Thursday, October 30, 2014

Me and the Queen of Hearts

You have to humor me today. I am prone to depression (I will admit it because it takes it out of secrecy and makes it mainstream). When I'm depressed I sleep a lot ... A LOT. I don't want to take drugs for it. The last time I did it scrambled my brain like eggs. I need my brains. So, I do natural things, and I try to recognize what's going on and stop myself from falling into the "rabbit hole". I equate the rabbit hole as a very unfriendly place and really hard to crawl back out.

Sometimes though I let myself fully celebrate the rabbit hole with the Queen of Hearts. We often talk about how fun it would be to take some people's heads off and maybe spare the others. It's all talk really. You know over a deck of cards. When I let myself celebrate my dark humor I just give myself a day or so. This self-inflicted pity-party involves howling at the moon, too. It feels great. Try a little howling -- best home remedy around.

The depression tends to be triggered by PMS (the all-time favorite culprit of imbalanced hormones and age) and overall unresolved feelings. Depression is anger turned inward. Sometimes I wonder if I just let the anger rage outward instead of inward I would at least release it. Instead I press a smile on my face when I shouldn't smile at all. I place boundaries and then watch others disrespect those boundaries and then it creates a vicious circle. I feel bad about myself for allowing disrespect. Then I remember, maybe I didn't respect myself. You would be surprised though once those boundaries REALLY go down and you hold and hold and hold how all of a sudden a new-found respect arises from those who think those boundaries were drawn in erasable ink.

One time my husband said, "I don't get it. You place boundaries with me. Why do you let other people walk right over them but not me?" I pondered the question. And then I realized why I could do it with him. Because I knew in my "queen of hearts" that he loves me unconditionally, and it's all right to say what I need and want. If someone loves you they don't want to disrespect your boundaries.

So, in my dark humor day I hope there is a nugget of golden information for you to take home. I don't know if I'll ever totally overcome depression. That I am still walking, talking and authentically smiling says a lot about my place on this journey. That I found a husband who loves me unconditionally says even more. And that I am able to hold the line shines bright on the promise of hope for happiness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

You Can't Break the Rules if You Don't Know the Rules

I don't like to color inside of the lines. When it comes to writing stories I don't insist authors color in the lines either. I was asked a question about whether or not a story technique HAD to apply. Truth is outside of grammar and punctuation I don't think anything HAS to be done. BUT I do want authors to know what they're doing vs. just doing what they think is the correct method of storytelling. It's the difference between being intentional and being unaware. Not to suggest that lack of awareness will never work (anything is possible), but unintentionally breaking rules you don't know exist is like rolling the dice and hoping it hits snake eyes.

When I write, I write with intention to do what I am doing. If it's breaking rules of storytelling or character development or plotting, I know it does. Why I am doing is what matters vs. just deciding to do it. What is my point? For example, in my forthcoming book Body in the Trunk I quite intentionally messed with the story structure. What I did with my technique was to "intentionally" layer the storytelling. Each chapter while a mini-story in and of itself was told from different viewpoints. That technique accomplished two "intentional goals": one, to give the reader insight into each of these characters and provide their back stories, and two, develop their voices and points-of-view. It also created a depth and developed the story from these different viewpoints.

Now the haphazard approach would be to just do what you want with no intention or purpose. You know ... throw mud at the wall and see what sticks. Here is the insight: I knew the rules of storytelling. Since I know the rules I was able to "twist" and play with them to get my gross results: a fully flushed out story. If I didn't know exactly what I was doing in bending structure to my goals, the results could have been messy storytelling that loses the reader's interest. Additionally, critics (and they still could) might lambaste my work and not see that it was all intentional. My hope is they see it's creative and interesting not disorganized and confusing. Without knowledge of the rules to break the latter is more likely. So know your rules. Then bend them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Body in the Trunk: Chapter 3 Excerpt


