Monday, October 2, 2017

Fathoms Below & Fathoms Above Giveaway Announcement



Calling all book bloggers and bookstagrammers! I had so much fun at the magic myth mischief event that I want to do more! So, I'm giving away 10 FREE ebooks of Fathoms Below AND Fathoms Above in exchange for a guest spot with review! If you're interested, just reply to this post or dm me by Friday October 6th.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Fathoms Above Cover Reveal

It's here! It's finally here! Today, the cover for Fathoms Above, the second book in the Star Crossed series, was released, and I couldn't be more in love with it if I tried! The Ferris Wheel (an object that plays a VERY important part in Fathoms Above), the gold, the white lettering on the black: it looks so much better in real life than I could have imagined!



A huge thanks to Debra Presley and everyone from Book Enthusiasts and Buoni Amici Press who had a part in putting this event together, as well as all the book bloggers who so graciously participated in this event and made my cover look absolutely amazing! Click on any of the links below to visit these blogs and view the cover reveal for yourself! There's also an EXTENDED excerpt from Fathoms Above, and a giveaway for 5 free e-book copies of Fathoms Above and 5 signed Fathoms Below-themed bookmarks!

https://eskiemamareads.blogspot.com/2017/05/cover-reveal-preorder-blitz-wgiveaway.html

http://smutfanatic.blogspot.com/2017/05/fathoms-above-star-crossed-2-by-laura.html?zx=83ee2f816530220b

https://tfaulcbookreviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/blog-tour-cover-reveal-pre-order-blitz-fathoms-above-by-laura-holt-authorlauraholt-bookenthusiast1-buoniamicipress/

http://rustysreading.blogspot.com/2017/05/cover-reveal-preorder-blitz-fathoms.html?zx=6063b3bc73cc6

https://www.alliesstuff.com/2017/05/25/cover-reveal-fathoms-above-by-laura-holt/

https://allthingsdarkanddirty.blog/2017/05/25/laura-holt-fathoms-above-cover-reveal-preorder-blitz-excerpt-giveaway/

https://www.facebook.com/tangentsandtissues2/posts/424339407949318'

https://www.facebook.com/WereJumpinBooks/?fref=nf

https://www.facebook.com/nicolebookmusings/?fref=nf

https://www.facebook.com/buoniamicipress/?fref=nf


Monday, March 20, 2017

Last Chance to Enter the Fathoms Above Giveaway

Don't miss out, Star Crossed Lovers! Today is the last day to enter my giveaway for an Advanced Reader Copy of my new upcoming Young Adult Fantasy-Romance Fathoms Above or a Books-a-Million gift card! All you have to do to get your name in the drawing is reply to this post with the god or goddess who you think will make their debut in this second installment in the Star Crossed series. This contest is open to all residents of the US, Great Britain, and Canada who are 13 and older. Good luck!


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Fathoms Above Research Sneak Peeks Part 2

Happy Star Crossed Saturday, everyone! Good news! I received the first draft of Fathoms Above back from my editor late last night and, minus a break this afternoon where I watched my niece at a pageant and went grocery shopping, I have been hard at work applying her noted revisions ever since. So many grammatical errors lol (I guess you just can't trust MS Word), but her notes always make me smile. I seriously could not ask for a better person in my corner.


Last week, I shared with yall a few sneak peeks at some of the book research that went into writing Fathoms Above. This week, I'm going to share some tidbits from my online research, particularly a little more about the myth retellings you'll get to read in Fathoms Above. If you read my last blog, you already know that two of these are Echo and Narcissus and Medusa. Another is Pygmalion. This story of the sculptor who fell in love with one of his own statues has always been one of my favorite Greek myths because of the poignant tragedy of their relationship. Or non-existent relationship rather, since a one-sided relationship isn't really a relationship at all, no matter how hard the more interested party tries to make it one. In the Star Crossed series, I took this myth a little bit further and made Pygmalion one of Pyramus's descendants. Though lucky enough not to fall in love with a descendant of Thisbe like Lee in Fathoms Below, Pygmalion was still unlucky in love because he fell in love with a woman who could never love him back...at least, not without divine intervention, and in Fathoms Above, as Hermes tells Cather to help take her mind off of their doomed relationship, that's exactly what Pygmalion seeks. Here's a little snippet from this retelling to wet your appetite, along with the link to the original version of this myth.

