Friday, November 23, 2018

Lori Bane: Being Mindfully Kind

My friend Lori Bane texted me out of the blue one night this past summer: did I need someone to read my current manuscript? I stared at the screen, amazed at the words. Lori was the answer to a prayer I hadn't even uttered, and she helped me get back on track, one chapter at a time. I knew about her summer filled with random acts of kindness and personally felt the loving kindness she shared with me by reaching out. Now I'd like to share her story with you.

 What gave you the idea to focus on random acts of kindness? I heard on K-Love radio several years ago that a young woman chose to do 21 acts of kindness instead of shots on her 21st birthday.  So for my 37th birthday, I decided I'd do the same thing - 1 act of kindness for each year.  I had my sons help.  Isaak kept a list and what they did counted, too, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to get 37 done in a day!  It turned out to be a LOT of fun and easier than expected when you count little kindnesses, too.  I researched ahead of time so I was prepared to give cold gatorades, thank you notes, etc. and then we also just kept our eyes out for random acts.  I did it for birthdays 38 and 39.  For 40, I wanted to make it bigger, so I decided I would invite friends and family to join me for a beach cleanup or something and then ask them to do more kind acts throughout the day. 
Then I realized my birthday fell on the first day of preplanning this year and I was so bummed!  I considered doing the 40 acts the Sunday before, but I try to rest on Sundays.  Then Becky Pappas led me to a fun book she'd read called The Summer I Saved the World... in 65 Days.  Solutions!  I started planning 40 days or 40 acts over the summer, or whatever it would turn out to be.  I still wanted to include other people, so I toyed with the idea of posting on Facebook and inviting people to share their acts, hoping we would document a universe-changing movement!  I hesitated to post online because I didn't want it to come off as "Look what I am doing!  Look at ME!"  I wanted to point the focus back to God, so I made a website on which I explained my motivation and invited people to document their own acts anonymously, and kept a list of my own acts as inspiration for others (in addition to posting picture-worthy acts). 

What was one of the most memorable experiences? Okay, I was going to say how much we all giggled when we paid for someone's meal behind us in a drive-thru, but reading back through the acts listed on my website, I'd have to go with taking stevia leaves and cool lavender rags to share with my church softball team.  One of the players referred to the stevia leaves as "chaw for the church league," and one of the players' middle-school sons exclaimed, "Who is this lady?!"  I really liked the anonymous acts the best overall, though.   

What were some of the ways you helped people? All of my acts are listed on  Some are also on Facebook/Instagram and there are pictures of them there.  Also, one of my friends got a group of our friends together for a surprise birthday dinner and they gave me a sign with all of the things they'd done in my honor.  I was so touched! 

Did you ever feel helped by others when your goal was to help them? Totally!  I've made some new friends, slowed my own pace, gotten many hugs, and definitely felt God's presence in exchanges.  It's helping me focus on what REALLY matters and that is the greatest gift of all.  I just need to remember every day...

Did more opportunities to help present themselves to you the more you helped? Did you feel like you were in the flow? Yes.  One thing led to another and I enjoyed the summer more than I could have imagined.  I had worried it would become "one more thing to do," or a big checklist I'd wonder why I'd signed up for.  Because I wasn't working (except for a few weeks of summer camp and a week of vacation bible school volunteering), I was able to balance everything and didn't feel overwhelmed.  I chose not to do a few things that would've put our family over the edge budget-wise or time-wise, but mostly things worked out really naturally.  We got to enjoy quality time with each other and wonderful people as we blessed them, and I treated us intentionally here and there.  

Would you say this has been a life-changing experience for you? If so, how?  Over the years of doing this on my birthday and then spending this entire summer being mindfully kind, I'm more aware of people around me and their needs.  I do try to keep in mind that I can't do everything, but I can do some things sometimes and it may mean the world to someone else.  Being kind is always possible, and not very common sometimes.  I had joked that once my birthday was over, I was going to go back to being mean again.  LOL!  I wish I could maintain the quantity and quality of kindness my kids and I were doing, but working and having kids back in school makes it harder. I think I'm more personable with the students when they are having a bad day now, though.  Oh yeah!  And my kids are more aware of little things they can do for others. They haven't decided to do this on their birthdays, but they are very helpful and supportive of my birthday goal(s). It's just "what we do."  That makes the biggest impact!  

Thanks Lori! This was fun!

 Thank you!  Reminiscing about this has been good for my soul. :)  

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Can't Wait for the Cabbage Patch Doll in her Likeness!

