WEDDING DRESS SURPRISE ON BLACK FRIDAY!

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This Thanksgiving, with COVID-19 cases approaching 200,000 a day in the United States, sixty-two percent of Americans chose to observe the holiday with a smaller, safer celebration.

Because of recommended CDC guidelines and hubby’s pre-existing health condition, our family initially had planned to celebrate Thanksgiving in our own homes. But then my daughter, newly engaged, confided her desire for all of us to go wedding dress shopping TOGETHER!

Fortunately, hubby’s nephrologist pronounced him “in good working condition,” enabling us to grant our daughter’s wish! We all got tested, then our two daughters drove hundreds of miles to visit. (FYI, two of us were still test result-less on Thanksgiving, but that’s another story)

Our Thanksgiving feast was an intimate cozy gathering of four. I prepared an eight-pound turkey breast in lieu of a whole turkey. May I say our doggies enjoyed partaking in that meal over the next four days! (No onion, no garlic!)

The girls prepared mashed potatoes, carrots with dill, string beans with steak seasoning, and gluten-free stuffing. We followed up with pecan pie–store bought but still delicious. Sparkling cider instead of alcohol; everybody wanted to be up and on it for Friday’s wedding boutique adventure.

As it was, we barely made it on time to the first of our two appointments. This wedding dress shopping experience was way different than the one I had with my older daughter five years ago. To uphold COVID-19 safe distancing regulations, the boutique only booked ONE customer per hour; there was some leeway, but if you went over an hour-and-a-half, some boutiques made you pay to stay!

We made our way into Nitsa’s of Winston Salem, a luxurious boutique with lots of natural sunlight, a stunning flower wall, and dozens of wedding gowns. Chris Bambalis, whose family owns the boutique, was a highly knowledgeable wedding consultant. She remained masked throughout the appointment, as did all of us who accompanied my daughter. Only one attendee was allowed in the dressing room; I seriously tried to make a dash for the room but was intercepted by my older daughter who reminded me that this was NOT my wedding!

My daughter brought seven dresses into the dressing room, which was more than enough! Only she and her sister were allowed to choose dresses; the consultant literally kept her hands to herself during this 5-minute search and seizure expedition. The consultant did, however, demonstrate the easiest way for my daughter to step into the flouncy wedding gowns. Honestly, the gowns hung so heavily on their hangers that I hadn’t been able to raise a one from the rack!

Since my older daughter’s rebuke, I’d confined my participation to taking notes within my journal. We all soon agreed that, amid the tulle, satin, and lace, the first gown–a Cinderella ball number that actually fit my pocketbook–was the perfect pick! As beautiful as it was, though, we still had one more appointment. We thanked Chris for her time and went on our way. I was sure we’d be back.

Back in the car, though, my bride was concerned that she hadn’t cried like all brides are supposed to when they say YES TO THE DRESS. Her sister assured her that everybody is different; there’s no set way to react.

I wasn’t prepared to like Elizabella’s Bridal Boutique in Greensboro; in my mind, we’d already chosen my daughter’s gown. But as my bride tried on a a variety of styles and silhouettes, I soon realized all bets were off. Like Nitsa’s, this boutique featured gowns designed in Barcelona and Italy. We found another Cinderella ball gown type, which definitely made me tear up.

However, the gown that ultimately caused my daughter to cry was the elegant design of a Ukranian designer. As our ancestors on one side of the family tree are from Ukraine, this gown seemed written in the stars. I became sure of it when Whitney mentioned the price of the gown–it matched that of the first gown!

My daughter said YES TO THE DRESS! She drove back to Chicago, secure in the fact that a year from now, she, G-d willing, will be walking down the aisle, her father and mother on either side of her, wearing the wedding gown of her dreams….

Finale: Scary Sunday

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How to Remove Blood Stains from Cement Surfaces | DoItYourself.com

A diverse collage of paramedics stream into the house, through the living room, and into the bedroom to attend to my husband. Although partially clothed, with blood still oozing from his leg, my husband is attempting to joke with the EMTS about his stupid accident.

