Monday, December 22, 2014

A Christmas Letter to My Mother

Two Christmas’s ago, we almost lost my mother to liver failure.  She endured many battles with her demons for quite some time and sadly, those demons won the final war.  If you saw my mom around this time two years ago, you wouldn’t have even recognized her.  She resembled more of a zombie, often incoherent, mumbling, shaking and at times, bedridden.

On Christmas Day, when I returned home from spending time with her at her house, I knew in my heart she was going to die within the next month.  She had been on the waiting list for a liver transplant for a year and this is the same amount of time the doctor gave her to live unless she received this incredible organ from an organ donor.

On December 26th, 2012, the very next day after that dismally bleak Christmas, God bestowed His Christmas miracle onto my mother.  She received a phone call from Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, New Jersey and was given the life-saving transplant she needed in order to continue her legacy here, with us.

Today, I am going to share a letter to my mother as part of my “no materialistic gifts for Christmas” by affording others with honor.  In doing so, we lift people up with our words instead of our wallet.  As writers, words are our strength so we should use them in accordance with the passion of our creativity and hearts.

I hope this can inspire you to write a letter to a loved one or friend expressing how much their presence means to you.  Fellow blogger, Joy Ezeka, also contributed to my inspiration with her "A Letter to My Son."

Dear mother,

With the rolling of tides and their eroding memories, yours radiates from my meandering mind.  I tend to stumble around my head from time to time and even though these images are often different, one thing remains the same; you have always lifted me up to the highest of heights toward the brightest of stars.

In doing so, you have managed to make me feel like those stars I have reached for in the sky.  You pushed me to be the best I could be while conquering all of my ventures with love, grace and compassion.  You taught me to admire and show love toward others, no matter the race, color, or creed.  You encouraged me to befriend the underdogs and protect my family and friends.  You have always had my back and never let anyone or anything hurt me by taking away the light you helped generate from within.

I’ve had many ups and downs with father figures, especially when Daddy C passed away.  But one thing has been a constant; you never allowed those ups and downs bring ME DOWN.  Instead, you became both my patron and best friend; the one person I could always count on to be at my graduations, birthdays, and other milestones.  It didn’t matter if neither of my fathers were in the crowd.  As long as I saw your brilliantly beautiful and charismatic face cheering me on, my contentment was more than fulfilled.

Mom, you are one of the kindest and most giving people I have been blessed to have in my life.  And to have you as my mother has been the greatest gift God has given me.  We might not have had a lot of money growing up but you managed to make my life as comfortable and warm as can be.  You worked several jobs to keep our family afloat and I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of your self-sacrifices and dedication.

You have an amazing soul and it emanates through all of the wonderful things you do for our family.  I believe God saved you because he had a different path planned for you other than the one you were previously struggling to find.  You may have made mistakes in the past but you refuse to let them define you and the beautiful person you are today.

I love you mom.  Merry Christmas.




I hope you all have an amazing holiday filled with joy, laughter, gratitude and love.  Merry Christmas!


Monday, December 15, 2014

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Last week, I talked about pushing the sales of our books.  Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIn, word of mouth, hiring a PR firm, or the countless other ways to generate interest, what has worked the best for me has been word of mouth and the PR firm.  As long as you have a good product represented by some fantastic reviews, word of mouth seems to keep our sales afloat.

Today, I am going to dive deeper into Twitter.  I had no idea what Twitter even meant until I attended a publishing seminar led by bestselling author and pitch leaders, David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut.  They are both married, to each other, and taught me more in one seminar than I would have learned on my own researching for months.
I also bought their book, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published:  How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It... Successfully.  I like to think of this book as my "publishing bible."  Whether you are going to self-publish or pursue the traditional route, this reference will lead your passion to a better suited destination.  I highly recommend reading it.

During the seminar, Twitter was brought up because of its power and substance not only within the world wide web, but also within its ability to connect people with one another.  For example, without Twitter, I would NEVER have met one of my “author besties,” K Sentek.  She is a fellow children’s book author who I decided to follow because at the time, she was following one of my favorite children’s authors, Karma Wilson.  Without Twitter, I would never have met her or some of my other author friends who have bought my book, provided reviews and have showed incredible support.

Twitter also has the potential to help spread word about our books.  But how often do you tweet about your book?  Once a day?  Once every hour?  Once every 30 minutes?

