Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Latest Adventure - Guest Spot on "The Unexpected Caregiver" Radio Program

On Thursday, December 19 I discussed "Blue Hydrangeas" with caregiver expert and radio host Kari Berit on her program, "The Unexpected Caregiver," an upbeat radio program offering expert advice, knowledgeable guests, and a healthy dose of laughter to those unexpectedly caring for aging or debilitated parents.  Kari is a wonderful host and the author of the books The Unexpected Caregiver and Mental Fitness Guide.  You can listen in here.  Learn more about Kari Berit at

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In Time for the Holidays - "Ino's Love" Now on Kindle

One of my favorite holiday treats is to cozy up on the couch in my living room, by the Christmas tree, with my Christmas playlist streaming out of my Bose Sound Dock, reading a warm, uplifting Christmas story.  This year, I have my own Christmas story to share with my readers - "Ino's Love," a short tale of family, love, and forgiveness.  This story was originally published in Kaleidoscope magazine in Summer/Fall 2009.  It's available on Kindle for just 0.99, and will be free as my gift to you from December 28-January1. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Blue Hydrangeas Featured on Fussy Librarian

My novel, Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story, was recently featured on The Fussy Librarian, a new site that offers personalized ebook recommendations. You choose from 40 genres and indicate preferences about content and then the computers work their magic. It's pretty cool -- check it out!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

12 Reasons to Put Books at the Top of Your Holiday Gift List

Friends and family tell me I’m easy to shop for - just buy me a book or a gift card to a bookstore and you’re sure to make a hit.  I make it even easier for them by posting the titles I’d like on my Amazon wish list well before the holiday shopping season starts.  Books are the perfect gift.  Here are twelve reasons to put them at the top of your holiday gift list.

1.      You can find something for everyone.  There’s a book for every reader, whether a cook book for your new mother-in-law, a comic book for your niece, or a coffee table book for the boss who has everything.
2.      You have a great excuse to spend an entire day at your favorite bookstore.  Whether you’re shopping at the big box store in the mall, your local bookseller on Main Street, or your favorite online store, you can happily consume an entire day selecting books for everyone on your list.  Remember to stop long enough to enjoy a latte and some biscotti at the cafĂ©, or at your desk if you’re at home, in your jammies, well beyond store hours.
3.      Your gift can educate and entertain at the same time.
4.      You can transport your reader to another time and place, allowing them to see a different world without having to buy airline tickets.

5.      They’re easy to wrap.

6.      Books are an affordable way to “wow” someone.  Even the latest blockbuster bestseller costs much less than, say, the latest electronic gadget, and will most likely outlive its obsolescence.

7.      They’re easy to regift.  And regift.  And regift…. 

8.      They come in many varieties, so you’ll be sure to find just the right one to please, whether it’s a hardcover, paperback, e-book, or audiobook.

9.      The small ones, like mass media paperbacks, make excellent stocking stuffers.  So do gift cards.

10.   You can borrow it after the reader’s read it without appearing tacky.

11.   You can support your favorite books and authors by sharing them with others.

12.   You can also support your favorite bookseller, ensuring that books of all kinds are always available.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update

It started out simple enough: Write a novel in 30 days.  Break it down to 1,667 words a day.  Follow an outline.  Use dictation software.  See how far you get.

Well, I didn't get too far.  In fact, less than a week, 10,618 words, and three chapters later I abandoned my NaNoWriMo challenge.  Repetitive strain injuries flared up, and said, "Are you crazy?  Writing like this is not for one with chronic TOS, bursitis, tendonitis, neuralgia, and all the other aches and complaints working on a computer gives you, even with your little tricks like dictation software, and a pad and pencil.  Remember what the doctor said: Respect your limitations."

It's kind of what I expected.  I'm not too upset.  It was a good week.  I loved the adrenaline rush, the flow of words, the excitement when a character comes alive and a story line takes shape, the secondary character who demands to be much more, and the twist I didn't see coming.  It was great exercise, and reminded me of why I love to write in the first place.  The plan is to continue, although at a much slower rate, and perhaps in a few months I’ll finish my first draft of “Swim Season.” 

