My Kindle Scout Experience

My Kindle Scout campaign for my book, The Light of Supremazia ended this week. Unfortunately, my book was not selected to be published by Kindle’s publishing house.

Stay tuned for another blog post with the link to buy the book on Amazon through their Kindle Direct Publishing website (aka self publishing).

I am sad, but as I mentioned in my first post at the beginning of the campaign, it was a great marketing effort and a way to get supporters involved.

As the days ticked by and I reviewed my stats, I had a feeling I wouldn’t win. The are bloggers out there with tens of thousands of followers. When they post their book on Kindle Scout, they automatically have tons of votes. I’m not saying this is unfair, just a reality. Blogging and writing books isn’t my day job, so I was starting from a few yards behind already.

I also wonder if the cover sells the book on these crowd-sourcing campaigns.  How many people actually read the free excerpt from my book?

Or perhaps September is a bad month to market a young adult book since most kids are back in school?

Kindle Scout is vague when it comes to the actual parameters to “win.” For others who are looking to try Kindle Scout, here are the stats from my campaign:

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Dedicated to the Girls Who Used to Stand in the Back Row in Dance Class

Don’t be mad. I just googled the band, Mötley Crüe. I know its a heavy metal band formed some time in the 80s, but why were they a “motley crew?” One picture solved the mystery for me:

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Don’t be surprised, but this is where I relate Mötley Crüe to young adult fantasy books.

I’ve been doing lots of research on character introductions and came to the realization that most of my favorite books have some sort of motley crew – a group of underdogs who beat all odds and save the day.

The obvious one is Harry Potter.  Wasn’t Luna a little looney?  Neville Longbottom accident-prone? And Ginny Weasley just a little girl? But you loved the ragtag bunch.

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Percy Jackson wasn’t any better – his best friend was a satyr and his brother was a cyclops.

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Don’t even get me started on Lord of the Rings.

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How about the New Directions in Glee?  Definitely your standard geeky bunch.

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Well, my next book series starts the same way – a mismatched gaggle of kids, looking for a brave leader, getting into trouble, and of course, attending a school taught by famous ghosts.  Look for it soon, called (after)life lessons.

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I feel like real life isn’t so different.  Didn’t everyone in San Francisco cheer for the 49ers?

I take jazz classes with a talented teacher named Ann twice a week.  There are a group of us who joined about a year ago.  We started in the back of the class, our own version of a motley crew, tripping through combinations and embarrassing ourselves.  Through dedication and hard work, we improved.  Most recently, the teacher suggested we stand in the front of the room.  I felt like my own personal underdog, able to keep up with her challenging routines and perform next to beautiful dancers without missing a beat.   [Perhaps I’ll attache a video soon!]

Optimistic Fool?

Sure, I set a goal to raise my hand more often, and speak up when I have a differing opinion, but I never wanted to sound like a blubbering idiot.  I take Abraham Lincoln’s words to heart: better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.  It worked out pretty well for him.

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Let me set the tone.  I work in private-wealth-management, old-family-money, finance.  An area dominated by big banks, like Goldman Sachs (my alma-mater), that despite the vampire squid reputation have a phenomenal women’s network and my particular group within GSAM was probably 70% women.  Girl power.

Despite these big city centers, there are still plenty of mom & pop shops that follow the “old men with grey hair are always right” rule.  And I, unfortunately, ran into one the other day.  I sat, unassumingly, in an introductory meeting with my manager and this horrendous, aggressive salesperson.  Sure, my manager, who happens to be an ex-investment banker and a partner of our firm (and husband to a go-getting entrepreneurial wife), did all the talking, but the letters CFA after my name don’t stand for Cute Fancy Accessory.

To prove the point of how our firm acts as investors, not simply allocators, the example was given, “If Alana suggests we invest with a health care manager because of the regulatory modifications and changes in demographics…”  A normal person would nod and listen, but not this guy.  He snorted and punctured the air with his narrow-minded judging crack, “Ha!  Alana?”

