Thursday, April 30, 2015

Be Opportunistic: How to Pitch to the Press

This week has been spinning out of control since Monday but I wanted to post something positive today because its my day to post and I didn't want to lose my opportunity.  I keep up with several websites which help me promote my writing and Build Book Buzz is one of those I really like.  They really get down to the nitty gritty of what specific types of information indie authors need to get your book out there. 

As the cartoon on the right says with a twist---I used to hate promotional assignments..... but now I enjoy them....

As we write and feel that passion of what we say is important, Build Book Buzz helps us accomplish this.   Here is one of their links with some great tips for indie authors:

Build Book Buzz

.....and one of their informational posts.... 

You'll often hear book publicists talk about "pitching" a story to the press. But how do you actually do it when you want to take advantage of an opportunity - or want to create one?
"Pitching" is like "selling" - when someone says they're going to pitch a story to a reporter, they mean that they're going to try to sell the reporter on the idea. It's easy to do when you know the basics:
  • Offer a great idea. Your story or segment idea must be relevant to the media outlet and its audience. You wouldn't pitch a "saving for retirement" idea to Seventeen Magazine, for example.
  • Pitch the right journalist. Study the media outlet to find the best fit for your idea, then do a little research to learn who is responsible for that section or program.
  • Explain the idea clearly and compellingly. In the "pitch letter" you send by e-mail, offer a brief description of the article or segment idea.
  • Detail why readers or viewers need the information. After the overview description, make it clear why people will be interested. Does it address a common problem? Will it entertain, educate, or inform? Will it change opinions or perspectives? And why is any of this important?
  • Explain why you're an excellent resource for the piece. Why should the reporter talk to you about this - what do you bring to the topic?
  • Describe relevant visuals for TV. If you're pitching a TV news or talk show, describe visuals that can help bring the idea to life.
  • Offer additional resources. It could be links to background information, statistics, or other people to interview to round out the story.
  • State the next steps. Will you follow-up, or will you leave it to the reporter to contact you if interested?
You might pitch an angle on a topic that's currently making headlines, respond to a general query coming from a source such as HARO or Reporter Connection, or pitch an idea that you know is relevant and important. Whatever the reason for your pitch, include enough information for the journalist to decide if it's a good fit for that media outlet.

 For those who are independent authors, it's one of those necessary evils that we have to blow our own horn and get our stuff out there for everyone to read.  Hope this helps.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sending a son off and the saga of the spuds

by Suzanne Warr

What have you been up to, lately?  Me, I've been looking for my potatoes.  I needed to find them because rotten egg smell has nothing on rotten potato smell, and I was afraid that if my search was unsuccessful, I'd be finding them with my nose.

It happened like this: When our son got his mission call mid-March, we already had a moving truck scheduled for later March, and would be closing on our old house a few days before the end of March.  Then we had three weeks in April to finish getting him ready for the MTC, drive out to St. Louis so he could see his G'ma, and send him off to the MTC with a report date of April 22nd.  Given that he was going foreign (Seoul, South Korea) that didn't allow for a lot of mistakes!  The crunchiest part was of course before the move, when we needed to pack up the house and get the new place ready plus finalize repairs on the old place, and get his passport turned around, visa papers in, travel shots completed, etc. which were all due back to Salt Lake by the end of March or they'd move his MTC report date to June.

Thanks to good friends and the blessings of the Lord, we did it!  But, on arriving at the new house, we found unpacking to be a headache.  Most the boxes got labeled, but some were a mystery.  And the biggest problem?  You guessed it.  We couldn't find the box with the potatoes.

Slowly I sorted through every kitchen box, even the ones with cookie cutters that I hadn't planned to unpack yet.  Then I started on the random boxes, that might have held the missing spuds.  As I unpacked box after box, my fear grew.  What if the potatoes were in one of the storage boxes we'd sent straight to the attic?  Would my house slowly fill with the rotten smell of stinking sludgy moldy potatoes all summer long?  Would I blow the roof off with the gaseous fumes?  It was a serious problem.

