Thursday, November 30, 2006

Whoa Nelly!

I've fallen off the blogging horse and I can't get back up!

Blame it on deadlines...

I had two of them early November. One I missed and had to extend right through the Turkey Day holiday.

But ummm...both have been met and out of my way for the last week.

So, blame it on too much sweet potato pie...

I made five sweet potato pies over the holiday. I could give a damn about turkey for Thanksgiving. But there better be pie! For the record, I did not indulge in all five. I gave three away.

I'm down to my last piece. So maybe it's...

The hazards of pre-publication promotions.

Believe it or not, I'm not as consumed with promotions as I was before meeting the Kensington Team over the holiday.

Meeting them put my mind at ease (mostly) and I've tried to look at my ability to promote while still holding a full-time job and a family, realistically.

So, promos been on my mind (it's never far from it) but that's not the reason either.

The truth is, blogging is like exercise. If you do it regularly it comes naturally. You feel great. The endorphins kick in and you're like friggin' super girl.

But if you take time's like two lovers in a spat. You sit on your side of the office glaring at the PC like it owes you money. And it stares back stubbornly like a lover scorned.

So yes, the real blame is just me. I'm lazy. Plus, my brain refuses to churn out witty banter about the trials and tribs of writing.

But I'm working my way back.

As a matter of fact, tomorrow I will regale you with my pontifications on hiring a publicist.

Pretty ballsy eh?

I take time off and have the nerve to attempt a hardcore comeback.

I shall conquer my blogger slackerdom come hell or high water!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Kicking and Screaming

First, let me say, normally I'm an early adopter of technology. least, I don't mind adopting things early.

When the iPod came out, I wanted it. Really wanted one. But due to general "not getting around to it-ness"I didn't buy one until the Nano came out last year. I'm glad I waited because I love the slimness of it. And knock wood, have had no issues.

But I feel myself slipping into old school mentality because Blogger has a new template and Yahoo recently updated its mail functions. And I don't wanna switch!!!

However, I realize that the easiest way to get left behind is to poo-poo new technology and/or new ways of doing things.

People don't necessarily grow old as much as they begin to get left behind because things around them speed up and change. As they maintain the death grip on albums, VCRs and rotary phones, the world passes them by.

So they only seem old when you're carrying on a conversation about the latest greatest something and they give you a blank fish-eyed stare.

This may happen to me with the new Blogger and Yahoo stuff, because dangit, I don't feel like upgrading.

Now, in my defense, here's why:

When Yahoo indicated they had a beta version of the new mail options, I gamely clicked "Sign me up, Bob," or whoever the wizard is behind the whole deal.

Okay, hate it! Absolutely hate the new mail function.

#1 The actual size of the screen left for reading the emails is much smaller because there's a permanent ad on the right hand side and a nav bar showcasing folders and such on the left.

I'm by no means ready for the Old Geezers home, but I'm no spring chicken, either. I need a full screen for my fuggin' emails!

#2 When I sign on to check email I want to CHECK email. But the new version opens a home screen with the latest headlines, forcing you to click "inbox" to actually see your messages. WTF?!?! It's a duplication of effort!

Look, I'm a very busy person. Give me my emails, NOW.

#3 Since it's the beta version, there are still some functionalities either missing or not quite ready for prime time yet. Annoying.

With that said, when I opened Blogger last week and saw that I could now switch to the "new" blogger, I was immediately annoyed.

What if I don't like it? I've been using Blogger for about four years now and have already seen it go through at least one (noticeable) upgrade.

There was a time when Blogger had a toolbar with itals, bold etc...Ummm...not, anymore. Also, there used to be a way to time stamp posts. Can't find that either!

So needless to say, I'm weary of upgrading to a version that takes even more functionality away from me. And I have tried looking for the toolbar and time stamp info. I've just never found them.

I could be wrong. Maybe this new version is the shiggity and I'll love it.

But Yahoo has pretty much ruined it for anyone wanting me to upgrade.

Now, thanks to them I've completely ruined my whole early adoption streak!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Meredith + Macy's Parade = YAWN

I love the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade. It's one tradition I look forward to on Thanksgiving morning - along with a big ol' hunk of sweet potato pie.

