue or author’s note.
  2. Larger fonts with less copy will catch a reader’s attention.
  3. Aim for a description of keywords written to the interests of a reading group.
  4. Getting an editorial endorsement printed on the cover will garner immediate interest and give the author borrowed authority.
  5. You may also want to put the name of the publisher, the logo, the subject matter or genre, and the price of the book onto the back cover.
Book Poster for Christian Colleges, Theology of Creativity, Academia
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.
Book Cover by Tracy Fagan. Read the Book Description by clicking on the title.

Book Cover with Readers’ Favorite award and marketing blurb to romance readers.
Book Cover by Chloe Belle Arts for The Melody of the Mulberries by Tonya Jewel Blessing
breath of joy, Coronavirus, featureed, Kathy Joy, spring books, spring season

Spring Tiptoes Into March 20, 2020

By Kathy Joy, Author, Breath of Joy: Singing Spring

Photo by Kathy Joy #SpringhasSprung

The first mild morning–that particular morning when you trade in the heavy coat for a mere sweater–is cause for celebration.

Most years in wintery climes, spring’s official arrival gets top coverage in media outlets everywhere. The first glimpse of a crocus is a metaphor for hope.

But this year it’s different. This year, we are self-isolating; hunkering down, finding new ways to fix canned beans.

While coronavirus dominates the news, spring tiptoes in: Hesitantly, on cat-like feet, it slinks in sideways, taking a seat in the shadows.

Nobody notices a shift in the breeze, a heady buoyant quality that tousles pigtails and tugs playfully on sequestered souls.

Robins, oblivious to the crisis, are leaning in for earthworms, pausing only to trill their signature birdsong.

Living things are stretching their roots beneath our feet, wriggling and rejoicing at the approach of the resurrection.

#SpringBooks

It’s all happening, all around us, despite the looming dread of COVID-19.

Tight-fisted rhododendrons are ready to unfurl in bursts of pink, purple, red and white; forsythia hedges will soon be trumpeting their yellow splendor; daffodils not far behind in their marching brigades of buttery magnificence.

If we could just part the curtains on spring’s arrival and take a peek, we might be astonished. We might be gladdened; we might be reminded who’s got this whole weary world in His hands.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows cheap, sold two for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:28-20, Study Bible).

#Sing #Spring #SingingSpring #BreathofJoy
#Activity #Booksites #ReadaBook #Coronavirus
#ManRerollingTP #SalvagingToiletPaper #ToiletPaperHumor

analysis, breath of joy, family caregiving, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, rethink

I PREDICT GREAT THINGS FROM SOCIAL QUARANTINE

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

Yesterday my husband and I made a concerted effort to not go anywhere. 

We have enough food, enough toilet paper, enough entertainment. By the end of the day though, we were tired of lounging in our jammies saying to each other, “Isn’t this great?” The roast and potatoes and carrots tasted like Sunday dinner without the guests.  Hmm. Maybe a shower and getting dressed would have helped the humor after twelve hours of forced leisure.  Even our dog seemed lowly, dumped out on the carpet. I looked at his water bowl and realized that in the change of routine, we’d neglected him.

Still, I predict great things to come of this social quarantine, don’t you?

Boredom births games, boredom births conversations, and silliness, and sex.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’d already seen several programs on the T.V. and just wanted to click off the power button. It felt like the reruns after 9/11. I decided to clean a room, and I found some forgotten treasures! In that little corner of heaven and for a couple of hours, I saw why cleanliness might prove to be next to godliness.

Explorations in the bookshelf, the stored software-to-learn list, webinars held on the back burner, homeschooling and getting to know one’s kids will all take shape.

All that attention kids need and crave from their parents will feel a little awkward at first. Arguments and fights will break out. They’ll look each other in the eye after a few hours and think, is this really happening?  Do I even know this person in my house?!  Then, the serious discussions will start to take place.  Values, politics, meaning, personal strengths and weaknesses, the I-never and what-if discussions.

Things you never wanted to do, you’ll do, and discover you’re pretty good at it given some time.

After we slap our foreheads, remembering to feed our pets out of routine, we’ll tire of the couch and go out to weed the garden. Who weeds the garden anymore? Lawn services are the closest thing to beautifying the landscape we see around our neighborhood.

  • So, we’ll go outside there, and find some twigs to tie into wreaths and furniture. 
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • We’ll decide to whittle a piece of wood into shape. We’ll find some glue or caulk or paint and start playing around. Our faces will relax. Smiles will be found.
  • Families will tell stories about grandparents and ancestry and wonder whether they should plan to visit their past in another state, another country entirely.  Budgets for historical discovery will be made.
  • Designers will remember that they enjoyed drawing at one time, and they will begin to design upgrades to their houses. Negotiators, desperate for an income, will negotiate prices for work.  The economy will plunge and adjust and perhaps prices will take a turn for the more reasonable.
  • Inventors will grow industrious.  I remember we had installed a gas fireplace with a self-lighting pilot light in our old home because, at the time, rolling electrical black-outs were an issue in winter.  In this particular crisis, I’m not sure how helpful the self-lighting pilot would be to eradicate COVID-19, but I am sure that industrious minds will begin to invent heath systems, tools, and hacks for hospitals, homestays, working from home, and bartering.
  • Would-be authors who have always wanted to write their masterpiece will begin an outline, a first page, a rewrite.
  • People who fear big brother’s orchestration of society and privacy will invent new protections and products and ideas.
  • Lawsuits will be settled outside of courtrooms. Fences mended.
  • We will face our inconsistencies as human beings and personal failures won’t spiral into martyrdom into, “Yes, I’m the trash heap of humanity.” We’ll have the time to talk through specifics, and analyze behaviors, and practice improvement.
  • Stress factors will release their vice-grip on life, and when we take a long look at what our parent or child is capable of, we will want to form a production line in the family to make the best ideas flourish.
  • The wiggle worms will get in their cars and drive around to discover what is going on around them, what spring looks like, what birds congregating in gangly trees sound like in chorus.
  • Adult kids will remember their neighborly shut-ins, their elderly parents and grandparents, and try to do whatever they can to assist them out of loneliness and fear. Concerted efforts to meet these needs will be met with surprising rewards.
  • Those who enjoy singing will sing again, privately or from their balconies, together in their families, in devotion to their God and to each other.  Songs will be written. Pictures painted.
  • Family meals prepared and eaten around a dining room table. And, someone will say, “Thank you!” “Um, this is good.  Is there more?” And, someone else will decide to eat together on the sunny patio and say, “What did you learn today from this strange isolation? Did you invent something wonderful?”
  • And, a kid will say, “I found the sewing machine and decided to hem my pants, but then I tried to make something else, and guess what?  I can sew!”

All of these things will happen because we are not toting each other to hockey, basketball, concerts, the gym, school, our places of worship, and work.  Deadlines will not rise up and press against our very bodies for closet space. Instead, Leisure will introduce herself as the new skeleton in our closets.

In your leisure, accept our free gift to read Mister B: Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist.
analysis, Author tools and hacks, featureed, ingenuity, rethink, scrutinize, Tonya Jewel Blessing

TO POST OR NOT TO POST

When and How to Leave a Review.

Book reviews are an author’s lifeline. To sell books, positive reviews are required. The reviews also need to appear in a variety of venues and sales platforms such as Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, Amazon.

