Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Monday, August 29, 2011

Working Harder

In our American culture, entertainment and free time is highly prized, probably more than work is. A few years ago when I was still at Costco, I worked with a few women from the former Soviet Union. They ran circles around the rest of us. They moved faster, focused more and generally upped the production when they were on the shift. It was embarrassing how slow I felt next to these women. Not even the youngest, fittest workers could keep up with them.

Once I asked Kloudia (from Bella Rus) about this. She said, "In my country, you have to stand out or you lose your job. It's how things are."

Do we have it too easy here? Is there a sense of entitlement? I don't mean politically but personally with individual work ethics. I struggle with this myself, with a tendency to self-indulgence and laziness. Not to mention procrastination, the curse of my existence. Lately I've wanted to challenge myself in certain areas and lengthen my stride.

Now that lazy ol' summer is winding down, I am feeling the push to step it up. No one is pushing me, it's simply the motivation that comes from within. Every day counts and all that.

"Start by doing what's necessary, then what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." ~Francis of Assisi

"Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs." ~Henry Ford

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." ~John Wooden

Friday, August 26, 2011

Big Party One Week from Today: Woo Hoo!!

Next Friday begins the weekend of Labor Day BLOG BBQ fun and food! So get your backyards blogs weeded and tidied up and ready for new followers visitors!

Last year it was huge. People went blog-hopping like crazy and many added 50 followers in a day. Some of the new people I met have become must-read regulars on my schedule.

I'll post about the details next week before the event. It's really so easy, nothing to sign up for, and you can pop in for as little or as long as you like. My kind of party!

Meanwhile, take a look at these three delightful blogs I discovered last year through the Blog BBQ.

Eddie Bluelights, Clouds and Silvery Linings

Cajun Delights 

Wanna Buy a Duck

I remember them in particular because Eddie's comments kept going to spam, but he refused to give up. And who can forget Marguerite and her wonderful Cajun recipes? And then there is Manzanita is in her 80's her 80's! who writes a blog titled Wanna Buy a Duck; I adore her.

Looking forward to next weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

House of Diamonds moving to the front burner

My husband is such a sexist. He will say things to me like, "Ok, let me explain it to you in cooking terms...." This cracks me up and I always make fun of him for it. But I do the same thing. Such as the above post title, hehe, which is clearly a cooking term that has to do with something simmering on the back burner until it's nearly ready, when you move it to the front burner to keep an eye on it as it finishes up. Did I really have to explain that?

I don't have a cover yet. There is a concept, which is way cool and I love it, but since it's not complete I can't show it to you. Oh darn!

It has gone out to advance reviewers, those published authors whose responses will be gleaned for back of the cover blurbs. Crossing my fingers until those come back! Hoping they don't hate it! Hoping they love it!

I am excited about my blog tour which will be in October. For the tour, I'm seeking bloggers interested in doing reviews, guest posts or interviews. Anyone who would like to help me out, please let me know and I will contact you with details!

Yay for the front burner! Hoping I don't get burned!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Commenters, Followers, Unfollowers, Lurkers, Posters, Retreaters, Returners, Rereaders, and Repeaters

The blogging world is big enough to encompass all kinds of people. Yep, imagine that, we aren't all the same! So to make it easy to classify ourselves I came up with a few random definitions.

This is just to get us started. I bet you all can come up with many more if you want to take a stab at it in your comments *tee hee*

Commenters: They whizz through posts and dash off comments, hitting dozens of blogs at a time. You see their comments all over the internet and wonder at their speed-reading and speed-typing talents. We love commenters, because although often they clearly didn't read the post, who cares? They left a comment and that's what every blogger loves to see!

Followers: Right up there in beloved category with commenters, the followers add themselves to every blog in sight, upping the follower count as they go. Funny though, sometimes they rarely comment. Are they lurking? Are they hoping for a follow back? Oh well, who cares? Every follower counts!

Unfollowers: Shrouded in anonymity, the unfollower can ruin one's day. Two followers shy of a milestone like 100 or 500, in swoops an unfollower and sets everything back. And why do unfollowers come in groups? Two or three at a time disappearing is typical. The poor blogger wonders, "Is it something I said?"

Lurkers: These are the readers who never miss a post, they may be followers or not, and they are as anonymous as Unfollowers. Come out of the shadows, Lurkers, so we can see your lovely faces!

Posters: They post. And post some more, a little or a lot. But funny thing, is that's all they do. No following, or commenting, or showing up elsewhere. It may work, or it may not, depending on what the Poster is after, and on how excellent their posts are. Excellent credentials don't hurt either. Either of these can enable a Poster to gain followers and commenters without doing much besides share their insight and wisdom or whatever it is that people come to their blog for.

