My Favorite Christmas Movies #MondayBlogs #Christmas #Holidays

christmas 1I was planning to write a blog post about my favorite Christmas themed novel, but then I realized I haven’t read most of the ‘classic’ novels (unless we count How The Grinch Stole Christmas from Dr. Seuss, which I love). Although I’ve seen more adaptations of A Christmas Carol than should be allowed by the law, I’ve never actually read the novel from Charles Dickens. It’s only been on my TBR for a decade or so. I’ll get around to it someday. Maybe.

christmas 2I can’t even claim to have read many contemporary (romance) novels with Christmas themes. I’m not sure why. It’s not as if I hate Christmas. The only Christmassy novel I could even find on my read list on Goodreads is Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5) by Janet Evanovich. (Have I mentioned I love Janet Evanovich? I want to be her when I grow up. Or at least write as witty scenes as she does.)

Well, there went that idea of sharing my favorite Christmas novel. Instead, I’m sharing my favorite Christmas movies. I have a bunch of movies I like to watch around Christmas that aren’t technically Christmassy, but the movies listed below are definitely Christmas-themed.

  1. The Family Stone
  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  3. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  4. Frosty the Snowman
  5. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  6. The Grinch (2018 version)
  7. White Christmas
  8. Love Actually
  9. Holiday Inn
  10. Elf

christmas 3I seriously love Elf. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s heartwarming. What more do you want? I admit I even booed the New York City Park Rangers as they trotted by at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as I thought of how they chased Santa out of the park on Christmas Eve. Boo! I already watched Elf this year. I couldn’t help myself! I spent Thanksgiving in New York City and the combination of the start of the holiday season and New York City was undeniable. I had to watch Elf! I saw the new Grinch movie while I was in New York as well. It was adorable. Reminiscent of the earlier version. Just updated for modern times. I highly recommend it.

What about you? What are your favorite Christmas movies?

 

 

 

 

Tweak, tweak, tweak author ads #WriterWednesday #BookMarketing #WritersLife

I hate failing. Doesn’t everybody? So, every time I tried a new marketing strategy (Facebook ad, Bookbub ad, etc.), and it didn’t give me the results I wanted, I gave up. Gave up is a nice way of saying ~ I bitched the platform was rubbish and not worth an author’s time. Surprisingly, this strategy didn’t lead to many success stories. *Sarcasm intended*

And then, something strange happened. I did an Amazon ad for Fat Girl Begone! and it was successful. Not only that, it continues to be successful. *Insert squealing here*

FGB August 2018 ad

Since Fat Girl Begone! is a romcom, I decided to replicate the ad for my other romcom Molly’s Misadventures.

sept 2018 amazon ad

Well, guess what? The ad flopped. WHAT? Both novels are romcoms, what could the problem possibly be? I tried everything. I changed the ad copy, I even got a new cover design. While these changes helped somewhat, the ad still wasn’t anywhere near as successful as the ad for Fat Girl Begone! I was frustrated. Very frustrated. Throw-my-phone-across-the-room-frustrated. What was I doing wrong?

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I started to listen to podcasts and read more book marketing ads. I kind of drove myself crazy. It took a while, but I finally learned something. Authors who are successful with book marketing don’t quit after one ad is unsuccessful. They keep trying. No, not trying the same exact thing over and over again. Instead, they tweak their marketing tactics until they find success.

What do I mean with tweaking? Make one small change to an ad at a time to determine what the problem is. Are you bidding too low? Increase your bid. Not getting impressions? Change the audience (keywords) or try a new ad graphic. Not getting sales? Check your cover, blurb, price, number of reviews.

It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it took me awhile to figure it. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong with Bookbub ads – one small tweak at a time.

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Why I don’t believe in Writer’s Block #WriterWednesday #AmWriting

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Writers discuss writer’s block as if it were some scary communicable disease. There are a gazillion articles with advice to writers with ‘cures’ for this disease. I think writer’s block – at least with regard to the ‘inability to produce new work’ – is a bunch of poppycock. (And yes, I may be exaggerating a bit, so I can use the word poppycock.)

Now, hold on. Before you decide to block me and call me nasty names on Twitter, let me explain. I treat writing like a day job because it is my day job. A really crappy paying day job, but a day job nonetheless. I get up every day (okay, most days) and write. Some days the writing flows from my fingertips, but most days it’s a slug. And then there are the days when writing even a paragraph feels like an impossible task. Still, I write on.

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Calvin and Hobbes (c) Bill Watterson

 

Perhaps on those days on which writing even a paragraph is a monumental task, I am experiencing writer’s block. I don’t look at it that way, though. It’s just a bad day. No matter what job you do you will experience bad days. Even my husband, who loves his job as a pilot, has bad days.

Labeling a bad day as ‘writer’s block’ is – in my humble opinion – a bad idea. The term writer’s block has negative connotations. If I start saying I have writer’s block on my bad days, I’m going to get stuck in my head and start worrying about when this writer’s block will end. In that case, I may actually experience this mythical disease known as writer’s block. Better to avoid the term all together and just say I had a shit writing day. Tomorrow will be better. It always is. Or mostly is.

