My mother believed

My mother always believed in me.

The past few days I have been on a cabin-fever mission to clean out files. I have a lot of files. Today, contained in a file I labeled “bits and pieces” which I recall creating to store future writing ideas, I found a manila envelope with “Christine Writings” written on it in my mother’s handwriting.

I wasn’t surprised. I knew my mother, who rarely saved anything sentimental, had saved some of the things I wrote when I was younger. There is a three-page handwritten essay on “Childcare and Babysitting.” I was probably in junior high.

“When a girl gets to a certain age she needs more money of her own and needs more responsibility. Babysitting gives you both. It also gives you in a roundabout way lessons for homemaking and childcare. Although you have to know some basics and important facts before you start, each time in some way, a new experience occurs.

The age that I find easiest to handle is around seven to ten . . .”

In it, I spelled “allowed” as “aloud.”

There is a sheet torn from a school newsletter we put together in 8th grade. The type is a script and is purple. Remember the smell of mimeograph copies and how they were a little damp at first? I wrote a poem about the snowflakes.

“. . .They drift on sometimes furiously, sometimes serenely, but always beautifully, ever journeying on to the end where they finally rest on even the smallest twig. And the twig is proud.”

I remember sitting in science class beside the window, watching the snow fall and composing this poem in my head. I did a lot of day-dreaming in grade school. I probably should have been paying attention.

My mom kept an essay I wrote in freshman English class, period 6 entitled “My Favorite Place” about the beach. My teacher wrote on the top, in red pencil, “Check some spots for awkward structure. Watch modifiers.” But he gave me a 4.5 out of 5.0 anyway. I got a 5.0 on “The Typical Mixed-Up Teenage Girl.”

“Carefree is her name and rule to live by; or often she wishes it were so. Actually insouciance (insouciance? Where did I come up with that word?) is one virtue she lacks. It would be so easy for my friend if she didn’t take things to heart so hard.”

I have a feeling I was writing about myself here.

Then there is the short story, “The Power of Giving” that I wrote in December of 1971. I think I might have been a better fiction writer then than I am now. I knew how to write a hook in the first sentence.

“The memory of it all is still as fresh in my mind as it was the first few days after the accident, and probably always will be.”

It’s a sentimental story, written in first person (I guess I liked first person even back then). A young girl gets in a car wreck right before Christmas and ends up in the hospital. She’s self-centered, and feels sorry for herself that she won’t be home for Christmas and throws a tantrum of major proportions. Later a little old lady named Auntie May visits her.  They strike up a friendship and spend a lot of time talking. The girl knits Auntie May a scarf for Christmas. Auntie May has no home to go to and is headed to a nursing home. The narrator gives her the gift she made. “That was the first real Christmas I ever had,” the narrator says, “For that was the year I discovered the power of giving.” The teacher liked it. He asked me to read it out loud to the class and I couldn’t get through it without crying. That’s still true of some of my writing.

My mom kept a poem I wrote in 1975 about our neighbor who was from Germany. I illustrated it with a drawing I made of the little old man with his cane, walking down a sidewalk under a big branching tree with bare limbs. Convincing me yet again, lest there be any doubt, to stick to writing and not drawing.

“. . .
Wonder if
While walking down the street
He yearns to be
Where he is not
Out of place;
Lonely for his home,
A place to understand,
That understands
Him.”

His name was Mr. Gronauer and he did not speak English well. My dad used to go over and visit him from time to time to talk about Germany. One day my two sisters and I went over, maybe to give him and his wife Christmas cookies or something. They used to give us those gigantic Hershey’s chocolate bars. I’m not sure Hershey’s makes them anymore. On this particular occasion, they invited us in to have a seat on the sofa and they poured each of us a little glass, maybe about a shot, of liqueur. It might have been brandy. I took one sip and wondered how I was ever going to be able to drink it all. My oldest sister didn’t seem to be having any difficulty with it. I think Carol and I surreptitiously pawned ours off on her. I might still be sitting there today otherwise.

Yes. My mom believed in me. When I’m doubting myself and wondering what to do next, my mom’s belief, in the form of a manila envelope, calls me forward, still.

