Friday, December 20, 2013

My favorite Christmas memories

I'm back.  I had loads of work to catch up on, not that I'm ever caught up but I made a huge dent in it.  I'm determined I'm not going to be working Christmas Eve or Christmas!  Yeah right we'll see if that happens, but I was talking to a long lost cousin of mine who I found on Facebook a few weeks ago and we were talking about Christmas and I asked him what was his favorite Christmas memory and I told him mine.  And in the spirit of Christmas and ho ho ho and all that's glistening and white, here's mine.

I was seven years old.  It was my first Christmas in Burbank, California.  My mother had married someone in the Army and he was stationed at Fort Ord, California, so away to southern California we went.  So it was Christmas Eve and we finally got our tree up.  Back in the day, it was customary to put the tree up on Christmas Eve.  This was before artificial trees.  After we got the tree up, we discovered we didn't have enough lights and here it was nighttime, Christmas Eve, and everything was about to shut down.  So my mother told me to go with her to get some lights at the store across some field.  I have no idea why we didn't take the car.  Maybe we killed it driving from Virginia to California who knows, lol.  My step-father stayed home with my little sister and my Mother trekked across the road, behind the houses and into this field toward where the store was.

So I remember walking across this field with tumbleweed everywhere which was actually quite common in California and I remember looking up at the sky, at the stars and it was Christmas Eve and it was something really magical about it.  But you have to understand the situation.  My step-father wasn't exactly a really nice person to my mom if you catch my drift, but this one time walking with my mom in the dark across this field with the stars overhead and tomorrow was Christmas was when life was good. 

I have another one.  I was living with my grandmother years later back in Virginia.  We couldn't afford a Christmas tree.  Bless her heart, she was the only one taking care of my sister and I and she did the best she could.  I went out back and cut down a pine tree from the woods in the back and that was our Christmas tree that year.  And you know, I know it's not done, but that was the prettiest Charlie Brown tree you ever saw.  Not a whole lot of presents underneath, but it was something really special about that tree.

One more and I'll call it a day.  We were back in California and I got this really neat metal 2 story doll house for Christmas.

It had a magic wand that you put underneath the floors of the house and you could make the figures move all over the house.  Anyone remember that?   I would die to have one again just to relive the memory. 

Here's another memory.  I remember telling my daughter about this Tammy doll I used to have.  A Tammy doll was much like a Barbie doll.  See pic below.

So the story went, my aunt told me I could pack one toy only for we were going to live with my grandmother in Virginia (another long story) and that's all the room we had.  I chose this Tammy doll out of everything I owned because it was really special to me I guess.  When I got to Virginia, you know how kids are, I lost it.  Do you know my daughter found an exact replica of that very same doll on eBay and gave it to me one Christmas?  Now that was something special.

The holidays are a great time for remembering Christmas pasts.  What's your favorite memory or favorite gift you received?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Does your child love books? Start'em a book blog!

I think sometimes I want grandkids all for the wrong reasons.  I was talking to a book blogger today.  She had emailed me, letting me know she received the book an author had sent her but mentioned that she would review it as soon as she can get it out of the hands of her 4 year old.  Don't worry - it was a children's book.

I told her I knew of a book blogger who started a book blog for their child and she reviewed books in her own words.  I thought it was adorable.  We would use the mama's review as the stop but throw in the child's review.  The authors thought it was the coolest thing.  I mean, you write for children, right.

So here's how it would go:

Mama (writing everything down for her 3 year old): Maddie, what can you tell me about this book?

Maddie holds the book lovingly in her arms.  "I don't know."

Mama changes questions.  "What did you like about this book?"

"It was pretty."

"What else can you tell me about this book?"

"I don't know."

The thing about kids that young is that they'll say the darndest things as long as you can get them to open up.  I was just joking above because kids even as young as two or three as long as you can decipher what they're saying will give you the most honest review anyone can give.

Here's an example:

"Michael, what did you like about the book?"

"I liked it.  But I wish the dog was blue not pink.  Pink is for girls."

See what I mean?  They look beyond what we can see.

Do you have a child who has a book blog?  Share the link.  I'd love to see it!

Meanwhile, here's a cute child book blogger at YouTube:

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Amazon drone?

