Category Archives: General


rabbit hole

I’ve always found that the easiest way to talk about marketing with authors is to take the whimsical approach. It helps to show the creative side of this so-called monster, and makes the author comfortable with this challenging and sometimes overwhelming task. Like learning to cook or sew, it all starts with exploration. We learn how to use a knife, how to choose fabrics, and how to create something delicious or beautiful. It’s how we learned to write. A story seed drops into the mind and the creative juices take over. Marketing is no different. Every new and exciting thing we try requires taking a leap of faith. Learning how to  ride a bike, how to run a marathon, how to knit or raise children are all pretty much the same. Learning new things, the rules that govern those activities or results, and exploring ways to be the best at it is just part of human nature.

Unfortunately, most authors look at marketing as a foreign concept designed to interrupt or corrupt the creative writing mind. Not so at all. Great marketing is a creative process, just like great writing. It generates excitement in the creator as well as those viewing the marketing efforts. It connects prospective readers to your book and all the wonderfulness you put into it. The only difference between writing a great book and marketing a great book is that to write it, the author had no fear of leaping willingly down the rabbit hole.

Now, it’s time to consider taking that leap again … this time to create great, powerful, and super creative marketing to help get more sales for your book.

Here are 3 ways you can take that leap down the Author Marketing Rabbit Hole to find solutions you might have thought were too difficult to locate or implement. In that rabbit hole are all the answers! Be brave and jump right on in with me!

Alice 1ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Willingly take the Courageous Plunge

Alice might have been bored, she might have been curious, or she might have even been rebellious; all three qualities work great for an author afraid of marketing. Like Alice, you need to follow an idea all the way down the rabbit hole before you can actually see how it can work for you and your book.

Being brave is not new to authors. You had the courage to write your idea on paper and watch it go out into the world. The rules of marketing involved locating the right audiences for your book, creating a bond with those prospective book buyers, and allowing those buyers to make the purchase. None of this is familiar to authors, but those things are techniques easily learned.

For now, take that brave soul that helped you write your book and jump! Take the leap and let ideas flow and clatter, crash and burn, meld and explode. Do this for fifteen or twenty minutes every few days. Sit quietly and slip down the rabbit hole. Imagine yourself as the customer and think about what touches you, connects with you, compels you to make a purchase of anything…not just a book. Explore the creative and not so creative marketing approaches you’ve seen for everything from cleaning products and car advertisements, to commercials for burial plots and coffee creamer. Let these thoughts come and go. Don’t be analytical, just feel. What emotion made you want to buy a product or hire a service? Which promotions entertained you? Which movie trailers made you want to run and buy a ticket, and which commercials or billboards made you smile, but gave you no desire to react to the offer. Marketing is going on all around you. Let it all play in your quiet space for a few quiet moments, then simply let it go.

This is the true essence of dropping down the rabbit hole. Because you let the concepts and ideas simply flow across your brain, subconsciously your brain snagged a few that will stick with you. Because you didn’t think hard and worry or put the concepts under a microscope, the process has a chance to become second nature. You’ve just introduced your mind to the creative marketing process by allowing it to observe what made you feel and what entertained. This is the truth of marketing.

By willingly slipping down this rabbit hole, you will discover that marketing is a) less scary than you thought, b) far more creative that you imagined, and c) needs an emotional connection to work. Bravo. After just a few rabbit hole sessions, you will have learned far more about marketing that you would have by reading a hundred books or listening to a thousand other authors. You’ll also discover that you no longer need to sit quietly to do this, it will become a constant little wheel turning in your mind all the time.

queen 2QUEEN OF HEARTS – Use Strategy

This approach to the rabbit hole is very different. The queen sits at the bottom of the hole and waits to see what will drop into her queendom. Before it even arrives, she’s got a plan.

Are you a planner? Does blindly following Alice down the rabbit hole terrify you? Are you the kind of person who packs for a vacation weeks ahead of time, repacks various items, and watches the weather at your vacation destination like a hawk? The Queen of Hearts doesn’t like surprises, so she has a plan for everything, even a wayward author falling into her grasp.

If you want to use strategy for marketing, you have to first of all acknowledge that the marketing rabbit hole exists. It’s the hallway to success and you will need to take that path. Instead of jumping in and letting ideas flow, you may want to plan for what may come up. For example, if you are specifically seeking a way to approach a particular audience—lovers of motor cycles because that is a primary unique hook within your story—introduce that into your mind before you start your quiet slide down the rabbit hole. You’ll be amazed how many concepts will slip and slither past your thoughts and how many directions to that audience become clearly visible during a quiet marketing rabbit hole session. It’s all about guiding your subconscious toward your goal. Like Alice, you’ll get better and better at seeing the solutions as you familiarize yourself with this process. A strong strategy will point your mind in the right direction.

hatter 1MAD HATTER – Learn the Lay of the Land

Here’s one crazy dude, but the Mad Hatter is a perfect tour guide for the marketing world at the bottom of the rabbit hole. He’ll show the right and wrong paths to take—he just might not always guide you correctly. Mad Hatter is all about making mistakes and laughing about it as you turn around and try another direction. He’s all about making it okay to fail, and making success all the sweeter because of the journey.

I clearly understand that many authors want to know the lay of the land before they proceed. These are the serious researchers, the detail people, and the authors who make a strong book business plan before moving ahead with a project. Learning the lay of the marketing world isn’t hard, but it is a convoluted path that can, like Mad Hatter, easily lead you down a hundred wrong roads before you locate the right one. Here’s the trick—every path is right, but only for the right author. What works for one authors and sells thousands of books, may crash and burn for another author.

