As you can see from the list of links to the side, I'm part of several social sites, including Twitter. Now, I am not really active on all of them - I'd have no life if I did that! But a couple really appeal to me, plus I've gotten results as far as book sales, contacts and networking.
DeviantArt is my favorite. I also manage an online writer's group there, which is ideal for authors on blog tours. (We've got over 400 members...) I connected quickly with this artistic community and have readers and fans all over the globe because of DA.
I'm also on Facebook, which is a vast improvement over MySpace. I do have a MySpace, but only visit 1-2 times a week. A tip from author Ellen Hopkins made that experience better the second time around, as the first time I had a "perverted weirdo" from MySpace show up at a local book signing. (Now my photo is NOT on my main page - it cut down on the weird0s..)
And I confess, I like MyCatSpace, too! What can I say?
So outside of blogging, what communities do you enjoy?
Not really "blah"... just kinda the big sigh of it's all over...
Does anyone else feel a little down the next day? Must be the huge build-up all month long to one day, one event. Around our house, Christmas Eve is a big deal, too, so it's spread over two days. But it all seems so final in its ending the day after Christmas. I tend to feel that way the day after book signings or speaking engagements, too. The moment is so big and the emotions so high, it just drains one for a while...
It's also a down time in terms of activity as well. My last event was December 2nd and I have nothing scheduled until January 13th. (I do know one insane author who does dozens of signings in December, but I found that this is the WORST month for store appearances! People just want to get in, get the items on their list, and get the hell out of there!) At any rate, I've kinda gone into a cave at this point and will have to pry myself out after New Year's...
According to statistics, economic spending was down between Thanksgiving & Christmas. With so much upheaval in our economics, from those losing their homes and jobs to the auto industry and lending companies, consumers simply didn't buy as much or as expensive items this year.
All of this economic downturn will affect the work we as authors put out this coming year. I think the industry as a whole will put out less books as publishers trim their releases and those self-publishing their work find they lack the capital to do so. In the long run, I don't think this is a bad thing. There will be less competition and (in theory) higher quality works available for consumers. So a slow year might benefit some publishers and authors.
Even if today's "after-Christmas" spending figures are lower than normal, I still have hope for an upturn for next year. After all, the economic crisis is not equally felt in all areas of the country, despite the doom & gloom of the media. Our town just got its third Starbucks! Buildings & businesses are still going up. And our Christmas spending was not affected by any economic downturn. (Actually, we went a little nuts this year!) I think smart decisions and a refusal to panic will get us all through.
So, here's to faith that next year holds even more promise!
I heard a really special story during one of the NFL programs Sunday.
Dick LeBeau, defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, has a yearly tradition. He reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to his players! Those who've played for him in the past will always ask if he still reads that story. The players claim he really gets into the characters & story and takes it very serious. Those interviewed said he tries to show them meaning beyond the football field.
What a wonderful tradition, Dick! I know you've been in the NFL a long, long time, but I hope it continues for many years.
I stole this from RooCat over at DeviantArt - I certainly do not eat this way, even during Christmas (seeing as I am vegan and don't eat chocolate), but these tips made me laugh out loud.
So enjoy and indulge with me!
HOLIDAY EATING TIPS
1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.
2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!
3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.
4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.
5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?
6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.
8. Same for pies - Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?
9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.
10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner.
I don't know about anyone else, but the amount of emails I am receiving for last minute Christmas online shopping is almost frightening! It's either savvy marketing or final desperation for these companies.
Guess I can't complain about all those emails - I did do 80% of my shopping online this year. Still have one gift en route - a basketful of goodies for my husband as our Christmas Eve treat. But everything else is wrapped and under the tree, and most of it I selected from the safety of our home. When I'm not on the road, I just want to stay home and hide!
Someone needs to be here to clean up the cat's tinsel barf!
As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.
Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.
They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.
A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.
Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock.
"Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”
Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”
This past week, someone who had been a great influence to me passed away.
Larry was a unique individual. He was incredibly business-savy and a great motivator. A Sanguine through-and-through, Larry possessed an enormous amount of energy as well as natural charisma. One always felt comfortable in his presence. He taught me a lot about people skills and success. His influence will always be felt.
He stands in the presence of the Lord now, but Larry will be greatly missed here on Earth.
I have been working on a new article about the price we pay as authors and is it worth it. I had just completed the piece last night when I received the most wonderful email from a young fan I've never had the pleasure of meeting. She had discovered my books at the library and now owns the first two. Her email really touched me (oaky, about made me cry!), so here is a snippet of her message. This is why I keep going....
"I have read a lot of books from different authors and you are the one author when I read your books I can't put down the book . When I am reading your books I can read for hours and not put the book down . Diane Wolfe you are one of my favorite authors."