O.m.g.  I have never seen the likes of it would be what my grandmother would say if she saw this coming her way with her Amazon goods:

Is. That. The. Coolest. Thing. Or. What. 

Can you imagine seeing this coming toward your house?  Would it make noise?  Would the dogs bark?  Would the stray cats run away (God only help us)?  Would my elderly neighbors a few doors down think the world was being invaded by aliens? 

I love it.

What's your idea of an ideal writer's retreat?

I'm sitting here in the eat in kitchen.  The laptop is on the table and papers spread out all over it. That's if the rescue cat doesn't jump up and send the papers, pens, highlighters flying to the floor. If you could only see it. This is my work station. In all the chaos, I have sunlight streaming in and if I'm lucky, complete silence except for the hum of the refrigerator.

I have a work station upstairs.  It houses my old desktop, many many books, plants and a dog who insists on sitting in my lap the whole time I'm trying to work.  God love lap dogs but they're a pain in the backside when your legs start to go numb.  This desktop is so slow, it's faster on my laptop, that's why I'm in the kitchen.

I have a book that needs finishing.  That's the cover in the left hand sidebar.  It REALLY needs finishing.  It's just a couple more chapters of edits and I'm good to go, but getting to it means stopping what I'm doing (yeah like that's going to happen) and going upstairs to work on it.

And I get to imagining....what I need is an ideal writer's retreat where there's no dogs, no rescue anything, no interruptions, no saving plants from flying to the floor, no saving dog from rescue cat, no saving cat from being is crazy.

So if I were to choose an ideal writer's retreat, it would be a treehouse in the middle of the woods completely safe from predators of course, a coffee pot, microwave, toilet and a nice comfy bed.  I would get up in the morning and make myself a cup of coffee.  No dogs to walk.  I would take a stroll through the woods to get my daily exercise, then climb up to my treehouse and get to work. Can you imagine how fast I would get this book done?

If you could escape to a writer's retreat of any kind - whether it's in the woods, on a lake, on a beach, on a houseboat, in the city, anywhere, where would it be?

Let's dream together.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Networking isn't all about talking to people. It's about learning from them.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I know I did.  My stomach is three dress sizes up since Thursday.

Last Wednesday I posted a nice little blog piece about social media (What Would It Mean to You if Social Media Stopped Existing Altogether) and how it had morphed over the years.  I mentioned in the blog post how I did miss the way it used to be - more social interaction via blogging before social networks came on the scene. I do want to make a point that the social media we have today far surpasses what we had in yesteryear but it was the fact that I could personally relate to others via blogging more so than I could say through Twitter for example.  They would comment on my silly postings and I'd do the same for them.  I met so many nice people that way - whether they were struggling writers and we were holding each others' shoulders up or it was simply to read about life traveling in an RV.  Man I really miss that blogger.  But like everything, life changes and we either roll with the punches and make it work for us or give up altogether like this writer blogger friend of mine has done.

I hope she doesn't mind me sharing her blog post with all of you as she is a dear friend of mine, but she was one of those mentioned in my previous article about this (chick lit'ers).  Here's her blog piece titled "Writers, Social Media, and Other Lies."  I wanted to comment on her post but I couldn't find a place to do that so I'm taking it on over here.  First, let me say this wonderful writer friend and I go way back and I'll tell you how far back - back when there was no chick lit and it was starting to get really huge much like YA is doing today.  She joined a chick lit group online before I did and in fact that's how I met her.  I LOVED this group, not only because it sounded like a fun genre to write and something I would love to do but almost all these writers who had gotten "deals" got these "deals" from *gasp* a NY publishing house.  Joining the group meant you were getting inside info and that it might help you achieve what they achieved.  She and I hit it off right off the bat and I became friends with lots of other talented authors as well.

Over the years, chick lit died down but not before a new genre popped up called hen lit.  About the time that emerged onto the scene, I had a storyline and a whole book written just waiting to revise and I'd be ready to go seek agents as that was the thing to do back then.  Self-pubbers still were scorned upon mainly because they were choosing vanity houses and it was those vanity houses that gave us all a bad taste in our mouths - you pay them and they publish all right, but they didn't do any editing whatsoever.  If you self-published, it meant your work wasn't worthy enough of a contract from one of the Big Six (or it was Big Six back then, I think it's the Big Five now?).  Later, we learned to do everything a publishing house could do and ended up selling thousands of copies (thank you Amanda Hocking, etc.) and the game plan changed.

