Category Archives: Marketing and Promotion

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Chow Down – the Oreo Gobble – Part 1:  Read about the clash of wills between the mighty-but-inexperienced pet mom and her sweet-but-mightily-determined Shih Tzu puppy.  Guess what the dirty, four-letter word is in our household.  Hint:  It begins with … Continue reading

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The Three Blogs of Sandra Bell Kirchman

BLOG IDEAS

BLOG IDEAS (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

I read somewhere that blog followers are just as interested in the subject of a blog as they are the author.  Therefore, you may be interested in my other blogs, or you may not.  Heck, you might even want to touch base with them now and then just to see if I can keep up with all three.  I’m interested in that myself. On the off-chance that you are interested in one or more of my blogs, I’ll list them here, including the one you’re reading now, including the linked title and a brief description.

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling - picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Tilly, Oreo, Ling Ling – picture (c) Sandra Bell Kirchman

Puppy Dog Tales – This is my newest blog, started two weeks ago.  It is a casual, somewhat humorous and helpful compilation of true stories about my three little Shih Tzu dogs.  Goal is one tale per week.  Readers are enthusiastically encouraged to share stories of their own dogs.

Guru 4 gurus

Guru 4 gurus (Photo credit: sapojump)

News, Views, and Gurus – This is my second oldest blog, started in 2011.  As a writer and former journalist on the press release list, I get a lot of PR‘s from various agencies.  Some of the stories, although not hard news, are just too good to throw back on the pile.  So I set them up as a post, adding my own comments and experience, if any, with the subject matter.

"Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories" edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman

The unicorn on the cover of “Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories,” edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman.

FantasyFic – This is my original blog, started in December of 2010.  As the blog description states, it is a celebration of fiction writing and especially fantasy fiction.  I love fantasy fiction and write it almost exclusively, although my second love is mystery, closely followed by historic fiction.  This blog contains quite a bit of my writing–flash fiction and excerpts from novels.  It also shares some of my experience from the decades of writing I have engaged in…from character building to world building and anything in between.

CHAPTER SIX – A Hard Lesson, Learned the Hard Way

CHAPTER SIX – A Hard Lesson, Learned the Hard Way

 (from the novel, The Rocky Road to the End of the World)
Copyright (c) 2013 by Sandra Bell Kirchman
All rights reserved.

         My eyes had barely closed, when Mark patted my shoulder.  “Alex, wake up.”  I jerked awake and sat up stiffly, which produced a groan of protest from Tilly.

“It’s too dark for me to continue in unfamiliar territory.  I don’t want to switch on the lights on the Jeep in case looters spot us.  We just can’t tell where they might show up, and the Jeep is a pretty good prize for anyone heading north.”  Mark rubbed his eyes and yawned.  “I’ve pulled the Jeep over on the other side of the ditch, and I hope we’re hidden by trees here.  It might just be a small patch or it might be a huge forest.  I can’t tell, but it’s the best we can do for now.”

I patted his hand.  “You’ve done great, Mark.  Do you want me to stay up and watch, first shift?”

“I don’t think so,” Mark replied.  “No point in staying up to watch when you can’t see past your nose, it’s so dark.  I would if the moon was out, but you know what a light sleeper I am.  It’s almost as good as being away.”  He laughed, and I smiled, glad that he could still make his little jokes.  “Let’s get some rest, and we might make reasonable time tomorrow.  I hope we can find some purple gas, though.  I don’t want to use our last few cans of regular gas.”  He yawned again, practically inhaling all the Jeep’s oxygen in the process.  “I hope the dogs will sleep okay.”

I hoped they would too and fell asleep practically before I finished the thought.

My dreams were scattered and unresolved, pretty much the way my day had been.  What woke me up was Oreo whimpering in his sleep.  I shouldn’t have taken him our of his carrier then; he was still sleeping along with everyone else.  Mark always said I worried way too much about the dogs.  In retrospect, it was a hard way to learn a lesson I’ll never forget.

I reached past Justin, who apparently slept like the dead, as we had already seen the previous day.  By twisting quietly and kneeling, I could just back and slip open the door of the carrier stacked sideways behind Justin’s seat; Oreo cautiously pushed it open with his nose.

