What’s Up, 2021?

I am for sure not a great picture taker, but this quick selfie was to show off my new dress to a friend. Then I blew her a kiss because I was imitating one of the emojis we often send. Then I liked it. Fuzzy photo with no hair combing or a speck of make up on my face!

Figuring that we will still be masking for at least six more months, I’ve decided to swear off make up. Even eye make up. This conversation has been going on for a while between my friends and me. Make up smears your mask. It rubs your face and creates a not good complexion. Whatever your complexion was, it’s worse with make up under a mask. For me, anyway.

Also, I am 65. When will I allow myself to go natural? I never wore make up in high school, because I was a feminist! Then later I was still a feminist but I liked this guy and he wasn’t asking me out, so I got contact lenses and started wearing make up. He is now and will be forevermore the father of my children. So the make up habit continued, especially when I was teaching. Standing in front of a classroom can feel a bit like acting. I needed my disguise.

Then you know how we used to go out and have dinner or drinks or dancing? I was not going to be the only girl in my gang without make up. Then came Covid. I know people say eye make up is essential for masks. I don’t think so. My youthful feminist does not think so; she’s still inside advising me to just be myself. There used to be an age when women could slip into the matron stage without fuss. Especially if their hair was grey. Which mine is, but that’s a different blog.

Al, Dad and I went to check out the new pier (it’s lovely!) masks in place as needed. Then Dad wanted to have lunch downtown and there was plenty of outdoor seating. I didn’t think a thing about not having make up on…although I admit it would have been a different story if I was meeting girlfriends or even if the party was comprised of Al and I eating out (literally) with another couple.

As for the Zoom conundrum, I don’t care. Those thumb-sized images don’t show much. But. What if I were giving a professional presentation or a workshop? I did one of those when my book first came out and YES I did wear make up. So my vow to not wear make up anymore may be just for the duration of this damn virus.

I wasn’t optimistic enough to think 2021 would snap its fingers and all would be normal again. We’re getting closer, but it’s a slow slog. Slower than even scientists thought! Even my astrologer thought it would be over by now. Early in the pandemic she said the contagion might last as long as December 2020. Let’s just hope it’s over before Christmas 2021.

Happy New Year everyone *insert kiss emoji here*

Afraid of Covid?

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

If you’re afraid of Covid, it’s not surprising. The news stories and statistics upward of 300,000 deaths, not to mention the masking and staying away from others…it’s as if we are caught in a grim nightmare. I am truly sorry for the people who have died, and for their families. The tragic stories make me sad. The lack of help for those in need: food, rent, heat. It’s all heartbreaking and it sucks and it feeds our fears.

About six weeks ago, my husband and I came down with Covid and we weren’t sure if it was the flu or sinus infection or maybe Covid. My doctor said “Quarantine for two weeks.” I asked “Do I need a test?” She said if I wanted one, I could get one, but I was already doing the most important thing. Staying away from others. After we were better, my husband’s doctor did a blood test and he had antibodies for Covid. So he had it. I guess that means I had it too. It also means that now we are immune for however long (doctors don’t know) and we can’t pass Covid on to others. We are not contagious. And we can’t get reinfected, at least for awhile.

I’m glad because this week we are heading to Florida and I was worried about my dad. Now I know I can’t give it to him. Such a relief. I’ve had another possible health problem that needed tests and more tests. Due to Covid, I had to move our travel dates back by two weeks. I wasn’t sure what would happen even then, but today I went to the hospital and finally got the “all clear.” More relief.

But then…I mentioned I had Covid on FaceBook and was amazed at all the people who responded, worried about if I was okay. Did not one of them have Covid yet? Because I’ve been very careful and followed every rule and I got it, lots of my neighbors got it, too. It’s not that bad for most people. I’m 65. I’m fine. Most people recover at home. I didn’t get a fever and I still smelled the coffee. I could say I was fatigued, but truth is, I like a nap some days. I won’t underplay it. I wasn’t well, but it was the kind of sick where I might have talked myself into going to work, and I know Al would have, and he was much sicker than I was.

We are retired so we don’t have to make those tough calls anymore. Bosses are idiots. They get mad if you call in sick, not realizing you’ll be passing your germs around. Or not caring. Covid is teaching us how deadly germs can be, and more important, how we can stop them from spreading. But if you’re afraid, take heart. Chances are, you’ll be fine. Drink a lot of water. Rest.

