The Wedding!!!

So, we’re on this fabulous -91- sleep round trip to a family wedding in Italy and we’re nineteen sleeps in, so that leaves -72- to get home again. The straightest route home would be to head south again:

….but instead we headed north and we’re now slap bang in the middle of Switzerland. On a farm.

… and tomorrow we’ll be heading off even further north. So follow along if you’d like. But seeing as this trip was all about the wedding, I’d love to share a little of it with you. As it’s not my wedding, I won’t overshare someone else’s day, but I do want to share with you why yesterday was so special for me.

If you’ve read any of my books, you’ll know I’ve never belonged or been welcome in my family of origin. You’ll also know how aware I am of the roles our tribes play in everyone’s lives, and how discombobulating and soul destroying it can be to feel you don’t belong anywhere. You’ll also know that for many good reasons, we’ve lived all over the world. That’s a great thing and I’m most thankful for that. But the two (no tribe plus nomadic lifestyle) can be a lethal combination. Especially for the things so many “normal” people take for granted; friendships, weddings, funerals, rites of passage, to name a few.

I love weddings, and one of the careers I might have had, if I’d been given normal opportunities, would have been somewhere around weddings. There are lots about that in my memoirs, but the bottom line is, that over the years, just for love, I’ve made half a dozen wedding dresses, a number of wedding cakes, run a handful of weddings, done the flowers for more than a few, and decorated for more than I can count. But being a “normal” attendee; not so much. And other than my children’s weddings, or the ones I’ve been involved in, I’ve missed almost all the family and friend weddings of my life.

Many of us don’t think of wedding attendance as being a rite of passage, but it’s only when you miss out on most of them that you realise what an important part of tribal culture they are. For the last few days, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching that play out at this wedding. Being a “destination wedding” everyone stayed a few nights at least, and we didn’t know anyone except the immediate family. So The Captain and I got to be a fly on the wall as the other guests assumed we had nothing to do with the wedding and did their thing. We got to sit around the pool next to some of them and overhear them sharing stories of the couple and themselves of years gone by. We got to watch them singing silly songs in the pool as they anticipated some antics for the reception ahead. Later, as they sat at the table next us to, we got to see the odd friend shed a tear of joy he thought no one saw.

The last few days we’ve watched friendships gather new depths, and relationships strengthen. We met super proud uncles, adoring cousins, and we got to see some people at what they thought were their worst but we thought were their best. When people feel pressure and rise to the occasion anyway, it’s such a pleasure to watch.

It was a gift. It was an honour to be there. But most of all, it was super special for me because the mother of the bride is my cousin. A third cousin I think, but none of this once or twice removed nonsense. We share an incredible heritage, and we share passionate Scottish blood. I had no idea she existed till just a few short years ago and suddenly I have family in ways I never thought I would. I do have another set of cousins whom I love just as dearly, but there’s always room for a second set I say! So the bride was my niece of sorts and as the Captain said so many times yesterday, we’re so proud of her!! How can someone new pop into one’s lives and take up a place so special so quickly? I think that’s the blood thing.

The Captain and I scrubbed up alright for a couple who’d been camping for three weeks! 🤣

The bride has brothers and of course a groom and it’s been incredible getting to know them too. One we’ve known for a while but for the baby of the family, I was so nervous to meet him for the first time. But we clicked and he found his way so quickly into my heart and when I learnt he was the baker of the cake and he learnt I could string a couple of flowers together we hit it off immediately. I’d already been given the honour of doing the flowers by his mother, my cousin, so this was really just an extension of that. But we had so much fun as he added the flowers to his creation and I got to cheer him on every step of the way. If you need a wedding cake (any cake!) anywhere in Europe, this is your guy!!!

To be included the way they included us was beyond special for me. To be there as a guest because they wanted us there was amazing. To attend a family wedding other than my own or my babies, was uniquely heart warming, and to get to contribute was also to be included – which means everything when you live on the fringes. To be invited in was so wonderful.

If you read anything I write or know anything of my greatest passions, you’ll know they’re all about community and inclusion and working alongside each other.

The wedding was beautiful and not just for this incredible setting and GORGEOUS bride, but because of the connections and the love and the laughter and the community and the kin!!!

