Trailer Time: Seasons Greetings

We’re all eager to get our books into the hands of our readers as soon as they’re ready. It’s natural, it’s normal, but it’s not necessarily a sign of marketing savvy.

Okay, so this is a children’s book. I get it. It’s not my usual thing. But…

There are books that should come out in the vicinity of a holiday because they are associated with the holiday. The book in this trailer is a perfect example:

  1. It’s a serial book, so it (presumably) has wider appeal than merely the holiday association.
  2. The holiday association, however, makes the book timely, but only for a limited time.
  3. The holiday association also provides natural themes for the marketing materials without, necessarily, “giving away” the theme of the book.

Now, if a book is just a holiday book, as this one seems to be, then basically (1) it was crafted specifically for marketing purposes or (2) the particular holiday is an integral part of the writer’s platform. If, however, the book just sort of goes with the holiday, then releasing it in the vicinity of the holiday increases the book’s marketability, but is not the sum total of the book’s marketability.

So, one take away from this book trailer is a means of assessing how holiday-appropriate your book may be. Will a holiday association (and it could be any holiday) improve the marketability of your book? Will a holiday association overwhelm readers’ ideas of what the book is about? Can you think of a clever way to tie the book into the holiday preparations/celebrations of your readers?

And, now that I’ve mentioned it, cleverness is another take away from this book trailer. Perhaps it’s a bit sadistic, but part of the reason I like this book trailer is because it makes fun of marketing. Christmas is a good time for that because there is altogether too much marketing going on during this time of year. Poking fun at marketing in general, and internet marketing in particular, is a way to empathize with your readers. It shows that, yes, you recognize that they’re overwhelmed and, yes, there’s altogether too much cleverness clotting up the online highways, but there’s something about this book that’s worth paying attention to. If you can do that, then you can break through the clutter of this particular holiday season and actually get some attention.

Because, you see, that’s the flip side of a holiday association: It’s overdone. We all know it’s overdone. We’re all a bit tired of it. Yet, it has also become part of many holiday traditions.

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The Other Side of Networking

When writers think of networking from a marketing perspective, they usually focus on building a network that can help the leverage the advantages of mouse-and-mouth marketing. Basically, from a marketing perspective, the primary advantages of social media are that consumers are more likely to trust a “friend’s” endorsement than they are to trust a traditional advertisement, so successful social engagement can produce better results. So, as writers, we connect with people who may be willing to spread the word about our published works, especially our books.

We use social media to sell the things we want to sell, whether it’s products or services. Other people also use social media to sell us things, too. It’s only fair. As writers, it’s also an opportunity. If you’re committed to marketing your work, there are things you know you can do and, you’ll find, there are things you need someone else to do.

Social media is an opportunity for writers to not only keep track of people who might be willing to spread the word about our work (for free), but to also keep track of the people who can provide products and services we may need in the future. LinkedIn is especially useful for this.

For example, I connected with a professional on LinkedIn who provides PR services to authors for a fee. Now, I can create press kits and other materials and make them available to interested parties, but I don’t have the connections required to actively place those materials in the hands of professionals who might be interested in them. This is a service this contact provides at a reasonable fee. This fee is about $1,000 a month, with no long-term contract, which is very reasonable when it’s compared to the cost of a more traditional PR relationship.

Just the other day, I was contacted by a person who publishes audio books. This serves as another example, because I wouldn’t have even thought of that for my own books. I haven’t looked into this to see if this service is more viable for the indie author; but, the pitch made it sound like their market is the indie authors of the world.

Cultivating contacts like this is an opportunity for the writer, because otherwise you’re left to shop around for the services you need in a more traditional fashion. If these people are part of your network and you are part of theirs, then you have more personal interactions whereby to judge whether or not you trust this person (and their business) with your limited investment capital. There are too many good ways to spend that money and too little money to do everything you’d like to do to market your book, so you certainly cannot afford to waste it on someone you don’t know that you can trust. Networking makes sure you don’t have to.


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Corner or Not, Here I Come!

The novel I’m writing is called The Coveted One. It is the first of at least three books. It’s also two stories in one; the story that will extend over the next three or four books frames the story that will be completed in this book. It’s a bit experimental, but my instincts insist it’s necessary.

