Sunday, February 28, 2010

TEEN POWER-OPTIMISM

One thing I had when I was a teenager, was the belief that nothing could happen to me. I thought that I could move mountains and survive the falling rocks. That’s a quality worth holding onto, the power of optimism.

WHY TEENS GOT IT NAILED

When you are young you have the world ahead of you. You know that there is always a chance to improve – a future. However, a lot of young people don’t even think about the negative stuff that could happen. They focus on the positives. Their focus is on tomorrow. “When I grow up I’ll be this or that.” They’ll also say, “That won’t happen to me.”

Importunely, growing up means getting a reality check. The reality is – you don’t always succeed, and yes sometimes bad things happen to you.

HOLD ONTO YOUR OPTIMISM

Optimism is a powerful tool for success and a fulfilling life. For example, how is it that a kid dying from a horrible disease, smiles at anyone that comes through the door when they have to endure so much pain. What does he has that most people don’t have – Optimism or some would say ‘Hope’.

The determination to stay on course, to stand up when knocked down, to persevere when all odds are against you is called Optimism. Never let it go. Fight to keep it, remind yourself verbally to fight off negativity, self-doubt, and the words of people that don’t get your true power. The powers to stay buoyant – bounce back from any situation, and make the choice to be happy with that decision because you at least fought to succeed.

IT REALLY WORKS – TRY IT AND SEE

I challenge you to stay optimistic. When someone gives you a ‘no’ find a way to make your own YES! When you feel like you can’t win, force a smile on your face, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself to not give up. Remember, one of my main motto’s, the one thing I say to myself everyday. “The word CAN’T means Won’t, and Happiness is a choice.” Guess what, because I never gave up, because I chose to be happy in spite of circumstances and nay Sayers, I have no regrets. Only the awe of what I have accomplished.

Friday, February 26, 2010

THE REALITIES OF PROMOTING YOUR BOOK


Last night was my third time giving my World Building Workshop to kids. Let me just say, when I started the journey of an author, I had no idea where it would lead.

The best part of writing for kids, for me at least, is watching their innocent, thirsty faces light up when you’ve given them some of your time.

There are some other enlightening parts of promoting my book that make me laugh and shake my head with disbelief.

DOING WORKSHOPS

I am lucky, because I have the natural gift of gab. I love people. Talking and interacting with young people is something I’ve always loved to do. Thank goodness for it, because if I wasn’t, it would be a difficult endeavor to set out in promoting myself as an author.

I do a series of workshops and speaks to kids at schools, learning centers, book clubs and so on. My event’s coordinator is keeping me extremely busy. Thankfully, she usually supports my events by being there and helping everything to move smoothly.

Workshops are a great way to meet your audience. I also get tons of feedback from them, and material for my books. One kid even asked me if the world they built at the workshop could be used in my next book.

There is a lot of planning that goes into doing workshops, and as a first time author, the pay is minimum. Usually the event cost more for me to give then I actually sell in books. We even do a raffle at the event and give away books, posters, keychains, and magnets.

However, for me this is a great compliment to my author platform, and I love doing them.

DOING BOOKSIGNINGS

Okay, picture this, you are sitting at a decorated table and there is a line out the door of people waiting to purchase your book. NOT! That is not the reality for a first time author – heck even an experienced author that is little known.

If you are going to do a book signing - and you want to actually sell a book, you have to work for it. That means you have to engage people. Speak up and work them over to your table. Have your one minute pitch ready.

When I went on my five bookstore tour I was extremely nervous. I had no idea what to expect. After I warmed up at the first store, and only sold a measly two books, I asked the store manager for tips.

She told me to walk up to incoming customers with book in hand and invite them to my table. My husband was also there, he has about twenty years of sales behind him, and told me to give my pitch then have them read the first page of the book.

Guess what! It worked! I sold almost all of the pre-ordered books for all five stores. The store managers told my events coordinator to call them for another order, and that they would love to have us back.

Wow! Now, I worked my tail off. I was so tired after that mini-tour I slept for ten hours.

