Archive for May, 2013

May 31, 2013

Three marketing ideas for the weekend

The end of another full week--and the beginning of a wonderful weekend!

The end of another full week–and the beginning of a wonderful weekend!

It’s been another crazy week. No, really, it’s been a crazy month, but in spite of the busy-ness, there’s not much I would change about it.

I would, however, like to catch up on some marketing ideas that I’ve come across and haven’t had a chance to blog about.

Here’s one:

Re-categorize your books. According to this web article at The Writer’s Guide to e-Publishing, there are new categories for science fiction, fantasy, etc. While these aren’t available through KDP, there may be ways to access them by the way the books are tagged in KDP. I may try this  this weekend, just for the fun of it.

And here’s another:

Self-published books as the new query letter, by Laura Howard. Really? Well, there are a few self-published authors out there who have been picked up by traditional publishing houses. It’s an intriguing idea. It certainly expands the idea of a query letter. In my mind, this might appeal to agents because it could show whether an author’s writing style is marketable as well as how involved that author is in the marketing process. I’m really not sure what I think of this one, but it’s an idea to watch.

And one more:

Taking down books that don’t have anything to do with what you really write. This has more to do with branding than anything, I think, and this post at Catherine, Caffeinated is an interesting take on the idea. This is another task on my to-do list that’s been on there for a long time. I hope to actually get it done this weekend.

May 31, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: Sunshine on my head


At times it seems the world feeds me with bread,

With bits of crumbled dreams that build my own,

And warmth and joy, like sunshine on my head,

And friendship, so that I am not alone.

I sometimes wonder whether I was meant

To float on peaceful waters every day.

(I’m certain it would be a life well spent,

if I could simply learn to live this way.)


Happy Friday!

May 25, 2013

Star Trekkin’ to deadline, and worlds we love

Star Trek on my television screen :)

Star Trek on my television screen 🙂

I now have less than a week to my next deadline. This assignment has been challenging, both because of the topic and scope and because I used most of my time working on family-related projects.  Somehow I’ve gathered enough information for eight solid drafts.

I hoped to finish a more polished draft yesterday afternoon. Instead, I ate pizza and fun-size Snickers and drank raspberry soda (Friday is my eat-anything day), and then I watched the newest Star Trek movie with my sweetheart. We’re tentatively planning a trip to the cinema latter today to see the even-newer one.

A small part of me wonders whether I should take the time to go, but that’s just a very small part of me, easily silenced by the promise of entertainment. The thing is, even if I stayed at home and chained myself to my desk, I couldn’t do much more than I’ve already done until the people I need to check facts with are back at work.

That leave me until Tuesday morning to enjoy the Star Trek world.

As I listed my priorities for this weekend and for early next week, I realized that losing myself in make-believe worlds is completely therapeutic for me. I found myself mentally counting worlds I’ve enjoyed losing myself in–C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Harry Potter, both Star Wars and Star Trek, Jane Austen’s writings and even occasionally Little House on the Prairie–and the list goes on.

I think it’s partly why I like to write. Authors are world-creators. They spark imaginations, provide a safe escape from reality and allow us the chance to experience something we could never find ourselves doing otherwise.

I fall for great settings, mapped out through action and sensory-experiences: colors and shapes, sounds, smells and the way something feels under fingertips. Even the history of a place, if written well enough, wraps itself around me, and I find myself digging deeper into the story. If these experiences are new, I become an explorer, hiking to the top of the next ridge to see what’s beyond it. I have always loved exploring.

When an author creates a world this alluring, I come back to visit as often as I can. These world-immersions have become a family tradition: Harry Potter in the basement on hot summer days, Lord of the Rings on the family room floor at Thanksgiving.

Today, it’s Star Trek. In the cinema. And I am happy.


May 25, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: The dark night

Lights in the darkness

Lights in the darkness!

There are times I fade to black

and allow the night to stake its claim

upon my sorrow, guilt and shame.

I have to fight to not look back…

On the horizon, I see light,

the promise of a place to stay

until I find the light of day

that comes beyond the edge of fright.

And so I let each step go by

like shredded papers in a flame,

the ashes of my very name

rising like smoke into the sky.

I’m waiting for the end of Blaze,

when all that’s left is one last spark

rising up into the dark,

the promise of forgotten days.

There is this Dark Night of the Soul

that every ember has to face

before it rises to its place–

a phoenix, at last, complete and whole.

May 17, 2013

Growing pains

When she was just a year old...

When she was just a year old…

Something big happened this week. Something that, even though my family talked about it, I didn’t see coming, didn’t expect, wasn’t prepared for.

Finding jobs near where we live has become next to impossible for teenagers. A downturn in the local economy means that all the jobs youth used to take are now filled by adults struggling to take care of their families. As a result, my eldest daughter started looking for work elsewhere.

On Tuesday, we traveled to my parent’s home, hours and hours away.

On Wednesday, my daughter interviewed and was offered a job with a local fast food franchise. She accepted it.