And the worst was that I really didn't have time to worry about unpacking!  I had a son to prepare for a mission, complete with an almost entirely new wardrobe, a sick daughter to attend to, writing and editing deadlines, and a trip to plan!  The situation went from not remotely funny anymore.  As in, the smile was staying upside down.  Finally on one of our last days before we would lock up the house and leave for a week, we decided we needed to simply go over every possible spot the potatoes could have been put.  As we did so, I wracked my brains for where they might be.  I'd been in the kitchen when my friend packed that cupboard, but couldn't for the life of me remember where she'd put them.  Finally--and yes, at this point we were praying--it came to me.  They weren't packed in a box!  A bit of sorting later, we uncovered them in one of the kitchen tubs that normally only holds beans.


Saga over.  Or, was it?  In a last scramble out the door we settled pets, turned all the suitcases and nearly all the trunk space over to our son, and headed off on the long drive from NC to St. Louis.  It was a whirlwind trip, but just what the family needed.  And on getting home, we had a pleasant surprise waiting for us.  In my mind, I hadn't done any unpacking to speak of, and very little organizing.  But that's because I was always looking for the potatoes.

The happy surprise?  While looking for those rascally root balls I got the kitchen completely unpacked, and most the attic organized.  On coming back, we discovered that our storage-space of a house had began its journey to becoming a home!  And it was all thanks to the potatoes.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Life is More Than a 4 Inch Screen

The title is part of a quote given by Elder José A. Teixeira a religious leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The whole quote is 
The habit of setting aside your mobile device for a time will enrich and broaden your view of life, for life is not confined to a four-inch (10-cm) screen.

Yes, I spend much of my time in front of a screen, 4 inch or otherwise. I am a writer after all. And since typewriters have gone the way of the Dodo, screens are what I am left with for practicing my craft and fulfilling many other obligations. 

But, his words are dead on. There is much joy and fulfillment to found found in the world and people around us. 

I came across an article this week by a trainer to the celebs in Hollywood. His prescription for being a healthy person was a simple five step process. Can you guess what they were? 

(I'm paraphrasing below because I didn't keep the link to the article. If I get it wrong, please don't sue me.) 

1. Walk 5 miles a day/10,000 steps. In other words, we're too sedentary. Get up and move.
2. Eat healthy. Duh.
3. Get 8 hours of sleep each night. Again, duh.
4. You only need about 5 minutes a day of stretching/weights, targeting a section of your body each day to keep it in shape. (Getting there is a different article!) 

The summary was to do what our ancestors did. Walk. Read. Talk to friends and family. Eat healthy. Sleep at night. The prescription isn't hard and has been around a long time. Don't reinvent the wheel. Just get on it and get rolling!

Now, that I've received the all clear from the doctor to be active again, though I have to go in baby steps, fairly literally, I'm looking forward to getting back up to 10K steps a day. 

There is beauty in nature to be appreciated. Friends who need a listening ear. Laughter to make you feel good. Hands that can help. Take advantage of all there is beyond the screen. You may find it makes you a whole lot happier to UNPLUG and enjoy the world around you, than any fleeting satisfaction you may enjoy in the digital world. 

Reap the rewards of unplugging and taking back your life. Your friends will envy your ability to ignore your phone, Ipad, Kindle, etc. Then share your secret of how you did it. 

Here is the link for the talk referenced above. Spend a few minutes watching it. Or better yet, listen to it as you take a walk in the spring sunshine. 

Enjoy life! 

Below, let me know how you UNPLUG. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Merci for Tender Mercies