My brain in a dither, I can’t be in that room right now. I ask if it’s okay for me to walk the dog, who hasn’t been let outside for a pee in six hours, and they give me the go ahead.

I return less that ten minutes later, only to see the ambulance zooming off into the night, my husband on board. Thankfully they’d left the front door wide open, so we were able to get back inside.

Was it weird that I didn’t freak out about rushing after the ambulance? That, instead, I focused on spraying hydrogen peroxide over the garage “crime scene” blood until white, cloudlike masses consumed the lead-smelling rust?

Not so much. The EMTs had left a note that they were taking my husband to the nearby med center, not the hospital. I phoned instead. I’ve endured many a late night hospital trip with hubby, and I sensed this wasn’t that. Besides, I knew he was in good hands. At this moment, the only thing I COULD control was removing the blood so everything would be NORMAL when I brought him back home.

A couple hours later, stitches sewn, and antibiotics administered, we pulled into the driveway.

“Pull into the garage,” he said.

“Yeah, not gonna happen,” I said.

Although I’d managed to erase, in record time, all blood from carpet, utility room, and garage, my heart knew the emotional fall-out would take much longer to disappear.

PART 1: Scary Sunday

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My husband has pre-existing health conditions, so I’m super cautious to make dinner reservations after confirming that restaurant follows COVID-19 guidelines, re: masks, sanitizer, and social distancing. We’ve just returned home from one such dinner and are exiting the car, when our Bichon starts his shivery welcome home strut around my husband’s feet. Focused on making it to the bathroom, hubby manages to skirt the dog, instead gashing his leg along the sharp end of the car door

All at once, the garage floor is seeped in blood–the same blood flowing from my husband’s leg!

“I’m calling 911!” I say, attempting to modulate my voice (for his sake) as I sludge through the crime scene.

“I’m fine,” he says calmly. “Just get the bandage, hydrogen peroxide, and gauze from the linen closet.

He’s obviously forgotten that he donated a plethora of wound care products to the in-home health care nurse during their final visit. I’d urged him to hoard some of the Medicare stash they’d sent him for free “just in case!”

My husband had pooh-poohed the suggestion, despite his razor-thin skin recovering from one wound after another. De-ni-al!

I barrel through the living room, finally making it to the bathroom. I grab a thin roll of gauze, sanitizer, and three wound pads from the linen closet. Then I beat it back to the utility room and commence wrapping the wound.

Just when I think the bandage is secure, I notice droplets of blood seeping from miniscule holes in the gauze. At this rate, I’m sure hubby is going to bleed out and I won’t have enough bandage and gauze to re-wrap the wound!

Moments later, I’m on the phone with the 911 dispatcher when hubby taps me on the shoulder. “Sorry to interrupt, but I really need to get to the bathroom. Can you bring me my house slippers?”

I glance down to see his toes and feet dripping in blood. Crap! Although I’ve penned five crime novels, I’ve never seen this much blood in one place at one time. I wrack my brain for answers and come up with nada.

Just then, I hear the sirens. Paramedics burst through the front door.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 on Friday!)

Writing Through COVID-19

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During Month 1 of the COVID-19 Lockdown, my writing dripped off me like I was Teflon. At first, I had so much to say. My thoughts and article ideas competed for space in my brain, which was already overloaded by the Pandemic. I researched and sent out quarantine-related articles to on-line magazines and newspapers I’d never even heard of. Busy work, my kids called it. Maybe they were right. I’ve been writing books for so long, I’ve lost touch with my inner- freelance writer.

Month 2, I refocused on researching and sending out queries/sample chapters/synopses to literary agents in the psychological suspense genre, regarding Up Close & Personal, my sixth novel.

When you get a zillion form rejection letters, you feel like you’re going nowhere. Up Close & Personal has been developmentally and copy edited, so I knew the story and text was good to go. What, then, was the problemo??