I teach a promotion seminar here in NC at the community colleges and I always stress to writers & authors the importance of that aspect.
Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't. Some seem so wrapped up in the publishing stage, they don't stop and think about HOW they will actually make sales happen. A book's appearance on Amazon means nothing. The fact they are now 'an author' means nothing to the media. They have no plans for signings, interviews, guest blog spots, etc. Pretty scary if you ask me!
I have such a long list of things to do before next March. Yet I know authors with books coming out before mine that have done practically nothing, not even price bookmarks! They are just sitting back, doing nothing but waiting, and here I'm frantically trying to get my ducks in a row, wishing I had more time to do more, as I know it STILL won't be enough!
When it comes to promotion, guess I'm glad that the melancholy side of me that loves details and is so organized takes over! My sanguine half can just watch from the sidelines and cheer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robin grew up in Orange County, California and has lived in all kinds of interesting places, including Reno and Hawai’i. She and her husband currently live near Portland, Oregon and have been married for 30 years. They spent their first 22 years of marriage working together in youth ministry, and enjoying life with their son and daughter who are now both grown. As a frequent speaker at local and international events, one of Robin’s favorite topics is how God is the Relentless Lover and we are His first love. She delights in telling stories of how God uses fiction to change lives. Robin is the recipient of the Christy Award, the Mt. Hermon Pacesetter Award, the Sherwood E. Wirt Award and is a Gold Medallion Finalist. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Media Associates International and the Board of Directors for Jerry Jenkins’ Christian Writers’ Guild.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation. But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost. And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hi, I'm Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my 30's, married the love of my life in July 2007, and live in beautiful Colorado just east of the Front Range of the Rockies, but I love to travel and visit new places. Ultimately, my dream is to own horses and live in a one-level rancher or log cabin nestled in the foothills of the mountains. For now, I will remain where I am and do what I love—design web sites and write. Amber's very first book, Promises, Promises, released in February 2008. It's a historical fiction set in Delaware during the Colonial period and the Great Awakening. The other 2 books in the series are this current one, Quills And Promises (July 2008) and Deceptive Promises (December 2008). In 2009, they will be repackaged for a state set entitled Delaware Brides. She has also sold another series set in historical Michigan during the Industrial Revolution. The 3 books in that series will begin releasing in May 2009 and will be repackaged in 2010 as Michigan Brides.
ABOUT THE BOOK: -- Separated from Madison when he leaves to fight the French and Indians, Elanna Hanssen must choose between her heart and her head, especially when Madison's integrity is questioned. -- "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not until thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." ~Proverbs 3:5-6 Innocence paired with wisdom beyond her years. With these traits, Elanna Hanssen unwittingly captures the attentions of Major Madison Scott. Her honest desire to understand the war fascinates him, and he resolves to get to know this perspicacious young lady better. When his military duty separates them, they begin a correspondence, cautiously baring their hearts to each other. Elanna has never known emotions like this before, but she is drawn to the integrity she sees in her major. When a local news reporter questions the major's credentials and activities, however, will she allow her heart or her head to rule? Can true love grow over such distance and around such obstacles?
Through the wonderful world of the Internet, I recently met an author from the UK. Dianne Ascroft is the author of Hitler and Mars Bars, a fiction story set in Germany after World War II. I got to interview Dianne for her current virtual tour:
Explain your book’s title!
A couple amusing incidents in the story sparked the idea for the title. So I linked words that represented each incident together to form the title. In the first incident, naively and cheekily, my main character, Erich, threatens to send Hitler (unaware even who the dictator was) to exact revenge against a police officer who chastises him for his poor school attendance record.
In the second incident, Erich is caught stealthily eating a Mars Bar during class. His teacher is exasperated and amused by his behaviour (he has a knack for getting into trouble in class) and orders him to put the candy back in his lunch bag. With great reluctance, and the eyes of the whole class on him, he puts the chocolate bar away. Both incidents illustrate Erich’s irrepressible, indomitable spirit. He is often naughty and sometimes unrepentant yet he doesn’t mean any harm.
What research did you do for this book?
There was a lot of research involved in writing this book. Although the novel is set only sixty years ago, during the ten year period from the last few months of World War II to the mid-1950s, it was before I was born. So I have no memories or firsthand knowledge of the era. I did a lot of background reading about that period in Germany and Ireland. They were very different countries – Germany a battle scarred, industrialised nation and Ireland a quiet, mostly rural place. I read general histories and also biographies. I asked people who had lived through the era to tell me what it was like. I needed to understand their attitudes and ambitions as well as the practicalities of their lives.
I did as much research as possible about Operation Shamrock, the Red Cross initiative that forms the backdrop to my story. I spoke to people in communities that hosted the children - the former evacuees, their foster families, their neighbours, their classmates and the local clergy. I contacted the Red Cross for details about the initiative.
