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Thursday, October 4, 2018















Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book


The Benefits of Gratitude  

I like hearing the words "thank you."  Don't you?  Those two words make me feel good. 

And yet, those two words bring back a hurtful memory.  

Many years ago, I took vacation leave from my job and drove 75 miles to take care of a relative recovering from surgery.  It was my pleasure and honor to care for him.  But, when it was time for me to travel home, I never heard I'm glad you came, you were helpful, thank you for being here.  Maybe he felt that I was obligated to help out.  Or maybe, he didn't feel well and just forgot to thank me.

On a more upbeat note, a fellow writer and protégé has kept in touch with me for over ten years.  He writes to tell me of his rejections, acceptances, and goals.  In all of his emails he expresses thankfulness for the help I had given him in the past and for the help I still give him.  And this means the world to me.

I never fail to notice gratitude.  My husband thanks me after every meal.  Even if it's just spaghetti and meatballs.  Even if it's leftovers.  He doesn't have to, but he does.

Our daughter is grateful.  She thanks us when she gets a surprise package at college.  She always writes thank you notes to relatives for birthday presents.

My cat Ozzie expresses gratitude.  After he's been fed, of course.  Ozzie shows his appreciation by rubbing his lips across my hand and marking me with his scent, telling me that I'm his.

I like to express gratitude, too and writing has given me many opportunities to be thankful—when someone critiques my work, when somebody submits to Kid's Imagination Train, when a writer asks me to guest blog, when an editor publishes my work, and the list goes on.  
  
When people do something nice for me, I like to write a thank you note, send flowers, or bring them something sweet to eat.  And after being published, I found there are a lot of people deserving of a thank you:  
     
  •  My publisher
  •  My agent
  •  Reviewers 
  •  Fans who came to the book signing
  •  Shop owners who placed a book order  
  •  Bloggers who promoted my book 
  •  People who ordered my book
  •  Editors that accepted an article I had   written on publishing a book
  •  Bookstore managers and book sellers
  •  My book launch team
  •  Business people who helped me market   my book
  •  Media specialists who booked a school   visit
Gratitude is easy to do and it can transform your life.

Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author states that gratitude has been proven to open doors to more relationships and can improve physical and psychological health, enhance empathy, reduce aggression, improve sleep, and increase self-esteem.  She believes we can cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things you think you deserve, focus on all that you have

Grateful people have been found to be blessed with more happiness.

As reported by Robin S. Stern, Associate Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Robert A Emmons, Ph.D. Dept. of Psychology, University of California for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, "Grateful people experience more joy, love, and enthusiasm, and they enjoy protection from destructive emotions like envy, greed, and bitterness.  Gratitude also reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, and it helps people entangled with those and other problems to heal and find closure.  It can give you a deep and steadfast trust that goodness exists, even in the face of uncertainty or suffering gratitude to mental health and life satisfaction." 

Stern and Emmons said it perfectly, "Gratitude isn’t just an emotion that happens along, but a virtue we can cultivate. Think of it as something you practice as you might meditation or yoga.  Gratitude practice begins by paying attention. Notice all the good things you normally take for granted." 

When you practice gratitude, it can inspire people to acts of kindness.  It has the power to strengthen bonds with other people. 

There are countless ways to say thank you.  All you have to do is to take note when someone is kind and express thankfulness.  No one gets tired of those two little words.  

✌ and 


Thursday, September 20, 2018




Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book

ONE COOL CAT  

Ozzie isn't crazy about his vest. 

Maybe he's not fond of the fabric.  Maybe he's not crazy about the pattern.  Maybe he doesn't like the color red.  Wait, are cats color blind?

"Want to try on your vest, Ozzie?"
Ozzie skedaddles away.

I'm feeling a little discouraged.

My husband Jim asks, "Who takes a cat outside on a leash?"
Well, that would be me.  If dogs wear vests, why not cats?

On cold days, the lean, short-haired breeds like the Greyhound, the Chihuahua, the French Bulldog, and many terriers and pinschers have trouble staying warm outside and benefit from wearing a vest.  According to www.orvis.com, "Dogs whose bellies are close to the ground—the Dachshund and the Corgi, for example—need extra protection from frigid sidewalks and snowy paths. Toy and small breeds, light-bodied breeds, and breeds with very short or thin hair (even if it’s long by nature but you keep it clipped close) need the extra warmth of a dog jacket or sweater outside in the cold."

Though most cats don't need a vest to stay warm, a vest would keep an indoor cat safe outside. The decision is up to the owner and of course, the pet's cattitude.  Our vet said that getting Ozzie outside for some fresh air would be good for him because he is an indoor cat.  That's all I needed to hear.  And since I need to take breaks from writing and marketing Maggie, being outside would be good for me, too.

