2016 was a roller-coaster ride of year. Plain and simple. I had plans to release ANYONE ELSE? by the end of 2016. But life had other plans in store for me. I won't go into a lot of details, for personal reasons, but I will try to explain what I can.
2016 became a year of demolition and rebuilding for me. The foundation in which I had stood upon all my life had painfully been kicked out from under me, and I was left struggling to find my place in this massive world. I questioned everything. Absolutely everything.
I couldn't distinguish between truth and lies. What was once undeniable, undoubted, a certainty, quickly dissolved and blew away with the wind--even as I held on with both hands, desperately trying to keep that from happening. But that wasn't even the worst of it.
What became even more painful was having my eyes opened to things that I once believed were horrendous lies only to find out they weren't lies at all. They were simply omitted truths, hidden from me, or whitewashed in such a way I bought into them without thought.
Now, I had to think. Really think. I was no longer fed someone else' truths (at this point, my mouth was clamped shut). No more. I needed to find my own truth, my own place of belonging, and understanding. I was on a journey
That journey was all encompassing. I couldn't hardly function outside of it. Hours upon hours were spent in searching for truth and understanding in trying to reclaim my life. I'm talking each day I spent fully engrossed in trying to wrap my head around the mayhem.
Writing wasn't hardly even a thought.
My life had shifted in such a way that focusing on anything else but the current situation was near impossible. 2016 slipped by all while in this horrible funk. My feelings fluctuated all over the place from anger to sadness and everywhere in between.
I didn't plan to lose that entire year, but it happened. And it sucked.
Now, I feel that things are in a much better place. It is still a work in progress and I still have my many up and down days. 2017, though better, has still presented itself with unforeseen challenges and setbacks. I think when a person's life changes dramatically, unexpectedly, this becomes the norm. Large chucks of time are devoured by the twists and turns life can throw at you. (See my post for one example of 2017 craziness HERE).
For some people, they can just roll with it and balance the ups and downs with everything else in their life. Apparently, that isn't me.
I apologize for this.
ANYONE ELSE? is being written. Unfortunately, it's been slow going. I didn't realize just how hard it is to jump back into writing when a large and painful hiatus knocks you to the ground and 2017 decides to throw its own punches at you.
But, I've climbed to my feet, brushed myself off, and I'm at it again.
It's coming, guys. It's coming. I promise.
I haven't done many book signings, just a handful really, so I'm far from being an expert, but in saying that, there are few things I've learned, and wished I would've learned sooner.
Tip #1) Get a (Square Reader)
By far, this made the biggest impact in my book signing success.
Before I found out about this little beauty, I limited my book sales by only being able to handle each transaction in cash. How many people do you know carry cash on them now days? Not many. Being able to accept credit cards is a must.
The Square Reader is free. Yes, FREE! Doesn't get much better than that. Download the Square App on your phone (works for both iphones and Androids), order and sign up for a Square Reader (they do offer credit card chip readers as well, but those will cost you) on their website. The only cost you is the 2.75% per transaction, which isn't bad at all. You will receive daily reports that breaks down your sales, best sale times during the day, and which item (book) sold the best. Deposits into your bank account happens as quickly as the next day. The Square App can be personalized--I created an items list and uploaded the book covers for each item.
Tip #2) Don't Sit
Unless you're a big-name author, sitting on your butt, behind a table of books is a sure way to not sale a thing. People WILL walk by. You have to stand (yes, lots of hours on your feet) and getting out of your comfort zone and initiating conversations with potential customers.
I didn't realize it until I saw it in play, but as an author you're mostly selling yourself. Again, until you're a big-name author, well recognized (we can dream can't we?) you are the product. This is so true, it's almost painful, especially for us introverts (raises hand).
Stand up, hand out bookmarks (see Tip #3), and simply ask them, "Do you like to read?" That's what we started our conversations with. Then we would follow up with, "What kind of books do you like to read?" Then, depending on what their answer is, we'd direct them to the right author that sold that genre. If they say, "No, I don't read" or if they look like they're trying to get away from you, LET THEM GO.