by H. Linn Murphy

I lost my church keys for a couple of months. Not fun. I looked everywhere for them. I tore my car apart. I ripped into my house, finding a few things I'd been missing for years. I made a few dozen trips to the church library where we usually keep lost and found items. I choked down the embarrassment and asked loads of people at places where I'd performed or shopped or gone to conference. I described them to passers-by (well nearly). And then I checked the old places I'd already checked several times.
No dice.
It was utterly mortifying. I had to use my councilors' keys to get into my cupboards to get things out for Relief Society. It almost felt to me as if I were missing the actual keys to my calling.
So the other day I was sitting in the car, waiting for my son to get to the bus stop so I could take him home (he buses across town to a school outside our zone). Usually I have several books to read. This time I'd run out without one. So I decided to clean the area between our seats. There's a cargo net to keep the bunch of junk we keep in the car from rolling under our feet.
I looked down at that mess and for some reason remembered the keys. I'd already looked there about seven times--lifted stuff up and looked under it. Thoroughly. So getting the urge to look there was random, although it did need a good dusting up.
And just as randomly, I said a prayer, laying out for Heavenly Father how I really needed those keys. I told Him how I felt so naked without them. I asked Him to help me find them. After I closed, I got this overwhelming feeling that my faith would pay off that day.
Then I leaned down and started to clean. I took all the keeper items out and chucked the trash. Then I got the idea to unhook the cargo net, which is completely see-through. It's a net. Random. But I did it.
There in the crack beneath the seats were my church keys! I couldn't believe it! Such a graphic illustration of how the Lord takes care of me even on the little things completely filled my soul and overflowed in tears of joy, mostly because it showed how much He cares for me.
I drove clear home with those keys in my grip. I probably would have slept with them if they weren't so sharp...;o)
The Lord does things like that all the time. I can't imagine thinking that God isn't real. He does way too much for me to ever ignore. And it's not like it's coincidence. There is no random generator that could accomplish the miracles He engineers on a consistent basis. God is real and He cares about us all.
And He is the Key.

Monday, April 13, 2015

It takes everyone to write a book

Writing is a community sport. Yep, I know most people think of it as a solitary experience. Just you and your computer, and that is true, for the most part. However, what I want to talk about today is how you survive as an author.

If it wasn't for the community of writers and book lovers around me and in the cyber world, I think I would have given up long ago. Not because I had no stories to tell, but because the friendships I've found over the last decade have brought me joy and a feeling of belonging. 

The first group I joined was at the recommendation of my sister-in-law Lauri. She began writing a couple years before me and paved the way. She suggested the SCBWI, the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. This group helped so much in my early days. Through them I found my place in the publishing world. I met editors, agents and fellow children's writers. I jumped 100% ahead of the game and didn't make silly mistakes. I also attended monthly meetings where I slowly was able to recognize faces, so that when I attended conferences I didn't feel alone. This weekend is the Spring Western Washington SCBWI conference. I've missed it the last two years and I'm excited to return and feel the moral support. In the beginning it was all about learning the ropes, now it's about friends.

A group I joined just two years ago has been driving me lately. It is ANWA, the American Night Writers Assoc. A group of women LDS writers that support and encourage one another. These ladies have been the ones that have kept me going after my first book was published and then so little else occurred. I went to their annual conference in February and came away with lifted spirits. What a wonderful thing to feel you're not alone.

The other thing that helps me is writing my blog By posting book reviews, interviewing other authors, researching agents and editors, I feel like I am part of the book world even though my audience as a published author is small. When I look at the semi- success of my blog I am able to feel a sense of accomplishment that is so hard to find. I feel connected to other people and I am able to help out other authors. It really is a community that has kept me going. I encourage authors out there to find writing groups and participate. It doesn't have to be a critique group, just an author group. Find the support you need in others. Leave comments on blogs. We who write them are eager to connect. Leave reviews for books. Reviews help out so many authors. We all take a part in the writing world.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hold to the Rod.....

 With General Conference last weekend, and the dissenting vote that was voiced during the sustainings, I have been thinking a lot about personal apostasy. I consider my testimony to be fairly strong, but no one is safe and I've definitely had my moments. 

I think we all have things about church history, or church policy, or whatever - that we don't totally love. For example, I don't love going to church for 3 hours. Ever. Even when it's 9:00 church. And I don't love the fact that we are called on daily to drop whatever we may be doing for our family or ourselves (yes, that's important too) and go clean someone's nasty house, that they only needed help with because they let it get so bad. (Just an example). Recently a returned missionary, married-in-the-temple friend with a strong family started questioning things about polygamy in the early days of the church, and which leaders practiced it. This friend was completely thrown to learn that Joseph Smith was indeed one of the prophets who was commanded to practice this law. The fact is, it was a commandment that was given during that time, for whatever reason. Just like Nephi being commanded to slay Laban . . . just like Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son. I don't know about you . . . those things have never made sense to me - but in both of those cases the Lord had his reasons, and the only thing required of those mortal, imperfect men was obedience.