Usually he bounded and/or wiggled his way to me, his tail waving with delight.  This time he crept…past the gap between Justin’s seat and the rear door.  I picked him up, just about breaking my puckering string in the process.  Oreo was a husky little bundle.  Tilly greeted him quietly and Oreo pressed against me, trembling.  How terribly hard this was on him.  He hated the car, and twenty hours in one was almost too much for him.  I felt I should have let him out when we stopped for a little exercise and a potty break.  I have to admit I didn’t want to face Mark with such a request.

Oreo shivered and whimpered again, and I knew what the main problem was.  He had to go out, and not just pee this time.  I didn’t know what to do.  I looked over at Mark and he was sleeping as if he too were dead.  He must have been exhausted.  He wasn’t a youngster anymore, and dealing with people stressed him out.  I began to realize what I had done to him by inviting Justin and Patty to ride with us.

Oreo whimpered again, more urgently, and I made up my mind.  I quietly opened the door and let Oreo down on the ground.  Tilly thought that was a great idea and jumped down as well.  Her silvery coat glowed in the moonlight.  I look up and thought, damn, it’s almost as bright as day.  This is not a good idea.  Oreo had run ahead to find the “perfect” spot for a poo.  I picked up Tilly and trotted after him.  I could see well enough to spot him in the underbrush and I let Tilly down to do her own little duty.  Just as I was picking her up, the sound of someone crunching through the brush made me spin around.

“All right, lady,” a man said, emerging into the full moonlight, “you’re gonna help me get that vehicle.”  He waved his gun at me.  “I will use this if I have to.  I want that Jeep.”

I gasped.  “You’re the man from our last rest stop.  How-how did you catch up to us on foot?  It’s not possible!”

He gave a low chuckle and couldn’t resist a macho boast.  “You never saw me in my old beat-up Chevy.  I came to, just as your tail lights winked around the bend, and followed you.  I’m not stupid enough to attack a vehicle full of possibly armed bozos, so I was just waiting for my chance.  And you’re it.”

He grabbed me roughly by the arm and thrust me ahead of him.  “You’re going to go back to the car and wake up the driver and tell him he has to come out.  Tell him anything…like, you twisted your ankle and can’t get back in the car by yourself with the dog.  That’s it.  Give him the dog.  That’ll distract him.

“Get moving, and limp like you mean it.”

I had almost blurted out about Oreo still in the brush, then thought better of it.  It would serve no useful purpose letting him know about the dog, and maybe Oreo might startle him at a good time.

He gave me a push to get me started.  I stumbled and started limping.  At the same time, a whirlwind of growling fury flew at us…at the man, actually.  I had never seen Oreo in a killing rage, but he had only one thing in mind: to get this terrible man away from his beloved Mommy.

The man pivoted with a startled exclamation just as Oreo grabbed his shin.  From the sound of it, my dog must have taken a chunk out of the leg.  Oreo may have been small, but he had very sharp teeth.  The man was yelling, I was screaming, then there was a shot.  I stood still for a moment, staring at Oreo crumpled on the ground, a dark stain on his side oozing heavily, smearing his fur.  I dropped to my knees, still holding Tilly and set her carefully against me.  She was trembling and didn’t want to go anywhere.  She nuzzled Oreo.

I felt the pulse at his carotid artery, but there was nothing.  I held my hand to his little nose but felt not even a whisper of air.  The pain of his passing crushed my heart, and filled my eyes with tears that would not fall.  I thought I was having a heart attack, but I didn’t care.  My little baby was dead, and it was my fault.

The man jabbed cold steel against my neck.

“Get up, lady.  You are just lucky I don’t put bullets in you and the other little mutt here.”

I got to my feet and trembled, feeling sick to my stomach, and stood there.

“Now turn very—“

Another shot rang out and the man’s body slumped against me.  I convulsively pushed him away, and Tilly yipped as his hand swiped her on the way down.  He lay still at my feet, right beside my baby.  The nightmare enveloped me, my life was running right out of me.  I wanted to scream my sorrow until I had no voice.  I knelt on the ground, sobbing.

A hand gently gripped my shoulder.  “Are you hurt?” Mark asked.

