Deciding what to read…and a flashback!

Start to finish, it takes (me) about two forevers to write a book. Then, when it’s finished, it gets dropped into the ocean of everything that’s available for people to read: books (in tons of genres, fiction and nonfiction); news articles/newsfeed; essays and opinion pieces; blog posts; social media updates on Facebook, Twitter, etc.; and even short stories, flash fiction and poems.

And that’s not all. There’s also entertainment like films, TV, videos, and plays–yes, plays– that pull us away from the printed written word on a page or device. So when I finish writing a book (make that, birthing my baby, because when you’re writing a book, it feels like you’re having a baby), I know it’s competing with a gazillion other things out there, to catch your eye and your attention.

So – how do I get you (y’all, and more important, all of y’all) to give my book a chance, for your time? How do I get it in front of you, even as one of your options? It’s hard, Mesdames et Messieurs. It’s quite hard.

Flashback to the 90s, when I had little kids at home, and very little time to read. But I did read. I read in the carpool line, and before I went to sleep. I read at the park. I didn’t have a device or even a laptop, and I spent little time at the desktop computer we owned. I watched movies and some TV, but I liked to read. A lot.

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My four enfants (kids) on a family trip to San Francisco in the 1990s

How did I find books to read back then? Good books, that is – books that I was going to enjoy and remember? I had little time to myself, and even less to spend in those big fancy bookstores that were coming into vogue. I remember one time I got a generous gift card to spend at one of them, and I had a little time to browse while one kid was at a piano lesson, another was at dance, and the other two were at soccer. I walked into the fiction section and began to walk down the aisles.

I wanted to make some good choices; I was BUYING some books for me, and I didn’t want to regret my purchases. But I wasn’t in a book club, nor had I heard what the new must-have novels were. I was suspicious of anything positioned at the front of the store; maybe there was something for me there, but maybe not. I didn’t have time to watch Oprah, so I didn’t know what she was pushing. All I had read recently were classics that we already owned, that I either hadn’t read, or had read (but didn’t remember), or that my oldest kids were reading in school. But I didn’t want to buy a classic that day. I wanted something new and something great.

I wanted to discover something.

The clock ticked by and I made my selections. I don’t know if I wandered back to the front and picked up a best seller, or took a chance on a book whose cover I liked. Maybe I bought something written by someone whose other books I had already read and liked, such as Peter Mayle, Maeve Binchy, Ferrol Sams, David Sedaris, or Nicholas Sparks. Back then (and now) I read (and read) lots of different genres. It was great to find something new I liked, and tell people I knew about it. And now that I’m an author, that’s just what I want readers of my books to do (if they like my books, that is): tell others about them.

Even though what I like may not be what you like (or even, what I write may not be what you like), talking about books seems fun to me. I may give what you recommend a chance, and love it. But even if I don’t love it, I’ve tried it. I’ve sampled something new. I’ve given something a chance for my attention (and my brain) that somebody, somewhere sat down to write. And it may have taken them a couple of forevers to finish it.

I’ve tried my best to get the books I’ve written in front of potential readers. I’ve set up and appeared at book signings. I’ve participated in book festivals and served on panels. I’ve sent out emails, newsletters, and updates to my friends on Facebook, and followers on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve offered my books as free downloads and giveaways, produced book trailers, and thrown parties. The publisher of my suspense novel UNDERWATER has done a great job promoting it and has included it in various promotions and Kindle deals. And I’ve asked readers to write and post reviews of my books on Amazon and Goodreads.

I hope that if you discover my books, you enjoy reading them. In different genres, two are written in first person, and one in third, with multiple points of view. Two are novels (fiction) and one is a true story (memoir). My fourth book, another suspense novel, will be published very soon. Lately, I’ve begun writing my fifth book, a novel. My characters are clear in my head (and on paper), and so are some of their conflicts. But I’m still struggling with some pieces of the plot.

If you’ve read this far, you like reading; you might even love it. If you don’t love my books, or my writing, then I hope you find something in them to like–no matter how different they might be from what you expect, or usually read, like, love, or see at the front of the bookstore, in Costco, in People magazine, or on Oprah (is she still doing that?). With each book, there was a day that I got up in the morning, sat down in front of a blank computer screen, and tapped the first letter. And, IF you read one of my stories and like it, I hope you will take the time to write a review of it on Amazon. Don’t worry about exactly what to say. I promise it won’t take much time to do. I recently wrote a review of a book I had read, and it took me about five minutes.

Because what gets a book to buoy up to the surface of the reading (and entertainment) ocean–and stay there, for a while–is the number of reviews it has (and not what they say, exactly). The more reviews, the more people who find the book somehow start to think, “Hmm. That might be interesting, because so many other people thought it was.” They also know that many more people (than the number of reviewers) bought the book as well, but didn’t review it.

S’il vous plaît…Just do it. Because I did.

Merci!

Friday music – to an author’s ears

While checking email over my morning coffee today, I was thrilled to discover that a reader had just posted a 5 star review of my first novel, MAKE THAT DEUX! 

“GREAT BOOK!! I LOVE IT!” she said. “I really enjoyed reading this book. I liked all of the different characters and reading about their adventures. It never got boring. It kept me wanting to keep reading and reading. Great story!!!”

She had already read my third book, ALL THE ABOVE, which is nonfiction (a true story), and a very different type of book. Here’s what she said about that:

“I read this book in two days! I felt so many different emotions while reading it. I felt so sorry for the family to have to deal with this horrible and scary situation. Poor Jack having to go through cancer treatments while in the beginning of his college career. The book was very well written and an honest story of how the family coped during this time of tragedy. It showed how the McDermott family relied on their strong faith while so many obstacles were being thrown their way. I loved this book and had a hard time putting it down.”