So… now we’re off home again the loooong way around, AND book two in the memoir series goes live on Monday! So if you haven’t grabbed your copy at preorder prices then grab it HERE before then 😊💜👊🏻.

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Monkeyspheres!

I bring up this topic every couple of years because I’m so passionate about tribes and belonging and lepers and communities and I talk about Mondkeyspheres so much. The original article is HERE and it’s written by a guy called David Wong. I loved this article the first time I read it (sorry about the bad language!) and couldn’t do a better job of it if I tried. Plus, he should get the credit anyway. This is his take on tribes and it sure rings true for me!

It’s all about those circles of social interaction we talk about; you know, the rings of Saturn as my friend Pam says… concentric rings of people we care about – or not.

Anyway, his article starts off like this:

“One death is a tragedy. One million deaths is a statistic.”
Kevin Federline

What do monkeys have to do with war, oppression, crime, racism and even e-mail spam? You’ll see that all of the random ass-headed cruelty of the world will suddenly make perfect sense once we go Inside the Monkeysphere.

“What the Hell is the Monkeysphere?”

First, picture a monkey. A monkey dressed like a little pirate, if that helps you. We’ll call him Slappy.

If you want to read the rest, click on the link (HERE it is again) and tell me what you think!

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Here are the main preorder links, but you can get it on all the Amazon sites: Just click on your region and it’ll take you right there – USAusUK, and Canada.

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Author Pic

Is Yours a Luke-Warm Sea?

img_1061What breaks my heart are brands (authors & others) who don’t succeed, not because they have no support, but because they drown in a sea of luke-warm support. An army of people who sign on in order to “be kind“, to “boost their numbers“, to “see what it’s like” and who all assume someone else is doing the beta reading, the reviews, or standing on a soapbox down on the corner. And when every single one of those people assume that everyone else is at the epicentre of the campaign… no one is!

We, therefore, need to have some committed Brand Ambassadors who volunteer, hold those posts, and do so proudly! Some people who totally get that they are “it”. That the buck stops with them. The rest of the crowd are great because a portion of them, either intentionally or otherwise, will still do bits and pieces here and there, and that is vitally important as well. But the people in the middle, those who have your back, can make or break us. They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is them who will be our greatest allies.

They are the dozen or so disciples who will pass a word on, tell a friend, chat about our brand with passion, and it is they who will be our greatest allies. These people, are our Tribes. Our Brand Ambassadors. Our Heroes. Our Village.

I am building a tribe. We are about a dozen and we all believe in each other. Our purpose is not to review. Our purpose is to build a tribe and have each other’s backs. When each of us launches, the rest of us shout about it. We multiply the voices, we speak on each other’s behaves. We point to the one in the spotlight.

Who is your Tribe?

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Scale or Genre?

img_9243I’m sure I’m not the only one who agrees that not all Romance books are created equally. Neither are all crime novels, all memoirs, or all violence-themed thrillers. To me, there is a clear scale, and in our Writing Group we have been discussing this at length. It’s a hard discussion to have because we also all have filters that determine where we would like our books to fit. We then also add moral or “better/worse” scales to the equation and struggle to see things as being of equal value, just “different”.

Here’s an example; At one end of the scale, Romance can be clean as a whistle. No sex scenes, no sex before marriage, no disrespect towards women (except from the bad guys) and so on. Some may scoff at this idea but this writing space is huge and the world is filled with mostly women readers who are tired of the sex thrown at them from every billboard, movie and TV advertisement. They want to enjoy and believe that there is still a place in the world for respect, true love, and deeply heroic, decent men and that women can still be swept off their feet for all the right reasons. (and I like to think that these people do still exist!)

At the other end of the scale, there is written pornography in all its forms. These ends of the scale clearly are not the same thing, and while they may well both fit into the Romance genre, they are unlikely to be enjoyed by a single reader, or written by a single author.

But the bigger questions are:

  • Where is the middle line?
  • Who fits on either side of it?
  • And is someone who reads the red end (explicit sex) more likely to also read and enjoy books with explicit violent scenes? And is someone who enjoys the pink end (squeaky clean) more likely to also read squeaky clean ends of other genres too?