I did background research about the region where the German portions of the book are set. The City Archives in Hattingen, Germany were very helpful. I wasn’t able to go to Germany to do my research but the archivist provided me with general information about the area and also the Children’s Home where the opening chapter is set. He sent period photos so I could see for myself what the area looked like. He also put me in contact with the company that owns the Children’s Home and they provided further information about the building and its history.
In Ireland I did background research about several towns and villages, learning about the schools and churches where scenes in the story are set. I relied on history books for basic facts but I also contacted the organisations directly to add details. I visited each area where the story is set so I would have an overall impression of it as I was writing.
I had to familiarise myself with various aspects of daily life during the period including their farming methods and domestic routines. There were lots of details about life in Ireland to check, such as when electricity was installed in rural homes and when television broadcasts began, to avoid anachronisms creeping in. Ireland and Germany, during that period, were two completely foreign worlds to me. Though it involved lots of work, I found the research fascinating and sometimes I had to pull myself away from it to write.
What prompted you to write a book set during WWII?
I didn’t initially set out to write this book - or a book set during this period of history. The idea gradually evolved. Several years ago I met a man who was born during the Second World War in the heavily bombed Essen area of Germany. He lived in a Children’s Home until the Red Cross project, Operation Shamrock, transported him along with hundreds of other German children, to Ireland to recuperate from the horrendous conditions in their homeland. His life story opened up a new aspect of German and Irish history for me - one that has been overlooked in history books. I was very curious about Operation Shamrock and, as I’ve mentioned in my answer to your previous question, I began researching it. I did extensive research then I wrote an article for an Irish magazine, Ireland’s Own, about the experiences of one child who participated in the endeavour. I intended to stop there but family members urged me to use the information I had found to create a novel. At first I wasn’t interested but the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me. I couldn’t get the stories of the people who were part of Operation Shamrock out of my head so I finally put pen to paper and began the novel.
You’ve done several virtual tours – do you do physical tours as well?
This is my second Virtual Book Tour. The first one, in August, was a trial run with only 3 stops on it. So this is my first full Virtual Book Tour and I’ve really been enjoying it. Because I work full time, apart from my writing, it is difficult to organise a physical tour. So I haven’t done one yet – but I’m always open to invitations to drop by any bookshop or place where people are interested in books!
When did you begin writing and what’s your favourite genre?
Since I was a child I’ve always enjoyed reading. I rarely went anywhere without a book and I spent every free minute reading. But, despite having a very active imagination, being an avid reader and enjoying essay writing at school, I didn’t consider becoming a writer. I enjoyed reading others’ stories but didn’t have the desire to create my own.
I was in my thirties before I got the urge to write and it occurred to me that I might be able to do so. Then, for several years after the idea first occurred to me, I yearned to write but didn’t put pen to paper. I was busy with too many other activities. Finally, I was galvanised into action, in the spring of 1998, when I heard an advertisement for a Belfast radio station’s Annual Short Story writing contest. I decided to enter it. There was only one weekend left to submit my entry before the contest deadline so I got started immediately. I didn’t win but my story, The Contest, was shortlisted and read on air. That success encouraged me to continue writing. I wrote sporadically, without any attempts to get my work published, until 2002 when I enrolled in the Writers Bureau correspondence course. Having assignments to complete focussed me and helped me decide what I wanted to write. Now I fit in course assignments between my other writing projects. One day I may find time to actually finish the course!
Though my first novel is an historical fiction, I enjoy writing contemporary and historical fiction. It’s the characters that are most important to me rather than the time period that the story is set in. If a writer captures the humanity and personality of a character then they write the kind of books I want to read. And those are the kind of books I want to write too. I have ideas bouncing around in my head for both contemporary and historical stories so I plan to write a bit of each in future.
Tell us a little about your past…you’re a Canadian but living in the UK…?
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Growing up there I loved the hustle and bustle of city life and was very involved in several historical societies and music organisations. I earned a B.A. in History at the University of Windsor, Canada in 1984. When I turned 30 I decided to try something different as well as explore my roots. So, later that year, I moved to Britain; I’ve lived in Scotland and Northern Ireland since moving here in 1990.
Since I left Toronto I’ve been continuously downsizing. I moved from Toronto, a city with a population of 3 million people to Belfast, a city of half a million to a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland, with a population of 18,000. Now I live in the country, on a small farm in Northern Ireland, with my husband and several pets. The farm is wonderful. I have a view of fields and rolling hills from my front window and keep pets that wouldn’t be allowed in a city garden.
Although writing isn’t my primary occupation, I love it and spend as much time as possible indulging my passion. I’ve been freelance writing since 2002. Most of my writing focuses on history, arts/music and human interest stories. My articles have been printed in Canadian and Irish newspapers and magazines including the Toronto Star, Mississauga News, Derry Journal, Banbridge Leader and Ireland’s Own magazine.