Anyway, back to the point of this blog post.  If you have already read my friend's post, you'll see where I'm going with this but if you haven't, go back and read about her frustrations.  I don't know if I can help at all, but I felt I needed to say something  because she's not just someone off the street that I don't know and I wanted to give her my opinion, from my own perspective as social media has been a big part of the way I promote my authors and will promote my own books.

Before I say anything, it's more effective to have someone else promote you than you.  Think street teams.  Word of mouth.  However, that's not to say an author can't pull out all the stops and promote him or herself using the same tactics someone else would.  What I'm thinking is this writer friend has probably been promoting via social media and wasn't getting feedback or results enough to satisfy her before she threw her hands and deleted her Twitter account.  Man. I just wish she had said something prior to this and I could have talked her out of it.  I'm not really sure why someone would give up on Twitter except maybe they started getting followers who she felt weren't interested in her book.  You have to remember, she and I are from the old school where interaction meant actual comments.  That was the only way we knew if someone liked what we wrote or not.

My opinion on Twitter is that it's not a fantastic way to connect like blogging can but it's a great venue to get the word out about your book. However, you need as many followers as you can get but...the kind of followers who would buy your book or at least want to retweet what you have to say.  How do you find these kind of followers?  Well.  It's not easy.  People sign up and you have no idea why.  Are they following you for the sole purpose of getting you to follow them, then they unfollow you?  You just never know, but I am not a big fan at all of the services where they will guarantee you followers.  I believe that your followers must be those interested in what you do, what you write or who you are.  The services who get you more followers - if you took a notice of someone who gets over 100,000 followers in a very very short time, take a peek at who followed them.  Most don't even speak English and I have no idea where these services find these people but it's not the kind of people I would want to have follow me.  The best way to get the right kind of followers is to search for those authors who write and read your genre, those book bloggers who review your genre and anyone else you think would be of value to you, the author - industry professionals, agents, social marketing experts (although this last one you gotta watch as there are a million of these so called experts out there who are only on Twitter to sell their product).

Back to my friend's blog post, she was online a few years before me so anyone who was online at that time grew into this new computer Internet thing a whole 'nuther way.  But you know how technology grows at the speed of light.  When Twitter just came out, I joined but I didn't think it was all that. I was used to networking via blogging.  How can I get out what I wanted to say in 140 letters?  I tried it, went away from it, tried it again and voila this time it stuck and grew to love it.  I love coming up with different hashtags to get the word out.  I love to see just which of my tweets result in better clicks. I am growing and learning and that's another thing I want to point out. Networking isn't about talking to people.  Networking is about learning from people.  If your tweet has just the right wording - something that people can learn from - they'll click on it.

Back to my friend who also cancelled Facebook.  I know there are a lot of authors out there who are having success at creating a Facebook family.  I have found that when I promote on my wall, it doesn't have the same effect as if I posted my every day life and that's cool.  I try now to use my company page and my company group page for promo stuff and post on my wall things about me.  I have found, though, that the stuff from my company page leaks onto my wall so I'm finding that I'm using my group page instead which doesn't or at least I don't think it does.  I had an author on tour a few years ago who created quite a following and he ended up hitting the Amazon bestseller lists. I studied his online travels and what he was doing was using Facebook (and blogging) to rub elbows with book bloggers who were his devoted fans.  So you can't say that Facebook has no value if done right and you aren't pushing your stuff up people's noses.

In my friend's blog post, she writes, "I’m not even sure about blogging anymore. I really enjoy it but the blogging world isn’t what it used to be when you had so many more visitors who would actually interact with you and you’d support each other and link to each other and offer blog tours for each other, etc. It’s morphed into 2 different directions: people hang out on Facebook and Twitter instead and the professional book marketers have taken over the friendly blog tours."

