Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writing and Writers: Slim Randles

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com

Columnist, Humorist and All-round Interesting Guy

Slim Randles is an experienced writer with more than 50 years as a journalist, writer of fiction and non-fiction and a fellow who sees life as a learning experience. He’s been a cowboy and mule packer in eastern California, reporter, editor and columnist for newspapers in California, New Mexico and Alaska, a dog musher, homesteader and hunting guide, and five years ago he retired as a guide and outfitter in NM. He continues to write his syndicated newspaper column Home Country, currently in 257 papers in 43 states. He reaches more than 2.1 million readers a day.

He is currently working with New Mexico Highlands University to help create a "Cowboy Code" that represents what most people think of as the cowboy way embodying honesty, integrity and strength of character.

Slim is amiable, quick thinking and seems to have been born smiling. He sees the humor in life and helps his readers see it too.

He is an award winning writer with several books to his credit and countless articles. He continues a long standing friendship with Max Evans, a legendary writer and the subject of Slim’s 2004 biography, Ol’ Max Evans, the First Thousand Years. He speaks of writing and the art of being a word smith with pride and passion. His reviews are unfailingly positive and reveal the respect with which he is regarded by critics and fellow writers. He doesn’t waste time being an “aw shucks, m’am” stereotype of cowboys. His intelligence and humor are evident in his easy manner and a gentlemanly kindness. He said in our interview that he wants to write the kind of books he would be proud to have his grandkids read. His respect for his readers keeps him writing relevant material that will last a lifetime.

He graciously gave me a signed copy of Sweet Grass Mornings and I’m looking forward to reading it. He is a cowboy humorist who shows us life’s lighter side and takes seriously his responsibility to produce worthwhile work.

Q&A With Slim Randles

WB: You’ve just been notified you will be the recipient of the Rounder’s Award. Tell the audience what that is.
SR: Named for my buddy Max Evans most famous novel and movie, it is awarded by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture to someone who “…promotes, exemplifies and articulates the Western way of life.”

WB: You’re among a pretty impressive crowd. Previous winners include Max Evans, Michael Martin Murphey, artist Pablita Velarde, illustrator Grem Lee, and Baxter Black. What was your immediate reaction?
SR: When Max called (he’s my mentor and I’m his biographer) to tell me I was going to be given the Rounder’s Award, I couldn’t believe it. I’d rather have this than the Pulitzer.

WB: Let’s talk about your writing. You are identified as a cowboy humorist. Was that a plan or did it evolve over time?
SR: I guess that evolved. I was a newspaper reporter who morphed into a feature writer, and then editor, and finally to columnist. I was also a cowboy, and being a cowboy is a ridiculous, funny thing to do, so I think it kinda sneaked up on me. I do quite a bit of public speaking, and that’s kinda how I’ve been billed. I’ve been called worse.

WB: Your background is in journalism, but you have also done things like participating in the Iditarod and were named Champion Mule Packer at the 1994 NM State Fair. In what ways do these kinds of activities contribute to your success as a writer?
SR: Everything in life contributes to a career as a writer. I’ve had a particularly colorful life, granted, but if you are going to write knowledgeably about freezing to death, you should probably go out and get cold.

WB: There are a lot of definitions of the “Cowboy Way.” In a sentence, what is your definition?
SR: Being honest with yourself and others.

WB: What do you most want people to know about you they don’t already know?
SR: I love music, and have played half a dozen instruments over the years. Wish I were better at it. Music is an elegant way of expressing oneself.

WB: Among the iconic characters of the west, who do you most admire?  
SR: First of all would be Max Evans, who is still with us. His voice as a chronicler of our lives here is unique. Then I guess there would be railroad magnate General Palmer, and Kit Carson.

WB: What keeps you writing?
SR: I have to. I’m not a good enough accordion player to express what I have to through music. And I love my readers. I always have. It’s always so much fun to share ideas and laughs and an occasional tear with them. It’s truly a love affair, and I try to do my best each day.

WB: For writers who are listening in, what are your thoughts about publishing in the age of anything goes?
SR: I just started putting out with e-books, and it’s fun. Basically, I think technology is going to make it easier for writers to earn a living. The computer certainly has. Without it, I sure wouldn’t have two million readers each week, for example. But on a personal note, I guess I’m old-fashioned enough to really enjoy the look and the feel of a real book, and the thrill of seeing one of those with my name on it.

WB: In a review of Sweetgrass Mornings, the writer notes that in this collection of stories the tone is more reflective than rollicking, with an exception or two. Tell us a little about Sweetgrass Mornings and why you wrote in a more reflective manner.
SR: Actually, Sweetgrass Mornings is as close as I’m ever likely to come to an autobiography. I included things from my past that were fun, potentially deadly, and sometimes reflective, true. I omitted including crud like divorce because for one thing, I didn’t think it would interest anyone else, but mainly because that’s a kind of personal issue that isn’t anyone else’s business. But I sure had fun with the horse and sled dog parts and the grizzly bear parts.