Before I got my notebooks, I had the starting frame, the start of the story, and the ending frame for the beginning worked out. The first really big surprise for me came at the end of the story’s beginning. Initially, I assumed this would be when the protagonist, Simone, underwent a significant physical change. That happened more or less as expected. What was unexpected was what happened emotionally/psychologically in the midst of this physical change. Something about the characters’ past was revealed, even though I didn’t know it until I wrote it.

Logically, the protagonist would next have to deal with the fallout of what she learned about herself and her past. The protagonist isn’t logical, so while she did have a reaction to this discovery (she’s assuming that event played out that part of her development), it’s clear to me that she’s doing more avoiding than coping.

So, coming into the first half of the middle, I needed another consequence of what happened. I had an inkling of what this would be based on my understanding of what needs to happen over the course of the novel, but I didn’t know the specifics as I started to write. As it turned out, what happened next was way bigger than what my mind says is appropriate. My instincts insist that it belongs right where it is, but my mind is telling me that it’s just too big.

We’re talking about BIG here, not just big or even BIG, we’re talking:


So, my mind is convinced that I’m going to have to somehow make something even bigger later on and that’s going to be a bit of a problem, especially since this big thing has left my protagonist shell-shocked and traumatized.

Now, not only does she have the physical and preparation demands to consider, she has not one but two unforeseen emotional/psychological weights working against her. Whether or not that’s sound storytelling, I have to carry on and move forward, because this first draft is being handwritten.

My mind is balking. My instinct is sure it’s right. The mediator consoles my mind that, if it doesn’t work, I can always rearrange it in the next draft. All in all, I’m finding the anxiety of pantsing this story into life an unwanted addition to my own.

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The Bitter Dregs of Re-entry

So, a quick recap for those of you who don’t tune in regularly: I am a writer who supports my family by writing. I lost two weeks to a drug side effect; then, my poorly thought out efforts to make up for those two weeks drained me sufficiently that a long, lingering illness set in (I blame the lingering effects of the drug). Now that I’m about 75% recovered, I’m working on re-entering my work. In order to do that, I had to replenish my sorely depleted energy stores. The quickest and surest way to do that was to go back to my roots: fiction.

Are you with me? Good, because this is where things get a bit sticky. As those of you who’ve been reading for a while already know, I’m an “advocate” of planning. When tackling a project that is the size of a novel, I believe that the most efficient method is to plan it out first and then write it.

When I was drowning in my own misfortunes and flailing about for anything that would float, I caught hold of the story that’s been running through my head and started writing it down. There was no plan. I just wrote whatever gurgled to the top. Before I knew it, I had the beginning of the beginning and the end of the beginning of a novel. So, I started filling in the details.

I still needed some semblance of order, so I bought four composition notebooks of equal size, which had space for prose and space for notes. Each notebook was intended to contain one of the four parts to a novel. (The beginning, which ends with an act of major change; the first half of the middle, which ends with a catalyst that transitions the protagonist from a “wanderer” to a “warrior;” the second half of the middle, which ends with the move that sets the end in motion; and the end, with the finale and denouement.) So, I had something to keep myself on track.

Now that I’m doing better, it has occurred to me that my flailing around resulted in me starting as a pantser instead of a planner. Considering my past advice, it tasted bitterly of hypocrisy. I recently reached the dregs of this bitter brew when I wrote myself into something of a corner. Now my reason and my instincts are disputing whether it’s really a corner at all.

These are exactly the sort of conundrums I like to work out before I start really writing!

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What About Now?

Before I reach any kind of conclusion, I have to set up some background, so please bear with me. To start, I’ve been studying (when I can manage it) First Things First by Stephen Covey and the Merrills. The premise of the books is that if you put first things first, you will obtain a higher quality of life. Part of the process required to fulfill this premise is, of course, figuring out what really comes first in your life, rather what should really come first. The answers are different for everyone.

I’m not going to rehearse all of it, since there were no real surprises for me—I am introspective by nature—and because I’ve shared most of it at one time or another on this blog. I’ll summarize by saying God, family, work, and friends, with work entailing the writer, the advocate, and the marketer. But therein lies the sticky part.

On the one hand, I enjoy marketing when I’m marketing something (or someone) I believe in. I have collected quite a few clients who fit in that category and I could support my family’s needs by pursuing those clients and their recommendations. (At least, that will be true once I’m up to getting back to work.) Supporting my family is a big part of my role in life. We have invested considerable time, energy, and money into making me a versatile writer who can provide the material things in life by serving others’ by marketing their capabilities.

