Monday, November 24, 2014

Always Give Thanks...





The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. In four days, millions of Americans will sit down with family and friends to give thanks for the blessings in their lives. For some of those people, it may be the ONLY time they give thanks. For others, like myself,  it is a time of reflection and raising a voice in praise for all the good things that have come their way. On the eve of this great holiday, I'd like to share with you my THANKS FOR GIVING list:

To my GUARDIAN ANGEL...thanks for giving me a second chance at living. If anyone has read my story in CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: ANGELS AMONG US, you will know what I'm talking about. Life can seem meaningless at times and broken spirits can walk dangerously close to the abyss when they are hurting. My life could have been forever changed all those years ago except for the intervention of a loving God and a guardian angel who quite literally gave me a chance to begin again.

To my MOTHER...thanks for doing the best you could in a horrible situation. Your strength and pioneer spirit when I was a child wasn't clear to me but time dulled the pain and wiped the blinders from my eyes so that I might see you in the proper light. Right or wrong, you gave birth to me and I am proud to say that no matter what, I always showed you the proper respect while you were on this Earth.

To my EX-HUSBAND...thanks for giving me my son. He is one of the most precious things in my life and my greatest joy. Not all relationships can become the way people want them to be and I've always wished you health and happiness...even when it was safest for our futures not to travel the same path. 

To the DOUBTERS in my life...thanks for challenging me with your words. Whether from cruelty or misunderstanding, every negative thought sent my way only fueled the fire within me to overcome the obstacles in my life. Even if it took a long time, I was challenged to remain strong to the person I wanted to be and can be proud my personal goals over the years have been met while my integrity has never been compromised.

To my FRIENDS...thanks for accepting me just as I am. No one is perfect and God knows I have many faults, but at the end of the day I can still look around and know there are people in the world who care about me. People willing to share the good as well as the bad and who are not afraid to stand by me when the going gets tough.

To my GOD...thanks for constantly watching over me and those I love. I have always seen you as a loving, forgiving being and I have devoted my life to helping others in your honor. I know LIFE can be hard but despite the struggles of my own personal journey, I have always believed YOU will never give me more than I can bear.

I wish the world good health and happiness, love and joy, and a future bright with the promise of a peaceful tomorrow. What more could anyone ask for?



Friday, November 21, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: Bringing In The Holidays







I'm not one of those people who eagerly overlook Thanksgiving in my rush to charge headlong into Christmas. But there will only be two more installments of my TALES FROM THE BAYOU series and I would be remiss not to include my Christmas celebrations when I was growing up.

Every Christmas for as long as I can remember the church pictured above was part of the holiday scenery. At one time you could wind up the music box and as Christmas music would play the doors would slowly open to reveal the lighted scene inside.

I was absolutely fascinated with that church and every night before I went to bed I would wind it up over and over again for as long as Mother would allow me to play it. My nose was almost pressed against the doors in anticipation of the beauty I would find inside and once the doors closed at the end of the song, I would eagerly await for the magic to begin all over again.

I also never claimed to be a fabulous singer but I can hold a bit of a tune and growing up I could always find a spot in my church's Christmas pageant. While my mother wasn't particularly religious, she did believe in God and encouraged us to attend church each Sunday even while she remained home. But she always attended the holiday festivities to watch her children perform in the pageants. I'm sure she will correct me if my memory is fuzzy but I seem to remember Janet attended the sheep in the Nativity but I don't remember what my other siblings might have been. For myself, one year I was the heavenly angel shining down on the child in the manager. I remember thinking the wings they put on me were pretty uncomfortable to wear but even worse was the fact I had to stretch out my arms above my head in a circle and was expected to hold them in that position for the entire play.

Needless to say, my six year old arms weren't strong enough to do that and every time I would drop my arms there was a pair of unforgiving eyes staring at me from beyond the curtains, reminding me "angels" lifted their arms in joyous praise and I'd better do the same!

But there was one song for me that heralded the Christmas season. I would walk around all day long constantly singing "Away In The Manager" until my family couldn't stand it any more and told me to be quiet. One Christmas when I was fighting my usual bout of laryngitis the doctor told my mother that I wasn't allowed to try and talk as my vocal chords were inflamed. My mother took that to heart and forbade me to do ANY singing until I was well. What she never found out was the fact whenever she was out of the room and I lay in my bed sick, I continued to whisper-sing the words to that song. There was just something about the vision of anyone loving me so much they would watch over me long after they were gone that brought comfort to a shy six year old and NO ONE was going to stop me from singing that song!