I have yet to sign up for an automated Twitter service which allows me to have more free time for myself instead of going through all of my Twitter notifications, one by one, or copying and pasting my tweets while trying to tweet at least once every hour or so.  I know some authors like the automated services so their tweets go out as they schedule them.  They can also schedule retweets for other authors and writers who retweet for them. 

But do all of these tweets really help the sales of our books?  Yesterday, I had 25 people (mostly authors) retweet a link I shared for my children’s book.  Normally, I average anywhere from 5 to 30 retweets, depending on how often I have retweeted for them.  Even after 25 people retweeted my link and shared it with their followers, not one book!  Not one sale. 

So what am I doing wrong?  I like to think my phrases engender interest and are enticing to my followers and fellow retweeters' fan base.  I always say something captivating or endearing while trying to reach the types of readers who will purchase books that rhyme and have powerful messages, beautiful illustrations, and memorable storylines. 
One way I have found helpful was to reach out to my target audience.  Since my children’s book centers around outdoor play and imagination, I rummage through Twitter land, trying to stumble upon the hidden treasures who are advocates for nature and the great outdoors.  Although this can be quite time consuming,  it has proved to place my children’s book into the hearts and hands of this group.  Again, finding these people can be a pain, especially since a lot of them hardly check there notifications as much as we do.
I like to believe there are still children and adults who value outdoor play and imagination rather than having their minds constantly stimulated by technology or video games.  My school author visits always provoke an appreciation for imagination and outdoor play which is why I will continue to use word of mouth and recommendations to help my business grow.
So what works with Twitter?  What doesn’t?  Have you established new friendships with other authors or writers through Twitter?  How often do you tweet?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pushing Sales For Our Books

Between all of the hustle and bustle of this time of year, my mind is like sea foam fumbling for the next wave of thoughts to come.  The only time I can concentrate is in the wee hours of the morning when the world is still sleeping and I am at my computer desk typing away.
But this season has been terribly difficult for me to juggle all of the tasks bouncing in and out of my head.  My boss has taken three long trips within the last two months, leaving me drowning in overtime.  The waves just keep coming and my arms and legs are growing weary of staying afloat.   


With that being said, it is Christmas time, and like many of my fellow authors, we have products to move.  And I don’t mean placing them on the kitchen countertop and then moving them over to the dining room table.  I’m talking about moving them from websites like Amazon and and placing them into the homes of our consumers.  Or, if you strike gold, physical stores like Barnes and Noble and the thousands of independent bookstores across the country will stock your book resulting in the banking of sales.

Besides Twitter and my school author visits, I have become lazy.  I know!  Shocker.  But please, bare with me.  For the past two years, I have been putting myself out there, traveling to different independent bookstores in hopes they would stock my self-published children’s book.  Three bookstores were successful in purchasing my book and then slowly, I dismissed these ventures.  I’ve also been networking with teachers and principals so I can either set up school author visits or volunteer to work with kids who need guidance with their reading and writing.

This is one of my books signings at The Book Garden.  My children's book is in the background=)
Twitter, SheWrites and Google Plus has been a fantastic way to meet new people and establish relationships which I never would have stumbled upon before.  Thanks to social media, I have built a support system which I am grateful for every single day.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of my author friends outside of social media during book signings and fairs.  We’ve even stayed in touch and do things outside of book stuff.   

So it is extremely important to build a foundation for our work, even if that doesn’t just mean sales. We offer one another advice through our blogs and emails as well as give each other honest reviews for our work.  This is very important, especially within this industry and its boundless sea of heartaches, triumphs, and endless hunger to feed our passion.

Now that the relationships are established, how do we make sales?  Our fellow authors and family are usually on the front line to buy our books while showing the support we need to survive in this game.  But do social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google Plus help boost our sales?

In my experience, not so much.  The only means of advertising which has worked for me, so far, have been hiring a PR company to generate reviews for my children’s book , working with various parenting blogs who have thousands and thousands of followers, and my age old favorite, word of mouth. 

I was a bit hesitant before I decided to hire a PR company.  I had already spent over 3,000 dollars in publishing, illustration and website fees while managing to dump another 300 bucks into Facebook for advertisements which only gave me two sales.  Yep, I said it, two sales!  So I spent $300 and made enough money to buy two packs of Trident watermelon gum.
By the way, I wouldn't recommend advertising on Facebook to ANYONE.  I don't care if you are Oprah and you want to advertise there.  I say this because they were charging my credit card while I wasn't using their services.  We had a dispute which ended up in them refunding the money but trust me, it's not worth it!

