3 S.R. Johannes: December 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

14 Days of Christmas....

On the 14 days of xmas

my in-laws gave to me:

fourteen days of talking (times 12 hrs a day)

thirteen migraines (thank god for Goody's)

twelve new English words (Blimey, Crumbs)

eleven book ideas (1 I'm working on now :)

ten tons of dirty dishes (and about 4 dishwasher loads a day - sorry Lake Lanier)

nine jokes 'bout my cooking (1 was from my hubby but he won't do that again.)

eight requests for visits

seven tips for parenting

six trips to Target (This did not count the 2 xs to Michaels, 2 xs to Hancocks and grocery store visits)

the wrong gift receipts!

four loads of laundry

three bags of minstrels (English Chocolate - Yummy!)

two Harrod's coffees (Love love Love this!)

And, the perfect man just for me! (Yeah baby!!)

For the record, I love my inlaws but this was too funny to pass up. :)

Disclaimer: Hubby has approved and actually contributed to this post. It is not in-law approved - uh-oh!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Broken Resolutions and Revolving Excuses

Note: I will start Marketing tips again after the first of the year. I'm on vacation! :)

Every year, I make a list of New Year's Resolutions.

Resolutions I plan on keeping.

Resolutions I usually end up breaking (within the first 30-60 days.)

This year, I decided to make a list of all the resolutions I've broken in the past just to own up. Of course, these will all roll-over automatically.

1. Loose the rest (10 lbs) of my "baby weight" (I don't care what anyone says. It's baby weight at least until your little one is 13. Mine is 18 months so I have some time)

2. Stop eating Peanut MMs (What can I say, I'm nuts for them)

3. Work out more. (Should not be too hard. I figure - 1 is more than 0)

4. Get an Agent and get published. (I'm trying! Guess there is no where to go but up, right?)

5. Make money (Unfortunately, kinda dependent on #4.)

6. Make more time for writing. (what can I say, I am a sucker for my kids, my hubby, my T.V., and reading. Ugh)

7. Go Green (Maybe the word is "Greener". I'm a light lime already but I'm aiming for more a darker shade - maybe evergreen.)

8. Make more friends. (Hopefully Blogger Buddies count?)

9. Saving Money (Impossible without #4 unless I stay out of bookstores and Target! )

10. Have more patience. (I'm getting impatient with this one.)

11. Keep in touch with Friends (Golly, I hope Facebook and Twitter count?)

12. Go to more Writers Conferences (Sigh! Again dependant on #4 and #5, all whilst ignoring #9)

13. Give back to other writers. (Does a Marketing blog count?)

More to Come.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Writers Wish List for the Holidays

What do writers want for the holidays?

I am here to give you the inside scoop:

  • A new computer (one that is guaranteed not to crash, resistent to kids sticky fingers and spills, that weighs less than 5 lbs and folds up into a business card size.)
  • Sharpies (Preferably red. Lots and lots of Red!)

  • Reams and reams and reams of Recycled Paper. (If only paper would grow on trees. Oh yeah it does - crumbs!)

  • More time - let me be more specific - more time for writing (not cleaning, watching TV, cooking, running errands, etc)

  • Personalized, "we love you" rejection letters

  • Offer of representation! (from an agent who can't live without me or my books!)

  • A multi-book contract ( A 33 book deal would be ideal)

  • Books! (Lots and lots of books)

  • Ideas for YA books (please keep them commercial yet literary, balancing character-driven with plot-driven, with authentic character voice)

  • Black Printer ink

  • A sony reader or Kindle

  • Money or a Money tree would be better (anything would help at this point)

  • Optimism

  • Cable Tv cancellation

  • The ability to freeze time

  • One of those cool, rare "agent mind-readers" (I think the Agent is sold seperately. But I would prefer the one that comes with a Agent.)

  • A love-my-book potion designed specifically for Editors

  • A glimpse into the future of publishing

  • Fingers that run on auto-pilot

  • Typing lessons

  • A butt cushion (I need one that does 2 things: protects my butt from flattening AND is comfy)

  • Hope - a life-time supply please

  • Fat Free Peanut MMs (do they make those?

  • Did I say Money?
  • My own Personal muse

  • A critique group that agents and publishes books

  • Stop asking - "are you published yet?" (Trust me - I will tell you!)

  • A secret hideaway office where kids are not allowed

  • An introduction to Oprah or Ellen

  • Free travel and hotel

  • A brain hook-up to "everything you need to know in writing a book in a day"

  • More blogger and Facebook friends

  • To get published!
If anyone needs my address, please ask :)

Also, check out InkyGirls cartoons for Writers. They are Funny!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Greatest Hits of 2008!

Things I will remember about this year as I look forward to next...
  • Finished my first YA Thriller - Grace Under Fire (Subbing)
  • Started 2nd book in YA series - A Blazing Grace
  • Wrote my Girl's Guide to Cyberspace (need to keep subbing :)
  • Wrote 6 PBs (need to start subbing more)
  • Losing my boxer, Connor whom I'll always miss :(
  • Nursing my old Jack Russell back to health and still having him with me
  • Celebrating my 6 year wedding anniversary with hubby
  • Learning how to budget
  • Joining my writing group (Calliope Circle)
  • Meeting new writing friends: Jessica, Sheri, Lindsey, Irene, Katie and Sarah Francis
  • Bonding with my new "mom" friends: Adrienne and Kendra
  • Missing my best friends that have moved: Cat, Amy, Beth
  • Making it all the way to Acquistions with American Girl on my Cyberspace book (close yet so far :)
  • Working with Harold and Eileen at First pages (http://www.f1rstpages.com/)
  • Re-starting blog (with 500 visitors a month! and making new blogger friends
  • Doing Marketing for Spanx and Good Hairbands (see my biz web site for samples http://www.bilaninc.com/)
  • Joining Facebook and reconnecting with old friends
  • My bizarre up-and-close encounters with Barn Owls in Virginia Highlands
  • Watching my kids grow, laugh, and love :)
  • enjoying my parents/family
  • finding my church
  • seeing my best friend fall in love again
  • reading series and seeing Twilight movie
  • seeing my daughter's in ballet recital and speak her first part in Christmas Program
  • my health
  • Oh yeah - my rat encounter!
What a year can bring!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Contest Extravaganza

Lisa's Fabulous Book Contest Extravaganza!
Dec. 17th, 2008 at 7:36 PM

Lisa Schroeder, author of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, is celebrating the release of her upcoming YA novel, FAR FROM YOU, and hosting a contest with LOTS of great prizes!For three days leading up to the book’s release date of December 23rd, you can watch VLOGs and hear some excerpts read from the book.

