The Smardy Pants book blog is offering three free copies of To Have and To Hold, the first book in the 101 Nights series from Boroughs Publishing Group. Smardy Pants is a really fun blog that describes itself as “Obsessed with Rock Stars, Bad Boys, and all Things Paranormal.” Lots of freebies and great reading suggestions. Check it out and enter to win a giveaway of my book….explore love, lust, and lies in the New Jersey suburbs as genie Amani Zarin settles into domestic life with her new scientist husband. Something’s going to explode! [click on the pic to enter giveaway]
I think it’s important on Father’s Day to not only get a really clever gift that your Dad will appreciate–and probably return if he’s anything like my Dad–but that you take a few minutes to recall all the ways your Dad made you who you are.
I don’t know who gave him the nickname, whether it was one of the funny, tough cops he worked with, one of his seven brothers and sisters, or himself. He was really good with a turn of phrase. But his name was Thomas Joseph McDonnell, so you see where Tommy Mac came from. Born and raised in Philadelphia, for most of his adult life he worked as a police office for the Pennsylvania Railroad. By the time the railroads began to collapse and then merged into Conrail (Consolidated Rail Corporation) in the ’70s, he was still a cop but now he was a lieutenant. Said he never wanted to be a captain because it would have meant leaving the union and being subject to whatever hours administration put to him; hours that would take him away from his family. As it was, for most of my childhood, I remember him working his regular shift while we were at school and then taking on the graveyard shift while we slept. But he still joined us six kids and my Mom for dinner every night and helped us with our homework. He made each one of us feel special. I remember he used to do this thing where we’d all be sitting at the dinner table. We’d needle him about who he liked best. “Okay,” he’d say. “Close your eyes. I’m going to tap my favorite on the head. But you can’t say anything.” We closed our eyes. Held our breath. Got a tap on the head. What a bunch of smug faces when we opened our eyes, each thinking that we were his favorite. In a way, each of us was.
It was during one of those pre-dawn railroad beats that he was chasing thieves down the tracks. They’d broken into a boxcar and were hauling off stereos and some other equipment that obviously didn’t belong to them. At 6’3″, he was fast. Never drew his gun on a suspect, though he carried one. Every year, he was deemed a sharpshooter at the range. But he told me once that he didn’t actually want to hurt anyone. Anyway, he saw he could catch two of the guys if he clambered over the coupling between freight cars. So he did. Right at that moment, one of the cars began to move and pinned him between hookups. Providentially, the car eased back for a better hook and he pulled himself out. Three ribs broken. He came home from work early, but went back on duty the next day.
He didn’t like to take sick time. In fact, I don’t ever remember him calling out sick. He liked to save all his days so that he could take us on vacations. Sometimes, he rented a cabin up in the Poconos, but mostly he took us to the Jersey shore. His sister Helen owned a house in North Wildwood and I think his happiest times were backfloating in the ocean (he could backfloat for an hour; riding the currents until he was just a speck in the distance) or sitting out in the yard by the bay watching us kids catch crabs off the dock. He would sing Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” and then announce to no one in particular, “Oh, I’m a happy man.”
He was happy and that made us happy. He was married to the love of his life. Bridget Ann Kelly from Ireland. His pixie, he called her. Met at the A.O.H. club. The Ancient Order of Hibernians. They were well matched. He was calm and steadfast. She was passionate and headstrong and loving. They both had great humor. She said he made her laugh every day. Often, we’d hear them talking late at night in their bedroom of the three-bedroom, one-bath rowhome where we lived in Philly. And then she would laugh at something he’d said. A robust, full-hearted, throaty laugh that made us laugh.
I only saw him cry twice. The first time was when my 22-year-old sister Christina, his youngest daughter of four girls, drowned in the ocean at the Jersey Shore. The second time was when his “bride”–that’s what he still called her after 40 years together–died at the age of 60 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Then he dried his tears and got about the business of burying them.
He taught me that life is what you make it, so make it good. I remember once complaining about something in my life that seemed unfair or upsetting or whatever. I was a young adult with a full-time job, college education, my own apartment, and a car. He said, “Don’t you see, Kellyann. You’ve got the world by the ass. Enjoy it.”
When I said wanted to be a writer, he just smiled. “Why don’t you get an engineering degree. You can always write.” But I had the bug. I got a journalism degree instead and I think he liked that. He was a writer, as his father was. He was a cop, his father was a fire chief, but they both had poems and short stories published in magazines. We talked about literature. He would recite entire poems by Wordsworth, Keats, and anonymous authors. He had a beautiful singing voice. We mostly heard it when he was in the shower.