WB: Is the West more or less than it was, in terms of how it is perceived in literature and the movies?
SR: The West never was as it has been perceived in literature and the movies. I’m sure Louis L’Amour gunned down more bad guys on Main Street in his books than all the marshals of the Old West. The truth is, almost no one wore sidearms in those days unless it was a cowboy who might have to kill snakes. The gunfights, for the most part, took place in saloons between drunks. That’s still true today.

WB: What’s next for you?
SR: Oh, there are a couple of non-fiction books and a novel on the back burner, but the truth is, it’s just so much fun being alive and active, that you want to wake up each day and wonder what’s going to happen. And I’m thrilled to be asked to help Highlands with their new program to make being a Highlands Cowboy really mean something. A cowboy is, after all, the closest thing we have to a knight here in the West. And there’s a very serious side to it.


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Writers and Writing: Corie J. Weaver

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, 
streaming live at www.kfunonline.com


Fantasy Tales Weave Stories Everyone Can Enjoy

Corie Weaver is a web designer and all around creative spirit. She says she didn’t grow up planning to be a writer, but always loved to read, an important step in becoming a writer. Realizing she had stories to tell she got to work. Corie’s background is in medieval history, she loves to travel and she and her husband are active in the local animal rescue group. She has written two wonderful young adult e-books, Coyote’s Daughter and Bear’s Heart.

Both novels are easy reads with a wealth of fantasy and lore, a combination of what might have been and possibilities beyond what we know. Both are written with tight prose and imagination. You can’t help but engage with the characters as they are faced with the unexpected and the unsettling.

Riddles within riddles, challenges to established beliefs, and courageous characters who do the right things for the right reasons keep readers turning the pages anxious to see what’s next.

In Coyote’s Daughter you will follow Maggie and Jack into a surprising alternate reality where their actions make the difference between preservation of a society and its demise. In Bear’s Heart a young girl resists her destiny until it becomes clear only by embracing her unusual gifts can she save her homeland and bring peace to troubled souls.

The target audience is preadolescent children and teens. I found the plot interesting enough to hold my attention and left me wanting more.

Corie Weaver is an emerging talent whose attention to detail and ability to meld plot and character in entertaining ways shows great promise for a long and prolific future writing good books worth reading.

Q&A: Corie J. Weaver

WB: Let’s start with you telling the audience the catalyst for you going from “not being a writer,” to publishing two books.
CW: In grad school I started writing flash fiction as a way to relax. One day I had an image in my mind that I couldn't shake. I thought I'd be writing another flash fiction piece, then thought maybe it was a short story. After a month I realized to some dismay I'd started down the road of a novel. That one is still in revisions. For future projects I've made sure to have much more planning done before hand. I've been lucky enough to have participated in some fabulous crit groups, and to have attended the Taos Toolbox Workshop.

WB:  I’ve read Coyote’s Daughter and Bear’s Heart. Aside from being targeted to a YA audience, what genre do the books fall into?
CW: Both are fantasy novels. Coyote's Daughter is closer to urban fantasy, with the blurred line in Maggie's life between the real world and the world of legends. Bear's Heart brings characters from folklore and forces them to deal with consequences of a historical event. They can also both be seen as coming of age novels.

WB: Coyote’s Daughter seems to be a blending of folklore and mysticism. Talk about how you decided to go this route in creating character and plot.
CW: So much of young adult fantasy is rooted in the folklore and history of Europe. In New Mexico we have a very rich history and I wanted to explore that. I spent about six months researching pueblo history and legends for each book, with the hopes that the new characters I created would blend well into the existing framework.

WB: Is there a third book in the series or is this a series?
I've played with a couple of different options for the third book, but haven't drafted a final outline yet. And I must admit, I keep being distracted by shiny new ideas.

WB: Do you plan to do print versions of the books?
That was actually the plan for this summer, but now it's looking more like a winter project. I've done a little bit of research into different options, now just to get that moved along. At the moment I'm leaning towards Lightning Source to take advantage of getting into Ingram's distribution catalog.

WB: You have a pretty active schedule. When do you find time to write?
CW: I'd love to say I write every day, but it just doesn't happen. I'm currently experimenting with having a few hours every weekend to actually write, and the rest of the week percolating on world building or plot points, so that when I do have the time to get some words in, I've done the thinking ahead of time.

WB: What authors do you admire?
CW: This is something that changes pretty often, but at the moment I'm greatly inspired by the plotting ability of Dorothy Dunnett. In her six volume Lymond Chronicles she spans the whole of the 16th century world, from Europe to the Middle East and back. The pages are filled with sword fights and period quotations, gorgeous detail. And the hero acts throughout with reckless abandon that the reader only much later realizes is perfectly calculated.

WB: I know you used Smashwords as a vehicle for publishing. What was that like and will you continue to use that service?
CW: Smashwords is wonderful in that it formats the book for a number of different e-readers at once, without me having to do all that work myself. It also has its own distribution channels that let my work get into outlets I wouldn't have been able to reach on my own.