MARKETING

If you are writing and think that your publisher will do all of your marketing for your book you are – WRONG. You should sit down with your publisher, build two marketing plans. One plan should be for all the free marketing opportunities you can feasibly complete. The other marketing plan should combine your publishers marketing dollars for your book, and your marketing dollars for your book.

Start marketing at least 8 months before release date. My publisher made it clear to me that to release my books without proper build up is a waste of time, money, and effort. Boy was he ever right.

Spend an hour a day on marketing, and you will be surprise at your progress.

BOOK PROMOTION IN A NUTSHELL

Getting to the point where people know you and your book takes work. Lots, and lots of work. If you are not willing to do the work, then set your expectations for your book's success accordingly.

If you are willing to do the work, be realistic about your expectations, work to improve your marketing strategies and yourself as a writer…hold on. You may just be more successful at it than you would have ever thought possible.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ebook vs Traditional Book - The Battle is on!

As an engineer I’ve watched closely as technological advances have changed the ways we work, interact, and play. With the upcoming shift in communication technology, ebooks are making a way to becoming a great new product that will continue to expand and change the publishing industry’s way of doing business. Are they ready for it? I think not. Many of the traditional publishers have been around for years, and are used to being successful with their current business model. It’s time though for them to change.

THE SEEDS OF CHANGE

All over the internet I have read about the ebook vs traditional book debate. Let’s face it - we cannot change the tide of progress. When I went to college as an engineer, there was no world wide web. A cellphone was a clunky device that people paid thousands of dollars to use. Now, they have phones that act as mini-computers and more. The younger generation doesn’t even see a purpose in paying for land line service anymore.

I’ve given the example above to prove that e-books are a wave of the future. It will be at least twenty or so years before there will be a shift where e-book sales may out weight paperback – but the change will be coming. I also will note that traditional books will never go away. Not every part of the world is advanced enough to use devices for reading. There will always be a market for traditional books.

Why do I believe there will be a market shift to e-books? Well, because the younger generation is exposed to ebooks, just like they were exposed to dvd players, cellphones, and various other types of technology. Also, kids love new toys and technology. They aren’t scared of change, because the changes are taking place during their lifetime and they are young enough to go with the flow of progression.

EBOOK PROVIDERS

Ebook providers actually make more money when they sell an ebook than they do selling a paperback. Why? It is simply business. It cost very little if hardly anything to allow the customer to come to your internet storefront and purchase, then download a book. It’s instant gratification for both parties. Yet, many consumers are still on the fence about ebooks and don’t want to pay the same price for an ebook opposed to a paperback.

Why don’t consumers want to pay that much? Well because many readers don’t feel that confident that an electronic reader or .pdf file will give them the same enjoyment as holding something they own. I personally think it’s mainly the older generation. I believe my six year old would have different buying habits because by the time he is my age, electronic readers will be dirt cheap and more compact and useful than paperback books.

Ebook providers want a larger profit and to push more product. They drop their prices in order to do so. Why? So they can compete with other ebook providers that lower their price point to boost sales.

PUBLISHERS DON’T WANT TO BE CHEATED

Publishers are also in this to make money. I believe that they are only just beginning to take the ebook industry seriously. Now that they have, they are trying to hold on to their current profit levels and pricing point per book.

Publishers release books in stages, and hope to continue to gain top dollar for each rollout product. If consumers can get the book about 30% cheaper buying an ebook, then over time (let us say 15 years or so) the price point of books will change. Therefore, consumers may purchase the cheaper ebook instead of the more expensive paperback. Consumers that don’t have access to technology or readers will still consume paperback books.

Some people say, I would never buy an ebook over paperback. Well, let me ask you a question – If someone purchased an electronic reader for you as a gift, and you are book shopping, and the paperback cost $5 more than the electronic book. Which would you buy?

Over time consumers – who are looking for a deal – will expect that an ebook will cost $9.99 or less. Therefore changing public opinion of what a book is worth overtime. This cuts into the long-term profit potential of the publisher.

