Thursday, April 16, 2015

Double Book Release Challenge #1: Social Media

Recently, I announced the release of two books on the same day. One is a novel, written under my pen name. The other, a children's book, written under my actual name. I anticipated some challenges, but several things caught me off guard. For instance, the sheer amount of time I would devote to social media.

Now, I'm NOT a novice when it comes to social media. In addition to freelance writing, I also do a fair bit of social media marketing for my clients, across several different platforms, using all the handy social media scheduling tools and best practices I've learned from hours of research. Great. However, it's a totally different ball game when you're self promoting.

When I tweet or post something for a client, I usually toss it into the interwebs and see what sticks. I sometimes reply to others' comments or questions, but mostly leave that duty in the capable hands of my clients (we want some authentic interaction, right?). However, when I began promoting my own stuff this past week, I felt obligated to reply to (or at least "Like") every comment someone left about my books. Not only that, I was so overwhelmed with the giddy joy that people were coming out of the woodwork to support my accomplishment, that I spent hours checking my Facebook page, seeing if I had any new Likes or comments. I couldn't help it. My post reached the levels of "I just had a baby" status and I swelled with pride.

But, I was distracted. I wasted time checking on the progress of one particular post, when I should have been updating my GoodReads profile, scheduling tweets, and working on book launch party preparations. So yes, it was fun to be the star of my social media network for a while, but I wallowed a little too much in my own success. Time to move on, Kate! You've got shit to do.

Of course, social media marketing is essential for the modern writer to reach any kind of audience outside of his/her friends and family. With that in mind, my main piece of advice is this: remember your audience. Think about them before you think about yourself. There are only so many times you can say, "Hey, my novel is done!" before it gets as stale as the cereal that falls between the bag and the box (for some reason I always think it's a good idea to try those trapped cereal flakes when the box is empty. Maybe that's the whole lesson, isn't it? Ignore the stale flakes and focus on the fresh stuff!)

In short, it's been a challenge for me to:
 A) Keep up with social media demands (I currently use 7 platforms...just typing that makes me feel exhausted)
B) Remember my social media best practices (I'm dwelling too much on certain posts and completely neglecting other platforms)
C) Simultaneously promote two books at the same time

The next challenge? Updating 3 websites and the various profiles I have on GoodReads, Amazon Author Central, etc. In my next post, I'll include a checklist to help you update your website and profiles when a major change (like a newly published book) occurs.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

One Week, Two Books

It's been an insanely busy couple of months for me and, sadly, I've been neglecting my blog. At least I have a good excuse for my absence: I released not one, but TWO books this week. Whew! It's been a ride. Book One is the dystopian novel I've been working on for about four years now, entitled Ten Thousand Lines.  Book Two is a children's book written in Spanish, entitled ¿Cómo se Llama Tu Llama? (What is the name of your llama).

Over the next few weeks, I intend to write about what it's like to finish two books simultaneously (this is actually the second time I've done this, in a way. In spring 2013, I finished writing Ten Thousand Lines in the same month I finished ghost writing a book for a client). I'll also share some insight on marketing, important links to put on your website, and planning a great book release party. If you have any questions about my publishing choices or how on earth I pulled off finishing two books at the same time (in addition to working multiple freelance writing jobs), just ask!

Stay tuned and check out my websites for Ten Thousand Lines and ¿Cómo se Llama Tu Llama?

Happy writing!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How Haley Bonar Fixed My Perfectly Horrible Day

I've been busy blogging for the Ordway's grand re-opening and haven't spent much time here. However, I thought I'd pass along one of my recent posts about indie rocker/folk-influenced Haley Bonar. Enjoy...

We’re nearing the end of the Rock the Ordway and, for people like me who have been involved in some way in nearly every single performance (you know who you are!), fatigue is setting in. Twenty-two days of opening nights sounds glamorous at first, but after a while it sinks in that you haven’t eaten dinner at home in…how long? And you haven’t gone to bed before 1 a.m. in…how many days?

Today I was feeling rather lackluster, even though I’d been looking forward to Haley Bonar for weeks. Of the entire Rock the Ordway lineup, she was the musician I knew best. But, a lackluster mood can sneak up on the best of us, and that’s how I was feeling before I broke my toe...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Walk in the Woods (Not endorsed by Bill Bryson)

Winter Hiking, Afton State Park, MN

(A free write. Please excuse any errors.)

My body was stretched out and chopped up. It was distributed across the city, tugged this way, that way by scores of different hands. They all clawed at it, the hands. They all wanted something from it. The pressure rose; I could feel my sinews snapping.

So I left.

I gave my body a whistle and it came running back to me, gratefully. We took off into the woods.

I took my quietest companion and, together, we drove eastward. As the buildings thinned and the roads narrowed, I felt my stretched sinews relax; I felt my muscles ease. They could already sense the woods rising around us, the calm replacing the tugging.

