Category Archives: Promotion

Old Lady Kayaking

IMG_0893Last Thursday I attended a Bloggers and Writers Workshop at Fort Lincoln State Park sponsored by North Dakota Department of Commerce.

The first part of the day consisted of travel writer and filmmaker Joe Baur who gave the attendees advice such as conquering fear of new places and new people. He shared some of his own fears such as even leaving his hometown to visit larger cities. Other sage advice he gave is since the internet is so visual, if we want to gain more readership, we must add visual elements such as photos and videos.

This in particular grabbed my attention, because I love taking pictures. I’ve also wondered how I could work it into my writing, or even if I should. It takes a bit of extra time to add visual elements to a blog post, but if it means gaining more readers, certainly the extra five to ten minutes adding the photos would be worth it.

He also mentioned that we must set a schedule for our releases (something I’ve slacked on of late). If we’re not consistent in our writing, we very quickly lose our readers.

Jenna Cederberg, Editor of Montana Magazine spoke next. Her focus was on knowing what you’re submitting your writing to. Know the magazine or publisher, because an editor will know right away whether or not you read their publications. She also stressed the importance of relationships. Successful publishing is largely due to good relationships between author and editor. Once you establish good ones, hold on to them.

After we broke for lunch, we had round-table discussions with Joe, Jenna, and Kim Schmidt, the public relations manager of the ND Department of Commerce where we could ask more in-depth questions. Kim gave us all advice on how to use social media to its fullest. Her focus was on the relationship we can build with them. They need North Dakota writers to help promote the wonders of our state that the rest of the nation doesn’t see. The best part is, when we promote them, they’ll link and add our writings to their publications and social media. It’s a win-win. She also said (and I’ve seen it, too) looking at North Dakota nationally, we’re the windy, cold, vast prairie with nothing to offer but agriculture, rising crime and oil.

When we are so, so much more than that.

But that’s another entry – or twelve.

Afterward, we had the choice to either tour the Custer House, Barracks and Indian Village, or go on a bike ride, hiking and kayaking. I chose the latter, because I’ve toured the Custer House before.

They were kind enough to provide the bikes, which, surprisingly enough, I only wobbled a few minutes before my muscles remembered that bike-riding thing. I guess it’s really true you never forget.

We rode down to where the Heart River converges with the Missouri. Waiting for us was a father and son team from Missouri River Kayak Rentals with enough kayaks for the small group. I told Kim I was staying on shore, and that I would take pictures. She said, “You really should go.”

I remembered Joe saying that we need to step out of our comfort zone. I said okay. After all the instructions (and there weren’t many), we donned our life jackets (also provided) and proceeded down to the water’s edge. I managed to step into the kayak without capsizing the small craft, which made me a bit more confident. The father of the team pushed me off and I started to row.

Kayaking never interested me. I wasn’t adverse to it, per se, but it also didn’t look all that fun. Mostly it looked like a lot of work.IMG_20150604_143510856_edited-1

And these old bones aren’t used to work. Sitting at a computer and typing all day doesn’t exactly keep the muscles in prime form. At this point, I was glad my body didn’t rebel riding a bike down to the river’s edge (even though it was mostly flat with a slight downgrade).

As I paddled around in a few circles to see how stable the kayak was, and how sharply I could turn, I realized just how easy it was. After ten minutes in the calm water, and finding a rhythm in paddling, I was surprised how relaxing it was.

With the cloudy skies, little wind and mild temperature (about 70 degrees Fahrenheit), we couldn’t have asked for a better day for kayaking. I even managed to keep up with everyone who had obviously kayaked more than me (which wasn’t saying much since this was my first time).

After about an hour paddling up and down the Heart River, I understood the allure of it. How can something that took physical effort (although well within reason) could be so relaxing? Kayaking manages, and is something I hope to do again. Having traipsed many times on the river in a speed boat, fishing boat and pontoon, floating on a kayak makes a person feel closer and almost a part of the river itself. I highly recommend it.

Even (or especially) if you’re an old lady like me.

Creating a (Positive) Online Presence

Along with researching agents and publishers, I’ve been thinking a lot about creating a better online presence.

The problem is, how without sounding like some annoying salesman?

From what I’ve read, the commonest advice is to offer something potential readers want and will make them keep coming back.

Okay. What do I have to offer?

