Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Special Way To Honor My Mother Today

If she were still on this earth, we would be celebrating her 98th birthday today. It has been 21 years since she left us, but it is as vivid as yesterday. She was the most important woman in my life, for so many reasons.

She was my mother.

In a post I did back on her birthday in 2010 (which you can go back and view, titled A Most Special Remembrance), I cited many of the ways she made my life special. I reread that post today, and everything I talked about then is still just as important to me today.

In addition to all those memories I wrote about in that post, I did fail to include a very important lesson she taught me. She always made me believe that I could do anything I really wanted to do, if I put in the talent and effort to make it happen. I know lots of moms say that to their kids, but she not only said it, she lived it.

When she passed away, I gave the eulogy at her memorial service. I ended it by saying, "I hope I always make you proud." I often talk aloud to my mother, and I've repeated that phrase to her on numerous occasions.

I am certain she would be proud of my published writings. I'm just sorry she didn't live to see my name in print. But there is a way I honor her memory, and give her credit for all she did to encourage my work, from the time I was young. I make sure my publisher knows that my name on the cover of any work that is mine alone always includes my maiden name, hence "Suzanne Rowe Ogren" (I also co-author with my husband sometimes, and I'm credited on those books with just "Suzanne Ogren").

Naturally, my dad is part of that legacy, too, when I use my maiden name. I know he would get a kick out of that. But he would be the first to say that my mother is the one responsible for me never giving up my dream, to pen the things I envisioned in my head, and see them published.

This year, with my first novel, Ribbons, published in April, I just knew this was my birthday present to my mother for 2016. And I believe she's reading it today - and smiling! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

"Ribbons" Is Published!

I have shouted this news all over social media, book sites, etc., but cannot believe that I did not post it on here! (See my last blog for the list of the reasons why this might have occurred!)

So, here it is! My novel: "Ribbons"! Talked about in other posts going back quite a long time, but it has finally become a reality, and I couldn't be more proud of this one!

My husband did the cover art as a painting, which hangs in my study now, and I was thrilled that it transferred to the cover so perfectly.

This is a character driven novel; my favorite type to read, so it was natural to write my first novel this way. The settings are a small, college town in Virginia - where we lived for ten years, and several locations in England - our second favorite place to be.

You can read the synopsis, and purchase the book on the publishing website: themeparkpress.com. "Ribbons" is also available on Amazon.com and Kindle.

The story of "Ribbons" is one for both male and female readers, and my hope is that the characters who create the theme of this novel, are ones that will remain with you long after you finish the book.

When you read it, I would love to hear your comments about it. It also helps with sales if you post a review on Amazon and/or goodreads.com. Thanks in advance for your help there!

And a sincere thank you to all who supported my efforts during this long journey to print reality; you know who you are, and I am so grateful.

My Blogs Are Back!

In my life, at least, all things "planned" never seem to happen "as planned"! That is true of what I blogged back in May (how time flies!) about my blog posts and where to find them.

I did post one blog on our website (www.rjogren.com), and do have plans (there's that word again!) to do others on that site, in conjunction with those my husband does. Those would be mostly about our Disney experiences.

The breakdown in getting back to blogging occurred when our lives became immersed in a host of other priorities: promoting our published books - "Together in the Dream" (co-authored with R.J.) and "Ribbons" (my novel which came out in May), working on the sequel to "Together in the Dream", getting our combined website designed and up, doing podcasts and interviews, and keeping current with all our social media sites to get our books sold.

But it's time to make time for this blog; my oldest, and the one where I can pretty much talk about any subject on my mind. R.J. and I have been working for the past couple of weeks to organize our days, and our priorities, so that we don't neglect certain things - like blogging!

I have a list of topics I plan to blog about, either on here or on our website blog, and I hope you keep returning to see what they are. Please know, too, that we appreciate your comments on whatever our subject matter is, so please join in the conversation. And don't give up on us; we're a work in progress with new challenges!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Check Out Our Website - and More!

A couple of months ago, I wrote my last blog about posting Disney stories on the website disneyavenue.com. My husband, RJ, and I both published a couple of stories on there already. At the same time, RJ was re-doing his website to include me and my work.That sparked lots of possibilities for our future creative endeavors.

In doing that, we decided that we wanted to include our Disney experience blogs on our own website. It just makes sense, and makes us totally responsible for the content at the same time. So now, you can just learn all about us in the same place!

At present, RJ is still fine-tuning the site, but you can check it out and discover all the avenues there are to explore about our writing, his art work, and our Disney stories.We are also promoting our speaking engagements on the site.