MY OPINION

I believe that in the end, larger publishers will have to rethink their price points if they want to stay competitive. The market will dictate their overall price. Small publishers are more willing to take the price point slip in order to make a profit – any profit on the sales of their books. Also, it’s much cheaper to produce, store, and disseminate ebooks. With the technological age and the of consumer buying habits, I believe price competition will drive the big boys down. In the end the ebook providers will win. The publishing industry definitely should retain the rights to price their product, and I am happy that his rule still stands.

The ebook providers have been internet product pushing and marketing for a long time. They know what price point sells their goods. In the end, they will set the price that consumers are willing to pay, even if they have initiate a sale that slices the items price in half. Why? Because they also want to make a profit and realize that to do so is to price the item to sell.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

TEEN PREGNANCY – Taboo

With shows on MTV about teens having babies, how can I not tackle this issue with some insight? I am the product of a teen pregnancy. Although it happened in the late 60’s, it was still frowned upon. Now truth is - teen pregnancy has been around forever. Even the bible refers to it, and makes one wonder just how old Mary was when she gave birth to Jesus.

WHY TEENS SHOULD NOT HAVE KIDS

When I watch MTV they seem to glamorize teen pregnancy by putting on the screen teens that have the support of their parents and family in making the decision to have their kids. The realistic point of view that I grew up with was not so pretty. Many times I was warned if I got pregnant – I’d be kicked out in the street, and have to live in a shelter. I was luckier than many of my friends who had teen moms. I had an awesome great grandmother who was the standing rock in my life. However, I had to grow up as my parents made mistakes that teens usually made. This hard lesson showed a mother who dated abusive men, and a father who was addicted to drugs while chasing many women.

Today both parents have matured. My father kicked his habits and settled down with an awesome woman. My mother grew up and became a loving grandmother to my kids.

Were we all scarred by this experience? – YES! I grew up way too soon. Lucky me- I always held onto my positive spirit – but it was a fighting spirit. I grew up raising my brother, staying locked in an apartment in a not so good part of town since the age of 4yrs old with my mother working two jobs to make ends meat.

Many people don’t get that about me. They can’t figure out why I’m not one angry chick with lots of baggage. Well, I have been angry – I do have baggage. Only thing is – now I see that as bad as I thought my parents were – they with the help of their family raised a pretty tough, loving, and well adjusted person. Also, the anger I had, I put it behind me - way behind me. I realized that the consumption of anger was like a pain that ate your soul. I decided I wouldn’t hold onto pain – so the anger had to go.

I look back now and thank my mother for the things she did for me. She never had men coming and going in the house – different men that she would make me call dad – like many of my friends teen moms did. My father, had taught me what drugs can do to a person. In his moments of keen reasoning he would tell me why I should never even sample it. I would look at him with only the love a daughter could have for a parent who was messed up – and say to myself “There ain’t no way I’m gonna try that stuff!”

HOW DOES IT HAPPEN?!

Well let’s face it – teens think they are infallible and impulsive. How do I know this – because I was a teen once. I also have 2 teens living in my house right now. Now the excuses for not using birth control are obvious (and I hate to admit that adults still use these same excuses ). It makes me sick – It spoils the mood – she said she was on the pill – that’s a girls problem – He told me he was clean – I didn’t have nothing on me – the codom broke – it’s not mine – it was too dark I thought they were wearing something and the list goes on.

WHEN IT HAPPENS ANYWAY

I’ve witnessed my sister in law and niece have teen pregnancies. I even pondered what I would do if it happened to my kids. I say bring the kid into the world and deal with it. Whether you put it up for adoption, struggle through trying to keep it, or get help from family to raise it. In the end, everything in life seems to work out the way it’s gonna. It’s up to you to learn, grow and strive beyond it.

Just because a teen has a kid, doesn’t mean their life has to end. It means it changes. They have to grow up. Work harder to become what they want and need to become for that little life that didn’t ask to be bought here. No more parties, no more friends, no more fun – and in most cases – no more boyfriend for the girls left in these situations.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Movie Review Wolfman – Past and Present

I’m about to give away my age here, but I saw the old version of the Wolfman when I was a kid. I didn’t really care for it then. I liked a little more gore as a teen and let me tell ya…the modern day Wolfman delivered the gore.

