DECEMBER

CELEBRATING WHAT’S NEW IN PUBLISHING

12-14 – Maggie Lynch

Saturday, December 14, 2019

What's New in Publishing for 2020? by Maggie Lynch


The biggest story in publishing is the shift of ebooks to indie authors while maintaining an emphasis on print books for traditional publishers. In each of the last two years the sales of ebooks in traditional publishing has gone down while print books have remained steady. Traditional publishers are also publishing significantly less genre fiction, again ceding that to indie authors.

In the indie space the discoverability problem continues to be magnified as competition has catapulted. In a world where over one million new self-published titles are created every year, and traditional publishers but out another 750,000 books, publishers and authors are left to the algorithms and bots that make a book visible or not. Traditional publishers have chosen to make visibility key by primarily publishing celebrities, experts with a platform, and those who have already proven their sales records. In other words, they are counting on the visibility of the author knowing that visibility of the book will follow.

If you don’t have celebrity, expert status, or a big network, then visibility is something you grow. There are three intertwined ways that have become critical in today’s publishing environment: good SEO; a combination of advertising and reader engagement; and product diversification.

SEO Helps Tame the Bots

I know that no author wants to hear this, but its true. In a world of algorithms your best friend is search engine optimization (SEO). In addition to the biggest discoverability search engine in the world, Google, all distributors use search engines now with different capabilities and weighting of information prior to display. That means keywords, categories, content description, product linking, targeted markets, and good calls to action.

Search engines are no longer simply matching a string of characters to produce a result. They are now AI (artificial intelligence) directed, meaning they learn and get better based on comparing millions of search results. For example, just in the search of a name—Maggie Lynch—there are a number of possibilities. What makes me show up above all the other Maggie Lynch people in the world? First my consistent use of SEO across all platforms from my website to my books on all distributors and in all blog posts. Second whenever someone types in Maggie Lynch and recognizes it as me they click to go to whatever that link is (whether it’s my website, Amazon, Kobo, Medium, etc.). If more people click because it’s me than any other Maggie Lynch in the world, then Google will assume that anytime someone wants a Maggie Lynch it is most likely they want me.

What you can’t control is the individual search engine weighting of the algorithm. For example, Amazon puts the most weight on sales but ultimately they want to deliver what the reader expects. That means if someone types in Maggie Lynch and there is another Maggie Lynch with more book sales than me, that person will come up first. Amazon also tracks the reader through web browser cookies. If that reader has most recently looked at or bought horror stories and then puts in my name (I haven’t written in horror stories), it is most likely Amazon will show them horror stories that has the name “maggie” in them.

In the end understanding the basics of SEO and putting time into making sure it is working for you as much as possible is the number one thing you can do where the only cost is your time.

Pay-to-Play vs Engagement

How does a book or author get “discovered” among over 1.7 million new books every year? There is the faster way and the slower way. Both are viable and both have pros and cons and are dependent upon both time and financial resources.

Pay-to-Play means advertising. Advertising is designed to find people who don’t know you and bring them to your product—your book. If you have zero people (outside of family and close friends) on your mailing list and a similar following on social media, then it is certainly efficient to invest in advertising to get discovered. However, the investment in dollars is pretty substantial with the current suggested average being $100 per day on Facebook or $3,000 per month. You can do advertising for less with something to giveaway (first in series book or a novella related to a series) but it takes longer. I did that at $150 per month over six months to get 6K people on a mailing list. That’s about two cents per name. The more you spend the more people you bring in faster.

In addition to Facebook, there are good advertising opportunities with several companies—Amazon, Kobo, BookBub, and Google are among the top. Again, depending on how many books you have and where you want to get pushed, the expense can be equal to or more than the Facebook expense mentioned above.

The downside of advertising based on a giveaway, besides the expense, is that only 10-20% of the people who download your free book or sign up for your mailing list will actually read the book. So, at best with that new mailing list of 6,000 I can expect 120 to have read the book and, one assumes, be excited to read the next one. Except that, close to half of those who read the book are possibly freebie seekers. Meaning they only read free books unless or until you have become important enough they are willing to spend money on your books. As you can see this method of discoverability really is a numbers game. Once you hit about 25K people on your list the numbers start working more in your favor.