The same then applies to crime/violence, social justice issues, religion, and other genres does it not?

In my subjective experience, pretty much no one I know only reads a single genre. There are a whole bunch of genre that they will not read, but of those that they do enjoy, all pretty much fit on the same place on the scale.

Let’s make an imaginary scale. 1-6 With an imaginary wall in the middle. That wall has a door in it, that can open or shut. Whether the scene is in a bedroom, police station, crime scene, hospital room, battlefield, history museum, or anywhere else on earth, in any genre imaginable, the scale is divided down the middle and the reader is either taken through into that room, …or they aren’t.

  • 1= Squeaky clean on all levels. In a nutshell, there is no room!
  • 2= There are some hints and innuendoes about private or gory details, but still everything is pretty much left to the imagination.
  • 3= Sex and/or violent scenes may be present, and big issues raised, however, they are implied and alluded to, but no details are given. You are not actively taken into the bedroom, the crime scene, the bar brawl or the morgue.
  • ————————————
  • 4= The imagination is still very much in play, but the author spells out a number of details about what is going on. The reader is taken through those doors, but briefly.
  • 6= A good deal of time and explanation is given to these rooms, issues are dealt with in depth and scenes are built quite fully. But there are still many details which are left to the imagination.
  • 8= No holds barred. A spade is a spade. Nothing is left to the imagination. Anything and everything goes and the more detail, the better.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t read about sex, zombies, horror or ghosts, but I’m a 6 kind of gal!! (writing and reading)

What are you?

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Brand Ambassadors!

What is a Brand Ambassador?

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Let me start by telling you a bunch of facts which I seriously dislike but cannot do anything to change. They are like gravity… they happen whether I want them to or not, and they don’t just happen now and then… they just are!

1: We are moving to an era of information exchange. The big guys (Am8zon, Face8ook, and Goo8le) all gather massive amounts of information ALL the time through their “free” services. Many of the smaller social media sites are owned by the three major big guys, and they share info as well. They do this not to control us, but to direct the MASSIVE advertising dollars they get, our way. They get money from advertising but also from selling the information they gather from our habits to other major organizations. For the most part, this is a blog for another day, but for now, I just want us to remember that they have a very strong agenda and if we try to work against it, we will fail, and fail miserably.

2: They are also moving (in case you hadn’t noticed) to paid promotion. A decade ago, EVERYTHING we posted could be seen by ALL our Face8ook friends. But as the sheer numbers grew, less and less appeared on our screens and many of our friends whom we would love to see fell between the tracks. Now all the social media platforms have moved to the model of showing about 10% of posts to newsfeeds. This is for two reasons. The first being the assumption that most posts are boring rubbish, the second being that if the poster wants more people to see his/her post, they should pay for it! Even then, when you pay to “promote” or “boost” your post, it never gets to even 50% of your followers!

3: The only posts which get any level of attention without being paid, are posts which are actually newsworthy. So if I post something and the 10% of my followers see it but move on, then it disappears into the oblivion of 90% of posts. However, if my friend Joe comments on it, then it gains “newsworthy” points. And if 4 other people comment on it, it gains more “newsworthy” points. All the big guys guard their algorithms very closely and no one has access to the details, however, one way or another, whether I pay for my posts to be shared more than 10% or not, they are going to go nowhere unless they gain a huge amount of “newsworthy” points. Things that “go viral”, things that “trend” are the posts with the highest “newsworthy” points. They could be because someone famous posted them, but more often than not it is because the public likes them.

4: “Newsworthy” points are measured not by “likes” thanks to Click-Farms and Like-Farms, so no matter how many Followers like your post, they gain no traction AT ALL unless people start commenting and sharing. So please understand this clearly; by someone commenting and sharing, my post gains “newsworthy” points, so it is not just about their share being to their audience (which is good too), but it also means that MY followers will more likely see it. It will appear on 20% or even 30% of my Followers newsfeeds, instead of the 10% it was allocated when it first appeared. I can have a beautiful page, I can put up fabulous things, but I NEED newsworthy points.

5: How to get newsworthy points?