About a week ago, Kelly created a beautiful graphic for The Existence of Pity and wrote this blurb: "An emotion filled coming of age story filled with beauty and compassion, secrets and lies. Zokan has created something truly special that readers won't soon forget." Wow, right? But who is Kelly? Well, she's a fellow Red Adept Publishing author who recently hit the USA Today bestseller list! 

Tell us about the book that made you a bestselling author! Add links please! Any other books? 

They Call Me Crazy is the first book in my Cass Adams series, which also includes Call Me Daddy and the soon to be released Call Me Cass. It's the story of a woman who kills her husband and buries him in their yard. I think what is appealing to people about this story is that it touches on some serious subjects mental illness, infidelity, murder, but is funny. I've had several readers say they see a lot of themselves in Cass Adams, but they probably wouldn't say that too loud. It's a great book, if I do say so myself, and the two that follow it are just as much fun! (Here's Kelly's Amazon Page)

What's it like to hit the bestseller list? Is it everything you dreamed of? Please tell me you often find yourself smiling like a madwoman for no reason at all other than the fact that you achieved a lifelong goal!

I really didn't know what to expect from it, but it's been fun, that's for sure! It's one of those things that you never lose; I'll always be known now as a USA Today bestselling author, and that's not a bad thing for a writer to have after her name. I smile like a madwoman for no reason at all anyway, but one thing that makes my stomach jump is when someone introduces me and then says, "and she's a USA Today bestselling author." It was a goal, and an achievement that others seem proud of as well. 

How big was that royalty check? Just kidding... or am I? 

I made 4.8 million dollars off the book and hope to make another mil in the next few months, and that's not counting the product endorsements, speaking engagements, and upcoming Cabbage Patch doll in my likeness. Or maybe that was 4.8 dollars, I'm not very good with math. 

Would you say this changed your life? If so, how? 

Not really. It has helped me get some additional speaking engagements outside my regular job (teaching Communications, Literature, and Humanities at Southeastern Oklahoma State University) and has put a lot of pressure on me to make sure my next projects live up to the title. 
Are there any new projects on the horizon? (Cue Tangled Lights!)

I am involved in a holiday short story anthology with 19 other authors, Tangled Lights and Silent Nights, and my story features Cass Adams and her husband, Roland, before she kills him. It comes out November 4 and can be pre-ordered now for only 99 cents.  All proceeds from the book go to charity and for less than a buck, who wouldn't want to buy it? :) 

I am now working on, back to working on, my historical fiction novel that I've rewritten 8 times over the past six years. One day, I may be satisfied with a draft long enough to send it out. Or maybe not. It's "the big book" and I feel it has to be perfect, even though I don't know how to define a perfect book. It's that thing I've spent so many hours on I can't abandon it. It delights me, frustrates me, overwhelms me. Kind of like marriage. 

Kelly's Author Page: Like Here
Kelly's Website: Dig in Here
Kelly's Bookbub: Follow Here
Here's the graphic - beautiful!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Unstoppable: My Life So Far

Unstoppable: My Life So Far is the memoir Maria Sharapova published in 2017, and it's an unforgettable read. I'm a tennis buff and love hearing about her drive and determination to win on the court, but her life story is fascinating, too.

Born in Russia one year after the Chernobyl incident, she writes, "If you had to pick one event that made me a player, it'd be Chernobyl." Because of the explosion, her family moved from the deadly area to the resort town of Sochi -- where they had tennis courts.

Aunt Nell and her 3-legged dog Sport

I remember where I was when I heard the chilling news of the explosion; in the small town of Tallassee, Alabama. I lived with my great aunt Nell, and after work I'd take long bike rides on lonely country roads. Every Friday night, Aunt Nell and I would go out to dinner with her friends at the Kowaliga Restaurant on Lake Martin (that's pronounced Ku-lie-ja). We'd eat too much, laugh too hard, talk too long, then come home too full to sleep, so we'd watch TV, laughing and talking some more. They were good, simple times, and I'm grateful for them, and for her.

Much later, my aunt asked me how many years I lived with her. "Six months," I said.

But back to Unstoppable. The main reason I want to share this book is because of what Sharapova says about writing. "I came to believe that the physical act of writing can reeducate your brain. By writing, you access certain thoughts and feelings that might otherwise remain hidden. You can bring them to the surface, where they can be understood and then dealt with."

Wow, right?

"I also came to believe that you can plant positive thoughts in your psyche in the same way. Put it on paper and in it goes. Which is why, if you look through those diaries, which I have saved and used to help write this book, you will see pages given over to nothing but positive phrases in the nature of 'Yes, you can. Yes, you can. Yes, you can.'"

