Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Steering Toward Normal ARC Rodeos into Ohio

by Kim Van Sickler

I first herd (ha, ha, couldn't resist) about Rebecca Petruck's upper MG steer-raising-themed Steering Toward Normal ARC (advanced reader copy) tour from Carol Baldwin. She dissected Petruck's debut novel according to the fifteen beats of Blake Snyder's Save the Cat here on her blog. She also individually called out some of her writing friends on Facebook who live in different states, and urged us to enter her lend-away contest.

Carol's contest incorporated Rebecca's desire for her book to graze in as many states as possible prior to its May release date. Here's what happened:
1) the last reader mailed the ARC from its home state of NC, where Rebecca now lives and Carol also resides, to me.
2) ARC was read
3) comments were left within its pages
4) a choice was made whether to snap a picture or make a short video with the book
5) photos made their way to Rebecca via electronic notification of this post
6) the ARC passed to its next recipient
A literary version of Flat Stanley. How fun is that? Rebecca plans on sending blue ribbons to all of the ARC readers and showcasing her pictures/videos closer to the release date.

I loved the book. Although set in the 4-H world of Minnesota, the book opens on the MC, Diggy's "normal" life. He's being raised by his real father (Pop Lawson), after his mother abandoned him on Pop's doorstep, and putted out of town forever on a tractor. We meet Diggy in the fall of his 8th grade year, when a schoolmate is dropped on that same doorstep by the husband of a recently deceased local teacher. The reason? Why, Pop Lawson is the biological father of that second boy too.

Whoa! Diggy's "normal" existence turns on its head.

My review of this heart-tugging battle of mind vs. heart is here.

It just so happens that Ohio is a big fair state. People I know exhibit guinea pigs and pies and flowers in the Lake County (the next county over from Cleveland) Fair and sell their maple syrup in the Geauga County Fair. And the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, well, it's always a whopper. I was there a couple of years ago with my youngest stepdaughter and so...I resurrected those pictures for you now. (After just a wee bit of editing.)

Introducing...Steering Toward Normal visits the Ohio State Fair!
STN enjoys the marching band and some requisite fried fair food.

STN takes in a pig race.

STN visits the other animal exhibits.

STN appreciates a hefty squash.

The ARC didn't stay in OH long. Right after I finished it, I contacted MG writer Marcia Hoehne, and told her this is a story she'd like to wrangle with. She agreed to welcome the ARC and show it a good Wisconsin.

Get along little dogie. Spread your tale across the nation.

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Works - and What Doesn't - Blog Hop

by Kim Van Sickler

January 20
Here are our hosts: 

I used to work in marketing. Marketing other people and organizations. And I was pretty good at getting those people/entities what they wanted. 

But out of everything I learned, here are the two most important pieces of advice I have to give.

1. If you are trying to spur someone to take action, they need to hear your message repeatedly before they do it. Of course, it depends what you want your audience to do. The more you are asking them to do, the harder you have to work to get a response, but you increase your chances if you 
a) don't ask for a lot of effort, 
b) ask for something they are prone to want to do anyway, 
c) and present your request/idea in a fun/interesting way 
d) in a number of different forums frequented by your target audience.

I've heard that people need to hear a message ten times before they act on it. No one really knows the exact number, but the point is repetition, repetition, repetition. 

That doesn't mean run the same message verbatim. It does mean run different versions of it over and over again, and tap into a variety of media like newspapers, TV, radio, Internet, personal appearances. It is work. No doubt about it. And some people take to it like syrup to pancakes, while others don't.

This is the point where all of those wonderful relationships you've developed come in handy. Relationships with all types of people who are truly interested in what you do and who can help spread the word. 

2. Many local newspapers will print exactly what you send them, if it's relevant. Stories and pictures. (Just make sure the photos are high quality.) Again, keep your audience in mind. My daughter just held an open house for the community as part of earning her Gold Award in Girl Scouts. So we took a picture of the historical building she helped renovate and invited people to drop by. The newspaper ran everything, word for word, as we sent it. And when we held a badge event for Junior Girl Scouts where everyone stepped back in time to 1896, and took an eye-catching picture, it was a no-brainer to send that to the paper too. 

