It’s closer to July 4th than Thanksgiving, but THANKS has no season.
My thanks today goes to the 1,464 firefighters working the West Fork Complex Wildfire burning in my backyard. These men are phenomenal. They leave their homes and families to come put their lives in danger to save our homes and lives.
Their sacrifice is magnified by what happened at the Yarnell Fire in Arizona.
Our firefighters stopped, remembered those comrades
and then went right back into the belly of the fire.
My thoughts and prayers to the fire fighters that lost their lives in Arizona and their families.
After very real threats from the West Fork Fire, more than a week of evacuation, and currently living in a pre-evacuation conditions, there is a lot of gratitude for the hard work from the fire fighters, national guard, red cross, sheriff’s office and other officials for all the efforts put forth to protect South Fork.
These wildland fire fighters work long hours in difficult and often dangerous conditions on the ground and in the air to provide skilled and professional fire suppression services when wildfires threaten our homes, property, and the natural resources.
Thanks hardly seems enough.
If you’d like to do more, here are some places to donate:
Our adventure began with the 6 a.m. reverse 911 call on Friday, June 21st, that announced we had to evacuate our home.
Not unexpected. The community meeting the night before had warned of the possibility.
However, possibility is not reality and reality was HARD.
Looking around our little house filled with one third of what we’d had before we moved here in March and knowing we could lose it all sent lumps to our throats and tears to our eyes.
How – beyond the necessary paper documents – do you decide what to load into your cars when you only have four hours? Plus, you’d already downsized considerably to what you wanted or needed.
We settled on all the quilts my husband’s mother made, a wooden carving of a woman praying my father made for me, some pieces of silver from my mother’s family, a Van Briggle vase titled Lorelei that once belonged to my husband’s sister, two antique clocks, a 1840s porcelain inkwell from Vienna, and a Victorian chatelaine.
Crazy list, right? But, that’s what fit in the small suitcase or around the other stuff in the car. And, each of those items holds precious memories.
We also loaded our laptops and one printer. Tools of our trade that we couldn’t do without.
If you’re not familiar with Barbara Rudolph’s work, check out her website. She’s an extremely talented artist who combines objects with birds and creates paintings that capture moments guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. My two pictures have special meaning to me for many reasons, and I can’t wait until I don’t live in a wildfire to get them back.
As we’re packing the cars, firefighters pull our barbeque propane tank and spare gasoline cans to the street. We’d already turned off the propane tank that serves our house and hot water heater. They’re not happy that we have so many trees in our backyard and tell us the outlook isn’t good. We need to leave soon.
We thank them for protecting our home and assure them we are leaving. We never stayed when the Gulf coast hurricane warnings said leave either.
With the two cars loaded with our most precious things and our two four-legged boys, Toby and Buster, we say a prayer for safety and protection, and lock the front door. With the smoke cloud growing, we drive away.
Alone in my car, I look one last time at our little house and wonder if we’ll ever see it again. Tears I didn’t want to shed in front of my husband come.
But, I remind myself it’s just stuff. A phrase I repeat often over the next week.
We bypassed the Red Cross shelter set up in the Del Norte high school gymnasium fifteen miles away from South Fork. Shelters don’t allow dogs inside with owners.
Facilities for small animals and large animals were available, but I didn’t want to be separated from our pets. We’d find a pet friendly motel.
We went through four towns checking availability. There were no rooms. Alamosa State University in Alamosa offered dormitory rooms, but again we’d have to leave our pets at the facility provided.
We’d gone from a big house full of stuff to a small house full of stuff to two cars with all our worldly belongings. I couldn’t leave my babies behind in Monte Vista.
We kept going until Trinidad, Colorado, nearly four hours away. The Holiday Inn Hotel there had a room and allowed pets. We unpack and settle in for the short duration, we thought.
Amazingly, the dogs don’t even bark when we leave to go to the restaurant for dinner. They were too happy to be out of the car and with their humans.
But after a long weekend, we want closer to home so we can find out what’s going on with the fire instead of relying on the media.
Next blog you’ll learn about the next phase of our adventure living in a wildfire.
Until last Thursday when the San Juan Forest fire did an unprecedented thing—
It jumped the Continental Divide and ignited beetle infested dead trees in the Rio Grande National Forest.
Burning in the high elevations with so much dead fuel, the San Juan Forest fire officially renamed West Complex Fire spread rapidly, uncontrollably.
Too much wind, too high elevations, and too much dead tree fuel to risk the lives of firefighters busy elsewhere protecting homes and lives. Instead, they watched the fire closely.