 

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Someone’s crying

Three years ago today, I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath. This is the post I wrote the day after. Today I am remembering a moment towards the end of her days when she was at Hospice. I never had a lot of time to have the heart-to-heart conversation with her that I yearned for. Things were moving too fast; I was too busy with Dad, and Mom was too sick. But on this afternoon, for the minutes she was awake, I leaned over her bed and said, “I’m going to have to find a way to talk to you.” She said, “Yes, you will.” Then I cried the tears I tried so hard to hide from her. She reached up with both of her arms and cupped my face between her two hands, giving me a lifetime of gratitude and love, a million words of goodbye, in one moment I will cherish forever.

Christine M. Grote

On Thursday night I heard my mother stir and I rose from my bed on the floor in the corner of her room and hurried to her side.

“What’s wrong?” she asked as she roused from the deep sleep she had been in all day.

“Nothing’s wrong, Mom.”

“Someone’s crying,” she said.

In my mom’s 78 years on this planet, I imagine she heard and answered a lot of someones crying.  In the 1950s through the 1970s she was raising five children who had been born within six years, including my sister Annie who was extremely disabled.  I suspect there were a lot of times someone was crying.

Even as we grew older we were sometimes crying: me coming home from college carrying a basket of laundry when a relationship ended; a long-distance phone call to speak of a loved one who died; a conversation about one thing or the…

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Book promotion update

I spent most of the day submitting Where Memories Meet to websites that promote ebooks. I want to promote the book during its Amazon countdown deal scheduled for February 1 – 7. Apparently some sites have to approve the submission (due to time, space, or quality reputation considerations I imagine). Other sites seem to be willing to take my money and go with it. That might give you an indication about the desirability of promoting on the various sites. Overall, it seems like the business of promoting self-published books online is much better established than it was when I first published Dancing in Heaven in 2011.

Here are some useful things I’ve learned:

TCK Publishing has generated two lists of sites that promote ebooks, one for  free ebooks, and one for paid Kindle books that I used since my Amazon countdown deal starts at $0.99 and not $0.00. The list is ordered by rank according to the amount of traffic the site gets. The top six are:

Book Bub 27,224
Ereader News Today 28,681
Buck Books 34,248
Many Books 35,754
Kindle Nation Daily 43,172
The Kindle Book Review 45,812

  • As I mentioned in my Marketing Self-Published Books post on January 6, I was turned down by Book Bub.
  • I submitted my book to, but have not heard back from, Ereader News Today.
  • I did not submit to Buck Books. By the time I got around to it, I couldn’t easily find the way to submit, and I was too tired to deal with it.
  • I submitted to Many Books but have not heard back.
  • I looked at Kindle Nation Daily, but the slots for the dates of my countdown deal were already taken. Next time I will have to apply earlier. (Alternately, BookBub requires that you apply no earlier than one month before your promotion date. It all gets rather jumbled up and confusing after a while.)
  • I submitted to the Kindle Book Review. They accepted my money ($25), but I have not received any confirmation.
  • Previously I paid $90 for a promotion at Just Kindle Books (ranked 365,139). I’m assuming that’s a go.
  • And earlier I paid $20 for a promotion at Goodkindles (ranked 594,646). The rankings go to 5,628,580. So although these sites are not at the top, neither are they at the bottom of the list.
  • I plan to apply at BookGoodies (ranked 231,471) tomorrow. Their application is complex with required author interview questions to fill out. I’m going to start fresh in the morning. (I stand corrected. Please see the comment BookGoodies added below.)

These are just some of the options. They vary in what promotional services they provide from tweets, Facebook posts and emails to featuring books on websites. Many promotions run for only one day, although it varies depending on the site and the price you are willing to pay. It’s rather complicated. I have started an Excel spread sheet that I am using to keep track of site URLs and the status of my submissions. I don’t have any first hand experience with paid promotions. I chose not to spend money on promoting my first book. If all goes well with this experience, I may decide to splurge and promote Dancing in Heaven later.

Wish me well.

 

 

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Marketing self-published books

Marketing continues to befuddle me as I try to promote Where Memories Meet – Reclaiming my father after Alzheimer’s. If my book doesn’t cross a reader’s radar, they won’t know it exists, let alone buy and read it.

Most times when I wade out onto the web with all the marketing and promotion advice for self-pubs, I just get discouraged and walk away. There is a lot of book promotion noise out there on the web. But I’m trying to keep in mind a quote I came across recently:

“The universe is infinite; there is space enough in it for everyone to succeed, including me.”