http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/classics/ovidpygmalion.htm

“Are you cold?”
“A little,” she lied, turning her head enough to meet his gaze over her shoulder. “Would you…could you tell me a story to help me fall asleep? Maybe something from Greek myth that doesn’t have to do with my family’s curse?”
“Of course,” he agreed, like she had known he would, because he would always put her well-being before his own, even when he shouldn’t. Settling back onto the pillow, she listened to his breathing for a minute—in, out, in, out— before he spoke again.
“Not all of Pyramus’s brother Caius’s descendants were as unlucky as Lee and Leander. One of them, Pygmalion, never even met a descendant of Thisbe. Instead, he fell in love with, of all things, a statue.”
“A statue?” Cather asked, unable to keep quiet although she was supposed to be going to sleep.
“Yes.” Hermes nodded, his hair tickling the nape of her neck. “To this day it remains the most untraditional love story of all those that I have witnessed. You see, Pygmalion was a sculptor who lived in Cyprus in the second century. He was the best at his craft, able to give a life-like appearance to every one of his creations. Naturally, his success made him appealing to every woman of marriage age within the town walls. Yet his devotion to his art left him with no time to admire the beauty of any living creature. As the years wore on, and Pygmalion remained alone, with only his sculptures for company, he began to grow bitter. There was an empty hole in his heart that he did not know how to fill, until one night, while attending the annual Festival of Aphrodite, he saw a beautiful young girl dancing by the fire and understood.
“He needed a wife, a companion, someone who would fill his waking hours with laughter and love and give him the family he craved. He had spent so long shunning the women of, though, the city that he knew not how to talk to them. So rather than seek a real bride of flesh and blood, he did instead what he did best. He carved a statue in the image of what he thought the perfect woman should look like. It was an unparalleled work.”
“You saw it?”
“I did.” Cather felt Hermes’s hair brush her cheek as he nodded. “Michelangelo himself could not have done better. The statue’s skin was smooth from hours upon hours of sanding. Its body was slender, supple, clothed in an ivory toga that covered one shoulder and left the other bare. It wore sandals on feet that would never walk. Its wrists held unmoving bangles, and every toe and finger had been hammered out with exquisite detail.
“As real in appearance as the women in the village, the statue stood on her stone pedestal, proud and strong and gentle and divine. Her hair appeared to flow down her back in white ripples that reminded the artist of spilled milk, so he named her Galatea, which means she who is white like milk. Yet it was her eyes that captivated Pygmalion the most, for he had carved them so well that, impossible though it was, when he gazed into them, they seemed to be filled with life, light, and intelligence, and the more he stared at his creation, the more he longed for her to be real, to become a person of living flesh and blood, like him.
“Ignorant then in the ways that love can affect a person, I assumed the sculptor would come to his senses in a few days and sell the statue like all the rest he’d made. As the days went by, however, he only fell more in love with her, and, as love is want to do, it began to make him act a little crazy. He dressed the statue in real garments instead of the ones he had carved for her, adding color to her otherwise pale appearance, and put two sweet smelling flowers behind her ears.
“He purchased all manner of gems and sweets from the market that he thought she would like and placed them at the base of her pedestal. Instead of working from dawn until dusk as he normally did, the artist sat for hours upon end on a stool, engaging in one-sided conversations with his lovely creation.
“A full year went by in this manner, until Pygmalion had become so obsessed with the flawless statue that he no longer ventured from his home. I admit that I laughed at him on more than one occasion, and the people in his village whispered in the streets about how he had gone mad. But when the Festival of the goddess Aphrodite neared again, and the villagers began to work on preparations day and night outside his window, the sculptor got an idea. He would go to the Festival and pray to the goddess of Love to turn his ivory figurine into a real woman, one whom he could love and cherish for the rest of their days. And on the day of the Festival, that is exactly what he did. While everyone in the city was making their own offerings to the goddess of Love, Pygmalion left his home and traveled to the shrine that’d been erected in the city square in her honor. There, he got down on his knees and beseeched the goddess to answer his prayer.

