Congratulations, Wild Woman Bonnie McKinney!

Bonnie McKinney poses with one of her newly collared and tranquilized black bears.  (Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife.)

I’m excited to announce that Bonnie McKinney has been named one of the top twenty “Wild Women of Texas Conservation” by Texas Parks and Wildlife for her efforts to protect black bears in West Texas.  To read Bonnie’s story, please click here: Bonnie McKinney Nominated To Top 20 Wild Women

Bonnie is the heroine in my new book, The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story.  Bonnie saved the outlaw bear El Patron from certain death after the starving animal followed his nose to a poorly kept hunting camp and wrecked the place.  During her life’s work as a black bear researcher, Bonnie has trapped over 200 bears and radio-collared 71. When she captured the bear she named El Patron, the two became celebrities throughout the national and state parks and wildlife research communities.

Bonnie is an excellent role model for young women who love the outdoors and desire to be part of wildlife conservation efforts.  Congratulations, my friend.  This honor is so richly deserved and highlights the important contribution women can have in wildlife conservation.

The Best-Laid Plans and Covid-19

This was to be the best month ever for my new book The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story.  I was invited to present the book at both the Tucson Festival of Books and the Texas Library Association conference in Houston.  Then the Covid-19 pandemic began.

David and I were half way to Tucson when I received an email that the Tucson Festival of Books had been cancelled.  Just a few days later, the Texas Library Association followed suit.  To say the least, I’m disappointed.  On top of it all, I now have 100 copies of the book, swag (advertising materials), as well as posters and stickers.  I don’t know what I will do with them.

In spite of the disappointment, I’m feeling rather philosophical about the experience.  I know that so many have it so much worse than me.  I also don’t know what the future holds for this tale about an outlaw Texas bear.  Time will tell, and we will see.  For now, let’s just stay safe and see where this all leads us.  Blessings to each of you.

We’re Heading to Tucson!

I am happy to report that The Legend of El Patron has been invited to the Tucson Festival of Books! I have just received my nomination confirmation to present the book in the Indie Children’s Pavilion between 2:30 and 4:30 pm on Sunday, March 15.

It’s exciting news.  In its twelfth year, the Tucson Festival of Books is the third largest book event in the country.  The festival begins Saturday, March 14, and ends Sunday, March 15, 2020.  Over 450 authors will be presenting their work, ranging from chlldren’s books to fiction to nonfiction genres.  Over 130,000 people are expected to attend.  For more information, please click here:  Tucson Festival of Books

We’ll have more information over the coming months.  Until then, all I can say is “Hallelujah!”

About Book Trailers

Book trailers are a relatively new marketing tool for authors.  Essentially, they are visual advertising for your book, similar to a movie trailer.  For an example, here’s a link to my book trailer for The Legend of El Patron: Legend of El Patron book trailer.

With over 74% of online traffic coming from folks watching YouTube videos, making a book trailer to promote your book makes perfect sense.  I have found, however, that there are a few caveats to making your book trailer a successful marketing tool.

Many authors pay between $300 and $1,500 for someone to build a sixty to ninety second book trailer for them.  For me, that cost was prohibitive.  Instead, I decided to build a book trailer myself.   I built my trailer using illustrations from my children’s book and inserting them and text into Apple’s iMovie (video editing software).  My goal was to build interest in “saving the bear,” a major theme in my book.  I then uploaded the video to both Vimeo and YouTube.

How do you make a successful book trailer?  Dana Craver wrote an excellent article on how to make a book trailer published on the Writers Weekly website: How to Make a Book Trailer.  Another great article about book trailer content can be found on the Author Learning Center website: Book Trailer Content. To view examples of book trailers in your genre, simply do an internet search on words like book trailers for kids, or book trailers nonfiction, or book trailers mystery.

Marketing your book trailer is the next step.  This, unfortunately, was more time consuming than I expected.  As an example, in Angela Hoy’s 90+ Days of Promoting your Book Online, she suggests visiting YouTube videos and forums with similar themes as your book, commenting on them, and redirecting them to your site by including your book title when you sign your name.  Others suggest entering book trailer contests, loading your trailer on your author pages in Amazon and Goodreads, and uploading the video to book trailer sites like

Are book trailers an effective marketing tool?  For me, the jury is still out.  My book trailer has had over 160 views combined on Vimeo and YouTube during the last several months.  It does not appear that any of those views have resulted in someone actually purchasing a copy of my book.

Simply uploading a book trailer to YouTube will not sell your book.  I have also learned that promoting the book trailer may become as time consuming as promoting the book itself.  For me, a book trailer may be a positive promotional tool, but has not been a game changer in selling my books.  It is simply one tool in our arsenal to market our books and get them seen.  I’ll keep you posted…


What to Take To Your Book Signing

Book signing materials

We had a lot of fun at the book signing in Carlsbad, debuting The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story at the Living Desert State Park.  You may be working on a book signing, too.  Here are a few ideas of things you may want to take with you.