Then the fire encroached upon our little town of South Fork and the many, many RV and resort camps along Colorado 160 and the Silver Thread Byway (Colorado 149). Ashes landed on our decks and in our yards, on our houses and cars, and on us.
That’s the glow from flames taken from our front yard.
Life became scary as residents gathered in the Community Center to get details.
We heard words I’d only heard applied to hurricane evacuations…
our little town of South Fork was under pre-evacuation notice.
My husband and I went home, pulled suitcases, and began loading clothes for a possible temporary stay away from our home.
We gathered all our important papers (already stored in portable boxes according to Bob Mayer’s Green Beret Survival Guide). It’s a super book with lists of what you need to have ready in case of any emergency. Buy your copy here.
All night Friday, June 21st, we received reverse 911 calls updating us on the status of the evacuation.
At six a.m., the dreaded words came: MANDATORY EVACUATION: be out of our home by 10 a.m. that morning.
Quickly, we loaded our cars with the possessions we wanted to save and began our life at the mercy of the West Complex Fire.
I’ll begin journaling our story as we await word of when (if) we can return to South Fork and our home.
We have run out of honey on Miller Farm and our customers are clamoring for more. So Beekeeper Brian checked on the hive furthest from our house and found it to have a super full of honey, which translates to about 50 pounds.
This was fantastic news. He prepared for honey extraction with great anticipation. Unfortunately, upon opening the hive he discovered a small infestation of hive beetles. This is not a catastrophic event but needs to be addressed.
Bees are very clean critters and so placing the supers back on a strong hive would allow the bees to clean up the honeycomb. Beekeeper Brian thought putting the supers next to the strong hive would be sufficient.
However, later that night, Beekeeper Brian decided he could not sleep thinking about those supers being on the ground where other critters, i.e. possums, could get into them. Because he’d recently read that bees do not fly in the dark, he decided to go out and move the supers onto the hive.
What he forgot is that all the bees go into the hive at night to sleep after a busy day of gathering nectar and pollen.
When he opened the hive to add the supers, the bees woke up, too, and they were very grumpy. He quickly put the supers in place and headed back to the house.
Unfortunately, some of the bees hitched a ride on his bee suit.
Fortunately, as he was standing in the garage surrounded by bees, he remembered the Bee Gone solution he had recently purchased. He sprayed himself in an attempt to remove the bees, accidentally spraying his face and eyes in the process.
Not a good idea!
He ran into the house hollering for me, but I was in the bedroom asleep. Rachel, however, ran to the kitchen to see what was wrong. She was afraid he had bees stuck in his hair (which is her worst nightmare).
By the time I arrived, Beekeeper Brian was in the shower, and Rachel was searching for renegade bees in the kitchen.
When I realized what had happened, I headed to the bathroom to see if I needed to get the Epipen. (Beekeeper Brian can only handle a certain number of bee stings before he has a serious reaction.)
I wasn’t sure what that number was or how close he was to it. He explained that his screams were the result of stinging in his eyes from the BeeGone solution, not bee stings.
I rejoined Rachel in the kitchen to dispatch any remaining bees. Between us we killed three and decided to leave the bee suit where it was, hoping any bees trapped in it would die by morning.
Once Brian had rinsed the Bee Gone out of his eyes, and assessed the bee stings (only three, which is an annoying, but not a serious number) he removed the bee suit and any remaining bees.
Brian and Rachel had a hard time calming down after that.
Me – I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow – it was just another night on Miller Farm.
Brand is both a noun and a verb. The verb suggests you do something to be branded.
Once you publish a book, a writer is automatically branded, but branding is a fluid, ongoing process.
The techniques of primal branding that we’ve been discussing for the last few weeks offer a method to develop your author brand along with ways to stand out in a flooded market of book choices.
Primal branding uses what writers are best at—storytelling with certain added visual components. With branding, an author presents to the buyer, aka reader, what they can expect when they purchase your book.
Trouble is, writers equate branding with marketing and balk. Writers (me included) would rather be writing than spend time on marketing!
Unfortunately, marketing is a necessary task. But selling your book shouldn’t be about flooding the Twitter feed with book promo tweets.
When people believe in you through your author brand, they become part of a fan group that surrounds your book. They are willing to advocate their belief in you to others.
Think about the last time you moved. How did you find out about the best grocery store? The best church? The best doctor or dentist? The auto mechanic who wouldn’t rip you off?
Most likely, from someone willing to advocate for their preference.