Now, some of you are probably wondering: I have mentioned before that the Star Crossed series is a retelling of the fairy tale Cinderella. However, Cather doesn't exactly have a habit of losing a shoe when it's least convenient. So who is Cinderella then? Well, in Fathoms Above, you get your first glimpse at that answer, and the first look at my version of this classic tale. To write it, I took the original version of Cinderella, titled Rhodopis, by the historian Strabo (you can read it for yourself by clicking on the link under this paragraph), and combined it with some of my favorite versions of Cinderella from around the globe, including the most popular one by Charles Perrault illustrated by the Pinterest collage below. Will the slipper be glass? That I can't tell you. Will there be a prince, a fairy godmother, or a pumpkin carriage? Perhaps, though not in the traditional sense. What I can tell you, though, is that this Cinderella, or Sinderella, as she is so nicknamed in the series by Hermes, is an unconventional heroine who, like Cather, will dare to stand up against the deities of Olympus and do everything in her power to break another of their divine curses.

https://litscribbles.wordpress.com/fairy-tales/rhodopis-the-egyptian-cinderella/


Want more research tidbits? No problem. As promised in last week's blog, here is a closer look at some of the main characters in the Star Crossed series, starting with the heroine, Cather Stevens.


For those of you have read Fathoms Below (and for those of you who haven't yet), you know that Cather is an average girl-next-door-type from the South who likes chocolate, cheerleading, history, and murder mysteries. She is logical, stubborn, and a little bit sassy, which at first made her a very difficult character to write, as I am driven more by my emotions than anything else. She doesn't have time for things like love and fantasy until her eighteenth birthday, when she discovers that things are not always as they seem and that she is not quite as ordinary as she always believed. This Pinterest collage is one of my favorites that I saved to my Star Crossed Book Research board, and at the time I wasn't even looking for it. Though at times I wanted to strangle her for her decisions (you will see why when you read Fathoms Above), I had a very clear picture in my head of exactly who Cather was and what she looked like from the start of my writing. So when I stumbled upon this collage while researching deities, I was ecstatic, because it encompasses her perfectly! Except for the green eye color, that's wrong lol. Still, it illustrates the rich brown color of her hair, her tanned skin, her Greek and southern heritage, her family's tragic history, even her love of sweets and simple girly things like makeup!


The other main character in the Star Crossed series is Hermes, the Bookkeeper and Messenger of the gods, and, at the end of Fathoms Below, Cather's boyfriend. (I can't tell you whether things will stay that way between them or not when Cather meets the descendant of Pyramus in Fathoms Above. You will just have to read and find out for yourself.) As the youngest and arguably most intelligent son of Zeus, Hermes was entrusted with upholding the star crossed curse that his father placed on all of the female descendants of Thisbe. Obviously, in Fathoms Below, that changed, and in Fathoms Above we get to see Hermes as one deity standing alone against the might of Olympus, risking life, limb, and his heart for the girl he loves. Of all the collages that I saved for Hermes to my Star Crossed Series Book Research board, this one is my favorite. It includes his wings, some maps (which I like to think helped him keep track of Cather's ancestors and document their whereabouts over the years), and the winged staff he carried in Fathoms Below. There's also a cool shot of a misty forest that reminds me of a scene from Fathoms Below when Cather went running and found Hermes lurking in the woods. As for the drachma, well, let's just say that in Fathoms Above you get to learn more about Hermes's powers, his past, and his family, including his father, Zeus.



