Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sharing the love of reading

April 23rd was the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death. April 23 was UNESCO World Book Day. April 23 was World Book Night. What a perfect time to share the love of reading with a group of kids.

Yesterday, I joined 2,500 other volunteer book givers to carry out the World Book Night mission to share the love of reading by distributing 500,000 books in one day.

Friend and fellow WBN book giver Mary Gottschalk and I chose to give our books out at Oakridge Neighborhood, home to 300 low-income families, many of whom are refugees.

Before passing out books, we held a lively discussion of reading and writing with teens and pre-teens in one of the Oakridge Neighborhood after-school programs. What fun to hear that these young people are writing stories and keeping diaries. They could be writing the books WBN gives out in the future.

I chose The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as my book to give. Mary chose The Things They Carried. The program leaders at Oakridge plan to have book club-type discussions of the books, using the discussion guides included in each specially printed edition of the books made just for this event.  

Because there were so many young people with so many different interests - and so many good books on the World Book Night list, I picked up copies of several other authors on the list to distribute as well. We encouraged them to take a book, read it and pass it on.

The love of reading is contagious. What fun to pass it on!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day highs and lows

"It's so clean here," Colonel Hill observed as we stood looking out the window of a restaurant many stories above the downtown Des Moines streets.

"It could be better," I responded, spying cans and paper litter, even from that far away.

I realize it's a matter of perspective. The colonel was visiting from Washington, D.C. Litter on big city streets makes Iowa look positively pristine by comparison. But even if we could smugly say we're not as bad as they are, that's hardly a badge of distinction.

Today is Earth Day.  Started in 1970 as a protest, since then the day has served as a celebration of the birth of the modern environmental movement and a day of action.

An AP article compared pictures from the EPA Documerica project. Things look a lot better, but they also show work to be done. Earth Day raises awareness each year of the need for good environmental stewardship, and of the need for each person to take responsibility for our environment. 

Every spring I find myself ranting about all the litter in the roadside ditches. Because of the mild, mostly snow-free, winter just past, I was able to keep the ditches along my walking trail reasonably clean throughout the winter. Pretty much every day I took a walk this winter, I came back with 2-3 bottles or cans. The capacity people have to litter is endless.

Since Earth Day is about action, my action today will be to bag up all the recyclable containers I've picked up in the last few weeks and take them to a recycling center. But also, because Colonel Hill reminded me that by comparison we also have it pretty good here in Iowa, I'll focus on the beauty of our surroundings, too. The plum tree my husband planted this week and the bleeding hearts blooming in the garden.

Our earth is beautiful. Earth Day reminds us all to take responsibility for keeping it that way.

Happy Earth Day!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Will she get her man?

The story of David &Goliath is well known. But in reading about David, most people overlook the prize he won for bringing back the Philistine’s head—King Saul’s daughter, Michal. The women behind the men are often overlooked—in the bible and elsewhere—but that’s what makes these women such good fiction fodder. As author Rachelle Ayala has discovered in writing MICHAL’S WINDOW.

The story is told mostly from Michal's viewpoint. The young princess who falls madly in love with David, a young man who plays the harp for her father. David loves her just as much but their love is thwarted time and again because David is slated to be the next king. Michal’s father, King Saul, feels threatened and sets out to have David killed. Yes, even though David is married to his daughter. Soap operas have nothing on the bible!

Michal’s goal is simple—to be with the man she loves—and she is relentless in trying to get to him even as she wonders if he feels the same for her. She’s a feisty girl who doesn’t follow the rules of the day for women and that gets her into and out of many scrapes—and into and out of the arms of many men.  Will she ever be reunited with the love of her life? How does she deal with the reality that her husband takes many wives? What does she do about the other men who love her—and that she loves back? This is an epic story of love gained and lost, of betrayal and redemption.

Books like this always send me back to the bible to separate biblical fact from fiction. Ayala is faithful to the biblical story of King David, a story that includes graphic violence as well as explicit sensuality and sex—scenes Ayala writes exceptionally well. In rich detail and vivid scenes, the author takes us into a world where women are given, or taken, as prizes by men. She weaves in Michal’s story in a way that makes the characters real and the story totally believable.