Do you know that there are bookstagrammers on Instagram stirring up goodwill for authors these days? And even Pinterest boards are a great way to share a book review!

My book sales flourish in direct relation to the number of reviews others have posted for each title.

I am an avid book reviewer on Goodreads, and although I’m sure that somewhere there are specific instructions for writing a book review, my personal perspective on reviews are as follows:
  

1. I write reviews for genres that I enjoy or because of information gained.  It isn’t fair to write a biased review based on a genre that might not be a favorite of mine.

2. I also don’t write reviews on books that I read out of necessity but might be about topics that I don’t particularly enjoy. 

3. I don’t include criticisms in a book review that are outside the scope of the story.  Authors often don’t have control over font size, book covers, chapter heading designs, etc. 

4. I also pay attention to a book synopsis before reading the material. If a book overview gives direction about the story, I don’t want to complain about something that I knew upfront. 

5. If I have a criticism about book content, I research and do my best to make sure that my input is valid. 

6. Some books are agenda driven. If I know that in advance, I don’t believe that I should use a book review as a platform to debate a personal agenda. 

7. Authors have no control over book orders and shipping. If I order a book and there is a shipping problem, I don’t penalize the author by writing a negative review. 

8. I am diligent about sharing just enough information about the story but not too much information that might spoil the book’s story for the next reader

MOST IMPORTANTLY – I enjoying reading and sharing feedback freely and appropriately.
 
As an author, I welcome reviews. The positive reviews warm my heart, and the not so positive reviews challenge me to grow in my writing.  
adaption, Author tools and hacks, clickbait, Faith, featureed, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, op-ed, Soothing Rain

“Oh, I Need That!” Clickbait

Media Alert!

0September 4, 2019 Reprinted with editions

By permission of Capture Books co-author, Sue Summers

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:2 (The Message)

“Oh, I need that!”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Advertising is ubiquitous! Indeed, it’s everywhere! The average American sees 3000-5000 ads per day. Think about it! That doesn’t mean just TV commercials… it counts every form, including signs as you are driving down the street, pop-up ads on the computer, brand names on clothing, notices on buses, upcoming event reminders in bathroom stalls, etc. Every day we’re bombarded with messages that intend to direct our buying, thinking, and actions.

And so are our children and teens.

Our culture today is overrun with ever more invasive means of getting messages to us. In September of 2015, BBC reporter, Ben Frampton introduced the Changing Face of Journalism as clickbait from the outset of any news article. Technology is being utilized in new ways that impact our daily lives and attract our eyeballs to messages. Perhaps you have been a  “victim” of clickbait.

“Clickbait consists of attention-grabbing headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally uninteresting content. Many websites use clickbait as a mechanism to gain popularity via higher click-through rates. Clickbait is characterized by a highly enticing headline with a hyperlink that, when clicked, reveals a website that has content that is not nearly as interesting as the headline. Clickbait is therefore considered to be a strategy to increase the number of views to a particular Web page.” (Techopedia.com)

Photo by Hope Aye on Pexels.com

Have you read clickbait headlines such as,

“Lose 20 pounds in 20 days! New miracle pill!”

“Which Hollywood couple is giving away millions?”

“Seniors: stop paying property tax! Learn this easy strategy now!”

Sometimes these headlines immediately redirect a reader to a different domain. They are simply fishing hooks.

Buzzfeed alone regularly attracts more than 10 million unique users in a single day. 

Buzzfeed can bring strong returns for careful users, but it has also created expensive traps for the unsuspecting.

Bloggers often use clickbait to earn their influencer income through affiliate marketing. However, promoting affiliate products can easily distract not only a blogger’s readership, but also the hopeful content blogger from the central purpose of his or her blog.

Products are not the only thing being sold through clickbait.

Personal information is transferred through every click made to the collectors and analyzers of these products and services. This fact can be used positively when you are able to grow a base of contacts to use for legitimate business and kingdom purposes.

A darker morass of reasons others may use clickbait.

When a woman clicks on a piece of clothing or sleepwear, she may find herself next inundated with new ads for women of her age and size in sultry and lewd poses. When a boy or girl clicks on an ad, it is not unusual to discover advertisements for games, adventures, political ads, pornography, phishing sites to military operations, sign up sheets, edgy books and other age-monetized bait popping up on tomorrow’s online screens.

Because religious advertisements are considered a hate-speech liability to fan bases, it is not a Christian ad we can count on seeing unless the advertiser has taken pains to identify only easily recognized Christian buyers acceptable to the marketing host.

Our children need to be introduced to this marketing strategy so they are aware of the intentionality and purpose of these alluring headlines.

And then there’s location-based marketing.

Have you received a text message from a store just as you were driving near it?

Location-based marketing (LBM) typically takes advantage of the geolocation of a customer (usually via a GPS-enabled device) and uses these techniques… to send personalized and relevant messages at the right place, at the right time to the right person.” (www.martechadvisor.com/articles/geolocation/how-location-based-marketing-will-disrupt-marketing-in-2019)

Does this CEO’s statement bother you? “Augmenting location with data about user behavior patterns enables a brand to create more timely, customized user engagement.” (Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO, Connecthings)

More technology, more knowledge about each person’s consumer habits and personal preferences, more desire to sway your thinking, buying, and actions, and lo and behold! GPS-based marketing!

We all need to raise our awareness of “Peeping Tom” marketers and interfering corporations. If you recently looked at e-bikes on Amazon for a possible purchase, and then you were suddenly accosted by pop-up ads for e-bikes on Facebook, websites, and online games… it wasn’t a coincidence!

Advertising has come a long way, baby! No doubt there are more intrusive techniques being created right now, with the ultimate goal of saturating your life with appealing hard-to-ignore ads.

God has told us to be ever vigilant. We need to be dealing with life with “eyes wide open”.

So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?

Photo by Kjell Kuehn on Pexels.com
  • Discussion is crucial. Talk with them about why advertising is part of our daily lives. Ask, “Where do you see ads?”
  • Discuss both the benefits and the downside of advertising. Ask, “Why do you think advertising works?”
  • Ask, “Is the accumulation of possessions enough as the purpose of a life?”
  • Ask, “What resources are available to create useful click ads for kingdom purposes? Do you have a service or a product for which you would like to design a click ad to help others?”

The world says you are what you own. Our treasures (material possessions) can own us. Matthew 6:21 states: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV)

Philippians 3:14 is a bold statement: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Stay on top of this situation, be creative, and help young people keep their eyes on the prize!

//

Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!

Her website is: www.MediaAlert.org

Sue can be reached at: Sue@MediaAlert.org

Humor, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, literary, Tonya Jewel Blessing, Uncategorized

Ready to Woo

A Short Story by Tonya Jewel Blessing
Author of the Big Creek Appalachian Series

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He was desperate. Clem knew he wouldn’t last the winter without a woman.

Oh, he was interested in loving alright, if his health permitted, but, more importantly, he was interested in good food, lively conversation, and someone to help with the chores. If the gal played checkers and smoked a pipe, it was all the better. It’d been awhile since clean overalls hung on his tall, lean frame. His shirts and socks also needed mending.

In his younger days, some had called him handsome.