The VLOG schedule is as follows:
Sunday, December 21st – Liv’s Book Reviews - http://livsbookreviews.blogspot.com/
Monday, December 22nd – What Vanessa Reads - http://whatvanessareads.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, December 23rd – Lisa Schroeder, author - http://lisa-schroeder.livejournal.com/ ANDhttp://myspace.com/writerlisa

Help spread the word, and you might win a fabulous prize!Copy and paste THIS entire blog entry into your blog between now and December 21st, then come back to Lisa’s blog at either Livejournal OR Myspace and leave a comment with the link to your blog and you will get TWO enteries to win a number of prizes.

Wondering what you might win?

Here is the list (there will be multiple winners):
~ An Advanced Review Copy of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, by Carrie Ryan
~ An Advanced Review Copy of SOMETHING, MAYBE, by Elizabeth Scott
~ Young adult novel GIRL, HERO by Carrie Jones
~ Young adult novel, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas
~ Young adult novel, UGLIES by Scott Westerfield
~ Pair of YA fairy tale retellings by Cameron Dokey (BELLE and BEFORE MIDNIGHT)~ TWILIGHT movie soundtrack
~ $15.00 Barnes and Noble gift card along with some Harry & David’s chocolate moose munch
~ And of course, a signed copy of FAR FROM YOU

For more chances to win, watch one or all of the VLOGs and leave a comment on that vlogger’s page, and you get another entry. That means if you post the schedule on your blog AND comment on all three VLOGs, you can have FIVE entries for the contest!A live drawing with winners announced will be done by Lisa Thursday morning, December 24th, in a special holiday VLOG.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesday Thoughts

Marketing Tip: A Head Start
  • Start your marketing of your book at least 28 weeks (7 months) before your book hits the shelves. This begins with a marketing plan and target audiences.
  • Never give up your marketing efforts as long a s a book is still in print.
  • Those sales give you a track record in publishing. Do three things every day
Random Thoughts on Rainy Tuesday

1. Can of Worms
Whether you liked Sarah Palin or not, I am afraid she opened a can of worms by running for President. Now, does everyone think they can pretend they have qualifications to run for office.
Now we have Fran Drescher running for a NY state Senate Seat? Seriously?I loved Nanny and all (not!) and was impressed with her fight against cancer. She was on Larry King Live last night announcing "throwing her hat in the ring" with Caroline Kennedy. Oi!

2. Treasure Trove
A green rat believed to be extinct for 11 million years (OI what is it with rats!) , a spider with a foot-long legspan, and a hot pink cyanide-producing "dragon millipede" are among the thousand newly discovered species in the largely unexplored Mekong Delta region. Rock on! This is cool and gives me hope that we can turn this planet around.

3. Shopping Study
Finally I have an excuse to shop. (See hubby, I told you I couldn't help myself!). Basically ladies, we are targeted and lured into shops. (I knew it!) "The entire shopping experience — from packaging design to advertising to merchandising to store design — is generally geared toward the female shopper." Now I know it's called Target and why the logo is a bullseye!

4. Adam Walsh
Ok this story has always fascinated me. It happened in 1981 close to where I lived in Vero Beach, Florida. I was 10 and I remember the case being all over the news. Parents around my little Florida town were scared because they did not catch the perpetrator and batted down the hatches. I remember not being allowed to walk home from school for a while. Which sucked at the time. I even remember hearing my parents talking about the little boy and how his head head was found in a canal. I remember, back then, for the first time understanding that bad people were out there and they preyed on kids. Now, today, they think they have solved the case! 28 years later. Good for science that they can get this guy and that they can get Casey Anthony all based on forensic science. Amazing!

5. Jim Carey - watched him on Larry King. I adore him. he is funny and sweet. I loved the way he talked about how he grew up to be funny. Evidently his mom was sick and he always tried to make her laugh. I was surprised at how open and deep he was. Cant wait to see Yes Man. I had no idea it was based on a true story of a guy who really said Yes to everyone for a year and then wrote a book (of course).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Marketing Monday - Place Perfect Press

Today, I will talk about how to write a good press release.

This can be used when you are dealing with media contacts in trying to get placement in newspapers or magazines.

Before, you can use this information, you will need to have/create a story for yourself that you can wrap your press release around. For example: if you are donating your speakers fee and speaking at an under-privilege school about writing. If you are headlining a fundraiser event and giving % of proceeds form your book. You can highlight something in the book that is useful to readers (especially if it is nonfiction).

The goal of a press release is to inform the press of your book and tell the media why you would be a good story to pick up. It is a story that presents your product in a newsworthy way.

  • A press release can be 1-2 pages. One Page is Ideal.

  • This is the first thing a media contact will want to see.

  • Remember, a reporter or media outlet is only interested in stories for its reader. It is not really interested in selling your book.

  • Decide "what is your story?" Are you doing an event, volunteering, speaking engagement. etc. Come up with a benefit for the reader.

  • Place FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE in upper left corner

  • Make it newsworthy. Tie into to an event. Tie into hot stories, other products, list awards/prizes.

  • Change press release periodically (maybe quarterly)

Key elements:

  1. Catchy Headline - You must have a headline that grabs the media's attention so they pick up your story.

  2. Lead - first paragraph should cover who, what, when, where and how

  3. Book Info. - Provide book information such as ISBN, Publisher, Publication Date, Price, # of Pages.

  4. Bio - One paragraph at the end of the press release about you.

  5. Contact information - include phone, address, email

  6. More information - put media section on web site with easily-accessed information

Steps to get press:

  1. Call to pitch story. Best time is 9am-noon.

  2. Don't pitch story right away. Ask if it is a good time or schedule a time to talk about a story idea.

  3. Practice your pitch until you have memorized it and it is natural.

  4. Follow up interest with press kit.

  5. Call again to follow up after press kit is received.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Rat Race! And, the winner is...

No Marketing tip today: Rats!

Ratting Myself Out

I debated over the last few days on whether or not to blog about the "Rat Race" that has been going on in my house this week.

After all, its totally gross. Its embarrassing. And. let's face it - its downright nasty. But, I figured why not. I can't worry about what people think, right? It's been my whole life for the PAST WEEK. So of course, I have to blog about it.

I also felt it would give other "Rat Victims" someone to look up to. I could be an example to others. Someone who was not afraid to come forward to give others hope that all is not lost in your home, life or sofa, should a rat appear and reek havic for a few days.

This week, I've been consumed in stakeouts, stand-offs, and sabotage.

