Monday, October 17, 2016

Manchineel, Book Tours, and Cling to God

The manchineel (Hippomane mancinella) is native to Florida, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Central America. The name comes from the Spanish word manzanilla which means, little apple, because the fruit and leaves resemble the apple tree and is has such a lovely, sweet, fruity smell.

But don’t be fooled.

The little death apple, or Columbus death apple -- because he recorded the first encounter with it when some of his men died after eating it -- is one of the most poisonous and deadly plants in the world. Every part of the tree is toxic. Rain water dripping off the leaves can cause blistering of the skin. The milky sap can cause permanent blindness if it makes contact with the eyes. Even smoke from burning the tree can cause blindness and respiratory problems.

The fierce Carib Indians were known to poison the water supply of their enemies with the leaves and for tying captives to a tree, ensuring a slow, painful death. They also used the milky sap to poison arrows and it was from one such arrow that the Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, was killed in Florida during a battle with the Calusa Indians.

Let it here be known, the manchineel spears Sam and her best friend Nick use in The Bowl and The Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, are purely imaginary though no less effective in driving off the invading Squalsh.

Diane wanted me to talk a little bit about promoting. Like most authors, this is the hardest part of the job, one that I can’t say I’m very good at. But here’s what I did. I asked for help. And my post here isn’t so much about promoting as it is about how I organized a tour.

First thing I did was go to Google forms and make up a form I posted to my blog and that people could fill out. They were in charge of deciding what they wanted to do. But that didn’t stop me from emailing other people to see if they’d help out. Everyone I asked said yes. This is a fabulous community!

Questions I asked on the form related to The Bowl and the Stone and included:
Would you like to read and review the book?
Would you like to send out tweets? (I provided some pre-written ones with links)
May I guest post on your blog? (I gave the month of October as the month I wanted to be on their blogs. I realize now I could have had a section for them to write in a date convenient for them, but I didn’t. So, I had to *manually* coordinate dates with those who responded.)
Then I listed a bunch of subjects I could write about that would relate back to the story. These included, but were not limited to, the following:
An interview with a character or question to me
St. John in 1962 (a magical time)
A brief history of slavery in the Virgin Islands
The St. John Slave revolt of 1733
Annaberg (a sugar plantation)
The dungeon at Annaberg
Jumbies (mischievous spirits)
Plants and animals mentioned in the story
The Mysterious Moving Grave (the real story)
Earliest known ghost stories

Even if several people picked the same subjects (jumbies was the most popular) I was be able to make each post different enough that visitors, if they saw a post on jumbies elsewhere, would learn something new.

After I’d collected all my data, which Google forms organized for me neatly, I realized the form, when printed out (I like me a hard copy) was too small to read and I couldn’t figure out how to enlarge the print. So, I took the data and it plugged into Excel. I organized my Excel sheet in this manner.

With hard copy in hand I was able to pencil in when I sent the info (which included the blog post, book blurb, author bio, and pictures of the book cover and moi.) And, I could do the same when I got a confirmation that the email was received at the other end. I started gathering data in July which gave me August and September to write and send posts for October. A person could certainly start earlier.

I don’t know how other people have done it, but this was my method and if it helps someone else along the journey, I’m happy to pass it on.

About the Author
Bish Denham, whose mother’s side of the family has been in the Caribbean for over one hundred years, was raised in the U. S. Virgin Islands. She still has lots of family living there whom she visits regularly.
She says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book. Columbus named the islands, Sir Francis Drake sailed through the area, and Alexander Hamilton was raised on St. Croix. The ruins of hundreds of sugar plantations, built with the sweat and blood of slave labor, litter the islands. Then there were the pirates who plied the waters. It is within this atmosphere of wonder and mystery, that I grew up. Life for me was magical, and through my writing I hope to pass on some of that magic.”
The Bowl and the Stone: A Haunting Tale from the Virgin Islands, is her third book and second novel. You can find Anansi and Company: Retold Jamaican Tales and A Lizard’s Tail, at
To learn more about Bish, you can visit her blog, Random Thoughts. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Thanks, Bish!

And Tuesday, October 18 is the release date for this wonderful book:

Cling to God

A Daily Devotional

Cling to God in the chaos of life...

Cling to God is a book of devotionals for every day of the year. The aim is to encourage Christians in their faith, to help them think about their beliefs and learn more about God. The devotions are short and inspirational so that people with busy lifestyles will still able to spend time with the Lord each day. It’s designed for a wide Christian audience–those new in their faith as well as those matured beyond milk and honey.

