Angelhood Available on Audible!

Have you heard the news?

Angelhood is now available on Audible!

If you like to listen to books, you can now listen to an amazing recording of Angelhood. Voice-over artist Kaitlyn Radel does an amazing job of bringing seventeen-year-old guardian angel Nanette to life. Click on over to listen to a sample of her superb narration.

If you don’t have Audible yet, you can try it for free for 30 days!

Angelhood Audible

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Homemade Tiramisu & Other Ways I Relax

In this week’s Spin Cycle, Ginny Marie is asking us to write about how we relax. One of my favorite ways to relax is to bake. And by bake, I don’t even necessarily mean “turn on the oven.” I mean making any kind of dessert.

I’ll make cookies . . .

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Or cakes . . . .

Graduation Cap Cake

Or frozen treats . . .

Frozen Chocolate Mousse

Pretty much anything yummy.

I used to bring treats into work, but one of my old bosses complained that I must have too much time on my hands if I had time to bake! What she didn’t understand is that baking was the way I relaxed! If all I do is grade papers all the time, I become a really cranky teacher.

One of my favorite recent recipes has been making homemade tiramisu, perfected after taking cooking classes in Rome. Most people think tiramisu includes alcohol, but they’d be wrong. Real tiramisu doesn’t having alcohol. Only restaurants put in alcohol because they need it to act as a preservative. Real, fresh tiramisu doesn’t have any alcohol in it.

Tiramisu

Sure, it still has espresso . . .

IMG_2518

and mascarpone cheese . . .

IMG_3411and ladyfinger cookies . . .

IMG_3412

. . . but no alcohol!

Want my recipe for real homemade tiramisu that’s easy and delicious? Sign up for my monthly newsletter and get it delivered to your inbox!

I guess I’ve decided that I miss my old baking blog a bit, so I’ve decided to share some recipes in my monthly newsletter. Sign up soon and you’ll get the tiramisu recipe in my next newsletter!

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media & Marketing

Since my book came out in April, I’ve been engaged in a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of social media marketing. In the past few weeks (since my return from the Italy/Spain trip), I’ve had some time to really dig back in again before school starts up next week.

BookTubeAThon PinterestOn the one hand, I LOVE it. Or at least, I’m totally fascinated by it. I’m wondering what will work and what won’t work. And sometimes the results are very interesting. I’m thinking things like . . .

  • How can I promote this awesome review I got on Readers’ Favorite? I’ve tweeted it, pinned it, and posted it to both my personal and professional Facebook pages. So far I’m getting the most likes on my personal Facebook page. But is that helping? Most of those people have already bought the book.
  • How do I make really attractive Pinterest pins that people will repin and that will bring traffic to my website? I wrote a whole blog post on that one.
  • What hashtags work the best in Twitter?
  • How do I make press releases that actually show up in online newspapers?
  • How do I can get more Pinterest followers? (I’ve quadrupled my followers in the last week. Of course, my numbers were small, so it wasn’t too hard. Ha! Follow me here, if you want to help my Pinteresting crusade. Leave me a note in the comments of this post, and I’ll follow you back.)
  • How do I get more subscribers to my monthly newsletter? You can subscribe here to learn about my writing news, appearances, and giveaways.
  • Should I have a YouTube channel? Guess what? Yes, I should. And do. It only has two videos so far, but still. Come visit me.

On the other hand, I HATE it. It’s sucking up my time. I follow one lead to build up my social media marketing and end up down a whole rabbit hole of information that makes the beautiful summer day outside suddenly disappear. What happened to my day? I’ve been tied to my laptop, my phone, and my iPad.

Argh! And I used to think marketing was boring! My college roommate majored in it, and I couldn’t figure out why. Of course, that was all before the social media explosion. I wonder if they teach a whole course in social media marketing in colleges now.

Got any social media marketing tips for me? I’d love to hear them! Of course, I may never again see the light of day if you do share them.

Want to hear about other people’s love/hate relationships? Click the button below to follow this week’s Spin Cycle.

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How to get tickets to the Pope’s General Audience

In this second in my series on helpful travel tips in Italy, I’m going to explain how to get tickets to see the Pope at his weekly General Audience. Before my trip, I had read conflicting advice on line. “It’s to the left of St. Peter’s.” “It’s to the right of St. Peter’s.” “You have to ask a Swiss Guard.” Which Swiss Guard?