Instead of attempting to balance on this pinnacle any longer, I registered with ITWA International Thriller Writers Association for their July 2020 on-line Thriller Fest. This is the first time the Organization has hosted a virtual fest, and I am thrilled (ha, ha); no airline, hotel, and restaurant costs to attend! Given the Pandemic, that fits my safety and price point just fine. I registered to pitch Up Close & Personal via ZOOM to four literary agents, four minutes per agent.

Now all I need to do is come up with a great elevator pitch! Wish me luck!

Jennie

http://www.jenniespallone.com

How to Get Book Signing/Selling Gigs

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Sure, it’s fulfilling to see your book in print, whether it be a perfectly edited self-published copy or a traditionally published “cousin” of the thousands of other books lining the bookstore shelves!

No matter how your book is published, however, you still need to put the requisite time into marketing your book to the public. Many authors hire a professional or college kid versed social media to get the word out. They also task that professional or college kid with creating a website on WordPress, etc.

But the one marketing area authors, whether green or seasoned, shrink from playing in is this one: setting up book signing/reading/selling gigs at bookstores, libraries, senior centers, retirement communities, book clubs, literary fests, temples, churches, schools, and artist holiday boutiques!

You can definitely hire someone to do the dirty work for you — make the phone calls and send the emails necessary to book a gig. It’s more effective to actually build business relationships by contacting the people in charge of these events yourself!

In the long run, contacting these folks directly helps you, too. Think about it. You’re shelling out between $25 to $100 for a booth or table, depending on how popular the location, as well as if it’s a for-profit or non-profit venue. Wouldn’t you like to know who you’re dealing with? Who’s taking your money? Are these folks reputable?

Although the ship has already sailed for 2019 holiday gigs, come January 2020, you can start working on another time people purchase gifts for the holidays: Easter! During the month of January, spend 30-minutes per week contacting the above types of locations (You’ve probably got some not listed here. You can also Google venues near you) and set up 2 to 6 gigs, depending on your pocketbook, to display and sell your books this coming spring!

Any questions? Feel free to give me a holler through http://www.jenniespallone.com.

Happy Marketing!

 

 

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone!

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After my most recent book Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovered her authentic self came out earlier this year, I’d planned to finish writing a suspense novel I started several years ago. Then there was the women’s utopia book I’d been researching. But a spark of inspiration from a personal encounter urged me to move Up Close and Personal to the front of the list.

My usual genre is psychological suspense — light on physical violence, heavy on mental manipulation — but Up Close is definitely more thriller.  I’d initially envisioned Up Close to be a fun, quirky story about a newly retired journalist who routinely embarrasses her family by asking controversial questions of strangers.

Then I met two New York literary agents at Sleuthfest 2019. After hearing my long, convoluted telling of a feel good story that eventually turns harrowing, they both urged me to write Up Close as a thrillerI protested vehemently that I don’t write James Bond; snipers, bombs, and jumping from roofs or trains to catch a bad guy just aren’t part of my repertoire.

Both agents told me that if I wanted to get traditionally published this time, I’d need to step it up. They introduced me to the domestic thriller; a style of psychological thriller that focuses on interpersonal relationships, familiar settings, and underlying causes that ignite the whole. It was then that I realized all of my novels, and even my recent book on autism, shared these characteristics.

So I took a gamble and let my writing juices fly. Since May, I’ve visited my Up Close pages five days a week, sometimes writing 1 page, sometimes writing 7. When I sit down at the computer, know what scene (chapter) I’m going to write today, and which characters are involved in that scene. But I have no clue what’s going to transpire; I attempt, sometimes more successfully than other times, to lock my super ego in the closet so I can allow the dialogue I’m hearing in my head to just flow.

And, yes, Up Close will be published through a traditional publisher — this I promise. Please help me make that happen!

Using a Personal Event in Your Mystery Novel Can Prove Deadly!

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Deadly need not refer solely to a physical body’s demise. To suspense writers like us, a  fiery verbal interaction among friends or family members can provide the impetus for verbal assassination of a book character.

Motive? Revenge for a harsh word or action perpetrated against us in real life!

In fact, we become so incensed, we contemplate using the verbal culprit’s real name in our book!