One of the things I liked about the movie was the setting. It was dark, grainy and gave the feeling of doom and danger – loved it! Now I must complain about special effects. Don’t get me wrong overall they were good, but – yep there is a but…why didn’t they make the Wolfman look more fierce. They had all these great special effects of him changing, then he changes and it’s like – blah…a wimpy looking werewolf.

The storyline was okay – kinda like the Bram Stoker’s Dracula…dramatic yet entertaining but kinda – umm – boring.

Now I give this a 2.75 out of 5 stars because I think the story could have been less predictable, and I was extremely disappointed in the end result of the wolfman’s werewolf looks.

If you want a comparison to the old movie, it was similar. Yet, much better because there was a good amount of gore.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Percy Jackson and THE LIGHTENING THIEF (Movie/Book Review)

Okay, first let me start with saying I love adventure movies. I get it that you can’t fit all the details of a book into an itty bitty 1.5hr movie. So if you’ve read the Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan and you are expecting all the adventures and storyline to be the same in the movie that you’ve read in the book – you are in for a surprise. Not a good one.

THE MOVIE

The movie was rather good. It had a kid turned hero. It had great strong sidekicks that helped him out in a jam. It had conflict and a Mission. Percy Jackson didn’t realize that he was the son of Poseidon – the god of the sea. Yet he finds out as a victim of circumstances when he is thrust in the middle of a battle between Zeus, Hades and Poseidon as he is falsely accused of stealing Zeus’ lightening bolt.

This movie was action packed, had great special effects and for my husband, oldest son, and younger two kids this was a top notch 4 star movie. For my daughter and I who’d read the book, we rated it only 2.75 stars because the storyline was drastically changed from the book. Major plot points were squished together for me and the biggest twist was that they didn’t have to change it. But to be fair – it was still a ride. I will definitely be buying it in dvd, because it’s a keeper.

THE BOOK

I loved this book because I write with the same purpose in mind that Rick Riordan wrote this one – to show kids that they are empowered. Percy is the odd kid out. Picked on in school even after he goes to the demi-god camp he is an outcast. Yet Percy never gives up. He wines about his plight as any kid does, but he consistently keeps fighting for his true goal – to save his mother and to find the lightening bolt. This is where the movie and book differ. In the book Percy’s obvious desire is to find the lightening bolt, but his secret desire is to save his mother. He also desires the love of his father and his father makes a public display of claiming him as his son while Percy battles in the ‘capture the flag’ game.

Also, in the book there were many more challenges that Percy and his friends had to conquer. They were constantly being mislead by other gods and minions who had different reasons for kicking them off their path to find the lightening bolt.

The book in my personal opinion was much, much more exciting than the movie.

So after you check out the movie – definitely pick up the book. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book Trailer for THE PACK

video

Let me know what you think.
Click on this YouTube link if it doesn't come up for you.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_u2eq_RDgk

Sunday, February 7, 2010

HOW DID I WRITE EXPLORER X – ALPHA

It all started on a long car trip to Florida . My husband, kids and I were on our way to my ‘ Happy Place ’. Ok, I’ll admit it. I am still a big kid. I love to play, and imagine.

Anyway, while on this long drive, my husband turns to me and says, “You should write a book. You loved to write when we were younger and you haven’t written since.”

I thought about what his said and replied,” Well, I did try to write that one book, but it was boring and didn’t keep my interest.”

Then he told me,” You should write science fiction. You like it, and you work in the IT field. That way you have no boundaries, you create your own.

That was a pivotal point in my writing career. He told me to think up something and share it with him. Well, let me tell you a little secret about my husband. He is a big science fiction fanatic, and has comic books, graphic novels, watches it and breaths it. It was the ultimate challenge, because I knew that he is a very opinionated person that would not hold back his comments to save my feelings.

I pondered over it so much that I ended up dreaming up Aadi that night. I saw his face, is mischievous smile and thought. “What is your story?”

