Monday, 28 July 2014

An Author's Comfort Zone...

Note: The following post was originally published on the Writer’s Fun Zone blog, a site designed to help writers succeed and improve their author platform. When you have time, I urge you to check out this fantastic resource.

This post could have also been dubbed ‘Balance 101 for Authors’. About sixteen months ago the first novel in my middle-grade/YA time travel series hit the cyber bookshelves. There was so much to do, and it felt like there wasn’t enough time to do everything. I needed a time portal just to get all my marketing and promoting put in place. This included getting a website up and running, ordering promotional giveaways, setting up blog hops, writing blog posts, and joining the appropriate social media networks. The lists seemed endless, and when the date finally arrived for my book release, I was wearing my shoulders as earrings.

Needless to say, by the end of my first book blog tour, I was exhausted, spent, and bent out of shape. Even my eyelids ached.

What I learned from that whole experience last year is that authors need to learn to structure their writing life, or their writing will take a nose dive. We need to learn to create balance so that the task of being a writer plus a marketer plus a promoter doesn’t wear us down. So, how do we do this when so much is expected of a writer nowadays?

Start with finding your comfort zone. Find your personal comfort level with promotion or marketing, do that and do no more. That’s it. Do it. Or you’ll get burned. If you don’t heed my advice, then sure as shooting, negativity will leach into your writing. And that’s the last thing a writer wants!

Need help finding your comfort zone? Go to the dollar store and buy a timer. It will be one of the most important investments (and cheapest) as a writer you will make. For less than two dollars you can purchase a piece of sanity to help you organize your writing life and keep you in your zone. Set your timer to check emails. Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Then do the same for Facebook and Twitter. But keep in mind which activity will help you as an author in the long run. Apply the 80/20 rule. Write (produce) for 80%, promote and market for only 20%. After all—social networking is a marketing strategy—as long as you treat it as such. Then, once you have laid the timer law down, set it for how long you want to sit and just write, with no interruptions (unless the dog really needs to pee).

So, stop pushing the zone. Relax. Let go. Breathe.

That doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t learn or try new things. By all means learn and try. Get your hands dirty if you must. But don’t burst a vein in your brain doing it. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you collapse into a quivering mass of writer goo. As writers, we must protect our work—and ourselves. It takes time to build an on-line (and off-line) marketing presence in this new publishing world. Learn this, cut yourself some slack, and prosper.

Thank you for reading my blog. How do you find balance as a writer? Love to hear your voices…

Monday, 21 July 2014

Just Rewards…

There are many people in the world eager to take the back end rewards without contributing effort at the front end. They have the attitude of entitlement. Asking, “What can I get out of it?”

Um…not how the Universe works. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Look at it this way: A farmer earns rewards after the harvest, putting in his or her effort (a.k.a. blood, sweat, and tears) up front by preparing the ground, planting the seeds, nursing the seeds, making sure the seeds are not crowded out by other species, and are properly irrigated. With me so far? Then after harvesting the crop, the farmer collects the back end reward. Having no idea at the start what that final reward may be, farmers know only what might come from their labors if they do everything right. If the farmer messes up or Mother Nature steps in and wreaks havoc, then it makes sense that a lesser reward is taken. The farmer is only entitled to the results of the harvest.

So how does this work for writers?

Simple. All writers should ask themselves, “What can I put into my writing career to get the best possible reward?” Figure out what steps you need to take, and from there follow the farmer analogy above exchanging the word ‘seeds’ for ‘books’. Every author writes for different reasons. To hit the bestseller list, you need to be in for the long haul. Patience is the name of the game here. To make any kind of money in this business—and like farming, writing IS a business—it takes time plus a back-list of about 4 books to produce a sustainable author career. You need a plan if you want to become a professional writer which includes some form of on-line presence like a website or blog (think irrigation). If you’re just writing for you and having a blast self-publishing on Amazon or Smashwords, you’re strategy may not be the same, but you will still earn rewards. So figure out what you need to put into your writing career/hobby and work toward those back end rewards.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you have time, please leave a comment and share what you’re putting into your writing career, and how it’s worked out so far. Cheers!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Celebrate the Dog Days of Summer with Backwoods BBQ Ribs...

Ribs - a favorite of Grill Warriors. Ribs conjure up images of cook-offs and eat-to-the-death contests at festivals and fairs. Here’s a sweet and spicy rib recipe that will make your neighbors jealous, and your friends and family get down on their knees to beg you to make every time they visit. The secret is in the sauce, and most people can’t get enough of it! It takes fifteen minutes to prep, with a cook time of two hours and is ready in three hours, fifteen minutes. In the end, you’ll have enough ribs to serve eight, but will most likely kick yourself (or be kicked) for not preparing extra!