Now, old age had set in. He bones were brittle from lack of nutrition and hard work; his feet misshapen from wearing boots too small; and most of his teeth were missing. The last tooth he’d pulled himself with some worn, rusted pliers borrowed from a friend. He had washed the pliers in moonshine, and, after the painful extraction, had rinsed his mouth repeatedly with the brew. He knew the art of gnawing food but was praying for a new pair in case his new wife was good at making vitals. 

He had just the gal in mind. Ruby Mae lived across the creek. Her husband had passed in the spring. It was rumored that Ruby’s mama had done him in with hemlock. He thought it might be so. Any woman, old or young, who wore a pan on her head must be crazy.

It had been awhile since he went calling on a girl but had worked out his mind just what was needed. He had shot and killed three squirrels. The varmints were cleaned and hanging on stick. He kept the pelts just in case the lady was of a mind to make him slippers. He also picked fall witch hazel flowers and tied them with twine. He knew that the flower helped with skin ailments of all types. When used topically it was fine but if ingested it could cause a person’s body to back up for several of days. He wanted the pan hatted lady to be aware of his knowledge about poison plants – just in case, she had any mischief in mind.

The creek water was running low. The fall rain showers had been brief and far between. Thunder and lightning aside, he enjoyed a good rain. His tin bathtub had a small hole, so he had taken to dancing in the rain with a small piece of soap made from lard. 

The worn looking cabin was straight ahead. He could see the ladies sitting on the front porch hulling beans of some sort. He hoped it was black eye peas. They tasted mighty fine when seasoned with hog jowls

“Gals, it’s Clem from across the creek,” he called out a greeting. It wouldn’t do any good to frighten a lady, especially since he was calling with wife finding in mind.

The younger woman, Ruby Mae, stood to greet him. Martha, the older woman stayed seated in her rocker and scowled at him.

“Clem, it’s nice to be seein’ you.”

“Ruby Mae,” he nodded and awkwardly handed her the squirrel meat.

“Well, I’m thankful. Why don’t you join me and Mama for dinner? I’ll make us a fine supper.”

True to her word, the meal was delicious. The witch hazel flowers placed in a mason jar were centered on the table. Two candles made from bee comb sat on either side of the centerpiece.

“Ruby Mae, the meal was mighty fine.” Clem hemmed and hawed. “I’m needin’ me a woman, and I’m thinkin’ you’re the gal.”

Sweet Ruby Mae blushed, and Martha made a sound similar to a growl.

“Clem, I’m honored. My Homer done passed, and I’m gettin’ scared about the snow. I’m worried that Mama and me can’t manage the farm,” she looked down at the worn floorboards. “Is you thinkin’ of movin’ here or is me and Mama coming to your place.”

It hadn’t occurred to Clem to relocate across the creek, but the idea sat well with him. Ruby Mae’s  home was pleasant, clean, and well kept. He spied jars of canned fruit, vegetables, and meat in the small room off the kitchen. 

“It’ll be fine to be moving here,” Clem answered. “But we’re needed to talk about Mama. I done heard that she killed Homer. If it’s true, I best be knowing before the preacher man is called.”

Ruby Mae looked toward her mother. “Mama…”

The older woman smiled a toothless grin. “I ain’t kilt nobody. There was a time or two that I was wantin’ to send Homer to his Maker, but I done feared for my eternal wellbein’. I won’t kill ya. I’m promisin’. I’ll be helping Martha to tend you. I’m knowing how to make food that you can gnaw and feed you gullet. I’ll even warsh your clothes.” 

“That’s mighty fine.” Clem replied.

The wedding took place the following week. Ruby Mae looked lovely in pale blue dress with a small pocket placed over her heart. The pocket was trimmed in lace. Her message was subtle, but Clem knew that his bride’s heart now belonged to him, and his heart belonged to her. Martha stood next to her daughter wearing the old pot for a hat. 

When the preacher told the newlyweds to kiss, Clem leaned in for a smooch. Before his lips touched Ruby Mae’s, he noticed a sprig of dried hemlock peeking from the lacy pocket. Ruby Mae winked and whispered in his ear, “And you thought it was Mama…”
 
The End
christonyablessing@gmail.com
www.tonyajewelblessing.com
Note: I found the picture above when I Googled Appalachian love stories. Because there was no story included, I decided to write my own.

To review books or personally interview any of the authors at Books For Bonding Hearts, please contact our publishing partner, Laura Bartnick @ lb.capturebooks@aol.com with your request.

breath of joy, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, Kathy Joy, op-ed

Chocolates to Knives

Kathy Joy, Author of Winter Whispers

February 12, 2020

Some Dove chocolates have been lurking in my desk drawer at the office; I’ve been able, somehow, to resist them. But today is different. Today, as the calendar marches inevitably toward Valentine’s Day, my resolve is weak.

So today I’ve opened the little foil packaging and here’s what the inside message says:

“Believe in those you love.”

And just like that – a flood of memories leaked from my heart. Memories of my own sweetheart, Roger Hoffner, who died way too soon.

I believed in him.

And because I carry his memory like a treasure, I still believe in him – in the present tense.

Roger grew up in a time when boys admired men who wore leather gloves to work and tucked knives into their pockets to use when needed. He wanted to emulate them.

He was raised in a country swath of America that believed in ruggedness and self-sufficiency. He learned, by example, that you don’t toss something in the trash just because it quits working – you figure out how to fix it and you take the time to do it right.

He grew up in a time when bicycle skeletons were salvaged from junk yards; kids learned how to dismantle them and rebuild them to their own specifications: banana seat, high bars, squeeze horns and pedal brakes.

Living as a kid in the green rolling hills of Northwest Pennsylvania, Roger worked odd jobs for uncles in exchange for a hot meal and maybe a game of poker. He learned to drive tractor and toss hay bales into the mow, long before he was driving a car.

One of Roger’s most prized possessions was his pocket knife. I’ve kept it in my jewelry box.

That little 3-blade wonder came out when the girls got Barbie Dolls at Christmas time, the toys impossibly ensconced in those hard plastic packages.

The small but capable knife was used on our farm to:

  • cut twine,
  • fix a wooden latch,
  • remove a splinter,
  • break the ice on the horse’s buckets,
  • shorten a piece of tack when saddling up and once,
  • to remove gum from our oldest daughter’s hair.

I saw him:

  • slice a watermelon,
  • sharpen a pencil,
  • open a can, and
  • cut bait from the fishing line.

I often saw him cleaning his fingernails with the smallest blade.

Eventually, as his own nephews grew responsible enough, Roger started gifting little pocket knives to them so they’d be ready for any eventuality.

Each of our daughters also received a pocket knife when the time was right.

I fondly remember their papa cutting reeds by our pond with his knife, to fashion them into organic musical instruments for the girls. They held the long green leaves “just so” and blew through their thumbs and fingers to render nature’s finest music.

The sound came out something like chirping crickets mixed with bird warbling – it was simply beautiful.

The pocket knife, over the years, came to mean much more than simply a handy little tool. It represented a hearty resourcefulness. A hard-scrabble work ethic, a readiness for just about any situation.

I spoke with another guy who carries one, and he told me he’d attended a concert once and was horrified when the security guard confiscated the tool and tossed it carelessly into a garbage bin.

My friend fished his pocket knife out of the bin and left the venue; he was not going to lose a lifelong companion over a one-time event, so he went outside and people-watched while his wife enjoyed the music inside the arena.

