What Does Your Book Cover Show?


wordleOur mothers told us, “You can tell a book by its cover,” which we translated to mean we need to show the world our personality by being neat, tidy, and saying the right things. As we become adults we realize our inside is more important.

I’m forced to think how my upcoming book cover will help my readers understand what’s inside. I know the story is engaging, but how can I express it on the book cover?

The publishing team is working hard to assure the book cover is exceptional. The name of the book is “Gift of the Suitcase,” a travel memoir with the clear message that losing baggage is not always a loss. The cover is critical.


What font should we use? That one is easy for me. I don’t like fancy. I know I want the title bigger than my name. I know the size of the font and inside design are fine. I agree with the dimensions of the book.


The first iteration of the book cover displayed big red letters. I don’t think I’m a “red” person. I use my favorite colors in my logo, but if we use those colors, will it capture the person who is a Francophile walking past it in Barnes and Nobles? Will it capture the person who has visited Paris recently? It’s not a story about Paris, but needs to demonstrates international travel. Will the old gray suitcase be enough on the cover? I think not. If I use orange on the cover will that attract or repel? A little color test I took says I’m orange, which shows optimism. Maybe orange.

The Head Shot or Casual

My photograph album contains a few of my head shots but they seem too serious. My book contains humor, sadness, and happiness. The tiny online picture needs to exhibit my love to laugh but also my serious side. The photo on the back cover may be one inch by one inch. I sent the publisher a couple of candid shots. Did I do the right thing?

All these decisions make my head swim. I’m not a perfectionist but I do want to share my story with as many people as possible.

Will my unruly hair keep people from doubting my ability to write a book? I doubt it. Donald Trump’s hair is surely worse than mine, yet he’s running for President. I worry too much.

We make decisions daily on how the world views us. What would a book cover look like about you? Think about it. It’s a fascinating question to ponder. Feel free to comment.












Cheerleaders for Your Career

cheerleader feedback

Who are your cheerleaders?

At a recent meeting of the Alliance of Technology and Women, the room buzzed with energy and enthusiasm. Well-dressed, attractive women of all ages and ethnicities shook hands and introduced themselves, forming new relationships while greeting corporate friends.

The U.S. is number 10 on the list of countries with women on corporate boards. According to an article last year in CNN Money, only 14% of companies in the U.S. have female CEOs. The women attending the ATW meeting in Dallas want to improve those statistics.

Two local executives from telecommunications technology giants in Dallas shared their success stories, peppered with advice for the members and guests. Vicki Jones, Vice President of AT&T-Entertainment Group, and Ginger Shelhimer, Head of Mergers and Acquisitions, Global Talent Acquisition at Ericsson answered questions posed by Tracy Merzi, Publisher of the Dallas Fort Worth Business Journal. “Leadership through Corporate Change” focused on insight into their careers.
Without a script, the speakers offered four specific tips to improve career movement. Let’s start with introspection.

      1) Know and share your story with others.

Vicki’s ability to resolve problems causes others to tap on her shoulder when a problem in the business erupts. She told how she was the “fixer” in her family growing up, which translated into her strength when she is now tapped to lead a dysfunctional project or messy team in her organization. Her unusual career has spanned over 30 years with the same company, evolving into her current role with AT&T. Despite monumental layoffs, she survives. One telling comment from Vicki’s career was, “I am low maintenance. When I see something wrong, I often fix it before it becomes a bigger issue.”

Ginger began a career in financial services but quickly grew bored, being more motivated by helping others than by money. Her remarkable career zigs and zags like a train traveling up a mountain. She brings new ideas and energy into her next position or organization with a talent for timing the change. Her business relationships and sense of humor help her move forward with little effort. When someone contacts her for an internal or external opportunity, she listens and asks, “Why not?” but analyzes the responsibilities to assure a “good fit.” She is fearless when facing ambiguity.

      2) Fill your car with mentors and cheerleaders.

Both speakers noted that friends, family and colleagues play an integral role in corporate and personal growth. Visibility and listening skills are critical attributes. When starting a new job, Ginger creates new relationships, not only in her area, but across functions. Lunchtime learning is not necessarily in a structured classroom. She emphasized that even meeting someone sitting beside you on a plane can be a crucial conversation. She calls her close friends and colleagues her “cheerleaders,” telling the group to “Fill your car with cheerleaders” along your career journey.

      3) Be a life-long learner.