But NBC should have hired Katie Couric back just for this one day. She has the perk factor necessary to keep people interested for three hours. And she and Matt's banter/sib rivalry chit chat made it fun to watch them.

But Meredith Viera was seriously a yawner. Her voice was low key and too quiet, like she was just released from a nearby psych ward. It made for a painful viewing experience. Though, when the floats began she seemed to loosen up a little.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ain't She Purty?

Guess what hopped into my luggage on the way back from the big advanced copy of So Not The Drama.

Now how did that get there? I swear I didn't steal it from my publisher's, run down the hall, jump into the elevator and dodge security as I sprinted down Third avenue screaming, "It's mine! It's mine! It's all miiiiinnnneeee!"

I swear.

Now that I've smuggled it out of 850 Third Avenue, I'm going to share. Be on the lookout for my ARC contest. I've gotta get rid of the evidence....err, I mean, I'm anxious to share the wealth with my readers.

And remember, if anyone asks how you got it, just say you "found" it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

True Colors

Was Michael Richards' (Kramer from Seinfeld) recent stand-up tirade a comedian just gone too far or someone showing their true colors?

Comedians are supposed to be over the top, cutting edge and controversial. But Richard's use of the N-word as he ranted against some hecklers, felt two steps over the boundaries of get back.

Sure, you sit in a comedy club and expect a comedian to make fun of you. And if you're bold enough to heckle, be ready to have your head handed to you on a comedic platter.

Still, Richards' initial response of "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside down with a f****** fork up your a**," isn't funny to me.

It's too true. Too real. A reference to times too close to current times. And too hurtful to remember that when my mother was a little girl, the brutalization and killing of black people simply because they were black was routine in parts of the U.S.

Finding humor in truth is what good comedians do.

But in a society that still has plenty of ills to cure when it comes to racial harmony, Richards' "joke" was more like salt in a wound that may never truly close.

Also, Richards' further rant of:
"He's a n*****! He's a n*****! He's a n*****! A n*****, look, there's a n*****!" smacks of someone who has lost their comedic zing and so sinks to the lowest common denominator of one-upmanship required to shut up a heckler.

And while this is sort of about Seinfeld - looking at an episode after seeing the video of the rant, was hard. It's hard to see Richard's in the same way - it's also about true colors and what it takes for people to show theirs.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who indicated that mutual friends of ours had used the n-word in my absence. People we both considered friends...or at the very least not enemies. It was info I wish I didn't know because now those people...well, I'll be in their company less often.

Because, far as I'm concerned if they use it then they're showing their true colors.

With the n-word used regularly in hip hop songs, the argument that we (people in general) have become de-sensitized to its impact remains a valid point.

BUT... hells yes there's a but. But, I can tell you right now, if I were ever to walk up behind a friend of mine (who is not of color) and heard them using the term lightly, in jest or in anger, we wouldn't be friends anymore.

Yes, some black people use the word. But the rule, unspoken until I write it right here is: we can use it,no one else can. Period.

Doesn't have to make sense. That's just the way it is.

If that rule was followed, Michael Richards wouldn't be in the hot water he's in now.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I need a cigarette

Okay, look, I don't smoke.

But you know how smokers feel the need to have a cig after they've finished a satisfying meal...or whatever? Well, I have finally finished the first draft of Don't Get It Twisted. And it feels so fuggin' good that I'm beside myself.

Together now let's...


And right before my NYC trip. So I can "hand" over the mss when I meet my new editor on Monday. Alright, well really it'll be in her inbox Monday morning and we can talk about how wonderful that is when we meet face-to-face.

I refuse to bore you with what it took to produce another labor of love. Because, as a writer, that's my job ya know?

And I wouldn't really want a plumber giving me a blow-by-blow on all it took to unclog my sink. I just want my friggin' sink unclogged. I'll consider him a genius once the water flows clear again. The proof's in the pudding and all that jazz.

And lest you think I'm celebrating, I'm not.

