Saturday, March 22, 2008

Reflections on a Book Signing

(Left to Right: Cat Johnson, C.H. Admirand, Allie, Tilly Greene, Stella Price)

I'm back!

Last night I spent a couple of hours at the Borders bookstore in Scranton, PA, with 4 other romance authors - they were selling and signing, and I was giving out promo for my 2 upcoming print titles.

It was fun, and a learning experience, though I think only 2 of the other authors sold a book apiece. I watched and listened and learned, and this is what I picked up:

*Conventional wisdom that says book signings are not the best use of time or money is true. Sure, they get you out in the public, but honestly, though we were at a table RIGHT by the entrance, 50+% of the customers walked by without looking or slowing down.

*It's probably better to do a signing/appearance with fewer people, because it seemed as though we were talking amongst each other more than trying to make eye contact with/catch the eye of potential customers. I also think 5 women sitting together at a table might be a little intimidating.

*Be very selective with the promotional items you spend money on. I saw everything at our table, from bookmarks to cards with free ebook downloads to a mini-DVD player running a book trailer, to the books themselves. All that $$, and yet I think maybe a handful of it actually got into the hands of customers.

*Consider the $$ spent with the potential tradeoff. Hubby and I made a day and night of it: we spent the afternoon shopping at the outlets nearby, ate dinner in town, and spent the night at a motel. The other authors drove 2 hours one way, then turned around and drove 2 hours back. I'm not sure I would spend all that time and gas money for 2 hours at a booksigning where you might sell 1 book.

* Promote ahead of time, if you can. If your fans/readers know you'll be somewhere, they're more likely to show up and seek you out. One woman who was there last time they did a book signing at this store drove 40 minutes to see these authors again.

So will I do it again? Yes (you can see the other appearances I have lined up, over there in the sidebar), though I will make sure to minimize my costs and maximize my potential sales. Since the Internet is so wide-spread, though, it really makes sense to do as much of your advertising there, as possible.

Friday, March 21, 2008


"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." ~Anne Bradstreet

Welcome to my Friday Feast!

Given the choice, would you prefer to live in the country or in the city?

Oh, I'm a city girl, though I grew up in the country (and live in the country now, with hubby). But 4 years of living in Cleveland, and my occasional trips to NYC, convince me that city is the kind of atmosphere I love.

Who is the cutest kid you know?

A tie between my niece (6) and nephew (almost 4)!!

Fill in the blank: I couldn’t believe it when I heard ___________.

...that not only did Eliot Spitzer hire a prostitute, but his replacement for NY governor, David Paterson, admitted to "multiple" extramarital affairs. What is the world coming to?

Main Course
If you could star in a commercial for one of your favorite products, which one would you want to advertise?

Gaiam organic flannel sheets. They are amazingly cozy and near-impossible to get out of in the morning!

What type(s) of vitamins and/or supplements do you take on a regular basis?

None, 'cause I think I eat a pretty balanced diet.


In other news, I'm so excited, because tonight I'll be appearing at the Borders in Scranton, PA, with a few other authors to promote One Night in Boston and Lost in Paradise! They aren't in print yet, (when will May be here??), but I'll be giving away these very cool excerpt booklets and perhaps hooking a few new readers (fingers crossed).

Tomorrow's post will probably be late, since hubby and I are spending the night in Scranton - but I hope to have some pictures from the event, so make sure to stop back and check them out!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dialogue is a Tricky Thing

"The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought and attended my answer." ~Henry David Thoreau

Dialogue is a tricky thing.

I realized this after I sent in a contest entry about, oh, 5 years ago, and one of the judge's comments read, "Dialogue does not ring true. I have 2 teenagers, and they don't talk this way."


Later, of course, I realized she (he?) was probably right. And I think I've gotten better, over the years, at writing it. One thing I often do is read my dialogue out loud. I think it gives me a much better idea whether someone would actually say that, and in those exact words.

I'm sure you've all read stories with poorly written dialogue, right? You're cruising along, and then all of a sudden you're pulled out by some awkward comment that one character says to another. And all you can think is "Wow, I don't know anyone who talks like that."

Anyway, on a light note today, I thought I'd share an email a writing friend sent me, which sort of addresses the whole dialogue thing, especially for women. If you're writing a contemporary novel, and you have any female characters at all, consider these guidelines when you're having them talk:

(1) Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

(2) Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

(3) Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.

