Posts Tagged ‘The Chenille Ultimatum’

Sharing and Self-Promotion

November 11, 2019

Forgot to take a picture of us at the boutique, so here’s one of my book covers

I rented a booth at a holiday boutique to sell my books. Knowing that I can promote other people’s products much better than I can my own, I invited two friends who write in basically the same genre to share my table. To my great delight, the scheme worked. We all sold books, and we all had a great time. To me, the moving target that is self-promotion is easier to vector in on with friends. It seemed that even the shoppers who didn’t buy our books spent more time listening to our pitch when there were three of us at the table. You might think bringing in competition would hurt my chances of making a sale, but it didn’t work out that way. Next time you’re planning a book event, consider helping another author and see how it helps you.

Luck and wisdom!

PS – Shameless self-promotion alert, you can buy The Chenille Ultimatum here.

A Turning Point That Wasn’t

October 16, 2019

Last year at a memoir-writing workshop I wrote an outline of turning points in my life. This past week I was reminded of a career path I didn’t take and how grateful I am for that. When I graduated from college, I considered applying to the State Department. My father – a long-time civil servant – sorta kinda maybe talked me out of it. I found a different job, didn’t like it, moved to another city, married, moved across country, and discovered quilting. The brilliant career I dreamed of never materialized, but I’ve made art, contributed to my community, and even co-authored a series of sci fi novels (shameless self-promotion, you can buy the latest one here). Not too shabby, all things considered.

Whenever I wonder about the life I might have had, I remember 1979 and the hostage crisis in Tehran. Bruce Laingen (pictured above) was stationed there, the highest-ranking diplomat among the 52 U.S. Embassy workers held in Iran for 444 days. He was also a graduate of my alma mater, Saint Olaf College. In my imagination, I could see myself getting sent to Iran for my first posting, maybe even meeting Laingen at an embassy function and mentioning that I too was an Ole grad. Then the revolution would come, and I would be running for my life. That’s when I breathe a prayer of thankfulness for my (relatively) calm and peaceful existence.

Laingen died recently at age 96. He grew up on a Minnesota farm, interrupted his education to serve his country in World War II, then returned to complete his degree before continuing his service in government. The Iranian hostage crisis brought him to the world’s attention, and he responded with dignity, calm, and presence. He earned every bit of respect due him. I am very grateful to Laingen for showing America at its best.

Luck and wisdom!

Marketing Advice I Can Use

May 20, 2019

Like all independently published authors, I am entirely responsible for marketing my novels. While I am more than willing to talk your ear off about my books should I corner you at a party, I’m not so great at finding bigger venues. I’ve organized a couple of book launches, but they turned out to be more tea party, less launch. I read as much about marketing as I can, but most of the advice I’ve found applies to younger, wealthier people living smack dab in the middle of New York, the kind who don’t have to factor in grocery shopping and the laundry between sessions on social media and schmoozing with influencers and trend-setters.

Still, the universe does provide if you wait long enough. My quilt guild is planning a holiday boutique. Since the key to all marketing advice is always ask if you can join in, I asked if I could participate. As far as I could tell, the only requirement for vendors was that all the items for sale must be handmade.

“Could I sell my books?” I asked. “Ann Anastasio and I wrote them ourselves, so that’s kinda sorta maybe handmade.”

The committee agreed that my books qualify as a handmade item, and I slapped the table fee down before they changed their minds. This boutique might not appear on the international book festival calendar, but I’m grateful for any chance to meet potential readers.

Luck and wisdom!

A Journey With Embroidery

November 7, 2018

There is something about embroidery that turns my fingers into a (nearly) perpetual motion machine. The top for On To Africa needed more embellishment, so I started adding a few lines of embroidery here and there. Before I knew it, the journey to a quilting-ready top was finished.

One side of the top is more heavily embroidered than the rest, but I’m okay with that. Most of this work was done by another artist (and I still don’t know who – none of my friends remember where I got the blocks either), and I’m perfectly content to let her work get all the attention.

I first thought I would leave the center appliqued panel alone, and fill in the open space with quilting. Then I realized the jacquard will absorb all the quilting, so I might as well embroider the living daylights out of it.

Shameless self-promotion alert, embroidery on the journey into space is a pivotal plot point in The Chenille Ultimatum. If you need a good giggle, give the book a try.

Luck and wisdom!

Rage Against the Portrait

August 6, 2018

Being a writer isn’t all about putting words on paper. Artists of any kind also have to be marketers, and that usually means selecting one’s public image. I really hate choosing portraits. The problem isn’t that they don’t look like me – the problem is they do (and yes, I rage against my mirror as much as I rage against my portraits).

At least I’m smiling

This month has been particularly taxing. I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed by a local newsletter about Tri-Valley Writers, but that meant finding a picture for the article. I’m also taking on the role of president of Tri-Valley Writers, and that means finding a different picture for our newsletter. Then I noticed that my WordPress photo is woefully out of date, as is my photo on the Tri-Valley Writers website. I’m tempted to put in a picture of something else, but that’s not what a sensible author who actually wants to sell some books would do.

Or is it?

The first medal I ever won got its own quilt

By the way, here’s where you can find my latest book, The Chenille Ultimatum, written with Ann Anastasio.

Becoming an Author

May 21, 2018

My writing club offers a scholarship at the local community college. The president of the club and I went to the awards ceremony and met this year’s recipient. She is planning a career in teaching, and hopes to encourage her future students to write well. She said she had no plans to be a writer, but she asked about the process. When we described all the ways one could bring one’s work to readers, she changed her mind. Here are some resources for you to become an author.

