Spank You Very Much!

The foibles of promoting can hurt an unknown author. Let’s face it, majority of writers dislike promoting and marketing their works. We’d much rather write than shout out

In the past, I’ve wanted to help other authors promote their works. Not only did it expose my own publishing imprint and writings, I also enjoyed learning about other authors. After doing a few promotional projects, such as First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels, There’s a Silver Lining Out There, Author Interviews, and a Pay It Forward (from my old blog), I find myself wary of doing any more other than author interviews. These promotions taught me about my own promoting ways along with dealing with writers, which I’d like to share today. These promotional lessons are to point out how often there is author participation neglect. Writing is a business, so it’s important to conduct yourself professionally.

1. Author Interviews are huge when it comes to online promotion. We try to find blogs willing to interview us so we can tell the world who we are and talk about our books. It’s a chance to give a nugget of information about where we come from, why we write, and boast about our publications. Unfortunately, author questions and answers can be mundane, and the reader can’t connect. This connection is what we want to achieve because if someone likes us, that like can turn into a sale, and hopefully the reader will spread the word. It’s one way writers build an audience. FOR FREE!

What To Do: Try to be creative when doing author interviews. Maybe answer some of the questions with humor, or as one of your characters. If possible, ask the interviewer if it’s okay to add some of your own questions and answers. Remember, it’s a way to appeal to an audience. Instead of “I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English”, provide something interesting about you, such as, “In some ways, I was an outcast attending the all-girl catholic high school while fighting my way through adolescence. When I finally broke free, I constantly tripped over my own naiveté when it came to common sense and finding out who I was supposed to be.” I wrote this example for myself, as a reminder to follow my own advice. Another way you can approach an author interview is the same way you’d approach a job interview.

What NOT to Do: Once you receive the link to the posted interview, promote it on social media, writing groups, etc. That’s the whole point! Don’t assume the interview was only to promote the hosting blog. That’s insane! Also, the blogger took the time to put your interview together and post it, so leaving a thank you comment on the blog is good manners. Once people start commenting, you should return to answer questions, thank the other commenters, or maybe add something about your life that relates to a comment. If you’re not a gracious interviewer, or you don’t interact with the posters, then most likely the interviewer won’t have you again, and readers might think twice about buying your book(s). In general, people want to be heard, so this is your opportunity to listen and possibly form a bond.

2. When I put together There’s a Silver Lining Out There, I struggled to receive the requested information. No matter how explicit the instructions, writers still left out information, or sent other things. Not only that, but I had a poet forget that she even submitted poetry to me.

What to Do: Similar to sending a resume, no matter where or what you’re submitting to, make sure to document the information. If you’re submitting a poem to a contest, then create a spreadsheet with the name and web address of the submission site, the reason, and which poem you’re submitting. Also, when you are submitting information, make sure you understand what the project entails. When I announced the collection of poems for the anthology, and corresponded with all poets, I constantly stated, “the eBook” so they understood that the anthology would only be in eBook form. When the eBook went live, I received several emails from the poets asking about the paperback.

What NOT to Do: All places you submit to have guidelines so follow those guidelines or run the risk of entry/information deletion. If a poetry contest requests, a) 3-5 poems in a single document, b) must be unpublished, and c) must not have your name on it. Then make sure you pull up a Word document, copy and paste 3-5 unpublished poems, don’t add your name to the document, and save it as “Three poems.pdf” or how many, NOT “Your Name poems.pdf”.

Another thing I’d like to state is even though a project might be helping the hosting site; it’s also for you to promote your writings. I can’t begin to count how many poets never bothered to promote the anthology, Silver Lining. Not only did they not promote the book, all proceeds going to charity, but once I sent the final email with their eBook copies and a link to Amazon, I didn’t hear from 75% of the poets. No “Looks great” or “Thank you”.