  • Books.  I took extra books just in case the venue ran out of them.
  • Post-It notes.  These were incredibly important.  I asked each person to write down the name of the person(s) they wanted their book inscribed to.  So many names are spelled phonetically these days that I never would have guessed the spelling of even some of the more simple names.
  • Pens.  I brought several fine point Sharpie pens to sign books and write down important information.
  • Business cards.  I had business cards printed with the book’s cover as well as all of my contact information.  Should someone want to contact me in the future, they have all the information they need.
  • Postcards.  Because The Legend of El Patron is a square book, I chose to print square postcards.  I printed the book cover on the front of the postcard.  The back of the postcards contain purchasing information for single purchases, quantity purchasing information, a brief synopsis of the book, and my contact information.
  • Stickers.  Because my book is for children, stickers were a perfect give-away item to create interest in the story.  I wanted something fun and different on the stickers.  Because the book’s storyline is about saving the outlaw bear, El Patron, I decided to print “save the bear” stickers.  If you’ve written a book for adults, printed bookmarks are a great give-away item.  A word of caution:  Swag (also called promotional items) are an easy way to build interest in your book but can be costly.
  • Tablecloth.  I chose to bring my own tablecloth to cover the standard folding table to make certain it complimented the book colors.
  • Tabletop easel.  I used the tabletop easel to display one of my books.  Many authors enlarge their book covers and display them as posters.
  • Journal.  I set an open journal on the table so that visitors could add their name and email address for future mailings.
  • Camera.  I had my husband take a few candid shots so that I could post them on social media.  (See my Instagram account: Instagram.)
  • Stuffed bear.  A friend gave me the stuffed bear as a gift after she read my story.  He was a perfect add to my table, helping to focus on the subject matter of the book.
  • Tape and scissors.  Because you never know when you’ll need them!

Book Signing Debut

The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story will have its book signing debut at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park in Carlsbad (Living Desert State Park NM).  Come join us on Sunday, September 15, from 1:00 to 3:30 pm.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Here’s the press release:

CARLSBAD, NM, September 15, 1:00PM.

Carlsbad’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens will host the debut of children’s book The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story.  The book highlights the escapades of El Patron, the “smarter than the average” bear who made Carlsbad headlines when he escaped his new zoo home.

Award-winning author Virginia Parker Staat will introduce the story, read a sample from The Legend of El Patron, and sign copies of the book.  The event is open to the public.  Books will be available for sale at the event.

El Patron was starving when wildlife researcher Bonnie McKinney captured and collared the bear near Big Bend National Park. He soon followed his nose to a poorly kept hunting cabin.  He was marked as a nuisance bear after he wrecked the place. McKinney saved El Patron’s life when she found him a home at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

The first night in his new zoo home, El Patron escaped, wandering the streets of Carlsbad with law enforcement in pursuit.  When his story became headline news, the citizens of Carlsbad rallied to save the outlaw bear.

Certain to captivate, El Patron’s story also provides readers the opportunity to learn more about black bears and wildlife research with its educational sidebars.

Reviewer Mary Taylor Young, biologist and author of seventeen books, said, “This seasoned wildlife writer and biologist got a lump in her throat reading this story of El Patron, the Texas outlaw bear!  Reportorial style with a touch of pathos carries the story effectively.”

Virginia Parker Staat is an accomplished writer of essays, short stories, and children’s books.  She is currently vice president of Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writers and Photographers.  She also teaches the craft of writing to both children and adults.  The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story is published through, Inc.


The Legend of El Patron

I am most happy to report that The Legend of El Patron:  A True Story has been published. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s my first venture into the world of independent publishers.

This children’s book began while David and I were on a camping trip to Big Bend National Park.  I picked up a local paper and read an outlandish article about a bear that had migrated into Brewster County from drought-stricken Mexico. Because he was starving, the poor creature broke into a poorly-kept hunting camp. Marked as a nuisance after he wrecked the place, the wildlife researcher sent to put the bear to death ultimately saved his life. She found a home for El Patron at the Living Desert Zoo in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The first night the bear was in his new zoo home, however, he escaped, wandering the streets with law enforcement in pursuit.

The story simply begged to be written. I contacted the zoo and soon was sitting across from the park’s director for an interview.  I left Carlsbad armed with newspaper clippings, a notebook full of scribbles, interview tapes, contact information for the wildlife researcher who had captured and saved the bear, and even a few snapshots of the reclusive celebrity.

El Patron winter coat2
The reclusive El Patron in his enclosure at New Mexico’s Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

I sent the manuscript to several publishers and received some of the nicest rejection letters.  But, alas, they were still rejections.

Last year, however, it seemed that the time had come to publish El Patron’s story.  Animal and human interactions are on the rise.  The wildlife research community has many concerns over the proposed border wall and how it may inhibit animals migrating to and from Mexico, particularly larger animals such as bear,  jaguar, and ocelot.  Additionally, with its educational sidebars, El Patron’s book contains valuable information about desert bears and the only known repatriation of a large mammal without human intervention.  I’m excited about the book’s prospects.  I’ll let you know how I do with marketing and sales. If you would like to view The Legend of El Patron book trailer, please click here: The Legend of El Patron book trailer

I published my indie book through Booklocker because of their many options, services, and marketing tools.  Throughout the publication process, I have been very impressed with this publisher.  They have made many promises and have fulfilled them all.  Best of all, they made the process easy.  I will fill you in more about my experience later.  If you would like to view El Patron’s Booklocker page, please click here: El Patron Booklocker page.