Chapter 3

I attended an annual multimedia trade show in New York City at the Convention Center every year. My company M Marketing and Graphics bought a 10 x 10 booth, and we always seemed to sit across from this Japanese electronics company where the diminutive Asian sales girls wore five-inch heels presumably to make up for their lack of height. I marveled at any woman, short or not, who would dare to wear platform shoes for more than an hour much less 10 hours on a cement trade-show floor. I, on the other hand, wore my comfortable, flat Mary Janes to match my slim black skirt and lavender silk blouse with silver buttons on the two breast pockets that gave it sparkle. I tucked it in with a wide belt with silver infinity clasps in the center to give it a modern, chic flair.
I loved trade shows – the energy and meeting potential clients face-to-face. Most of my life was spent in my home office at my computer working on graphics and illustrations for marketing campaigns. So when I came out of my “cave,” it felt wonderful to talk and interact with interested clients. I also appreciated the time away from my parental duties and the ever-increasing bland and numb feelings toward Paul. He never made these trips easy. He complained he would have to take care of the girls, and I better not stay too long. Although I was expected to earn full-time pay to contribute to my 50-plus percent of our bills, it never seemed to bother him to demand I take all the kid duties.
 Of course, the now-dual interruptions to pick up the girls meant that I still needed to work later to make up the difference; however, Paul also required I end my workday on time to spend time with the family. He complained nonstop if I worked late. Then I would intentionally go out to eat dinner with everyone only to find Paul comfortably sitting in front of our 56-inch flat-screen TV with our kids, watching Power Puff Girls or Sponge Bob Square Pants. He allowed everyone to eat in front of the TV even though when I was a child we sat down for dinner and talked. No talking took place during our dinner routine; but I better damned well be there to eat with them lest Paul come back and yell at me until I acquiesced just to get him to stop.
The craziness of those conversations frustrated me, too.

“You need to eat dinner with us,” he scolded as he crashed into my office.
“I’ve got a deadline.”
“All you do is whine and nag, you know that?”
“What?”
“Nag, nag, nag, nag.”
“What?”
“Get out there and eat dinner with us.”
“I’m not …”
“Nag, nag, nag, nag!”
“I don’t …”
“Nag, nag, nag.”
I would just get up and try not to look at him for fear of the last, “Nag!”

My other least-favorite thing about our life involved perpetual yelling. I knew Paul was home every night when I heard the front door open followed by a deep baritone voice and ritualistic crying. I would look up from the computer and sigh. Yes, Paul was home right on time and on cue with the negativity and raised voice at our girls. The theme typically revolved around homework. Giselle, my older one who was in the sixth grade, was a sensitive and sweet girl. Daddy’s screams inevitably led to cries and then another door slam to her room where she disappeared and buried herself in her computer games.
Travel to these trade shows also represented escape from those daily rituals I had come to despise. More importantly it got me away from Paul and the yelling and comments that came when I appeared in the room. The remarks ranged from disparaging observations about my blonde hair (he wanted me to dye it brown) to remarks about my slim figure that he didn’t appreciate. He commonly told people I was anorexic, which I was not anorexic, but I had an extraordinary metabolism. I’m not sure if by telling people this he was justifying his own growing girth, which he added to by heaping so much food on his plate it overflowed the sides. I tried not to pay attention to either the weight gain or food consumption. I said little about anything these days. Between the bland, numb feeling and constant work demand to make more money to pay what now amounted to more than my 50 percent of the bills and more like 70 percent of the bills, I was too tired to care.
Just then a blonde, tall man with bluish-green eyes who wore a perfectly tailored navy-blue jacket, brilliant purple tie that was a complementary color to the jacket, and jeans with a leather belt with an “E” for a buckle walked up. He stopped to look at the graphic designs on display on the royal-blue Velcro walls of my booth. He was specifically gazing at the logos I had created over the years for various companies. He had a blonde goo-tee that he ran his fingertips through as he studied the work. It was one of those goo-tees where he carefully sculpted it and shaved his cheeks fresh and clean. His skin color was light but rosy and healthy-looking. I wasn’t really attracted to blondes, and I wasn’t exactly attracted to him at all until his eyes shifted from the art to me. He gave me this quiet, contemplative look, which I didn’t take for anything more than a stare except his eyes sparkled at me. I noticed the glisten in them like high-quality diamonds. Although even with that thought, I quickly dismissed it.
And then I felt this odd sensation, and I flashed on this vision: I was a bride standing on a beach about to approach my groom. White flowers were woven in my hair and I held a single white lily as a bouquet with a white ribbon tied on its stem. I tried to make out the groom’s face, but he was too far away. And then I felt a tug and returned to the present.
“You do branding?”
“Huh?” I replied and shook off the sensation. “Yes. We’ve done many Fortune 100 companies,” I said as I pointed to a big-name corporation. “My name is Mia.”
“Hello Mia,” he smiled at me again with that same gaze of interest. “Name’s Evan. I’m looking for a partner in my design studio. I need someone who can handle the corporate branding campaigns.”
“Hmm,” I said. “I’ve had partnerships before. They didn’t go well.”
At that comment, Evan turned to face me. He seemed to size me up and nodded as he thought about what I said.
“Maybe you didn’t find the right partner … Mia,” and with my name stated again he put his hand in his pocket and smoothly flipped out a business card.
“Drinks?”
I took the glossy card and with slick, black Garamond font letters: Evan Garner, Vice President, Garner Media.
I looked back up at him, “Drinks?”
“Yes, tonight back at my place at the Hotel Gansevort along Hudson River Park. Meet me in the bar. We’ll talk shop.”
“How funny,” I said.
“What?”
“I’m staying there, too.”
“Yes.”
“Yes?” I frowned at him.
Evan smiled, “Nine work?”
“Um, all right, okay,” I replied and felt puzzled as I looked at the card again.
 When I looked back up I saw his back as he walked smoothly away toward the front entrance. His gait and air suggested quiet confidence and certainty, but also casualness with his hands stuffed in his pants pockets. He almost looked like someone who had too much cavalier bravado – maybe something else, too. I couldn’t put my finger on it. My cell phone rang in my purse under the sales counter and called my attention away: it was Paul. I looked at the name flash on the phone and groaned. I didn’t want to pick up so I hit ignore and looked back up to find Evan completely gone.


