Thursday, January 31, 2013

Merging and Evolving

Change, being one of the few absolute constants in my life, always seems to jump out and grab me when I least expect it. So, I was only a little surprised that as I sat back to take a deep breath and rejoice momentarily in my handiwork (I have a new website), I discovered that I now need to shift my blog from here to there: Point A to Point B. From Blogspot to

For those of you who read my blog or know me personally, you know that I'm just a little directionally challenged. And if there's code involved, it is more likely than not that I will have to put down my pen and take up whip and chair to complete the move successfully. Over the past couple of weeks, I've learned a thing or two about the bear that is HTML (I still don't know what the letters stand for. I just call it HaTeMaiL) but I'm assured that this little shift will be easy. 

As of tomorrow, you'll find my blog at my new/old renovated home: I considered a new name, new topics, new stuff to blog about but I like the idea of a continuing along in the same comfortable vein. Besides, changing my address is enough of a change for the moment. I am merging and evolving which sometimes requires taking baby steps . . . through a mine field of code.

Be sure to visit me at my new Blog site:

Evolving from bud to blossom to full flower. Change is good!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Scenes from a Life (and a Book)

At this point in my life as a writer, I find myself in the midst of a major paradigm shift. As a woman who would prefer to simply stay in my cave and write, connecting with readers through social media on the internet is a new and life altering concept. I’ve always known that there is a need to reach out, to build “a presence” out there, but until recently, I haven’t really understood the value of the internet or what it really means to connect with it. Where do I begin?

At the suggestion of my marketing mentor, I’ve begun sharing photographs and posters that are representative of emotional scenes from my books. I‘m beginning with A Solitary Life which lends itself to a wide spectrum of feelings as it moves through the life and childhood memories of my heroine, Mary Margaret. I’m hoping that the snapshots will resonate with readers and begin to make the connection I long for. And I do mean long for. I didn’t realize until I began posting the photos how important it has become to me to share Mary Margaret’s story. And I had no idea how readily people would respond to the photographs. My post views on Facebook went from a high of 53 to 25,480 from one day to the next. I have to admit, I was surprised--and happy.

Inside all of us is a child who needs a hug and an encouraging word.
Today I wish you hugs, love, and happiness.

Tapping into the emotional side of my work has opened up a new way for me to look at marketing as well as the internet. I’ve been thinking along very hard and clinical lines, looking for ways for readers to see my books rather than feel them. I’ve come to realize that my thoughts have been old-school when it comes to the internet, too. I’ve been thinking about it and using it as an information-gathering tool, as a place to find recipes, movie times, and directions rather than as a place where people gather to share ideas and feelings. The information highway of the past has become a stopping point, a place of rest and friendly faces, a place to discover scenes from a life and the stories they tell. So, I’m redesigning my website with an eye toward connection rather than information and putting more feeling into my posts.

Today I wish for you (and me) a new vision and a renewed sense of connection to the world be it real, fantasy or virtual. (And happy writing!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A License to Market

My sixteen year old granddaughter got her driver’s license last week. Her mother, my daughter, is finding out the hard way that having a license and being prepared to drive are two distinctly different things.

My granddaughter is a very smart girl. We were all convinced that she would be a good and safe driver, her only faults being her tremulous fear of pulling out into oncoming traffic (at a safe distance rather than waiting until there’s not a car in sight) and erring on the side of caution at crosswalks (as in realizing that she doesn’t have to wait until the person walks safely all the way into the mall before pulling ahead). What my daughter was not prepared for was her daughter’s absolute lack of a sense of direction as well as her inability to find her way to such seemingly simple places as say, SCHOOL! Consequently, my daughter has spent this past week tied to her cell phone as she waits for her daughter to call to say that she is, once again, lost.

When my daughter called me to share her frustration and ask for advice, I admit that I laughed. But I also suggested a quick lesson in map reading as well as a proviso that my granddaughter’s cell phone be banned in the car at all times, including while riding as a passenger. It is my firm belief that a huge contributing factor in her inability to find her way around her own home town is that my granddaughter has had her nose buried in her cell phone for the past five years. She, like every other person her age—all new or soon-to-be drivers--is so consumed with texting and tweeting and updating her status that she pays no attention at all to her surroundings. And paying attention to your surroundings is one way to stay safe while also being able to find your car in a crowded parking lot.

I can imagine that at this point you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about my granddaughter’s driving travails, wondering if I, too, have lost my way. Well, it occurred to me this morning as I sat at my desk pondering my next marketing plan that my granddaughter and I have a lot in common. We are both newly minted drivers with no sense of direction.

