Saturday, September 27, 2008

Help Me Help the Animals

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Mahatma Ghandi

I'm slowly but surely making progress on my revisions of One Night in Napa...just about halfway through now, and the word count is close to 68K. My goal is between 70 and 75, so I have a bit still to go. I'm trying oh-so-hard to be better at adding dialogue rather than inner thought (one of my constant areas in need of improvement), though I just finished a long section in which the hero is by himself, so that's a challenge sometimes!


In other news, I'd love for you to help me collect votes for the animal shelter where I volunteer...they're participating in a contest where the grand prize is $10,000 - and all you have to do is click this link and vote for them. Could you vote? And then help spread the word? Thanks!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Signings Tips

Those of you who are regular blog readers here know that I've talked pretty extensively about my experiences at book signings over the summer. But Samhain author Maria Zannini is hosting a special event today at her blog: she has a collection of tips from many different authors, and so we hope people are blog-hopping today to peek into new blog corners and perhaps gain some book-signing experience. no particular order, here are my top tips for throwing yourself a successful book signing ('cause you are going to have to do it yourself, you know, unless you're Stephenie Meyer or Nicholas Sparks...)

1. Choose your venue carefully. It can be exciting to plan your first book signing. But consider the where and when first, and be a little choosy. I’ve attended signings where I’ve sold 20+ books, and I’ve attended others where I didn’t sell any at all. Think about the cost-effectiveness: is it worth it to travel a long distance to a signing, where few people might know you? Or will you do better locally? If you go somewhere far from home, make sure you have a “hook,” or a connection to that location. Are you scheduling your signing for the opening night of a popular movie? (I learned this one the hard way, unknowingly trying to compete with the premiere of “Sex and the City”). Will the store do enough publicity to draw people in? What is their publicity plan?

2. Contact your venues well in advance. Three months is good; they need time to plan and publicize, and so do you!

3. Send promo items to help the bookseller publicize. Bookmarks, a poster, flyers…all are good things they can put on a desk or near the cash register, for customers to pick up. ASk them if they'd like you to send a press release they can use, too. And of course, make sure you’re doing your own share of getting the word out. Post notices on your website and blog, send out an announcement if you have a Yahoo group or newsletter, tell people at work, mail postcards to the people on your holiday card list…you get the idea!

4. Find out whether the bookstore can order your books, or whether you will have to carry them in yourself. Sometimes if you’re published with a small press, stores won’t be able to order them from your distributor. Make sure you know this ahead of time.
Be courteous to your host(ess). Both in the early planning stages, and while you’re there, be kind. Bring a small gift to show appreciation. Write a thank-you note after you leave.

5. Have something to say. If you have the opportunity, consider holding a question and answer session. Or a general discussion of your book. Even better: read from your book, and leave customers hanging. This was one of the most successful things I did to entice readers to buy my book.

6. Things to bring: promo items (bookmarks, magnets, business cards, etc), a good pen for signing your books, water to drink, book stands to prop up your books, and chocolate. No one can pass up chocolate!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where Would You Go?

"Vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking any longer." ~Anonymous

Well, the inevitable has happened: school has started, and I'm already looking at our calendar to see when the vacations fall and where I might like to go...

My question to you is this: if you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?

I have my favorite spots, of course, and a list of ones I'd still like to see (plus I keep thinking if this "One Night..." book gig works out, I might be able to write off trips in the name of "research." You know, like One Night in Paris, One Night in Madrid...)

So where would you go? I'd love to know. Back to a place you've already been? Or to someplace new you've been dying to see?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anthony Barnett

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm pleased to host author Anthony Barnett. Enjoy...

Welcome to my blog, Anthony! Can you tell us a little about your background?

Hi, Allie, I’ve been a published writer since 1994. My stuff has been mostly aimed at women’s magazines and summer specials, although I’ve also been lucky enough to have stories published in international competitions, recorded for ‘Talking Newspapers’ and broadcast on primetime radio.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

The title of my novel is ‘WITHOUT REPROACH’ – Working class Jenny, from middle England, inherits a share in a finca (hacienda) from Spanish aristocrat, Juan GarcĂ­a. However, she’s never heard of him, is not related to him and has never been to his hacienda. The problem is she finds a nude painting of herself in the entrance hall.

I wrote WITHOUT REPROACH as a mystery, but it’s been hi-jacked by the media as a ‘steamy novel’, and Amazon have classed it as a ‘contemporary romance’, so what do I know?

Wow - sounds like a great story. So how do you go about developing your characters?

I make a full dossier on each character before I begin to write. I draw up every facet, not only physical, but mental, to better understand how they’ll react in a given situation. I cut out pictures from magazines to suit my characters and pin them on my wall so I’ll not forget how they look. I also build an inventory of clothes and fashions taken from adverts in magazines.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Well, I generally advise new writers to not only read as much as they can, but to purchase a textbook on creative writing, so they’ll understand techniques behind writing. My philosophy is, artists, dancers, actors, all spend years studying and perfecting their craft. Why should writers be different?

Describe your writing space for us...