Retreaters: Have you ever followed a blog that just disappears? Then comes back for awhile, usually with apologies and sworn determination to stick with it this time, before retreating yet again.

Returners: This is a Retreater in the returning phase of their blogging cycle.

Rereaders: These are those wonderful people who make your stats shoot up, because they love your blog so much they come back again and again, to read more comments, to see if you responded to their comments, or just to reread an enjoyable and informative post.

Repeaters:  These bloggers digest what they read elsewhere, give it a new spin and post on their own blogs. Sometimes they give credit, sometimes not.  They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so don't be bothered by the Repeaters if you discover your own ideas or posts recycled elsewhere.

After analyzing myself, I realize that I have been in each and every one of these categories at some point in my blogging career. So sue me. Although I haven't unfollowed widely, I have occasionally been known to unfollow a blog that I just can't relate to, that I added in one of my overly enthusiastic following phases.

Right now I think I'm more of a commenter than anything, because if I stop by a blog and read a post I will most likely always leave a comment. I try to spend an hour a day visiting blogs, which that can be a lot of comments because I read super fast. (I took a speed reading class a hundred years ago when I was a freshman in college, and it's been very helpful where blogging is concerned.)

Okay, your turn. What other classifications have you noticed among blogs and bloggers?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Must-Read Debut Novel

I got the ARC in the mail on Saturday, started the first chapter that night, and couldn't stop thinking about it. Sunday afternoon I decided would be reading day. It had been a hectic week, I deserved a reading day! I was eager to get completely immersed in the fascinating world of Jessica Bell's debut novel, STRING BRIDGE.

The print book is a reader's dream: just the right length, a cover you can keep turning back to, finding meaning in each detail. And nice paper! Not that rough cheap stuff but pages with a good feel to them, a sensual pleasure to hold and read. I was thrilled that an ARC was available in print version.

The writing is deep and beautiful, with imagery and details that make the characters come alive and move the narrative along seamlessly. Bell writes literary fiction, but don't let that stop you. I realize that some literary writing is self-conscious, overdone, lacking in plot and well, just plain dull. Not this book!  String Bridge has a strong narrative that kept me turning pages to see what happens next with Melody and Alex, the troubled couple living in Athens, raising a precocious and adorable (omigosh she is so dang cute!) little girl named Tessa.

Woven through the relationship between Melody and Alex is the complex relationship that Melody has with her bipolar mother, and the fears that she will become like her own mother and do irreparable damage to Tessa. In fact, Melody is so afraid of being hurt by those she loves that she effectively creates barriers to protect herself. It's not until tragedy strikes that Melody begins to understand how very much she did love and was loved in return.

The last novel that moved me and engaged me to this extent was Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. Like Conroy, Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Happiness and Misery

Can you have one without the other? Joy and Pain forever walking side by side through life.

These two however, Travis and Jessica, are obviously feeling pure joy. Aren't they adorable?

While his younger brother, the last one left at home, is so very sad. "I have lost my best friend," he kept saying throughout the day.

I am trying to forget all the things that went wrong. The sun that beat down on us during the wedding luncheon. One p.m. on an August day, temperatures in the 90's, no shade in our side garden. Someone forgot about getting canopies to put over the tables. Ooops!!

The planned-for family portrait that looks more like the shot of a Glee Club than a family, because Dad and a few of the boys forgot to wear their suit coats. It was supposed to be white shirts, turquoise ties, and at least three of them wearing dark jackets, most especially Dad!

Hello?? Why did I not think to look around me and check for the dark jackets??? The Glee Club pianist My daughter is wearing her black top, where are the matching jackets on her brothers? Ooops!! And the Glee Club secretary my other daughter forgot her shoes. Ooops!!

But does this crowd care? No, of course not. All they really care about is having fun and being goofy. Never mind the formal family portrait that Mom wants. Because the last time the family was all together and did a professional portrait was in 1998, when the newlywed groom was nine years old.

Never mind. I'll get over it. Sigh.

Then there is the couple at the center of the celebration. Oblivious. Clearly, they did not notice a thing amiss.

For them, it was a day of perfect joy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Really Big Day

Today one of our younger sons gets married. The wedding is in the morning, the wedding luncheon for fifty is at our home, then that evening will be the reception. A big big day, long and eventful. What's really exciting about it, too, is that all of our children will be together for the first time in years. Hopefully we get a new family portrait to replace the last one which is now fifteen years old.