That’s how strongly men of a former generation feel about their pocket knives, and that’s how strongly Roger felt about his, too.

I miss him.

Roger’s own pocket knife, a prized possession and heirloom.

I carry Roger’s memory in my heart. I will forward his legacy to my son-in-law. On his birthday coming up, I believe I will gift him Roger’s trusty pocket knife.

I wouldn’t want Nick to find himself in a situation and not be prepared. Especially when the day comes that he takes his own kids fishing and needs to cut some bait.

Author tools and hacks, Faith, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, Replete, Taxes, Money, Law

Being Author-preneurial When the Bottom Line is Wavy

When the Bottom Line is Wavy

Progressing with Your Protagonist


When the bottom line doesn’t add up to figures in black – without red dashes before them – what does a writer hope to gain by publishing a book?

Recently a new author sent me a list of questions to answer regarding her first month of publishing, which occurred at the end of last year. I’ve now been in the publishing business for five full years, which is practically nothing in the grand scheme of things.

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Why has anyone ever published their work? Has there ever been a financial guarantee?

I had to disclose the fact that the outlay of this author’s investment so far has been well beyond the income from book sales. Beyond that, what’s even more difficult to grasp is that the outlay of investment would continue as a calculated risk if she continued to buy advertising and publish other books. So, why does anyone choose to publish their own work? Historically, what did people hope to gain? Was there ever any financial guarantee?

Here are 10 gains to consider when you are deciding whether an author’s journey is worth taking.

Literary Growth

1. A watershed of education in literacy, in marketing, and in publicity occurs in the life of every rookie author (one to five years expected). People often see hybrid publishing as a way to work themselves into being offered a deal by a traditional publishing house.

Character Growth

2. The opportunity to persevere stakes out its garden-lit walkway.

Time to Let Down Your Hair for Recreation

3. Attending, or presenting to, a variety of writers conferences set in exquisite places will be a surprising boon and a blast of wind through the back door.

Find Like-Minded People

4. Bonding with other creatives whose values are similar to your own, or who answer your questions and needs, or those who need your knowledge enlarges your territory, i.e., editors, artists, philanthropist partners, agents, publicists, clubs, associations, and publishers whose goals intersect with yours and who bolster the vision and energy that you value so highly.

Expand Your Worldview

5.  Finding a wonderland  of science, legal research, human heart and worldviews in what you might now see as only a world of chill factors. Break the ice by learning to investigate and write the details well. Life begets life. Each new person or event you experience can be processed in your own life and writing style.

Become a Curious Child Again

6. Adult constraints are broken In physiological moments of creativity when an adult writer experiences the ripples of new connections among the four hemispheres of one’s brain. Inert reserve becomes child-like exploration of detail and there is energy to push through a writer’s problem. Both the process and the result will make your mouth water, your tears may fall, and your lungs will fill with a gasp of a-ha! Find these new avenues of ingenuity become your landmarks of personal life exploration.

Recognize Your God-given Voice by Using It

7. Telling your story your own way. By the grace of God you will use your voice and your God-given experience to reveal something meaningful to new audiences. This is the most personal journey of faith you embark on, to process your own life under the microscope and use parts of it to throw out like bread crumbs for others.

Jump Deep and Springboard off Editors and Critics

8. Use criticism as a springboard to improve your author’s voice, tone, technique, creativity, and insight. You’ll grow into your true value. legacy, and posterity.

Discover the Benefits of Silence and Solitude

9. Loving silence and solitude when a writer puts up four walls of personal boundaries to everything else in the world. No matter who or what is calling your name, you can discover benefits of prioritizing your own work and applying yourself in silence. Solitude will make you more at home with yourself than ever before as you explore your own answers.

Be About the Business with a Publisher’s Support

10. Learning to budget your author-preneurial business will grant you control and creative ideas to succeed (accounting aids, profit & loss statements, sales taxes, laws related to book events, copyright, and royalties).

ONE TO GROW ON…

Alternate Universe Hopping

☕️

11. Enjoying Cafés… and coffee… and internet classrooms.

If any of these pro’s outweigh the con’s, I recommend that you set up a savings account in order to publish and start marketing not only your first book but also, your second.
Budget to eat less, and forego shopping sprees or vacations, in order to finish your series.

Things were not as expected.

You might be familiar with the wisdom that advises entrepreneurs to count the cost before building a house. But, for me, counting the costs of building a publishing house was not an option. That is, there was no trail of breadcrumbs through the forest leading toward the publishing house budget choices that would be most valuable. Instead, wild experimental line items which should not, could not, but did pop up anyway, added to my initial budget in uncategorized line items until I began to gain understanding. The entire world of hybrid group publishing was new. Somewhere after the second year, I threw a tantrum. Then, I learned that just because things were not as I expected, didn’t mean that I didn’t have the beginning of a platform and some new tools to use. From there, the thing began to move like gold nuggets from the mines in carts. I started to feed these nuggets to authors I’m coaching in a Facebook group called Golden Writers Conferences.


6 PRACTICAL THINGS TO EMPLOY FOR AUTHOR EARNINGS

I learned many things in a backward manner and spent time and money that I now see to be the price of personal education. Now, things are clearer. I know that authors, similar to athletes, actors, and politicians,  make money by a variety of means building up to the publishing of their first book and, of course, after it is launched! 

  1. Learn to blog for content marketing. Authors can gather their readers like chicks when they learn to blog. Maybe the experience of blogging becomes the subject for a new book, but maybe the experience of writing the book creates a new expression and following in blogging. Either way, the practice of blogging is the practice of being honest and relevant. It is the guts of content marketing for an author. You can start by posting and commenting about topics of interest to you on Facebook.  Then, expand the topic as you learn more about it, and create an essay or an article. Sign up for a blog and after editing your first foray into blog-land, ask people to take a look and give you comments.
  2. Getting speaking gigs at festivals, local libraries, holiday events, places of worship, study groups, schools, and book clubs–really anywhere people gather–will not only sell your stash of books, but will help you become a better communicator.
  3. Get your name, email, and phone number out there on business cards or flyers and take them to the venues you are most interested in. Get their card and give them yours.  Add them to your email and shipping or mailing lists and just ask around.
  4. Branching out to share what you know FREELY on live Zoom chats, Facebook Live, LinkedIn posts, podcasting networks, book tours, conferences, or simply by sending Mailchimp emails–by providing a “book me” link for people looking for presenters or facilitators who like your approach is the key to new streams of income.
  5. Hire a college kid to get your name, email, and phone number out there and just ask around. Have them teach you Instagram or Pinterest tricks.
  6. Form a private group of authors or a street team to help you cross-promote.  Generate that matrix of alliances and interests to naturally ignite interest between groups of followers and fans. Stop panicking and start sharing resources and interests.

Different things make different people tick.  Consider the money that people spend on shopping, fashion, child care, workout equipment and reps, television, stage performance, animals, industry or career. All of these are things that consume one’s budget, time, and effort.  They bring their own social circles into your life. Maybe it is worth writing your manuscript and getting your book into print simply to engage in the life you’ve always wanted to live.

If publishing your work is the thing that makes your clock tick, either use the other areas of your life as props, ideas, and research for your book or else begin to reclaim the amount of your own space in those areas of life, prioritizing inside them and siphoning off information from inside that priority towards your writing goals.

