Author Archives: ronashively

About ronashively

My name is Rebecca Benston. I'm a Christian. I'm a woman. I'm a mother. I'm a writer. I'm a thinker. When I write fiction, I am usually writing a mystery series called The Rona Shively Stories. My P.I. character, Rona Shively is feisty, fearless and fabulous and is usually caught up in something she doesn't want to be caught up in. In addition to this series, I also have a blog called Higher Ground for Life. Through this blog, I'm hoping to reach women or anyone who is seeking to develop a relationship with God and give them inspiration to get out there and follow His path for their lives! I also have a blog called Leading the Follower. This one is my favorite. I write about religion, faith, spirituality and all that goes along with it. What we believe, what we don't believe, what we are told to believe and how society feels about believing in general. I do a lot of testifying here and some of what I say may make you angry. Most of it will make you think. Some of it will make you cry. Any of it could make you laugh. It's really up to you. If you are looking for practical advice, honest conversation, and no nonsense observations about living in today's world, check out my blogs at http://highergroundbooksandmedia.com and http://www.ronashively.wordpress.com and http://www.highergroundforlife.wordpress.com and http://www.leadingthefollower.wordpress.com. And if you're so inclined, you can purchase my books and some other great, inspirational works from Higher Ground Books & Media at http://highergroundbooksandmedia.com. Be blessed!

Not fade away…

As a writer, I often wonder if my work will ever take on the significance of books like those among our classic novels such as The Grapes of Wrath, Romeo & Juliet, or even Of Mice and Men.  In my last post here at the Book’s Den, I discussed how depressing many of the classic novels tended to be an what my recommendations would be for required reading.  Since then, I’ve wondered if my little mystery series will even be on a shelf within a few decades.  I work at a library and in watching how we weed out our inventory, I began to feel a little insignificant.

I go through the shelves of our “Popular Authors” collection and pull all books that are over two years old.  From there, they go into our general fiction section or into the genre section that best fits the book.  After a while, someone else goes through and weeds the general sections and that person determines what will stay on our shelves and what will go into storage.  Depending on how often a book is circulated, the book may find itself in the general collection for many years.  Books like mine, however, may find themselves in the dungeon before they’ve really had a chance to prove themselves.  It may take years for my series to catch on simply because it is not as widely marketed as books published by mainstream publishers.  So, what do I do?

Well, the short answer to that is that I keep the books on “life support.”  I create reasons for people to check the book out of the library such as contests which require finding certain passages in the book to win prizes.  I’ve considered contests which involved having the library patron send me their checkout receipt to show that they have checked out the book.  I think these are clever, non-traditional ways to get people to discover your work.  What other creative ways can an author “keep the fire burning?”  If you have suggestions or would like to share some of the more interesting ways you’ve promoted your writing, I’d love to hear your stories. 

Until next time…

Rebecca Benston

Author of the Rona Shively Stories Mystery Series

http://www.theronashivelystories.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Classic…depression???

For some reason, it just occurred to me that nearly all “Classic” novels are extremely depressing.  With the exception of a few uplifting stories, the majority of what we are assigned to read in our English classes in high school or what we are told are classic literature are stories about death, despair, destruction and other depressing subject matter.  Does this really prepare us for life in the big, bad world?  Or does it merely prepare us to hate all things “Classic?”  I’m not sure that as a teenager, I had the emotional and psychological maturity to fully understand or benefit from reading the Classic Novels.   

For instance, I was reading a list of what are considered our Classic Novels on Booklists and I realized as I read the description of each just why I never really enjoyed reading the classics.  In high school, I was assigned to read books like Lord Jim, The Stranger, Crime and Punishment and so forth.  It’s really no wonder I didn’t want to do my homework.  A book about a student who kills some old woman for her money, another about a seriously messed up dude who didn’t fit into society anywhere and well, who really knows what the hell Lord Jim was all about?  All I know is that I had to write alot of stuff about books that never did much to empower or motivate me as a teenager.  Looking back at the themes I was expected to understand before I had even experienced much of what life brings, I wonder, who makes the call on what we are supposed to know when we are in school? 