I shook my head, unable to get any words out, the sobs building up into something I didn’t think I could control.  Mark walked over to the man and pushed him onto his back with his boot.  Kneeling down, he felt for a pulse.  He stood up and shoved him again, a monumental disgust showing in his motions.

“Oreo?” Mark asked, bending over to touch the still dog.

That’s when the dam burst.  I cried as I hadn’t since my mother died twenty years ago.  My heart felt like it was about three sizes too large for my chest, and I had trouble catching my breath.  My beautiful little Oreo, such a gentle, sweet soul, and he was gone…and it was my fault.

Mark touched me on the shoulder again.  I looked up and saw the sorrow on his face.  I made a huge effort to get myself under control.  Oreo had been Mark’s little buddy.  He was always telling Oreo, “It’s hard looking after da wimmins all day.  Us guys gotta stick together, right, Buddy?”  A shudder went through me but I clamped down on it.

“Babe, we better get going.  We don’t know if that guy had any friends around, or if all this noise is bringing someone to investigate…or loot.”

I nodded my head vaguely.  “Sure, Mark, soon as we bury Oreo.”

Mark was silent, and I looked up at him again.  His stunned expression faded quickly to a look of hopelessness.

That look shocked me into a state of realization.  I was putting him another corner.  Here I had not only gotten Oreo killed, but I was jeopardizing Mark, the other two people, and the other two dogs with my sentimental notion that a burial was necessary.  I just couldn’t stand the thought of wild animals tearing his little body apart.

Mark jumped up.  “Wait here, I have an idea.”  He ran back to the Jeep while I felt Oreo again to make sure he was dead.  From the placement of the entry wound, it looked like the man had got Oreo with a purely lucky shot, right in the heart.  He was definitely dead.  I tried to convince myself that nothing that happened to his body now was going to hurt him.

Mark returned, carrying Oreo’s carrier, still with the pee pad and the quilt and blanket.

“You’re worried about animals eating Oreo, right?  We don’t have time to bury him, but we can put him in here, bundle him up, and put the carrier, tightly closed and locked, up in a tree.  That will keep him safe.”

Tears streamed down my face.  “Thank you, Mark,” I said softly.

It didn’t take us long to wrap him lovingly in his blanket and for Mark to put the carrier up in the limbs of a burr oak.  It was silly, I know, but I liked the idea of the pretty place we’d found for him.  He had loved barking at strange noises and he loved sitting in the sunshine in our beautiful backyard.  He would feel somewhat at home here.  Oh, damn!  I shook my head and hurried back to the Jeep.

Tilly had followed Mark back to the Jeep and he had put her inside.  She sat on my seat waiting for me.  I needed my dogs now, and Mark sensed it.

“We should probably let Ling Ling out to do her thing,” he said.  “I think with just one other dog, we can let her loose in the vehicle.”

Gratefully, I took her outside.  She wasn’t interested in playing, she was too sleepy.  She quickly did her job and hopped into the Jeep and onto my lap.

By now, both Justin and Patty were awake.  They wanted to know what had happened.  Mark explained quickly to them, and they both offered condolences to us about Oreo.  I didn’t want to talk about it now, so I changed the subject, while Mark backed us out of our spot and back onto the road, heading north.

“Mark’s driving without the headlights on because the moon is very bright tonight,” I explained.  “Hopefully, no one will spot us.  Good thing the Jeep is dark green.”

“Yeah,” Justin said.  “Too bad there isn’t much wind.  The sound of the Jeep will carry.”

Mark agreed.  “There’s not too much we can do about that.  It’s a smooth-running vehicle, but they’ll hear it whether it’s night or day.  If it becomes too much of a liability, we’ll have to abandon it.  But it’ll be at our timing and our choice of location.”

Apparently, Justin wasn’t too fond of the idea of leaving the Jeep, because he was fairly quiet after that.

And I sat there, hanging on to Ling Ling as if my life depended on it, the empty void inside me paining like someone had severed something vital.

* * * * * *

(Author’s Note:  Sorry for being late with this installment.  I had an accident which cause me to rest more than I normally do.  I don’t want to say what it was, but my gluteus maximus and a fall downstairs were involved.) 