Let’s get real! Unless you decide to write under an alias, I advise you to take a breath as you consider the 3 consequences of verbally assassinating your book characters:

FEAR! How will character assassination, even with ALL names changed, impact future relationship with this person?

DECEIT! Even if your nemesis never reads your book, are you prepared to keep the truth from this person forever?

LOSS! Are you comfortable with duplicity rupturing your relationship with the offending person?

If these 3 consequences are a bitter pill you prefer not swallow, summon up courage and confess your book intentions.

SELF-REDEMPTION! It well may be the case that although you were all worked up about a perceived verbal humiliation, the other person failed to even lose one night’s sleep. That person has no problem with you doing a character assaination using them as your black angel!

That said, protect yourself by changing names, occupations, and possonly even the authentic setting.

The relief you’ll feel at having “come clean” to the real person involved enables will enable you to live your truth, guilt-free.

Wait! You ARE guilt-free, right??

 

 

 

 

 

Setting Up Your Own Book Signing: Part 1

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Let’s face it. As self-published authors, setting up our own book signings sucks! Of course we can hire a family member, college student, retired person, or an upworks.com professional to do the job. But it’s a money thang, right? We don’t want to spend it! Instead, we thrust aside the next book we are itching to work on, and commit tedious hours per week to securing speaking gigs on our most recently published book.

We force ourselves to sound bright and cheerful on the phone as we pitch our book signing events, via phone and email, to dozens of book stores, organizations, associations, fancy restaurants and bars, religious sites, retirement villages, conferences, and arts & crafts fairs. (How’s that for the longest run-on sentence in history? Not!)

Of course we’ve kept an Excel sheet or notebook on who we spoke to (the manager or event coordinator’s contact information), name and address of venue (book store, etc.), and dates we contacted them (including their feedback).

Way to go! We’ve landed four gigs over the next three months, which we’ve dutifully written down and yellow-highlighted in our monthly calendars. Our phone calendars are a nice back-up, but printing our  view our upcoming gigs on a nice big calendar pad!

Now we have to get the word out. Even the most extroverted of us find it scary as hell to market our own wares. Stay tuned for Part 2….

 

Sleuthfest 2019 Killed It!

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Both published and unpublished writers need to sharpen their skills. This writing craft manna falls from heaven. Oops! Wrong manna! Annual writer’s conferences like Sleuthfest last March in Boca Raton, Florida breathe fresh knowledge and inspiration into those of us toiling in solitude at our computers.

There is nothing as affirming for a budding or published author as networking with other authors of varying skill levels at meals, workshops, auctions, or late night bar! The ability to rub shoulders with well known and soon to be well known authors is priceless.

Over a 3 1/2 day span, each writer had an opportunity to choose 8 of 27 writers craft sessions ranging in topic from: cozy mystery, urban crime, conflict development, plotting, character development, setting, editing mistakes, private detectives, forensics, self-publishing v. traditional publishing, marketing and publicity. Agent/Editor panels were an added plus.

Yet another benefit of Sleuthfest was having an opportunity to develop, refine, and deliver an “elevator speech” to pitch to on-site agents and editors. Many authors have been “discovered” through attending writers conferences such as Sleuthfest. Who knows? You might be next!!

Smashing the Autism Castle!

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Smashing Castles can be tedious work, especially when autism IS the castle! Pick up a library or book store copy of my first narrative non-fiction Smashing Castles; how a young autistic woman discovers her authentic self! In my first narrative non-fiction book, I share my 18 month experiences of life-coaching 26-year-old Akira Stone and taking her from basic self-grooming to speaking in front of Toastmasters, Intl., all with God’s Help!!

Strangest thing of all? Although I have a Master’s degree in Special Education and taught/tutored for several years, Akira was my first life-coaching student. I felt guilty for not sharing this fact with her and her family, but not quite guilty enough to spill the beans! Thankfully, this story has a happy ending! BTW, let me know if you would like to name a character in one of my upcoming novels! http://www.jenniespallone.com