Here's to all the writing warriors out there, banging away on their keyboards, dragging the words out from deep inside themselves, bringing their stories to life.  See you next year.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Fussy Librarian

Have you heard about the latest e-reader service The Fussy Librarian?  If you love to read, I  recommend checking out their new website

In the vast bibliosphere that exists online, where millions of e-books reside, they'll help you find books you'll love.  When you sign up, you tell your  personal librarian exactly what you're looking for in a good read (I love this because I can opt out of books containing graphic violence, explicit sex scenes, and unnecessary profanity.) The Fussy Librarian then emails you with the e-books matching your unique interests and content preferences.  The recommended books are available on Amazon Kindle, Android, iPad, Nook, and Smashwords.  The service is free and easy to subscribe to.  Just visit The Fussy Librarian.

And if you're an author, sign up for their free (right now!) author service, and register your book on their bookshelves.  It's a great way to gain new readers and increase sales.  You can list the same title every 30 days and a different title once a week. You can also sign up multiple books in one visit. They'll send you an email letting you know when your book's  scheduled to run. At this time, book sponsorships are free. In exchange, you agree to help spread the word about The Fussy Librarian. It's a new site and they're building a new list of readers. So all they're asking for now is for you to share a link to their site on Facebook and tweet a link on Twitter. As a thank you gift, they’ll give you a free future sponsorship to use after they start charging.

I signed up as a reader and an author.  Happy reading!

Friday, October 25, 2013

NaNoWriMo and a new novel, Swim Season

Have you heard about NaNoWriMo? That's short for National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write the first draft of a novel in 30 days.  Yeah, that's right - 30 days.  On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30.  Sound impossible?  More than 144,000 writers have signed up to take the challenge, and I'm one of them.  We can't all be crazy.  I tried it a couple of years ago, but because of my repetitive strain injuries I dropped out in the first week.  This time, however, I'm better prepared.  I'm going to do this utilizing many different types of writing methods and not depend solely on my computer. 
I love technology.  Seems all these gadgets were made just for me - the iPhone, especially one with voice recognition that prints what I say into a downloadable document.  Yes, it will be tedious dictating a book in this way, but since I plan to do it line by line, not so much.  When I really need to pound out the pages I can always use Dragon Dictation on my PC.  And on those days when I feel I can bang out a couple of pages on the keyboard I'll put my butt in the chair and do so.  It's probably a unique way to write a book, but in order to fulfill this goal I need to be creative and use every tool I own, even a pad of paper and a pencil to get this story down without crippling myself in the process.  I've been meaning to write it for three or four years, and since the part of my life it represents is now over, I can't waste any more time thinking about it; I need to just do it. 
The story is "Swim Season," and it's about the new girl on the swim team challenging a long-standing school record.  It follows the high school varsity swim season from tryouts through championships and everything in between, including practice, meets, fundraising, team bonding activities, Homecoming, football games, all that good high school stuff.  It's also full of surprises, like a $50,000 scholarship to the swimmer who breaks the thirty-year old record for the 500 freestyle, donated by the title holder herself.  This causes all kinds of drama for this team and our young heroine is smack in the middle of it. 
Writing this book is going to be a lot of fun.  Here's the first few paragraphs from my NaNoWriMo attempt in 2011.  What do you think?
Aunt Mags didn't say a word on the way to the high school, and neither did I.  It was too early for anything more than, "Got everything?", "Uh huh," and, "Let's go."  She'd run out before her first cup of coffee and was still half-asleep.
It was barely dawn, the moon still high in the sky, the sun peeking out over the horizon.  There was a chill in the air, a hint of summer's end.  I wished I'd worn a sweatshirt, although after swim practice, the sun would be shining and we'd be back to summer.
We arrived at the school and a deserted parking lot.  Mags parked the car by the gymnasium entrance. 
"Are you sure it starts at 5:45?"  she asked.  
"Positive," I said, gathering my gear from the back seat.
She yawned.  "Looks like you're the first one here."
"I doubt it."   
Today was the first day of swim season.  Tryouts started at 6 a.m.  The coach had instructed all wannabe swimmers to be on the pool deck no later than 5:45.  My experience as a varsity swimmer told me that anyone with any degree of competitiveness had already arrived.  I had five minutes to spare.
"Want me to walk in with you?"  Mags asked. 
My horror at this suggestion must have been all over my face, because she quickly said, "Sorry, I'm not used to having a teenager.  My girls would beg me to walk them into that big, scary building."  We looked at the three-storied hodgepodge of buildings put together over the years to house the Falmouthport High School.
"I can take it from here," I said, confident I'd remember the meandering route to the pool area from the tour we'd taken when we came in to register for my senior year.
She still looked anxious.  "Sure you're all right?"
"Don't worry," I said.  "I've got this routine down pat."  This would be my third high school.  I played the role of new girl in school so well I deserved an Oscar.
I opened the door and hopped out of the car.  Reaching back in to grab my bag, I said, "Don't hang around waiting for me to call for a ride home.  I don't know when I'll get out, and I don’t want to mess up your day.  I'll walk home."  Aunt Mags nodded and I shut the door.
"Don't forget we're going school shopping later on," she said through the open window. 
"Got it."  I appreciated her taking me out to the mall more than she knew.
"Go get 'em, Aerin."  She gave me a thumbs up.
I shot her a grin, hoisted my bag over my shoulder, and went off to join the swim team.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Adventures in Publishing - Jessica Dall: Working With a Small Press

