Market and Sell YOUR Books: My special Tips for Indie Authors

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three verses of Sinatra, and a cloud of dust (on the Streets of Cuenca, Ecuador)

Woody Hayes. Ohio State University. Listen up from heaven. You're being honored this morning on the streets of Cuenca, Ecador, about ten yards and a cloud of dust across the New Cathedral on Calle Sucre.

"Three yards and a cloud of dust." Your famous quote comes quickly to mind as a neatly-dressed, middle-aged Cuencano weakly belts out Frank Sinatra and tunes of other American singers, backed up by his small, black keraoke box. 

Frank Not-So-Hoststra, as my dad would say

Most people don't drop a dime into the hard-working man's plastic cup that he holds in his non-microphone hand. But I do -- at least once every two weeks or so, when I'm on my way to having lunch at Don Colon's restaurant, a block away from the flower market. The street singer is halfway to my intended destination.

See, the guy has guts and perseverance, something my dad wanted to make sure that all three of his girls acquired. Sure, he'd wanted a boy and never got one. But he took his girls to football games at Oregon State, and talked to us about giving the old college try and how working at something is more important than relying on talent. Trying your damnedest is what's most important, he'd say. We never left until the game was over. It paid off, too, when Terry Baker was the star quarterback.

Of course my dad liked Hayes because Woody believed in gutting it out. So I know that you, Woody,  would have appreciated this street singer. He comes to work day after day. Sings in good weather. Sings when it rains. He doesn't have much talent but he sure gives it the old college try. This, he does, in a developing country where jobs are few and opportunities rare for a person who does not come from wealth.

Three verses of Sinatra, and a cloud of dust!  Or guts? That's what this singer relies on. And some times, it works! Like today, when I passed by and stopped to listen for as long as I could stand it, before dropping a fifty-cent piece into his cup.

If you don't know: Hayes's Buckeye squads often faced off in a fierce rivalry against the Michigan Wolverines coached by Bo Schembechler, a former player under and assistant coach to Hayes. That stretch in the Michigan–Ohio State football rivalry, dubbed "The Ten Year War," saw Hayes and Schembechler's teams win or share the Big Ten Conference crown every season and usually each place in the national rankings.
Hayes was famous for his three yards and a cloud of dust philosophy for offense. Writes football expert, John Paul, Hayes' idea was that when you passed the ball three things could happen, and only one of them was positive for your team. "The pass would be incomplete, it would be intercepted, or your player would catch it and advance the ball. This 33% chance of success was not one that Coach Hayes wanted to bank on, and as a result he broke down the yards needed for a first down (10) and developed the idea that each time the ball is snapped you only need to advance three yards." 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Birthday to My Mother, Betty Orr. She Keeps Herself Going In So Many Creative Ways!!

Betty Orr, accomplished writer AND mother

I'm tired and my eyes hurt. I've been working all day on marketing The Plan. Mostly recently, I put it up as a kindle book on Amazon.

All of this (researching, writing, marketing) is hard work and sometimes I get worn out! But what is the alternative?

Oh, any one of us could sit around bored. Watching television, smoking, drinking, complaining. But where does this leave us at the end of the day?

My mother is celebrating her (about) ninety-fifth birthday today. She sure doesn't stay bored!!!!! In fact, she had a lunch date with a ninety-eight year old man who drives a big Cadillac. "I don't let him drive me very far," she admitted. But the old guy still drives and he is able to get around and have some fun.

I want to be this way as I age. This is why I spend my time writing. Anyone can do it. Just start. I learned this from my mom. She got me started working as a journalist when I had no idea what to do with my life.She still writes books as a profession, and uses the Internet. She is amazing. It is these activities that keep her mind so youthful. She looks great, too.

What a great gift she has given me. What a tribute to her personal drive and accomplishments.

Happy Birthday, mom!!!!! You're allowed a day off to have some fun. But you'd better get back to work tomorrow. I know that you have writing to do!

Love, your daughter,

P.S. We rarely had babysitters when growing up. But I remember one lady who watched us a few times when our parents went out. Her name was Peggy Blockinger and she was a professional author!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hard To Be an Expat, So Far Away at Christmas

Gracie -- my five-year-old smiling granddaughter

Excuse me, but I’m a little down. I miss my son and granddaughter.  And my mother.

Spending Christmas far away wasn’t easy, even if we did have a lovely dinner with new friends.

The good part was seeing my little Gracie’s three-story dollhouse via Skype. She showed us every floor at various angles before we said goodbye to her upside down smiling face. I could see inside her nostrils, I told her. She giggled and the conversation ended.

Then I spoke to my 96-year-old mother on the phone as a friend was helping her install a new computer.

“I’ll message you on facebook,” she promised before our talk was over.

I grew up with my mother’s stories of our pioneer relatives who moved from the Carolinas to Oregon in the U.S.

“Think of how strong they were to start a new life,” she would tell me.

Now I see what she meant.

P.S. I miss my sisters, too!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Never Too Late To Learn a Lesson or Two

I met a French couple who’d been camping in southern Chile.


“Si,” he smiled.