That night, I left her in the wonderful care of my parents–for the next few months. She’ll come home to visit only a handful of times. We’ve both had some tearful moments. I imagine the rest of the spring and summer will be that way, and she’ll come home completely grown up.

For a few days, I was heartbroken enough to not want to write. At all. That hardly ever happens to me.

Thankfully, she seems to be settling in pretty well. Her co-workers seem to like her, she likes her job and she loves spending time with her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. She has school work and her job, and she plays with her dog when she’s  not busy with school or work. Most likely the time will fly by.

It’s caused me quite a bit of introspection. Have I taught her the confidence she needs to face society without me? Will she find ways to be happy when she’s homesick? What tools have I passed on that will help her reach her goals? What bad habits that she’ll have to overcome?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit this week about life with her when she was tiny. She is one of the reasons I started writing. I wanted to be home with her, and with her siblings when they came along. I still needed a way to connect with the outside world, and I needed a way to help with finances, even if what I brought in was meager.

I wouldn’t trade it now for anything. I took her with me on all kinds of interviews. She traveled with me to towns I visited and wrote about for ND Business Watch. She came into shops with me, sat quietly in armchairs while I visited with people in their homes, followed me everywhere. We had fun. We still talk about the towns we saw, the museums we wandered through, the parks and the libraries and the rivers and the way tiny old shops on forgotten Main Streets became treasure chests.

Writing meant we were together.

Even during the hard times, the long days I spent away from home during legislative sessions, we were sometimes sneaky enough to find ways to eat lunch together. She pampered me on deadline weeks by sorting the laundry and starting the dishes, and I spoiled her when I could.

All in all, I think I got the better end of the deal. There’s nothing like just spending time with your child, nothing as wondrous as seeing them enjoy what you do.

And nothing is as difficult as letting them grow into their own thing when it’s time.

These are just growing pains. We may not be together all the time, but we have ways to keep in touch, and we use them often. As broken-hearted as I feel, I also feel that this is right. This is how it’s supposed to be.

I’m finally getting over the poor-me syndrome. I’m wanting to write again, and again, she’s a large part of my motivation. She’s old enough to really understand what it’s like to work, and I want to make her proud of me. It pushes me on.

I will always be grateful to her for that.

May 17, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: Friday morning



I can’t stay away from growing things.

I feel compelled to look inside,

to drink the beauty nature sings–

my soul will not be satisfied

until I’ve tasted all the flowers

and ridden every springtime breeze.

(It’s just a way to pass the hours,

and I have one whole day to seize!)

May 13, 2013

Write more and sell more

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, someday you'll have a beach where good things will wash up.

If everything you write is a pebble or a grain of sand, and you write a lot, someday you’ll have a beach where good things will wash up.

Does anyone else follow The Passive Voice? I’ve been getting updates from this site by e-mail for a while now. On the whole, there’s a digital warehouse full of good information for authors—what’s going on in the publishing world, for instance, and what’s going on in the self-publishing world, and tips for marketing your books so you can make money as a writer.

Most of the posts here have been reposted from other spots around the internet. My favorite so far was a post entitled What’s Your Novel Worth? NVP and Cash Flow, by author and publisher Jeff Posey (check out the comments on his site, too–some are very insightful).

He said this:

The most productive thing a publishing writer can do is write and publish.

And, a few paragraphs later:

Lesson: Write more, do other stuff less.

Posey has an MBA in corporate finance and uses this article to teach authors to think of their writing in terms of Net Present Value, or what your novel is worth financially. He uses three examples to show how to evaluate this, and then says it’s not cash flow. His advice, for authors who want to build a nice residual income, is to be persistent, talented and patient. It takes some time to get where you want to be.

This particular post was inspiring for me partly for two reasons:

  1. I was wondering how much time I should be spending marketing and promoting books. Although I believe this will always be a large part of the formula for success for any author seeking to actually make money through writing books, perhaps it still can be looked at in a different light. Writing and writing well is still the most important thing. That makes me happy! Writing a lot, and getting it out there where people can find it, seems to be a true strategy for success.
  2. Knowing that it takes some time to build up a clientele makes writing feel like a business rather than a hobby. It becomes something you can build a solid business plan around. Most of the writers I know hold other jobs, too, but this allows them to at least daydream realistically about the future when they will be able to set everything but writing aside.  I read somewhere else—and now I can’t remember where—that it takes nine years for a nonfiction author to build a solid platform for marketing books. Perhaps fiction writing is similar. (The lesson here, I think, is not to give up if your first few books don’t magically change your life. Keep at it, and chances are this dream can still come true. )

Although the analysis was geared toward authors, I bet this advice can be applied to photographers, painters, poets and artists from every other persuasion. Just enjoy what you do, and don’t give up. It’s the whole Rome-wasn’t-built-in-a-day thing.

With that in mind, I’m wishing everyone a happy and productive week. 🙂

May 12, 2013

Ten wonderful quotations about success

DCF 1.0

Yesterday I relaxed with SUCCEED—Inspirational and Motivating Quotations About Success, compiled by Peter Begley. It was one of those experiences that made me feel like I was adrift on a floating chair in the middle of a beautiful lake. My soul went Ahhhh.