Backwoods Barbecue Ribs
4 pounds pork spareribs (we use back ribs)
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup Heinz® Ketchup
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup rum (we use amber or dark)
½ cup Heinz® Chili Sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 dash ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C).

Cut spareribs into serving size portions, wrap in double thickness of foil, and bake for 1½ hours. Unwrap, and drain drippings. Place ribs in a large roasting pan.

In a bowl mix together brown sugar, ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, rum, chili sauce, garlic, mustard, and pepper. Coat ribs with sauce and marinate at room temperature for one hour, OR refrigerate overnight.

Preheat grill for medium temperature. Position grate four inches above heat source.

Brush grill grate with oil. Place ribs on grill, and cook for thirty minutes, basting with marinade.

WARNING—if eating outside, anything with wings (fairies included) will end up sticking to your hands, fingers, or face, so make sure you have plenty of napkins or wipes on hand. Enjoy!

Monday, 7 July 2014

One Book Ends. Another Book Begins…

Out with the Old...
Well, time is ticking away until our big move from cottage country to a southern Ontario town far, far away. Part of me is sad, yet another part yearns for newer and fresher experiences. I thought I was living the dream, and never wanted to give up my home on the lake. Yet, like everything, we humans need change to grow into the next phase of our lives. Believe me, change isn’t easy. But it is worth it.

So, how did I know that I was ready to leave the past behind and move on to the future? It’s a feeling; a sense of readiness. There was something inside of me that knew I had to accept the next direction in my life for my highest good. It was also gut-wrenching; like I was sacrificing a big part of my life for the unknown. My writing suffered too. Perhaps because what I was writing about had to do with a very dark time in human history—World War Two. I bet if my characters from The Last Timekeepers series had a say, they’d probably wonder what the heck I was thinking going back to when the Nazis terrorized the world. Head slap!

Once I accepted that change is good and the only constant, then things started to fall into place. Our boats sold quickly. The tractor went within days. We gave away cottage-friendly items to our neighbors, and donated clothes to the Salvation Army. We found another home that suited us to the ‘tee’. We’re still packing, but it doesn’t seem like such a struggle anymore. I even went through a grieving period—like the death of an old friend you’d feel comfortable farting in front of. Stop laughing, it’s true. Finally, the tears became less and less, and my sights began to set on a brighter horizon. I now anticipate what the future holds, and it feels so exciting. Please excuse me while I grab my sunglasses.

What about you? Have you ever had to move when you felt you weren’t ready or didn’t want to? Love to
In with the New...
hear your comments. Thank you for reading my blog! Cheers!

Monday, 30 June 2014

Canada Day IS Family Day…

Canada Day officially kicks off holiday season for me here in the northern hemisphere. Kids have big smiles on their faces, and adults are gearing up for family getaways. Some families head for their cottages or vacation homes while others prefer to pack up the trailer or tent and venture into Provincial or State Parks armed with bug spray and bathing suits. Still others choose a stay-cation, opting to stay at home, hang by the pool, or go on day trips with their loved ones. Whatever method of holiday people decide on, the anticipation of being with family for one or two weeks is well worth the wait!

Since this will be our last summer at our lake home (cue the tears), we’re having a big family gathering to say good-bye and celebrate all the good times we’ve had here. I’m expecting a good size crowd, and have plenty of food on the menu. One such appetizer I’ll be preparing—Family Fiesta Dip—is popular at any summer bash, especially when family and friends drop by. So, juice up your taste buds and dive into my easy to make spicy dip at your pleasure.

What you Need:

250g package of cream cheese (soft)
1 tbsp. margarine
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 small jar of salsa (vegetable chunk style)
1 medium red pepper, finely chopped
1 medium green pepper, finely chopped
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I prefer the nacho or tex-mex brand)
1 bag of Tortilla chips

What you Do:

MIX cream cheese, margarine, mayonnaise until smooth. Spread in a medium-sized dish with edges to prevent spill over.

COVER with salsa – not too much so it’s not runny.

LAYER as follows: chopped red pepper, chopped green pepper, chopped tomato, chopped green onions, and then top with shredded cheese.

Keep refrigerated before serving. Serve with Tortilla chips (and napkins).

Family Fiesta Dip

 While you’re waiting for the Family Fiesta Dip to set, why not kick back on the beach or wherever you’ll be during your holidays and take a trip back into time with my Last Timekeepers MG/YA time travel series? Safe travels, everyone!