Be friendly, be smiley, and if you can make them laugh, all the better. Your personality will draw them in and they will be more open to hearing about your books. It's surprising how just smiling and asking them to come over and check out your books how many people actually will.
Tip #3) Have Bookmarks or Business Cards to Hand Out
If you can put something into someone's hand, even if they're walking away, DO IT. Have your website and buying options on your cards. There is always that possibility of them buying your books later or picking them up in eBook format.
Not sure where to start to get business cards or bookmarks? Try Vistaprint. They usually have great options and prices.
It's nice to place bookmarks inside signed books as well.
Tip #4) Find a Network of Authors (Make Author Friends)
If you can find other local authors to join you, all the better. Fortunately for me, Utah has several writing communities to connect with other authors. The League of Utah Writers is a big one. Look around, see what your community offers, and get involved. Check Facebook groups in your area as well. Making local contacts and getting involved with other authors is a great way to make book signings less stressful for yourself and cuts the initial cost of setting up a booth at different events. The more variety of books on the table, the more likely someone will stop and look.
Make sure to find authors who are willing to sell you and your books as well. You need to work together. Keep in mind, some of the authors will have better sales. That's just part of the game, but that's okay. Learn from them. This will help you in the future. But setting up a booth with an overbearing author, who cuts in on your conversation with a customer, and is only concerned with selling their books can make the event down right awful. Talk about this upfront with the other authors and be frank in how you expect everyone to behave.
Also, limit the number of authors you do an event with. Booth sizes tend to run on the small side and tossing in ten authors in an 8x8 area is asking for trouble.
Tip #5) Cut Custmers a Deal
When I went to the event, I only brought with me what books I had on stock. I really wanted to push ZIA, The Teenage Zombie & The Undead Diaries as it is my newest release (Yes, trying to sell zombies at a Christmas Craft show is a tad rough...but doable). I also wanted to push ANYONE? since book two ANYONE ELSE? will be released this coming year. I had a lot of those books on hand, but not so much my other books, which hurt me when it came to people wanting to buy the full ZOMBIE WEST series (I only had three DEAD PLAINS on hand so for a two day event, could only sell three full sets...bummer).
What I noticed from the other authors was that they made "deals" when it came to their series books. Most books, they charged $10 a book, but if they bought the series or bought any three books from the same author, they would knock off a dollar a book. $27 for three author signed books...not too shabby, and most customers went for the deal.
Let the customers know that should they decide to wait and buy your books through retailers such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble, the cost is usually higher and it wouldn't be a signed copy. Customers like deals. Make sure you have a couple to offer them (and hook them, too).
Bonus Tip #6) Success is Relative (also, be realistic).
How do you measure success? Well, that will vary by author. You will need to define that for yourself. Be realistic when you do so, too. To go to any event and expect to sell out of all your books and makes thousands upon thousands of dollars will leave you disapointed. Seriously, unless you're JK Rowling or Dan Brown it ain't gonna happen.
I set my expectations low because that's how I roll. This particular event cost me $80 (my part of the booth fees...$80 x 4 = $320. See Tip #4 again), but I had to drive over an hour to get to the event. My hope was to sell enough books to cover my $80 cost plus some to cover my gas. That was the bar I set. Low. Keeping it real. This was a two day event, and I was pleasantly surprised after day one to have not only met that goal, but exceeded it to cover my lunch as well :) Day two, at that point, was all profit. Let's just say, I ended the event happy and with extra $$ in my pocket.
But even if I hadn't made a profit, there were a couple of customers that made standing on my feet for two days straight and smiling at strangers who completely ignored me completely worth it. I will never forget those young faces, so excited to read my zombie and apocalyptic books--Ethan, Clay, Allison, and Maddi. Those four kids and those four connections were amazing.
That right there was my definition of success.