WB: What did you learn about yourself in the course of writing these books that you didn’t know before?
I've always loved puzzles, and plotting out these books was just like a giant puzzle that I could build and solve. I love figuring out who my people are, and what made them that way, and then creating situations for them and seeing what they'll do. The best part is when they surprise me, and take the story to wonderful new directions. The worst part is when I discover that a character I actually like has done something awful.

WB: What is the most difficult aspect of writing and how do you overcome it? What comes easy?
CW: I love world building and most of the time is comes easily to me – creating the background for the story, the conflicts that drive the plot forward. But every now and again what seems like a minor detail comes up that I get stuck on. Usually a logistical or logical issue that I need to get sorted out before the story can progress. I feel silly, because about half the time it's something the reader will never know about, but I need to know that everything hangs together properly. I get around it by percolating on the issue for a few days, trying different options, and brainstorming with anyone who will sit still long enough to hear me out.

WB: Do you have a website where your books are featured?

CW: They're up at coriejweaver.com

Look for Corie’s work through her website, and hopefully before the year is out, in bookstores.

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ear is out, in bookstoreore.hopefully before the year is out, in bookstore.
re writing good books worth reading. and bring p

Monday, July 30, 2012

Writers and Writing: Danny Iny

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com

Take the Mystery Out of Marketing

One of the best online connections I’ve made in recent months is with the marketing whiz Danny Iny. I was lucky enough to get him to be on Writer’s Block on July 24 and his comments were both inspiring and specific. Marketing doesn’t have to be scary. It can in fact be fun and functional, more about results than processes and totally targeted. Danny doesn’t talk about the technicalities; he points out the techniques.

I’ve taken some of his free online classes and did a paid class about blogging. I’ve acquired new information and had old information demystified and made doable.

He graciously sent me written responses to some of my questions and I hope the information is as helpful to you as it has been to me. I’m not selling Danny, I’m sharing the cool truth that if you’re serious about growing your business, Danny can give you an advantage in the marketplace, no matter where that marketplace might be, online or on Main Street.

Q&A With Danny Iny

WB: Danny, let’s begin by you sharing with our audience a little bit about the genesis of Firepole Marketing.
DI: My initial copywriting business evolved into marketing consultancy, which was really more valuable to my clients, who were largely small business owners and entrepreneurs. Many were doing very well, able to afford my services, but many who couldn’t afford to hire me also needed help. I could help a few people on an individual basis, but I felt like more was necessary, so Firepole Marketing began as a comprehensive training program for entrepreneurs, and the blog was built as a way to reach them.

WB: You have a particular philosophy about writing the support materials you’ve created, like Engagement from Scratch! Tell us how you approach writing the books you’ve written.
DI: I never identify myself as an online or an internet marketer. I’m a marketer, and whether it’s online or off, and marketing is about reaching people. Given that a lot of what I do is online, and given that the cost of delivering stuff to people, that gives me a lot more freedom. Also, really, no one makes money selling books, in traditional publishing, authors receive a very small percentage of revenues, and it’s the same online unless you’re selling hundreds of thousands or millions of copies. So it’s really not a great way to make money, so it’s important to have different goals. So Engagement from Scratch! is available on Amazon and Kindle for a price, but you can go to EngagementFromScratch.com and download the whole thing for free. I could be cannibalizing sales, but it doesn’t really matter. Some people who download go on to buy the book, but all give me the opportunity to engage with them. The book has been downloaded almost 12,000 times, and those are all people I now have a chance to engage with. People who buy from Amazon, I don’t get to do that. When I have the chance to interact with people, I can find out what they need, what they want and deliver content accordingly. Having access to people is much, much more lucrative in the long run than book sales.

WB: You are a prolific blogger providing free instruction on how to be better at self-promotion. Talk a little bit about how you stay inspired to write regularly on variations of the same subject.
DI: I only really write variations of the same topic when I’m launching a new project, and I have the fire and drive to write about the same thing again and again, but there’s a trap. It’s a trap of art, where you don’t feel you have to hold thing up to an external standard of measurement, which is great – but once you’re writing for an audience, how good it is matters to that audience. All of the different blogs I write for, I can’t write the same thing for each, I have to make sure my ideas are relevant to those different audiences. Writing is really an act of service. The rest of the time, I just write about things I’m passionate about. Once you get over a certain volume of writing, it gets easier, you get inspired and into it and find that there are almost infinite things and aspects to write about on your theme.