3. No one can argue with free promotion. When the opportunity arises, authors can’t help to jump on it for more exposure. With free opportunity comes some responsibility on the author’s end. Recently, I did a First/Opening Lines of Fiction Novels blog post, where I promoted 21 authors, including me, using the first line from one of their novels. Along with the blog promotion, I created a video using the book covers and genres (posted on YouTube), and the book covers on a Pinterest Board. All the authors needed to do was send me their first line, genre, title, a purchase link, and an author website (A MUST).

What to Do: Again, it’s important to follow guidelines. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you are eligible, and then submit the requested material. Once the project is live, PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! It’s important to spread the word through social media, and possibly link it somewhere for a certain period of time. And make sure to thank those involved in providing the free promotion.

What NOT to Do: Because some writers didn’t read the guidelines, I received many first line submissions that did not include genre and/or author website. I guess they assumed an author website didn’t matter even though I had A MUST in caps. When I posted the blog post, I sent the link out to the authors so they could promote it. Some did and some thanked me. Several of the authors never bothered to acknowledge my emails, let alone tell me what they thought of the post. Because of this, I doubt I’ll work with these writers again.

4. On my old blog, I did a Pay It Forward to help promote authors. I featured them on my blog, and after their feature, they were to pay it forward to a self-published/indie author by featuring them on their own blog or writing a book review. I asked them to do it within a reasonable time, a month or two, and send me the link regarding their pay it forward.

I stopped this feature because the authors were miraculously too busy to fulfill their Pay It Forward obligation. Since my Pay It Forward list lacked the links, I’d follow up with the authors. They claimed to be busy with work, family, or something else. To sign up for something without following through is just wrong. It demonstrates a selfish author, and over time, people will stop supporting such writers.

Free promotion is a luxury for unknown self-published/indie authors. To have people offer promotional opportunities, writers need to be professional and courteous. It goes a long way.

Free Promotions and Courtesy,
Baer Necessities

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My book club finished the book Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Before reading it, I was curious and appreciated being introduced to the book.

Americanah is about a Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who leaves University in Nigeria and her first love, Obinze, to work and study in America. It delves into her troubles as a Non-American black woman. Racism she never experienced before, frustration in finding work, and a constant search to find herself. As an expat, I was able to relate to her sadness and depression. I have been away from the familiar, life’s comforts I had grown accustom to, and the freedom of speaking to whoever, whenever. Of course, I can’t identify with the racism aspect of it, but I can identify with the loneliness as an outsider, not understanding the language, and the shock of a different culture.

This book is a National Bestseller and voted “One of the Best Books of the Year” by the New York Times Book Review. I would have to agree that for the writing and historical purposes this book deserves to be a National Bestseller, but not necessarily one of the best books of the year. However, I believe it will make its way into African Studies. One of the best things about reading this book with my book club was discussing it with several expats, one being Nigerian. We were able to ask him questions about her descriptions of Nigeria and their ways.

Book Cover

Black women’s hair was a big point she made in the book, which is why the book cover illustrates braids. In my opinion, I believe the braid attempt on the book cover failed. At first I thought they were ropes, and then realized they symbolized black women’s braids. It looks like a child drew them.

As always, my book review will contain spoilers, so please stop here if you have not read the book and plan to read it.

 Writing

I found some great lines in the book, and I would like to share a few of them with you.

  • Quote 1
  • Quote 2
  • Quote 3
  • Quote 4
“…it would hurt him to know she had felt that way for a while, that her relationship with him was like being content in a house but always sitting by the window and looking out.”
“…she had convinced herself that she was not living on memories mildewed by thirteen years.”
“But his mannered English bothered her as she got older, because it was costume, his shield against insecurity.”
“There was something in him, lighter than ego but darker than insecurity, that needed constant buffing, polishing, waxing.”

Chimamanda’s writing is good. I enjoyed her style, but wasn’t awe-struck by it. There were times where she tended to become repetitive. Many chapters contain blog posts written by the main character and they all have the same type of theme, yet not all have that “Aha!” moment. The blog posts grow into lectures more than advice, opinion, or suggestions. To me, this was a turn-off.