In other words, they delivered the form of marketing that traditional wisdom tells you money can’t buy.
Word of mouth.
Author branding offers a means to provide resonance and meaning for what we believe in and what we write about. A way to develop a fan base willing to sell our book, which is our product.
The question to ask yourself is whether you want to be just another book on the shelf, or do you want to become a desired and popular product?
If your answer is the latter, then author branding is for you.
I have decided it is my mission in life to make sure no one or no thing in my world goes hungry.
This goes for chickens and dogs as well as humans.
Every morning I feed all chickens, dogs, and humans sometimes in that order, sometimes humans first, depending on who is awake.
We have special feeders for the chicken and the quail to access to their food easily. There are some chickens, however, who are not satisfied with the system and have found their own unique way of eating.
Little Gray Hen, one of the smaller hens who is sometimes pushed aside, has taken to staying on top of the quail cage in the coop. When I put food in the quail’s feeder, Little Gray Hen helps herself.
The feeder is designed so the birds eat out of the bottom. Little Gray Hen does not realize that and eats from the top.
She doesn’t seem to mind that she is eating quail food and, as long as she doesn’t go hungry, my mission is accomplished.
The younger hens have their own feeder on their side of the chicken yard. Some of them have adopted Little Gray Hen’s method of eating and climb in the top.
I suppose as they get bigger that they will do one of two things: stop climbing in the feeder or be stuck in the pail. But, the small hens aren’t going hungry. My mission is accomplished.
Chickens aren’t the only creatures with strange eating habits.
As a small child, my family lived in South Korea. I was not too fond of rice until our housekeeper put ketchup on it.
I was an adult before I ate rice any other way. In fact, when no one is around, I still eat it with ketchup.
I’m not going hungry so my mission is accomplished.
In Author Branding Part One, we discussed of how to cultivate your author brand using principles found in Primal Branding.
Readers have zillions of books to choose from these days. Author branding is important if you want readers to choose your books.
Primal Branding defines a code of seven elements needed to launch new products and services that people believe in – and it helps re-engineer existing products.
In Author Branding Part Two, we’ll discuss the final three codes Hanlon describes: rituals, anti-believers, and leader then identify ways to use with author brand development.
According to Hanlon, rituals involve a repeated experience associated with the brand, whether it’s positive or negative. The kind of engagements build up a certain expectation about your brand and future experiences they can expect to have.
Rituals are important to an author’s brand because they provide interaction and a bond of togetherness between author and reader.
Sharing experiences and events through blogs, FB, Twitter, and other social media is the means for developing author rituals.
With all social media, reader expectation is important. Regular posting is important. Posting often is important too.
Do you share pictures of your writing desk, your pet, or other life events for your readers? These are part of your story. (Remember Hanlon’s first component-STORY? If you don’t, check here.)
Posting excerpts from your WIP, celebrating a new release or revealing a cover makes readers a part of your writing process. How about sharing great reviews or fan comments?
Each of these, while we might not think of as rituals, add to your brand and offer a marketing tool for your books.
Step FIVE to develop your author brand: Share life events with your readers through social media.
According to Hanlon, for every belief system there is a group of anti-believers (ie Mac users vs PC; Republicans vs Democrats). Anti-believers identify who and what the brand is or is not. Anti-believers are folks who don’t agree with us.
But without anti-believers, our standard is undefinable. We want to stand for something and our brand to mean something.
Anti-believers can also give you a good idea of the direction you want to take your brand or which directions to avoid.
Readers have preferences. Romance genre vs literary mainstream, e-reader vs hard cover vs paperback. Our author brand should reflect those preferences we want to attract and entice the “anti-believers,” the ones who aren’t buying our work.
Personally, I’ve discovered that my blog commenters more likely to share a contrary opinion than simply agreeing. Opposition can be a powerful connecting factor.
Step SIX in developing your author brand: Don’t limit yourself to only those who agree with you, but do make very sure your likes and dislikes are clear.
According to Hanlon, there needs to be a brand leader. Someone who sets out against all odds to recreate something from their vision.
Think Bill Gates, Steven Jobs. For your writing, it’s you.
You have the power to shape your brand the same as you create your plot and characters, your theme and opening lines.
Step SEVEN in developing your author brand: Your brand is like your writer’s voice. Voice develops the more your write. Your brand develops as you learn to tell your story.
Next Monday, conclusions on author branding with Primal Branding code.
YOUR TURN: Do you use Hanlon’s seven components in defining your author brand?