Thursday, December 13, 2012

Seasonal Success

One thing that I've learned from having various online ventures is that sales will ebb and flow according to the time of year. Since I have a few different businesses, each one seems to be peaking at a different time.

My jewelry sites went through a lull at the beginning of November. I was concerned about the sudden drop in sales, but when I asked some people in my jewelry class about it, they shrugged and assured me, "Oh, it's always slow early in the month. Don't worry, things will pick up around Thanksgiving." Sure enough, things indeed picked up around then and Etsy sales have been going really well since (knock on wood). It does make sense when you think about it; in early November, people are probably saving up to purchase holiday gifts and are holding off on spending for themselves. It's around Thanksgiving that the holiday season truly kicks off.

My writing sales also go through waves. I write articles for HubPages and though I make money from that pretty steadily, I always do really well around Christmas. I do have a lot of holiday-themed articles, but I also have articles relating to other holidays and seasons. I guess readers are more interested in finding about Christmas and Chanukah events than say, ones for Mother's Day, so the HubPages holiday season is good to me.

Unfortunately, December is turning out to be a slow month for sales of BAND GEEK. Since this is my first published novel, I'm still learning about the typical yearly sales patterns for books. I was really pleased with sales in October and November. Granted, I was doing the book tour in November, but I continued to sell well for a few weeks after it ended. It was a few days ago that things began to slow down for me. My guess is that with the holidays here, people are shopping, partying, cooking, wrapping presents and decorating their homes -- and aren't really taking the time out to read. What's helping me make sales on Etsy is hurting my book's numbers. I suspect, though -- I hope, anyway -- that once Christmas hits (and people receive Kindles!) my book sales will go back up. Of course, my Etsy sales will then drop, but I already know to be ready for that.

I'm just glad that I have businesses that do well at different times. I love what I do and am happy that I'm finding ways to make my job(s) work out.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Follow Your Dreams -- At Any Age

In a couple of months I'll be 39 and then before I know it, another year will pass and I'll be 40. Yikes! In some ways, I still think of 40 as young; after all, my grandfather lived to be 98 1/2 and my grandmother recently died at 96. I have longevity on both sides of my family so I've come to think of "old" as being at least 90.

However, I'm definitely not a kid and am quickly heading toward middle age. It's easy for me to forget this, especially when I write about teens or chat with old high school friends on Facebook. But in reality, I can't exactly be called "young" anymore.

At times, I get depressed when I think about this. I wonder if I've done enough with my life and if I still have time to do some of the things that I'd like to do. I can never become a professional ballerina, but I could take dance classes. I'd hoped to have my first novel out by the time I was 30, which I didn't accomplish... but I did manage to put it out there while I'm in my 30s, which is still something, right?

Just when I think I'm too old to do anything, however, I think of my cousin Tom.

Tom is 85 and became an actor later in life. A successful actor. He isn't merely appearing in dinner theater performances (not that there's anything wrong with doing that; work is work); he's been in Superbowl commercials, soaps, TV shows and movies. He guest starred on BOARDWALK EMPIRE, 30 ROCK and has a role coming up on THE BIG C. He's also doing a movie with Will Smith and Russell Crowe. Oh, and he's currently on a poster that's hanging in New York City's Angelika Theater (that's him in the middle):

Many young actors have trouble finding work, but he just keeps going and going -- and I really admire him! So whenever I worry that I won't succeed in any one of my chosen creative fields, I remind myself of Tom and how one can live his or her dream at any age.

That said, I don't plan to give up anytime soon. I'm not yet a bestselling author, but I've still got time. Same goes for my music or jewelry businesses. I have to remember that I do these things because I love doing them -- and that I have the rest of my (hopefully) long life to reach my goals.

Help me reach one of those by reading and reviewing REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD

Writing A Novel: Excerpt From My Latest Manuscript

The holiday season is always busy for me, and this year was a little crazier than usual since we threw a Chanukah party. Still, I've managed to get a lot of writing done and am now well into my latest novel. November, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) went well for me and I plan for December to be equally as successful. I'd like to have my novel completed by April, though I also want it to be great. I'm not going to rush my work just to have it out by a certain time.

I'm feeling pretty confident about it, though it's my first draft. I have the characters and ideas down and just need to put everything on the page. Once I have my story's "skeleton," I'll edit through my work and add in the fine details that will help flesh out my characters and round out my book.

As an early holiday gift to you, I present a couple of excerpts from my latest work! Yes, it does have a title, but I'd rather not share it yet. I'd also prefer not to give away too many details. But for now, I will share that a) it's YA/New Adult and takes place during the narrator's freshman year at college b) It follows the story of a friendship between a straight girl, Sadie, and gay guy, Griffin c) The male lead is a track star and super-hot d) The girl plans to be a journalist and writes for her college's paper. e) The two leads attended high school together (Sequoia High, actually -- just like the gang in BAND GEEK!), but didn't hang with the same circles. And with that, here is the scene where she meets her soon-to-be-friend for the first time. Copyright Naomi Rabinowitz 2012:

It was no secret that Griffin was handsome -- he'd been voted "Best Looking" in Sequoia High's yearbook -- but I hadn't realized just how hot the guy was. He wore blue runner's shorts which fit perfectly across his tight butt and sculpted thighs. His wavy brown hair was slightly mussed from running, but fell in an adorable wind-blown swoop across his forehead. His dark eyes and chisled featured tensed with concentration as he stared out across the campus. And oh, yeah, he was shirtless. I guess he'd just finished a run because his well-muscled 6-foot-tall body shined with a coat of sweat. As he tilted his head back and took a sip from his water bottle, his bicep curled -- and my knees went weak. With the sun setting behind him, he looked like a statue that had been lit by God himself.

I continued to stare for a few more minutes, taken in by Griffin's beauty, when he finally turned and looked at me. I cleared my throat and straightened up, trying to pretend as if I hadn't been gaping at him like a lovesick groupie.

And here is the scene where Sadie describes her uh, eccentric artist roommate. Copyright Naomi Rabinowitz 2012

The evening that I had dinner with Griffin, I returned to our room to find her sitting cross-legged on her red-quilted bed, carefully working on one of her projects. Her purple hair was pulled back in a black headband and she wore nothing but a skimpy blue Sex Pistols T-shirt. Her forehead was creased in concentration as she moved something across a large piece of black cardboard. As I got closer, I saw that she had a cup full of toothbrushes next to her canvas. Nailed to the cardboard were dozens of them, lined up according to size and color. I recognized the pink brush on which I'd labeled my initials, "S.A."

"Um, hey, Veronica," I said, leaning over her bed. She looked up at me, her eyes blazing. "Uh, that pink toothbrush... it's mine, you know."

Her mouth opened then shut in protest. "Hruh!" she replied.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "I'd like it back?"

"Nyuh!" (Translation: "No.")

I watched Veronica work for a moment, wondering how I could possibly reason with her; if she didn't want to talk, we could maybe play a game of Charades? But before I got a chance to suggest this, she reached into her dresser and pulled out a couple of tacks. She then pricked two of her fingers and sprinkled the blood over the toothbrushes. I blinked a few times, wondering if I was really seeing my roommate make a bloody Jackson Pollock.

"Hmmph!" she announced. She grinned at me and licked the blood from her fingers.

I grabbed my bag and headed for the door, leaving her alone with her "artwork." "It's okay," I said as I bolted from our room. "You can keep my toothbrush!"

Enjoy! Meantime, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Publishing A Novel: Waiting For My Big Break

One of the most frustrating things about being an artist is that you often have to depend on others to help you make it "big." Since I'm a writer, musician and jewelry designer, ALL of my creations rely on others' subjective opinions. I work really hard in everything that I do and I know that I shouldn't care what anyone else thinks. But if I really want to succeed in any of these ventures, I HAVE to care about people's thoughts.

Most of the time, I love doing what I do, but there are days like today when things are going slow and I begin to question myself. Those doubts are hitting me rather strongly today, especially since I recently learned of a writer friend's big break. Her work got noticed by someone in a high place and that person was able to get her book a lot of attention and sales. The book deserves the acclaim and I'm happy for her ... but I'm also envious. I want someone with that much influence to notice my work, too.

Most successful writers or artists will advise you to never give up if you want to succeed. I'm among those who's spouted this cliched line, but there's truth behind it. You have to keep working at whatever it is that you want to do. Thanks to my hard work, I've put together a CD, a novel and two jewelry businesses. In some ways, I am very successful. But in others, I'm not. My sales on Etsy and Amazon are ... okay. I'd like them to be great. I see plenty of other Etsy artists who sell thousands of pieces each year and hear of other indie writers whose books are best sellers. Honestly, I want that to be me.

