Spring and Spring again

As I write this, I am waiting for the rain to stop. I am at my sister’s, many miles north of N.C. When I arrived, it was 40 degrees outside, the trees had not yet budded, and the daffodils were shivering. The next day it was 80 degrees and you could see the trees shake off winter as tentative leaves began to bud.

Back home, the forsythia has already traded its yellow for green and the daffodils are long gone. It is like experiencing Spring for a second time in one short week. I’m glad I packed short-sleeved shirts as well as fleece sweatshirts. I’ve needed both.

It took me two days to drive here, and it will take as long going home. But while I am here my sister and I talk, and laugh, and maybe shed a tear as we remininsce. We share our concerns as we sit on her deck and watch the birds at the feeders and the deer, raccoons, and occasional skunk that wander up to get the seeds that the birds have spilled. We brag on our grandkids over a cup of tea or glass of wine.

It is not only a renewal of the Earth as flowers and shrubs shower their blossoms over the landscape. It is also a renewal of spirit.

I know this week will seem too short and over too quickly as I drive home. However, I will bring back with me a renewed sense of connection and a deep acknowledgment that family ties are the ties that bind. Whatever life brings…children growing up and moving away, the death of a spouse, the feeling that things are spinning out of control…there is always the sister who understands because she has known you longer than anyone else on Earth. Who knows your secrets and the things you did when the world was young that you will never tell your kids.

And loves you anyway.

And loves you anyway.

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Book fairs — are they worth it?

First, thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for “Riverbend” in the InD’Tale contest. Today is the last day to vote, just sayin’.

But it is time to move on. As I’ve said before, writing isn’t just about putting words on paper–or in Word file nowadays, although I do know some authors who still write with a pen and legal pad. If I did that, I would never be able to decipher my handwriting!

Me at a book fair. I believe the book I was selling then was “The Lunch Club.”

So coming up is a two-day book fair at a local library. Now here is where a writer has to make tough decisions. I’ve attended some book fairs and did very well. I’ve attended others and sold zero to one book. The trouble is, you never can tell. Do people come to browse and enjoy the free coffee or do they come with intent to buy? And how do you entice them to buy? I’ve offered free candy, book marks, half-price deals, pens, and other freebies. In my experience, people with gladly accept anything free and then walk away without making a purchase. Or they will buy more than one book.

So now I have to make an order from Amazon so I will have books to sell. How many? As Hamlet famously said, “That is the question.”

I guess I just have to go by instinct. No one wants to live with a garage filled with unsold books, but on the other hand, you don’t want to tell a prospective customer that you are out of the book she wants to buy.

Putting money matters aside, book fairs are a great way to meet people. Even if they don’t buy that day, if you’ve made a good impression — a connection — they may well buy your book while they next go  online to choose something to read. And, you get to meet fellow authors and exchange tips and advice.  And make connections.

So in my mind, that is almost as important as selling books. If I break even in expenses, I’m happy.

 

 

Shameless promotion

Dear friends, my novel, “Riverbend,” is a nominee for the prestigious RONE Award. This award is given by InD’tale Magazine for the best independently  published books in 2017. Only those books that received a 4.5 or 5-star award in the magazines’ review pages are eligible. (“Riverbend” received a 5-star rating!)

I would appreciate your vote to get me to the next step in the contest, which  is for readers to vote for their favorite book. Voting in my category is open this week only, April 23-29.

Please go to  www.indtale.com in order to vote. Once you register, you will be required to click the verification link sent to you via email. If you do not verify your registration with this link, you will be unable to vote. This is very important to help insure that the voting is fair and maintains the high quality standards required for this top-tier award.

Books that get the highest number of votes are then judged by publishing industry professionals.

If you haven’t read “Riverbend,” you can read an excerpt at Sandra Z Bruney\read_riverbend.html

Thank you!

Of mice and … cats

Since I am ever eager to learn something new about writing, I signed up for a webinar on social media. Instagram and Pinterest, to be exact.

I had a Pinterest account. In fact, I had two. I guess I should say “have” because they are still there. I lost my password to one, tried to set up another account and was blocked because I am not the owner. Whaaat? After trying to communicate with the site  and getting no response, I gave up trying to post anything.

So I had a vested interest, so to speak, in learning more about it. Like, getting my password back.

The presenter was very knowledgeable and had a lot of good tips. However, I was distracted. Frenchy and Jack were having way too good a time playing with a toy. They were running and jumping. I looked up, trying to see which toy they were so entranced with.

Frenchy and her new “toy”

Then Frenchy dropped it and it ran. She pounced and paraded across the room and into the kitchen, proud of herself.

The penny dropped. She had a mouse in her jaws!

She came back into the den and let it go. Jack chased it, but she got ahead of him and grabbed it again. I was standing over her when she dropped it at my feet.

It was still alive and probably saying its little prayers when I grabbed it by the tail. I took it outside and let it go. It scampered off, no doubt ready to tell its family of its narrow escape.

Judging by the cats’ interest in the fireplace lately, I suspect it had come down the chimney.

So I didn’t learn anything from the webinar. Luckily, I can go back to the site and watch it again. Maybe I won’t be so distracted next time.

Here I go again!

“They” say history repeats itself.  I don’t think personal history was included in that remark, but I’m sure I’m not the only one to find myself thinking, “Here I go again!”