Freedom Fox Press - Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
$17.95 Print ISBN 9781939844279, $3.99 eBook ISBN 9781939844286

Lynda R. Young, a Christian first, writes devotionals, articles, and speculative short stories. In her spare time she is also an editor, game developer, artist, and dabbles in photography and all things creative. She lives in Australia with her sweetheart of a husband.

Find Cling to God: Amazon / Kindle / Barnes & Noble / Nook / ITunes / Kobo / Goodreads


Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats to Bish and Lynda on their new books. And always love hearing how authors handle promoting their books.

Barbara said...

Wow Bish your stamina is amazing, all that and you still manage to reply to comments – thank you for doing that, I appreciate it. I’ve visited Florida a couple of times but didn’t see any of those trees/bushes (thank goodness). It would be very easy to shelter under one and end up with blistered skin.
Hello L. Diane Wolfe, nice to meet you & thanks for sharing this.

Mason Canyon said...

Congrats to Bish and Lynda on their releases. Bish, great tips on organizing a tour. A lot goes on behind the scenes new authors may not know about yet.

Thoughts in Progress
and MC Book Tours

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I love the way you used Google forms to organize the process...especially the way you suggested topics that you could cover. That's my favorite way to get guest post requests--with topics already thought-out by the poster!

Congratulations to Bish and Lynda--lovely covers!

Bish Denham said...

Natalie, I'm flying by the seat of my pants!

Barbara, I imagine that in most places people go the Manchineel trees have been removed for safety's sake.

Thanks, Mason. I'm sure there's more I could have done...

Google forms was a big help, Elizabeth!

Bish Denham said...

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Diane!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Not touching the death apple!
You had a lot of topics for your tour, which is good.
Big congratulations to you, Bish.
And big congratulations to Lynda!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a fascinating story. I never heard of these apples, but now I must read about them. Congratulations, Bish. Also, thanks for the advice on promotion. I'm horrible at it.
Congratulations to Lynda too. See you on my blog tomorrow. I'm needing a new devotional book.

Arlee Bird said...

Machineel? Dat's a one scary little apple! I don't eat anything unless I find it in a store or have it served in a restaurant or by someone I know. Hopefully no one would ever serve on of these. Or a slice of machineel pie for that matter.

Best wishes of success to Bish and Lynda.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Bish Denham said...

Alex, I did try to have a variety of topics so blog readers wouldn't get bored reading the same thing.

Beverly, The manchineel is such a deceptive tree... which is what makes it so dangerous.

It's a very scary tree, Arlee. Be careful eating puffer/porcupine fish even if served in a restaurant. If not handled in the correct way it can kill you! Just sayin. :D

H. R. Sinclair said...

Congrats to both Bish and Lynda.

Bish--very organized! I like the idea of using google forms to coordinate everything. I've read one of the Jumbies post, and I can see why it was so popular. They're are cool!

shelly said...

Interesting tidbit on the death apple. Congrats on your book!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks to Bish for sharing her promotional plan. We all need to know more about it. Those poisonous apples are scary.

Christine Rains said...

Congrats to Bish and Lynda! That's a good way of organizing. I keep guest posts and tour things in a notebook too.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Congratulations to Bish and Lynda. Bish, I think you did an exceptionally good job of organizing your tour. I was honoured to be part of it. said...

You're very well organized, Diane. That clearly helps you stay successful.

Congratulations to Bish and Lynda!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - good to see Bish here, as too Lynda ... congratulations to Lynda and her Daily Devotional book ...

While I'm admiring Bish's creative approach to the blog tour - makes a huge and wonderful change ... interesting too about Google forms ...

Cheers Hilary

SpacerGuy said...

Apples are supposed to be good for you but not the death apple. I can only imagine what it must have been like tied to a poisonous tree as it slowly sapped the life out of your body. These ideas are truly captivating reads, well I'd better be good and not run into any of these Indians.

Bish Denham said...

Southpaw, Getting organized was a big help! And jumbies, depending on where you live in the Caribbean can either be mischievous or malevolent.

Thanks, Shelly.

Susan, I haven't seen anything about the actually organizing of a tour, so I thought I share my humble method.

Note books, forms, excel... I couldn't have done without them, Christine!

Joylene, Thanks being a helping!

Thanks, Rawknrobyn.