I've read hundreds of articles about selling products online and have studied the sites/books of the successful ones ... and I feel as if I'm heading in the right direction. I'm willing to put in the time and the work. But it seems as if many of these people were also lucky because the right person noticed them. They happened to have their jewelry featured in a popular fashion blog or had their book reviewed by a well-known blogger whose site gets hundreds of thousands of hits. I wish that someone with that much influence would give me some notice. I've been working for years on my various crafts and spent over a decade paying my dues at the magazine. I'll be 39 soon. I'd love to make it big by the time I'm 40. I feel like it's my time to shine.

I guess I'm ahead of some people because I've run into many who've never even come close to achieving any of their dreams. I'm happy to say that I have. But I see nothing wrong with wanting even more for myself -- and am determined to get there.

Please help my dream come true: read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Young Adult Book Recommendations: Middle Grade Series

Most of the young adult novels I read are for older teens or even venture into "new adult" (college age) territory, but every so often, I come across a middle grade book that I enjoy. Here is a series that I really like and think is perfect for 10-14 year old kids.

This is the Go-For-Gold Gymnasts series, written by Alicia Thompson and Olympic Gold Medalist Dominique Moceanu. I'm an Olympic junkie and love watching gymnastics so I read Moceanu's memoir Off Balance over the summer -- and I was really drawn into her story. She's extremely honest and open about her life and the hardships that she endured while working as a gymnast. I'd always thought that she was the cute, perky cheerleader-type ... and after reading her book, I learned that she's actually kind of shy. It doesn't surprise me to learn that a lot of gymnastics has to do with appearances, but it was fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look.

ANYWAY. Moceanu has teamed up with YA author Thompson to write this series of books about four tween competitive gymnasts who train together. Think of it as the the literary version of the ABC Family show MAKE IT OR BREAK IT. Each book is told from the POV of a different girl as she deals with school, family, friends, boys ... and the fact that she's also an elite gymnast. As the girls battle typical teen pressures, they also have to train and gear up for competitions.

I loved these books because they're fun, easy-to-read and are surprisingly deep. The characters are well-developed and flawed, but likeable, and I like the fact that we get to know the girls very well outside of the gym. It paints the full picture of a young gymnast's life and you can get a better understanding of how hard it is to balance everything. Plus, the stories are inspirational, even if they are fiction. These girls train for several hours a day and are still expected to do well in school and to stick to a healthy diet. I think that this sends out a great message to young readers and could encourage them to pursue a sport -- or some other passion.

What I also appreciate is that the series is a true collaboration between the co-authors, meaning that Moceanu's name wasn't just stamped onto the books to get sales. Readers are given many little details about gymnastics, such as how it feels to tumble on a new mat or how it feels to grip a bar, which obviously came from Moceanu's vast knowledge of the sport. Also, one of the girls is Romanian so Moceanu draws on her heritage to give us a realistic picture of a Romanian family.

My one critique of the series is that the stories are somewhat predictable and a little after-school specialesque, but this is coming from my 38-year-old perspective. These were written for young teens and have just the right amount of drama and suspense for kids in that age range. I highly recommend them.

Meantime, please read and review my book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Why I Became A Journalist

The main character in my work in progress is a college student who plans to become a professional journalist (a real stretch for me, right?). But as I was describing the novel's basic plot to a writer friend, she asked me an interesting question: What made a once shy person like me want to be a journalist when it's the type of job where you absolutely have to talk to people?

I thought over her question for a while and I think that, ironically enough, it was my initial shyness that led me to that career. To backtrack a bit, you have to understand that when I was a kid, I was painfully shy. I remember that on the first day of kindergarten, my goal was to talk to one person (sidenote: I did and she and I are still friends). By the time I entered high school, I overcame some of my shyness, but was still quiet and unsure of myself, especially around boys who I liked. I enjoyed playing my flute in public, but when it came to just being myself, I often felt as if I were invisible. It just seemed to me as if I never knew the right thing to say and just wasn't an interesting conversationalist.

Writing for the school paper helped me with this. I first joined the paper in junior high because I liked writing and there were only so many literary-based clubs available (basically the school paper and the poetry magazine). At first, I mainly wrote reviews of movies and TV shows, but our advisor asked me to interview the 7th grade class treasurer. I freaked out because he was a popular jock and I figured that he'd laugh at me. Instead, the advisor had me interview a teacher, but really pushed the idea of me doing something other than a review.

I was nervous going into the interview, but as I asked the teacher my questions, I quickly relaxed. Most 7th graders didn't get to chat with teachers about things other than the subject that they taught, but here we were talking as if we were on the same level! Even better, I had a specific topic that needed to be addressed so I didn't have to worry so much about coming up with a conversation topic on my own. I enjoyed that feeling of finally being in control of a conversation, plus I felt as if I had some respect. I also liked having the opportunity to get to know another person. While my shyness made forming close relationships difficult to me, journalism became a way for me to relate to others.

The more people I interviewed, the easier it became and by the time I joined Soap Opera Digest, I was pretty comfortable with my role. I also became a master at making small talk. Though I almost always interviewed actors, or someone in the business, I couldn't ask the same questions because they all had outside interests. I had to be up on politics, current events and pop culture because I never knew where the conversation would lead -- and I found that the more that I could talk about with people, the more they told me. I would still get a jolt of nervousness right before each interview, but those nerves had to do more with me wanting to do a good job. For the most part, though, my interviews would feel more like a talk between two friends. My style was to NOT fire off a list of questions; instead, I'd ask about work and their families, etc., and let things go from there. Several actors told me that they felt very comfortable speaking with me, which was a wonderful compliment.

What's really great is that the social benefits I got from being a journalist spilled over into my real life. I'm no longer afraid to approach strangers or strike up a conversation with someone new -- and I can seriously talk about ANYTHING. My interviewing skills have also taught me to listen to the person with whom I'm talking and to show interest in what he or she is saying. Yeah, this sounds like CONVERSATIONS 101, but I've encountered so many people who like to talk about themselves and don't give others a chance to reply back. If I feel like I'm monopolizing a convo, I'll redirect it so I can even things out. This way, both of us can be on equal footing and we can both feel comfortable. It's my way of bringing someone in and getting that person to open up.

I'm not sure if I'll ever formally write for another magazine or newspaper, but I credit journalism for turning me into an extrovert. In my latest book, I hope to show my character make a similar transformation.

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Publishing A Novel: My First Bad Review

Well, it happened as I knew it would. After getting a bunch of four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I got a two star review on Goodreads. As I said, I knew that it would happen eventually.

On the one hand, it sucks. No author wants to get a negative review. We work hard on our books and when someone dislikes something into which you put a lot of time, it hurts.

But on the other hand, many more people have been reading BAND GEEK, which is a good thing. And the more opinions that are out there, the more likely that at least a few are going to be negative.

For instance, I just finished reading Ally Condie's MATCHED/CROSSED/REACHED trilogy and really enjoyed it. I thought that it was brilliantly written and would easily give it at least four stars. However, when I looked on Amazon and Goodreads, there were many readers who really disliked the series. Some loved the first book and found the second and third boring; some were unhappy with the ending; some didn't think that there was enough action. Meanwhile, I plowed through all three within two days. Obviously, I'm not alone in enjoying her work because her books are best sellers -- and she has plenty of five-star reviews that gush over her trilogy.

The point is that reading is very subjective and everyone's tastes are going to vary. This is a beautiful thing. I like that people have places where they can share their opinions on literature, even if their opinions differ. It's interesting to see what excites one person and upsets another -- and really, as they say, there's no way to please everyone.

I don't want to see a lot of two star reviews -- believe me, one is fine! I'd rather have mostly positive write-ups of BAND GEEK. But I appreciate and respect that not everyone is going to like my story and am glad that they have a place to share their dislike.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Marketing An Indie Book: What ISN'T Working For Me

When an author self publishes a book, one of the most challenging things that he or she will have to deal with is actually marketing that book. And you know what? This is something that many traditionally published authors now have to deal with, too. Publishing houses will put a lot of money into publicizing a well-known author, but many newbies still have to do the bulk of their advertising and marketing on their own.

Since I'm still very new to the indie author game -- BAND GEEK hasn't even been out for two months at this point -- I'm still experimenting with marketing techniques and am finding my way. The great thing about publishing an indie book is that I can always change course and try something new .. and don't have to worry about angering a publishing house. The only one who has something to lose or gain is me.

So far, I'd have to say that my most successful marketing technique has been signing up for KDP Select and then using the five free days. My last run was very successful and I saw a significant bump in sales (about 500 percent!!!) over the next couple of days. The bump was short-lived, though, so I'm looking at other avenues that have worked -- and haven't worked for me.

