Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giveaway time!!!

The lovely Mia Hoddell is hosting the 12 Days of Christmas Event, and it's going to be a ton of fun! 

I'll be up giving you a peek at the boys from the Aerling series on Dec 6th. but you get to start in on the fun now with some awesome giveaways! 

There are two giveaways going on, one for USA residents (shipping is expensive) and one for INTERNATIONAL readers. Make sure you enter the right one!

And here they are!

US Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

INT Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feel free to share with your friends and don't forget to stop by the 12 Days of Christmas Event on Mia Hoddell's blog!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The things you learn from puppies...

My daughter has been asking for a dog since she was old enough to say the words. She's eight that's a lot of, "Can I have a puppy?" requests over the years. 

Finally, we broke down and decided it was time to get a dog. Our kids are 8 and 11, old enough to help out and take care of a dog. So we went to the local shelter after having perused the list of dogs online and headed out to see our top picks. Turns out that the two we liked most were both in quarantine, one for biting people and one for being "aggressive toward people."

On to plan B. 

We ended up settling on this 2 year old brown shepherd mix. Poor thing did not want to be a pet. At all. We tried everything to keep her in the yard, but she escaped everything. She was also terrified of just about everything. She hated coming in the house, had no clue how to play with kids other than trying to tear their clothes apart and bite at their arms, and she chewed up whatever she could get her teeth on. After a month, we finally have to give up and take her back to the shelter.

Round two. 

After our first experience, we decided what we needed was a puppy that we could train and have grow up as part of the family. So, here's our new puppy, Finn. The shelter said he was a lab/retriever mix, but he looks more like a boxer to us.

We adore Finn, but for anyone thinking about getting a puppy, I have just a few words of wisdom to help prepare you.

1. Puppy teeth biting you feels like a dozen tiny needles stabbing into your flesh. They are seriously sharp! Good thing they're only nibbling.

2. Puppy claws are equally sharp! Between the claws and the teeth, I look like I've been in a cat fight recently. Oh, and FYI, puppy claws aren't all the same color. I thought that was neat :)

3. Puppies make lots of messes, but it's totally worth it for us to have a dog that actually likes us and wants to be part of the family.

4. If you thought you were done baby-proofing your house, think again. Shoes have to up off the ground, cords and wires hidden, odds and ends can't be left on the floor to be chewed on.

5. Puppies find a favorite spot, and it's forever theirs alone. Bye-bye gaming chair.

6. Puppies haven't quite gotten the hang of doing their business and not stepping in it immediately after. Consequently, they get a little smelly, which is a problem if the shelter just neutered him and you can't bathe them for seven days.

7. Walking on a leash is not a skill puppies have without training. Poor Finn had no clue what was going on when we put a collar and leash on. Baby steps.

8. Puppies don't like to be alone, especially at night. Poor baby cries when we have to kennel him at night, and whines if he's not in a room with someone else. Luckily my daughter doesn't mind keeping him company.

9. Puppies are super clumsy. It's pretty cute to watch :) Even little steps can sending them tumbling onto their noses.

10. Puppies sleep a lot, and sometimes in strange positions! Finn is also a pretty light sleeper, so the poor guy gets woken up a lot.

Clearly every dog is different, and finding the right one for your family isn't easy. We're loving our new puppy, though, and it looks like this is going to be a great fit! 

Tell me about your pets!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Marketing...part duex #bookmarketing

While scoping out pics for a blog post on marketing, this one totally fit the bill. Why? Because creating a marketing plan often feels like driving around on crazy looking roads like this. 

Learning how to market your books is a never ending battle. You find something that works once, then never works again. You have a random day of awesome sales you can't credit to anything other than dumb luck. You research and put everything to use only to see no change. Like I's a battle. 

So, what have a learned since the last time I griped about marketing? 

Hire someone who knows what they're doing. Caitlin Bauer of Royal Social Media is one of these people. She came highly recommended to me by other authors, and she's totally held up her end of the bargain in training, graphics, ads, everything we've done together so far. She also breaks everything down at the end of the month of ads to explain what the heck happened. I can't recommend her enough. 

Facebook groups posting does work. Now, that's not to say it works as well as it once did before the almighty Facebook decided to screw around with how people see pages and groups. That's a whole other rant, trust me. However, I have the ability to watch the direct sales on 13 of my 15 books, and I can attest to the fact that it affects my sales. For me, posting in 30-50 groups per day works best. For you, it might be different. 

