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What is that Woman with a Taser Thinking?

I had one of those worst ever travel days yesterday, with three separate you’ve got to be kidding incidents. Okay, by the end of event two I wasn’t at my best, but at least my belief in trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes got me through the first, and potentially most serious of the three.

You see, I’m not a person who likes to be told what to do. I’ve had a problem with TSA and airport security since the start of this millennium, largely because of what I considered petty enforcement of rules taking priority over common sense. (You’re going to take away my tube of mascara? Why? Oh it’s a 3.6 ounce container and 3.4 is the limit. Right.)

Yesterday I got the full body scan thing and it showed something suspicious around my chest. Turns out my shirt had sequins there. None-the-less, the lady had to feel around my boobs. Okay. Protocol also required her to check my hands for explosive-making residue. Much to my surprise, and hers, I came up positive.

“Have you been around fireworks? Fertilizer?” she asked. I hadn’t. I was taken aside, and two other women were found: one to do a considerably more thorough pat down of me and the other to make sure the first one adhered to policy.

This is the point where I normally would have started to loose it. But for some reason, I noticed the person doing the patting was as nervous as I was. This was all happening at a little airport in South Carolina, and I bet they don’t get a lot of women setting off alarms. This woman was being so careful, trying so hard to do it right. I started to see the incident through her eyes. What exactly was she supposed to do? Say “Oh you seem like a nice person, so just go ahead and get on the plane?”

You know, they don’t have the greatest job in the world. I don’t want people with bombs to get on planes either. It’s good they have some protocols in place, and good they’re trying to do things right.

I started to talk to both women a little, even joke a tad. They weren’t exactly chatty back (protocols, right) but the situation became less tense. I figured out the one woman was not only checking me for devices (of which their were none), but her gloves themselves were part of the process, as they would be checked at the end for suspicions residue, too.

The gloves were checked, and they triggered a second, more serious alarm. I was baffled, but it was clear to me the TSA people realized they had “A Situation.” All of my carry-on luggage was emptied and closely examined. All my electronic devices were wiped with cloths designed to detect … something. Once all my possessions were cleared, I was taken away to a small room with three women. My entourage was growing.

One began asking me the sort of questions I’d ask if I was trying to figure out if someone was lying. “Who are you going to visit? How long has it been since you’ve seen him?”

Then we began the serious pat down. The patter had obviously been told to explain everything before she did it. “I’m now going to run the inside of my hands down your buttocks.”

“You don’t have to tell me. Just do it.” Actually, hearing about it first was creepier than having it done.

“No, I do have to,” she said. That’s right. Protocols, partially designed to protect suspects like me. I should be glad they’re being followed.

“How about I just take off my shirt and pants,” I offered. “Seems like it would be a lot simpler.”

Three sets of eyes widened. “Oh no. Please don’t do that. That’s not the procedure.”

Right.

Luckily, this third exam was deemed to be negative, so I’ll never know what the next step in the procedure was.

They were very polite as I gathered myself back together. The whole incident took about half an hour. Had I cut it closer, I could have missed my flight because of this. No one apologized to me, but I guess they had nothing to apologize for. They were doing their job. Their job has a noble goal.

Also, no one could tell me why I’d set off a residue alarm twice. I haven’t a clue.

I do know that if my fascination with empathy hadn’t led me to try to see the incident through their eyes, it could have gone quite differently. That particular headline reads “Woman Ends Up in Federal Prison Because of Incident Caused by Sequins on Shirt.”

Of course, if they’d been belligerent or mean, all that empathy stuff on my part could have fallen by the wayside. Lucky for me, all three of them seemed to be trying to see it through my eyes too. Funny how well that works out.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in being better, empathy, travel

 

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Would this ad work for you?

There is something more difficult than creating that first draft of a work of fiction, at least for me. It’s called writing an ad. Yet I am as determined to market my new novels as I was to create them. I just have no feel for it.

So, I did what any of you would advise. I talked to experts. (Or at least to people who were successful at marketing their own books and willing to talk to me.) They had a lot of great advice, particularly about what to bother with and what to ignore. I consolidated their opinions into this:

Go with Kindle Select no matter how much you don’t want to, and put your time and money into advertising on Amazon and Facebook.

This was simple enough. I could do it.

They advised I buy and read the books they’d turned to. I bought them all. Two were on writing advertising copy, one was on how to use Facebook to sell books, and the other on using Amazon. I’ve read them, pretty much cover to cover now. With notes. And highlighters. I’m very thorough.

I started with Amazon Lock Screen Ads. My first ad is at the top of this post. It got 5,418 impressions which seemed like a lot to me but my books tell me it is woefully inadequate. 16 wonderful people clicked on it, none of them bought it, and I spent $2.26. I was fine with this as learning exercise.

