Friday, July 26, 2013

Marketing Ideas

      Hey y'all. yeah, not my day...but I had some ideas I thought I'd share. With the move looming in the not so distant future, I started looking up independent book stores in the area I'm moving to and then included a fifty mile radius. It was great, it gave me websites, addresses, phone numbers, etc. and made it really simple to find out if they were still open. The site I used is: and it runs off an address or zip code- super simple. One thing they had in common- they were begging for local authors to come do signings and meet-n-greets and were quite happy to work with me and put my books on their shelves.
     When I mailed out my letter I sent a candy bar with my promo label from the last convention- I printed those at home and the template was an excellent price- free. Just look up free Hershey bar wrapper templates and play with the wording. Along with that I sent book marks-craft day, made them, laminated them at home; on the back I put my website address, a list of books out now and a link to my publisher.
    I LOVE my business cards, I ordered a hundred for fifty dollars and I can put a hundred different images on them ( playing with their template took a bit but it wasn't too bad. Again, on the back went all the pertinent info. Lots of bookstores will hand out book marks-and that is my name in someone else's hands when they are looking on amazon for a new book in the middle of the night...score.
     One of my friends found a local printer that did 500 paper bags with her logo for a super cheap price, the deal was, his info ran along the bottom of the bag. ( 100.00 for color) One of my more demented friends had a severed head found by a dog in her story- she found skulls somewhere on etsy and then through a bead catalog and attached them to pencils with her website printed on them...again, not expensive.
     Besides writing, we also have to keep that bottom line in mind and be on the look out for something to grab the attention of readers, buyers, and all the other players in getting our work out there. Think out of the box...ask a kid for ideas- let me just say, they are no where near a box usually and you'd be surprised what they come out with that is really doable.
      We do have a closing date, as long as nothing else goes wrong between now and then. So this winter when y'all are backside deep in snow, remember where I'm at and come see me.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I recently discovered that I love the word “nefarious”. I was sitting in the movie theater with my three children watching Despicable Me 2 and one of the characters in the movie used that word. I thought about it for a second, and my five year old, Landon, asked me, “Mom, what’s nefarious mean?”
I wasn't sure of the exact meaning, so I said, “I’ll have to look it up in the dictionary and see.”
“Can’t  you just Google it?”
“Yes, but not in the middle of a movie.” I pointed toward the screen indicating to him that he was missing the action and sat there, contemplating this word and what it’s definition would be. Hearing a word that is rarely used in typical conversation has always felt a little bit like someone just gave me a beautifully wrapped gift, and I was just waiting to see what was inside.
Because of the way it was used in the movie and the sentence it was placed in, along with the character they were referencing with the word, my guess was that it was synonym for “despicable”. This is fitting, considering the title of the movie.
Immediately upon arriving home from the movie, I went to Google search on my phone. When I typed in nefarious, it brought up some suggested searches: “nefarious dictionary,” “nefarious pickle,” and “nefarious merchant of souls.” (I yielded to temptation to select “nefarious pickle” based on name alone, however, thank goodness my safe search was on because it seems that this has some connection to a pornographic website. I’m not opposed to porn, just not when my five year old is there.) My search was simply for “nefarious”. The first hit was from It lists the definition of nefarious as “flagrantly wicked or impious; evil.” So, my guess wasn't too far off, and I explained the word nefarious to Landon. Landon then accurately described his three year old brother’s most recent behavior as nefarious and went to eat an apple, satisfied in the results of Mom’s Google efforts.
I now use the word “nefarious” as part of my regular vocabulary as often as I can. For example: the dude in the cubicle next to me has overly loud conversations with his nefarious girlfriend regarding where they will eat dinner as if that’s the sort of thing two people in love should be upset over. Perhaps I’m nefarious for finding their discussion trivial and stupid; however, if I had a boyfriend I like to imagine our phone conversations would be more like, “Dude, I totally saw a unicorn on the way to work this morning, and there was a nefarious ninja riding it. I wonder where that guy works.”
Anyway, get your nefarious ass back to writing whatever it is you’re writing, and if there is an absence of a nefarious character in your story, perhaps it could benefit from one?
Anna Banana
A day late and many dollars short. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thunder Con & easy Lessons.