I got well, despite the additional strain on my vocal chords, and I can still wind up that little church to hear those melodies from my childhood. Those Christmases in the swamps of southern Louisiana will always hold a special place in my heart this time of year...


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Loren Long



 
 




Title: Drummer Boy
Author/Illustrator: Loren Long
Publisher: Philomel Books
Ages: 4 to 8

Synopsis: A toy drummer boy mysteriously appears on a child's doorstep. The drummer boy plays his drum and discovers the meaning of love. But when he accidentally falls into the trash, the drummer boy is sent on a scary and snowy adventure. He shares the only gift he has, the gift of his drumming, and with the help of others finds his way home again.


Why you should read it: The illustrations are breath taking but it is the story that grabs my heart this holiday season. With Thanksgiving just a few days away and the season of forgiveness and love just around the corner, this simple story brings such joy to young readers as they follow the drummer boy's journey into a somewhat darker world. What the little drummer boy didn't realize is that the only gift he had to share left the world he left behind a little brighter.


Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5...grab it!

Monday, November 17, 2014

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PUBLISH A BOOK, Part Ten






File:Rubens500 inside.jpg




I've had fun writing the posts for this series and hope it has helped some of my readers who might have needed some fresh ideas on the ins and outs of  marketing their work. In the last post of this series, I look at some of the other creative options childrens book authors have in getting their books in front of their targeted audience. Some of these might work for you and some won't. It takes a little bit of moxie or gumption or assertiveness or whatever you might want to call it to approach some of these venues about doing a book event...i.e. reading, book signing, party, etc. You might have to help educate individuals on the benefits of allowing you to come into their establishment. Remember, it's not about YOU and YOUR BOOK. It's about THEM and WHAT'S IN IT FOR THEM. The easier you make it for them to say YES, the more eager they will be to help you make your event a success. I like to call this my: 


THINKING OUTSIDE THE CRAYON BOX MARKETING LIST

    Teacher's guides...Create your own set to post on your website and bring on school visits or hire someone like the talented Marcie Colleen (http://www.thisismarciecolleen.com/) to do it for you.
    Hallmark stores...Why not offer to do a reading during the holiday season for free in exchange for being able to hand out bookmarks?
    Street fairs...Check your city's website for upcoming events and see if you can participate in any of them.
    Farmers markets...Maybe they will allow you to set up a booth or hand out flyers
    Gyms...Some facilities have a children's room and some have monthly promotions for their members. Maybe you can work out a deal to do a children's activity during a monthly membership drive?
    Airports...Many airports have retail stores in them. Why not see if there is one carrying books and set up a time when you can be available for impulse buys and a book signing?
    Art stores...Your book will have illustrations. Why not offer to do a reading and maybe even a coloring contest where you provide your book cover as the pages?
    Art museums...Same as above or even have a contest where kids can interpret your book in some other art form? Have a contest, offer some small prizes and then do a reading/book signing afterwards.
    Craft stores...Like the art stores or art museums, you could have a craft party where you tie in some simple craft with some aspect of your book. Make simple puppets, make a cool picture frame and color a copy of your book cover to place inside. Do a reading/book signing afterwards.
    Church bazaars...Make up a basket for the silent auction, ask for a booth space, offer to provide a simple craft in exchange for handing out your book's swag items         
             
    Community youth sporting events...Ask if you can hand out flyers, offer to volunteer a couple hours in exchange for being able to hand out bookmarks at the concession stand.
    Coffee shops...If the coffee shop is inside a bookstore or places like Walmart, maybe you can create a giveaway like for every cup sold the customer gets their name added to the drawing. Hand out a two part entry form where they fill out the bottom but keep the top with your book information on it.


    Special interests groups...My book resonates with both beginner readers as well as children struggling with learning disabilities like dyslexia. Find professional groups in your city that might allow you to leave information about your book for their clientele.
    Radio stations...Offer a coloring prize pack to the first ten people to call in. Oriental Trading (www.orientaltrading.com) has a great selection of inexpensive items for prize packs. Don't forget to include your bookmark and business card.


    You Tube online video contest...Have a contest where kids act out your story or tell why they like your book. Post the top five on your website and promote others through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. to vote on their favorite. Winner gets a prize pack including an autographed book.
    Book pairing on website or Amazon...If you have more than one book, see if you can bundle them together and offer a discount for the package. Create a collection of 3 or 4 short stories or maybe a short Ebook on how kids can become writers and offer as a freebie with every purchase through your website.