If you’ll look closely, you just might get a peek at my “other hand.” For, on the other hand, I am a versatile writer who can write a wide variety of works quite capably. I can write poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, informative nonfiction, and persuasive nonfiction. I have written and published all of these types of work and I am frequently encouraged to write more of all of these kinds of work. I am even full of ideas regarding materials I can write about marketing that would empower those who cannot afford my services to do self-marketing more effectively.

Therein lies the problem. There are two hands—one that provides the income my family needs and one that provides the satisfaction and variety I crave—and I want both, but in practice they seem mutually exclusive.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t enjoy marketing. I do. It’s that marketing, by itself, doesn’t really satisfy the writer in me. It certainly doesn’t satisfy the advocate in me. But the more successful I am in my marketing work, the less time I have available for my other work; which is ironic, since the marketing work is what provides the funds I need to market my other work. I feel stuck.

The grand idea when I started on this course was to balance the writer, the advocate, and the marketer. Ideally, this would work, if I wasn’t also trying to balance my roles as wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. Honestly, I don’t usually get much past wife and mother, because my family is unusual and needs quite a bit of my time and energy.

In First Things First, it talks about balance. In the chapter about balance, it talks about the balance of temporary imbalance. The examples used are bringing home an infant and starting up a business. Part of me wants to justify the extra time I was devoting to my marketing career. Part of me wants to chuck it all and go back to being an artist. Part of me insists that I can and should do both. Part of me just wants to go back to bed and dream the world away.

So, what about now? What am I going to do? How am I going to use these last two “lost” months? Where will I go from here?

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What Happened Next?

Somewhere along the timeline of my life, though I’m not sure when, I was told that a story that to be published in my alma mater’s literary magazine was being nominated for an award. The award, as it was briefly explained to me, was intended to honor those who’d face adversity and come through the other side. While I was “away,” I was notified that I was indeed chosen to receive this honor. An event was being held to release the magazine and to recognize the contributors, as well as recognizing those whose work was being honored. This event was being held Wednesday evening. In my mind, this became the day that everything would turn around for me in miraculous, fairy tale fashion.

So, the day started. I woke up, got my children off to school, and then realized that I was far too tired for the long day ahead. I took a nap, overslept, and rushed to get half-way ready in preparation for an IEP meeting (a meeting among teachers, therapists, and parents to individualize the education of a child with special needs for the upcoming year) that I was going to have to duck out of early. I got there late, listened for a while, failed to contribute anything, and left. I went to my mother’s, finished getting myself ready, helped her finish getting ready, and left late. I sped my way towards Chicago, slowed down for the rush hour traffic, and ended up parking half an hour away from my event because there’d been an accident ahead of us. We waited for a little over half an hour, and then got moving again right around the time the event was supposed to start.

This was going to be my night. This would turn everything around. And I was late for the “show” that I was supposed to start. But I was determined to make an appearance anyway. This was my night! I was going to make it!

I was going to my alma mater. I’d been to this building so many times I couldn’t even count them. But, for some strange reason, I couldn’t find the right building. I was on the right road and I was in the right area, but everything looked strange and unfamiliar. I ended up driving right past it. So, we turned around and, instead of letting my mom and her walker off in front of the building, we parked in the garage under the street. We parked right near an elevator that took us up to the street level. I spent a few moments looking around until I spotted something familiar. We were a block or so away from where we needed to be. We crossed the street and walked as fast as my mom could manage. We had to cross another street, which is harder than you might think with a walker, and I found what I was looking for. The entire façade of the building had been refaced and both the stores on the corners of the street had changed, but my school was still there.

We made it to the room where the event was taking place just as people were leaving. I wormed my way forward to present myself to my former advisor. She got out the mic and got people’s attention. She introduced the award that was being given and then she introduced me, the recipient. I read an excerpt from the piece that had won me an award for overcoming adversity. I was able to read it without any anxiety, because, honestly, how much worse could this get? I watched the audience respond to my piece with gratification. Then, when I was done, the audience applauded. This was my moment. This was the moment when everything would magically turn around for me.