The plan:
Day 1 - 3:  Let Ozzie sniff the vest and get familiar seeing it
Day 4 - 6:  Let him wear the vest around the house
Day 7:  Let him enjoy the great outdoors

I placed the vest next to Ozzie's food bowl.  He didn't tear it to shreds.  He didn't pee on it.  I took this as a good sign.

But the first time he wore it outside, he hugged the back door, crouched, and slunk around.  This was not a good sign.

And yet, he didn't growl or cry.  So, here we had another good sign.

I wasn't going to torture him with a lengthy stay, just long enough to sniff plants and experience bugs and birds.  To feel sunshine on his back.  To feel grass beneath his paws.

Ozzie tolerated  seemed to like the grand outdoors, but being out in the backyard wasn't always the cat's meow.

On one occasion with Ozzie outside and all-vested up, Putt-Putt (our loving stray) wandered by.  I hadn't expected he'd show up.  His schedule is fairly random, unless it's breakfast or dinner time.

When Putty comes to visit, I leave the deck door open and the screen locked, so that he and Ozzie can enjoy each other's company.  Since they are buds, I allowed Putt-Putt to get close to Ozzie.  But then clear out of the blue, Putt-Putt bit Ozzie.

Ozzie screamed.  My interpretation:  get me the hell out of this vest and back inside where I belong.

I felt terrible for Ozzie and never expected Putty to bite him.  But Putty's home is outside and he felt inclined to defend it.

I gave Ozzie a break from going outside after Putty's attack.  Then after a while, I tried again.

My husband snickered.  The look on his face said are you really going to do that to him?

Yes, yes I am.  I wasn't going to give up.

It's been several months and Ozzie is still not crazy about his vest.  Though, he is a good sport.  He humors me.  We hang out on the front porch away from Putty's backyard space for a good five minutes!  We take in the sunshine and enjoy the great outdoors. Or, at least one of us does.

Trying new things takes time. Ain't that right, Ozzie?  He may not believe it now, but one of these days Ozzie will know he is one purrty cool cat.


✌ and 





Thursday, September 6, 2018











Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book


I WILL NEVER BE A BALLERINA

When I was young, I loved ballet.  I couldn't get enough of the pink tights, the black leotard and the leather ballet slippers.

Children typically start ballet training between the ages of five and eight, and though I began at an early age and took for three years, I wasn't able to continue.  Students were expected to take tap before continuing to the next level of ballet.

Even at the age of eight I knew tap dancing was not for me.  I put my foot down.  I would not take tap. I would not take tap.  I WOULD NOT TAKE TAP.  And so, unwilling to take a class I had no interest in, I had to give up something that I dearly loved. 

I would never be a ballerina. 

Even if I had gone on to learn tap, ballet classes would have been too expensive.  My father worked two jobs.  He had five mouths to feed.  He only had to look at my overbite to know the future foretold the footing of orthodontic bills.  Paying for lessons would have been a huge financial strain.

I would never be a ballerina.

I would never have the opportunity to learn pointe and partnering.  That's just the way it was.  Instead, I was fortunate to do a little horseback riding and play softball and basketball.

And then much, much later in life, in my mid-twenties, I wanted to find a way to stay in shape, so I decided to try some adult ballet classes.  Once I learned the French vocabulary, I felt more confident to continue.

Over the years I tried different dance studios, trying to find the balance between a serious class and a class that would be fun.  Through persistence and luck, I found the place that I love—Dancers' Studio in Lexington, Kentucky.

We begin each class at the barre.  This is where we perform exercises to stretch the entire body.  We might do this combination:  tondue, coupe de pied, relevé.

That means begin in a ballet first position, extend a straight leg with pointed toes, return to first position, slide a curved foot to the ankle, and balance on the other leg.  The exercise is performed in first, second and fifth position.  Then the entire exercise switches sides so both the right foot and the left foot are used.  After eight different barre exercises, we're ready for center work.

Center work is composed of adagio and allegro movements.  We begin with adagio where combinations of ballet steps are pieced together and danced slowly in order to develop balance, control and extension without the use of the barre.  Then we move on to allegro—the faster, livelier steps which include jumps and turns.  Class ends with a révérence, a bow to thank the teacher.

I've been doing ballet for many years now and I still can't get enough of the pink tights, black leotard and leather slippers.  It is a good workout for the mind and the body.  Dancers must remember all of the steps of a combination and perform them correctly.

As I conclude this blog post, I am reminded about the similarities between ballet and writing.  Both require practice and discipline.  Even marketing a book is like ballet.  It takes an incredible amount of time and effort to be successful. 

However, even with practice, discipline, time, and effort chances are I will never be a best-selling author.

But, still I write.

