Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Beach Witch

A well-satisfied witch enjoying the people walking along the beach front. Cheers!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Family Ties

I'm looking forward to my sister's visit this weekend. She lives in the northwest, and we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like, but she does come once in while especially to visit her daughter who lives near me. 

Sheila and I are nine years apart in age. She always says, "I'm the baby." I expect I'll be hearing that when I'm 99 and she's 90. But, it's all good. When she was born I got to help take care of her. It was like playing with a real live baby doll. And of course as we grew up, she and I became closer and closer - except geographically - because our age difference didn't matter anymore.

This weekend we're having a girl's night out to see "So You Think You Can Dance" with her daughter and our cousin. I've never seen the show but Sheila says it will be terrific. (I'll let you know what I think next week.)

Here's Sheila.

The Baby

The Sibs, Madeline, Sheila, and Kenny - 
a couple years before Kenny died in 2008.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to the Internet Book Fair Blogfest

I'm excited to participate in today's Internet Blogfest. Please click on the link and join in. Scroll down a bit to find a list of all the participants. I have three books to present today.

First, a little something about 
my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On

Leaving the Hall Light On is a mother's memoir of living with my son's bipolar disorder and surviving his suicide. Published by Lucky Press LLC, a small independent and wonderful press, it was released last May. so appropriately on Mother's Day.

I write about finding peace and balance after feeling so helpless and out of control during my son Paul's seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder and after his suicide in September 1999 and about the steps I took in living with the loss of my son, including making use of diversions to help ease my grief. 

Leaving the Hall Light On is also about the milestones I met toward living a full life without him: packing and giving away his clothes, demolishing and redoing the scene of his death, cataloging and packing away all his records and books, copying all of his original music compositions onto CDs, digitizing all of our family photos, and gutting his room and turning it into my office and sanctuary with a bay window that looks out toward a lush garden and a bubbling water fountain.
Please go to Amazon to read some of the amazing reviews the book has received and to purchase a copy. 

Second, White Elephants by Chynna Laird

I reviewed Chynna Laird's White Elephants for 100 Memoirs in August. It is a horendous story of growing up with an abusive, alcoholic and bipolar mother. There are many similarities in White Elephants to my story in  Leaving the Hall Light On, most notably, the author survives and moves on. Chynna now works toward erasing the stigma of mental illness by communicating and educating people about what mental illness is and how it affects individuals stricken by it and their families. Please go to 100 Memoirs to read my full review and to Amazon to purchase this wonderful memoir.

Third, String Bridge by Jessica Bell (just a peek)

Since I just started reading String Bridge I can't really review it yet. I just wanted you to know about it and how much I like it already. Jessica is a talented poet and novelist, plus she is a musician. She has produced a CD of her music that goes along with the release of her book. The book, also published by Lucky Press LLC, will be available on November 1. Look for my full review and an interview with Jessica on November 18. And, please visit Jessica's String Bridge website for more information.

Hopefully, I'll get to browse around the other websites that are displaying their books at today's Blogfest. Maybe some of us will even sell a few books. Good Luck, everyone.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book marketing - is there ever enough?

Okay, I’m on to another marketing project. 

I was overwhelmed and indeed impressed by the numbers of blogs Jessica Bell is going to visit during her two-week book launch blog tour for her soon to-be-released, String Bridge. And that got me thinking I hadn’t visited nearly enough blogs at the time of my book launch. I visited one blog a day for about three weeks, and she’s going to have interviews and reviews on up to seven or eight blogs a day for two weeks. Plus she’s going to have a whole lot of these same folks and more hit Amazon on the day of the book’s release. Now that’s using the network to the fullest, I would say.

With my friend Susan at my book launch 
with Ben in the background

I asked her how she amassed such a list and she admitted it was a lot of work. She reads and comments on all the blogs on her list regularly. And that’s why she felt she was justified in asking them to do this book marketing favor for her.

I know that’s true. Jessica visits and comments on my blog consistently, plus she read my book and wrote an incredible review that she posted on her own blog, The Alliterative Allomorph and on Amazon and Goodreads. That’s what I call being supportive. The goal of it is to sell books and not just one’s own.

As she sees it, we can all play a part in promoting each other’s books. On Tuesday we’ll all get a chance to do that on the Internet Book Fair. I’ll not only promote mine, but I’ll pick a couple of my writing colleagues’ books to promote as well. Come back on Wednesday and you’ll find out which ones.

