Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National Apple Dumpling Day” (if you’re reading this on September 17th) or maybe just Happy Friday.

There is a local apple fair that’s held north of here every year and the apple dumpling stall is always packed with happy customers.  I’ve missed going to that fair during this endless time of Covid.  Perhaps next year we’ll all be able to enjoy apple dumplings, fresh pressed apple cider, and all the other delightful apple goodies once again.

For now, maybe it’s safer to celebrate “National Professional House Cleaners Day” instead.

This day of recognition celebrates a career many overlook or take for granted. While not everyone hires a Professional Cleaner, they do impact our lives in some way. Nearly every business we frequent and apartment building rented hires professional cleaners. The industry also employs approximately 3.25 million people creating a positive economic impact on the marketplace.

I may not be celebrating house cleaners today, but I may very well celebrate “house siding repair people”–well, maybe I’ll hold off celebrating until they finish their work.

In the meantime, I’ll be doing my own work today and then getting started on the prep work so I can re-paint my front porch.  Having a house is a wonderful thing, but it does require a bit of maintenance now and again.  With the season starting to take a turn for the chillier, it’s time start taking care of all the outside jobs that need doing.

Somewhere along the line I’ll make sure to take a break and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Hey, Kid, Wanna Buy a Book?

We all know that writing books is a lot different than selling them. The activity of it, as well as the mindset. When you write a book, you sit somewhere, stare at a blank screen, then open a vein and bleed on the keyboard. When you (try to) sell a book, you bang your head against a wall, sometimes accompanied by throwing money out the window.

The world of the author. Simple.

I’d decided at the beginning of the year that I’d take this time to try to straighten out my writing drawers, so to speak. I have a bunch of manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that needed revamping. And I haven’t sold more than a few copies of any of the books I did publish in years. It’s been all about the writing, right? That’s what I like to do. Writing is creative. It’s Andy Warhol, Beyonce, and Louise Penny all rolled into one. It’s where the magic lies. Selling… that’s for Willy Loman.

But Covid-19 gave me a lot of extra time, so I thought I must as well use it to fix up the languishing manuscripts, get new covers for everything, and do a few things to sell a few copies. Clean out the drawers!

I know you’re all wondering how that’s going so far. The mostly good news is: So far, so good. I got a couple books out, and the new covers are happening. But the sales effort! Friends, I am clueless.

What I have learned from Mark Dawson, David Gaughran, Ricardo Fayet at Reedsy, and a host of others, is that advertising pays. And based on their advice, I’ve thrown a bunch of money at Amazon and BookBub in an effort to increase sales. And it’s paying off! Sort of. That is, I’m breaking even or a little better, making back in sales what I’m putting out in costs.

But the mystery of it. Who’s buying my books? On Amazon and BookBub both, you can choose—within a range—where your ad shows up. You pick authors who you think are roughly like you, and your ad will show up when someone searches for that author. (All those irritating “sponsored” things you see on all the pages? That’s where I am. Maybe you’ve seen me there.)

I thought Janet Evanovich would be a lock for me. Turns out, no. Nothing like. But why the heck not? Her Stephanie Plum is a lot like my Phoebe Renfrew. My books are screwball comedies, like hers. Janet Evanovich readers should love my book.

And maybe they would, if they ever bought it. Maybe Janet Evanovich readers get their books from the library? Maybe that’s why I sold two copies to OverDrive? I have no clue.

Who was a lock? Jana DeLeon, an author I was unfamiliar with. I got her name by going to Janet Evanovich’s profile page on Amazon and seeing what her buyers also bought. And it turns out Janet Evanovich authors also buy Jana DeLeon. So I tried that, and then for a month I watched as readers who searched for books by Jana DeLeon saw my ad and bought my book. For more than a month, more than half my sales came through Jana DeLeon.

In the last couple of weeks, she’s fallen off precipitously. I guess that means that people who read Jana DeLeon who might be interested in my book already bought it, right? I think so. But I’m not sure. She’s got a huge audience. Surely I have not exhausted those folks yet.

And now, what else I don’t get? I bought an ad for the second book of the series. And it’s getting no traction whatsoever. I’m talking flatline. Book One, however, still is going gangbusters. “Gangbusters” by my standards, anyway.

So it’s all a mystery to me. What experience do you guys have with marketing? Any clues for the hapless?

And now, back to something easy. Like bleeding on the keyboard.

(P.S.: Which cover do you like?)

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy “National TV Dinner Day” (if you’re reading this on September 10th) or maybe just Happy Friday.

I remember eating Swanson TV Dinners as a kid, mostly their pot pies, since those had the best low-cost to fill-you-up ratio.  Looking back, they were probably loaded with calories and salt, but at the time they were a bit of a treat.