Vicki began her job with no degree yet recognized the need for education to fit the company requirements for advancement. While working heinous hours, she took time to achieve both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

When Ginger left the financial markets, she gravitated to an advanced degree in Counseling. Those skills assist in every step of her human resources career.

Both Ginger and Vicki cautioned the group not to overthink next career steps.  Disruptions and economic realities often lead to stronger leadership skills and unexpected opportunities.

     4) Politics can be impactful.

Politics can cause sleepless nights. The speakers agree that awareness of power and personalities plays an integral role in leadership and careers. They suggest “awareness of, but not involvement in,” politics.

Tracey Merzi, the moderator, asked pertinent questions as the women rolled rapidly from topic to topic. Bold questions from the members during Q&A left the audience smiling with authentic, yet diplomatic, responses with humor, another great attribute of success.

Ginger and Vicki presented worthwhile criteria for self-improvement. Be prepared to answer with one or two words when asked who you are. Then think about who your cheerleaders are and how they helped in the past and will help in the future. If you want a leadership role, be aware of politics, the need for ongoing education, and use your intuition along with a willingness to serve others and resolve issues. These are the keys to improve the abysmal statistics about the number of women succeeding in corporate America.





Five Tips for Family Festivities

xmas dogs

Finding fun in the neighborhood.

Many of our family members live in Houston. We are headed that direction for Christmas family festivities. My husband and I planned to be alone for Thanksgiving; however, we accepted an invitation from friends in Dallas who annually invite their huge family and friends. Everyone brought a dish to share with joy of food, friendship and thankfulness.

The kitchen counters were covered with 20 plus pans of appetizers, turkey, bar-b-que, vegetables, salad, and yummy rolls. Not only did we share dishes I had never tasted (collard greens and strange dressing) but we met their relatives and visited with their neighbors during the event. The teenagers rushed to go first so they would be eligible for second helpings before other guests. Obviously they had attended the feast in prior years.

Now we face Christmas with our family in Houston, looking for the joy and fulfillment of Thanksgiving. In thinking about the diversity of our own family, I’m writing some guidelines for myself. Maybe you need these as much as I do.

Don’t Talk Much

Our adult children run the gamut of strong opinions. My views are rarely appreciated. Their children have electronic devices attached in their faces, except for the three month old. I hereby promise not to announce, “Put the darned devices away for an hour, will you?” I will ignore the whining and complaints as I will be the mousy listener in the room.

Walk Away

If arguments start, I promise to remove myself from the situation rather than enhancing the opportunity for raised voices with a rebuttal. Maybe I can insert, “Let’s leave that for another time.” Humor is not always appropriate, but might be an option.


I’ll try to talk individually with each person briefly, except for the baby. The effort may elicit fascinating facts about hair products, piano lessons, soccer, basketball and job challenges.  I’m not sure the grandchildren will want me to interfere with their devotion to devices, but I will try. I hope to listen enthusiastically as they explain what they are watching. Last time I asked one of kids why the river on the video game was red, I was told it was blood.

One Question Only

Let your family members pose the questions and listen carefully for friendly conversations to join. Do not render suggestions unless asked. Your adult children do not want your advice any more than you wanted your parents repeated harassment. I hated hearing my mother’s rants about how thin my sons looked in elementary school.

Since kitchen processes often differ from family to family, I will watch the body language to discern the necessary method for loading dishes or washing pans. The only acceptable question is, “How can I be helpful?” I will ask that, and only that, as the adults know who and what needs to be done.

Call a Friend

One idea I recently read suggests setting a date to call a friend within 48 hours after the family meal to “download” idiosyncrasies from your festivities. Your frustration may dissolve as quickly as the dishwater in the drain as you vent.

Your adult children want your presence, participation and patience with their lifestyles. I want my Christmas festivities as joyful as Thanksgiving.

If you know me, you must be laughing like a circus clown, thinking I can accomplish this. I’m going to try!

At the Thanksgiving Table

Fall dining table

Thanksgiving Table

As we join family and friends at the table for our Thanksgiving feast, we tune out the latest news of an absent uncle. We try not to sit next to the relatives we don’t particularly like, but tolerate. We laugh, joke and ponder how goodness and misfortune permeate our lives. Someone in the group needs another job or new business ideas. A friend’s cancer returned. The teenager chatters about her enlightened views on the value of vegan menus. The new baby in the crowd sleeps peacefully. The two year old wants hotdogs.