I tried again. This time I tried to be more witty. Maybe I was. I only got 5026 impressions, but 63 people clicked on this one. Four times as many clicks cost me $11.47 and no one bought it. This was a slightly more expensive lesson on the learning curve.

My third attempt was wildly successful. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t target every genre and category I could possibly fit into. I only targeted women’s fiction and I wrote the ad for the audience. I got 98,215 impressions, and 439 clicks. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I want sales, not attention. All those clicks cost me $63.30 and as far as Amazon can tell, I made one sale from this. Yup, I spent sixty some dollars to make two. Not good.

I did get a bunch of page reads through Kindle Select all of the sudden, so maybe I picked up an extra ten or twenty dollars there. I’m not going to last long spending sixty to make twenty, though.

I decided the careful targeting of one group at a time could be the secret sauce I was seeking, so I created a bunch of ads designed to appeal to every subgroup I could think of. None did very well, but my absolute worst was this ad designed to appeal to readers of Literature & Fiction: Action & Adventure and Mystery, and to Thriller & Suspense: Kidnapping and Paranormal. (It’s not so far fetched. The book is about two telepaths rescuing a kidnapped sister.)

It got five impressions. Period. No clicks at all. The good news is it didn’t cost me anything.

My creative campaign didn’t even show a version for Kindle Fire. I can’t tell if it is because it did so poorly, or it did so poorly because it was never shown on Kindle Fire. (If anyone knows how this works, please tell me!)

Back I went to more generic ads. My next most successful one was an exact repeat of an earlier ad, targeting pretty much the same groups. But it managed 16,829 impressions and 43 clicks. Why?

It also never showed an ad version for Kindle Fire. Why not?

The most exciting part was that I managed to sell another whole book and this time I only spent $19.08 to do it. Wahoo. With the Kindle page reads, I could be approaching breaking even.

Of course, breaking even is not the point. I am determined to keep at this, figure out what works and why and find a way to actually make money.

For more about my Amazon advertising adventures see “How about this ad?

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in being better, writing

 

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Fresh Off the Starship

As soon as I read the blurb, I knew I had to read Fresh Off the Starship. I grew up in Kansas, love science fiction, and can’t find enough things these days to make me laugh.

So let me welcome Ann Crawford, and her fun book “Fresh off the Starship,” to this blog.

From the Auhor: Love to laugh? You’ll enjoy this feel-good tale.
A starbeing skyrockets to Earth from the other side of forever with a specific assignment: to help steer humanity away from the collision course it’s on. But we all know how travel can get drastically diverted–instead of landing in Washington, D.C., where she could assist on a grand geopolitical scale, she ends up in…Kansas!
Wrong place, right time? Join our shero on this whimsical journey as she pursues her purpose as well as discovers the beauty of life and love on Earth.

Ann Crawford says:
I’m a fun-loving, world-traveling, high-flying, deep-diving, and living-to-the-max author of eight books. When I’m not flying planes, scuba diving, climbing every mountain (on the back of my husband’s motorcycle) or riding the world’s fastest roller coasters, you can find me in my writing nest with a view of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains out the window. I’ve lived all over–from both oceans white with foam, to the prairie, and now to the mountain. Yes, a little backwards, but what the hey.
My bestselling and award-winning novels go as high and deep as I do—they’re profound yet funny; playful although poignant; heart-opening and heart-lifting; thought-provoking and inspiring; and edgy while universal. I’m also a screenwriter and award-winning filmmaker and humanitarian.

You can find information about Ann and her books on her Amazon Author Page, and on Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Goodreads.

Giveaway: Ann Crawford will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Learn more, and register to win!

My full review: 

I couldn’t put it down. I intended to read this book over a few days, but laid it aside reluctantly on day one (company was coming) and zipped thru the rest on day two. I applaud (and thank) the author for creating a world that held me spellbound and happy for many hours.

What I liked best:

  1. Yes, it made me laugh. In some ways it reminded me of a modern (and more enlightened) Stranger in a Strange Land. Who can’t chuckle at an alien being wondering what a vibrator is?
  2. Nothing will make one more grateful for ordinary life than an outsider’s perspective. I dare anyone to read this book and not really enjoy the next shower they take!
  3. The book is told from the perspective of an alien being (she prefers to be called a star being). It’s not a trivial thing to pull this off. Kudos to the author for making her star being a sympathetic narrator.
  4. I liked her overall view of the world. It’s kind, gentle and positive. There is plenty of dark stuff out there to read and I found this novel to be a nice change of pace.
  5. It held my interest. The writing was fine, the pacing was good and I had so many questions. That’s high praise.

