What did I learn this month - April 2012?
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What did I learn this month - April 2012?

"We knew no time for sadness, that's a road we each had crossed
We were living a time meant for us, and even when it would rain
we would laugh it off.
I've got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
I've got pieces of April, it's a morning in May."
- Dan Loggins; Performed by Three Dog Night
April,  was a very trying month in many ways, but it also carried with it a sense of awakening.
1. Never take family and friends for granted. –
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve lost several members of my extended Kindred. The members from earlier this year were added to the acknowledgments in The Brotherhood, so I was able to properly say my thank you and goodbye. One snuck by me this month...a huge advocate of The Dante Chronicles, who worked tirelessly to help me to get in touch with the widower of my 5th grade teacher who started me on this path in the first place. As hard as she tried, we just couldn’t make the connections needed, and suddenly, time ran out. I didn’t have the chance to say thank you for all her time and help, so if you will oblige me, I’d like to say:
“Thank you, Donna Lowe...you were a staunch supporter of me as a student,
as an author and as a person. You went the extra mile for me.
You didn’t have to, but you did, and for that
I can’t thank you enough.
Life is so incredibly short. From moment to moment, you just never know who might not be there anymore. Please, from my heart to yours, the next time you have to say ‘thank you’, ‘I thought about you’, or ‘I love you’......Don’t hesitate. Do it.
2. Social sites can lead to great contacts as well as become sources of inspiration and cathartic release. –
I think I now have a page on just about every societal website there is. It’s exhausting keeping up with them. The one good thing is most of them allow linkage so you can post to one site and all the rest are updated, but still...its like going to a party, that has an after hours party, that goes to breakfast, then out to lunch, and then cocktails at happy hour. I never was a party person to begin with, so sometimes this is just silly. Recently, I found one site to be a tremendous help to my soul, if not to my brand.
Pinterest.com is just pure unadulterated fun that brings to mind the days when I was a child and would clip pictures from magazines and pin them up as incentive for who I wanted to be, foods I wanted to make, the home I wanted to create for myself, things that made me happy, and places I wanted to one day see.
It seems inane to some, as I imagine it would, but when I created a board solely for The Dante Chronicles depicting the elements that inspired, and still inspire my writing, I discovered a whole new division of readers who are more visually acute. My choices in music brought me non-readers that suddenly wanted to read my book. The pictures I post brought in Wiccans, horticulturists, Chefs, artists, travelers and a world of others that never knew I existed, and we found each other over a ‘white board’ of time keepers.
Looking back over it now, it’s also a timeline for me to remember where I was, in comparison to where I am now. My, my, my! How I’ve grown.
If you are interested in visiting my ‘white board’ on Pinterest, here is the link: http://pinterest.com/deborahcota/the-dante-chronicles/
3. Sometimes overcoming your greatest fears, can lead to your greatest adventures. –
I hate having my picture taken! Let me say that again...I HATE having my picture taken! Why, you may ask...well, I will tell you why...I just do, damnit! Okay? It’s uncomfortable, and awkward and just an incredible waste of time where I am concerned, because I’ve never thought that I took a good photo. Personally, I prefer to be on the other side of the camera, and I was for quite some time professionally until an alien took residence in my head (acoustic neuroma, benign tumor in my ear – disruptive bugger! Scary, but sometimes quite entertaining) and made life behind the lens an improbable situation ever again.
In the process of promoting my work, I’ve found a need to have that all important (gulp!) head shot.
Once upon a time when I was trying to get an entertainment agent, I had head shots of all sorts that suited all sorts of different situations. But those were taken over twenty years ago and things have shifted and changed since then. You just can’t use the head shot of a twenty-two year old girl, to represent an almost forty-eight year old woman. The years and the experience just aren’t there and it isn’t an honest depiction of where I’ve been and where I am coming from. Luckily, right about this time my friend, and staunch TDC supporter, Anita Bernard, entered my “Show Me your Kindred” contest with a family portrait taken by a local photographer named, Niki Ward.