I’m going to make this ridiculously easy for you. Because really, it is easy.

First off, the General Audience is held every Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. except for during the month of July. If the weather is good (or even relatively good), it’s held outside in St. Peter’s Square. If the weather’s really bad, it’s held inside the Paul VI Auditorium, which would be to your left if you’re facing toward St. Peter’s Basilica.

Now, how to get tickets? It’s actually really easy. Stand in St. Peter’s Square and face toward the Basilica. See that set of colonnades off to your left?

Tickets for General Audience Photo

Walk through those colonnades. You’ll see a gated area. (By the way, this is the same gated area, you’d go to if you had tickets for the Scavi Tour, which gets you under St. Peter’s Basilica to see the old necropolis it was built upon and where St. Peter was actually buried.)

Need a bird's eye view?

Need a bird’s eye view?

In front of that gated area will be a Swiss Guard. Just ask him for the tickets. He has them in his pocket. No kidding. Don’t believe me? Read about what happened when my friend Katie and I went to Rome and went to get our tickets.

Tickets are free, and you can pick them up the day before.

With any luck, you’ll get a great photo of Pope Francis kissing a baby!

Pope Francis kissing the baby

Photo from General Audience on June 17, 2015

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BookTubeAThon 2015 TBR List!

Just a couple days ago, an author friend told me about a seven-day reading challenge called BookTubeAThon. It’s happening over on YouTube, but if you watch this video, you’ll hear about my list of books to be read in a week. (Ha! Not going to happen.)

 

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How to create Pinterest pins that bring traffic to your author website

Pinterest Tips for Authors

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research on how to use Pinterest as an author, and a number of my author friends have asked me to share what I learned. Because Pinterest is a visual medium, it’s a lot easier to show you what to do rather than tell you, so I created a video.

Here are a few more general Pinterest tips that aren’t mentioned in the video:

  1. Make sure you have a profile picture on your Pinterest page. People are less likely to follow you if they can’t see who you are. Besides, you’re building an author brand. You are your brand.
  2. Consider adding a title like “author” or “mystery writer” after your name on your profile. For example, I’m “A.J. Cattapan, author.” That way I’m more likely to be found when people search for authors, and people will know exactly what they’re getting when they follow me.
  3. Make sure the description under your name has key terms that will help people identify you who are. As a writer, you’ll probably want to list what you write as well as what writing groups you belong to.

Again, the video is a step-by-step tutorial for creating the best pins. It does not cover the three things listed above. Instead, you’ll learn . . .

  1. what makes some Pinterest pins stand out from others.
  2. how to create attention-grabbing photos without buying an expensive photoshop program.
  3. how to pin those photos to Pinterest so that they drive attention back to your website–even if those photos aren’t actually on your website at all!

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How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Brings You Sales!

Last May, I threw a book launch party for my young adult novel Angelhood. I’m not going to lie. It was a ton of work. But totally worth it!

How to throw book launch party

I didn’t find great resources on the web, so I thought I’d save all my fellow authors out there some trouble and time. Here’s how to throw a book launch party that brings you massive sales!

Pick the Place

Finding a place to hold your party can be kind of hard. A lot of websites I found claiming to tell you how to throw a book launch party said they just held the party in their home with a few of their closest friends.

Um. No.

They said the point of the party wasn’t to sell their book.

Um. Sorry. No again.

The point of your party is two-fold: to celebrate your awesome accomplishment of getting your book published *and* to market your book. People aren’t going to buy a book they’ve never heard of, and in today’s flooded book market, it’s going to take some effort to get your book noticed.

So don’t hold the party at your home. Hold it someplace public. Here are a few options:

  • If you know someone who owns a business–say a pizza parlor, a bakery, or a coffeeshop–ask if they might let you use their facility for free. This can be a win-win situation. For example, my third book signing was at my favorite tea shop. They provided the space, some tea, and a little food. I sold books, and they sold tea. We all won. If you know a spot like this, don’t be shy to approach them. They may welcome the opportunity to be part of your success story.
  • Book a room at a place that lets you book rooms for free. My cousin Joan Aubele had the launch party for her cancer-survivor memoir at a church hall. My author friend Pamela Meyer did her first book launch at a Panera that had a room you could check out for free. Pam just paid for cookies and drinks. The one limitation here might be size. I knew the Panera room was too small for me (hazard of coming from a large family), so I had to go for option #3 . . .
  • Rent a room through a park district or library. I found a really nice park district banquet facility that was pretty inexpensive. What also helped bring down the costs was that they let me bring in our own food. Beware places that make you use one of their own caterers. This will drive up your costs.