It's no wonder Sharapova has won five grand slams! My favorite line from her book, though, the one that rings true, deep to my core, is this: "It's important to remember, but it's more important to forget." The context is a stunning defeat in the Australian Open that Sharapova was wise to put behind her, but the words mean so much more. In tennis it's important to learn the techniques, but at match time you have to stop thinking and just play. Remember, then forget. Trust what you've learned and be there when the ball bounces off the court and heads toward your racquet.

Aunt Nell's life wasn't an easy one, but she was good at living in the moment. The Great Depression, loved ones lost in WWII, a house burned to the ground, these didn't stop her from relishing laughter and friends and family. She would agree with Sharapova, too. "It's important to remember, but it's more important to forget." She's been gone almost twenty years and I still miss my Aunt Nell, and still think of her when I read about strong, determined, amazing women like Maria Sharapova..

Monday, July 2, 2018

Author Interview

I'm in the latest Red Adept Publishing Newsletter, so here's a chance to meet me if you haven't already! 
You will also learn more about Red Adept Publishing: what's new, what's on sale, and what's coming down the pike. 
Check out the newsletter here:  
RAP Newsletter Interview 
I can't wait for you to read it!
#RedAdeptPublishing #AuthorInterview 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Latest Review

I love this new review of The Existence of Pity on Amazon

5 out of 5 stars
Intriguing coming of age story
June 5, 2018

“Intriguing coming of age story set against a beautiful yet dangerous Colombian backdrop that will appeal to anyone who has ever experienced any kind of spiritual dilemma / journey, especially in their youth. All the main characters make seemingly incomprehensible decisions, but Zokan does a great job of fleshing those decisions out without oversimplifying this family's complex situation. Every teen lives in a complicated world; the way Josie navigates her world endears her to the reader, yet again, without oversimplifying the other characters. Good crossover novel in terms of audience and age appeal. I enjoyed it and have already recommended to my wife and my teenage son.”

Wow. "Every teen lives in a complicated world;" so true! I also love that this review is written by a fellow author who knows the effort involved in writing a novel and getting it published. 

Wes Dannreuther has written South Toward Horn and is looking for an agent or publisher to send it out to the world. Of his manuscript, an adventure story-within-a-story based along the Gulf Coast, he says, "I'm just ready to have the book out there because I think it's worthy of people's time to read it and I think a lot of people will like it." Amen, brother! That's why we write!

I have my fingers crossed that Red Adept Publishing will pick him up.  Keep an eye out for Wes! You can visit him here:

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"The Existence of Pity" Made the List!

Every month, Red Adept Publishing puts out a list of its bestsellers, and I'm on the list for February 2018! RAP makes a very cool video on Facebook showing the top ten, and I nearly gave up hope as I watched the countdown. I've never gotten so close to the top before. But then, my beautiful cover popped up in the SECOND SPOT!

Here's the video that had me holding my breath:

You can check them out on RAP's website: February TOP TEN  but here are our covers. Each one is awesome, of course. One is a USA Today bestseller, and two are New York Times bestsellers!







Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Lessons Outside the Comfort Zone

Every time I reach out of my comfort zone, I learn. Doing giveaways with fellow authors where they lead the way isn’t out of my comfort zone, but coming up with my own is. Today marks the last day of my very own giveaway - it ends at midnight - and words can’t express how relieved I am. Here’s the link:  
Sure, it’s been fun.  I boosted the post on Facebook and over a twelve hundred people saw it, there are 197 entries for the giveaway, many liked my author page as a result, the comments on the post were fun, and I got a few BookBub likes to boot.
But here’s what I learned.
1) Lots of cogs and wheels have to sync up for pretty much every new endeavor. There was much back-and-forth with mentor Erica Lucke Dean, Gail Cleare, Jennifer Klepper, and my personal life-saver, Kelly Stone Gamble in order for everything to work out. These women taught me the ropes on Rafflecopter and about boosting posts on Facebook, lessons I will no doubt use again and share with others along the way.

2) Be prepared to invest lots of time. Late-night wrestling with wiki-style formatting had me close to tears, and I’ll never get that Saturday back, the one where I sat in front of my computer trying to figure it all out. It was a pretty day, too.
3) You will need help. Refer to point one! I don’t like to bother people and I don’t like to owe people favors. And maybe THAT’S why the process took me out of my comfort zone. I’d rather just keep on doing what I know how to do than ask for help! Can I get an amen? But I won’t get to new heights without a little help from my friends now, will I?
4) Don’t get attached to the results. The goal was to garner at least 50 BookBub follows. I did NOT reach my goal. But I did get my name out there, quite a few readers liked my author page, and I learned how to master the art of a giveaway. I'm calling it a win. But just in case you’re interested, you can follow me on BookBub here:
Darn... now I owe you a favor!