It’s also “National Swap Ideas Day”, which sounds a bit more appropriate for a writing blog.

National Swap Ideas Day, which is observed annually on September 10th, encourages us to share a creative or helpful idea with someone and trade them for their thoughts in return.  This observance urges sharing concepts and sparking ideas. Many of us are passionate about our careers, hobbies, or special projects. However, sometimes, we require the additional magic that happens when a community of people joins forces to bring a plan to fruition.

Sounds like a good excuse to call or visit a friend and “swap ideas” over some snacks and a nice refreshing beverage.

I’ll be at work all day, so not much opportunity for idea swapping, but maybe something will turn up unexpectedly.  Otherwise, once I finish with work, I’ll be out in the backyard disassembling the portion of my deck that seems to be attempting to disassemble itself. Or maybe I’ll just skip that, pour a glass of fresh-made lemonade (I’ve perfected my recipe), and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

If you’re reading this on Friday (September 3rd) then happy “National Welsh Rarebit Day”.  Growing up, I always read that as “Welsh Rabbit”, though I wasn’t too far off base.

On September 3rd, National Welsh Rarebit Day whips up a tasty and satisfying snack. What is a rarebit? The cheesy toast was originally called Rabbit in a tongue-in-cheek way in the Welsh language because there is no rabbit in the meal. Similar to mock turtle soup having no turtle in it, Welsh rarebit does not contain rabbit. Instead, this dish is made with toast that has hot cheese poured over it. Over time, the dish became known as Welsh Rarebit – a nod to the inside joke.

If you’re not a fan of bread and cheese–crazy as that may be–you could do a good turn for someone in need and celebrate “National Food Bank Day” instead.  Whichever you choose to do, someone will get a meal out of it.

Unless I get distracted by something bright and shiny, I’ll be spending at least part of my day building a rolling garden cart for the yard so that I have a place to store flower pots, garden tools, and assorted other gardening stuff.  I’m re-purposing a bunch of random wood and some wheels from my dad’s old workshop–fingers crossed that it all works out for the best and no injuries ensue.

There’s always a first time.

Assuming I still have all ten-fingers in prime working condition after my building project, I’ll be pouring a glass of fresh-made lemonade (I’m still working on perfecting my recipe) and giving today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy Last Friday in August!  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  I think of summer as 4just beginning, but the back-to-school supplies and Halloween costumes in the local store paint a different picture.

I’m writing this post on Thursday evening in the remaining hours of “National Dog Day”–one of my favorite day.  My Facebook feed has been full of pictures of dogs, including a few of my own from years past, which provides a welcome distraction from the negative events of the day.

If you’re reading this on Friday (August 27th), then it’s ‘National Just Because Day”, which kind of sounds like a way of saying “we couldn’t think of anything specific to celebrate on this day.”  

“In the late 1950s, Joseph J. Goodwin of Los Gatos, California created Just Because Day. It began as a family holiday and grew into an annual celebration across the United States. National Just Because Day offers up an opportunity to do stuff…just because.  Feel free to celebrate this day any way you choose.  Just because!”

Feel free to interpret the day however you see fit; I’ll probably still be scrolling through dog pictures.

I’ll actually be spending part of my day going to my physical office.  Though we’re continuing to work remotely, there are occasionally some things that I need from the office that I didn’t think to bring home 18 months ago.  I’m hoping my trip will be brief and that I’ll be able to time it so that I can get there and home before the Friday afternoon traffic starts to pile up.

Once I’ve wrapped things up in the office, successfully made it home, and possibly even enjoyed a refreshing adult beverage, I plan to give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

The days are just flying by!

If you’re reading this on Friday (August 20th), then today is “Lemonade Day”–a tasty observance, just perfect for sunny summer days.  My lemon tree in the backyard is flourishing, with lemons the size of grapefruits, so Lemonade Day is definitely something I’ll have no trouble celebrating.  It’s also “National Bacon Lover’s Day”, so perhaps I’ll pair a glass of lemonade with a nice Bacon-Lettuce-Tomato sandwich and make a double celebration out of it.

Suddenly I’m looking forward to the day with much more enthusiasm than usual.

This is a regular working Friday for me because I forgot to calendar myself out of the office this week.  That’s probably all for the best since I have edits to make on the article I’ve written for the Day Job and they need to be done by Monday to allow time for the necessary bureaucratic review.  Once that is finalized I have a new blooming vine from the local garden center that needs planting and coaxing around a trellis before it gives up on me and starts taking things into its own hands . . . I mean tendrils.  

