Redecorating the kids’ rooms

In April, Lexie asked if she could redo her room into a “big girl” room. She wanted to remove the butterfly wallpaper border and take down some of the pictures on her walls.

That one question led us to the decision that both kids need to update their rooms. Jase still has the cute animal border he asked for when he was four. He still loves the border but I know soon he will consider it to “babyish.”

So we (and by we I basically mean I) spent June cleaning out and organizing the kids’ rooms. They had gotten in the habit of just shoving things in the closet (heck you couldn’t even get to Jase’s closet) or under the bed. There were tons of little toys everywhere. But I put everything in bins and soon you could see the carpet in the corners of the rooms.

We let each child decide what color to paint their rooms and then decided to let them buy a few new room decorations.

Lexie

Room 2Lexie of course wanted to paint her room pink. And not just any pink but bright pink. We nixed that idea but offered her some choices of pinks – even the option of having one wall in a dark or bright pink. She ended up choosing to have her room with light pink on the top half of the walls and a darker pink on the bottom half (at about chair rail height). And of course she wanted sparkles.

Room 3So we picked Ballerina Tutu for the bottom half and Blush Rush (both from Behr) for the top. And to get the sparkles she wanted I used Valspar’s silver paint crystals. I put two packages in each color so for about $32 she has wonderful sparkly paint.

So far the only room decorations we have added is an Elsa wall mural and Elsa light switch cover. Lexie also changed her flower lamp shade for a pink one with crystals hanging from the shade. She also asked to remove the stuffed animal chains and to have a stuffed animal hammock like Jase had in his room.

She also rearranged her furniture and now her room looks bigger than before. Of course I think it helps that it is cleaner than before too.

Jase

jacen 1Jase was more reluctant to change his room. He saw nothing wrong with it the way it was. But the paint had been in the room for 12 years and I felt it could do with a new coat of paint. He ended up choosing a deeper blue and then after seeing how dark Lexie’s pink turned out, he went down a shade to a slightly lighter shade of blue. We ended up with Yacht Blue from Behr.

jacen 3His biggest addition will be a Star Wars wall mural. I offered him several to choose from and was surprised that he went for Darth Vader when he typically has been more interested in Clone Troopers. Unfortunately, we can’t put it up until the paint has been on his wall for 30 days. It will go on the same wall as his bed (in the area above the AT-AT in the photo.)

We tried moving some furniture in his room to give him more space but he has more big stuff and it didn’t really work out as well as it did in Lexie’s room. I think the key in both rooms was moving their Lego tables from the center of the room and putting them against a wall.

Well both kids are now happy. I told them we are not redecorating their rooms for at least 3 more years so they had better enjoy them!

Today’s Featured Author – Clive Richardson

Today, please welcome author Clive Richardson. His book, Soul Citizen – Tales & Travels from the Dawn of the Soul Era to the Internet Age, was released earlier this year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Clive Richardson. I’m not sure how my musical tastes originated, as my father liked big-band music and my mother liked shows and musicals – in fact I have an early memory of being taken to see the original London stage production of ‘My Fair Lady’ starring Rex Harrison! I heard Lonnie Donegan records and became a skiffle fan, then in the early 1960s, when I started work at the age of 16, I was captivated by Motown music and found soul music. The rest is history – and is related in detail in my book!

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Bromley, then in the UK county of Kent and now part of South East London, on January 14, 1946. My family home was in the nearby village of Chislehurst, where I lived for the first 30 years of my life before buying my first property, a one-bedroom flat/apartment, moving to nearby Grove Park for 20 years. Then I met and married my wife Barbara in 1998, bought a small house, then moved a decade later to my present home in Mottingham, South East London, just a couple of miles from my birthplace.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I began writing in 1964, in the era of ‘fan clubs’ for singers and groups, when I formed a fan club for US soul singer Don Covay following his hit records ‘Mercy Mercy’ and ‘See Saw’. I wrote and published a small fan club magazine, about eight pages, mainly record reviews and a small history of Don’s career, then hooked-up with a group of other guys who also published small magazines, and we got together to write and self-publish ‘Soul Music’ magazine in 1966. We changed the title to ‘Shout’ after some confusion about styles of ‘soul’ music, and I continued as contributing editor/publisher until 1974, when I moved on to freelancing with other magazines.