If I had my choice of what should be on a list of books that every teenager should be made to read, it would include books like:  The Color Purple by Alice Walker, at least one book by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Unstoppable by Cynthia Kersey, Taking the Fear Out of Changing by Dennis O’Grady, Bad Childhood, Good Life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, and other motivational works that might give kids a sense of empowerment rather than bringing them down.  Granted, good fiction is good fiction and I’m not saying that the “Classics” aren’t worth reading, I’m just saying that motivationally speaking (Yes, I might have made up my own word there.  It’s ok, I do that.) that these books are somewhat lacking in the areas of “thinking happy thoughts” and “fake it until you make it” enthusiasm.  While it is important that we fully understand the impact of war, heartbreak, poverty, etc., it is equally important that we are armed with some notion of how to cope with and emerge unscathed from these tragedies.  Isn’t it?

You’re probably wondering why I am going on and on about this particular topic at my age.  Well, it just so happens that in addition to writing and working at the library, I also substitute teach in our city schools.  That’s right, I’m a Jack-of-All-Trades, master of none.  Anyhow, I have observed a severe lack of enthusiasm on the part of the students and I’m not really sure what caused it.  I can understand that as adults, we lose our enthusiasm after a myriad of life events beat us down year after year but to be a teenager again, in this time of technological advances and rampant availability of insight.  It makes little sense to me why teens aren’t more upbeat.  Maybe I’m just going through a phase.  Maybe I just like non-fiction way too much.  Either way, I think I will make it a point to incorporate certain things into my daughter’s learning whether her school chooses to or not. 

Until next time…

Rebecca Benston, Author of The Rona Shively Stories Mystery Series

http://www.theronashivelystories.com

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1

Learning to feed…

No, I haven’t reverted back to my childhood days.  And no, I haven’t joined some sort of cannibalistic cult.  I’m simply learning how to get my blog out to more readers by using services like Feedburner.  This is new territory for me and so far, it’s been enlightening. 

Knowing very little about the world of RSS or Really Simple Syndication, I had been trying to promote my blog solely by word of mouth, MySpace bulletins and various e-mail campaigns.  I stumbled upon (no pun intended) a marketing book which encouraged me to add my blog to Feedburnerso that people could subscribe to it and receive updates as often as they would like.  From what I can tell, which isn’t nearly as much as I’d like it to be, my affiliation with Feedburner has definitely directed more traffic to my blog

This is good because one of the big goals on my list for 2008 was to increase traffic to my blog, thereby increasing the amount of interest in my books.  In addition to offering e-mail subscription on the blog itself, I enlisted the aid of the Headline Animation tool that is offered there and created a nifty e-mail signature that I use whenever possible.  This feature alone has more than tripled the hits to my site over the past week. 

RSS feeds have evidently been around for quite a while, but this is the first time I’ve ever really worked with them.  From my handy, dandy Web Marketing for Dummiesmanual, I see that RSS involves four steps:

1.  Formatting the content into a file called a feed.

2.  Readers add your URL to their RSS reader list. 

3.  When you add new content, your feed is updated.

4.  The user’s feed software updates on whatever schedule that the reader has defined and they are notifed by e-mail or on the reader itself.

Sounds simple enough.  And it is.  The benefits to using an RSS feed to distribute your information are enormous.  For one, you don’t have to search your mailing list for places to send updates.  If a reader has subscribed to your feed, they get all of the new stuff whenever they want it. 

The service is free to readers and you can update it as often as you like.  It’s also one of the timeliest ways to send updates about your projects.  And what I really like about it is that I’m not spending as much time creating eye-catching e-mails that never make it through all of the spam filters out there. 

I still have so much to learn about syndication and how to better serve those who subscribe to Benston Blogs, but I feel as though I’ve made significant progress by simply adding myself to Feedburner.  The challenge will be creating enough substantial posts to keep readers interested.   

Until next time…

Rebecca Benston 

Benston Blogs

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Paying it forward?

