A Vacation for My Soul

I’ve always believed that the universe sends gifts our way when we most need them. My most recent gift came via email from my friend Julie Compton. There was a spot available at a writers’ retreat at a rented beach house in Virginia Beach. Nine other women who had known each other for years had room for a tenth. Was I interested? I admit for a brief moment I was transported back to school yards of yore and uttered “that sounds like hell.” My friend laughed and reassured me, “not these women.” I decided to go for it because I was beginning to feel despair over the lack of writing momentum with my next novel.

I flew in on Saturday and shared a shuttle to the house with Geri and Cal. We chatted merrily, unaware that our driver was hopelessly lost. When we finally arrived at the house, Linda and Mary welcomed us with gift bags filled with writing goodies and showed us to our rooms, the doors of which had been decorated with name plaques and doorknob signs requesting privacy for the writer within. Within the hour, Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of the fantasy novel Finder (but playing the role of gourmet cook), arrived with Signa. Finally, Diana and Sara (the dessert diva) pulled up. Julie would arrive the following day.

The Doll Babies, as the group is called, range in age from mid-forties to eighty-something and comprise talents and successes too numerous to list. Each woman had something special that drew me in and made me want to know more. I was reminded that everyone we meet in life is a potential teacher. If you pay attention, you can learn some wonderful things (about yourself, even) from other people. There’s something magical about admiring traits in others and realizing you can adopt them for the betterment of your own life. What a gift. Needless to say, a week just wasn’t enough, especially since I sensed immediately that this writers’ retreat was going to be about a lot more than just writing.

There’s something about being out in nature that sets me right, reminds me of who I am from the top of my gooey grey matter to the tips of my toes, and airs out my mothball-scented spirit. The house was huge, and there were balconies attached to every room that provided an awe-inspiring view of the beach. Before long, the natural rhythms of the ocean infiltrated the beach house and my existence. There was no set schedule, but my days seemed to flow as follows:

  • Wake to the sound of waves breaking on the shore
  • Exercise – I finished another week of the C25K running program.
  • Have breakfast
  • Write – I completed several scenes and had a breakthrough on a part of the novel that had me stumped.
  • Break for chats about writing and publishing – Writing is a solitary existence and it’s nice to know you’re not alone.
  • Do crafts – There’s something therapeutic about this even though I’m not very good at it. Focusing my mind on stringing beads or pasting paper silences the mental hamsters.
  • Eat dinner (and dessert) – Guinness beef stew, wine, homemade chocolate cake. Yum!
  • Converse – Listen to the stories of 9 amazing women.
  • Fall into a peaceful slumber, waves still breaking on the shore.

As an unstructured person (who secretly wishes she was more structured), this routine soothed. Life is best lived when we enter into its rhythms. I think my cells mutated from the joy of it all. 🙂

As wonderful as it all sounds, there was more. A spontaneous trip to Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment got my mind percolating about my purpose and how I can better integrate body, mind, and spirit. This was live-changing and it’s why it’s taken me so long to write this post. I needed to process it all. (Thank you to everyone who contacted me, wondering where the heck I’ve been. Who says you don’t make real friendships online? It’s nice to be missed. 🙂 )

What this experience taught me was even though I think I’ve carved out “me” time by working only 3 days per week, it isn’t the same as going on retreat minus all the distractions, personal and electronic. Sometimes we need to isolate ourselves from our routines and the roles that we play in our daily lives (not to mention the other people in our lives and the roles they play). We must fast from the things that keep us from going deeper, enter into a meditative space, ask the questions, and wait for the answers. Some questions in life are complex and it’s okay not to have all the answers. In fact it’s probably better to live a while without the answer than to rush into the wrong one. With all that said, I intend to make every effort to take a trip like this on an annual basis to share some one-on-one time with my soul. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. You deserve it.

WordPress, Search Engine Terms, and a Constipated Baby

As a technical writer, I enjoy reading documentation. The WordPress people do a good job explaining options and functionality. However, I’m having a difficult time finding an answer to a question about search engine terms.

“Search Engine Terms” is one of the features on the Stats page. According to the WordPress documentation, it lists terms that people entered in search engines to locate your blog.    

So, can someone explain how the search terms “my baby is constipated what can I do” brought someone to my blog? We talk about a lot of odd things here, I know, but I don’t think I’ve covered poop or lack thereof. Yet. 😉

Constipated baby utters his first words.