Although I want to make my books available in many formats for anyone who wants to read them, Amazon is making it tough. Several years back they instituted a program called  KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select. This program provides opportunities for authors to offer price promotions, and include your book in the lending library. For example, many authors promote their book for free during an introductory period. This successfully gets their book into readers’ hands, some percentage (and I don’t know how many) of whom will actually read the book and and even leave a review on Amazon. Because of the way Amazon promotes its products, including your book, having a lot of reviews and better yet, sales, gives you more free promotion. Your book will show up during searches. You’ve seen it, “Customers who bought this book (or product) also bought these products. . .” And magically your book gets on a reader’s radar.

To be on KDP Select, you have to sell your book exclusively on Amazon. I have not yet chosen to do that with Dancing in Heaven. But last month I enrolled Where Memories Meet in KDP Select. That means I can, and have, scheduled a countdown promotion where I set the book’s price at a discount for a period of time (a couple of days). Then Amazon notifies customers of the price break and how much longer it will be in effect.

My countdown promotion is scheduled to begin February 1. My normally $2.99 priced ebook will be offered at $.99 until February 4, and then it will be $1.99 for three more days until it returns to $2.99.

I think this is a good sales tactic, but it needs to be promoted. I’ve been researching websites that promote ebooks for a fee. They include but are not limited to Book Bub, Just Kindle Books, Ereader News, and Goodkindles to mention a few. For varying prices, these sites will blast your book out to their fans and followers, and perhaps list on their website for a day or longer. To promote my memoir at a price of $.99 via Book Bub  it costs $720. They are only able to accept 20% of the books submitted to be featured. My book was not accepted.

It’s a bit of a relief because $720 is pretty steep for my marketing budget. Instead I have paid a minimal fee to have my book (with the countdown deal) promoted on Just Kindle Books, and Goodkindles. I am still waiting to hear from Ereader News. I have no idea if promoting my book on these sites will produce any measurable benefit.

Another option I have is to buy advertising on Amazon. You have to bid for the advertising slot by entering a price per click. You set the total amount you are willing to spend. Amazon does not guarantee customers who click your ad will buy your book, but it will get on their radar.

I suspect your head is spinning by now. Mine is. So I’ll sign off from the marketing trenches.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Here are a few links to my struggles with and thoughts about marketing during my first self-publishing experience:
Now marketing
Promoting in the world wide jungle
How much time should I spend promoting my book?

 

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Delving deeper into memories

My post yesterday sent me off on a tangent about memory.

I wrote about what I do remember on the day of my first confession, but there is a lot missing that I do not remember about that event.

I have no memory of my actual first confession, at least not one that stands out from other confessions I made during my childhood. I have lumped all my experiences of Catholic penance into one image of kneeling in a small dark room, hearing a small window-sized barrier slide open and a priest’s voice. I can’t remember what the various priests said over the course of my confessions.

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned,” I seem to have successfully retained as my appropriate response. I don’t remember the multitude of offenses I confessed to. I do remember there were big sins and smaller sins which fell into the two categories of venial and another name I can’t recall. I also didn’t remember if venial referred to the bigger sins like murder and theft until I Googled it. “According to Roman Catholicism, a venial sin (meaning “forgivable” sin) is a lesser sin that does not result in a complete separation from God and eternal damnation,” (Wikipedia). Maybe that’s why I don’t recall the name for the really big sins. I only committed smaller sins like fighting with a sibling or telling a white lie. If there is such a thing.

I also remember sitting on a hard pew and praying the Our Fathers and Hail Marys I was assigned as penance.

On the day of my first confession, I have no idea what happened afterwards. Did I go back to my own school? Did I go home? How did I get there? It’s a complete black hole. I don’t remember telling my mother what had happened, although I’m sure I did. And most importantly, I don’t remember her response. I wish I could.

I read recently that we can delve deeper into our memories and bring back details. I’ve never made a conscious effort to do so, and don’t exactly know how. Although I have to admit that I had to concentrate to bring back details for the scenes in my memoirs. But most of those were easily accessible. I suspect a little Googling might lend some guidance.

I get a little scared when I think about uncovering memories I haven’t sifted and sorted through as an adult. I don’t really know if it’s possible. If I tried, either I would discover things I had forgotten, taking me back to a time and place that no longer exists, or I would resurface empty-handed. Either way, it is a little unsettling to think about.

You’ll be the first to know.

 

 

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