While it’s true that I have no difficulty driving from my house to the grocery store, I am a published author with a book to market and I have absolutely no idea how to drive it from point A ( to point B (my target audience). Just as my granddaughter has been driven to school day after day for nearly a decade, trusting that the driver knew the way, I’ve been buying from with no thought for how to market using the same site, trusting that I would figure it out easily when the time came for me to drive. But it’s not that easy. Just because I know how to use the site to buy doesn’t mean I know how to use it to sell. The roads look different from this side. They lead to unfamiliar territories of marketing and I find myself driving in circles looking for an interesting place to park; or driving up and down the interstate looking for road signs with a big flashing arrow pointing to Success.

For the past fourteen months, I’ve had my own nose buried in book after book, my own or someone else’s, and while I’ve been reading and contemplating literary success, the scenery right outside my window has been shifting and changing and speeding by. For instance, I received scores of emails and invitations from Pinterest, all the while reading funny or clever posts, pictures, and posters from friends and wondering where they’d found them. So I finally checked it out and created a few boards of my own. Now I find that what seemed like an innocuous shiny new internet toy is actually a powerful marketing tool. Who knew? (Savvy marketers, that’s who!)

So, like my granddaughter who has a new car and photo ID, I have all the right tools to market at my fingertips and the publishing license to drive my own sales. But having that license doesn’t give me direction or navigational skills or prepare me for the lines of traffic that clog the highways and byways on the road to success. I’ve taken a few wrong turns and ended up on a lonely deserted website with nary a reader in sight. I’ve lost my way a time or two and wondered if it might be easier to just hire a chauffeur or ask someone else to do the hard work. Instead, I’m taking my own advice. I’ve bought a map and I’m learning to read it correctly this time--with a little help from an expert. I’m adjusting my focus while driving and watching out for changes in directional flow. And I’m making a pact with my granddaughter that if she keeps her nose out of her cell phone while driving, I’ll keep my nose out of my next book--at least until we figure out a route that will bring us safely home.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hokey Pokey Marketing

You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!

Sounds a little like book marketing, doesn’t it?  

You put yourself out there, tentatively at first, one foot in, one foot out in an effort to keep yourself grounded and balanced. You join a few groups, you test the waters, you float a few comments, and you find yourself among friends. You step back and think, “That wasn’t so bad!” So you put your foot back in and shake it around a little, update your profile, take out a Facebook ad, join a few more groups and learn how to tweet, still with only one foot in--just in case you find yourself in over your head.

Now let’s try the left foot: You buy and read the self-help books for self-published writers. You scan your groups and forums for thoughts and ideas on how to market, how to build readership, how to network, how to find your niche. Then you thrust your foot back into the circle and give it a good shake -- just to see what happens. You make a few contacts, you retweet a few tweets, and you find that you’re connecting with other writers and poets and aspiring artists who are also furiously shaking their left foot while trying to learn to dance.

Right arm, left arm, in and out, shake and spin. At some point, the whole body becomes engaged, daring to jump into the circle to shake it all about in a wild frenzy of exultation (or frustration, I guess, depending on how well you’ve learned to perform). By the end of the dance, you should have it all together, each appendage working independently and in concert with all of your other appendages. Your website, blog, author pages, review pages, groups, connections, networks, fan base, clubs, personal appearance schedule, readings, launches, and every other conceivable body part of your marketing persona should be shuffling along in a smooth and graceful dance of success, doing the Hokey Pokey on auto-pilot while you get back to your real job: writing.

I’m not sure which part is the hardest part for me: the Hokey or the Pokey. In any case, that’s what it’s all about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jumping into the Deep End of the Pool

Since hearing that Random House is accepting submissions for their new digital-only imprints, I’ve been thinking about submitting two of my novels, Ripple and A Solitary Life. Having now completed my submissions, I have two words for the process: Yikes! and Yikes!

I should clarify, I guess, what I mean by the process—or more accurately, my process. I looked at their website and had to think long and hard about submitting to imprints with titles like ALIBI, HYDRA, FLIRT and LOVESWEPT. I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with the titles, but how do I gauge which imprint is the right one for me? HYDRA is for science fiction, fantasy, and horror so Ripple feels like a good fit. At first glance, I don’t necessarily think of A Solitary Life as LOVESWEPT, but it is marginally romantic and falls in the women’s fiction genre, although I would like to think that men will find it enjoyable and relevant as well. Nevertheless, I followed my own advice for once, closed my eyes and JUMPED!  In this case, I hit the submit button at the bottom of the page and then squelched the desire to throw up.