 

Desperate Mother, I wish I could help you, but having breastfed my baby, I never had to deal with constipation issues. The poops of breastfed babies are soft and orange…kind of like, wait for it, pumpkin puree. (Sorry, Charles).

However, let me point you to Amazon.com where you can buy the print or Kindle version of my novel The Benefactor. You will undoubtedly be up many a long night with your wailing child. What better way to pass the time than with a romantic suspense novel? You remember what romance is, right? Hmmm, probably not. Most likely the only suspense in your life right now is wondering when romance will return to your life…and when that damn kid is gonna poop.

Desperate Mother, rest assured it gets easier. I promise.

And the winners are…

I want to thank everyone who participated in this giveaway, whether you entered to win a copy of my book, posted news about the giveaway on your Facebook page or blog, or stopped by to leave a friendly message.

Drum roll please . . .

And the winners are:

21) Sam I am

22) Cynthia

28) Heather

I have sent emails to the winners. If you don’t receive it, please contact me at Margaret@MargaretReyesDempsey.com and provide your full name and mailing address, and indicate to whom you would like your book personalized.

If you didn’t win but are interested in reading The Benefactor, it is available in both print and e-book formats. Please see my website for further details.

Thanks for sharing your favorite books with me. Happy Reading!

Giveaway: 3 Signed Copies of The Benefactor

I was planning to do this Giveaway on Ground Hog Day, sure that Punxsutawney Phil would see his shadow, dooming us to six more miserable weeks of winter. But I don’t need that punk Phil to tell me nuttin’ as I sit on Long Island buried under a foot of snow. So, for all of you who are finding it difficult to get out and just want to settle in with a cup of tea and a book, I’m giving away 3 signed copies of my romantic suspense novel The Benefactor to see you through the cold.

Here’s a blurb:

They say the truth will set you free…

After her parents’ tragic deaths, eight-year-old Kate Barrett began receiving anonymous gifts from someone called Secret Friend. Years later, after landing a challenging job and the apartment of her dreams, she is caught off guard when another package shows up at her now unlisted address. Troubled that someone is watching her every move, she sets out to discover the stranger’s identity.

The pressure rises when a coworker’s flirtatiousness crosses the line and Kate makes a disturbing discovery at work. Just when things couldn’t get more bizarre, love comes from a surprising direction, and shocking clues to the mystery surface in an unthinkable place. But nothing can prepare Kate for the truth about Secret Friend, the deaths of her parents, and how her destiny has been cunningly manipulated.

See my website for reviews, praise, an excerpt, etc.

The Rules:

  1. You are automatically entered to win if you post a comment at the end of this blog and mention a book that you love.
  2. One entry per person, please.
  3. No entries after 11:59 PM Eastern Time, Sunday, January 30, 2011.
  4. Winners will be selected at random and announced on Monday, January 31, 2011.
  5. No purchase required.

Good luck! Feel free to link to this post on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. so your friends and family can enter as well. And if you see something here that you like, subscribe to my blog to get notified of new posts and future giveaways.

Have a good weekend.

UPDATE: The winners have been announced in the post And the winners are…

Marketing or Madness? You be the judge.

That there is the Ron Popeil of book promotion.

Who is that crazy man hanging upside down, you ask? My dad, of course. Hi Dad. 😀

For the record, I’ve warned my parents that any information that comes my way may end up in a blog. Now I think they just might be tempting fate. When this photo showed up in my inbox last night, well…you can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s what mom’s email said:

I just got an urgent call from Dad in the basement, which requested that I bring my camera. Being the helpful person I am, I hopped right to it – and this is what I found:

Dad reading “The Benefactor” on the Kindle while on the inversion table with Marilyn in the background and the name of the book indicated on the alphabet play mat.

Should I send for a psychiatrist?

Um, well, maybe.

Needless to say, I howled with laughter. That’s truly inspired, dad. And inspirational. It’s been a little over a year since my romantic suspense novel The Benefactor was published, and I admit it’s been a learning experience trying to balance promoting the book with writing my next novel. Midway through the year, I started to devote more time to the writing part. But Dad has reminded me that as long as my book (baby) is out there, it needs to be promoted (nurtured). So, my very first new year’s resolution is to do just that.