We talked as my new friends shared their Patagonian photos of diving whales and ice-blue glaciers.

My high school Spanish teacher would be proud. I was USING what he had taught. I can close my eyes and see him. Moderate height, slim with coal black hair and a warm face.

“Speak from the front of your mouth. Blow air across your lips. Make a sound like this,” he’d demonstrate. He’d fold a sheet of paper into a fan, then jot down verb endings on each pleat. “Here’s a quick way to memorize conjugations.”

Mr. Mariani’s encouragement and patience worked well with high school students, but I remember it even now, as I use the language he taught me to love.

It’s never too late to practice what we began learning long ago.

Are you struggling to learn something new? Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Learning to use Chopsticks takes patience, and so does adjusting to a new culture, author says

Many from other countrie are surprised at the political marches that occur regularly in Ecuador. My opinion: We need to learn more about this active and successful process!

A COUPLE OF NEW FRIENDS are not making it here in Cuenca, Ecuador—at least so far. I like them and find they are interesting and fun. But I don’t think they’ve lived much in other cultures. I gauge this on their reactions to their new surroundings In their eyes, nothing seems to be going right since they have arrive.

Nobody said it was easy!

The electricity was off when "John and Karen" got to their new apartment late at night from the Guayaquil airport. Instead of going to bed and trying to solve it in the morning (after the person on duty couldn’t fix it) they went to an expensive hotel. When they returned the next day and learned the power switch in the basement was off, and just needed to be flipped on, they got mad and decided the apartment owner should pay for their night at the Ritz.

That reaction might work in the U.S. but it doesn’t work here. Things are not so sophisticated. This is a developing country and the trains don’t always run on time!

A trip to the grocery again made them angry when they were asked for a passport. “People were following me,” my friend stated, as he wondered why he had to show credentials to buy a loaf of bread.

“That’s just how it is done here,” I explained. “I don’t make the rules.”

And neither do any visitors. When we travel outside of our country and culture, we must accept that the values, social norms, and traditions in the U.S. may be very different from beliefs about "how things should be" in the country where we grew up.

As I sit here typing, I am personally angry over a small occurrence of health insurance fraud on a policy that I signed up for here. But I have to ask myself, how well did I check out the company? The broker? Did I let myself get Gringo’ed?

Further, I can’t get the public Internet company to commit to come to my apartment and install a new system. I am working from my bedroom where I can intercept reception from next door—while I am trying to market a new book, using twitter and facebook! What a pain.

I am not used to doing some of the footwork required to live here, and I realize this. I am not used to non-customer-driven-non-service! Becoming angry, however, just doesn’t work in this culture. Patience is sometimes rewarded. There also are some legal remedies to invoke, if necessary (but sometimes with unexpected consequence). Often, I forget my own advice when difficulties arise.

But if I am thinking straight, I find it works best to cut the losses and start over when up against a difficult hurdle, such as the problems with health insurance or Internet that I’ve encountered. It is at times like this I miss my home country.

When individuals move to another culture, they naturally carry their own background and life experiences with them, and these shape how they react and adjust to their new environment. For example, some will find a new culture (how people do things) easy to adjust to, while others may struggle significantly (like my two friends). "Culture shock" is a common experience that describes the feelings of confusion, stress and disorientation that occur when entering an unfamiliar culture. Of course, not everyone has the same reactions to cultural adjustment and may experience the symptoms of culture shock in varying degrees, and at different times.

Professionals who study this adjustment period say that common reactions include:
  • extreme homesickness
  • avoiding social situations
  • physical complaints and sleep difficulties
  • inability to concentrate
  • becoming angry over minor irritations
  • significant nervousness or exhaustion
Here are some things to know that might help
  • Everything is relative to culture.
    For example people from different cultures may see how Americans behave as different and as “bad”. For some, the American communication style may seem too loud or direct. Take a lesson, and try to avoid labeling what others do as "good" or "bad" according to the culture you are from. Remember that there may be parts of a culture you dislike, but these are part of a broader social system, and make more sense inside that system.
  • Be curious and open-minded.
    Adjusting to a new culture does not mean that you have to change your own beliefs or values, but it is important to respect those of other people. When you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, try to think of it as a new adventure. See this experience as a new game, and be curious about the way things are perceived and done in this new place.
  • Use your observation skills.
    Since you will run into new ways of doing things (rules and norms), observing how others behave can help you understand what is expected of you. It’s like watching someone use chopsticks before trying it out for for yourself! Pay close attention to both the verbal and nonverbal communication of others to get a better picture of what is going on.
  • Ask questions 
    Ask for help when you need it. This is not a sign of weakness. In Cuenca, the moment a person asks for help in speaking Spanish, nearly every Cuencano reaches out in support. Understanding others and making yourself understood in a new language requires lots of rephrasing, repeating and clarification. It may be helpful to ask questions like "I believe you are saying... Is that correct?" Talk slowly and use hand gestures. In Latino culture, I find myself adding apologies more frequently. “Excuse me. Will you please speak more slowly?” (Disculpe. Por favor. Hable mas despacio.)
  • It's ok to experience anxiety 
    Learning to function in a new environment is not easy. It is natural to feel anxious or frustrated sometimes. The key is to remind yourself that these feelings are normal and are likely to be situational and temporary.
  • Know it’s okay to make mistakes
    Anyone will make mistakes while exploring a new environment. Look for the humor and be ready to laugh, while keeping in mind that others will probably make mistakes, too. If someone makes an absurd statement about your culture, it may be due to a lack of information. Use this as an opportunity to share information with others about yourself and your culture.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health
    Be mindful about keeping a healthy diet and getting enough exercise and rest. Try to find an activity that you enjoy and make it part of your routine. Being physically active can help reduce your stress level, but if this doesn’t work seek help. Look for an AA, in you’re having alcohol problems for instance, or for depression and other problems seek a therapist who knows your culture (if talking to a friend does not help).
  • Be patient - don't try to understand everything immediately
    It takes time to adjust to a new and different culture. Be patient with this experience and do not be overly critical of yourself or the people around you.
I hope my new friends start to adjust. And I hope to hell that the Internet company comes through and that the Insurance company pays its bills! Meanwhile, I have some good ideas for a backup!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

