Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Marketing: Why Ranting Works

In the beginning, I ranted because I had something to say—something I felt strongly about, something I had to get off my chest. And I still do that, but since my early days of blogging, ranting and book sales I’ve learned something. Ranting sells books. On the days I rant on my blog, my book sales spike.

Ranting, of course, is a double edge sword. It both builds and burns bridges. By calling Christian Grey controlling, I run the risk of alienating millions of female swooners and readers. But I also appeal to the women who may say—yes, that is exactly how I feel, too. I'm going to share this so people will know how I feel. By speaking my mind, I not only offend, but I also appeal, and I believe the bridge I burned to the Shades of Grey readership is worth the bridge I build to my own target audience.

Why would I say that? Millions of readers loved Shades of Grey. Why risk offending them? Because honestly, those millions of readers are not going to love my books. Just like someone shopping for stilettos isn’t going to wander into the hardware store and come out with a pair of steel-toed boots, someone wanting erotica isn’t going to pick up my books.

And that’s why it’s okay to put on some steel-toed boots and kick some ideas around—even if it offends some readers. I’m building bridges to the readers who want real romance.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Richard Cory

The sudden death of Robin Williams, an amazingly talented and gifted man, reminded me of this poem. We can never know the demons others fight.
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head. 

Monday Marketing. Why It Works and a Graph to Prove It

Can I just say that marketing actually works? I’m not saying that it works well, or that it’s worth the time, but for a number of weeks I’ve been diligently spending an hour a day, five days a week, trying to do some sort of marketing. This past week I went to visit my 93 year old father and since his is a house of dinosaur technology, I did zilch to market my books. The result? I sold 6 books less than the previous week.

I know 6 books doesn’t sound like a lot, especially if you want to tag a dollar sign on those 6 books—it makes it look like I made about pooh an hour. But if all of those six purchases happened to be (and they probably weren’t—but if they were) new readers, those 6 extra purchases could possibly be readers who fall in love with my book and then buy all of my books, which could then multiply to 60 extra sales. And what if they told just one person each that they liked my books, and those people bought one book, and then they bought all my books, and they each recommended my books….get it? This is how a readership grows-one or two or six new readers at a time.

Do I regret not marketing my books last week? No. I’m glad I had time to spend with my dad. (You can read about that here: )

And I’m glad that I took the time to do some number tallying. On my Amazon sales graph, the six books didn’t look so different from one week to the next, but when I stopped to consider the whole reader multiplication factor, I decided that the hour a day is worthwhile, even if it only looks like a fraction of the national minimum wage.




So, here’s a graph. Fill it in however you wish. And if you have a great marketing tip, please share.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Return of Marketing Mondays

For some time now, I’ve been struggling to be disciplined about marketing. My goal is to spend an hour a day promoting my books. This has been a challenge, since I’m an introvert and I would much rather be writing in solitude than hanging out on social networks. But since I’ve been dedicating my obligatory hour, I’ve learned some things and I thought I would share them.
My marketing mantra is give them what they want and then introduce them to something they didn’t know they wanted. My favorite marketing method is blogging. I try to be informative, helpful and then post a link to my informative, helpful blog on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, the Marketing for Romance yahoo group (and if it’s relevant) the kindleboards writer cafe.

Here are the groups I belong to on Facebook. There are probably many more that I haven’t discovered yet.
Sweet / Clean Romance group
 Romantic Clean Reads
 Where Writers and Authors Meet
 The Unblocked Writers Group
  Books Gone Viral
 Writers and Readers Unite
 Book Promotion
 Promote Your Book!
 Authors Incognito
Book Junkie Promotions
The GoodReads Clean Romances Group on FB
 Online Book Publicity Group
 Written a story, what's the next step?
 Writers who believe in supporting Writers
 Books, Books and more Books!!!
 Writers Group(This is for all of you writers out there)
 E Books Rock.
 Passion for Books
 Connecting Authors & Reviewers
 Mormon Mommy Blogs Network
Business and Blogging Success, Naturally Yours
There's an eBook in the Room
Hot Reads
Book promotions
Authors and Book Lovers Discussion Group
 Book Lovers
 Review Seekers
Reviewers Roundup
Writers and Readers
Indie Author Book Promotion Page
LDS Authors, Writers & Readers
Writers Unite
A place to advertise books for sale
Ready to Read
Romance Readers
Authors, Reviewers, & Book Lovers
Romance & Thrillers Group
Book Club
Amazon Kindle Goodreads
Kindle Publishers
Fantasy Writers
BookGoodies Authors Group
 Because I don’t want to be spammy, I usually issue a call to action such as this one that I posted on The Authors of Main Street blog last Monday:
If you’re an author, please share the beginning paragraph of your favorite story. Feel free to post the buy link and a link to your website.