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Really?

Did that just happen?

Did he think I was incapable of coming up with this investment conclusion?  I was fuming, but I kept my cool.  I had to act professional, right?  I thought all mid-westerners were friendly and tolerant?

I was pissed, but for the rest of the day I couldn’t stop smiling.  My manager shared my view that the guy was insufferable.  He recycled the guy’s pitch books, ignored his phone calls, and deleted his emails.  I was reminded through out the day just how much I was valued.

In the afternoon, a finance girlfriend waved me down in the hallway.  At dance class in the evening, the substitute teacher (and unbelievable dancer) asked me to lead a group across the floor, a job she believed I was capable of.  Then, a new friend asked me to take a picture with her before I left for the holidays.  And at night, I met up with my husband and his work friends, who invited us to their New Year’s Eve bash.

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The line between the squeaky wheel and the babbling buffoon may be blurred, but my optimism never is.  Smart people don’t invest with stupid people.  Simple enough.  Looks like red-haired, young women are the new grey-haired, old men.

Traveling Superheroes

Four plane rides, five diligence meetings, four states, six coffee catch-ups, and one Bat Mitzvah.  That’s how I spent my first week of December.  I was impressed.  Okay, so I wasn’t attacked by monsters, I wasn’t gallivanting around Rome, and I wasn’t traveling on a trireme, but we can’t all be demigods searching for the House of Hades like Percy Jackson’s friends aboard the Argo II.

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I did manage to find time to write a few more chapters of my next book series, Bone-Chilling.  As I approached the last few chapters, I noticed the characters suffer from time travel whiplash.  If you were able to see ghosts, like the main character, Juliandra Winklevoss, you would also have a hard time keeping track of which time period your teachers were from.

She knows one thing for certain, if they teach at Vida Post Mortem Academy, they must be superheroes.  President John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Eleanor Roosevelt, are just a few of the spirits that make a translucent appearance.

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Dead or alive, historic or unknown, traveling or stationary, there are many different types of superheroes.  They can make sweeping changes or simply bring a smile to your face.  My mom forwarded this picture of one of my favorite dancers from So You Think You Can Dance, Twitch.  He is the king of optimistic superheroes.

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At the end of the day, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to see my rag-a-muffin cat, Zeus.  Named after a Greek God, he too, likes to dress the part.  Happy Holidays!

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Blast from the Past, ’90s Style

When I look back at pictures, will I be cringing at my chunky necklaces, peplum dresses, and other trendy styles of the day? The answer is probably yes. When I look at photos of my mom with thick-rimmed glasses in the ’70s and poofy Madonna hair in the ’80s, I giggle (a little). Don’t get me wrong – she was adorable, and she was stylish, but now I’m laughing at the trends.

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This week seems to be about the ’90s. In the most recent chapter of my new book series, Bone-Chilling, the reader is introduced to two grandma-aged spirits named Roberta and Shauna. You wouldn’t know it from their jovial dispositions, but both women died abruptly in the ’90s while visiting their alma mater and haunted-mansion-turned-school, Vida Post Mortem Academy. Spirits who have not passed on through the light look like frozen images of themselves the day they die.  My question is, what did grandmas wear in the ’90s?

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To figure it out, I thought about my life in the ’90s as a middle school student. I had a minor breakdown when my sponge brain seemed momentarily saturated, and I couldn’t figure out who was my 7th grade English teacher. Have no fear, it was Ms. Mayer. But I wasn’t any closer to an answer about grandmas in the ’90s.

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And then Saturday afternoon, the problem was solved. I attended an amazing ‘I heart the ’90s’ Zumba class and realized the decade was about grunge and saying no to scrubs and young people as well as grandmas doing ridiculous dance moves like the tootsie roll and hammer time. The class was uplifting and a fantastic workout, and just like the ’90s it was a sweaty party.

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Thank you Zumba teachers!

Is Optimism My Fatal Flaw?

