Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Suzanne Warr

I briefly entertained the idea of making this post totally unrelated to Thanksgiving Day, but couldn't see the point.  And besides, I like giving thanks!  I am deeply indebted to gratitude for the peace and joy I feel every day.  Note--not the things I'm grateful for.  Rather, the giving of thanks itself.  While I am grateful--as witness the little turkey below--I believe that gratitude is the kind of gift which always comes back to you, like a boomerang, with more than you sent out.

So, how do you celebrate gratitude, and Thanksgiving?  We like to split our focus three ways.  The first is on our American Heritage, which kicks off the Saturday before Thanksgiving at the American Indian Heritage Festival, downtown.  Second we of course plan pies--this year, we'll be sharing three.  Chocolate, Key Lime, and Pumpkin.  Yummy!

Third, every year we draw and put up a gratitude turkey.  This year, since our son is serving a mission in Korea...our turkey is dressed as a missionary, too!

Such a handsome fellow, don't you think?  And of course we add thankful feathers to his fabulous self.  This year it took us longer than usual to get Mr. Turkey up, so he's not as fluffy as he could be.  But, he'll do. :)

I'd love to hear from you, in the comments, about how you celebrate this day, or how you emphasize and choose gratitude!  However, if you're hands are too full of pie to type, that's okay, too.  Happy Thanksgiving, and have a lovely day!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

You Need to Be an Amazon Associate!

Amazon has an amazing program called Amazon Associates. If you have two thumbs - or even if you don't - you should sign up. It's easy, it's free, and you will get rewards. I shall explain how it works.

1. Go to this link. Sign in with your regular Amazon account information (and if you don't have an Amazon account, you can create one).

As you sign up to be an affiliate, they will give you a code. Mine is trpildau-20.

2. Now that you have your code, you can start using it. This is where the fun happens.

Let's say you're me and you've just released a book. I'm using my novel Strength to Endure as an example. The link to purchase that book is

That's a pretty long link, right? Well, for starters, we don't need that whole link. See that word "ref" there in middle? I highlighted it so you could see it easier. You only need the information in front of that word. Delete the backslash too so now your link looks like this:

You can do that any time you want to shorten a link. Just makes things a little less messy.

Now I'm going to take my Amazon Associates code and put it on the end of that link. I'm going to hook it on there with ?tag=. So it will be product link, that little connection code I just showed you, and then my code. This is what the final link will look like:

I promise - this is easy. It just looks complicated for now because it's new information.

3. Okay, now that we have our link with code, this is what we post whenever we talk about the book. I post on Facebook that I have a new release, I send out a newsletter, I put it on my website - every single time I talk about my book, I use this link with this code. If a customer clicks on that link and purchases my book, not only do I get my usual royalty, but I also get a few cents' credit through the Associates program. At the end of the month, Amazon adds up all my cents and sends me a gift card to be used on the site.

4. But this is not all. Let's say my friend Katie Crabapple has a new release and I want to help her spread the word. I do the same thing I did a minute ago with my book.

I'd take her link, which is

I'd whack off everything after "ref," making the link now

I'd throw my code on there, making it now

I would then post this link everywhere, telling them about my friend's new book.

"But wait!" you say. "I don't want to make money off my friends like that!"

Here's the thing. You're helping your friends by advertising their book, and not one cent comes out of their royalty. The credit you get comes out of Amazon's pocket, not your friends'. It's a win-win for you and your friend.

5. And it doesn't end there ...

Let's say Geraldina from Kentucky uses my link and buys Katie's book. For the next 24 hours, unless Geraldina clicks on someone else's Amazon Associates link, everything she buys will be credited to my Associates account.


That's right. Let's say she buys Katie's book, and while she's on Amazon, she decides to pick up some ice cube trays and a video game and a new pair of shoes. A percentage of each of those purchases will get credit back to my account, and I'll get a gift card.