In 2015, a 4.5-star review made “A Question of Time” eligible for the prestigious RONE award, given by  InD’tale Magazine. As the title indicates, the award is for independently published fiction. After getting a 4.5 or 5-star review, the book is automatically entered. In the next round, readers vote for their favorite. After that, the finalists are judges by industry professionals.

My book passed the first round of reader judging. I was not able to go to the banquet and ceremony in California because Jim was in rehab at that time for a broken hip. It was just as well I saved my money, because I didn’t win. The judges didn’t find my story captivating. In fact, I didn’t even get an honorable mention. (Sobs)

That was in 2016. Now I am eligible again for “Riverbend.” Do I dare get my hopes up once more or do I tell myself that I’m up against many good writers, I don’t have a big fan base, and other excuses that will help soften the blow of losing?

Well, I’m going to give it all I can. Here are the instructions for voting:

It is extremely important that you let all your readers and fans know!  We would hate to think a superior quality book lost only because people were unaware of the time limit. Also, make sure that they understand they MUST be registered on our website at www.indtale.com in order to vote. Once they register, if they haven’t already, they will be required to click the verification link sent to them via email. If they do not verify their registration with this link, they will be unable to vote. This is very important to help insure that the voting is fair and maintains the high quality standards required for this top-tier award.

Yes, I know it sounds like a lot of trouble. But it really isn’t all that hard. Go to the link, register, click the verification email, and then vote.

Voting  in my category, Historical: Victorian-20th Century, begins April 23 and ends April 29. Just in case you don’t mark it on your calendar, I’ll remind you again.

If you haven’t read the book,  want to read an excerpt,  or go to the buy links, my website is www.sandrazbruney.com

I’d love to be a finalist again. I’d love it even more if I won, but if I don’t (again) it will be a fun ride.

By the way, here’s the review (5 stars!):

“Riverbend” is an emotionally provocative story that transports the reader back to the days of slavery. The story is well composed and well written, with compelling and bewitching characters. Damaris is often left a disadvantage but overcomes her afflictions with grace and perseverance. Zoe tantalizes with her beauty and antagonistic ways. There is a constant push and pull between Zoe and Damaris and the conflict that Zoe presents makes the story riveting. The fact that a slave has as much power as the mistress is unprecedented and provokes any different emotions. “Riverbend” is a truly excellent novel that will stay in the readers mind long after they are finished!

 

 

Finding your people

Many years ago, when I was flush with the success of being a finalist in a state-wide writing contest, I signed up for a week-long writers retreat at Duke University.

I’d never done anything like this before. I took vacation days from work, kissed my husband goodbye, and set off with high hopes and not a little trepidation. I had no idea what to expect and knew no one there.

We were settled in one of the old brick dorms next to the Duke Chapel. That alone would have made me happy, even if I’d stayed in my third-floor room for the duration. But I’d paid to learn, so I conquered my fears and set out for the evening mixer. 

The dorm I stayed in is on the left.

And after that, everything went up hill. I met, ate, sat in class with, and talked to writers from all over the country, beginners and published. I met authors such as the late Reynolds Price and Josephine Humphreys. Ms. Humphreys sat down at  the lunch table I shared with several other neophytes and showed us the souvenir shirts she’d purchased for her two boys.  I remember thinking, she’s a real person! a mom! and famous!

I called my husband and told him I’d found my people. I’m not sure he understood, but I knew I had found kindred spirits. I felt at home.

If you haven’t found your people, I suggest you find the nearest writing group, or failing that, do as I did and start one. The club I founded with a few other like-minded people has been going for almost 30 years now. We’ve done a lot of things — organized writers conferences, held contests, published anthologies, even produced an outdoor drama for 10 years — but mostly we’ve supported each other in our journeys.

I was reminded of that at our last meeting when we took the subject for discussion, how to handle writer’s block, and wandered off topic to describing our work places and sharing what inspired us. Everyone had something to add and I hope everyone brought something helpful away with them. I know I did. Some of us went to dinner after and continued the discussion.

That’s why I belong to a writer’s club and why I urge you to join one, too. You will find that it’s more than a club. You’ll find your tribe, your family, your people.

 

 

Good advice/bad advice

 

Image result for tooting own horn gif

 

Our local writers’ club is again sponsoring an event. We held a writers conference for several years, but lately we are focusing on more intimate workshops. BUT we are still sponsoring a story-telling event. This will be our sixth year for that.

So I find myself once again doing the publicity: designing fliers and posters, writing articles for the newspapers, posting on websites and social media, sending out email messages …

I don’t mind. It’s what I do. The question is: Why don’t I do the same for my books?

Good question.

I know once a book is published, the author cannot write “The End” and relax, waiting for royalties to roll in. No one will buy a book if they don’t know about it.

I guess it comes from not wanting to be “pushy.” You know, that writer that posts “Buy my book” a zillion times a day on every outlet known to the Internet. Mom always cautioned me not to be a showoff or smart a$$. Well, she didn’t say a$$ but she meant it. We were told to be modest and unassuming. In other words, hide your light under a basket. Don’t bring attention to yourself.

Good advice then when I was a mouthy, attention-seeking preteen. Bad advice now when I really want to gather new readers.

I know I need to toot my own horn and at the same time, not be so annoying people hit “block” on my posts. It’s a fine line and I haven’t found a way to walk it yet.

I really need to sit down and plan a campaign just like I do for our writers club events. It isn’t that difficult.

I just need to  convince myself it’s okay.

 

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