Intertwining Michal into all of the actions of David while building Michal’s parallel story created the one challenge I found in this novel—the length, which is roughly twice that of an average novel.

MICHAL’S WINDOW is well written, historically accurate, a fascinating view of the women who receive only passing mention behind the men in stories we may think we know so well. MICHAL'S WINDOW reminded me of Anita Diamant's THE RED TENT. If you liked that one, this could be for you. A good read but settle in. 4.5 stars

The author provided a copy of the novel in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And what did we learn from that?

Woo Hoo! Thanks everyone for your support during my first 2-day Kindle Select Free Promo. IMHO, it was a success. 

At the end of two days, GROWING UP COUNTRY-Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl had been downloaded 7,173 times, landing me at #52 on the Kindle Top 100 Best Seller list as well as at #1 or #2 on various non-fiction history and biography lists.

My #1 goal for the promotion was to expand awareness for my book and that happened.

But, even as I was reveling in the child-like wonder of watching my book rise in the ranks, I was already hearing my public relations counselor self whisper in my ear--What did we learn? What worked? What didn't? What will we do differently next time?

Now that I've had a few minutes to take a breath, here's what I learned.

It takes a village

In 48 hours, you have to get the word about your free book out to as many people as possible. You can't do this alone. I signed up for the World Literary Cafe 15th of the month Free For All. The $10 investment was well worth it. WLC featured my book along with others on their website and their Tweet teams went into overdrive to promote.

I engaged my friends in the Facebook and Twitter worlds to help spread the news. Since most authors are going to be doing the same themselves someday, everyone plays. More on that below.

Next time -- I'll also join some of the WLC Tweet Teams (free) and add WLC Social Media Mania (paid) to the mix to extend the goodness beyond the Free days.

If you ask, someone will answer - but make it easy

The indie author world is a caring, sharing group. If you ask, someone has done it before and will readily share their learning.  I participate in several Facebook indie author groups and several Kindle Free promo groups. I posted my Free Day promo on all pages each day and I was bold in asking people to share the news with their friends. To make it easy to share, I made sure my posts were Tweetable length and already included hashtags. So anyone who chose to, could just cut and paste to Twitter.

Here are links to a few of my favorite Facebook indie author groups -
  • Indie Authors Promo https://www.facebook.com/groups/279403915471105/
  • Memoirs-R-Us https://www.facebook.com/groups/166765903397390/
  • The Heard - An Author's Voice https://www.facebook.com/groups/358463560861573/
  • WLC Book Marketing & Branding https://www.facebook.com/groups/265856476824177/ (only for people who have taken a WLC Book Branding workshop led by best selling author Melissa Foster)

Next time -- There are a long list of sites that list free books and many list for free. I knew of only a few going into my promotion. Now I know of many more, and I'll post to every one.

A BIG shout out to Clare Ayala for sharing her experience with Kindle Select promos on her blog. In another post, she provides a long list of promo sites.  While you're there, check out her novel - Michal's Window. If you like historical fiction and romance, you can't go wrong with this one.

Social Media is Full Time WORK

Now I have firsthand experience with why companies hire people to manage their social media presence. It's work. The advice from experts in doing a Free Day promotion is to 'Tweet like crazy.' Even with a Tweet scheduling platform like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, tweeting, responding, adapting kept me at my computer all day. 

Next Time -- I'll do more of what I did this time.  I wrote pages of Tweets out in advance so all I had to do was cut and paste. I'll still be at the computer responding to messages and thanking people over and over for helping spread the word. And I'll collapse in exhaustion - but happy - at the end.

The bottom line to my experience is that next time I'll do the same and more. Part of the problem with experiences like this, is you don't know what you don't know until it's over. But from my perspective, it's fun. I'm learning, so it's all good. As I learn more, I'll share. It's what social media is all about.

Note-Image from squidoo.com