Tuesday, May 15, 2018

4 Book Marketing Tips for the Newbie Author

I love social media. I like seeing what's going on in other people's lives, people I haven't spoken to in a long time. I have a friend from college I haven't seen since 2005, but because of Facebook we still chat occasionally and I get to see her beautiful family.

I've met tons of other writers on Twitter, and gotten more writing advice than I can count. I'm also able to live tweet a TV show and commiserate with other viewers if something doesn't go the way we wanted (I'm looking at YOU DWTS!).

Because of Instagram, I'm able to see beautiful pictures that people take on their travels. Some people are extremely talented, and their Instagram shows that.

I've been trying to use social media to market myself as a writer since 2012. I've learned some things about what you should/shouldn't do. If you read my blog on publishing my novel before it was ready, you'll know that I really had no clue what I was doing. I knew nothing about the publishing process, the marketing process, and I honestly feel like I knew nothing about the writing process, despite holding a BFA in Creative Writing.

Yesterday, I was reposting a couple of writer Instagrams, including their hashtags. Almost immediately I started getting likes, as happens when you use popular hashtags. What I wasn't expecting was a needy DM (Direct Message) from a writer I'd never spoken to or heard of, begging me to review his book.

After glancing at his Amazon page I was struck by two things.

  1. He didn't research me before sending the DM, which leads me to believe that he sent out his letter without personalizing it at all.
  2. He's a bit narcissistic. His author bio was all about how no one understood him as an artist, which was apparently validating to him, personally, but it made it hard to make money with his writing because no one would take the chance on him. 
Neither issue made me want to read his books. Also, one of his books had a crude drawing of male genitalia. I enjoy reading Chick Lit, not Freudian books about manhood.

There's a lot to be learned here because I was in his shoes once. Here are a few tips to help you market your book to the right people, and why you should.

Niche Down to Find Your Best Audience

Naive authors will be the first to tell you that they want literally everyone to love their books. That's a nice thought and all, but do you know how many different people and opinions are in the world? A LOT. 

Do you want people reading your stories who most likely won't like it or do you want to find your die-hard fans? It'll be easier to find people who love your books if you go to people who love your genre. I belong to a Chick Lit Authors group on Facebook, and we're constantly sharing our work with each other. We're promoting each other's work with passion because we love it. It's our niche. We're recommending books we love with our reviews. 

The author who DM'd me wrote Creative Nonfiction and death poetry. Not exactly my cup of tea, so odds are pretty good I wouldn't give him a good review. That's just honesty. Personally, I'd like to keep people who won't like my book far away. No poor experience for them, no bad review for me. 

How to Find Authors To Pitch To

I'm not going to go into a long blog about this tip because Dave Chesson did it so much better, but suffice it to say, there are ways to find people who might enjoy your book. I've even been contacted by people using his methods. Some books are great, some not so great, but I was willing to give them a chance because they matched what I was looking for. 

Personalize Your Pitch

Nothing bugs a potential reviewer more than feeling like someone just threw junk mail at them. I get enough junk mail through the US Post Office, I don't really want it coming through my inbox, too (though Lord knows, it does!). 

If you've got a book you want me to read, tell me why it'll be a good fit for ME. Tell me you've looked at my reviews. Compare your book to others I've read. Include specifics. Help me know you've actually read my reviews. 

Expand Your Education

In the Internet Age, there's really no excuse for not getting all the information you need quickly and easily. Google is the world's biggest search engine, and there are hundreds of blog posts on how to Market your self-published book. 

Podcasts are another great option for self-publishing information, and Dave Chesson, who I mentioned above, has one of the best. Joanna Penn is another. She's amazing. Alinka Rutkowska has another.

One thing all of these authors will tell you is to have a plan of action. Don't throw spaghetti at the wall and wait for what sticks. Plan your review requests strategically for the best chances of getting good reviews from people who will become life-long fans. 

Your Turn!