Please tell us about your current release.

My book is called Soul Citizen – Tales & Travels from the Dawn of the Soul Era to the Internet Age, and is available both from Amazon CreateSpace and from Lulu.com, also via Amazon. It is my ‘music autobiography’, relating my experiences in ‘discovering’ Rhythm & Blues and soul music as a teenager in London in the 1960s. There are sections and chapters on collecting vinyl records, on seeing live music at concerts and clubs, and meeting and interviewing artists, on travels to the USA, New York and New Orleans, on UK music radio, my broadcasting experiences on the BBC, with pirate radio stations in the 1980s and with local and specialist stations from the 1990s to present, and on the evolution and progression of the soul music scene in the UK through the decades.

What inspired you to write this book?

A friend published a book collating his artist interviews as published in various magazines, which encouraged me towards s similar project, but extended from just previously-published material to memoirs of my decades of involvement with and in the music industry as a fan, as a radio broadcaster, as a journalist and as a record label manager for reissue projects.

How did you come up with the title?

I was working on a series of reissue CDs covering vintage soul music across various cities in the USA – the Soul City series on Fantastic Voyage Records, featuring New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New Orleans – so it was a natural progression to think of myself as a ‘Soul Citizen’!

What kind of research did you do for this book?

The research was mainly from my fairly good memory, assisted by 50 years of magazine and book files along with a vinyl record collection covering a similar period. LP record sleeves seem to carry more memories then do CD inlays and booklets! Online research was also useful too!

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I was an avid reader of science fiction in the 1960s, including Robert Heinlein ‘Stranger In a Strange Land’ and Arthur Clarke ‘ A Fall of Moondust’, then Stephen King, and it would be hard to choose between ‘Carrie’ and ‘The Shining’!

What book are you reading right now?

Most recent reads have been the Bobby Bland biography ‘The Soul Of a Man’ and the Huey ‘Piano’ Smith biography ‘Rocking Pneumonia Blues’, which takes me back to my several trips to Jazzfest in New Orleans during the 1980s.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

Apart from watching football/soccer as a lifelong fan of Charlton Athletic in south east London, I am also a keen tennis player, Chairman of my local club, and still involved in playing competitive league matches two or three times a week throughout the year!

Book Blurb

soulcitizenThe autobiography of a soul music fan from his formative years in the early 1960s, buying records and going to gigs, through decades of journalistic experience editing Shout! fanzine, writing for soul papers and album liner notes, to thirty years as a radio broadcaster. Adventure journeys to New York and New Orleans also feature, along with experiences as a re-issue record label manager, and comments on the development of the Soul/R&B music world. 222 pages, illustrated, paperback.

About the Author

CliveClive Richardson grew up in London at the birth of the Soul Era with Motown and Stax creating musical impact on the youth of the day. He formed a fan club for soul singer Don Covay, then expanded his journalistic career as editor of Shout fanzine and contributor to Black Echoes newspaper. He wrote liner notes for numerous albums, subsequently becoming label-manager of Shout! Records (UK), producing reissue soul and R&B CDs. Clive is also a consultant for Fantastic Voyage records, originating and producing vintage soul reissues. He is also veteran of a thirty-year career in radio, broadcasting on JFM, RTM and Solar Radio, now with a reguler weekly show on Solar Radio. Married to Barbara since 1998, Clive lives in South East London, is a keen club tennis player and football fan, a lifelong supporter of Charlton Athletic.

You can purchase Soul Citizen on Amazon in paperback or as an e-book and at Barnes & Noble in paperback.

Buying ads to sell your book

Publishing a book and then hoping someone will stumble upon it and buy it will result in very few sales. To be successful you will need to market your book. This is an ongoing process that usually begins before you publish.