WB: You have good suggestions about how to make writing, particularly for blogs, easier. But looking at the materials, in terms of being an entrepreneur, this is also a good way to just organize your thinking. Could you talk about that?
DI: Sure, I teach a quote unquote formula for writing posts, it’s really simple, and can be done quickly. At its core is a really simple copywriting formula. As a blog post you have your hook – pain or pleasure, the problem, what is stopping them from ending the pain or getting the pleasure the reason for the problem, the solution and how to implement it. From a copywriting perspective, you’re building a connection, describing the problem, an “a-ha!” moment, explaining how you can help, then a call to action. At a high level, marketing is the majority of your business strategy. It’s all about determining how to share what you have to offer. Marketing is often made much more complicated than it needs to be, what you really have is a lot of people talking about it without knowing what they’re doing. I think the reason I’ve been successful is that I play to my strength, which is teaching, I’m good at figuring out how people are looking at things, and how I can speak to them so they’ll understand, which is what a good marketer really does.

WB: You offer a lot of free material, not overloaded with sales pitches for your own products, which are coaching, training and marketing. Give us your philosophy about what makes business work.
DI: At its core, good marketing, which is 90 percent of your business strategy, there are three stages to it – alignment, figuring out who is the exact person you want to reach and making sure you have something they’ll love. Then comes attraction – they need to notice you. Following that is engagement, a recurring cycle of commitment and reward – you can’t go from zero to sixty – it takes time to build up to a relationship that’s ready for a purchase. So I don’t pitch my products on my blog because it’s not a good place to pitch products, people come for information, not to buy. I want people to get to know me and trust me first, apply some of my teachings to their business, and then trust me with their name and email address, for which I reward them with even more great stuff. My selling is about an earnest exploration of fit, and if that fit is there, then it’s probably I your best interest to buy, and if it’s not a good fit – then you shouldn’t buy! I have those conversations through email and on webinars, because that’s where they’re committed and ready for it.

People tend to have a misconception that they either have to try to build relationships or make the most money – that’s a false dichotomy. With very few exceptions, what’s right to do is best for business. I could apply as much pressure as possible, and get people to buy quickly, and I’d make a little more money right away, but more would be turned off, and that’s not good business.

WB: You recently released the 42-page, Naked Marketing Manifesto, and are working on turning it into a full-fledged book. Give our listeners a little background about the manifesto, why you wrote it and how its naked truths can help even a novice entrepreneur become a more effective marketer.
DI: I wrote the Naked Marketing manifesto because a lot of people came to me, they were just getting started, and asking for book recommendations. I have a lot of books, but there was none I could point to as a go-to, getting started book. Within the subsets of marketing, there are plenty of canonical books, but there really isn’t one for Marketing, overall, and that drives me nuts because marketing is simple – not easy, but simple – you shouldn’t have to read dozens of books to understand it. So the manifesto goes over, clearly, what marketing is, and gives you a method to determine if it’s being done right or wrong. The response has been so strong that I decided it should be turned into a whole book. It really comes down to finding out who the single best person is for your business (who you want to see naked), and then make sure that you’re the type of person that they want to see naked too.

Danny had a lot more to say, but the thing I took away from our conversation and from his classes was to do it. Don't forever talk about and plan what you're going to do, DO it. The danger in over thinking something is that you never do it at all. With Danny's recommendations you can take the mystery out of marketing and put it to work for you.


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Writers and Writing: Marcus Gottschalk

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com


Historian Gottschalk Updates Pioneer 

Merchants of Las Vegas 

Marcus Gottschalk is a deeply passionate historian who spent months on research and corroboration of the information he has collected for the current edition of Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas, a book he says will continue to validate his belief that Las Vegas was the Southwest's most important commercial center for yearly 30 years in the late 19th century.

WB: Let’s begin by you telling our audience what you’ve been up to.
MG: Publishing my book, working on a Gottschalk family history, enjoying the activity around the Romero Reunion and researching Juan Jose Guadalupe Romero.

WB: Update us on the updates to your book, “pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas.”
MG: There is a new introduction and chapter one, and information about gold mining in New Mexico

WB: I understand it is one of the more popular books at Tome on the Range, especially among visitors.
MG: In addition to Tome, my book is available at UNIKAT, my wife’s jewelry store on Bridge Street.

WB: What are the elements of the book you think people will most benefit from?
MG: It’s a look at important individuals in early Las Vegas. 

WB: With Heritage Week coming up in August, do you have any special events planned to promote the book?
MG: I’m considering a booth at People’s Faire, but that hasn’t been determined. I encourage folks to go to either UNIKAT or Tome to pick up a copy.

WB: In doing your research in preparation for updating the book, what where some of your more surprising discoveries?
MG: Indexing is always a challenge. I was surprised to learn how much information you can get through Google Books. It was also surprising to learn there was a Comanche presence in this area.

WB:  What prompted you to write this book originally?
MG: I had created a series of essays about the early merchants and found there was a gap in American History having to do with the early years in the development of this area.

WB: If you could write on any particular subject—be it history-related or current—what would it be and why?
MG: If I had the luxury of time and a lot of money in the bank, I would write a complete history of pioneer merchants, and I would write a well-researched history on the banking system. There is a lot to be learned from a study of the system and how it has developed and evolved.