6. So, how much money are we talking?

The more items you put your code on, and the more purchases are made using that code, the higher your percentage will be. Right now, I'm making 6.5% whenever someone purchases using my links. If I refer/sell another 33 items, my percentage will increase to 7%, and it will go up from there.  (No, I didn't just use some crazy math skills. It's all laid out for me on the Associates site.)

What's cool is that when I look on the Associates site and look at my report, I can see a list of all the things that were purchased using the code so I can see where my efforts have been the most useful. I see lots of my own books on there, but then I also see things like crochet hooks and hangers, things that were purchased while the customer was also buying my book, and I can see that the code really does carry over to other things.

The fact of the matter is this ...

Everyone should be an Associate. It doesn't matter if you're an author with a product to sell - you can help other people sell their products, as I demonstrated above with Katie's book. The fact that I am an author is just icing on the cake because I can use the code on every single one of my books as well. There's simply no reason not to take advantage of this program. I saved up my reward gift cards for the last few months and applied them toward some Christmas shopping I did on Amazon last night, and it reduced my out-of-pocket expense by about a third. That's not bad, folks. That's not bad at all.

(My thanks to Kirsten Osbourne for teaching me how to use my Associates account. I had one for years, but had no idea what to do with it until recently.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Climbing the Unclimbable Mountain

By H. Linn Murphy

I've been hitting it hard with NANOWRIMO and have thus been kind of a sandbag where other writing is concerned. But I take pen in hand, tonight, to write about something close to my heart.

In my calling in church, I hear a great many things about families and children in our ward and others. Some people might think this job is one to seek because it carries with it a sheen of responsibility. "Oh, you're a ____. That must be so interesting. I'm only a ______.

Whoever seeks such a job is smoking the good stuff, however. (Merely a jest.) Knowing all of these things about people can be a real burden. I don't know if it's just me, but I find myself feeling very inadequate because I come up against these insurmountable-seeming mountains people are battling to climb, and I can only offer them an ice pick or maybe an energy drink, when what they actually need is a helicopter or at least a longer, stronger rope.

Today, instead of writing on my WIP and doing something with my son, I went to pick up a stranded friend and listen to her while she unloaded for four hours. She is one of these mountain climbers who seem only to come up against a higher peak whenever they look.

What can one say to all of it except "I think I feel your pain" or "Maybe we can put your name in the temple." I'm certain that after I visit with many of these people, they probably think, "That woman is a full-on loon. What's she doing in that calling?" I'm wondering the same thing. I'm totally waiting for the mantle of the calling thing to kick in. At times I have felt that happen, but not often enough.

I don't want to be one of those people who come off as uncaring or fake or otherwise unacceptable. But I am a human. And I have not been through most of the things they are facing (hopefully never will). Where am I going with this? Maybe all we can do in these situations is try to understand where they're coming from. Maybe the only two people who can completely understand are Heavenly Father and His Son. But we can at least endeavour to try.

At any rate, happy climbing, and here's your drink.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

It's Already November??

This is my favorite time of year. I love Halloween, dressing up, the Fall colors, and everything about October. But then the date turns to November 1st, and I realize how excited I am for Thanksgiving.

There's a trend on Facebook (and probably other social media) where people choose to say one thing they're thankful for each day. I enjoy reading what people are grateful, and it makes me think about those things in my life.

In October, I mentioned a panel I was on, but this time I want to mention a different panel. Chris Evans is everyone's favorite Captain America. He was the big guest slated for Comic Con and while I was ecstatic for my daughter to finally meet him (She's loved him since she was two), I hoped he would be nice instead of a jerk.

I had no need to worry. And, yes, I promise this is going somewhere.

Anyway, my husband won a pass to the panel that was only by lottery and I couldn't wait to learn a little more about this mystery guy. Everyone kept talking about his anxiety and warning others not to ask for hugs or get too close because it would freak him out. 

But he was late to his own panel. And while I needed it to get going so I could go meet my son and daughter, I was willing to wait. Why? Because he was backstage meeting several kids from the Make A Wish Foundation. He'd made sure when he set up the panel that there would be a whole row just for them. 