Somewhere along the line, I plan to take a break, grab a frosty glass of lemonade and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Kay: Writing in Residence

Tao HouseA friend of mine recently was accepted as an artist in residence at Tao House, the former home of Eugene O’Neill located in Danville, California, which is a designated National Historic Site managed by the National Park Service. Applications are accepted year round, and artists are constantly in residence. 

Eugene O’Neill and his third wife Carlotta lived at Tao House for only seven years, the longest time that O’Neill had lived in any one place. In that time and already beset by illness, he wrote his best-known works: The Iceman Cometh, Hughie, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and Long Day’s Journey into Night, for which he received posthumously his fourth Pulitzer Prize. Continue reading

Michaeline: A Nebraska Ghost Story for Japanese Obon

Today is the middle day of Obon, a three-day Japanese holiday honoring the dead. Ghost stories are traditional, because this is often the hottest, stickiest time of year, and the chills you get from spooky thrills are said to feel cool and refreshing.

I live in Japan now, but I grew up in Nebraska, and went to school there. I lived in one of the oldest dorms of my university, but I was in the new wing, which was built in the 1950s. No ghosts there, but we heard about ghost stories in the halls right next door.

Black and white newspaper image of a three story dorm with basement.
The story goes that this was a going to be a haunted residence hall. (Image via NebNewspapers)

The one I remember in particular was told to me in a room that had been converted to a TV room. Every floor had a TV room, which seemed to be a regular room that had been converted to communal viewing.

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprint

Happy Friday! 

I hope you enjoyed the Eight Ladies Serial story that we wrapped up on Monday.  It was fun to watch the story develop day after day and great to see how much creativity we were able to pull out of a set of random words for each installment.

Now that those characters are off living their best lives, it’s time for the rest of us to get back to writing.  And what better way than with a writing prompt and a whole new set of random words.

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this week, though not of the fictional kind.  I’m writing an article for my day job, which may not have a hero and heroine battling through conflicts and obstacles, but it has certainly required quite a bit of creativity and storytelling skills.

I think happily-ever-afters are more my style.

If you’re reading this on Friday (August 13th), then today is “International Lefthanders Day”–an observance I am particularly fond of, being of the lefthanded persuasion.  I remember how thrilled I was as a kid when I got my first pair of left-handed scissors and found an entire store just dedicated to left-handed stuff. Amazing!

Wonder what it’s like to see the world from a “left-handed” point of view? On International Lefthanders Day, August 13, you get to explore that world for a day. Did you know Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were all left-handed?  Rock out with Paul McCartney or Jimi Hendrix, the world’s greatest left-handed guitarist.  (Stevie Ray Vaughan, born right-handed, learned to play a left-handed guitar like his hero, Hendrix). There’s also Oprah Winfrey,  Julia Roberts and Lady Gaga, left-handers all.  In baseball, there were the legendary “southpaws,  Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax.  International Lefthanders Day 2021 will be observed on the 13th of August to celebrate the differences and distinctiveness of left handed individuals.

Once I finish my work article and perhaps take a break to enjoy a refreshing adult beverage, I plan to take a shot at today’s writing prompt and random words.

Care to join me? Continue reading

An Eight Lady Serial–The Laird’s Legacy – Part 9

Welcome to the ninth and final installment of our Eight Lady Serial, based on Jilly’s short story The Laird’s Legacy.

It’s been fun getting to know Jordy, Jenny, and the twins, but it’s time to wrap things up and send them off to live their Happily Ever After without constant interference by Random Words and Writing Prompts.

So here is the end of our continuing saga using the Friday Writing Prompt of: a character who needs to make a big change, and the words foggy, wasp, bachelor,  gargoyle, hound, flavoring, feudal,  aftermath, lantern, cough, anxious,  endorsement, glossy, knowing, saint,  endless

Full Circle

The foggy day had cleared by mid-morning, although the sun had yet to break through the overhanging clouds. The endless rain had stopped some time during the night, leaving the pavement and trees glossy and dark with moisture. It wasn’t a perfect day to take the girls for an outing, but Jenny had been anxious about Elspeth’s cough, and she thought, if she wrapped the twins up well, the fresh air might do them good.

Jordy, his bachelor days seemingly behind him, had called off work on the opera festival venue for the day because of the rain. The aftermath of the wind and rain had left the stone slick and the wood too damp to proceed with safety or finesse.

“Where shall we take the wee ones, then?” he asked, turning off the kitchen lantern. The sky had lightened to a pale grey; dim light filtered softly through the windows.

“I thought we could walk to the churchyard,” Jenny said. “I’d like to look for Alanis McLeish’s grave. And maybe visit the Blessing Stone, thank it for the girls.”

“Wear your wellies,” Jordy said. “It’ll be wet in the lane.” Continue reading