Posted in Books, Career Day, Family life, For Writers, parenting

Please 2017, or Hope Springs Eternal

After a year which wore out its welcome sometime in August, I’m really hoping for a better 2017.

Sure, a few great things happened in 2016 – I took two terrific vacations with the family (Jamaica and San Diego, CA), my near two-year battle with dizziness came to an end, and the Cubs won a World Series but on the whole, hope seemed hard to find.

I grieved for the loss of human beings who inspired me – David Bowie and his art of reinvention, Umberto Eco whose pinball scene in Foucault’s Pendulum is sexy perfection, and for Carrie Fisher, who lived life with such fearlessness, wit, intelligence and honesty that for this child of the 70s at least, she was a role model of both what not to do (the drugs) and how to live. When Mohammad Ali died, I grieved once more for my grandfather who died from Parkinson’s disease 35 years ago. And I grieved for my grandmother-in-law who passed away in the spring.

I grieved for the loss of civility, and for my hometown, the City of Chicago, which seems incapable of stemming the tide of violence.

In 2016, I suffered many professional shortcomings. I expected to end the year with an agent, or at least a contract. I put forth a solid effort, but simply put, I failed. It’s not a good feeling, even though I understand that larger industry consolidations make it harder for a well-reviewed mid-lister like myself to break through that magical ceiling that divides the best-sellers from the rest of us. It’s easy to get down and think about quitting, but then something magic happens.

January first, 2017 is a new day. My calendar is not entirely blank, but it may as well be a clean slate. Today, I will do some serious exfoliation and scrub off 2016. As of this writing, no-one has died in 2017, so there is no need to grieve. No-one has teased my children or been unkind to them. No-one has told me no. Look out 2017, here I come.



Posted in Conference, For Writers, Giveaway, Winter Fairy, Writing

What’s your Swag?

I consider myself a connoisseur of swag.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t love free? As a reader, getting a free book makes my day and I can’t remember the last time I bought a pen.

All of this has made me a bit picky.  If you offer me a cheap ball point stick pen with a cap, I won’t pick it up. If you offer me a smooth writing gel pen, I’ll look at your logo every time I need to scribble out a shopping list or sign something for my kids’ school.  At some point, I’ll pause say “this is good” and check out your website or product.  I will develop a favorable opinion of you and your brand.

As a newbie author with only Winter Fairy to my name, I cannot afford to spend a lot of money.  I’m not a New York Time’s best seller like Cathy Maxwell, who gives out the best swag.  Between kitchen utensils and a tote bag, Cathy is on my mind everyday.  That cheap stick pen from an aspiring author or  multi-published author? It’s in the trash heap.

So how do you find good swag? Here are some questions I used to evaluate potential giveaways:

1.     Is it memorable?  To me – this is the big one.

2.    It is useful?  You want your giveaway to be used, not languish in a drawer.

3.     Is the quality acceptable?  I have yet to find a seller of promotional items unwilling to send a sample item. If you don’t like the quality, don’t buy it., even if the cost is low.

4.     Does the item fit logically with my brand?  I considered Emery boards at one point, but none of my books are set in nail salons. Likewise, a jar opener in the shape of a cowboy boot would be out of place for my midwestern books, but perfect for someone who sets their books in Texas.

5.    Is the item affordable?  Remember to add artwork and shipping costs.

6.     Where will I store this item?  500 bookmarks don’t take up much space.  A box of 500 water bottles will.

7.      Where will I distribute this item?

8.     What is my branding goal?

At this point, I don’t know whether my sticky flags have led anyone to purchase my book.  I am certain they are being used by the recipients and developing my brand.  As more books come out, I’ll expand my swag options and when I reach Cathy Maxwell’s level of success, y’all will come running for what ever I’m giving for free.

So tell me, what’s the best swag you’ve received?