It’s really a great concept.  A bank in Fargo, ND has decided that the best way to get their employees in the “giving” spirit this year is to give them money with the condition of having to spend it on doing good for others.  Check out this story!  As a former HR manager, I was really inspired by this.  What a great idea!  And it’s not just $50, it’s $500 for part-time employees and $1,000 for full-time. 

If all businesses did this, just imagine the impact it would have on how people treat one another.  Many times people want to give but can’t seem to find ways to make it feasible.  Actually, we are supposed to (and I’m not sure where this came from) give to others no matter how much or how little we have.  The rules of karma will pay it back to us if we do it all in good spirit and without expecting anything back.  That’s what I’ve found at least.  Helping others pays you back in so many ways that you simply don’t miss the money. 

I really just wanted to take this opportunity to share the story with everyone.  Maybe others will follow the lead of the N.D. State Bank & Trust.  It would be a huge step in the right direction!

 Happy Holidays!

 Rebecca Benston

Author of The Rona Shively Stories

http://www.theronashivelystories.com 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Finding your “Neverland”

Rona Shively

I am sitting here listening to my little girl play with her dolls.  She is having a very important conversation with them and she is really into what she’s doing.  I can remember playing like this a very long time ago.  It’s amazing to me that in four short years, she has developed a sense of imagination that allows her to transform our coffee table into an ocean where her dolls are adrift on a piece of paper…er…a big ship…sorry. 

At what point do we lose this flair for creation?  For some of us, it never really dies.  We, the writers, weave stories from the threads of our experiences.  Although I’ve never been to Nevada, the main character in my mystery series lives there.  Although I’ve never actually fired a gun, my PI has and does it without hesitation.  I’ve never been locked in a basement with an ex-boyfriend, thank goodness, but Rona has and she really struggled with the whole ordeal. 

As a child, I created my world using the things that were within my grasp.  As an adult, I allow myself to reach outside of what I can physically see, feel and accomplish.  I can’t believe I ever spent so much time trying to stay so grounded in reality.  Working at a job I hated, dealing with problems created for me by the corporate machine which has no imagination, by the way.  Only when I returned to my “Neverland” did I find the kind of happiness that you just can’t achieve when you leave yourself behind to grow up. 

Writing for me has been a goal, an accomplishment, an escape, a therapy, a friend, a foe, and a necessity.  If I’d never made oceans from coffee tables, I might well have missed out on one of the best gigs in the world.  To be a writer is to be someone who can truly experience life, whether it be through our own actions or through the words we put on paper.  So, this holiday season, as you write the last few pages of this year’s novel, think about all of the lives you have created in the pages of your work.  Think about the places you’ve seen and the great things you’ve experienced…all from the other side of your keyboard.  Write…and be happy.

Rebecca Benston

Author of The Rona Shively Stories

http://www.theronashivelystories.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

May I help you…damn it?

Over the past few weeks I have attended several customer service related training events.  In addition to writing, I also work part-time at the library and this has been a topic of conversation for as long as libraries have existed.  During the training, I realized that it has been a very long time since I received what I would consider to be good customer service.  I frequently shop and eat at restaurants, yet I couldn’t think of a single occasion during which I was pleased with my service during the past couple of years.  This got me thinking, as if I needed something else to gripe about, that the people who work in service jobs simply don’t care.  They have lost sight of the fact that when we, the customer are in front of them, we are the reason that they receive a paycheck.

It also started me thinking about why good customer service is so hard to find.  I can see why workers would feel this way.  If I were serving a meal to customers that it would take me eight hours of work to afford, I might feel a twinge of bitterness.  Or if I saw people checking out gifts and so forth day in and day out, I might start to feel a little salty when I didn’t even make enough to pay for the gas it took to get to my job. On several occasions I have been made to feel like I was a real burden to the person who was ringing up my order or helping me make an appointment.  This made me wonder why I choose to share any of my earnings at all.  I call it sharing because it hurts less than saying I’m giving my eye teeth for my grocery order every week.  In any case, when I go to a restuarant, I expect the person who is waiting on me to be courteous if nothing else.  If I can’t get fast service, they’d better at least be happy to be serving me.    

The problem is that people have become too detached from how the whole system is supposed to work.  I’m no expert, hell I’m not even a decent amateur economist, but I can see that people aren’t making the connections they need to make between the customer and the business’s bottom line. 