One option for marketing is to buy advertisements. There are a variety of places where you can advertise – Amazon, Goodreads, Facebooks, Book/Reader websites such as BookBub, Kindle News Daily and Ereader News Daily (and many more).

Some websites offer you a banner ad at the top of their website or perhaps a listing on their “special” or “deal section.” And some even will include your information in their e-mail newsletter. Other sites will offer advertising based on a Cost-per-Click program. This is where you have an advertisement (sometimes just copy and sometimes with an image) and you only pay for the people who click on the link in your ad.

In April, I chose to pay for adverting to promote my last KDP Select free promo for The Heir to Alexandra. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website and $15 to appear in E-Reader News Today’s e-mail newsletter and on their website for one day. I feel that the E-Reader News ad, in particular, was especially beneficial and saw the most downloads on the day of my ad. (See all my results here.)

Of course in my instance, I was giving away a book. Advertising for a book in which someone has to part with their hard-earned dollars is quite different. Many people will download a free book if it only slightly interests them. They will not do the same when they must pay for the book. In that case, your ad must hook the reader into purchasing your book.

If you are going to purchase an ad on any of website, I would suggest you research whether this will help you reach your target market of readers. It doesn’t help to just advertise your books to readers. You need to get it in front of those that actually might read your book.

Some websites such as BookBub send out emails to those people who indicated they like a certain genre. So if you write fantasy, your ad will only go to Fantasy readers. (Click here for a review of advertising with BookBub.)

But let’s take a moment and talk about the other method of advertising – Cost-per-Click programs (CPC). Sites such as Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, and Google all offer this type of program.

The good thing about most CPC programs is generally it is easy to target readers of your book genre. You can even narrow it by location, age, or gender. This means your ad reaches the people most likely to buy your book.

With CPC, you only pay for the ads where someone clicks on your link. Typically, you set a budget of how much you are willing to spend either per day or for the length of your campaign. Most of the places also let you decide how much you will pay per click but be warned in most cases the lower the amount you “bid” the less your ad will be displayed.

And in some cases like Goodreads, they determine how often your ad is shown based on the initial response to your ad. So if no one clicks on it, you get charged nothing but Goodreads won’t show your ad as much. The ads with more clicks in the first few hundred impressions are shown more frequently. Each ad gets a fresh start the next day.

One indie author reported her book was listed at $2.99. When she tried a bid of 10 cents per click, she didn’t get many responses and moved up to 50 cents a click which increased her click-through rate. But to break even on the cost of her advertisement, at least one person out of every four would have to buy her book. In other words, if she didn’t hook a fourth of the readers, she wouldn’t break even and certainly wouldn’t be making money from her advertising effort.

On Facebook, you can run campaigns to promote your page or to sell your book. Here is a link to a report about getting likes (and how it isn’t worth it).

You can, however, run ads to sell your book but many authors have tried this and even when trying to give a book away for free reported that advertising on Facebook didn’t do well.

Just as a note, on July 8, Facebook announced that they updated their cost per click to only include clicks to websites and apps and not include likes, shares or comments.

Amazon offers their Kindle Direct Publishing ads that will promote your book across Amazon and on Kindle E-readers. Campaigns start as low as $100 and are on the CPC plan. Your ads can appear on product pages as well as on the Kindle screen saver or as a banner on the Kindle home screen.

You can also do CPC ads on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you hadn’t noticed, whenever you perform a search, the top results are sometimes from paid advertisers. For tips to writing a Google Ad, click here.

google ads

Now I don’t know if any of these CPC ads help sell books or not. But if nothing else you may get some exposure. Remember that often people have to see something multiple times before they take the time to look into it and in the case of looking at books, hopefully make a purchase.

For another author’s opinion on whether pay per click ads work to sell books, click here.

 

 

Quote of the Week – July 15

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” ~ William Faulkner 

Discussing strangers, drugs and fire safety with the kids

Drugs, stranger danger, bullying, inappropriate behavior, sex, what to do in case of a fire (or other disasters) – there are a multitude of topics parents should discuss with their kids.