The next day I thought about Aadi while at a traffic light, and thought up his adventure, by asking myself, what adventure would I want to do?

Well after Aadi whispered his idea to me, I was ready to write about him. Later that day, wouldn’t you know it, my husband asked me about my story idea.

I told him, that I had an idea about a boy who’s parents force him to go to space camp only for him to discovered that he was being experiemented on so that he could go to any planet, adapt to it, then dominate it. The best moment I can think of was when my husband’s face broke out into a grin and he said, “Write that!! I haven’t read anything like that before.”

My writing process is always evolving, and since this was my first completed novel I had a lot to learn.

I just started to write, and after I wrote the first sixty pages (which I wrote single-spaced, Times Roman – 10pt) I realized that I needed to take a step back and organize my thoughts.

This is how I wrote Explorer X-Alpha.

CREATED MY SHORT SYNOPSIS

Initially, I wrote a paragraph synopsis of the book. I didn’t want to forget anything I thought of when I came up with the story. Lots of writers do this and this is the first thing to do when you have an idea for a story.

OUTLINED IT

After trying to write it without an outline, I realized that Aadi’s journey was a lot more complex than I thought. I sat down and outlined the entire story. Then it hit me.

REFLECTION

After I completed the detailed outline, I realized I needed to build a new world. Further define my characters, and reformat. I realized that most authors write in 12-pt, Courier and double-spaced. I also found out that I had a word limit.

At that point I knew, EXPLORER X, would be a five book series.

BUILD SHRENAS ( World Building )

World building is one of the best treats for me with science fiction. I have no real bounds, and can create a world any way I like it. Well for EXPLORER X, I drew a picture of the world. I did horrible sketches of the beings and the animals I needed. Then I jotted down notes and rules about the world I wanted Aadi and Eirena to land on. If you want to know more about how I world build check out my blog, I did a detailed blog about world building.

EDITING – TAKES FOREVER

Editing, the final frontier. Remember all of those English classes where you write a paper, and the teacher makes you re-write it at least twice. Well, authors have to do this a lot.

I edited it, and changed it myself about three times. Then I sent it out to ‘Beta-Readers’ who reviewed it, and gave me back comments. I then edited it again two more times. At that point, I joined a Science Fiction Writer’s critique group at the Writer’s Center near my home. It was the most useful experience of all.

After the critique group, I edited it again. Even sent it to an editor for review. Then I started sending out letters to try to sell it to Literary Agents, and publishers.

OUTLINING THE COMPLETE SERIES

After I wrote the first book EXPLORER X – Alpha, I was advised by seasoned authors to start writing something new. Well, I had to get this story out of my head and on paper. I took several months to outline in detail the remaining four books of the series. I can’t wait to write them.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

TRUE FRIENDS AND USERS

I’ve read lots of books, seen tons of movies about kids and adults who become the stuckie for some popular kid. The stuckie usually gets to be the one to give everything to their ‘star friend’ and they always get the short end of the stick. I always wonder if the kid ever grows out of that co-dependency. I like to think that some do.

HOW TO KNOW WHEN GIVING TURNS TO USING

As a kid, I had a serious candy habit. I would buy a pack of Now and Later’s every day after school. They only cost about ten cents a pack and I would use my fifty cent allowance on them most of the time. My favorite flavors were watermelon and green apple. Funny thing was – that was everyone’ favorite flavors too.

The only time I could eat the candy was during recess. I tried all kinds of ways to conceal them as I would sneak one of the twelve pieces into my salivating mouth. I swear to you, each and every time I broke open the package kids across the play yard heard it.

They would come running – kids that laughed at me, teased me, threatened to beat me up and that I frankly didn’t like. They would beg, tell me they would be nice to me, and then snatch my candy.

As I got older things changed. I had friends that were so nice to me, only to find out that behind my back they were making moves on my boyfriends or saying hateful lies to people who were getting to know me. These ‘friends’ would take my kindness and thirsty desire for friendship and twist it to their personal gain.