For example, some doctor’s office staff don’t seem to understand that even if you are only paying a $15 copay, that is your required contribution to the way their office runs.  Your $15 is just as good as another patient’s $50.  Why?  Because, we’re paying into the health insurance company that sends them the rest of the money for our services later.  Please stop treating me like I drank your last cup of coffee and just make my next appointment.   

The cashier at your local grocery store probably doesn’t make the connection on a regular basis that the money you are paying for that pack of gum is just as important as the $100 grocery order that is coming up behind you.  It’s really kind of sad that I know more about my grocery store worker’s social life than I do my own sister’s.  Why?  Because, they are constantly talking about who’s going out with who and when and why and why not.  Who cares?  I say, shut up and bag the damned groceries.  Act like you’re there for me when I’m standing in your line and stop being such a turd.  I don’t particularly care if you ever have a date.  I’m sure that as you bag my Fruit Loops and yogurt, you probably don’t care much about my social life either.

As a writer, it may sometimes be hard to see what role I play in providing good customer service but trust me, I have one.  I have always been quite disheartened by the fact that my books are so highly priced that I feel tend to feel bad about trying to sell them.  Although I know the stories are entertaining, I also know that sometimes, you just can’t afford the fun things in life.  When I am at book signings and other events, I try not to be extremely pushy about the whole sales angle.  I hate it when people try to pressure me, so I try not to be a pest either.   If I know that they cannot afford the book, I offer alternatives.  I encourage people to check the books out of their local library so that the financial burden isn’t as great.  Granted, this helps me, too.  I may not make a royalty, but I may gain a reader. 

I guess the bottom line on all of this disorganized rambling is that we need to think about who we are serving and why.  If you have a job just so you can pay the bills, that’s fine.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it’s more than some people choose to do.  But when you are behind the desk or at the register or at the table taking an order, please don’t forget that the person in front of you is actually the reason why you are able to pay your bills.  We are all connected in that way.  When you are the customer, I’m sure that you expect good service.  Well, you should expect it no matter what end of the transaction you are on.  Just remember if you’re in the habit of providing mediocre service, somewhere along the way, you might run into a writer who needs material.  Do you really want to be that material?      

Until next time…

Rebecca Benston

Author of the Rona Shively Stories http://www.rebeccabenstonwrites.com

   

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Evolution of Rona Shively

The thing I enjoy about some of my favorite authors is that they share the emotional ups and downs of the character with readers.  I think it is important for the writer to be able to feel the emotions of the character as they write.  If you are scared, angry, happy or sad as you write a chapter, you’ve probably done something right. 

As I am in the process of writing the third book in the Rona Shively series, I wanted to talk a little bit about how this character has changed over the course of the first two books.  I like the fact that she is evolving and growing with each chapter.  I hope that the readers have been able to sympathize with her as she deals with the ups and downs of relationships, financial difficulties, and just plain living. 

I plan to put her through her paces in book three by having her face up to things that even I, the author, am not sure I can handle.  As I write about some of these things, I feel them in the pit of my stomach and I hope that I will be able to draw upon personal experience to find the right words to capture the emotional intensity of the moment.

When I read a book, I expect to get caught up in the main character’s turmoil.  I want to feel as though I am walking right alongside them, figuring it all out.  Who are the writers that invite you into their stories?  I’m interested in hearing from readers on this one.  What significant passages have made you never want to put that book down?  I know that for me, I hated to finish reading any of Lisa Scottoline’s books.  Scottoline has a way of making you understand where her characters are coming from.  She digs in and gives you the details so clearly that you can even smell the food cooking in her stories. 

When it comes down to it, that’s what we really want.  We need to be there, holding onto our favorite character, making sure that they go in the direction we want them to go.  Or, if they don’t we at least know why they chose the wrong way.  As I get closer to the end of Rona 3, I am so glad that there has been laughing, crying, nail-biting, etc.  Hopefully, it means I’m doing something right. 

 Until next time… 

Rebecca Benston

http://www.theronashivelystories.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Book, Writing