Social networking has been somewhat successful, as was my Virtual Book Tour. With the book tour, the days that I saw the most sales were the days where either a review of my book was posted or I wrote a guest blog post. I didn't see quite an increase on the days where a blog simply posted my book's summary or an excerpt.

Which leads me to report what HASN'T worked for me -- and that's static advertising. I've invested some money in a couple of sites where they simply post a photo of my cover, a blurb and a link to my Amazon purchase page. But that just doesn't seem to attract readers.

Now that I think about it, I almost never click on ads that appear on blogs or other pages that I use, like Facebook. I mostly ignore them -- and I imagine that this is true of many other readers, too. But when you post something ACTIVE -- like a blog entry or interview or review -- it gives viewers something more than just your book's cover. It lets them know about you, the author, and gives them a reason to invest in your book.

From now on, I'm going to stick with active marketing; I have another blog tour coming up in the new year, and this time, it's going to be all reviews of BAND GEEK. Hopefully, these reviews will be positive ones and will get the attention of even more readers. That would be a nice way to kick of 2013!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

OK, So I Apparently Suck At Using Twitter...

In an attempt to advertise BAND GEEK, I've set up a nice online author "platform." I have this blog, a Facebook page, a Goodreads page ... and a Twitter account. I feel like I do pretty well with most of these outlets; I frequently update this blog, share posts on FB, have joined several groups and rate books on Goodreads.

But what I'm not so great at using is Twitter.

I seem to lose about as many followers as I gain, and I guess I can't blame them. Honestly, I don't post on Twitter that often, other than to advertise my book or my jewelry sites -- or to share blog posts. It's really because I don't have that much to say.

If I'm going to talk about writing, it's going to be in depth in this blog where I can really express my thoughts -- not in 140 characters. Sometimes I'll bang out a tweet, "Reading such-and-such right now and liking it" or will comment on a TV show, but I just don't have that many quick-bite-type thoughts! Twitter goes by so quickly that I find it impossible to keep up with and reply to everyone; I'd much rather use the time to write.

I'm also really bad at following back people who follow me. It's not because I don't like them; it's because I don't know them. On Facebook, I find that it's a much more personal space. When I'm engaging with friends or followers there, it's a bit slower; I can actually take the time to read posts without the feed unfolding at rapid speed in front of my eyes. Also, on FB you can say a little more. I guess I just like words, being a writer and all.

I think I also like FB's setup better. On FB, you can simply click "like" on a post and let that person know that their post excited or amused you. On Twitter, you can retweet or reply -- but it's not quite the same. It just isn't as easy for me to go through.

I'll continue to use Twitter because I do feel as if it can be a useful advertising tool and a way for authors to get their name out. It HAS helped me sell copies of my book. I guess I just don't get it. I'd love to be able to get to know every person whom I meet online, but I have two jobs and a large network of people whom I regularly see in person. I do need that time for work and family.

I am trying to become a better tweeter and am attempting to add some more insightful posts. But I think it's going to take me a while to become the perfect Twitter user.

Meantime, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: First Chapter Challenges

Writing a novel is hard work around, but for me the toughest part of the process is getting those first few chapters out of the way. These are those all-important chapters where you set up your characters and scene -- and of course, write an introduction that's interesting enough to hook your readers.

What I find challenging is that I have to use a lot of exposition in these introductory chapters. It's where I set up the main characters' backstory and their relationships to one another. But the trick is to keep that exposition natural sounding. One of the basic things we're tought in any creative writing class is to "show, not tell," but it's difficult to "show" what a person looks like, for example, without TELLING a bit about them! On the other hand, rattling off lists of adjectives can get boring rather quickly. So, what to do?

I try to weave in the details. For instance, rather than stopping at every new character to describe his or her appearance, I'll add in a subtle detail, "She twirled a piece of her blonde hair around her finger." Or if I'm sharing some backstory, it'll be organic to the story and will set up later events. For the male lead in my latest book, I just went with a flat-out description coming from my narrator -- but he's supposed to be very good-looking, so it was a description from the point of vie of, "Oh my God, there's no adequate way to describe his beauty." As I said before, the trick is finding that balance. I don't think that there's really a right or wrong answer to when to show versus tell; it depends on what works for your story.

Still, I most enjoy writing the middle of my books -- the meat of my stories. It's funny because my husband is always saying that in real life, I don't really like getting to know people; I like to know them. I guess I feel the same way about my characters. I enjoy getting to the heart of who they are and sharing that with my readers.

At this point, I'm almost done with the introductory chapters in my latest novel. I'm just at the point where I'm about to lauch into the deeper part of my tale -- and I can't wait to get there.

Please read and review my first novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

KDP Select Free Days Success Story!

Yesterday, I used my fifth and final KDP Select Free Day promotion -- and I'm finally seeing some significant results ... so far.

To backtrack for those of you who aren't aware of Kindle Direct Publishing Select's program, if you sign with them, you sign a 90-day exclusivity contract. During that time, you can only sell your work on Amazon/Kindle; you can't sell on Smashwords or Lulu, or even on your own site. However, during the 90-day period, you get five days during which you can offer your book for free. You can string all five days together or do one or two or three at a time. It's very flexible.

If you put some effort into planning your promotion, you can potentially have thousands of new readers download your book. Your work then ends up on the "customers also bought" lists, you get added exposure and you can see a bump in sales following the promotion.

But the trick is in PLANNING for your free days. The first time I tried the promotion, I did two days in a row. I didn't advertise much, other than on this blog and on Twitter. I got about 500 downloads and a slight bump in sales. Moreover, I made a few foreign sales afterward.

My third and fourth giveaways didn't go so well. One I stupidly scheduled for the United States' Election Day. Since most of my readers are American, I just didn't get traffic. I tried to advertise on more outlets, like various Facebook pages for free ebooks, but I only got about 100 downloads. The same thing happened for Attempt No. 4. I was disappointed and began to wonder if giving my book away was even worth it.

I then put more effort into publicizing and marketing my book. I set up an author page on Goodreads and tried to engage with more people on Facebook and Twitter ... and I saw a slight increase in sales, even without doing the promotion. Meanwhile, I had one free day left, which I'd scheduled for November 26 -- which just happened to be on Cyber monday. While I'd done my other promotions basically on a whim, I took the time to plan for this one. I submitted my book in advance to dozens of Free Ebook Promotional Sites so that it would be advertised on the day of my giveaway. Meanwhile, my sales continued to do resonably well.

Know what? Submitting to those sites AHEAD OF TIME worked! Yesterday, my book had over 2200 downloads -- a nice, big jump from that paltry 100 I had a few weeks back! It made it to No. 2 on the list for Free Books Teen Romance and was No. 107 overall in the Free Kindle Store. While downloading, 10 people "Liked" my Amazon page, giving me some more street cred.

I'm now seeing a significant bump in sales, at least for today. I'm not sure how long it will last, but the promotion is helping, at least for the short term.

So here's what I think helped: 1) My book was starting to get more sales, anyway, so it was moving up in rank. Therefore, when I did the promo, it went to the top of the list pretty quickly. 2) As I said before, I planned ahead. Twitter and Facebook can only help so much, but sites like Pixel Of Ink will really get the word out about your book.

My advice then is this: before doing a free day for your book, put some effort into marketing your work. If your rank is 800,000, a free day probably won't help your sales that much. Also, don't choose to do a free promotion on a whim like I did. Pick a day about a month ahead of time. This way, you have plenty of time to submit to advertising sites. Many want you to submit at least a couple of weeks in advance; the earlier you give your book's listing, the more of a chance that it will actually be listed.

Like I said, I still have to see how the longterm results of my latest giveaway pan out. But I definitely think that it's worth it for authors to at least try KDP Select.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing A YA Novel: Thoughts On Love Triangles

For 14 years, I watched soap operas all day, every day for my job, and for the most part was a fan. But there was one storyline staple that drove me a little crazy -- and not in a good way. The love triangle.

I realize that I'm probably in the minority, but love triangles tended to exhaust and not thrill me. For starters, most people I know aren't involved in a love triangle, at least not in the way they're done on soaps. They don't have two hot guys or girls chasing after them, doing whatever it takes to win the object of their affections. Sure, it's a fantasy to have not one, but two desirable people pining for a character, but to me, this isn't sexy. I never enjoyed watching two women scheme, lie and demean themselves to "win" a man or for men to act like wishy-washy jerks as they waffled between two desperate women. Eventually, I wanted all three players to disappear -- which I don't think was the intention of the story.

To be fair, there were a few triangles that were done very well and that I could get into. I liked classic Ridge/Taylor/Brooke on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL and John/Marlena/Kristen on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. In each, the characters all had history with one another and you could understand their reasons why they fought for love. And Kristen was just plain crazy. While I usually got sick of scheming, desperate women, her plan -- to hire a lookalike to have John's baby -- was just so out there, it was pure camp.