Ah, Zeus: King of the gods, unfaithful husband of Hera, caster of the star crossed curse, and all around bad guy. Despite his divine good looks and immortal charm, Zeus is really nothing more than a spoiled, entitled little rich boy who wasn't happy with what life had to offer him. So, naturally, he overthrew his parents and the rest of the Titans, used Hera's feelings for him to elevate himself to power, had a couple of powerful kids who he proceeded to train as his own personal army, and set about crushing anyone who dared to stand against him, including his best friend. Needless to say, he isn't wild about the idea of a mortal breaking his curse, which is why he sends Athena to stop Cather before she can find and marry the last living descendant of Pyramus. Why, you may ask, doesn't he just stop her himself? After all, he does have an entire sky full of lightning bolts at his disposal that he could use to strike both her and Hermes down at any given moment. Let's just say that, when it comes to divine curses, things are always more complicated than they at first appear, even for the King of gods. And when it comes to love, well, it's not only the descendants of Thisbe and Pyramus who have suffered at the hand of the star crossed curse. One god or goddess had their life changed by it forever. Want to know who? Follow me on Instagram by clicking on the link below to go to my page, and stay tuned for a special giveaway contest for Fathoms Above that will be starting Monday, March 6. Until then, star crossed lovers. :)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fathoms Above Research Sneak Peeks

Only five days left until I get the first draft of Fathoms Above back from my editor! I'm so excited to read all of her notes and get to work fixing my mistakes. (Busy, busy lol.) So much work went into writing this sequel to Fathoms Below. In fact, part of me still can't believe it will be published in a few months. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting behind my computer at my old desk, typing out the first words of the prologue. Now, two years later, it's almost a reality! True, there are still lots of grammatical errors to correct, spellchecks to be performed, margins to be re-aligned, and questions to be asked. Plus, this is only the first draft. There will be two more after this one before Fathoms Above is ready to hit the shelves. However, I wanted to take the time to share with yall some of the research that went into creating Fathoms Above and the rest of the Star Crossed universe that Cather Stevens and Hermes Preston live in.



To me, writing a book is a labor of love, one that requires time, effort, sweat, blood (think broken nails on a keyboard), tears, and sacrifice, like the kind found in the story of Medusa. I read two different volumes and searched online archives extensively for everything that I could find about the snake-haired Gorgon whose gaze turned anyone who looked upon it to stone. All of them seemed to share the same two origins, which I remembered from my days devouring Greek mythology in high school. One, that Medusa was one of three Gorgon sisters, daughters of the sea deities Phorcys and Ceto who were born monsters. And two, that Medusa was a beautiful maiden who was turned into a monster by the goddess Athena, either because she angered her or because Athena took pity on her. Both make sense. Yet I have always had a burning question in the back of my mind when it comes to this particular myth. Specifically, why does Medusa's gaze turn people to stone? Of all the powers she could have had, why did it have to be that one? Was it genetic? Accidental? A weapon to protect her against men who might harm her for her beauty? Or was it punishment for something? So I took that question and allowed it to fuel my own version of how Medusa came to be, exactly what she did that made Athena so angry that she would curse her (because let's face it, it would take something more than someone simply defiling my temple to make me curse them, and weapon or not, turning all who look at you to stone is a curse sooner or later), and what happened between her and Athena after that.



If you can't tell already, I think research is one of the best parts of writing a book, along with the actual writing part and getting to see your finished product once its published. Not only is it an excuse to read new books and reread old favorites, but it's also an adventure in itself, one where pages are my roads and my imagination is my compass. Research allows me to take well-known, and not so well-known, tales like that of Cerberus, the three-headed Guardian of the Underworld, piece them together with histories, dreams, and my own experiences and weave them together into a single story. In this case, a story about a dog named Fear who was given to the descendants of Pyramus by Hades, god of the Underworld, as protection against Zeus and the other deities of Mount Olympus.



I also like research because it helps me learn more about my characters' backgrounds, especially the deities. Each Greek myth I read and rewrite to fit my story line helps me turn untouchable Olympic gods and goddesses into seemingly-real flesh and blood individuals just like you and me. They have likes and dislikes, habits, and pasts, sometimes good, sometimes bad, that drive their emotions in the present. Hermes, who for centuries spent his time upholding Zeus's star crossed curse until he met Cather, is one such character, driven by the love he feels for the mortal girl and the guilt he feels for all the lives he took at the hand of the curse. In Fathoms Above, we see a little more of this love and guilt mix as Hermes remembers the tale of Echo, another of Cather's tragic ancestors, and her love Narcissus, and hopes that his and Cather's story doesn't end up like theirs.