For advertising on platforms like Amazon, BookBub, Kobo, etc. on most books it is difficult to get a consistent return on investment (ROI) unless you have read-through to other books (like in a series) or you have multiple book products (ebook, print, and audiobook).

Engagement is a more organic way to build your fans, but it also takes a longer time. You build fans by word of mouth, by publishing a lot of content on social media and on blogs with good SEO. It requires you to be working hard to be seen everywhere—in person, at workshops, with other authors who are selling well, and especially online delivering content your readers want.

The upside of this method is that if people come to you because they are engaged in what you have to offer they are more likely to be real buyers and truly interested in you and your books. The time and effort you are able to put into this is what determines how quickly that will happen. For me, I post nearly every day on six platforms, write blogs at least two to three times per week, remind people of my backlist at least once per week and am gaining somewhere around 70-80 new followers per month. That means to reach the same 6K numbers that I accomplished in six months of advertising and a $900 spend, will take me approximately 6 years.  And getting 25K (assuming the same rate of organic list building) would be 26 years. Now that’s depressing.

Most authors do some combination of paid advertising and organic, depending on their specific desire and need to sell books for income.

Product Diversification

Ebook and Print. The more different product types you have for a book, the more opportunities for people to find it because you are appealing to different reader types. Most authors do ebook and print, at least for books of a certain size. Though ebooks far outsell print for most authors, there is still a significant number of people who want print and you cut out that audience if you don’t offer it. If you have a series, be sure to put together a boxed set (another product type) for those who are looking for a deal and prefer to binge a series. If it is a long series it can be several boxset combinations. For example, a series of 7 books can be three boxsets: a boxset of the first three; a boxset of the final four; and a boxset of all seven. Depending on the length of your books, you can do this in both print as well. Think of how traditional publishers have often put together three short novels (or novellas) into a compendium book.


Audio. Though audiobooks still haven’t proven their sales efficacy for the majority of indie authors, it is a different way for readers to consume your book and brings in a completely different audience. In addition, audiobooks continue to rise by double figures each year, which means that more people are getting them. In audiobooks you can also do boxsets at no additional cost to you, other than time. If you can’t afford to do audiobooks—either narrating them yourself or paying for a narrator—then consider other audio options just to bring in that group of people who primarily consume content through audio. That could be through sample readings, through a podcast where you discuss your books regularly, or by participating in other people’s podcasts, or regularly reading excerpts and making them available online. The point is to have audio available in some form for bringing new readers to your books.

Other Book-Related Content. Nonfiction writers have long used the idea of worksheets, summaries of primary points, or a lead magnet instruction video to bring in new readers and show their expertise. Many authors are diversifying to offer courses in their areas of expertise. Fiction writers can do this as well. An article or course on the world building involved in your fantasy novel can peak a person’s interest in checking out the book. An article or course on the most common problems plaguing romantic relationships can be a way to interest romance readers. Science articles related to your science fiction world or a course on how to do science research for fiction works similarly. The more you are seen as someone who is not only a writer, but also has done some cool research or has an interesting background the more likely people are to look up your books.

Summary

Visibility aka Discoverability will continue to be the number one hurdle for publishing—whether it is traditional or indie. Competition will continue to be magnified because there is no longer a time by which books disappear from online distributors. In the past, creating something new was most important and writers were urged to write fast and put out as many books as possible every year. Generating a lot of books does create backlist—one part of discoverability.
 
Today, discoverability is reliant on the three parts of the stool to stand up in the long run: name recognition; backlist; and product diversity.

SEO drives discovery once you’ve built a fan base (name recognition), have a good backlist of product, and reach different reader needs with product diversity (print, ebook, audio, and others). You can have 100 products in the market, but if they don’t have the right keywords, the right categories—a way to be easily found by the majority of people searching for that kind of product—then you won’t be visible.

About Maggie Lynch:
As an idealistic nerd with a romantic streak that surpasses any scientific explanation, Maggie writes nonfiction to help authors master the business side of writing. Her character-driven fiction reinforces that life is about making heroic choices one messy moment at a time. 

You can read all about her and her books at https:/maggielynch.com. She also blogs regularly about writing, life, and topics that catch her fancy on Medium.

