Country Doctors – A Fading Memory

House Call (CCBY20 tedkerwin)

At eighty-seven, Dr. Russell Dohner still sees patients who come by his office off the town square in Rushville, Illinois, just like he has done for the past sixty years. But time marches on, and Dr. Dohner has been forced to more than double his fee for a first-come-first-served office visit. On their way out, each patient now pays Edith Moore, the eighty-five-year-old secretary, a five dollar fee.

Dr. Dohner doesn’t accept medical insurance–he says it’s not worth the bother. “I always just wanted to be a doctor to help people with their medical problems and that’s all it’s for. It was never intended to make a lot of money.” You can read more of Dr. Dohner’s story here, in the LaCross Tribune.

From the late 1950s, I grew up in a small, rural town in northeast Ohio. There was a little white house across the street from us, where Dr. List had his office. With wisps of gray hair, black-rimmed glasses, and a white coat, Doc List stitched me up when I fell partway through a glass storm door, prescribed medicine whenever I got sick, and he even fitted me with my first pair of glasses. My parents always paid him in cash. Back then, Doc List either didn’t take medical insurance, or we didn’t have that kind of insurance. I’m not sure which was the case, but whenever we needed medical care, we just walked across the street.

Fortunately for me, Doc List’s son followed in his father’s footsteps. When I was about thirteen, and too sick to even walk across the street, the young Dr. List made the last house call I can remember. He ended up sending me straight to the hospital with a 105 degree temperature, and a bad case of viral pneumonia.

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Doc McGowan makes a house call to look after Alastar Connolly, after he took a nasty fall and split his head open. Dr. Dohner, both Dr. Lists, and Doc McGowan are caring, dedicated country doctors. The only difference is that Doc McGowan was a large animal veterinarian, affectionately, a horse doctor. Since his patients usually weighed well over 1000 pounds, it wasn’t really his fault that he might have been a little heavy-handed with the local anesthetics he administered to Alastar.

Would you trust an old country doctor, like the ones in this story, with your medical care today? Their training and methods might have been from a bygone era, but they each cared deeply for their patients, many of whom were also friends and neighbors. Going to a doctor’s office these days seems to begin with “Has your insurance changed?” instead of “It’s nice to see you, how are you feeling?”, and end with a string of cryptic billing statements and frustrating telephone calls that can stretch out for months afterward.

Something in between might be nice.

All the best,
Rob

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Homeless Horseman – A Real Life Alastar Connolly

Horse-Keeper (CCBY20 BRAYDAWG on Flickr)

In the story, An Irish Miracle, Alastar Connolly’s horses were not only his companions, they were his best friends. Friends that always listened. Friends that never judged. (Well, almost never.) During dark times, Alastar’s horses were his only family, and he often slept in their stalls, burrowed deep in the fresh hay.

A real-life Alastar Connolly made the local news recently. A state fire marshal inspection on the backstretch of the Cal Expo Harness Racing Track near Sacramento ousted farrier Johnny Walker, and many other grooms, from the barn tack rooms where many of them had been living for years, near the horses they cared for and loved.

From the report in The Sacramento Bee:

Farrier Johnny Walker, who has owned and trained horses at Cal Expo
for 20 years, has been sleeping on a cot outside the stall of his
only horse, The Goose.

"He's my family," said Walker, 64. "I've had him since he was a baby.
I just love him."

"As long as we're racing and keep making money, that keeps me going,"
Walker said. "But if I couldn't keep (my horse), that scares me."

Hopefully, after renovations ordered by the fire marshal are completed, Johnny Walker and his fellow farriers and grooms will be reunited with their living quarters, and their horses, at least in the short term. Tack rooms were never meant to be permanent places of residence.

Alastar Connolly would have empathized with Johnny’s physical and emotional plight. As a boy, being separated from his beloved Molly and Wilbur started Alastar on a journey that took him half way around the world. Fortunately, looking back on his life in Ireland, Alastar wrote:

"I lived a life filled with horses that I loved as friends and
friends that I loved as family."

You can read the story of the real Johnny Walker (not the pipe-smoking gentleman in the picture above) and his horse, The Goose, in the article Cal Expo racetrack workers scramble to find housing during renovations, on The Sacramento Bee website.

My editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, brought Johnny Walker’s story to my attention. Having an editor who expertly helps me polish my words, and who watches out for me between manuscripts, is truly a blessing. Thanks, Robin!

All the best,
Rob

The (Long) Tail of Self-Published Authors

I read Meghan Ward’s excellent Writerland blog post, Does Social Media Sell Books?, this morning, and thought I would share a version of my comments here:

I recently came across two terms that relate to me as a self-published and self-marketed author:

Googlable“: I have a blog that comes up on top of the first page of search results with my my name as the search string, so I guess that makes me “googlable”.

Long Tail Business Model“: Illustrated in the graph below, Lulu.com founder Bob Young verbalized this business model in a 2007 interview:

A [traditional] publishing house dreams of having 10 authors
selling a million books each. Lulu wants a million authors
selling 100 books each.

Long Tail Business Model Illustration (Picture by Hay Kranen / PD)

I guess I could have also titled this post “Are Self-Published Authors Skewed?”

On the topic of using social media to market books, I currently have about 20 folks who follow my blog, about 40 likes on my Facebook page, and a little over 300 followers on Twitter. Pretty meager numbers compared to many, but darn, it has taken an inordinate amount of time away from writing my next novel just to get to these levels. Going by gut feel, I can’t relate many–if any–book sales to my social media efforts. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I adopted the “social media is about being social” mantra, and I hardly ever even mention my novel, let alone hawk it, although everything does link back to this blog.

While I sit with the vast majority, somewhere in the “long tail” of self-published authors, I’ve met some lovely folks through my social media socializing, and I’m enjoying posting weekly on my blog. Now it’s time to dive deeply into my next novel (think James Herriot meets Nora Roberts in Ireland!), because it’s the crafting of stories that I really enjoy.

All the best,
Rob

Book Giveaway for An Irish Miracle on goodreads

Contest ends September 16, 2012 so remember to enter today!

Three free trade paperback copies of An Irish Miracle will be sent to winning goodreads members in the United States, Canada, Great Britain or Australia! If you’re not already a goodreads member, this is a great opportunity to sign up for a free membership.

This book giveaway runs through September 16, 2012. At the end of the contest, winners will be chosen at random by the good folks at goodreads!

Book giveaway page on goodreads – You must be signed in to goodreads for this link to work properly.

We Love Our Animals

Have you ever wondered why we humans form such strong bonds with our animal companions? Here’s a simple thought-experiment to illustrate one possible reason:

Put your spouse / significant other and your dog in the trunk
of your car. When you let them out several hours later, which
one will be happy to see you? (Seriously, this is only a
thought-experiment. Do not try this at home, or anywhere else,
for that matter!)

The unconditional love of companion animals, coupled with their unique ability to listen to everything from our superficial complaints to our darkest fears–without uttering a single judgmental word–is a beautiful thing. Here’s a brief look at just a few of the many animals that have touched the hearts of my family over the years.

Jocko the Spider Monkey

My dad grew up in rural Ohio, the youngest of several siblings. Along with the regular farm animals, horses, and hunting dogs, he and his brothers had a few more “exotic” pets. About once a month, a traveling salesman Pop described as a self-important little bald guy in a sweat-stained suit would come around to take orders for feed and grain. One particularly hot summer afternoon, the salesman walked, uninvited, into the barn to get out of the sun. From the hayloft, Jocko silently dropped onto the little man’s back and wrapped his long tail around the man’s pudgy neck. I’m sure my dad and his brothers were hooting with laughter as the salesman ran from the barn, screaming about the huge snake that was around his neck, about to strangle him.

Rumor had it that there was also a six-foot-long alligator living behind the warm stove in the kitchen of that farmhouse, too. Someone had brought it back from Florida as a baby. Family legend? Maybe. Maybe not.