He was erudite, spiritual, honest, funny, so intelligent, perceptive, and wise. We would talk for hours about the spiritual journey we take in life. I’m not sure where he got his very Zen-like outlook. He was an Irish Catholic boy who went to West Catholic and did two years at St. Joseph’s College. But he had ideas that I would later learn reached into the teachings of the ancient philosophers. He was widely read. Gave The Painted Bird to me to read when I was thirteen. I think it was his way of showing me what humanity was capable of, and what it is capable of overcoming. His way of outfitting me for the world. I’d never been exposed to literature like that. It changed my world. We talked about Shakespeare, the Bible, magic, science, politics. He taught me to backfloat in the ocean. He taught me that anything is possible.
He taught me that, above all things, to thine own self be true. That’s from Shakespeare. But also from Tommy Mac.
He broke his leg in 2009 and when they operated on him at Holy Redeemer Hospital, they slipped in a couple of superbugs by accident. Bacteria that would steal his mobility, burn through his leg, and ultimately kill him just two years later. Despite having lived decades with ankylosing spondilitis that curved his spine and constricted his chest, and rheumatoid arthritis, he never complained. Not until those last months of searing agony from the infection in his leg. Every once in a while, he’d shift to get more comfortable, wince, and say, “Those dirty bastards.” But then he’d looked at us, and he’d smile.
I was alone with him when the last breath left his body. It was surreal. It was just like it’s ever been described anywhere: a person expelling his last breath. Like a sigh. It broke my heart. But I don’t let it weigh me down. There was another quote from Shakespeare that he liked to refer to: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I’ll see him again.
In the meantime…. Dearly loved. Sorely missed. Never forgotten. Happy Father’s Day, Tommy Mac. Thanks for making me who I am.
Authors need reviews. Am I right? You want a potential reader to know what other readers think about your book. More and more statistics in this insta-pubbed crowded world tell us that “word of mouth” is still the best way to promote your book. [Read Jane Friedman's blog on "Using Word-of-Mouth (Not Media Attention) to Sell Books."] And here’s a piece from NPR about using word-of-mouth. Essentially, the publisher gives out lots of free copies and hopes people like it enough to spread the word.
And how do you get that word of mouth? Simple. You get people talking about your book. Not so simple. Well, reviews are one way to do that. Even non-professional reader reviews posted on Amazon send Amazon analytics into overdrive. Get a certain number of reviews within a certain number of days from the book’s release (I think it’s something like 30 reviews in three days) and your book may rise to the top of a recommended page. Supposedly, you don’t even need good reviews for that to happen. But another source I read indicated that the reviews really need to be three stars or above. (I could get the source attribution for you, but I’m on deadline with another book…just go with it.) The inclination might be to rustle up a couple of dozen relatives and ask them to quickly post a two-liner on Amazon (20-word minimum) saying:
“I loved this book. You should get this book today! You won’t be sorry. I don’t even know what genre this is but I loved it anyway because my second cousin told me I do. Five Stars!!”
Those types of write-ups may populate your Amazon page, but they’re really not going to do anything for your sales. And you know it. You probably gave your relatives copies of the book and that’s as far as it’s going to go. So, ultimately, you’re not helping your sales and you may detract from the credibility of your buy page. Bottom line, get legitimate reviews. It’ll take some time to identify the reviewers who might like your book. Much like word-of-mouth, this takes another old-fashioned effort….good ol’ legwork. Check out other books on Amazon that might be similar to yours; read the reviews and see who the reviewers are. Email addresses aren’t always included, but you will get a snapshot of many blogs that review your genre. Contact the blog, send a copy of your book, and hope for the best.
Which is what brings me to the point of this blog. The best doesn’t have to be five stars. I just received a three-star review from The Vampire Book Club that I really appreciated. It was clear, pointed, and right on about the major elements of the book. She shared what she liked about the book and the strong aspects of it. Basically, she had nothing bad to say other than it wasn’t the type of book she normally reads. The Genie Ignites was more of a thriller or romantic suspense…which is what I intended it to be. So, I’m very pleased with the review. And she leaves the reader with this pithy summation:
“The author knows how to pull a switcheroo that left me wanting to read the next book, just to see what happens.”
That’s a sales pitch right there for the second book in the series, The Genie Smolders…which releases next month from Boroughs Publishing Group.
Here's another Boroughs Author!