Love triangles are a big part of many young adult books, as well. Where would the Twilight series be without the Edward/Bella/Jacob dynamic, for example? But in order for the triangle to work, it has to follow the same basic rules as the ones on soaps: a) readers have to know all three characters. How can you root for someone if you have no idea who she or he is? b) the two characters who are "fighting" for the girl or guy have to have equal rooting value. c) There needs to be a build-up of story with both sides of the triangle. You can't show scene after scene of one pair together and then introduce the third player without letting readers see WHY there is an attraction.

I did think that the Twilight series' triangle was decent. In the first book, Edward and Bella's relationship was established and in the second, Bella spent more time with Jacob. We could see why she was attracted to both guys. We also got plenty of backstory on Edward and Jacob so the characters had equal weight. In my opinion, though, the triangle fell apart because it was so obvious from the get-go that Bella would never choose Jacob. He didn't have a fighting chance ... and because of that, he felt more as if he were in the way than a viable contender. I personally wished that he'd just stayed a friend, especially since Bella and Edward had enough obstacles to deal with outside of the romance.

I loved The Hunger Games, but kind of felt as if the triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale was thrown in. To me, I just never felt any romance between Katniss and Gale; he came off more like a brother -- especially since it was stated numerous times that they looked alike. I did like the build-up of friendship and eventual love between Katniss and Peeta. Again, Gale just wasn't a contender and didn't share nearly as many scenes with Katniss as Peeta did. If he had, perhaps their relationship would have seemed a bit less like that of siblings.

As for my own books, I don't plan to introduce any love triangles. I realize that young love is fickle and that teens are at an age where they're exploring relationships. I really like stories where two people are getting to know one another and are forming a relationship -- and it's difficult to write about that when a third party is in the way. I think my idea of a "love triangle" would more likely be a situation where a character was falling out of love with one person and in love with another.

Love triangles are a valuable part of YA books and it adds to the fun of the reading experience when you can be "Team So-And-So." But a little simplicity in romance can be just as enjoyable.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Publishing On Kindle: Finding Inspiration

Well, this is it, folks. Today is technically the last day of my virtual blog tour. Tonight, I have a radio interview with the Angels And Warriors show at 9 ET/6 PT in the US, so feel free to call in with questions about BAND GEEK or my writing career.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to work on Novel No. 2, though I haven't had much time to write this week with Thanksgiving. Not that this was a bad thing since I've spent the past few days with family and friends. I love working from home, but I have a bad habit of working from sunrise until sundown. I need to take more days where I just put work aside and have fun.

My mind is always going, though, so my books were never far from my thoughts. On Wednesday, I went to the city with my friend who is doing a chapter-by-chapter read on my second novel. I know that I'm at least on the right track with my story because he told me that he's really getting into it. Then when I started to share the details of upcoming chapters, he was like, "No, don't tell me. You'll ruin it." This made me feel really good because it said that he was invested enougb in the story that he cares and wants to have something to look forward to.

I also got some more inspiration for my main male character over the weekend. In my story, that character has to make some tough decisions when he goes against his parents' beliefs. I met someone who's had to do this in real life and it was interesting to hear about what he had to go through for real. I'm impressed with his courage and hope that a similar kind of bravery shines through in my character.

It got me thinking that perhaps I should write my book from two points of view. Right now the female is the narrator, as is the case in BAND GEEK, but I'm wondering if I should switch POVs each chapter? I'm not yet sure... but it might be fun to play with that concept. I've read other novels that use that technique, some which work very well and others not so much.

A final reminder: today is the last day that you can sign up for my giveaway of a book, CD and pair of earrings so check into my virtual book tour to do so. And don't forget to read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Writing A Novel: Mood Music

As a 38-year-old, I've experienced nostalgia in many different ways. Sometimes, an old TV show will make me feel it or I'll sense it while eating something that I loved as a child. However, if I really want to feel nostalgic, I'll listen to music from a certain time period. If I hear anything from the '80s, I'm immediately whisked back to my childhood when big hair and Pac Man reigned supreme. Artists like Tori Amos and Alanis Morissette take me back to my college days in the mid-'90s. The memories are so vivid, it's practically like going back in a time machine for me.

That said, I like to listen to a particular type of music when writing because it gets me in the proper mood to tell my story. For instance, when I was writing BAND GEEK, I listened to a lot of R.E.M., Depeche Mode and B-52s, which were all groups that I loved (and still love) in high school. My friends and I would ride around blasting "People Are People" as we sung along to the radio; 20 years later, I still associate that song with those days. So when writing ABOUT high school, I wanted to get back into a teenage frame of mind. BAND GEEK doesn't take place in 1992 -- it's in the present, though I never actually mention a year in the text -- but those old songs helped me recall certain feelings that I had when I was a teen.

Since my latest novel takes place in college, I'm listening to a lot of Tori, Alanis and other mid-'90s artists. I'd forgotten how much I loved the Spin Doctors and that song, "I Would Walk 500 Miles." I'm still close with many of my college friends, but the memories are flooding back now that I'm writing about that era. And it's all because of the music!

I still haven't figured out what music from the 2000s makes me feel nostalgic. Perhaps it's because I got married in 2000 so that chapter in my adult life is just a big blur to me? Or maybe it's because not enough time has passed for me to feel nostalgic. I'm not sure. But I'll eventually find the proper tunes to take me back in time.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing A Novel: Grammar Police

I was recently asked an interesting question by a friend who's an English teacher. She wanted to know how much leeway has with grammar when writing a novel, and how much one could bend the rules of writing. I told her that there really aren't "rules" when writing a piece of fiction -- but you should know HOW to write before taking liberties with grammar and sentence structure.

Her question came about because she noticed that I'd used some slang in my book, as well as some sentence fragments, and she wasn't sure whether that counts as proper English. No, it probably doesn't, but I do sometimes bend the rules in my writing for effect -- especially when I'm writing from the POV of a 15-year-old and am trying to keep the narrative conversational. For instance, my novel starts off with Melinda sharing, "I staggered and stumbled down the hallway holding my largest textbook —- history —- behind me, in a vain attempt to cover my ass. Literally. I'd busted right through my jeans. In the back. And now everybody had a full view of my purple flowered underpants."

Technically, this paragraph is full of grammatical errors. However, I include the pauses in her speech for effect; with each little reveal, you see how her situation is slightly worse than before. I wouldn't write in this manner if I were writing a college essay, but I felt as if this set up Melinda's dry, snarky voice and youthful inner dialogue.

The trick with taking grammatical liberties is to not overdo it; I also think that an author's writing will vary, depending on whether the narration is told in first or third voice. For most of the book, Melinda's speech is clean and grammatically correct. I don't want to give my readers a headache as they go through the story! But there is some room for creativity in fiction. If everybody's work sounded exactly the same, books would be very dull.

I think that grammar is really important and wish that schools would spend more time teaching it. It kills me when I read people's posts where they've mixed up your and you're or its and it's. However, I'm not so rigid in my thinking that I think that every single sentence should be textbook perfect. There's a fine line between writing well ... and telling a great story.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Writing A Novel: A Major Compliment!

Part of being a writer is learning to endure the roller coaster of emotions that comes with the creative and critiquing process. There are days when I feel really confident about my story ideas and my writing in general. Then there are days where I feel like crap and I doubt my abilities. Sometimes I wonder if I can even be considered to be a "real writer" at all because I feel like such a phony.

But for every bad day and negative critique, there are good ones. Tonight marked one of those times where I was like, "Damn, I'm a writer!"

I was out celebrating a friend's birthday in the city and everyone got to chatting about my novel. There were many questions about how I managed to get it up on Kindle, if it's difficult to self publish, etc. Then, one of my close friends -- who's usually pretty low-key and very honest -- told me, "I finished the book and I really loved it. I don't usually read YA, but I really got into it." She went on to tell me in detail what she enjoyed about the book and then added, "There's this guy in my church who's written several popular YA books -- and I think that yours is as a good as his."

At this point, I was already very flattered, but out of curiosity, I asked for the author's name.

Her: "Oh, he's this old friend of mine, Ned Vizzini."

Me: "STFU! WHAT?????!!!!

I wasn't sure which to be more shocked about: that she knows Ned Vizzini (apparently they grew up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood and their moms are close), that in the 15 or so years that she and I've known each other, she never before mentioned that she's pals with another YA author or that she compared me to Ned-freakin-Vizzini!

You have to understand, I've been a fan of Mr. Vizzini's for a long time. If you haven't read any of his books, which include BE MORE CHILL and IT'S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY, check them out right now. He was also a writer for MTV's TEEN WOLF and FUNNY STORY was turned into a movie a few years ago. In other words, he's pretty effing talented. For her to compare me to him is basically her saying that I'm like one of the best in my field. I don't even think she realized what a big deal he is in the YA world; he just happens to be a YA writer whom she knows.