These are the rules for this particular writing exercise:
"The Reluctant “I.” Write a 600-word first-person story in which you use the first person pronoun (“I” or “me” or “my”) only two times—but keep the “I” somehow important to the narrative you’re constructing. The point of this exercise is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself or herself than in what he or she is observing. You can make your narrator someone who sees a very interesting event in which she is not necessarily a participant. Or you can make him self-effacing yet a major participant in the events related. The people we tend to like most are those who are much more interested in other people than in themselves, selfless and caring, whose conversation is not a stream of self-involved remarks (like the guy who, after speaking about himself to a woman at a party for half an hour, says, “Enough about me, what do you think of me?”). Another lesson you might learn from this exercise is how important it is to let things and events speak for themselves, beyond the ego of the narration. It is very important in this exercise to make sure your reader is not surprised, forty or fifty words into the piece, to realize that this is a first person narration. Show us quickly who is observing the scene."
Here is my attempt and boy, was this one a toughie. 600+ words, I believe I only used MY twice. If I'm wrong, let me know. This one really pushed me for sure.
She didn't want to wear the dress or the hat or the shoes. She didn't want to sit at the piano or pose for the picture, but with a bit a gentle coaxing, she finally gave in.
"It doesn't feel right," she'd said. "We shouldn't be here. We should be leaving with the others."
And though we both knew her words held a heavy truth, we also knew fleeing was futile. To stay or to go, the end result would most likely be the same.
So we stayed. This was our home. It had been our home and our place of peace of twenty years. We had held our wedding in the garden outside the large front windows that overlooked our village. We had held many celebrations in our home, listening to her gently tap the black and white keys of the piano. Such happiness and simple times then.
She had given birth to all five of our children--three alive and two slipping into the world but never taking a breath--on a pile of mats and bed clothes on our bedroom floor, surrounded by only our mothers to comfort her and ease her pain. Both the mental and physical aspects of giving birth and losing two precious ones.
Our mothers have long been gone from this world, passing before chaos knocked at our borders, threatening everything.
Our children? The three we'd had the privilege to raise and watch grow into adulthood?
One had married and crossed the seas. We hadn't seen her in years, though we exchanged letters often, but letters couldn't replace embracing her, touching her. My dearest daughter.
She had begged us to come to her country, to stay with her and her kind husband. She'd send money if she had to, but money was never the issue. It never had been. We simply couldn't leave. How could we after sending our two sons to war, to fight for the country we loved, only to abandon it and them? We couldn't. A part of our heart was with her and the other part with them. That was the way of a mother. That was the way of a father.
We also had hope. We believed we could and would win this battle. Our boys would come home, walking through the door, and together we would make a holiday out of visiting their sister in her modernized western world. We'd travel by boat. We'd touch the ocean waters. We'd see sites we'd never seen before.
We'd be happy again. We'd be a family again.
Only that wasn't how war worked. With war, one side would win and one side would lose. One side would never find their happiness again. War destroyed more than lands.
The house shook on its foundation, rattling pictures on the walls. Several books fell from the shelves. A bit of plaster fell from the ceiling, leaving a dusting of chalky whiteness over the surface of the antique piano.
They were indeed getting closer.
She almost stood then, leaving her bench, but the shake of my head stopped her. "Not yet."
She settled back, as fear once more gave way to acceptance. We knew our fate.
One final picture, and despite knowing neither of us would ever see it developed, it didn't matter.
For in this moment, in her white dress, resting against the piano, face sullen, yet beautiful as though she hadn't aged a day since we'd first met, gave us each a sense of normalcy. Something we'd lacked for many many months.
The shutter clicked. The picture taken.
Neither of us moved as the earth shook beneath our feet once again. More plaster crumbled. More books fell to the floor. The pictures no longer clung to the walls, but lay in broken heaps.
We looked at one another. Years of love and adoration passed between us despite no words spoken.
Slowly, her trembling fingers caressed the familiar keys of the piano, touching them lightly, pressing one at a time, and then several together. One perfect chord. Then two. Trickling of music fluttered from her fingertips, whisking away the tension and terror in the air.
There were no bombs destroying the nearby villages. There were no enemy troops marching toward us.
There was only her, in her white dress, playing the piano like our world wasn't about to end.