I feel like I have spent as many hours plotting the "Rat Race" as on my Ya Thriller. (not quite!) All week, I've been trying to balance humaneness with my determination to "rat"ically enforce appropriate boundaries between Rat and mankind.

So here it goes. Hopefully, I will not be judged. Hopefully, guests will still come to my house for the holidays. And, hopefully everyone will appreciate the humor in the situation.

Disclaimer: This post has been approved by hubby. The events have been slightly dramatized for effect. And, believe it or not, no Rats or Hubbies were hurt during the process. Only a few casualties resulted: hurt egos, bad feelings, and a few cushions did not make it.

The Decoy
Before I get into the story, I want to say I am utterly 100% dissapointed in my Jack Russell Terrier, Bud, for his lack of fulfilling his purpose in life. When I first bought him 14 years ago, I was told his instinct was to fight with rats, mice, and even foxes.

I want my 350$ back!

He did nothing! I know he is old and retired but come on!

This was his chance to live out his dream. His natural instinct in the wild.

And, he failed.

Next time, I am getting a cat!

PS: For Sale: 14 year old Jack Russell Terrier. Cute, Black and white, Funny, Free!, Loyal, Sweet with kids. Rats are Not included!

The White Knight

As always, Hubby steps up to the plate.

First, it is important to state that this is one of those time when I became 100% sure of what hubbies are really good for. Of course, they are good for many things (in addition to the top requirements of love, fatherhood, and companionship). Such as bringing home the bacon, yard work, hanging lights, changing bulbs, taking out the trash, grilling out, unclogging toilets, fixing flat tires, scooping doggie poop, wrestling with kids, assembling....anything, understanding and enabling electronics/technology.

Who knew, catching rats was high on the list!

These things are not my job, nor would I want it. Unless it paid more than writing of course!

Needless to say, my hubby is the one who has suffered this week on the front-line. He has suffered my complaining, sleepless nights, and a battered ego.

I was merely RATtled. In addition to suffering 2 heart attacks, an upset tummy, and a few of my favorite bohemian Indian-beaded cushions :(

Scene of the Crime
A couple weeks ago, we had some construction done in our kitchen around our stove. We've never had a rat so the necessary precautions obviously were not taken at the time.

A lesson now fully learned anf forever remembered!

That project created a small "gap" large enough for a small rodent to invite himself into our cozy Christmas house, unannounced and univited.

The unwanted guest that would not leave.

The Culprint (To protect the innocent, we have changed names. I will call him Rat.)

Thankfully, yet unfortunately, as rats go, we got the cute one. A roof rat.

Fortunately, it was not the nasty ugly one.
Unfortunately, it was not the nasty ugly. This one's expiration would not have bothered me as much as the cute one.

This was the really cute small gray one with big round ears.

The exact clone of Ratatouille. (Remind me, not to buy that movie or ever rent it again!)

This is actually the problem with kid movies humanizing animals (Nemo, Ratatouille, Babe, Chicken Little, Antz, Bugs Life, Lion King, The Bee Movie) Animals are named and given personalities. They leave a positive impression with your little ones and make you think twice about those animals when you see them. So you kinda think you like them or they are thinking just like the movie character.

At least I do. It's OK, you can call me crazy, my hubby does.

I make my hubby get "humane traps". Afterall, I can't be responsible for killing Ratatouille? How? My daughter would never again speak to me.

First let me say in my defense that Rat was very deceiving. Very cunning. Smart. Cute, small, yet destructive. Quiet, sneaky, and disrespectful.

And the worst - a picky eater. Who knew that was even possible? Which all made me relate him even more to Ratatouille.

He did not like fruit, pecans, almonds, cookies, cheese, crackers, bread - or any other "recommended Rat Food".

He did not even like organic peanut butter! What?!

He continued to slip around the traps and would not leave quietly. Yet no matter how destructive or gross this little rodent was, I didn't want to kill it. I wanted to try and be humane.

I am a sucker!

The Plot
After a few days of destruction and disrespectful excretions, my gloves came off.

It was war.

It was either him or...........my hubby. "Go get him hubby!"

Now, there was only one choice. Either my couch or the rat had to go. (PS I love my NEW $1,500 couch! So there's your answer.

It was time to Rat him out.

Friday night - we plan a stakeout. My hubby sets up a camp in the dark at the table, waiting patiently. The Plan? The Three C's . Corner, Coax and Capture. A plan we later found out had obvious downsides. A plan for failure.

I (the accomplice) go to bed and wait up silently in the room (writing/plotting on my book)for the signal.

At about 3 am in the morning, (4 hrs later) Lookout Patrol (ie my hubby) spots movement.

And, where am I? His sturdy accomplice?


The Weapon of Choice
Rat sneaks across the floor into the dining room, obviously knowing where my little boy sits, hoping for a fresh stash crumbs. (And, knowing my "little thrower", I am pretty positive that Rat was somehow successful in finding something I or my TERRIER dog missed).

Hubby reaches for the broom to begin his assault!

Uh oh!

No broom!

Unbeknownst to hubby, I - the sleeping accomplice - had cleaned/straightened up the house just before I went to bed. That meant I put everything back in its place, especially after cleaning. That meant the broom went back in the garage where it belonged (Right girls?).

In my defense, I had NO IDEA, the broom was my hubby's weapon of choice for the ensuing battle between modernized caveman and Rat. (My question? When a soldier prepares for battle, shouldn't they take inventory of the necessary weapons BEFORE they pick a fight? This was my #1 point in Rat argument that ensued.).

I am sure he cursed my name under his breath before moving to his fantastic plan B.

His dress shoe?!

Really? Does that work?

Answer: No.

My image of Cavemen is forever changed. They are now great dressers. Metrosexual.

The Confrontation

My hubby sneaks over to the corner with his scary, semi-automatic black leather tie-up in hand. He watches Rat move across the floor.

Rat hears hubby and freezes.

The stare-down begins.

My hubby - the Clint Eastwood of Rat Town. Rat - The Outlaw.

They have a moment. My hubby looks into the rat's beady eyes and prepares to strike.

Rat runs for couch

Hubby throws shoe......... and misses. :(

Rat runs into couch and hides in wooden corner. Let me repeat this in case you are reading too fast. Rat runs INTO MY COUCH!!!! (my point #2 in Rat argument)

Hubby pokes at Rat until Rat jumps out and runs under Stove. (Why did he not come and wake me up? 2 on 1 is always better than 1 on 1. point #3 of Rat argument)

Hubby duck tapes the bottom of the stove. And sets traps around it before climbing into bed.

The Aftermath

Next morning, when I wake up. I hear about the unsuccessful battle.

My reaction? "If he was in my couch?!We have to throw out the sofa!"