WB: What writers or historical influencers do you most admire and why?
MG: Dr. Lynn Perrigo, Twitchell, Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone.

WB: What do you want your book to be most remembered for?
MG: That Las Vegas—not Santa Fe—was the more important commercial center in the late 1800s, and that many Las Vegans were important in New Mexico as well as in American History.


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Writers and Writing: Ken Owens

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com

Branding Your Character: Yes, it is up to You

Ken Owens, a human potential consultant in the areas of motivation, sales, and personal development, has written a wonderful little book entitled, BrandingYour Character, Living a Dynamic Life. Ken has more than 18 years of corporate and small business management experience. As an ordained minister, he has worked with many individuals, groups, corporations and non-profit organizations. Ken blends his corporate sales and management experience with his 15 years of crisis counseling and training expertise.
The book is nine short easy-to-read chapters on subjects ranging from what shapes your character to the ways you can take small steps to strengthen what you already have, and have an impact on others.

In our conversation Ken came across as one of those naturally upbeat individuals who sees the sunny side of life. Even clouds have a purpose. How you respond to them is a reflection of your character.

Writer’s Block and Ken Owens Q&A:

WB: Let’s begin by you telling the audience about yourself and what prompted you to write, Branding Your Character, Livinga Dynamic Life.
KO: My background includes an associate in liberal arts, bachelor in business, several master level certificates in hypnotherapy and counseling and I’m an ordained minister. I was raised in the Midwest and was an Eagle Boy Scout and 4-H leader, all which helped me with a good foundation for character. The biggest motivation for me writing a book on the topic of character was and still is – turning on the TV every night and seeing the lack of character in the news, on TV shows, in business and in our elected officials.

WB: In the book you say that a man’s character is his fate. Tell us what you mean by that.
KO: A person’s character sets the stage for their destiny or fate in life. People with good character – like Mother Teresa, Oprah, Bill Gates all are great role models and give back to society – are of service to others. People with bad character – the scamming, cheating criminals – like Bernie Madoff or the young gunman in Colorado from a couple days ago – are bad roles models and hurt people. The actions of their character will determine their outcome in life – successful and happy OR lonely and in jail. Or in a more religious context – their final outcome would be heaven or hell. 

WB: In Leveraging Your Brand you emphasize understanding one's positive and negative traits. Talk a little about that.
KO: The concept of branding in the business world defines your product or service’s recognition and reputation in the marketplace. A positive brand means more sales and more money. A negative brand leads to no sales and bankruptcy. The brand recognition of Coca Cola is worth $70.5 billion. That is just what the name or brand Coca Cola is worth, which has nothing to do with all their inventory, trucks, factories, etc. The same is true for a person – your positive character will mean more friends, higher standing in the community, a better job and more money. It also means more peace, balance and harmony. 

WB: The Purpose of Life is a Life of Purpose. Talk about how different people express that and why it is important to define one’s purpose.
KO: What is your purpose in life? That can be a very hard question to answer to most people. Your purpose is your roadmap which will guide you through life. If you don’t have a map or a purpose, then how can you reach any destination? Some other words which also help to define your purpose would be to ask yourself:
  • What is your aim?
  • Your intention?
  • Your goal?
  • Your mission?
Just to clarify – money is not a purpose. Money is the outcome or reward for having a positive purpose in life. Your purpose is the drive that gets you up every morning. There are positive purpose careers and negative purpose careers that fit your overall guiding mission. Know that the wealthiest people make their money being of service to others – doctors, lawyers, small business owners. While those in negative purpose careers take from others – bums, con artists, computer hackers.  

WB: I love the idea that imagination is more important than knowledge. Talk a little about what that means to you and why you included a chapter about it in your book.
KO: Nothing in life happens without it first being imagined in the mind of its creator. No product, service, business or opportunity became a reality without someone first having a spark of imagination in their mind before putting action behind that thought to make it a reality. Imagination is the foundation to everything. Your imagination is a key component to developing your character. Do you imagine ways to scam elderly people out of money or new concepts to put into a book which will enrich the lives of many readers? Too many people don’t follow through with their sparks of imagination and stay stuck in a rut throughout life, while others put their imaginations to work and soar to new heights and truly do make their dreams come true!

WB: This is a thought provoking concept: Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate. Can you elaborate on that?
KO: This chapter is true, but also a light hearted look at what most of us feel. A recent scientific study, which I talk about in the book, found out that we lose 50 percent of our friends every seven years. Our friends shift and rotate and that is OK in life. Our jobs, hobbies and interests change and when they do – it allows us to open up to a new group of friends; while some older ones just fade out of our life. That is a healthy and natural occurrence. BUT on the flip side, how many listeners wonder why they can never get rid of those pesty energy-sucking enemies out of their lives? They just seem to accumulate and never diminish. I talk in-depth about why we may keep some of those enemies still in our lives. The other major concept in this chapter is the truth behind the old saying, “You are judged by the caliber of your friends.” Be careful because a component of your character will be the perception others see in the group of friends that we hang around with.

