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This month I am celebrating the one year anniversary of my book launch for Any Color but Beige. It’s been an amazing year filled with

The Little Red Suitcase

lots of new experiences, including television interviews, coverage in major dailies, book signings, book club readings, but best of all was all the heartwarming feedback from readers who found a little bit of themselves in my book.

It was also a very busy year because I managed all of the sales, marketing and public relations activities myself. Maintaining awareness for the book and increasing sales was an ongoing full-time job. Between the book and my day job, I’ve been “Up in the Air.” more often George Clooney.

So I am going to kick off this year’s sales and marketing efforts through the Café Girl Chronicles. Over the last year, readership and subscriptions have increased dramatically. I hope that by giving my new readers a preview of the book I can entice them to buy it, read it and recommend it to their friends.

The book is closely linked to my career as an international color marketing expert. As such, I wrote the book according to my life’s personal color spectrum. The book itself is divided into four colorful sections: Primary Colors, Color Blind, True Colors and Exotic Colors. And so, for the next four consecutive Tuesdays, I will publish one chapter from each section. I hope to pique your curiosity enough to want to read more.

Today, I’ll start with a chapter from Primary Colors, a section that focuses on my colorful childhood growing up in an Italian/Irish family. This chapter reveals the secret of the little red suitcase depicted on the book’s cover.

The following Tuesday, Color Blind will feature a chapter on how easily we can lose sight of all of the color in our lives by playing it safe.

The True Colors chapter in week three is all about rediscovering myself and adding color back into my life in ways I could never have imagined. This gave me the book’s subtitle – Living Life in Color.

Finally, in the last installment you will read all about the Exotic Color that was the genesis of this book.

And so, let’s begin at the beginning: Chapter 1 – The Little Red Suitcase

Chapter 1

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I have always prided myself on the fact that, when in a relationship of any kind, I have never sacrificed a friend for a man. I have never cancelled a night out with the girls in favor of a last-minute date. I have never responded to text messages during dinner and interrupted the smooth flow of a conversation. Nor have I ever disappeared for weeks or months at a time to lavish all my time and attention on a man – I am not that kind of girl.

That kind of girl…

Or so I thought…

For several months now, instead of writing this blog, I spent those precious hours in a daily and dedicated correspondence to a long-distance (and distant) lover. A lover who, I might add, also has some literary aspirations. Aspiration is a good word, because I could literally feel his aspirations sucking the creativity and life out of my own writing and observations. As I channeled my time and creative energy over to him I had less to spend on myself. In addition, as his “editor,” I spent a great deal of time propping up his ego. This is essential in a vocation that is riddled with insecurity and angst. Just ask my editor.

So, in a sense, I abandoned both my readers and my muse for him. And having done so, I was afraid I had lost both. I was afraid that my readers, tired of waiting around for a new post, had gone off to read other writers’ blogs and that my muse had gone to whisper words into other writers’ ears.

But after a week of steadily blogging and receiving a warm “welcome back,” I have learned that this is not so. And, as I sit in my hotel room in Paris, I am reading all of your wonderful comments and feeling my muse pacing the floor, pausing every few minutes in search of a perfect word to place on the page.

After such a long absence I was also afraid I had lost my rhythm, my words, and that panicky pleasure I get when I write regularly. The same doubts plague the actor, musician, or athlete who, after a long absence, returns to the public stage and asks herself, Can I do it again? Will I be as good? What if I choke?

Writing is, like most things, a profession you have to practice – a lot – if you want to be good at it. The less I practiced, the farther away I got from writing this blog and the closer I came to shutting it down.

That was, until I had a conversation with my editor, Melva McLean, who reminded me that I was still writing every day, just a different kind of writing but writing none the less. It was to an audience of one – my lover. At the same time I was writing to him I was able to see  the tentative first steps it takes for someone else to tell a story.

I could see myself in him and how I too started with the easy stuff. It was the expository, the superficial, the description and the reportage of daily life. Not bad if you wanted to be a working journalist but dull as dirt if you want to tell a story.

I remember when I started writing Any Color but Beige how I rested on the surface of my experience and feelings. I was afraid to go any deeper to plumb the emotional depths that gave my story its joy and sadness – its life. The thought of sharing that part of me with strangers caused my heart to race. I suppose that’s why it took two years.

Over dinner one night Melva said something about great writing that haunts me. She said, “The best stories break your heart.” And she’s right.

My book was born out of heartbreak. The story broke my heart, and writing it as truthfully as possible, with all of the messy wonderful emotions that went with it, helped to heal that heart.

I tried to explain this concept to my lover. I gave him some examples of great writers who bared their souls and risked opening themselves up to ridicule and judgment in the name of great writing, who paid a price but created great works in the process. But he prefers to go through life skimming the surface.