Participating in other authors events is awesome...and fun! I've done quite a few Facebook page takeover and events over the last few months, and not only is is gratifying to help another author out, you get to meet new readers you might not have before. Games that work well are having them like and comment on your FB page to be entered into a raffle for a cool prize, "Caption This" games, name the characters who said..., guess the symbol (I use a lot of symbols in my books), and this probably won't apply to every author but having people tell bad date stories in honor of my Date Shark books was a HUGE hit! Get creative, help another author, and have fun!

Consistent interaction with readers. Honestly, this has been the biggest eye opener for me. I've heard this said a zillion times, but only after Caitlin showed me how to put that advice to use did I begin to see what a difference it makes. Schedule posts/tweets/pins to post regularly so your readers always have new content. Follow a pattern or make it random, whatever works best for you. Use your analytics to see what times are best for posting. And don't forget to ENGAGE with your readers when they do comment or like something. Talk back, start a conversation, make a lifelong friend. It makes a huge difference. 

I recently tried a few new promotional avenues and thought I'd share how they went. Book Tweeters was very effective and reasonably priced. I plan on using them for future release day events. HeadTalker and Thunderclap campaigns have worked well for other authors, but for me I didn't see any increase in sales or traffic on the posting day, so I don't think I'll be using them again since they're very time consuming to reach the goals. 

Marketing each book and genre is so individual, there is no one-size-fits-all plan, but doing your research and keeping track will help you build a plan that works for you.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ready or not, here comes #Thanksgiving!

It's hard to believe it's already that time again, but Thanksgiving it right around the corner. Next week, in fact. Am I ready for it? No. 

Thanksgiving at our house usually means double duty visiting my husband's family for lunch, which I'm supposed to bring drinks and veggies too (I think. I should double check), then hopping across town to my dad's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Or my parents might come to my house. It's still undecided...a week away. Yeah. We're not ready. 

This year, it also means my kids are out of school all next week for the holiday break. So, will I get much done? Seriously doubt it. I'm glad they get the break, and we'll be busy trying to house train our new puppy, but if there's to be any cooking or cleaning done...I may need some help. 

So, the plan?

1. Figure out whether I'm hosting dinner or attending dinner at my parents. (I think it's my turn, so let's plan for that)

2. Clean my house. Let's face it, that will happen the night before in a mad scramble. 

3. Go grocery shopping. I was at the store today, which is when I probably should have done it, but I was getting puppy supplies and I seem to enjoy going at the last minute, then going to two more stores because the first store is inevitably out of at least four things I need. 

4. Figure out where I put all the pans and dishes I only ever pull out at Thanksgiving. (I need more cupboard space)

5. Figure out where to put everyone. There's a pool table in the middle of our dining room right now, and it's way too heavy to move. 

6. Learn how to make sweet potatoes. That was always my grandma's job, but now that she's passed away, I feel responsible for providing them on her behalf even though my dad is the only one who actually eats them.

7. Watch some Supernatural. Seriously. I've been on hiatus from my favorite demon-slaying boys in an effort to finish Invincible. I'm gonna need some Sam and Dean to gear myself up for all the prep work. 

8. Get my kids excited to help with the cooking. They're on and off about how much fun it is to help mom in the kitchen. I'm having mixed feelings myself after my eight year old put her oatmeal in the microwave without water and burned the heck out of it while stinking up the whole kitchen. She did it a few days ago too. 

9. Assign the things I'm bad at to my stepmom. Gravy, rolls...there are a few things. 

10. Don't stress out. Is there chocolate somewhere? (10.1. get dark chocolate when grocery shopping.) 

Good luck to everyone getting ready for the holidays! Good luck to me, anyway. You all might be a little more put together than I am ;)

Monday, November 17, 2014

A tribute to being determined

 Usually my Monday posts are writing related, but today I wanted to take a minute to share with you some of the events of last week. 

On Monday afternoon I was called away from work by my dad by news that my Grandma Esther, who had fallen the week before and fractured her pelvis, had coded when her heart stopped, but had been resuscitated. She had a do not resuscitate order in place, but because the paperwork hadn't been converted to the newer digital charts, she was revived, but had not regained consciousness. It was touch and go over the next twenty-four hours while she regained consciousness briefly but her body continued to decline. On Tuesday afternoon, she passed away and joined my Grandpa Ivan in the eternities.

I loved my grandma dearly, and being with her the last few hours of her life is something I will never forget. Even though it was incredibly difficult to watch her suffer and be in pain when I couldn't do anything to help her, I felt comforted knowing she was surrounded by family and that those who couldn't be there were praying for her.

In the last three years, we've had four funerals between my family and my husband's. It's difficult to say goodbye to family members that have given so much love in their lives, but my grandma's passing was especially difficult for me.