The Old Farmer and His Pigs

I heard this story from my grandma, a wise and illiterate woman who emigrated from Romania to America in the early 1900s, babushka and all. The old farmer that lived across the road raised pigs to supplement the family income during the Great Depression. Every year, the farmer would sell two pigs to the local butcher, and every year, he would cry his eyes out for three days afterwards. Grandma thought he was a silly man, but I think those pigs must have listened to the old farmer’s darkest fears. If you’re interested, The Dictionary is a short story about my mother growing up in Grandma and Grandpa’s house with only two books, and you’ll know why the house I grew up in looked a lot like a library.

Wilbur and Molly, Two Shaggy Horses

These two horses put in their time on my other grandparent’s farm, plowing and pulling wagons. My dad grew up with them, and he loved them dearly. A few years after he’d gotten married and moved to his own house, Pop brought my mother and my older brother by the farm for a Sunday family dinner. He parked his pride and joy, a shiny black 1952 Chevrolet, in the yard, under the shade of a big tree near the house. After dinner, my brother and his cousins went outside to play, while the men smoked and drank coffee, and the women chatted in the kitchen and washed the dishes.

It was early evening when Pop walked out to his car, and the low sun highlighted the deep scratches running the length of the Chevrolet’s hood. As the story goes, Pop started yelling for my brother, sure that he was somehow responsible for the damage, and ready to mete out a harsh punishment. Just as my brother came skidding to a halt next to him, unaware that he was in deep trouble, Molly reached her head over the fence next to the car, and continued to scratch her itchy chin along the hood, the rivets in her halter peeling paint off with every stroke, as Wilbur stood beside her. Confused, my brother watched the expression on Pop’s face go from dark to light, as he started to laugh. He was still laughing when he walked over to hug Molly and Wilbur’s necks and scratch Molly’s chin, a safe distance away from the hood of his favorite car.

So now you know that it’s no coincidence that shaggy little horses named Wilbur and Molly play a prominent part in the story of An Irish Miracle. I only said that any resemblances to actual people were purely coincidental. Some of the horses? Well . . . not so much.

Cricket, My Family’s First Schnauzer

There have been a lot of Miniature Schnauzers in our family over three generations, but Cricket was the first. I was a first-grader when we brought her home, supposedly a puppy for me. But it wasn’t long before we all realized that she was my dad’s dog. He would make her wait by the garage when he went to the mailbox, and when he came back, she greeted him like he’d been gone for half her life. Cricket rode everywhere with Pop in his pickup truck, her head poking out the window right below the pipe clamped in his teeth. When he got out, he taught her to wait on the seat. When he clapped his hands, she would launch herself straight into his arms. On the rare occasions it happened, Cricket hated to be left alone. To this day, I still don’t know how she reached those high curtains, but they were shredded and tattered when we got home.

Pop has been gone for over thirty years now, although I still hear his voice with a hello or a word of encouragement from time to time. Cricket has been gone even longer, but I’ll bet she’s still riding on Pop’s lap, with her fuzzy face in the breeze. And I’ll bet that pipe is still clamped in his teeth, too.

Corky and Yankee Joe

Yankee Joe was a sweet, seventy-pound Dalmatian (all ‘a’s, no ‘o’s) and big brother to Corky, my immediate family’s first Schnauzer. At fifteen pounds, Corky was the boss, and Yankee was happy to go along. His joy in life was to run at top speed until something solid got in his way. He took my wife lawn-skiing on several occasions. An unlikely pair, Corky and Yankee got along famously, despite their size difference.

We adopted Yankee Joe from a Dalmatian kennel owned by Karl and Barbara, and in turn, they adopted us. (As a gift, I photographed their daughter’s wedding, even though I was more nervous than the lovely young bride.) Karl and Barbara invited us to bring nine-month-old Yankee Joe and go with them to the Dalmatian Club of America’s national show in Fort Collins, Colorado. Four-hundred-and-fifty spotted dogs in one extremely well-run Holiday Inn was a sight I will never forget.

I won’t ever forget the eager-to-please, sit-in-your-lap Yankee Joe and his little-tough-guy buddy, Corky, either.