Monday, October 27, 2014

I don't read books ...

The funniest line of the California Capital Book Festival came from patrons who said, "I don't read books." The mystery and humor is they said it at a "book" festival. I think that's akin to going to the dog shelter and saying, "I don't like dogs." I'm not entirely sure why anyone who doesn't read books would wander around a book festival.

In more interesting news, we sold a lot of copies of Vengeance is Now. Authors wondering how we managed to probably have one of the top-selling titles of the festival, I'll lend you some advice. Don't be afraid to sell. Get your flyers and your one-liners ready. Don't be afraid, period. Put your best smile on your face. Be charming and nice. Walk up to people. Ask them if they like the genre you're selling and ... sell! I will give serious props to the author Scott D. Roberts. His talent is the close. I pushed the prospects, and he sold the prospects.

Give of yourself to others is my other advice. Be generous of spirit. Help other writers. When young writers approached our booth, we provided mentoring and information. Before you receive, be sure to give.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scott D. Roberts Speaks on Mystery-Thriller Writing

Getting ready for the California Capital Book Festival between Bookfest last week in Manteca has made business as usual more like business at light speed. My company 3L Publishing and several authors including Scott D. Roberts and Cathy Lagorio have booths. I am speaking on Book Marketing and Scott is speaking on Mystery/Thriller writing. Come see Roberts speak:

Panel: Mystery/Thriller Writing
Panel: Scott D. Roberts, Vengeance is Now; Robin Burcell, The Kill Order; and William Wood, Sudden Impact
Date: October 26, 2014
Place: Sacramento Convention Center
Event: California Capital Book Festival
Address: 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA
Room 312
Time: 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Admission: FREE

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Body in the Trunk

Murder! Lust! Power! Revenge!

Wilting away in a stale, abusive marriage, Mia meets Evan, a handsome, sexy stranger. They share an immediate, undeniable and otherworldly connection. A passionate affair begins ...

A body is mysteriously found in the trunk of a Toyota Camry. True crime writer Tess has a psychic vision and tracks down Detective Phil Harris to help solve the case.

Body in the Trunk is an intriguing, mysterious story about wicked games, love-gone-wrong, family loyalty, and ultimately betrayal that leads to murderous rage.

Body in the Trunk will be available in limited release on the 3L Publishing website (www.3LPublishing.com), and released nationally in spring 2015.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Body in the Trunk - Excerpt, Chapter 6


Chapter 6
            It had been many weeks since Tess and Phil began their rituals of lunch and cocktail meetings. Tess had remembered their first cocktail meeting. They had scheduled it right after they met at Starbuck’s.
At first, they had a tempestuous nature to their relationship upon her revelation that it had been more than just a TV appearance that had sucked her into the case not just her desire to write true crime. What Tess had rarely shared with anyone were her psychic gifts.  It hadn’t been just the body in the trunk or the handsome detective who had ignited a passionate desire to know what had happened and share it. 
After she had seen the show, she had gone to bed that night and had a dream. She had seen a woman’s hand on the trunk of the Camry, but it hadn’t just been the hand it had been the feelings – like emotions plugged into and replacing her own. It had been the yearning she felt that pulled her heart. The woman’s distress along with her intense craving had drawn in Tess. She had felt a sorrow and a need for love. This pain had been like a residual trace feelings left behind in Tess’ mind like an aching numbness and a depth of unrealized desire. This strange connection had clung to Tess’ being like an ardent lover bound to his desire to make love to his beloved. It also had made Tess want to hug someone she had never met and reassure her life would get better.
            She had sensed from the first meeting that Phil wouldn’t be easily convinced that she could use her psychic gifts to help the case. She had felt he was a skeptic; but she had known she would have to tell him regardless, so she had decided to reveal it during their first cocktail meeting.