So now that I have all this information and this need to be a copycat, it’s time to do something about it. Yesterday I started a list of blogs I’m familiar with, and today I transferred the list into a two-column word table with the name of the blog owner and email address in one column and the name of the blog and its link in the second. So far I’m up to over fifty candidates and still counting. I really was surprised how many I have just in my own frame of reference, and Jessica says I can go to hers if they seem appropriate for my book. Looking at her list, I’ve already found several that we have in common.

But that’s just the beginning. I need to, as Jessica suggested, be more consistent in reading and commenting on all these blogs. That’s the hard work. And that’s why I need quite a bit of lead-time.

I had originally thought I’d schedule this second blog tour at the six-month anniversary of the launch of my book, but that’s way to soon. Now I’m thinking I’ll kick it off at the time my eBook comes out – sometime next spring. That way I’ll have time to develop and reconnect with the blogs on my list and the ones still to be added. I’ll also need to set up a plan, after contacting everyone, about whether I’ll provide a guest post or answers to a questionnaire. Plus the blog owners who will review the book will have time to read it.

All that will take a lot of coordinating, so I’m thinking of asking my high school senior girlfriend if she’d like to assist me. I know I’d do a much more thorough and complete job if I have some help.

I think the moral of this story is that it takes lots and lots of time and attention to details to market a book. If I let myself I could be at it all day without any time left to write. I need to enter into this project with time for both.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Logo shirts and prickly cacti

I just came back from a retirement party for Gibby Gilbert, a graphic artist whom I had worked with for years at Northrop Grumman. He is a true character. He always did a great job even though he complained a lot and worried that we’d never get our work done on time for our proposal deadline. He was an incredible asset to any proposal he worked. And when he wasn’t very busy he would walk up and down the halls, and if he had any news or gossip, he always stop by my office to clue me in. He also bought old logo shirts at thrift shops and wore a different one every day. At holiday time, his shirt was always very appropriate. So today we were asked to wear a logo shirt or a Hawaiian shirt, his second favorite kind of attire, in his honor. (I wore a bowling shirt I bought to wear to a fifties bowling party a few years ago - the team logo is on the back and the name of the bowler, Frank, is on the front.) 

Gibby says now that he’s retiring he’s going to give them all back to the thrift shops – I think that’s a great idea. He must have thousands.

It is always great to see my former colleagues. I’ve been gone from the Proposal Operations department since the end of April 2010, though I never mind coming back in the building for an occasion such as today’s or to meet some of the folks I used to work with for lunch. And I must say, a lot of them supported me and bought my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, when I had my book launch.

One of the people I mentored when he first hired into our proposal department came up to me today and said he finally finished my book. He said he couldn’t read it very fast, but now after almost six months he’s done it. And he was happy to tell me the thing that impressed him the most about my book was that he could understand the poems. Since he never was very much into reading poetry of any kind, he now says he’ll look for more books formatted as mine is – a little text, a poem, a little more text, a poem, etc. And I had worried so much about adding poems into my manuscript at all. Fortunately I did. So many people have told me how much the poems I chose to include in the manuscript have enhanced the message of my book, that it makes the writing seem more real and heartfelt.

So, for today, I’m going to post a poem from my book - the poem my former colleague says made him laugh out loud as he was reading. And even if you haven’t read the book yet, I think you’ll be able to understand it.

“You're prickly,” my husband said.
hard to get along with,
and snappish.”
I just stood there, surprised.
“I'm sorry for being prickly,”
was all I could think of to say.

I am never so blunt
when critical of him.
He would retort as he's done
so many times before,
“I guess I'm just not good enough.
You should just find someone else,”
he'd say. And, of course,
I would quickly shut up,

I wonder what prickly means.
Do I hurt to the touch
like little pin pricks?
Do cacti envy my prowess?
Do the cats that roam the streets
and sleep under cars hiss
and scatter when they see me coming?
Do the few stars
that burn through the haze
look down at me in wonder?

Post Prickly

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

If you Like me, what's the point?

My memoir book cover photo by Madison Poulter

There is a thread going on, on LinkedIn that goes like this: I’ll like your fan page and Amazon book page if you like mine. So I’ve been responding to a lot of those requests,  and now I'm up over twenty-five new likes in just the last week. 

But, I wonder what’s the point? Do these new likes translate into book sales? So far, I don’t think so. A few people that I've met through my social networks have said my book is on their list, but I haven’t seen a bump in my Amazon rankings as a result.