  • Share and comment on (and from) OTHERS pages. So many people fuss about having nothing to post on their author pages. But if your newsfeed is filled with the fabulous and beautiful posts from famous authors and great quotes and beautiful pictures, then you are likely to share things that are newsworthy and you will gain those points too. So make sure that on your “see first” settings, and your “see all posts” settings, you Follow people who’s info and posts you are proud to add to your page. You only get a handful of “see first”s, so choose them wisely! It takes 30 seconds each morning to open your newsfeed, comment on 5 posts and share 3 posts. Even if you never post your own stuff, or anything else, your page will be full, active, busy and people will want to see what you are sharing next!
  • Have your own posts that people WANT to comment on. You do this by having great stuff on your wall (as above), but you also get this by sharing lovely pictures and interesting blog posts etc of your own. As I said, if you aren’t confident doing that, then just do the above, but if you can some stuff to add too, then great (I’ll do another blog on those details later in the month too).
  • You need to have a handful of BRAND AMBASSADORS! You get no “newsworthy” points if no one comments or shares.

It is so easy to go to bed every night feelings sad and hurt. You posted stuff, good stuff, and no one saw or cared. The reality is, that it didn’t appear on 90% of your followers newsfeeds, and that is never going to change without brand ambassadors.

6: A Brand Ambassador in my own words and understanding, is someone (preferably not your granny) who believes in you. Who believes in your products (books, causes etc), and who shares and comments on YOUR POSTS for you. They have your page on their “see first” and “see all posts”. It can happen organically but it is way more effective if they are deliberate and if they do the same things but in slightly different ways. For example. I often post a blog post and get a handful of beautiful private messages about it. I LOVE that and it makes me feel like I’m on the right track. But when anyone at all stumbles on that post, there are no comments, no shares, and they assume it’s a dud and won’t even read it. Yet if those private messages had been placed on the comments instead, the post would gain “newsworthy” points and appear on more newsfeeds, the encouraging comments would make another handful of people want to stop and read it for themselves, and the shares would help them to get more eyes in general… The same encouraging comment can privately do NOTHING for me, or it can leapfrog my post to the next level. A brand ambassador gets that.

So two things from this:

  1. If you want a full, rich social media presence, then be a brand ambassador for the people and pages you feel proud to share, and comment and share their stuff! Fill your page with newsworthy stuff, so people want to come and see what you are sharing next.
  2. Ask a handful of people who already love and support you, to be your brand ambassadors! They will have YOU on their “see first” and “see all posts” setting and each day will interact on your posts so they move to the next level.

Where to get brand ambassadors? What tribes do you belong to? Read THIS blog I wrote yesterday about tribes and villages… this is where you will find your strongest brand ambassadors!

Here is the One Stop Fiction Launch Teams closed Fac8book group that I co-run, where we are building tribes and gathering brand ambassadors like mad!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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Flatline or Sky High?

All authors love Am8zon reviews. And not because of vanity or approval, but because in many ways these reviews have become the modern measure of authory success, the virtual currency of the trade, the key to certain otherwise closed circles, and the gold stars of literary approval. They are needed if one is to succeed. Period.

And so I see people asking, even begging, for reviews, and have been known to stoop so low myself. It is so frustrating and most readers don’t understand the power that they hold in that 1-second click on the star chart, and 30 seconds of writing to send off a review.

So the internet is filled with ways to achieve another review. You are not allowed to pay for reviews, you are not allowed to swap them, and nor can family or friends give them. And so one has to find other ways, which can not only be nigh on impossible but quite deflating and soul destroying. You can send out emails to reviewers, you can join groups who create round robins and so on, but still, the effort involved is huge, and often so is the cost.

The return rate on emails, Facebook posts, groups joined and so on, is less than half a percent. And those numbers drop even further to even a fraction of that pathetic number if you don’t individualize your requests, make them genuine, and put homework into every single one. Then what do we do when we eventually get one? We have no choice but to move on to the next 100 emails, the next round of social media begging, and to trawl through Google to find another fifteen groups to join, introduce oneself, buy more books we don’t like, review 14 other people’s books and put ourselves through the ringer again! And all the while we could have been writing our next book!