I proceeded to get on the phone with the CDC and pediatrician to find out the proper procedures in disinfecting the house to be sure we avoid any nasty stuff Rats can carry. We determine we can properly disinfect my house and couch! (CDC lady actually said. "OMG Don't throw out your couch! I wouldn't even do that." Ok, so maybe I over-reacted - its happened before and I guarantee it will happen again. I own it.

My hubby proceeds to go under house and eventually finds the escape route under the stove, sealing it up.

We get cleaners in clean entire house with with bleach water (Do not vaccum. CDC says wipe down with 10 parts water : 1 part bleach). We steam clean drapes, rugs, seats. Everything. A few cushions and a chair - we tossed to be safe. Then, we pull apart couch, take out foam and stuffing. Steam clean fabric and redo all cushions and stuffings brand new. Total about 200$, better than 1,500 but frustrating rigth before the holidays."

My hubby stays up 2 more nights until 2am on stakeouts.

No Rat.

Rat slipped out hole under stove and is still-at large But outside!
Hubby went on to be a Rat expert and plays great games of Cat and mouse with kids.
Wife recovers from heart attack but is forever fearful of Ratzilla and anything Italian that resembles Ratatouille.
Kids continue to have no clue.

And, life is good and clean again.

For all those other Rat sufferers, I have set up a helpline and web site for ongoing support. http://www.ratrace.com/ and 1-800-BeatRats. :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Five - A holiday Version

Marketing Tip - Follow up
No matter if you are trying to get a press release out, a feature article. an ad placement, a testimonial, a blurb, a speaking engagement, or an interview. Don't expect to get anything with just one contact. You need to follow-up 3-4 times and using different methods. Everyone is busy. Don't assume the answer is No. Assume they are busy and make it easy for them to say ye.

Friday Five

1. My little Angel. My daughter came home saying she had been chosen to be the Arch Angel in her PreK play next week. Then , she said we had to "make" her outfit. What? Can I buy one? What is the definition of "make"? Provide, buy, borrow. I AM NOT crafty. I repeat, I AM NOT Crafty!

2. A Rat Race - I have a rat in my house! Like - IN MY HOUSE. ( I don't know why but a mouse wouldn't sound so bad right?) I have never had a rat in my house. I don't want a rat in my house. But I can't get the rat OUT of my house. Only I could have a picky rat - the real Ratatouille. Who knew rats could be picky. We are trying not to take drastic measures. (you know, respect all sentient beings, animal guides, blah blah blah. But, it wont eat anything off our "humane" trap. It does not like organic peanut butter. I does not prefer pecans. And I CANT CATCH IT! Rats! (Disgusting isn't it?) "It was over. Rat 2, Hubby zip."

3. The Folks - In the next couple of days, my British in-laws are coming to visit for 2.5 weeks. We have not seen them in 2 years which means they have never met my son who is now 18 months. On one hand, I can't wait to see them and I know it will be fun. On the other, it is very hard to not see relatives for 2 years and then be submersed with them for 2.5 weeks. I look forward to the holidays - black pudding and all? (Oh yeah, they will be excited to meet our new pet rat?!)

4. It's OK to Moon Me - Has anyone seen the moon tonight? Evidently, its the biggest full moon of the year because it reaches its closest point to the Earth tonight. Can I get a "howl, howl"?

5. Classic Christmas Humor. I know there are wonderful movies out for the holiday - Its a wonderful life, Miracle on 35th Street. But does anyone love the funny movies as much as I do? Hilarious! We just got down our Christmas movies for the holidays. The Grinch with Jim Carrey, Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Christmas Story.

That's my weekend in a nut shell.


Interesting yet Strange!

Can't wait to "plunge into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice." :)

Have a good weekend!

P.S. I did not want to include it in my Friday Five. But I am sad about the findings in the Caylee Anthony case. My heart goes out to the grandparents and I am horrified at what that little girl went through. I'll say a special prayer for her and her family tonight. Some things in life just don't make sense.

PSS Thank goodness OJ Simpson is finally behind bars. There is a god.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Belated Marketing Monday - Must-Have Media Kit and a Secret

I was so excited about the 500 unique visitors (now 600)- I did not do my weekly Marketing Post this week.

Today, I'm going to talk about creating a solid Media Kit, also called a Press kit.

You don't have to be published to start this. Pre-Published authors can get ahead of the game! You never know. A media kit on your web site may even help you sell your book if an agent or editor comes across it.

In Guerrilla Marketing, it says the key to approaching the media, is to have the right materials in place to make it easy for placement. Books, web site, and media kit.

Tips on Creating Your Media Kit
  • Your media kit should be accessible online. That way you can mail it out or email a link. You need to have everything easily available for editors or reviewers in case they don't want or need to contact you personally. All this information will convince them to interview you.
  • This is the first impression they have of you so make it good, professional, and of high quality. It is better to do a few things great than alot of things mediocre. It can make the difference!
  • Keep your information current
  • Color is always better than B/W - except in your photo (that is just preference)
Must Haves of Online Media Kit
  1. A 5x7 photo
  2. Your bio
  3. Any links to articles or reviews or other interviews (pdfs would be better b/c links to other sites can change)
  4. A one page press release - update this quarterly with recent news - maybe including new reviews, sales, printing releases, milestones (Go to prnews.com for some samples)
  5. List of basic interview questions and questions (FAQs) (next week I will focus on how to write a good press release!)
  6. Link to Tour dates/signings/speaking engagements
  7. Contact information
  8. a brochure with a book summary and some other key facts
  9. Pdf of book cover

Nice To Haves (Especially in this age of technology)

  1. Video, audio, even a VLOG of you talking at signing or in interview - optional but I think in this day and age any technology is ideal
  2. Links to networking pages - Facebook, MySpace etc
  3. Book Trailers
  4. Podcasts

Mail-out Media

  1. Try to use special folders. Glossy is preferred. Double pocket with biz card window. yellow, white or grey manila folders are not ok
  2. Cover letter - be professional - include project pitch, bio, and how you can benefit them (like a longer query letter)
  3. Business cards - do NOT print off your own. Make them nice.
  4. Order stickers for front - maybe book cover or other art. You can get folders and labels customized at VistaPrint.
  5. Be sure everything is branded to be in alignment with your book/genre/author persona For example: use the same colors as your book, use images from your book) If you book is about a princes, use a tiara as a symbol. If your book is about going green, use a leaf or a green color scheme.)
  6. You can add in cdsdvd's of book trailers or videos. Also include any pdfs of covers and head shots
  7. Any copies of newspapers, articles, interviews etc
  8. Always do your research, make a few calls to be sure you get your kit to the right person if you are mailing it out.