Except it didn’t. I knew nothing had changed as soon as we started walking back to the car. We had to go slowly for my mom’s sake, but the pace was excruciating for me. The cramps I’d gotten in my legs from the long drive hadn’t been worked out yet. I realized they wouldn’t work themselves out before we reached the car and I had to do the long ride all over again. Every step was painful and the slower our steps, the more painful it was for me. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Once we were back on the interstate, we still had to swerve through endless miles of non-existent road construction, where miles and miles of the road were “under construction,” but there were only two areas (with many miles between them) where workers were actually working. As bad as that was, the worst was yet to come.

The “highlight” of the evening was our stop at the Road Ranger. Mom didn’t like to pay at the pump, so we went in to pre-pay. My legs were still cramped and my mom still had her walker, so the walk to the store was slow going. Mom pre-paid for the pump. We went to the rest room. We got some drinks and hot dogs. Then, we made the slow, painful walk back to the pump. But the pump wouldn’t work. I walked back to the store and the clerk explained that our transaction had been canceled, because we took too long. I walked back and my mom elected to use her credit card to pay at the pump, because, frankly, I wasn’t up to walking back and forth yet again. So, I swiped the card through, made the appropriate selections, and set up the pump. The gas didn’t come. I waited and waited, but the gas didn’t come. So, I let go of the handle, turned back to the pump, and tried to see what was wrong now. Then, the gas started to flow and it started with so much force that the nozzle popped out of the gas tank. I turned around just in time to be sprayed from head to toe with gasoline—mostly in my face and all over my skirt.

I stomped back to the store and reported the incident to the clerk. She just blinked at me. I stomped into the rest room, cleaned myself up as best I could, but I still reeked of gasoline. I stomped back to the car and did the only thing I could. I popped the trunk, threw my coat and my skirt into the trunk, slammed it shut, and put on the trench coat I’d lent to my mom. The shirt I was wearing was a tunic. It was long enough that some people—but definitely not me!—might wear it as a dress, so this wasn’t quite as “revealing” as it might sound. But it was far from comfortable.

Finally, I got into the car and was prepared to drive away and never, ever come to a Road Ranger again. But my mom said she wanted the receipt proving her transaction had been canceled. So, I drove her up to the store and got out her walker and let her go in by herself. She came out a little while later, saying that not only did the clerk say that I must have “done it wrong,” as if I hadn’t been pumping gas without incident since I was fifteen, but she was also claiming that she’d already given me the receipt. My mom told me to come in with her so she could get her receipt.

“Mom, I’m not wearing any pants!”

And that was that. We drove away. When I’d finally gotten us into my mom’s garage it hurt to get out of the car, because my sweaty skin had stuck like glue to my mom’s leather seat. I limped to the other side, helped my mom get out and up into her house. Then, I changed back into the clothes I’d worn for the IEP and I went home.

The days that followed didn’t get better. I’d had a sinus infection and now it was full-blown bronchitis, which got progressively worse. My productivity went from being negligible to be nothing at all.

I was angry. I was angrier than I had been in a long time. As a person of faith, I’d been praying this whole time for some help—divine intervention. The Bible tells us that God answers such prayers. My prayers were being answered with silence and I was angry. I’d had enough. I couldn’t take it anymore and I couldn’t do it anymore and I was done. I was DONE. I QUIT. And if God wanted to change that He’d have to do something big.

That didn’t last. Though I was still angry, I was too passionate about what I was doing to quit. So, as my illness progressed, I thought about my life, what had gone wrong, what was going right, and what I really wanted. As I write this, I’m still sick. I’m getting better, but healing is exhausting. I’m still not up to the kind of work I need to do to get everything caught up. But I won’t quit. I will figure this out. I will get back to work.

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What Happened?

October is gone and you, my much neglected readers, deserve an explanation for my blatant lack of posting. It all started with a good thing. I decided to use Chantix to help me quit smoking once and for all. It worked for my uncle. It was working for my mom. I was ready to bite the proverbial bullet and have a go. I was warned that it might make me “a little more tired” and that it may cause some “vivid dreams.” These warnings did not prepare me for what was to come.

While on Chantix, I slept 18 to 20 hours a day. The worst part, though, was that I wasn’t even aware of how much I was sleeping because I had those very vivid dreams they warned me about. It wasn’t even a more vivid sampling of my usual dreams—which tend to involve the characters and plot lines I’m too busy to write. No, my very vivid dreams involved me living my life as per usual, including turning in the assignments I’d promised to my clients.

