Casting Pebbles: A Reflection on My First Book Signing

As I indicated in my first post, I am entering an unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable world of self-promotion with the publication of my first novel. Publishers these days don’t have the resources to sink a lot of money into promoting untested authors, so the majority of my book’s publicity therefore falls on my shoulders.

This is daunting in several ways. First of all, I have never taken anything remotely resembling a business or marketing course. Secondly, having to get out there and push a product, no matter how wonderful I think it is, goes against the grain. I don’t want to impose. I even hated selling Girls Scout cookies, and who doesn’t love thin mints?

But as my publisher explained to me, book marketing is like dropping pebbles in a pond and watching the ripples spread outward from the center until they cover the entire pond. It’s like that old shampoo commercial: “You tell two friends, and they’ll two friends, and so on, and so on . . .”

So, yesterday I took a deep breath and cast a pebble.  Packing up a box full of hardcovers, a box full of softcovers, my easel and book poster, a handful of postcards and bookmarks, I headed downtown to a little bookstore/bistro combo to set up shop. The manager had graciously agreed to let me do a book signing there, but I had grown increasingly apprehensive as the day approached and there was still no mention of my event on their website or Facebook page.

And when I walked in, it was obvious by the blank looks on their faces that they weren’t expecting me.

Me: “Hello, I’m here to do a book signing. Is the manager here?”

The girl behind the counter looked a little flustered. “No, she’s off today, but she did mention that you were coming.” (Big sigh of relief!) She went on to explain that a new owner had taken over only two days before, thus explaining the lack of publicity for my event. So far, things weren’t starting off very well.

Saturday book signing
A new adventure- feeling like a celebrity!

In between making crepes for customers, the girl behind the counter helped me set up a couple of tables near the entrance and there I camped out for a while. Right off the bat, someone came along and helped reduce my inventory—with the purchase of a hardcover, no less! Things were looking up!

After that came a dry spell. However, I did have a pleasant conversation with a lady who was chowing down on one of those crepes, and when she found out I was a former psychotherapist, proceeded to tell me all about her recurring dreams, to which I responded by telling her about my recurrent anxiety-driven tornado dream, experienced the previous night, no doubt in anticipation of the charm I would need to summon to sustain me through the day.

During another lull in the action, I spied two high school girls waiting in line to order their food. Ah, my target audience! Immediately, I zipped over to them and introduced myself. “Hey, I’ve written a book about a teenage girl who has an amazing adventure in another world,” I blurted out. Instead of looking at me like I had two heads, they were sweet enough to indulge me, checking out my book and then purchasing one! The success emboldened me.

It was a gorgeous fall day and unseasonably warm.  Right around noon the shopkeepers opened up the big sliding doors and let me sit in front so that I could accost not only their patrons but also anyone walking by on the sidewalk.  And there were a lot of people downtown on such a beautiful day. I felt like a broken record: “Hi! I’m having a book signing today!” I announced as people walked by, some of them muttering a polite “no thanks, not today” before hurrying off. Talk about stepping out of my comfort zone!

Enjoying the gorgeous fall day!

Yet some actually stopped to check out my book. I met a teacher in a Catholic school who loves to find books to recommend to her female students, book club members out looking for a new book to read, and other writers, both published and unpublished, who offered an understanding ear.

Somewhere along the way, the new owner of the bookstore/bistro, a man with a thick French accent, emerged from behind the counter to apologize for the mix-up about my book signing publicity and to offer me a crepe. It turned out to be the best crepe I’ve ever put in my mouth. I even put the shameless self-promotion on hold to devour it. Apology accepted!

Six hours later, I had sold 13 books. This might not seem like a lot, but in actuality I handed out many more postcards and bookmarks to people who had some degree of interest. If you cast your net into the water enough, eventually you’ll catch a fish.

Not that I’m comparing my fans to fish, mind you.

Or, to complete the “pebble” analogy, my ripple just got a little bigger.

The Healer of Guildenwood – Book Launch Party

I was very honored to have many wonderful friends come to my book launch party and support me as I realize my dream of becoming a published author. Yet writing a book in and of itself means little unless the author is truly passionate about what he/she writes. The Healer of Guildenwood and the world upon which it is based, a world created from the God-given gift of my imagination, has become a huge part of me, a part I am now glad to finally be able to share with you. To get a glimpse into my book launch party which celebrates this world, please check out my video here:



Diving In

I’ve always had a thing for water. Whether churning, splashing, or frozen, quiet or raucous, I want to see it, hear it, and (sometimes) be in it. So for me, living in Michigan, where you can’t two miles without running into a body of water in some form or fashion, makes me pretty-much ecstatic.

That being said, I still get the “itch” this time of year for a different type of water “fix”—namely someplace tropical, where I can sit under a palm tree, tropical drink in hand, as an aquamarine sea hypnotizes me with its undulating rhythm. I gaze over the tips of my toasty toes to my husband frolicking in the waves with our three happy urchins begging him to toss them in “just one more time, daddy, pleeeaaze”, thinking “ah, life really is better at the beach!”

Stop! Did I miss something? Press the rewind button!

This summer there were no palm trees, sand between my toes, or alas, wave frolicking. It was a summer that left me feeling high and dry.

Let me explain: For starters, we had just come off of a major basement renovation this spring. So instead of a tropical vacation, I got a new Tuscan-themed lower-level, complete with sliding barn door, adorable little under-the-stairs wine cellar and bubbling wall fountain (because, remember, I love water) to replicate what in my mind was to feel like the courtyard of a Tuscan farmhouse. For months, my brain felt like it would explode from all the cool design ideas I conjured, but eventually there was not one more inch of space in which to squeeze Italian ambiance without it looking like a cheap Italian restaurant, and thus the decorating came to an end.