So with all this social media networking – over 900 Facebook friends, over 400 Facebook fans, almost 250 LinkedIn connections, and a constantly growing list of Twitter followers, I wonder where it is all getting me. And I find that keeping up all the connections is a lot of work.

Okay, I won’t be so down about it all. I’m only into this marketing game about six months. I’ve got to give it more time. Plus the fact that my book is a hard sell – like my son just said, hard to read but beautiful and powerful. I have to hang on to that beautiful and powerful comment and hopefully lots more people will agree.

Also, someone on LinkedIn just answered my what's the point? question that if he gets just one sale from all the exposure – that’s what it really is, exposure – he’ll feel it’s worth the effort. Okay I can go with that. I won’t be greedy. One sale is sure better than none.

By the way, if you care to Like my Facebook author page, click on the link.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Early Sunday morning meetings and a poem

Seagulls meeting on the sand

Another group about a mile north

Quit Procrastinating

There are just too many distractions
To tempt me away from my work
It’s like having
A devil on my shoulder
Saying, just a minute longer,
What harm could another minute do?
Early on when I first retired
I thought I’d spend hours
In front of the TV
Eating bad-for-me snacks
And I’d blow up like
A bird on pasta.
But it’s not TV
And the chocolate bon-bons,
It’s not curling up on the sofa
With the latest romance
That turn my head.
It’s email,
It’s Facebook
It’s the blog world
That stop me
from completing my daily writing tasks.
Who would have thunk an old lady like me
Could have her head turned
By technology? 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Heat wave reprieve

Today is the hottest day we've had this year, and it's way beyond the end of summer. Though I'm staying inside our well-insulated house and keeping quite cool, I still can't help longing for a nice long walk along the ocean.

As a substitute I've picked out a few photos I took of our beautiful Manhattan Beach shoreline this past year, and I plan to revisit it tomorrow morning before the sun comes up.

 View of the pier from The Strand

 The rocks at the north end

 On The Strand before full light

Ready for the game

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm a new volunteer and I love it

I have a new job on Monday afternoons. I’m a volunteer administrator for the Facebook page: Putting a Face on Suicide [PAFOS]. I blogged a bit about this project last June but it doesn’t hurt to tell you all again – and again – about it. I think it is just that powerful. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending eight hours on a Monday afternoon volunteering to keep the sight up and running and very user friendly.

People who have experienced a suicide of a loved one are hurting. PAFOS is a place to put that hurt and to keep the memory of their loved ones alive. It is not, however, a place to go if you are suicidal yourself. If you are in distress call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800 273-TALK. 

The mission of PAFOS states:

“Every 40 seconds somewhere around the world someone dies by suicide, that’s 99 people every 66 minutes. PAFOS is an ongoing project soliciting pictures of your loved ones who died by suicide. Each 99 pictures will be used in a poster and a video, roughly representing one day’s deaths by suicide in the U.S. Alone. The posters and videos will be posted on the PAFOS facebook page and may be freely used by any person or organization to promote suicide awareness and prevention. The goal of PAFOS is to collect 36135 faces representing 365 days of loss. In addition to the project’s posters and videos, PAFOS will create a personalized poster featuring your loved one to raise awareness for suicide and to promote any mental health organization, memorial foundation or cause.”

PAFOS was founded by Mike Purcell in memory of his 21-year old son Christopher who died by suicide in 2008. Up until about three weeks ago Mike was the only person working this site. That meant his hand was on his computer and on the PAFOS page almost 24/7. I know when I first found PAFOS, he was there for me almost immediately. So he gathered a group of us to take some of the pressure off. Now having a staff of volunteers, he gets to sleep, eat, go to school, and maybe even read a book in his spare time. It is my pleasure to help Mike out.

By the way, Paul is featured in the Day Four video. His music plays in the background. Here’s the link:

PAFOS also made this 
informative poster for us
using Paul's photo

Also, just for your information, the project is now on Day Eight with 753 photos in place. If you know someone who had a loved one die of suicide please send him/or her to:

Or go yourself. Viewing one of the videos is worth your while.

Friday, October 7, 2011

So how many more "acts" do I have left?

This has been a busy week. First thing Monday morning I received a note from my publisher, Lucky Press LLC, that it will submit my book to the ForeWord independent book award competition in January with awards are announced in June. That email definitely got my attention and my imagination percolating about what it must feel like to receive a book award.