  • What are your favorite book marketing tips?
  • Have you ever thrown spaghetti at the wall, so to speak?
  • What is your favorite self-publishing podcast?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Review: "Parasite" by Mira Grant

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)Parasite by Mira Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So a few weeks back, I made a deal with my sister. Or rather, she made a deal with me. If I read this book and Feed for her, she'd read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre for me. We both put the requests in on Overdrive for audiobooks and waited. I got Parasite before she got either of her two. I imagine that her opinion of my books will be similar to my opinion of this book.


So, the story was trying to build up to this insane conclusion about who Sal was. A conclusion that I figured out in the first couple of chapters. Since I knew what was coming, I kept waiting for something bigger to happen, except it never did. And then it ended on a cliffhanger (I do intend to read more). I hate when authors do that. I feel like a series is good if the first book, at least, is standalone. Cliffhangers make me mad. What if the next book never gets published (I'm reading this way after the fact, but you know what I mean)? It feels lazy to me, and I wonder if this is Mira Grant's first book? I don't know.

I honestly thought all of the characters were bland. Except maybe Tansy and Sherman. Both of them were kind of unexpected.

I don't know if I can recommend this book. If it were made into a movie, I'd probably see it, but it'd probably end up in a group with that movie, "Splice" with Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody. Mad scientists whose creations wreak havoc.

I leave you with this:

View all my reviews

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Friday, December 8, 2017

My Top 10 Christmas Movies

I enjoyed writing about my favorite Halloween movies so much that I decided to write a Christmas List, too! Christmas movies are kind of awesome, and I even love and adore the dorky Hallmark ones (we have about twelve on our DVR that my mom and I haven't had time to watch).

If you're not sure what to watch this Christmas, I hope this list helps you find something heartwarming, funny, and joyful.

10. It's a Wonderful Life

I'd never seen this movie all the way through until about three years ago. I was surprised how much I liked it. It's another one of those that you could watch any time of year because it takes place at various points in Jimmy Stewart's history, and its climax comes to a head on Christmas. 

9. The Nativity Story

This is a sweet story that tells the story of Mary and Joseph meeting, to Mary's message from the angel Gabriel, and their difficult trip to Bethlehem. It's a beautiful movie and exactly how I imagined The Nativity to be. Starring a younger Oscar Isaac as Joseph, too, for all you Star Wars fans.

While not a Christmas movie, per se, there is a big Christmas scene at the end brings the entire film to a climax. It's Judy Garland at her best, and one of the most heart-warming family movies ever to grace the silver screen. I was actually so obsessed with this movie that when I was seven, and we took a road trip through St. Louis, I kept waiting to see the house, carriages, and streetcar that had been there 80-some years before. You can imagine my disappointment that it didn't actually look like a quaint small town with big Victorian mansions. 

As it takes place in all seasons, you can watch it any time of year. You're welcome.

7. A Charlie Brown Christmas

This will always hold a special place in my heart. Charlie Brown has a hard time figuring out what Christmas is all about, so he goes through everything he can to put him in the Christmas spirit. It isn't until he's put in charge of the Christmas play that he finally demands to know what it's all about, and Linus puts down his security blanket and says this

6. The Holiday

I love a good Nancy Meyers movie, and considering she made one about a lovelorn Kate Winslet falling in love with a film composer, it's like she was writing about my life. I absolutely love this movie, and its quirkiness, its comedy, and its elements of Hallmark in a big budget film.

5. A Princess for Christmas

This theme has been running rampant for a couple years, but I first saw this film because I was high on an Outlander binge and needed more Sam Heughan. In one of his first films, he plays Ashton, prince of a small European country who lives a cold existence with his father. He'd lost his brother a few years before and things hadn't been the same since.

But the story doesn't start there. It starts in Buffalo, New York, where Jules Daly, a harried guardian of two children loses her job and her nanny right before Christmas. The trio is invited to the European country to spend Christmas with the children's grandfather, who up until that point, had ceased all contact. Jules brings a bright, jolly demeanor to a dour, cold castle, and falls in love in the process. It's fluffy, sweet, and completely predictable, but that's totally okay because it's Christmas. 

4. Love, Actually

The Quintessential British Christmas flick that America keeps trying to remake, and keeps failing miserably. 