Smashwords.com

This is for ebooks only, but it is free for authors and offers a boatload of tutorials and help. I convinced my co-author to publish Death By Chenille on Smashwords. We were so energized by having a book on-line that we wrote a second book, then a third, and now we’re working on a fourth.

Small Publishing Houses

Just because you don’t have an agent to shop your manuscript to the big publishing houses doesn’t mean you’re done. A small publishing house might be interested. We published our third book (shameless self-promotion, that book is now available here) through Russian Hill Press.

My books, on my bookshelf – woo hoo!

Createspace/Amazon

Createspace is the go-to place for many independent authors. My uncle, Philip Gordon McGirr, just published a book of short pieces. He is another who never thought about being an author until a friend of his started writing and inspired him.

Booktrack.com

Booktrack lets you score your work. Yup, you can put music, ambient sounds, or special effects sounds together with your written word.

Local anthologies

Not sure your work is ready for a large audience? Check around and see if there are any groups in your area that publish an anthology. Our community college publishes annually, and you don’t have to be a student to submit. Julaina Kleist-Corwin, a local writing teacher, published a book of her students’ work.

All authors struggle to find readers, so don’t be discouraged that your book might sell only enough to buy you a really good lunch. This has been my experience, but I’m okay with that. Becoming an author, even at my level, has been worth it.

Collaborative Writing

April 30, 2018

My co-author for the Chenille series, Ann Anastasio, moved to another state years ago. That has made collaborative writing difficult, but not impossible. Last week we got together and talked about the plot for The Captain and Chenille. Within half an hour we had ironed out some nagging issues and added layers to the main characters. That is the benefit of bouncing ideas off other people. You may not want to write an entire novel with someone else, but do yourself a favor and find a person or group that will invest in you (as you, of course, will invest in that person or group). Record the session if you can’t take notes quickly enough. The ideas that start swimming around the room may not end up in your current project, but chances are you’ll find a way to use them somewhere, sometime.

I did some recording, not of our ideas, but of Ann reading from The Chenille Ultimatum. It’s under a minute – enjoy!

 

Character traits through the generations

April 16, 2018

I told you about finding inspiration for my characters in obituaries so my friends and family can’t complain that I’m using them for my stories. Sometimes, however, you run across a character trait that spans generations and just happens to fit what you need in your writing. That happened to me in The Chenille Ultimatum.

My dad and me a long time ago

This is my father. He was a great guy, usually laughing unless some piece of equipment had the temerity to misbehave. He also sang to himself. We’d hear him puttering in his shop, and all of sudden he would sing a snippet of some song he heard years ago, or yesterday, or just made up.

My grandmother

This is my father’s mother. She sang to herself, too. I discovered that one day when she was making lunch and didn’t know I was still in the kitchen. She started humming to herself, then sang part of a verse, then went back to humming. “Aha,” I thought, “that’s where my Dad gets it.”

That’s also where I get it, because I sing to myself too. No one noticed except my children (it annoyed them, so I made sure to sing whenever they annoyed me). Then one day I was working on a scene in The Chenille Ultimatum and I remembered this multi-generational trait. “Self,” I said, “have a character sing a piece of a song she heard from her mother, who heard it from her mother, who heard it from her mother, who heard it from the aliens when they first landed on Earth.”

And so I did. The song becomes a plot point, since the aliens recognize the song and decide they can trust humans after all. The character trait comes from real people, but no one knew until I spilled the beans. Perhaps your family holds multi-generational character traits that will provide plot points too.

A Sci-Fi Crazy Quilt

April 4, 2018

When Ann Anastasio and I wrote our first novel, Death By Chenille, we planned to create patterns for the quilts mentioned in the book. I volunteered to make the crazy quilt we described. I thought it would be pretty, and I love to embroider. Well, our third novel, The Chenille Ultimatum, has just been published and I’m finally getting started on the blocks. I have them pieced, but not embellished.

I believe this one will have yellow chevrons

Although we have mentioned this quilt in all three books, we haven’t described it lately so I had to go back and read the description. I’m one of the authors–you would think I could remember my own words. Not so much. “Self,” I said, “this crazy quilt idea is getting crazier by the minute.”

We described one block bisected with an embroidered ribbon

The quilt plays an important role in getting the aliens to trust the humans. The embroidery stitches tell the story of the first time they visited Earth. I had worked out what each stitch meant. Unfortunately, I succumbed to the worst lie writers tell themselves: “I’ll remember this later. No need to write it down now.” Of course I don’t remember what I had in mind and now I have to come up with embroidery patterns that fit.

The cross-stitch tells the story of the first time the aliens visited Earth

Our books are cozy sci-fi, which means the science is wibbly-wobbly because humor is more important than equations (our aliens disguise themselves as bolts of beige fabric, for Pete’s sake), so I’m hoping our readers are the cozy and forgiving sort. I am counting on the kindness of quilters who will agree that a finished quilt is beautiful, even if it doesn’t entirely fit the description in the book.

Luck and wisdom!

Finished Enough to Celebrate

February 14, 2018

Despite an accumulation of small medical woes that have irritated me (who knew toothache could be so debilitating?), I brought two projects close enough to finished that I intend to celebrate.

This is what I made from the collection of blocks I received from The Progressive Party. I decided I didn’t want a classic setting, so I put black strips of varying widths along one side of the blocks. The horizontal sashing includes a flamingo on a skateboard because I found it in my stash and it wasn’t going anyplace else.

The second project is the third novel in the Chenille Series, The Chenille Ultimatum.

Book 3 with Ann Anastasio

In the latest adventure with our quilting heroines, Susan travels to the distant planet of Schtatik to save her mother and daughter, and stop a civil war. You can find it on Amazon here.

Of course, I still have to quilt the top and promote the book, but that is going on another To-Do List. Today’s list is long enough.

Luck and wisdom!