Great Media Examples from our very own:

Our Little Secret

If anyone needs ever feels like they need or want help with marketing or PR, I will happily honor the Southern Breeze SCBWI discount I give on all of my services to any published or pre-published author. Go to my biz web site for detailed prices and packages.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

If I Ruled the World....

Marketing Tip: Using Ads to get free PR
Alot of magazines, especially local ones will offer you a free one page feature if you purchase ad space. Be sure if you are buying ads in a periodical that you ask for a free feature. Yu can also try to ask for a specific page. Some will automatically give it to you if you ask. Some will charge a 20% fee or the first 5 pages.

If I Ruled the world...
  • Jeans/pants would never, ever be allowed that made your butt look big
  • Animals could talk
  • I could fly
  • Post pregnancy bodies would be "in" and "all the rage"
  • I'd call a "do-over" and start writing younger
  • I would have eyes in the back of my head
  • Oprah would be my friend
  • No celebrities would be able to publish crappy books
  • Money would grow on trees
  • No one could be a parent until they passed some sort of assessment
  • Everything would run off recycled trash
  • I would never have to get up before 9
  • Peanut MMs would be the recommended diet
  • Laughing would be a necessary as breathing
  • No children would be motherless
  • I could read a book an hour
  • Reading would burn 800 calaries a minute
  • Dogs and cats could clean up after themselves
  • I'd have a king bed instead of a double
  • Closets would come in a bigger size
  • I would help more people
  • All mirrors would make you look 20 lbs lighter
  • Cheese dip would be aconsidered a veggie
  • We would all be good to each other
  • I could freeze any moment of my kids playing - and relish in it - before it floated away
  • I could go back in time and interview authors
  • Cellulite was uncommon
  • Wrinkles would automatically fill in at the age of 35.
  • Our justice system would be better
  • The Willy Wonka factory would be a real place
  • My umpteenth book would be published and on bestseller list every time, making a difference
  • Plastic would disappear when thrown out
  • People who did not recycle had to pay more taxes
  • Animal abuse is a life sentence
  • No animal would be abandoned.
  • War and disagreements would be solved through: rock paper sissors or thumb wars
  • I would always be right :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who are you - Christmas Edition

Marketing Tip of The Day: Virtual School Visits

Try doing a Virtual School Visit/Signing. This is a creative way to reach a lot of kids, cut down on travel costs, and be cool. My friend and brilliant illustrator Elizabeth Dulemba blogged about her first Virtual School Visits on Dec 4. Not only does she tell you how it went but she tells you in detail how to make it happen. Check it out!

Who Are You? Christmas Edition

SPECIAL NOTE to all my friends of other beautiful traditions/religions: Please the special things at the holidays, so I can learn about your favorite time of year!

Welcome to the Christmas edition of "getting to know your blogger friends".

Would love to see all your answers:

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Gift Bags
  2. Real tree or Artificial tree? Real!
  3. When do you put up the tree? First weekend in Dec
  4. When do you take the tree down? Before the 12 days after Christmas are over
  5. Eggnog or Hot Cocoa? Hot Cocoa spiked with a little somethin' somethin'
  6. Turkey or Ham? Turkey
  7. Grinch or Charlie Brown? Grinch (prefer Jim Carrey's version now - hilarious)
  8. Favorite gift received as a child? EZ Bake Oven or Holly Hobbie (am I showing my age yet?)
  9. Christmas cards? I prefer to do Happy New Year cards. Easier after holiday rush.
  10. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Year without a Santa Claus (Mr Heat Miser and Mr Snow Miser)
  11. Pumpkin or Pecan Pie? Pecan. OK ALL!
  12. White lights or colored lights? tends to be white outside, colored in (don't ask me why)
  13. Favorite tradition? The PJ Elf who rings the doorbell and drops off magic Xmas PJs to kids letting them know Santa is in the area and it is time for bed.
  14. Favorite Christmas song? Silent Night
  15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay Home
  16. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Materialism
  17. Favorite ornament theme or color? my Laini Ladies Ornaments! Thanks Laini!
  18. Eat on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? During the day about 4pm.
  19. Spend it with your family or Inlaws? My family. Inlaws are in UK :(
  20. What is Christmas about to you? Celebrating another blessed year with family and friends

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

If you read this..I guarantee happiness!

No marketing tip today. Today is a special day.A happy day.

A Special Thanks to 500 People

I want to simply thank everyone for visiting my blog!

As of today, I have had 500 unique visitors just since I relaunched my blog in August after a 15 months of a hiatus (due to beautiful baby boy!)

UPDATE: OMG - I just realized I hadn't started my counter until Nov 6th - this is just in a month! Cool!

Now, in just a short couple of months. I've somehow, managed to lure, trick, attract, snow-over, tease, or cyber-touch 500 people!

My husband was shocked to say the least. (I think he's an avid reader by the way :) But he still counts right?

I think he thought what I said. "Just think. There are 500 people out there that may enjoy what I have to say?" Really??

This milestone was almost as exciting to me as the possibility of someday getting my perfect agent, committed editor, and multi-book/movie contract.

OK not quite - but it was close! I'd give it a 7 out of 10 on my "squeal factor". That's kinda sad if you think about it. That having people read my blog is a 7 out of 10? Oh brother. I need to get out more.

This is a crazy-fun, bizarre, exciting, wierd, reflective blogger world. I mean some of you know more about me than my best friend (So she'd better be reading my blog!) I sure wish all you "lurkers" would leave more comments - even if they are anonymous., but only if they are nice. I'd love to hear from you! It's good to know I'm not alone here though.

So thanks for taking the time out of your daily life to connect with me - in a cyber-way. I appreciate it.

Hopefully, the marketing info is helping some people out. It's my niche in this blogger world for authors and it's the talent I could really contribute to all you published authors out there in return for your advice and good books. For some reason, Marketing doesn't seem to be talked about much, especially book world.

If you are lookginf ro more blogs on Marketing from the publishing world, check out the Shrinking Violets Promotion. They even have a personality test for your blog.

Happiness is contagious!

OK so onto the real matter of the blog and title.

Today, I came across this article on NPR, talking about how "happiness is proven to be contagious!"

Reading this article made me so happy (amazing! it is already working! :)

Move aside Misery - I refuse to love your company! (Though I promise to call you when I throw a damn good pity party). Happiness - come on in - my lifelong friend.

I'll give you the main points, especially for those who loved reading the Cliff Notes as I did in high school. (Uh-oh. I can hear all you authors out there groaning. I read YOUR books. I swear! I guess Confessions of a Young, Closet Cliff Note Lover may now have to follow in a later blog).