Tonya Jewel Blessing, a five-year author with Capture Books (Soothing Rain and her Big Creek Appalachian series ie., The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries), reported at the end of her second year of writing,

“I think that passion is a huge piece of writing.  I have a passion (a strong and barely controllable feeling) about writing. I like creating a story. I like how writing brings things out in me that I didn’t even know existed. And, I am happy with the responses from readers I’ve had in this past year.”

Now, after trying many different author hacks, Tonya became Capture Books’ best selling author in her fourth year and decided to publish a sequel with them. Why not use the “author life” as a worthy and reasonable goal for your life? 

Do the psychological shuffling, get a coach, even if no-one else understands you.

Talk about the joys and frustrations you have with reading, writing, and arithmetic to your friends and associates.  Out with it!

When all of this begins happening, and your initial choices begin to snowball into life priorities, you may find yourself in a sardonic mood from time to time.  Will you wrestle with the necessary line items in your household budget to create new income streams with your writing or just give up? Not everyone has a difficult budget, but many creatives and writers do. Especially in the first five years.

If you are willing to endure set-backs and face your fears with coaching and education, you can have a fulfilling author-preneurial second career.

It may be an option to get financial counseling specifically related to your personal author’s line-item budget. Imagine creating the career you want step by step, with small strategic investments, and add coursework to learn the new business. Make lists. Move through them. revisit them for practice.

There are secrets to be learned. These are treasures to be employed and practiced in order to build a platform where you can champion your style, your cause, and stretch your wings. When a breeze comes your way, you’ll be ready.

If a writer continues to kick back on personal or professional development, I soon learn that that author really just wants to fall back to being just a writer.  And, that’s okay. But, an author must realize that this path is a full-time hobby at the very least, and is a significant investment into the future, and a learning curve into self-discovery and articulation.

GROW A DYNAMIC AUTHOR’S TOOLKIT AND KEEP EXPANDING YOUR REACH

Let your creative juices flow into marketing, learning, sharing resources, and practicing new things as similar juices flow in drafting a manuscript. “Star” or “bookmark” this post so that you can go back and follow EACH of the links and explore them or share them. in this way, you’ll expand DYNAMICALLY.

It’s tempting to capitulate into the pool of guilt and feelings of helplessness when budgeting funds towards the costs of launching an author-preneurial business. Don’t do this.  You will need to trust the Lord, while investing and creating new boundaries for yourself in order to succeed.  This is how anyone in business approaches future success.

Take Away: Use your ingenuity. You are a creative.  You are an author. So, when an advertising budget goes awry or the book expo leaves you saddled with debt, then pull out your list of why’s and add to this the list of “how’s this going to improve next time?”.


Managing Partner at Capture Books, (author of Welcome to the Shivoo! Creatives Mimicking the Creator). She is available to give this presentation in writer’s groups and to field questions in person or over the airwaves, or online. Contact her: lb.capturebooks@aol.com

adaption, Author tools and hacks, Faith, ingenuity, Laura Bartnick, op-ed

Ingenuity Colors a Wall

By Laura Bartnick
Managing Partner, Capture Books

During the holidays, I had the opportunity to host the inventor of a well-received artists’ pastel, the Terry Ludwig Pastels and his lovely wife in my home.  I learned how his creative need for widening a small array of pastel colors to vastly more colors begat an ingenuity to create them himself.

For Terry, learning how to mix and shape these new pastels for personal use led to bulk mixes of the pastel shaped chalks and also to the business of selling them to other artists. Soon, the success he received outgrew his ability to paint and to run the pastel business. Fortunately, in retirement, Terry’s son, Geoff, continues to run the family business.

INGENUITY COLORS THIS WALL

Soon after, another company came to my attention, an innovative and ingenious company that actually grew in lean times when other companies gave way to the competition.

Braun Brush Company is one of America’s oldest family-owned industrial brush manufacturers. From the start, Emanuel Braun, a German immigrant, implemented handmade, quality manufacturing techniques to produce brushes as effective household tools. They became popular.  Who doesn’t need a variety of brushes, right?

However, at the turn of the century when the industrial revolution started, the factory, like most small manufacturing businesses, fell on hard times. Mass production by machine, whether inferior in quality or not, overwhelmed them. Authors and publishers might relate to the phenomenon as they experienced the mass marketing of self-published books took over the marketplace.

Again in the 50s, when China began mass production of common household items to America, Braun, could have given up production of his homemade brushes.

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Photo by Dom J on Pexels.com

Instead, Braun began identifying a person at a time needing one unique brush. He could still fill that market of one each time he designed a unique brush making his mark up, because the machines were making multiples for the masses, not unique needs. Finding one-of-a-kind niches, inventing brushes for commercial institutions such as NASA and nuclear plants for cleaning silos, sustained Braun’s brush business.

Braun cylinder brushREINVENTING THE WHEEL – A GOOD INVESTMENT?

Artisans and business people are often warned not to waste time or resources in trying to reinvent the wheel. In this instance,  I’ve learned the opposite is true. It helps to be willing to reinvent the wheel for different purposes and vehicles.  Thinking about this, it may be common sense that the same wheel would not suit all purposes, nor does the same brush.

Braun understood that not all designs were for all people, so he turned the tables and specialized. Ingenious. Sometimes it isn’t the quantities, but the value of rarity. Due to the improvisation and determination of the family owners and managers, Braun continues to design, craft, and sell brushes in new markets.

I have discovered, time and time again, that one person may be a visionary while others must get on board with the business sense, varieties of production needs, or sales in order to make the business succeed. Each person must use ingenuity to succeed in creating a full picture from the puzzle pieces.

NOT EVERY CREATED THING IS PRODUCED FOR ALL

Some people mass-produce their art for those who decorate personal spaces with reproduced poster art printed on less quality paper, sold, and appreciated en mass, ie. think the paperback novel or Kindle readers.

Some people want to see their own work up on the wall, ie. think the vantage press hardcovers or those who use their books for establishing a legacy.

Some only want to produce enough work to give gifts to friends, club members, and business associates.  Others need to make a living and are able to gain the aid of professionals to either become a classic household name in a genre or form.

In readers as in the art world, there are those who collect, those who invest in local artists and masters.  You understand, if you have an original signed and dated piece from a local artist, author, or a master in any era, it is safe to say that only those who come into your space will likely see it.

Like showing off a beloved library, an original art piece may be the dictating factor for how the rest of the space is decorated and furnished.

KEEP UP WITH HUMAN APPETITES

Finding and selling to the markets basically means that the creator has discovered a way to feed someone’s appetite. It comes down to that.

It’s great to create new stories and new things, but there are some things that are universal patterns and needs requiring  some pattern of format or reformatting. This is true in writing a widely read book.

A novice author dreams of seeing his or her book mass-produced. For me, when the self-publishing phenomenon happened, when all manner of marketing and social networking advice overwhelmed me, I floundered and moved into low gear. The transformation of the bookselling industry was about to spit out the hobbyists from the author-entrepreneurs. And, I wasn’t ready to give up.  In digging in my heels, I had a lot to learn.

One of the things I learned related to finding a niche of readers, and describing my book as the answer to their appetite for discovering the source of creativity and learning to follow a true pattern of success.