He certainly skimmed the surface of my life. Our relationship had all of the depth of a puddle. The up side to this is that although he may have nicked my heart he certainly didn’t break it. So I must be getting better at this relationship thing. On the other hand ours was not the kind that breaks your heart. It was more like reportage. And I will leave him to write that, since he’s so good at it.

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Spring is coming and I’ve decided to take a little break.    I’ll be back in April with the Daffodils.  photo: © istockphoto.com/marilyna

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As part of my 2011 book promotion / marketing efforts, I participated in WOW!’s Blog Tour. For those of you who are new to The Chronicles, WOW! stands for Women on Writing and it offers genre-specific blog tours to authors via its extensive blogger network.

The tour took place in November / December 2011 and included guest posts on participating blogs, interviews, one podcast and a book giveaway contest. It offered one free copy of Any Color but Beige to individual readers and an opportunity for one lucky book club to win ten copies of the book. All international winners received an eBook or Kindle format of the book. To be eligible, the blogs required readers to tweet about the book and that increased my exposure in cyberspace.

Here’s what I liked about the tour:

It was well organized. Participating blogs posted topics well enough in advance of the tour, so I could prepare just the right posts to help promote the book.

It gave me a list of topics to write about. Sometimes writing about a particular subject is a lot easier than coming up with a topic on your own.

Once the guest posts were published, I could use them on my own blog. This bought me some much needed time off in the month of December.

Some blogs reviewed the books. It was good to get different viewpoints from people who knew nothing about me, my blog or my story. Objective reviews help a writer see things in a different light. Or consider things they wouldn’t have previously thought of.

The tour was international and that was perfect because it’s in keeping with who I am and what I do. I was a guest on blogs in Estonia and Finland. And some of the contest winners were as far away as Australia and Malaysia. The winning book club was from Madrid, Spain. I will be participating in the Madrid book club discussion via Skype in the spring.

The one drawback to the tour was that the tour could not provide any real quantitative data analysis. However, my own analytical conclusion is that my fourth quarter 2011 blog views were up a whopping 60%. How much of that is attributable to the blog tour I can’t say for sure. I can say that, post for post, the only thing I have done differently between 2010 and 2011 is take part in the tour.

The bigger question is did it lead to an increase in book sales? And here I would have to say I don’t know. I have no basis of comparison because sales are similar across the three months since the book’s release in September.

Were the dollars I spent worth it? I would say yes they were. I consider the dollars spent an investment in the Café Girl brand and my ongoing stories.

photo: © istockphoto.com/scanrail

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Anyone who has ever stared down a blank page and blinked first knows how devastating writer’s block can be. I’ve read several articles

on the causes of it, but the best reason I’ve heard to date is actually the simplest to cure – the cause of writer’s block is a lack of fresh ideas, and the best source of new ideas that I know of is travel.

My favorite place to stay in Trieste

You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth either to be inspired. A jaunt across town to a new neighborhood is just as inspiring as jetting off to Japan, and a lot more economical for those of us on a budget.

Let’s take a look at all of the potential ways local and long distance travel can inspire us.

First and foremost, it’s all about the place. First impressions can be quite powerful when you’re visiting a place for the very first time. For frequent travelers like me, who have been so many places, the challenge is to see a familiar place with fresh eyes. Armed with a seek-and-you-shall-find attitude, I’m always amazed at how many new things I can discover.

The most fascinating thing to write about is people and the cast of characters that make up the place you’re visiting. You can write about their physical appearances, perhaps so very different from your own. You can capture their mannerisms and customs, or you can dig a little deeper and find the commonalities. One of my favorite things to do is recreate conversations with the colloquialisms of unconstrained everyday conversation. It makes us feel like we’re eavesdropping.

Another thing you can do is take us on a tour of some of your favorite places and tell us why they’re your favorites. For example I’m a WWII history buff, and on almost every visit I make to London, I always go to the British War Museum. I become a time traveler. I can feel the sense of urgency, the life and death struggle of nations as the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

Why not make up stories about your favorite places. I’m often fascinated as I walk the winding back streets and alleyways of old cities like Venice or Barcelona for example. I try to imagine the everyday life of the inhabitants of these ancient dwellings. What happens behind closed shutters, on bougainvillea-covered balconies or in local shops? I look at the laundry hanging on the balconies and try to guess, from the articles of clothing, who lives in that household. What they do for a living?

If it’s a gondolier, does he sing because he is happy? Is it a bank president having an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s back? Or is he madly in love with his wife and rushes home each night to plant a kiss on the back of her neck? Are the children bored with their over stimulated digital lives? Do they still play outdoors? Is a woman sick and dying behind shuttered window? Does she still have a burden of regret weighing heavily on her soul, pinning her to this earth like an insect in one of those shadow boxes. What was the regret and what could she have done differently?