WB: My favorite, hands down is the chapter entitled Nothing Will Work Unless You Do. Talk about that and the reaction people have had to your take on the subject.
KO: Some don’t like it because I tell them that if they want a better life that they have to get up off their butts and do something about it. Too many people are stuck in the mentality that all they have to do is lay around and others will take care of them. Look at the work ethic of immigrants who come to this country and how they work circles around USA folks because they want a better life for their families. Those same opportunities are here for all of us, we just need to go get them.

WB: Faith makes things possible should be a given. What are the obstacles people face when there is a lack of faith in themselves and their goals?
KO: The faith I am talking about in the book is not a religious context of faith, but more an esoteric context – that inner unseen knowing that each of us has. And having the confidence, security and dedication to trust and listen to that inner guiding force. A lot of people lack a secure sense of self-confidence, which is their biggest obstacle. Too many people look to others to justify or define who they are instead of having a deep-seated faith to know who they are and be comfortable and confident. Also, a lot of people lack the faith or trust in the unseen world of possibilities that lies ahead of them. They stay stuck in what they think is a security of the past. To grow, one must have faith in the future and let go of the past. 

WB: Explain what you mean by “Character is a victory, not a gift.”
KO: A good analogy would be to look at the upcoming Olympics in London. When a medal is placed around the neck of an athlete for placing in their sport, it is a victory. They have earned that medal from years of hard work, practice, sacrificing fun activities – because they had a goal – a purpose to become a world class Olympian. It was not given to them as a gift for something they did not accomplish. To me, character is the same thing – it takes years to develop your character and you earn it; it isn’t something that someone can just give to you. 

WB: What exactly is a human potential consultant and what do you do?
KO: That is my spin on the term coach or coaching. I love to educate and inspire people to grow and become a better person. On a business level, I love to help businesses expand their products and services while bringing value to their customers. I mainly do this by one-on-one counseling sessions with individuals or larger group corporate trainings for businesses.

WB: Final comments?
KO: If anyone has any personal comments or questions for me, they can reach me at www.BrandingYourCharacter.com . And remember that the children of today will become the leaders of tomorrow. They need good character role models to help them lay their foundation in life.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Writers & Writing: Ray John de Aragon

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com
Ray John de Aragon


Author celebrates Hispanic culture and traditions

Ray John de Aragon is an educator at heart, which is good because he has spent much of his adult life creating learning opportunities for young people in Las Vegas and Los Lunas school districts. He is Las Vegas born and a lifelong student of life, Hispano culture and art. He follows dual disciplines, finding time to write definitive books based on stories he heard growing up, and a curiosity that lead him to write a book that corrected erroneous understanding of the state's early history.

As an artist he is creative while staying true to the traditions of style and interpretation. His writing has won a number of awards and he has been the subject of a number of articles and books. His enthusiasm about his work never stands in the way of his getting it right. He is a careful researcher and a dedicated historian. 

Below I share Ray John's responses to the questions we discussed during his Writer's Block segment July 17.
WB: Please start by telling the audience what you’ve been up to.
RJ: I’ve been working on a new project titled, The Hidden History of Spanish New Mexico.  This book will tell the story of the four hundred year history of the state and will include something about the heritage, culture, and traditions with information that is not readily available in any other book.

WB: Your books and art celebrate Hispano culture.  Share with us your thoughts on keeping one’s cultural traditions alive in an ever-changing world.
RJ: I don’t think people actually realize how much of how we react to things, our habits, and basic knowledge comes from those that came before us.  Cultural tradition is what shapes us as human beings, and it will continue to shape us on into the future.

WB: You’ve written a number of books, all of which have stood the test of time, creating a compendium of information that brings understanding to old Spanish and northern New Mexico traditions, and shines the light of understanding on often flawed depictions of history. Tell us about some of the books you’ve written and how your work has influenced or changed how we view the past.
RJ: I wrote my book, Padre Martínez and Bishop Lamy, because I was incensed at the way our legendary folk hero priest Padre Antonio José Martínez was depicted in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. Although it was a historical fictional novel people took it as the truth and saw the padre as an immoral lecherous priest. I felt I needed to counter that denigrating portrayal with the truth. I attempted to do the same thing with my book, Hermanos de La Luz, Brothers of the Light to present a more balanced look at the Penitente Brotherhood of New Mexico. The truth is most people want to hear about some rituals which have been sensationalized, rather than what was going on in the world around them. Actually their rituals reflected their faith and the strength it took to make it in a tough world and the penance they felt was needed to remind them that good moral decisions could only be made by picking up their cross and carry it, which was harder than taking the easy way out. Besides, the persecution they and their families endured by people who did not understand a culture different from theirs was a much greater penance than what they would have ever chosen. They were constantly being dragged out of their homes and beaten and sometimes they and their families were killed. It wasn’t meant to be a secretive society, but throughout history, from ancient times to now, the world has not always been kind to things they could not understand. I think my books have opened up an understanding and appreciation of the rich cultural and historical heritage and legacy of the four hundred year old Spanish history of New Mexico.