And I will never dance a pas de deux or wear a dancer's tutu.  I don't have physical stamina and impeccable balance.  I'm not as flexible and coordinated like a professional dancer.

I will never be a ballerina.

But still I dance.

The Maggie Project is published twice a month. 

✌ and 





Thursday, August 16, 2018


Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book


TANTALIZED 

I was like a kid in a candy store.  And Vistaprint was my candy store.

As a newly-published author, I was over the moon about marketing my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.  So, I went crazy buying all kinds of promotional material.  You name it, I bought it: posters and postcards, bookmarks and sticky notes, and mugs and magnets.

Vistaprint met most of my needs.  But there was one special item I was dying to have. Like the State Farm commercial - I had to have it.

I made the decision to splurge on Budsie doll.  Budsies are customized stuffed dolls that can be created from a photo.  After seeing several finished products online, I felt confident that the manufacturers could create just what I wanted.  In a short while, I'd be holding my very own Maggie doll.  

Several weeks later, she arrived.  I could hardly wait to open the box.  But the moment I saw her, I was crushed.  Simply devastated.  

The doll's face did not resemble Maggie's face at all.  Its head was floppy.  The hair was made of red felt which made her look like she was wearing a hat.  

Maggie did not look like Maggie.  

This doll cost a fortune.  We're talking close to one hundred dollars and I could not use her.  She looked as sad as I felt.  

But rather than giving up on her, I made a bold decision.  This doll was going to get a makeover.  

To begin, the "hair" had to go.  I snipped it off and sewed a small red curly wig (think Little Orphan Annie) to the top of her head.  Next, Maggie underwent cosmetic surgery—I reshaped the nose and the mouth with thread and black markers.  Lastly, I strengthened Maggie's neck.  My husband suggested using VelCro to make the head more stable.  Finally when all of the work was done, Maggie looked more like Maggie.  

Now that she looks happier (and I am happier) I bring my Maggie Budsie doll to events.  She helps draw people to my book signing table.  However, spending lots of money on a doll that did not meet my expectations made me wonder if the money was well spent.  This big purchase brought me to my senses.  As the newness of authorship wore off, I started to tally my expenses—and I discovered that I had spent a fortune.  But the rationale was, I'd sell a lot of books to make up for the spending and get reimbursed from my publisher.  

Wrong on both counts.  

Every author envisions or plans how they hope to get their fans interested in their books.  With hindsight, I discovered that not every marketing tool was effective.  Here are some of the items I would not purchase to promote a second book:
  • Wooden ornaments used as gift giveaways
  • Magnets
  • A Facebook campaign boost 
  • 500 oversized postcards announcing the book signing 
  • Large cardboard table top displays for selling books at local shops
Also, I would not send as many free copies of the book to companies or to contests because they are not returned.

There were several items that were inexpensive and worth having.  I would purchase these things again:
  • Balloons for the book signing
  • Pencils and candy 
  • A poster of the book cover
  • Bookmarks (200)
  • Large envelopes for mailing books
  • Small metal display tripods
  • Personalized post-it notes
  • Plush mini toy puppies as a giveaway gift 

Promoting a book was new and confusing for me.  If I had realized that my publisher was unable to reimburse me, I would have had a stricter budget. I would have made  sensible spending decisions. 

There are no regrets however, because this was my first book and it was a learning experience.  

But next time, I will check to see if the publisher will shoulder some of the costs.   

Next time, I will know what marketing tools to invest in and which ones to resist.   

And next time, I will be wiser, thriftier, and Budsie-less.




The Maggie Project is published twice a month. 

✌ and 





Thursday, August 2, 2018

Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book


CATWALK 

In the fashion world, a catwalk is a narrow walkway where models show off the latest fashions of   ValentinoDonatella Versace, Oscar de la Renta and other famous designers.

In my world, a catwalk is a typical morning stroll.

That's because cats have the habit of showing up while I walk.  All kinds and colors.  On porches, driveways, sidewalks.

If I call them, they'll come up to me.  They rub against my leg as I try to take their photo.  Curious creatures. Full of affection and curiosity.

These are some of my feline friends.


Cats also show up on our family vacations.  In Rome, we stumbled across cats dwelling among the temple ruins in Torre Argentina.  We've spotted cats roaming the Old City in Dubrovnik and living in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

Cats don't always show up every time I take a walk.  It's possible I don't see them because I'm usually preoccupied thinking about new blog posts, writing projects, and marketing ideas.  Some of my best ideas come when I'm strolling the neighborhood.

But one day on a walk, my focus drifted from writely projects and marketing woes to the dynamics of business and personal relationships.  Several unpleasant circumstances had cropped up and these weighed heavily on my mind.  These situations totally bummed me out and made me angry and confused because close friends had let me down.  I tried to figure out why people were arrogant, mean-spirited, self-absorbed, and disrespectful.  I wondered how people could not be aware of the hurt and damage their actions (or lack of actions) cause.

