Whew! What a week.
Wifi network down. Technology gremlins attacking. Fuzzy hopping with excitement on his 30-day blog tour, meeting so many lovely people. And Sweet T's e-book conversion continues to evolve as tech experts work miracles. Plus, it's Labor Day weekend in the US, and we're supposed to rest from our toil.
So, I REALLY need to Zen-out and find my happy place. Lucky for me, it's right outside my door.
Join me for a walk on the greenway? I’d love your company.
Our suburban house on a quarter-acre lot backs up to a greenway, a series of interconnecting walking paths through the wooded watershed leading to a park and nature preserve. Even though we live in a city, it feels as if we're in the country.
Let’s hop on the trail here.
Hard to believe these peaceful woods
are part of a U.S. metro area of a million people.
Getting happy with my imagination now:
Doesn't this old log look like a Triceratops head?
Imagination is everywhere.
Like building a river of swirly stones.
Beauty is crafted
from everyday elements.
Oops! Watch your head on that limb!
No worries about stepping on snakes today.
It's not hot enough for reptiles to slither onto the path
to cool themselves on concrete.
Plus, copperheads stay close to the creek ... I think.
Shady nook to rest and contemplate.
Thoughtful hydration station for pooches.
Shhhh! Stay very quiet.
We may spot shy woodland fairy princesses.
This tree wants to scurry away
on human-hand-looking roots.
(Hmmm. That could be the start of a good story line.)
Almost done. How about a short cut up the hill?
Back home again.
... Ready to tackle the world again. (Or at least start writing the next chapter after the weekend.)
I feel so much better. Hope you do, too. Thanks for joining me.
Here's wishing you'll always find the way to your happy place. If you care to share in the comment section below, please tell about what you do to de-stress.
Being an Indie author or illustrator of children’s books isn't an easy road. Sure, there’s the excitement of creating words and pictures that impact kids. But there are long hours of writing or drawing, editing, fighting technology gremlins, and finessing social media.
If it’s so hard, why do we persist? Good question! I’ll address it in a moment through this Blogging from the Heart Tour. But first, please get comfy and settle back with a cup of your fave brew.
Here’s how this Blogging from the Heart post will roll.
I. Blog Sponsor Kimberly Sentek
Twitter is the bees knees for connecting people who share the same interests. That’s how I met writerly colleague Kimberly Sentek. I was drawn to Kim’s sweet tales for children that bring a smile and teach valuable lessons at the same time.
Kim spent her entire life telling stories—her parents swear she was born talking. A lifelong New Jersey resident, she is owned by two cockapoos, Nico and Tugger. Her first book, Oh Brother!: A Nico and Tugger Tale, is a story of sibling rivalry inspired by her dogs. Kim continues this series based on her two furry children, and her second book is currently in production.
II. Next Up on Writing from the Heart Blog Tour
Meet three friends and writers who share their passion for creating books, illustration, and community:
* a top-selling kidlit mystery writer from the US Left Coast
* a UK-based artist, illustrator and soon-to-be author who dazzles with colors and paint
* another artist from across the pond who pens tales and promotes children's books and writers through the Kid Literature Authors' network.
Kimberly, K. Corrina, and Karen are my kind of perfect storm of talent. They knock my socks off!
Always Writing From the Heart
1. What am I working on?
These three projects require my TLC at the moment.
1. Sweet T and the North Wind, a chapter book for Grades K-4
Tara, or Sweet T as Grandma calls her, discovers an hour of north wind magic one winter afternoon that takes her on the ride of her life.
2. Finding Fuzzy, a chapter book for Grades K-3
T's sister, Jenna, faces the toughest decision of her young life when she loses her beloved blue stuffy rabbit, Fuzzy, on the family beach trip.
3. Driving Down to Dillon: a Very Short Story of Love & New Beginnings
A freebie for grownups that has very special meaning to me.
Always Writing from the Heart
2. How is my work different?
Always Writing from the Heart
3. Why do I write what I do?
Always Writing from the Heart
4. How does my writing process work?
Thanks for stopping by. Loved having you visit. Please come again? And stay tuned for the next tour stop with K., Corrina, and Karen.
NOTE: This given has ended.
Fuzzy is ready for his book blog hop that runs 21 August - 19 September 2014. He'll be featured on 30 different book blog sites in the next 30 days, including book hop sponsor Mother Daughter Book Reviews.
You can join Fuzzy and enter to win prizes he's giving away. Here's how:
1. Follow Cat
At each blog stop, tick off one of these Rafflecopter points for each actions you complete to support Fuzzy and me. Simple, right?
2. Sign up for Cat's Connections
If you subscribe to Cat's Connections, my email updates for book lovers, you'll receive a link to download a FREE tale I penned just for grown ups, Driving to Dillon: a Very-Short Story of Love and New Beginnings.
This story has a special meaning to me, and I'm excited to share it with you.
3. Gift Card Drawing
When Fuzzy's hop ends on 21 September, book elves at Rafflecopter will wave a magic techno-wand and randomly select the winner of a $30 Paypal or Amazon gift card.
Ready? Please click on over to MotherDaughterBookReview to join Fuzzy's book blog hop from 21 August- 21 September.
