Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year! Now, leave the past in the past

It's almost time to ring in the new year. Looking back, this year has been a year of many ups and downs for me. I'm sure many of you can relate. Life is like that. We take the good with the bad, and then we press on. The key here is that we press on.

In the past, pressing on has been the difficult part for me. I have a tendency to get caught up in thinking too much about past events. It's a dangerous rabbit hole to fall into, for sure. The descent into darkness is often quick, and getting out of it can feel like climbing a mountain. It is best to focus on the future, rather than try to live in the past.

Honestly, I'm still a work in progress in this area, but I continue to try. To me, this is the beauty of celebrating the new year. It's not just good a time to spend time with family and friends; it's a great time to leave the past in the past and look to the future. A new year brings new opportunities. The new year is a new chance to live the life you want, rather than think about how everything went wrong in the past year.

We can't change our past, but we can take what we have learned and move forward. New year means new beginnings. It's time to make all those changes for the better. I don't just mean resolutions that will fall away in a few weeks, either. Set some big goals, dare to dream big, and really go out there and live the life you always hoped was possible. Let nothing hold you back, especially not bad memories from the past.

Happy New Year, my friends! Let us welcome 2014 and leave 2013 where it belongs. Make new memories and make your dreams come true. Be blessed. See you in 2014!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Favorite Christmas Songs

I was having an interesting conversation with a friend recently. We were talking about our favorite Christmas stuff, particularly the things that make Christmas feel like Christmas for us. I noticed that many people like similar things, but there is usually some variation that is slightly different. These variations are what makes a song, movie, or item feel personal. It's what triggers the memories or invokes that special feeling we are looking for. When that part is missing, we definitely feel it. For example, many people like the same Christmas songs, but they may prefer hearing that song sung by a specific artist and no one else. So, in the spirit of the season, here are some of my favorite Christmas songs.

Having grown up in the 80's and 90's, it's hard to get away from this Christmas classic:

I've heard many different covers of this song over the years, but I don't care for any of them. For me, it has to be Mariah singing. Hearing it reminds me of my younger years, back when I actually liked Christmas. However, this is by no means my favorite Christmas song. My favorite Christmas song is "The Christmas Waltz" by Frank Sinatra, and it has to be Frank Sinatra.

Hearing Sinatra sing reminds me of my grandparents. It's been a long time since they were around to celebrate Christmas. Being around family and celebrating together was really important to them. It hasn't been important to anyone else in my family since they passed, but I hope to pass on these values to my kids.

I am also fond of "Merry Christmas Darling" by the Carpenters. This one is the one that reminds me of my childhood. Moreover, Karen Carpenter's voice just can't be replicated. It really is a beautiful song. Her voice was so unique.

I had to put this one on the list...

I love this version of "The Christmas Song." A lot of other singers sing this song well, but it never feels the same. I just feel like Nat King Cole's voice adds something to this song that just is not present when others sing it.

Of course, my list would not be complete without a traditional Christmas song. One of the reasons I have been trying to get into celebrating Christmas is because of my children. This is one that my son's school does every year in the Christmas program. The little kids always steal the show. This version of "Away in a Manger" is very close to the way it sounds in the program.

Well, these are a few of my favorite Christmas songs. These are the songs that make Christmas feel like Christmas to me. Without them, the holiday would feel incomplete, for sure. These are the songs that generate the memories and feelings that make the holiday feel special to me. Mind you, I'm not much of a Christmas person, but I do still enjoy some parts of the season. Please take a moment to tell me about some of your favorites, and why? Just a few more days to go. Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Doing Christmas Differently

As I have said before, I am not a Christmas person at all. I'm trying to be, but it's not an easy process. I watch the movies, listen to the music, and go to the various parties. My house is decorated; my kids do all of the Christmas activities. Yet, I still have trouble getting into the spirit of Christmas.

