Beyond the Brick Wall

Chinese Catholic

A successful publicity campaign begins months before a book is released. It’s designed to generate interest, stimulate pre-orders, and ensure the buzz behind the book translates into actual sales. It’s a long, arduous process that is supposed to be fun. Yes, fun. Especially if your idea of fun includes hitting a brick wall of resistance no matter whom you contact or what you pitch.

At first, I thought it was just me. I’m new to the whole process of contacting people and publications that might be interested in helping me promote my book. But I later discovered it’s a little more complicated than that. In fact, if I thought writing was hard and finding a publisher even harder and securing an agent completely impossible, then the reward to effort ratio for securing publicity out beat all of them.

Here’s why:

1. I am not famous. When you’re famous, your publicist becomes your gatekeeper so that you are not inundated with frivolous requests of your time and talent which could be better spent producing new work, which is what you solely do.

2. I am not rich. Without a monthly budget of $20,000 to hire the top tiered publicist in the nation, I cannot expect to receive $20,000 of endorsements each month no matter how much I wish, hope, and pray.

3. I am ordinary. And not the oh-so-ordinary-girl-next-door-refreshingly-quaint ordinariness that inspires fame and fortune like Jennifer Garner, but the she-would-be-brilliant-if-she-stopped-making-emotional-decisions ordinary.

Therefore, I need to approach publicity from a different angle, focusing on the themes of my book. Although my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck, deals with a wide range of topics from ambition, childhood, courage, cultural differences, faith, family, forgiveness, identity, marriage, resilience, weight, and womanhood, I’ve been repeatedly asked by interested parties to write new material that addresses the intersection of the Chinese culture and the Catholic faith. I do not understand the public’s fascination with the Chinese Catholic experience anymore than I understand their obsession with the Amish mafia.

But I’ve been asked to become a witness to this unique experience. It’s what the public wants. And if I want any publicity for my memoir, then I must deliver what the public wants. It’s the only way to get past the brick wall of resistance.

Love Connections

I first conceived of “A Modern Love Story” in 2013 during a trip to the San Francisco Exploratorium. An exhibit about the evolution of romantic relationships included commentary from USA Today, which stated that one-third of marriages began online. This sparked an idea of chronicling a contemporary love story complete with text messages, emails, voice mails, and the occasional in-person appearance. However, two years later, after witnessing a relationship founded in-person rather than online, I discovered my original cynical view of modern love had evolved into a bittersweet tenderness that actually cut my three act play into a two minute video. Here’s the result of that culmination of effort, “Connections: a Commentary on Modern Love”. Please leave your comments.

Sacrifice for Success


The other day, my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?”

I had just announced I would be missing another family function in order to audition for a radio spot that would air in October to promote my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. Since January, I had been pitching articles, essays, videos, appearances, and speaking engagements in anticipation of snagging prime spots to showcase the book in the hopes of increasing the number of pre-orders and garnering more sales.

Of course, my husband didn’t understand. I hadn’t publicized my other books outside of social media and local appearances. But after discussing my goals with my publisher, I decided to hire a publicist and expand my marketing efforts beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing. My family cringed when I announced how much time and money I planned to devote to this book. My husband said, “We need a new car!” My daughter asked, “How am I going to afford college?” My son, who can’t talk, didn’t say anything. But if he could, I’m sure he would have protested too.

No one knows the magic formula that causes one book to rise to the best seller list and another book to remain unknown. Publishing experts offer advice, but the truth remains a mystery. Otherwise, the formula would be replicated without fail.

My family knew I was gambling, placing a bet on something that may or may not pay off. But a lot of the risks we take in life are gambles, including the biggest risk of all: falling in love. Exposing yourself to another human being with the chance of being hurt and disappointed doesn’t stop most people from taking the first step to connect.

So when my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?” I responded, “Whatever it takes for however long it takes.”

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Neither does love. Or anything else that’s worth the sacrifice.

The Cult of Social Media

Frustrated Woman Using Laptop

“Not everyone can be a hero. There are more people who need to be saved.” -Anonymous

My fourteen-year-old daughter videotapes me. I am dancing and singing to the latest hip hop tune on the radio. She quickly uploads the video to Snapchat and labels it, “My Mom is Silly.” She giggles as she plays it back for me. When I fail to protest against the post, she deletes it. “Why did you do that?” I ask. “I want to be the most popular mom on Snapchat.”

She shakes her phone at me. “No, you don’t.”

I laugh, but inside I feel like my father. He wanted fame and fortune for his four daughters, but he didn’t get it. He taught us to dream big; not knowing our dreams would leave us orphans living ordinary lives.

But with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and other social media, everyone is entitled to their daily shot at fame and for some, even fortune. Everyone has a chance to be a hero. Everyone has a chance to save the world with a few clicks at the keyboard. Suddenly you are the star of your own show, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have enough followers to inflate your ego for weeks at a time…or at least until your next post.

With all of this power comes the threat of loss of privacy, loss of intimacy, and the loss of self. Some video bloggers record everything about their day from the moment they wake up to the moment they fall asleep. Sure, those 12 hours may be edited to last only 15 minutes, but those 15 minutes shared are now owned by the viewer, whether it’s one person or one million people.

My daughter values her privacy. That’s why she only uses Snapchat with the hopes that the 30 second videos that disappear shortly after being posted are truly deleted from the Internet and won’t resurface three years later when she’s applying for college or a job.

As a middle-aged parent, I understand her concern and her guardedness, but as an author and a public speaker, I can’t afford anonymity. I can’t “save face” as my father always preached. I have to show my face whether or not what I’ve done is shameful or glorious. It’s part of the job.