Here are the points I took away from the article:

  • Happiness spreads through social networks (for us, that;s facebook, blogger world and oh yeah and those awkward face to face conferences when you don't know anyone).
  • When a person's happy, a friend has a 25% chance of becoming happier.
  • Spouse/Partners in crime experience an 8% increase (This actually surprised me - I thought it would be higher than a friend? I know when my hubby's down, I get down too. Cant help it - he's with me everyday).
  • When one person's happy, the social network effect can spread up to 3 degrees!!! — reaching friends of friends. (amazing how many people you can impact witout knowing).
  • The people at the center of the social network tend to be happier. (What does this mean? Where is the center? I want to go there. Does anyone know if they are in the center?).

Here's my thought....

Maybe, we all can try and not focus so much on how bad the publishing biz has been, is, may be... and focus on the positive things that may come out of this obvious turning point. I don't exactly know what those changes are going to be, but with change, comes evolution, opportunity, and hope.

I don't believe the book business is going away, I think it's going to evolve. How exciting is that! Of course, this is not meant to diminish all the people negatively impacted right now and my thoughts have been and still are with them, especially this holiday. What is happening is wicked stinky.

But for those of us on the outside looking in. Maybe, for now, we can just keep our heads down, write, and have faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to and a new time will come. A different time.

Maybe my time :)

So let's not worry, it doesn't help. If anything, it will just make it get bigger.

Let's find a way to be happy about what we do. There are people out there who HATE what they do and will never have an opportunity to do what they really love.

That's not me or any of you.

All I need to do is write and I'm happy. I can't get caught up in the destination. Just need to enjoy every moment of the journey.

Whether it's writing a blog, marketing piece, or a book...writing makes me happy and I hope it always will.

So, hopefully out of 500 of you, I can impact at least 3. (or I'll be calling NPR!)


Saturday, December 06, 2008

O Christmas Tree!

Marketing Tip: The 10ers

Published authors: If you are being published in the year 2010. Join the 10ers. You can help promote each others books in your hometowns. Help at signings. Its like having PR reps all over the country. You can sync up signings with events, combine marketing, and sell books as a group. Unpublished authors - join a critique group. You get the same support. If I meet or come across an agent that may like my group members book, I try to look out for all of us. For example: if I meet an editor looking for a picture book, I write YA. I would try to get them to meet someone in my group that writes PBs. As your friends, get published, they can continue giving you guidance in writing, agent access, and editor excellence.

O Christmas Tree! (BEWARE: This is a mushy Holiday Post!)

What is it about Christmas trees?

The smell. The feel of the prickly branches.

The memories of Christmas' Past full of magic and love (and don't forget goodies :)

For the record, if there was a way to avoid cutting down ANY trees, I would be first in line to agree. In fact, I belong to "BeGreenNow.org" an organization that actually plants trees to offset my family's carbon. So I am definitely a tree/animal hugger (OK, kisser according to my picture.)
So although I hate to see trees cut down, something even more sad to me is seeing these trees, that are grown and cut down for a holiday, passed over and still sitting on the lot Christmas Day, alone. Unfulfilled.

Probably corny, I am one to believe that everything in life has its own unique purpose. I'm not saying we have to cut down trees to serve materialistic holidays. But, these trees are grown in a farm for that purpose (at least the tree farm I go to) and all the money goes to the local school.

The whole purpose for these gorgeous trees is to be specially chosen by someone so it can brighten a home for the holidays.

Who am I to stand in the way of something's purpose?

So how to choose the one? Ahhhh, that is the question.

As my daughter would say, "They all look the same." But don't let looks deceive you. They are all different and unique. With their own patterns and smells and shapes and sizes.

First - for some reason, I tend to naturally gravitate toward the Charlie Brown trees. The twiggy ones. So my family and I always meet somewhere in the middle. Maybe a nice one from the front, but a big hole in the back. Maybe a full but thin one. Maybe one that has more limbs missing on one side than the other.

Something real.

It cant be the perfect one b/c that one will always get chosen by someone. It has to be the one that may not be. Something that'll be passed over. It's probably dumb, I admit, but I've always been one to go for underdog.

When I was little I was always the one picking up strays, keeping broken toys, saving lost toys, and buying the new, but dirty or ripped one. It's true. I still do it today.

No matter the reason, in the end, it is not necessarily its shape or size (though once - in an overexcited state - we found out a 10 ft tree doesn't do well under an 8 foot ceiling).

It's more about the feeling, a certain connection.

That something special nature gives you when you take time to listen.

Sometimes, this can take us a long time. And sometimes, like today - it just happens. And lucky too b/c the 18 month old was not as thrilled as my 4.917 year old. (Yes, I still can't say 5 years old!).

When we finally picked one - or should I say I picked one (the kids lost their attention span and hubby doesn't really care), I felt so happy, so hopeful.

Don't really know why exactly.

When I squealed in the car watching the tree limbs bounce along the roof as we drove home, my hubby asked me this question.

I said something really corny like: "I don't know. I guess it represents life. You know having roots and growing towards a specific purpose."

He laughed. I meant it to an extent. But it does sound a little corny. (though if you never me - it would not surprise you. Corny is my middle name. Shelli Corny Wells.)

Maybe its the nostalgia that comes with it. Remembering my days as a child, picking out a tree (btw I was always the "tree-chooser" then too. I would take so long, my parents would eventually have to cut me off and force me to choose one - so you see - some things never change :) Luckily.
Maybe it is the magic Christmas brings back when you have kids of your own. The light in their eye. The squeals. The wonderment. The wishes. The innocence. The gratitude for your life.

Maybe its the overall joy of just spending time with family and friends eating, laughing and yes even bickering - just being happy and content with everything you have been lucky enough to have, keep, and love.

I'm not sure.

I just know it feels special to me.

Now, if you do have some guilt or remorse about the Christmas Tree process but LOVE Christmas trees as much as I do, I thought I would include some ideas on how to feel better about the process (its always best to give than receive - right).

Now here's a little song to play you out. Courtesy of the amazing Aretha Franklin.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Thank you for being apart of this special holiday and year!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Publish or Perish?

Marketing Tips - Review Copies
Don't be afraid to send out copies for reviews. Beyond the popular ones your publisher may try to get. Figure out key decision makers or key influencers in your market. Query the reviewers first to be sure they will use and consider doing a review. You don't want to waste copies. But for every 100 copies you send out, you will probably get 10 reviews. Those 10 reviews will touch at least 10,000 people (this is on the low end) Budget 5-10% of your first printing as review copies. Overall it is cheap advertising. The PR from a good book review in your target market is priceless.