Friday, December 13, 2019

A Simple Christmas



By Diana McCollum

Christmas season is upon us everywhere we go. Christmas music plays in the stores and on the radio. Houses are decorated inside and out. I love the colored lights and the music and everything about Christmas. The best part of course, is sharing Christmas with family and friends.

I enjoyed a Christmas pot luck lunch with a few writer friends in Bend last week. Kathy had her house decorated so pretty!

Husband and I are having a simple Christmas this year. Family is not coming from CA this year, and I'm having surgery too. We've opted to not have a tree. I've just put a few simple decorations out. We need some joyfulness! I wanted to share some decorations that I love with you.

This is the entry way to the house. The little snow man holding a sign with our last name on was made for us by my daughter over 20 years ago. I had to have that out this year, and every year.

The poinsettias at the top of the page we bought one at Costco, and the other I order every year from a girl across the street. The money goes to the Bend choir she belongs to.

Last year the group toured England and Scotland and sang with choirs from those countries.
The two pictures of the Christmas elves and angels only shows about half of all the ones we have.

I call them my Iowa elves. There is a story behind them. My sister Sarah and family were helping an elderly lady move out of her house in Iowa. She was going into an assisted living home and asked that Sally and family take what they want and get rid of the rest. That is how the story went, isn't it Sally?

My Sister was kind enough to send this collection to me. Every year the Iowa elves sit on my kitchen window sill so I can look at them every day.

On our coffee table is an arrangement with a candle and twinkle lights. The wooden Christmas train I painted a long time ago. My husband loves it and I do too! So the train got to come out of the Christmas box for this year.


That is all the decorations for 2019!

Do you decorate a lot or not much or not at all? and what part of the Christmas tradition is your favorite? And if you don't celebrate Christmas, what part of the holiday season do you enjoy?

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Gingerbread Village by Lynn Lovegreen

Gingerbread houses are a common holiday tradition in many Northern countries.  We have our fair share here in Alaska. But the best-known example is the Captain Cook Christmas Gingerbread Village.

In Anchorage, the Captain Cook Hotel displays an annual gingerbread village during the holidays. Chef Joe Hickel makes it from scratch every year, and it is an amazing thing to see. The buildings are made of chocolate and gingerbread. Royal Icing snow and chocolate trees adorn the landscape. If you look closely, you’ll find Scrooge and the Cracthits, including Tiny Tim, celebrating Christmas Day. 


It's part of our family's holiday tradition; we used to take our daughter there before going to Grandma's on Christmas Eve, and now that she's grown and out of the house, my husband and I see it as part of our New Year's Eve celebration. Here are a few of my photos from past years:






See how Chef Hickel built it, view more photos and watch from their live streaming cameras at http://www.captaincookchristmas.com.


Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for over fifty years. After twenty years in the classroom, she retired to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult historical fiction is set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at www.lynnlovegreen.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The SAD truth about Christmas time


Hi everyone! 

I am Young Adult and Middle Grade author Barbara Binns, writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. As my tagline says, I write Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  




Seasonal affective Disorder (SAD) has probably been around since the beginning of humanity but it was not described until 1984 by Dr. Norman Rosenthal. SAD is a form of depression also known as seasonal adjustment disorder.



Thanks to artificial lights, the world is now active 24/7/365.  Humanity has lost a connection with the seasons and the rhythm of the days. For some of us, this is extremely bad news that can't be helped by holiday lights, no matter how bright or cheery. As an author, this was a period of disaster. I couldn't think. For someone who calls herself a good plotter, during my SAD times, I couldn't write a thing. Depression is a mind-eater. The only thing usable I accomplished during wintertime was an end-of-days short story back in 2012.

The problem

People with symptoms of SAD often live with the condition for many years before they are diagnosed. Many are like me. I self-diagnosed long before 1984. One winter, when I was in my twenties, I went through a period of depression. I knew with absolute certainty that some nameless disaster was coming and All I could do was wait for the end. Coming out of that depression was a miracle that occurred around mid-March. I prayed I would never be that down again. My prayer was answered, until the next October.



I went through this cycle three years running. By the fourth year, when the feeling of nameless terror came in October, I remembered the pattern. I was finally able to tell my self that I just needed to wait for the equinox, mid-March. By the time days and nights were of equal length, the feeling would be gone and I could finally say, "Here comes the sun," in the words of the Beatles song. 