The Benefactor is available in both print and e-formats (including Kindle). Check out my website http://margaretreyesdempsey.com for information on the book, reviews, excerpts, etc. Here’s a blurb to whet your appetite:

They say the truth will set you free…

After her parents’ tragic deaths, eight-year-old Kate Barrett began receiving anonymous gifts from someone called Secret Friend. Years later, after landing a challenging job and the apartment of her dreams, she is caught off guard when another package shows up at her now unlisted address. Troubled that someone is watching her every move, she sets out to discover the stranger’s identity.

The pressure rises when a coworker’s flirtatiousness crosses the line and Kate makes a disturbing discovery at work. Just when things couldn’t get more bizarre, love comes from a surprising direction, and shocking clues to the mystery surface in an unthinkable place. But nothing can prepare Kate for the truth about Secret Friend, the deaths of her parents, and how her destiny has been cunningly manipulated.

One of my goals in promoting my book has always been to give back to the community. As such, all of the net proceeds from my book signings have gone to causes such as Pediatric MS (bet you didn’t know kids could get multiple sclerosis), literacy, donations to schools, etc. If anyone out there would like to partner with me for a charity event, feel free to contact me at Margaret@MargaretReyesDempsey.com.

Happy New Year! Wishing you many creative moments in 2011.

Book Signing for Pediatric MS

A huge thank you to everyone who supported us at the fundraiser for Pediatric MS on Saturday. Thank you to the Broadway Mall for having us, Natale of the Long Island Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society for the support (and for doing hours of crafts with kids before your bachelorette party), everyone who stopped by to purchase a book or raffle tickets, my family for their support, the New York Islanders for the donated merchandise, and Sparky, the team mascot, for the entertainment.
 
The proceeds from my book sales on Saturday will be donated to the LIV LIFE MS Walk team, headed up by 16-year-old Olivia, who was diagnosed with Pediatric MS two years ago. Who knew kids got MS? I didn’t until Rina, Olivia’s mom, emailed me after reading that I was interested in partnering with local charities.

For anyone who couldn’t attend the event but wants to contribute to the cause, please visit Olivia’s MS Walk page to make a donation.

Photos will be posted shortly at http://www.margaretreyesdempsey.com.

The Benefactor Receives 5 Stars and a Top Pick Rating by Night Owl Reviews

What a way to ring in the New Year! I was notified of this review minutes before heading out the door to celebrate. Needless to say, there were many beaming faces around the laptop tonight and two reasons to drink champagne.


Here’s what reviewer, Diana Coyle, had to say:

All I can say about this story is, “WOW!!!” This was a powerful story that grabbed me from the first page and had me on a roller coaster ride until the very last sentence. Ms. Dempsey packed this story with raw emotions and I just couldn’t help but feel terrible for Kate….I’m new to Ms. Dempsey and her writing, but I can tell you that I am her #1 fan now. I eagerly look forward to reading more from this author as soon as possible. Keep the stories coming, Ms. Dempsey!

Read the full review here.

I received my first review on Thanksgiving morning and this last one on New Year’s Eve. Some kind of holiday pattern, maybe? Whatever it takes! Let’s go Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. YEAH!!!!!

4-Book Rating for The Benefactor from Long and Short Reviews

What a great Thanksgiving gift! And definitely something to be thankful for.

I just got my first, official review from Long and Short Reviews. They gave The Benefactor a 4-book rating.

Click here to read the complete review. I’ve pasted in part of it below.

The “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” beginning of The Benefactor is deceptive. Suspense creeps in early when Kate Barrett’s “secret friend” sends a gift to her new apartment before she moves in and even before her name is listed at the new address.

As the plot takes twists and turns with layer after layer of Kate’s past life being peeled away, she feels off balance and must re-evaluate past events while moving along at warp speed in her new job at eTown Technology. Kate, bright, college-educated, and dedicated is on the fast track to success.

Michael Callaghan, owner of eTown Technology, watches Kate and encourages her to make the most of her talents. He rewards her with promotions and pay. He stays in the background with Frank Tarantino being the visible “boss” up to a point. However, Michael exerts pressure when Frank steps over the line with Kate. Michael’s past also had layers to it that he does not reveal. His anonymous philanthropic works take on new meaning as the layers of his past begin to peel away. The Benefactor, a story about a quest for redemption and about the power of forgiveness, lures the reader in.

The secondary characters help develop the complexities in the story and add some interesting insights into the various ways people cope with their circumstances—circumstances that cannot always be seen as just black or white, the shades of grey in between must be considered.