The address for the site is: rjogren.com. We decided not to change the domain name he's always had to promote his work. I don't need my name in the domain name as long as we let everyone know about my inclusion on the site.

I will continue to write blog posts here, on a variety of subjects, but they will also appear on the website. And, anyone clicking on my blog address will be linked here.

Please let us know, through your comments on our combined website (or right here on my blog) what you like about the new site. Lots of fun stuff to read about, pictures to see, and stories to explore!

Monday, March 21, 2016

New Avenues, New Blogging Opportunity

I've been writing this blog, off and on, for several years now. It has contained (and will continue to do so) posts about the many varied interests, career subjects, and musings of my life in general.

Recently, RJ and I did a podcast about our new book, "Together in the Dream", for a social media site called DisneyAvenue.com. We were impressed with the creator of this site - and our interviewer - for the podcast, Keith Mahne.  We were even more impressed with the professional look of his website. Keith has now asked us to do blogs for Disney Avenue, on Disney subjects of course. The first one, by RJ, has just been published on disneyavenue.com, and I will be doing my first one next week.

Both of our original blog sites are now linked to disneyavenue.com and its blog site. Anyone going on that site, and clicking on our blog link will be automatically directed to our blogs as well.

So! This should bring us more followers, give us an opportunity to expand on our Disney stories, and provide - we hope - more fun discoveries for all the Disneyphiles around the world. We're excited about this: check out RJ's first blog post entitled, Rowboat in the Jungle. And, if there are any specific subjects you'd like to see me write about, please leave a comment here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Searching Can Lead to Unexpected Ways of Promoting Your Book

I knew, when we were lucky enough to have our book published by a small indie imprint, that the bulk of promotion would fall to me, and my husband, R.J.

My remarkable spouse is busy daily, posting on social media posts: Facebook, Twitter (he didn't have Twitter until our book came out, but has become an "expert" on it!), and LinkedIn. He contacts friends and business associates by email, sends press releases to publications, and copies of "Together in the Dream" to reviewers. These are obvious ways to increases sales.

Our publisher used his contacts to have our book noticed as well, and, with it selling on themeparkpress.com, Amazon, and Kindle, those avenues get us noticed.

Podcasts were something we'd never thought about, we've done one that resulted in more sales and interest, and three more are scheduled. These are the result of the above mentioned social media.

Disneyphiles (many are large groups, and all are enthusiastic) have not only begun following my husband's posts, but are spreading the word about our book, and have reviewed it on both Amazon and goodreads.com (and the reviews have been positive, and welcome!). In addition, they are somewhat responsible for our publisher requesting a sequel to our book. We certainly didn't know how much their influences would help us.

We continue to seek out other places to sell our books, find locations for a book signing or speaking engagement, and place interviews with media outlets. No possible link is too small or insignificant. Any could lead to something bigger, we've discovered. We are also attending an upcoming reunion with former Disney cast members, which just "happened" to come to our attention a week ago. It will be fun, but might also evoke new contacts for promotion appearances or sales.

Writing is a  large and intensely competitive market these days: everyone thinks they are a writer. Unfortunately, many are not, but if your writing is validated with positive reviews and sales, you must constantly explore new avenues for promotion.

Our current focus is to secure an agent for our speaking engagements. At the same time, we have three other soon-to-be-published books in process, including our sequel to "Together in the Dream".

Yes, we spend our days at the computer, on the phone and networking. Yes, it means long hours, but it's the only way to make writing the focus of our lives. We've embraced that goal and want to be successful.  The bottom line to reach that goal: we must brainstorm, search and embrace the unexpected. One positive contact could result in rewards we didn't anticipate.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finding the Right Indie Publisher - Trust and Results Are the Primary Focus Points

I've been approached more than once, by writers looking for a publisher, asking questions that include: "Should I get an agent first?" or "How do I know the difference between a vanity publisher vs. a POD or an indie?" I answer them by saying, "You have to do your research and then decide which path works for you."

That might sound like I'm dodging the question, but I'm really not.  First of all, in today's publishing world, what worked five or ten years ago is now ancient history.  I remember when self-published authors were dismissed as being writers who couldn't get an agent.  Not today.  The best way for me to explain my response is to share the process I went through to get published.

While writing articles and essays for various regional and national publications, I got comfortable working with editors and publishers. I always worried that, submitting my work through an agent would be giving up some of the control I might have in the details. By the time I had a book I wanted to publish, the self-publishing world was coming into its own, so I decided to research several Publish on Demand (POD) companies, with the thought of seeing my novel in print.