Estimates are that approximately 500,000 people in the US suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and around 10-20% of the US population suffer from milder forms of the disorder.


SAD can begin at any age. However it most commonly develops before the age of twenty-one. This form of depression is almost five times more likely to be found in women than in men. 


Many symptoms of SAD are similar to those associated with "ordinary" depression, such as anxiety, changes in mood and panic attacks.  Other symptoms include:
  • Lack of energy for everyday tasks 
  • Weakened immune system 
  • Irritability 
  • Inability to concentration 
  • Overeating and weight gain 
  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Feelings of guilt and worry 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Reduced libido 
  • Social and relationship problems
When light hits the retina in the back of the eye, messages are sent to the parts of the brain responsible for sleep, appetite, sex drive, mood and activity. If there's not enough light, these functions may slow down, or even stop. That may be one reason why those with blue-eyes seem more resistant to SAD. Blue eyes allow more light to get into their brains. 




Treatment for SAD involves exposure to artificial light from a light therapy box for an average of 2 hours each day. The light given off by the box mimics natural outdoor light and is at least 10 times the intensity of standard domestic lighting.

Needless to say, I have had one of these boxes for years. Unfortunately, it only helped a little. At least I no longer feared the world could end at any moment. I still had no will to write.

Last year, my doctor also prescribed antidepressants. The light therapy alone barely held the unseen monster at bay. The combination does the trick. 2018 was the first time I tried the pills, and the result was amazing. This year, as soon as the first snow hit in October, I began taking my meds. No monsters at all. (Although getting out of bed in the mornings remains a problem.)



The biggest news for me is that with my lights and medicines, I can write in the winter. Yay!! Winter writing is still slower than during the summer months, I can't deny that. But I can now plot, Craft engaging dialog, even perform edits. And the story does not have to be about the end of days! Before, winter was a holding time. I might be able to think about a story, but not to write.

PS, for many sufferers, the worst is yet to come.

According to The Canadian Mental Health Association, January 19, is the most depressing day of the year. Not only because of dreary weather and lack of sunshine, but also because this is the time people start getting their bills from all that holiday shopping. It’s also the time where many give up on their new years resolutions.


Many people suffer from clynical depression. This is not the same as being depressed because of an external reason like a death in the family, or the loss of a job. Some sufferes are like me. We manage to function, barely, all the while desperatly wishing we were bears so we had an excuse for hybernation. It doesn't have to be from SAD, in fact the good thing about my form of depression was that there was an end in sight.


If any of you suffer from depression, I would like to hear your strategies for coping and remaining motivated to do things.  Don't be afraid to see a professional, it is not a disgrace or a weakness.  Don't let the holiday spirits of others war you down they way they sometimes did me.


And I wish you luck in your journey toward recovery.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

May All Your Christmases be White

It may have been a white Christmas in 1944, but it certainly wasn't merry and bright.
This was especially true in western Europe, where the Germans had launched a last-ditch counter-offensive, now known as the Battle of the Bulge. Bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snow storms added to the miserable conditions endured by Allied forces.

(Library of Congress)
Our troops weren't the only Americans trapped by the wintry battle. Four Red Cross clubmobile crews were out serving units when the Germans attacked and were themselves trapped behind enemy lines. One Red Cross Girl, Peggy Henry, had been working at a Red Cross club in the resort town of Clervaux, Luxembourg and escaped under fire with a tank battle raging in the streets around her. In my novel Courage to be Counted, my heroine Vivian's experience is a dramatized composite of the harrowing ordeals of these Clubmobile crews and Peggy Henry's daring escape from Clervaux. Henry was later awarded the Bronze Star by President Truman for her bravery.

By Christmas Day 1944, most of these women were out of immediate danger. The women of Clubmobile Group B joined soldiers of the 1st Division to sing Christmas carols in the streets of Herve, Belgium on Christmas Eve, and though mixed with flashes of tracers and artillery fire in the sky, the brilliant stars brought a sense of peace and joy. The women of Clubmobile Group E later reported that they spent Christmas morning near Spa, Belgium diving into foxholes and serving doughnuts and coffee to the soldiers between alerts.