She's right on one thing.  Back in the day, blogging was more popular because that was the only way we knew how to reach an audience.  And it was fun.  Really fun. When I went on my first blog tour back oh wow I'm forgetting when - hmm - maybe oh gosh it was before Pump Up so...2006.  Whew.  Brain fart.  Sorry.  Back in 2006, the followers to my blog were the ones I approached first to host me when I was promoting a how to sell a self-published book book.  And I'm seeing this same thing still happening.  Not all authors can afford someone to stage a blog tour for them, so natch they're going to go with friends to help out.  And, yes, she's right - there are a lot of of professional book marketers (or really to be honest bloggers who want a piece of the pie) - out there now.  When I first started out, there were only two - one who stopped doing them and one who was charging thousands of dollars which I could do for a few hundred to help save costs.  Authors aren't rich. 

It's a shame my blogging friend pulled the cord on social media, but you have to understand where she's coming from.  And I do.  Maybe it's a personal thing but I so know why she did it.  Too much of a time waste and no sales as a result.  Or not many.  And I know this sounds cliche, but you can't give up.  In time, it does happen.  It's like my daughter when she gets frustrated that the tests are so hard (she's going for her RN).  If everything were easy, everyone would be doing it.  Those who have stuck it out on social media are the ones who understand how the game is played.  You can't just tweet something once and sell thousands of books.  It's back to what I said about networking.  It's not just about talking to people and it's not just about selling your stuff.  It's about learning from people.  If I didn't have Twitter and Facebook, I don't know what I'd do.  Twitter, for example, is a time saver not a time waster for me.  Skip over the unimportant stuff and find those gems that will help you in whatever you are pursuing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What would it mean to you if social media stopped existing altogether?

I'm forgetting when Twitter and Facebook started, but I do remember being online doing my social networking thing before they were even born.  Okay I looked it up.  Twitter began in March 2006 and Facebook began in February 2004.  I joined Twitter and Facebook, but didn't know what in the heck I was doing (you too?).

Years down the road, I discovered how EASY it was to advertise certain things on both (as well as other social networks including LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, etc.).  Click a button and it was there.  How easy is that?  Now we have social sharing buttons on almost any blog or website.  We don't even have to log into our accounts to promote, just click and voila, there it was for all our followers to see.

What happened in the transition from what I was doing before the social media boom and what I'm doing now is that what I did before which had meaning and realizing my tweets and facebook posts have little meaning if that makes sense.  They're just out there.  Not that it doesn't sell books or help my authors make bestselling lists because it does, but just the fact that it seems like whoever I am sending my info to, I really only have a name to go by.  I don't know much about them except what I see in their profile and that's if I'm not too busy to look.  What are their frustrations?  What are their joys?  How are they spending their day to day lives?  We don't know unless they send that info out and usually most anyone on any of the social networks is out there to try to sell you something.  Oh excuse me, it's called sharing.

There is an interesting conversation in one of my social networking groups on LinkedIn about this. One of the members brought up the subject of what if social media stopped existing?  What would it mean to you if social media stopped existing altogether?

Before social media, I was out there blogging.  Blogging was relatively new.  Most authors had websites.  Few had blogs.  But over the years blogging increased tenfold.  So what did we do before social media came onto the scene?  We blogged, but the thing was, we wanted people to read what we blogged. What's the point if you're the only one reading?

When I first started online, there was a site called Themestream (this is all that's left of it - everything else has been stripped) and this existed before blogging became popular.  Themestream was where you would post just like you would do a blog and people would comment and the more comments you got, the more pennies you would make.  Anyone remember them?  They jumped ship on us taking our pennies with them, but it was on Themestream where I learned how to communicate through networking.  You comment on my post, I comment on yours and we make money. 

It became a game.  Every night when I got off of work, I would go to my chart I would keep and check off how many posts I had commented on.  I wouldn't stop until I got to at least 20.  This would hopefully mean those 20 writers would come over and comment on mine and we would all make money.

After Themestream ditched us and taking our pennies with them, I came away from the experience knowing lots of writers and the value of networking and that's the most valuable thing I could take away from that.  I started this blog in 2005 (posts are in draft until I release them) and most of the writers who I had befriended followed me over here.  We continued to comment on each other's stuff but over the years, some bloggers stopped blogging and started using social media like Facebook to communicate.