WB: How do you balance the time it takes to create a work of physical art and the artistic expression of writing, both of which take a monumental amount of time?
RJ: I go by the inspiration I feel at the time. If I feel like painting, I paint. If I feel like writing, I write.  If you want to do something bad enough, you sacrifice. Some people get to go on vacation, watch TV, sleep, etc., sometimes I have to give those things up and work on what I believe in.

WB:  Let’s talk about New Mexico Legends and Lore. Now, I’m Hispanic, on my mother’s side. I grew up learning what she remembered of stories she grew up with in Arizona, where my grandfather was a country sheriff and a sheepherder, but those stories were watered down, I think, by the fact we didn’t live in community with the traditions she grew up with. I will say, however, that in this book I recall similar types of stories. Do these stories sort of cross all cultures and come out in different ways?
RJ: I think that in all cultures the world over there are stories that have been passed down from one generation to the next that teach lessons or follow universal themes. It doesn’t matter what the color of our skin is, how our culture or traditions are different. We all want to be treated with dignity, to be loved, to be taken care of, to wish that our children could always be safe and protected. We are a very creative people and we find ways of expressing ourselves by making it interesting, magical, or frightful. Whatever works to get our point across. What youth wants to hear, “Don’t go into a canal with rushing water or ditch filled to the brim with water because you could drown!” Doesn’t it make a more lasting impression if one says, “I’ve heard that La Llorona is always looking for children who go near the water in the arroyos and if she catches them, they might not ever see their family again. So be very careful. You never know…” 

WB: What prompted you to put together this particular collection?
RJ: When I told the stories in the book to students at schools, at presentations around the state, at conferences, and at university classrooms I always enjoyed seeing how kids and adults would respond.  Since people seemed to be enthralled by the stories, I wrote them down.

WB: What stories resonated with you as a child and has that changed as you’ve matured?
The story of La Llorona is one I grew up with living next to the Arroyo Manteca near the Old Town Plaza here in Las Vegas. Of course my mother told me the story to keep me away from the arroyo, but as I grew older, my friends and I searched for La Llorona in the arroyo by day, but never by night. I decided to write a full-length book on La Llorona, The Legend of La Llorona, which is still in print. As a child I didn’t understand why the stories were told, but as an adult I understand the value in those stories. In today’s society, kids watch programs or play games where blood is gushing, or brains are bursting out of characters heads, but there is no value in the story, no moral learned, except maybe a “how to” guide on how to do the same things, but do it before it’s done to you, or do it well enough to not get caught.  People say its not real, but when it does become real some of us are shocked, others may think they were stupid because they got caught, and still others may think, “It’s not really that big of a deal!”

WB: Of the books you’ve written which has been your favorite?
I can’t say any one book I’ve written is my favorite. Each one had a purpose. I guess I could say, my next one and the one after that is my favorite. Each new book is the infant waiting to be born.

WB: Which has had the greatest impact and why?
At this point, Padre Martinez and Bishop Lamy has had the greatest impact. It has been referred to as a revisionist history by some, I say, “Is it a revisionist history because I dare to contradict what the so called “experts” have quoted over and over again without looking at the facts?” At one time it wasn’t easy to do research by looking at documents from primary sources or as close to the primary source as possible, but today there is no excuse for rehashing what somebody else has said with the technology that is available. I would say read and reread both the pros and cons, what are the statistics, what else was going on at the time, who is saying it, why they are saying it and then make your statement. Hey, there is nothing like history, the written words of those who lived it, and time will eventually bring out the truth. New “old” documents come out of secret government folders or hidden chests everyday. We just need to look for them. Sometimes we like what we find, sometimes we don’t.

WB: You have also written children’s books.  Talk a little about that.
RJ: It always seems that I have ten different projects going at the same time. Being a Title I reading teacher I always wanted to write children’s books because I saw how kids reacted to Dr. Seuss so I wrote City of Candy and Streets of Ice Cream. It sold well and now I have several children’s books in the works.

WB: On the book cover for New Mexico Legends and Lore, you quote a common New Mexico expression, “Fear always leads us to suspect the worst.”  Do you regard that as a caution to not be fearful or a defeatist reality? As in, the worst is bound to happen so I might as well get the fear part of it out of the way up front.
RJ: This famous New Mexico dicho most probably means something like, “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”  What it also means is keep on trying until you do. We say, “Think before you leap!”  Sometimes, we have to leap before we think or we might not ever do it!

WB: Tell us about your author event at Tome on Saturday.
RJ: Tome on the Range is having a book signing on Saturday, July 21.  I will be there to sign the books and try to answer any questions you might have. We might be able to share some stories.

Ray John concluded with these words: I guess I could say that my hometown of Las Vegas provided me with all I know about ghosts, haunted houses and the legend of Billy the Kid. Our famous Padre Martínez also came into play. What I learned and what I grew up with is now the subject of my books.