Marketing for a book is as personalized as the author’s taste in Indian food. It all varies. Learning the lay of the land could mean reading hundreds of books on marketing, taking workshops and classes, and asking every marketing professional who’ll listen and answer your questions. One technique could be a gold mine for one book, but not work at all for the next book. Twitter alone might be a boon for one genre and author but for another, three different networks working in harmony may be required. Understanding what works best for you and your book requires taking everything learned from the resource you use…then taking the leap down the rabbit hole for creative ideas. Everything you learned from your resources will help strategize the creative solutions you discover on your journey. You already have an idea of the terrain, so when a wonderful, creative marketing concept emerges for your book, you can apply everything you know to create the sales you want.

Just remember, the Mad Hatter loves to laugh, so laugh with him when something doesn’t work. Be ready to create your own hybrid of marketing techniques that will work for your book. Oh, and have fun!

white rabbit 2So there you have it. 3 Ways to go down the author marketing rabbit hole. Which way will you take the plunge?

 Write Brain.Left BrainAVAILABLE NOW


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ConfusedI’ve written about it in my book, Finding Author Success. I blog about it. I speak on the subject all over the country. I even teach a workshop dedicated to it. I’m here today to tell you all that even the teacher falls on her butt sometimes. Read on with courage, this is the cautionary tale no author likes to hear.

We all do it. We start with great intentions and make charts and graphs; we watch our time management and plow ahead for author success. Whether we’re focused on meeting a writing deadline or reaching a certain number of sales, we’re as diligent as tiny ants building our anthill for the future.

directionsThen something happens. Sometimes it’s something big, sometimes it’s something personal and often it’s something that entices us so much we lose sight of the career plan we had in mind when we started. Then … one day we wake up and realize we can’t even remember the last time we blogged or popped in at twitter or even thought about finding a new target audience to sell our book to. This, my friends is an ugly, ugly day. The best and most humble way I can help you all is to admit my own failure in this category. (Yes, I’m looking at my toes and blushing.)

too busy 2Here’s my story, not that it matters much because all our stories are just excuses. My career took off in directions I totally didn’t expect. Over the past 18 months, I’ve moved from Los Angeles back to my east coast home town of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I’ve lost nine (count ‘em, 9) family members and attended nine funerals. That averages one every two months! It’s a very large, very old Italian family and should be expected, but Italian families, socializing and food go hand in hand so lots of time beyond the heartbreaking mourning was focused on these events. Also during those eighteen months, Cold in California and Monkey Jump, books #1 and #2 of the Twice-Baked Vampire Series were released. In November of 2011, Finding Author Success was released and therein came the complication. All my wonderful platforms for my fiction were in place and singing when suddenly, I was in demand as an Author Success Coach. I became booked to speak with several writing groups and at several conferences, I rejoined the Pennsylvania writing organization (Pennwriters) and found myself running one of the local monthly meetings. Authors continued to reach out to me and sign on for one-on-one coaching, I became heavily scheduled to teach online and live workshops … and on top of all that, I found myself flirting with and being wooed by a new, very inventive and interesting publisher. The love affair grew and I’m now with Assent Publishing as their Romance Imprint Editor, AND as the Dean of The Accent Academy, a unique, specially created marketing training program exclusively for contracted Assent authors. There’s more. Now I blog and actively do social media marketing for the Imprint, field queries and edit contracted manuscripts  … oh … and we’re currently running the GREAT ROMANCE contest. Yes, I’m still writing too!

So … pretty damn productive, right? Yes, right, and a little bit wrong too. What happened to my own fiction and nonfiction marketing activities over these recent months? Um … right. Neglected. Not intentionally neglected, I guarantee you, I’ve felt regret and remorse with every month that passed but what’s an author to do? It’s not my first time at this rodeo, I trip and fall like everyone else. What I’ve learned is that the only way back up onto the horse is to … get back up onto the horse.

back on the horse


Those are the three tricks for regaining that power grip on your marketing trajectory. Whether you’ve simply gotten too busy with family things or that wonderful new manuscript you’re working on, or your career suddenly sprouted a plethora of new branches like mine, we all lose traction and when we look up, discover that we’re nowhere near where we thought we’d be. Here’s how to get back on track.

back up and puntBACK UP AND PUNT!

Take inventory. Are you miles from where you were, or just a few yards from that first down? Have you lost a huge number of your blog following or fan base, or just had a little hiccup that can easily be corrected. How far off the mark are you? Be honest. When was the last time you blogged or tweeted or visited your own Facebook page? How are your numbers – book sales, blog visits, and website stats? Have you fallen from receiving 1,500 hits at your blog every day (whether you do a blog entry or not) down to ten or fifteen a day? Doing an honest evaluation of your current status based on your standard performance before the fall is the only way to fix this mess.

regroup, 1REGROUP

What’s salvageable and what’s not? Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting back in the saddle and spurring ahead. Picking up where you left off is good, but remember, everything works hand in hand. If you’ve been away from everything and you write a new blog entry,  tweeting and facebooking about it won’t get the same results it did before you went AWOL. All your friends and followers have moved on to other things and people. Besides, they’ll need a little proof that they can trust you again. That you’ll be there as consistently as you were before, and your blogs will hold their interest or give them that added value they used to love. One blog won’t do it. Not even two blogs. It could be just like it was at the very beginning and you may need to consistently blog, on time and with great content, for months before you can regain what you might have lost. It’s okay. It’s sort of like giving birth. The labor is terrible, but the results are fantastic. Getting your 1,500 blog hits back will be the reward you need to keep going and remember how good it felt to do this blogging things well. Make a conscious effort to rebuild your Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Yahoo Groups and Blog following. You remember from before, it only gets easier from there.