For the record, I'd never compare myself to Mr. Vizzini -- or Megan McCafferty or Judy Blume, or any of my other YA author idols. These writers' books have endured for years whereas I'm still a work in progress. It's hard for me to see myself as being in their league when I read my own work and recall how I had to rewrite a particular section six or seven times to get it right. I'm sure that these authors have all dealt with that themselves, but they've more than proven themselves in the industry. I haven't ... yet.

Still, if a good friend decides to tell me that I remind her of one of my favorite authors, I'm not going to argue. I'll take it!!!

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing A YA Novel: Coming Up With The Perfect Book Boyfriend

First up, some exciting news! Today, my Virtual Book Tour takes me to Blooding Book Reviews, where you can once again enter to win my giveaway of a book, signed CD and handmade pair of music earrings.

I've also joined Goodreads' Author Program and now have a Goodreads Author Page. If you regularly read this blog, a lot of the information is the same (hey, I have only so much to say about myself!). I've linked in this blog and also my bio posted. However, you can also chat with me in my Ask Naomi group. So if you have any questions for me about my books or my writing process, or anything else (APPROPRIATE questions, mind you), please friend me on Goodreads and ask away! The group will be open until December 14.

Revenge of a Band Geek Gone Bad

Meawhile, work on my next novel is going really well. I've written two chapters and am planning to write at least half of my third this evening (have to do something to keep busy before AMERICAN HORROR STORY comes on!). Last time, I had people edit my work after I'd finished, but this time, I'm having my friend Scott edit as I go along. He's so busy with his job, he never has time to read an entire book at once, but he does have time to read installments. So I'm sending him a chapter at a time and he's reading them in real time. It encourages me to actually get them finished since I know he's waiting for each chapter, and gives him something to read without the added pressure of finishing an entire book on a deadline. It's win-win. Once I'm finished, I'll send it to other friends to edit in its entirety, but this is a great way to keep it going.

As I'm writing, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of the "book boyfriend." This term comes up a lot on Goodreads as posters swoon over Twilight's Edward or Jacob, or The Hunger Games' Gale or Peeta. I've had plenty of "TV boyfriends" (BUFFY's Spike, for one) so I can understand the appeal of having someone to crush on. I'm hoping that as word gets out about BAND GEEK that readers will count Josh among their book boyfriends. I like to think that he's a pretty interesting guy, even if he is a troublemaker.

In this next book, though, my main character is gay -- which presents the challenge of creating a different sort of book boyfriend, at least for female readers. I want him to be a loveable, "dreamy" character, but not in the romantic sense ... and so I've had to really concentrate on depicting the deep friendship between him and my narrator without crossing over into romantic territory. It's been an interesting thing to work on and I hope that I bring as much life to this friendship as I did to Mel and Josh's relationship.

Who are YOUR favorite book boyfriends? Sound off in the comments -- or on Goodreads!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Writing A Novel: On To The Next Project

I took a much-needed break from promoting BAND GEEK today and spent time working on my next novel. So far, I've completed my first chapter and am happy with how it's turning out.

Writing a new story has its good and bad points. On the one hand, my book is a blank slate. I can invent any character I want and make her do anything, without having to worry about continuity. On the other hand... the book is a blank slate, meaning that I still have to actually write the story. And much as I enjoy doing that, it's even more satisfying for me when I can see my words come to life on the page. It's especially frustrating when the story is already complete in my head and I've yet to put in on paper.

It also takes some time for me to get comfortable with new characters. Melinda and Josh have been a part of my life for such a long time, so it feels weird -- and almost like I'm cheating on them in a way -- to be writing about someone else's story. But I'm already falling in love with this new set of characters and plan to give them the same care that I gave the characters in my first book.

The business of writing (emphasis on business) takes a lot of work and patience, as I'm finding out, but ultimately, I'm a WRITER -- and this is what I need to concentrate on. I'm glad to be so fired up about my next project and am eager to see where this story takes me.

Meantime, please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Publishing A Novel: The Thrill Of Doing Promotional Interviews

The latest stop on my Virtual Book Tour is my interview with Lisa Haselton on her blog Reviews And Interviews.

I've done a few interviews for this book tour and did a couple back when I was promoting my CD, but the process still feels a little surreal to me. I don't mind being asked questions; in fact, it's kind of fun and flattering to have such an interest taken in me, but for most of my life as a writer, I've een the one who's asked the questions! It's weird to be on the other side of things and to be the subject for a change.

I don't mind talking about myself, but I am grateful that so far, the questions haven't been too personal. I loved interviewing actors, but had to ask some very personal things at times, and for me, that was always awkward. I always felt uncomfortable when I questioned a star about his or her love life, his or her recent arrest or drug problem, or whether said actor ever planned to have children. These are questions that I'd never ask a mere acquaintance in my non-work life and I often had to push against a lot of personal fears to get the job done.

The good news is that most of the actors with whom I spoke were quite open about their lives -- sometimes to the point where they'd overshare and tell me stuff about their love life or bodily functions that I just didn't want to hear about. I always tried to be respectful and steer them back to the topic at hand; I also always made sure that everything said was on the record. I was never the type of journalist who was out to "get" a subject. I just wanted to share their story. Perhaps I would've moved through the ranks more quickly had I had that hunger, but I had no interest in humiliating a person just to get a scoop.

As for how I conducted my interviews, I tried to make them feel like regular conversations. I never fired off a list of questions for the actor to answer; we'd make small talk, chat about their kids, politics... and while we were talking, we'd eventually get to the topic at hand. I found that this method worked well and got good results because I made the actor feel comfortable. One actress once told me that talking to me felt as if she were chatting with an old friend, which I took as a huge compliment.

Sometimes actors would note that certain questions were hard, especially when I'd ask them something random, i.e. "If you could be any animal, what would you be?" for one of our fun columns. I'd laugh about this, but you know what? A lot of those questions were difficult to answer -- and answering interview questions so that you come out sounding good in print or on radio is a skill! It took me a long time to answer those questions for Lisa's blog; a lot of thought was put into them.

I've always respected the actors whom I dealt with, but now I have a much better understanding of what it was like to be questioned about your work. And if anyone asks me what kind of tree I'd want to be, I'll have my response ready!

Please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Publishing On Kindle: Fears And Frustrations

There's an episode of Sex & The City when Samantha takes on the job as publicist to her future boyfriend, Smith, and she assures her actor beau of the following when it comes to getting recognition (paraphrased): "First come the gays, then the girls, then everyone else." This is what I'm sensing -- and hoping -- will happen with my book, as I try to get my name out there as an author. Though don't expect me to hang a nude ad of myself in the middle of Times Square as Sam did for Smith. Trust me, this will just scare everyone...

I am seeing the start of this scenario playing out, which leaves me hopeful. For me, it was first friends and family members who downloaded my book, as well as former high school classmates. Now I'm starting to get a bit of positive feedback from teens. From there, I'd like the word to spread and for this to become the type of YA book that appeals to everyone from teens to adults. I just have to wait and be patient... and it's no secret that I have a difficult time doing that.

Meantime, I'm working my butt off as I try to "sell myself." To those of you who spend all day tweeting and social networking, I don't know how you do this. Frankly, it's exhausting. I feel like I have to tweet and send Facebook messages constantly to keep the momentum going -- and before I know it, hours have passed. I actually got one of my Twitter accounts shut down for tweeting too much. Can you believe that? Oh well, live and learn. I don't mind doing the work, though, if it sells my books and lets people know my name.

There are days when I get very frustrated. Yesterday was one of those days where I was having doubts about both my jewelry and writing ventures. But I then forced myself to put my work away for a while (it was Saturday, after all) and went out for dinner with Jon and some friends. Some good German food and my friends' happy baby cheered me up and I was in a great mood by the time we returned home that evening -- and then I received positive e-mails from a fan of my book and a fan of my jewelry. This fired me up and the doubts began to fade.

That's the one downfall of having an artistic career, be it writing, painting, singing or doing anything else that's subjective to people's tastes. If you want to actually make money from doing it, you depend on others liking your work... and at times, that can be trying. I have a thicker skin than I did when I started out, but I'm not wearing armor, either. It still hurts when someone doesn't like my work or when I don't feel that it's getting enough notice.

This is why I have to remind myself that ultimately I'm doing this because it makes ME happy -- and that it's okay for me to sometimes take a break and enjoy other aspects of my life.

To read and review my book, check out REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FREE Kindle Book -- Free Ebook Today!

My book REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD is FREE on Kindle today, November 10, 2012. This is my fourth free KDP Select day, so time is running out. I get just one more free day after this, so this is your chance to get my book for free. Do it now before my special ends.

