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.