Several stories intertwined around the Christmas holiday, of different kinds of love, culminating in a Christmas Pageant at a public school, where more than one lobster was present at the birth of Jesus (duh!)

My favorite stories are the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) and one of his assistants (Martine McCutcheon), as well as Sarah (Laura Linney), a lonely office worker, and Karl (Roderigo Santoro), her co-worker that she's been in love with since day one. The rest are all great, too, but those two are my favorites. 

It IS a risque movie in places, but if you can catch it on Freeform, the most risque plot has been removed.

3. Santa Claus: The Movie

This is probably the first Christmas movie I ever recall watching. My sister and I were obsessed with it. We had it taped off TV and the tape got so warped by the time we upgraded everything to DVD. But it's so fun because it's two movies in one! 

We have the history of Santa Claus (David Huddleston), and how he came to become The Legend, and then a secondary story in the modern age where one of his more inventive elves, Patch (Dudley Moore), has done a poor job of being Santa's assistant and travels to New York to prove what a great elf he can be. He has a run in with the dastardly BZ (John Lithgow), who runs a shoddy toy company, and shenanigans ensue. It's pretty fun and has some great moments. Love it.

2. The Santa Clause (And Sequels)

Is there a Santa Story more magical than The Santa Clause? Tim Allen accidentally scaring Santa off his roof, and getting shanghaied into being the Big Guy? It's classic 90's Christmas comedy at its best.

And I have a soft spot in my heart for The Santa Clause 2 because while Santa has to find his Mrs. Claus, she's played by an alumna of my college, Elizabeth Mitchell. Stephens Solidarity.

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is fun, but kind of the forgettable one in the Trio. It's got a bit of It's a Wonderful Life going on, but Martin Short can come on a bit strong for my taste.

1. The Muppet Christmas Carol

This is it. My absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time. It's got the classic story A Christmas Carol with the Muppets witty touches! It has Michael Caine playing everything as straight as any other Scrooge before him, while having to say lines like, "It's Fozziewig's old rubber chicken factory!"

Comedy gold, man.

I will say that there is something that bothers me about the DVD version. They removed the BEST SONG IN THE ENTIRE MOVIE. When Scrooge is going back over his past, there's the saddest, most beautiful breakup ballad in the world. Titled "When Love is Gone," and Scrooge's fiancee, Belle, sings about how she and Scrooge have gone separate directions. The reason it's so awesome is that at the end when Scrooge has his awakening, and he joins with the rest of the city to celebrate Christmas, he sings a song called "The Love We Found." 

It bookends the entire story. They should never have gotten rid of it in the widescreen DVD/Blueray version. It didn't slow the story down, and you really saw exactly WHY it had such an impact on Scrooge and the rest of his life. 

There are so many others that I wanted to add (White Christmas! Miracle on 34th Street! A Christmas Story!) But I had to draw the line at ten. 

Your Turn!

  1. What are your favorite Christmas movies?
  2. Do you agree/disagree with any on this list?

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I Tried Low Carb Cloud Bread (And Survived!)

I'd been avoiding this new trendy food thing for a while. Didn't want to make it, didn't want to try it, didn't want anything to do with it. It just looked weird. And rubbery.

However, I've recently realized that my body does better on lower carb, so I decided to give it a whirl. If it was terrible, I'd add it to the list of things I'd never ever try again.

Know what? It wasn't half bad.

What is Cloud Bread?

Cloud Bread is a bread-like substance made of separated eggs, cream cheese, and any seasonings you want to add. You can make it sweet or savory, and it works very well for sandwiches. It's low carb, contains mostly fat (don't worry. It'll help keep you full), and when you cook it long enough, it's very sturdy. I've been known to undercook it and it sticks to my fingers. Whoops!

How is it made?