I'm realizing in retrospect that scheduling my last free day to be on Election Day in the US wasn't the wisest idea. Most people weren't online looking for books; they were checking out election results. But it's now the weekend and reading a good ebook is the perfect way to relax. So why not download mine and get your mind off of your troubles for a couple of hours?

Like I said, time is running out, so get BAND GEEK for free while you can! Head over to REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD on Amazon!


When it came to choosing my book's title, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, a lot of thought was put into it. I wanted something that's catchy, shocking -- and captures the dark comedy tones of my story.

This wasn't my novel's original title. It was actually called WHO'S ON FIRST?, alluding to the fight between Melinda and Kathy for first chair flute. However, when my former agent took me on, she immediately told me to nix that title, explaining that it was too vague and too reminiscent of Abbott and Costello's famed "Who's On First?" bit (I was kind of going for a play on that, but I understood what she was saying). Instead, she suggested that I make my title music-related. I suggested a straight-to-the-point FIRST CHAIR, but she again said that it was too vague and advised me to incorporate the revenge aspect. I brainstormed ideas and eventually came up with REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD. My agent loved it! So did many of the editors to whom she sent my manuscript. Though they all disagreed on which parts of my story they liked and disliked, they all got a kick out of the intriguing title.

One of the criticisms I recently received is that the title gives away too much of the story, but I don't think that this is the case. It tells the gist of the tale -- you know that a band geek is going to do something awful in the name of revenge, but you don't know why or how, or if there will be consequences. I mean, take the popular movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You know that people will die and you know how they'll be killed, but you don't know the details -- and that's what makes you want to tune in.

Being a journalist, I like to think of my title as being kind of like a headline in a newspaper. It's the lead-in that teases an idea, but doesn't give the entire story away. It's the very first part of a story -- even before you read the first line -- that gets you excited and draws you in. A header like, "Crazy Mom Goes On Rampage In Supermarket" technically tells you exactly what happened, but definitely grabs your attention and makes you want to find out WHY and HOW it happened.

Besides, revenge is only part of my story. There is also romance, friendship, music among other things; it's just that for the title's sake, highlighting the revenge aspect made the most sense to me.

So I'm sticking with my title -- and am confident that others will want to "get revenge," as well.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, FREE on Kindle, today, November 10.

Movie Review -- And Why I Chose To Be A Writer Instead Of A Musician

My husband and I saw a wonderful movie last night called A Late Quartet. It stars some fabulous actors, including Christopher Walken and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and takes viewers into the lives of four musicians who play in a popular chamber group. The foursome, who've been together for 25 years, are devastated when their cellist (Walken) announces that he has Parkinson's Disease -- and their lives are suddenly turned upside-down and inside out.

I enjoyed the movie because the music was a big focus; there's even a fight over first chair, which I took as a shout-out! But what I really loved was how the story explored the messy dynamics between the quartet members. These musicians had been together for so long, they'd become family -- and as in many families, you had intense fights and heartbreaking betrayals. The final scene was so powerful, it made my eyes tear (and I rarely cry during movies), and the movie audience clapped with approval during the credits. I highly recommend seeing it regardless if you're a musician yourself.

After, my husband and I went to dinner and Jon questioned why I never became a professional musician in the traditional sense, meaning why didn't I join an orchestra or a chamber group? The simple answer: I just didn't want to. Though I was a very competitive flutist in high school, I didn't LIKE being competitive. I usually did well, but it was stressful. I often got up at 4:30 a.m. to get in some practice before school (my parents were early risers so this wasn't an issue) and lost sleep over auditions. If I didn't get a good score or make a particular orchestra, I'd be in tears. I felt almost trapped by being a skilled player because so much was expected of me and I wasn't playing music because I liked it. I just liked being good at it.

The times I did have fun performing were in jazz band and musical pit orchestra, where I played sax. These weren't very competitive groups so I could just relax and enjoy myself. As a group, we worked hard, but there was no fighting over chairs or fighting for a score from judges.

In college, I lightened up a great deal and remembered why I loved to play the flute so much. I wasn't a music major, so it no longer bothered me if I wasn't first chair. At that point, I stopped caring if I was even a part of the first section. I just wanted to play and have a good time. I still practiced a lot, but it was more for myself. I learned how to play clarinet and was proud to be one of the few "triplers" in school.

Still, while I participated in plenty of ensembles, I had no interest in taking "serious" music classes like composition or music theory. During my junior year, my jazz band instructor insisted on giving me private lessons where he taught me some theory and honestly, I hated it. I much preferred playing music as a hobby and wanted to give more time to writing for the local newspaper. He was a teacher whom I respected, but his lessons made me quit the jazz band for a semester because I needed to get away from him.

When I was in grad school, I tried out for a local orchestra and the conductor turned me down because he thought that me not being a music major meant that I wasn't a serious performer. I was angry at the time, but looking back, he was right. I wasn't. I was serious about becoming a journalist. I didn't want to practice flute for six hours a day and then spend hours in rehearsals. Playing the flute for an hour or two in band was enough for me.

These days, I do consider myself to be "professional" because I'm skilled enough that I make some money from playing the flute. I performed with a band for several years, taught at camps and gave private lessons, play at weddings and even put out a CD. But I mainly think of music as a hobby. I know that if I put in more time, I could be a lot better than I am, but I'm happy where I'm at. It fits into my life nicely along with my writing and jewelry making.

In high school, I didn't really care about the music; it was more about being the best -- or one of the best -- at something. I now play BECAUSE I love music and the flute, and I'm much, much happier.

For more musical stories, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD. FREE on Kindle today, November 10!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Book Recommendations: Books About Gay Teens

First up: my Virtual Book Tour continues, and this time, BAND GEEK is featured at the blog Dream Big ... Read Often. You can read an excerpt of my novel and once again, sign up to win a prize of a free copy of the book, a CD and some handmade music earrings. Go for it -- it only takes a second to click!

Meantime, I'd like to recommend some more Young Adult novels that I think are worth reading. This time, they all have gay, lesbian or transgender protagonists. In the past few years, there have been so many tragic stories about gay teens who were bullied to the point where they killed themselves. Of course, there are many others who haven't made the news, but are also picked on at school or are not accepted at home. You'd think that in 2012 being gay wouldn't be a big deal, but unfortunately, it still is in some circles.

The following LGBT novels tackle some difficult topics, such as what it means to be gay and Christian, or what it means to be a girl trapped in a boy's body. I think that all are books that can help gay teens feel not so alone and can help straight teens understand what their gay friends, siblings and classmates are going through.

The God Box by Alex Sanchez: Sanchez has written several YA novels that star gay teens, but this is my favorite of his. The narrator, Pablo, a.k.a. "Paul" lives the seemingly-perfect life in Texas: he has a steady group of friends, a beautiful and sweet girlfriend and is a devout Christian who's active in his church and school's Bible club. However, his life is turned upside-down when he discovers that he has feelings for his classmate, Manuel, who's out and proud. Paul not only has to come to terms with being gay, but also questions his religious beliefs and his entire identity. This is an LGBT story that digs deeper than a typical "coming out" tale and takes on a rather controversial angle.

Something Like Summer by Jay Bell: A warning before I begin: though this book is YA and has young characters, there are some explicit scenes in this book! I suggest it for older teens, ages 17 and up. Still, while there are some hot sections, the tale is heartfelt and made me cry in parts. The story follows Ben, an out teen who begins a relationship with closeted jock, Tim. The first section shows readers how Ben went after the object of his affection and managed to win Tim's heart. it then goes on to cover the next 10 years or so of their on again/off again relationship. What I liked about this novel was that it wasn't really a coming out story, which is often what YA LGBT books are. Though it did involve on teen accepting his sexuality, the main portion of the novel focused on the characters' love story.

Keeping You A Secret By Julie Anne Peters; This story is similar to The God Box in that the main character, Holland, has a boyfriend and hasn't quite realized that she's gay. She then meets the school's new girl, Cece, who's an out and proud lesbian, and they fall in love. I enjoyed the romance between the girls, but I also liked that the story didn't neatly wrap up every plot. There were some messy scenes that made me want to smack certain characters and cheer for others. It's always a good read for me when characters make me so emotional!

Luna by Julie Anne Peters: In this novel, Peters introduces readers to a main character who's transgender. the story is told from the POV of Regan, whose brother Liam is a female trapped in a male's body. Regan is the only person who knows of "Luna's" secret and she struggles to accept and deal with the fact that her brother identifies himself as her sister. The one thing I wish is that we'd gotten the story from Luna's point of view; perhaps Luna and Regan could've narrated alternating chapters? Still, it's a moving story about love, identity and acceptance.