What I liked least:

Allow me a short insert here. It continues to amaze me how the reading of a novel is a dance between the author and the reader. Some people simply dance better together than others. As an author, I accept not everyone will enjoy my books. As a reader, I understand my complaints about a novel say as much about me as they do about the writer. Please consider this when reading what is below, and do keep in mind I enjoyed this book.

  1. Accents: I’ve never been too fond of spelling words the way people talk, and I quickly tired of the fer (for for) and t’al (for towel) and so on. I suppose my growing up in Kansas didn’t help 🙂 but honestly I don’t care for drawing attention to accents. On the whole I prefer to let people be people when they talk, and not risk making them into “others.”
  2. New age: This one is tough. I outright believe in or am open to most new age concepts. Yet whenever I find a more enlightened being in fiction explaining to a poor human how the things that make them cry into their pillow or toss and turn all night are really their own choices, designed to help them grow, it sounds glib and insensitive. (Even if it could be true.) I credit this author with making an effort to have her star being appreciate human struggles and empathize with pain, but this dynamic has yet to work for me.
  3. Romance:  Ah, it makes the world go round. I find it delightful in real life and lovely as a side plot, but I’m always disappointed when the climax and ending center around getting lovers together. That particular ending makes it a romance novel, in my opinion, and I don’t particularly like romance novels. There were so many things I wanted the climax to be about: outer space or politics or star beings or saving the world …. Ah well, that’s me.

In spite of my complaints, I’d recommend this book to anyone, actually. I suspect its ideal demographic skews towards females, and those open-minded about new age beliefs (and open minded in general.) None-the-less, it’s a quick and fun read and I think most humans would find something to enjoy in this alien-out-of-water tale.

I don’t think there is near enough bandwidth in a 5 star rating, so I go for decimal points and round off when I re-post on Amazon, Goodreads and Library Thing. I give this book a solid 4.1

I did received a free pdf copy of this book from Goddess Fish, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone. 🙂

A Guest Post from Anne Crawford

This first paragraph is primarily directed to Sherrie, but readers, too: I was reading your blog and was fascinated to find all the information on telepathy and peace. I love it! I’ve spent a great deal of my life working for peace and following spiritual pursuits. I was also fascinated by the information about 3 in 4 Americans believing in the paranormal, especially ESP. Most fascinating of all, my book takes place in Western Kansas, where you grew up! I “accidentally” found you on Twitter the other day, before I knew you’d be hosting a stop on my blog tour. What a small world.

Fresh off the Starship is definitely about the paranormal, a walk-in from the far side of the universe. It explores social issues, deep wisdom, diverse spirituality, and…it’s funny!

The book came to me so quickly – over two nights as I was driving back and forth across Kansas to and from a conference farther east. I wrote and published it in 5 months! It just came….downloaded….whatever you want to call it…and I took dictation. I often speak into the Notes feature on my iPhone, and this time I must’ve spoken half the book into my phone.

I’ve wanted to write about something that takes places in Western Kansas ever since my husband – a former Kansas farmboy – took me there; I met his wonderfully charming relatives and fell in love with the land. I’m from the East Coast and lived on the West Coast for most of my adult life. When I tell people I lived in Kansas, their eyes glaze over…like I’m sure mine did at one point. I wanted to show these Kansas folks’ depth, sincerity, and wisdom – they’re definitely not the bunch of “hicks” so many may think.

I heard a line from the movie Starman many years ago – something along the lines of “You humans are at your best when you’re at (facing) your worst.” I’ve wanted to create my own starbeing for decades and have to look through her eyes to see how beautiful we humans can be and how amazing life on Earth is. It was really fun to have to imagine taking a sip of water for the first time as well as the many other fun things humans engage in.

I received a call from someone who professes to go aboard the Starship Bethlehem, comes from another world, and works with alien abductees. She said, “You nailed it!” regarding the walk-in experience. Well, that’s good, as I really have no idea what walk-ins experience.

I’ve never seen an alien or a walk-in, are far as I know…but I hear they’re all around us all the time. I have, however, seen spaceships. I was walking into work one day and happened to look up at the sky. Three “ships” were darting about. They were far too fast and fluid to be planes and way too big to be birds. Plus they glinted in the sun and were round.

I glanced around me to see if anyone else was looking at them, and no one noticed me! Here was this 6’ woman standing in the middle of the sidewalk staring at the sky, and no one turned to see what I was looking at or bumped into me or even seemed aware that I was there. It was a wild moment. I pulled out my cell to try and video them. Nada. Nothing showed up. Oh, well. When I told my husband later, his comment was, “Your ships are coming in!” LOL.