Today I welcome my first guest blogger, the lovely Jessica Dall, author of  The Bleeding Crowd, Gray Areas, and The Copper Witch, for release in 2014.  Jessica finished her first novel at the age of 15 and hasn’t stopped writing, publishing many short stories in addition to her novels. She is also an editor, book reviewer, and creative writing teacher.  Here she shares her adventures in publishing and working with a small press. 

Up until I got my first internship at a small press in college, I had never heard that it was possible to submit novels to publishers without first going through a literary agent. Working in acquisitions for a press where 99 percent of our submissions came directly from authors was eye opening.

With the idea that I could approach niche publishers with my work, rather than having to either find an agent or self-publish, I began to expand my net just to see what would happen. And while I hardly had publishers falling over themselves to get to me, I managed to find a lot of success with this “new” third option.

While I never published a novel through the press with which I interned (the editor-in-chief understandably wishing to maintain a divide between their staff and their authors) I have worked with a number of small presses at this point—my third book, The Copper Witch, having just recently signed with 5 Prince Publishing for release next year. Combined with picking up editing work as a contractor for another press and having seen many, many publishing contracts at this point from either side of the process, I have developed my own pros and cons list for what to expect when signing with a small press:

- Pro: You don’t have to have an agent. While having a literary agent isn’t a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, agents fall on the business side of publishing. It is their job to find projects they think will sell—and hopefully sell for a lot. If you have written something experimental, or just not the current big thing, it can be simpler to go to a small press that specializes in experimental or off the wall pieces than it would be to find an agent and big publisher. And, without the agent, you don’t have anyone taking 15 percent off the top when you do sell your work.

- Con: You don’t have an agent. On the flip side of that coin, there’s a reason agents get their commissions. They are able to help make good novels better, and then tell you whether or not the contract you’re offered has bad terms/is a scam. Without an agent, you have to be extra careful that you aren’t getting in over your head/selling your work for a song.

- Con: Small, or no, advances. When going through a large press, you’re likely to be given an advance of some kind (money the publisher gives you up front as an advance on future royalties). As most small presses tend to work on smaller operating budgets, you are likely to not see much (if any) money up front as you sign your contract.

- Pro: Higher royalties. Making up for the advances, however, you are also likely to see higher royalties listed in your contract. You won’t have the money upfront, but if your book sells well, you’ll end up with more money off each copy sold.

- Pro: You likely will maintain more creative control. While I’ve yet to have a publisher give me complete veto power over what cover art they chose, I have always been asked what I picture for a cover before they go to their cover designers. I have also always had a very equal relationship with the editors publishers have assigned me. Since the production is smaller, you will often be much more involved with each step that’s happening as your book goes to print.

- Con: You won’t have as many resources behind you. With a smaller production, however, you also don’t have the full power of the [Big Publisher]’s design and marketing team behind you as you go to print. A small press will still help promote your work (they only make money when you do, after all) but you will not see the same reach as you would with a big publisher.

So, obviously, I have decided the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to working with a small publisher (especially now that I’ve gotten pretty good about knowing what’s normal and what’s sketchy in a contract) and I would speak very highly of my experiences with them. It might not be what’s best for every writer, but it has certainly been what’s best for me so far in my career. And so, that’s just one more thanks I have to offer to that college internship.