But many parents put off such discussions leaving it to others to tell their kids what they need to know. If that information is coming from the school that may be okay but expecting your kids to just “know” this information or pick it up from their friends or TV is ridiculous.

Kids need guidance and instruction on how to handle situations that will come up. I know parents who avoid some of these talks because they believe their kids are just too young, or that they live in a nice, safe area so these things won’t happen. But sadly, these things do happen, and it is best if you are the one providing the information to your child.

Here are a few of the discussions we have had with our kids in the past few months or will be having soon.

Drugs

We really haven’t addressed this too much yet. The kids know from school/red ribbon week that drugs are bad, but I don’t think they know what that means. We have been making sure we call the medication prescribed by doctors as medication and not drugs. And with Jase entering the fourth grade, I think a more serious discussion of this will come up this school year.

Smoking cigarette in ashtrayOne day in the car, Lexie saw someone in another car smoking and mentioned they shouldn’t do that as smoking was bad (good girl). Jase disagreed with her. He said smoking cigarettes was fine. That brought up a discussion on the dangers of smoking.

Stranger Danger

A few years ago, we bought the DVD The Safe Side – Stranger Safety and let both kids watch it. Recently, I decided it was time to watch it again. Lexie is the one I worry about. She is the type to go over and make friends with anyone with a dog. She always asks me first and then asks the owner before petting the dog, but I can see her wanting to help someone who says they “lost” their dog.

The video goes over more than strangers. It goes over those people that you “kind of” know like your soccer coach or your neighbor. It is corny, but it does a good job of getting the message through. On the DVD, they suggest you tell your kids just three people that it is okay to go with such as grandma, a babysitter or a family friend.

Fire Safety

fireladderNo one wants to think about their house on fire. And I am sure that many families don’t make a plan for what to do in case of a fire even though they know they should. Well, thanks to the 52 week organizing challenge’s emergency preparedness week, we not only have new fire extinguishers and a fire ladder for Lexie’s room, but we also have discussed with the kids what to do and not do in case of a fire. We even put the fire ladder out Lexie’s window. My hubby climbed down it to test it much to the dismay of the kids. I think the hardest thing for Jase was to realize that he needs to get himself out and not worry about his sister, the cats or our dog.

All of these topics will need to be readdressed not only to help drive home the message but to be expanded on as the kids get older. And I know there will be additional conversations over the next few years on other topics. Bullying will definitely be coming up soon. I have come to realize that little girls are often mean. We are already facing issues with Lexie that we never did with Jase. And in fourth grade Jase will have his first school discussion about the changes his body will go through.

Now to important thing is to make time for these discussions BEFORE the kids need the information.

Today’s Featured Author: Susan Leigh Noble #excerpt

Sigh. Yes, it is another Friday, and again I have had an author flake out on me. I went over 2 years with that never happening. Now of late, I have had it happen quite often. I don’t know if it is because I am not following up with authors as diligently as I have in the past or they are just flaky (or busy) authors. When this happened in February, I ran something from my latest novel. Last month, I just posted asking for authors to sign up. (If you are an author and would like to be featured, click here.)

This time I decided to offer excerpts of my novels as my Friday Feature. These have all been on my blog before but thought new readers might enjoy them.

SummonedFINALMy first novel was Summoned: Book 1 of The Elemental. It came out August 2011. The Elemental series begins with Lina being drawn from her home by an unknown magic. She is compelled to go North and travels with an odd assortment of allies, each with their own agenda. This excerpt takes place after Lina is kidnapped. While Tosh doesn’t appear in this excerpt, I thought it might be helpful to let you know that he is Lina’s telepathic “cat.”

Escape from Stern Prison Excerpt 

QuietusFINALThe second book in the series is Quietus: Book 2 of The Elemental. Lina has now been joined by other Elementals, people who can control the elements. Lina is the strongest of the Elementals and agrees to train the others. This excerpt takes place when the Elementals first encounter something destroying the Land.