How did this happen in the first place? Were you desperate to have a normal life and enjoy the weather or your family or maybe even reading other authors’ books? Or did you overload yourself to the point of exhaustion and resentment? Did you find yourself in the magical vortex of a new story you needed to write, or did you look for a reason not to market? Did you find yourself taking on more and more all in a scattered effort to grow your career (guilty), or did you face a crisis of faith about your career? Whatever it was, you should take a few moments to identify and analyze it so that you’ll be better prepared next time it looms its ugly head.  Too busy? Streamline your activities. Take a good look at what you’re doing and how it fits into your plan. Too many projects at once? Consider doing one at a time. Too many commitments away from the keyboard? A little tough love might be required to grab hold of your time again. Have you lost focus on your original goal? Or has that original goal changed? Figure it out, stand next to it and own it. Finding the center is all about balance and the ability to understand ourselves. I’m not talking about the labels we all hold on to – I’m a workaholic, I’m a perfectionist, I’m lazy, I’m special, I’m not important – I’m talking about the deep reality of ourselves. Sometimes it hard to face the fact that we can’t do ten things at once, even though we tell ourselves we’re the master multi-tasker of the universe. Finding the center is a reality based fact-finding mission we should all embark upon at least once every year. It requires taking every aspect of our life into consideration and never squashing one for the other. It means taking special efforts to never become overworked because every Wednesday afternoon we go out for a walk or take the afternoon to play with the cat. It means honoring the whole person who contributes to the whole author we are. Find the center and it will be a piece of cake to get back on tract for the career you want.

I’ve started. I’ve taken inventory, streamlined my commitments and have seriously respected the center and balance I need.

And … I’m back. I’ve missed you all! I’ll be blogging here every month. I’ll tweet like a songbird again. I’ll be at Facebook asking my question of the day. And because I’ve told you all … I am accountable.

Write Brain.Left Brain


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Authors! Three Tips for Keeping Your Marketing Momentum

How do you keep the MARKETING love alive? We authors have a massive load on our shoulders! We have to work to pay the bills, take care of family, socialize occasionally with friends, write books and … Dum dum daaaaaa … promote and market them too. It’s a lot to ask of anyone, but asking an author who is basically creative to suddenly become an analytical and business-like person is sort of like asking a dog to be a cat two days a week.

Guess what? We have to do it anyway.

I’m sure you’ve all faced the dilemma of starting some kind of marketing strategy for your book and discovered that after some time (a few days or weeks or months) that fantastic strategy has sort of fizzled out. What’s an author to do? We don’t want to start from scratch but we can’t just stop marketing and promoting or demand for our next book will be next to nothing!  Catch 22? Nope, it’s just time to put on our thinking caps again.

Creativity is creativity and if you look at marketing and promoting your books as part of the whole creative process – rather than look to what other authors have done and try to imitate that for success (i.e. giveaways, FB ads, book marks and imprinted mugs) – you are sure to find the perfect formula for success that works for you and your book.

The reason most “tried and true” marketing strategies fizzle out so quickly is that they are basically overused. The prospective book buyer has seen them a thousand times. The key to keeping your marketing push alive, well and hopping is to keep it moving like a good boxer with great footwork.

Here are three tips to reboot your marketing efforts that won’t take a ton of time or energy, just a little creativity.


It’s the ugly truth – your book is in the same genre and tapping into the same market as a thousand other books. You do what the most successful authors are doing, at least you try, but it always falls flat quickly.

This is a simple study in looking the other way, or in this case, ANOTHER way. I’ve always found that if everyone is taking a particular freeway at a particular time, it’s easiest on my gas tank and my nerves to simply take a different freeway.  Apply that to your marketing and everything gets a whole new light.

For example, if all the authors are slamming away on the newest trick of the day … giveaways or contests or scavenger hunts … you need to look at doing something they are not doing. In fact, this works best if it’s something they never even thought about doing.

Consider creating a high visibility promotion that includes publicity: a walk for cancer by zombie book lovers (in costume of course), or blood drive where vampire authors donate blood and attempt to reach a goal of a certain number of donors in a limited time. This kind of publicity gets noticed and if you are the author who created it, it also has long term positive ramifications as you move ahead in your writing career.

Have you thought about doing an event at a nurses group or meeting of the local garden club? Trust me, nursing and gardening aren’t all these groups talk about or all they do. These people like to read too. If you offer to do a reading and Q&A at a meeting of the local women’s club, they might jump for joy. These organizations are always looking for interesting subjects and speakers for their meetings. And while every other author in your genre is pounding away, trying to give a way a free book on twitter, you’re signing a selling fifteen or twenty books at the Ladies Auxiliary meeting right in your home town.

Looking elsewhere is always a great way to keep your sales hopping. When you go back to the regular grind of twitter and facebook, you suddenly have some really fun and interesting experiences to talk about.


Ever been to Vegas? Even if you haven’t, you know the odds and what they mean. If Dan Brown writes a book, everyone buys it. He has all the odds in his favor, a big publisher, extraordinary talent, high visibility thanks to his wonderful marketing and publicity experts, and fans by the boat loads. How are we supposed to stand against all that?

Simple. Change the odds. For example, even if your book touches on similar subjects, has a similar story and similar characters, SOMETHING about your book is different and extremely unique. The only way to battle something as formidable as the Top Ten Best Sellers of the World is to find your hooks and make sure they’re sharp.