So when the PR company was going to charge me another 200 bucks, the sweat started unfolding from my palms and onto the keyboard where I was about to click on the payment button.  Thankfully, I was receiving texts from an author friend of mine who hired the same company and revealed they did a pretty damn good job for her.  She even found a better publishing company from someone who reviewed her book and then referred her to someone in the hierarchy of publishing.

Although I didn’t receive thousands of sales from the PR, I was given honest reviews for my children’s book and referrals to various schools, a radio talk show host and various parenting blogs.  The feedback was TREMENDOUS.  My book was posted on over 40 blogs and I also had three schools reach out to me for author visits. 

Having my book posted on parenting sights which attract a huge amount of parents and teachers is detrimental to the existence of my book in the world wide web.  Without these parenting blogs, no one would know about my children’s book and I would have never received the sales I achieved through their support of my children’s story.

And then there is word of mouth.  This has probably been the bread winner when it has come to selling copies of my children’s book.  From family to friends to teachers to bank tellers to Shoprite cashiers to bookstore owners to people who attend my gym… you name them, I have revealed my work to them.  And by no means do I bombard people with the fact I am an author.  If I tend to see someone more than once and have established a cordial and casual relationship, you are damn skippy I will tell them about my book. 

We have to look at this industry not only as a comfort zone and support system but also as a vitality for selling our books.  If no one knows about them, how will they ever be sold?  And if no one buys them, how will they ever get into the hands, hearts and imaginations of our readers?

We have to keep pushing and throw ourselves out there.  If we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for us.

What about you?  What has been the best means of selling you books?  What about the worst?  What do you enjoy most about this industry so far?  If you haven’t written a book, will you be self-publishing or going the traditional route?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Act of Awarding Others With Honor

I watched Joel Osteen's ministry yesterday on television.  If you are unfamiliar with his work, he is a pastor for the largest U.S. congregation at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas.  He is also a bestselling author. 

Joel mostly speaks about the work we do as humans for God and each other.  If you haven't had the chance to listen to him, I highly recommend you do.  Even if you are not religious, his ministries are inspiring.  

I was so touched by yesterday's service I couldn't help but to share it with you.  Joel talked about a simple, yet, complex word.... honor. 

Honor.  One word holding a spectrum of colorful waves in the decadence of its simplicity and meaning.  People who give honor are quite humble as they bestow this gift onto others.  To give honor is to be honorable. 

When we bequeath honor upon others, God enables all of the glory of our dreams and passions to come to full circle.  By giving away honor, He rewards us with success, love and the freedom of our dreams coming true to only grow bigger. 

It's easy to give away honor.  You can call your mom and tell her how proud you are of the woman she has become and caregiver she has been all of these years.  If you have a coworker who has done a good job at the office or is always on time, you can tell him/her how much you admire their dedication.  The next time you go to the grocery store, look for your favorite cashier and get in their line.  Tell them how nice they are and how much they make your shopping more enjoyable.

By making others feel good about themselves, we are acting in God's light.  We are showing Him how we honor His existence by loving our friends, neighbors and family members.  He delights in our work for Him and rewards us immensely for doing so.

Raise your family members and spouses up.  Tell them how much you appreciate and love them.  Express a wave of compliments and be stingy with your complaints.  I know how hard it is to deal with certain members of the family.  Just the other day, during our Thanksgiving celebration, I was telling my mom how much I disliked one of our family members.  He's not in our close unit but I see him enough to sum up my own regards toward him.  He can be quite moody and mean, often taking his ailments out on others.

After I watched Joel Osteen's ministry yesterday, my heart grew heavy with guilt.  Even though I may dislike this person, I should not put negative energy out there, especially when it comes to my own family.  Instead, I should honor each and everyone of them by saying something kind, as hard as this may be at times.  To be honorable is to give honor.  And when we award others with honor, the sky is the limit as God takes delight in His children's work.

I already believe God is rewarding me.  My children's book is still on Amazon's top 100 Kindle books for Children's Fiction and Imagination.  It might not be a bestseller and who knows, it may never sail to its final destination.  But for my book to be able to sail into the hearts of some unknown shores, I am pleased with God's favors. 