Connecting During Covid

I thought I would be so much further along on my Covid marketing plan. But then I got sick. Not sure yet if I had the actual Covid or just a potent blend of sinus, cold, and flu. Getting blood test tomorrow. Getting results who knows when??? Still, even sick for a few weeks, I did manage to make this little promo image on Canva, and Linda, who you met last week when we swapped blogs, has promised to show me how to do more. Like a story.

Also I did my Facebook Author Chat. I was so happy my voice wasn’t nasal and I did not cough! It was fun and easy but not so fun or easy to upload the video to my site. I checked the link at the start of this paragraph and it will take you to the chat. (Maybe only if you are on Facebook?) I watched it after we stopped talking and noted that I did not mention my new book one time. Not once! I didn’t show the book cover or even mention the title. It was just talking with other writers. Pure fun, which is the best sort of promotion.

In case I have not said it enough due to Covid or whatever I had (my husband gave it to me, whatever it was) the title of my new book is Jane in St Pete. That link will take you to Amazon to buy the book, but you can also buy it on Nook and iPhone. I bought my first Kindle book (by Karen McQuestion) on my husband’s iPhone in 2007 because I didn’t have a Kindle or an iPhone and I was excited about this new KDP program Karen was talking about.

I kind of knew that promotion for this book at this time would not be a whirlwind of success. Besides getting sick and writing the next book in the Jane series, I am also taking care of doctor appointments that had to be postponed when I got sick. Doctors do not want you in their office if you even suspect you have Covid.

What happened after that was I had to wait a few additional weeks for another appointment. It’s an important appointment, additional tests necessary because the first test had a bit of a shadow. I knew I’d be worried (worried is my middle name) the whole time I was in Florida this winter if I waited for Spring to take that test. I’m sure it will turn out to be nothing. Anyway.

We were supposed to leave for Florida December 2. Yes, in two days, now postponed two weeks. My biggest book promotion was going to be in Florida, in St. Pete, where the book is set. That may not happen now. The venue where I was to have a book signing is closed. Due to Covid. I’m glad I gave myself a talking to before the book came out. It’s okay if this is not the book launch of my dreams, despite what my horoscope may have predicted.

There will be other books and other signings and probably even other video chats. Which I really wanted to embed right here. Maybe next time.

Blog Swap with Linda Sienkiewicz

When it comes to writing, or any other creative pursuits, time used to explore possibilities is never wasted.  

How a Dead End Led to a Children’s Book

One of our family’s favorite activities when we’re on the beach in North Carolina is watching for ghost crabs, those skittish little creatures that live in deep holes in the sand along the shore. One year, my grandson, then three, was frightened by a large ghost crab that ran right across his foot. We promptly visited Village Books in Buxton to find a picture book about them for him. Surprisingly, we came up empty-handed. “Well,” my daughter said, “You’ll just have to write him one.”

So I wrote a story about a boy who visits the beach for the first time, and how his big brother’s story about ghost crabs scares him. What would happen if he then had to rescue a crab from a girl with a net? I sketched out pictures with markers and colored pencils, and printed it myself for my grandkids. 

The love of story kept me going

As a writer, I thought the story had possibilities. I fine tuned the text by putting my poetry skills to work and began querying children’s book agents. From what I understood, publishers typically select the the illustrator for picture books, not the author. That was okay with me. It had been a long time since I’d done any serious drawing, and this looked like a big project.

Don’t quit 

Finding an agent or publisher can be a long process though. While I queried, I decided I may as well try doing the illustrations, too. Why not? I had the skills, even if they were a little rusty. The biggest issue was I’d attended art school in the seventies, long before art was digitalized, and I felt this put me at a disadvantage.

I bought myself an iPad and an Apple Pen. That was the easy part, because I had no clue how to draw on an iPad, or even what app to use! It took me a year, a full year, before I finally got serious about learning how to use Adobe Sketch.

I watched a lot of YouTube how-to videos. I also had to study children, beaches, and crabs, which I’d never really drawn before. Have you ever considered how hard it is to draw ocean waves? They are tricky! 

Meanwhile, I kept getting rejections or no response from agents. 

Keep learning

Despite the rejections, I felt productive. In addition to fine tuning my drawing skills, I studied picture book layout, and learned what in the story to illustrate in order to keep the story moving ahead visually. I went to a conference on publishing children’s books and talked with an agent who suggested adding science facts at the end of book. 