I thanked her on Goodreads (she’d posted her reviews there, and on Amazon), and asked if she might consider reading my 2nd book, suspense novel UNDERWATER. She replied, “You’re welcome 🙂 I actually already read Underwater last year and loved it as well! I can’t wait to read your next one!”

All of that got my Friday (and my weekend, and month) off to a wonderful start! So, to celebrate, I thought I would share some (very old) photos from my year in Montpellier, France, the experience on which my novel MAKE THAT DEUX is based. (And it’s NOT a true story! Novel = Fiction!)

The handwritten words are grâce à one of my girlfriends, with whom I shared an apartment in Palavas* that year, and the photos come from a collage she made for me:

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Me (left), another girlfriend (right), and the teenage son of our program’s directrice, on a visit to Carcassonne…

 

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Like Jenny in MAKE THAT DEUX, sometimes I actually studied!

Our apartment building is still there…

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I’m on the right, with 2 girlfriends and the French boyfriend of one!

*Palavas-les-flots, a beach town 20 minutes away, where we livedFullSizeRender

CURE Childhood Cancer, and how you MIGHT be on my Street Team

On Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, I went to my first Quiet Heroes Luncheon hosted by CURE Childhood Cancer, here in Atlanta.

I was one of over two hundred “Quiet Heroes” honored guests invited to the event, now in its 11th year. CURE Executive Director Kristin Connor had invited me to attend after she read my latest book, ALL THE ABOVE: My son’s battle with brain cancer.

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A silent auction to raise funds for CURE took place before lunch, and each “Quiet Hero” received a big gift bag filled with bling. Then we sat down and listened to Kristin’s welcome, and to speakers Jill Becker, Chris Glavine, Amber Larkin, and (former Atlanta Braves player) Tom Glavine. It was inspiring to hear their stories, why they are involved in CURE, and what’s being done to help win the fight against childhood cancer.

After the lunch, I hurried over to thank Kristin for inviting me and to say hello to Tom. I told him that my son Jack, who is a cancer survivor, is a big Braves fan, and that several years ago, he saw Tom at a birthday party somewhere and got his autograph.

“He’s 24 now, and he still has it,” I added. We chatted for a minute, and I nervously forgot to ask if I could get a photo of us together. But after I picked up my auction item, I spotted him again and boldly asked. “Sure,” he said.

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Earlier, I explained to another mom that Jack was technically an adult when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 19. But in the world of cancer treatment, he was “pediatric,” or a child, because he was under 21. That was a big benefit for him in some ways (usually, easier MRIs, and sometimes, gentler handling and help).

Many of his countless MRIs were done at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston Hospital, and he saw a pediatric oncologist at the AFLAC Clinic. I remember being in the waiting room there with him, in the midst of very young cancer patients; at six foot four, he was the tallest one by far. But his radiation treatments were done across the way at the Winship Cancer Institute; in that waiting room, he joined the adult cancer patients, most of them decades older, and many of them very sick.

During the lunch, I sat between a mom whose son is a cancer survivor, and another mom (and dad) whose son passed away after a long, difficult battle. Talking about Jack brought back the emotions I felt when he was fighting cancer. I left with renewed gratitude that he survived, and renewed hope that other young people will also beat the disease.

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Flash back to before I knew about the Quiet Heroes Luncheon. Jack was involved in Relay for Life at UGA, but not in CURE. I had heard of the organization only by listening to Atlanta native Comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s spots on the radio; he’s been a strong advocate for CURE for many years.

Which brings me to the second half of this post, a la Jeff Foxworthy’s famous “You might be a Redneck if,” applied to my book, ALL THE ABOVE (and my other books) – and how you might be involved:

You might be on my Street Team if:

  1. you’ve read any of my books (or all), and have posted a (nice) review on Amazon and Goodreads
  2. you’ve told at least one friend or acquaintance that you read my book(s) and told your friend to buy the book(s) – or maybe, even, you bought a copy for them
  3. you looked for my books in your favorite bookstore, and when you couldn’t find them, you complained to the store
  4. you’ve attended a Book Festival or Book Signing where I appeared
  5. you’ve recommended one of my books to your Book Club, and you may have invited me to attend your meeting for Q & A
  6. you’ve Liked my Facebook page
  7. you’ve commented and Liked at least one of my posts on Facebook
  8. you’ve followed me on Twitter, and have retweeted my tweet, or someone else’s tweet that mentions me
  9. you’ve followed me on Instagram, and have Liked one of my photos
  10. you’ve connected with me on LinkedIn – and you’ve Liked one of my posts
  11. you’re my friend on Goodreads, and you’ve messaged me there
  12. you’ve hosted a reception or party for me to tell your friends about my books and asked me to sign copies
  13. you follow my Blog, and have commented something nice on one of my posts
  14. you’ve sent me a personal handwritten note expressing how much you like my writing and books (see the above photo of such a note, beginning “Congratulations on a fine work”)
  15. you’ve written to or called media and publicity people about getting the word out about me and my books!

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and I hope that you’ll buy a copy of ALL THE ABOVE: My son’s battle with brain cancer. You’ll find a story about a mama bear (me) who did everything she could to protect her cub (Jack)…and you’ll see how Jack’s journey changed his life. Join my Street Team if you haven’t already,  donate to CURE, and help finish the fight against childhood cancer.

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