Be kind my dear friends, family and fellow authors.  It's free to give honor away.  The incredible feelings and accolades your life surmounts to will be astounding. 

Have you ever listened to Joel Osteen or read one of his books?  What are your thoughts about giving honor to someone else?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Soulful Friendships and The Release of Medeia Sharif's The Attic of Sand and Secrets

Life certainly has a way of placing people from the past back into our present and future days.  I believe when one’s existence is close to another’s for a long period of time, the souls imprint on one another, creating kindred memories that will last a lifetime.  The souls become protectors, mentors, guides, and most importantly, the best of friends or lovers for each other.
Besides feeling overwhelmed from juggling two brands of writing as well as working overtime at the day job, I have also been searching for several voids to be filled in my heart.  It has been aching for the finesse of friendships I was bestowed upon and blessed by from my past.  This is all part of the “taking more time out for my life” and worrying less about the woes of social media. 

Many of my followers know about the downs of my history… the murder of my father when I was 17 years old, the nonexistent relationship I have with a biological father who discovered me when I was 14 years old and then abandoned me for the second time in my life, the loss of one of my best friends to a brain aneurism five years ago, and the battles I watched my mom suffer through as she succumbed to her alcoholism every single day for over 20 years of her life.  She might have won the war when she underwent a life-saving liver transplant due to cirrhosis but many battles are still ahead.
As sad as this all once was, there have also been many blessings wrapped and given to me in the form of friendships.  And two of them walked back into my life over the weekend. 

On Friday, I had dinner with my roommate and best friend from college who I haven’t seen in almost a decade.  At one point, we had grown so close that we learned how to communicate just by reading each other's faces.  If she was about to do something funny, come up with some crazy idea for us to venture off to or pull a prank, I could already tell she was up to no good by the expression on her face. 
After college, she got married and had children and we kind of just lost touch afterwards.  We had been messaging each other on Facebook, expressing how much we missed one another so  we decided to make an evening out of catching up.  Her husband and the dear got along quite well as the four of us ate delicious Thai food, reminisced about the good old days while attending Rutgers, and laughed so much, I almost peed myself.   
Then, on Saturday, I traveled back home where I grew up for my sister’s college graduation party.  It’s only two hours away from where I live now.  I had been in contact with one of my most beloved friends from high school for the last year now on Facebook.  Back in high school, she and my sister saved me from being the subject of some of the most dreadful instances of being bullied. 

Recently, we had been messaging each other, checking in every couple of months or so.  She lost her father last month who I was very fond of.  He was the chief of police in the town I grew up.  When she confided in me about some of her feelings, I was able to relate to her because I, too, lost two fathers… one who was killed and the other who bounced right out of my little world.

I invited her to my sister’s party and was pleasantly surprised she came, alone.  I haven’t seen her in 15 years!  And when she walked through the front door, it was like a river of fresh air had just entered the room.  As sad as her life may be right now, the connection we had back in high school had lit up our surroundings and shone throughout the house through laughter, long conversations and our love for cheese and food. 

It’s almost as if I stepped back in time this weekend.  Even though the years have gone by, the connections were still there and felt as though we had all picked up right from where we left off.  I remembered how much laughter and joy these two ladies had given to me for the duration of our timeless friendships and this feeling is something I simply can’t explain.  But it felt really good.

I have made future plans with both of these young women because we have vowed to embrace the vitality and soulfulness of our friendships.

Now for Medeia Sharif's book blast for her intriguing new novel, The Attic of Sand and Secrets. 
I have really been enjoying reading some of my fellow authors' new books and this one is officially added to my TBR list.  The book blast for The Attic of Sand and Secrets will end this week so make sure you enter!!  And if you don't win, grab your copy on Amazon and get lost in Medeia's wonderful writing!
by Medeia Sharif

Vendor links will be updated on Medeia’s site.

Middle Grade Historical and Fantasy, Featherweight Press, November 2014

Lily, a learning disabled girl, attempts to unravel the mystery of her abducted mother using supernatural clues from an ancient stranger, even when it means posing a danger to herself.

Learning-disabled Lily desires to prove herself, although her mind freezes when presented with big problems - such as her mother's abduction. With a French father and Egyptian mother, Lily worries that her mother hid her ethnicity from her French in-laws. However, there's something deeper going on. Lily finds a way into an attic that's normally locked and encounters a mysterious, moonlit Egyptian night world. There she finds Khadijah, an ancient stranger who guides her to finding clues about her mother's whereabouts. Lily becomes a sleuth in both the real world and magical desert, endangering herself as she gets closer to the kidnapper.