She walked up the stairs to The Mix, which was located on the second floor of a downtown mall. She stopped to fluff her strawberry blonde curls in the mirror that lined the stairwell. She smiled with her raspberry-frosted lips. She wore faded designer jeans and a grape-colored T-shirt with a scooped neck that tied at the waist and let the drawstring hang. She also wore matching White House Black Market black strappy sandals that sexed up her look. Her ever-growing crush on Phil had influenced just how hot she had wanted to look for him. He was dryly funny with her, and she saw him look at her in ways that suggested a mutual crash, but still he maintained at a professional distance.
            Once she got to the top of the stairs, she looked around. The space was designed in modern chic with brown leather chairs that were rounded with deep seats that hung close to the floor. Various patent-leather lounges were puzzled together in zigzag shapes, and to the right was a glass wall that quartered off the outdoor patio with similar furnishings and fire pits for guests to eat appetizers, drink frothy cocktails, and sip expensive wines.
She noticed Phil sitting on an uncomfortable barstool pushed up against the slick, black bar. His head was lowered, and this time it was he who played with a matchbook even though in California you could not smoke in bars, and most health-conscious Californians didn’t smoke these days anyway.
            She made her way over toward Phil, and she didn’t notice all the men whose heads turned to watch the pretty woman pass. She wasn’t one to notice men’s heads turn. She was always thinking and focused, and she didn’t pay attention to what was around her, which her Grandma Murphy had warned her about safety. The warning had gone unheeded. Tess really didn’t have the mind to pay attention despite what anybody suggested she do.
Today’s singular focus was on her handsome detective whom she had imagined seducing and kissing when she closed her eyes at night. Her fantasies involved brash moves in which she would crawl up to him while he lay amused against a black headboard; but the idea always got interrupted with lack of knowledge of what his full lips really felt and tasted like.  She came up quietly and touched his muscular bicep to get his attention. His muscles were tight and well-formed, which caused her to have a surge of lust, but she held her desires in-check. She also hated chasing men, and she would not give her smug detective a hint about the carnal knowledge she wished to possess about him.
            “Well, look at you. All normal citizen and all,” she teased as she sat down next to him.
            She saw Phil’s eyes run her up and down, and she felt positive that qualified as an eye-fuck.
            “So, you’re here right on time,” said Phil. “I thought I might have to take these,” he gestured to the matches, “and fire up a stogie outside.”
            Tess grimaced, “You smoke?”
            He held his fingers just an inch apart and shrugged.
            “Oh,” she said with disappointment.
            Phil took this as a cue to wave over the bartender, a young man with a clean-shaven head and a nose ring in his right nostril.
“I’ll have a dirty martini, and my friend here will have …”
            Tess became comfortable and thought for a second, “A chocolate martini.”
            Phil waved that off and rolled his eyes, “That’s dessert,” he groaned.
            “Tastes like it, too,” she replied with a pleased smile.
            “So, Tess what do you want to know?”
            “Well, I thought it was strange you found a body in a Camry, and I had this weird dream the day before. It was like déjà vu. I saw that Camry. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but I had this feeling about it. And I had these feelings of depression and sadness and … yeah, longing.”
            “Are you psychic or something?” chuckled Phil.
            “Don’t make fun. Nonbelievers have gifts, too, they just don’t know it,” she said just as her “dessert” arrived in a chocolate-coated martini glass. “I have visions. I don’t know when they’ll strike. They just do at odd times. Loading the dishwasher, making the bed, whatever.”
            “And you had a vision of the car? What about the person in the trunk?”
            “Nothing … just the car.”
            Phil’s dirty martini had arrived. He nursed it and plucked the green olive off the toothpick to eat it.
“Well, we have prints of the car’s owner, a one Mia McIntyre, but she disappeared. Her husband is gone, too, but her little girls are with the grandparents who said one day the dad came by and dropped them off to go to the movies and he never returned. The couple was in the middle of a really nasty divorce I was told. We identified the body as one Rachelle Anne Fernando, some gal from the East Coast. Died, blunt trauma to the head. Found some of Rachelle’s blood at Mia’s place, which indicates the kill took place there. No idea about motive. And that Tess is all we got to date.” 