A year or two later, I sought out a publisher on my own. I worked hand in hand with editor MaryChris Bradley, who’d published my novel, In the Context of Love, under a different imprint. She had excellent ideas for fine tuning the text. However, she told me my illustrations were too small to use! 

Ugh. I resized them, but in the process, they lost clarity, so I had to redo all the drawings for optimal reproduction. Not only that, after the book was laid out, there were three more pages to fill! I expanded the educational portion of the book with more fun facts and science. And more drawings.

That dead end created “The End”

At any point in this journey, I could have thrown up my hands and said “I’m not a children’s book author,” “I’m too far behind in my skills to illustrate a book,” or “Agents keep rejecting me!” Many times, I thought “This is too much work.” But I kept at it. I’m so excited to see how my early conception of a children’s book morphed into this final product. 

My grandson is seven now. I hope my grandchildren, and your children or grandchildren like this book. It means a lot to me.

Gordy and the Ghost Crab Book Trailer

Gordy and the Ghost Crab 

Gordy is afraid of the crashing ocean waves and a strange creature he sees skittering across the beach. It doesn’t help his fears when his big brother tells him it’s a ghost crab that will pinch off all his toes. What will Gordy do when he meets a girl intent on capturing a ghost crab? Will he stay away, or will he rescue the little crab? 

The story highlights empathy, problem solving and the value of caring for nature. The book also includes fun facts about different types of common crabs and offers a gentle conservation message.

Order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941523226/

Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s poetry, short stories and art have been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. Gordy and the Ghost Crab is her first picture book. Her first novel, In the Context of Love, won four finalist awards, including the Hoffer Award and the Sarton Award for Fiction. She also has a poetry chapbook award, three other poetry chapbooks, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her MFA is from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She volunteers at The Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social services organization.

More Covid Marketing

It took all weekend, but I managed to make a Twitter post on Canva! Then I uploaded it to Twitter via Canva’s direct “post to Twitter now.” That was a mistake as I could not add my buy link to my tweet post. A problem with Canva is you can’t put the buy link into a Canva design. Just pop it beneath the tweet. Or use the Word Press link or caption option if you’re blogging.

I hope you can see that I am not very far at all in my quest to master Canva. I would take a class if I could find one. I already looked for Canva for Dummies but there is no such book. I was only able to make the above tweet because I used a stock template and changed the words in the text boxes. So, really, I’m not Canva ready. I’m just bungling along.

Also, all last week, when my book released, guess what everyone was tweeting about? The election. Which, okay, that was way more important than my new book release. So I decided to use the time to learn Canva. It is clear I need more time. Much more time. Or a class. Probably both.

One tip I do have is to talk to your writer friends now, especially those with book releases about the same time as yours. What are they doing? My writing friend Linda told me to use Canva for tweets and Facebook. She also said we should do an online “two writers talking about writing” thing. I liked that idea, but I told her I know nothing about Zoom except how to click on the link the leader sends.

But darn if she didn’t only find out how to do it, she found a writer who wanted to host us on her online program: Pink Panther Presents Author Talk. Our talk will be streamed live November 20 at 4 pm and anybody can watch it for free. So, we are still dealing with Covid, but there are ways to market your new release even if you are a tech disaster like me.

I must mention that I have had a website and a blog since 2002 and I use them as my platform base. My son suggested I start a blog way back and he taught me everything I know about having an online presence. If you don’t have a good website (I like Word Press and I pay $100 a year so there are no ads.) that’s my #1 tip. Get a website and start blogging! When I need help with technical aspects of my site, I use Bakerview Consulting; they are wonderful and also Word Press experts.

Another writing friend, Barb, has a book coming out December 9 and we share the same publisher, the lovely Wild Rose Press, who tweeted out my new release last week. Barb offered to interview me on her blog and I said wouldn’t it be fun to switch blogs for a day? I’d write a blog for her site and she’d write one for mine. About our new releases, of course. So really the basics of marketing online are having a platform like a website, use it to blog, then link posts on social media. Also, you gotta have writer friends. Those are my top two suggestions.

Suggestion three is for people who are good at online design. Make all those great Twitter and Facebook posts and pin them. Just don’t overdo promotion on Twitter and Facebook. Pinning a marketing post is fine, but scheduling your lovely designed posts to pop up every hour is not cool. Social sites require social engagement in a meaningful way. That means don’t just tweet fancy ways to say buy my book. But, hey, if you want to, here’s my link: https://amzn.to/34MK3FY.