In an effort to get my writing mo-jo back, a good friend suggested doing several writing exercises. This is my second attempt. If you missed reading Picture Writing Prompt #1, you can take a look at it HERE.
Also, if you happen to look at any of these picture prompts and want to give the writing exercise a go, PLEASE DO and then place a link in the comments. I'd LOVE to read your take :)
The rules are: Write a beginning or end, a sentence over 35 words long (is that even possible), or write a turning point (or defining point) in a story.
HITCH HIKING SNOW WHITE
(35 words long sentence...my attempt):
When a fairy-tale character thumbs for a ride on the side of an otherwise barren road in the middle of nowhere, the only recognizable choice is to slow the car down and pull over--okay, maybe not for the big bad wolf from Red-Riding Hood, but for a super attractive Snow White... that's a no-brainer--and pulled over, I did.
There's actually something about this picture that makes me want to write more, but a 35+ sentence is a good place for now :) I can see a story with a lot of humor here.
Let me know you stopped by by leaving a comment below.
Diana Tracy, a very good friend of mine, decided to help me get my writing mojo back. She thought writing to photo prompts would be a great place to start, so a week ago, she sent me this picture. My options were to write a beginning or end, a sentence over 35 words long (is that even possible), or write a turning point (or defining point) in a story.
Photo writing prompts are NOT as easy as it sounds. This was a bit of a struggle for me. There are so many different directions to go and that's where I get stuck. Actually, that's where I tend to get stuck in ALL my writing. I need to pick an idea and trust myself.
So that's what I did here. I just picked and idea and ran with it. I hope you enjoy it
An Ending (Free writing. Non-edited)
I had warned her.
Several times, in fact, but did she listen? No. Never. The stubborn woman.
"There was no such thing as pure magic," I'd told her. "Every spell, every book, every concocted antidote, and hopeful wish--all contaminated over the space of time by pompous imbeciles who simply can't leave well enough alone."
"Are you calling me an imbecile?" She'd held her hand over the spell book that had been handed down from one generation to the next, with all it's scribbled notes in the margins--pages that could hardly be read after decades of weathering and time. "Is that what you think of me?"
I had, but how was I to say those words aloud. I had loved her then, much like a father, but I was also afraid of her. I'd taken too much time to respond, and in so doing, she'd made her conclusion.
She thumbed the pages of the book. "You will see, Martin. You will see."
I didn't want to see.
In the course of my seventy-eight years, I'd witnessed enough spells go astray. And those that didn't, well, the results were much the same... with time and hindsight. That was why most people chose to live by fate, by consequence, and truth, letting magic fall by the wayside. Magic was too tricky, too unreliable.
And as much as I hated to see my life-longs work discarded and forgotten, I had also known it was for the best. No young apprentice had ever been successful. Not even after years of training and prepping.
Not even her. Though I had had hopes.
Words of unknown origin had tumbled from her lips and her hands trembled. The pages had fluttered with nonexistent wind.
I had tried to stop her. I had tried casting a ceasing spell at her, but she had studied the book well, and my words dissipated as they left my mouth and had no effect. I had been an old man then, a wizard, yes, but still an old man, and I could do nothing.
Oh, darling. You do not know what you ask of the unknown realms.
As her legs changed shape, the gap closing and molding into a thick trunk made of hard knotty wood; and her fingers and toes elongating, some reaching heavenward and others disappearing into the ground towards hell, her eyes flew open and she looked to me.
I could only shake my head.
She had opened her mouth, but her words had been silenced as branches sprouted forth from the opening, twisting and turning, and bending in all directions. Shoots had sprung from the crown of her head.
Her fine skin had become rough and hard, her red hair becoming the color of moss, and then she was gone. There, but gone in the sense I had once known her and would ever know her again.
She wanted to live forever--a mighty request that may others before her had desired--and in some respects she achieved, but perhaps not as she had hoped.
Over the years I had come to appreciate the tree's elegance. I'd touch the bark, talk to her as if she could hear me.
From that day, I'd vowed never to use or teach magic again.