I’ve contributed material to an Irish local history book, The Brookeborough Story: Aghalun in Aghavea and the Fermanagh Authors Association’s second collection A Fermanagh Miscellany 2. Hitler and Mars Bars is my first novel.
Curiosity about the past has inspired my love of history and genealogy as well as spurring me to write historical fiction. Music is also an important part of my life. I especially enjoy folk, Celtic, Americana and bluegrass. I play the bagpipes and am learning to play guitar. Quilting, hiking and traveling number among my hobbies. I’m a member of the Historical Novel Society and the Fermanagh Authors Association.
What do you like to read? Who’s your favourite author?
I couldn’t pin it down to just one author I like to read - there are lots of them! I read a variety of contemporary and historical fiction though I tend to steer clear of ‘chic lit’. Writers who capture the humanity and personalities of their characters have the greatest impact on me. Some of these authors and books include Maeve Binchy’s ‘Light A Penny Candle’, Adriana Trigiani’s ‘Big Stone Gap’, Jodi Picoult’s ‘Plain Truth’ and Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series. These authors create believable characters who I would like to meet in real life. The townspeople of Big Stone Gap in Trigiani’s books as well as Claire and Jamie in Gabaldon’s work are people that I feel I know. I enjoy reading these stories because the writers bring their characters to life. They inspire me to aim for this in my own writing.
Where can those in the USA find your book?
Hitler and Mars Bars isn’t currently on US bookshop shelves but American readers can get my novel online. Quite a few online outlets are stocking it. It can be ordered directly from the publisher, Trafford Publishing (www.trafford.com/07-1955), or from retail outlets including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Signed copies can also be ordered directly from my website (www.geocities.com/dianne_ascroft/orders).
What are your future plans? What’s next for Dianne?
I recently completed a short story, A World Apart, about moving from city to country and adapting to a new lifestyle. Although it’s fiction, it draws on my own experiences of moving from Toronto, a city of 3 million people, to a farm in Northern Ireland. It will be published in the Fermanagh Authors Association’s Fermanagh Miscellany 2 this month.
Since Hitler and Mars Bars was released I’ve been busy promoting it. So most of my writing has been interviews and guest posts on others’ blogs and websites. I haven’t had a chance to do any new writing. I do have some ideas rolling around in my head for a sequel to the book though. Hopefully when things slow down a bit after Christmas I will start to put them down on paper….
And the final word….
Thanks for letting me drop by today, Diane. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and I hope your readers found my answers interesting. Let me finish up by briefly telling you a little about the novel.
Hitler and Mars Bars is the story of a German boy, Erich, growing up in war-torn Germany and post-war rural Ireland. Set against the backdrop of Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross project which aided German children after World War II, the novel explores a previously hidden slice of Irish and German history.
End of the road in terms of travel for me this year!
My last two seminars took place Tuesday, and I was fortunate to be blessed with a great group of attendees for both. They were enthusiastic and full of eager questions, which made it easier for me. It was a fitting end to a long year of travel, touring and promoting.
Now I can focus my energies online and prepare for next year - it holds many promises!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Today, Lauraine Snelling is a member of the more than Two Million Books In Print club, but when she first began, she was a mother of three teenagers with a simple dream to write “horse books for kids.”
All told, she has over 50 books published. She thinks. She’s not sure. She’d rather write them than count them. Lauraine’s work has been translated into Norwegian, Danish and German as well as produced as books on tape.
Awards have followed her dedication to “telling a good story”: the Silver Angel Award for An Untamed Land and a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart for Song of Laughter.
Helping others reach their writing dream is the reason Lauraine teaches at writer’s conferences across the country. She mentors others through book doctoring and with her humorous and playful Writing Great Fiction tape set. Lauraine also produces material on query letters and other aspects of the writing process.
Her readers clamor for more books more often and Lauraine would like to comply, if only her ever-growing flower gardens didn’t call quite so loudly over the soothing rush of the water fountains in her back yard and if the hummingbirds weren’t quite so entertaining. Lauraine and husband Wayne have two grown sons and a cockatiel named Bidley, who loves to tease their Basset Hound named Chewy.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Two mothers end up more closely connected that they could dream...and yet they are strangers to one another.
The first has two children--twins, a boy and girl, who are seniors in high school. She wants their last Christmas as a family living in the same home to be perfect, but her husband is delayed returning from a business trip abroad. And then there's an accident--a fatal one involving a drunk driver.
Meanwhile, the other mother has a daughter who needs a new heart, and so the loss of one woman becomes the miracle the other has desperately prayed for. While one mother grieves, and pulls away from her family, the other finds that even miracles aren't always easy to receive.