Friday, April 03, 2009

More than the story

Paul Harvey has branded and made famous the line, "The rest of the story." In fiction, however, you can't leave your audience hanging because it takes times to write the follow-up, the rest of the story. The story has to be told in full -- unless you plan a series of books and have the rest of the story warming up in the publisher's hands and ready to go without too long a wait, although J.K. Rowling managed to make us wait a while for some of Harry Potter's story and Anne Rice had big gaps between books. I'll bet you're not Rowling or Rice. Neither am I. And you're not going to get there if you don't find a way to promote your book that is more creative that just reading excerpts and plugging the tale. You have to give your audience more than the story, as Penny Sansevieri writes in her column on marketing fiction.

I've found my hook for Past Imperfect and that's chocolate. Everyone loves chocolate. The big surprise for me is how interested and willing the restaurants I contacted are to help me with the promotion of the novel and I just met my editor and cover artist. The book won't be out until July, but I have to strike while the iron is hot.

However, when it comes to book signings and events, I won't be able to rely on chocolate. I'm going to have to find something else to brand the book, something outside the story that interests people and keeps them interested enough to tell their friends and everyone they know. That's where the work comes in, and work is the name of the game in not only writing a book but selling it and making sure it continues to sell.

Book trailers and mass mailings are fine, but in the end it is all about branding that keeps a book in the public eye and gives it an edge that won't go dull. Check out the article. You won't be sorry -- if you're a writer and want your book to sell like bottled water on a hot and thirsty day.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Why are the voices silent?

It's difficult sometimes to sort out the important from the unimportant in the constant flood of information that inundates us from all quarters. We are forced to pick and choose what we feel is important enough to get behind and voice an opinion. Oftentimes, we choose those things that mean something to us -- education, food and gas prices, jobs and who burned the dinner last night -- and it isn't until it's too late that we realize we are not just citizens of our home towns, states and country but citizens of the world.

Once it was easy to ignore what was happening "over there" because we didn't have instant access to world news and letters from friends and relatives overseas sometimes took weeks to reach us. We knew there were starving children in China and Africa, but their plight wasn't real to use, except as a goad to shame children into eating what was on their plates or being shamed for throwing away good food.

We live in a rich and powerful country and it is nearly impossible to imagine the things we take for granted -- life, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness and a job -- are not equally available in other countries. We see, but we do not believe, and so we continue to keep our eyes on our own prizes and forget that we need to look up and see the rest of the world.

We are all connected, not just because we are all humans living on the same planet, but because what we do -- or do not do -- affects everyone around the world. History is full of examples. When we forget how connected we all are we give room for Hitler, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Kruschev, Stalin, Idi Amin, Qaddafi, Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong Il and others like them to gain power and devastate the world and the people in it.

The time when our land was safe from predators and megalomaniacs are gone. Our borders are no longer safe. Terrorists gain easy access to our country and willingly fly planes full of Americans into our cities to destroy us. Leaders of Arab countries exhort their followers to give up their lives to bring in a small suitcase full of anthrax to spread like confetti on the White House lawn and kill 330,000 in a matter of days because it's more efficient than capturing planes to destroy buildings and cities. Hizbollah operatives move like tourists through the underground system of tunnels on the Mexican-U.S. border to bring in guns, disease and bombs in order to spread out across the country and create chaos, leaving death in their wake while we fret over bonuses paid to AIG executives and whether or not the President will be on Oprah or Jay Leno tonight. We ignore the President giving hundreds of billions of dollars to the very terrorists who want nothing more than to see us converted to Islam or destroyed knowing we cannot keep the money from getting into terrorists' hands just as we could not ensure the food and medical supplies we sent to North Korea wouldn't end up on the black market to buy materials and plutonium so North Korea could build an atomic bomb while the people starved and children died.

We are asleep at the wheel, mesmerized by a President who is more interested in jokes and sound bites than in governing this country and standing staunchly beside our allies while he woos and cajoles our enemies.

Where are the people demanding change now? Where are the cries of outrage for slights and outright abandonment of our allies? Why are our voices silent?

It takes no time at all for a world power to slip and fall while the jackals and vultures descend to rip its carcass apart. The USSR is no more. Britain is fighting for its life in an economic tug of war. Australia has been devastated by unchecked wild fires. Israel is drowning in a sea filled with sharks determined to rip her apart. And the U.S. has a clown for a president playing to the cheap seats while he poses and preens and watches the world burn, holding a can of napalm with an open hand out for every terrorist, liar and cheat. Why are the voices of change silent now?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Economic problems solved

I received an email this morning about an article in the St. Petersburg Times about an solution to the problems in our economy.

Great Idea...!

This was an article from the St. Petersburg Times Newspaper on

The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix

I thought this was the BEST idea....

I think this guy nailed it!

Dear Mr. President,

Patriotic retirement:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force - Pay them $1 million apiece severance with the following stipulations:

1) They leave their jobs. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.

2) They buy NEW American cars. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.

3) They either buy a house/pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members in Congress and their constituents pay their taxes and have to live on social security like the rest of us…

I'm a journalist of the old school at heart and I have learned to check things out first. I discovered the the email had gone viral and it was just one of several suggestions mentioned in the original article.