And here is the tweet I used for the same post: Share the opening paragraph of your book on the Authors of Main Street blog! Leave buy links!  #bookpromotion

Here are the Linked-in groups I belong to. Again, I’m sure there are many more. I posted the same call to action to them.
Authors of Romance helping Authors of Romance
Book Marketing
Historical Fiction

There are more places (and I belong to more Linked-In groups) to promote your blog posts, but my allotted hour is up! Next Monday I’ll return to share more of my marketing-finds. Do you have a favorite marketing tip? Please share. I’ll give a free e-copy of my book Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent (now a finalist in the I Heart Indies contest) for the tip I like the best.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dog Days of Summer and a Pet Snippet

According to Wikipedia, "the Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks (see, e.g., Aristotle's Physics, 199a2).
The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as the sun (heliacal rising), which is no longer true, owing toprecession of the equinoxes. The Romans sacrificed a red dog in April to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.
Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813."
But if you're a dog owner, everyday, despite the weather or calendar, is a dog day.

Remember the 1981 movie On Golden Pond? Here are some of it's accolades:
I was in college, studying literature, when Ernest Thompson won the award for best screenplay. Now, more than 30 years later, I don't really remember the film, except that I liked it, but I do remember Thompson. He shocked the world by using the F word in his acceptance speech at the academy awards. 

We talked about his slip the next day in one of my literature classes. According to my professor, a writer can't ever pretend to be something he/she is not. Their core values and character will shine through their works.

What does this have to do with the dog days of summer? Not much, but I do think it's interesting that I like dogs, I'm a dog owner, and I include pets in almost all of my stories. That's not to say that if I ever win an academy award I'll get on the stage and talk about my dog, but if you like stories and you like dogs, chances are you'll might like my books.

Here are a few canine excerpts from my books. (I also threw in cat just for fun.) If you're a writer, please feel free to share your favorite pet passage, Be sure to include your buy link and a link to your website.

Wyeth’s tail began to beat on the oak floorboards when a child peeked around a chair to look at him.
            “Would you like to pet him?” I asked.
            The golden hair six-year old nodded, but she stayed on the far side of the plastic chair. She sucked on her index finger and watched Wyeth. Her wide, blue eyes stared at him then looked at me. She wanted to step from behind the chair, but Wyeth intimidated her. She wore a red, white and blue sailor dress with a large chocolate milk stain down the front. The child removed her finger. “He’s a really, really big dog,” she said.
            Her mother at the next table looked up from her crossword puzzle book and smiled at me, making me her conspirator in child care.
            I ruffled Wyeth’s ears. “Yes, he is, but he’s very friendly.”
            She looked at us with wide blue eyes. “He’s really ugly. Did you want an ugly dog?”
            That was a very good question. Most puppies, like babies, are cute, even the ugly ones, and then you feed it, clean up after it, train it, fall in love with it, then keep on loving it even after it’s grown ugly. “I guess I do now,” I replied. He always looked and smelled better after a bath and trim, but lately I’d been too preoccupied to groom Wyeth. It’d been weeks since he’d had a bath. I realized I’d make a terrible mother.
            “I have a poodle named Princess,” the little girl told me. “She wears a pink coat.”