Furthermore, to add to my idle-brained conundrum, after nineteen years (yes, nineteen years) of working religiously on my fantasy trilogy, the last “t” was crossed and “i” dotted, my “magnum opus” was complete. No more scenes to create when I lie awake in the middle of the night. No more character development to ponder when I’m in the shower. All I had left to focus on this summer was the next step—publishing. It is, after all, what I’ve been working towards all these years, but now that it’s almost here, I find myself walking a tight rope between subdued excitement and sheer terror. While I was writing, it was easy to have hopes and dreams of someday being a successful author, but now “someday” has arrived, and I stand on the brink of discovering where my little fantasy trilogy will take me, and those dreams that have carried me for so long will either turn to dust or take me to heights unknown.

Despite this being the summer of the “in between”, the winding-down of some dreams and the expectant waiting for others, I have had to reach beyond the quagmire of creative idleness to find my joy re-ignited, even if only for a few hours. It happened one hot afternoon in late June, when my friend Sue invited the boys and me to her pool, one of those private swim clubs that have a wait list as long as the Great Wall of China—no chance my family could ever be members until the boys are practically graduated. So, I knew we’d best make the most of our afternoon.

It was there that I found myself staring down a diving board dangling there above the dive well, suddenly appearing a mile long and fifty feet high, and my heart did a belly flop in anticipation of the one I would certainly perform a moment later. Let’s just say it’s been decades since last I attempted such a feat, but I hoped muscle memory would take over and I wouldn’t completely embarrass myself in front of all those other, more respectable moms who sat on their lounge chairs reading their People magazines.

I took a deep breath and traversed the distance to the end of the board, pumping my right knee up, as I had so many years ago, and coming down hard on the board, propelling myself into mid-air. From there, I managed to bend over, touch my shins (touching my toes is out of the question these days), and then stretch out just in time to hit the water in a more-or-less straight fashion. My awkward but successful first dive in years was rewarded with the glorious feeling of weightlessness that comes from being surrounded by a gazillion H2O molecules. All at once, the joy I once found in the simple pleasure of plunging into cool, refreshing water came flooding back.

I climbed out of the pool and looked around, and as no one appeared to be pointing at me and laughing hysterically, I took to the diving board again. And again. And again. Each time getting a little closer to Olympic perpendicular perfection. Or at least not looking like a flying squirrel, arms and legs splayed out, but with not nearly so graceful a landing.

After a while, the lifeguard called over to me. “Did you used to dive?”

Me (sheepishly): “Only for fun—never for competition.”

“You have good form.”

“Thank you,” I replied, taken aback and suddenly feeling quite smug that this 51-year-old body could still kinda do what it did as a teenager. And just where were those thirty-something moms, anyway? Why weren’t they out on the diving board?

Despite my small personal success at my friend’s pool, the remainder of my summer had been fraught with creeping self-doubt, a sense of purposelessness and basic “blah-dom”. Even my faith had gone on a seeming summer hiatus. It’s not like I didn’t know Jesus was there beside me—I just couldn’t feel him with the same joy I’d experienced just months before when I was at the height of my creativity—His creativity in me. Deep down I wondered if the creative phase of my life was over and, if so, what would I do now that would give me that same exhilaration?

And so it was that my family packed our bags and went on a weekend outing toward the end of August, to a Young Life family camp up in northern Michigan, our only “vacation” this summer. After hearing a sermon at church only a week before on wading deeper into the ocean of God’s glory, the theme continued at camp when the speaker announced that she felt God was leading her to talk about water during the weekend inspirational time. Only water to her was something to fear, not something that brought a sense of joy and calm. But as she talked about how God called her into deeper waters, both literal and spiritual, she was assured of His presence, that He was always beside her, keeping her afloat.

As we drove home from our weekend away, I turned to my husband and asked, “So, what was your take-away from the weekend?”

There was a pause. “That it’s fun to spend time with my family.” I waited for more, but it was not forthcoming. My husband is a man who doesn’t waste his words as he only has a certain allotment of them per day. He turned to me and asked, a little hesitantly: “Is there anything you’d like to share?”

Unlike my husband, my word-per-day threshold is slightly higher before I start to experience convulsions. Still, I don’t think either one of us was prepared for the torrent that poured from my mouth. All those weeks of bottled-up fears and insecurities finally gushed. “I’m . . . I’m just dealing with this sense of inadequacy,” I blubbered. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be an author. What if I can’t handle a blog? Without my editor, no less? What if I run out of things to write about? What if no one comes to my book signings? What if I go to speak somewhere and I bore everyone in the audience? What if . . .? What if . . .?” (This went on for a while.)

“And what exactly did you get from the weekend?” Rob asked patiently.

“Well, that I can trust God to help me with whatever’s next,” I explained. But there was something else that bothered me. “But what if my creative days are over? All my major projects done? How else will I use my gifts? What am I if I can’t be creative?”

“Is creativity how you define yourself?”

“What about you?” I answered defensively. “What’s going to happen when you retire and can’t go around fixing a company’s technology problems? When you’re no longer helping to steer an organization into the future?”

“Then I’ll find something else that gives me meaning.”

With those few words, my man of few words said a mouthful— and I realized that I am not defined by what I do but Whose I am—and I can trust that the One who created me is continuing to create me. And everything He does is good.

And so, I stand upon the diving board, peering down at a confusing ocean of blog posts, speaking engagements, book signings, and something called “tweets”—all things that would normally make me want to turn around and climb back down the ladder onto the firm concrete, not willing to risk excessive attention or worse– embarrassment. But that has never stopped me before.

The book writing may be finished, but God will help me write the next chapter of my life, a chapter that may be as exhilarating as plunging headlong into crystal clear water. Because I know that no matter what happens, He won’t let me drown.

So, here goes . . .