(National Archives)
It was Clubmobile Group F, however, who experienced the most dramatic Christmas of all, for they had been based at Bastogne in December and it was their Clubmobile crews who were most in peril at the time the Germans attacked. The crew of the Clubmobile named the Cheyenne were trapped at Vielsalm. One of Cheyenne's crew members, Jill Pitts, learned that her twin brother Jack had been killed in an early skirmish of the Battle of the Bulge, mere days after she had last seen him. Though she grieved for her brother, she had little choice but to carry on, especially given her own predicament. The town mayor of Vielsalm presented the women with an incendiary bomb: "To blow up your Clubmobile if the Boche should come." By the 21st, the US Army's 82nd Airborne had moved in, and the battle drew nearer. Early the next morning, the women were awakened and told they had a narrow window in which to escape. They loaded their Clubmobile with their Christmas gifts of nylons, perfume and food treats, bags of mail for the troops, and as much doughnut flour as they could carry. Following close behind a Jeep assigned to guide them out of Vielsalm, the women waved to the American soldiers lining their withdrawal route from this embattled village. In a bid to prevent German units from following, GIs threw up roadblocks as the Clubmobile roared past.


Still struggling to escape later that night, the Jeep guiding them ran into another vehicle. The women moved the injured men into the back of the Clubmobile, pushed the Jeep off the road, hitched the Jeep's trailer with its crucial supplies to the Clubmobile and drove on. An MP directed them around a tank battle, and they spent the night in an aid station. It took them until Christmas Eve to connect up with their main group at Charleville, France. They arrived in time to share some spiked Christmas punch and fruitcake with the other crews. While singing Christmas carols with the GIs that night, a German bomber dropped a bomb that shook the building. "When the ceiling didn't come down, they resumed singing."

After a day of serving crews and dodging bombs on Christmas Day, the crews of Clubmobile Group F received a hand-delivered message from their pals in the 101st Airborne, then mired in the Battle of Bastogne (immortalized in HBO's "Band of Brothers"): "Still here and pitching. Don't worry about us - we're doing okay. Thanks for the doughnut flour. We captured it from Jerry, and we're making pancakes from it every day. . . . See you soon - and have the doughnuts ready!"

Central Illinois WWII Stories, a video project of Illinois Public Media, created a stirring documentary tribute to Jill (Pitts) Knappenberger and her crewmates Phyllis and Helen and their dramatic escape from the siege at Vielsalm with the help of the 82nd Airborne.

Wishing all of you a happy holiday season, however and wherever you may celebrate!

You can learn more about me and my writing on my website, and you can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.



You can purchase my debut novel through the links below.
Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon CA  ~  Amazon AU  ~  Google ~ Nook  ~ Kobo




Saturday, December 7, 2019

I Bring you good tidings ...Books filled with good Cheer!




By: Marcia King-Gamble
www.lovemarcia.com






Yippee! The holidays are here, and with holidays come, books, lots of them, and some written by our favorite authors.




You can never go wrong gifting a book, and in this case re-gifting, is permissible, and even flattering. Not that I recommend doing so without at least  a first read.



Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and like hand-selling a book, it's free marketing for the author. I’ve been  introduced to many a new author this way, and they've introduced me to their fans. So, that said, in this time when sharing is caring, I’d like to introduce you to some new and not so new holiday releases, by authors you may or may not be familiar with... at least not yet. Sit back and have  a read!



With pleasure, I introduce you  to an  amazing holiday boxset,  titled, Unforgettable Christmas Dreams. It was penned  by eleven multi-published USA Bestsellng authors, and offered at only an amazing 99 cents.. Now that’s a bargain, if you ever heard of one. Hop over to Amazon and pick up your copy.  Here's the link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZCBXNRY/




Next up, talented, NY Times bestselling author,  Patrice Wilton, gives you  A Heavenly Christmas. Can you imagine having car trouble,with two kids in tow,  and landing in a magical town called Heaven? Everything about this place seems heavenly, including Nick Ryan, local chef with a heart equally as big as yours You’ll want to eat him up.