Fuzzy and I are ever so grateful for your following. Good luck!
Recently, I posted about my challenge as an Indie author who wants time to write and avoid too much time in the social media vortex. This week, my writerly colleague, K. Lamb, offers a different perspective on managing this balancing act.
She shares her philosophy that rocketed her first children’s book to Amazon’s best-seller slot in its category.
An Inside Look at the Working Indie Author:
Connecting V. Marketing
~ by K. Lamb
I grew up in a family-owned business. Early on, I attended trade shows, set up booths, and networked with customers. One thing I knew about myself: I could handle the situation, promote a line with a smile, and offer a pleasant exchange with ease. It was fast-paced. Get people in and out. Hand out business cards. Get the order.
Effectively working in that move-on-to-the-next-customer atmosphere and enjoying the process were two different things. That rushed, impersonal marketing style was not me.
I prefer making connections.
Recently, I posted about my challenge as an Indie author who wants more time to write instead of being sucked into the social media vortex.
This week, friend and colleague, K. Lamb, offers a different perspective on managing this balancing act. She shares her philosophy that puts it all together and rocketed her first children’s book to Amazon’s #1 top-selling slot in its category.
Make Connections First
Today when it comes to my writing, I'm not networking. I am out to make a genuine connection. I want people to know I have a vested, personal interest in them. I care about what my readers think, about helping teachers, and about how my young readers will respond. It’s important that I know when I release a young adult novel, I hit my target readers’ interest. I also want readers to understand I care about their feedback.
To me, networking is cold hard business, whereas making connections is true human interaction. I can do both well; I just prefer one over the other.
My first book was released in December 2013. Now eight months later, I haven't even begun the marketing stage. I used this time to make connections. I wanted people to get to know me, my writing style, and my books. I do not even want to think about marketing until I publish at least three books in my children's series.
Why? How many children do you know who have a lot of patience? If they like something, and it is part of a series, they want immediate gratification. They don't want to wait months for the next release.
For instance, after releasing my first book and with my second in production, I received a note and adorable picture of a little girl from her mother. The child was anxiously awaiting my second book, but since it was not available, she decided to do a daily countdown to the release date. It was incredibly sweet, but at the same time I hated disappointing her.
Another example came from the U.K. A little girl, who professed to be Dani's #1 fan, read my first book and desperately wanted the second book for her birthday. Her mother wrote me a note, asking if the book would be ready in time. Again, how could I let a child down? I kicked book #2 into high gear!
So although I released two books, I have not yet done an all-out marketing campaign. I think of it more as a slow, soft release of my series. I'm building a foundation on which to later base a promotional marketing strategy.
Right now, I am happily spending my time making connections. I especially love working with teachers. To date, I "adopted" a few classes where I donated books, bookmarks, resource materials, etc. These classes will also receive future releases of the Dani P. Mystery series. Now, some might actually construe this as marketing. To me, this is making a connection because, again, I have a personal interest in the individuals I work with.
Marketing Second: Advice for Indies
When it comes time for me to begin a marketing campaign, I will tackle it with a business-like mind. After all, I was raised that way. That will be the time to focus on press releases, sending out book flyers, arranging book signings, contacting books stores, setting up school visits, etc.
This stage opens up a whole new set of tasks for Indie writers to consider, and it also takes time away from the actual writing process. Will you handle your own marketing campaign, or will you hire out this work? Can you afford to invest your time in marketing your own books, or do you have the financial means to let someone manage this aspect for you?
In the meantime, until you are ready to begin a full-blown Indie marketing campaign, there are certain things you can prepare for in advance.
When it is time for me to market my books, I'll push the business side, not the individuals, because I want to gain readers, not alienate them. Marketing is for business---connections are for people---and if we're are conscious of our actions, we'll do both gracefully and professionally.
Photo Credit: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/
K. Lamb is the author of the Dani P. Mystery series for children 7-11 years old. While these books are for beginning readers, she also presents challenge words throughout her stories to encourage advanced readers to expand vocabulary while not discouraging others. Dani and the Haunted House, her first published work, was an Amazon Best Seller in the Children’s Detectives category. She recently released her second book in the collection, Dani and the Mall Caper, and has more books in this series under production.
A strong advocate for children's literacy, K. Lamb has given away more than 2,000 digital versions of her first book and donated paperback copies to classrooms. She enjoys interacting with children, parents, and teachers, so she also provides resources for them on her website. In addition to penning children's stories, she writes young adult novels and posts from her blog, the Musings of K. Lamb.
Website | K. Lamb on Facebook | Twitter | Dani P on Facebook
Social media is a mixed blessing. It's enticing, offering unfettered access to just about everything, everywhere. A chance to open minds and meet fascinating people. It’s also dangerous, especially to an Indie writer. Like a kid in a candy store.
And like it was for me on Friday.
Somewhere, hiding in one of my dozen or so social media accounts, is a wonderful article that explains the importance of having a creative ‘side project’ as a way to break from the routine and rejuvenate. As an Indie children’s book writer, that speaks to me. I want to share it. But I can’t get my virtual fingers on that article after searching inboxes, outboxes, posts, and googling keywords.