  1. Preheat oven to 300 Degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  2. Add Cream of Tartar to your Egg Whites and whip with a mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form (That means when you pull the whisk out, the egg whites stand up on their own. The Cream of tartar helps give them structure).
  3. In another bowl, beat your egg yolks and cream cheese until uniform and there are no clumps of cheese left (I've tried this with a whisk and with a mixer and a mixer is superior for really smooth eggs and cream cheese).
  4. Carefully fold a scoop of your egg whites into the egg yolks. To fold, use a rubber spatula to cut through the whites and fold the yolks over the top. Repeat until the first round is incorporated, and add the remainder. 
  5. Use a scoop or spoon to spoon the mixture onto your baking sheet. bake for 30 minutes until golden. Let rest for 1 hour.
  6. Store in a plastic bag in your fridge. 
Check out the video to see it done!

Why Would You Ever Eat Such a Thing? Bread is Life!

I know. And I love bread and pastry as much as the next amateur blogger. I'm addicted to Cupcake Jemma videos on YouTube and have more dessert pins on Pinterest than probably anyone. But the fact of the matter is, my health is what I'm focusing on. I'm tall, but I'm heavy. My joints ache, I'm tired all the time, so I'm in the process of searching for what is a good eating plan for me. 

My sister has been doing Keto since may, and she just hit the 50-pound mark. I'm so proud of her, and I've seen on my own journey that lower carb seems to work. 

Also, I think I'm addicted to sugar, and if I don't eat every couple of hours I get shaky and cranky. Since starting Keto (High fat, moderate protein, low carb), I haven't been hungry every two hours, Breakfast keeps me until actual lunch, I've lost weight, I'm more alert, and I'm discovering that a side of rice or potatoes isn't really necessary to make a rounded plate. 

Don't worry, this isn't going to become a Keto blog. It's still a lifestyle blog, with guest posts, and a lot of fun things to keep you informed.

Until Next Time!

Your turn!

  • Have you tried Cloud Bread?
  • How about Keto?
  • Got a favorite low carb recipe? Share in the comments!

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Easy Money Saving with Digit

Have you ever tried saving money, but it just wasn't feasible? You've tried setting up an automatic deduction to go straight into your savings account, or you pull out a twenty for your piggy bank, only to accidentally spend it?

Honestly, I'm the same way. I'm terrible with saving money. I started that way when I was in high school and had to start buying my own gas. And then there was going to the movies. Eating out with my friends. You get the idea.

As a woman in my thirties, I'm really starting to understand just how important it is to save money for the future. Especially if I want to buy my own home one day. I don't want to have to rent for the rest of my life.

I've found other ways of making money in the past, but sometimes you just want something easy. Set it and forget it.

Digit is just that. It's an app that's connected to your bank account (and completely secure and encrypted) and pulls out a little every day in varying amounts based on how it sees you spending your money. Its algorithm detects when you spend money and when it sees you can afford to take a little out for your savings. It's fun to see it add up. Earlier this year I was up to $100 in just a few weeks!

What's better is that they're so confident of their algorithm that they guarantee to repay you if your bank overdrafts because of one of their charges (up to two instances). It happened to me a few months ago, and I sent them a screenshot of the statement. They put the overdraft fee in my Digit account and I was able to transfer the funds back to my checking account. It was so simple and they had amazing customer service. They also let me set it up that they'll stop withdrawing if my checking account gets to a certain point. My point is $20.

Now, there is a free trial, but after that, it's $2.99 a month, but it's such a great app that I think spending that little on a little extra savings help is negligible.

They also offer savings bonus when you save for three consecutive months. It's 1% and added directly to your account.

To read more, you can go here.

What's more, if you love it like I do, you should tell your friends about it. Get $5 for every friend you refer. There's no limit on how many friends you can refer!

Are you ready to amp up your savings and really see your goals explode? Check it out! You won't be sorry!

Your Turn!

  • What's your favorite way to save money?
  • Have you ever tried Digit?

Digit offers an affiliate program, where everyone who uses your link to sign up earns a little extra. Links above are affiliate links.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

5 Best Movies for Halloween

Happy October! Fall is the time for hot drinks, chunky sweaters, soups, stews (thank God comfort food is back!), and HALLOWEEN MOVIES!

Yes. Halloween movies! I know some people have been getting ready pretty much since September 1, but I like to start in October. It's like concentrating on spooky movies for a limited amount of time, making it all the more special.

