Welcome To My Blog

Ever wonder what it's like to be in that moment between struggling artist and published author? Read on and find out.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stage Two

            I’ve written a book, a publisher has picked it up, and now I can just sit back and bask in the golden rays of my success. Or at least, that is what I thought when I was still a naïve author in training. Don’t get me wrong, no matter how many books I write and get published I’ll still be an author in training, but I’m not as naïve about the process anymore.
            Signing a contract with a publisher only means that you have moved on to Phase Two of your work as an author—marketing. In my situation, there was a relatively short amount of time between the agreement to publish and the release date. Six months would have been plenty of time to prepare my marketing campaign if I had actually started on it when I had the chance. Instead, I waited until my publication date was about three months away before I got rolling with it.
            Had I known what I know now I would have approached the upcoming release date differently. Hopefully, all of you can benefit from my mistakes and avoid them in your own journey as published authors. Here is how I would do it now.

            Celebrate – Let’s be reasonable. Signing with a publisher is a significant goal for any author. Take a couple of weeks to soak it all in. Consider it a vacation from your work as an author and be prepared to get back to work when you are done with it.

            Go back to school – Up to this point the education you have received as an author has been related to the writing craft. That’s great and it needs to continue, but then you need to learn how to market your book. No matter how good your publisher is at promoting their titles they will never be as passionate about the book as you. Pick up a couple books on marketing and spend the first month studying them. That doesn’t mean to just read them. In order to successfully market your book you need to understand how the information you read applies to your specific work. I found Jump Start Your Book Sales by Marilyn and Tom Ross to be the most helpful of the books I studied.

            Create a plan – After you finish your marketing studies take a couple of days and make a list of all the tasks that you will need to do to market your book. Don’t be surprised if some of these tasks cause you to add more items to your list.
For example, book signings seemed a simple enough step when they sat innocently on my list. Then when I looked into what I would need to do to make my book signings successful I realized that there was a lot more to it than I had thought. I needed to find locations to hold the signings and decide which ones were best for my particular book. I needed to contact the locations in advance so that I had plenty of time for them, and myself, to prepare for the event. I needed to come up with a way attract customer attention to my table, to devise a creative way to entice them to purchase the book, and to develop items to pass along to those customers who weren’t quite ready to buy the book. This went from being a single item to one that had over a dozen tasks associated with it.

Get busy – Once you have a plan, start working it. There are definitely some things that will need to be done before you can move onto other tasks on the list. Items like creating an author bio and a list of book related interview questions will need to be done before you start questing for media interviews. Then there will be plenty of research to find actual newspapers, radio stations, and television shows for you to contact.
All of this may seem too much. At times it does to me. But if I want my book to succeed and if I want people to read it then this is what I have to do. One of the pieces of advice I received along the way is to do five things every day. I can do that. I can write and answer five interview questions in one day. I can contact five newspapers about whether they would like to interview me. I can send out five e-mails to companies inquiring about forming a strategic alliance.
So don’t sweat it. Five items. Every day. They add up.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lisa Swinton Interview

            In January, several wonderful people helped me spread the word about The Gathering during my first ever blog tour. Now, I get the chance to be on the other side of the event for Lisa Swinton and her new book.
            Here is the cover description for Fallen Angel.



Antonio does not believe in love at first sight until he sees her fall into a street in Milan and get hit by a motorcycle. Compelled to know if she can return his affection, he becomes Renatta’s hospital volunteer only to learn that the accident erased her memory. Together they must discover her past, present and future. In the way of happily ever after stand her opera career, tyrannical mother, and fiancé. Antonio must win Renatta’s heart before she bends to the will of her mother and marries Marcello. Failure means a lifetime of loneliness, for love at first sight never happens twice

            As part of the Fallen Angel blog tour I had the chance to interview Lisa.

Q: Why did you decide to start writing?

My friends made me do it! I'd never planned to be a writer. I have a degree in Musical Theater. But that part of my creative life went on hold while I supported my husband through med school. Some friends challenged me to write, so I did. It fit perfectly into my life and provided the creative outlet I needed. Writing can be done anytime, anywhere and works well with raising kids. Now I have characters that bug me. Who knew writing would take me so many places to meet interesting people? I didn't! But I'm very grateful to my friends who challenged me and supported me threw. I am very blessed.

Q: What was most difficult part of writing Fallen Angel?

Learning how to write and what makes good writing. That and the endless editing. And then figuring out how to self publish. This is definitely my learning curve book.

Q: Why did you decide to write this particular story?

I spent 3 years as singer in Las Vegas portraying a character named Desdemona. This is the backstory of how her parents met and fell in love.

Q: Can you tell me about your favorite scene in the book and what makes it so special to you?

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Renatta finally confronts her mother about why she chose to rip their family apart so many years before. It shows so much development of her character and there's lots of tension.

Q: Why Milan? What does that choice of location add to the story?

Funny enough, Milan isn't my favorite city in Italy, but it's got strong artistic ties both in opera and in fashion and I needed both elements for this story. I needed a northern Italy location and while the Olympic games brought more attention to Turin (where I lived for a summer) I don't think it registers as quickly with a reader as Milan does. It has a major airport and train station which I also needed. Plus the duomo there is incredible.

Q: Who is your favorite character in book?

