Friday, April 29, 2016

#London Visit ~ Churchill War Rooms + #LondonEye #ChurchillWarRooms

A view of Buckingham Palace from
St. James's Park in London
As a writer, I obviously love to write, so I'm chronicling our recent trip to London here on my blog. Days 1 and 2 included attending a Chelsea v. Manchester City Football (soccer) match and a day trip to Stonehenge--that post can be found here.  On our third day, we began with a long and scenic walk through Green Park and St. James's Park to visit the London Dungeon. Not to be confused with actual dungeons in the London Tower, this exhibit is a tourist attraction highlighting some of the darker history of London (the plague, Jack the Ripper, Guy Fawkes, etc.).  I'm a big fan of spooky stuff, and of rides, which were part of this attraction.  It was fun take on history and interactive, with enthusiastic actors. However, my kids had a little trouble understanding some of the thicker accents.  They did enjoy when I got selected to get my tongue ripped out (I hid in a room and got to scream, until I couldn't anymore, because, you more tongue).

Somehow my photo of the London Eye even
appears spooky, but I didn't use a filter or
change the was just a gray day!
From there we rode the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel above the Thames River.  We were able to see the city spread out before us from a maximum height to 443 feet.  There are 32 viewing capsules on the wheel, one for each of the London Boroughs.  After lunch, we made our way back toward Mayfair via Hyde Park, and then visited The Churchill War Rooms.  This was an absolute must-see--so much so that I neglected to take any pictures!  I was that enthralled with literally being inside an underground time capsule from WWII. This compound beneath the Treasury building in Westminster was created as the threat of war in Europe loomed, and finished only days before the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.  Britain declared war on Germany two days later.  When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in 1940, he decided he would direct the war from the Cabinet Room down there.  That room and the Map Room were key sites in the structure that housed an entire community for years.  It's truly incredible to picture all the leaders and staff involved in a war effort living together under the city, working under the threat of a direct bomb hit, communicating with the most advanced technology of the times with other world leaders.  And this museum does make it possible for visitors to picture this period in history.  In addition, there is a wing devoted to Winston Churchill's life.

A day well spent!  Next up is our adventure in Paris, including the Catacombs!  Thanks for stopping by.

Parliament from atop the London Eye

Friday, April 22, 2016

#London Visit ~ #Soccer + #Stonehenge #cfc

Chelsea v. Man City
We’ve just returned from a whirlwind six day vacation in London, with a few day trips from our home base to see as much as possible!  Part of the reason we scheduled the trip when we did was to get our oldest son to a Chelsea Football game, since he’s a huge fan, and there was a big match aligning with our school break.  Because it was a big rivalry (Chelsea vs. Manchester City), we found out quickly that tickets were hard to come by—and expensive—but my husband’s business partners who are based in London came to the rescue, finding (and paying for!) four tickets.  The game was on our first day there, and we took our first Uber ride to the stadium, had our first restaurant meal in London, and shopped at the Chelsea mega-store before the match.  Unfortunately, Chelsea suffered a loss (0-3), but we had a great time just being there.  One major difference we noticed was that eating and drinking in the stands was not allowed…that’s a big part of American sports events, and vendors usually climb up and down the stairs with offerings.  But it did make the game more enjoyable from the standpoint that there’s a lot less interruption in terms of spectators leaving and returning to their seats.

We had a beautiful day
The next day, we took a bus trip to Wiltshire, to see the famous Stonehenge monument.  It was great to view some of the countryside on the trip there, and Stonehenge was amazing.  Just trying to wrap my mind around the idea that it was constructed 5,000 years ago was difficult…it’s hard to imagine how the ancient builders were able to transport, shape, and lift such massive stones.  But the paranormal suspense writer in me was even more fascinated by the myths and mysteries surrounding the stone circle.  Sections of the layout correspond to the sunset of the winter solstice as well as the sunrise of the summer solstice.  Excavated bones indicate the site has been used for burials.  But exactly who built it and why is up for debate.  Was the site’s initial purpose religious, astronomical, spiritual, or possibly a combination?  Or something entirely different?

I caught this bird taking flight - love this shot

Now, it’s a protected monument, and while at one time visitors were allowed to walk near and even climb on the stones, erosion and graffiti issues eventually led to a low fence being erected.  Every part of me wanted to jump over and touch a stone to see if anything happened, but then if I’d suddenly been transported back in time, Outlander-style (although those were standing stones in Scotland), I would have missed the rest of my vacation with my family, and we saw some amazing things.  The rest of the week included visits to the London Eye, the London Dungeon, The Churchill War Rooms, TheCatacombs and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and the London Tower.  More posts coming on our adventures across the pond!  

It's incredible to think this was built around 3000 - 2000 BC!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Outside-the-Box Promo #amwriting #writingtips

In what feels like another life, I was a Marketing major earning my Master's degree in Business.  I haven't worked in the corporate world in a long time, but my marketing background has been useful in terms of promoting my books.  Most authors don't really like's awkward and difficult.  I think we all wish our books would just go viral and promote themselves...but that only happens for a select few.  The rest of us have to work to make our books visible in a flooded market, even when we have publishers helping us with the process.  And visibility is key, because how could a reader who might enjoy a certain book even find it if they've never heard of it?

No one wants to see a flurry of posts on social media that just say "Buy My Book".  I always try to think outside the box to come up with better ways to connect with readers.  Here are a few of the marketing efforts and ideas I've been involved in or working on the last few months.

-Setting up a table at a Psychic Fair.  Obviously this is not a good fit for every genre, but I write ghost stories mixed with romance, and in one of my books, GULL HARBOR, the heroine actually *is* a psychic medium.  So this event dovetails nicely with the subject of my novels.  A psychic fair generally raises funds for a cause by allowing visitors to make 20 minute appointments with various psychic and readers for a less expensive cost.  So there is traffic all day, and the people coming are interested in the subjects in my novels.  As people wait for their appointments, they shop at the vendor tables, and not only did I sign and sell paperbacks, I handed out dozens of postcards with e-book information.  Throughout the day, I chatted with several new acquaintances and networked with the other vendors there.

These are easy to make at MyCustomCase!
-A new custom phone case.  Most people carry their phones everywhere these days.  My phone case is a fun collage of my four book covers, and it starts a lot of conversations.  If someone asks what the pictures are, I can tell them a little about what I write, and often people are excited to get more information about my novels.

-Teaming up with other authors for group promo.  Last summer, the editor-in-chief of my publishing house spoke at the Cape Cod Writer's Conference, and a casual lunch was scheduled during her visit for authors who write for The Wild Rose Press to get together in person.  Some authors traveled from quite far away, but three of us lived within a half hour of a central location and write in many of the same genres. Between the three of us, we have 14 books in the various genres of romance, suspense, romantic thrillers, paranormal romance, young adult, and women's fiction.  So recently we've been working on setting up events together, since several authors together often draw a bigger audience than one alone.  One event we're going to do is scheduled for the Halloween season, where we'll speak on the spooky elements of our paranormal books.

An author panel on publishing at a local
library a few years ago...a great event attended
by both writers and readers!  Hoping to set more up.

These are a few ideas to help think outside the box when it comes to marketing efforts!  More to come in a future post, and please chime in if you have your own tips.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Saying Goodbye to the Swingset #momlife #parenting

Last March, Cape Cod was literally buried under mounds of snow...about 80 inches total after several back-to-back blizzards.  This year, we had very little snow and a sudden warm snap that had everyone outside in shorts doing yard work.  And as we marked out the space for the fire pit we're going to build, my heart ached for what had occupied the space until last fall--the swingset.

The old swingset! Also our crazy
lab mix Mickey and my sister.
When I was growing up, a rusty metal swingset adorned our backyard, complete with poles that nearly came out of the ground when we pumped the swings with enough force. It was about as safe as it sounds--I broke my ankle playing on it, and my sister somehow ended up needing stitches in her face after an unfortunate spill on the slide.  Thankfully, we survived our childhood, and memories of that rickety contraption still come up at family events.

I snapped one last pic before
we began taking it apart...
The wooden swingset we were able to purchase for our boys was much sturdier, and the covered tower served as a treehouse and a base for countless games. The rope ladder gave them something better than my furniture to climb, and the swings changed from infant bucket seats to the real thing over the years.

But as the kids grew, it eventually became mostly the domain of our cats, who would lounge under the shade of the wooden roof in the summer or perch on the top beams to view their kingdom.  When my sister came to visit, her younger kids would enjoy playing on it, but for the most part, it went unused.  And that made me sad, both for the time that had passed and the fact that it still had plenty of life left in it for other children.

My teenage boys weren't thrilled about having something so "babyish" in the yard, either...when the soccer teams come over for Pasta Night, they need room to scrimmage each other (we even built a soccer goal - see this post for how-to).  And then we kept hearing about how the other kids had fire pits in their yards, for roasting marshmallows to make s'mores after dinner.

So it was time to say goodbye to the dependable old swingset.  I offered it up on FreeCycle, and a family with young children responded to the post.  They were delighted to have it, and I'm glad it's getting more use.  But the empty spot in the yard still creates a corresponding little hole in my heart. Time continues to march on, however, and I'm looking forward to creating new memories with friends and family around a crackling fire on warm summer nights.

The spot where the swingset used to reside...I miss it.