When he finally came out, he kept stopping what he was saying and turn back to the crowd to say thank you. Over and over again. He couldn't believe that there was such a huge crowd. He couldn't believe people kept cheering. And on and on. 

To me, he was already living up to who Captain America was to me. But then he said something that made all the difference in the world to me.  Someone asked him how he gets rid of the mind noise when he's having an anxiety attack. 

His answer?

"Gratitude. If you are grateful for the things you have, you will never have to deal with that head noise. It will just go away."

So this year I decided to join the masses and talk about those things I'm thankful for. And I'm so much more thankful for November and Thanksgiving (and a trip to Ireland at the end of the month...) I've decided to look for the good.  

I'm thankful for my family. All of them. My kids, husband, brother, sisters, in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and on and on. They're the reason I am who I am. And they're the reason I can write strong families for my books. I'm so thankful for them.

I'm thankful for prayer. I've seen so many miracles over the last year and I know it's because people come together to pray for that miracle.

I'm thankful for my warm, cozy home. It may not be spotless, but it's well-loved. There's laughter, singing, and dancing.

I'm thankful I get to live my dream.

I'm thankful for Delta and their choice to have a sale on international flights so we could use our miles to go on the trip of a lifetime. Along with that is Marriott and Hertz because, wow. Lots of awesome. If not for those points, it would be decades before we can go.

I'm thankful for the area I live in where there are so many opportunities for my family.

Speaking of which, it's time to go pick up one of my little blessings from a school activity. 

So what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Writing Against All Odds

Valerie J. Steimle

As the mother of nine children, people are amazed when I tell them I have published five books. Back in the old days, when typewriters were being phased out and desk top computers were becoming more popular, I took a pencil and paper and wrote all of my ideas for articles and started manuscripts for books. I wrote at night when all my children were in bed and the house was quiet.  This was not only a creative outlet; the time spent also provided emotional support for me as a mother.

Fast forward twelve years and after revisions and more revisions, typing everything on a desk top, I finally had a finished manuscript to submit to publishers which I did.  Not getting the response I had liked, (5 or 6 rejection notices) I decided I would self-publish this manuscript and did most of the editing myself.  I scraped the money together for self-publication and my first book was born. I thought I had done so well and I was on my way to fame and fortune until I realized a year later that marketing my book was much harder than writing it.  Yes, I had a few local morning show interviews and I did local book signings but this did not bring the income I had hoped for.

Putting promotions aside, I continued writing and knew my second book’s topic: Homeschool.  By that time in my life, I had slept, ate, walked, drove and thought homeschool as we did homeschool our own children and I had accumulated a lot of information. It didn’t take long to collect my writings about homeschooling and I asked several of my homeschool friends to contribute a chapter to this book as well.  Again, time passed quickly and before I knew it, three years had passed by and my husband passed away suddenly.

That put a stop to everything I was doing for at least three months and I had to rethink my whole life goals.   I knew I wanted to continue my goal of becoming a best seller author. I knew I had to push forward and publish my homeschool book; which I finally did in 2006. This has been my most successful book to date and I was very happy to hear how I have helped countless families take on a lifestyle which has helped many children in education and life experiences

That was then, this is now. My present day life consists of only two children at home and I even remarried. My writing time has increased but so has my financial difficulties.  With the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, our employment has been cut in half.  I am fighting to keep my home of 18 years and I have to deal with menopause, low book sales, broken cars (including one that was consumed by fire with a box of my books inside) and a number of other trials too long to explain. So I continue to write against all odds. There is always something that will get in the way of writing.  If we don’t decide now, we will never accomplish it.

I try to remember what truly matters in life.  When all is said and done in the end, every temporal or earthly possession does not matter.  Whatever fame or fortune gained, won’t count for anything.  Whatever frustration, resentments or grudges held towards others will mean nothing in the long run.  Whatever score kept of wins and loses won’t be seen on your heavenly scorecard.  What matters most is what we share with others and how we have helped make someone’s load lighter.  Whatever inspiring, uplifting writings we can promote in story will matter the most in life. So I continue and always will write against all odds.