Another year, another trip to Alamo City Comic Con

For the fifth year, my family has attended the Alamo City Comic Con.

As always, this comic con attracts some big stars. There are really too many to list but here are a few of this year’s stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator), Rick Moranis, Jeff Goldblum, Neve Campbell (Scream), William Shatner (Star Trek), John Cusack, Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy), and Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).

And as we did the last four years, we went ahead and got into the spirit by wearing costumes.

This year’s cast of characters….

Imperial Tie Fighter Pilot – Jase loves Star Wars. Last year he went to Comic Con as K2SO from Rogue One. He was a Rebel pilot for Halloween. So this year, he decided to change to the dark side and be a Imperial Tie Fighter pilot. My husband actually made his helmet and added “extra” to the black Tie Fighter costume we bought off of Ebay. By the time he got done with his modifications, Jase’s costume looked awesome.

A Dragon Slayer – Lexie wanted my husband to make her a costume too. She picked a dragon slayer. I don’t know why. I think she was just grasping for something to be. My husband made her bow, sword and costume. She was a “battle” tested slayer with dirt and a few cuts on her face, neck and hands.

Arrow – Last year my husband and I went with a “couple” them – sort of. He went as Indiana Jones and I went as Lara Croft (from the Tomb Raider video games). OK so they weren’t a couple but both are archaeologists. This year we decided to do characters from the CW TV show, Arrow. Because finding green leather wasn’t easy, my husband went ahead and bought his costume and bow. He then custom made the quiver and add some lights to the costume (of course.) And we made the masks for both his and my characters.

The Canary–  I went as The Canary/Sara Lance from CW’s Arrow TV show. If you follow the show there are several people who play canary/black canary but Sara Lance’s character is the first. I pieced my costume together – black leather pants, black corset and wig from the internet and the black leather jacket from Ross Dress for Less. My husband made the eskrima (the staff like weapon in my hand – it breaks into two pieces.)

It was a great event, and we look forward to doing it again next year.

Results of my latest free book promotion

On Sept 20, I wrote my 54th post in my writing a novel series. It covered my results from offering my novels for free, usually as part of the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program.

Since my post, I have done another free promotion for Blood Bond.

If you remember from my original post, I have already done one free promotion on Blood Bond. It resulted in 781 books downloaded for free over 5 days. But based on the numbers from a free promotion from one of my previous books (The Heir to Alexandria), I wasn’t pleased with these results.

The Heir to Alexandria had 2740 downloads in just 3 days. I attributed the success of that promotion to my paid advertisement of my free book. Most of my downloads came on the day of my E-reader News Today ad.

One of the ads I posted on Facebook and Twitter.

When I did my first free promotion for Blood Bond, I applied to have an ad in the E-reader News Today, but they denied it, and I went with an advertisement on a different website. But I was able to secure an ad on E-reader News Today for my next promotion.

In October, I decided to run Blood Bond for free for five days. I applied to many of the same websites that would allow me to post (for free) information about my free book. And I applied for an ad in the E-reader News Today for Thursday – the mid-point of my free promotion.

Here is the breakdown of the free book downloads.

Oct 9 – 9 Books

Oct 10 – 3 Books

Oct 11 (day of E-Reader News ad) – 1171 Books

Oct 12– 165 Books

Oct 13 – 19 Books

That is a total of 1367 free books. My book did rise in the rankings but never did break the Top 100 Free list. It got as close as 104. Breaking the top 100 would have increased my exposure. But it did rise to #2 in both Fantasy/Epic and Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery.

Here is Blood Bond at #6 on the Fantasy/Epic charts.

It has only been a week and half since my book ran for free. I have received one new review (5 stars) and sold 2 more copies of my book. And the number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited has soared.

While this is still not as good as my results with The Heir to Alexandria, I consider this more of a success than the first time I ran Blood Bond for free.

I can definitely say that advertising helps with the free downloads, but I am still not sure if there is enough of a benefit in doing a free promotion. The goal is to get people to read your work and love it enough to buy your other books. And while that did work with The Heir to Alexandria, it hasn’t always proved to be the case as you can see with the past two free promotions for Blood Bond. This is why I caution new writers from even offering their books for free. The benefit only comes if you have other books already published.

Money sails out the window as the school year begins

It is fundraiser time at both kids’ schools. In addition to that, both schools are doing different drives collecting items for needy families. This got me thinking about all the money you spend as a parent.

It begins in August with back to school supplies. The schools provide you with a list. Luckily, some of it like scissors and pencil boxes can be used from last year. But folders, paper and pencils must be bought. I spent $100, and that includes usually an extra or two for the teacher’s classroom (at least when they are in elementary school).

The start of school also means joining the PTA. That is $6 or $6.50 per person. I usually sign up both parents and the student at each school. And there are agendas (required at the elementary level and optional at the middle school level), spirit shirts to wear on school spirit days, class shirts for the elementary student (for field trips), organizational dues and shirts for orchestra, shirts for extracurricular activities at the elementary, gym clothes (two sets so you can wash one while he wears the other – I lucked out on this one as he hasn’t outgrown last year’s sets.) Total $150.

Then comes September. And you think it is time to put away the checkbook. But no…there is more. There are school pictures ($24/student at the cheapest package for what I need) and the PTA fundraiser at one school (another $50).

October hits and both schools are doing fundraisers. Lexie has a fun run, and Jase is doing catalog sales of overpriced wrapping paper, chocolate, household items or magazines. We of course bought/supported each child/school as I know there have been budget cuts to the schools. This money will pay for field trips and technology at the elementary school and will pay overtime for a police officer to monitor traffic in the mornings as well as some special assemblies and extras for the students at the middle school.

And then at the end of the month is Red Ribbon week, and both schools are collecting donations. The middle school is collecting socks and underwear for a center for disadvantaged students, where they receive five outfits as well as brand new socks and underwear. For the elementary, we are collecting umbrellas for a disadvantaged school where many of the students walk. When it rains, many of them stay home. Their principal wants to give out umbrellas, so our school is collecting gently used or new umbrellas. Of course, I will donate to both donation drives.

I also donated to a faculty candy-bar buffet at the middle school. And supported the book fair at Jase’s school. Alexa’s will be coming in December, but I have bought a few books from the class Scholastic Book Sales.

And last, we have a Bake Sale for the middle school orchestra. Not only do I need to buy some baked goods to be sold, we will also be buying some treats after the orchestra concert.

So, with just 2 ½ months done for the school year, I have already spent $550. And there will be more things coming – other food drives or donations, party food, pies for the middle school faculty at Thanksgiving, group photos, class photos, orchestra photos, the cost of Jase’s orchestra field trip. Oh, and I almost forgot Spirit Nights at 2 different restaurants coming up. A portion of the evening sales goes back to each PTA.

Whew. It is a lot. And yes, I know I don’t’ have to do ALL of these things. But I still do. I know that the money or items are really needed. Those funds raised by the PTAs or schools will enrich not just my kids’ experience but those of their classmates.