Is your hook the unique character traits? Use them. If your main character is a cigar expert, you need to tap into the cigar industry. If s/he is into vintage clothing or fine whiskey, there are two more audiences. The magic of changing the odds falls under the category of cross marketing. If you can cross market your book to music teachers or coffee lovers or the home building industry because your story and primary characters are connected with that subject, you are tapping into a new market.

Here’s the kicker, it’s not only a new market to connect with, it’s the same market Dan Brown is tapping into. He’s just doing it as the author of a few best selling books. You are stepping into that arena as the author of a book that fits the reader’s personal interest. You’re doing this without an expensive publicist or big publisher, you’re doing this as you. AND it really does change the odds because now you can sit at the same poker table with any author in the world. Stepping into this cross marketing arena also feels and looks different than how all the other authors are trying to market, so it’s a great freshener for your strategies.


When you want to do some marketing, where do you look? At other authors, of course. It’s a great place to look, right?


Yes, other authors are doing what authors do and I’m not telling you to stop doing the tried and true marketing techniques. I’m simply suggesting that you look outside the publishing world for interesting and powerful ideas.

Did you notice a slogan on the passing exterminator’s van that caught your fancy? A billboard that used just the right push for the product? A radio or television campaign that you can’t forget. Marketing and promotion is going on all around us and there are some fantastic approaches to the market just outside the publishing world. Don’t have narrow vision, lift your head and look around.

If you take a week and keep a small note pad at your side, you will find yourself observing and jotting down cool ideas from all kinds of products and services. These concepts impressed and intrigued you. They sparked your imagination and made you smile. All you have to do is think them through and see if one of those kinds of approaches will work for your book. Maybe you can’t do a teaser promotion on the radio like you heard for the new Tide with bleach … but you can do something similar with teasers in your blogs, on twitter or facebook. If the fun event to raise money  for your local zoo can’t exactly work for your book, perhaps there’s an element of that event that you can implement for your own marketing.

All I’m suggesting is that you can seriously impact your marketing approach if you just step away from the computer screen and look outside. Marketing is happening all around you! Get influenced by some of the best of our time.

So, there you go. Three tips for keeping your book marketing momentum alive and vibrant. Give them a try and let me know what you come up with!

The Eight Desperations of a Struggling Author

And all this time you thought becoming an author would be fun? Just for kicks and giggles, I thought I’d take a stab at the eight worst habits of the published and about to be published author.  (Good thing we’re not all like this!)

Desperate are the poor of spirit, for theirs is the hell of the hopeful without guts or a plan.

Desperate are they who gripe, for they learn nothing from the rejection form letter.

Desperate are the meek, for soft-spoken is less effective than a powerful voice.

Desperate are those who hunger for the pat on the back. Ain’t coming.

Desperate are the merciless, for they “borrow” ideas and audience but will forever suffer being unoriginal.

Desperate are the clean of chart, for without sharp strategy nothing is accomplished.

Desperate are the friend-makers, for they will forget to seek out genre fans and book buyers.

Desperate are those who persecute their fellow authors, for they will be friendless and ignored at important tradeshows.

 Your thoughts?

The Publishing Industry: Are we up a creek without a paddle?

I need to blow off some steam. My turn to rant. I’ve been through it all, writing classes up the wazzoo, critique groups to choke a horse, one of those really, really bad-news literary agencies we all know about, the search for good representation and the rejects, the requests, the pitching big and small independent publishers and back again. The agreements, the contracts – you name it, I’ve been there. (Sheesh, and I thought two divorces were bad?) Through it all, I’ve developed an Author Success Coaching business using the expertise of more than 30 years experience to help make sure authors trying to gain readers/buyers for their books can get as much success as possible, even in this crazy, gyrating industry vacillation.

Where are we all going to be in two, five, ten years? All the horror stories are out there. Watching this industry mutate into what it eventually will be is like giving birth, only more painful. What’s all the fighting about? You can’t hold that baby in, you know. It’s gotta come out, gotta grow, develop and become what it’s going to be. The baby? E-publishing of course.

Aww, look how cute it is? A really special infant! One that doesn’t cost nearly as much as it’s cumbersome, paper and printed mass-quantity books siblings. This little baby can be anyone’s child; big publishers can sire it, small independent publishers can make them, even authors can do this! It’s a … miracle.

Now, let’s talk quality. I have always been a supporter of self published authors, always made sure to focus my consulting efforts on their difficult responsibilities for marketing and promoting themselves and their work. Let’s face it, if the publishing industry in any form is going to survive, we’ve all got to market and promote. But more than that … we have all got to fight for good quality writing! We all have to strive to be better and better. Nothing turns a buying customer off more than having a bad experience with a product. One or two bad meals and they never go to that restaurant again. A bad fit and they won’t be purchasing clothing at that store again. And … badly written stories will eventually turn them off to buying books by specific authors and even specific publishers.

We – authors, agents, publishers and even online book stores – are in the entertainments business and if we don’t know that, we’re all going to be up a creek without a paddle.

Like movies and sports events, we’re fighting for the customer’s discretionary dollar – and Lord knows, there aren’t a whole lot of those these days. Lucky for us, e-books cost much less – unless of course, some backward thinking traditional publishers have their way. But then again, even though they don’t seem to know it yet, they’re not running the show anymore, are they?

We can sell books anywhere, anytime, and at everyone’s convenience. No more worrying about what time a store opens or closes or if they have the book we want in stock. No more concerns about returns and the recall of advances. Sure, we may not be looking at advances the way we used to, but what we as authors are looking at is a much, MUCH larger percentage of our book’s sale going right into our pocket.