PICK A DATE AND TIME

Think about who will be coming to your party. What’s the best time for them to be available? Since my book came out in spring, I knew a lot of people would be busy on Saturdays with graduations, First Communions, and sports. Week nights can be hard for people after work. I chose a Sunday afternoon. It seemed to work well for my group, but consider your potential guests when picking your date and time.

PLAN THE FOOD AND DRINKS

If you’re doing your launch party at a business that sells food (e.g. restaurant, tea shop), ask if they might provide some drinks and simple snacks. If they won’t donate the goods, ask about purchasing something simple from them like my friend who just ordered a giant plate of cookies and a simple beverage through Panera.

If you’re having it at a venue where you have to rent space like I did, ask first if you can bring in your own food. Friends might help chip in, or you can do what I did and go to CostCo with a friend and just load up!

Food at launch party

PLAN THE ENTERTAINMENT

You probably want your guests to stick around for a little while, so give them a few reasons to do so. Here are a few options:

  • Think about who's going to talk at your book launch.

    Think about who’s going to talk at your book launch.

    Hire a band. I hired the lovely two-person band Finding Free. They did an awesome job of setting the tone for my party.

  • Bring in your phone/iPod and speakers and have a playlist ready to go.
  • Think about who might speak. I gave a short talk about how I came to write Angelhood at my launch party. My cousin gave a talk at hers, but she also had a priest (who saw her through cancer) say a prayer, her oncologist gave a short talk, and her daughter and son-in-law sang a song befitting her memoir. Other authors sometimes read from their books. It’s up to you who talks, but don’t let any speeches run too long. You need to save time for book signing!

RAFFLE PRIZES!

Everybody loves good raffle prizes, so have some at your party. What can you raffle off?

  • copies of your book
  • copies of donated books from your author friends (you do have author friends, right?)
  • a “reading set” (e.g. coffee mug plus coffee and/or tea samples)
  • anything related to the theme of your book
  • something for the kids? (If you expect kids at your party, have one or two prizes appropriate for them, too.)
  • know anyone famous? Can they donate a prize? I had an autographed football by Mike Ditka at my party.

How to award prizes? Everyone who shows up to your party gets one raffle ticket. If they buy your book(s), they get more raffle tickets. If they already purchased your books online and brought them to get autographed, give them another ticket.

Do the drawings for the raffle about halfway through your party. You want to give people enough time to show up, but you don’t want to wait too long and people start leaving.

I had all the prizes displayed and then let people drop their raffle tickets into the prizes they were most interested in winning.

ENLIST YOUR FRIENDS!

Oh for the love of all that’s good. Don’t do this on your own! I had a whole committee of awesome friends helping me out.

  • Two friends were the masters of social media before the party.
  • One became the official photographer during the party. You’ll want photos to share on social media afterwards so that everyone who missed your party will see what an awesome shindig they missed out on.
  • One friend was in charge of helping me with food.
  • One friend was in charge of getting as many raffle prizes as she could drum up (pick a friend with lots of people skills and networking abilities for this job).
  • One friend was in charge of book sales at the party. Several ending up manning the sales table. Don’t be behind the sales table yourself. Put trustworthy friends there.
  • Three friends were in charge of decorations.
  • Two friends sat at a table to greet people as they came in.

There’s a lot to do at your party, so divvy up the work as if it were your wedding party and you were giving out tasks to your bridesmaids. :)

INVITATIONS

Invite people to your party in as many ways as possible. The more you throw your party out there in front of people, the more likely they will remember to show up. Here are some ways to invite people. Use them all!

Send out postcard-style invitations.

Send out postcard-style invitations.