Publish or Perish
I love books.

I love to write.

So anything that touches, hurts, or catapults the publishing industry - impacts me. One way or another.

The publishers/editors
I am very sad for all you wonderful, brilliant people who have been affected by the difficult times in publishing. Often - I get so wrapped up in my writing, my journey, my agent process and my publishing future, I forget that there is a whole world out there of people just like me who love books, who want to find a great book they love, who do this everyday b/c they love it.

But this week - I have been really thinking about all you people out there scared and impacted - Thought I don't know most of you personally, I feel cosmically connected. I am thinking about all of you affected. Those that may have lost their job before the holiday. Those who know people like that. And those who are scared of being next. I know most - if not all of you- love books to or they would not be in the biz.

The Agents
This must be a scary time for you. I cant imagine how you all are feeling. I know you do this job because you completely love books and you love kids. You all work so hard and get paid solely on commission by busting your butt day in and day out for people like me to have a chance at their dream of writing.

That in itself is so amazing and so commendable. Your job is so risky that I know it must be your passion which sparks my utmost respect.

It must be hard to find a book, love it, and not be able to sell it for whatever reason. It must be scary when announcements come that threaten your livelihood, your connections, your friends.

I get so caught up in finding an agent, I forget to say thank you for all you do to get us writers published and those kids reading.

The Writers
I know this is a scary time. Everyone who writes obviously loves it and wants to positively impact kids. Don't stop. Don't give up. Keep doing it what you love. Even if you don't ever get published, I assume you write because you need to, have to, want to, and love to.

This is one career that no one controls but you. No matter how bad things get - you can always escape to your writing. You can always tell your story. No one can take that away from you.

Books will NEVER go away. Have faith that you are where you need to be (advice I need to use myself sometimes) Your journey is your own, no one controls it though it may feel differently. Please don't let this fluctuating time drag you away from writing and writing what you love, what calls you.

Stay strong. The book world will bounce back and you will be ready. We need your stories. And you each have one to tell.

A special shout-out to Jessica Burkhart - who just signed a 4-book deal!!!! Good news in a difficult time. I believe she did her first one in NaNoWriMo!

Me - the aspiring author
I realized something this week. Someone asked me - "I heard about the publishing layoffs. what are you going to do now?

At first, I said "I have no idea."

But on my way home, my real answer popped into my mind. "What do you mean? I am going to write?"

I will never stop writing. I love it. No matter what happens, I will always write as long as my fingers will allow me. I love it. The market does not affect my story. It doe snot affect my passion. It really only impacts others. Others who may not read it. Others who may not experience my view. And of course my ego of not being on the shelf in a Hardback.

I am keeping my head down and writing. That's all I can do.

When my times come, and I know it will someday, I will have experienced and truly loved a fabulous journey.

An old quote reminded me of this:

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.

So I wanted to give a hopeful and thoughtful shout-out to all of you. I'm sorry. I'm thinking about you all in some way. And I hope you are OK.

Oh yeah, and if you want to agent or publish my book, I am here waiting...I mean writing :)

Rantings from One Nut in the Peanut Gallery

Marketing Tip: Book Signings
Publicize yourself. Do not expect the bookstore to do it. See if they will put flyers in customer's bags. See if you can put up a poster in the window. Tell everyone you know. Offer a free book as a drawing for people who come. Get people to the store.

Rants from the Peanut Gallery

WARNING- if you are allergic to rantings or peanuts - this post is NOT for you!)

I have had a double ear infection on and off for a few weeks (all in unison - aaawwwwww!) and have spent my vertigo-ish days in bed (thanks to hubby!)

Being sick sure gets you caught up on the news - every hour of the day.

So here are my opinions (because everyone has one) and I have nothing else to blog about. Not to mention I am "grumpier than a wet hen" (cliche alert! though I tweaked it a bit).


I have mixed feelings on the bailouts, especially the auto one. (The CEOS are testifying now - blah blah blah)

Part of me thinks these companies should just go under. After all, when I crank up my credit cards - no ones here to bail me out. No one's here to bailout out the independent bookstores going under. No one's here to help publishing companies keep their great editors and people working. I personally think these are more important and deserve it more. So why the auto companies? I mean their management messed up. Who are they kidding? These company's have been out-of-date and producing crappy cars for years.

But then again, I cant bare to watch more people lose their jobs. And at the holidays. I cant bear to see these hard working people suffer b/c of a few bozos mistakes.

So I say - whatever company needs a bailout. First, they MUST MUST come up with a very detailed plan to push us towards the future as a nation. No ifs, ands or buts about it. There is no option. These auto companies cannot create the gas guzzlers and crappy cars (that are expensive BTW). They have to create fuel-efficient cars, they need to make all their cars green, they should make them all run on something besides foreign oil.

I know men like the CEOs on the car management teams. I worked with them closely when I was an Executive at Bank of America. And don't think for a second, they will not drag their feet, talk us to death, threaten us with bankruptcy, and try to blow smoke up our "bum bums" (as my daughter would say.)

They are in it for the money. And they would NOT be negotiating if THEIR jobs were at risk.

Caylee/Jennifer Hudson/Anne Presley cases
Enough already. Just put these people behind bars. I believe in justice and I tootally believe everyone deserves a fair trial.

If you walk in the room and your kid has crumbs on his face, you can be pretty sure that he's the one that ate the cookies. You know what I mean.?

The victims didn't get a fair shot and now we are more concerned about their rights?

Please, give me a break.

Besides, crazy people need to be locked up.If these "alleged suspects" are put away, I assure I will still sleep fine at night. ZZZZZZZZZ

I send all my love and prayers out to these people. I for one have never lost anyone to a senseless tragedy so I can NOT even begin to imagine how anyone involved is feeling.

I do know I had family in Thailand at the time of the tsunami and know that the healing process will take a long time and may never truly happen.

But in the gloom and doom, I found a bright spot.

I watched an interview with the American mom who lost her 13 yr old and hubby who were killed while visting India on a meditation retreat. She talked about nothing but forgiveness. I admire her strength and can only hope if I am ever faced with something difficult, that I can have her grace.

In some way, I do agree with her. She said, "these men not know what they do." I think if you have been brainwashed to thinking killing thoughts, you will kill. I am not excusing any behavior, but we are all products of our environment.

I am just thankful that I have lived and do live in a loving one and not a hateful one. There will ALWAYS be these kinds of people. The "war on terror" will never be won in a sense. Just minimized.