Happy writing!

Jessica Dall is the author of such novels as The Bleeding Crowd (Melange Books/2012) and Grey Areas (PaperBox Books/2010) along with a number of short stories which have appeared in both literary magazines and anthologies. Her third novel, The Copper Witch, will be coming out in the spring of 2014 through 5 Prince Publishing. When not writing, she works as an editor and creative writing teacher in Washington, DC.

Twitter: @JessicaDall
Amazon page:

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Signing 101

Book junkies everywhere know the thrill that comes when a beloved book is signed by its author, especially when the author signs it just for them.  The only thrill sweeter is when you are the author signing the book for a grateful reader.  Even in this world of e-publishing and e-commerce, when readers and authors can develop relationships online without ever meeting, the book signing event is alive and well.  Selling books hand to hand is time-consuming and slow, admittedly, but to interact with a reader face to face is priceless.

I recently published my first novel, Blue Hydrangeas, in paperback on September 11.  A week later, I was the featured author at a Harvest Festival at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York.  This venue stands on the site of the original Woodstock concert in 1969, and many consider it hallowed ground.  Thousands of people – locals, leaf peepers, and city folk – attend the Harvest Festivals.  I’d like to share with you what I learned from my first book signing ever.

How did a newbie author with few sales and little following procure such a plum selling spot?  Simple – I asked.  I knew the event, held every Sunday in September, sponsored a local author.  Weeks before, I sent an email to the organizer and told her a little about myself and the book, and next thing I knew I was on their schedule.  They provided me with a space in their craft tent where I worked elbow to elbow with jewelry makers, wood carvers, weavers, candle makers, and other artisans.  They also provided publicity about my book signing.  I saw it on their web site, in my local newspaper, and had people tell me they learned about my book on the radio and on the internet.  The advance notice went way beyond my expectations.  I had posted on my social media – Facebook and Twitter – but their outreach had eclipsed mine, and brought in the crowd.  Lesson 1: Know who puts on such events in your community and ask to be included.  Many venues and events are looking for local authors.  Most will include you in their advertising.

As expected, the festival had a huge attendance and traffic in the craft tent was heavy and steady.  My husband, Lou, had accompanied me for moral support and help setting up my display table.  I had put together an assortment of items to help promote my book.  I framed an 8 x 10 photo of the book cover, bought a lovely framed print that read, “A true love story never ends,” gathered some blue hydrangeas in a Nantucket lightship basket, and, of course, placed a stack of books in the center of it all with a sign that read, “Meet the Author Today.”  I also had, on one end, information about the upcoming Alzheimer’s walk, and, on the other end, information about the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative, the recipient of a portion of my book’s profits.  Scattered across the table were Hershey’s Dark Kisses, because experts say dark chocolate may ward off dementia.  It soon became apparent the table was cluttered and confusing, so we began to pare away the items that didn’t help my cause, which was to attract attention and readers for my book.  Lesson 2: Don’t try to accomplish too much.  Although my intentions were worthy, I needed to keep the focus on my book.  Once people realized I was an author with a book for sale they were able to either move on or engage with me, and not waste either of our time.  Of course, the chocolate remained.

Which brings us to Lesson 3: Engage your audience.  I know this is a hard thing for most people, especially authors who often work alone, but this is not a time to be shy.  People will not flock to your book table just because you’re there.  You need to reach out to them and entice them to come see what you have to offer.  I simply said, “Hi, I’m Marianne, the featured author today,” and those who were not readers or didn’t care for books simply smiled and walked by or ignored me.  The book people in the crowd were quick to come over, because book people love other book people and are always looking for something good to read.  This gave me the opportunity to pitch my book and draw them in.  For the first time, I had the opportunity to gauge the public’s reaction to my work.

Blue Hydrangeas is an Alzheimer’s love story, the tale of a pair of retired Cape Cod innkeepers struggling with the disease.  Alzheimer’s is a tender subject and touches so many lives.  Some people cried just talking about it, such as the woman who recounted the story of her good friend and the husband who cared for her with love and patience until the last day.  Then there was the woman who lost her dad to Alzheimer’s last year and had to walk away because the pain was still so raw she could not speak of it without choking up.  Others were curious about the book and didn’t hesitate to buy a copy, including the woman who lost her father years ago, yet still reads everything she can about Alzheimer’s to further understand what happened to him and what may happen to her and other family members she loves.  I was not sure if those who currently live with the disease would be interested in my story, but was surprised to sell a few copies to current caregivers.