It has to be free to start. It could be humor (that one’s easy. My son and husband are always coming up with something). Information and advice is another. There it gets wrinkly. Everything I know and learned has come from someone else. The trick will be to put my own unique spin on it and make it entertaining as well as informative. Otherwise all I’ll be doing is adding external links to every blog entry.

I should care about my readers, and respond in a timely manner to any comments or questions they might have. One way to do that is see myself not as a writer, but as a reader. What do I look for in writer websites/blogs? What encourages me to keep coming back? How can I emulate them, again without being repetitive or plagiaristic?

Yes, I want to sell my writing, but that should the end result of an online presence, not the foremost.

After all, if a reader enjoys my blog, my website, Facebook page and Twitter tweets, then they’ll naturally want to read my books.

The mindset has to be thus: It’s not about me or my books, per se, but about pleasing my readers.

One thing that sucks about writing and desiring to publish is that my writing succeeds or fails based solely on the opinion of others. That said it’s something I chose (sort of) and knew going in, so I really shouldn’t complain.

So far I have several ideas:

  1. Book reviews. I’ve wanted to do more of these, and I could certainly use the practice. That I read a lot makes this fairly easy. It’ll also help garner more readers, because if they’re well-written enough, the authors may link the review on their own websites.
  2. Humor pieces. There’s a blog I read (Literary Agent Steve Laube) and every Friday he writes an entry called “Fun Fridays”. He’ll either add a humorous Youtube video, or fun facts. For me, I’ll likely dedicate Mondays, because who couldn’t use a little laughter on Monday?
  3. Continuing my publication journey. I’ve written a few entries in an older blog dedicated to the pitfalls of pursuing publication, and received some very good responses to it (One even went so far as comparing me to Erma Bombeck. Yeah, I’m as shocked as you are). Apparently I’m fairly humorous when describing rejections. Good, because I have a feeling there will be a lot more of those.
  4. Faith. Seeking publication is a journey of faith. I’ve learned more about God and seen my faith grow ever since I decided to pursue it. There were a lot of bumps and bruises from falling on my face, but I learned more from those failures than I ever will from my successes. Perhaps others can learn from them as well – without the bruises. And laugh at my obvious ineptitude.
  5. Write more. One entry a month simply won’t cut it (my average of late). People’s time is short and precious, and if I’m not consistent – no matter how good the entries are – they will lose interest.

Now it’s your turn. What would you like to see me write or add to my website? As an incentive, I’ll send you some free stuff.  I’m thinking some pens and bookmarks, or a free critique of the first five pages of a novel, short story or article. Your choice.

What? It’s Not Perfect?

I read a while back that to help gain interest of publishers and agents, a writer should have endorsements from other authors. Taking that advice, I asked Amy Deardon if she’d be willing to write me one for “Traitors,” but only if she felt it was good enough. I also asked if she found any boo-boos to let me know.

She kindly agreed.

A few days ago she mentioned there was a consistent mistake I’m making that’s reducing the tension in my story, and she would explain what it was if I wanted her to.

She emailed me back today and said that although she is enjoying the book, she’s found a consistent mistake that reduces the tension, but that it was a big enough problem it would take some work to fix it. My response was to email her back and nearly beg her to tell me. it’s not mere curiosity, but a fidget-in-my-chair eagerness to know what that is.

It’s funny how I no longer tense in horror at the possibility of criticism, or even take the blows with quiet grace. Instead I’m banging at the proverbial door for it.

Does that make me a glutton for punishment, a slight case of masochism?

Or perhaps I want to see my novel as perfect as can be before it’s released into the public.

Soon (I hope) I will have yet another editing project to add to my list.

In the meantime (so I’m not checking my email every three minutes for the author’s advice), I’m going to continue on with my Nanonovel.

From the Just ‘Cuz Files:

I’ve decided to reduce my inventory of “A Reason to Hope” by offering it at a 55% discount. See my Products page for more info.

Branding is a Very Bad Thing

Just ask a cow.

Yet that’s what writers are required to do if they want to sell their books. Develop a brand, something that sets them apart from every other writer out there. Something (or things) that will attract potential readers and keep them coming back for more.

It’s a horrible thing to ask (demand) of a person who — in general — is anti-social by nature. It’s not enough to merely write, find a publisher, and write some more. Now we have to create a Brand before we even hook an interested publisher.