Local culture, cuisine and customs also yield a rich harvest of stories, observations and ideas. Engage all your senses: taste, touch, hear, see and smell what the place and its people have to offer. Participate. Go out of your comfort zone and learn something new, something indigenous to the place. Mush a dog sled in Alaska, dance Flamenco in Barcelona or dive the Great Barrier Reef. Or be a tourist in your own city.

And, finally, never leave the house or hotel without a notepad and pen because Inspiration can strike at any time, curing your writer’s block in an instant.

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In every writer’s life there are two stumbling blocks to overcome. On second thought, make them stone walls to surmount: writer’s bloc and writer’s resistance. Writer’s bloc, as I learned from a Robert McKee Story seminar, occurs when you run out of ideas. Writer’s resistance is a lack of dedication to your craft. Lately, I’ve been suffering from both.

“How is that possible?” you may ask. “She’s been posting content consistently all through December.”

Well, I have a confession to make. I’ve been coasting. Yes, that’s right. For my December postings, I’ve mined content already created for my WOW blog tour back in October and November. Regular readers of just “The Chronicles” may not have noticed this, but crossover readers between it and the WOW tour found at least one familiar post.

This strategy gave me a much-need rest, but now I’ve run out of content just as I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing every night. Of course this would happen just when my blog took a significant uptick in readership and e-mail subscriptions – for which I am amazed and incredibly grateful. In fact, all of this new interest, new subscriptions, increase in comments and “likes” has given me a new sense of purpose. I am now accountable to a new and growing invisible group of friends who drop by the Café regularly to catch up on the latest happenings.

Realizing that I might find it tough sledding in December I also promised my readers a chapter (one with a surprise ending) of my second book by the end of December. Many of you have also been kind enough to ask me about a sequel, and both things have motivated me to sit down and write.

I’m happy to report that although it doesn’t quite have the surprise ending I had in mind, I do have a chapter ready for you to read. It’s a Destination Chapter. Those of you who are familiar with the structure of my book Any Color but Beige will recognize that this chapter picks up the story where my first book leaves off. Where we go from here remains a mystery.

I’m superstitious so I decided to post it the first day of 2012 rather than the last day of 2011: a new chapter equals a renewed sense of purpose.

I’d also like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year. Whatever your projects are this year, may they bring you the satisfaction and joy of doing something you love.

Back Behind the Computer

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The Color Purple

photos: ©iStockphoto.com/photodjo

Color has a profound psychological impact on our lives. It’s used every day to stimulate our senses, excite us, calm us and, yes, induce us to buy products. Each color family has its own set of characteristics that trigger certain responses in us. With that in mind we should tread carefully when adding color to our space, especially our writing space.

There are trend colors, those colors du jour that we fall “in like” with. Be careful here because this relationship is a bit like infatuation. Color fatigue sets in quickly with trend colors. And before your know it, it’s time to move on to something else.

Then there are colors that last a lifetime – those are your favorite colors, the colors your intuition chooses. These are the colors that you feel close to and comfortable with. These are the colors that already appear in your closet and in the most comfortable rooms of your house.

When it comes to choosing color for any room, keep in mind that you don’t have to have an all red or all green room. Sometimes a dash of color is just enough to stimulate your creativity or get you in writing mode.

What follows is my take as a color marketer on color and how it can affect us as writers. Keep in mind that if you’re seriously engaged in the writing process, you’re focused and so you don’t see any color – it’s actually the absence of color, i.e. black type on a white page.

Red is a very stimulating color; it is the color of heat, passion and warning. It’s used a lot in fast food restaurants to move people in and out quickly.  Use a dash of red to jump start your project.

Purple is a mystical color. It promotes healing and meditation. Leonardo da Vinci said that the color purple can increase meditative powers tenfold.  A purple room is good for contemplating plot and structure.

Blue is a very relaxing and calming color. If you’ve put yourself under the pressure of deadlines, then blue is the color for you.

Green is Mother Nature’s favorite color. And just look how creative she is.

Yellow is a high-energy color that stimulates the mental process of thinking and activates memory. If you’re writing a memoir a little yellow will go a long way.

Orange is a color you either love or hate. It’s also a high-energy color and encourages socialization. It might be a good color to use in a room where writers convene to discuss their work.

Whatever color you choose for your writing room it should be a color that enhances and promotes your personal well-being – as you feel it. Color like everything else in a room should disappear after a while as you engross yourself in your story. At that point your story’s own color will jump off of the page.

©iStockphoto.com/RuslanDashinsky

Pick a Color, Any Color

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