We sometimes forget the public doesn’t need to know everything, especially when we are sitting in the comfort of our living room posting our thoughts and feelings for the world to see. It gives us a sense of belonging that temporarily erases the loneliness of our increasingly solitary lives.

But is social media the panacea to our isolation? And does it truly replace the intimacy we crave?

We go online for everything from shopping to information, but we go offline to live. It’s in those moments of being face to face with another human being that we get a chance to express what we hold in our hearts to be true: our irreplaceable uniqueness is what makes us sympathetic and real.

Believe and Achieve

2015 Believe

Sometimes when we are stuck in our careers or our life, we need help.

Last year, after a frustrating summer, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. At this late stage of the game, I had thought I would be a stay-at-home wife and mother who wrote and published books to supplement my husband’s income. My life was very different. I was a full-time professional with a husband who primarily took care of the children while managing his computer business. I had little time to be a wife and a mother. I had even less time for writing and painting. Often I had no time at all.

In October, I sought the help of a local psychic, Jan Kucker. She read my energy and said, “Your guides are turning away from the past and facing the future. Your life is going to dramatically change.”

My life didn’t change instantaneously. Jan had given me homework to do. I was to start believing I was worthy of receiving all the good things I was so willing to give to others. I had to start accepting the gifts the universe wanted to give me. The first step was to believe I deserved to receive!

Believing was something I reserved for others. I believed in God, my husband, my children, even my staff members. But I never stopped to consider whether or not I believed in myself.

I had been in a habit of doing: writing, rewriting, querying, and submitting story after story. Doing is one thing. Believing is another. I had to create a habit of believing.

Like a good student, I started on my homework. Jan was right. Once I started believing, I started achieving. Two weeks later, my manuscript won the 2014 Memoir Discovery Contest!

You can spend your entire life focused on the work you have to do. But if you do not believe you are worth the fruits of your labor, your efforts will be lost.

You have to believe to achieve. Yes, doing the work is half the journey but you won’t finish the journey if you don’t believe you can.

Look in the mirror and say, “I am worthy of receiving,” then go out into the world with your arms wide open and let good things come to you.

Obtaining Permission


As part of my publishing contract, I am responsible for obtaining permission to quote copyrighted material.

At first, I debated whether or not I wanted to rewrite my manuscript omitting any references to copyrighted material. But after reading the selection over and over again, I decided to go through the process of obtaining permission.

In the manuscript, my mother and my sisters are rebelling against my father’s mandate to live in isolation. My mother, in particular, yearns to experience the freedom of friendships outside of work and home. She starts to sing “American Pie” and my sisters and I join her. The song is iconic of an era. It captures the mood of the scene, defines the chapter, and colors the entire book with its flavor.

I started my research by contacting the singer, Don McLean, who directed me to United Artists who directed me to Hal Leonard Corporation. Over a period of two months of negotiations, the corporation and I finally reached an agreement on the terms and conditions in which I could use a few lines of the lyric to “American Pie” in exchange for payment. Yes, I paid money for the right to quote a few lines from a song and I feel it was worth it.

Not every writer is willing or able to buy the right to reprint copyrighted material either because the copyright holder is unwilling to extend the right or a writer is unwilling to pay the price. A mutual agreement must be made.

In the event someone wants to quote from one of my books in the future, I will be in the position to negotiate the terms of the agreement. I can offer permission to use the quote for free, for a set dollar amount, or a percentage of the gross or net sales, or any other terms and conditions which are mutually agreeable. Until then, I will continue to be cognizant of what quotes I use in future works and diligent about obtaining permission.

Unveiling the Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the cover of my memoir:

Book Cover

Here is a sneak peek at the “ghost cover” I did not choose:

Ghost Cover

The quote will eventually be replaced with an excerpt of Amanda Zieba’s endorsement. Amanda is the author of Breaking the Surface and the Orphan Train Rider Series. To read more about why I chose the cover I did, visit my blog post, “Beyond Words”.

100 Years of Memories

Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin
Photo courtesy of Ed Turpin

I was honored to be one of several women who read excerpts from Suzanne Sherman’s book 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl to help celebrate the launch of a new series of books chronicling the lives of American females. The first book in the series features stories from girls around the age of thirteen sharing what it was like to grow up in each decade from 1900 to 2000.

The event was held in the main dining room of the French Garden Restaurant in Sebastopol. Photographs from the book were presented in a slide show while music from each decade filled the room. Guests enjoyed champagne, sparkling water, and orange juice while listening to Suzanne share her insights into each decade. Each reader presented a snippet of their stories to a rapt audience.

My story about growing up in the shadow of the American Dream was a prelude to my book-length memoir that will be released later this year.

For those who missed the event, Suzanne will be hosting other readings in the future. You may also purchase a book either directly from Suzanne’s website or through Amazon.

Experience History!

Come celebrate 100 Years in the Life of an American Girl on Saturday January 10, 2:00 – 4:00 at the French Garden Restaurant, 8050 Bodega Ave., Sebastopol.

This is not your average book launch party! Bring your family!

* Listen to readers featured in the book from every decade, with stories of girlhood (before age 13) from throughout a century.

* Hear music from the 1920s through the 1990s — from Scott Joplin to Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson to Taylor Swift!

* Taste treats you’ll remember — or discover them for the first time! There will be candies popular since the 1920s, like Walnettos and Mary Jane’s, and candies from more recent times, like Pop Rocks and Nerds!

* Toys from the twentieth century are still fun! Try your hand again at jacks or Barrel of Monkeys — it’s been awhile, right? Slinky and Silly Putty will be here too, to laugh about and play with.

* Buy your author-signed copy of the book, for yourself and for friends and family.

For more information on how you can make history in the next 100 Years book series, visit Suzanne Sherman’s website.