Oh Britney!
I too (as my friend Lindsey) watched Britney's interview the other night. And I was struck with sadness. Unfortunately, people around her seem to be pretending like she is happy. And it is obvious, she is not.

I - as a mother can in some way understand her parents actions. When your kid is sick or hurting and you cant fix it, there is a certain anxiety and desperation that grows deep inside you. My daughter has a heart defect and I know what it is like to sit and wish so hard your little one will be OK. Sometimes you over-react and sometimes you latch on to any sign it is getting better. (for the record, my little girl is fine - luckily.)

Now, with my little girl, I can put a band-aid on a boo-boo, and it will immediately be better (esp if it has Doras or Barbies on it!). But at this level where Britney is, I think its sad that anyone may be pushing her, thinking it will solve her problems.

I felt so sorry for her. I can empathize with how lost you can feel when no-one (esp your family) hears you. That you are trying to hard to communicate, but its as if the volume on your voice is turned way down and the knob ripped off.

Not only is she not heard, but the girl's every move is bombarded with cameras. She can't move, she can't think, she can't breath, and she certainly cant' live freely in any moment. I can't imagine if I could not go to the bookstore and sit in a quiet corner with a latte. I can't imagine NOT having any of being truly alone. A moment when you go out on your own and for a split second - no one in the world knows exactly where you are but you. I love those rare moments. How trapped she must feel? I know how I feel when I make a mistake and my friends or hubby witness it. How ashamed or bad I feel. Imagine the whole freakin' world!

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying Britney can't do something different - I mean for goodness sake - move to another country like Johnny Depp if you want to get away. She has all the money in the world. Then again, she has kids too so she may feel even more trapped to stay here.

I just send her my positive well-wishes and hope she does not do anything drastic. Depression can be a scary thing. The whole situation is sad, no matter how you look at it.

No matter how you feel about democrats or Obama as a leader. He seems to be doing a good job so far. He seems to be on the ball and he seems to be genuine.

I watched (again TV when you are sick, nothing better!) Barbara Walters interview with he and his wife. I thought they were so real and so cute. He even stopped the misses when she was talking and told her she had lipstick on her teeth.

They also seem to be centered. Michelle Obama talked about how she told the White House staff NOT to make her kids beds. They could do it themselves. I admire that and it makes me feel good about their judgment in general. Shoot, I even make my kids' beds and I don't live in the White House! Then again, a 5 year old and 18 month old can only do some much labor without a fit :)

I truly believe things happen for a reason that force us to look at our own lives and stand at a crossroad. This is our crossroad. I think we chose the right direction with Obama. We need to continue to make the right decisions to move this country further. So I hope that Obama, whether you like him or not, can rule this country with not only an iron fist but a gentle one. One that protects our animals, forces companies to straighten up, gets our economy back on track, and gets rid of the mentality that there are some people in the world that do not deserve the same things, the same chances, the same life that we all deserve.

Ill end on a positive note, though I don't really think this post this is negative.




and as Nathan Bransford says: Puppies, puppies, puppies. :)

My brain hurts so I'll call it a day.

If you disagree, please don't post it here. I respect your opinions. I just assume if you read my blog, you are wanting mine. If you feel strongly, just send me a link to your blog and I'll be happy to read your thoughts. Just don't put any mean or aggressive blurbs on mine.

Besides, it'll hurt my feelings!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Problem with Owning Your Own Elf

Marketing Tip of The Day: Know your Audience (published or pre-published)

  • about 3/4s of juvenile books are bought by people ages 25-49 (don't forget to also market to adults)
  • 41% of items purchased on Internet are books making them the most popular online purchase (yes you need to do Online marketing)
  • 115 is the number of new, independent bookstores that opened in 2007. (utilize booksense.org)

I bought Elf on a Shelf for my kids last weekend (really my daughter, my son is only 18 months so what does he know right?).

The elf set comes with a book and a small elf. The premise?
Be good? Santa's Nice list.
Be bad? Santa's Naughty list.

No matter what - the ELF tells Santa all each night.

My daughter loves it.

Bonus #1 - The joy of bribery
Any bribe that gets kids to behave - is a great buy in my opinion. I can use it not only for my kids but for their friends at play dates. Excellent. It'll at least get me through the holidays. Hopefully, I'll get totally lucky and they'll come out with one for every month, every holiday. A groundhog, a heart, a bunny, anything to avoid the potential fits.

Bonus #2 - Secret Wishes
I get to hear my kid whisper wishes. Its amazing what she will ask for. yesterday I heard her ask for our dog back. he died last spring. broke my heart.

Bonus #3 - Magic of Christmas
I get to see the magic in her eyes every time she finds him. I love being a witness to her pure innocence. She really believes that the elf is there to report to Santa. It makes the holidays magical for her and me.

Now for the problems....

Problem #1 - You have to name it.

Why my daughter chose Winko is beyond me. What ever happened to Bob or fluffy. Winko? Now when she tells people, they look at me like I made the suggestion. I didn't - I wanted Herbie or Dopey.

Problem #2 - Unrealistic expectations
Since my daughter is telling him her wishes, she actually thinks she is going to get a treehouse, a trombone, and a car. Oh, the disappointment!

Problem #3 - The biggest problem of all!
You have to rehide it every night.

Actually - that is not the real problem.

The real problem? I have to remember. One more thing for me to remember besides lunches for the morning.

The first night - I (and my hubby-in-crime) failed miserably. We totally forgot. The elf is supposed to leave the house, report to Santa, and then return in a different place.


To be funny. To be cute. To make you find him. Because he is magical. Because he can fly.

All slightly annoying.

So what happened? My daughter wakes up to the "elf on the same shelf!" Disaster!

"Mommy, why didn't the Elf move?"

"Uh, maybe he was tired."

"Maybe he didn't go see Santa."

"No, I'm sure he did. Maybe he forgot."

"Maybe he is broken."

"He's not broken honey. We probably just up too early and he hadn't moved yet."

"Maybe he isn't magic and can't fly."

"I'm sure he can fly. Maybe he just likes that spot. Maybe he wants to stay there."

"Well, that stinks!"

Great, I've damaged my daughter once again.

Later, when she went into her room to get something.

I rush around to reverse the psychological damage. I grab the elf off his crummy shelf and try to stick him on the plant. But he falls off.

I jam him on the counter but he flops over.

I swing him up onto fan just as I hear my daughter coming down the hall.

I mean the stress of it all. The total anxiety.

As she rounds the corner, I slip into my room and pretend I am folding clothes (something I don't do often).

Mommy! Mommy! Winko moved! He is magic! He's just sneaky!

Whew! Another disaster contained.