Stefano lightens the mood so much and is the kind of BFF you'd like to have hanging around. He's fiercely loyal.

Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from the story?

Even though life has its ups and downs, there is joy to be found and love to be shared.

Q: Are there plans for a sequel?

No. If there were, it would be Desdemona's story and you'd meet Antonio and Renatta with their daughters almost all grown. They have 5: Carmela, Violetta, Desdemona and her twin sister Elisabetta, and Mimi. All opera names.

            You can find Fallen Angel on Amazon. Just follow the link.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Movie Review - The LEGO Movie

The Lego Movie $$$$

100 Minutes
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Farrell.  
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

            I was hooked the first time I saw the movie trailer. Now, I’ve seen the movie and can tell you that it was just as good as I hoped it would be.
            Emmett (Chris Pratt) is your average construction worker in the Lego universe. His job is awesome. His $37 cup of coffee is awesome. The music he listens to is awesome. Everything about his life is awesome. If by awesome you mean totally the same and alone.
            That changes when he finds the Piece de Resistance, an artifact that is destined to save the Lego universe. As soon as Emmett touches it the piece fuses to his back and he is thrown into the middle of a power struggle that will affect all of the Lego-people everywhere.
            Fortunately, he doesn’t have to do it alone. A host of Lego heroes join him in his quest to prevent Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from unleashing the Kragle on all Legos, everywhere. The cast of heroes includes; Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and her boyfriend Lego-Batman (Will Arnett), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), Unikitty (Alison Brie), and Metal Beard (Nick Offerman).            

            The Lego Movie could turn out to be a family classic. This is how I rated it. 

1. Fun – This movie was AWESOME! It’s the sort of movie that you walk out of reciting line-after-line and then laugh about it. I gave it a full MB for fun. It could be argued that it deserved more.  

2. Story – This had a much stronger story than I expected. Thanks to a reveal late in the movie the writers were able to turn a hilarious romp through a toy universe into story with a much deeper meaning. Huge kudos for this. I gave it a full MB for story.  

3. Technical – What stood out visually was the use of Legos for everything. When the characters dive into the water the waves, and foam, and bubbles are all Lego pieces. Okay, I know it’s animation of Lego pieces, but the effect is stunning and in my mind very original. I gave it a full MB for the original Lego-vision aspect.  

4. Acting – What a cast. Will Ferrell does a great job with his dual role. Chris Pratt was great as Emmett. Liam Neeson was hilarious as Good Cop / Bad Cop. Of course, Morgan Freeman was Morgan Freeman. And Will Arnett did a little bit of scene stealing as Lego-Batman. I gave a full MB for the excellent voice work.  

            I know it’s only February, but this is definitely one of the best movies of the year. It’s so good that I need to drag my family to theater to see it. It would be negligent parenting if I didn’t. The Lego Movie scores a perfect 4 Movie Bucks from me. Go see it. 

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Movie Review - The Nut Job

The Nut Job $$$


85 Minutes
Starring: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, and Katherine Heigl.  
Director: Peter Lepeniotis. 

            Since the first time I saw the trailer for this film, I have anxiously waited my chance to watch it in the theaters. What a concept, a twisted take on heist movies with animals looking to score big at a nut store. That’s my kind of movie.
            Surly (Will Arnett) the squirrel is an outsider. He and his rat pal, Buddy (Rob Tinkler), operate separate from the rest of the park community. This means that most of the time they are competing for the same food. Case in point, while Surly and Buddy attempt to rob a nut vendor in the park, Andie (Katherine Heigl) and Grayson (Brendan Fraser) hope to do the same to help restore the food reserves for the rest of the animals in the park. Surly refuses to cooperate in a joint mission where both will benefit. Disaster results and Surly is banished to the city.
All is not lost though, Surly soon stumbles across the nut shop and the plans for a grand heist begins to take shape.  

            The Nut Job bags enough jokes in its 85 minutes to really crack you up. Unfortunately, it fell short of the family classic mark. I think the complex plot and characterization is out of place in an animated feature like this. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it, but I’m not sure everyone will get as big a kick out of it as I did. This is how I rated it.  

1. Fun – It’s a nutty heist movie. That’s fun. There is plenty of slapstick to generate laughs. However, Surly is quite—surly. He is a very unlikable character and that detracts from the light-hearted story that this should be. I gave it only half a MB for fun.  

2. Story – Personally, I like the story. There is character development. There is an amazing array of motives among the cast. In fact, there is too much for a family movie. I feel that what would have been a tremendous plus in a story with adult themes is a drawback here. And I feel that it was a little too predictable.  It earns only half a MB for story.  

3. Technical – It hits all the right notes on the technical side. Good animation. Good audio production. While it probably won’t win any awards in this are it was a very solid effort. I give it a full MB for the technical.  

4. Acting – This is the high point of the film. All of the voice talent did well with their parts. I especially loved Brendan Fraser as Grayson the heroic squirrel and Liam Neeson as Raccoon, the controlling voice of the park community. Acting earns a full MB.   

            I expect that kids will enjoy the movie. They probably won’t care that the plot is overly complex for a family film. Then again, I could be wrong. Frozen out performed it at the box office last week and getting beat by a movie that’s been out for nearly three months is not a good thing. The Nut Job scores 3 Movie Bucks from me.  

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.