Saturday, November 28, 2015

I'd Rather Be Dancing

Head Over Heels In Love With Dance

I wrote in a previous post about my dance journey--coming late to the party and not realizing just how much I needed dance in my life until I was well into my twenties.  I'm now thirty-six and I am still learning.  The passion for the art, however, has not diminished in any way.  The only thing that ever makes me feel reluctant to go to a dance lesson is the fact that I live in a small town, so I have to drive for forty-five minutes to get to the nearest place that teaches adult classes.  That drive occasionally threatens to make me lose my resolve, but it never fully succeeds.  I always end up going to class.

Dance classes are not always fun.  There are dance steps that are so awkward you find yourself hoping you'll never be asked to do them again.  That's how I feel about the Flora in my highland dance lessons.  There are warm-ups that are so taxing for the legs that you wonder if you will make it through the rest of the class.  This pretty much describes the entire first thirty minutes of my ballet class.  But then you do a step that you find not just easy, but also fun, and you realize...yeah, this is why I keep coming to class.

When I have those fun moments in class I experience a high that I never want to come down from.  But I do come down.  We all have to come down from our highs eventually.  Usually by the time I've completed the forty-five minute drive back to my house I'm already feeling depressed that I'm not in dance class anymore.  Then I go to bed, but I can't fall asleep right away because I'm just lying there thinking about how much I'd rather be dancing.

A Coffee Snob

Alright, I know what that heading made you think: Coffee?  I thought we were talking about dance.  Yeah, we are, but bear with me for a moment.  A love of coffee is another thing I did not discover until well into my twenties, but now I'm completely addicted.  Not to the caffeine.  I'm just as happy drinking decaf as I am regular coffee.  What I love is the taste and the feeling of the warm cup in my hands.  But like most coffee lovers, I'm picky about the taste.

When my husband and I first started drinking coffee all we had to make it in was my grandmother's old aluminum stove-top percolator, and we used it happily.  After a few years someone gave us a drip coffee maker as a gift.  Being used to percolated coffee, it took awhile to get used to the taste of coffee made in the drip machine.  I still like percolated coffee better, and this preference got me thinking about all the different brewing methods that are out there.  I love cappuccino, which is made from espresso, so at some point I bought a little cheap stove-top espresso maker.  I don't use it very often, but I'm actually drinking coffee that I brewed in it right now as I write this post.  Something I've always wanted to try is a French press because in many of the coffee blogs I have read it is listed as the best way, or at least one of the best ways, to make coffee.  I've never tasted coffee made in a French press and am curious to know if it lives up to the hype. 

Choosing Dance Over Coffee

Okay, here we go, back to talking about dance.  Because dance lessons cost money, I've come to filter all potential impulse buys with the question, would I rather buy that, or take a dance lesson.  This happened just yesterday.  I was shopping and happened to see a French press coffee maker sitting on a shelf.  I picked up the box and held it in my hands for a few minutes, marveling at the fact that I could buy it and make a pot of the world's best coffee that very afternoon.  I looked at the price.  Eighteen dollars.  Hmm...not too expensive.  Should I buy it?  I hovered over it for a while, trying to make a decision, and then thought to myself, that amount of money could pay for one dance class.  Do I want good coffee, or do I want to dance?  In that moment I decided that I wanted to dance, so I put the coffee maker back on the shelf, and that is why I'm having espresso this morning instead.

Have I just experienced what it really means to be a dancer--giving up certain coveted material possessions so I can spend the money on lessons instead?  I've already told my husband that all I want for Christmas this year is extra dance lessons.  Of course, a new dance bag might also be nice because the one I have looks like it should belong to a five-year-old (to be fair, I bought the dance bag for my daughter when she took her first dance lesson at age five).  But again I find myself asking, do I want a dance bag, or more lessons?  If asked to choose, I'll have to say more lessons.  After all, what's the point of looking good when I walk into the studio if I look like crap when I actually get out on the dance floor?

If you share my love of dance, or my love of coffee, I would love to hear about it.  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Also remember that you can follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and all my other passions and hobbies.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Introverts and Social Media: Friend or Enabler?

My Introvert Journey

I wrote in a previous post about the challenges of being an introvert with an artistic side.  The push and pull of those two parts of me have troubled me my entire life.  The introvert wants to hide away while the artist always wants to be center stage.  What usually happens is that I make some accomplishment of which I am immensely proud, like writing a book or learning a new style of dance, and I want the world to know about it, but when I venture out of my house and find myself among people to whom I might announce my great news, I am terrified to do so.  Then I return home feeling dejected because there is this whole part of me that no one will ever know about.

It is interesting that I am not self-conscious about my abilities.  I studied music in college and did so many recitals that playing an instrument on stage does not frighten me in any way.  Throughout my twenties and early thirties I did a considerable amount of community theatre, and never felt nervous performing.  Now I take dance lessons and crave those moments when I can dance in front of an audience.  But I don't dare go up to people I know and invite them to come and watch me, even though I want to.  It would be too embarrassing.