A thick marine layer blew in from the beach and reminded Deirdre of her smoky dream. She couldn’t see, but she knew where the oak trees, solid and massive, stood. Her leg hit warm fur. She fell with a bump, her hands smashing onto the grass. A large, wet snout attacked. Coyotes, she thought, curling into a ball. She opened one eye to see a massive snout approaching. A dog, a giant dog, but not a coyote. He placed a hamburger sized patty paw on her back as if to keep her down so he could clean her with his tongue.
            “Leave me alone!” she yelled. The dog snuffled through her hair as she rolled onto her hands and knees. Shaking the creature off, she stood, but the animal rose on his back feet and placed his front paws on her shoulders. She had a vision of Beauty and the Beast dancing in the moonlight. She shook him off.
            “You’re lucky I like monsters, mammoths, or whatever you are.” She reached for his dog tag, trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid his tongue. Grabbing his collar, she rotated his tags. “You’re the first dancing partner I’ve had in months,” she read the tag, “Pricilla.” She eyed the dog. He panted before her, looking like a friendly bear. “Pricilla, really? Why not Thor or Zeus?”
            “Because she’s my partner—not yours.” A deep voice spoke in the fog.

 Blair jumped and landed hard on the grass, her hands breaking her fall. She stood in time to see the kitten tear into the library through the wide open door.
               At least it’s a smart cat, Blair thought as she went after it. She tried to brush the mud and leaves off her skirt, then slipped off her filthy shoes and soaking sweater and left them on the front porch. 
               Standing in the doorway, searching, she called, “Here kitty, kitty.” A tail, gray and rat-like stuck out from under a rack of books. Blair lunged toward the bookcase, and her stocking feet went out from under her.
               Finding herself on the wooden floor, she turned to see the kitten watching her with one blue and one brown eye. Blair placed one hand in front for the cat to plainly see, and snaked her other hand behind the creature. The cat tried to dart away, but Blair grabbed it. 
            Rolling onto her back she held the squirming, skinny kitten in an outstretched hand in the air above her face. She considered the small, gray, rodent-like animal. “I’ll call you either Mouchard or Rat-Fink after my friend, Drake,” she told the cat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Rant on the Modern "Hero" and the Women Writers who Create Them

I’m recycling a blog post I wrote in 2011 because I’m reading A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness and it’s conjuring up some old, long ago feelings. But before I repeat myself, can I just ask—WHAT IS IT WITH THE WOMEN OF THE 21st CENTURY THAT ATTRACTS THEM TO GUYS LIKE MATTHEW CLAIRMONT (obsessive, possessive and controlling) CHRISTIAN GREY (I admit it, I’m one of the few females on the planet that didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey but according to the back blurb, “Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control”) and EDWARD CULLEN?
Is no one charmed by witty, intelligent, thoughtful men? Men who are loving, considerate, and supportive? Men who get that you have a life, hopes and dreams, and that you are not merely an accessory or toy to decorate their life?
Seriously, girls, someone explain this to me. Why are we breaking into sweats over controlling, possessive ego-maniacs? When Diana the witch (A Discovery of Witches) discovers that her life is in danger, why does she hide out in Matthew’s chateau in a room where anyone who means her harm will have to go through Matthew? I’m currently at the chateau and it seems to me that all Diana is doing is taking long naps and drinking a lot of wine. I hope she’ll pluck up some nerve and start brushing up on her witchcraft so she can protect herself, because if she doesn’t, I won’t be finishing this book. I get that she blames witchcraft for her parent’s deaths, but once she feels so seriously threatened that she’s forced into hiding, wouldn’t any self-respecting witch devote herself to the tricks of her inherited trade? At this point, I’m so mad at her weanie-ness, and so disgusted by Matthew’s twisted possessiveness, all I can say is…well, pretty much the same thing I said three years ago.
Here it is:
The Breaking Dawn Premier and What I Learned about Boys from Carly Simon, November, 2011

I’m sure that anyone not living beneath rock knows that last night was the midnight premier of Breaking Dawn (part one.) My brilliant, straight A, academic pentathlon competitor daughter is (seriously) the president of Tesoro High School’s Twilight Club. Yesterday she and her band of Twi-hards wrapped themselves up in blankets and were the first in line for the show.

I’ve no doubt that when Rob Pat showed his glistening face on the big screen that she and her friends screamed. Maybe they even swooned when the werewolves took off their shirts. Today my brilliant daughter went to school proudly wearing her Twilight t-shirt. I hope she screamed, I hoped she swooned, I’m happy she has a vampire shirt, but—when it comes to real boys, real flesh and blood boys, I hope she’ll listen to the best boy advice I ever heard. It came from Carly Simon.