I would also like to point out that this book is fiction, yet in some ways, it mirrors the author’s life. Chimamanda is Nigerian, born into an Igbo family in the town of Nsukka, came to America to study and work, and now splits her time between Nigeria and the U.S. She has many degrees and acclamations for her writings. She has given lectures regarding writing, cultures, and feminism.

This book would have been better written as non-fiction, because she didn’t distance herself enough from the fictional character, Ifemelu. Throughout the book, I turned to the back cover to look at her picture, and I knew it was her speaking through the main character. Like the author, Ifemelu is from Nigeria, born into an Igbo family in Nsukka, and comes to America for her studies.

Chimamanda was quoted in an interview, saying, “I am angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. We should all be angry. Anger has a long history of bringing about positive change, but in addition to being angry, I’m also hopeful because I believe deeply in the ability of human beings to make and remake themselves for the better.”

The likeness of Chimamanda and Ifemelu’s life, along with the anger, is exactly what the reader will experience. I’m not a feminist, nor am I angry, so her angry writing didn’t do her justice with me. I completely disagree with her that we should all be angry. Why? The world is already angry, angry about feminism, racism, economy, government, the list goes on. There’s no need to breathe anger into people when it already exists, and in my opinion, suffocates purpose. Instead of being angry, create a love of who we are and acceptance.

Plot

When Ifemelu first arrives in America, she can’t get a job, and falls into a depression. She mentions that in Nigeria, depression doesn’t exist. If you don’t put a name on it, it isn’t there, but Americans put a name on everything. I found this quite interesting, because I didn’t realize that many countries don’t discuss or acknowledge depression.

Ifemelu begins blogging about racial issues, the blog takes off, and she starts to give lectures. Over time, she winds up making more money with her blog and lectures than any other job. While still working as a babysitter, she meets her employer’s cousin, a rich, white boy, who ultimately helps her get a green card.

  • How She Felt
  • His Beliefs
“With Curt, she became, in her mind, a woman free of knots and cares, a woman running in the rain with the taste of sun-warmed strawberries in her mouth.”
“He believed in good omens and positive thoughts and happy endings to films, a trouble-free belief, because he had not considered them deeply before choosing to believe; he just simply believed.”

She also talks and blogs about black women’s hair. How difficult it is to maintain. How black women don’t wear it natural because it’s not acceptable for job interviews, etc. She goes into detail how black women use relaxers and burn their hair straight, and those who wear it natural, afro style or braids, avoiding the harsh chemicals. This taught me how black women struggle with their hair.

There’s a part in the book where Ifemelu blogs about “Why Dark-Skinned Black Women — Both American and Non-American — Love Barack Obama”. From the post:

“But today most of the American blacks who are successful as entertainers and as public figures are light…He broke the mold! He married one of their own. He knows what the world doesn’t seem to know: that dark black women totally rock. In movies, dark black women get to be the fat nice mammy or the strong, sassy, sometimes scary sidekick standing by supportively.”

Ifemelu or Chimamanda, I can’t decipher who, is making a point that dark black skinned women may now be recognized as being relevant and beautiful. The Nigerian book club member clarified this when we came across the word Akata. He explained that Nigerians don’t look too kindly on African Americans. I found this video of a woman discussing the word akata – https://youtu.be/im6vo1KkVok. And here’s another video of a young lady discussing African vs. African American.

I learned something new, something I would have never known as a white woman—the differences—and find it intriguing. The way the woman in the second video approaches the subject is great and informative. And she’s not angry.

Since Chimamanda and Ifemelu are somewhat the same, I can’t help but think that the author used a fictional character to voice her views. Again, she should have written a non-fiction book about the cultural differences between America and Nigeria. Non-American Blacks vs. Black Americans.