The majority of my customers were middle-aged women, avid readers, with a personal interest in either the disease or a good love story.  Some bought the book as a gift for someone they knew living with the disease.  I had the good fortune to sell a copy to a local newspaper columnist and his nurse wife, and an English teacher from my daughter’s high school that had lost his mother to Alzheimer’s a few years ago.  Lesson 4:  Don’t prejudge a possible book buyer.  We never know what passions or interests another person carries.  The little old lady with the tight perm might be hot for steamy romances while the jock may have a soft spot for sensitive love stories.  To prejudge is to lose a possible sale.

Finally, Lesson 5, the most uncomfortable to learn: If it’s an outdoor venue, pay attention to and heed the weather report.  This day was cold, cloudy, and blustery, just as the weatherman had predicted, but did we listen?  No, Lou and I were under dressed for the weather, and it was tough to keep smiling.  This in itself became a topic for conversation, an icebreaker of sorts that helped keep us busy talking about the book and making sales.

At the day’s end, we had sold and I had signed fourteen books.  I hear that’s a good amount, but, even if not, I consider the day a success.  I met many people.  I told them about my book.  I perfected my pitch.  I learned what to bring to a book-signing event.  I made my first sale, ever.  Best lesson: I experienced one of the perks of being an author.

Other suggestions for a successful book signing:

  • Make sure the venue offers shelter (a tent, indoors), a table and chairs.  If not, bring your own.
  • Take along a small cooler with snacks, drinks, and a meal.
  • Stay hydrated.  You will talk a lot and your throat will become dry.
  • Keep plenty of singles on hand to make change.  If possible, arrange to take credit cards.
  • If you’re outdoors in sunshine, wear a hat and use sunscreen.
  • Provide cards or bookmarks with information on how to buy your book for those who are not able to purchase that day.
  • Listen to your customers whether they buy or not.  They may remember you cared and buy the book next week.
  • Never get discouraged.  One single sale is more than you had before the event. 

 This post originally appeared on The Jessica Dall Blog.

Friday, October 4, 2013

This Year's Blockbuster Movie

If you're thinking about seeing Gravity 3D, stop thinking and go.  If you're thinking of not seeing it, change your mind.  This movie has everything: thrills, nail-biting, suspense, beauty, hopelessness, hope, chaos, control, power, failure, courage, fear, and God. Sandra Bullock gives the performance of her career in a role that reminded me of Tom Hanks character in Castaway. Undoubtedly another Oscar for Bullock.  What happens to George Clooney is a big surprise.  The only thing this movie doesn't have is sex, foul language, and violence (except from flying debris in space), proving that those elements really aren't necessary in producing a quality movie.  You don't want to miss this one.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Something I've longed to see all my life: my book on a library bookshelf. Blue Hydrangeas.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

As World Alzheimer's Month draws to a close free Kindle downloads for Blue Hydrangeas begin at midnight tomorrow through September 30.  If you haven't had a chance to pick up this book now is a great time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Signing at Bethel Woods