Before that could happen, my husband and I approached a publisher, who had been recommended to us, with our idea about our non-fiction book, "Together in the Dream".  After submission of an outline and a sample chapter, he said he would be delighted to publish our work. That was the beginning of what has blossomed into a great rapport with this publisher/editor, and we have three other works in the offing through his company.

Bottom line:  all that happened because we did our research.  You need to be able to immediately recognize a vanity, POD or indie publisher because you've found out the differences.  You need to thoroughly check out a potential publisher: what is their experience?; what genre(s) do they publish?; what do you expect as far as promotion, royalties, etc.  There's much to learn if you are going to bypass an agent, and "do it on your own".  You have to be realistic about the work that is involved in promoting your book this way.  AND, you need to have a positive dialogue with the publisher to know if you are in the right hands.

My husband and I feel extremely lucky to have found the right fit for us.  That fit is different for every writer, and it requires having the right information, and knowing what will work for you.  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman: The True Embodiment of an Actor's Actor

Sitting at my computer screen this morning, I had a subject in mind for a blog post, but decided to check out Facebook before getting to work on my writing. The first post noted the death of one of my all-time favorite actors, so my blog topic just had to be about him today.

Alan Rickman, without a doubt, created characters on screen that were impossible to forget. As an actor, I would watch his performances over and over because he possessed that "special something" that every actor wishes he could emulate.

I remember asking (almost thirty years ago now), after seeing him in Die Hard: "Who is this guy? He is so beautifully evil!"  You hated the character, wanted Bruce Willis to kill him off throughout the film, but being an actor, I was mesmerized by the completeness he exhibited. By that I mean, his body language, his facial expressions, that distinctive voice: he used them all flawlessly to enhance the scripted lines. Best of all, you never were aware that he was "acting". He just was that evil man!

There are so many of his performances that drew me in that way. Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves was a favorite (still is), Truly, Madly, Deeply is the favorite of many I know. His portrayal of Snape in the Harry Potter series made me understand why J.K. Rowling thought of him playing the role as she was writing the character. I laughed - and identified - with him in Galaxy Quest, which is one I still watch again and again.

He touched me deeply with two of his films: Love Actually and Sense & Sensibility. The moments he created in those films showed his depth, his unending creativity, and the unique gift he had for doing just enough to engage you in his inner conflicts and thoughts. So many times on screen, he made you feel for him without saying anything. THAT is what made him an "actor's actor".  He showed me how to be better, even though I knew I would never achieve that level of artistry.  I still wanted to try when I watched him.

To say he will be missed is an understatement. He still had so much to give to audiences. I do love that film allows us to relive those cinematic moments again and again, but I am so sad that I'll never have a "new moment" in a darkened theatre when I discover another Alan Rickman creation on screen.

Rest In Peace, you dear, talented, and giving artist.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Time Spent Promoting A Book Is Not Only Time Well Spent; It's Necessary!

Of course it's fun having a book that is sparking the interest ours is.  It's also fun having friends and family tell you they've read, or are reading, the book, and think it's a great read.  We've done podcasts, been interviewed by a major newspaper, and "Together in the Dream" is now being sold in the #1 independent bookstore in the Chicago area: Anderson's Bookshop.

That would be enough for some who've been lucky enough to have a book published.  But, there are so many self-published and vanity published books deluging the reader's market now, unless you have the marketing campaign of one of the top five publishers, you can never stop promoting it on your own.  Certainly, our independent publisher has made our book available on Amazon.com and Kindle, and he's let reviewers, etc., know it's out there. Plus, if you go on the themeparkpress.com website, there it is on the cover page, in full color, available for sale right there.

We know, though, ("we" being my beloved husband, R.J., and I) that we can't stop looking for ways to get our volume known, and reviewed, and read by more than just those who love us already.  So, we go on all social media sites: Facebook, Linked In, Twitter our blogs, R.J.'s website, on a daily basis to let our followers know what's happening with the book - and us.  It's extremely time-consuming, but most definitely worth it in the end.  To date, it has yielded thousands of followers, netted us podcast interviews, and speaking engagements.

Even though we have been self-employed for many years now, our writing is now the prime, motivating work of our lives.  R.J. has already been asked to do a second book, which he's busy writing now, and we've just been encouraged by our publisher to write a sequel to "Together in the Dream".  And we have lots of ideas for other work as well.

Spending our days researching and learning ways to "get our book out there" has become as important as penning the new stuff.  It's even what's kept me from posting on my blog since before Christmas.  It is possible to make a living at being a writer - but it doesn't just land in your lap because you get a positive review or you sell some copies for a few weeks.  It's a full-time job - and we think it's worth it.