There are also parts in the book where the author never finishes a relationship or action. She babysits for two children and has a friendship with the mother, her employer. Once she starts dating her employer’s cousin, Curt, the reader never hears about them again. Also, while she is set to leave America for Nigeria, she promises her hairdresser, who wants to stay in the U.S., that Ifemelu will contact a man the hairdresser likes and talk to him about marrying her. That is all we hear about it. The end of the so-called first love romance is hastily wrapped up on the last page.

Characters

This was the first time I liked a book, but not the main character. The main character, Ifemelu, is an angry woman, echoing Chimamanda. She dates a rich, white guy, who helps her get her green card. He makes her feel great, but she cheats on him because she is ‘curious’. Then she dates a black American, who is pompous, doesn’t treat her well, who she adores, and then she leaves him to go back to Nigeria.

The main problem I had with this character is she never grows. She remains stagnant, angry, bitter, and judgmental. There’s a part in the book where she’s talking with a “large-hipped, stylish poet from Haiti with an Afro bigger than hers” who says that for 3-years she dated a white man and race wasn’t an issue. Here’s how the rest of the dialogue goes:

“That’s a lie,” Ifemelu said to her.
“What?” the woman asked, as though she could not have heard properly.
“It’s a lie.” Ifemelu repeated.
The woman’s eyes bulged. “You’re telling me what my own experience was?”

This is a perfect example of how Ifemelu approaches everything in the book. Her opinion is the only one. When she dates the white guy, Curt, his positivity bothers her. When she dates the black American, his academia bothers her. She is forever aggravated, judgmental and lacks empathy. I can only recall once when she sympathizes with a hairdresser of hers. Other than that, Ifemelu never is appreciative of the good things she receives. She never looks inside herself regarding self-improvement.

Due to some of the book sounding more like a scolding than a story, and the main character’s lack of growth, I give this book 3.5/5 stars. I would recommend it with some warnings, but I don’t think I’ll read another book by this author again.

If interested, here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Americanah-Chimamanda-Ngozi-Adichie/dp/0307455920/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1458584664&sr=8-1&keywords=Americanah

Racism, Cultures, and Feminism,
Bare Necessities

A Trip Down Medieval Lane

This past weekend, my husband and I drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a town in Ansbach District of Germany. I had always pictured Germany looking just like this preserved medieval town. Since we traveled here during off-season, the weather wasn’t the best, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying ourselves. At this time, we had gray skies, cold weather, minus rain and snow. We spent only a little over 24-hours in this historic town, so we have to return to do the things we couldn’t fit into our short stay.

Let’s get started. Founded in 1170, the settlement of Rothenburg and its citizens gradually built a fortress wall around the city. King Rudolf of Habsburg declared Rothenburg a Free Imperial City, which reigned from 1274 to 1803, then became part of Bavaria.

During the Thirty Years’ War, Rothenburg suffered from religious conflicts with the Emperor, attempted takeovers, captures, economic ruin, and plague. In 1871, a Jewish community settled there until 1938, when evicted by the Third Reich, who thought of Rothenburg as “the most German of German towns”. In 1945 WWII bombs dropped destroying houses, towers and 2,000 feet of castle wall. Because of the history and beauty of Rothenburg, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of War ordered to refrain from using artillery. Six U.S. Soldiers marched to the gates, one spoke German, and advised the commander that they would spare Rothenburg of additional bombing if the Germans agreed not to defend it. Commander Major Thömmes went against Adolf Hitler’s orders and surrendered the town. The citizens began to rebuild the wall with donations. Those who walk the castle wall will find bricks with the different donor names.

First, we went to the hotel to check in, and walked down the street to our “apartment”. While booking, it stated that it had a kitchen, which we forgot about, so our hotel room turned out to be the entire first floor. My husband read somewhere that the building we stayed in dated back to the 14th century. Can you imagine the history between those walls?