It’s been an exciting last few days as the print copy of Blue Hydrangeas finally reached my anxious little hands and I had the opportunity to launch it into the literary marketplace one-on-one at a book signing at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located on the grounds of the original Woodstock concert site. 
As expected, the festival had a huge attendance and traffic in the craft tent (where I was located) was heavy and steady.  Lou and I reached out to and talked to a ton of people.  I introduced myself as the author for the day (BW reserves a table for a local author at all festival days) and described my book as an Alzheimer's love story.  Some people smiled and walked on by.  Others let out a little gasp, "oh, that's a tough one," and leaned in for a better look at my display.   
This disease is a tender subject and touches so many lives.  Some people cried just talking about it, such as the woman who recounted the story of her good friend and the husband who cared for her with love and patience until the last day, and the woman who lost her dad to Alzheimer's last year and had to walk away because the pain was still so raw she could not speak of it without choking up.  Others were curious about the book and didn’t hesitate to buy a copy, including the woman who lost her father years ago, yet still reads everything she can about Alzheimer's to further understand what happened to him and what may happen to her and other family members she loves. 
I was not sure the book would be welcomed by those currently living with the disease and was surprised to sell a few copies to current caregivers.  The majority of my customers were middle-aged women, avid readers, with a personal interest in either the disease or a good love story.  Some bought the book as a gift for someone they knew living with the disease.  I had the good fortune to sell a copy to a local newspaper columnist and his nurse wife, and an English teacher from my daughter's high school who lost his mother to Alzheimer's a few years ago.   
I also made sure to talk about the Alzheimer's Prevention Initiative, to which I am donating five percent of my profits.  The API provides information and updates on the latest news about brain health and connects people who are interested in participating in prevention research with medical studies.  To get involved visit endalznow
It was a cold, cloudy, blustery day and Lou and I were under dressed for the weather, but we kept busy talking about the book and sampling some of the delicious foods available: spanakopita, baklava, hot cider, Philly cheese steak, and cinnamon rolls. The festival is known for its artisanal breads, cheeses, and the best pesto around, and we made sure to take home some of our favorites.  A trip to the Bethel Woods Harvest Festival is always  a pleasant day, book or no book.

Friday, September 20, 2013

They're here! And they're beautiful!

So, my books arrived very late this afternoon and I was sweating bullets waiting for them to get here.  I have my first book signing on Sunday and the books were scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.  When I checked the status of my order with the publisher on Monday I saw it was still in production.  I panicked, realizing it was unlikely they'd make the Wednesday delivery date.  After many phone calls and much anxiety I received word late yesterday afternoon that the shipment had left the building.  I followed the packages' journey online from Rochester, NY to Buffalo, then Philly, Nanuet, and New Windsor until they finally landed in my garage. Whew! What a disaster if they had not arrived today.  As an indie author I am responsible for everything and can only blame myself if and when things go wrong.  I cut it close ordering the books last week but there were issues with the publisher that led to the delay.  Next time, I'll know what to expect and will give myself a little wiggle room.  Anyway, they're here!  And they're beautiful!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Some Things Really Are Serendipitous

Is it a coincidence that I chose to launch the paperback edition of Blue Hydrangeas during World Alzheimer's Month?  Or is it an ingenious marketing method I planned for months ahead in an effort to take advantage of all the buzz about the dreaded disease? 

Hard to believe, but it really is a coincidence, a delightful one.  Those who have followed me throughout this long and arduous process may recall I originally planned to release the paperback earlier this summer.  Yet delay after delay stymied my plans: falling a little short of the learning curve while trying to do it all myself, then conceding I could not finish the project without some professional help; exacerbations of repetitive strain injuries that enforced rest; a serious case of perfectionism that caught minuscule imperfections in the final product, resulting in yet another upload of yet another improved manuscript, and then the waiting for the final proof, which turned out not to be so final.  Sometimes I can't get out of my own way.  But, as things started to really come together, and I had no more reasons to delay, and final publication was getting closer, I looked at the calendar and wondered: Are there any coinciding events coming up that would tie in with my book launch?  World Alzheimer's Month in September stood at the top of the list.

Sometimes things really are serendipitous, and I call these occurrences "green lights," meaning GO! take the chance, dare the risk, put yourself out there, don't stop now.  It's that time for me and this book.  Yes, I know I published on Kindle, which was a lot easier and very satisfying, but my lifelong dream has always been to publish a "book" - a paper book, because for almost all of my life that was the only kind of books there were. So now I've reached the point where I have to let it go, when my book and my dream can no longer be mine alone, and, like the child I've raised and nurtured for years, I need to understand I've done my best and now it's time to share what I've accomplished with the world.  The fact that I'm sharing it during the most opportune time possible is simply good timing, a little luck, my guy upstairs watching out for me. 

Promise me you'll spend at least a moment thinking about Alzheimer's disease this month.  Find one small thing you can do to prevent it from happening to you.  Join the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry at  Take a walk here  .  Make a donation here .

The memories you save could be your own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Out With the Old

Several years ago, when I first began my journey as an author, I visited my local used bookstore and was delighted to find a hefty stack of books related to the craft of writing, publishing, and promoting books for a buck apiece.  I bought the lot, all fairly new and recent publications, and carted them home. 

