I’m not about to lecture anyone…Lord knows… I have always considered myself a “catholic in progress”. Both spiritual and religious, I spend a great deal of time questioning, always seeking answers for the unexplained.
But this year, I let friends and family know that I was scaling back on gift exchanges and the “trappings of Christmas” and decided to focus instead on the “reason for the season”.
With rising inflation and gas prices, empty grocery shelves, and supply chain woes, after two years of COVID-19 riddled with grief and loss, I refused to be disheartened. I planned to take back Christmas this year!
My family went back to church in person, no masks! And we went to confession, which always makes me feel physically lighter, as well as spiritually elevated.
While I truly believe God is all around us, I was missing the community, the ceremony, and the sanctity of being in a sacred place of worship on a Sunday morning.
I was concerned about crowds but attendance is way down. I was concerned we would be judged for being away for so long but instead, we were warmly welcomed.
The third part of this plan was charity: giving charitable gifts to great causes, volunteer organizations that I support, and random acts of kindness, large or small. You do not have to be wealthy to make a difference in the life of someone less fortunate, and no matter how bad you may have it, someone always has it worse!
In the fight against darkness, never surrender, always seek out the light!
We were promised unity and transparency. We may be united on one thing; it’s crystal clear that something is tragically amiss. Do you feel it? A murky despair hangs like a toxic fog over our country.
I hear people ask, “What can we do?”
It’s not a shrug your shoulders, we give up, what can we do? My gut says Americans want to do something, to be proactive, do something to stop the madness, because there is nothing worse than feeling helpless.
We are far from helpless and there are many things we can do.
I have long believed that each and every one of us is given a gift at birth, a gift from God. You may be one of the lucky ones who have more than one. The onus is on us to figure out what our talents are and how to use them for the betterment of mankind. Likely, these proficiencies are skills at which each one of us naturally excels. Sure, we may study or work to improve our ability, but to some extent we have always simply had a knack for something like singing, painting, writing, fundraising, teaching, or any ability that makes us unique. It takes some people a lifetime to figure this out. Here’s a hint: ask yourself, what’s the one thing that when you’re not doing it, you’re completely miserable? What is something positive that you are compelled to do?
For me that compulsion is writing. In my youth, and before blogging, self-publishing, and social media, I filled notebooks with words, poems, stories, and incomplete novels. Then, in my twenties and thirties, I filed away the notebooks, in favor of my laptop, often writing stories that I never even shared.
When I started this blog a few years ago, it didn’t really have a focus at first, probably because I didn’t have a focus. Over time, I discovered I liked to write about wine, politics, writing, art and nature. But of all of these, people most like to read my posts about wine and writing.
Then, in I wandered away from the blog and discovered Twitter. A few years ago, I thought Twitter was amazing! I could post a photo of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC and people in Japan could see and like it. I found other writers. I found people passionate about politics. I stopped really writing and started tweeting instead. I thought I was connecting with the world, how exciting!
In 2016 I wanted to do something for my preferred candidate in the Presidential election. I had used Twitter advertising to promote my book, so I ran a pro-voting twitter campaign using my own tweets. There was nothing nefarious in any of the tweets, snarky yes and attempts to be witty, maybe. The campaign was wildly successful in likes, retweets, and follows. Twitter blocked some of tweets and put them under review. I inquired and received some vague answer.
Not long after the campaign, Twitter deleted all of my advertising analytics, even for the ads I had run for my book. They sent me a letter stating that I had Russian followers. So what? I have followers all over the world, I thought, and a Russian sounding surname. I inquired about the missing ad data. After all, I had paid for those ads; surely what they were doing was illegal. The representative said the ad data only stays up for a limited period of time. I said, “That’s funny because I was always able to go back and review ads from previous years before”. Something didn’t feel right. I didn’t quit Twitter at that time, but I stopped tweeting. That love affair was over.