            Tess sipped her sweet drink and pondered that information. She closed her eyes to remember the dream, but all she could see was a feminine hand on the trunk. She opened her eyes. She glanced at Phil who looked skeptical.
            “Really Houdini, you going to pull a rabbit, too?”
            Tess shook her head and said, “It’s the woman, Mia. She dumped the body, but …” she paused, “I’m not sure she killed her.”
            “What? You can’t know that?” Phil shook his head. “In homicide they call that bullshit.”
            “Whatever, Phil,” she sneered at him. “I had the vision; saw your show, and I just have this ability to see things. I’m not embarrassed about it.”
            “You go to Psychic Fairs and let some lady named ‘Crystal’ tell you, ‘You’ll meet a nice boy and get married in the year 2025’. You go for that crap?”
            “You mocking me? Cause if you’re mocking me, I’m going to prove you’re wrong.”
            “We got those government-certified psychics who come into the department all the time, and frankly nine times out of 10, they’re wrong.”
            “About everything?”
            “Well, okay fine so maybe one says, ‘I see … a gold scarf and a pearl necklace,’ but the case doesn’t get solved that way.”
            “But there was a scarf and necklace?”
Phil flipped the matchbook case away toward the bar, turned to her, and put his hand up on the bar, “All right, and your point is …”
“My point is that I have some psychic connection to this case, and I don’t know why or how, but I’m going to write a book about it, and you’re going to help me,” she replied with a raised eyebrow.
Phil glanced at her and rolled his eyes. Tess felt an increasing attraction toward her cynical detective. She noticed his blue eye deepen in contrast to his brown eye. He was annoyed with her, but she didn’t let that cool her desire for him that kept fluttering in her stomach and dampening her black-silk panties. She crossed her legs and tightened her thighs to suppress the desire to reach down and relieve her own passion. She shifted uncomfortably, and the booze heating up her insides didn’t help alleviate her urge to reach across to stroke his package – you know just to find out how big a surprise she might be in for.
As for his displeasure in her story, she knew she would just have to show him. Besides how was she supposed to explain her gifts to some guy who clearly thought that a chakra was an ’80s rock band? Even her own father had wanted to take her to the funny farm when as a small child she had seen what she thought was a hunter wearing a red jacket in the woods. When she had told her father, he had said there was no hunter in the woods. Young Tess had pointed to the man in the distance. She had seen him walking with a rifle in one hand with his head down. Her father told her there was no one there, and that he intended to get her head examined when she got home. This threat scared her along with the vision of the man who was still clearly walking through the woods.
As she grew older, her visions increased between seeing ghosts and predicting the future. To her girlfriend’s chagrin, she could always tell them when prospective boyfriends wouldn’t last or when she would get married. All of it always turned out to be true, so none of Tess’ friends ever questioned her abilities. Now she had her sexy detective annoyed over her revelation of why she took an interest in the case; but it didn’t matter. She was determined to continue.
Phil groaned at her and said, “All right there, Psychic Network, I’ll tell you we don’t think it was the woman who did it anyway. From what we know this Mia gal was a tall, petite thing. Her friends and family said she was a total pacifist and never hit a thing in her life. She didn’t believe in spanking kids either. The kids said they never so much as had a pat on the ass let alone a good old-fashioned swat. Mom was sweet and gentle by all accounts, but they did say the dad was a real piece of work – selfish prick. If anything they would have predicted she shoved his ass in the trunk not some stranger.”
“It wasn’t her.”
“Oh, you got evidence?”
“No, it wasn’t her,” Tess reiterated.
“Well, you’re so certain then who was it? Lead me to the person. Let’s make some arrests.”
“Oh, I’ll help.”
“What? You got a degree in forensic science now, too?”
Tess started laughing and took another sip, “Nope, just got this,” and she tapped the side of her head and winked. “And now you,” she said and fluttered her eyelashes. Tess noted how carefully Phil watched her. She saw a little smile cross his lips, and she wondered about that bit of pleasure on his face. She was definitely attracted to him, and from that night forward she made him the object of her sexual fantasies.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Striving for Excellence