Thomas Edison said: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Writing is no different. Writing is 1% creative and 99% showing up. So, show up. Sweat it up and get it done.

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How Josh – the big ‘ol jerk from Fat Girl Begone! – Came Into Being #romcom #romance #writerslife

I was recently received a scathing review for Fat Girl Begone! The reviewer thought I was making fun of fat people in the book. That was not my intention – at all! Especially since I’m more than a little chubby myself. In this guest post I wrote ages ago, I explain my thoughts behind Fat Girl Begone! I’m sure the person who wrote the review won’t read this, but it makes me feel better to pretend she will. I hope you enjoy it!

 

How Josh – the big ‘ol jerk – Came Into Being

Josh is a Big. Fat. Jerk.

Seriously, I can’t emphasize that enough. The first time we meet the man he’s dumping our home girl, Everly, because she diets too much. That’s right. He dumps her because he’s tired of her dieting. Everly is not actually fat. Sure, at five-feet-four-inches and 160 pounds, she’s a little on the chubby side, but she’s not Fat. What she is, is a yo-yo dieter. Something I know more than I little about.

I’ve spent most of my life yo-yo dieting with the best of them. You could call me an expert – I certainly do! Most yo-yo dieters consider yo-yo dieting a way of life, but is it possible to break the habit? And what would it take for a person to end their yo-yo dieting ways? Would a break-up be enough? Hmm… sounds like a book idea.

So, I knew when I invented Josh’s character that our first glimpse of the man would be him dumping the heroine. I didn’t want Josh to leave Everly because she was fat, though. Not only is that a bit cliché (and yes, I realize making a slight tweak doesn’t completely take away the cliché), but it also didn’t seem like enough motivation to force a yo-yo dieter out of her yo-yo dieting ways. Oh, sure, I could have her lose a ton of weight and then she rides off into the sunset with some guy, but what happens after that? Does she go back to her yo-yo dieting ways? Losing weight because a guy dumps you doesn’t end the cycle of yo-yo dieting. Nope. It’s just another reason to hit a low on your scale before the yo-yo rotates and starts climbing again.

I needed more of a reason for Everly to give up her yo-yo dieting ways. But what?

That’s when I realized I had a perfectly good example to follow – my hubby. My husband is one of those annoying people who doesn’t seem to gain weight and stays in good shape. Sure, he puts effort into it, but it seems effortless – if that makes any sense. But what does this type of man – the type for which slim fit clothes were invented – think of having a wife who yo-yo diets? He isn’t bothered. Naturally, he’s proud of me when I lose weight, but when I gain some of those kilograms back, he’s not disappointed with me. If I’m upset, he’s upset on my behalf, but he doesn’t really care about how much I weigh. He loves me just as I am.

There is one thing that does bother my husband, though. He doesn’t like how I let my weight affect my life. When I was younger, I could be quite emotional about the ups and downs my scale experienced. That bothered him. He’d often tell me to just accept the higher number and let all the emotional baggage go. I didn’t take that advice – who listens to advice from a man about weight? – but I did learn to be less emotionally invested in the number on the scale.

Thinking about the hubby and how he deals with his wife’s yo-yo dieting, I came up with the idea of Josh leaving Everly because of her dieting instead of her actual weight. I thought this could be a good impetus for Everly to learn to deal with her dieting and weight instead of just losing a bunch of weight. It also opened the door for a possible return of Josh when Everly loses some weight, but that’s a different story.

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Amazon

read for free with kindle unlimited

Dealing with Amazon’s latest hiccup #AuthorMarketing #WriterWednesday #Amazon

If you are reading this from the US, stop. This doesn’t apply to you (you lucky bastard). For those of us who live outside of the US and distribute ebooks via Amazon.com, there has been a ‘problem’ with seeing our books on amazon.com. Namely, we can’t. Yikes! Apparently, Amazon is aware of and dealing with the problem. I’m not so sure they see it as a problem, but that’s beside the point. (And maybe a tad bit cynical on my part.)

What you should care:

  • Not every country has a kindle/Amazon store. Many of those readers purchase ebooks from Amazon.com but are no longer able to do so. If your ads are targeted at this group, you will not only have trouble reaching your target audience, but you may be burning through ad money without the desired result.
  • Even though (except for a few free days) my ranking is sometimes in the four-digit range but mostly in the five- or six-digit range (and if I’m being truly honest often in an even higher digit range than that), I still want to see where I stand. Not only is this important to me to see how my ads are faring, but this gives me a good idea of which categories are working better for my books.

latest amazon hiccup 2

Do not panic. Trust me, I’ve done enough panicking for everyone. There is a way to see your kindle books on Amazon.com. It’s a simple, two-step process. First, use a VPN to ‘hide’ your location and indicate your location is somewhere in the US. There are quite a few free VPN services out there. Unfortunately, there are mostly free for a 30-day trial and then you have to pay. I keep switching VPNs as I don’t feel like paying $10 a month to use a VPN for five minutes a day. Call me cheap. I’m currently using this one.

latest amazon hiccup

Step two. Go to amazon.com and log out of your account. Your account is location based. Even if your computer indicates it’s in the US, you still won’t see kindle books (unless you live overseas but usually buy your books from .com). Once you’ve logged out of your account, you should be able to see the kindle content for all books including yours. BONUS: My also boughts suddenly reappeared as well! *Squeal*

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What I think I look like when doing my happy dance. 