The book takes place in 1976. Every host for this book blast is going to post one fun fact for that year. For some of you, this will bring back memories. For younger blog readers, you'll learn something new.

[insert fun fact here]

Find Medeia – Multi-published YA and MG Author

Blog   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads   |   Instagram   |   Amazon

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have you ever lost touch with a friend and then reconnected through Facebook or any other kind of social media?  Are there people from your past you wish you could see again?  Will you be reading Medeia's new book?  I know I will be!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Catching Up With Ketchup

I recently had a meltdown. 

In the two years I have been working in the children's book business and adult blogging, I never felt so overwhelmed as I did last week.  Not to mention, I am currently working overtime while my boss is away.  The pressure came caving down on me and had no where else to diffuse itself... and then came the ketchup.

As I was running an errand, there she was... that beautiful, big smiling, freckled face, red-headed girl staring ME DOWN like IT WAS ABOUT TO GO DOWN.

My knee had been finally feeling better as I submerged myself back into my early morning workouts.  Yes, people, instead of writing, I was cheating on my passion by making love to my other passion, exercise.  I defeated every machine in the gym last week as the sweat dripped from my determined arms, legs and abs to the cold, rubber gym floor.  I am steadfast on losing the 15-20 pounds I gained ever since I hurt my knee in August.
So after a week's worth of countless calorie counting, I was entering a new war zone; the Wendy's quarter pounder with cheese, ketchup, pickles, lettuce and tomato battling my bottomless hunger for not only carbs but an end to the exhaustion and stress I had been feeling.  From working at the day job to networking and juggling two brands while setting up school visits, and most importantly, trying to find time to WRITE... this gal was defeated.
Now when I say defeated, by no means do I mean I gave up on my goals of losing weight or continuing to extend my marking in the world of writing and storytelling. But what I do mean is that I had been defeated in the moment.  I threw my hands up and said, "Bring it, Wendy."  And by this, I meant pulling up to the drive thru, ordering my burger and fries, and then pulling off to the side to stuff my face with fast food and ketchup.
So what's the point, you say?  The point is we all need a break sometime.  I was so consumed last week, I had almost forgot the most important part of this journey is getting to spend time with children and inspire them as well as to make amazing new friends and connections through our blogs and adventures.  Yes, social media can be a real pain in the ass, however, it can also be a blessing because of the friendships we create with one another.  And the support we provide for each other is quite rewarding.
Someone once asked me if I would retire if I ever became a bestselling author or rich from my books.  I didn't even have to think twice about this answer.  Writing makes me feel alive every single day.  And when I am not writing, I am thinking about it, morning, noon and night. 
As authors, we are given this incredible gift.  It's a gift which we have no other choice but to share with the rest of the world since it lives and breathes inside of us.  We have the gift to help other escape into worlds where they live through our characters... where they can see through their eyes and sense everything from the words around them. 
I had an author visit last Thursday.  It was my first visit of this year and a day after I went on my Wendy's binge.  Being in front of those kids made the stress and my overwhelming feeling of the workload disappear.  I was quickly reminded how much my presence and books means to the world just from observing their smiles, questions, and enthusiasm for storytelling and writing.  My heart was filled with joy knowing I could help change one of their little lives by telling them anything is possible.  And on the drive to work that same day after my visit, I felt the stress had lifted even more.  My visit had lit up my entire week and took the pain of wanting to be able to do it all away. 
And then I had an even bigger surprise!  My children's book made it to Amazon's bestseller list for Fiction and Imagination last week.  Now, I know some people might not think this is a big deal but to me, it means someone out there is hearing about my book and wanting to have it in their homes to share with their children.  Seeing my book at number 65 sent me over the moon.  Ahh, the littlest things in life... they truly do bring you up when you are feeling down.  And God always has a way to remind us about our mission here.  Mine is to spend time with kids and encourage them to celebrate their uniqueness and imagination.
And to also finish the edits for my suspense/thriller novel!  I have a story which will give you chills about this project and how it came to me.  But that will be saved for a different blog post.
When your mind and body need a break, give it to them.  It might be a day, a week or a month... whatever it takes to help you discover who you are a little bit more.  Our souls yearn for self-reflection and it is up to our hearts and minds to provide them with this.
How often do you take breaks from social media and writing?  Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you didn't know what to do with yourself? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Soulless Blog Tour and Author Visits

Today, I am super excited to help fellow author, Crystal Collier, spread word about her new release, Soulless.  I can't tell you how much I adore Crystal's writing.  Her first book in this series, Moonless, enchanted my imagination for the entire time I was reading it.  If you haven't already had a chance to read Moonless, I HIGHLY suggest you grab both books and make a weekend out of them.  Crystal is also offering Moonless for FREE this Friday, November 7th!  How awesome is she?!