And because of that vow, I did nothing but stand there as they pulled out their axes and blades and began to cut her down.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought. I plan to do more of these exercises in hopes to rejuvenate my love for writing and jump start my creativity again. You support is much appreciated.
I'm going to be honest: Writing used to be a joy and a pleasure. The little voices in my head constantly nagged at me until I TRULY felt no choice but to listen and to write their stories. My characters were my friends and my family.
Lately, I feel none of this--no joy, no pleasure, and the voices have fallen silent. It's been like this for months now. Lots of months.
It scares me a little. Am I dried up? Am I done? Am I no longer a writer? (Well, you can't be a writer unless you write, obviously, and I haven't really been doing much of that).
I thought taking a break, pulling back from the writing scene, might be what I needed. A break is good when you feel burned out, right?
Only this break seems to hanging onto me, not wanting to let go any time soon.
I need to find the joy again. I need to find the voices.
But where do I even begin to start?
This is where I am right now, taking baby steps to get out of this "funk," because this isn't a fun place to be.
I'm always on the look out for a good zombie movie, something new and something that hasn't been done before. I had never heard of THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS until the movie trailer showed up on my Facebook time line.
Based on the book by M.R. Carey, which has garnered over 1,500 reviews on Amazon with a 4.3 star rating, this movie looks intriguing. I'm really excited for this one. So excited, in fact, I nabbed the paperback book (thank you, Amazon Prime).
Enjoy the trailer and let me know what you think.
Ahhh... writer's block! What a pain in the behind. Some times there is nothing else you can do but find the humor in it until it passes. Enjoy some of my favorite memes on the topic :)
to explain something that I haven't quite figured out myself, but here is my attempt to do just that.
In 2011 and 2012, I was FULLY on board and participating in the blogging world. I embraced words and held them tight. Writing was easy and fun and completely how I identified myself. "I'm a writer!" That was my declaration. I was excited and enthusiastic. I couldn't wait to be published and hold one of my precious babies/books in my hands. I read blog posts and participated in anything and everything writing related that I possibly could. I surrounded myself with like-minded individuals and I felt a part of something huge! Something bigger than myself.
Now, four short years later I find myself somewhat alone and struggling to find the right words. Actually, to find the right words for anything. I almost feel as though my well of creativity has dried up. Blogging seems like such a painful chore. Trying to write on my work in progress is taxing and brings with it it's own problems of self-doubt, struggles, and fears. Where I used to kick out words and sentences and pages in one sitting without issues--because I simply used a flow of words to paint the picture I was seeing in my head--now has become nearly impossible. I can spend hours writing one paragraph. I fret over each and every word. Is it right? Is this direction I want to go? Let's rewrite it and try again and again and again.
Because I'm finding it difficult to silence my internal editor and write freely, the very idea of sitting down to write on my work in progress has become all together unpleasant. So I avoid it. I avoid it a lot.
And that's not fair to you, my readers, my fans, those who have been SO supportive over the past several years, reading everything I put out and asking for more.
My silence about what I'm going through, creatively, isn't fair to you.
That's why I'm writing this post.
I want you to know where I am and what's going on.
The little voices that were once so very loud in my head, refusing to let me do anything but write their story, have seemed to fall silent. It's a little scary, especially for a person who has ALWAYS heard the little voices for as long I can possibly remember. I miss my imaginary friends. I miss them a lot.
But I want you to know that I'm trying to entice them back. I really am. Last weekend, I went away on a much needed writing trip with a very good friend of mine. We talked. We discussed stories and ideas and plots. We even wrote a little (not a lot, but enough to feel as though progress is being made).
And that's the key words--PROGRESS IS BEING MADE.
I'm trying to make writing fun again and remember those days when my head wasn't filled with so much doubt that it paralyzes me into doing nothing. I need to trust my intuition again.
I just want to let you know that I'm working on it. I don't want to let anyone down, but I also know that I need to feel that what I'm writing is the best I can possibly do. I don't feel that in this moment.
Until then, I will keep working through these creative issues and find my way once again. I am a writer. I can't imagine a time when I can't say that. I know this is temporary and that it will get better.
I just hope you can be patient with me a little longer.