 

 

 

 

My favorite things about fall ~ looking on the bright side #ExpatLife #AutumnNights #ThisIsHolland

Humans love to complain. Oh boy, do we love it! As a human myself, I know I can complain with the best of them. In fact, I’d say I can complain better than most! And you thought those years in the Army were for naught. But – sigh – complaining is negative and we must try to be positive. At least that’s what I tell myself. Complaining has reached a height now due to the changing of the clocks (oh where did that hour of sunlight go?) and the sudden appearance of fall (no matter that it’s nearly two months late). So, instead of complaining, I’m going to give several of my favorite things about this time of year. Feel free to steal ideas as necessary.

Christmas Lights. Yep, you read that right – Christmas lights. I have them all over my house. When the sun goes under at some ungodly early hour, I plug them in and – voila! – it’s suddenly cozy in my home.

favorite things 2Chocolate letters. In Holland, we celebrate Sinterklaas by eating treats and chocolate. Sinterklaas gives each child (and adult if you’re lucky) the first letter of your name in chocolate. Yes, chocolate. Yum. You can even choose the type of chocolate: milk, dark, with nuts, with raisins … Mmmmm…

Mulled wine. Mulled wine is sweet, red wine with spices like cinnamon and cloves. You drink it warm, and then it warms you up. Need I say more?

favorite things 5

My view while having a glass of wine last night.

Terraces and outdoor heaters. The Netherlands is a terrace culture. In the summer, sitting on a terrace drinking a glass of wine is one of my favorite things in the world. But sitting on a terrace under a blanket with an outdoor heater keeping you warm while staring at the fairy lights strung from the trees ain’t bad either. I admit this one is bad for the environment, but it’s not like bars put out the outdoor heaters just for me.

Dark mornings. I love writing in my office in the morning before the sun rises. There’s just something about writing in the dark before the world has awoken that gets my creative juices flowing. I’m actually annoyed with the clock going back last week. I’m missing an extra hour of writing in the dark time!

favorite things 4Comfy pj’s. Sure, it’s fun to wear those flirty short pajama sets when the weather is warm, but nothing beats flannel pajama pants! Nothing! Well, except fleece pajama pants. I love getting into my pj’s early during the shorter days and laying under a blanket while reading.

Cuddly blankets. What’s better than being wrapped in a cuddly, fleece blanket while watching some Netflix on a cold fall night? Nothing. Unless you add a mulled wine and a book. Heaven!

I could go on because there are lots of awesome things about the darker, colder days. And yes, I deliberately ignored the rain. If I pretend it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t. Right?

Happy fall!

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How I chose the setting for my #cozymystery series #AmWriting #WritersLife

Wondering how to chose the setting for your novel? Here’s how I chose the setting for my latest series, The Not So Reluctant Detectives. 

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I left … No, that’s not quite right. I ran screaming away from my hometown at the age of seventeen and, except for a quick trip back to get my undergraduate degree, I haven’t looked back since. And, trust me, seventeen was a long time ago. Still, I tend to write novels that are set in my home state of Wisconsin. Why in the world would I do that? I’ve traveled extensively around the world and lived in several countries. Wouldn’t a novel be more exciting set in one of those foreign locations? Not exactly.

26 sept 1Writers are constantly advised to ‘write what you know’. While I’m not fully on board with this advice, it’s sound advice – for the most part. What everyone tends to forget, however, is that readers like to ‘read what they know’. Oh sure, there are plenty of novels set in exotic locales that make it big. Certainly, the romance genre favors Greek Islands or other some such romantic locale. But I write (mostly) mystery novels. A foreign locale such as The Hague or Istanbul doesn’t exactly lend itself to a cozy mystery as the legal structures are completely different. I don’t get into much depth with police procedurals and all that in my cozies, but I am a stickler for details. As I practiced law in the Netherlands for over a decade, I would definitely want to ensure all the nitty gritty legal stuff was correct. I’m fairly certain readers would sigh at their kindles before demanding a refund from Amazon if they were forced to read details about Holland’s criminal justice system.

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My head when I try to figure out the logistics of a cozy mystery set in Holland

I also feel that a cozy mystery set in the Netherlands would feel contrived. Just how exactly would that work? Would there be two English-speaking persons running around getting lost in translation? Or perhaps the main characters would be local Dutch women? In that case, the difference in culture would probably put people off. The whole idea does my head in!

I do have two novels that are set outside of the U.S., one in Holland and one in Turkey. These novels don’t sell nearly as well (and that’s an understatement!) as my other works. I’m not saying this is due entirely to their setting, but I assume it’s a factor.

That’s why I not only choose Milwaukee as the setting for my latest series, The Not So Reluctant Detectives, but will probably continue to set the majority of my novels in the U.S.