After unloading my treasures on the kitchen table, I said to my husband, "I can't believe someone gave all these great books away.  I hope whoever it was hasn't given up." 

My husband, a very wise man, said, "Maybe they had success and didn't need them anymore."

I much preferred that thought.

Now, as I peruse my own cluttered bookshelves, I see that a number of the books I purchased over the last ten years or so are woefully outdated. 

Look at what's happened in publishing in recent years: the globalization of the Internet, the proliferation of ebooks, a flourishing self-publishing industry, Kindle, iPads, iPhones, etc.  The digital age has revolutionized the book industry. So occasionally, when I refer to a tried and trusted resource for insight on a particular author issue, I find it's so far behind the times it's become useless. 

Many of the books I own make no mention of the ease of self-publishing online, or marketing on social media, or starting your own imprint and going the independent route.  I need a whole new set of reference books!  Fortunately, most of the required information is available online through ebooks, websites, blogs, and publishing people eager to share their knowledge, saving me time and money, and sparing more than a few trees. 

Out with the old?  Never! As one who finds it difficult to part with a good book, I'll hang on to the best of them while augmenting my collection with the latest and greatest that address publishing in the digital age. A few noteworthy titles:  Guy Kawasaki's APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur; The Facebook Guide to Small Business Marketing, by Ramon Ray; and John Tighe's Crush It With Kindle.

What books do you find most helpful on your author's journey?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Announcing Bunky Press

One of the wonderful things about being an independent author is that I get to start my own imprint.  Announcing Bunky Press, named after my father, Ted Kasica, who passed away 37 years ago and is not forgotten by anyone who loved him.  Here's my logo, and a brief article about my dad, the fisherman, written by my brother Kenn.  Enjoy!  It's a great read.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies

I wish I could say I am the author of that statement, but alas, not yet. 

It was so hot here in the Hudson Valley this weekend I spent a lot of time in the air conditioned indoors doing research on the Internet about book marketing and promotion, and came upon a number of very helpful and interesting web sites.  James W. Lewis' in-depth article "50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies"  is chock-full of useful information.  He sent me a PDF of the article  which will help me to better organize my marketing efforts.  Trying to sell a novel is a lot like climbing a mountain - for me, Mount Everest! - but if you take one step and move one inch at time you can be successful.

I also stumbled upon Wise, Ink, hosted by two editors dedicated to helping indie authors navigate the world of publishing.  They offer a wealth of information on topics writers need to know, especially on twitter, something I'm trying to master.  They also offer editorial services.

Where Writers Win is another super site that helps authors market and sell their books and offers author website training, author-specific social media, professional media training, vetted book review directories, book club sourcing, and all the KEY areas you need to address as an emerging author.  I may join their Winners Circle.

As you can see, authors need to extend themselves in order to realize their goals, and building a network of helpful professionals who are willing to share their skills and talents - often for free  - is a must.  You can't be shy in this business! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Books and Authors Who Have Influenced My Work

About a dozen years ago I was working out on a treadmill at the gym and simultaneously reading an excerpt of Elizabeth Berg's True to Form in Good Housekeeping magazine. Her writing blew me away. As it was always my intention to one day write a novel, I decided at that moment that the time was now, and began my writing journey. I started Blue Hydrangeas shortly afterward and life has not been the same. I also went on to read the rest of Berg's list. One of my greatest joys in life is discovering a new-to-me author and learning that she has a backlist that includes a dozen or more titles.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A (Very) Different Point of View

This week on Literary Lagniappe I share how I wrote from the point of view of someone with Alzheimer's for my novel, Blue Hydrangeas.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Writing Sara's Point of View

My novel, Blue Hydrangeas, is the story of a pair of retired Cape Cod innkeepers struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.  A nursing facility is everyone’s solution for what to do about Sara, but her husband, Jack, can’t bear to live without her.  He is committed to saving his marriage, his wife, and their life together from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease.

Jack and Sara retired years ago to the house of their dreams, and operated it as a Cape Cod bed and breakfast named Blue Hydrangeas.  Jack has made an impossible promise: He and Sara will stay together in their beautiful home no matter what the disease brings.