Now that I've gone through the rigors with DRAMA, I know that this draft is literally only the beginning. Please, feel free to visit the blog again when I'm crying into my keyboard about my Ed letter for TWISTED. All the glorious relief I'm feeling now will be long gone and nowhere to be found.

But for now, I feel great. Feels like I've run a successful marathon...or at least the first leg of it.

What's also great about this is, I can finally get some re-writes done on my third, stand alone book. It's been in need of attention for some months now. But I've quickly learned to close off my mind from certain creative projects when there's no earthly means of fitting it on my plate.

However, the most important lesson I'm taking with me - I will NOT even begin to think about the third Del Rio Bay Clique novel.

Okay wait...let me re-state that so it's more honest. I already have a short synop of what I'd LIKE to happen in the third book.

But I refuse to expand on it at all and I'm not allowing myself to get married to the idea. Just in case editorial changes to TWISTED lead it down a different road, I don't want to be stuck having to divorce an idea. I'm quite monogamous and break ups get a little messy...thus my issues with the original story line of TWSITED that as of now looks nothing like it did when I wrote it three years ago!

Me and the original text have a few more therapy sessions to attend before we can go our separate ways and not hold any grudges. It's accused me of jumping into our relationship too early, leading it on and I'm still a little peeved that it stood between me and my new love (the current draft) for so long, delaying our courtship.

I'm just hoping it won't ask for alimony!

Friday, November 17, 2006

That's That

Okay, for real, I didn't much like Snoop Dogg and R. Kelly's new joint, "That's That," until I realized that's what they were saying in the hook.

Yeah, I'm weird like that.

But that's that is sort of how I've been feeling lately.

So many things I can't control, ya know?

My eddy at Kensington left and I'm left with the nagging questions of how well my books will fare under my new editor who has now not only inherited DRAMA and TWISTED but a few dozen other writers, I'm assuming. But my original uber editor has moved on so...

That's that.

I was working my buns off to get the first draft of TWISTED to my new editor. But the deadline for it coincided with a deadline to get proofs of DRAMA back to my pub, preparation for my squad's second competition and last minute prep for a leadership day that I'm the chairperson. So I missed the deadline for TWISTED. That sucks cause it's not the best impression to make on my new eddy. But...

That's that.

After missing the deadline, I went through some serious issues where the text was not flowing. It's worst than a brain stutter. At least with a stutter you've got the basic idea down, you're just unable to finish it. No, this was more like my brain had gone on strike. I lost at least a week from this creative paralysis. Frustrating, but...

That's that.

Thanksgiving is practically here. But I'm heading to NYC to meet with the new publishing fam. So preparing to bake sweet potato pie, stuff turkey's and make my own stuffing while also creating a mega document that outlines potential promotional avenues for DRAMA isn't working too well. Turkey day has taken a back seat. You know?

That's that.

I don't have one single complaint about life as a writer (well, except it has to co-exist with my life as a PR chick instead of on its own). But some days, the duality of being a writer and a marketer are overwhelming to say the least.

For now, I plan to enjoy my few days in the big Red meeting my lovely new eddy, have a relaxing week off from the FTJ, eat as much sweet potato pie as I can get down my guzzle, let the Princesses drive me crazy with their bickering (i.e. too much together time with school being out), and be the insanely multi-tasking whirlwind I was obviously meant to be because...

That's that!

FTS Friday: Flyer, Flyer Books On Fire

Here's a question from one of my Blueboard Buds (thanks CC):

I have a YA coming out this summer and wanted to know how you feel about flyers announcing the book to country clubs, tennis clubs, and family fitness centers in targeted states?

Also, off hand, how would I approach these clubs, send an email? Would it be inappropriate to send them without having contacted an individual there to get the "go-ahead"?

First of all, let me say that the book mentioned above has a tie-in with fitness centers. So the question was not just for any and every type of book.

With that out of the way, let's talk a little bit about approaching businesses to promote your book.

I'm leaning on the side of...not.

Remember, public relations is the step child of marketing because it's the only promotional tool that's 100% free to the promoter. That means that any and everyone wanting to promote something, will. So businesses are going to be very weary of anyone, even an author with a great novel that might be of interest to their members, approaching them about posting information about their product.