Next I received a call from a member of our local American Association of University Women inviting me to speak at its November meeting on the subject of my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On. One of my former work colleagues suggested me. I’ll be expected to speak for about an hour, including time for questions and answers. And, needless to say I happily accepted. We discussed topics and settled on: 1) local help for mental illness and suicide prevention, and 2) how I used writing to help me survive after my son’s suicide. Of course writing or any other creative outlet can help assuage grief from any kind of trauma or loss.

I also had two blogs articles posted this week – besides my normal posts here. One is on:

As PsychAlive says in its About statement: “Our desire to discover who we are – why we feel and act the ways we do – is what leads us to a meaningful and vital existence. PsychAlive was created to assist you in this personal journey by providing a place where people can learn to take an active, introspective approach to their lives.”

And my third post is now up on Naturally Savvy. I have my own blog there now called Savvy Over 60

I’ll post at both of these sites at least once a month.

Never in a million years would I have dreamed I’d be a web journalist at this stage in my life. This work is so fulfilling and fun. It’s as my friend Elizabeth says about me: “she proves that we can have as many acts as we want in life.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The question of the day: Should I have hand carried my book material to Australia vs. relied on our postal services

The Survivors of Suicide Event in Queensland Australia

This has got to be one of most frustrating days. I got a note from one of the Jennifers in Australia that the package containing my flyers, bookmarks, and a copy of my books that I sent for their October 9 Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Association Inc. Mourning Tea event had not yet arrived. And I sent it out on September 9. After checking with our post office, by phone, online, and in person and with the customs office, I found out there was no way to track the package since it was sent without a tracking code – my mistake. Of course who would have thunk that the package wouldn’t arrive after three weeks? So my next thought was to resend the entire package by Fed Ex overnight. I thought, no worries. Overnight Fed Ex would take care of it.

I went to Kinkos Fed Ex to make more copies of my flyer. And then I got my first clue that sending another package of material wasn’t going to be easy. Fed Ex told me right up front they couldn’t guarantee the package would arrive before Monday – the day after the event. And it would cost $108 if I still wanted to go ahead and send it anyway. Needless to say I did not.

Okay, I then decided to try the post office. Well, I called and the post office person told me that sending my material by Global Guarantee could get it there in 1 to 3 days for $71. Good. I proceeded to put another package together – new flyers, bookmarks and a signed copy of my book – and merrily went back to the post office. Once there I was given two long forms to fill out still with the assurance that my package would arrive within the stated time. But when I got back to the window about thirty minutes later I found out I couldn’t use that service with a post office box number. I needed a real address. I went back home and waited for Australia to wake up and respond to my email asking for another address. Finally about three hours later one of the Jens sent me her home address. I then made a new mailing label and corrected the address on the forms I had completed earlier, and went back to the post office. This time the clerk told me the zip code Jen sent me with HER home address wasn’t valid. She told me to call and get another one. Well, I went out to the lobby and sent her another email, and while waiting for her response I googled the address she gave me – it easily showed up on Google maps. Then I googled zip codes in Queensland Australia and sure enough there it was on the list. I went back in line and waited another fifteen minutes for another turn with the clerk. She still tried to argue with me until she realized she was querying the wrong place – it was a Q for Queensland, not an O for who knows where. Even then she still tried to pawn off other zip codes on my address. She was finally successful getting the address information into her computer but once there, the computer came back to say it wouldn’t guarantee the shipment before Monday – not three days but four. Are you getting why I’m frustrated? My fingers are pounding harder and harder on these keys, but I had to get this frustration down on this page.

So the moral of my story is, do not trust the US post office. They lie. And what is more there is no overnight Fed Ex delivery from California to Australia. It just doesn’t exist. And sending it Global Guarantee would have cost $91 not $71. They also lied about how long my original package would take to get there. I found out that the folks at the post office in Australia say it sometimes takes as long as a month – not the week to ten days I was originally told.

Needless to say I didn’t send another package. I decided not to pay $91 with no guarantee that my package would arrive in time for the event. I sent some of my material by email instead. After all this I’m sure I should have accepted the SOS invitation to attend and speak at the event and personally bring my material with me rather than rely on the U.S. Post Office to get it there.

In the meantime please keep your fingers crossed that my first package – sent exactly one month prior to the event – will still make it to Australia on time.