I use a spare room, but also work with my laptop in the lounge or even in a bar if my wife is at the hairdresser. I’m afraid my actual space is always cluttered. I’m not a tidy person, yet I always know where to find things. The worst is when my wife decides to ‘tidy’. I can find nothing after.

Hah...I think many of us could relate to that! Now, when you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I always write directly onto computer. I can’t handle writing stuff out twice. Editing becomes a pain if it’s not on computer. I’ve promised myself a recording device, but haven’t got around to it yet.

Great interview, Anthony. Anything else you’d like to mention?

Just that WITHOUT REPROACH magically made the best selling list for just a few hours of ONE day a while ago. I don’t know how or why. But thank you Canada. It’s sinking rapidly, but at least I made it once.

That's terrific! Readers, if you'd like to know more about Anthony and his work, visit his website or his blog. And have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cool Things about Life on the Web

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom." ~Jon Stewart

It's interesting, the online world. Here are a couple of quirky things I've noticed recently:

1. My trailer for One Night in Boston is in the top 6 "Most Watched Previews Today" on Preview the Book nearly every day I check. Considering that the number of trailers there must top 100, I find that both thrilling and odd. I can't figure out where people might be linking to the trailer, other than the obvious places I've put it, to keep watching it. Of course, when something's on a "Top Whatever" list, I suppose people are more likely to be intrigued and watch it, rather than fish around in the general list of trailers. But even when it falls off the list for a day, it's almost always back up 24 or 48 hours later. Strange.

2. Random people from the writing world have found me through my blog and contacted me. Oh sure, there are the various crazies I don't know who want to friend me on Facebook, and the advertising loonies who want me to spend $2000+ a month for a banner and a link on their site. But I've had a couple of New York print authors' publicists contact me about link exchanges too (mostly if they're trying to come out of the dark age and set up a website for the first time). And yesterday, a publicist for the book Naughty Paris emailed to ask if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing her book on my blog. Heck, why not? A free book? So that's rather cool as well.

3. Speaking of advertising, Smart Bitches-Trashy Books offers a nice deal for a banner on their site (plus the girls there are really, really nice to work with). One month prices are under $100 depending on size, and what I like best is that they send you a report each week about how many impressions it's had (mine's a revolving ad, switching out with other authors), and how many people have clicked through to my website from the banner. It's a great way to have concrete results about whether people look and then act on your ad.

That's all the wisdom for today...see you here tomorrow for Writers' Wednesday!

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Make Bookmarks

"Today the greatest single source of wealth is between your ears." ~Brian Tracy

I promised a quick "how to" for anyone out there interested in making bookmarks using VistaPrint's oversized postcards. I've ordered from them several times and been really pleased with the results, so while the design process might be a little labor-intensive, for me it's worth it to save $$.

Now, there are many sites that offer bookmarks, so I encourage you to look around a bit and compare prices before you order. I arrange 3 bookmarks per oversized postcard and then cut them on a papercutter myself, which means I'm getting 150 bookmarks for every 50-postcard order. (Staples will also cut them for you, I've been told). If you've ordered from VistaPrint before, you know you get email specials about every other day. 50 free oversized postcards is ALWAYS one of the specials, so you'll only pay shipping. If you choose slow shipping, it will cost you roughly $7.00 - 9.00 for 150 bookmarks. Note: you can order these special deals as many times you want in a single day, to get the best price (in other words, if you order more than 50 at one time, larger quantities aren't free).

One other word of warning: as of yet, I haven't figured out how to rotate the postcards while I'm designing them, which means I have to proofread the darn things sideways. No matter; I've always been happy with the way they turned out.

I choose the blank template, and my design looks like this (I made double One Night in Boston for this order because my book signings at the time focused on that book):

I upload my book cover (ask your editor or cover artist for a 300 dpi version of your cover; they're the sharpest in quality). One nice thing about VistaPrint is that once you've uploaded a graphic, it's in your collection forever, so you only pay to upload once. Beneath that goes a brief blurb about the book. Beneath that go 2 or 3 reviews, whatever I have room for. At the bottom I put my tagline and my website:

On the backside (choose gray scale unless there's a special for free black and white glossy or color) I put my name, tagline, and website address again:

And that's it! The quality is good, heavy duty with good, clear color on the graphics. If you have more questions, or if you've never ordered from VistaPrint before and would like a link to their freebie specials, drop me an email at And if you have other tips for making bookmarks, including other websites you really like, let me know. One of the best parts of the industry is sharing ideas, as far as I'm concerned :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday News

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air." ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Quick promo today: my author friend Dayana Knight is sponsoring a very cool contest on her blog for the month of October, so go on over and check it out! Also, a heads-up: I'm participating in the Raven Halloween Hunt again this year, which will also begin October 1st. Many cool prizes to be given away (and mine is a free download of One Night in Memphis + an Amazon gift certificate. How can you lose??)

(Nope, the link isn't live yet...but isn't that a cool graphic?)

Today: writing (short teacher story to submit to anthology), revising (One Night in Napa), and grading (lots and lots of English papers).

Tomorrow: a brief "how to" blog post on making bookmarks using VistaPrint's oversized postcards. See you back here then!