Thursday, March 29, 2007

Visual Noise

Imagine a big wedge of cheese. Got that image in your mind? (No drooling.) Continue to imagine that shape slightly taller than a van and about as wide. Picture this "thing" hitched to said van with the point at the front of the hitch. (Great for reducing drag, eh?)

Now think of any billboard you seen lately plastered on vinyl and attached to the three sides. What have you got? A traveling billboard. (I want to know how much they pay the guy to drive the thing around all day!)

I saw this traveling commercial the other day, amazed that advertising had found another way to display their client's wares. (We won't even talk about how poorly the ad was designed. Not even a place for your eye to rest! We'll leave that to another post.)

What's really amazing is I watched the surrounding traffic and people actually went out of their way to look at this billboard. One guy even risked a few glances as he made a left turn.

I know it sounds gaudy. Believe me, I only briefly entertained the idea of a book advertisement splattered on it's panels before etiquette slapped me upside the head. But, I had to admire whoever thought outside the billboard box on that one.

Another one I've seen in recent weeks is a guy on a tandem bike. (Thank you Camy for reminding me of that one!) Attached to his bike is a small billboard over his head. This guy gets paid to basically ride his bike through the crosswalks of an intersection all day long. And why not? You have a captive audience, right?

Another place I found online called Britemoves has scrolling billboards on their trucks. (Europe has been using this and rotating billboards for years actually.)
Can you imagine the cover of the latest romance novel shifting into view right in front of your eyes? Talk about an eye catcher.

My question though is how long will this work? We already live in a society that inundates us with commercials, dirigibles, dancing balloons, billboards, ads painted on cars, and a whole slue of antics. New methods come out constantly to enhance the ones people just don't see anymore, because they're so common.

What are they going to do next, offer ad space on book jacket flaps? I bet someone's already tossing that idea around...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Oh Praise Him

The winner of DiAnn Mill's book, Lightning and Lace is Lacy J. Williams. Congratulations, Lacy! (Don't you just love the name connection there? LOL!)

Dear friend Marilyn Hilton sent me this link to the David Crowder Band's "Oh Praise Him." Enjoy and don't be surprised if you're hands start to lift on their own. It's awesome...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You're Not Alone

That's the title of my post over at Writer...Interrupted. I hope you'll take a minute and check it out. Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Taming the Marketing Beast

Whether you are published or unpublished, marketing is a vital part of your publishing process. Many writers and authors are inexperienced or uncomfortable with designing marketing materials that are both consistent with their brand or image and effective in selling the product. But marketing doesn’t have to be the raging beast we sometimes fear is out to devour us, as well as our wallets. Here are a few guidelines to transform your marketing package from a wild animal into a manageable and tame kitten.

Brand vs. Logo
Corporations and small businesses have long understood the importance of identity. Consumers know immediately what they are buying when they see McDonald’s golden arches, Target’s red bull’s eye, or hear “You’re in good hands with Allstate.”* Even television shows make use of identification by creating a visual of the program’s name.

The connection is strongest when the image or name directly correlates with the product. Think John Grisham (riveting suspense stories), John Wayne (the hero of the West), or John Lennon (a legendary musician). They may all share the same first name, but each creates an immediate mental image and expectation of what these famous individuals have to offer.

A writer's brand or image can be interpreted into a logo--a design or phrase created to promote reader identification. This image is often connected to the genre he or she writes and should incorporate the writer’s name. Here’s where it becomes critical to think ahead and create an image that will span your writing goals. Ask: What will best portray the tone of my writing or the focus of my ministry? Then keep in mind how you plan to use it. Complicated images translate well in print but not in web and online media. Remember the acronym KISS? Yes, keep it simple, sweetheart.

Finally, whether you choose a visual design using your name or a slogan, think present AND future. Ask: Can I live with this one year, two years, or even five years down the road? Think of that classic black dress or pair of dress slacks that always seems to stay in fashion. Design well and design timely.

Create a look and keep it! Carry your design and color choices throughout all your printed materials, websites, blogs and newsletters as much as possible. This is your package, so to speak, and you want to be as professional as possible.

Here’s your chance to display that fancy logo you just had done. Use the same fonts and paper throughout your printed materials. Business cards, letterhead, and envelopes should utilize the same paper stock and color. Even if you produce your materials on that nifty color printer you just purchased, be selective and intentional in your paper choices. Office supply stores carry a wide variety of letterhead, business cards, and note card packages to suit any printer. If you’re really motivated, you can even carry these design elements over to your own postcards, bookplates, bookmarks, mailing labels, and press packets. The sky’s the limit! And your wallet, of course.

Bring this same sense of continuity to online and web media as well. Take that logo from print to screen in a prominent position. Let it be one of the first things your viewer sees, especially if it’s your name. This is not the time to be a shrinking violet.

From page to page, your website should carry the same style and look. Titles and headers should be the same font and weight (bold or regular). Layout should be uniform or theme-like in style. You don’t have to be an expert website designer to know when the change from one page to another is too drastic. Your eyes will tell you. This holds true to newsletters also, whether in print or online. Think it through and plan it well.