So without further ado, here are my five picks for Halloween movies, in descending order.

5. The Nightmare Before Christmas

I know. This is probably at the VERY TOP of some people's lists, but not mine. But it IS up there. I think that The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those groundbreaking films that really showed artistry in animation. The story is fun and the music is even better (Be sure to check out the cover songs album too!). 

When this movie came out I remember my sister and I begged our parents to let us see it. It was NOT what we were expecting (I don't think it was what anyone was expecting), and we didn't watch it again for years. I don't think my sister likes this movie at all, but it continues to intrigue me.

What skeeves me out about this movie is Oogie Boogie, though. That entire sequence just gives me the willies, which, honestly, is something to look for and appreciate in a Halloween movie. 

And absolutely you can watch this at Christmas, too!

4. Practical Magic

The trailer to Practical Magic makes it look like a cutesy romantic comedy, but it is NOT that (BAD trailer editor!). This movie is actually a lot darker than that (though it does have it's funny, fluffy, romantic moments). 

I'm a sucker for movies about sisters (have I blabbed about how awesome my own sis is lately? She's the bee's knees!), and this one is no different. 

Sally and Jillian Owens are witches, descended from a line of witches doomed for their true loves to die horrible deaths. Sally vows as a child never to fall in love and casts a spell that one specific man will be her true love (she doesn't know who he is, she just gives him really specific traits like one green eye and one blue, he can flip pancakes, has a good heart, and his favorite shape is a star). She makes it so outrageous that he won't actually exist. Jillian is just the opposite. She falls in love almost daily and runs away with a boyfriend, sending postcards to Sally and their matronly aunts. When Jillian calls Sally in distress, Sally rushes to help her and they find themselves involved in a murder investigation that leads Sally to her destiny. 

Starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as the sisters, and Aiden Quinn, Stockard Channing, and Dianne Wiest, this movie is the Halloween chick flick to end all Chick Flicks.

The Book is also great, and makes a 3-hour drive go quickly!

3. Young Frankenstein

Put ze candle Beck!

Oh, Mel Brooks. Where would we be without his wit and charm? And this wonderful monster movie?

When I was in high school we read Frankenstein and as a reward for making it through our teacher let us watch Young Frankenstein. This movie is so funny! It's the story of Victor Frankenstein's great great grandson, Frederick, trying to live down his kooky ancestor's antics, but while on a trip to Transylvania, he discovers the scientific principles that led Victor to reanimate life. Along the way are memorable characters and gags that would continue into all of Mel Brooks' films

I frequently quote this movie (apparently I inherited that from my parents. They used to quote it to each other all the time!), and it was one of the movies we watched last year when Gene Wilder passed away.

2. Hocus Pocus

Would you believe that I don't actually own Hocus Pocus

Also, this movie scared the bejeesus out of me as a child (I was eight when it came out). The idea of witches sucking the life force out of children struck a nerve.

I got over it by the time I got to college, and actually watched it with friends one rainy afternoon. A few years later two friends and I dressed up as the Sanderson sisters for Halloween (I was Mary). When I took an Insta-pic of my Halloween movies last week the general consensus was outrage that I didn't own this movie. So when I get paid, I'll be popping down to Target for it.

This movie has everything Halloween: Witches, Zombies, Black Cats (we LOVE black cats!), and shenanigans. Lots and LOTS of shenanigans! If you've never seen it, check it out. You won't regret it!

1. Carrie

I never considered myself a Stephen King fan until I saw Carrie. I don't know what it is about this movie, but I absolutely LOVE it. I love the story (I read the book last year), I love the acting, the drama. I actually own the 1976 version, the 1999 sequel, and the made for TV remake that they tried to turn into a TV series. I don't own the newest version, but I have seen it. 

The first time I saw this was on the night of my sister's prom back in 2002. I was sixteen and watched it with my best friend. It was a fun night. I've seen it several times since then, and it's really fun to see the who's gone on in their careers.

I'm trying to convince my family to watch it with me this year. My mom suggested that we do a movie night with PMS food (the story starts with Carrie getting her period, and all hell breaks loose from there).