We are thankful we live in the safe surrounding us. We watch football and fall asleep before the 4th quarter. We awake surprised the game is over and elelated the Packers won. But we realize a haze hovers over the warmth in the room.

Although the recent Paris massacre causes a cloud in our lives, we deem our country unconquerable and hope for wise leadership from our government. We take sides. Our outrage causes us to wonder why the murders in Damascus, Beirut and Tel Aviv rarely appear on our favorite news channels. Greg Abbott, our Texas governor wants to prevent any Syrians from settling in our state.

We forget why our ancestors left Europe. They arrived in Massachusetts, Virginia and Florida from Ireland, Poland, France and other continents, mostly as a result of religious persecution.

We must look to our heritage. Did a great-great grandfather serve in the Revolutionary War? Do we plan to arm ourselves or find solutions to end the killings? Can we avoid another season of internment camps in Europe and the US? Read stories of World War II and Vietnam or the Middle East for fast instruction on why we must prevent this from happening again.

As we come to the table on Thanksgiving let’s eat, pray and watch favorite team. Can’t hurt to say a few prayers. We want a united team. We are grateful for our freedom and grasp no easy answers exist. Whether our heritage is Louisiana Vietnamese or Louisiana French, whether our ancestors are German, Mexican or other ethnicity, we need a team at the table.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. Go, Bucks!

Surprises on the Path

“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.” Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Colorado Cliffs

What surprise is around the corner?

Three years I left recruiting. I thought I would never change careers or partially retire. I’m happy to say, my new life is full and productive, although I miss the comradery of the business world.

Two years ago I moved from the large suburb of Plano to the small town of Sachse, Texas (population 23,000 vs. 260,000). We have goats in a field down the road and live in a subdivision with the 3500 homes, the best of country and suburbs. I love the small town atmosphere, although I miss the fabulous restaurants and great grocery stores.

I began my writing career long ago for marketing my business and helping people find jobs. Now I’m writing a memoir as my life is full of joys and tragedies to inspire people to “do the right thing.” Finding the Harry Potter quote this morning is a little surprise, but our lives are full of both big and little surprises. The process of writing a book, rather than an article, is daunting and daring for me. I want to give up almost every day, yet the next day,  I continue the struggle to improve the same text.

Happiness is when you write “The End,” but further work on the book proposal, the technical aspects  and the marketing appears. The latest surprise, the book proposal I started last January has disappeared. Will I find it or start anew?

When surprises, such as job loss or the death of a child or a minor change arrive, we mourn what is over before we arrive at acceptance. We struggle to understand and think, “Why me?” We might label it grief, sadness, or frustration but the process seems inherent in all we do. When the stressor rages too long in our life, we seek help from our faith or professional health care friends. We may never forget the surprise but our surprises lead to new methods to cope.

As I watch the television where the immigrants face their search for a better life, I realize their surprises are unpleasant and lasting, but they are walking towards a better life, the same as our ancestors did when they arrived at Ellis Island.

The television blared at me this morning that the influx of Mexicans or South Americans waned and is now growing again. I wonder how many Mexican immigrant children reached better lives last year. I think a wall to prevent entrance is dumb. It didn’t work in Germany years ago. It is not keeping people out of Hungary today, but without suggestions for solutions, who am I to judge? I am not directly affected. About the only valid solution for me is to pray for world and local leaders to make good decisions for the surprises in our lives. I can try harder to help those in need near me.

What surprises are in store for you today? Surprises offer a chance for introspection. My bet is I better start re-writing the book proposal and pray that is the biggest surprise today.

Social Media Books for You

When I read J.R. Atkins newsletter yesterday, I contacted him imediately. I knew you’d want J.R.’s titles for your social media understanding.  We met several years ago through a professional group. Our paths continue to cross although he’s a business consultant and I am writer, formerly a recruiter and outplacement consultant. Now I write articles on various topics, work on an upcoming book, and volunteer. To continue understanding technology I follow a number of respected technologists and consultants. J. R. is one of them.  I asked if I could re-publish this wonderful list of books.  I want to read all of them.  Which ones will you pick? He makes it easier for us when we flip to Amazon with its over-abundance of choices.

J. R. Atkins

J.R. Atkins-guest author

Be sure to visit  J. R. Atkins’ website for additional information about him.  Thank you, J. R., for your generosity for my readers to learn more about social media applications. Networking through social media works! And thanks for offering to let me guest author for your readers!