Results: Local residents stopped by the Grange building, clutching the newspaper article, and asked for my daughter to take them on a tour of the building. She was thrilled. The building's co-curators were stunned that so many people visited. Our invited guests drank all of our punch, and ate all of our cookies, and asked lots of questions. It was a truly successful event. But we didn't just rely on that press release. We began by scheduling the event on the same day and the same place as another annual event for civic leaders. Our open house would begin four hours before the second event, and end at the same time the other event started. We prepared an invitation to run on local cable access TV, announced the event on Facebook, personally invited everyone we thought should be there, and talked up the open house at service unit-wide Girl Scout meetings. In fact, one Brownie troop decided to conduct their Girl Scout meeting at the open house. 

As an extra bonus, an aide to one of our state senators saw the article and e-mailed me asking if Claire would like a Senate proclamation recognizing her accomplishment.

Yes, she would! She was over the moon.

As far as the back-in-time event, our goals were to a) document that the event took place for the Gold Award committee, b) reward the attendees with a picture of themselves and c) promote Girl Scouts in our community. The photo was a concrete way to illustrate the occasion for the Gold Award committee. The girls who attended were thrilled to see themselves in the paper. And although we don't have hard numbers, we know that every time we show scouts in action in the community, we find more girls who want to sign up. (Our PR problem isn't finding scouts, it's finding adults willing to lead scout troops, but that's a different post. And the subject of another PR campaign.)

What are some of the things you've tried that have garnered you publicity?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Why the Space Opera Genre Isn't Just for Science Fiction Fans

Guest Post by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Science fiction is a unique genre. It doesn’t appeal to everyone. Usually it’s the detailed and hard-core science that turns people away. But if you enjoy fantasies, action-adventure, or westerns, then there is a genre of science fiction you might like – space opera.

When you really think about it, science fiction is a blend of genres or another genre masquerading as science fiction. It can be part thriller, horror, romance, or western. Star Wars is a western set in space. (Outland is literally High Noon in space.) The Thing is horror. Galaxy Quest is humor. Starman is romance. Science fiction is very diverse when you examine it closely.

Space opera is often epic in scope, so it will appeal to those who like big, sweeping stories. It has more of an adventurous feel, even though the story may be set in our future or in a galaxy far away. The technology is still there, but it’s not about how something works – it just works. Overall, space opera is less about the science and more about the story and characters.

Despite the fact that this is my genre, I never considered an audience beyond science fiction fans when writing my stories. But when my first book gained a wide readership outside of genre enthusiasts, I began to understand the elements that attracted them. Each of my books featured something unique that appeals to human nature and emotion.

CassaStar focused on the bond of friendship. That facet attracted a lot of women readers even though there are no female characters in the book. It’s a character-driven story of growth and change.

CassaFire is a lighter story that not only followed two growing friendships, but featured a romance as well. Two very different people came together in a relationship of mutual admiration and trust. Most of us are suckers when it comes to a love story!

CassaStorm is the story of a family and all the dynamics involved. Since one of the main characters is ten years old, young people as well as adults can relate to it. The themes of devotion and a need for approval resonate with most people.

All of those elements are contained in stories that just happen to boast a science fiction/space opera setting. And they are all a critical part of a good story – the human equation.

So the next time you see a science fiction book, look past the spaceships, the aliens, and the unusual settings. Look to the storyline and characters. You just might find a book that ignites your sense of adventure and touches your heart with its human element.

by Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

"Cavanaugh makes world building on the galactic scale look easy. The stakes affect the entire known universe and yet Cavanaugh makes it intensely personal for our hero. The final installment of this series will break your heart and put it back together."
- Charity Bradford, science fantasy author of The Magic Wakes

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002. eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99. EBook available in all formats

Find CassaStorm:

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of Amazon bestsellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tell Me When Blog Hop

by Kim Van Sickler

Congrats to Stina Lindenblatt on her new book and for hosting this blog hop.