There are so many, many ways we can be drawn away from that Rod of Iron. Whenever I hear of someone leaving the church, my first question is, "Were they reading the Book of Mormon daily?" If not, go figure. We learn that even the righteous, the ones who partook of the fruit were clinging to the Iron Rod all the way to the Tree. Not gliding along with one hand on it, not reaching out every once in a while just to make sure it was there and making their own way the rest of the time. CLINGING. When they finally reached their destination, they FELL DOWN at the base of the tree. Have you ever done this? Maybe after a physically taxing or emotionally draining day? Just collapsed on the first surface that would hold your weight? That kind of reaction indicates a really tough road traveled. It's not supposed to be easy, folks. And even after all that, some of those faithful saints who struggled down the path bit into the fruit, only to be shamed by the mocking coming from the great and spacious building. The fact is, some of these saints let the fruit fall from their hands after they'd partaken, and fell away themselves.

This is one reason I am so enamored with the Book of Mormon. Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life is one of those things that was clearly written for our day. I see so many parallels in it to our modern world. It is easy to get caught up in these little snares, these "strange roads" that will ultimately lead us away from that white tree and its precious fruit. So for me, it helps to focus on what I know to be true. When I was struggling with some of the above-mentioned issues a while back, the spirit whispered to me to write my testimony. Start at the very basic thing that I know to be true. I was amazed with how much I do know to be true - and how much of it was the very foundation of our religion. Church policies come and go for the most part, and that isn't what our testimony should be based on. God is our Father, Jesus Christ is our Elder Brother and Savior. The Holy Ghost truly is a gift, the most precious gift our Father could give us. Joseph Smith was a prophet. He did see God the Father and the Son. The spirit has witnessed this to me so many times. The Book of Mormon is the best book in the world . . . everything, EVERYTHING in it is for us, and the more I read it, the clearer it becomes. Because I have a personal testimony of these things, which are the foundation of everything else church-related, I don't worry about things that are less eternal in nature. So, if any of you find yourselves feeling disgruntled about church-related things, maybe not feeling a burning in your bosom over something or other, try starting with what you know.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Families Can Be Together, Forever by Monique Bucheger

A month ago I shared with you the loss of my son, David Alexander Bucheger--our infant son who was stillborn 22 years ago. Today, I share with you the passing of my twenty-year-old son-- Ryan Michael Bucheger. Ryan was in a car accident on the afternoon of March 22, 2015.

He died a few hours later in the presence of myself, seven of his siblings, four of his grandparents, and several of his friends--including two of his "other mothers"-- wonderful women who loved him nearly as much as I did and who are heart broke at his passing. 

My husband flew in the next afternoon. The rest of our children drove through the night to arrive early Monday morning. They didn't make it in time be with Ryan before he passed. However, I did think to put my cell phone next to Ryan's ear so they could talk with him one last time.

Although unconscious, I know Ryan heard. His heartbeat strengthened and sustained him for a few more hours--a lot longer than his doctors told me would be possible. They expected him to pass shortly after I arrived at the Emergency room.

This was to be the first of many tender mercies our family would experience over the next few days.

I have thought often about the atonement of Jesus Christ over the last few months--and its two-fold purpose: 1) to help people repent and be forgiven of their sins so they can return to their father in heaven and 2) more importantly for our family at this moment--the atonement of Jesus Christ brings comfort and peace during difficult times. 

Times when there isn't necessarily fault, but there is much pain and sorrow.  

When we lost David, I gained a strong testimony of the Plan of Salvation as well as the Atonement.

During the last couple of weeks, I have revisited that testimony many times and have come to the same conclusion now that I did 22 years ago: Heavenly Father knows and loves each of His children and wants to ease our burdens and heal our sorrow. I also know He hears and answers prayers.

So many of our friends, strangers, and extended family have offered prayers of comfort and peace in our family's behalf. My husband, children, other family members, and good friends who have felt Ryan's loss deeply have felt much peace and comfort while we come to terms with the loss of our son, brother, grandson, friend, uncle and cousin. 

Without the atonement--I know this experience would be far more excruciating. 