Monday, 23 June 2014

6 Things I’ve learned when doing a Book Signing…

I finally had my first book signing! Cue the Snoopy dance music. It was arranged through a high school friend of mine who connected with me via Facebook. This event was part of a United Way fundraiser to raise awareness for literacy and included a used book sale. Before my book signing took place, I queried a few good author friends about what their experiences were like at their signings. I got a lot of feedback and great advice. One author suggested I wear loud, colorful clothing or a clown’s wig to draw attention to myself and stand out. Given the type of event I was invited to, I so HAPPY that I didn’t purchase Bozo’s wig. Here’s what I learned:

Thing #1 – Make sure you know what type of audience will be attending your book signing. I was anticipating that there would be some children present. Um…no kids in sight. Unless you count a few rambunctious adults happy to get out of work for a while! If I’d known there’d be no kids, I would have had different treats available at my table—something more adult friendly instead of red licorice and gummy fish. I’m willing to bet Jello shots would have gone over well and netted me more book sales!

Thing #2 – Stand in front of your table, not behind it. Go meet and greet people—that’s the reason you’re there in the first place! Get up front and show off your wares. As I mentioned, I had candy available (sometimes that can work like a fisherman’s net) and used a pair of tongs to serve passers-by. I asked them politely if they wanted a piece of candy, and they either nodded and stopped, or shook their heads, thanked me, and moved on. Now had there been kids there, I’m sure I would have been mobbed!

Thing #3 – Engage with everyone who stops by your table. Smile and talk up your books. I started off by telling potential buyers about the premise of my MG/YA time travel series and that I wrote a prequel too. I also mentioned that both books could be read out of order. Not everyone will be interested, but I did manage to sell ten books in three hours.

Thing #4 – Have freebies available for people to take with them. I have trading cards with my book cover on the front, and the blurb and my website link on the back. I also had postcards done up by my publishing company, Musa Publishing with other YA book covers printed on them. All these giveaways were autographed as a keepsake of the event. Plus, potential readers could check out my books when they felt they had more time.

Thing #5 – With table banners coming in at about $120 and up, I decided to go another route. I printed off my two book covers (plus the cover of my free short story available on my website), made copies of them, and placed the book covers in plastic sheet protectors. Then, at the book signing I taped my book covers to the table provided for me. My covers are eye-catching, so if you have many books to choose from, print out the most vibrant covers to display. It’s an inexpensive way to get your books and your name out into the public.

Thing #6 – After my book signing which ran from 11 am to 2 pm, and the oh-so-long drive home, I made
sure that I emailed my hosts immediately to thank them for inviting me to attend their event. Being thankful and having a positive attitude will go far, not only with the people who invite you to book signing events, but to potential readers. They’ll feel your sincerity, whether you realize it or not.

Thank you for reading my blog. Have you ever attended or been asked to do a book signing? If so, please comment and share your experiences. Love to hear from you! Cheers!

Help yourself to a treat...

Monday, 16 June 2014

9 Ways to Achieve Your Goals on the Road Less Traveled…

Achievement in any field requires effort and sacrifice. You need to act in a manner that will allow your goal to become reality. If you want to be an Olympic medalist, a bestselling author, or a great actor it requires hard work and dedication. Every achievement in life comes with its own price tag. Here are nine guidelines for those on the journey toward achieving their dreams:

Write down what you want to achieve: Be clear and concise on what it is that you want in life. You can’t commit to memory what you don’t remember. Put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, but get your dreams and goals out of your head.

Make preparations: Know where you’re going, make a plan and work your plan.

Act deliberately: Do it NOW! Taking decisive actions instill a sense of purpose and confidence.

Get others involved: No one is a self-made person. Life is teamwork. Find your team. All achievement requires the help of other people.

Expect failure: Bummer, but true. Failure is a necessary ingredient of success. There can be no success without some failure.

Keep your focus: Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Stay focused on your written goals.

Examine your journey: What’s working, you keep, and what’s not working, you toss out. Make sure you insert some new directions. Review your goals often, this way you’ll see how far you’ve come!

Take a reward: Give yourself an occasional ‘high five’ for a job well done. Treat yourself to something special. Be refreshed and encouraged by your progress.

Be true to yourself: Never compromise your integrity and moral character. It’s not worth it! Achievement is gained when we are seen as a person who can be trusted and relied upon. Be that person!

Thank you for reading my blog. If you have time, please comment and share what you are doing in your life that will help you to achieve your goals and dreams. Love to hear your comments! Cheers!