(BTW, don't forget to check out Boroughs' writing contest! Many of the Lunchbox Romances that have been featured STARTED in last year's Boroughs Love @First Sight Writing Contest!)
Kellyann Zuzulo writes romance fiction about genies. She is the author of a new series, 101 Nights, as well as the novel The Genie Ignites, which is book one of The Zubis Chronicles from Boroughs Publishing Group.
I just got word today that my book, which is published by Boroughs Publishing Group, was ranked among the top three for my category, which was Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal. The Abalone Awards recognize “outstanding ethno-cultural romance.” While Zubis is a jinni and Bethany is a human, the cultural issue in The Genie Ignites is the divide between her Western world and his Eastern view, which is steeped in the legend, traditions, history, food, and lifestyle of the Middle East. But true love sees no color, sees no difference in how the heart loves. I’m so honored that my novel was selected. The winner will be announced at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference in July. It’s time to make a wish.
Go download your copy of The Genie Ignites. It is the first book in The Zubis Chronicles series. I think you’ll like it.
The second book, The Genie Smolders, is due out in May.
How hot is your hero? It’s all about how he’s described. A well-written romance will convey a protagonist who’s dependable, maybe a little unpredictable and dangerous, but definitely unforgettable.
Simple words are sometimes the best way to do that. Not all at once, mind you. But sprinkled throughout the encounters.
- Stoic…until she makes him laugh
- Mischievous…more to describe something about him rather than him; e.g. mischievous twinkle in his azure eyes.
Think about the words that describe someone you admire…or who gets you all hot and bothered.
Now, check out some of the words you SHOULDN’T USE when describing your hero. Read the full post at The Pop Culture Divas.
101 Nights coming next week from Boroughs Publishing Group
Here’s a helpful blog to help you brush up on your vocabulary. That’s always a good exercise.
I’m going to add a couple of words to the list.
Dearth: I’ve heard people use it to mean a full complement or lots of something. In fact, it means a scarcity or lack of.
Irregardless: Doesn’t exist. Use “regardless.”
What misuses are your pet peeves?
The Romance Reviews is a great online book review site where readers can learn about new romance titles and read fair and informative reviews. I’m there right now… just lounging around, waiting for you to stop by. From January 25th to January 29th, TRR is running their Romance Madness Hop. The idea is to have fun while learning about some excellent reads. It’s easy.
- Just log in at TRR (simply done with your email address and a password)
- Check out the blogs listed
- Answer the question
- Win prizes
Each time you visit one blog, you automatically get 5 chances to win. I don’t know how they do it, but there’s some techno-cool software that keeps track of the blogs you already hit so you don’t have to….or maybe a genie is involved.
Speaking of genies (and I always do), the question that will link you to my blog has to do with the hero of my novel The Genie Ignites. And since you’ve all read this book (I sense nodding), it’ll be an easy win. Besides, you’ll want to read this first book in The Zubis Chronicles because Book Two will be released shortly. That’s right, The Genie Smolders is coming!
Go now and start hopping! I’ll see you over there.
What Would You Wish For?
If you’re an author, you can’t go wrong with this workshop. Lisa Pietsch helped set me up on WordPress; my reach extended and my book sales shot up. Now, it’s either her or the genie…or a combination of both. But I couldn’t be happier with what I learned from this marketing maven. If you have an extra $25 about (or give up some lattes), sign up for this workshop…
THE GENIE IGNITES loves Lisa Pietsch!
Last week, I posted some of the classic Arabic and world music tracks that keep me tapping away at the keys, summoning the jinn and writing the words. Here are some more that keep me company while I tap out in time:
Niyaz. Beni-Beni. Just try to sit still when you listen to this
Souad Massi. Khalouni (Let Me). Her voice is so clear and the strings so crisp, in a backdrop of exotic rhythm, it’s like a glass of water in the desert.
Sting and Cheb Mami get together for the outrageously popular Desert Rose. There’s a reason why it was such a hit. Familiar and alluring at the same time. They blend two worlds, two sounds. Sting’s voice never disappoints. When combined with the haunting vocals of Algerian rai singer Cheb Mami, you’re transported.
Amr Diab of Egypt has a great voice. Doesn’t hurt that he sort of resembles a jinni. Here he is signing Amarain…
Finally, a great party tune for when you’re serving hummus and grape leaves. This is Sawt El Atlas of Morocco with Ne Me Jugez Pas…
Listen while you read THE GENIE IGNITES.
Read it on any computer, ereader, or smart phone.