    Mail Chimp Newsletter...If you haven't set up a link for visitors to subscribe to your blog, do it now! I use Mail Chimp (www.mailchimp.com). Not only is it simple to use, it offers an easy newsletter template where you can keep in touch with your subscribers.
    Fast food restaurants...Where do you see a lot of kids? McDonalds, Burger King, Wendys! Why not chat with the manager and offer to host a little party at their place? It can be a tea party, an ice cream party, a coloring party, etc. They supply the food and maybe offer something like a free cone or drink to the first 50 kids to come in on that day.


    Local kids events...Check your city's online website for local kids events. Make contact with whoever is in charge and see if you can participate. Some of them will allow you to join for free if you offer some kind of door prize or incentive they can give away. It's how I've gotten into the Children's Festival of Reading for the past three years for FREE and been in front of 15,000 people each year!
    Daycares...Think of the number one place you will find kids outside of school? Daycare and afterschool visits can really boost the opportunities to get your books in front of your targeted audience. Suggest acting out your story, coloring contest, and don't forget the flyers going home to parents announcing your upcoming visit. Offer a way to preorder your book so you can sign them the day of your event.


    Cub Scouts...Look online for the different badges cub scouts can earn. Create a 90 minute "lesson" where scouts can participate to earn their badge. Call your local organizational leader and offer to visit any pack in the area who would like a free author visit. Break up your "lesson" into three parts...part one is where you read your book to them and answer questions, part two is where you do your main activity (scouts could have completed other parts of the badge requirements prior to your arrival) and part three is where YOU present the scouts who have completed all the requirements with their activity badge (provided by the den leader). Send flyers home prior with pre-order info and hand out bookmarks, autograph sold books, etc. after the event.
    Girl Scouts...Same as the Cub Scout lesson details listed above.


    Festivals...Neighboring towns might have festivals where the cost of gas might put you in front of hundreds of potential readers of your book.
    Civic organizations...Think of how your book might tie into their interests. Since my book is about learning disabilities like dyslexia or struggling beginner readers, I will look for those groups and see how I might be able to participate in some of their events. Maybe they will allow my bookmarks to be handed out at their meetings. Maybe they will promote my book on their company blog or website. The worst they can say is no.


    School carnivals...Don't forget the annual school carnivals, health fairs, book fairs, etc. where you can possibly have a booth or at least hand out flyers about your book.




    There are literally thousands of opportunities out there to market your book. If you can be creative in your stories, then surely you can be creative in the ways you promote them?




    Let me know if you have tried any of these ideas before? What worked? What didn't? What do I need to add to this list? Comment below...






    

Friday, November 14, 2014

TALES FROM THE BAYOU: A Taste Of Thanksgiving





I understand now that my mother must have pinched pennies for months when I was growing up in order to create the banquet she did on every Thanksgiving Day. I don't know the different jobs my father did over the years, but the last job he held was as a cook for an offshore rig. Although he spent many a day away from his family, I don't think he was compensated enough for it by the looks of what passed for food in our house most days.

While others ate steak and pork chops, my siblings and I could look forward to things like fish head soup, rooster comb and chicken feet to dine upon. You think I exaggerate but I kid you not. When I say I came from a poor childhood, it isn't to garner sympathy but to seek admiration for what my mother managed to conjure up for us to feast upon during the holidays. 

I would go to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve with the knowledge that sometime the following day our dining room table would be groaning under the weight of more food than I would usually see in a week. While the bird stuffed with cornbread dressing slowly roasted in the oven, Mother would set the ingredients for mashed potatoes and corn on the cob to boil. Deviled eggs chilled in the refrigerator along with the pumpkin pie and sometimes a Jello mold of some type. There was a white, shallow-divided bowl holding the green peas and carrots while sweet tea simmered in a silver pitcher. Homemade rolls covered with homemade butter and dirty rice (a Cajun dish where you cooked rice before adding chicken livers, gizzards, hearts, and sometimes crumbled sausage to the mix which darkened the rice and gave it its name) waited on the table to greet us.

Despite my parents problems, holidays were usually a family affair and my father would sit down at the head of the table where he and I would then argue every year over which one of us would get to eat the turkey's tail. I would usually win and thought it a grand conquest to have bested my father out of my favorite part of the bird. After the leftovers were eventually put away and the dishes washed, I would retreat to my bedroom where I would lie around reading while waiting for the aches of an overly stuffed stomach to go away.