A quick anecdote on this subject: this humiliation I feel when I toot my own horn sometimes also extends to the more domestic side of my life.  I remember when I became pregnant, both times, I dreaded the moment when I would have to tell someone about it.  What I ended up doing was telling my mom, and then I let her tell everyone else so I wouldn't have to.  And even when I told her, I didn't use the word "pregnant", I simply showed her my ultrasound picture and let that speak for itself.

Enter Social Media

I have two different personalities on social media.  I have my twitter account where I mostly follow, and am followed by, strangers.  I use that account for networking with fellow writers, sharing my blog, and promoting my book.  Then I have my Facebook account where I am only friends with people I have actually met in the real world.  On that page I share more personal things, like my kids' Halloween costumes or what I think about a new restaurant that has just opened.  And occasionally I also use Facebook for a little bit of self-promotion.  I announced my most recent dance performance there as well as the publication of my book.  I have to admit, doing that terrified me.  I hesitated with my mouse poised over the share button for I don't know how long before I finally worked up the nerve to post the information.  Once I did, despite the fact that the reaction of my Facebook friends was very positive, I still felt terrified the first time I stepped out into the real world and saw some of those people face to face.  The fact is, I know how to write about my life, but talking about it to a flesh and blood person is surprisingly difficult.

Has Social Media Helped Me?

It has definitely become easier to share news about my life with others now that I am on Twitter and Facebook, and I no longer spend hours moping around my house because no one will ever know the real me.  If I need the world to know badly enough, I will post it on social media.  But is this good?  Is it helping me get out into the world and let my voice be heard, or is it simply a crutch?  Do I use it as an excuse to avoid actually interacting with real people?

The way to overcome fear is to face that fear.  Take my four years of playing the flute (and three years of piano) in college.  I said above that I never get stage fright, but the fact is I used to.  In high school I did experience the racing heart and the sweaty palms and the churning stomach that causes many people to run from the spotlight at lightning speed.  But when you do three or four recitals a year for four years, you eventually get used to it.  You start to experience the positive aspects of being nervous, like heightened awareness, but shed the more crippling aspects like hands that shake so much you can barely play your instrument.  It's only through repeated experience that it starts to get easier.

So I conquered my stage fright, but what about my social anxiety?  By the above logic, I must conclude that the only way to overcome being afraid to brag about myself to others is to get out there and start doing it.  So I have to wonder, am I just hiding behind my social media profiles?

I don't know the answer to that question.  On the one hand, yes, I have noticed that I use social media as an excuse to avoid talking about certain subjects when I see people face to face.  But another way to look at this is that it is the first in a number of baby steps that will be necessary to helping me shed my fears.  The fact that I feel nervous when I share things on Facebook is evidence that I am facing that fear, even while hiding behind my computer.  And every time I hit "share" and get a positive response from my friends, I will feel a little less afraid to share in the future.

Caution is needed.  The thing about baby steps is that you have to take a lot of them if you want to go anywhere.  Once I overcome my fear of announcing things on social media, I need to move on the next phase.  I won't want to, so I'll have to make myself do it.  The big question is: Will I?

Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and other projects of mine, and don't forget to take a peek at Amelia's Children on Amazon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Strange Thing That Happened When I Ran My First KDP Select Countdown Promotion

The New World of Indie Publishing

EBooks have changed the way we think of publishing.  Much of the stigma that used to be associated with self-publishing a book has been removed, and people are coming out in droves to put their books on the market.  Where self-publishing used to mean paying heavy fees for printed copies of your books and then putting in hours of work trying to get bookstores to carry them, you can now get your work onto Amazon in just a few minutes.  Okay, that may be a bit of a simplification, and you can read about my experience with at least part of the process here, but my point is that it is a lot easier, and cheaper, than it used to be, and lots of people are taking advantage of that.

KDP Select

For those of you who haven't entered the world of eBook publishing yet, KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing.  It's one of the things that has made it so easy for authors to put their books on the market.  You just upload your manuscript and a book cover and boom...within a few hours your book is available for customers to purchase in the Kindle Store.  Just inserting some of my own opinion here--I said above that this has removed some of the stigma of self-publishing.  This is because there are actually some really good books out there by indie authors.  That, of course, does not mean that all of the indie published books are of good quality.  If you are picky about where you spend your money, read the free sample before purchasing a self-published book.

KDP Select is an optional program for authors publishing on Amazon.  If you opt in, you get a lot of benefits in exchange for your promise to not publish your book on any other site during the time in which you are enrolled.  KDP Select enrollment lasts for 90 days, after which you have the choice of renewing or opting out.  There is a lot of debate out there regarding whether KDP Select is a good idea or not.  I don't really have enough experience with it to answer that question here.  My decision was to do Select for the first 90 days and then opt out.