I sure look up at the sky a lot more since then. This was in the middle of writing Fresh off the Starship, too. So maybe they helped. I certainly haven’t written and published any other books within 5 months.

Thanks Ann, for your post and for letting me read your refreshing book!

This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions.

If you are interested in a review from me: I read speculative fiction of all sorts, have a fondness for metaphysical tales and particularly like stories with a strong female protagonist. I will consider novels of almost all types that relate to the general theme of world peace. I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review books about vampires or zombies. If you would like to be considered for a review please send all the usual information to Lola (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.

 
 

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5 things that always help

So I spent over an hour on the phone today to learn that because of a misunderstanding/delay in something regarding my health insurance, I am out thousands of dollars. The details don’t matter (and yes I am appealing.) The point is I was upset. Very upset, actually.

My plan after the phone call had been to get groceries and do the mile walk I’ve recently committed to. Thought about not bothering, but the adult in my head insisted I go.

Five minutes into the walk, I realize I forgot my water bottle. Shit ….. This day keeps getting worse. I can’t walk without my water bottle. Water makes everything better. In fact, there is probably no problem that cannot be improved by a drink of water.

This thought sends my mind spinning off onto all the lists I read on other peoples blogs. 10 ways to make your hair behave. 14 things you cannot live without.

So? What are other things that improve almost any bad situation. Well, a short walk. Like the one I’m taking. Preferably in a beautiful place, like the lake I happen to be walking around. Oh look. There are baby ducks over there. A walk around a lake with baby ducks? Yeah. That improves anything.

So does a deep breath. In on a count of 8. Hold. Out on a count a 8. A couple of more. I’m feeling better now. I smile. An oncoming jogger smiles back. Yes, a friendly smile helps anything. So does a hug.

I’m back at my car now and glad I came. Of the five things I thought of to make any situation better, I’ve just had three of them. Really, the lack of water is my own fault. And the hug, well, it would have been kind of weird given I didn’t see anyone I knew.

I drive home ready to handle the evening. My husband greets me at the door.

“You look like you could use a hug,” he says. This day just keeps getting better.

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2019 in being better

 

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How does she really look?

It turns out I really enjoy book covers. I like looking at them, I like thinking about them, and I love working with professional designers to make them.

I’ve had such fun as these six covers for my re-released collection-in-progress were created, that I hate to see the cover design part come to a conclusion. Aren’t they lovely?

What I’ve enjoyed most is seeing my main characters come to life.

When I first wrote One of One (called x0 at the time) I was obsessed with giving form to my mental picture of Lola, the main character. I wished I could draw well enough to show the world how she looked. I can’t, so I scoured Shutterstock for artists images that captured what I was seeing in my mind. These were some of my favorites.

When I decided to rename the books, I needed new covers. Current fashion is to show the characters, so it looked like I had to find someone who could show the world what Lola really looked like, and would do it at a price I could afford. I found a group called Deranged Doctor Design.

For each cover, DDD found Shutterstock models whose faces were “close enough” to my main characters, and then the faces were altered (if necessary) to make them more accurate. Then the head was stitched onto a body that worked well with the cover design and character. (This process, I presume, yielded the name of the company. I mean what kind of deranged doctor stitches heads onto new bodies?)

The first head DDD proposed for Lola wasn’t right.  She looked too young, but it was more than that. It just wasn’t Lola. I could tell.

The second head looked right as soon as I saw it. What I didn’t know was that the model was blonde, and a creative designer at DDD had already turned her yellow tresses just slightly darker, into a more coppery brown.

The only change I requested was to make her blue eyes brown, which the designer did with no problem.

When it came time to create the last cover, we needed Lola to make a second appearance, but not with an identical face. Unfortunately this particular model didn’t have many options to choose from.

Third from the right had been used. I liked the second one, but it lacked all trace of superhero steel. The first one had an interesting wistful tone, but not really right either. That left #4.

The first version of the cover came back with Lola looking like this. That’s right, the model is blond but the character isn’t.

I was good with her expression, but her blonde hair and blue eyes had to go.

No problem.

Here she is with her darker hair and yes she looks more like Lola. Eyes will be brown in the final version coming on Monday.

It’s funny how she is close to what I saw in my head all along. It’s even funnier that now when I picture Lola, this unnamed model with her altered hair and eyes is the image I have. I guess this is what she really looks like.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in my other novels, One of One, writing

 

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Watch what you ask for.

Do you get what you want, or do you get what you need?