Neither of my parents were deeply religious people and there weren't prayers of thanks heard at our table like in other families, but despite my life I still had much to be thankful for while I was growing up in that place I called home. 

I had a good companion in my older sister, Janet, who managed to put up with a nagging little sister four years younger without killing her in the process. I had my dog, Penny, who tolerated many games of dress up and my sad attempts to teach her tricks without so much as biting me once. And I had my books. One of the few things my mother approved of, my childhood was filled with wonderful, glorious books of every kind to sometimes act as a buffer between the reality of my life and the worlds of my imagination.

My life growing up might have been challenging but on Thanksgiving Day each year all it boiled down to was a tasty meal and a good story...



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: G A Whitmore






Title: A Place To Call Home: Toby's Tale
Author: G A Whitmore
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Reader Audience: Dog lovers


Synopsis: Half wolf, half German Shepard, young Toby escapes a cruel master and begins a journey from California all the way to Connecticut in search of a loving home to call his own.

Why you should read it: Dog lovers and especially the people who rescue them will like reading about Toby's journey. While Ms. Whitmore's passion for the underdog shines through in her writing, the presentation of Toby's struggle could have been improved through tighter editing to remove repetitious and unnecessary verbage. It was also a bit confusing to have the storyline quite often change to many different points of views in the same chapter. Still, if you are a fan of stories told mostly from an animal's point of view and want your reading to have a predictably happy ending, A Place To Call Home might be a nice addition to your home library.

Like-O-Meter Rating: 3 out of 5...take or leave it.



Monday, November 10, 2014

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO PUBLISH A BOOK, Part Nine






The whole premise of this series is the fact it takes more than just a good story to get a book published. The people who make up the publishing "village" can include not only the author but others like editors, publicists, marketing executives, and other promotional personnel to ensure the word gets out about a publisher's latest addition to their lineup.

I've been exceptionally fortunate when it comes to working with a smaller publisher. Anaiah Press might be a newer, smaller company in the publishing industry, but their executive staff have more than 30 years of experience in getting the job done. The editing, proof reading, and illustrations for THE STORY CATCHER are done. The ebook and print formatting with Ingram is almost complete. Pre-orders will soon be available. Press kits and news releases are being created. Like soldiers getting ready to do battle, Anaiah Press is gathering the ammunition necessary to ensure my book has a fighting chance to make a place for itself in the publishing world.

Being the author, I must do my part. My connections with a local church provided me the opportunity to put information about my book in the hands of 1500 children. Another connection got me connected with Barnes & Noble and we are finalizing things for an author visit December 6th with a follow up book signing (maybe book launch party) in January. But there are other things I can do to boost the marketing power of my hard work promoting my book. Here are some ideas I will be considering and implementing:

1. FREE STORY CATCHER FAN CLUB...I've already set this up and have signed up a number of new members.  The free welcome kit includes a membership certificate, reading log, short story starring the new member, and a bi-monthly newsletter with book news, mazes, puzzles, games, and more.

2. CONTESTS & GIVEAWAYS...I'm tossing around a couple of ideas for a book launch contest and fan club membership drive. More details as we get closer to THE STORY CATCHER's book release on January 20th, 2015.

3. LINE UP REVIEWERS...I'm really feeling the support of this writing community. I now have 22 reviewers lined up and 3 people willing to provide a book blurb. This generous input will help future readers make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to buy my book.

4. SUBSCRIBER NEWSLETTER...I use MailChimp for my subscriber database and it had an incredibly easy newsletter template I can use to connect with my blog subscribers to let them know about my upcoming book release.

5. CONTACT LOCAL LIBRARIES...There is 1 main branch and 17 area branches just in Knoxville and they all  have the opportunity for author visits and reading time.  I've already chatted with the head of the acquisitions committee and because of my involvement with their annual Children's Festival of Reading, not only is she interested in looking at my book for possible inclusion in their inventory, but she also wants me to participate on their local author panel at next year's festival.

6. SCHOOL VISITS...As Center Manager of my martial arts school, I've connected with my local elementary schools for the past 12 years. I was allowed in schools when no other martial arts school in the area was allowed. Now I can use these connections to help spread the word about my book.

While these ideas are used by almost every author out there in promoting their books, next week I will talk about maybe some off-the-wall promotional ideas authors should consider as well. What promotional ideas have you used to promote your books? What worked for you? What didn't?