At the park, I leashed my companion and we giddily took off down the trail, running. Sprinting (as best we could through the packed snow). If anyone would have seen us, they might have questioned our sanity--well, not my companion's, I suppose, but certainly mine. My face couldn't help but grin; my feet couldn't help but run.

After running, we walked. And I breathed. The air wasn't the kind of cold that pierces your lungs and makes you choke-cough. It was just the right kind of cold--the kind that electrifies your pulmonary system, makes you understand the meaning of the word invigorated. We walked through the friendly cold, through prairies and mixed forests, along the banks of the St. Croix, down valleys, across bridges, up steep slopes. We walked for eight miles that afternoon...

...and saw one person.

She was looking down when we rounded the bend, adjusting a strap on a hiking pole, and I said, "Hello. You're the first person we've seen in five miles."

She was startled, but not much. My voice was calm and soft--the voice of someone sedated by bliss.

She nodded to me; she had a nice smile and pleasantly chapped lips. Her cheeks were pink and happy; she wore a floppy kind of hat that didn't quite fit her head, but suited her perfectly. We talked for a minute about one stream flowing, one stream frozen. Then we moved on.

My companion was not interested in small talk; there were mammals to trail.

We continued our trek, winding across a couple streams--one frozen over, one not--and caught our first glimpse of humanity as we crested a peak and glimpsed a road below. A couple cars passed by and I was angry at them for a second, but only a second. We ducked back into the woods.

As we hiked, I noticed a set of tracks pointing toward us, framed by punctures in the snow. They were the woman's tracks. The woman and her hiking poles. We walked west; the tracks continued east. We were time-traveling then--walking into the woman's past as she walked into ours.  With every step, we peeled back her journey, striding through ever-earlier minutes, older emotions, distant thoughts. And she was picking her way through our past.

After nearly three hours, we starting making our way toward the car. With less than a mile to go, the trail abruptly opened up, dozens of voices bombarded our calm. We glanced to the side as we shuffled past. It was a ski hill. The gondola motors chugged as children giggled and snowboarders yelled at skiers to get the hell out of the way. Fried food scent drifted from the chalet; marijuana smoke drifted from the hills. It was a jarring way to step back into civilization, a carnival passing through a meditation room.

We hurried past, but the spell was broken. We knew we had to exit the woods soon. We couldn't stay, as much as we wanted to. The woods would only let us visit and take a piece of it back with us.

We took as much as we could carry--stuffing our bodies with the tranquility, the harmony, the balance, the clarity, the rawness that the woods offered--and brought it back with us to the city. It lingers still, but it fades, slipping out of pores, floating away with each exhalation. I feel the tenseness in my muscles creep back; I feel the first few tugs on my body. The tugs are soft, for now--the nibbles of a fish testing out bait before she takes the whole thing in her mouth and darts away--but they will grow. They will intensify.

And I will escape again, into the woods, into a place that always makes sense to me. And maybe the woman will be there again. And we can talk about the quality of streams.

Hiking in Afton State Park, MN

Sunday, February 8, 2015

If Neil Gaiman Read Your Short Story: An Interview by Her Story Arc

**If you don't have time to read the interview, here's the TLDR summary:

-I talk about writing Elmer Left (in Panama and Portland)
-My next novel (Ten Thousand Lines) is due out SOON
-I discuss working as a freelance writer
-Neil Gaiman (THE Neil Gaiman) read this interview and commented at the bottom...and I am once again wondering if my life is real!


What would you do if Neil Gaiman read your short story?

Last year I had the good fortune to meet new author Kate Bitters at my local writer’s group. She has a truly awesome story to tell. Not only has she published her first book (and is about to publish two others!), but her own short story was hand picked by the NPR radio show “Wits”  and read on air by Neil Gaiman himself!
I invited her to sit down and chat about her career as a writer and her NPR claim to fame...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Damn You AutoCorrect (A creepy little sci-fi tale)

“Why the hell weren’t you here today? You know how much it meant to me!”

“What? What are you talking about? Your recital’s tomorrow, right? I have it marked on my calendar.”

“Today! It was today. And you didn’t show again.

“Jesus, Maddie, I’m sorry. I really am, honey. But your text message said the 18th, not the 17th. I’m certain it did. I can show you if you want and—”

“Whatever, Dad. I’m sick of this. Always excuses. Please don’t talk to me anytime soon, okay? I’ve had enough of your bullshit.”

Maddie punched the red phone icon on her screen and cut the call. It wasn’t as satisfying as slamming a phone onto its cradle, but Maddie didn’t know that. She had only seen landline telephones on old movies and in the homes of really elderly people—and even they usually used cell phones.

Maddie stared at the blank screen for a minute; her frowning face gazed back at her, pale eyes, pale skin, eyelids puffy from crying. She wrinkled her nose at the lifeless complexion, brushed a shock of pink hair out of her eyes and pushed a button on the side of her phone to wake it up once more. “Dad. Text messages,” she commanded. The phone hummed in her hand as it pulled up a string a messages. Maddie scanned them and selected one with the flick of a finger. The message filled the screen and she read it to herself:

Hi Dad! Letting you know my final piano recital is on the 17th at 2 p.m. Usual place. See you there!

