Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do You Skype? Uhhhh...

A radio host wants to Skype with me. I have no idea what to do and twenty-four hours until the interview.

I do know that the software program Skype, recently folded into Microsoft, has been a grandparents’ tool for years. Instead of settling for a weekly telephone call, my friends have been visiting with their children and grandchildren face to face. All they need is a camera on each computer.

I installed Skype on my laptop when my son and his family suggested it, but somehow we have never used the program together. Now I have an opportunity to become proficient. Fortunately, the radio host isn’t interested in seeing my face; after all, it isn’t television. He wants to use “audio only.” That’s fine with me. I find the camera on my laptop harsh and unforgiving. I couldn’t really look like that!
Skype can't be that hard, I thought as I went in and set up a profile, complete with a picture I uploaded from my files. I sent my Skype name to a friend, who then called me using the program. “Hello there!” she said brightly, as her Skype photo enlarged on my screen. Thrilled to be connected, I answered. And then I heard the sounds of silence, and I don’t mean the song.
“Hello. Hello?”
Nothing came back.
I don’t know what happened to the connection. My friend had to leave for an appointment, but she promised to Skype me again later. My mind was all aflutter as I noted the time slipping by.
And then, sitting here all by my lonesome, I realized that the Skype interview isn’t the one tomorrow; it’s the one scheduled for late November. Whew! Relief is too mild a word. This week I have many things to do, and learning to Skype wasn’t supposed to be one of them.
But where is my mind?
I’m still learning to roll with the punches. I want to follow others’ advice to “have fun” during these initial months of author events, and I am. Each signing, each trip, each interview is exciting. Once I’m there, I love it. Sometimes, though, there is such a learning curve.
Here’s my new plan for Skype. Before the November interview, I’ll be visiting my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I’ll corner them and have them teach me. Annie is eight; she probably can Skype rings around the rest of us.

Friday, October 14, 2011

First Bookstore Signing

The setting couldn’t have been better for my first in-store book signing at a Cincinnati Barnes & Noble. The store held a New Authors Night that featured eight of us.

I’d had an event confirmation for weeks, but didn’t know what to expect in terms of the particulars. Would I be seated among other authors at a long table? If not, should I bring a tablecloth? It was October, and with a book title that included “Dracula,” should I give out Halloween candy?

I wasn’t sure how the signing process would work: Would customers buy a book and then bring it over to be autographed? Would there be a line? You think about many possibilities when you’re planning for the unknown.
Joe and I arrived about twenty minutes before the event. Each author had his or her own table, all of them located throughout the store. The tables were square, each with a tablecloth and a sign identifying the author who would be sitting there. When I found mine already stacked with copies of It Started with Dracula, I knew the signing would precede the purchase.
I’d packed my things early in the day: first, the Diva. The store had let us know that we could bring posters, so I carried mine to the car between rain showers and put “D,” as I call her, in the backseat with my collapsible easel. Next, I jammed my briefcase with bookmarks, “Autographed Copy” stickers, a camera, my signing pen, and Static Guard to keep my suit from sucking onto me. I decided to skip the candy, but took a disposable orange tablecloth, just in case, loading the car hours before I had to leave.
I took my time with my makeup and tried to put a few waves in my hair. In getting dressed, I chose my black pantsuit. When in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. I pinned the handmade bat pin from my friend, Anne, onto my left jacket lapel for good luck.
We put the Diva up at the end of the bookshelves nearest the signing table, all but blocking a display of Ken Follet’s novels. Sorry, Ken, but you’ll do all right, and I’m just starting in this business.
My first customer of the evening was a friend, Shannon. Other friends and family members dropped by during the next two hours, and two stayed. Joe stayed close by as well, so I was seldom alone or unoccupied. I met a few of the other new authors, some of whom were from the local area.
Brooke, the store’s Community Relations Manager, brought us drinks—coffee for Joe, water for me—and checked in with us several times during the evening. Just before we began packing up, she asked me to sign a few copies of ISWD for a display she will create based on New Authors Night.
This was the way to have a book signing. The ease of it made me realize not just how well the event had been planned, but also how much my friends and family members had contributed to the evening. As I travel to other communities, I expect I’ll have to transition from socializing to selling, but I hope every signing is this much fun.
Thanks especially to Brooke Edman of Barnes & Noble, 7800 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio, who planned a great event and treated us like we were already famous.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