This went on for two weeks before I accidentally missed a dose. During the sickly haze that followed, I started to realize that things weren’t making much sense. I became suspicious—paranoid, really—and I decided to intentionally miss a dose. I was sick with headaches, nausea, and a pervasive dullness that made me want to crawl right back into bed, but I was also aware, with a growing sense of dread, that there was a distortion in my sense of reality. What my mind remembered didn’t make sense any more.

So, right before my mom’s hip replacement surgery, I stopped taking Chantix altogether. I spent the day at the hospital, waiting for my mom to get out of surgery and recovery, which is its own kind of misery. Yet, I was able to stay awake and alert and conscious of my surrounding throughout the day. I even started to shake off the sick feeling. As I sat there waiting for my mother to wake up, I committed myself to figuring out what had really happened and what, I feared, had not.

The next day was a Tuesday and, between meeting my mother’s needs and my children’s needs, the day went by quickly. When the evening came and things started slowing down, I sat down at my computer to try to figure out what was going on. I started by checking my e-mail. I had over 800 e-mail messages in my in-box. That was like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. It was just too much to face, so I shut down my e-mail.

My hands shook as I opened my assignment folders. I couldn’t find any of the work that I remembered doing. The Chantix was still somewhat in my system, so my thoughts weren’t exactly clear. The recesses of the darker part of my imagination threw up dozens of paranoid explanations, which I quickly rejected. I felt like I was losing it. I needed to ground myself. So, I went back to my e-mail, sent off a frantic message to my co-author, and called it a night, all the while hoping to wake up to discover that this was just a nightmare and everything was really just fine and dandy.

Wednesday morning my co-author and I had a Skype meeting and he told me what had happened from his perspective. The short version is that I’d been “gone” for two weeks. He’d sent e-mail messages I’d never answered. He left messages on my work line and my home phone. I didn’t show up for our regularly scheduled Skype meetings. He couldn’t get in touch with me via any of my known methods of contact. He’d honestly feared that I, and possibly my entire family, had died.

By then my e-mail in-box had over 900 messages. I started to filter out the spam from the legitimate messages, but I only got through about 400 messages (just sorting them), before I was overwhelmed. My clients had been trying to reach me, and like my co-author they’d grown increasingly frantic and worried. I sent off heartfelt, honest apologies to my clients. I then went upstairs, told my husband how thoroughly I’d messed up, and cried on his shoulder for a good 15 minutes. I went back downstairs and started reading the messages I’d missed over the last two weeks.

Despite the mess my business was in, life went on around me and there were many needs I had to meet. My mom was in the hospital until Friday; then, she was moved into a nursing home. The boys needed me, my mom needed me, and my clients were all very understanding. I struggled to get everything back under control, but my confidence was shattered. Even though it wasn’t exactly my fault, it was definitely my failure. I felt it keenly. I’d messed up so thoroughly that I didn’t know what to do to fix it.

Honestly, I tried to manage everything I needed to do for my family and I tried to do everything I hadn’t done for my clients. I tried and I failed. The next day I’d try again, and fail. Again, and again, and again, and again. The stress of my ongoing failure was killing me. I was exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep. I’d lay in bed and worry myself to pieces until I fell into a restless daze.

Finally, the stress did its thing and I succumbed to a fibromyalgia flare up that floored me completely. When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I’d sought treatment, in part, because my pain was hovering between a 5 and a 6 on a daily basis (out of 10, with 10 being bad). I’d also sought treatment because my ability to concentrate was shot to hell. Before the Chantix, I’d gotten my daily, regular pain down to a 3. My concentration wasn’t fabulous, but it was good enough to do my work. After the Chantix and all the consequences of those two weeks, my pain was at a 7 out of 10. My ability to concentrate was as bad as it’d been at my worst. I could not do my work. I just couldn’t do it at all. I was too ashamed to face my clients. I could barely meet the needs of my children and my mother. I could barely function. I felt like a complete failure. I was so thoroughly depressed that I couldn’t see my way out.

Yet, there’s that part of me that still believes in fairy tales. There’s an even larger part of me that believes in a loving God who answers prayers. I had hope that things were going to turn around in a major, life-altering way. All I had to do was hang on for Wednesday.


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