Margaret Reyes Dempsey’s unobtrusive writing style makes the story flow and propels the reader along with a mixture of bumps and smoothness along the way that keeps the reader’s interest fully engaged.

Book Launch Party for The Benefactor

My book launch party was last night and it was an amazing evening. There was a cocktail party for guests of the hotel before my event began. The general manager suggested I get there early to set up and meet some of them. He had displayed the book signing poster in the lobby during the week, sent emails to the guests, and a telephone broadcast to the rooms inviting them down for happy hour and the book signing. About fifty people showed up and as I set up, 19 of them came over to chat and buy books, which totally shocked me. I was shaking a bit when I signed that first book in the presence of a stranger. I had already signed a bunch of pre-orders for the launch party, but I was by myself for those. 🙂
 
To be honest, I never imagined that my book launch party would go the way it did. In fact, just that morning I’d burrowed deeper under the covers in total avoidance mode, incredibly nervous and not knowing what to expect. But when guests began arriving and I felt the energy in the room and saw how starry-eyed some of my friends and family were, it all started to feel real in a good way. I had a hard time falling asleep after such an energizing night. I’ll never forget it. Thank you everyone for making it a dream come true.

At 7:00 PM, my family and friends arrived (about 100 people). It was a magical night. Everyone was so excited. There was a constant line at the signing table. A local paper had printed an article about the book launch and someone actually brought a copy of that for me to autograph along with the book. In addition to the food and drinks that were served, my mom brought in 100 casatelli, a Sicilian dessert, which is described on pages 106-107 of The Benefactor. We put up a sign with that information, along with a description of the dessert (pastry dough filled with sweetened ricotta, shaved chocolate, and a touch of cinnamon, fried or baked, and dusted with powdered sugar).

[Visit the Gallery Page of my website to see photos from the event.]

 

Be-uh He-uh: Successful book promotion may require some form of refrigeration

[I’ll get to the translation of Be-uh He-uh in a moment for any out-of-towners.]

My book, The Benefactor, was released by The Wild Rose Press last week. For the past few months I’ve been gazing into space and doing research on the best places to promote a book. Believe it or not, a bookstore is not that place. One local, independent store told a fellow writer that she should set the retail price and they’d take half. Only bad thing was it cost her $3 more than that “half price” to purchase the books at her special discount from her publisher. So, for the privilege of sitting at their store, it would cost her $3 per book (and that’s not even factoring in the cost of shipping the books to her).

Discouraged by her news, I thought maybe a few local writers could pool their funds and get a table at the mall one day during the holiday season. How much could it be? I’ll tell you. One table for one Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas costs $800. You’d have to sell a lot of books to just break even.

Joking around, I told one of my writer friends that we should get a table in the meat aisle of our local warehouse club store. There’d be plenty of people shopping for the holidays. He told me he’d already been turned down. At first, I thought he was pulling my leg. But no. He’d gone to the store where he had shopped for years and the manager was very excited about having a book signing there for him. But when the request made it to the “powers that be,” the answer was a resounding, “Nay!”

With disbelief that a writer wouldn’t even be welcome to sit in front of the frozen turkeys, but feeling that I was onto something, I spent a few more hours gazing into space, brainstorming with myself. Maybe it’s that the Yankees have made it into the World Series, but those guys at the stadium who walk around with the cases of beer cans sitting in ice, screaming “Be-uh He-uh” (that’s Beer Here for those of you not from the Metro New York area), suddenly came to mind. Maybe they had room in their beer cases for my romantic suspense novel. The odds are that at least some of the women sitting in the stands are glazed over and there only to impress their dates. They could get started reading immediately and maybe create a buzz in the stands. Though in New York, creating the wrong kind of buzz will get a hot dog thrown at you…or worse. Still, a bit of mustard never hurt anyone.

My mind continued on. What about those guys with the coolers heaved on their shoulders selling cold drinks on the beach? “Ice cold water, iced tea, The Benefactor, ice cold water, iced tea, The Benefactor.” It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? And there are plenty of women on the beach, some perhaps in need of a good read.

Then this idea popped into my head…a truck rounds the corner, its bell ringing and the warped strains of “Turkey in the Straw” playing. Children run from their homes. It’s the ice cream guy. He reaches into the freezer, pulls out a bomb pop for little Johnny, and The Benefactor for his mom.

Refrigeration, I tell you. Successful book promotion will undoubtedly come down to some form of refrigeration. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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