But just think about it.  If you took away the social media, what would you do?  Go back to blogging and commenting and that's what you should be doing anyway for that is where the real  conversation is.  I really miss one blogger's daily escapades as he, his wife and cat traveled the U.S. in their RV (they stopped blogging).  I really miss one guy whose name escapes me keeping me laughing every single time I read his latest blog post (he stopped blogging).  I really miss the chick lit'ers I used to visit and they visit me and we talk about the joys and frustrations of being published (they stopped blogging).  I just miss the whole blogging thing and this is the reason why I'm back.  Doing the networking thing the old fashioned way perhaps but I don't know of a better way to bring back networking that means more than just a tweet.

What's your take?  Do you blog?  What would you do if social media stopped existing altogether? 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

There's a plus side and a negative side to the madness...

I just had a long time blogger friend ask me about Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost as she was supposed to review it the middle of December.  Here's what's going on.  Between work and edits, it's taken longer to get the book out than I thought it would.  My editor, Cheryl Malandrinos, told me back in the day to delay the blog tour I had set up because we want the put our best foot out there and at the time I thought I could do it all but discovered it was really hard.  And I balked at first thinking I could do it all, but she was right.  I want this book the best it can be so we're stalling the publication date to the first of December if all goes right.

Now there's a plus side and a negative side to the madness.  I'll start with the negative side first.  I set up a blog tour knowing full well I wanted the book since it was a paranormal to be out (gasp) in September.  September rolled around and it wasn't ready.  October rolled around. The blog tour was in place but the book still wasn't ready.  I've had to move bloggers so many times it's a wonder they still like me.  Maybe they don't.

Now for the positive side.  The book is being totally revamped.  The characters are stronger, the writing is tighter.  The beginning took a major revamp as well as the ending and what I learned along the way through all these edits is that now I know the characters like they were real.  Well, they are real, aren't they?  Henri especially has taken off with a new blog even.  All in all, I think it makes for a better book.

So, we're not in bad shape, I just want the book to be done and out there.  We have a trailer, a book blog and a tour set up so we're good to go for marketing, just have to get the book finished and up on Amazon.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Old blog with a fresh look

It's so nice to be back!  I took a hiatus and completely forgot about this blog.  I know, I know, what a waste.  I was in my blogger dashboard and lo and behold I had an author blog!  The first time I posted at this blog was in 2005 and whoa the memories.  Since I've revamped the blog, I had to put all of it in draft until I can go in and release the posts again.  They mainly had to do with the release of my other book, Romancing the Soul, and it was fun to re-experience the joys, thrills and frustrations and soon I'll be releasing those posts so you can read all about it.

The thing with me is I have too many blogs.  I get an idea for a new one, buy a domain for it and everything and a few years down the road forget all about it.  Do you do that?  Actually, this was the very first blog I ever had, then I moved on over to Boomer Chick which I still love, just have to find the time to post on it. So what am I doing revamping this one when I don't even have time to post at Boomer Chick?  Well.  Each blog will serve a purpose.  I just have to be regimented. 

Then there's The Soul Mate Triangle.  I started this one figuring I wanted to go ahead and get a blog going to talk about a new book that was about to be published.  What happened there was I decided to self-publish that book and I just haven't gotten around to it yet.  And there the blog sits.  Oh wait, this was started after I had already started a blog about soul mates.  Let me see if I can find that.  Okay, Are You My Soul Mate?  Then there's Island Chick Travels.  Then there's Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost book blog.  And then Henri the Ghost, he just had to have a blog.  Oh, it goes on and on.  I've left out a lot. 

So, I'm consolidating and getting rid of those I don't need.  But this one...I'm going to love. I will be talking about a new book that will be coming out hopefully in December - not sure of the exact date - but I'm pretty darn excited about it.  It's called Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost. It's a paranormal mystery romance or a paranormal romance mystery whatever you want to call it, but it's a book I co-wrote with Heide AW Kaminski and Pam Ryan.  There's an interesting story behind the madness which I'll blog about soon but I at least wanted to say howdy and that I'm back and real excited about it. ;o)

Pardon the Mess...

I'm revamping, hold yer ghosts...