Just before the 2020 Presidential Election, I started Tweeting again, my political outlet. At one point last fall I had tweeted something about the election and someone tweeted back something nasty. Before I knew it, I was in a tweet battle with a total stranger. It went on for hours. Then, she started tweeting scripture at me. I tweeted scripture back. It went on. Finally, I was just exhausted and I wrote, “Agree to disagree. We both read the same book.” And it stopped. I think at that moment we both realized how foolish we were, and that in a sense, we were both actually on the same side.
I didn’t like who I had become on Twitter, so I closed my account. Prior to this, I had quit Facebook for the same reason and had not missed it at all. Some friends and family members were angry that I had left Facebook, but I was more at peace. It had lost all meaning to me. After my mother passed, I started a family group chat, and a year later we are still using it to share family related events and news. My circle has gotten smaller, but it is more meaningful. I kept this blog because for me it is where it all began and the place where I felt I had made the most genuine connections. I still want to connect with the world, only on my terms.
I think it’s OK to lose your way as long as you can come to your senses and still find your way back.
Lately, I have felt a strong sense that we are all being called, compelled to action if you will, to use our gifts for the sake of and for the good of our fellow man, right now.
As a result of my “tweet battle”, I don’t believe we are all divided. I deduce there is a purposeful wedge being driven between us and that all too often we seek salvation in human form, when the great unifier is faith in a higher purpose, and in a higher power.
As a nation, and as a world, we have spent the last year fighting against an invisible enemy, a virus. We are all exhausted, our souls are depleted and they need to be replenished.
We have been told, “Don’t wear a mask! You must wear a mask! Wear two masks!” And we have been muzzled.
We have lost loved ones; we have watched our children struggle and fail at home school and fight to participate in their chosen sports. Suicide, poverty, drug addiction, and alcoholism are on the rise.
We have been told that we can’t see our friends, our family members, our co-workers, and we can’t worship together.
Right now, tens of thousands of migrants are flooding our southern border illegally aided by human traffickers. We know very little about these migrants, except that they desperately want to flee their own countries and for that we can’t blame them, but at the same time we are ill-equipped to help them, especially now. In addition, they may be COVID super spreaders, and are being allowed to disband across our country. How does this fit with every restriction we have faced over the course of the last year? Why are our leaders allowing this to happen? Is it for votes? Is it to keep spreading the COVID virus and to keep us under control longer?
Our leaders are patting themselves on the back for the new $1.9 Trillion dollar COVID-19 relief package they just unveiled. Did they bother to ask themselves the one question that every one of us asks before buying something as simple as a kitchen appliance? “Can we afford this right now?” You should read what’s in this bill. This article offers a good explanation, and you can decide for yourself: https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-reliefbill2021-covid19-idUSL1N2LA2NF
Maybe a simpler and less expensive solution to our current angst would be for our leaders to close the border, to dispense the vaccines, to allow our small businesses to open and therefore have a fighting chance of survival, and to send our kids back to school. We are America. Most of us don’t really want a handout and $1,400 might pay the mortgage for a month and then what? What I hear people saying is: “we want to be able to earn an honest living and we want our country back”.
Like many of you, I have spent a fair bit of time ruminating over recent political events. For a few months, I chose to disconnect, to not engage, to not write about it, to close down my social media accounts, to not react, and to just take some time to think and to question.
I saw events with my own eyes that made me question the election outcome. Tens of thousands of people supported one candidate, and only a handful supported the other, but the other guy won? Balderdash! Isn’t that a great word?
I questioned why the Supreme Court dismissed court cases challenging the election results and refused to even consider looking into the possibility of voter fraud. Plus, there was the double insult of potential voting impropriety on the 100 year anniversary of women’s suffrage. What a slap in the face. Shouldn’t voting integrity be of supreme importance to the highest court? Will our vote ever count again? Did it ever count? Don’t we deserve to know?
When one party seeks power at any cost and as a result the other party is made to feel completely powerless, something is terribly wrong.
Make no mistake, a battle is raging.
So you ask again, “what can we do? How can we take back our power?”
We can use our gifts and no joke, we can pray.