    I just got home from my first Con as someone other than the person tagging behind my son. That was so much fun. Okay, the fuzzy critter people were a bit....different, seeing the little kids in costumes was hilarious, watching the elderly mall walkers trying to figure out what the heck had invaded the mall-priceless. I also pulled the things left from our convention and did a bit of networking via chocolate and business cards. I found out several of the artists had gone to amazon and read the sample section and were interested enough to either come buy a book or point me out to someone who bought a book.
    Through this I have also managed to secure a future book signing date at the card shop- not where I would have thought to have one, but, a lot of the "gamer world" reads vampires and steampunk- go figure.
    One other neat marketing edge for me, I have one of those neat little things that attaches to my phone and lets me accept credit cards...that got me several sales over the ones next to me that had to point out the ATM behind us- no one wants to pay a service charge if they do not have to.
    They had lots of "props" around the mall, including a tardis, which one of my granddaughters is fawning over, & that provided an idea for Christmas. My neighbor had a table display, books displayed in a doll sized coffin, which gave me the idea for something for future swag bags and got the wheels turning on what I could do future events. So other than hearing about my weekend, I hope you pick up some ideas from here or something you could alter and use for marketing your books.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing Mindfully

We do not live in a mindful culture. Mindfulness is a state of being fully in the present. When you're in the shower you feel the water on your skin, smell the soap, feel your breath, feel your feet on the ceramic tub, hear the shower on the tile, your thoughts are focused on the here and now moment. That tape recorder of thoughts and worries, that constant stream of thinking, is silent for that moment you are being mindful. You don't have to meditate to be mindful. You can do it anywhere, anytime.

Mindfulness is a challenge. By day I am a mental health therapist and I work with clients on this skill. I think it's one of the foundations of health and tranquility. I remind my clients that everyone, including therapists, struggles with being mindful.

We're usually not aware of these thoughts because we are so consumed by them. The first step to being mindful is to be an observer of these incessant thoughts. I might be practicing mindfulness while washing the dishes, focusing on the task through touch, smell, and noise, and then I'll observe that I got off track for a couple minutes worrying about what I should make for supper and how I should really switch the laundry to the dryer. I might not catch myself for five or ten minutes. The key is to not judge yourself for wandering off with your thoughts, but to simply notice and redirect yourself to the present, again and again.

Mindfulness is partly a challenge because of the fast paced demanding society we live in. People get pissed when they have to wait in line. They multi-task, trying to text while watching the traffic light and listen to the radio. We go to sports bars that have 50 TVs and nobody can hear what anybody else is saying much less hear the TV.

We are an instant gratification culture, never satisfied, always wanting more, always waiting for the next pop culture/political drama. It's considered an asset when you say you're excellent at multi-tasking on your resume. And while not all of that is bad (in small doses), when it becomes the norm and a way of life, we ignore that human need for peace and stillness.

So I've become an observer of our society and how terrible it is at mindfulness. My biggest pet peeve is how the stores are a season (or two!) ahead. For example, school supplies is being advertised in many stores right now. It's irritating. Why can't kids just be kids and enjoy their summers? Why can't adults just relax with their kids during summer instead of compiling school preparation to-do lists? I realize a lot of that is driven by consumerism, but as the consumers, we fall for it. Trust me, I'm a big proponent of planning and being prepared, but why are we constantly living in the future?

Mindfulness is tough in modern day society.

Writing mindfully is a skill that takes practice, but I'm convinced it produces some of the best work. So instead of worrying about the next book in the series you want to write or the other story you're working on, you focus on the project you're on. Instead of worrying about whether your work in progress is going in the right direction and obsessing over it, stay present with the writing. Immerse all of yourself.

This might mean different things to different people, but for me it would mean few distractions, such as turning off my phone and Internet. It means not worrying about whether the writing is good. It means enjoying the very moment I'm in as I'm writing. I don't know if I've ever written a story mindfully. Usually there's a lot of worrying and critiquing going on. And of course, writing mindfully isn't any easier than living mindfully. It takes an amount of being an observer of yourself and nudging yourself back on course when you lose focus of the words you are writing.