I can see how all of this would get caught in the old school publishing dinosaur’s throat, can’t you? Without all the mammoth expenses of the traditional publishing model, how can the huge publishers demand so much anymore? I may be a little high on “possibilities” wine here, but doesn’t e-publishing level the playing field? Like, for the first time EVER?

This transitional period is going to be all about rolling with the waves, keeping our knees soft and understanding that everything eventually settles out. Kinda like skiing down a double black diamond slope; don’t hold your breath, keep your eyes peeled, your skis pointed downhill, hips loose and whatever you do, don’t panic.

We’re going to get through this, and the authors, publishers, literary agents and multitude of advisers out there will all do just fine if we stop paddling in different directions. Pick a path and go.

Go e-publishing because if you don’t at least seriously consider it today, it will make all the decisions for you later, and not that much later. In two years, it’s estimated we won’t even have paper magazines or newspapers anymore, no more traditional libraries, no more mega or mini book stores, just the internet for buying and downloading books. Why fight when the tide is this strong?

The future is nipping at our butts, let’s just make friends and forge ahead with the author careers we want on this new, exciting playing field?

The Truth about the Holiday Writer

Writing during the crazy high holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (or whatever ethnic or cultural winter solstice holiday you celebrate), New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day is a unique challenge. It’s nothing like Spring writing or Summer writing or early Fall writing. During those periods writers are inspired by the sun, the relaxation, cold libations and calm breezes. Life. Comfort. Free flowing creativity without distraction. Sigh

The crazies start before Halloween. Just seeing pumpkins and skeleton decorations affects me in not-so-good ways. My plots, characters and writing style braces to battle the hunger to let images of candy corn seep in. It gets worse as the Holidays progress. It’s simply not easy to plug a festive Christmas tree into an urban fantasy featuring double dead vampires plotting to survive purgatory in a West Hollywood warehouse. In other genres, I never seem to have my characters in the right place or state of mind to break out into Christmas carols or a fine rendition of “’Twas the Night before Christmas”. Can you imagine it? “Holiday Writer Wars – The Musical.”. Writing during these seasons is like traveling through the Orient and looking for a good burrito.

Plot, character and genre are not the only quandaries during all the distraction, either. Writers, like most adults with OCD, tend to overload our plates. Never mind those mad souls who take on NaNoWriMo during November, there are other insanities to add to our to-do lists. Holiday gift shopping, decorating, cooking and baking which of course are non-negotiable if you’re a social human animal, but there are a few other things that torment a writer.

Here’s the truth about the Holiday writer. He/she is obsessed with not compromising anything in their writing volume, quality or creativity just because ’tis the season. They are thinking ahead to the next year, adding writing/publishing/book sales goals to their New Year’s resolutions. They are learning everything they can to combat the competitive nature of being a good selling author … or they’re battling to gain agent representation, publishing contracts and establish platforms. None of this can slack just because the Holidays are upon us. And if we consider that this season really starts weeks before Halloween and ends on January 2 … that’s a full quarter of the year! The Holidays come every single year whether we have time for them or not. It’s part of life. Ancient cultures built their lives around ritual and celebration, so a small handful of writers aren’t going to change it … litigation is out of the question. But in truth there are only three ways to get through this.

One solution is to close shop, shut down and take the time off. Some people do need the time. Many writers begin the New Year charged and ready to set their keyboards afire after taking time away. They’re more productive, more creative, psyched and ready to take on the world. But I have heard that this ploy can backfire, especially if a writer is tentative, insecure, unsure or new, so option number one requires serious consideration.

The second way to deal is to ignore the Holidays. Yes, there actually are writers who do this, believe it or not. They Grinch up and snort at the world, focus on their computer screens and just plow ahead. Now, this might not be such a bad idea if you’re under a tight deadline of like … 90,000 words by January 15. Most people would understand that kind of pressure and probably even pitch in to help keep distractions away from you. But be careful. This particular approach can develop into a reclusive personality and you can forget getting even a Starbucks gift card next Christmas from your mother. There has to be balance.

The third and final possible solution is the one I use. I schedule everything. Obsessively, compulsively and with a watchful eye. I schedule fun and I schedule work. I schedule writing and planning and plotting a fantastic 2011, but I also schedule family time, cooking and baking time as well as leisure time to just smile and breathe. Today I get to put up my tree from 1 PM to 2 PM, then I must stop to write and plan an April workshop. Naturally I won’t get the tree finished in one hour, but I’ve scheduled time after dinner to decorate it with my roommate. Either way, I’ll have a tree to light and look at that I’d normally be scrambling to get up on Christmas Eve! I have tight deadlines (one of those January 15 deadlines on a new novel requested by my agent) but I also want to play with everyone else during the Holidays!

So, what are the compromises? I have to be careful. With a book coming out in March, I can’t slight anything too much. I tweet less, lighten up on my blogging schedule, teach no workshops between November and January. I Facebook only during the weekdays and … oh yeah, I actually go for a walk every day … outside the house … where there is fresh air! Honest! It’s funny, but I’ve discovered that if I do something like that it makes me feel better, feel productive and feel festive. Although, I do confess that I SO hate those blow up Holiday characters bobbing in the Santa Anna winds at just about every other house, but I do refrain from carrying a pen knife. Now I call that having the Holiday spirit, don’t you?

What do you do to battle the need to be productive amidst all the Holiday hubbub? What do you do to enjoy the season? How do you survive it?

Happy Holidays to every one of you! I’ll be back to blooging speed in January, ready to finish the Book Business Plan Series and start an all new series on Multi Level Book Promotions.