I know, I sound crazy. It’s like saying being able to do magic like Harry Potter, or compel people with your mind like Olivia Hart, is a fatal flaw. Let me explain.
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When I watched the episode of Glee that was a tribute to Cory Monteith, I was crying before the episode even started. Okay, I’m not helping to prove my point.
I’m really good at being optimistic. No, I mean really good. Maybe, too good. I have an extraordinary ability to look at the bright side. I compartmentalize things in my brain so that the unpleasant experiences are rarely remembered, and the positive occurrences are front and center.
I often tell my friends, ‘I don’t do sad.’ In fact, I make my friends read books and movies before me, because if it doesn’t have a happy ending, I’ll just skip the hassle altogether.
So what’s the problem, you ask? Glee was the problem. The episode memorializing Finn Hudson went against every grain in my body. The show that usually added song and dance to everyday life suddenly was indescribably sad. There was no happy ending. I couldn’t compartmentalize the heartache. I couldn’t pretend everything was going to be okay. In real life, he was dead.
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As I read through my favorite novels, I realize many fatal flaws can be considered virtues. Some would argue Harry Potter’s fatal flaw is honor. His integrity and innate need to do the right thing ultimately causes him to die. However, the key point was that without accepting inevitable death to protect the one’s he loved, he wouldn’t have been able to survive the curse.
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Another example is Percy Jackson. His fatal flaw is loyalty. He would sacrifice the world to save someone he really cares about. Is that really a bad thing?
Athena teaches Percy that some fatal flaws can be good in moderation. I thought about this for awhile, and I decided I’m not going to submit to this decision that optimism is a flaw. I don’t care if I have a slightly twisted view of reality because I wear rose colored glasses. I would rather see the glass half full. When moments of sadness make their way through the cracks of my optimistic armor, I’ll have a crying jag, but then I’ll take out my magic wand, shout,”EXPECTO PATRONUM,” and cast a patronus of sunshine, rainbows, and ragamuffin kittens, and blast that gloomy dementor into oblivion.

Mom, My Personal Superhero

I’ve been thinking about Moms as superheroes for awhile now, but I took it as a sign when one of my best friends from NYU gave birth to a baby boy last night.  Pregnancy, labor, and birth…now that takes superpowers. Congrats, Lovecakes!

I find most motherly superpowers (other than giving birth) to be behind the scenes.  Rather than being the person, sword in hand, fighting the dragon, mothers are the unsung heroes in the background. Without their support, the protagonist would never have the courage to stand up to the dragon at all.

That is of course, unless your protagonist IS a mother. [I’m picturing Claire Dunphy from Modern Family who doesn’t take crap from anyone and still finds time to take her kids to mathlete competitions. Or perhaps Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones?] But in most of the fantasy books I read, the mother is there to support the lead. This blog is a tribute to all the Supermoms.

Molly Weasley from the Harry Potter series is, hands down, a supermom. From cooking dinner for a family of eight, to joining the Order of Pheonix, to killing Bellatrix Lestrange, she is heroic.

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Another superb example is Sally Jackson from the Percy Jackson series.  She lived (and died and came back to life) in terrible circumstances with an abusive husband, just to protect her son from the wrath of the gods.

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Even grandmas can be superheroes.  Remember Gran from the True Blood series?  Fighting and loving vampires and fairies.  That’s hardcore.

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However, no superhero compares to my own mom. Brave, smart, thoughtful…as my Aunt Iris would say, she is the whole package! Her love and support makes me the women I am today.  And trust me, I can take on any dragon!

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And just because Olivia Hart tends to think like me, I leave you with a quote from the Olivia Hart and the Gifted Program Series:

She said exactly what I needed to hear. “Thanks, Mom. I love you. I’ll call you,” I said and hung up the phone. Something about a mother’s guarantee did wonders for self-confidence. I felt hopeful because Mom said I could do it. I was going to save my friends. –OLIVIA HART, THE RESCUE