Want to read more about the research that went into Fathoms Above? Then stay tuned for next week’s blog, where I will talk about some of my favorite online research finds, including some special character insights on Athena, Hermes, and Cather. Until then, happy reading!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

♥ FATHOMS BELOW SPECIAL VALENTINE’S DAY BLOG ♥


 Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! J Normally, I would wait until the end of the week to post this. However, as I am going out of town with my daughter for a special Valentine’s outing this weekend, I will be MIA from my computer and other devices. So I figured I should go ahead and post it today.


For those of you who don’t know me, I am a HUGE holiday person. I love to decorate, bake, exchange gifts, celebrate with my family and friends, watch holiday specials, and Valentine’s Day is no exception. The hearts, the chocolates, the flowers, the cards and romance: I love it all, and this year, I wanted to share it with my readers.  So, for the next week only, the Fathoms Below e-book will be on sale for only $0.99! If you or someone you know are like me, and Valentine’s Day puts you in a romantic mood, then this YA paranormal romance centered around Greek mythology and fairy tales is the perfect addition to your holiday gift list! If you’re anti-Valentine’s Day, don’t worry! I’ve got that covered too! The tragic endings to the love stories in Fathoms Below will definitely help you not-celebrate this holiday of hearts. Find this special holiday deal on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo E-readers by clicking on the links below.



Nov 28, 2016



$0.99

I also wanted to share some of my FAVORITE Valentine’s cards this year. For those book-lovers like me, Marissa Meyer, author extraordinaire of The Lunar Chronicles and Heartless, has free printables of her Lunar Chronicles Valentine’s (for the pro and anti-Valentine hearts) posted on her blog! I gave these to all my friends and extended family (as well as kept one for myself lol), and they were a huge hit! Get to them for yourself by clicking on the link to Marissa’s blog.

http://www.marissameyer.com/blogtype/happy-valentines-day/

For those of you busy mom’s like me, here is a link to the free printables (noticing a pattern here? Yes, I love free DIY things!) I used for my daughter’s classroom Valentine’s this year: adorable pink, red, and black Tic-Tac-Toe cards by Nest of Posies, which I handed out with little boxes of white Tic-Tacs. (Get it? Tic-Tac-Toe, Tic-Tacs? Too cute!) These were a huge hit, as my daughter and all of her friends love games, and super easy to pull together! Just print out as many cards as you need (there are 4 to a sheet), cut them out, and attach your favorite candy to the front or back. Voila!


Another thing I love about Valentine’s Day is—you guessed it—the books! (Actually, that’s something else I love about every holiday, because it’s an excuse to buy, get, and receive books, but tomato, to-ma-to.) There are so many good romances, both pro and anti, to read around Valentine’s Day! Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Antony and Cleopatra: and I have pulled together a list of recommended Valentine’s Day reads just for you, my fellow book lovers! Some of these yall have probably heard of, while others might be a little less well-known. But all of these are either my personal romantic favorites or are on my to-read list for this year. Plus, they all fit in either the pro or anti-Valentine category, or are just fun holiday-themed fluff. And yes, before you ask, I included Fathoms Below on this list. After all, what kind of author would I be if I didn’t love my own books enough to recommend them to other avid readers? J





Some other fun bookish Valentine-themed things I’ve done or will be doing this week? One, I am participating in Romance Week on Goodreads using the hashtag #RomanceWeek. Check out all of the love-related articles, quizzes, and 14-word author love stories (including one by yours truly!) by clicking on each of the links below. Or check out my Twitter feed at the bottom link for a full recap of all the fun stuff I did.

https://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/810-it-s-romance-week-on-goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/524370-14-word-love-story

https://twitter.com/authorlauraholt


I participated in the IWC (Indie Writers Corporation) Valentine's Day Event on Facebook. It was so exciting getting to talk to actual, experienced romance authors like Natalie Bennett. If you missed this event, you can view it now at the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/events/725381740968413/permalink/731945270312060/?notif_t=event_mall_reply&notif_id=1486835559785209