If you have any favorite LGBT books, feel free to share in the comments! Meantime, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Publishing On Kindle: BAND GEEK Review

Early this morning, I had two big things on my mind: the Presidential election results and the release of my first professional book review as part of my ongoing Virtual Blog Tour.

I'm pleased -- and relieved -- that Chrys, author of the book review blog Oh, Chrys enjoyed my novel so much. It's always nice to have your work complimented, but what I really appreciate is that she took the time to write such a thorough and thoughtful review. She didn't think that BAND GEEK was pefect and had some valid criticisms, but I feel as if she really "got" the story. She also noted how much time I'd obviously spent when it came to crafting realistic, relatable characters, and I'm ecstatic that my efforts were noticed.

When I ask friends -- or my blog readers -- for reviews, I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm not expecting anyone to gush over my work. I'm looking for reviews that are honest and detailed, that explain exactly WHY my book made an impression (good or bad). Not everyone is going to react to a book or movie, or some other subjective piece of art or literature, the same way, and I'd like to get my readers' unique takes on BAND GEEK.

For any writers who are reading this blog, I do suggest getting a couple of professional reviewers to critique your work. Writing a review that truly explains what makes a book tick is difficult and a skill unto itself. Chrys's piece has given me some stuff to think about when I work on my next novel -- which is what a good critique should do.

And Chrys, if you're reading this, I truly believe that you have a bright future in publishing, either as an editor or a literary agent. I'm not just saying that because you liked my book!

Please read AND review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, just 99 cents on Kindle!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hey, Readers -- I Need Your Help!

If you're in the United States, chances are you're glued to the election results. This one is certainly a nailbiter. But if you're looking for a break from the drama, please check out my novel, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, which is free on Kindle today, November 6.

As of this posting, my book is No. 41 in the "Romance" subcategory of free teen books. I'd really like to get it into the top 20 for this category, or even the top 10. How can you help? Head to my page and download it. It's free! What have you got to lose except, well nothing?

I find it kind of amusing that I'm campaigning so hard for my book on election day. Kind of fitting, no? But think of this as me sending all of you virtual bumper stickers and pins asking you to VOTE for REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

I'm Naomi and I approve this message...

Book Excerpt And Giveaway! (And Random Thoughts On The Presidential Election)

My Virtual Book Tour continues! Today, I'm featured on Bookalicious Travel Addict (love the name!). This time, I share an excerpt of BAND GEEK and readers get yet another chance to win some cool prizes in my giveaway: a FREE copy of my book, a FREE autographed copy of my CD FLUTE PATH and a FREE pair of my handmade music earrings with Swarovski crystals. All you have to do is click on the links provided at the end of the post on Bookalicious and those prizes can be all yours!

In other news, it's Election Day here in the United States. In my youth, I was never much into politics, but I've become more passionate about certain issues as I get older. This election is seriously feeling like a sports game, with fans rooting for their "team." Perhaps it's because many of us are now on Facebook, but I feel like more people are into the election this year than in years past -- and I think that's awesome. Even though not all of my friends and I are on the same page when it comes to politics, I still think that we should all get out and vote. One friend waited in line for four hours in Florida; another, who recently became an American citizen, got to vote in his first Presidential Election. It's stories like that that remind me how lucky we are to have this opportunity and how important it is to take advantage of it.

Of course, you can never travel very far in New York City without running into some interesting characters. Maybe it's because I'm always looking for the next story, but I always seem to encounter oddballs. This morning, I was riding our local bus when I heard the off-key warblings of some guy behind me. He was listening to Van Halen's "Jump" and singing along to it. Fine. I was happy to see him enjoying himself. However, every time the titular lyric, "jump" came up, he'd well, actually jump. On a very crowded bus. Nice!

At the polls, I encountered Big Burly Line Cutter. He and his group of friends attempted to slice through the line -- just when I was about to get my voter card. But I quickly zipped in front of him, blocking his path to the table. He glared at me and got into line behind me. I was really proud. I tend to avoid confrontation, but I refused to let this idiot cut me off. Stopping him was a very Melinda-like (my narrator in BAND GEEK) thing to do.

I'm debating whether I actually want to watch the election results tonight. I'm so nervous! I feel that same jumpiness that I experience when watching a gymnast attempt a routine on the balance beam. I might just turn off the TV and work on my writing. It is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) after all. Then again, I probably won't be able to stay away...

If you need to relax while waiting for election results, please read and review my novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Writing A Novel: Music In My Family

My BAND GEEK narrator, Melinda, comes from a very musical family. She plays the flute and her mother is a professional violinist who plays with an orchestra. My own family is quite musical, too. My maternal grandfather played violin and mandolin, which is another type of string instrument. My mom plays piano at a professional level and often performed with me when I was younger.

Musical talent also runs on my dad's side. My dad plays guitar and piano, and though he isn't as skilled as my mom, has a really great ear. He can hear a song and then play it back, chords and all, without ever having seen the music. Meanwhile, my late great uncle (my paternal grandfather's brother), Sid Robin, was a clarinetist, well-known jazz composer and lyricist. He hung around with big-name musicians like Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, was pals with Doris Day, and wrote the lyrics for the big band hit "Undecided." He also wrote the words for Elvis's song "Just Because" and had a small, but memorable singing part in the Ronald Reagan movie, "This Is The Army." About halfway through the movie is a scene where the new Army recruits walk out in their underwear and sing the iconic song, "This Is The Army, Mr. Jones..." My uncle -- a little guy wearing glasses -- sings the opening lines!

I only met my Uncle Sid (nee Sidney Rabinowitz, by the way) twice before he died, once when I was 4 and again, when I was 8. At the time, I wasn't aware of his musical connections, but I enjoyed visiting his home in Los Angeles because he treated me like a princess and had cute animals and a pool. I actually learned how to swim underwater in his pool; my dad coaxed me with Oreos (a trick which would probably still work today!). Sid had an adorable terrier named Lollipop, with whom I was obsessed. I used to insist that she sleep with me and would hold her in bed so she'd stay. Ah, love from 4-year-olds who don't know when to quit...

Sid died when I was 12 and I'm not sure that he ever knew that I grew up to become a flute player. I think it's interesting, though, that he was a musician and a writer (a lyricist). Though I never got to know him very well, I've always treasured the few weeks that I spent at his home and has always been proud of my musical connection to him.

A connection which has come back to haunt me -- in the best possible ways. Twice I've performed "Undecided" in band, once in high school and once in college. A few students thought that I was lying when I shared that the lyricist was my uncle, but seeing Sid's name listed at the top of my sheet music was really cool.

I then had a rather strange experience involving his tunes. It was around 1999 and I had an upcoming business trip to Los Angeles for the Soap Opera Digest Awards. At the time, I was having a panic attack about flying (I get those sometimes, despite the fact that I'm an avid traveler) and really didn't want to go. A few nights before the trip, I couldn't sleep so I turned on our TV ... and This Is The Army was playing. Not only that, I'd come in right at Sid's little part! Then when I was in the air, I tuned in to the in-flight jazz station so I could calm my nerves ... and they were playing "Undecided." I don't know if I necessarily believe in ghosts, but I'm very open-minded about the supernatural. I found it a strange, but cool coincidence that my uncle and his music kept popping up as I headed to L.A. -- a city which I've always associated with him.

When it comes to my own musical abilities, I'm not entirely sure where my talent comes from. I inherited my mom's technical skills, but also have my dad and grandfather's ear... and an instinct to improvise and play jazz like Sid. Whatever, I'm just grateful that I'm able to play and wanted to bring that love for music into my novel. I really wish that Sid had lived a little longer because it would've been fun to jam with him. I often wonder what he would've thought of my CD.

Of course, the band played "Undecided" at our wedding and my family went crazy! It was the perfect way to wrap up my family's connection with music and to bring in a piece of our history. And though Sid couldn't be there, I like to think that in a way he was -- and that he was smiling proudly.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.

Get My FREE Kindle Book Today!

Right now, on November 6 only, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD is FREE on Kindle! So please head over to check it out! This offer is only for today.

The more copies that are downloaded, the higher my rank is pushed up, so please help me out. I'd LOVE to have at least 1000 copies downloaded today. It only takes two seconds to do so -- and you get a free book to enjoy. You're the winner in this scenario!

Of course, please take the time to actually read BAND GEEK once you've downloaded it. You won't be disappointed.

So today is the time to head over to Amazon and check out REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD -- for free!

Monday, November 5, 2012


Great news! I've decided to use another one of my KDP Select FREE days. So for tomorow, November 6, 2012, only -- get my Young Adult novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD for FREE!

Of course, if you download my book, please take the time to actually read it and then review it. So far, it's getting great reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.