Although I love the idea of retiring from work with a million dollars in my hot little hands and getting the economy back on its feet, the idea will cost quite a bundle to get started, forty trillion dollars to begin with. That's how much it would cost to pay $1M to 40 million Americans over 50. Yes, the money would get back into the economy quickly, but how many people are smart enough to bank the money at a good interest rate and live off the interest once they bought a new car and a house, or paid one off?

Of those who responded to the newspaper's query my favorite was:

MAKE STUFF OURSELVES: The only way to fix our American economy is to get back to America and American-made products and American jobs. No outsourcing of any work or any goods or services, no foreign cars or goods allowed in America. We invented cameras, radios, cars, phones, TVs, record players, light bulbs and the list goes on and on. They should be manufactured in America and bought by Americans and sold to foreign countries who want our stuff. … Please CC the president on this one. How could we have become so clueless?

Jeannine Gallagher, Largo

Ms Gallagher is right on one point and right in line with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's all about industrialization and getting back into the business of producing. It's what we did better than any other country in the world, but we have handed jobs and our economy over to Taiwan and China and other third world countries and now they are buying our bonds and expecting a return on their investment, and China is demanding a new world currency that does not include the U.S. dollar.

Did you know that the symbol for the dollar is a combination of the U and S in United States laid over top each other?

Check out the suggestions and I'll bet you'll find a few that make you laugh and a few that will make you think that someone was definitely home when they wrote it.

The best part of the article is that whoever initiated it got people reading the newspaper. It's a gimmick, but it shows that newspapers are not dead yet -- contrary to popular thought.

That is all. Disperse.

Back to front

I am back and I'm glad to be back in the swing of things. I found I have a disturbing and old entrenched habit when I'm not working at my job; I don't eat as often as I should because I get caught up in writing or reading and forget about the time. That's one good thing about having a demanding job, I am always aware of time and the need to get up and move and eat, but not so when I'm writing or reading in the zone. I was actually glad to get back to work on the front lines and that seems strange to me.

The weather during my vacation was a mixed bag of returning spring and warmth and violent winds and snow and cold as if Mother Nature couldn't make up her mind whether or not it is spring. So much for the old saying that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It was just the opposite this year, like mother nature got her signals mixed up or was wearing her clothes back to front.

One thing I found was that I enjoy bread making, but I'm way out of practice when it comes to kneading. I have the rhythm down but, but my sense of when the dough feels like it has been kneaded enough is rusty, resulting in tough and chewy bread. I'll get it back. It just takes practice. To take my mind off my failure, I indulged in a trip to the grocery store for some eggplant and garlic and found the most luscious strawberries, sweet and succulent that just begged to be dunked in warm chocolate, which brings out the fragrance and sweetness like nothing else. I opted for plain strawberries instead of nestling them in chocolate and some of my chewy homemade Italian herb bread with a breath of melted sweet butter. It wasn't a bad trade-off, but I'm still craving chocolate. Maybe next week.

I also discovered that I'm eating less meat, not because it's not available, but because my cravings were for fruit and vegetables and thick legume-filled soups and stews. I realized most of my meals are vegetarian with the occasional craving for steak or roasted chicken.

While I wallowed in books and caught up on The New York Times Review of Books and other magazines, I also indulged the characters and stories that have been floating around in my mind and popping up in my dreams, and what dreams I've been having. Not your usual run-of-the-mill kind of repressed emotional and strange symbolic dreams, but entire stories, some of which have been simmering on the back burner for quite a while. I wrote a few articles, some stories and finished off another book and I researched, networked and laid the groundwork for marketing and promotion for the new novel, spending so much time on the writing that I ended up catching a bit of a bug that laid me out over the weekend. I did, however, find out some interesting news.

One of my favorite restaurants in the French Quarter in New Orleans moved from its original spot across from the natural history museum on Conti and there's a new chef in town who said he'd be delighted to work with me on a contest to promote the new novel. When I called Godiva headquarters I was told why my favorite ice cream was no longer available and have begun negotiations to work out a contest to coincide with the launch of my novel. I'm still negotiating with restaurants in Philadelphia, Columbus and Kelly's Island, but so far it looks good. What, you may ask, do restaurant and chocolate have to do with my novel? Several scenes take place in real restaurants and I thought it would be a great way to promote the book and get people buying and reading the novel. The contests will revolve around creating a chocolate and caramel dessert and the chefs at the various restaurants will judge the winner and offer the prize: dinner for two with the winning dessert on the menu. It's not an expensive dinner and the contestants will be limited to people in the area or who are going to be in the area. Of course, my novel will be front and center. The restaurants get notice and the cost for them is minimal and I get book sales. I'm still trying to decide whether or not the contest should end to coincide with the launch or whether it would be better to wait until the book is out; I'm seriously thinking about waiting. That way, people have to read the book. It's still a work in progress, but so far everyone is cooperating.

Working up promotional ideas wasn't how I had planned to spend my vacation, but it was a good use of the time and it was fun. What did you do while I was away?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Calling all Muslims

You should have seen this coming, all you Obama maniacs. And now it's here. Where's the separation of church and state now?

Where's the call for Mormons or Quakers or Pagans or Wiccans?

That is all. Disperse.