Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Good-News Story—Third-Grade Students Help Save Local Barnes & Noble

A belated Happy New Year to everyone! My resolution this year is to focus on the good and positive, to be optimistic.  The idea began with my first Facebook post of the year on January 1st:

        2017 was a difficult year for me, as constant attacks on things I value made
        me worry about the future of our country. So I'm determined to face this 
        new year with hope and optimism, a belief that things will get better.

I decided to look for and post a positive/optimistic quote every Monday to keep me inspired. Sometimes we need to see what's good in the world—especially with so many negative and hurtful things being said and done today. I also decided I’d make my first blogpost of 2018 a positive one, too. So here's a heartwarming story.

Last fall, I heard that our Daytona Beach Barnes & Noble had lost its lease and was going to close. I was terribly disappointed because every trip my husband and I take to Daytona ends with a stop at the book store. But it never occurred to me that I could do anything about it.

Fortunately, it did occur to a group of third graders and their teacher, Shaina Belsky, at Tomoka Elementary School in Ormond Beach. As reported in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, they decided to write to Barnes & Noble CEO Demos Parneros:

“We are very sorry to hear [about the lease] and very upset that we won’t be able to visit and shop and browse and learn new things. Some of us love your sale items (using math).  Some like to study there and even eat there.  . . . Please don’t leave us without our favorite book store!”
Encouraged by Belsky, they even found alternative sites and suggested Paneros come see them. As an added enticement, they offered, “If you come, we will take you to the beach with us and teach you how to surf!”

Their appeal resonated with the CEO, and the company came to an agreement with its landlord on a lease extension. In addition, the vice-president of retail operations, Frank Morabito, was sent to visit with the students. He shook hands with each student and gave out $25 B&N gift certificates. He also said how moved Barnes & Noble staffers were to be able to share the “really great story.”

It was a great lesson to the students that they can make a difference. “They just have to try,” their teacher said. “They can make positive change for themselves and their community, and they just have to try.”

That’s a reminder to all of us. Sometimes we think that our letters to senators, congressmen, and business leaders fall into a black hole, but you never know when your message just might hit the right chord with someone and make a difference. I’m going to think of these kids the next time I’m ready to say, “What difference can my letter make?”

[The information and quotes in this story come from the December 9, 2017 edition of the Daytona Beach News-Journal. I applaud the editors for focusing on the good that kids can do—and for  placing the story on the front page!]

Sunday, December 24, 2017


On this Christmas Eve day, I'd like to wish everyone a MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS ! Despite all the rushing around and hassles to find the perfect gifts, Christmas is a season of lights, hope, friendliness and smiles. 

We're visiting our son in the Cleveland suburbs for the Christmas.  Not being familiar with the grocery stores, I ask a lot of questions.  Everyone has been so helpful, especially when I say I don't live around here. Then they ask where I'm visiting from, and when I say Florida, we spend a few minutes discussing where I live and where they've visited.  More people than I expected have heard of DeLand. Either they have a son, daughter, niece, or nephew who's gone to Stetson, or they know someone who sky dives at Deland's airport. The conversation always ends with mutual holiday greetings along with directions to the soup, stuffing, or egg nog.

Adding to the season, we've had snow!  Much as I love Florida winters, I like it to be cold and snowy at Christmas. My fingers have been crossed for a white Christmas, and I've been rewarded.  Here's a view of my son's back yard.  


And while I'm talking about a snowy Christmas, here's a link to a light Christmas romance I wrote a few years ago.  It takes place on Christmas Eve and is about a country girl living in the city, her handsome date, and a Blue Christmas Tree.  It was published by an online publisher in the U.K. called Alfie Dog, and is  like a Hallmark movie in 1,000 words.  I first featured it  in a blog last year,  December 13, 2016. 

Link to December 13, 2016 blog


As a added note, there are just a couple of days left for the special $.99 Kindle holiday pricing for PAIRS ON ICE and PAIRS AT NATIONALS.  Just click on the book you want and to go to the Amazon page.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Meet Melody Dimick, Author of YA Novel BLAME

Here’s another interview with an author I know personally, Melody Dean Dimick. We met a few years ago when we were both working on novels for young people. We formed a critique group for ourselves and other writers to share insights and offer suggestions about our writing efforts. A former high school teacher, Melody began writing Young Adult novels after she retired. Her books show a rare honesty about the reality of teens’ lives. Blame is the third book in her Silent Series (the other two are Silent Screams and Sinister Silence) but its unique plot and main character allow it to be a stand-alone novel as well. 

1.  You were a teacher for many years.  When did you decide you also wanted to be a writer?

When I heard rumors about a murder and a cover up of the murder in my home town, I wanted to tell the murdered woman’s story.

2.  Many adults have a rosy picture of teen life.  I remember good times, yes, but also insecurities and worries.  Where do I fit in?  What do I want to do with my life?  Will I have a date for the prom?  In creating your books, do you draw on your own memories or on your students’ lives?

My characters’ experiences are a compilation of my memories and events I witnessed while teaching.   

3.  The main character in Blame is 17-year-old Jacob who discovers by accident that his father is hiding something that could destroy his family.  He agonizes over what to do. What is the most important message you want your readers to take from this story?
I’m bearing two messages: Even if it comes with pain, family is worth saving, and it’s important to have a friend or friends to turn to when times get rough.