Books I Recommend 

By J.R. Atkins – Guest Author

Re-published by permission from J.R. Atkins’ Newsletter on June 23, 2015

Every time I do a workshop or presentation I end with a list resources including a list of books. At one of my recent talks, someone asked what other books I would recommend for business owners. I have a long list on my website but here is the short list by category.

 Social Media

  1. Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman

“How Social Media transforms the way we live and do business”

  1. Social Media 2.0 by J.R. Atkins

“A cliff notes version of the Big 5 of Social Media “LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and Video”

  1. Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan & Dharmesh Shah

“A guide to increasing online visibility and engagement”

Starting a Business

  1. Cash Flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki

“Explains your role as an employee, business owner, self-employed and investor”

  1. eMyth by Michael Gerber

“E is for Entrepreneur. Learn how to work on your business, not just in your business”

  1. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

“Before you start your business, know what is important and what is fluff”

Building your Business

  1. Crush It by Gary Vanerchuk

“Shows you how to use the power of the Internet and social media to grow your businesses”

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

“How to create uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant”

  1. Failing Forward by John C Maxwell

“Taught me how to convert past failures into future success”

Personal Development

  1. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

“The power of thinking without thinking”

  1. Strength Finder by Tom Wrath

“Discover your strengths, use them and surround yourself with others to cover the gaps”

  1. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

“An inside look at a visionary, entrepreneur and billionaire”

I’d love to hear what your favorite books are and why. Drop me a line sometime at

J.R. Atkins has been working with individuals, executives and small businesses since 1993 and on Social Media since 2008. He has a BA in Marketing from Texas A&M University and an MBA from The University of Phoenix, Dallas Campus. J.R. serves as an adjunct professor at Temple College and CTC. He has published 3 books Success Simplified, Social Media 2.0 and Road Map to Success.

4 Reasons to Act Like a Sponge

My Sponge

Act Like A Sponge

Read, read, read.  Then write, write, write!

If you want to write well, you must read and develop your own style. You need to act like a sponge, soaking up books on writing techniques. My writing career began when I wrote my name on the wall with my mom’s bright red, lipstick at age three. Communication is a chore in any walk of life. We write white papers, create advertisements, and make speeches, all requiring exceptional writing skills.

When I decided to write full time, my sponge-like existence grabbed me worse than when I was a child, taking books with me to the movies. I continue to read to see how famous and infamous writers create their works of art. I am recommending four books for you about writing. If you want to write for publication, whether it’s articles, a fiction or non-fiction book, I hope you will read all four. The internet offers a wealth of books, videos and pod-casts for study.  I’m recommending books I read and love.

 Books on Writing Style

  1. “You’ve Got a Book in You”Elizabeth Sims

Ms. Sims writes and edits for Writers Digest, created the Lillian Bird crime novels and “…Book in You” in 2013. Down to earth, a bit a humor and reality are the bones of the book, covering many aspects of writing.

  1. “A Writer’s Coach: The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies That Work”-Jack Hart

Mr. Hart writes from a journalist’s point of view. He is conservative and professorial in his style. His viewpoint shows the reader insight into the mechanics of writing. I could not find a website for him.

  1. “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”-Stephen King

Mr. King’s shares fascinating stories of rise to fame through personal angst and funny stories. He began writing this book about the time of his serious accident. Although I’m not a Stephen King fan, I was hooked from the start.

  1. “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life”-Ann Lamott

Ms. Lamott’s book, introduced to me by a friend in my writers’ group, inspires me more than the rest, as I envy her style and honesty about the fear in writing. Although I found the book a bit long, I’m glad I own this book and will use it as a reference repeatedly.

Your Style

If you want to improve your writing, I urge you to make time to think about your style. Peruse the bookstore or online resources. Look online or at your local library for books on style and stay focused. Soak yourself in the muddy, dingy waters of writing. When my writing sponge is dry, I figure my coffee cup will be empty and my pen (or computer) won’t work any longer.

I list books for you on my website tab “MORE Books.” Please click for a direct link to low prices for them. I’ll be listing more of my favorites for your reading pleasure.



MORE Books for You

ID location

Durango-Silverton Railroad

Summertime and the Living is Eeeezeee. Summertime and the Livin is Freee.” Can you hear me singing that wonderful song? I hope not… singing is not one of my talents. My summer writing series begins today!