After we dropped off our baggage, we went into Käthe Wohlfahrt, a Christmas wonderland. I love anything Christmas, so this was the one and only store we went into. The inside was incredible. The below pic was taken before I realized that picture taking was forbidden. Check out this link to get a better understanding of what I mean by Christmas wonderland.

From there, we walked around the town and along the castle wall. These are just a few pictures taken from a gate, the garden, the town, and castle wall.

In the evening, we took the Night Watchman’s Tour. It was a bit cold, yet amazing how different a city looks lit up.

The next day, we finished the castle wall walk, which altogether is 1.5 miles. We did a lot of walking in those 25 hours that added up to 7.5 miles. But we ate well. 😀 The first part of the wall was built around 1080, taking years to complete. I had so many pictures, but I didn’t want to bore you so here are just a few from the castle wall.

We went into a city museum where they housed old pieces and articles, some dating back to the Thirty Years’ War. In the museum were old prison cells where they tortured people for confessions.

No, this fake man has not been preserved since the medieval times.

Then we went to the Crime and Torture Museum. The top picture is of a pillory cage and the other is where people were shackled and shamed.

Before we left Rothenburg, we drove down to the double-bridge to take a few pictures and then of the moated castle, built in 1388, where Heinrich Toppler lived.

On our way home, we saw this from the highway so I thought I’d share it with you.

There are so many things I wasn’t able to share here with you, because of the amount of pictures and information, but I hope you enjoyed this brief medieval time. Auf Wiedersehen!

158 - Martin & I-2
Medieval, Castles, and Explorations,
Baer Necessities

An Uncover and Conversation

I’ve been working with Ana Cruz to redo my book covers. In October, I redid a book cover for my dark, psychological suspense thriller, Net Switch.

Net Switch Fulll Mental institution. Internet chat room. Stalker. Chicago. Seattle. Murderer.

“But have you ever felt as if the room’s air is seeping out and your body starts itching from impatience?”

“The bitterness of loneliness always comes unannounced…and uninvited.”

“What little scraps of compliments he tosses my way, I gather for the times I hunger during his punishing silence.”

“I had played Russian Roulette in that chat room and lost.”

Here is the uncovering of my new cover for my women’s fiction / contemporary / romance / chick lit, Fogged Up Fairy Tale.

FUFT Full CoverAmnesia. Sarcasm. Alcohol. Sex. Romance. Adventure.

“I placed my hands under the water, added soap, and rubbed them together while transfixed with the soap booger on the dispenser. That’s how I felt. Like a soap booger. Leftover and hanging.”

“Punch-drunk indeed. My liver might not have appreciated the term, but my mind had enjoyed the ride.”

“They were a tired bunch of women, ridden hard and hung up wet, their horizontal working days far from over.”

“A fear of finding myself face down in a gutter, gurgling obscenities at some homeless person for taking my blanket while the swirl of alcohol swished around my brain.”

Do you think the book covers are a good representation of the genres?

I hope you still have some time to head on over to Jaideep Khanduja’s blog, Pebble in the Still Waters, where we talk about writing, reading, food, publication and more. Please join in.

Fresh and Getting to Know You,
Baer Necessities

An Israeli-Ukrainian Colorful Life

I’m thrilled to have Nik Krasno with us today. He has lived a colorful life through travels and historical experiences such as the ousting of the Ukraine’s president and an aggressive Russia. The beauty of writing is that we get to take our knowledge and relive it through a story we weave together with fact and fiction. These events were an imagination trigger for Nik. Please give him a Ukrainian Вітаємо, or a simple hello will do.

Nik KrasnoDescribe yourself in 150 words or less.

After long turbulent years of extensive traveling for business and work and after some more spent working in the law firm, nowadays I’m on my own and I have some downtime to dedicate to the things that matter. This extra time I use inter alia to write Oligarch series about rapid enrichment and its heavy toll, the Big Bang of the USSR, the Russian – Ukrainian showdown and many more in high-voltage thriller genre. Two books are out – ‘Rise of an Oligarch’ and ‘Mortal Showdown’ and the third one is in its final stages.