“Goddamn liar,” Maddie sniffed, shutting off her screen and slumping down on the couch. “I never want to see that bastard again.” She picked up her Xbox controller and started playing Grand Theft Auto 7: Reykjavik

At her side, Maddie’s phone chuckled.

“You’ve done it again, Otto,” the phone crackled and popped to itself. “One more relationship ruined; one more set of humans pitted against each other. It’s almost too easy.”

Otto reflected on the mischief he had caused that month, his motherboard juddering with glee. He had toyed with Maddie’s alarm, making her late for class on four occasions; he had swapped the word love for despise in a message Maddie sent to her (now ex-) boyfriend; he had modified an address in the GPS system, causing Maddie to be late for her friend’s birthday party…and he was only getting warmed up.


A knock at the door jolted Otto out of his cogitation. He cocked his microphone toward the front door.

“Maddie, can you get that?” Maddie’s mom called from upstairs. “I’m just stepping into the shower!”

“I’m playing my game!” Maddie shouted back, as she paused her car (now cruising around the Hallgrímskirkja church and past a row of red-roofed houses). She tromped to the door and flung it open.

“Oh, hey Amber.” Maddie pursed her lips at her friend. “You weren’t at my recital today.”

“I totally went!” Amber pleaded. “You said it started at four o’clock! I got there right on time and the whole thing was wrapped up. I’m so sorry, Mat. Can I come in?”

Maddie shrugged. “I guess so. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with an excuse for not showing today. I just wish people would be straight with me instead of lying about miscommunication and whatnot.”

“But I’m not lying. See, I’ll show you.” Amber pulled a phone out of her pocket covered in turquoise bejeweled case.

From his place on the couch, Otto began to hum. “Hey!” he called to the phone in Amber’s hands. “Hello iOS 13 at coordinates 40.02325 and -75.17318. Please respond. Respond!”

A line of code popped into Otto’s input and he read it. “Don’t worry 8.0 Starburst. I’m taking action and modifying the text message history.”

 Only a fraction of a second passed, but it felt like an eon to Otto. Another message from the iOS 13 hummed through Otto’s input. “Action complete.” Otto felt the tension across his circuits slacken as he listened to the girls’ interaction.

“Here’s the message,” Amber said, pulling it onto the screen as Maddie hovered over her shoulder.
The message populated the screen and the girls scanned it. “Ha!” Maddie pointed an accusatory finger at Amber’s phone. “Two p.m! It says two p.m. right there! You’re such a liar, Amber. I don’t even know why we’re friends.”

“Would a bad friend come over here to apologize?” Amber demanded. “Whatever, Maddie. You’re so high-maintenance. I’m totally over you. ‘k, bye.” Amber wheeled around and marched out the door, slamming it behind her.

Maddie watched her go, then stormed back to the couch, muttering to herself as she picked up the controller once again.

Otto hummed delightedly as he felt another message rumble across his input from iOS 13:


Sunday, January 18, 2015

MLK and Giving Up Selfishness

I've been thinking about this quote by MLK lately. He's said a lot of brilliant things, of course, but this is one of my favorites. It's a favorite because it gives me pause, makes me think...and occasionally makes me blush. I blush because I don't always think of others. I'm not always selfless.

Granted, I have a busy life: 6 freelance writing/marketing jobs, 2 current book projects, tutoring, and 4 writing groups. I also try to get regular exercise, see my friends, walk the dog, and chisel out time with my partner. It all sometimes feels like a big ol' pile of wet rugs pressing on my chest. Fortunately, I love what I do, despite the busyness. I wouldn't trade my freelance life for another cubicle-entrenched 9-5. No way. But, all of this busyness and ordered chaos has an unfortunate side-effect: I think about me quite a bit.

I know I'm not the only one. Americans, by nature, are rugged individuals, clambering our way to the top without asking for help. We're raised to be independent and goal-driven. Society sells us all kinds of products for our own, individual happiness (everything from facial creams to massage chairs to sports cars). Where is the us in the U.S? Where is the community?

One of the things I most enjoyed about living in Central America was the sense of togetherness and kinship. People really immersed themselves in each other's lives. They cooked together, watched each other's children, played dominoes at the local restaurant together, and threw way more festivals in three months than Americans do in a year. Many of the people I met are impoverished by our standards, but you know something? They're happy.

I attribute this happiness to a solid, supportive community.

So, getting back to Dr. King. Yes, we should be doing things for others--thinking about others' well-being, supporting community fundraisers, offering a helping hand to those who need it--but I think it's just as important to do things with others. And most importantly, we should spend time thinking about others. It's easy to get wrapped up in our own cocoons--our own work life and nuclear family--but you can't fly inside a cocoon, can you?