Of course  you've heard of the incomparable Heather Graham (not the actor,)  but the author of over 200 books and novellas. She is the founding mother of my Florida Writers chapter,  a more delightful and down to earth person you have yet to meet. Heather’s Spirit of the Season, released to the usual rave reviews.  Here's a sneak peak of what you can expect:

Imagine a young widow with no steady job, three children, a dilapidated Victorian house in constant need of repair, and now she takes in her newly orphaned nine-year-old nephew, Davey.

Davey is happiest playing baseball, and our young widow helps him through Little League tryouts – even though her past flame Tim Yeagher, is the coach.  I don't know about you, but I see drama ahead. And if t
hat’s not enough,  fans of Heather’s Krewe books need to be on the look out for Christmas, The Krewe and a Large White Rabbit. Find it on Amazon https://amzn.to/2sUYmba.



Then of course  there’s me. Releasing  two previously written novellas. You can buy them as part of a boxset  at the bargain price of $2.99  or as singles at $1.99. I could not be more pleased  if you Ring in the Holidays with me. https://amzn.to/2D2XWRZ  https://bit.ly/36Nlbgi



Have a Happy Holiday Season all!




About Marcia King-Gamble

Romance writer, Marcia King-Gamble originally hails from a sunny Caribbean island where the sky and ocean are the same mesmerizing shade of blue. This travel industry executive and current world traveler has spent most of life in the United States. A National Bestselling author, Marcia has penned over 34 books and 8 novellas. Her free time is spent at the gym, traveling to exotic locales, and caring for her animal family.Visit Marcia at www.lovemarcia.com or “friend” her on Facebook: http://bit.ly/1MlnrIS  Be sure to join her mailing list.



Friday, December 6, 2019

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time a woman was walking along a path gathering herbs. She hummed as she went about her work and at one point stood tall to stretch her back. The sun was out and she pushed the hood of her cloak back and for a moment paused and lifted her face to the warmth.

Unbeknownst to her, she was being watched. The man, the local priest, stood on an upper path. When she stretched her back, he felt a twinge of arousal. When she pushed her hood back, the twinge increased. When she lifted her face to the warmth of the sun, his arousal grew stronger. It was then he knew she was a witch, sent by the devil to lure him into sin.

Spoiler alert: This blog was first posted in October 2018. It was one of my best read posts and is still, unfortunately, relevant today. And as you read on, please consider inserting "other" as in people of color, people of a different religious/spiritual faith, people who are "not us." That is something that has not changed - blaming someone else for what we do not have or what we have done instead of looking at our role, our responsibility in this life.

During The Burning Times (15th – 17th centuries) this scenario and others were played out to the point where in some villages virtually every woman including infants, toddlers, children and adults were hung or burned at the stake or in some other manner, murdered. In many cases these women were the Wise Women, the healers, mid-wives or women who owned their own property and were not subservient to men.

What’s important to note is that these women did nothing wrong or bad. In many cases they adhered to many of the “old ways.” They planted and harvested herbs according to pagan traditions. They followed the seasons honoring the turning of the wheel of life.

And to be fair, while I’ve watched the Canadian documentary The Burning Times, I’ve also done some additional research albeit on Google. There were areas in Europe where mostly men were accused and in some cases mostly children. There were also areas where there were virtually no cases of a “witch hunt.” While there are many theories about “who” and “why,” the skeptics and naysayers minimize or attempt to turn us away from what was lost.

Paty Jager’s Monday post talks about what happened to the Nez Perce who lost their spirituality when forced onto reservations and forced to accept Christianity.

And along the same lines, the collective “We” lost the old traditions. We lost human potential. We lost artists, healers, oral histories and thus wisdom.

While there are disputes that millions were “burned at the stake” even conservative estimates range from 50,000 to 200,000 victims over the centuries. Considering these victims had families, friends and neighbors, it is accurate to say that millions were affected by these witch hunts.

Can you imagine what it was like for the woman gathering herbs to return to her home, to be seized and accused of being a witch sent to seduce the local priest? What could she have ever said that would have been believed? And for those situations where the woman would have been raped? Again, she was sent by Satan to lure the man to sin. What would her defense have been? Who would have believed her?

And centuries later we are still paying a price. Women who speak up often become the target of ridicule, of suspicion, of hate. How dare she say anything about her past.