I just got off the phone with a prospect. She saw a presentation I recently gave. She said she was so impressed. She cited one thing I said as important, "3L Publishing's mission is to strive for excellence in everything we do." My desire for excellence is driven by my passion for publishing and books. I know what I like. I know what I as a consumer want to see. What I don't want to see is a low-quality book where no care was given to the quality of the product. I want not only the experience of working with my company to be a great relationship with our authors and clients, but also I want our final products to shine and reflect handsomely on the author and my company. I want every author or client to know that regardless of anything else, their books or marketing materials will be well-done. They will show off their final products with pride. They can feel good about it. When I've achieved those goals I've done what I set out to do -- strive for excellence. Many other "publishing" choices are available. I always say, "We're not the cheapest; we're not the most expensive; but we are the best!" Do you want the very best for your book? Call me today at 916-300-8012 or send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Value Your Opportunities

I was asked to teach a writing class via a note sent to me from one of my newsletter readers. After teaching the class and being complimented on my speaking abilities, I was given three leads on three book projects. Now some often suggest that a weekly newsletter unless it produces direct sales has no value. My three prospects later suggest the opposite.

One of my biggest challenges with business owners and authors is getting them to understand it's long-term opportunities you hope to attract from marketing activities. I've done the newsletter for eight years now. I write it weekly. Have I ever had someone say, "Hey! I read your newsletter let's do business." No. It doesn't work like a cash register - ka-ching sales!

Marketing and keeping your brand in front of prospective business is about long-term exposure and visibility. It's about creating brand familiarity and recognition. It's also about building long-term relationships with prospects. My newsletter is designed to do nothing more than keep my brand in front of clients and prospects. When it produces an invitation to teach a class or speak or even questions about business then it has worked. Expectations that my newsletter will generate direct sales is a misdirected idea about it.

Marketing and promotion is about opening doors of opportunities. When business owners quit looking at something with the idea of producing direct sales, they will be infinitely happier with their results. That I was able to have an opportunity to speak and thus attract three prospects is the value. Closing the sales on the prospects is the gravy. But without opportunities there would be no prospects and without prospects that would be no gravy.

But at the end of the business day the final answer about your marketing activities' value is simple: stop doing what you're doing and see what happens!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Your Book is an Opportunity

Writing a book means more than words on paper and a cover to hold it together. One of the biggest mistakes I see writers and business people make is not understanding the most important point: a best-seller would be incredible but the book is really an opportunity to expand and do more. Books of any kind (fiction or nonfiction) will attract new opportunities. A book written though to support your business is the biggest opportunity of all. Books give authors credibility and position them as experts. Experts get called upon to speak or be featured in the media. Exposure and increased visibility as an expert attracts overall interest in either you as an author and your book or your business. More interest in your business and book spells out opportunities. The opportunity could be an invitation to speak somewhere else and sell more books. The opportunity could be to attract more customers or clients to your business. Either way if you realize your book opens doors to other things, which generates opportunities and yes revenue, too, you will be thrilled with your book no matter what it does in terms of individual sales.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Holiday Inn Express and Deceptive Language

I have a major beef with the Holiday Inn Express. Let's start with a pop quiz:

How do you interpret this phrase?

Deposit is due for the entire stay upon booking.

Do you take that as "payment in full" is due for entire stay upon booking? Here is my interpretation of that phrase, which by the way is right from their reservation system. Let's take the definition of the word "deposit": a sum payable as a first installment on the purchase of something or as a pledge for a contract, the balance being payable later.

Raise your hand if you took the word "deposit" to mean "payment in full". You mean NONE of you understand the word deposit as payment in full? How about a "sum payable as a first 'installment'." Any of you understand that as "payment in full"? 

I am just asking because the Holiday Inn Express deceptively used the word "deposit" to really mean they wanted the "payment in full" for the "entire stay" and charged my credit card over a month and a half before the booking. Other hotels would either charge a true deposit to hold the room for your stay. 

Now to make matters worse, they wouldn't reverse the charges and if I canceled they had a 24-hour policy NOT before the actual stay, but at the time of the room booking. If I canceled and went to standard booking, which they did offer too, they would KEEP my FULL payment, which was $1058. Do you smell a true scam here?! Is that even legal? If nothing else that is called bait and switch and deceptive advertising. When I argued my point that the word "deposit" was incorrectly used, the customer service woman held her ground and refused to reverse the charges based on the "system can't do it." 

Well, my system (meaning my blog) can worn readers! I don't want to lose $1058 for my trip, but I sure as heck won't be booking anything at the Holiday Inn again. These big franchise hotels think they can pull that kind of management behavior, fine do it. But don't expect to retain loyal customers. You're only as good as your last sale -- maybe they ought to remember that next time they abuse customers with deceptive language and apply unethical business practices. Who are you serving Holiday Day Inn? Your customers or your bank account?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Morning Musings

You have to love Facebook. Yes, it's a great business marketing tool; but on the personal front it is a place to reconnect. I have a sweet story for the morning "musings". Several years ago we used to get pedicures with a Nail place near my old house. Ann, the owner, just adored my children. She hugged and loved on them like her own, especially my daughter. I got a divorce, and Ann moved her shop to places unknown. Well as the story goes, fast-forward to 2014 and she's got a new shop and doing my friend's Stacy's nails. Stacy and I worked together in the same profession. Ann takes note and asks if she knows me. Stacy says "yes" and so it goes. Ann then finds me on Facebook. Voile! Reconnect. Turns out her new shop is near where I live now, too. So I told her I would bring my daughter for a visit and to get her nails done. You have to love Facebook.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Book Bundles: How to Earn More in an Hour