To Spend and What to Spend
Tight on funds? Time and money are always in limited supply these days and this has never been truer of the writing and publishing industry than now. The key element is to be creative with your resources and think outside the box. Or cage! Here are some budget-saving ideas:
  • Exchange services with a designer friend. What can you bring to the table? We all have something to offer. Your art friend may need a good accountant, and you happen to be a CPA by day. Or, perhaps a writer you know seems to have a knack with her own materials, and you have a knack with tweaking those one-line pitches or refining a synopsis. Offer to swap services. Just be sure to communicate expectations to avoid any misunderstandings. Get the picture?
  • Art students are great resources. Access a nearby art college or campus with a design program. Graduating students are hungry for professional examples to use in their graduating portfolios and an acceptable fee works for both parties. Most art colleges have work centers or programs designed to help students find freelance projects. Simply ask about such a program when you call the administration office.
  • How about templates? Many software programs offer templates you can personalize. Explore your current programs and see what your very own computer has to offer. You may be surprised by what you find. Even Microsoft Word offers an array of templates for a variety of needs.
Rein in this demanding marketing beast step by step in a way to work within your time and money parameters. Your options are only as limited as your vision. Plan carefully, be creative, and carry a retractable leash!

*(McDonald’s golden arches, Target’s red bull’s eye, and the slogan “Your in good hands with Allsate.” are all Trademarks of their respective companies.)

(SIDE NOTE: There's still time to win a copy of DiAnn Mill's book, Lightning and Lace, so leave a comment on that post.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Guest Blogger, DiAnn Mills

I'm absolutely thrilled to have DiAnn Mills here today as my very first guest blogger. She's an great writer and has a such a heart for others. Her final book in the Texas Legacy Series, Lightning and Lace released this month. I love the characters in this series. They are so vivid. And that's what DiAnn is here to talk about today!

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for an autographed copy of Lightning and Lace.)

Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million books.

DiAnn believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Without further ado, here's DiAnn.

When Characters Become Friends
A mixture of emotions swept over me last week when my third and final book in the Texas Legacy Series stepped into the marketplace. I’ve grown to love these characters – everything about them. I love their stubborn moments, their victories, their defeats, the way they love, and even the way they hate. They fight for what they believe in, and God is always right. For the past two years, I’ve wakened to the sound of their voices ringing in my head and to their problems. I watched the women slip into their dresses and bonnets, and the men tug on their boots. Actually, the women sometimes wiggled into a pair of boots and pants too. I rode the gentle mares and the wild broncos and held my breath. I lifted my Winchester, tensed my body for the kickback and sent bullets flying into targets, some of which were human. I celebrated with them, and I cried with them. I cheered when they triumphed and wanted to shake them when they made poor decisions.

In short, my characters have become my friends, and it’s hard to let them go. Unfortunately, I experience this grieving period every time I finish a book or series. I feel abandoned and lost, since too often I’m thinking about them just after I say my prayers and before I drift off to sleep. Dare I say that I worry about my characters? Hope they are not quarreling with their spouses or their children? That life hasn’t given them another dose of bitter herbs?

This bizarre and sometimes eccentric habit of mine is not much different from the habits of many of my other writer friends. How else can a writer create a character unless he/she first understands their motivation? And while these characters are on a journey called life, I realize the many reasons why I enjoy them.

I also realize their problems and issues. The storms of life that beat against our doors today have been happening since time began.

I consider Leather and Lace. Casey O’Hare didn’t start out life wanting to be an outlaw. Quite the contrary, she had hopes and dreams like every little girl until life slapped her in the face, and she chose to survive in the only way she knew. Many women today have made poor choices when faced with the dredges of life. We all have. I wrote that book for those women.

Jenny in Lanterns and Lace desperately wanted someone to love her. Is that such a bad thing, since we were created with a deep desire to be loved? The problem is, where do we go for love? Jenny thought unconditional love was a myth until the great Lover showed her differently.

Bonnie abhorred the disease that ravaged her beloved husband and left her a widow in Lightning and Lace. But she is determined, and alcohol is not the answer. Substance abuse is not native to today’s world. Wherever there is pain and suffering, people will look for a way to manage their sorrow.

Oh my, I do hope my darlings will be fine. They will be back next fall in a Christmas Legacy book, and then that is truly the end.

So today, I’m creating new friends. Already I know they won’t behave in every instance, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m on my way to a new adventure. And, by the way, this is a contemporary.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Reliance by MaryLu Tyndall

Here's an author you don't want to miss out on. I read MaryLu's first book, The Redemption, and can't wait to read the sequel, The Reliance. MaryLu is an awesome writer and a precious friend. I hope you'll give her books a "sail." They're definitely worth the doubloons. (Okay, I'll stop already!)

M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she's only give her heart to Him completely.

A YOUNG BRIDE separated from her husband just as a child has been conceived...

A GRIEVING HUSBAND tempted to take his anger out through the vices of his past...

A MARRIAGE AND A SHIP threatenend to be split apart by villainous Caribbean pirates...

In THE RELIANCE, Edmund Merrick tormented by the apparent demise of his pregnant wife Charlisse, sails away to drown his sorrows. He turns his back on God and reverts to a life of villainy, joining forces with the demented French pirate Collier. When his mind clears from its rum-induced haze, will Edmund find the will to escape?

Seemingly abandoned by her new husband, Charlisse battles her own insecurities as she is thrown into the clutches of the vengeful pirate Kent, who holds her and Lady Isabel captive.

Will she be swept away by the undertow of treachery and despair? Can Edmund and Charlisse battle the tempests that threaten to tear them apart and steer their way to the faith-filled haven they so desperately seek? Or will they ultimately lose their love and lives to the whirlpool of treachery and deceit?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Last weekend I traversed the traffic filled freeway to San Francisco to attend Deeper Still: The Event. (Or I should say good friend Trish drove the maze of chaos while I sat in oblivion in the back seat.) First of all, let me say, if you have a chance to attend, do so. It is well worth the fee. You will be bathed in a weekend of worship, awesome music by Travis Cottrell and Anthony Evans, and amazing insight and teachings from three internationally-renowned Bible teachersKay Arthur, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer. And that's not to mention what God may do while you're there!

Priscilla Shirer started the weekend off Friday night with wonderful insights about David and how, despite his mistakes, God still used him and considered him a man after His own heart. One statement she made really stood out.

"Often times the greatest hindrance to a new move of God is the last move."

She spoke of how God wants passion, not perfection and gave five "M" keys to learning to discern God:
  1. Look for the MESSAGE of the Spirit (not how you feel)
  2. Live in the MODE of prayer
  3. Search out the MODEL of Scripture (if it contradicts, it's not God)
  4. Submit to the MINISTRY of Eli (have a mentor)
  5. Expect the MERCY of confirmation
Priscilla really challenged us to believe God is always right at our side, literally, then asked how this would change our thinking and actions, knowing God walked so closely with us.

On Saturday morning, Beth Moore spoke of three things we can do to cooperate with God for a "huge" work in our lives:

  1. We have to move past our devastation with God. She used the story of Uzzah who was struck down when he reached out to steady the ark (2 Samuel 6:1-10). David was devastated by what happened, especially since his intentions had been good. However, he broke the rules that were established early on as to handling the ark. He eventually moved past this and did bring the ark but according to God's rules.
  2. We've got to return to whole-hearted obedience. Her key point here was that sometimes God brings us into a season of trial that has nothing to do with obedience, but sin can result from a hard heart or bitterness. She referenced Song of Songs 6:12 in reference to David returning to God and then bringing the ark to the city of David.
  3. If we're going to have a "big testimony," we have to have the courage to see God's fulfillment.
In the afternoon, Kay Arthur emphasized that it's the power of God that takes us deeper in our faith, and that we need to appropriate His power (grace). She quoted 2 Corinthians 12:9:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

She pointed out that God is greater than our sins and failures, and that He convicts, not condemns. She emphasized God's sovereignty, thus anything that comes into our lives is filtered through the fingers of God first. Three things she said really stood out to me:

  1. God's grace was in place before David sinned.
  2. David served God in his generation. Am I serving God in mine?
  3. Faith is not faith until it is tested.

Truly an amazing weekend. Worshiping with 9,000 other women was pretty incredibly. I'm still digesting everything I heard. My prayer is that this experience truly changed me and will continue to glorify God.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guest Blog and More to Come

I'm guest blogging today at Spiritually Unequal Marriage today. Hope you'll stop by.

Spent an awesome weekend in San Francisco at Deeper Still, the Event. Be sure to stay tuned. I'll be posting about what I learned from these amazing women, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Kay Arthur.

BIG FAT JUICY DETAIL: My friend and crit partner Ron Estrada is participating with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Please, take a look at his special page for this event, and if cancer has touched you, your family, or someone you know, please consider making a donation for this worthy cause. Research is so vital and has even extended my father's original prognosis. Every extra day, week, or year I can have with him is a blessing.

Ron is also organizing a 24 Hour Prayer Tent for this event, and will gladly take names of your loved ones to be prayed for.

God bless!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Three Car Family

If you've read my blog enough, you know how I am about "landmark moments." We had another one in the family this past weekend. We bought our daughter her first car. Nothing special, just a "92 Mazda hatchback (so she can cart her canvases around) with close to a 100,000 miles on it. Can't believe my baby now has her own car.

A friend of mine told me the other night she went to a meeting at her son's school. When she walked in, a large banner spanned the wall, stating "You have 18 months left with your child." Now she's someone who's constantly say things like this, so I was a bit surprised to hear how strongly this impacted her.

But it's so true. Time is running out. My daughter will be 18 this year. The days of my influence on her life are running short. Being a mother has turned out to be one the greatest challenges of my life. And I'll tell you, a lot of days I feel like I just can't do it right. Thank goodness God is on my side.

He's done amazing things in my girls lives, and I know He'll continue to do so. It's just hard to let go, you know? Sometimes I wish I could just have them back as toddlers just for a day. Just one day...

Yet each day brings new challenge and excitement as I watch them grow, grasp for their own independence, and morph more and more into the young ladies God is calling them to be. I long for the past, but I look forward to the future. It's an interesting place to be.