And so I’m sharing the Ahhh—someness of it here, with my top ten favorite quotes from this book (not necessarily in any order):

  1. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.~Walt Disney
  2. I criticize by creation–not by finding fault.~Cicero
  3. Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.~Alfred A. Montepert
  4. Remember that what you have now was once among the things you only hoped for.~Epicurus
  5. Wise men make more opportunities than they find.~Francis Bacon
  6. Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.~Thomas A. Edison
  7. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.~Mahatma Gandhi
  8. Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.~Howard Aiken
  9. Find a job you like and you will add five days to every week.~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
  10. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not the desire to beat others.~Ayn Rand

And in light of my last post, this one is just for me, I think:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.~Bill Cosby

That’s why, as a writer, I have to think about my target audience; as a marketer, I have to think about branding; and as an individual, I have to strive for a balanced life.

May 11, 2013

Mom taught me five strategies for balanced living

My beautiful Mom as a young woman

My beautiful Mom as a young woman

I’m a people-pleaser. This gets me into trouble sometimes, because I have this deep longing to make the world right for everyone around me.  I used to joke with my closest friends and extended family members about this.

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a fairy godmother and go around granting wishes and making people’s dreams come true,” I said.

The truth was, I half-meant it. After all this time, I still can’t think of a better way to live than to try to make other lives better and happier. I’m getting better at it, and most of the time it’s completely enjoyable.

The trouble arises when I allow my ego to get wrapped up in what I’m doing rather than in what I’m becoming. When this happens, I accidentally base my sense of self-worth on whether or not people are feeling happier because of my efforts.

Most of the time, I realize I can’t control the emotional choices others make, and I shouldn’t try to. I should just do what I can and then move on and respect the decisions they live by.  Every once in a while, I have to take a step back and re-prioritize my efforts.

This weekend has been such a time. After two weeks of doing all I could to please a variety of different people in a plethora of personal catastrophes, my life began to wobble.

It wasn’t the complete I’m-off-kilter-and-I’m-going-to-fall feeling, but I wasn’t feeling the calm balance that I seek for, either. And—because I write best when the rest of my life is balanced—this kind of living quickly becomes an issue for me.

There are a few people I trust in this world completely, enough to allow them to give me a talking to when I need it. This time around, it was my wonderful Mom who set me straight.

“You only need to worry about five things,” she said. “Say no to everything else, and the pieces of your life will fall into place.”

We stayed up well past one in the morning discussing those five things. These really aren’t new life strategies for me, but they clarify what allows me to live and write best.

  1. Physical wellness—I am physically not capable of making the world perfect, and I need to remember that. Otherwise, I get too busy fixing problems to eat, too wound up to sleep, too nervous to settle down at my desk and just write away. Because of this, I need to say no to some opportunities to help so that I can be well enough to help well when real crises occur. (Also, who wants a busybody trying to run things? Really?)
  2. Emotional/spiritual wellness—this is akin to the physical wellness, but it has more to do with how I view myself. It means extracting my ego from all the things I do, including my writing, and detaching myself from the outcome. I actually feel love better and deeper when I set my ego on a shelf in the back of my mind and just enjoy the processes of life. Writing comes more easily, too, because in this position I’m able to withhold judgment from even myself…it’s the whole hold-the-inner-critic thing that makes first-draft writing flow.
  3. Environmental wellness—Part of life’s greatest joy for me is to create a specific type of environment around me. I seek for peace and beauty, but it takes time to keep things clean and orderly, to plant and tend flowers and trees and gardens, to keep clutter at bay, to raise the living room blinds and allow sunshine to fill my home. I sometimes have to say no to other people so that I can make these things happen around me. It’s worth the effort, because this kind of environment makes my family just as happy as it makes me, and their happiness is something I will always seek for.
  4. Meaningful time with family and others—Beyond creating a happy environment, this includes reading aloud to my toddler, chatting with my teenage daughters, staying up way too late visiting with my Mom, going to see Iron Man 3 in the theaters with my sweetheart, etc. This also means prioritizing the volunteer opportunities that arise so that my energy can make the biggest impact where it’s needed most. Keeping commitments to programs I believe in, like the scouting program, is a part of that, but it too has to be kept in balance.
  5. Writing—It seems like the first four priorities feed directly into this one. I cannot write consistently and well if the rest of my life isn’t balanced. By the same token, the rest of my life feels incomplete if I’m not taking time to write every day. It’s part of the joy of my life.

I’m glad Mom was willing to stay up so late discussing things with me.  She is completely wonderful. She is the fairy godmother I’m going to be like when I grow up. 

May 11, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: Relief

An old grain silo at sunset, in North Dakota

An old grain silo at sunset, in North Dakota

As sun’s last rays fold colors into gray

and brightness into twilight’s solitude,

I stare down the scarce remains of Day

and gather all my strength, to change my mood.

Night-time is a song I love to sing,

so I find peace in every setting sun–

but deeper now, the solace Night will bring

comforts me. (I’m glad this day is done.)

Happy Friday, everyone!

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