When I think about my best writing, it usually stemmed from a deep passion and focus in which I fully poured myself into it. I was in tune with the emotions that fueled my writing. I was in the here and now. My mind did not wander into worrying about work or what's happening tomorrow.

"Nature is very un-American. Nature never hurries. Every phase of her working shows plan, calmness, reliability, and the absence of hurry. Hurry always implies lack of definite method, confusion, impatience of slow growth." William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, 1898

If you'd like to read more about mindfulness, please feel free to check out another blog post of mine at Lynn Doezema.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you. I’m Lisa Orchard the bestselling author of the Super Spies series and I’m back today to talk about Coconut Oil.

Yes Coconut Oil. It has huge health benefits. In my opinion, Coconut Oil is most likely the wonder drug of this century.  It can heal all kinds of woes. Here’s a list:

Improves Diabetes
Helps with Weight Loss
Improves Alzheimer’s
…And many others. To get more information on Coconut Oil click this link.

I thought I would just take one health issue and explain how Coconut Oil helps it. The one I’d like to tackle is Alzheimer’s disease.

Recent research has shown a correlation between diet and Alzheimer’s disease, more importantly cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease.  This is important because our medical advisors have been telling us for years we need to lower cholesterol for our health. Now we’re finding there is a strong relationship between cholesterol in our body and mental health.

Cholesterol is important for our brain.  Our brain composes only 2% of our total body mass but contains 25% of the total cholesterol.  So, we can arguably draw the conclusion that our brains need cholesterol to function.

One in four Americans over the age of forty-five are prescribed a cholesterol lowering drug. Many researchers are wondering if there is a correlation between the astronomical rise of Alzheimer’s disease and the rise of many Americans taking these cholesterol lowering drugs, called Statins.

So, what should someone do, who has high cholesterol and is at a high risk of heart disease due to this fact?

Well, overwhelming information has been gathered and it’s illustrating that Coconut Oil has in fact improved and even reversed some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. So, the conclusion I’m drawing is…if your doctor prescribes a statin for you. It might a good idea to add Coconut Oil to your diet to counteract the negative effects of the statin. 

Now, I’m not a doctor and this is just my opinion…but it’s something to ask your doctor about if you find yourself in that situation.  

To learn more about this research on Coconut Oil and its effects on Alzheimer’s Disease  click the link below/

There is also evidence that Coconut Oil improves Parkinson’s disease and helps with ALS. Researchers have been looking for cures for these diseases for years and have come up empty. Wouldn’t it be a real kick in the pants if it were something natural that cured all this?

Just think about it. These huge drug companies doing all this research to create drugs to solve these health issues and all it would take is a couple of tablespoons of Coconut Oil a day. J It’s kind of humorous isn’t it?

You know, I’m thinking of a career change…maybe I’ll become a Coconut farmer. J Just kidding! Well…maybe I’m a little serious!

Coconut Oil can be found in any health food store or believe it or not on Amazon. J (They have everything don’t they?)

Here’s the link to Amazon for a 16 oz. jar of it.

Thanks for reading my post today on the benefits of Coconut Oil.  I’d love to read your thoughts on it; so leave a comment and share! J

****I’d also like to thank for some of the information provided in this post.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Debating on What to Write

My monthly blog post always makes me wonder "what" to write about. This week there is a plethora of stuff to write about. Our nation is in turmoil (again), a promising young star died unexpectedly, and a royal baby is due to be born at any minute.  All of which got me thinking of children.

Much debate is going on regarding a high-profile case. I am seeing friends (some with kids, some not) from across the globe debating about the outcome. There is one interesting theme underlying all the debate, with one point that we all can agree on: No parent should ever have to suffer the loss of a child, and sympathy is overflowing for those who have.

It all gives me hope, and I am thankful to live in a country where people are truly free to express their opinion and talk about the elephants in the room.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reflections on Fireworks...

Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July! 

I was scheduled to blog on the 3rd of the month but missed my day, so decided to post this little reflection on life and the holiday today instead.