(4) Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!

(5) Loud Sigh: This isn't actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)

(6) That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a woman can make to a man.. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

(7) Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or Faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says "Thanks a lot" - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say "you're welcome" . that will bring on a "whatever").

(8) Whatever: Is a women's way of saying RAM IT!!!!!!

(9) Don't worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking "What's wrong?" For the woman's response refer to # 3.

Finally, it's worth nothing, especially if you're a writer, how differently men and women speak. At my last local RWA chapter meeting, one of our members told this story. She had spent some time interviewing the local police chief about murder investigations, crime scene procedures, etc. She wanted to thank him, so she bought him a plant and took it down to the office. He walked over, took it out of her hand, and said, "This an indoor?"

And that was it. They're creatures of few words, men. We'd do well to remember that...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Patrice Moore

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm featuring an interview with contemporary romance author Patrice Moore. You're in for a real treat today - so enjoy! And when you're finished here, make sure you visit Patrice's website and read the "My Life" section. It's fascinating - and refreshing.

Hi, Patrice! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and a master’s degree in Environmental Education. I worked for many years as a field biologist. Though I’ve always had an interest in writing, I had no formal training unless you count my high school English classes (which actually were pretty good). So how the heck did I end up writing romance?

In the midst of all the academia, I was a secret romance reader. It had to be secret, of course, since everyone knows romances are trash, right?

After many years I actually tried writing one, and I quickly realized that there is no finer method of teaching oneself the craft of fiction than to write a romance. You learn all about points of view and tension and backstory dumps and dialogue and conflict and story arc and happy endings.

It took me seventeen years – seventeen long years – to get my first book published because…well, I’m a slow learner. Too much academia stuffed into my head, I guess.

Now that you have those 17 years of experience under your belt, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Write, of course. You should write and write and write, every day if possible. Like any craft, you’ll need practice. Do you think concert pianists just – play? No. They practice endless hours before they get up on stage.

But almost as important, submit what you write. Send it out. Learn to write queries and synopses. Don’t worry about getting rejections – listen, after seventeen freaking years I have every possible rejection under the sun. So what? What’s a rejection? A piece of paper. File yours away with pride because it means you’ve just accomplished something.

Then learn from your rejections. If an editor says that the external conflict is not strong enough to sustain the story through the entire book (as one of my last rejects said), then pay attention. Learn what it would take to increase the external conflict in either that book or a future book.
Then write some more.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing about writing is actually writing, of course. That goes without saying. Trust me, having written is a lot more fun than actually writing.

Surprisingly, at least for me, I’ve never been discouraged by rejections. It’s just part of the game, so I can’t really say that’s the most difficult thing about writing. The most exciting or rewarding thing about writing is to take a flash of an idea and outline it so that you can see the shape of a book emerging. Recently, for example, a random line on a radio show caught my ear, something about Pygmalion. I thought, “What kind of story can I make from re-creating the Pygmalion concept?” My husband and I hashed out a rough plot, and I’ve filed it away for a future book. What fun!

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

That’s funny – balance – ha ha!

Seriously, as with so many other writers, it’s a juggling act. My husband and I have a home business. While this might sound cozy, the trouble with a home business is that it’s at home – you’re never off work. We work long hours in our business – I think our record during one busy season was 110 hours in one week. Fortunately it’s not usually that bad.

In addition, we homeschool our two daughters, who are nine and eleven years old.

In addition again, we have a small farm (we call it a homestead), which means I milk two cows every morning as well as care for the livestock, garden, and orchard. I like to joke that we’re doing the three H’s: homesteading, homeschooling, and home business-ing.

Since I’m so busy, I get up at ungodly hours to write, often 3:30 a.m. It’s my only quiet time, the only time I don’t have kids asking for clarity on a quote from Thomas Paine or to explain osmosis or help divide decimals, the only time I’m not likely to hear the cry “The cows are out!” (although sometimes I hear the clack-clack-clack of hooves in the driveway during the wee hours), the only time I don’t feel guilty for not sanding or bandsawing or gluing or other woodworking duties.

The early mornings are mine. I guard them jealously. I start by stoking the fire in the woodstove if it’s winter, making my first cup of tea, and then reading the news on the internet while I wake up (we don’t have television reception in our area so we get no TV news). I answer my emails, and then I get to work writing.