Now I’ll wait the two to four weeks to hear from them, to find out if Random House would like a full manuscript for consideration, and during that time, I’ll second guess every word I wrote on the submission form.  

I’ve been reading Noah Lukeman’s How to Write a Great Query Letter in preparation for my search for a literary agent and now I wonder if I should have paid closer attention before submitting to HYDRA and LOVESWEPT.  The online submission forms for both imprints have blanks for basic information: Short description of book/genre, Publishing history/writing history, Bio, Additional Notes, Sample excerpt, and Query letter (please tell us something about your book and why you think it would be right for us). Query letter? Does this mean they want a real, formatted letter, which would be a repeat of the information given above, or as indicated, just a quick, down-and-dirty reason for inclusion in their imprint? I opted for a simple explanation as to why my work appeals to my readers. In retrospect, I’m thinking my answer might have been more effective if I’d focused on why the publisher might want to read my work rather than my potential readers. (And there it is again: I won’t throw up! I won’t throw up!)

I will now focus on the next two to four weeks with positive thoughts and return to my writing with a renewed sense of exhilaration. I’ve never submitted my work to a publisher for consideration. I’ve never thrown myself out there and I realize that it is well past time that I took the plunge and jumped head first—or feet first—into the deep end of the pool. Either way, I’m all in.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Puzzle of Book Marketing

When I was a kid, I loved puzzles. My favorites were landscapes, the more complicated the better. I had a system: all of the pieces with straight edges went in one pile; all of the pieces that were one color (usually blue sky or green grass) went in another pile; all of the oddball pieces with funky shapes went in another pile. I’d begin with the straight edges to create the border and then fill in the sky, working my way down to the other one-color pieces and then tackling the harder areas last. Seems simple enough, right?

Well, when you’re color blind, it’s a little harder to tell blue sky from green grass and when it comes to shading and subtlety, like the leaves on a tree, the shape of the piece is the only way to figure out where it belongs. My eye learned to pick up shapes rather than colors, focusing on the lines and edges of the pieces rather than on the picture that was unfolding in front of me. It was only later, as I got older, that my mind could trick itself into seeing shades of color. I think I know what the color red is supposed to look like. I can usually feel red and blue, green and yellow. I can feel the bright colors and I’m right more often than not when I play that guessing game with my family, many of whom are also color blind. When it comes to dark green, brown, navy blue, and strange shades in between, though, I’m pretty much lost.

Book marketing feels like a puzzle to me. I’m intrigued by the multiple venues and the options available online. I understand the need to be social, to take advantage of the marketing opportunities on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But I also feel like I’m right back to where I started as a kid, sorting my pieces in little piles of shapes and sizes and colors. I can’t see the big picture that’s supposed to be guiding me.

My e-library is chock full of books promising to tell me the secret of marketing using social media, how to make a million dollars with email and Twitter, how to build sales with “likes” and page views and +1s. I saw a post on a message board the other day that really confused me: the writer claimed that he was working with an author who made it to Amazon’s #1 e-book spot in one week using only social media. One week! When I asked how that’s possible, the response was “by working dusk to dawn.” Doing what?

I‘ve finally figured out the answer: There’s a piece missing. I can put all of the information in neat little piles, coded by shape and color and size, but the final piece doesn’t exist. The piece that will fill in the gap, that one empty space in my puzzle, is one I will have to make on my own. Or hire it made. I hear there are some pretty good puzzle piece makers out there just waiting for someone to come along. For now, I’m sifting through my pieces again, looking for the one I might have overlooked. It’s about this big, with funky edges but I have no idea what color it is. If you see it, let me know, will you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blog Hop: Welcome to The Next Big Thing

Thanks, Leisa Watkins for inviting me to The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. This is my first hop and I’m excited to share my work and pass off to the other talented writers participating next week.

Although I've been writing short stories, poetry, essays, and novels for a very long time, I am a relatively new published author. Ripple, my first sci-fi novel, a product of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), was published in December of 2011, along with two children's books, Thunder and Minshew the Dragon Dog. For more detailed information on my work, check out my website: Colleen Sayre.