Also, fun fact: Apparently Piper Laurie, who plays Carrie's mother, thought the movie was a comedy and will argue that fact to this day. That's why she played it so over the top. Same with Nancy Allen and John Travolta. Nancy thought they were such bickering morons that they were the comic relief. Film editing can make or break a movie.

When I was in college, I took a film class, and this was one of the first movies we watched. I'd seen it, but no one else had, so it was funny watching all of the reactions to everyone during the Prom scene, and what followed.

Your Turn!

  • What movies do you recommend for Halloween viewing?
  • What is your absolute favorite Halloween movie?
  • Do you dress up for Halloween or hide in your house? I prefer to hunker down and pray for daylight, myself. 

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Monday, October 2, 2017

How to Find Super Cute Prescription Glasses

I got a pair of sunglasses from GlassesShop.com to write this post, but the opinions are 100% my own.

Since it's back to school time, that means a lot of people are looking to buy new glasses for their children, for themselves, or you could be like me and just want to get some really cute prescription sunglasses in preparation for a cruise to Mexico in December.

I was first directed to buying glasses online by Lauren who'd had some experience with it. Before that, I'd always just picked up glasses at the kiosk inside my eye doctor's office, but I have to tell you, the number styles always left something to be desired. On top of that, I have a wide face, so finding glasses frames that didn't squeeze my temples was next to impossible and I was left with frames that not only were uncomfortable, but they just weren't the style I was looking for. 

I will say, when it comes to prescription glasses and sunglasses, my tastes are basically as retro as you can get, and I want funky frames that make me stand out a bit. I've been like this since I got my first pair of glasses in eighth grade (sadly, I couldn't find pictures of me wearing them, but I was going for a Lisa Loeb look. Hello, 1999.). I like to think I was part of the movement that brought funky frames to the forefront of American style (please don't crush my dreams). That's why GlassesShop.com is a great place to shop. They actually have styles for every taste. For people like me who like to express themselves with their glasses, to people who just wear glasses and don't use it as a style statement. 

One of the things I loved about it is that you can search for your glasses by size. No more trying on a hundred pairs just to find something that fits. You can input your current glasses measurements (mine are 150 55-17-145, which measures the bow, the lens width, height, and the total frame), and they'll list all of the glasses with the same measurements. If you don't know your exact measurements, you can select small, medium, and large and it'll help you get an idea of what you want. 

Also, as you can see from the screenshot above, their prices are extremely reasonable. I get vision insurance through my employer, but even with insurance, I always had to pay a little something extra, which was quite a strain on the finances. I'd rather use my Flexible Spending Account on something a little less extravagant (I was taught from an early age about shopping for the best deals, and it's stuck with me throughout life). If I can get more for my money I'm there 100%. Getting two pairs for the price of one at a normal eyeglass shop is right up my alley. 

I got this snazzy pair of sunglasses from GlassesShop.com and I am in love. They're HUGE, they're lightweight, and they came in a nice case with a glasses cloth to clean them as needed. I was originally drawn to them because they reminded me of the glasses I got for my last vacation (which were NOT prescription but fit over my regular glasses). Now I can get the same look without doubling up on glasses (and risking scratching both pairs).

In order to get prescription glasses, you will need to know your prescription from your eye doctor, including Pupillary Distance (PD), but they should be able to give you that at your appointment, which you should get done once a year (Speaking of which, I'm a bit due for mine). 

Discount Time!

If you're in the market for new glasses (or you just want some variety with what you currently have), then I have a treat. GlassesShop.com has given me a discount code for you to save 50% on frames with FREE LENSES! What a great deal, right? Just add GSHOT50 to the promo box at checkout and you're in. That's a fantastic deal if you ask me. I'm due for new glasses in a few months, and I know I'll be going through GlassesShop.com. I'm very impressed with everything they have to offer.

You can check them out on Facebook or Instagram and see what other people are buying and how they're styling themselves. 

Your Turn!

  • How do you like saving money on glasses?
  • Which frames are your favorite?