I recently watched a show entitled “Genius Minds” on the Science Channel about an autistic lady named Temple Grandin. Since a little girl, she always had an affinity for animals. She understood them, because, like her, they have no grasp of abstract concepts. She empathized with the cows especially when they were herded into the chutes to be branded. They bounced around in terror, potentially injuring themselves and others, until the headgate closed on them. They immediately calmed down. When she was in college , she created something similar for herself, which she used when feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts. She called it the “hug machine.” It was so successful for her, that it’s now used for other autistics to help keep them calm.

What does that have to do with branding? Other than the fact they’re used to brand cows?

Because I’m not a cow. I’m not like Temple Grandin where I would find something like that comforting. I see it as constraining. I don’t want to be branded, to be known as one thing and one thing only.  I’ve seen other authors who’ve gone from one brand (or genre) to another and it either failed dismally or it took years for it to catch, because the author had to find a whole new set of readers.

Admittedly, the fight against branding is an excuse. I keep asking, “What do I have to offer that will keep them interested enough that they will buy my product without feeling pressured to buy it?”

Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from others. I know a lot , but I’m not an expert at much — unless you want to know how to survey land. Even then, there are thousands more who know more than I do. There’s nothing unique I have to offer except my stories.  Unfortunately, that’s not enough anymore. I have to sell myself.

*shudder*

But it is what it is. As much as I might hate it, it has to be done. My reticence, fear and lack of confidence has more to do with not knowing how to even start marketing. At Barnes and Noble the other day, I spotted “Guerrilla Marketing for Writers.”  I’m only 20 pages into it, and I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I will continue to slog ahead, however, because the desire to publish is greater than my fear of putting myself out there. I will simply have to fight my anti-social tendencies.

Hopefully getting branded won’t hurt too much. Once I figure out what it will look like, that is.

The Interview

First of, to listen to the show I did on Saturday, go to www.ashfordradio.com. From there click on the first microphone that says “Radio Studio A”. From there scroll down until you see my name. Click on that and the show will start playing.

Overall, I think it went well. I didn’t stutter too much. At least I don’t think I did. Just over halfway through, they accidentally cut me off and had to call me back. It was a good experience, and I wasn’t as nervous as I anticipated. Many a prayer was whispered as I waited for the show to start, let me tell ya.

Turns out I needn’t have worried about whether or not I would be more open about my faith during the interview. The subject never came up as the interviewer focused on my job and what Land Surveying entails. My biggest concern was that I described what land surveying is without talking over people’s heads. As with any technical occupation, there is a tendency to techno-speak. I tried to stay away from it, but I’m not willing to listen to the interview and find out. I never did like the sound of my voice (although I’ve never heard anyone else complain about it). I prefer blissful ignorance and believe I did okay. Why listen to the show and discover I sucked? Yeah, when it comes to this, I prefer delusion.

Since I received such good feedback so far, I’m doing another four half-hour interviews over the next four Saturdays staring at 9am Central time. These will focus more on my writing and photography. A perfect venue to talk about my faith since it’s such an integral part of my writing. As with the first one, it will be archived. I’ll provide a link should you miss it.

But it’s hot, I have a cold (when I just got over one two weeks ago), and I’m tired.

I think my next entry (should I have more mental energy) will be about the definition of faith, and why it can be such a struggle at times.

Later!

It’s Time

When I started writing my first book, I couldn’t wait for it to be published. I wanted to see my name in print right now! That was ten years ago. Sure my name has seen print with three short stories, as many articles and a self-published novella, but my novel is still in limbo. I’m not concerned about it. In these last ten years, God has taught me patience.

But it is patience I’ve finally gained, or is it complacency? A bit of both?

I haven’t written much of anything since my last entry in March. Four months! Hard to believe. Where did the time go? Admittedly I wasted a lot of it catching up on favorite tv shows and movies (Netflix and Hulu can be quite addicting).

Over the last few weeks, my fingers have been itching to write. But write what? Sure I submitted two articles to AUGIWorld, but each one took less than four hours to write.

Two of my books need serious edits, and I’m about a fifth the way through the first. Not something to brag about, because I’ve been working on that since January. I’d also like to rewrite “Traitors,” or at least the first three chapters. I went through the comments for the Genesis Contest last year, and realized the first part needed work.