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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Writing and Writers: Jane Friedman

 Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at www.kfunonline.com


On the subject of e-media and 

new opportunities

Jane Friedman
Jane Friedman recently left her position as an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati. She is the former publisher of Writer’sDigest, the go-to magazine for writers, and has spoken on writing, publishing, and the future of media at more than 200 events since 2001. Her new role is that of online editor for the Virginia Quarterly Review.

In our interview Jane said she comes from a creative writing and liberal arts background. Before entering academia for a couple of years, she worked in traditional publishing, first at a mid-size publishing house, and later at Writer’s Digest.  
While her new position at VQR is publishing related, there are distinct differences. VQR is a non-profit entity rather than commercial, and has a more literary approach to content.

Jane talked about her past experience and her new opportunities. I asked her to share her thoughts on what e-media means both from a promotions point of view and from a consumer’s perspective.

She said e-media is a funny term. In the university environment – and perhaps in the thinking of most people – it means anything related to communication: radio, television, internet and other electronic transmissions. New media more specifically focuses on the internet and on-line tools like e-books, blogs, websites and the various other, and seemingly growing, number of social media sites.

She said prior to issuing an e-book, authors should be comfortable with the scope of the online community, pointing out that if you’re not active online it will be more difficult to create a presence. Jane had a few recommendations for authors who are internet novices.

First Things First

  • Create your own website where you have all the information about your books, events, or anything that’s going on related to your work. 
  •  If you have no publishing partner research what’s out there and select what will work for you. Your decision will be based on what you know about your readers and how they will respond to what you have to offer.
  • There are a number of resources available, two of which Jane recommended. Bookbaby and Smashwords are well-run companies used by thousands of authors. Neither is better than the other, but each provides options suited to author needs.
The use of e-media tools is based on the assumption the people you want to reach are active online. Jane said social media typically works as a triangle. 

  • Readers and the types of sites and tools they use.
  • You the writer, and the sites and tools you’re comfortable with.
  • Your work.
The sweet spot it where they all come together. Some tools may be better suited to specific types of writing. Prose, poetry, fiction and non-fiction present different and distinct challenges in creating an on-line presence.  

Market research is essential in determining what will work, beginning with finding out where readers are and what they're doing (looking at) on line. There is no one specific tactic or strategy. Jane said what you use depends on the work itself and what you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it (blogging, tweeting, facebooking -- my word not Jane's) you won’t continue to do it, and that’s what counts; consistency over the long haul. “Efforts snowball based on small actions you do every day. Those actions give you visibility, which eventually translates into a growing audience and your platform.”


What are the elements of a good blog? Jane gave three easy-to-follow tips. 
  • Make it easy to read. Don’t use blog templates that have small type or use white type against a black background.
  • Create headlines that work. Make sure headlines, taken out of the context of your blog home, attract readers. Make your headlines search-friendly and related to your topic.
  • Make your blog outward focused. Think about your readers and what will interest them. Use the principles of good writing: get to the point quickly, break up the post with headlines, subheads and bulleted lists and keep the writing tight, generally no more than 500 words, unless you already have a loyal following.

The Future of Publishing

We talked briefly about The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations, Jane’s free e-book about, well, the future of publishing. The book is a slight departure from what she was encouraged to do. She had no interest in writing about the future of publishing because nobody knows what the future holds, especially when it comes to the publishing world. When she decided to proceed with the project she elected to say something about the topic in a humorous way. This parody contains a dozen or so chapters riffing on predictions made by others. I have to say, it’s fun to read. In the final chapter Jane gives her honest opinion.  

On to new beginnings

Jane’s new adventure in publishing is taking her back to her roots. She said around Virginia Quarterly Review they sometime refer to the journal as eating your vegetables. I took that to mean it’s good and good for you. VQR is comprised of high-quality journalism, essays of nurture, and photo journalism not found in other journals

Predominately a print publication VQR has been around since 1925. While there have been some digital versions, and there is a website, the online presence needs attention. Jane’s role is to revive the journal's social media impact and look for ways to build an online community. Through her efforts she will be promoting the brand, building content that lives online and translating the print edition into an online experience. Plans are to generate unique content for the website not related to the print version.

VQR does take submissions, but Jane said now might not be a good time to submit work as management is preparing to hire a new editor. She recommends checking online for updates. 

Generally VQR is theme-based by issue and full of photo and international journalism. Additional content includes short fiction, poetry and a range of essays. Content may be best described as eclectic. Check out archived articles online, or order a print edition to see what VQR looks like in living color.

Jane’s final advice to writers is to be patient. The publishing process in any form takes time. Don’t expect results within weeks, she said, and remember, "...small actions, every day, over a long period of time will pay off."

My thanks to Jane, who in the initial stages of her new job, took time to call in and talk about writing and the online tools you can add to your tool box.

(Photo of Jane from her website)


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