Books for Writers

Check my new page for MORE Books, listed on the drop-down list on the Book tab for the current list.  My favorite is Elizabeth Sims book, “You’ve Got a Book in You.”  Three authors offer divergent advice to encourage writers.  Mr. Hart is a journalist. Ms. Sims is an Editor for Writers Digest, a fantastic resource for writers. And did you know Stephen King tells about his writing career? By reading all three books I realize, more than ever, the challenges of creating style and voice.  All urged the reader to diligently learn from mistakes. It would be so much easier to throw the computer out the window because of competition and rejection.

Books for Travelers

Later, I want to provide a few favorite titles for your pleasure. Although writers must read to be good writers, any of my readers may appreciate suggested titles. I would double my reading time, if I could.

Since I’m a Francophile, I adore books about France. I may suggest a mystery or fiction book taking place in Paris or other French location to whet your appetite for future exploration or vicarious vacations from reality. I doubt I’ll recommend travel books as you know how to find them in your library or bookstore.

Books for Change

Career books help change lives. I want to suggest new, enticing books to encourage you to keep moving forward!

Books for Relaxation and Reflection

Summer is a time for rest and reflection.  Watch for MORE books to appear to keep you moving forward. Books are an investment in you.

Success in Sachse: Author Con 2015

Enjoy the pictures from Author Con 2015!

Y’all come right in, folks! See the 20 authors, selling their books. The first Author Con event, a book fair in the small suburban community of Sachse outside Dallas happened on May 19. Led by the Director of the Sachse Public Library, Mignon Morse created a successful community event, demonstrating the friendliness of this tiny library.


Friends of the Library and the Sachse Wylie Authors Group  (SWAG) supported the event, finding authors and spreading the word to the public. Community leaders attended, making it a friendly, family affair. Mike Felix, the Mayor, visited with the authors, his friends and colleagues. Sachse, a growing community, is home to many new residents with little immediate awareness of the fabulous friendliness of the little town of 20,000, located just east of Plano/Murphy and north of Garland.

With new construction and a shortage of homes in the DFW area, the new people in Sachse become aware of the community services through events such as Author Con. They join the city boards, such as the Library Board and help with Planning and Zoning issues, become members of the Chamber of Commerce and create new businesses.

The library is one stop for having a great life in the suburbs.


Multnomah Village

Our guest author is Lane Stoeger, my nine year old grand-son. He was assigned  to research and write to entice people to know more about Multnoma Village, a section of Portland, Oregon, where he lives.  Enjoy his article!

Lane Stoeger writes about Multnomah Village

Lane Stoeger writes about Multnomah Village

Multnomah Village by Lane Stoeger

Multnomah Village is a fun neighborhood in Southwest Portland. It has an interesting history of developing around a railway stop. It is unique and interesting that the chief of police got fired at a neighborhood restaurant by the mayor.

In 1908, when the Oregon Electric Railway made a stop called Multnomah, and the neighborhood started to build up around it. The first business building was built in 1910, by Nelson Thomas. There were too many accidents where Capitol Highway and the Oregon Electric Railway cross, so the viaduct was built in 1927. In 1932, there was no more passenger service. In 1950, Portland annexed Multnomah Village. In 1978, Annie Bloom’s Books was built. 2008 was Multnomah’s hundredth anniversary.

Multnomah Village is 1.44 square miles. In 2010, 7,409 people lived in Multnomah Village. It is hilly in some places. Also, it is close to I-5. Its density is 4,590 people per square mile. There are 3,196 households.

Multnomah Village is a unique neighborhood. I think that it is unique that Multnomah Village has three parks they are: Gabriel Park, Custer Park and Spring Garden City Park. I think it is interesting that the mayor fired the police chief at Fat City Café in 1987. I think that it is interesting that there is a skate park inside Gabriel Park. I think that it is interesting that there is a candy shop across from a frozen yogurt shop. I think that it is unique that everyone gets along.

I interviewed Curt. He works at Annie Bloom’s Books. I asked him how long he lived and worked in the neighborhood. He said 15 years. I also asked him what he thought was unique about the neighborhood. He said everyone gets along and it feels like a small town. I also asked him what changes he would like to see. He said a bigger grocery store. I also asked him what his favorite place to go in the neighborhood. He said O’Connor’s Restaurant (besides Annie Bloom’s Books).

Have you learned about Multnomah Village? I have. Multnomah Village has lots of great shops and Gabriel Park has lots of fun things to do, like a skate park, basketball courts, soccer fields and a pool. You should visit Multnomah Village because you will have a great time!

Lane, our young author, enjoys reading, playing sports with his friends and torturing his older sister.  Perhaps you’ll see an article from her soon.