4.  When Jacob and his co-captain get into a fight and refuse to tell their coach why, the coach tells them to work it out. Should he have done more?

No, the coach understood it was too painful for the boys to discuss what the problem was. It was too private and embarrassing. He gave them his card, so they could contact him when and if they were ready to discuss the reason for the conflict.

5.  Jacob is obsessed with being clean and is constantly washing his hands to the point where they are red and raw.  Why did you add this to his personality?  Should his parents have encouraged him to see a therapist?

This part of Jacob’s character is from me. I’m excessive compulsive about germs. I wash my hands until they peel. I kept hand sanitizer on my desk for students to use. One young man came up four or five times a period to clean his hands. Finally, I told him his hands were going to start peeling if he didn’t stop using so much hand sanitizer. He looked at his fingers and said, “Oh, is that why my hands are peeling?” Since I don’t think I need a therapist, I wouldn’t suggest it for teens. Part of my job at one school was to stand in the bathroom between classes to deter students from smoking or fighting in the bathroom. A shocking number of students did not wash their hands after using the facility. Since germs spread through hand contact, I’ve made it a habit to wash my hands more frequently than many others do.

6.  You write about teens who are definitely not part of the “in” crowd?  Why did you choose them over the popular kids?

Popular teens don’t usually need an advocate. On the other hand, alienated kids need to know they are not alone with their problems.

7.  Do you have a favorite character in your books? What do you like about him/her?

I love all my characters, but Dallas, also known as Squirrel, dares to be different. She wears her own style of clothes, loves trees, and dares to stand up to bullies.

8.  What part of the writing process is easiest to you?  What is hardest?

Brainstorming ideas, coming up with the what ifs, and choosing unique characters, is the easiest part of writing for me. The character arc challenges me. There’s an old cliché that states, “A leopard doesn’t change its spots,” yet writers must show character change. It’s difficult for me to write about measurable character change.

9.  What kinds of books do you like to read?  Can you mention a couple of your favorite books? 

 I love to read books from every genre. Like most girls my age, I loved Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series when I was in middle school. Rebecca, The Good Earth, She’s Come Undone, The Fountainhead, and Spoon River Anthology are among my literary favorites. If I’m heading to the beach to relax, I love to bring a Janet Evanovich book with me because she combines humor and mystery.

My thanks to Melody for sharing her thoughts with us.  Her books can be found on Amazon and also through her publisher, Taylor and Seale.  And here’s a special note for SCBWI members—Melody will be on the First Books Panel at the January conference (Saturday at 11:45).  If you’re there, stop in and say hello.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Practical Advice at the FWA Conference

I attended the Florida Writers Association’s (FWA) Annual Conference this past Saturday, and found the workshops I attended to be down-to-earth and helpful.  Each one offered practical ideas that could be put into practice right away.

That even included the conference’s special guest and keynote speaker, best-selling author, Steve Berry, one of my favorites.  Berry writes suspense/thrillers based on little-known historical facts, and his books are definitely in the “can’t put it down” category. After breakfast on Saturday, he sat down for a “Get To Know Steve Berry” interview.

Here I am with best-selling author
 Steve Berry
Berry was candid and to the point in talking about his path to success. He stressed that, first, you have to know your ultimate goal and then head towards it. His goal, he said, was to be a successful writer of commercial fiction. Keeping sight of that goal kept him from wasting energy in other directions.  He also advised, “Don’t write what you know, write what you love because you’re going to be living with it for a long time.”  After the interview, he stayed to answer individual questions. I asked him how he kept all his plot lines straight and was surprised to learn that he doesn’t use huge charts, but works in sections.

After he graciously posed for a picture, I moved on to one of the three marketing workshops on my list. Sales of my middle grade skating novels really need an online boost.  I’d like to focus on Amazon because I learned 96% of e-book sales are on Amazon. 

Nancy Cohen, author of the The Bad Hair Day Mysteries series, gave a lot of concrete suggestions in her workshop, “Marketing on a Budget.”  Her main point was to be visible on many social media sites so that your name will be familiar.  She explained blog tours and suggested teaming up with other writers to share a blog, sponsor contests with prizes, start a reader newsletter, and examine your books’ special niche.  Another suggestion was an Author Lifeboat Team, a group you can form with other authors in your genre to promote each other through Facebook shares, retweets, contests etc.  Her handouts gave links to many helpful sites.

Then it was on to “Help, My Book Isn’t Selling” and “Selling Books by the Truckload” (I wish!). These workshops were taught by Penny Sansevieri.  Penny is the President and CEO of ama (Author Marketing Experts), a San Diego-based company, and she is an Amazon expert. She talked about categories, keywords, and search terms as three things that matter on Amazon.  For example, choosing a small, niche category with less books can give you a higher ranking and also help potential readers find your book.  She also talked about pricing strategies, saying that the “sweet spot” for Kindle books is $2.99-$5.99.  The 2018 edition of Penny’s book, How To Sell Your Books by the Truckload, is now available as a Kindle on Amazon.  It’s definitely on my list, but I’m hoping for a paperback soon.

All I need to do now is find time to write and market, too.  So here’s a question for my author readers:   How do you organize your day (or week) to find time for marketing?  I'd really appreciate your ideas!  Thanks in advance.