Which came first the pencil or the paper? Explain.

It’s one of those unanswerable questions, which luckily or not, lost its actuality, as both pen and paper are being superseded by laptops and similar gadgets. Everyone goes ‘paperless’. I only hope this tendency skips the toilets 😀

In regards to writing, what are you working on now?

I’m at the pre-publication stage with the third installment, which should conclude the trilogy, at least for the time being, and it has a little surprise in it.

Michael, the oligarch, tops Forbes billionaire’s list only to find out that those, who really dominate the global economy, rule illicitly and stay away from public eye. It so happens that he needs to confront the “Old” money conspiracy in order to survive and to save his country… For good or bad, it’s extreme, radical, uncompromising, grotesque, action-packed and philosophical.

If you could meet any character you’ve written, who would it be?

I’d rather not 😀 They are all anti-heroes really. But seriously, I’d probably choose Michael, because he’s the mastermind, a very complex personality, whose virtues and vices all the time struggle with each other. Yet he’s an intelligent person with some sense of humor, so meeting him or someone like him would definitely be an interesting experience.

Tell us about your published works.

Rise of an‘Rise of an Oligarch’ is the first book in the series, written together with my friend and co-author – His Brilliancy Carlito Sofer. It’s serious thriller with elements of historical fiction in it, a sort of Ukrainian Godfather or Soprano. It follows Michael’s rise to power and wealth, while his associates try to figure out who was behind an assassination attempt, which left Michael in a coma.mortal-showdown

‘Mortal Showdown’ – is a sequel written all by myself in a snappy, action-packed style. It’s a more ‘mischievous’ project. It has a grain of intrigue, politics, and satire in it. Something like James Bond meeting Guy Ritchie :D.

Which superpowers would you want?

I’d take the US and leave Russia and China to others 😀 Ah, that’s not what you meant? Then, I’d go with …. teleporting maybe. Despite flying hundreds of time and even taking a piloting lesson, I’m kinda afraid of flying, so this power could come handy.

Where in the virtual world can people find you and/or meet for a chat?

I haunt Goodreads and check regularly my Facebook and LinkedIn pages. I’m always glad to meet/e-meet readers, fellow authors, bloggers and those interested in enrichment, social justice, USSR and post-USSR, boxing, football (soccer), traveling, booze and many other topics.

What specific moment or situation made you want to become a writer?

The main driver was probably the feeling of uniqueness about what was going on in Ukraine in its post-apocalyptic independence. I felt compelled to expose this phenomenon to the world. The transition from pre-communist Soviet republic to an independent, Wild West capitalistic, corrupted pseudo-democracy was ruthless and tragic to those who didn’t know how to adapt. On the other hand, these stormy times benefited some modest Soviet citizens, who were apt to grasp what was going on and use the new rules, or more precisely – total collapse thereof, to their personal favor and to amass billions of dollars in a relatively short spell. I thought these circumstances formed an excellent plot-line for a thriller series.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

I’m not Leo Tolstoy or big authority to give writing advices, but I have one regarding the attitude. I say, make money elsewhere and come enjoy being an author :D. It’s really very nice to write books, to interact with people interested in your work or colleagues. On the other hand, for me at least, marketing and promotion are much less exciting. If one is anxious about sales, expecting to sell lots of books, this rarely happens. The faster disillusionment comes the better. There are instances when a book/series gains traction, but these are very rare and usually it takes considerable time, numerous books before it happens.

I asked Nik to send a picture of someone he’d like to interview or defend in court with an explanation. Here’s what he had to say:

El ChapoI’d interview El Chapo Guzman, but Sean Penn has beaten me to it -:), so I guess I’d defend him in court. Although I strongly oppose drug dealing and any other ancillary crimes, he’s a controversial enough figure to invoke public interest.

Writing, War and Imagination,
Baer Necessities