I personally don’t know the love life status of Ms. Simon. I hope she’s happy. I know that she divorced James Taylor years ago. It’s interesting to me that a romance writer I admire who has written more than 36 New York Times Bestsellers is in her sixties has had two very brief marriages that both ended in divorce. Writing and singing romance is very different from living romance. Here’s Ms. Simon’s advice. It’s from a song Titled Boys in the Trees
I’m home again in my old narrow bed
Where I grew tall and my feet hung over the edge
The low beam room with the window looking out
On the soft summer garden where the boys grew in the trees.
Here I grew guilty
And no one was at fault
Frightened by the power of every innocent thought
And the silent understanding passing down
From daughter to daughter
Let the boys grow in the trees.
Do you go to them or do you let them come to you
Do you stand in back afraid that you’ll intrude
Deny yourself and hope someone will see
And live like a flower
While the boys grew in the trees.

So, to my daughter and to all the daughters—it’s okay to scream and swoon at characters in books and on movie screens, but when it comes to real boys, real flesh and blood boys—let them grow in the trees while you do what you need to do to be your very best self. Take the hardest math classes. Practice your guts out and audition for the very best choirs. Swim as hard and as fast as you can so that you can wear the medal at the meets. Rehearse the monologues that will make the audience cheer. Write the essays that will bring tears to reader’s eyes. And let the boys grow in the trees.

While you are your path, going where you want to go, trying to become as brilliant and talented as you possibly can be, eventually, you will meet others on the same path who share your goals. If you’re lucky, you’ll find someone to hold your hand as you walk that path.

That person won’t be hanging out in your bedroom after you’ve fallen asleep--he’ll be too busy with the very hardest math classes, swimming or singing and such. His disappearance won’t drive you to suicidal activities like cliff jumping into the waters of Washington’s Coast--he’ll be too sensitive to your feelings and goals to ever want to cause you that sort of pain. (Honestly, has Mrs. Meyers ever been swimming in the Pacific in the Northwest? It is darn cold.) He won’t pick you up and carry you away from danger—you have to do that by yourself and for yourself.

Oh, how I hope you will.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5 Things I learned from Dogs, Kids and the Bible

Here are some of the things I learned about parenting from being a dog owner.

1.       Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This is also true for dogs.  That’s why I think it’s almost always best to get a dog as a puppy. Before we had our Schnauzer, we had a Beagle. For the most part, Abbey the Beagle was a nice dog, but she was STARVING…ALWAYS. She would steal food from children, jump up on the table to scrounge for left overs, raid the trash. If enough food was available, she would eat until she vomited and continue eating. Abbey had a serious eating disorder.

Grendel the Schnauzer, on the other hand, will eat when she’s hungry. Her bowl of food might last her a couple of days. She doesn’t steal food and wouldn’t dream of jumping up on the table.

The difference?  We got Abbey when she was two years old. Before she came to live with us, she lived with a big, presumably hungry, Labrador. She probably had to fight for her food and wolf it down whenever it showed up. Grendel has, as far as I know, never known hunger. Her bowl of food is rarely empty. When I see that it is, I fill it.

2.       John 13:34 “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”  If you want a nice dog, be nice to him. This is also true for children, spouses, and people on the street.

3.       Ezekiel 2:6 “And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee…nor be dismayed at their looks.” Be the adult. Children and dogs are frightened and will misbehave if they think no one is in charge. People and dogs will be their most nasty when they’re afraid and feel threatened. (This is also true for spouses and probably most people.) So speak kindly, firmly and with confidence.

4.       Ecclesiastes 10:18 “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” Mischief usually happens when there’s nothing else going on. So don’t leave your pet or your child hanging with nothing to do.

5.       Exodus 23:12 “Thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.” No one is happy when they’re tired. No one. Not even dogs. Or children. Or moms. Or dads. No one. Make sure everyone has their own bed and make sure they use it. Occasionally, if the pets sleep outside, it’s okay if the dogs pile on top of each other for warmth, but that’s it. Dogs on dog’s beds, children in children’s beds, parents in their own bed.