I looked at that photo daily, and each time I looked at it, I found something more I liked about it. Anita has a gorgeous family to begin with, but the poignancy, character and love that the photographer was able to draw out of them spoke volumes, not only about Anita’s brood, but about the shooter also. The photo had a website post on the corner, and I immediately went there to learn more. There I found a world of fantastic vision and views that spoke to me as an artist and as a human being. I was not only impressed by the creative nature of the photos, but the keen eye of this photographer, and how she was able to draw out the inner beauty of her subjects. Her work is breathtaking.
Needless to say I contacted Niki immediately...and after we finally foraged through all our scheduling conflicts; I was able to have my session with the artist herself. Scared though I was, and having already expressed my concerns for certain insecurities, Niki found a place that I felt safe in, and made me feel almost as comfortable as being on the other side of the camera. Haven’t seen the proofs yet, but trusting what I’ve seen of her previous work, I feel secure that I am in good hands.
If you are interested in seeing her previous work or need a really great, personable photographer, check out her website at: http://www.nikiward.com/
4. A day job is a curse, but it has its benefits, too! –
By day, I am an accountant. I work for a very old company (nearly 75 years old now, and for construction, that’s old), five days a week, eight hours a day. You’re probably asking yourselves, when can you possibly find the time to write and publicize a book? Well, let me tell ya, it ain’t easy!
For one, lunch hours are for the birds...my need to write contends with my stomach and usually, my stomach will prevail, leaving me all of about twenty minutes to get anything written down. So, I spend most of my evening writing...that is after I take care of my dog, clean up after dinner, finish laundry, pay bills....etc, etc, etc...Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how I do it. But the job is necessary to sustain my life, the life of my family and the life of my books.
Do I want to work here? Do I need to work here? That isn't important, because the main benefit to it all, besides the consistent paycheck, are the contacts. I need readers to read my books. I have that here, in an unending, and ever changing source
It’s hard to wait around for something I know in my heart might never happen; but it would be even harder for me to give up when I know it’s everything I want.
For now...this will do.
5. Learning to build a brand opens your eyes. –
Go into a store, any store and look at the brand names...for instance, Sports Authority...go in and look for Nike.
The name Nike usually brings to mind, what? Shoes? Michael Jordan? Yet, what do you see with the Nike name? EVERYTHING! Water bottles, clothing, bags, wallets, camping stools, coolers, golf umbrellas...you name it and that famous ‘swoosh’ is there. But creating a brand takes time, effort and most of all...cash. How do I build my brand name on a shoestring budget? You ask for help.
After I had book markers made and left a trail of them from Sacramento to San Mateo at every coffee shop and library I could find, I came across a small bookstore in Alameda that was hosting a local author book signing.
The first thing I noticed about his table was how bare and plain it was; basic folding, nothing exciting. While he was signing, his pen died and he was forced to use another from the cash wrap that was even a different color ink than he started with...his decorum was disheveled and his system out of sync. The person with him may as well have been a statue. People tried to engage her in conversation and she was more impressed with her iPhone than the event.
I decided then and there, that’s no way to build a brand or image. Nike would have had a well presented table with lots of items for the patrons to occupy themselves with; all coordinated and strategically placed in front of people who are upbeat and helpful. Welcoming. Interested, Warm.
So I started shopping for ‘brand’ shirts, pens, bags and a lot more ‘kitschy’ stuff along that promo line and found a lot of duds. My sister, Candy, right hand gal and all around smart person, suggested the shop across the street from my day job. I was hesitant at first since my company goes there for our tees and jackets, but because of my affiliation with DME, BYOG Logo gave me a good price and they are now the home of TDC’s promo plans.
For now, I have enough items that have the name and slogan to keep me visually available to patrons in the region. In time....there will be more and in a greater range. Hell, I have two fans in Ireland and a dozen in the UK...and when it comes time to send those chotchkies with their books, BYOG will be the providers. Check out their site here: http://www.byoglogo.com/
So that’s it for this month...
With more events coming up this month, I am sure May will have much more for me to learn and grow with. Until then...

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