However, it's not an impossible avenue.

When considering approaching a for-profit business about posting a flier about your book you have to ask yourself, What's in it for them?

The gut honest truth is, nothing.

And if they say yes to you, they open the floodgates for people to promote other products, services, events, etc...

So understand, saying no is a pretty easy choice.

You've got to make such a promotional request with more to offer the business.

In the case of the above example, I suggest two things:

1) Identify if the club hosts any type of youth-oriented events and try to fit yourself in.

This could be a clinic, youth fair, special Teen Nights at the club. If they already have a venue that is appropriate, propose a presentation. Of, if it's a fair type event, maybe have a table to sell your book.

Do your homework. When you speak with them, it should be obvious you're aware of the event already and understand the basics about the audience it targets and how it's implemented.

Don't try and sell books if the event is an all-day Tennis match. No one's going to be thinking about book buying at that time.

But if they hold some sort of clinic, you may offer to speak to those members signed up for the clinic to discuss how being an athlete boosts self esteem...or something like that.

Yes, use your expertise. You've written a novel that supports the importance of sports to your MC - hey, why not talk about it to kids. And they may be inclined to read your book, after hearing you speak.

During these type of presentations, the book is mentioned. But it's secondary to the primary matter. Remember, the club isn't going to book you solely to promote your book. It's up to you to find ways to fit promo in however they'll allow you to approach their members.

2) If there is no existing event, suggest one. Propose some sort of clinic or presentation that you can give to their youth members. Offer your expertise so they can offer something for their members.

It's a win-win for both of you.

They get to give their members a little value-add, as we like to say, and you get in front of an audience of potential readers.

If you get the green light, be sure to bring post cards, book marks or ask if you can sell and sign books after your talk. At this point, if the club has said yes, they won't say no to a soft sell.

Regarding how to approach businesses - it will require leg work.

You'll have to cold call. Or send letters to them with your proposal or request and then you'll have to follow-up with a call.

There's no other way.

Remember, the second part of Public Relations is RELATIONS. You've got to start building them and a call or letter is the first step.

Ooo, I like this question stuff. Anyone else?

Bring 'em on.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Flip the Script Fridays: To Tease or not to Tease?

Teasers are fun...for the PR person who gets to execute them. They are the one time you get to be a little cutesy with your craft. They break up the monotony of corporate releases and media training executives who, when under pressure will likely forget every single technique you've taught them.

What's a teaser, you say?

They're hints or previews that are sometimes sent to the media to get them interested in a particular story pitch.

Fair warning, teasers are not meant for every story. They need to be used right, in order to work. And sparingly is best.

Remember the chaotic newsroom image we discussed on the very first FTS Friday? Even if the newsroom is nothing like that - when you're about to approach the media make pretend it is. It will help remind you that time is precious in media land and no reporter will waste their time marveling over your release or teaser when they have deadlines to meet - which is all the time.

One of the cutest teasers I've ever done worked. But it worked because the story was still timely and of interest to the community.

So umm, yeah, let's remember that. No matter how cute or intriguing your teaser may be, if the story itself isn't newsworthy, the teaser won't work.

One of my clients used to be MedStar Health. For those in the Baltimore Metro area, you may recognize the name because Medstar owns and operates local hospitals such as Franklin Square and Good Samaritan. They're quite large in the metro area. But have the misfortune of breathing the same medical air as Johns Hopkins. And no one can trump Hopkins as a medical media source.

I've pitched articles to news outlets before that were really good medical stories, only to have the outlets turn me down and then turn around and identify someone from Hopkins for the same damn story.

Media can be so shady!

But I'm not bitter. Hopkins has the reputation.

Maybe you're seeing that getting in the press is so elusive because it's based on some things that you can't control. Actually, it's based on a lot of things you can't control.

But we're talking about press for your book, so you must power forward without regard to whether some other author has a better reputation or a better book. Heck, better book is relative, is it not?

Anyway, the teaser, P, the everloving teaser!

The Medstar hospitals used to hold this annual event The World's Biggest Babyshower. Imagine many many heavily pregnant women (more than you'd ever feel comfortable around, trust me)at a local mall vying for free baby stuff.