You might have to stretch to make the connection between this post and the craft of writing, so I’ll tell you why I’m thinking of Kendra Wilkinson today: I have a book signing later in the week, and all of my beauty appointments have come up on the calendar again. Image rears its tousled head, demanding to be tamed.
As a fan of Wilkinson, I’ve been watching the first episodes of the new “Kendra” season Sunday nights on E! television. A former girlfriend of Playboy poobah Hugh Hefner, she went on to star in her own reality show after leaving the popular series, “The Girls Next Door.”
Kendra gained many fans during “The Girls Next Door” and became a breakout star. I liked her because she was atypical of the Playmates who graced the show. Though beautiful, Kendra was also athletic--not just another girly girl trying to outdo the others for Hefner’s favor.
Don’t get me started on him.
For me, Kendra was the standout girlfriend (of three). She was natural and direct; spontaneous and unpredictable; foul-mouthed; domestically challenged; openly sloppy; and full of fun. She had a big heart. Kendra’s uniqueness in the Playboy henhouse made her highly entertaining.
Part of Kendra’s appeal was—is--a Playmate stereotype: She’s a bit empty headed. For example, in an early episode of her show, she asked her mom how to use a postage stamp. When her mother expressed shock at such a basic question, Kendra’s answer was something on the order of, “Dude, I’ve been living in the mansion since I was eighteen.” In the Playboy mansion, other people mailed the letters.
Kendra was told this season to clean up her act, and I think that will prove to be a mistake. Some acts should not be cleaned up.
On the first show she was called into a meeting by her agent and told to upgrade her image. Though she can look quite glamorous, Kendra is most often filmed at home. Thus, she appeared on TV—and in public--wearing baggy sweats, with no makeup and her hair pulled into a casual ponytail.
She was one of us.
She initially resisted when an image consultant began rummaging in her closet, but on this week’s episode Kendra found a designer she liked. I lost count of the beautiful dresses she wore during the 30-minute show as she plotted, in full makeup, to find her son’s babysitter a new man. The upgraded Kendra and her friend the matchmaker were decked out for TV, chatting in a perfectly appointed home.
Though I could barely take my eyes off her floor-length, nautical-striped sundress, I wasn’t so fascinated with Kendra this week. She seemed a bit cautious and--dare I say it?--boring. Admittedly I dozed, but gone were her distinctive laugh and spontaneous curse words as she carefully picked her way through conversations. I missed them. I also missed the sweat pants and running shoes, because the woman who had worn them seemed to be absent, too. I missed the dance in Kendra’s eyes.
Being grown up is okay. Upgrading one’s image is usually a good idea, as long as we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind. If I’m right about Kendra, I hope she finds her best self among those pretty dresses. Better yet, maybe she’ll end up giving the image people a piece of her mind.
Go, Kendra!

This post is dedicated to my Cincinnati "image consultants," whom I love: Tina Elizabeth White at Michelle & Company Salon (hair); Debbie Sebastian at Avalon Salon (nails); and Claude Kayrouz at Identity (face).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Googling What?

Today I was on the Internet before first light, Googling It Started with Dracula even though I’d already signed up for Google Alerts. This is what happens, and I’ll warn you: It’s addictive.
Google Alerts is set up to send an e-mail to my G-Mail account whenever certain words or phrases pop up on the Internet. That’s how I discovered a blogger’s review of ISWD based on my recent signing at Concord University.
The first time I Googled myself, I could barely look. Seeing my own name on the screen was embarrassing, like the day in high school French when our teacher audio-taped each of us and then played the tapes back for the whole class.
It gets easier.
I figure I’ll sound like an egomaniac telling you about my new obsession, checking the Internet for all signs of my book: reviews, author events, news articles, and sales. I worry about that, but remember: The publisher publicizes your book; you publicize yourself. With Halloween approaching, October is a key month for It Started with Dracula. Of course I’m interested in its availability and sales! Of course I want to know what people are saying!
Amazon has an author service called Author Central that reports book and Kindle sales, catalogs customer reviews, and allows authors post their bios and pictures. I discovered Author Central with the help of Pastor Gregory Hunt, whose Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night hits stores Oct. 3. Check out Author Central at https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/landing.
The Internet is the fastest and most fascinating source of information for authors. I found out by visiting my sites that Amazon released my memoir last Friday, notifying those who had pre-ordered that their book was on the way. I learned that a Facebook friend had just downloaded my book to her Kindle. I discovered that my memoir had been inaccurately described as a novel in a local column. This morning I saw on the Barnes & Noble website that one of our local stores has ISWD in stock! Guess where I’m going later today? I’m taking a camera, too.
If you’re a writer and you haven’t Googled yourself or your work, give it a try. It’s part of your job to know what’s out there. We all need to manage our careers, even at 4:00 a. m..