A few years ago, while I was researching my novel and certain that I was experiencing a spiritual crisis, I went to speak with a priest. After a long discussion, he told me the best thing that I could do about my predicament was pray.
At the time, I recall I laughed a little. Was it nerves or embarrassment maybe.
He said, “That’s Satan, he’ll always try to stop you from praying.”
“Just pray, that’s it?” I said, “It sounds too simple”.
“There is nothing more powerful, “he said, “than prayer.”
Of course he was right. I didn’t really get it at the time.
I’ve never thought of myself so much as religious, but I’m definitely spiritual. Religious to me was always about being devout, never missing mass, and being able to quote scripture without looking it up. But I’m glad that I took some time this year to reflect and to pray. I’m thankful that I did not give in to negativity and derision and that I did not write out of anger. Loving your enemies takes courage. I’m still working on this. https://www.biblehub.com/matthew/5-44.htm
Like Janice Morrison, the character in my book, I consider myself a Catholic in progress. Janice is far from a saint. She curses like a sailor and sins like the rest of us. She’s in the midst of a battle, good versus evil, both figuratively and literally.
Through prayer, we are allowed to share our burdens. Afterward, I feel physically and spiritually lighter.
So now I pray for the Supreme Court to find courage. I fear that some heinous force holds their tongues, and prevents them from doing their jobs, especially Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Barrett. It could be simply my own fears. But if there is something holding them back, I pray that it will be revealed and that any known threat be vanquished.
I pray for the members of the press to open their eyes, their ears, their hearts, and their minds and to tell the truth, not their version or their superior’s version of the truth, and for selective censorship to be cancelled.
I pray for Joe Biden and his family, that he is not afflicted with dementia. Over the past five years, I lived the horror of this disease. My mother lost her struggle with this disease last year just as our nation succumbed to this pandemic. I’m all too familiar with the vacant stares, the lost words, and the stolen memories. I witnessed it in her and in the other residents of her nursing care facility. Dementia is a nightmare from which one can never wake.
I pray that the members of the current administration running the country behind the scenes have the best interest of our great nation and its security at heart and that those in power truly grasp the weight of this heavy burden.
I pray for America to be free again someday soon, for the National Guard in DC to go home to their families, and for faith to be restored in our Nations Capitol. I believe our government does not need protection from its own citizens, but rather from thoughts and ideas that become policies and laws to the detriment of our United States.
Above all, I pray for our children and for the future we will leave to them, with fear, fealty, and faith. I am thankful to still feel compelled to write. With this outlet, and with these prayers, comes some levity.
I am an insomniac, always have been. I credit this with my writer-ly beginnings. As a child, after my sister and I–who shared bunk beds, she in the top bunk and me in the bottom–performed our nightly monster check, she would drift off to sleep, while I laid wide-eyed staring at the springs on the underside of her bunk. Maybe it was because I was the one who did the monster checking while she, the oldest, dictated the course of the search.
“Check the closet!” She commanded.
I obediently crept over to the closet, carefully turned the door handle. It creaked open ever so slowly. Certain that any monsters lurking there would leap out at me if I opened the door too quickly, I used stealth.
“No monsters!” I announced.
“Check under the bed,” she replied.
Now, this was the worst, because everyone knows monsters favor this location. I slid down, and lay on the cold, wooden floor, with my cheek pressed to the floorboards. I reached out with a shaky hand to lift the sheet that covered the dark monster lair.
“Clear!” I reported.
“OK, good. Now, get me my glass of water.” She said.
Having a bossy older sibling gets old fast. Most nights I did as directed because there was hell to pay if I deviated from the plan. But sometimes, I could not help myself. On occasion, I contaminated the water-glass. Once, I put the rubber stopper from the tub in the bottom of the glass. She did not discover it until she got to the bottom. Another time, it was a tiny dab of toothpaste. Truly, I was surprised she did not detect this straight away but, she had after all just brushed, so there was that.
Most nights, while my sister peacefully slept, I lay awake with my mind racing. The single thing that would quiet my mind was creating elaborate bedtime stories where I, of course, was the heroine. I would add new scenes to these tales each night, and the stories would never end.