My first draft started with an assassin right before she entered the house to kill her victim. I had since changed it beginning with the assassination itself while in the mind of the victim.

Based on the comments, I decided the story would be better the way I had it originally. Funny, that. My instincts were right to begin with. It’s a good thing I keep all my major drafts, both on computer and hard copy.

I also need to come out of the shadows a bit. I’ve been in hiding, mostly because I’ve let my faith stagnate some. Okay, a lot. I haven’t gone to church since January, and I’ve barely picked up my Bible since then. My only communion with God in any capacity is when I say bedtime prayers with my son.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Ashford Radio. They wanted to do a half-hour radio interview of me. I was ambivalent at first, but finally agreed. Partly it was due to cost. They wanted $2000. Not happening. After saying no about three times, they took away features such as a plaque and travel vouchers, and lowered the price to $500.

I figured if I want to come out of my shell,and start promoting myself more, a half-hour interview live-streamed on the Internet would be the boost I need. Even if I do have to pay for it.

They called me this afternoon for a pre-interview, and one of the questions they asked was, “Who was your biggest influence on your life?”

On the tip of my tongue was, “Jesus,” but I instead said, “Mostly my parents.”

That’s when I realized just how far I let my relationship with Jesus falter. Didn’t he say, “those who acknowledge me to others, I will acknowledge in heaven, and those who deny me, I will deny in heaven?” (Paraphrased because I’m too lazy to get off my bum and look it up). If I were to split hairs, I could say I didn’t deny him outright, but I sure didn’t acknowledge him either.

Luckily I have another opportunity during the actual interview to say what I wanted — and needed — to say. Hopefully I won’t chicken out then.

I also focused more on my actual job as a land surveyor and less on my writing during the pre-interview. Mostly because writing has taken a back seat to other priorities. But, we’ll see what happens during the actual interview. I may just have to sit down with God for an hour or two beforehand and discuss with him what I should say. He’s never let me down, even when I’ve let him down so many times. God’s kinda great that way.

You can listen to the interview on www.ashfordradio.com, on Saturday, 7/23/2011 at 12pm EST. You can also read the press release HERE.

What’s My Purpose?

Is writing — or more accurately — seeking publication my true dream and passion?

I question that because I keep putting off writing and editing. I instead content myself with reading and watching television (admittedly more of the latter).

To help motivate myself, I picked up James Scott Bell’s “Plot & Structure.” He recommends all writers should write a statement of purpose to get motivated to write and improve their craft.

His statement was worded thusly: “Today I resolve to take writing seriously, to keep going and never stop, to learn everything I can and make it as a writer.”

I could easily copy that as my own, because at this moment I don’t take my writing seriously.

I’m procrastinating my time away, and if I don’t change my habits soon I will find there is no more time left to waste, or to write let alone get my stories published.

Another consideration is my goal to the reader. What do I want to say? Do I merely want to entertain or convey a message?

As a Christian I could easily say I want to either bring others to Christ or draw them nearer. A worthy goal, I suppose, but it seems to broad and even trite.

Jesus told stories to make a point, each one geared to a specific audience with a specific need.

I need to also to determine my audience and with God’s help determine and satisfy their needs. I can then wrap my story around it. I believe I succeeded with my novella “A Reason to Hope.”

My audience is the Christian who condemns the homosexual. My message was not to judge. We are all sinners and whatever the specific sin is each one of us commits is largely irrelevant. Our job is to show Christ’s love and sacrifice that we may be deemed righteous in God’s eyes no matter what we’ve done.

Did I succeed? I know of one person for certain it touched in a positive way. As for others, I don’t know, and that, too, is largely irrelevant. I wrote the story and sent it out for others to read. How it touches them is in God’s hands.

If I no longer write, edit, and send out my novels for others to read, then how can I convey the message or messages that ache to be heard?

I’ve said it countless times — it’s easy to dream, not so easy to make it come true.

I admit I’m terrified to make my dream of publication true. With a successful publication of my book comes the expectation of more, and better, novels. On a deadline no less. I don’t have enough confidence in my abilities to meet those expectations.

It’s one of those things I need to give to God and ask for help.

And have faith that he’ll deliver.

I must continue to remember:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

(2 Timothy 1:7)