I'm blessed to have lived on the same Northwest side of Grand Rapids since 1979. I don't mean that to sound as if the parts of the Grand Rapids metro area aren't just as nice, they are, but it's nice to feel like you've put down roots. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, deep roots mean growth and changes. 

My family tree falls in the fortunate category. It has grown and spread with some branches going north, some going east, and others pretty much staying nearby.

I always considered the trees planted on the other side of my backyard fence 35 years ago to be in the fortunate category, too. They were planted as small saplings before I moved into my home to prevent erosion of the sandy hill behind my property. They belong to the large retail store who is my backyard neighbor at the bottom of that same steep slope. As the saplings grew and began shading the yard a bit, they continued to be in the fortunate category, offering a cool spot on the grass for kids to play and for our various house pets to snooze when let outside to romp. 

As I said, my house sits on a high hill, and we've always enjoyed the marvelous view of the city lights, hot air balloon lifts (when they used to be held at Richmond Park) and, most especially, the wonderful fireworks displays during Festival, Celebration on the Grand, and -- Yes!!-- the Fourth of July! 

We had so many wonderful gatherings on the deck (and in the yard) over the years to celebrate the Fourth. From out there, you could see not only the Grand Rapids fireworks but also ones from Wyoming, Reed's Lake, and other neighborhoods. It was awesome!

As the children grew up and married, their 4th of July activities changed, too. They took their families downtown to experience the fireworks or went on camping trips over the holidays or celebrated out of state when their careers took them from Michigan. A few years ago, my youngest son commented on the trees at Richmond Park in the distance having grown so tall they blocked a few of the lower fireworks in that direction. We all nodded, but there were still plenty of others to see, so we didn't think too much of it. 

For several years, it was just my mom and I sitting on the deck with a glass of ice tea enjoying the fireworks. She absolutely loved fireworks. The whole family has fond memories of the delight "GeeGee" took in buying bottle rockets and fountains for my teenagers to set off before the city's displays started. I think she enjoyed them even more than the kids did. We'd sit and reminisce about those days and share some laughs. Then Mom was gone (her branch of the tree having reached the Heavens), and the fireworks celebration at my house became even quieter. 

On the Fourth of July last year, I realized, the trees just over the fence had filled out much more.  I had to sit in one corner of the deck if I wanted to see the Grand Rapids display, and the trees pretty much blocked my view of most of the other displays around the area. But that was okay. I cranked up Lee Greenwood singing "God Bless the USA" and ooohed and aahed over the ones I could still see.

Yesterday, I once again took my iced tea out to the deck at dusk to watch the fireworks. I was dismayed to find those trees are just enough higher and broader that all I could see were occasional glimpses of sparkles through the leaves. Needless to say, I didn't stay out there very long.  

That's the unfortunate part of deep roots. It makes for growth and changes that sometimes aren't what we expected. Last night's discovery was a bit sad and nostalgic, but the fortunate part is the great memories it stirred. Next year, PBS promises me a front row seat in my living room for the fireworks.

God bless America!                               

~ Stephanie Michels
author of Trouble in Paradys (at Amazon and Resplendence Publishing)
co-author of The Calico Heart with Patricia Kiyono (at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Astraea Press)      

Monday, July 1, 2013

Who's Reading?

Image credit: sonyae / 123RF Stock Photo
by Patty Kiyono
One of my favorite summer memories of childhood is sitting in the shade of the old maple tree in our back yard with a good book. The public library was about a mile away, and my brothers and I would make weekly trips there to get books to read. I loved those trips there, but the difficult part was deciding which books to take home. Our mom didn't drive, so we could only take what books we could carry during the long walk home.
Now that I'm writing books, I often wonder about the people who have read them. I know some of them - friends and family, co-workers and former students who have told me they've read something I've written. But they're only a small fraction of the people who have downloaded and have presumably read my books. I like to imagine a harried working mom who sits down with her kindle after finally getting the kids to bed, or a lonely grandma who reads on her nook while waiting for her grandkids to call. Or maybe a career woman who sneaks in a few pages on her phone while riding the train to work.

Or maybe, just maybe, it's a young girl, sitting in the shade of an old maple tree, reading about a samurai warrior on her ipad and enjoying her summer vacation.