In 2020, when I approved the final revision of my book, Welcome to the Shivoo!, I smiled thinking, “That’s a book I want to buy and read myself!”

Authors and publishers aim for more readers and merrier times. Whether this dream becomes fact, real art always comes from the heart. When an artisan believes in his or her process and skill, adapting ideas to reproduce stories in a bigger way and by a preferable means becomes real-world work.

What a delicious assurance.

 

Occasionally, authors believe they have written their only masterpiece.  With the work and expense required to establish themselves, it feels unlikely that another manuscript so heartfelt and well-researched will ever pour from their fingertips again.  They want their books to be mass-produced, and when at first this fails to happen, spirits fall in chorus like a requiem.

It’s simply the excitement and pathos of a first book singing out a delicious moment. But, there is a whole new career awaiting.

Getting a book published produces a bell-curve of an overwhelming high and extreme low of emotion before the reality of the artisan’s business work ethic sets in. However, it is unfounded to think that new inspiration can never spurt to the surface again considering the wellspring of ingenuity contained in the life events of any artisan.

Imagine logo Capture Books_smallWhen a writer has found one passion, another passion will likely emerge parallel to the appetites sparking at the time. An opportunity to produce a sequel or a similar brand of book will begin to tug at a sleeve. The question is, will the creator accept being the vessel in the future? Will the creator continue to find the hope and motivation as Braun found to prepare for a future society, to accept this new manuscript in the new language of a new people?

I like to keep a notebook, camera, and recorder nearby to document the interesting things that pass through my life so that I may one day adapt them into new art, or writing, or sales systems.

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Making investments of time, making new connections, encouraging and celebrating old friends, building a stack of different contact lists, figuring out new sales taxes, new applicable laws and trends, learning software and state of the art sciences, showing up to present at libraries and social clubs, and learning the ropes of publicity, are they worth the effort to you?

Every day, you and I are just like Emanuel Braun who was beckoned and wooed by life’s need to survive in New York’s transitioning society and the crux of needed creativity. You cannot blame your competitors who found a rung on the ladder before you did.  Learn from them. You cannot hold customers captive without new products. Keep inventing.

You and I are the ones who must continue to get gritty, work late nights and early mornings, research, edit, barter, and train.

Be Braun.

adaption, dying well, elder care, family caregiving, ingenuity, literary, Lynn Byk, Mister B, op-ed, winter

The Pinch

Lynn Byk, Author
Mister B:  Living with a 98-Year-Old Rocket Scientist

Mister B had been vying for the certificate of blindness since he’d turned 96, seven years prior. His January hobby was to study and search the IRS Publication 17 each year, and he’d done his own taxes until age 100.

When Joe saw that his taxes were getting adjusted by the taxing authorities two years in a row, he decided this meant that he was no longer capable of understanding how to report them.

Last month, at 103-years of age, my father-in-law finally received a certificate of blindness from his eye doctor. It was in answer to another of his badgering requests so that he could file it with his 2020 taxes.

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Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

I fished out this portion of our joint memoir for whomever reads this blog. You can tell that he is not only going blind at this juncture, but deaf as well.

We’ve had a fun spin this morning getting all the things done on Mister B’s list. He turns suddenly to applaud our execution of a morning to-do list, “Wow! You solved all my problems in an hour and we still have time for books!” I turn the wheels towards the library looking at the wide empty soccer park of stark, winter grass and note, “Where are the geese, Mr. B?”

“The heat?”

“No, the GEESE.”

“Where’s the beef? Oh, you’re trying to be funny.”

“No, the GEESE! In the park!” I flutter my arms and point.

“A treat? You don’t have to overreact like that.”

In the library, he forgets that he’s already picked up the federal tax forms, so he makes his way over to pick up a couple more.

On the way home, he taps his tax documents and spouts, “Hey, I think we should get a deduction for my blindness. Can you look into that for me?”

“You aren’t exactly blind, Mr. B. You’ve been reading for the last hour.”

“Well, I know,” he admits, “but there has to be some sort of stepped up percentage, some standard you can find out about, and you know I am blind in the one eye and I have this mascular deterioration too.”

I about lose it with the “mascular deterioration” and am pursing my lips, trying to hide my amusement, when he says, “You know, if I could get another $1,200 off my taxes, you and me could go out to Ted’s Montana Grill!” He wraps his hand in the crook of my elbow and snuggles up.

“Now you’re thinking, Mr. B., but really, you’ve already made my day.”

This week’s events prove there’s nothing more sure than death and taxes as the wheels of life moved ’round us.

My dear man breathed his final breath–to our complete shock. We were not ready to let go. Undulating lost feelings, an empty house, and reflections that he won’t be needing the bananas, oxygen, and pills this week were felt among currents moving side-by-side in streams of wonder recognizing the Lord’s compassion for him and for us as things occurred, and arching overall was a desperate hope of glory.

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Photo by Sohel Patel on Pexels.com

Mister B, Joe, had managed to pick out every corner of every walnut shell in his New England basket. He’d managed to rock a rut in the new carpet.  He’d managed to entertain his hospice caregivers for nine months with stories. He’d outlived all of his siblings and far-flung relatives. We’d managed to capture his DNA and confirm all the suspicions about his Baltic sea coastal father’s origin and the soul of his Polish mama with a Norwegian slice of pie.

Then, he simply disappeared.  We saw no vapor, no shudder, heard no heave. He was breathing deeply in sleep, he took six shallow breaths, and suddenly he breathed no more.

The day after, wandering through the hall, I peered into his empty bedroom. “Where are you, Mister B?”

A while later, as my husband and I clomped up the stairs bringing tax boxes from the basement–for our ongoing life, I saw Mister B’s script from his doctor lying on top. Damn.  He’ll not get this last pleasure! The irony of it,  although his tax deduction came through, finally. I muse, my chest tightens, and I stomp on the top step because Joe can’t enjoy this poetry having simultaneously shaken hands with death.

In fact, the only time I ever knew Joe to stomp his own foot was the night before he died.  The pain in his chest was “biting” he said.  “Biting” just like his mother’s description of her lung cancer to him the last time he saw her. Throwing out his groans through the house, his howls, his stomps, and finally, his whimpers broke our hearts.  We called the hospice repeatedly and received directions for morphine. And, finally, he slept snoring roundly.

The thing is, so many beautiful things occur between birth, taxes, and death.

Joe’s fortitude happened.

“Old age isn’t for the faint of heart,” he’d say. Indefatigable, Mister B found patience for the long hours of silence which deafness handed to him, meekness at his failing strength to stand and walk.  Interest in the many varieties of soup he downed when his esophagus stopped working. “Why is this happening?  Why can’t the doctor fix it? What kind of credentials makes her a doctor?” Then, acceptance.

His humor shined with polish.

When he needed a handy cherry-red walker near the end, he often grinned grasping the handles toot-tooting like a childish train engineer. He mostly kept his own counsel and his own secrets. Only what benefited his audience escaped his lips.  He’d launch into some political opinion, then, “Why do I care? It won’t matter to me. The world is your oyster now.” And, “thank you”, “I’m so lucky”, and “I appreciate ya” up to his last night. Sometimes he’d list the accolades of his doting valet of a son to me. “I couldn’t have done any better,” he’d say. Other times he’d wonder if my husband cared that he was dating me or that I had two husbands.