I still struggle with sleep issues. Only now, if a story enters my mind, I have to start writing it straight away, or else I might forget the important details my nocturnal brain invents. Some of my best writing comes of these sleep deprived nights.
There is peaceful stillness in the single digit morning hours. I have witnessed them all, especially 3am the witching hour. Usually I am alone in my wakefulness in the house, but not alone in nature. Now that the weather has cooled, I love to leave the windows open, enjoying nature’s air conditioning. But living next to the forest has a downside.
Foxes like to play and “yip” at 2am. Last year we had a litter of five fox kits living in the woods behind our house. They played just like puppies, but only after dark.
We loved watching them frolic. Naturally we named them all: Boots, Tippy (she had black tipped ears), Squirt (the runt), Brownie, and Trooper (the leader). By springtime they had grown up and moved on, or so we think. I am not sure which one I hear calling in the night, but I like to imagine it is one of the pack.
Owls prefer to converse at 4am. I woke the other night to hear “hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot,” followed by a distant answering “hoot-hoot-hoot-hoot.” The hooting grew closer as the chat went on. Owl courting, I guess. This is went on until 5am. Someone was playing hard to get.
And I notice that every time I am awake, so is my faithful companion…
which is just as well, because I need someone to share ideas with, while my spouse soundly sleeps.
It no longer makes sense to try to get back to sleep. I now know the futility of this. Instead, I take these “interruptions” as a sign that there is something I am supposed to be writing about, that my brain does not appreciate the fact that my body is choosing to ignore great thoughts. After all, my brain is in supposed to be in charge. Unlike the monsters who hid under my bed as a child, the monsters that lurk in the corners of my mind are trickier to eradicate. It is best to let them live on the page, and keep them out of my closet, don’t you think?
I’ve been away for awhile, and I apologize for completely abandoning my blog and WordPress over the last few months! THANK YOU to all who remained loyal to my site during my absence. Some personal issues crept up: a new job, my Mother (who has dementia) moving near us, writing a new book, family, children, sports and so on. Everyone has busy lives, right? Is this any excuse to give up my blog? Not really.
The first thing I noticed when I came back to my site was that it needed a major face-lift. I’m trying out this new, colorful theme. Please let me know what you think.
Paperback vs. E-Book
This morning, since I am writing a new novel, I was motivated to analyze my book sales since the publication of my first novel in January of 2014, “Secret Agent of God: the Captive Clairvoyant” which is available in both paperback and e-book formats. I consider my first book to be my sales guinea pig.
Here is what I discovered. Although it may not be terribly shocking to seasoned Authors, it might help some new Authors who are in the process of publishing their first book.
I had originally planned to only publish my second book in e-book format since unit sales of my e-book are 5X the sales of my paperback. However, the sales dollars generated from my paperback, while not record setting, are almost 8X the sales of my e-book. Huh?
I attribute this to one thing (tried and true publishing 101): in person sales. Working book fairs, craft shows, farmers markets, donating books and simply talking about my book to people I know or meet has generated more sales dollars than anything else. You can actually make a decent margin on purchasing books and re-selling them yourself. Where this hurts you is in Amazon ranking where you get zero credit for these sales.
This is the paper I used to work for. One of the articles I wrote for the paper helped spark the idea for my first novel. A few years later, the paper covered a book fair where I was one of the Authors. Ironic?
FREE, Countdown Deals and Full Price Sales:
I will try any advertising method just out of curiosity. Free does help your sales rank but I always wonder if anyone reads the free books they download. I rarely get around to reading free books and am more motivated to read a book I paid for even if I only pay .99¢ for it. However, my unit sales from year one, where I stubbornly refused to give my book away for free to my second year when I completely caved enjoyed a 90% unit “sales” bump.
That being said, I tried the .99 price point for my book and did not like it. I felt cheap! I felt like I needed a shower after every sale. Furthermore, I did not in reality, sell more books at that price point than I did when my book was priced at the golden number of $2.99.