Now evenings are a different matter. It’s almost impossible for me to stay up past ten o’clock. Usually I go to bed right after the kids do. My husband is a night owl, so late evenings are his quiet time.

Since we live and work together 24/7, my husband and I learned that we need our private decompression time to stay sane. With me being an early bird and him being a night owl, it works beautifully.

It sounds as though you have found a way to carve out time to write despite your very busy days. Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Almost every time a manuscript isn’t flowing – if I’m blocked and can’t seem to progress – it’s because something is wrong with my story arc. Perhaps my external conflict isn’t strong enough. Or the internal conflict is weak. Or the goal of either the hero or heroine is wrong. Or their motivation is lacking. But somewhere in the outline, something is missing.

So I fuss and fume and stall and stare at my computer screen and pick at my fingernails and look for something to vacuum or dust or…or…or anything but write, because something isn’t working.
As an example, I had nearly finished writing a book (my first to be published, a contemporary suspense called Saving Grace, but got stuck because the ending wasn’t working. After building up all the drama throughout the story, the ending was…well, flat. Boring. Anticlimactic.

I figured out it was because I was trying not to write the show-down. I’d never written anything like that before, and frankly I wanted to avoid the bloodshed. I realized I had to write the fear and terror my heroine would experience while facing her murderous stalking ex-husband…and so I gritted my teeth and wrote it.

And Oh. My. God. It was powerful. I’d never written anything like that, and the aftermath scene, with the heroine in the hospital recovering, still brings me to tears (and I wrote it!).
So face what’s wrong with your manuscript – get another opinion if need be – and fix it. Then your writer’s block will end.

This kind of writer’s block is different than your standard procrastination and miscellaneous avoidance tactics to get out of writing…like dusting the ice cube trays or alphabetizing your spice rack. You’re on your own there. Gotta plant the butt in the chair.

Describe your writing space for us (or include a picture!)

My office. My office! How I love my office.

For years my husband and I shared the same desk crammed in a corner, and we shared the same computer as well. But eventually I got the laptop I’d always wanted. And then my wonderful fabulous husband remodeled a portion of the house and literally carved a slope-roofed nook half-way up a flight of stairs….just for me. That’s how much he loves me.

And it’s mine, all mine. It’s tiny, only six by eight feet, with room for a writing surface, a couple of small bookshelves, and two small file cabinets. But it’s mine! (Or did I mention that already?)
Now I don’t have to pack away any research books or tidy my desk if I don’t feel like it. I don’t have to worry about things getting misplaced or lost. I have my reference books, I have my favorite romances, I have my office supplies, my manuscripts, my rejection letters, my contracts…it’s all in my office. And it’s mine!

Okay, I’ll stop hyperventilating. (See photo. Of the office, not me hyperventilating.)

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Read, of course. Reading is a passion in our house, and we own somewhere around three thousand books. I do a lot of stuff in the kitchen – making cheese and yogurt from our surplus milk, baking, cooking, washing dishes, canning, that kind of thing. The kitchen table is where I fold laundry and supervise the kids’ schoolwork, frequently at the same time.

Outdoors, depending on the time of year, you might find me watering the berry patch or garden, splitting wood (usually with a wood-splitter), feeding the livestock, walking to the mailboxes (three miles round trip), walking to our pond, chasing the cows out of the chicken coop, hanging laundry out to dry, watering the horses, mowing the lawn.

In the shop you might find me at the sander or the bandsaw or the tablesaw.
Come visit our homestead under the “My Life” section on my website...

Patrice, thank you for a truly wonderful interview today - happy writing to you! readers, want to leave a comment? Remember every time you do, you're entered into my drawing for Jenna Kernan's novel Outlaw Bride...giveaway happening in less than 2 weeks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Little Shameless Promotion

"I do promotion when it is necessary, but I always want to get back to the music." ~Enya

A couple of days ago, Marianne emailed me to ask how successful I thought my promotional efforts had been, regarding One Night in Boston and Lost in Paradise.

I was honest: mixed. If you've been reading my blog all along, you'll know that my sales for Boston have been pretty decent for the ebook, but they flopped for Paradise. I'm still trying to figure out why. Because my print releases are coming up for both, I've tried to take an honest look at what's seemed to work, over the last few months, and what turned out to be a waste of time and/or money. I'm switching my efforts from the ebook sales to the print ones (what? you haven't pre-ordered One Night in Boston yet? It's on super-sale over at Amazon. Go ahead, here's the link. I'll wait while you take care of that.)