Wonder happened.

He was still curious about things he thought he saw or heard, and those conversations could become sheer fantasy of reason or extreme frustrations trying to explain to him that his experience was not logical.

He started uumming over his food and singing.

Patience and humility happened.

His itching and face cancers reminded me of the misery of Job covered in boils. We’d slather Mister B’s head and torso with medicated cream.

Sacred respect happened.

He stopped mocking our dinner prayers and bowed his head every evening, closing his eyes, respectfully. I ached to know it was more than that, but I never will this side of the resurrection. Many times he thought he had to get up to go to work.  It was only right that he should work and share the household burden. Maybe he could get some kind of job…

If you’re one who’s feeling the pinch of a parent’s age and what that might mean, if you’re curious about how a family could learn to love again, and if you’d at least like to consider the value of caring for your elderly parent, I hope you’ll pick up our memoir, MISTER B: LIVING WITH A 98-YEAR-OLD ROCKET SCIENTIST.  I was a most resistant upwardly mobile child, and I was wooed.

It does take two.  Both sides had to budge. Both sides had to be open to learn respect. He led the way by deferring to us, “You kids take this over.  Why do I need it?  I’ve lived my life.” Or, “You decide. I trust you.”

My husband says his father had become someone he’d never known prior to these final years. Tears have rolled wetting his face many times this week. “Thank you, Dad, for loving me, for teaching me how to live this life.” These were his last intimate words to his father.

But if it’s true that the amount of tears shed relates to the amount of love you hold in your heart for one who’s passed, it’s also true that living in the wonder of Mister B’s company, I became a vastly different person during these past six and a half years.

My takeaways:

  1. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  (Galatians 6:9)
  2. All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
  3. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not extinguish the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5: 17-19)
  4. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)
  5. Math, accuracy, and facts are intrinsic to a good long life. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 25:15)

Mister B stacked 1

breath of joy, greeting cards, Kathy Joy, literary, Taxes, Money, Law, winter

Poetry Tax

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Photo by Mateusz Dach on Pexels.com

By Kathy Joy
Author of Breath of Joy Gift Books

If I were stranded on a remote island in the middle of the deep blue sea and given only two choices on which to survive – words or numbers – I’d choose words.

Words can paint poetry.

Words sail over an aching heart, whispering strength.

Words bolster up the discouraged; they call armies into battle.

Words inside of prayers have the power to storm the very gates of heaven.

Words form apologies, mend fences, bring loved ones back into the fold.

Words, words, words.

I’ll call my little dot in the sea The Island of Poems.

Numbers?

Yeah, not so much.

Unless, of course, you are a numbers person. If you’re a numbers person, then you would be in your zen, surrounded by facts and figures, numbers and percentages.

That island is called The Island of Numbers.

I think you Island of Numbers dwellers are amazing and a little bit mysterious. Because, why you’d want to crunch numbers all day – particularly, somebody else’s numbers – is beyond my scope of imagination.

But I’m so glad you belong on that island, because we, the taxpayers, need you.

We need you to rescue us from our fear of numbers.

And our fear of the Unknown.

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Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on Pexels.com

This past year, a new thing was launched–a thing called the Internet Sales Tax, and honestly, it’s got me a little wigged out. Consumers don’t think they need poetry and books the way they need technology, clothing and appliances. When authors and poets make so little on a book as it is, I find it intimidating to navigate the calculations and reports that might be required to justify what I already know to be a valid, consumable necessity.

It feels counter-intuitive, like showing up for battle unarmed.

We authors may as well call it the Poetry Tax.

There was a time, way back, when I warmed up to numbers as potential allies; friends, even.

It was in college, during a class in Math 101. The professor said it this way: “A math equation is beautiful, in the same way, a poem is beautiful.”

He had me at poetry. I leaned forward. I started taking notes.

All because of his many references to words, I passed that course and lived to tell about it. I remember in my notebook, I started lining up numbers in stanzas, or sometimes in free verse. The affinity to words actually helped me form an alliance with a required math course.

Numbers aren’t so scary when they flow like a well-metered poem.

In my book, Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers, there’s an entire page devoted to tax preparation:

“When the holiday table morphs into the dreaded paper melee of annual accounting…and an advisor singing the music that paying higher taxes is not all bad, for retirement payouts are based on them.”

My editor was so jazzed about putting a positive spin on tax season.

Taxes and tax preparation, in my estimation, have forevermore been a necessary evil in the throes of winter.

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But she was relentless. “We need this phase of wintertime,” she insisted. “It’s part of the season.”

Turns out, she was right. Readers often point out this page as “a refreshing look at a gloomy task”, and “a reminder to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”, a reference to Matthew 22:21.

However, as I approach my own season of retirement, I’m beginning to see at least one of the benefits of gathering in all the papers, the receipts, the records.

Accuracy will ensure my future; integrity will protect me and also my children.

It’s not always about the amount of the return, or the date it hits your bank account, or how you might spend the proceeds.

It’s really about the annual passage from a messy pile of papers to a tidy result that’s beautiful – like a poem.

Please visit the link to see my newly-launched book, “Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers in the greeting card version. Or, check out the hardcover coffee table book version here.

This blog, Coffee with Kathy, was reprinted by permission of the author. We appreciate Kathy Joy’s support of www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons.

Faith, Soothing Rain, Taxes, Money, Law, Tonya Jewel Blessing, winter

A Clear Conscience

By Tonya Jewel Blessing  
christonyablessing@gmail.com

My recent novel, The Melody of the Mulberries, set in Appalachia in the late 1920s, includes a continued racial and legal dilemma from the first story in the Big Creek series. At that time, and until the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Loving v. Virginia, it was against the law for people of different skin colors to marry. The characters in my story are forced to make the difficult decision of obeying or disobeying the law.Interracial Marriage Date Map by State

I won’t give away what happens in The Melody of the Mulberries, but the situation addressed certainly gives food for thought, and it runs into another issue that is often difficult to obey.

PAYING TAXES

I often have a bad attitude about income taxes. A couple of years ago, I prepared the information, sent it off to the accountant, and then received a coupon of sorts which I mailed to the I.R.S. with the additional taxes owed.

I then realized when reviewing the income tax return that I’d made a mistake.

To correct the mistake meant paying additional tax preparation fees and also additional money owed to the government.

In all honesty, I waffled back and forth for a couple days about correcting the information. I am not sure what that says about my character but since the amount was trivial it didn’t seem worth my effort, the efforts of our ministry bookkeeper, or the efforts of our already extremely busy accountant.

THEN, during my personal time with God, I read Romans 13.

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Photo by Artem on Pexels.com

“Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:7 NLT)

The passage begins by discussing the importance of submitting to governing authorities. Authority comes from God, and that those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

Romans 13:2 goes a step further in saying that those who rebel against authority are rebelling against what God instituted. Romans 13:4 (NLT) states, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course, you should be afraid for they have the power to punish you.”

As I continued my study in Romans, the following verse gave clear direction about my tax dilemma, “Pay your taxes, too…” (Romans 13:6 NLT). I sent the corrected information to the accountant, and the return was amended, and additional money paid.