Yes, I tried this too. I found out I’m really good at spending money. This is the reality of advertising. Advertising is a mode of spreading the word about your book. I look at advertising the same way I view gambling, never spend more than you can afford to lose. There are multiple factors involved in a good campaign and you need to analyze what you did right and wrong. It helps to start with a good product, but even a good product can be sabotaged by a bad campaign. If I could afford it, I would hire someone to do this for me.
With Amazon advertising I managed to spend 6X what I actually made in sales. However, I did experience a huge increase in KENP, Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read. Huh. Amazon pays royalties on these which is a nice bonus. The hope is that after reading some of your book, the reader is inspired to purchase it.
I have very little success with Facebook advertising, but I also have a small following there. Why? I really do not like Facebook. I quite often resent it. I keep my account because if I do not, I know that I will lose track of people who no longer live in my general vicinity which constitutes most of the people I know. Sound familiar?
I have had the most success with Twitter advertising because I love Twitter and have a considerably better following there. Make sense? I engage more there. And I feel as though the advertising capability is better suited for targeting, better reporting and allows me to customize my own campaign. Actually, I have fun with all of the charts and graphs and statistics they offer and therefore will actually go look and find out what I did wrong and right.
So what have I learned? I have learned that I need to continue to diversify my marketing efforts. Free is OK if I only use it on occasion, but free is not a price point, it is only free. I like Twitter! I need to remember to blog once in awhile. I need to advertise wisely and not just roll the dice and then be to be lazy to do the analysis.
I’m running a promotion on my novel, “Secret Agent of God.” It’s a Kindle Countdown deal for .99 through this Sunday, 9/5. I went to copy the link for a tweet that I was writing and discovered the e-book had hit one of the Amazon Top 100 lists @#66. So I take this as a sign not to quit writing today.
The interesting thing about writing is that writers think about quitting pretty regularly. For example, I was considering pulling the plug on this blog as recently as last week. I enjoy writing here periodically, but I am not what you would call a “pro blogger”. I guess my reason for quitting was why do it if I am not going to give it my all? Right? The same could be said about writing. Very few writers have the time and resources for 100% devotion to their craft. So why bother?
I think about giving up writing from time to time. It would be nice to have a hobby like painting or airplane model building or quilting. Do those hobbies drive you to the brink of insanity? Do they cause you to talk to or at least mutter to yourself regularly? Do they fill you with doubt and self loathing? Do they keep you up at night? I wonder if a quilter ever wakes at 3:00 a.m., sits bolt upright and then staggers around in the dark looking for the pen and paper that should by her bedside for brilliant o-dark-thirty revelations. I would be willing to bet airplane model builders sleep like babies with flying dreams all night and that painters spend their REM time skipping through the streets of Paris.
So just quit, right? What is the big deal? One less writer in the world…who cares? There are millions of us after all. Except that quitting is simply not an option, is it? We’re compelled to write, even if no one reads what we write, even if we write for a tiny audience. One person is an audience. It’s all about perspective. Keeping the right one will keep you writing.
Thank you readers! Here’s the link if you are looking for a witty, gritty, page turner to keep you up at night!
The sale begins tomorrow for one week only, March 14th-March 21st.
Kidnapped by terrorists for her prophetic visions, one woman needs to use her strange power to prevent hundreds of deaths—including her own.
Eileen Slovak blends the dangerous world of terrorism with the paranormal in a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller. Janice’s visions will have horrific consequences unless she learns to be a Secret Agent of God.
**** “An impressive first from début author, Slovak, with characters to root for and original, unforeseen twists. The unlikely heroine, a young mom with an unusual gift/curse, is extraordinary and relatable, all at once. I see this book in your near future!” -M.D. Taverner, author of Willow Bend: A Mara Hiddenbridge Mystery
***** “I would consider it a spiritual book as well 🙂 loved the main character Janice. I could relate to her in so many ways. A must read !!! Never a dull moment in this book! Hoping the author comes out with a second book about Janice. I want to know more about her next chapter in life! GREAT BOOK!” -Renee Stone