I went on my first online book-promo scavenger hunt, hosted by the YA Giveaway Queens. These ladies are a truly amazing group of writers and book lovers, and the scavenger hunt was so much fun! Hopping from page to page, finding code words and entering giveaways? I was hooked from the get go! Needless to say, I didn’t get any work done this morning lol. This Valentine’s Day event will last all day today, so if you like hunting for buried treasure as much as my daughter and I, or if you just want some free books (both are totally acceptable reasons), then check out the scavenger hunt here.

https://gleam.io/XutuI/hot-new-reads-scavenger-hunt

Well, that’s all! Don’t forget that Fathoms Below is on sale for the next week only on all e-book devices, so get your copy at this special discounted price before the promotion ends! Just make sure you have some tissues on hand before you start reading. You’re probably going to need them. J Hope you all have a safe and happy (if not loving) Valentine’s Day!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Book Signings, Social Media, and Queries, Oh My!

Lots of exciting news, Fathoms Fans! I have spent the week doing lots of fun, bookish things. First, Fathoms Above went to my editor on the 1st! Yay!! I'm so excited to finally start the editing process on this book, and I absolutely can't wait to see the finished product! Three months can't go by fast enough lol, but for now, here's a little sneak peek at some of the research that went into Fathoms Above.



I sent out a brand new query for Fathoms Below (bites fingernails) and finished updating my Book Art board on Pinterest and added two more: Book Research and Character Inspiration. I love seeing what other authors used to create their books and how they view their characters, and I hope yall enjoy this look at mine as well. :)

https://uk.pinterest.com/holtlara2

I also created the first half in a two-part series of pictures on Instagram for a bookshelf tour through my house. This was a really fun little side project, inspired by all the fabulous photos posted by other bookstagram accounts like @jessbooklover and @lisa_lostinlit. One of my favorite things to do is share what I'm reading with other book-lovers, and talk with them about their favorite characters and reads, and this was a great way to do that! Plus, it gave me a reason to reorganize all my bookshelves, which needed it badly lol. Now when I go look for a book on one of them, I don't have to move other books out of the way!







I participated in Write On Con on Saturday, February 3, which was a totally awesome experience! There were so many fantastic articles and videos by acclaimed authors, editors, and illustrators that it was super hard to pick my favorites. I even got to participate in a Live Q&A with Literary Agent Emily S. Keyes from Fuse Literary. See the links to all my highlights from this online convention at my Twitter account below.

https://twitter.com/authorlauraholt

The best and biggest news I have, though, is that there is officially ANOTHER book signing for Fathoms Below in the works! This one will be held sometime in April at the M. E. Roden Memorial Library in Hawkinsville, GA, which I'm super excited about because it's my hometown library where I grew up learning to read and nourishing my love of reading. More updates on this, and the book signing at Hawkinsville High School, to come this week, along with more sneak peaks at the research that went into Fathoms Above - follow me on Instagram and Twitter to stay in the loop -, a special surprise promotion for Fathoms Below that will be happening around Valentine's Day, ARC giveaways of Fathoms Above, and maybe even a book trailer for Fathoms Above! Who knows? I'm feeling inspired. Until then, happy reading everyone!


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rainy Days are When the Books Come Out to Play

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope yall had an awesome week full of sunshine and blue skies! Here in Georgia, all this crazy hot-cold-then hot again weather we've been having finally led to an onslaught of rain, fog, and even a tornado! My heart goes out to all the people who were affected by this storm, and if you are a member of your local Red Cross, please make sure you donate a little to help those who may not be fortunate enough to pay for the damages and medical bills on their own. The link to the Red Cross website is below.
www.redcross.org/
On the bright side, all the nasty weather meant that I had plenty of time to read the new book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Binds! This book was excellent, full of the monsters, magic, and epic battle scenes I've come to expect from Ilona Andrews dystopian Atlanta world and ended with Kate and Curran's highly anticipated wedding. If you haven't read it yet, I definitely recommend picking it up the next time you're at the book store or library! You won't be sorry :)