However, after nine years of selfless caregiving, complicated by her progressing Alzheimer’s and his own failing heart, he finally admits he can no longer care for her at home.  With reluctance, he arranges to admit her to an assisted living facility, but on the day of admission, Sara is having one of her few good days, and he is unable to follow through.  Instead, he takes them on an impulsive journey to confront their past and reclaim their future.  In the end, he realizes that staying together at any cost is what truly matters.

So many readers have asked how I was able to write from Sara’s point of view.  After all, she has advanced Alzheimer’s.  How could anyone know what it is like to live with dementia?

Writing Sara’s point of view was tricky because her Alzheimer’s is portrayed in different stages, from the very earliest phase to advanced disease. 
Fortunately, as a nurse with years of experience working in both hospitals and nursing homes, I had a lot of practice working with dementia patients.  I relied on my interactions with my Alzheimer’s patients to form Sara’s point of view.

Still, I could only guess what was going on in their heads.  So many were unable to articulate ideas, words, memories, anything. Yet many could participate in simple conversation, and made pleasant conversational partners, such as the lovely woman I met while working in a hospital rehabilitation unit who inspired this character.  My interactions with these patients and their families formed the backbone of my novel and the creation of its characters, especially Sara.

But in order for me to actually get into Sara’s head, I had to do some genuine research about what types of cognitive disabilities people have during the different stages of Alzheimer’s.  I read many self-help books, for example The 36-Hour Day; novels, including  The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks; and memoirs, such as  Iris, by John Bayley, and The House on Beartown Road, by Elizabeth Cohen, all excellent books.

An invaluable resource was Thomas DeBaggio’s Losing My Mind.  DeBaggio, a career newspaperman and renowned herb farmer, developed the disease and actually wrote a book while in its early stages, describing what he was going through.  This is perhaps the only book that discusses Alzheimer’s from the patient’s point of view and created a public record of, and insights into, his decline.  His book was very insightful for me and helpful in coming up with Sara’s perspective.

Recently, I stumbled upon another amazing book, My Mom, My Hero, by Lisa R. Hirsch, based upon her internationally popular blog, which confirmed my portrayal of Sara’s disease is accurate.

I also surfed the internet, browsing through such obvious websites as the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and the National Institute on Aging.  I also discovered some other not-so-well-known sites – The Alzheimer’s PoetryProject   and The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry, both excellent sources.

In the end, though, it all came down to imagination, for even after all of my reading, the research, the interviews, and the intimate care of those living with this disease, I could only imagine what it is like to be in its throes.

They say Alzheimer’s disease is the fastest growing threat to health in the United States.  I pray for a cure, and a future without it.

This post originally appeared on Literary Lagniappe.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Today, friend and fellow writer Allie Boniface features ME as the visiting author on her blog's Writers' Wednesdays.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Welcome to my blog

So, they say a writer needs a platform, a social media base on which to stand on and connect with readers.  Here is part of mine.  I'm new at this thing.  I've been a newspaper reporter and editor, and published a few short stories, but only recently joined the ranks of the self-published and placed an eleven-years-in-the-making novel in the literary marketplace.  The story of bringing Blue Hydrangeas to life is a long one, fraught with many tensions and disappointments, including repetitive strain injuries, a stack of rejection letters from literary agents and editors who never read the book, and  a driving belief  that this story must be told. I suppose I am not unique among writers, this is all part of the process, except for the painful carpal tunnel and thoracic outlet syndromes, the tendinitis and bursitis (but this is for another blog.)  Unlike some, I decided to venture out on my own and control my own destiny by self-publishing.  So far it's been great. I'm learning a lot and I love having free reign over my project.  I'm also on my own schedule, which is mighty necessary given my pain issues. Anyway, here we are, and if you've found yourself on this page you must have had a look at my Amazon page or Blue Hydrangeas and are at least a little curious about me and what I've done.  I promise to make this page informative and enlightening.  It will encompass what interests me as an author and relate in some way to my work.  So you may see some information on Alzheimer's disease, or maybe childhood leukemia, the subject of my next novel.   I will share this space with other writers to help them build an audience and to share their work with  readers who might like to find it.  My injuries make it difficult for me to do much on the computer so my blog entries will be sporadic, but hopefully worthwhile.  Please post a comment if you feel so inclined.  I love feedback.  Happy reading!