What has seemed to work:

1. Sending press releases to local papers. I had 2 articles featuring me as "local author" that bumped sales in those months.
2. Keeping a visible online presence - blogging, posting on various forums, running contests, sending an electronic newsletter.

3. Writing articles for various online sites and getting my name in front of other readers as much as possible.

What hasn't really worked:

1. Posting trailers. They're fun to make, but I don't know that they draw sales.

2. Sending bookmarks and other traditional kinds of swag to conferences. I have a feeling most of that stuff gets thrown away.

What I hope will work:

1. Teaming up with other authors in my area and doing some signing and appearances. These are all coming up in the next few months, so I'll have a better idea of how profitable they are then.

2. Having books available in print! As much as some people purchase and read ebooks, most of my friends, family, and coworkers are still waiting for the "real" paper copy to release. So I'm hoping my print sales are good.

3. Taking out an ad in Romance Sells. This is an expensive one, but the booklet gets mailed to nearly 7000 booksellers and librarians around the country; i.e., the people who make the book buying decisions for the public. [Has anyone out there done this? Reactions?]


And if you're still here, still reading, I'll toss out a few promo plugs for what I'm doing right now:

Samhain Spring Showers over at Coffee Time Romance. A bunch of authors have excerpts posted, and we've had some great comments, and fun discussion, so far. Stop by and comment on my post, please? I like to see it up near the top of the page with recent comments :)

This Friday, March 21, is my first book-signing appearance, though I won't yet have books in print. I'll be joining 4 other authors at the Borders in Scranton, PA, from 7 pm - 9 pm. And I'll be handing out these really cool excerpt booklets that I had made at Vista Print. If you're around Scranton, stop by!

Next week, Samhain author Diane Craver is featuring "Small Press Week" and interviewing authors. I"ll be there Thursday, March 27, so swing by for a funny "First Kiss" story :)

Have you signed up for my electronic newsletter yet? The link is over there, in the sidebar. I only send out 1 every other month, so if you'd like to keep up with Allie news, that's your chance!

Finally, if you haven't yet purchased Lost in Paradise, and you aren't totally against ebooks, give it a try! You can always treat yourself to read a few pages online during lunch or when you're taking a break at work. You can read the reviews here.

There's a lot happening in the next few months, so stay tuned! I know there are a lot of (new) lurkers out there, so I'm waving a big hello to you all. And if you're an author who's discovered promo methods that really show results, leave a comment and let me know. I'm always looking for new ideas!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Guys Read Romance, Too...Who Knew?

"A true man does not need to romance a different girl every night, a true man romances the same girl for the rest of her life." ~Ana Alas

So I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law over the weekend, and I saw his latest book lying on the kitchen counter (he's a pretty avid reader, so he gets props from me anyway). It was this thick, blue-covered book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.

He said, "Oh, that's an awesome book. A friend sent it to me, and I can't put it down." I read the back cover, looked up at him and said, "You know this is a romance novel, right?"

He blinked and said, "Well, yeah, but I like the way she uses all these really accurate historic details. I like when it's history plus the love story too."

I just smiled.

Then, later that evening, my sister had some friends over, and I was talking to one woman who went to school with us. She said, "Oh, my older brother asked me when your book was coming out. I said to him, 'Um, I'm not sure that's really your thing. You know it's a romance novel, right?' He said, 'So? I just want an autographed copy.'"

Mind you, this is a guy I barely knew in school. I don't think I would know him if I tripped over him. And yeah, probably he wants the autograph of a local author more than to read the book. But who knows? It's still kind of cool to hear a comment like that :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Samhain Spring Showers!

Hey everyone, just a quick blog this AM, since I'm out of town and visiting my sister for the weekend (always a nice thing, though limited computer access).'s the first day of a big promo event over at Coffee Time Romance:

This runs for almost a month, into April, and features new excerpts by Samhain authors every week! You'll see some from One Night in Boston, as well as my upcoming novel, One Night in Memphis (first time it's appearing "in public" - aren't you excited?? I am). So take a visit over there today...not only can you read some good stuff, every comment you leave qualifies you for a bunch of different prizes.

Have fun!