"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Like the new look?

A woman gets bored. To un-bore herself, she changes her hair, buys some new shoes, and goes on a bank-robbing spree across seven states.

Or she just changes the look of her blog. Like it? Do these bookshelves make me look fat?

Although I had a very busy weekend, driving to the ends of the world and back, something good was waiting for me at each destination. On Friday, I had a very good riding lesson at the ranch. Then I went to Long Beach and picked up my truly delightful son and all his crap belongings from his dorm room. He's home for the summer and I can already tell I've got another adult in the house, not a teenager anymore (although he's still technically a teen at 18). I ended Friday back at the ranch with a sweet little seven-year old who did a very good job focusing on riding her horse. Afterward, she got to pet the ranch's Macaw, Rio, which was a definite highlight for her.

On Saturday, I was back at the ranch and gave another lesson to an eleven-year old with a few issues. Nothing insurmountable, but sometimes it's hard for her to stay on task, and she has some quirks about horse saliva. She arrived in a rather foul mood, shuffling her feet and grooming the horse in fits and starts, only when prodded. I could have just gone down that black hole with her, but I decided to try for something better.

"You can have a good attitude or a bad attitude," I told her. "It's completely your decision. What would you like to have?"

"A good attitude," she said, scowling.

"Okay, then, look at me." (She has trouble making eye contact.) When she looked up, I threw my hands out and over-smiled, in the geekiest, most over-the-top way possible. "My name's *blank* and I'm gonna have a GREAT lesson!"

It worked. She started laughing and repeated my words. And we were right - we had a great lesson.

I ran home and changed clothes, then hit the road for Los Angeles. Not just the southern corner, but the furthest corner of L.A. from my door. Traffic was amazingly light on the I-5, then ground to a standstill about ten miles from my destination off the I-10. When I pulled into the Palm-Rancho Park Branch Library on Overland, I thought my journey had ended.

Instead I found no parking spaces, partly because several cars had decided they were feeling a little bloated and needed two spaces, a minivan blocking one aisle, and another completely unoccupied minivan blocking the exit. After two trips around, I exited, found a side street to park, and ran across Overland in my little heels. May I just say that Overland is a big, freakin' street with lots of traffic and no cross-walks?

But I did it all for Marla. I've mentioned her before in my posting. I even mentioned her in the acknowledgments for Freezer Burn. Marla Miller has a knack, a gift, a talent, for reading your query letter or synopsis and telling you what's not working. Her website, Marketing the Muse, offers Quick Query Critiques, where she videos herself reading and critiquing queries that are submitted. It's very much like sitting in one of her workshops at the Southern California Writer's Conference, except that she's able to get the audience involved in the critique process as well.

She was speaking at the GLAWS meeting (Greater Los Angeles Writer's Society), doing her quick query thing and pitching the idea of writers helping writers. Networking is not just about meeting someone who will buy or promote your book. It's about reciprocity. Each meetup should result in a win-win, which I'm hoping is happening with my cross-blogging.

I may not have hundreds of followers, but I probably have followers that my guest does not have, and vice versa. And I believe it makes no difference if we're in the same genre or not. Although I read lots of mysteries, they're not the only thing I read. I'm guessing my followers are the same way. For example, maybe someone follows me because they're a friend of mine but they really like historical romance. I get an author on my post who writes historical romance and my friend hasn't heard of them. Suddenly, the author has a new reader and potentially more, if the reader likes their book and recommends them to others.

Of course, I'm hoping that author has some friends who like mysteries and humor...

Marla really hammered that point home on Saturday, along with displaying her awesome skills at identifying the problem with each query. I was happy to have battled the traffic and parking just to hear that I'm on the right track, by offering something of value with my schmoozing.

I support Marla so much that I've added links to her sites on my right-hand column. You can find the link to Marketing the Muse, as well as her new venture, Women Over 45, Speak. This is a fun site for Women of a Certain Age to send her a 3-minute video (vlog) where they talk about anything. Truly. Anything. You can promote your business. You can prattle on about the new grandbaby, or your family or friends. You can rant about something unpleasant. It's a good place for you to speak your mind, and it's a good place for men or women under 45 to go and listen to what we have to say.

I did it. It was fun.

And, in true Marla fashion, for supporting her, she has offered me a couple of neat opportunities. She's going to interview me for her blogtalk radio show (tentatively June 18, but I'll post details). She's also invited me up to the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference for an afternoon to be part of her panel of Entreprenurial Authors. Hopefully, I'll have something insightful to offer. I'll at least have my experiences to share.

I'll end this post with a vlog from Marla - take it away:

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