Bandit and Murphy, My Writing Companions

Bandit is around thirteen years old now, still very healthy, although going a bit deaf. He’s the sweetest, most gentle Schnauzer I’ve ever seen. Three years ago, the amazing veterinarians and students at the University of Georgia Small Animal Hospital pulled his little behind out of the fire for us, after ten days in intensive care. The clinic was ninety miles from our home, and the vet or the student taking care of him called me twice a day, every day, without fail. They took as good a care of me through that ordeal as they did my sad little Bandit, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Murphy is the eternal puppy. Even though he’s fully grown, at seven years old, he’s about half the size of a “normal” Miniature Schnauzer. I thought his litter mates looked a little odd, and when we brought him home, he fit in the palm of my hand, but by the time we realized we only got half a Schnauzer, he was too entrenched in our hearts to even ask for half of our money back. Everyone still asks if he’s a puppy, and they say he’s really cute. My response to that is always, “He’s cute alright . . . ’til you get to know him!”

I could go on and on about these two, who listen to me, and never judge me, but if you want to, you can read more about them in my post entitled My Writing Companions.

The strong bond between humans and horses is a recurring theme in the story, An Irish Miracle. As you can see, we Mahans love our animals. If you read this entire post, I know you love yours, too. Please feel free to comment and leave a story about a special animal companion in your life.

Good night, Nippy, Cricket, Gabe, Muffin, Bucky, Daisy, Yankee Joe, and Corky. I love you guys.

All the best,
Rob

An Irish Miracle in iTunes

If you enjoy reading on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iBooks, An Irish Miracle is finally available through iTunes!

An Irish Miracle is also available from these fine online retailers:

  • Amazon.com – Paperback and Kindle Editions (US)
  • Amazon.co.uk – Paperback and Kindle Editions (UK)
  • Apple iTunes – iBooks Edition
  • Barnes & Noble – Paperback and Nook Editions
  • Diesel – EPUB E-format
  • Kobo – Kobo eReader Edition
  • Signed Copies – Please use this link to purchase a signed copy of An Irish Miracle with PayPal or major credit card. USPS Media Mail shipping is free!
  • Smashwords – EPUB and Other E-formats
  • Sony – Sony Reader Edition
  • Paperback and Kindle Editions are also available from Amazon in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy (English translation only)

Tech Notes – HootSuite for Twittering Self-Marketers

Back when I gleefully signed on to be a Self-Publisher, I knew there would eventually be some marketing involved, but I was blithely ignorant of what that really entailed. To paraphrase a memorable They Might Be Giants verse, “I was young and foolish then. I’m feeling old and foolish now.” Perhaps I should have listened more carefully when my wise editor, Robin Martin of Two Songbirds Press, ominously intoned, “Rob . . . marketing is a bear.”

After I released An Irish Miracle, and the full impact of my new role as a Self-Marketer started to sink in, I felt very much alone. Fortunately, I had been following @KristenLambTX on Twitter for several months. Her book, We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, sounded like just the ticket for a lonely Self-Marketer. (You can read my review of We Are Not Alone on goodreads here.)

Along with her overarching principle of approaching social media marketing with a servant’s heart, Kristen cites Twitter as one of the obvious keys to a successful, multifaceted social media platform, and she recommended TweetDeck to manage the quickly cantankerous and often unruly Twitter Timelines that come with following more than a handful of fellow tweeters. Since I rely on tabbed browsing in Firefox to manage lots of open websites in one place, when I realized that TweetDeck was a separate, standalone application, I went looking for a similar solution that was web-based . . . and that’s when I found HootSuite.

As a social network management dashboard, HootSuite is a web-based and mobile app tool to increase your productivity by allowing you to manage all your social networks (and multiple user profiles for each, if you have more than one) in one place. There are free and fee-based versions available. I’m using the free version, at least for now. Although I’m going to focus on HootSuite’s integration with Twitter, the dashboard can help you manage all of the following social networks:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+ Pages
  • Foursquare
  • Myspace
  • WordPress
  • Mixi
  • HootSuite Apps Directory, for Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr, and more

Here’s a brief overview of the main features I use in my HootSuite dashboard. There’s much more capability there that I am currently taking advantage of, but the HootSuite website has many resources to help us discover everything this tool has to offer.