Thanks for stopping by Hilary. I never thought of the tour as being creative, but I guess it is!

Yup, those apples are pretty bad, Spacer Guy. As for the Caribs, I don't think there are very many left and those that are have long since been (shall we say?) *civilize.*

Misha Gerrick said...

Interesting about the machineel. (And also why I don't eat fruit from trees I don't know. :-D)

I also recently used google forms to put together my blog tour, and it was definitely the easiest way for me to do it.

All the best with the rest of your tour, Bish. :-)

Vijaya said...

Never heard of these little death apples. Fascinating. And it's great to have some tips on promotion bish. I am enjoying your blog tour... you're doing it right.

Vijaya said...

Never heard of these little death apples. Fascinating. And it's great to have some tips on promotion bish. I am enjoying your blog tour... you're doing it right.

Chrys Fey said...

Just rain water dripping off the leaves is bad? Yikes! I'm going to steer clear of machineel.

Congrats to Lynda on her release for tomorrow!

Bish Denham said...

Google forms, definitely helped, Misha.

Vijaya, I'm glad you're enjoying the tour!

Chrys, Yup, even water dripping off the leaves. But one wonders if something beneficial could be derived from it's very toxicity.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thank you to everyone who stopped by today for Bish's guest post!

Karen Lange said...

I did not know this about the death apple. Appreciate the warning! Wishing Bish and Lynda much success!

Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice Bish! Thanks for the tips! :)
Yay for Lynda!!!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Thanks for sharing your promotion tips Bish and for stopping by today.

Sandra Cox said...

Fascinating info on the Manchineel. Thanks for sharing.

Good luck, Bish and Lynda, with these awesome books.

Tammy Theriault said...

Congrats Lynda and Bish! BISH you are one savvy techie.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Wow, it's clear I'm losing my mind. I thought I left a comment here yesterday. Clearly not! Thank you so much for sharing the happy news about my devotional. And congrats too to Bish!! And thanks to all the commenters who cheered. I love the blogsphere!

nashvillecats2 said...

Congrats to the authors on their new books,
Regarding that apple, pleased they are not over her.....I hope.

Dean K Miller said...

I've wondered who found out what plants/fruits were edible and those that weren't. Trial and error most likely, and unfortunately!

Beautiful books on both covers.

Bish Denham said...

Karen, Unless you live in Florida or the tropics no need to be concerned about manchineel!

You're welcome, Jemi!

My pleasure, Sheena-kay.

Sandra, Lynda and I say thank you!

Tammy, I'm really not savvy at all, I just do the best with what I know. :)

Lynda, You're not loosing your mind, you're in a different time zone!

Nashvillecats, Nope, no manchineels near me. Thanks for stopping by.

Dean, I've wondered the same thing. Obviously Columbus found out very quickly.

Melissa said...

Great tips, Bish.
Organization makes huge tasks so much easier!

Congratulations, Lynda.

Sandra Cox said...

Sounds like you have an excellent game plan for promotion, Bish.

Hi, Dianne:)

emaginette said...

Congrats Bish, and Lyn. The work is just beginning. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Nicola said...

Fascinating stuff about the deadly apple tree. I never knew that! Congratulations to Bish (who is on my blog today - YAY!) and to Lynda too. Wishing them both much success. Thank you for sharing, Diane.

Denise Covey said...

Hi L.Diane. Hi Bish! Hi Lyn! It is so great to see these new titles out. I'm wishing the authors all the best!

Crystal Collier said...

Bish! Lovely getting insight into your process for the tour. I completely agree with you about this fabulous community. They're epic. Diane! Thanks for having Bish here today. She rocks! And Lynda's book!!!! !!!! I can't tell you how happy I am for her.

Cherie Reich said...

Congrats to Bish and Lynda! The manchineel sounds like it would be fantastic in a story. I haven't heard of them before. I've used spreadsheets and Google forms to keep track of blog tours. They're definitely helpful.

Gina Gao said...

Congrats to Bish and Lyda on their new books!

baili said...

scary fruit i wonder how can people avoid it

Sandra Cox said...

Both authors have fascinating bios.

Hi, Diane:)

Ann Carbine Best said...

All incredibly fascinating. Both books sound wonderful. I'm in a mode to know more about the history of such what I think are exotic places such as the Virginia Islands. Glad I came over here today, Diane, for a great post about these two excellent writers whom I wish the best of luck in their book promotions.