My husband attended a conference where he heard a victim speak about being kidnapped at a second job interview. After she was thrown in a car, she was transported to her new life as a sex slave, a horrific experience she endured for the next ten months.

Natasha's story dredged up unpleasant memories for me of times in my life that I felt targeted for sex. For instance:

1. At age 15, being lured to the staff quarters of a 28-year-old cruise ship waiter who tried his best to rape me. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone in authority about it.
Kim (far left) dressed with her family for costume night on that same cruise.
2. While walking to a friend's house when I was 16, a man drove up and asked for directions. After I approached his car, he removed a map from his lap, showing me his erect penis.
Kim as a high school sophomore.
3. During a trip to the mall with a girlfriend, a bridal shop employee begged us to return to his store after hours so we could role-play.

4. Being seduced right out of high school by the 35-year-old restaurant manager at my summer job. He said he was divorced, and he pursued me hard. Turns out he wasn't even separated from his wife.
Kim (second from right) at her high school graduation.

5. At my first college fraternity party as a sorority girl, we were herded into the frat house basement and segregated from the guys until we finished our keg of beer. By the time we were allowed to co-mingle, the guys were trashed, and we were supposed to be too. Our "hosts" were grippy and horny, and it was a humiliating experience.

6. Jogging in the woods at 23 when a man called out to me. When I turned to look, I saw he was naked. I kept running, and he chased me. By the time I made it out of the woods, he was a few strides away from grabbing distance. I never ran alone through those woods again.

Kim right out of college.
I'm lucky that nothing worse happened to me, considering the unwanted sexual attention I got without even trying. And I am, and always have been, an average-looking person. My latest book, The Mall in Gullybrook, explores what happens when three girls are targeted and pursued for their flesh. They don't fare as well as I did. Because, oftentimes, when a manipulator wants you badly enough, he or she will go to great lengths to get you. And nowadays, with the pervasiveness of social media, luring innocent young things who think they are old enough to take care of themselves is chillingly easy.

I wish it wasn't so.

But since it is, I want young girls to take precautions, become less trusting, and not be afraid to report anything that makes them uncomfortable.

The result of not learning this lesson can crush a young life. Rape can't be undone. Better for girls to understand the sexual landscape and stay out of the clutches of pimps, pedophiles, and sexual aggressors. Better than the alternative.

Have you been able to remain unscathed by disturbing sexual advances? If not, if it's not too painful, please share your experience in the comments below. Talk is power. Silence cloaks the perpetrators, and does nothing to prevent it from happening to someone else.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Today's post is part of Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

I have written previous blog posts abut the six P’s a writer should have: Pride, Practice, Professionalism, Patience, Perseverance, and Passion. Five of these are pretty self-explanatory, but what about the first? After all, isn’t Pride one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Doesn’t Pride goeth before a fall and shame follows after?

But I don’t mean Pride as Vanity.

I have been to many workshops or meetings where each participant is asked to introduce him or herself and tell why they came. So often the answer is, “I’m a wannabe writer.” Or “I’m trying to become a writer.”

I might ask, “Do you write?” Or “Have you written something?” If the answer is “Yes,” that person is a writer. Writer is not the same as published writer, just as poet is not the same as published poet and novelist is not the same as published novelist. Simply put, if you write, you are a writer.

So proclaim it proudly, “I am a writer!” Of course, that statement may evoke questions like “What have you written?” or “Are you published?”

Be honest. In my case, I have written 11 novels, several dozen short stories, hundreds of poems, and more than 70 blog posts. So far, other than the blog posts, one short story and three poems were published, but I was a writer long before any of that happened. In a year or so, I expect to have my first published novel, but I have been a novelist for decades. I have worked hard and I deserve the title “writer.” If you write, so do you.

Be proud. Say the words. “I am a writer!”

Kathy (right) and Kim working on novels Like a River and Muleskinner at the last Swagger retreat.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Towpath Trail Adventures

by Kim Van Sickler

I couldn't resist writing about the journey my husband and I took inspired by the research I was doing for a book. You can read it here on the We Said Go Travel blog.