Until then, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good WRITE!

MIA Writer Wakes!!!

Oh how I’ve missed you! My pleasant, letter-fading keyboard is smiling at me because it knows I’m about to actually blog! Yes, it’s been a very long time, months in fact and I can’t honestly say why. This seems like something I should seriously explore, and in five brief points, I can probably break it down.

  1. I got an agent. Yes, I know this sounds like a great thing and one of those events that truly ratchets up your life so it sings loud and strong and on key but … nope. Instead, what this bigger-than-big event did to me was something very different. After years of writing and editing and disassembling and re-plotting and rewriting and querying and literally hundreds of rejections before the big YES, I was tossed into a strange abyss. What now? I mean … a huge percentage of my creative time went into writing and redesigning the verbiage for query letters, researching agencies and specific agents and pushing the send button then holding my breath. It seemed that after someone wonderful said, “Yes, I want to offer you representation!” I just forgot to start breathing again. Everything came to a stand-still and if you know me at all … standing still is not my forte.
  2. I took a deep breath, finally. Yes, finally, after realizing it wasn’t a dream and someone wasn’t coming to my door to snap away the contract, I started to breathe again. What to do next was a major dilemma. I always have so many things on the burner, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t know where to jump … so I stood quietly for a while, thought it all through then started to talk to my wonderful literary agent and new best friend about what I should do now. He had many, many suggestions. We share a common drive and sense of humor, my agent and me, so it was a rather fun conversation I wish I’d have initiated weeks earlier. I guess I was just in shock.
  3. I made my project list. I had a list … well hell, I always have a list. It’s bubbling to capacity with everything from writing/author groups activities, non-fic proposal projects at various stages of completion, the plotting for the next book in my Cold in California series, an all new woman’s fiction I started entitled 36 Full Moons, my online activities – twitter, my own author website, my neglected blog, and weekly updates for my writing website, Whispers of the Muse – and of course, preparing for a Book Business Plan Workshop I’ll be teaching online for SavvyAuthors. I’m currently taste testing recipes for a cookbook series I’m developing and as the resident personal chef for my roommate, I cook everyday. What else? Let’s see … yes, the list was getting scary and I realized it might be best to just ask my agent what he wants me to work on. He answered.
  4. The plan is outlined! An agent is a good guide and mine is the absolute best. He patiently sat and listened then began to make his recommendations, trimming my project list and giving everything a priority we can both live with. He had a good plan that respected the fact that, a) I work best when I’m busy with several projects, and b) that I’m the kinda maniac who needs deadlines for those projects. Thus came the success strategy for the next few months and I finally feel functioning again. I am to finalize the cookbook proposal. I’m to finish plotting the second book in the series he’s representing, as he’d love to have the first 3-5 chapters in his back pocket to wet the publisher’s whistle. He’s very interested in the women’s fiction novel (which makes me very happy since that one seems to be tugging hard at me), and he’s adamant that I keep active with my social marketing.
  5. The implementation. Harder than it sounds but I’m loving every minute of it. Back to blogging, back to twitter. Time to do some redesign and redirection for both blogging and my author website. I’ll be getting FaceBook started soon and focusing clean blocks of time for my fiction and non-fiction projects. Oh … and I’ll probably gain a few pounds while I finalize some of the recipes for the cookbook but hey … I’ll be sending those recipes to my agent who should be gaining a few pounds too, lol.

I don’t honestly know how to explain all this. I’ve always been a bustling, busy kinda gal, as productive as possible in as many venues as I could find but I definitely got lost for a little while there. I’m back … and I’ve never felt more alive and excited!

Time to take flight!

The Holidays Bit my Blog!

Opps! I almost completely forgot to blog! It’s Thursday, right? Who else is twisted with holiday responsibilities and trying to keep some semblance of a rational schedule? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

It’s suddenly gotten nuts around here. When did it get to be December 10th? This is all California’s fault. Even though this fine December, the weather has given me a cold blast (nothing by Pittsburgh PA’s standards but hey, my blood has thinned over the past three years), I’m still always confused about the seasons. If it wasn’t for the malls and those goofy, blow-up lawn decorations, I might miss Christmas all together.

One year, I had put up the tree and never got around to decorating it. Seriously. On Christmas Eve I took it down, too embarrassed for company to arrive and see a naked artificial blue spruce (the poor thing wasn’t even sporting a skirt). It was easier to explain I just didn’t want to put it up than tell them how disappointed I was that I didn’t have time to decorate it.

Over all the years of my adult life, the Holidays have been a touchstone that has kept me sane in a vibrating, insane sort of way. It’s like those moments right before the batteries run out (you think what you want) and you know you’ve gotta finish what you’re doing before it happens. Ten years ago I vowed to change it, to downsize the frenzy and find real peace in the Season. Now I’m afraid it’s gotten a little out of hand. Why else would I forget to enjoy the Holidays?

I suppose I’m obsessive compulsive. If I write, that’s all I do. When I find a favorite movie, I watch it again and again. If I’m in a Rusted Root or Counting Crows mood, it’s all I listen too. If I diet, I never eat enough. When I smoke, I smoke too much. If I decide to clean … well, you get the point.