BAND GEEK has a little of everything: romance, drama, family relationships, a memorable coming-of-age story... and it's extremely fast-paced. Check it out while commuting to work on the train, or while you're relaxing between classes.

So head to my Amazon page tomorrow for another FREE giveaway -- and enjoy reading REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD!

How To Write Kick-Ass Characters In A Story

Today's stop on my Virtual Blog Tour is at The Official Blog-Zine Of Terra Little. I wrote a guest post for her very cool blog where I explain what makes a character realisric and memorable.

And yes, once again, I bring things back to soaps! But you have to understand, I spent about a third of my life (so far) at Soap Opera Digest. For 14 years, 15 if you count my internship with Soap Opera Weekly, I lived and breathed soap operas. I've only been away from the industry for a few months, so I still feel like I'm a part of it. In fact, I'll probably always feel a connection to it.

I do think that there is something to be said for looking to soaps for ideas on what works -- and what doesn't work -- when it comes to creating a character. Soaps air almost every day of the year and all of the remaining soaps have been on for decades. This means that the characters have to stay interesting for all of that time! The lame ones eventually disappear; the audience is savvy enough to recognize them. Even if the shows try to shove someone down the audiences' throats, the show will *eventually* get the hint and make that character disappear. But the great, iconic characters -- the Erica Kanes, Dorian Lords and Jack Abbotts -- keep the viewers' attention for a really long time.

Of course, writing for TV is much different than writing a novel. For one thing, I don't have to deal with actors when creating my characters. There were no contract or salary disputes when I wrote Melinda and Josh. They just did whatever I told them to do! However, I do think that critiquing television for such a long time gave me some advantages when writing characters. I pictured them as real people, as they would appear in a movie or on TV. I tried to incorporate those visual cues that would make them come to life -- sort of the same way that a screen writer adds visual cues into a script.

It's a shame that daytime soaps are dying in the United States because I believe that they're a valuable piece of literary history. They've gotten a lot of flak over the years, but they're persisted in some form since the days of radio. I hope that my book has half as much influence and longevity.

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, now 99 cents.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Writing For Teen Publications

My next stop on my virtual book tour is at Cindy Vine's blog . Here, I talk about my decision to become a writer of Young Adult Fiction. As Cindy points out, there are dozens of genres that writers can choose from, from mystery to self-help. But I've always felt at home writing for and about teens. I explain why in detail in my entry.

What's interesting is that my love of YA literature extended to my journalism career. My original dream was to write for Seventeen Magazine or Sassy. I adored these publications when I was a kid and respected how they had typical fashion and celebrity pages, but also had serious articles. Seventeen didn't talk down to their audience; they embraced teens and presented many intelligent pieces. As I've said before, the teen years fascinate me because they're such an exciting and turbulent time. However, as a very young adult, I think that my interest came more from the fact that these were the magazines that were currently influencing me.

Though to be fair, I liked their fun pieces, too. I still have an issue of Seventeen that's from July, 1991. I specifically remember where I got it -- at the lodge at Yellowstone National Park. It was raining so we stayed in before dinner and I picked up the magazine in the gift store. It had an article about Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder's upcoming nuptials (talk about being dated!). It also had a quiz, "How much of a daredevil is your guy?" Said quiz was hilarious! A sample question: "What's the most daring thing he's ever done? a) Jump 10 garbage cans with his motorcycle b) take out his parents' car -- without permission c) put tinfoil in the microwave to watch it burn." I took it over and over again, answering for all of my male friends (Sorry Greg and Scott -- neither of you was very daring!) and crushes, and saved the mag as evidence of that fun and memorable rainy day. Of course, 1991 Johnny Depp aced the quiz! My husband, Jon, adds that he actually did take his parents' car without permission and was "somewhat daring" in his youth.

Anyway, when I entered college a couple of years later, I decided that I wanted to write for a teen magazine. I even did a report on Seventeen for one of my journalism classes; we had to dissect a magazine and explain how it was laid out and what made it so successful. Having such a specific goal helped me land an internship at Binghamton's daily newspaper, The Press & Sun Bulletin. Most students who'd applied wanted to cover hard-hitting news -- local elections, police beats, etc. I requested a position with the Features and Lifestyle sections -- and I got it. So for two years, I did everything from review local musical acts to interview local celebrities, and had six sectional cover stories published. I also helped edit their "Teens In The Tier" column, which was a section written for and by teens. It was very similar to Newsday's "Kidsday" section which I wrote for when I was in school, so The Press took advantage of my experience. I learned so much from my time there and appreciate the fact that they treated their student reporters like real staff writers.

I continued to write for teen publications after I graduated from college. The summer between my senior year and my year of grad school, I worked for Scholastic. I'd always associated the company with books, but they actually had a very large educational magazine division and I was assigned a position with the teen magazine Scope. Basically, it was your typical teen magazine -- there were movie reviews, interviews with teen stars ... only each article had an eductional angle. For instance, I interviewed the actor Richard Lee Jackson, who then starred on Saved By The Bell: The New Class (fun fact: His brother, Jonathan Jackson, played GENERAL HOSPITAL's Lucky). When I wrote out the story, though, I had to leave out certain words and place them in a vocabulary bank at the bottom of the page. Readers then had to choose the appropriate word to fill into each blank. Other stories I wrote came with a question and answer section; some came with ideas for reading comprehension essays.

It may sound like a dull way to put together a teen magazine, but it was so much fun and my editor Denise was the best. She trusted me and let me do whatever I wanted. She knew that I was an avid reader so she had me review scores of YA books. I'd sit in Scholastic's surprisingly lush library all day, just reading and taking notes, and looking out the large windows at bustling SoHo. She was also open to some of my more out-there ideas. After we received a letter from a kid in juvie, I suggested that I write an article about life in a juvenile detention center. She was all for it and the kid who wrote to us was all set to be interviewed ... but unfortunately, the center didn't want to be involved in the story. I made dozens of calls and appealed to several juvie halls, but none would bite. Oh, well. I still thought it was great that Denise had so much faith in me.

Once I landed the job at Soap Opera Digest, I put my teen magazine dreams on hold and fully embraced the soap world. However, a few years ago, our parent company had us put out a second magazine for teens called Pixie. I was finally getting to write for a YA publication! I should've been ecstatic, right? Only at this point, I was in my mid-30s and wasn't too thrilled about putting together four pages on Justin Bieber's hair (Yes, this was a real article that I was assigned to write). As Pixie found its voice, though, my editor gave me more freedom to write things other than celebrity puff pieces -- and I turned to my Scholastic and Press experiences for ideas. I composed an instructional piece on making jewelry, ran a regular feature on new bands that were worth checking out and even reviewed YA books. I was all set to do a teen travel feature, but alas, lost my job before I could make that happen. But during that time, I found that I still had a passion for writing for a younger audience.

I no longer have the platforms that I did when I wrote for magazines, but am thrilled to be gaining a new audience on my own. More importantly, I'm grateful that I've had the opportunity to follow my passion in two different forms.

Please read and review my Young Adult novel REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Kindle Book Review Feature

As part of my publicity campaign for BAND GEEK, I'm having it featured in The Kindle Book Review site. It seems to be working so far because I've had decent sales today after a bit of a slow-down. Moreover, I love the way the sensationalist tabloid-like headline that they gave to my blurb: "Mel Just Lost First Chair -- And She Wants Revenge!" I'm picturing Zombie Mel coming after Kathy with a chainsaw. It's certainly an attention-grabbing way to advertise my book!

As a journalist, I appreciate that they took the time to come up with a catchy header. I also like that the person who put this together obviously spent a lot of time reading through my blurb, bio and Amazon page to come up with an appropriate ad for me. Thirdly, they link to my purchase page several times throughout the ad. Overall, I'd say that I got my money's worth.

Meanwhile, my blog tour is going strong -- or at least it's supposed to be. So far, a couple of sites have yet to post my guest blog entries on deadline. But I also understand that life sometimes happens and that sometimes people can't get to their computers for reasons beyond their control (massive hurricanes, for instance). So I'm trying to be patient and hope that my posts will appear soon enough. (Update: it was indeed a power outage that prevented my post from going up. But it's up now and I will link tomorrow).

Some people are questioning my decision to pay for publicity, but I believe in that old adage, "You need to spend money to make money." I believe in it to a point, anyway. Obviously, you don't want to go into debt or to spend money on things that won't help your business. But I've learned through my jewelry businesses that you do need to spend at least a little cash to get results. This is why I don't mind too much if I have to pay the registration fee for a craft fair or for some book advertising. I've set a budget for both and see these as worthy investments.

My main goal, of course, is to get my book out there. Slowly, but surely, the word is spreading. I know that it will take time and patience -- and I'm TRYING to be patient, though it isn't always easy!

Please read and review REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD.