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Mailing Goal Update

February 24, 2024 by in category Writing

A new year means new goals. Last year, one of my authorship goals was to build my mailing list to 10,000. A lofty goal, considering my mailing list was only 3014.

So what was my plan and why build my list?

First, a little history on my mailing list. When began my writing career, I knew very little about author marketing. I have another business which I have mentioned in previous posts. However, I didn’t realize some of the marketing tools I use there could be used in my author business. I have a decent mailing list with my lingerie business, but like any mailing list, it requires nurturing which I failed to provide for both entities.

There are several authors who do well with a list that size. Frankly, if everyone on my list bought every book I released on release day, I would be excited and pocket quite a bit of money on that day only. No matter how much I may like my stories, every reader on my list won’t feel the same and that’s okay. Let’s say, every subscriber did buy everyone one of my books, what happens in between releases? What if I only release one ebook a year at $4.99 (before printing fees), that would yield approximately $15,000. Not bad by any means, but that’s all I would earn based on a mailing list with no growth. We’re only talking about my mailing list not any additional sales. This example also doesn’t include my backlist, because those subs would already have every one of my books.

Relying solely on my list seems a great idea, but in order for this to be sustainable or for me to have a steady income, I’d have to release four to six books a year. For me, that isn’t doable, because it’s more detailed than it sounds. Trust me, I speak from experience. Remember my lofty release a month project in 2016?

Back to my reason for building my mailing list. When I started my writing career, I wasn’t focused on a mailing list. I thought you wrote a book, put it up for sale and it would magically sell, but that’s fantasy. In order to sell books people need to know about your book. With my first release, I had a handful of organic sales. The rest were family and friends. It was a crawl building my list. Once I did, I saw some movement with that book, but even more with the next release. The list was slowly growing but I needed to make a move. Then I discovered Mark Dawson’s free course on how to build a list. I followed the plan and it worked. My list got up to 3000 plus. I was rocking. Some of my new subs preordered my new releases making release day better. I still didn’t have every sub buy every book, but I was making strides.

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the way, the list started to shrink. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I tried pretty much everything…paid list building, facebook group promos, newsletter swaps, signing events and ads. All were nice, but didn’t produce the results I desired.

The other reason I wanted to increase my mailing list was author swaps. I had tried some swaps, but because my list was so small, I wasn’t able to swap with authors with larger lists. In order to sell books, the book and author need access to readers. I am not knocking authors with small lists, because that’s where I am. However, there are authors with grand lists…20,000…40,000…60,000+ subs. I already hear you saying, a list that large is expensive and you’re right. However, a list that large more than likely will supporting itself.

Here are the facts about my journey. My mailing list has 4084 subscribers. However, for some reason not all of then want to receive the newsletter. At the beginning of this challenge, I had 3014 subscribers who wanted to receive the newsletter. However, I believe some of those not receiving email, neglected to click the “receive email” box.

Here are the numbers.
Goal to get to 10000…………………6986
Mailing list at start of 2023………..3014
Lost Subscribers……………………….-432
New Subscribers……………………….7451
New mailing list total……………….10033

When this challenge was completed, I had reached my goal plus 33. Side note, I haven’t done a thorough review of the new subs, so there might be some duplicates. Like most lists, some will probably leave and that’s okay, it only makes room for people who want to be on the list. Also, remember with each email sent, some subs might leave. In my case, I lost 432 plus the 1070 who opted not to receive emails.

So how did I grow my list? I joined a lot of Book Funnel promotions. These are free and easy to join. I’m still not fully versed in how the BF system works, but I’m learning. I also joined an assortment of paid list builders, a few facebook group list builders and a couple of book signings. Since the Book Funnel promos are built on free books, that meant I gave away 7451 books. Not too bad. I also did bi-weekly newsletter swaps. The mistake I made here was not tracking the results of the swaps. I also failed to track the organic growth not associated with any of my promo efforts.

I am a fan of the Book Funnel promotions and have decided to make the Book Funnel promotions part of my ongoing marketing campaign. If you’re looking for a free way to build your mailing list, I highly recommend the Book Funnel promotions. Now that I reached my goal, I’m eager to see how this effects my author career.

See you next month.

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My Taylor Swift lookalike video… and other fun stuff for Super Bowl Sunday LVIII and how it connects to my Valentine’s Day short story by Jina Bacarr

February 11, 2024 by in category Jina’s Book Chat, Writing tagged as , , ,
It’s a mad crazy time in my life.

I’m on deadline finishing the sequel for Sisters At War called Sisters of the Resistance...

I was honored to have my Letter to the Editor published in The New York Times mentioning Sisters At War and the E. Jean Carroll verdict. ‘

Also, I’m on a mad dash working on a big happening at my alma mater UCI coming up for Homecoming. I’m on the memorabilia committee and I’ve torn through numerous boxes stored away looking for fun items I kept from college.

Emotional and heart-wrenching stuff. More about the above next month.

So…………. for this February post here’s some fun stuff for Super Bowl Sunday! and the upcoming Valentine’s Day

I had my old Home Movies digitized and when I posted the short video above of me in–you’ll never guess–Las Vegas–(I was talking about my Valentine’s Day short story about a kissing bandit in high school which I posted here!) a reader mentioned that I look like Taylor Swift. Thank you! How cool is that?

Now for the football angle — when I worked at a local radio station (on-air, voicovers, and doing PR) I had the opportunity to work with the Rams cheerleaders for a promotion we did on Catalina Island. I got to be a ‘cheerleader’ for two weeks working with them and their routines in LA for the event.

We (the cheerleaders and me) sailed to Catalina Island on a small yacht and I was in the parade at the Chili Cook-Off wearing–are you ready for this?–a pink sequin mermaid costume!

So how did I ‘swim’ to the float? I didn’t… I had two big, strong Rams football players carry me and my mermaid tail to the float. Oh, my, yes…

=================

Bonus:

Writers write what we know… even when it’s embarrassing.

Take my first kiss. High school. Drama class. Me, the shy new kid. And a snarky guy with a big ego.

Keep reading….it gets worse. 

Valentine’s Day is a time for kissing.

But what if your first kiss was just plain awful?

Meet Riley Murphy. She’s a kissing virgin, waiting for the right guy to come along. Until she joins the Drama Club at Holywell High and has to kiss the class dweeb on stage in front of the whole school on Valentine’s Day.

==============================

VIRGIN KISS

Jina Bacarr

Introduction

What’s in a kiss? A kiss by any other name is—

—sweet, romantic, intimate, passionate, wet, sloppy, disgusting, probing, awful, nasty, sexy, tingly, and sometimes just plain wonderful.

But what if it’s your first kiss? And you have to pucker up in front of a live audience at your high school? What then?

Pass the Altoids, please.

The kiss-from-hell happened to me, Riley Murphy.

This is my story.

* * *

A few weeks before Valentine’s Day…

I’m the new kid at Holywell High School, a shy, skinny freshman with cinnamon-colored freckles sprinkled across my nose. Flat-chested. I’ll never be Miss Popularity with the bouncy boobs and flirty lashes.

I’m more like an olive stuck on the end of a toothpick.

Even with that dossier, I’m not a total dork. I’ve gotten pecks on the cheek and quick brushes on the lips, but I’ve yet to experience the soul-melting kisses you see in the flicks. The passionate lip-lock I’ve dreamed about, wrote about in my diary.

I’ve pined for that kiss, but it’s yet to happen to me. God knows, I’ll be in graduate school facing lifelong debt before the right pair of lips meet mine.

To overcome my shyness, my mom convinces me to try out for the Drama Club. Somehow I land the leading role in a one-act Chekhov play.Yes, Chekhov.

I play this mad, beautiful countess with passion and heart. I love it. I come alive on stage. I can do anything, be anybody, say anything, I can—

—kiss the male lead?

A gangly sophomore named Harold Brimwell with long, greasy hair and an upper lip curled in a perpetual snarl. He’s going to anoint my virgin lips with my first kiss?

Forget the Altoids. I need a stress pill.

I quit the play. They can find another dupe. Not me. I’m not going to let him use my lips for kissing practice.

Then I hear this little voice in my head telling me this is acting. Going through the motions at rehearsals and on stage don’t count on the kissing scale. I can pucker up with Harold on stage and still be a kissing virgin.

Right?

After my pep talk to myself, I sail through rehearsals, knowing my lines and ‘connecting to my character’ according to the director. He says I’m a natural, my emotions raw but real. This is amazing. Me, Riley Murphy, the kid who’s always the ‘new girl’ at school because we move around so much because of my dad’s job, found something she’s good at.

Then the trouble starts.

The director insists on method acting.We don’t rehearse the kiss. He wants a real kiss on stage, not a phony smooch.

Worse yet, we open on Valentine’s Day with a preview performance at the afternoon school assembly. Not only do I have to kiss this guy, I have to do it on the most romantic day of the year in front of the entire student body.

I dump the Altoids… along with my confidence down the toilet.

* * *

Valentine’s Day dawns rainy and cold. Perfect weather for a Russian play.

I arrive at the gym early, put on my makeup in the girls’ bathroom then, with my hands shaking, I hook up my long Victorian black lace dress borrowed from the costume department, the silk petticoats rustling around my feet. I’m way nervous, but something cool happens as I run my lines over and over, my fear slowly dissolving into a shaky confidence as I slip into my character’s skin. Humming ‘I will survive’, I check my props, my fingertips tingling as I pull on my snug dueling gloves, then twirl the dainty parasol over my head like a spinning top.

I grab the small pistol for my big dueling scene, then heave out a big breath, praying I don’t drop it and everybody laughs at me.

I save putting on my lipstick for last.

First, I gargle mint-flavored mouthwash until my lips turn green and my mouth goes numb. Next, I line my lips with Chekhovian, dark red lipstick and smack them together. Perfect. I’m ready for my lip close-up.

It’s showtime.

I’m so nervous when the lights come up, I garble my opening lines. Then I trip over my own feet and nearly crash into the backdrop. Hot tears form in my eyes, but I want this too bad to give up now. All my life, I’ve stayed in the shadows. If I fail now, I may never get the courage to try again. I ignore the smirks and catcalls and swish my long skirts around like a real countess to boost my confidence.

I can do this.

Somehow, I get my groove on and my theatre training takes over. I sail across the stage, chin up, shoulders back, my voice clear, my lines down to a T. I’m ‘in the moment’. Much to my relief, the dueling scene goes off without the pistols misfiring.

Then it’s time for…

… the kiss.

I’ll never forget the expression on Harold’s face when he takes two long strides toward me. A mixture of sadistic pleasure and baddass ‘tude comes over his face, as shiny and sweaty as his palms, freaking me out. Lower lip snarling, my co-star gives me that ‘I’ve got you now’ look all fired up in his eyes, pinning me to the wall.

My teeth chatter. My mouthwash stops working.

It’s so quiet in the high school gym you can hear the director chewing on the end of his pencil.

My heart pounds so hard I can’t get my breath on when Harold pulls me into his arms, yanking me around like I’m a dollar store rag doll and then—

—he slams his mouth onto mine.

Bile rises in my throat as he pushes my lips apart and thrusts his mushy, saliva-coated gum into my mouth, making me nauseous. I swear if my dress wasn’t hooked up so tight, I would have ralphed all over him. Before I can push him off me, he shoves his tongue down my throat, way down, nearly gagging me.

I start choking.

I can’t breathe. Oh, my God, I’m going to pass out.

No, I can’t, I won’t. I’m determined not to faint. I have to get him off me. No gum-chewing, phony-macho sophomore is going to get the best of me.

I’m an actress, I tell myself, so act!

With stars circling around in my pounding head, I pull up my strength and kick him in the shin. There.

Startled, he jerks backward, but not before he bites my lower lip.

What the—

I taste coppery blood. Fresh, oozing, smearing my perfectly-applied lipstick. I’m in shock, disbelieving. It can’t get any worse.

Can it?

It can.

Dabbing my bleeding lip with my silk sleeve, I struggle in his arms, but he holds me tight, slobbering all over me, licking my face, my throat, coating my skin with stringy gum. My ears won’t stop ringing. The audience is going crazy, yelling and shouting like they’re at a basketball game and I’m the bouncing ball.

No, no, he’s not going to take advantage of me. I worked hard to get this part, learn my lines. Practiced how to walk, how to find the core of my character. Gosh darn, this is the first time in my whole life I’ve come out of my shell and done something really special.

He’s not going to ruin it for me.

I have to do something. Fast.

The pistol.

Where is it? After the mock dueling scene, I threw the prop gun down on the round table. It has to be there, but where?

I reach out behind me, my nails catching on the lace doily… I twist my head just a little… yes, I see it. I edge the gun toward me, an inch at a time. Sweat oozes down my too-tight collar and my knees buckle, but I don’t give up.

Almost got it… there. My fingers wrap around the pearl-inlayed handle. I suck in a breath then, without losing my nerve, I jam the prop into his ribs. Hard. I yank my body with such fury, I rip the black silk sleeve right out of the armpit. It slides down my shoulder, but it doesn’t stop me.

Get your hands off me, you sloppy-kissing, gum-chewer!’ I yell, ignoring the script and re-writing Chekhov. ‘Or you’re getting an “F” in drama class.’

The director gasps. Loudly. But he doesn’t refute what I said.

‘Yeah, sure,’ Harold stutters, letting me go, raising up his hands and backing away. ‘Anything you say, Riley.’

‘That’s telling him!’ a girl yells from the audience.

Amy Zanderbar. His ex-girlfriend.

She’s not the only one. All the girls stand up and start chanting, ‘Go, Riley, go!’

Wow. I hit a nerve with the females sitting in the bleachers who had their share of bad kissers.

They love it.

The audience starts clapping wildly and stomping their feet and continue chanting my name. I break the fourth wall and give them a ‘V’ for Victory high sign until the chanting dies down, then my thespian instincts kick in and I get back into character, giving Chekhov his due and ending the play as he wrote it.

I’ll always remember this night when a shy freshman girl in a borrowed Victorian dress took on a snarky sophomore and became empowered to stand up for herself in front of the whole student body.

It changed my life.

* * *

Epilogue

We performed the one-act play for the next few nights without further incident, faking the kiss each time. Harold is cool, not attempting any more way-out kissing. For me, it’s strictly acting.

I’m still a virgin in lip-land.

But I’ll never forget V-Day and my experience with the gum-toting, kissing bandit. Not a bad guy, just a rotten kisser.

And in case you’re curious, next semester I do find the right pair of lips to land that first kiss.

A hottie junior. Jack Dwayne.

When Jack takes me in his arms and lowers his face to mine, I quiver with anticipation and soon discover a kiss isn’t just a kiss, it’s…

… magic.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

——————–

PS — yes, Riley is me, a shy freshman back in the day.

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Answer Me This

January 30, 2024 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic, Writing tagged as ,

The deck beckons you to turn over a card. The cryptic symbols on the backs intrigue you, but you aren’t sure you want to wade into the tarot just yet.

A friend gave you the deck yesterday, on your birthday, telling you with a smile, “This will help with your decision.”

Britt knows you too well—that you are often indecisive and in fact have put off this most important action until it is almost too late. 

“But I know nothing about fortunetelling,” you sputtered after opening the small box that neatly held the tarot deck. 

“All the better,” she said with a knowing nod. “They will guide you.”

And now you stare at the deck, your hands trembling slightly. You feel like a skier at the top of a steep hill: Once you push off, you will be on a downward slope without any ability to stop until you reach the bottom—or hit a tree.

Britt has already nudged you gently. “Start your session with the cards by asking a question.” She winked. “You already know one, right?”

Yes, you do. And, so here you are, whispering the question to yourself. The deck is ready even if you are stalling.

The first card’s smoothness belies the fellow on the other side: a joker. You wonder if you’ve misunderstood the intent. Are these meant for playing a game like poker? Then you notice that the card’s name is the Fool. Ah, that makes sense. Who’s the Fool now?

From some memory your mind dredges up—was it a carney attraction when you were a kid?—you recall that a handful of cards are turned over and from them your fate is revealed.

The memory comes crashing back: The woman with the short-cropped hair and dramatic eye liner, her long, blood-red fingernails tapping the cards as she discussed your future. The musky perfume that infused the small room off the main carnival path.

“Today is here, make the most of it.” Then her frown as she turned over the last card. 

You fled before she could pronounce your fate. What had seemed a lark had become menacing. Now, you mull over her cliched answer and realize how spot-on she was: You were indecisive even then.

The Fool’s card is followed by the Six of Wands, then you flip up Judgement, then the King of Cups. Is that enough? Once again, you mine that long-forgotten memory, but the number of cards on the threadbare carney tablecloth is just beyond your grasp. 

You decide to turn just one more face up. This time it’s the Wheel of Fortune, reversed.

And now you should have the answer you reluctantly seek . . . somewhere in these images. 

The words form in your mind, as though someone or something is dictating them: You are at the cusp of a new beginning. This is your wake-up call; once you take this step, there is no going back, but this is good news. You have long seen your life as one in which you are waiting for the best to come. That changes with today.

And now you are texting Britt. She has posed a question to you, one that will indeed change your life.

“Yes,” you text. “My answer is yes.”

Some of Dianna’s Stories are in the following anthologies:

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Your Mantra for 2024

January 15, 2024 by in category Writing tagged as , , , ,

So I was recently doomscrolling and came across one of those ridiculous copy/paste things that people post on their social media feeds. I normally keep mindlessly scrolling when I see those, “find the penguin…only 1/10 people can find it” posts on social media, because literally everyone in the comments has found the not-so-elusive penguin. But for whatever reason this post captured my attention.