As a woman who graduated from high school in 1959, I can attest to the routine sexual harassment that most of us endured at that time. At a time when there was no such thing as sexual harassment. A boy who grabbed a girl’s breast was “just being a boy.” In my 5th grade health class, I was taught that it was My Responsibility if a boy “got out of line.” If that happened, I had done something wrong. If that was what I was taught, why would I have spoken up?

As a single mother who worked in a male dominated profession (law enforcement in the 1960’s), I know the price I paid to get along with and be accepted by my colleagues. The sexual innuendos, at times spoken to see if I’d squirm. The pats on my butt, the “accidental” brush against my breasts. Could I take it? Did I have rent to pay, food to purchase for my son and me?

As a woman who worked fifty years in social services with populations that spanned from nursery to nursing homes, I know the toll sexual and physical abuse, sexual and physical harassment and domestic violence takes on women and men. Part of our homeless problem is because women and men do not feel safe in shelters or adult care homes, or even in an apartment building (there are elevators and stairwells and they know from personal experience what horrors can happen when trapped there).

But most of all from all these experiences I know the price we all pay when women in particular are targeted, blamed and not believed.

I am not talking about any one case or situation currently highlighting the news. I am talking about acknowledging that for centuries we have blamed women for some men’s sexual arousal, sexual fantasies and their need for domination, control and power.

We are at a crossroads once again where what we lost in The Burning Times can be found in present time. The question is: Do We Want To?

To find your own answer, I encourage you to watch the Canadian documentary The Burning Times and also to read the book When God Was A Woman by Merlin Stone. Educate yourself. Question what you’ve been told, been taught.

Ask yourself “Is it true?” “How do I know this to be true?” “What are my personal experiences?”

Yes, there are somethings we take on faith, but our history? Something we can check out ourselves? 

We owe it to our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and in my case, great granddaughter to do the work, to do the research, to know the truth of our herstory.


You can find all of my books at your favorite e-book vendor. Be sure to ask your local library if you’d prefer to read my books through that resource. Check out my website to see where you can purchase a print book. 

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
You can find Judith’s books at all major e-retailers, some books stores and libraries.
Learn more about The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB! 

© 2018 Judith Ashley


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Holiday Buzz

Hi Everyone,
Posting a holiday tale this month.  Hope you enjoy it.


He needed a drink.

Bad.  Or as the grammar Nazis would say, badly.  Either way, Hugh had to get out of the stuffy motel and find something to quench his thirst—a thirst growing stronger with each passing millisecond. Food would be nice, too. He doubted he’d find anything, it being Christmas Eve and all. Still, he had to try.

The first blast of Artic air almost made him reverse direction. “Damn, it’s cold.”
He’d chosen Florida for the warmth. The temperature shouldn’t be forty degrees, even in December. He didn’t do well with cold, only staying inside mean spending the most wonderful night of the year alone. And with an empty belly.

Not an option. The lure of a warm drink spiked with something even hotter made him brave the frigid night. With any luck, he might even find someone to share his cocktail.

Head down to keep the blinding frost out of his eyes, he almost missed her. She was short, her head probably wouldn’t even reach his shoulders, but cute as a lady bug. Her gaze met his, and for a brief moment, he forgot the chill, even forgot why he’d ventured out into the bitter weather. Something primitive and alluring froze him in place, affecting all his appendages in a way the cold never could.
Her eyes were wide, as if she too experienced the jolt. Only she recovered quicker. Her head turned away as she backed toward the doorway behind her.

Hugh glanced at the door. The entrance to a bar. Hallelujah. 
He smiled, about to offer to buy the lady a drink, only he noticed her body shivered. Probably not from the weather—she’d just come from a warm place. Hell fire, she was afraid. Of him.

“You all right, miss?” he asked, hoping to set her mind at ease, probably not possible given the situation.

“I…I was just getting a bit of air.  Going back inside now.”

Hugh suspected she’d planned to leave, but didn’t want to risk being alone on the street after encountering him.  Did he really look that formidable? “Don’t blame you.  Can’t be too careful these days.”

She met his gaze again, assessing him. Maybe pointing out the obvious had made him less threatening.

“Interesting accent,” she replied, with a hint of a drawl. “Where’s it from?”