I'm also celebrating the beginning of my school visits for the 2014/2015 school year.  My first visit will be this Thursday at an elementary school I have presented to twice already!  The teachers there love my book and author visits so much they have invited me back for a third time. 

If you are a children's picture book, chapter book, or YA author, I recommend you reach out to schools, libraries and bookstores to represent not only your books, but you as a person.  I firmly believe in word of mouth which is why my children's book work has been such a success.  You might get nervous at first but eventually, it will be like riding a bike! 


Series: Maiden of Time
Author: Crystal Collier
Pages: 263
Pub Date: October 13, 2014
Publisher: Raybourne Publishing
ISBN: 9781629830032

The Soulless are coming.

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she’s forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.


What reviewers are saying:

"5 Stars." - Invincible Love of Reading Book Blog

"I LOVED it! So good. Seriously...exceeded my expectations." -Kristin Smith, advanced reviewer

"Entirely unique and chilling." Gabby @ What’s Beyond Forks

"Unputdownable." T.C. Mckee, BookFish Books


A shadow stepped from the trees, a woman with long, auburn hair and ghostly-pale skin. She smirked wickedly at Alexia before turning her attention to Kiren. She rubbed her temples.

Kiren shuddered. The woman glared at him. He grabbed his head with one hand, toppling onto an elbow.

Alexia stepped forward. The woman’s face slackened, hands dropping.

Bellezza leapt between them, her hideous snarl turned to the attacker. “Only a coward fights from the shadows. I hate cowards.” Her chin lifted toward Alexia. “Cover your ears!” 

Alexia obeyed but the girl’s shriek pierced through her fingers. Her heart clenched and ceased beating. Red lines zipped across her vision. She landed on her hip, begging for Bellezza to stop. The sting of pollen haunted her nose, like the sick perfume of soon-to-be decay.


Her heart thudded again. Alexia’s head snapped up.

The deadly child crouched, muscles tight, head turned—as if listening to something behind her. Their attacker was gone.
Alexia twisted.

The estate sat on the shoulders of thick blackness. At least a hundred red eyes pierced through the darkness, a blanket of ragged pitch writhing across the yard.

The Soulless.


Get your free copy of book 1, MOONLESS, October 13, 20, 27, 31 or Nov 7.

Author Bio:

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her Blog, Facebook, Goodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Have you read Moonless or Soulless?  How awesome does this series sound?  Wish me luck for my author visit and don't forget to grab your copies of Moonless and Soulless!!!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Harvest Birthdays, Human Connections and Author Photo Shoots

I was in Shoprite the other day ordering lunchmeat and cheese from the deli when all of the sudden I had an epiphany which ultimately led to a minor break down.  It was like my stomach churned into a battlefield of emotions; future fighting the past as the past cried, “FREEEEEDOM,” from its bellowing bliss of eternal memories which never fade away.
This all happened within the blink of a second.  As I went to reach for my pocket and pull out my cell phone, a heavy cloud of burden formed on top of my shoulders.  I felt defeated, like social media had won the battle.  I knew the reasons why I was pulling out my cell phone while standing at the deli in Shoprite but the past was crying, “Please, no more.”

Usually, when I am ordering lunchmeat and cheese, it takes about five to ten minutes, depending on what digit you pull out of the lucky number disposer.  During this time, I fumble to get as many tweets and Facebook shares out, read emails at three separate accounts, or catch up with a few blog buddies. 

This time, however, was extremely different.   My heart was as a tug of war with my mind saying, “Not this time, girlie.  Now go and talk to the deli people, strike up a conversation, and smile at the people behind the counter.  Get off of your cell phone.  You are always tweeting and emailing.  Go and have a…. wait for it… wait for it…"

And that it exactly what this gal did.  I put my cellphone away and it felt great!  I was smiling at the people behind the counter and guess what?  A couple of them actually smiled back at me.  I continued to keep the phone buried away in my pocket.  When I made it to the cashier line, instead of pulling it out, I continued to strike up conversations which ultimately led me to gain some awesome advice about an upcoming trip the dear and I are taking to Costa Rica. 