This feels to me a little like flatlining. With the odd blip on the chart when you manage to score a review. Honestly, unless you’ve done this yourself, you cannot imagine how soul destroying it is! It’s heartbreaking and most authors aren’t skilled in these social areas. Quite frankly, it leaves me feeling just a little bit ill.

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The chart above shows the green line down in the grass. The gold stars are 4 successful reviews, and you can see that each time one is achieved, they then have to go back to square one and work on finding the next one. They grow in numbers slowly, but each review is what I call “touch and go”. Success but move on to trying to find the next one. To me, this is lonely and awful.

But what if you wanted more than a flat line that continues year after year, book after book, each one with the hope that it will be the kind of review that kickstarts a trajectory to “real” success? What if each review, instead of being a solo exercise, was a way to “level up”? What if each review came with something more than just a few words from a complete stranger and nothing more? What if the same 4 reviews helped you to reach for the sky just a little bit?

Our greatest recommendations don’t come from reviews believe it or not, but from recommendations by people we trust. People we know personally, or personalities that we believe we trust. These are what we need to build trust in our writing and ultimately sales and more reviews.

Rightly or wrongly, as humans, we trust tribes and communities more than we trust individuals on their own. We all believe a bunch of rubbish if the whole village is behind it before we believe the truth from a leper on his own in the wilderness! So we need to create villages around our books and our authorship. Villages that are appealing to the outside, villages that make outsiders feel welcoming. Villages that leave readers feeling drawn to, and outsiders and lepers busting to get in.

Reviews don’t build villages, brand ambassadors do, and next time I will be writing a whole post on what a BRAND AMBASSADOR is and does. How you can be one, and how you can help your friends, families and communities to as well. ou cannot expect others to be your ambassadors unless you can be one yourself. And it’s not just about “paying it forward” or “do unto others” either. It’s about the laws of nature and human beings. We were created to be in communities and we need to behave as if we belong to communities if we want to draw others in. If we behave like lone strangers then we will be treated as such.

But you cannot expect others to be your ambassadors unless you can be one yourself. For your own brand, and some of their brands as well. And it’s not just about “paying it forward” or “do unto others” either. It’s about the laws of nature and human beings. We were created to be in communities and we need to behave as if we belong to communities if we want to draw others in. If we behave like lone strangers then we will be treated as such.

Over the past year, I have read some fabulous books and written some great reviews. I get that for the big writers with thousands of reviews I am merely a drop in ocean, however, many of these books have had only a few reviews. The authors are relatively new and would still be thrilled to receive my added reviews. I have become a brand ambassador for them, taken screenshots of their books, posted them and tagged them across all social media, and without being a crazy stalker, I gave them what I would give my eye teeth to have someone else do for me! It’s good for them and it’s good for me.

At the “best” end of the scale, some have said thank you. But that’s it! At the “worst” end of the scale, they have completely ignored me!

To me, they were handed an opportunity on a silver platter. They accepted my “follow” on Twitter and followed me back, they “liked” my post etc. But every single one, bar none, has proceeded to do NOTHING more with that. And all but 3 have unfollowed me a month later. As authors, they had the chance to level up… but they didn’t. They were so busy chasing the next review, that they ignored me.

A recommendation by another person is always a thousand times better than us blowing our own trumpet! We should share that other person’s recommendation and share it lots! We need to interact, build a level of personal interaction, and you both may soar just a little bit! Soar with half a dozen people and it can take you to the next level. Outsiders watching flocks and tribes soar together want to a part of the action. They look on longingly.

Soar with half a dozen people and it can take you to the next level. Outsiders watching flocks and tribes soar together want to a part of the action. They look on longingly. We become inviting in numbers!

There are two sides to this coin. We need to build villages rather than be alone, but we also need to remember how to treat those who come into our spheres. How to leverage their recommendations!

So for anyone who still doesn’t understand why I believe so passionately in tribes and communities, I hope this goes some way to explain that!

If anyone wants to build a village around their authorship, get on board! It’s free, you will be welcomed with open arms, and we can soar together!!!

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Where you can find and follow Jennifer:

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@JPeaSmith