WHEN YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A TRUE FRIEND AND NOT A USER

True friends – I’ve been blessed by many. In that I’ve been lucky. A true friend gives as much as they take. When you are in a jam and need their help, they try within their power to help you. They support you, and see your successes with pride, knowing that you are truly grateful for their support. They don’t keep taking with the expectations that you give. When you do give, they are sincerely thankful – and they tell you so.

WHEN TO SAY ‘NO MORE!’

If you have a ‘friend’ that has taking your kindness as a form of weakness, and you find that they are using you, take matters in hand. Meaning if you see that you are the only one giving and they never give back, they just take, take, take – then treat you as though you should be happy to give to them, you’ve got a user on your hands. You need to stand up for yourself and let them know what they are doing.

One bit of advice my Nana gave to me that has stuck with me all of my life, “No one can do to you – anything that you don’t allow them too.” Which means when you find that someone have pushed you too far – let them know it – and follow up with actions not just words.

Monday, February 1, 2010

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF A YA WRITER

I am participating in a panel of YA authors to discuss the responsibility of the author in writing for the younger generation. The issue at hand is that YA authors fall into two different camps in reference to what impact their writing has on teens. Issues like bulimia, cutting, sex, and suicidal tendencies to name a few taboo items affect teen thoughts. Therefore, it is believe that authors should write about these topics responsibly.


NO VIOLENCE OR RESPONSIBLE VIOLENCE?

Well, some authors have written books that contain violence that includes hunting and killing other kids, like Hatchet or Lord of the Flies. Was it needed for the story? Well some people believe so.

I believe that in the world we live in (at least the one I grew up in) violence is real and active. Although, some people have never had it invade their personal space, most kids and adults have. Kids, in my opinion, are smart and intuitive to their environment. In most cases have heard news stories that confirm the violent nature of man, and they have become somewhat desensitized to it.

When I wrote my MG book Explorer X – Alpha my 8yr old and 12 yr old beta read it. They told me not to hold back. They wanted the details of the character’s struggles. When parents read Explorer X – Alpha, I got responses like, “All the kids do is fight. How come the kids couldn’t find another way to solve their problems? Why did the kids become so violent when they played the video game simulations?”

My answer to them was…did you ever see a kid play a video game? They have no inhibitions or sympathy for their opponents. Heck, my husband annihilates our kids when playing video games with them, and I feel like a lamb to slaughter when my 6 year old cons me into playing with him.


NO SEX?

Alright, in writing my upper YA novel I struggled with how to write intimate scenes for the young main character. I personally don’t see the point in added sex if it doesn’t progress the story. Yet, when I was a kid, I remember reading stuff that wasn’t YA and I skimmed over the sex parts without embarrassment.

Let’s face it. Some kids are sexually active. Heck, their bodies are revved up on hormones that make them think about the opposite sex all the time. These are issues they don’t mind reading about. However, in a YA book my personal thoughts are – keep it tasteful.

NO TOUCHY SUBJECTS?

Some would ban subjects like suicide, cutting, and drugs. These are real issues that our kids deal with on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if they are in the inner city or in the suburbs all of these things happen, and they probably know someone that is dealing with these issues.

Should a YA author romanticize these things. My opinion – they should not. But (yes there is a but) in cases where they want to show the perspective of a youth caught up with these activities in order to move the story forward then it makes sense.

For instance, a drug addict, is in love with their drug of choice. If you ask any of them they will talk like that drug is the better than sex or anything. Why do they do that? Well, because they are hooked on it. A writer would want to address this realistically.

MY THOUGHTS

I personally believe that YA authors should write about what kids are struggling with or dealing with. I don’t believe they should be responsible for the censor of books. A parent should censor what they want their kids to read. Also, let’s be honest – most parents don’t care what their kid is reading – just that their kid is reading.

Also, when I was a teen reader – I didn’t just read YA. I also read adult books. I would bet that most teens today do this also.

Lastly, the YA author isn’t the only one that reviews books for distribution. The process of writing a book, getting an agent, then a publisher, and lastly an editor vets the novel before it ever gets to the shelves.