We also had my "Harvest Birthday Bash" over the weekend.  I'm officially 34 years old and don't feel a day over 24.  I was desperate to make some amazing new memories and human connections with my loved ones so I made everyone put away their cell phones.  The only time someone was aloud to take out their phone was to take a picture.  Other than that, we ate tons of sushi, steak, shrimp, pasta and cheese, shared lots of laughs, and created long lasting memories together.  Here are some pictures from the big day! 

The dear is behind me, my sister and niece are on my right, and we are surrounded by friends I've had for years

The dear is lighting the candles on my birthday cake and we are laughing about something

This is my youngest and very talented sister, Cheri.  She took the photos for my photo shoot which I will be sharing and also illustrated my children's book.

My niece, me and the dear

The cheese spread:  Brie, Bleu cheese, and Manchego cheese

The sushi, shrimp and steak platters with tasty Halloween treats

Pesto Pasta, YUM

We decorated our bookshelf.  I collect witches and this one is my favorites.

My gorgeous niece and sister

A couple of my other witches

The beautiful flowers and balloons the dear bought for me

And now my author photo shoot!  I'm sharing the "Do's and Do Not's" when being professionally photographed.


The morning after my birthday, my sister Cheri, who is also a photographer, helped me with an author photo shoot.  It was very windy so she literally took about 300 pictures of me.  She also created my new banner which you see at the top of my blog.  Yes, that is me in the photo=)  Here are some other examples of banners she created for me. 

Although I really liked this banner, I wanted to have my entire body in the picture, not just my boots

I really loved this photo, especially because of the colors.  It was a hard decision (my sister sent me six banners) but I went with the one currently at the header of my blog.  Do you think I made the right decision?

It took us about an hour and half to do the entire photo shoot.  All of the pictures you see are in the backyard of my complex.  We live in the mountains where lush colors of green, red, orange and yellow reflect off of the decadence of the woods and spirit of the land.  Here are some photos of me sitting on top of the rocks nestled against the enchanted woods of our complex.



As you can see from the photos above, there are many different positions and poses you can engage with in your photos.  At times, I felt like I was forcing my poses.  This is why it is very important for your photographer to take tons of pictures.  When I had my children's book author photo shoot, the photographer at the time shot around 200 pictures.  Again, my sister took around 300 because not only was she taking my author photo, but she was creating my banner for my website and blog.

Here, you can see there is an abundance of light, a bit too much light.  Photos like this are nice but the lighting makes them look awkward.  You want to choose a photo which has perfect lighting against your face.

I chose this photo to be my new author profile photo because I think it looks very natural and I'm smiling.  Always try to look as natural and comfortable as possible.  You don't want to scare off your readers and fellow authors.  You want your profile picture to be warm and welcoming.

I thought this one was pretty because of the background.  Behind me, there are more hills and mountainous land which eventually lead into the skyline of New York City.  I didn't choose this photo, though, because the lighting was a bit shaded over my face.

Here, I am looking back toward my sister.  Instead of walking toward her, she asked me to walk ahead and turn back several times.  I might use some of these pictures for a different project.

I've always loved side shots.  My sister took about 10 of these but here, I'm sharing one so you get the idea of all of the different views you can have in your photos.  I'm also squinting in this picture.  Try not to squint in your photos because squinting is unbecoming and doesn't do justice for the art of the picture.

Next, I'm going to share the pictures of me walking up hills and through parts of the woods.  My sister took tons of shots of me walking so she could create the perfect border for me.  Here are some other examples she could have used but decided to go with the one above.

It really depends on what you want to portray as the soul of your blog and zest of your art.  I love walking and hiking around my area so I wanted to incorporate the beauty of my complex within the heart of my blog.  I wake up every morning around 5am and have the most amazing views which inspire a lot of my stories.
Lastly, I'm sharing one fun photo.  Although I am not going to be using this in any of my author profiles, I love laughing and goofing off.  

Do you ever break down over social media or the growing need for technology?  Have you had an author photo shoot before?  Do you have any advice for other writers and authors when taking professional photos of themselves?