  • Create a Facebook event page for your party. Invite every single one of your Facebook friends, even if they live far away. You never know who might show up from out of town that day. And even if they don’t come to your party, at least they’ll have heard about your book! Maybe they’ll check it out.
  • On your author Facebook page (you have one of those, right?), create a post advertising your party. Then do a Facebook ad to “boost” your post.
  • Send out postcard invitations. These are cheaper than invitations that require an envelope. You can get them for super cheap on vistaprint.
  • Write press releases for your event.
  • Hang up flyers at local libraries.
  • Ask your friends to invite their friends.
  • Tell people at church about your party.

THE DAY OF THE PARTY

Here are just a few things to keep in mind the day of the party:

  • It’s your big day. Enjoy it!
  • Dress nicely. There will be lots of photos taken. Maybe even color coordinate yourself with your book.
  • Remember that you’ve divvied up your tasks among your friends. Trust them now to pull through for you.
  • When people enter, have your greeter(s) welcome people and ask them to sign your guest list. On your guest list, ask for people’s email address. Be upfront and let them know that these email addresses will give them access to your monthly newsletter so they can get the latest and greatest news from you.
  • Remember to give your greeters raffle tickets to hand out when people arrive.
  • Also have raffle tickets at the sales table, so your sellers can hand out tickets there, too.

Greeters Table

BOOK SIGNING

After you’ve done any speeches and given people a chance to buy your book, start the book signing! Have a separate table for this. Have a friend nearby with a pad of post-it notes. As people get in line to have your book signed, your friend will ask if they want it autographed to anyone in particular. They’ll write the name on the post-it note (double checking the spelling with your guest) and then place the note on the purchased book.

Why do this? It makes things easier and faster for you! You don’t have to ask each person to whom you should address the autograph and then ask, “And . . . how do you spell Jehosephat?” Plus, it will save you from that embarrassing moment when someone you know but don’t remember their name (because you’re terrible with names like me!) comes up and wants an autograph.

BUT DOES IT WORK?

You tell me. I had nearly 100 people show up at my party, and over 100 books were sold. The day my book came out on Kindle, it hit #1 on Amazon for Christian teen fiction on social issues. My publisher was so happy, she wrote a press release, which can be seen here.

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Book Signing Event at TeaLula Tonight!

Join us at TeaLula tea shop in Park Ridge, Illinois, tonight for a book signing party! TeaLula has graciously offered up some free light refreshments for anyone who stops by. Plus, I’ll have copies of Angelhood and Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade on sale at discounted prices.

TeaLula Instagram

Hope to see you there!

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Monday Book Review: The Dance: A Story of Love, Faith, and Survival by Joan Aubele

Long-time readers of my blog know I usually review middle grade and young adult books on Monday, but every once in a while, I review something for adults, too. Today is one of those days! :)

I’ll be very upfront and tell you I may be a bit biased about this book as it’s written by my cousin and godmother Joan Aubele. :) But even without the family connections, I think anyone who has endured a devastating cancer diagnosis in their family will be able to relate to Joan’s experiences and find comfort and inspiration in her story.

IMG_5876Title: The Dance: A Story of Love, Faith, and Survival

Author: Joan Aubele

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis: At the age of twenty-nine, Joan Aubele is diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (a.k.a. “childhood leukemia”). She is told to say good-bye to her husband and three young girls and to prepare for her funeral, but she and her husband Carl decide to fight the cancer anyway. It’s not an easy fight. Time and time again, Joan and her family are warned that death may be near, but their faith in God keeps them moving forward, and somehow miracles (one even worked through a prayer intention brought to the Blessed Mother at Medjugorje) seem to save her from the brink of death.

My mom is Joan’s godmother, and one of the most striking parts of this book for me is how similar their stories are. Both my mom and Joan were diagnosed with cancer when they were married and had small children at home. Both worried that they wouldn’t live to see their kids grow up. Both have endured “mini strokes” (TIAs), but both have now lived at least 25 years since their first cancer diagnosis (my mom has had numerous kinds of cancer), and both have lived to see their children and their grandchildren. Most importantly, both have a very strong faith in God. I truly believe it is their Catholic faith that has seen them through these harrowing experiences.

At a little over 100 pages, The Dance is a quick read, but in that short time, it will leave a lasting impression on your heart. These are unforgettable people enduring extremely trying hardships. If you or someone you know is facing a cancer diagnosis, this lovely memoir will help them remember that they are not alone.



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Why I’m Such a Star Wars Geek

I promised on Facebook that one day I’d write a blog post about why I’m such a Star Wars geek.