Did I make a hard copy and store it? Nope. Nowhere on my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Drive folders.
Maybe I pinned it? (Pinterest? Danger, Will Robinson! Red alert!) I start scrolling through my Pinterest account. What a beautiful cottage garden pin. Must like it. Oooo. A very cool new author. Must follow him. Hooray! Image of a tiny sprout surviving between steely train tracks just reached 1000 pins. Ouch. An auto-correct typo in my last pin’s text. Must fix.
Must share that creativity article when I find it with my writer's circle on Google+. Maybe Kid Lit authors, too.
Must shorten its link once I find it, so I can Tweet it in less than 140 characters.
Must refocus article for my author Facebook page to share the importance of outlets in a writerly life. Would friends on my ‘personal’ FB account find it interesting, too? I’d like to hear their creative sidelines.
Once I find that article, maybe I should add a graphic to my post. After all, visual-centric content gets a gazillion times more reader engagement. Must find a free, open source graphic that shows creativity. Search MorgueFile, Wiki commons photos. Nothing. Photography pal M. Leigh Emery miles away in upstate NY comes to my rescue with her shot of approaching super-storm Sandy.
I’ve been up since 6:30 a.m., having breakfast, watching Charlie, Nora and Gayle fill me in on what’s happened in the world. I can do this. I am an extrovert who needs background noise. But dead stop on the hour, when CBS cuts to its 90-second Eye Opener. (Thanks goodness that montage of current events ends with uplifting stories about sports, entertainment, or pets because world news is dreadful these days.)
So, with one ear to the telly, I scan social media accounts and more news feeds on my tablet. (Guardians of the Galaxy and Boyhood score rave reviews. Must schedule a trip to the Cineplex with my gal pals.) I eat breakfast with my right hand while swiping and tapping the tablet with the left. Then switching over to dig deeper on my laptop once breakfast is digested.
It’s 9:00 a.m. Charlie says farewell and my local CBS team tells me it will rain all weekend. Where did the time go?
I haven’t done anything except answer my 100 or so tweets that twittered up since last night. Such wonderful connections on Twitter. Must support them.
And responded to email messages from my three personal and author accounts.
Browsed author and personal Facebook pages to see what’s happening with family, friends, and writerly folk. Liked and commented on pet, kid, food, vacation, and new book updates.
Then hopped on the hopeless search for the article on creative sidelines, about which I wanted to write a blog post and still haven’t found, that started this folly hours ago.
Goodreads and Linkedin, I just can't get to you today. Plus, it’s my week for grocery shopping and housecleaning. Also must exercise to banish writer's spread from sitting and keyboarding. Must get back to penning my third chapter book for young readers.
Must post, tweet, pin, like, share, send, friend.
Must, must, must……
Where is this insistent, slightly manic voice coming from? I write chapter books for early readers: calm, sweet, and gentle. Where’s my patient, sotto voce honed from years of working with ADHD and Asperger’s students?
I feel as if I’ve been flung through a rip in the time-space continuum, with a fleet of Daleks on my tail. Doctor, where are you?!?
ARGHHH! Then it hits me: the Social Media Time-Suck Vortex strikes again!
We’ve all been there, if you're a writer or 9-5 warrior. Let’s get it out of our system. Please say with me:
Social media is a time suck.
I don’t have time to write____INSERT other occupation because I spend so much time on ____ INSERT the social media platform(s) of your choice.
Thanks. I feel better now. Hope you do, too.
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE social media. I spend happy minutes lost in Pinterest and catching up with amazing people I’ve met from Australia to the Jersey shore and the US Left Coast.
How did I get this way? How did I morph into this wild, social media beastie?
It started innocently, more than a year ago, when I built a website and added an author Facebook business page. Every seasoned indie author I followed warned me to go slow. And I tried. Except I needed to add more platforms if my books were to be featured on x, y, or z marketing approach. It even took a whole year before I plopped onto the Twittosphere. (And I have yet to find my way through that maze of sound-bytes).
But as I advised my college students: don’t spend time bemoaning the fact that the computer crashed or you lost your USB stick with your term paper on it (today’s digital equivalent of the ole dog-ate-my-homework excuse).
Instead, find positive, do-able steps to regain control. Following my own advice, here’s what I’ll do to escape the trap of the Social Media Vortex:
To demonstrate I'm truly balanced outside the Vortex and to help me feel better about not finding that elusive article, I want to share a creative outlet that nourishes me: dabbling in digital photography and graphic design. I discovered Canva --- a free design program for non-artists like me --- which I adore and would adopt and take home with me if it were a human child. I spend happy moments designing PG-13, make-ya-happy memes about kids, writing, books, gardens, and such.
I'm starting my vortex-control regime without delay. And I’ll post soon about a different approach to social media from an Indie author who knows how to manage it without being sucked in by the Vortex. K. Lamb, author of the middle-grade children's book series, Dani P Mystery, shares her secret.
In the meantime, if you come across that lost article, can you please message me with the link?
How do you avoid the social media Time-Suck Vortex? Don’t be shy. Please share in the comment section.
Blogging about books, writing, family life, travel and more good stuff.