It seems the older I get, the more I feel like Christmas loses its meaning. The holiday becomes more about spending money than anything else. More and more, I feel like Christmas is about companies squeezing every last dime out of consumers. I know, I know, I sound like a Grinch; but, dare I say, even the Grinch is being used to sell products. Everywhere I look, there is someone trying to sell me something Christmas-related as if there is no way that my Christmas will be complete without that one product.

This year, I'm trying to do things differently. This year, I'm still feeding, talking to, and providing whatever I can for the homeless in my community. Instead of spending a truckload of money on stuff, I donated a truckload of new toys to a church other than my own. I got some fancy handmade mugs as gifts for some of my family, but I got them by donating money to an organization that provides clean water in other countries. A local artist made them specifically for this purpose.

The season isn't over yet, but I feel like focusing on giving to others is the best decision I have made in a while. You can't go wrong investing in people. Eventually, the music will stop, the gifts will be put away, and the parties will end, but the memories will last a lifetime. Seeing a smile on the face of a homeless person, giving toys to children who may not receive anything else this year, and making Christmas about people instead of products is more important to me than having the latest must-have gift. I am also reminded that: while I do not have much, I still have a lot more than many others.

Ten days until Christmas, and I still have much to do. I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season. If you can, take some time to do something kind for a stranger. I can promise you: no matter how small the gesture may seem to you, it can make all the difference in the world to someone in need. Have a wonderful week everybody!

Monday, December 2, 2013

My first experience using KDP Select Free Promotional Days (Updated)

On Black Friday, I ran my first KDP Select Promotion Day. I know many of you are wondering how that is possible. I chose not to enroll my first book in KDP Select. I decided to sell my first book on iTunes, Nook, and Kobo. In all honesty, I didn't know what I was doing. I was learning as I was going along and trying everything out.

With book two, I decided to go with Amazon because I have had the most success through the Kindle Store. Over the last few months, I have heard many good and bad things about enrolling in KDP Select, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I decided to go with just one day to start off. I submitted my information to promote my free day on five sites I learned about from others on Twitter. I also submitted info on one site that only takes submissions on the day of the promotion. The only thing I did in addition was make sure to tell others about my free day on Facebook and Twitter.

Seeing as how I did not put in too much effort, I am pleased with the results. Beyond Demons and Protectors made it into the Top 10 free books for that day. I gave away 200 books. I'm slowly getting some reviews and people contacting me about the book. My first book also received a boost in sales. Overall, I would say my experience with KDP Select Free Promotion was positive. This last month of book promotion has definitely been much better than my experiences with the first book, which was so stressful I wasn't sure I wanted to write a second book. The only major problem I encountered this time was when the book initially showed up for free on the Amazon site. It took almost two hours before the book showed up as free, but after that, no major problems.

I'll get a chance today to see if the positive results continue. I am running another free promotion on KDP Select for Cyber Monday. I'll be sure to let everyone know how this one goes. Hopefully, the results will be good. If not, I will be sure to write about those experiences as well. Have a wonderful week, everybody!

Update - December 8, 2013:

I ran another free promotion on Cyber Monday. My results were not as good as they were on Black Friday. I still managed to give away another 100 books. My book made it to #8, which I was really happy to see. I observed a small bump in sales in both my first and latest book sales, afterward; however, the bump did not last long, and I have not received any new reviews this past week.

I can't be sure if the decrease in free sales was a result of the day or timing of my promotions with any accuracy. Overall, I am pleased with the results. It took a little work, but nothing outrageous. I have a few more free promotion days left to use. I need to look at what worked and what didn't, and then choose the next days for promotion.

One thing I can say is giving my book away for free did help me a lot in spreading the word about my book. A lot of people have been asking questions, telling me what they liked, and are recommending their book to their friends. I still feel the best promotion is word of mouth, of course. Only time will tell just how much more word of mouth I actually gained as a result of free promotions. I think things are going fairly well, especially considering my second book has not been out for very long.

I will be sure to keep you all posted about how my future promotions turn out. Thank you to everyone who helped me over the cyber weekend. I could not have accomplished anything without you. Number 8 is pretty darn good, even if my time in the top 10 was fairly short. Have a wonderful week, everybody!