He grinned, convinced his little lady—and he’d already started to think of her as his—had overcome her fear. “Proper English, miss.  I’m Hugh.”

She opened the door, holding it for him. “I’m Belle.”

“Nice ring to it.”

“Ugh.” Despite her pretense of revulsion at his bad pun, she laughed. A sound that pleased him. “Just when I decided you might be all right.”

They found a table. She ordered coffee, he requested the nectar of mankind—beer. After the drinks arrived, he downed the first glass and laughed his butt off when she spilled her coffee.

“You’re making her nervous,” the waiter said, working hard to hide a smile. Which made Hugh laugh harder. And was a precursor of things to come.

After an awesome night, they left shortly after last call. “Can I walk you home?  I promise I’ll be a gentleman.”

She nodded.

“Maybe we can do this again,” he ventured.

“That would be nice,” she replied.

Hugh decided he liked the word, nice.  He put an arm around her, just to give her some of his body heat, of course.

Together they walked into the cold, cold night. Life was good.

Something slammed into them. Hard. A death blow.

Hugh knew he had mere seconds. He pulled Belle into his arms, feeling her breath on his neck—ragged and forced. She'd been hit too. They were both going to die.

He kissed her hard, feeling wonderful as his essence drifted from his earthly form. Truly a wonderful Christmas, despite the whole dead on the sidewalk  thing.

The last thing he heard as the world faded to black was a human voice: “Damn mosquitoes. Should be too cold for ‘em.”

Wishing everyone the special moments that make the holiday exceptional.  And hoping you're the windshield instead of the bug. :)

Happy, happy holidays!  

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Winter Solstice, aka hibernal solstice




As I’m bustling about in preparation for the coming holidays, feeling more and more frazzled every day, I’m inclined to adopt a winter solstice mindset, a time of calm reflection. Also, hibernal suggests hibernation and that’s an idea I can get behind.

Recently I’ve been reading about how the solstice is celebrated around the world. Throughout history, the darkest day of the year has been marked by ritual, reflection, and feelings of renewal. People in Scandinavia celebrated Yule by gathering around fires to burn Yule logs and sip warmed mead – both of which were good antidotes to the encroaching dark and cold of the northern winter. The celebration also welcomed the return of the sun – each subsequent day will be longer.

Ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia, dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, to mark the end of the planting season. Music, gift-giving, and feasting lasted for several days.

Traditional solstice rituals continue to be celebrated. St. Lucia’s Day was a festival of lights during which fires were lit on the longest night to scare away spirits. Today in Scandinavia, young girls dress in white and wear a wreath of candles on their heads.

Many people in Japan mark the solstice and the return of the sun, called Toji, by bathing in water scented with yuzu, a citrus fruit. They eat kabocha squash for good luck, and they light bonfires.

Not surprisingly, fires and candles are a common theme across many cultures.

To celebrate winter solstice this year, I plan to walk a labyrinth (perhaps while celebrating this year’s accomplishments and contemplating next year’s goals) before feasting with good friends – a bit of nature and a bit of good cheer. And I’ll light a few candles.

And then I’ll crawl in my cave and not poke my nose out for a few months.

No matter how you celebrate this time of year, may your home be filled with light, warmth, and love.


~~~



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Guess who’s moving in next door?


Nicole Bennett is used to bad luck—it’s kind of a family curse. She’s spent the past year stitching her life back together after losing her dream job. Well, it paid the rent. Now stuck working at her family’s grocery store while wrangling a demoralized dad and a spoiled-brat sister, the last thing she needs is for the man who wrecked her life to move in next door, even if it is for only three weeks. So what if he’s sexier than sin and makes her believe in fairy tale endings?

Ross Calvert’s life in the fast lane crashed when he lost his job and fiancée. All he’s got to show for years of hard work are a sleek sports car and a closet full of designer suits – minus the closet. Determined to salvage his relationship with his best friend, he trades in the corporate life for a brief stint as a caregiver. The decision was simple—until he discovers the tempting vixen he wronged lives next door. Maybe she’s what he needs to reboot his life.

What starts off as a no-strings fling soon veers into making promises that might be impossible to keep.


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Photo of fireplace by Stéphane Juban on Unsplash