 

 

Author Shares Tips for Finding Work That Feeds the Soul

Ready to Make the Jump?
Now’s the Time for a Heartfelt Encore
Mother of Re-Invention Shares Tips for Finding Work
that Feeds the Soul*

They’re called second acts, encore careers or reinventing yourself – they’re the completely new and different jobs people take in midlife or later.

From Impactlab.net (http://impactlab.net)

From Impactlab.net (http://impactlab.net)

Today, making that jump is more likely to be a matter of following the heart than it was during the throes of the economic recession, when professionals, caught up in corporate layoffs, discovered they were too old to find jobs in a poor market and too young to retire. They started second careers not to follow a vocation but to pay the bills.

Yarn to Go by Betty Hechtman

Yarn to Go by Betty Hechtman

“I’m glad to see the tide turning again – especially for all the baby boomers who don’t want to  retire but do want to do something gratifying,” says Betty Hechtman (http://BettyHechtman.com), who was on the eve of her 60th birthday when her first mystery series prompted a bidding war between St. Martin’s Press and Berkley Books.

She has since published eight “cozy mysteries,” including her newest, “Yarn to Go” – the first in her Berkley Prime Crime Yarn Mystery series.

Hechtman has had a lot of practice reinventing herself. She has volunteered as a farmworker on a kibbutz in Israel, waitressed and worked in retail sales, and made connections as a telephone operator, among a host of jobs.

“I’ve held jobs just for the paycheck and I’ve pursued my passions, so I know how profoundly different it is to do one versus the other,” she says. “No matter what age you are, if there’s work you feel called to, you should most definitely give it a try — you may well experience a joy unlike any you’ve ever known.”

Hechtman offers these tips for people considering an encore:

• Do your homework. There’s nothing more disappointing them jumping in to something new only to become disillusioned and frustrated because you didn’t take the time to prepare. If your dream is to open a particular business, research the market. Is there a demand for what you hope to sell? Should you give it a trial run as an online business before investing in shop space and other overhead? Start by checking the resources at Score.org, a nonprofit supported by more than 12,000 volunteers dedicated to helping small businesses off the ground. For other encore pursuits, you might take classes or spend a few hours a week working as a volunteer to learn the ropes.

• Join a group of like-minded people. This is particularly helpful for aspiring artists who want to paint, play music, write a book or indulge some other creative talent. You can brush up on your skills and make valuable contacts by becoming a part of a community theater, joining a writers circle, or finding a group of hobbyists. You may find your skills develop much more quickly with the support and guidance of collegial peers who are all helping one another achieve a dream.

• Consider working in one of the five most popular encore fields.  Most people seek second their careers in health, education, government, environment and non-profits — all fields expected to provide abundant job opportunities in the next couple of years, according to Encore.org, a non-profit that supports second careers “for the greater good.” If you need training to qualify, now is the time to get it, Hechtman says. “Invest now in the education, and you can soon have a job that feeds the heart, the mind – and the body!”

About Betty Hechtman

Author Betty Hechtman

Author Betty Hechtman

Betty Hechtman is the author of “Yarn to Go,” the first book in the Berkley Prime Crime Yarn Retreat mystery series, as well as the author of the best-selling Berkley Prime Crime Crochet  mystery series. The eighth book, “For Better or Worsted,” comes out in November.  She has also written newspaper and magazine pieces, short stories and screenplays as well as a children’s culinary mystery. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree and has been active in handicrafts since she was a small child. Hechtman divides her time between Los Angeles and Chicago.*

From Betty herself:

I grew up on the south side of Chicago and in a very busy weekend, got married, graduated college and moved to Los Angeles.

Although my degree is in Fine Arts, all I ever wanted to be was a writer and I’ve been doing it in one form or another for as long as I can remember. My shining moments in elementary and high school always involved stories or poetry I’d written. I wrote news stories and a weekly column in my college newspaper. My first job out of college was working on the newsletter of a finance company. I worked for a public relations firm and wrote press releases and biographies. Later I wrote proposals for video projects and television shows that went through various stages of development.

I tried writing screenplays and wrote three...more

* Press Release from
NewsandExperts.com
on behalf of Betty Hechtman.
Used with permission.

Considering Self-Publishing Your Book?