My grandparents moved in next door to us when I was seven years old. From that point on, they were a constant fixture in my life. They were the loves of each other's lives. Everyone who saw them together knew that. The couldn't have made it through seventy years of marriage if they weren't. They were such an example of what a marriage should be.

My grandpa told us stories of his days in the military, operating a VFW outpost in Colorado, becoming the mayor of the little town of Oat Creek, and helping to get the bridge repaired after a huge flood nearly destroyed the town. My grandma would sit quietly and let him tell the stories, but she lived through every single one of those events with him, and it wasn't always easily.

While my grandpa was overseas, she worked and raised her children largely on her own. She showed
her amazing strength through years of trials, never complaining and always lending a hand to those in need even when they had very little themselves. Accepting help was difficult for both my grandparents, but giving it was second nature. They affected everyone they met for the better.

As I was growing up, she was my role model. Even at thirty years old, she's still the person I want to be when I grow up. I've never known a stronger, more resilient, more giving, loving or more determined person. There was nothing she couldn't do, no difficulty she couldn't overcome...all without complaint. At ninety years old and after years of battling leukemia, she was still living in her own home, taking care of the neighborhood dogs that would wait on her porch for treats and love every day. She refused to move in with my dad and let him care for her the last few years because she didn't want to be a burden to him. She wasn't stubborn--she didn't like that word much--but she was determined. She wanted to live her life on her own terms, and she did.

Esther Mae Shrum was an amazing woman. I wish everyone could have known her. Her influence in my life helped guide me as a child, and will continue to guide for the rest of my life. She was one of those people that you didn't forget after meeting them, and I hope I can one day be like her.

Monday, November 3, 2014

You Owe Me

I'm going to get on my soap box for just a minute today.

I generally leave my soap box sitting in a corner to be used only rarely, but I felt that I needed to pull it out today and touch on a subject that has been on my mind lately. The writing community is an awesome thing to be a part of. Authors who are working on building their platforms can find a lot of fabulous friends who will be happy to help support them,.

The key word here is "friends."

Not random stangers. Not someone who "liked" or commented once on a status update of yours. Not someone you saw belonged to one of the many Facebook groups you belong to. The writing community is a tight knit group, and even though new friends are always happily welcomed, those who are stopping by only to push their own agenda are going to have a more difficult time.

Something I've found happening quite often lately, personally and with other authors, is getting a message from an author or aspiring writer they don't know asking for favors. It might be something as simple as "I liked your page. Will you like mine in return?" or it might be something that requires a bit more like "I enjoy your books, can you read one of mine and tell me what you think?"

Let's take the "Like" exchange to start off with. Me liking your page doesn't do a lot of good for you, other than give you one more "Like." If I don't know who you are, even if I "like" your page, it's unlikely that I'll see, like, and comment on your posts, especially if it's not a genre I read, like male/male romance.

Also, I'm not really your tartget audience. You want actual interested readers to like your page, not other authors who have no real connection to you or your books. And to be perfectly honest, it's not polite and will start you of in a less than agreeable spot with your new "friend." There are plenty of Facebook groups out there to exchange "Likes." I don't participate in them because I won't "Like" and page I don't actually like or know anything about. Please don't solicit "Likes" from other authors out of the blue. If I know you and enjoy your work, I will "Like" you page. I don't ask every author I meet to "Like" my page because I assume they probably feel the same way I do.

Now, on to asking for larger favors.

Reading an entire book, or even a short story, takes a lot of time. That's not something I have a ton of, and I assume the majority of people I meet are in the same situation. The only people I ask to read something for me are close friends I know who, A) have the time and B) actually want to read it. Don't ask strangers to read your writing. Just don't.

On that same note, don't randomly ask people to share you announcements or sales or new releases. If you have a relationship with that person and know they have a blog or page where they share that sort of thing, ASK AWAY! Most authors will be happy to help. I get requests to share things about erotica or gruesome horror or something similar. Most of my fans and readers are teens. I don't share those types of posts. People who know me and what I write know that.

Being online takes away people's inhibitions in many ways. You wouldn't ask a stranger on the street to do a favor for you, especially one that is time consuming or might cause problems for them. Don't do it online either.

I don't want this to sound like I don't want to help other authors. Those who know me know that I spend a lot of time helping other authors with promotions, graphics, book covers, formatting, review/critiques, advice, whatever they need. I want other authors to succeed. I want books and reading to succeed. I love helping other authors, but being asked to do something for someone I don't even know sends a message of "You Owe Me," just because we're both authors. That's not how it works. Like every other business, you have to build relationships, not just take the "buy my book," "like my page" approach. It doesn't work.

Feel free to let me know what you think about this topic!