I think it’s time for a little balance, so I’ve made a conscious decision to permit some of the Holiday craziness back into my life this year. I never expected it to take over but it’s my decision and I’m sticking to it. Now, let’s see, I must …

  1. Bake cookies
  2. Make wonderful food gifts
  3. Go shopping and actually read through the lists of what people want
  4. Clean the house
  5. Put up the tree AND decorate it
  6. Plan a Christmas brunch for the family
  7. Wrap all the gifts I make or buy
  8. Smile at everyone
  9. Restrain from hating those goofy inflatable lawn decorations people have
  10. Lose 10 pounds

Okay, what did I forget? Oh yeah, BALANCE. Now, let’s see, I must …

  1. Bake healthy cookies … and write between batches (yes, that sounds good)
  2. Make food gifts but maybe write a few gifts too, recipes are nice (now I’m cooking!)
  3. Go shopping, but after I’ve written and handled my publicity clients needs (must pay the bills)
  4. Clean the house, in spurts, between editing chapters or doing research (that feels possible)
  5. Put up the tree AND decorate it … AND be inspired by it to … write (right?)
  6. Plan Christmas brunch, but keep it simple (so I have time and energy to do what I really want to do … write)
  7. Wrap all the gifts in those pretty gift bags. (Someone give the inventor of gift bags the Nobel Peace Prize, please.)
  8. 8)      Smile at everyone. Easy, I’ll stay home most of the season, so I won’t see too many people. (I’d rather smile while I write anyway.)
  9. Restrain from hating those goofy inflatable lawn decorations – okay, I draw the line here. The best I can do is write an article about how much I HATE those things! Some of them even play Christmas Music! Can you believe it? And of course, the music is OFF KEY.
  10. Lose 10 pounds … okay … forget it.

All right, so maybe balance is more about doing what you really love to do while dealing with what you’d rather not do. If I play my cards right, I will enjoy this Holiday Season and still retain my time to write, cook, smile and HATE THOSE BLOW UP LAWN DECORATIONS.

See, told ya. Obsessive. And by the way, if all the fat air-filled Santa’s in Los Angeles are flat as a pancake on Christmas morning, I’m innocent. I don’t even own a penknife. Honest.

Found the Perfect Giveaway!

‘Tis the gift giving season and it’s sometimes harder to think our way through a shopping list than it is to plot a 120,000 word novel. It’s tough! We all forget people we shouldn’t forget (that’s what that stash of scratch-off lottery tickets is for), and we realize that the people we didn’t forget, simply have everything. It’s a dilemma. What to buy, what to buy?

Okay, admit it, we all re-gift and we all do it for various reasons. Sometimes I get a gift that simply doesn’t fit. But hey, my work friend is three sizes smaller and she’ll love it so ….  Sometimes the gift is not my taste, but my son loves alternative rock ‘n roll so he gets the disc. Sometimes I already have one of those and don’t feel like doing the whole exchange thing, but oh yes, my neighbor would love a Tupperware salad crisper. Re-gifting just happens.

I take re-gifting a little further. For years I was involved with Native American studies and one of the most special parts of a ceremony is the “giveaway”. The original concept of the giveaway was designed to move the wealth around the community. To offer what you have and receive something in return. It also held a lot of spiritual importance, as it passed along the energy of the original owner to the new owner. For example, in today’s giveaways, many women pass on pieces of jewelry or a favorite shawl. Men will giveaway good serviceable tools or leather coats. The heart of this practice is beautiful and more giving than when a person simply popped in at J.C. Penny’s and picked up a sweater or wallet for you.

The giveaway touches on the spirit of the giving person it came from. It’s hard to part with things sometime, but I believe that if you listen hard enough, that item will tell you when it’s time to move on. I’ve tried to institute the practice often, especially when I have to give a gift to someone I don’t know very well. It’s an opportunity to explain the lovely meaning of the giveaway, what they’re getting, why I felt the need to give it to them, and what the item had meant to me.

I wish the Holidays would be more like Giveaways.

But, among my closest friends they all know they’ll get something odd, strange and interesting from me. I may spice the item with something small from the store, but the guts of it is always deeply personal from me to them. Today as I did my annual search, I found something entertaining and fun to share with you, my fellow writers. I only wish I had a million of these to pass around, but instead, I’ll just give you bits and pieces right here in the blog.

In the many still sealed boxes I never got to after moving 3,000 miles to Los Angeles a few years ago, I found a little treasure that made me laugh. The book is entitled “Words that Sell”. It was published in 1984 by Asher-Gallant Press and written by Richard Bayan. It’s a cool little book that boasts being “A Ultimate Thesaurus to Help Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas”  I can’t recall if I ever used the book but exploring through it made me laugh and made me think. It also surprised me that there really are a few things in here that can be super helpful for writers. For example: the “Puffspeak – And Its Alternative” chapter. Check this out.


access (used as verb)  –   obtain

at this point in time  –  now

continuum  –  link

counterproductive  –  futile

finalize  –  finish

impact (used as a verb)  –  affect

inoperative  –  doesn’t work

interface  –  meet, work with

macro-anything –  big

mainstreaming  –  rejoining

mega-anything  –  big

optimize  –  improve

parameters  –  limits

parenting  –  raising kids

pursuant to  –  according to

ramifications  –  consequences

stonewalling  – lying

viable  –  workable

Now this wasn’t all of them listed but reading through the list, I realized that not only do writers use a lot of Puffspeak where they shouldn’t, but they probably forget to use it where they should. Cool, huh?