I learned this lesson about sales: it doesn't matter if it's a $14.95 book or a $50 bundle, the same amount of time goes into the sale. I discovered a while back after talking to people at book festivals and events and selling books that the sale is the sale time. Price points don't suck up the sales time. People want minimally around 10 minutes of your chat time before they buy. After working hard for that 10-minute sale and only making $14.95 it seemed like a lot of effort for little money, which is why I started to realize: the sales time is always about the same regardless of the price (unless it's a huge item). I figured that a sale for, say, $50 would be better if I was going to have to spend that 10 minutes no matter what.

Thus, I thought: bundles! Don't just sell a $14.95 book, sell something with the book -- T-shirts or something else but more than just a book. That way your per "minute" sales effort has a higher amount attached to it. And why does this matter? Well, do the math. If it takes 10 minutes to sell $14.95 (let's round off for the sake of math to $15) and there are only 6 10-minutes in every hour your sales potential is $90. Take that same sale and make it $30 sale x 6 = $180. You doubled your profitability. Instead of making $90 an hour you're making $180 an hour. It's the old adage: work smarter not harder.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"But I don't want to work 9 to 5."

I had this conversation with a fellow writer. We were discussing our lifestyle and aspirations. The comment was made that it's not very inspiring when your only excitement in life is TGIF. People live their lives, work, and feel happy it's Friday. It's a grind. One time when I was just starting out and had graduated from my BA I whined at my then-boyfriend, "But I don't want to work 9 to 5." I remember he burst out laughing, but it was true. I didn't want the only excitement in my life to be TGIF. I didn't want to work 40 hours or more a week for the "man" or "woman" and I really wanted to find a nice log cabin somewhere and write my stories. What I was expressing though was a desire to live a full, rich and exciting life where I followed my passion.

How many of you can say you are living "the dream"? Have you settled into a life of TGIF? Does this really excite you the most? I don't work by anybody's rules anymore. I do work hard, and I love what I do, but I don't work for anyone but myself. Am I "lucky" to do this dream? It has nothing to do with "luck" but more with taking risks and be willingly to make my own rules. The sheer tenacity, risk-taking and not-always-fun moments are worth every centimeter of this journey to live my life my way. Why aren't you? Is it fear? Is it lack of motivation? Is it just unclear to you how to do it?

In my first book Second Bloom that won several awards, we teach you how to reinvent your life. Do you know how? Do you want to know how? If all you can say about your week that makes you happy is TGIF, buy a copy (click here) and get going to a new life. One that means you are "doing the dream" and not "dreaming the dream".

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Hardest Challenge with the Most Rewards

In any busy business owner's schedule, the biggest challenge is to keep growing business and prospecting for new business. Many prospective clients (if you've built your brand) will query you, but the goal is to keep moving and building the relationship. When you've got limited resources, the goal becomes even more challenging. But the downside is many businesspeople often leave money inadvertently on the table by not nurturing and following up with those prospects.

As is the case with any challenge, the key is to create structured routines. Set aside X amount of time to do this and do that. Now when you're not being proactive vs. reactive it can be difficult. When constant attention-needing fires get set, learn new skills and techniques to manage those blazes. One thing to do is adopt the policy: your fire is not my fire. This means you receive the message from a client and then process the information and come from it from a prospective: is this good for MY business. However, you respond protect your bottom line. People will want things and ask for things, but also asking yourself that question should be the primary go-to thought. Then answer the question within 24 hours and not right then and there.

When you can manage urgency vs. proactive needs you can carve out time like following up better. Also, I have learned don't answer the phone or email when I'm doing my prospecting time or marketing. Just get my focus done and then serve the rest of the business. Stopping and starting eats away time, too. Plan, organize, and create routines that serve your time and business best.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Business Mantra: Build it and They Will Come

Businesses go through fits and starts. As growth occurs so do hiccups. Trial and error equals results. Sometimes you have to keep trying new things to manage business growth without inadvertently upsetting current business. Sometimes, though, upsetting current business cannot be helped. When transitions and changes in business happen, the best approach is to re-pour the foundation and then let the cement dry.

We recently went through some growing pains. What I did was get out ahead of the issues. When you get out ahead you are doing "preventative" maintenance. What does this translate to? Let me illustrate. We were having fulfillment issues. Once the problem was identified (orders not going out the way they should), I didn't wait for complaints. I identified the problem. I found a solution. Now here comes the foundation-pouring approach.