Countdown Promotions

This is just one of the benefits you get if you enroll in KDP Select.  The way it works is this: you have a book listed at a certain price.  It must be available on Amazon at that price for at least a month before you begin a countdown promotion.  When you are ready, you go in and select a sale price for you book, which must be at least $0.99.  Then you select the duration of your sale, which can't exceed one week.  If you'd like you can have your book price increase incrementally during your promotion, or you can keep the same price the entire time.  Theoretically you will see an increase in sales during your promotion.

The Weird Thing About My Promotion

My book was on Amazon for exactly one month before I put it on sale.  All purchases prior to the promotion had been from the US.  This did not surprise me.  I live in the US, my book takes place in the US, and most of the people who saw my advertisements were living in the US.  I did not sell a single copy in any of the international markets during the entire first month that my book was on Amazon.  I was expecting to see a similar trend when I ran my promotion.  Naturally I was hoping to sell more copies, but I wasn't expecting to suddenly get noticed  in other countries just because my book was on sale.  I was therefore surprised by what happened.

All of the purchases that occurred during my promotion were from the UK.  Every single one.  A couple of people downloaded free copies (another thing you can do with KDP Select) from the US site, but no one actually bought the book.  However, the UK sales for that one week totaled more than the entire preceding month.  I even made it onto the top 100 lists for a couple of sub-genres, and I got to something like number 6,000 overall in the Kindle Store.  But only on Amazon's UK site.  In the US my sales ranking hovered somewhere in the 100,000s.  It even plunged lower than that a couple of times.

So what happened?  Honestly I have no idea.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad enough people bought my book to boost my ranking.  I just wish it could have been boosted in my own country as well.  But, really,  more than anything I'm confused about why it worked out that way.  As far as other trends that supposedly accompany a countdown promotion (I've heard rumors that the increased sales continue even after the book is no longer on sale), it's too early for me to know.  If anything surprising happens in that department, I may blog about it.

Are you an indie author who has seen surprising trends in your book sales?  Do you have any theories to offer about my own odd experience?  If so, please feel free to leave a comment.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for the latest information about my blog, my book, and my other projects.  And please check out Amelia's Children on Amazon, especially if you happen to live in the US.  Why let the Brits have all the fun? (just kidding!)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Parallels between The X Files and Supernatural

Stating the Obvious

Alright, let me first say that some of the similarities between the two shows had to have been intentional.  By the time I finished watching the first episode of Supernatural I was thinking to myself, "This is The X Files, only with ghosts instead of aliens."  It could not have been an accident that I was thinking that.  However, I've decided to have a little fun and find parallels between the two that may not have been intentional, but they are there nonetheless.

Sam and Dean are Mulder and Scully

Nothing like starting with the obvious.  This one has even been joked about on Supernatural.  Like Mulder and Scully, Sam and Dean travel around the country investigating the paranormal.  Of course the question of which one is Mulder and which one is Scully remains unanswered.
Mary Winchester is Samantha Mulder

Agent Mulder's sister disappeared when he was twelve years old.  He is convinced that she was taken by aliens, and that the government is somehow involved, and this belief drives his quest to find the truth.  Mary Winchester was killed when Sam and Dean were children.  The entire first season of Supernatural centers on their search for the mysterious entity responsible for her death.
John Winchester is A.D. Skinner

Okay, I may be reaching a little with this one, but stay with me.  John Winchester is Sam and Dean's father.  Skinner is Mulder and Scully's boss.  In the first season of the show, John is constantly giving Sam and Dean instructions for cases he wants them to investigate.  As Mulder and Scully's boss, Skinner is the one who sends them out on assignments.  A good bit of the drama in the first season of Supernatural stems from Sam and Dean's relationship with their father.  Dean has nothing but respect, but Sam is full of anger.  Mulder and Scully constantly alternate between having respect for Skinner and questioning his every move.
Castiel is Deep Throat/Mr. X

This probably applies more to Castiel when he first came on the show than it does to his character now.  Like Deep Throat and Mr. X on The X Files, Castiel, in the beginning, was a mysterious character who worked for the men in charge, but who had a soft spot for Sam and Dean and tried to help them as much as possible.  I don't think I need to say anything else about it.

Crowley is the Cigarette Smoking Man

He's the villain.  Need I say more?

Bobby is the Lone Gunman

Okay, really reaching on this one, but there are similarities here.  Like the Lone Gunman were to Mulder and Scully, Bobby is someone whom Sam and Dean trust.  He has access to information that often turns out to be the key to solving the mystery, and he is also a good friend.

What do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment of these two shows?  Have you spotted parallels that I've missed?  I'd love to read about it in the comments.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and all of my other projects.  Also, please check out my paranormal mystery, Amelia's Children, on