It was a word search with the title, “The first 4 words you see will be your mantra for 2024” and I thought, “Oh, what the heck… why not?”

My first four words were: “Break Through“, Purpose“, “Family“, “Strength“.

I was extremely caught off guard by the way these four words resonated with me. 2023 was a rough year in many ways. I faced numerous challenges in my day job including, but not limited to, changes to my hybrid work schedule, complex and difficult projects, layoff, reorganization, and losing the best boss I know I’ll ever have. It really zapped a lot of my energy and forced me to think more longterm about my goals – My purpose. At the same time, it was a break through and stark reminder that not all of my fulfillment comes from the job that provides my paycheck. My fulfillment comes from so many other areas – My family, my friends, my faith, writing, reading, walking my dog, sunshine, coffee, chocolate, Target, and so on. Granted, some of those things are suuuper dependent on my paycheck, like Target. It’s all about balance, right? 🙂

Hoping I have the strength and discipline in 2024 to truly pursue and prioritize the things that give me fulfillment.

Happy New Year!
Renae

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‘Sisters At War’ and writing the sequel ‘Sisters of the Resistance’ can be maddening by Jina Bacarr

January 11, 2024 by in category historical, Jina’s Book Chat, Paris, sexual assault, sexual violence, World War 2, Writing tagged as , , , , , , ,

It’s called ‘development hell’.

That writing path that causes you to wish for a coffee pot that’s always full of hot java, when connecting the dots in your story drives you crazy, how they jump around in your mind like impish video game icons, taking you down one path then another, then golloping up our words in a big gulp and we start again.

I first came across this phrase when I was writing for TV — kids’ cartoons, daytime drama, kids’ musical show, cable. You submit an idea to the producers, they love it, then spend three hours telling you how to change it.

You rewrite it.

They love it. Then more notes.

You rewrite it…. well, you get the idea. As a king in a famous musical comedy once said, ‘Etc. Etc. Etc.’

Writing the sequel to ‘Sisters At War’ (Paris WW2 — the story of two sisters and how sexual assault on a sister by the SS affects both their lives), is maddening. If I were writing a TV drama and continuing the story from the following week, you put together a recap: ‘Previously on [name of show]’ and you show clips that give the viewer enough of the story so they can jump right in and enjoy the episode.

Try doing that in a WW2 historical novel set in Paris.

Mon Dieu…

I’ve written the opening chapters several times — the goal? Add enough backstory so the reader continuing the story enjoys revisiting ‘Sisters At War’, while the new reader gets enough information so they’re excited about reading the sequel while… here’s the kicker… you KEEP THE ACTION GOING.

You can’t stop the story in midstream with nothing happening but ‘backstory’ in the opening chapters of the sequel. For example, that’s like the heroine sitting on a raft in a river and watching the clouds roll by.

Boring. You need action.

Let’s try this:

A rainstorm with hail pelting her in the face… her baby sister in a big basket crying… then a north wind blowing and the raft nearly capsizes… causing the heroine to nearly fall into the river and a hungry alligator, jaw wide open, swims toward her… while a river bandit shoots at her with a repeating rifle. Then the raft falls apart and dumps the heroine into the river while her baby sister in the basket is about to go over the waterfall…

Oh, my.

There’s a lot going on and it could work, but only if the reader is invested in the heroine. If they care. Why is she on the raft? Is she running away from an abusive father? Is her baby sister sick with the colic? Does she have an important letter to deliver that will change their lives? Is she praying she’ll survive so she can tell the man she loves ‘yes’, she’ll marry him?

So many possibilities.

Blending together backstory and action is the challenge I faced while writing the sequel ‘Sisters of the Resistance’. Keeping my facts straight, talking about what happened when the Nazis occupied Paris, foreshadow where the story is going. And most important, up the stakes on the dynamics between the two sisters who are not only at war with the Nazis, but each other.

I’m happy to say I’ve climbed out of the hole, that the story is humming, rolling along with a lot of action and character development and scenes ‘that make you cry’.

Now to finish it… thank God there was a sale on Starbucks coffee at my market.

Thanks for listening! And I’ll be back next month with my progress…

Sisters At War:

US https://a.co/d/eZ25gZb      

UK https://amzn.eu/d/0LEWy2z

Who are the Beaufort Sisters?

They’re beautiful

They’re smart

They’re dangerous

They’re at war with the Nazis… and each other.

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