Well, be careful what you promise on Facebook. :)

Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie saw my post and decided to use it for this week’s Spin Cycle prompt. This week we’re talking about what makes us geeky, and for me that’s definitely Star Wars. But why?

These are my action figures. Not my brothers. :)

These are my action figures. Not my brothers’ actions figures. :)

My students already know part of the answer to this. Every spring in my sixth grade reading class, we end the year with a fantasy/mythology unit that asks the big question: “What makes someone a hero?” And in this unit, we talk about how Joseph Campbell, a renowned anthropologist, studied the myths and tales of cultures around the world. After years of comparing what tales had been told century after century, he discovered that all cultures have hero stories, and those hero stories have a lot of similarities.

He came to the conclusion that all hero myths could basically be combined into one “super myth,” a monomyth that incorporates all the major events that have occurred in hero stories around the world for as long as stories have been told. Campbell then wrote about this theory in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. In it, he describes the seventeen key elements that are in hero stories (although not all hero stories have all seventeen elements).

George Lucas had studied Campbell’s work and used it to create the plot of Star Wars. If you’d like to read about how Star Wars fits into Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, you can read my blog posts about it here, here, and here.

So part of why I’m such a big Star Wars geek is that I love a great hero story. I love hearing about a character who is brave enough to leave his own safe homeland in order to fight evil in a dangerous world far away. This also explains my love of Harry Potter, by the way.

However, I think there’s more to my Star Wars love than just the fact that it’s a great hero story. It’s also a story with great characters. I mean, who doesn’t love a feisty princess who can shoot a gun and handle a smart-alecky pilot? And who doesn’t love a smart-alecky pilot who also has a soft spot?

Princess Leia and Han Solo

And what about the wookie? I mean, what is a wookie? I don’t know, but I love him! And I admit to liking Ewoks, too. I know some people thought the Ewoks were a bit childish, but I like ’em! They’re cute but tough.

Chewbacca and Ewok

And who can resist two droids who bicker all the time but are really best friends and would be lost without one another? (Does anyone else think Carson and Mrs. Hughes from Downton Abbey are a little like C-3PO and R2-D2? There was always something of the British butler about 3PO.)

C3PO

And then there’s the setting! See, the trick about taking the old hero story and turning it into something new is finding a way to make it really fresh for the audience. Lucas accomplished this by making what is called a “space  opera” or “space western.” He grew up in the age of cowboy movies, so to him, Star Wars was basically an old cowboy movie set in outer space.

But how great is that?!? Take what we’re really familiar with (a princess, a bad boy who’s really good, a good boy who tries but fails, and a villain clad in black with a mysterious past) and put them into a situation we’ve never seen before (space stations as big as planets) and with characters we’ve never met (alien creatures that can actually tug at our heart strings). This is what makes a winning story! This is why the same basic hero story can be told time and time again. As long as the writer does something new with it, the whole story feels new.

One last reason I’m a Star Wars geek: it’s a story with a lot of heart. I love stories that move me. I want to care about the characters. I want them to feel like friends I’ve known forever. I want to root for them when they’re down and cheer for them when they finally succeed. I think Lucas succeeded with this because he made the core of his story a family story. In the end, Star Wars is about a family–a father and his twin children, all mourning the death of the mother–who follow very different paths but wind up together in the end!

For those reasons, I’m completely geeking out over the new Star Wars movie that comes out in December. I’ve got pretty high hopes because director J.J. Abrams did a really nice job when he tackled the Star Trek franchise. He seems to be a big Star Wars fan, and from the glimpses I’ve seen it looks like he’s going to stick with the kind of storytelling that made us all fall in love with the original trilogy.

Also, he’s brought back a lot of the old cast. One of the reasons I think the Star Wars prequels that came out 15 years ago or so didn’t do so well is that we were missing out on the characters we had grown to love. C-3PO, R2-D2, and Yoda were the only characters tying us back to the originals. But in this new movie, we’re going to get Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewbacca back again. It’s like getting to see old friends that you’ve been parted from for a long time!

How about you? Are you as excited about the new Star Wars movie as I am? Or is there something else you geek out about?

Find out what others are geeking out about on this week’s Spin Cycle. Click the link below to discover more geek stories.

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