I had a spirited discussion about this once with a psychologist. I was praising the wisdom of the Rolling Stones; she was sharing her professional observations. We were at a party and it was lucky no nearby cynic entered the conversation arguing people don’t get either.

It is a conundrum, though, isn’t it. You ask for something you think you want, only to discover….

So, a couple of days ago I got this cover proposal for book 5 in my 46. Ascending collection. I loved it, as did others who saw it. This is Ariel, my precog, and Cillian, the Irish prophet who sees the probable end of the human race. They aren’t romantically involved and in fact their powers make even casual touch between them painful.

I asked the designer to put some space in between them, and while she was at it could she please make the ocean behind them more obvious. I like the ocean. It plays a role in the book. I wanted more ocean.

Back came this lovely cover. They aren’t touching, which is good. There is more ocean, but it came at the expense of those gorgeous rocks and thunderclouds and blue lights off to the left. Oh no. Those were the things I liked most about the first cover. I didn’t realize I’d have to lose them to get a little more sea.

That’s the way it works, isn’t it? You can get what you want, but you probably have to give up something else and it may be something you want more. Or something you need. Back to the old expression. Watch what you ask for.

 

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2019 in my other novels, writing

 

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It worked!

Some times things do go well. Or at least, they don’t go awful. It’s so easy not to notice when that happens.

I’ve been holding my breath for months now (metaphorically) as I worked to release my first novel with a new title. I could hardly be blamed. The first title had an exponent in it. (Yes, as in the letter x raised to the power of zero.) If you’re not mathematically inclined, trust me it was clever, but no one could fault me for wanting a title that was easier to pronounce, market and search for.

However, this meant I had to get a new cover with the new title on it, and resubmit this all to Amazon, and I wasn’t sure what would happen, in spite of a helpful SFWA mentor who’d assured me this could be done. To complicate matters more, the book got a couple of edits to clean it up while the new cover was designed (why not) and much to my surprise it tells the same story in pretty much the same words and yet is about 20,000 words shorter. Amazing. No original reader would ever miss what was cut. Even I had trouble finding it.

So what happened when I republished? Here’s my process and how it went.

I had taken all versions of the book off the market in December. I went back into KDP, and gave my old kindle version the new title, cover, manuscript, and the new variation of my name I’ve decided to go with. (I’ll be publishing under S.R. Cronin instead of Sherrie Cronin. More marketing.) I gave it the new price. I hit the publish button. No sirens went off. So far so good.

Then it asked if I wanted to publish in paperback. Oh yes, I did. Back when I started this adventure, paperbacks were done through Create Space, but that’s changed. I have to say this is easier. I created my new paperback with its new ISBN number and hit publish.

My dashboard showed the two books as linked and under review. I went off and had a glass of wine.

A day or two later both were approved. Wahoo. Then I went into Amazon to find them. It took the full title of my book and my name to get there because Amazon wasn’t used to finding this. That’s okay. Under books, there was my paperback, with no kindle version and no reviews. Hmm. Under Kindle, there was my kindle version, linked to my previous x0 paperbacks being resold by who knows who and with all of my reviews. (27 of them.)

Be patient, I told myself.  It takes a while for these things to shake out.

Almost two weeks later, nothing had changed, so I did something radical. I called Amazon. (Yes, you really can call them. More accurately, you can request they call you.) I got an immediate call from someone with a heavy accent and a helpful attitude. I explained my problem. She laughed aloud at the idea of a book with an exponent in the title and assured me she could fix things. And she did.

Minutes later, One of One in kindle showed up right along with One of One in paperback. Excellent. Then I looked closer. This new combo had 17 reviews. Odd.

I went to the old paperbacks of x0 that somebody out there wants to sell. (I understand there is nothing I can do about this. Amazon will let anyone sell any book.) My old x0 paperbacks had 11 reviews. Hmmmm.

I looked closer. It appears that reviews are attached to either the kindle copy or the paperback. When the two versions are linked, all reviews appear. Once the nice lady on the phone severed my kindle version from the old paperbacks, the reviews got split. As fate would have it, my less favorable reviews were attached to the old paperbacks, including my one and only one star review which still makes me cringe. (She won a free copy! For heaven’s sake don’t read it if you don’t like it….)

So now, I not only have a beautiful new book with a new cover and a new name, I also have a 3/10’s of a star better rating (4.3 instead of 4.0). Those of you who are mathematically inclined could have noticed that 11 plus 17 is 28, not 27. You are correct. I gained a review because the new book already has a brand new review of it’s own — 5 stars from a happy reader. Wahoo again.

Like I said, somethings things go well, even when you don’t expect them too. It’s good to take a moment and appreciate the good fortune.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in One of One, writing

 

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