From the HootSuite Dashboard, you can compose and send tweets, status updates and posts to any of the social networks you have connected your Dashboard to. The Dashboard can be organized with one or many custom Tabs. Here are the Tabs I am currently using:

  • Twitter Home (standard Twitter feeds)
  • Facebook (standard Facebook feeds)
  • Writing & Blogging (Twitter Lists)
  • Potential Readers (Twitter Lists)
  • Family & Friends (Twitter Lists)
  • News & Politics (Twitter Lists)
  • Popular Media & Technology (Twitter Lists)
  • Social Media Gurus (Twitter Lists)
  • Searches & Keywords (Custom hashtag and keyword searches)

Each tab is arranged in columns called Streams, which can contain standard data feeds such as your Twitter Home Feed, Sent Tweets, Mentions, several versions of your Facebook News Feed, and many others. Even more powerfully, Streams can also contain your existing Twitter Lists, searches for hashtags and streams based on keywords you enter.

HootSuite Dashboard

From the HootSuite Contacts Screen, you can see, interact with, and manage:

  • Twitter Profiles
  • Twitter Lists
  • People Following You
  • People You Follow

Anywhere within HootSuite, if you click on a user name, a popup window will display the available information for that user’s profile, along with several ways to directly interact with that user.

HootSuite Contacts Screen

As I mentioned above, HootSuite is available in web-based and mobile app forms, in both free and paid versions. Once you have Twitter, Facebook, and your other social networks set up and organized, I think you will see productivity improvements . . . maybe even a little peace of mind . . . building and managing your social media platform.

HootSuite for Web and Mobile Apps

Speaking as a newly minted Self-Marketer, I would be pleased to connect with you on one or more of the social networks of your choice:

Remember to get your copy of An Irish Miracle by Rob Mahan, too. It’s a story I think you will enjoy as a great summer read, or any time of the year! The e-book is also available from Barnes & Noble for Nook, kobo, the Diesel eBook Store, and Smashwords! The e-book will also be available on iTunes soon (I hope)!

All the best!
Rob

My Writing Companions

In our house, Bandit and Murphy go by many names: Miniature Schnauzers, family members, kids in dog suits (hat tip to my sister-in-law Linda for that one), and constant writing companions. Bandit occupies the spot beside my feet, and Murphy, the part-cat, part-rabbit runt, usually sleeps in his bed on the desk beside my keyboard.

I worked on the acknowledgements for An Irish Miracle for several days. There were lots of folks who loved and encouraged me through the project, often reading multiple early drafts and giving me great feedback, so I wanted to word my heartfelt thanks most sincerely. I even indulged in thanking my mother and late father for their contributions to making me who I am today. Not to be forgotten, I wanted to acknowledge my writing companions, too:

"And lastly, my heart goes out to Bandit and Murphy, my faithful
four-legged friends and constant writing companions. You've been
(sleeping) by my side every step of the way. You're both good boys.
Yes, even you, Murph."

They may get sleepy alot . . .

And yes, they’re both easily distracted . . .

But boy, oh boy, do they love their Kong Bones!

An Irish Miracle Is Released!

I am pleased and excited to finally announce the release of An Irish Miracle. Many humble thanks to all who have supported me and contributed toward making this novel a reality. If you enjoy the story, I would be most grateful if you’d take a moment to spread the word about my book to your family and friends. -Rob

Paperback and electronic formats are now available at the following online locations.


  • Amazon.com – Paperback and Kindle Editions (US)
  • Amazon.co.uk – Paperback and Kindle Editions (UK)
  • Smashwords.com – EPUB and Other E-formats
  • Paperback and Kindle Editions are also available from Amazon in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy (English translation only)
  • Other E-formats soon to be available from Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Blio, Diesel, Kobo, and Sony.
  • Signed Copies – Please use this link to purchase a signed copy of An Irish Miracle with PayPal or major credit card. USPS Media Mail shipping is free!

Have a question, comment, or need a little assistance? Please send me a note at robmahanbooks@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!


An Irish Miracle Covers Arrive!

Mike Mahan, of Shelflife Creative, has once again come through with a beautiful and evocative cover design for An Irish Miracle. The novel is in it’s final stages of production, so stay tuned for a release announcement coming soon!

An Irish Miracle Back, Spine, and Front