Destruction of the Land Excerpt

DestinyFINALThe conclusion on Lina’s story takes place in Destiny: Book 3 of The Elemental. The Elementals thought they saved the Land in Quietus, but danger still lurked. As they race to find an ancient magical scepter that may help restore the Land, it is stolen. In this excerpt, the opposition make their own plans for the scepter.

The opposition makes their plans Excerpt

The SearchIn between writing Quietus and Destiny, I wrote a short story, The Search, about Tosh, Lina’s telepathic “cat.” The adventure takes place before The Elemental series. This excerpt is the opening scene of The Search.

The chase Excerpt

(The Search is free everywhere but Amazon where it is 99 cents. The other buy links are included on the Excerpt page but wanted to offer the Amazon link here.)

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverAnd my latest book, The Heir to Alexandria, came out this past January. It is a stand alone fantasy novel about a woman who is searching for her parents. Because she shows traces of unknown magic, she is ordered to be tested as the Heir to the Alexandria family in hopes that she may be the one destined to restore peace to the world. As she is escorted to be tested, she is abducted by a crazed man. This excerpt is where Grayson, her assigned protector, finds her at the man’s cabin.

Cabin Escape Excerpt

I hope you have enjoyed these excerpts from my books. And again, if you are an author and want to be featured, please contact me. (I have no problem featuring authors a second or third time as long as you are promoting a different book – preferably your latest one.)

 

Novel writing: Dealing with a large cast of characters

For whatever reason, the list of characters in your book keeps expanding. It is getting so bad that you need a spreadsheet just to keep track of them. If you are struggling, think of what your poor reader might be going through.

Imagine going to a party where you know no one. Everyone introduces themselves but after a while all those faces and names blur together. This is exactly how your reader will feel, but they won’t have the help of actually looking at the people in an attempt to remember who they are. All they have are the clues in your writing.

One of the advantages to writing with a large cast is your story can appeal to a wider audience of men, women, young and old.

But there are also many disadvantages such as will your readers connect with the characters? Will they remember who they are?

It is up to you to decide whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and whether your story really needs such a large cast. If you do decide to go ahead with a large number of characters, here are some tips.

1.) Don’t introduce them all at once. Introduce your key characters and flesh out their personalities before introducing more characters.

I actually ran into this problem when reading a mystery. Four characters (friends of the man who was murdered) were introduced at the same time. They were roughly the same age and had similar occupations (as they were also his colleagues). I never really could keep them separate was I was reading, which made it hard to figure out which one of them was the murderer.

It would have been helpful if the characters had some feature that stood out – a limp, an unusual accent or maybe an identifying article of clothing. If you do give your characters one of these features, make sure to mention it (but not overuse it) to help your readers connect with the character.

2.) Make your readers care about the characters. And be certain there is a good reason to add each character to your story. You will need to think of each character’s story arc and whether it will enhance or distract from your story.

As you write, only give names to people who are important. If the doorman doesn’t play a significant role, he doesn’t need to be introduced with a name.

3.) Don’t name characters with similar names. You don’t need a Jon and a Ron in the same story. Also you won’t want a whole bunch of characters with names that begin with the same letter. So no Jenny, Jermaine, Jasmine and Jane all in the same story.

4.) Focus on only a few characters. The main story should focus around just a few characters and not the whole cast. If your story focuses on twenty individuals even the most diligent reader will get confused by the multiple storylines. Or if you do want a large cast, you can pair groups of them up. Think of Lord of the Rings where Legolas, Gimli and Aragon were often together as a group as were Sam and Frodo and Merry and Pippin.

5.) Make sure we see the major characters often. If you are writing with a large cast and have several groups you are bouncing between, make sure you don’t go too long without mentioning the other major players. If you go say 30-40 pages without mentioning or visiting a character, it is probably time to do it again.

Working with a larger group of characters isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will take a lot more work for both you and the reader. Make sure the payoff in terms of story progression and resolution are worth it.