For the record, I don’t believe in blind obedience. I don’t believe in following an institution that doesn’t follow God, but I do believe God puts people in all types of authority (family, church, communities, politics), and, as a Christian, I am mandated by God to recognize authority, pray for those in authority and to be respectful and honoring of those in leadership.

As a gentle reminder, it is very important to file taxes on time!

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/what-are-the-benefits-of-filing-and-paying-my-taxes-on-time-irs-options-can-help

 Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers about the importance of timely filing and paying their taxes, and that there are several options available to help people having trouble paying.

For those who need it, here is a list of Free Tax Preparation Software.

Taxpayers should file on time, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. Then, they should pay the rest as soon as they can. Remember, the sooner paid, the less owed.

Benefits

  • Avoid added interest and penalties.
  • Avoid losing future refunds. Part or all of any refund is first used to pay any back taxes owed.
  • Safeguard credit. If the IRS files a tax lien against a taxpayer, it could affect credit scores and make it harder to get a loan.

a) When is it okay to break the law?

b) In the times in which we live, what circumstances might we face where that decision would need to be made?

c) If we suffer for obeying authorities, will the Lord show Himself faithful to us?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
New, 2019! Book Two, The Melody of the Mulberries sends sixteen-year-old Coral Ashby in search of a Charleston prisoner. Charlie is being held for crimes committed against her family. Her family is not happy about this adventure, and Ernest is faced with dilemmas of the heart and duty.
Soothing Rain, thema, Tonya Jewel Blessing

Racism, an Author’s Thoughts

Tonya Jewel Blessing
Big Creek Appalachian Series
Soothing Rain, Discussion Starter

Racism is a Belief in the Superiority of One Race Over Another

Modern variants of racism are often based in social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. . .

Big Creek Audio Libraries Ebook
Big Creek Appalachian Series Book Two: THE MELODY OF THE MULBERRIES BOOK LAUNCH TOUR

Racism is a difficult topic to address. I live in a country (South Africa) were racism is openly displayed. Discrimination is deeply rooted, and even encouraged. The encouragement, for the most part, however, comes from an unusual source. A corrupt government system that steals from people of all races controls the masses by pitting them against each other. When unfair government practices are exposed, false leaders deflect their corruptness by blaming different ethnicities. Wounds of the past aren’t healed because it benefits deceptive leaders to keep picking at the scab of racism.

Years ago, when I worked as a schoolteacher, I was troubled by a pre-teen boy who used the term “racism” repeatedly to justify bad grades, unwise choices, and naughty behavior. Racism exists all over the world, but to call something racism because it’s a convenient excuse diminishes the struggle and antagonism faced by so many.

Chris and I recently attended a dinner party. A young woman in attendance obviously had an agenda in mind for the evening. The topic of racism was brought to the table repeatedly. The woman had strong convictions about what racism looked like and shared several stories about how her friends had experienced injustices. When a disagreement about the subject came to light, she informed the group that people of a certain age couldn’t truly understand racism. The woman discounted that the small group present were seasoned Christians who had dedicated their lives to serving the poor in body, soul, or spirit without regard for race.

Again, racism is a difficult topic to address. Opinions about what racism looks like seem wide and varied.

Everyone needs to hear about God’s great love.  The Bible tells us that whosoever calls upon the name of Jesus will be saved. Jesus’ ministry was not limited by someone’s color of skin, economic background, religious understanding, or anything else for that matter. According to Scripture, Jesus touched the lives of those who crossed His path and were interested in hearing His truth.

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 It isn’t racist to be curious and learn about other people. It also isn’t racist to create dialog and understanding among different ethnicities. Those type of encounters should endear us to one another and create a platform for reflecting the love of Christ. 

Christmas time, and every season for that matter, should be about Jesus – living for Jesus, serving Jesus, and sharing His Good News for hope on earth and eternal salvation.

Uncategorized

The Primary Way a Fan Can Help

Hi, […] I can’t tell you the wonder that your book brought to me.  Thank you, thank you.  I would like to buy several copies.  How do I go about doing that so that you would benefit the most?  Thank you again for the sunshine you brought to us. – Love, Nettie

One of our popular authors at Capture Books received this message and then quickly sent a note to the agent, “When I answer her, I should say I’ll benefit the most from selling the books to her – outright — is that correct?”

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This is a common question and dilemma for young authors. On one hand, you make more money off of the books you have in stock because you have removed the middle-man by selling them yourself. So, what would you do?

Well, let’s look at it another way.

If she buys directly from you, the author, you will have to

  • purchase a mailer for the book ($4-7) then
  • mail the book to them ($4-13)
  • make it look professional with a nice label, packing and tape. ($2-4)

How much will all of this cost you?

You incur double the shipping expenses if you mail books out again from your local post office because you’ve already purchased and shipped these books to yourself once.

Also, shipping them out again will cause you to have to replenish your personal stock sooner.

Not only that, but if you pay handling fees, you are wasting money by misusing the books you’ve sent to yourself.

Unless you are visiting someone in person, and you hand over several books in the process of a visit, shipping from your own home stock of books is not your best value. It is almost always best to use the books received at your home base for author appearances at events, stores, retreats, and occasional visits with people who ask for your book over lunch. Autograph parties and targeted promotional events or handouts for targeted charity events or clubs will diminish your personal stock of books quickly enough if you are doing your own publicity.  This is what you should be doing with your personal stock of books, author friend.

So, to answer the question posed by the eager fan to our author, the best way to benefit your grassroots reputation and movement of books in the wider market is to ask the fan to order from Barnes & Noble or from her own favorite independent bookshop.  Why?

It makes the store manager aware of your book. It has to pass through several hands before the bookstore clerk hands it over to our new fan, who ordered it.  See how many people have been introduced to it then? 

  1. the manager, (even if it is just listed as a book that was ordered on a sales sheet)
  2. the intake clerk who places the order, and
  3. the box clerk in the back who receives the order.

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And, you will influence a whole new store to consider shelving/stocking your book!  (Free publicity). Wait. Do I need to shout that out again? FREE PUBLICITY. Any business owner gets it.


If your new fan calls a bookstore, neither of you nor your fan have to pay shipping (Let her know this). Costs of shipping typically falls on a bookstore as their expense. You will still make your regular brick ‘n mortar bookstore money $1-3 per book, but you won’t have to do the work, or buy a shipping box and label, spend gas to mail it, and valuable time.

Primarily, it is the free publicity that you are after here. When someone wants to help you out, either ask them to ask for your book at their local library, or ask them to order the book from a store or both.

Ordering from an online source, such as Christianbooks.com is another way to establish a grass roots interest, however, these secondary online sites do not stock your book, and so they simply place an order with the supplier for the purchaser, and do not see the book itself since it is not handled by them.

It is the grassroots call for your book that makes thoseteam-motivation-teamwork-together-53958 controlling your book’s future, sit up and take notice.

Once you begin to experience the high costs of regular advertising, you will see the wisdom in this advice.

 

Be sure to thank you new fan honestly and from the heart. Her eagerness to help you succeed is a personal display of willingness to help you in the future.

  1. Perhaps, in your return communication you can ask them to give you the name of an event planner or retreat co-ordinator for a speaking referral.
  2. Perhaps, after you have established a happy customer, you can follow up and ask for a book review on Amazon or Goodreads or the Nook or ChristianBooks.com.

ALWAYS appeal to your widest market opportunity.