I had a lot of fun writing my latest novel, A Solitary Life. Although it's neither sci-fi nor children's literature, Mary Margaret Carmichael is a compelling character who demanded my attention and kept me thinking. As I began writing, I had no idea where the story would take me. The characters developed on the page very quickly, each with his or her own voice and story to relate about Mary Margaret. I became intrigued with how to pull all of the pieces of the story together to create a cohesive tale and I believe the characters did that for me. I came to love Mary Margaret and I think my readers will, too. 

As the author of A Solitary Life, I have very specific ideas about how to answer questions concerning the process of writing and how my book came into being. However, Mary Margaret has her own take on her story. I thought it might be fun to turn the tables and ask Mary Margaret to speak for herself. I'll add my comments where necessary and appropriate--and where Mary Margaret will let me.

What is the working title of your book?

MM: The book is titled A Solitary Life. I wanted to call it Yikes! but my best friend Sophia insisted it wouldn’t sell. Colleen liked the name A Solitary Life and I think her readers will identify with the idea of a life lived alone.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

MM: It’s my autobiography, the story of my life as told through the eyes and words of my friends and family. Colleen was kind enough to help out.
CS: Mary Margaret sprang to life one morning as I sat reading my horoscope. She has a voice and she knows how to use it.

What genre does your book fall under?

MM: Literary fiction, Contemporary, Mainstream, something along those lines. I don’t particularly like pigeon holes. It’s not sci-fi (Colleen writes sci-fi but this, unfortunately for me, is not a time travel saga), it’s not women’s lit--or Chick-Lit as my brother calls it. It’s hard to peg it, but I’d say mainstream literary fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

MM: Here’s my wish list: 
Mary Margaret (me): Frances McDormand
Kathleen (my mother): Jessica Lange
Arthur (my father): Robert Redford
Luther (my older brother): Philip Seymour Hoffman
Garrett (my younger brother): Robert Pattinson
Paula (my best friend): Felicity Huffman
Henry (my husband): Gerard Butler

CS: I agree with Mary Margaret, mostly. I love Frances McDormand. She has an edge that would be perfect; Jessica Lange looks like Kathleen; Robert Redford has Arthur’s quiet presence; Robert Pattinson is musical and has the proper amount of brooding magnetism to play Garrett; Gerard Butler would be perfect for Mary Margaret’s fantasy Henry. (You forget, Mary Margaret, that you won’t be rubbing up against any of these people. This is a movie! You’re in my head!) The real Henry would have to be someone who can play smart, sexy, and smarmy. Timothy Olyphant would be wonderful! Felicity Huffman is perfect for Paula. She and Frances McDormand would make great best friends.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

MM: I would say, in my own words, that A Solitary Life is the truth of life: “Often we live unhappily and then we die.” Colleen will probably say, “It’s the story of a life filled with love, heartache, loss, empathy, harrowing drama, and hope.”

CS: A Solitary Life is a story about surviving and living through the worst moments of your life, including your family, and embracing the best moments of your life, including your family.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

MM: A Solitary Life is available for Kindle and in paperback at 
CS: My work has never been submitted to an agent or a to publisher. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

MM: I talk fast; she types slow. The first draft was finished in three weeks.
CS: She’s correct. It took three weeks from beginning to end.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

MM: My idol is James Joyce. He used music and poetry to write stories that were unique and beautiful. I can hear my critics now, though: “You are no James Joyce!” No, I’m not, not in any way, shape or form. But this is my ode to James, my homage, so Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
CS: Maeve Binchy's books come to mind, especially Tara Road. Her books are gripping yet subtle stories of the human experience. 

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

MM: I screamed in her ear, in a loving way, until she heard me and then we wrote my story. She would say the story is inspired by her life, her experiences, her love of books. I’d say she’s a good listener. 
CS: I agree with Mary Margaret. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

MM: The format is interesting. Each chapter of the book is written from a different perspective and with a different voice. Everyone has a personal view of their life but this book offers one life from different views. I’ve always believed that we live our lives in a solitary confinement of sorts, in our own little bubbles of experience. We’re all alone in this life, alone together. 


The Next Big Thing Blog Hop authors offer an exciting and diverse blend of writing styles and stories. Please visit Philip Newey, Chris Wood, and Regina Mors now for information on their newest books and books in progress. Tanya Anderson, and Pauline Conolly will be participating at a later time but be sure to visit their blogs for updates on their work. And one more author has joined our ranks. Ian Miller has joined our ranks. Welcome Ian!
If you would like to showcase a recent or upcoming novel or book in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop, send me a message or leave a comment and I'll be happy to forward information on how to participate. Or email me at