Anther section in that chapter has the header of “Wordy Expressions”. Now here’s a good way to pare down those manuscripts!


at the present time  –  now

at this point in time  –  now

as of this date  –  now

during that time  –  when

at which time  –  when

on the occasion of  –  when

on the grounds that  –  because

as a result of  –  because

owing to the fact that  –  because

by virtue of the fact that  –  because

with reference to  –  about

pertaining to  –  about

in the event that  –  if

came to a decision as to  –  decide

reached a conclusion as to  –  decide

make use of  –  use

in close proximity of  –  near

as it is often the case  –  often

he is a man who  –  he

Hahaha, I love those! Why do we all get so damn wordy? This book also includes lists on commonly confused words like accede and exceed, on commonly misspelled words, and a cool chapter on “Grabbers”. Under descriptions there’s a category of “Romantic”. Check this out. This was the ultimate in word collections and quick reference when computers were just a new nuisance we knew we’d eventually have to figure out. Please tell me that these days we do better than this under the “romantic” category, LOL.






a storybook world

surrender to the spell of






So funny! I think we’ve come a long way since 1984 but of course, there’s always something to learn from the past and from other parts of the communication world. I always listen to complex symphony when I’m preparing to plot a novel. I always look at old magazines and movies when developing character. I always check out the way I used to think to develop a new way of thinking.

“Words That Sell” was my giveaway little Holiday gift to you!

Villains and Trojans

A writer without her computer is like a woman living in a pitch dark desert! A publicist without her computer is a professional on the edge of terror. Twelve days ago, (on my birthday, sheesh!) I was gifted some horrible, nasty, computer controlling villains who literally stopped my life dead in its tracks until the Tech Guru at the repair shop was able to revive my creative heart and send home a faster, more smooth, fully recovered and newly protected machine. 

I just wanted to share the ten levels of hell without my computer. I’m sure it’s not new to most of you, but it sure was new to me. 

1)      All my writing was out of reach. Computer gone, what’s a writer to do? I mean really, when was the last time you wrote with a pen and paper? Hell, I didn’t even have an empty spiral notebook to work with and found myself scribbling on those cute little lined yellow 5”x7” pads. Six of them. I used to really like those things too. Now I’m so traumatized (and finger cramped) by the experience, I may never be able to purchase a pack of those pads without having heart palpitations. Not to mention … I can’t read my handwriting!

2)      Where was I? You know the question. I have a laptop available but my backup was weeks out of date. All my novels are on the desktop. I had no way to truly pick up where I left off, and with the panic and stress of being overthrown by a whole Trojan army, I simply couldn’t think straight! But, I did what I could and kept on writing.

3)      I need ginko biloba, dammit! This publicist has clients … yes, clients … plural … in the dead center of several projects. I was faced with recreating at least two complete proposal outlines from memory. But there again, I trudged through, sigh.

4)      Where is everything? Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING I research is bookmarked in my internet listings. Everything I need for my writing, everything I need to keep up to date with in the publication and publicity business and everything I stored away for special client projects, past, present and future is in that list. Talk about having your hands tied!

5)      My email, now that was fun. I have Outlook Express which feeds from my yahoo account. Every time it fed into Outlook Express, it was filed appropriately and simply disappears from the yahoo account. Sooooo, from the moment I opened my laptop, I was in the dark. Who remembers email addresses or phone numbers these days? We’re so reliant on technology, all we do is hit a button or type in the first few letters and voila, connection. Seriously, I had to call everyone and tell them to email me so that I’d have an addy to work with! By this point, I had pulled out a large portion of my hair.

6)      The vacillating prognosis. Four days after dropping off my computer at the repair shop, after they’d quoted a price and promised that they could remove all the nasty stuff with no damage to my files, they called with bad news. Techie Guru was suddenly saying the Trojans were far too deep and everything would be lost … but, hold a minute, he’d call back in a few moments. His next call was semi good news, he could get all my files saved onto a disc, but the computer would be wiped clean and I’d need to put everything back on. Now, I’m about as computer savvy as a gnat, so this was extremely distressing. That, and the fact that it would cost even more to do this. Yes, I cried. Two days later, I received another call that they finally discovered the way to clean the nasty viruses off and everything would be just dandy. It was time for my coronary.

7)      Seeking technical support. Like a woman about to give birth, I talked to all my computer proficient friends and heard all the horrible possibilities. They told me that it still may not work out and I should be prepared for the worst. I think I may have had a stroke about then, my eye started to twitch and my head was about to explode.

8)      Seeking emotional support. Now I called all my friends and family. They were sympathetic, insisted that everything will be fine and yeah, that helped … a little. The twitch continued though.

9)      Seeking spiritual support. Yes, I went to church. I knelt at my bedside and folded my hands, praying to the God of computers to help me through all this. I even started reading Spirit Cards. That did help, a lot.

10)  The aftermath. Finally, my computer came home! It runs fast as a whip, has a full disc backup of everything that was on it and … well … looked all different. Needless to say, I was happy as a clam but confused for a good twenty-four hours until I could put everything back the way I’m used to seeing it. Guess I’m more a creature of habit than I thought. Now I have kick-ass protection and several fail safe procedures before anyone or anything can download a damn thing on my baby. And now … I can work and write again. 

Needless to say, the whole experience was horrible. I still have nightmares about it. But I’m nothing if not persistent and determined to use my tenacity to not only get back on track, but learn to roll with the punches. 

Where did I get the damaging Trojans? I followed a link on twitter. Techie Guru explained that it wasn’t placed there by the poster, that Trojans are out there, laying in wait until there’s a crack in the foundation then they attack. It has taken me a day or two to feel safe and comfortable enough to log on to twitter or follow a link, but sometimes a little faith is needed. 

Now, I’m back in the saddle again. Long gone are the days when using a Trojan meant being safe … now a Trojan means completely the opposite. I have chosen to trust my Tech Guru (who I actually asked to marry me, he was so kind and helpful and calm) and trust in the new security systems I now have installed on the computer. 

Onward and upward!