The further I walked, the sadder I got.  There were simply no answers.

I headed to a shady spot to stretch my back.  To sip water.  To mop the sweat from my brow.  Despite the break, my mood persisted.  I couldn't shake it as I pushed on. 

And then a cat spotted me.

A big, beautiful fluffy Persian cat with icy blue eyes.

He trotted from a front yard garden to greet me.  This little bundle of fur.  Had he sensed my feelings? 

The only thing I could think about and wanted to think about was this gorgeous cat.

He didn't come to me for a rub or a pat on the head.  But his actions were purposeful and deliberate.

He pressed his lips against my hand—a common catlike thing to do—and he marked me with his scent, calling me his human, assuaging the hurt.

 He offer tender feline love at a time I needed it most.




The Maggie Project is published twice a month

✌ and 


Thursday, July 19, 2018


































Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book


EXTREME ADRENALINE RUSH 

Let me set this straight.  I like massages.  But not with snakes.

While watching the Ellen Degeneres show, I learned about this strange practice called snake massage.

We're talking about a 550 pound, 6 foot long python wriggling across your naked skin.

We're talking about being tense because the snake squeezes your body.

And we're talking extreme adrenaline rush.

Pythons are the snake of choice.  Though they are not venomous, it takes time to feel relaxed getting a snake massage. 

The snake is washed and is well-fed (that's good to know) and its mouth is taped (also good to know) before it's draped over your torso and face and put to task.  Sometimes big and small snakes are used at the same time to achieve a graduation in pressure.  For some people, getting a snake massage provides a psychological release such as confronting a fear and wiping away stress.  For others, it relieves tension in a way that human hands can't.

I'm all for being different.  Different is good.

I love reading different kinds of genres:  nonfiction, novels, picture books, and books written in French.

I love traveling to different countries.

I enjoy different languages.  Parlez-vous français?

I like trying different kinds of foods.
While in Spain, my daughter got me to try mussels and octopus.

I did not try bull's tail.

I love working on different picture book projects and trying unconventional book marketing approaches.

And I've tried different kinds of massages.  Deep tissue massage is not for me, but a Swedish massage is soothing and helps relax tight muscles.  I'd love to try a hot stone massage.  According to Healthline.com, it relieves muscle pain, reduces stress, promotes sleep, and may boost immunity.

Snake massages sound intriguing.  They are inexpensive, costing about $45 for 90-minutes.  That's a bargain.  The average price for a massage is $60 an hour.

But I can barely look at a snake, much less have one slithering over my body.  I don't need an adrenaline rush—no matter what people say about them or how good it makes them feel.  Even my massage therapist has no interest in snakes rubbing her face and neck.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against snake massages.  They are probably perfect for the adventuresome.  But having a 500-pound python massage my skin—no thanksssss.

The Maggie Project is published twice a month

✌ and 


Thursday, July 5, 2018


Marvelous musings and the mind-boggling journey of marketing a book



SIGN ME UP FOR SURVIVOR 

My husband and I are fans of the television show Survivor.

We have been watching the show for since Season Two.  That's 35 seasons of Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  I enjoy getting to know the tribe members and seeing how they strategize.

I would love to a contestant if it weren't for...

missing my husband,

missing my cat,

missing my daily writing,

having sand on my body

having to live in a bathing suit for 39 days

being hot

being cold

being wet

the snakes and bugs

sleeping on the ground

no covers,

no pillow,

not being able to blow my hair dry

not having bathroom facilities

not being able to brush my teeth.

Now, I could go barefoot.  I could eat rice and coconuts for every meal. 

I could compete well at challenges (after all, I've faced the challenges of writing a book, getting it published, and promoting it)

...as long as they didn't include swimming, throwing balls, mud, and being blindfolded.

I tell my husband I could be on Survivor.  He tells me I wouldn't survive a few hours.

"You couldn't even survive the boat ride to the island!"

I forgot I get motion sickness.

"But I can do puzzle challenges.  I like rice and coconuts."

"Rice for 39 days?  What about your nightly treat of ice cream?  Daily coffee?"

Then he throws in, "What about Ozzie?"

I would worry about our cat.  Jim would only feed him dry kibbles (Jim hates the smell of canned kitty meat and Ozzie is a lover of wet-food).

So, maybe it's not a good idea.  It's probably better to live vicariously through the contestants in the comfort of my house and keep my challenges confined to the writing world.

Winning a million dollars and being the sole survivor would be nice,

but I'm a fan of being sandless, warm, and dry.


The Maggie Project is published twice a month

and