Because of the changing attitude towards self-publishing (from red-headed stepchild to respectable offspring), this publishing alternative is being considered more often by writers around the world.  Especially with POD book outlets (Print on Demand) such as lulu.com, cafepress.com and amazon.com (to name a few of the better known POD book companies, the cost of producing such a book can be minimal.  I have self-published a few books, with great success.  None of them were POD, but the quality of the printing was outstanding, and all four books are a paper monument to the improved printing techniques of this rising industry.  If you have ever thought about publishing your own book, read some of the following tips offered by longtime publisher Sheryn Hara.

Considering Self-Publishing Your Book?
Longtime Publisher Offers Tips for Making Choices

Published books

Published books

Self-published books have transformed both the reading and writing landscape, with hundreds of thousands of authors now eschewing traditional publishing routes. Once reserved for distribution to a writer’s close family and friends, these books are now respected as an affordable option with every bit as much potential for becoming best-sellers as those produced by the New York houses.

“Countless books published this way have gone on to become best-sellers, from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to ‘Still Alice’ to ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad,’ ’’ says independent publisher Sheryn Hara, founder of the 30-year-old Book Publishers Network (www.bookpublishersnetwork.com) and author of the new how-to, “Self-Publish Successfully.”

“But it’s important to note that these don’t look like they were just spit out of the inkjet printer in your bedroom. You have to have a good product if you want even a shot at success. That means good content that’s well edited; a good cover; good layout; and a good print job. Additionally, you can expect to spend a lot of time and/or money marketing, promoting and getting publicity for your book.”

So, where to begin? First, of course, is getting the book written. But once you’re ready to publish, you can easily be overwhelmed with options: Do a Google search for “independent publishers” and you’ll get nearly 8 million results!

To help sort through the options, Hara offers these tips:

• Decide how you want your book printed. Consider your budget, time frame and individual preferences when evaluating options. They include Print-on-Demand (POD), which involves lower up-front costs and is beneficial if you need only a minimum number of books. However, there are quality issues with POD, and you must pay close attention to your contract, which may assign the copyright to the publisher. Most POD publishers do not provide editing services. Digital printing is another option for small print runs, and comes without many of the pitfalls of POD. Finally, there’s standard printing, which utilizes web-fed or sheet-fed presses. 

• How to choose a printer. Get quotes from at least three printers, and ask for samples of books and papers. Use only a printer whose main job is printing; most of these are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The most economical size books to print are 5.5 by 8.5 inches; 6 by 9 inches; or 8.5 by 11 inches.

• Covers. People do  judge books by their covers, so make sure yours is fantastic. It’s worth the investment to have it designed professionally. Now you must decide whether you want soft cover, hard cover or both. You may have a choice of gloss lamination or matte. If you go with matte, check to see whether the printer has a scuff-free version; otherwise, books returned from bookstores may look beat up.

• Paper.  For most books, you’re probably safe going with the “house paper” recommended by the printer. If your book has a lot of pictures, you may want to use gloss paper.

• Bindings.  “Perfect bound” is the norm for soft cover books; a layer of adhesive holds the pages and cover together. Most bookstores don’t like “saddle stitch” – staples used in the center of the book, or comb or wire binding, because you can’t print information on the spines. “Layflat binding” is used for computer, music and cookbooks, which often need to lie flat for functionality when in use.

If you plan to work with an independent publisher – a company you’ll pay to shepherd you through all the details, Hara suggests talking to former customers about their experience. Did the company follow through on everything promised in the contract? Did it meet deadlines? Were representatives accessible, especially if there was a problem? Was the customer satisfied with the final product?

“Decide on your budget, and then look at the quality of books produced by publishers you’re considering. Frankly, the better the quality, the more the book will cost,” Hara says.

“Your pocketbook and your goals should help make the decision easier.”

Sheryn Hara - Complies with Hara Publishing terms of use

Sheryn Hara – Complies with Hara Publishing terms of use

About Sheryn Hara

Sheryn Hara is founder and CEO of Book Publishers Network in Seattle, a 30-year-old company whose clients have produced award-winning books. Hara’s new book, “Self-Publish Successfully,” co-written with Paul S. Carr III, covers all aspects of self-publishing, from writing and editing to marketing, including internet and social media marketing.