I'm writing this post on Easter Sunday--after spending a wonderful day listening to uplifting messages from our church leaders, gathering as a family to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, and enjoying the company of friends and family. I miss Ryan and felt the loss of his presence today. I also know--without a doubt--that his loss is a temporary situation. Our family will be together again.

It's that knowledge that brings me peace and gives me strength to do what I need to do daily.

Ryan was a good and faithful son, an amazing friend, a great missionary, and positively influenced the lives of many. For this I am very grateful.

On the Sunday morning that he died, Ryan met me in the hallway at church. He had come to an earlier service to be with a friend. The last thing he said to me after giving me a hug goodbye was: "I love you, Mom. See you later."

I returned the hug and the greeting (and added a "behave yourself" for good measure. :))
Because I know the separation is temporary, I feel good about saying, "See ya later, Ryan," rather than "Good-bye." 

I hope it is many years before I see him again, but I know that when I do see him again, it will be a wonderful reunion and he will be waiting for me with his brothers and sister who passed before him. "See ya, later," may take a while to come to pass, but it will come. Of this, I have no doubt.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Writing Retreats Rock!

This last month I got to go to my very first writing retreat. I hope it's not my last.

I had seen all the pictures from each of the different retreats and I knew I was missing out. I thought I'd miss this one as well, but a room came open and my friends talked me into going. For three weeks I waited for it to come, hoping I'd be able to get my mind to concentrate long to write anything. I'd been so busy editing that I couldn't concentrate on a new book.

The day of the retreat arrived, and I headed up to Heber with five of my friends. I sat in the back, enjoying the scenery as we drove up. It was a beautiful day, promising lots of awesomeness.

In the three days I was there, I managed to write 25,000 words. That was in between chatting, eating, going on walks, classes, and sleeping. Although I managed to write AND sleep at the same time once or twice. Or five times.

If you've never been to a retreat before, I highly recommend it. If life has just gotten crazy and writing isn't happening, this is a great opportunity to get new words written that you wouldn't be able to otherwise.

Here are a few tips:

SNACKS - If you go to the retreat I went to, the food is fantastic and you fill yourself up. But sometime snacks can help your mind calm down and concentrate on your writing. I've heard chocolate helps ... but my personal favorite is popcorn and a drink. Or Cheetos. Okay, we'll leave this portion before I think of more, because I might get hungry.

CLASSES - if classes are offered, take them. I was able to learn more about keywords for marketing, branding yourself, making the most of social media, and a few different brainstorming sessions. 

SPRINTS - Take advantage of these to help you get more words out. No matter what your typing speed is, it will help you concentrate on writing and make good progress.

FRIENDS - Make them, love them, keep them forever. I knew many of the writers already, and got to know others. I even found out I was related to one of my good friends. Crazy! I don't know about you, but when I'm with other writers, I feel completely at home. All their quirks, all their fears, all their senses of humor. This is a great time to let your mind relax and be yourself.

PARTICIPATE - Help out where you can, brainstorm with others, help with the meal. Be involved. Especially when you're stuck on a spot in your book. Cleaning or talking can help you break through the block and soon you'll be on your way. 

GET COMFY - Like writing your pjs? Dress? Whatever! Relax, bring a blanket, and be ready to write. I personally love music. Normally I love the Piano Guys Pandora station. I tried a couple other music options, but I'm thinking I'll go back to Piano Guys. Headphones are awesome so you can listen to your own music—or even silence—and everyone else can listen to theirs.

I look forward to the next retreat, and I hope to see you there. And, remember, if you fall asleep typing and someone takes a picture, own it.

Easter Morning: A Comfort for Our Dear Friend

These past two weeks have been a difficult one for our group of bloggers.  One of our dear blogger friends had lost a beloved son to a car accident and buried him a week ago.  It has been a difficult month for Monique and we are all in shock as to this great tragedy.

It was only a few weeks ago when Monique posted such a great writing on helping to heal after a miscarriage and now she has to deal with this. This Bucheger family, as with many other families, have the comfort of knowing that we have a Savior who has give us life after this life is a great blessing.

There is no beginning and no end. We are eternal beings who has a loving Heavenly Father who will welcome us back to His house... and a Savior who gave up His life to give us life so we can accomplish this great task of earth life.

This is the greatest Easter message we have and we should remember.....