Rather than try and patch the problem, I came up with an entire overall solution. I moved my inventory and storage closer to my main business. I doubled my storage space (preparing for growth) since the old space had been outgrown. While in the long run I would spend a little more in the short run I actually saved money while I braced for incoming work and more storage requirements. Now I have a fully functional space (foundation) that is available to accommodate future growth.

When we act and prepare we are doing some great "mental" things, too. We're mentally making "head space" to invite the actual business growth we're preparing for. When you KNOW you have the room, time and ability for the growth, you then project that confidence to the world, and the world responds in-kind. It is truly the proverbial Field of Dreams mantra: Build it and they will come.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to Increase Your Blog's Audience

Do you blog? Have you ever tried to match up your blog topics to audience response (which is what you absolutely should be doing)? I'm always looking for ways to increase readership. So I regularly read my readership statistics. Here is what I've found.

Keywords do count but finding the keyword of the day is challenging. Keyword interest fluctuates like weather changes. You honestly cannot gauge it. One day this keyword works the next day it no longer works. My advice, keep playing around with different "popular" keywords and mix it up.

The popular posts' real value. The only popular posts that consistently rank up in my blog seems to have "sex-related" themes. Now if I were writing an erotic blog this might be great. Why is that the reason? Because I heard this statistic: 70 percent of online traffic is seeking sexually-related content. Problem here is I am an author and publisher not a sex proprietor.

The idea is to attract the right traffic. The sex traffic probably isn't the right traffic although I would think every now and again, a sex-related reader might also be an author who is suddenly pulled into reading about 3L Publishing. BUT I want to target my messages to my right audience, and the daily question is, how do I do it?

Target your message: the formula. I really don't have an answer for you. Just keep writing blogs until a theme catches. It may take a very long time with the many competitors who seek the same readers. Hanging in there. Keep blogging, and when something catches, focus on it more.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Silly Thoughts about Postage

Today's humorous pondering relates to postage stamps and more specifically the NEW famous chefs stamps. Since I've been doing operations on my own I am paying attention to postage. The Post Office folks know me now, and so that opens the door to some banter. So the nice fellow asks, "Do I need stamps?" On this day, I did indeed need some. He whips out this sheet of stamps with the faces of famous chefs (Julia Childs was the only one I recognized). He shares about the sheet and the chefs (doesn't know one of them), and I found my funny mind thinking random thoughts. It occurred to me that for the outrageous price of postage I could afford NOT to have famous faces on my stamps and maybe nothing at all. In fact, I mused I would be willing to pay .10 cents less for a white stamp that simply reads: GENERIC STAMP. Yes, love that one. Oh, come on stamp collectors, you'll pay more for famous faces. On the other hand, I want the .10 cent discount for the generic stamp. Here's is my random thought, "I'll never see that famous chef face ever again." Here's how I will go one better: I'm certain every single one of my famous faces will end up in a recycle bin. Just saying, I could totally save money! Are you listening postal service? GENERIC STAMPS DISCOUNT! Just saying!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Measuring Results in Marketing

So you blog ... daily. So you write a weekly newsletter. So you regularly post on social media. So you do speaking engagements. So you send proper follow-up marketing messages. So, so, so, so ... do you have direct sales results you can pinpoint? I have this question asked regularly. I'm going to give you a non-answer: no, but I know I have to do it. The basic formula is don't stop the machine because you can't define why you have a widget at the end. What will happen if you stop a machine? Will the widget still appear at the end? You know the answer -- no. Widget not made widgets not dispensed.

The underlining lesson: you can't stop making widgets and expect to have more widgets.

I'll put it clearer: can you afford to stop marketing just to see if your marketing works?

If you answer "yes" then you must have some great cash reserves set aside. Stopping the machine ... stopping marketing just to see what happens is risky business. I like to tell clients this: if what you're doing is keeping your shingle hanging, don't stop doing it. Better advice: if what you're doing is bringing you steady, increasing business: DO MORE OF IT!

Marketing doesn't always give you 1 + 1 = 2 results. I could you give 1 + 1 = 100 results (and that's fuzzy math). Can I directly tie my business success to my marketing activities -- only sometimes. When a client says, "I watched your Facebook posts for a year, and I liked what I read," then I know my social media activities work. Most of the time, it's a combination that goes more like this, "I read Facebook, I read your newsletter, I like your blog, let's do business." Did any one of those activities make the difference? No, it was probably ALL of those activities that made the difference.

Michelle Gamble, CEO of 3L Publishing, launched her start-up in 2006. For the last eight years, she has successfully run her company and made dozens of authors' dreams come true. She also does marketing consulting and public relations. For more information, send an email to info@3LPublishing.com.