So why am I blogging, you ask? Why on my son's wedding day am I sitting here writing a blog? Well, it's the night before and I'm scheduling it for Thursday, not actually writing it on THE DAY. I can't sleep for all the thoughts swirling in my head, and perhaps this routine activity will relax me so I can.

Once things have settled down and everyone has gone home, I'll be back with a few pictures of the event.  See you then!

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Have a Dream

Borrowing from one of the best phrases ever uttered, from a speech by Martin Luther King, yes I have a dream, and don't we all, which is why this proclamation has universal appeal. Anyway, back to my dream. It is very simple actually, and something I have practiced for awhile. That is To Find my Audience and Write for them.

It sounds so easy, doesn't it? Then why is it so hard???? Fortunately, blogging has helped me find that audience more than anything else I've done. Therefore, I will not stop blogging. People stumble across my blog, like my voice or whatever, and investigate my books, small as the offering has been. I hope to double my published books by this time next year. SQUEEE!

I've tried looking for an audience elsewhere, like libraries, bookstores, book clubs. Although it's been an interesting endeavor, and I've sold a few books this way, it doesn't feel real. I don't know their names. They don't come and follow my blog. I don't get to know them like I do my blog followers, who I can follow back and be part of their audience as well.

So up to now, my dream has been fulfilled by blogging. I'd like to expand on that, and find a greater audience somewhere beyond the online vistas, but have not been successful doing so.

How about the rest of you published authors out there. Where have you been most successful finding your audience? 

Now, enough about my dream, what is yours? And does blogging help you get any closer to it?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ten things I'll do with my next books that I didn't with the first ones

1. Write faster. Uncut Diamonds took 10 years to finish. House of Diamonds took 3. My newest work, a gritty romance, was finished in less than 2 months. It will be in editing for a year and released next fall.

2. Link to reviews on my blog. There were some amazing blogger reviews on Farm Girl and Uncut Diamonds. Why didn't I create a link list for them? I wish I had, and intend to do so for my next books, maybe even a page of links, if there are a lot.

3. Schedule a blog tour. Again, did not do that before because I had just begun blogging, but plan on it for House of Diamonds. I am really excited about my first blog tour!!

4. Laugh immediately at the horrible, one-star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon that I might get, instead of needing to give them a year before appreciating the silliness of them. "losey book" and "hated it" LOL LOL.

5. Not bother with book signings or appearances. It's not my cup of tea. I don't meet people well in these kinds of settings. Online is where I shine, not in person.

6. Have a clear vision of my demographic instead of wasting time promoting to those who will *hate* my book and call it *losey* (which btw should have been spelled *lousy*). 

7. Worry less about numbers sold. A solid review from a reader who enjoyed my book enough to review it means the world to me. It's like money in the bank on my emotional happiness scale.

8. Get right on to the next one. Needing to make up for lost time in my so-called writing career, procrastination is not an option. If I publish a bomb that doesn't sell, so what? I will just write another book. And if I publish one that sells really well, that *holding my breath* becomes a huge seller, I will just write another book.

9. Let go of comparison and competition. It doesn't matter what other writers and other books are doing in comparison. Period. Let it go, and focus on doing my best work.

10.  Write what I write, despite not knowing what to call it.  Although women's fiction is not the best-selling genre out there, it's what I've got. I could say "literary women's fiction" but I hesitate because for one, I don't think I'm good enough to put the "literary" label on my work, and two, literary isn't what people are reading these days. I could say "commercial women's fiction" but that's the new label applied to chick lit. So is my genre "realistic women's fiction"? Not sure. I write what I write, not sure what to call it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Who is In?

Last year over Labor Day, I hosted a virtual BBQ. That post was titled "Are you ready to find a bunch of awesome new followers?" It got 176 comments and has been viewed nearly 1200 times. Many requested I do the event each year.

Since then, I've seen a lot of changes in blogging routines. People are grouping together, like with like. Emailing and chatting as well as commenting on blogs. Branching out to Twitter and now Google+ which makes chatting and private discussions even more accessible. I'm not sure it's about seeking out new blogs as much as it is about building deeper relationships with the ones you have already found and connected with.

I wondered if I should do the Blog BBQ again. Has the interest in blog discovery waned? But there are more people blogging than ever before, and new ones coming up daily, wondering how they can get in on the action. I think it is still a good idea, and I want to do it again! Like last year, it will be simple-- no linky links to connect with, no buttons or icons to post, just leave a comment, share yummy food to make us drool over our keyboards, and follow at least three new blogs of other participants.

It will be over the 4-day Labor Day weekend, Friday through Monday, plenty of time to go blog-hopping. I will post about it again as the time gets closer. Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of your summer and get ready to find a bunch of awesome new followers that first weekend in September!