But it was an excellent way for Medstar hospitals to showcase their maternity programs, in hopes that these women would choose/had chosen to have their babies in a Medstar Hospital.

By the time I became the Account Sup on this event, it was in its second year. We were worried the media wouldn't cover it again. So we made sure to have a local news personality host the shower - guaranteeing that person's station, if no other, would cover it.

But in order to get other media interested, we sent out a bouquet of customized cookies on a stick. It looked just like a lollipop. But the face was big enough to print a message. I believe we did something like - You're invited to the world's biggest baby shower on blah, blah date etc..

The three or six cookies were also in a cutesy mug, that Jane Pulitzer Reporter could keep.

That's all that was sent.

We didn't send a press kit.

Just this bouquet.

It's a total gamble!

We didn't send a media advisory until the morning of the event (also very risky).

However, being the savvy PR wiz that I am, by having News Personality A host - we were at least going to get broadcast coverage from one station, if nothing else. We call that our ace in the friggin' hole.

But guess what?

The teasers worked to get all type of print and radio media there. The outlets were interested enough in the word's "world's biggest," to send a reporter. They figured there was nothing to lose by having a writer go out and check it out on a Saturday.

This story was a great visual story, perfect for broadcast news. Because this mall court was packed, every inch, packed with pregnant women hoping to win a new crib or a complete baby room remodel package etc. There were also health stations there (of course, it was sponsored by hospitals) for them to get pre natal advice and easy blood pressure check ups and such.

Successful event, good coverage.

Chances are, a teaser may not work for your book.

But if your book has an interesting angle it could.

Or, if you're attending an event to promote your book, a teaser may help to promote that event and the fact that you and your book is a part of it.

Think of teasers as another tool in your kit to help your news stand out.

Over time you'll know when to use and when not to.

I'm not certain what topic to cover next. But if you guys have questions or specific topics you're curious about, let me know in the comments section.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Everyday Schizophrenia

Scrolling through the television channels with Princess Bea, I happened upon Hip Hop Harry, one of those Barney-ish shows where there's a human in costume interacting with a bunch of real-life kids.

We came in on the tail end, so I can't say for sure what lessons Harry was teaching. But it involved lots of hip hop dancing and rapping. Very multi-culti where the kids were concerned - black, white and Asian. Maybe Latino - I can't be sure.

So, I listened to Hary's voice for some form of ethnic lilt to identify the person inside as an African American. After all, hip hop originated in the black community. It's only right that Harry is black, right?

Well, I don't think Harry was black and my first thought was, Now how are they going to have a Hip Hop kids show and the main character not be black?

I was bothered because, in the back of my mind I wondered, if Hip Hop Harry is voiced by a white person does it signal that blacks are being pushed out of the very genre we created?

Then there was that underlying suspicion that the actor's selection was based less on the best person for the job and more about some sort of industry mumbo jumbo about the white person's voice being less threatening and thus having a broader appeal.

But my very second thought was - hello pot, meet kettle.

The reality is, many (if not most) black Americans suffer from everyday schizophrenia, having to deal with the duality of being 100% immersed in American culture while trying to maintain some sort of separate identity (and allegiance)as a member of the black "community".

Yes, I did go there with the quotes because I am really really confused as to what that means. The black community.

I know what it's supposed to mean - that all African Americans share a generic common bond of being culturally different from our white counterparts (for the sake of simplicty, let's make this a black/white thing. White being any other culture other than black, just for this post).

But, all blacks don't share the same lifestyle, preferences, outlook, or beliefs any more than all whites do.

It's hell, I tell you. Pure hell.

What makes it hell is that I'm always aware of this duality.

Even when it's not top of mind, it's in the back of my mind.

So after feeling the first twinge of annoyance that Hip Hop Harry was not (I assume) black, it occured to me that these were similiar feelings whites had about blacks when we first entered Major League Baseball, when the majority of NBA players became more Hip Hop than mainstream (also I think most Americans felt the same twinge with the increase in international players in the NBA), and I'm sure Lenny Kravitz got his fair share of shit as a black rocker.

Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?

How come, a few years ago when the DC Sniper was terroizing the MD, VA and DC metro area many blacks were muttering, "I hope he's not black." Or some may have even felt confident he wasn't black - because traditionally serial killers (or whatever Mohammad is considered) aren't.

Why did it matter if he was black or white? He was killing indiscriminately.

But it mattered because blacks get enough shit. The last thing we need is for one of us to go off half-cocked doing anything that will help folks put us into another general box.

And as crazy as that sounds - it's true. It's like, Damn did Mohammad miss the last meeting of every single black American when we covered Rule 1473 - We are not serial killers.

And that's the other thing - when a black person does something heinous or just ridiculously stupid we're like "Now they know better. Black people don't do that." But if one of us does something good we're quick to own the success.

Why? Same reason as above only reversed - we want others to know that we're equally as capable of success. In that case we don't mind the broad generalization.

Are you seeing how bad this schizophrenia can be?

I've worked hard to keep the schizophrenia at bay where my book is concerned. I believe and have always said that my book can be enjoyed across the cultural divide -because the book's targets are primarily tween and teen girls with a little drama in their lives i.e. any tween or teen girl.

But that's P living in her own little world.

The book has to live in the real world. So I hold my breath waiting to see how and where it will be marketed and hope it lands squarely among its target no matter what.

Meanwhile, I'll check with everyone at the next Black meeting to make sure we can indeed live with Hip Hop Harry being a white dude.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm cheating today

Today is the third day of the month. The day I blog for Blogging in Black.

And as much as I think I'm Superwoman, trying to do two blog posts and finish the draft of Don't Get It Twisted is outside of my powers, today.

So enjoy my post on Waiting for Something Good.

Flip The Script Fridays will return next week.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Thursday Thirteen: Edition Cinq

The light at the end of the tunnel was in sight...but has winked out once more. Hopefullly I'll be able to blog again starting next week. Until then, another Thursday 13, because it seems about all I can hande these days.

Thirteen Things I Wonder About...

1. What the next "wave" in television will be. Sitcoms, Reality TV, Game Shows... I'm missing the sitcom something terrible right now. And NBC recently announced they'll be doing more Deal or No Deal type programming in the 8 p.m. time slot. Even more bad news for the sitcom, no doubt.

2. How come some ignorance never dies like "talking black" or "talking white." I'm black, so anything that comes out of my mouth technically is talking black. In a world that's increasingly multi-cultural, the stereotype that perpetuates the belief that proper enuciation is speaking white while broken English and slang is speaking black still lives. Die already!

3. If bi-partisan politics actually exists. Elections are around the corner and there are a few candidates across party lines I'm considering. But I'm weary. Lots of local pols are talking about being the non-politician politician. But isn't there a party line they have to tow?

4. How we can consider ourselves an advanced society and yet pay athletes and entertainers 20 times more than we pay policemen and teachers. Will LeBron James take a bullet for you? Can Madonna seriously teach your kid anything, even if she has written a children's book?

5. Why time on the weekends speeds by while the week days drag. Although lately every day has gone by fast...probably has a little something to do with my double deadline.

6. Why NBC moved Law & Order: Criminal Intent to Tuesdays and Medium to Wednesdays. They've completely screwed up my television time clock.

7. Why it's so hard to potty train my second child. I'm supposedly older and wiser and yet the key to getting her to use the toilet regularly eludes me.

8. How come watching M*A*S*H episodes never gets old for me. I love me some Alan Alda and it has nothing to do with physical appearance. He's hands down among my favorite actors.

9. Will I ever grow out of watching cartoons, eating cereal and listening to hip hop?
Because I haven't so far.

10. If my ambition will ever materialize in riches or at the very least a comfortable living.

11. Even if my ambition did result in either or of the above, once I've reached the elusive goal of "success" will I know how to slow down or will I just aim for another high end goal?

12. Why Halloween elicits such strong feelings (for and against) when the average kid sees it only as a way to get free candy.

13. How I can be so tired and yet can't seem to close my eyes when I know it's time to head to bed.

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