It was the "damned gate" that caught my attention. (Surprising words from a Mississippi debutante trainer)

It took a year to create and write The Plan--and get it into publication. I came up with the idea many years ago, when living in Mississippi, but didn't have the needed time to really think about and develop the plot or complete the project until I retired and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. 

This morning I was thinking about how this book came about. 
It’s a good story, in itself!

The "damned" gate

I was a passenger in her car and we were on the way to Parchman Penitentiary. This infamous Mississippi Delta prison was where my psychologist husband worked, and we lived on the grounds. I’d met “Ella” in the small town of Drew. And she seemed like a nice lady. 

Actually, I’d found myself feeling sorry for her, since she confided she was on a third marriage. She was not particularly attractive, and as I would learn she probably went through a lot of his money. Not on frivolous things, but doctor visits—lots of those, for various ailments—but also on her hobby. She liked to help prepare young girls for their debuts.

The Plan is available at Smashwords in various formats including Kindle and ibooks

THE YEAR WAS 2004. There weren’t many formal coming out parties taking place anymore, she confessed, but it was still important for her house to be pretty, "just in case." Drapes are expensive no matter where you live, and she’d recently had to replace not only the living room window furnishings but her carpets. The girls would be coming to her house, if she was able to pick up a parent or two as clients this spring. Plus, she was in charge of her town's Culture Club. Another reason to spend money on her home and yard. The flowers had to look good, of course, because the club held monthly meetings in her home.

We’d just left the small town of Drew, and I noticed something to the left, just off the highway. A white metal fence, halfway open, with kudzu vines growing on it. A couple of tall pilings were behind the gate.

“What’s that?” I asked Ella. I was always curious about anything new or different that I’d spot in this unfamiliar region. Living in Mississippi was a new experience. We’d moved there from Nevada with no preconceptions and it turned out a fascinating place to be. A part of the country we’d never visited. In fact, when I first heard about our possible move, I thought the “Delta” would be down on the coast, but found it to be a stretch of land along the Mississippi River, from Memphis to Vicksburg.

“The damned gate? It was going to be a home,” Ella began.

Her cursing hit me by surprised. But I didn't react. I wanted to hear what else she had to say. I settled back in my car seat, ready for her story. But it was far shorter than I’d expected.

Brief, in fact.

“He was a bad man. A lawyer. He was murdered.

Damn, if I didn’t want to hear more. I always like a good story. But Ella said she didn’t want to talk anymore about it. I had to learn why. 

Ella dropped me off at our home, an old red brick house that wasn’t very far away from the gas chamber. Thank God it was not being used in those days. She didn’t want to stop for coffee. Had to get back because her cleaning lady was due to arriv, she explained.

I started that afternoon trying to learn who’d been murdered and why. It only took one call, to a Drew minister I’d recently met, to get the basics.

“That would be Cleve McDowell, the first black law student to enter Ole Miss. He got kicked out!”

The Reverend was a friend. He told me some of the Cleve McDowell story that day, but it took a few months to drag it all out. I had a feeling that I was the first person to learn the whole story, that is, as much of the story that is known. Of course I had to dig through old records, lie a little bit to some courthouse clerks, and track down other several older people to learn as much as I could

Cleve McDowell would be the main character Clinton Moore in The Plan. I changed dates and location but not much else, at least in the beginning of the book. I wanted to be as close as possible to the history. (Next, I’ll write about his friend who was also murdered (“Joe Means”) who is also based on a real person.)

Here’s a link if you want to read the nonfiction book, WhereRebels Roost; Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited. You can read it free online! It’s huge, and tells quite a bit about the civil rights history of the Mississippi Delta. Cleve McDowell's story is included.

AT LEFT, Cleve McDowell and Rev. Jesse Jackson (covered with cotton dust while campaigning in the Delta)


Have you ever lived in a place that was entirely different from where you were raised? The climate? The people? The food? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in a comment. Thanks. Susan

The Plan is now available at Smashwords in various formats including Kindle and ibooks