I also had lots of downtime to spend with my daughter, a.k.a. the princess of my life, which was just what I needed after all the rush-rush-rush of work. We played dolls, had a tea party, and read (and re-read some of her favorite books before sitting down to an easy but delicious dinner of organic soup, sandwiches, and chips. For an extra special treat, we started watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix! I read these books years ago and loved them, and while I enjoyed the movie starring Jim Carey, I have to say that so far this series is better! With more time to stretch between episodes, they were able to get more of the books on the screen, which is always an important factor to me when I watch a book I read come to life, and the casting is perfect! Neil Patrick Harris is Count Olaf to a tee, and the Boudelaire children look exactly like I pictured them in the books! Even the supporting cast, like Justice Strauss (can I PLEASE have her library?!), Mr. Po, Jacquelyn, and Gustav are excellent, and Patrick Warburton narrating the show as Limony Snickett just like said author did in the books is the cherry on top. My daughter is enjoying them immensely (she has already devised a way to foil Count Olaf's evil plans), and so am I, although now I can't wait to read this series with her as well after we finish Harry Potter. :)


In bookish news, I held my first reader-feedback Q & A on Twitter! The questions I asked were in regards to love triangles, i.e. I chose my favorite love triangles as well as some other popular ones and asked readers who they would choose out of each one if they were the main character, since the second book in the Star Crossed series, Fathoms Above, which comes out this year, contains a love triangle between Cather Stevens, Hermes, the Book Keeper and Messenger of the gods, and a mortal named Peter Gannis. And the responses I got back were fantastic! Thanks so much to everyone who participated! It was really nice to hear other people's opinions on these love triangles, and I hope that you all check out Fathoms Above when it comes out. :) If you missed this live Q & A, you can read it here on my Twitter feed. But that's not all. I also got a response to my Q & A from one of my favorite authors, Priya Ardis, who wrote the My Merlin series. (These books, which center around the King Arthur myth that says one day Arthur will rise again and bring Avalon to the Earth, were an excellent fantasy series, full of magic, mythology, and monsters.) Not only did she respond to my question about the love triangle in her books, but she participated in the entire Q & A and, as if that wasn't enough, looked up my book and gave it a review boost! I'm pretty sure that everyone I work with now thinks I'm clinically insane, because I jumped up out of my chair and proceeded to bounce around the office, squealing excitedly when I saw it lol, and you can see it for yourself below.

https://twitter.com/authorlauraholt

I sold my first paperback off Amazon this week (yay!), got my first royalty check (double yay! My bills and cupboards thank you, readers.), and did some HUGE updates to my website. There is now a page for each one of my separate series, starting with the Star Crossed one of course. Here you can read quotes from each of the books in the Star Crossed series, read more about the tragic love stories that inspired it, view how I see my main characters on my character board, listen to some of the songs that were my writing soundtrack for this series, and stay up to date on book signings and author appearances. Check it out for yourself by clicking the link below and let me know what you think. :)

holtlara2.wixsite.com/lauraholt

Only three more days until Fathoms Above goes to my editor! (Come on, February 1st! Get here already lol.) I am so excited to work with the lovely and talented H. Danielle Crabtree as she helps me bring this book to life. And last, but certainly not least, I am so ecstatic to finally announce that there is going to be a second book signing for Fathoms Below, sponsored by and held at my Alma Mater, Hawkinsville High School! There's no set date or time for this event yet, so make sure you check back on my feeds as I update them for one. But I ordered the books today, and they are set to be here by Feb. 13, so I am thinking sometime during the first week of March. A GIANT thanks to my mom, who teaches at Pulaski County Middle School, all the English Literature teachers at the middle and high school, the school librarian, and the school superintendent for helping to make this event a reality! I never forgot a single word of encouragement that each one of you gave me growing up about my writing, and I look forward to working with you to finish planning this event.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

What Am I Researching? SWAG!

Guess what, Fathoms Fans? I’m working on getting some swag (and soon!) for the Star Crossed series! I’m thinking some book marks (because every reader needs one!), some socks (because who doesn’t use those?), and maybe even a replica of Cather’s winged key necklace (because how cool would that be?)! As an independent author (I queried my second agent of 2017 this week! Fingers crossed!), this requires a fair amount of research (as does everything else in the self-publishing industry), and I’d like to extend a huge thanks to Sherry D. Ficklin and Creativindie for all their help! Their blogs are worth checking out for any current or aspiring author! You can see the posts I researched for my book swag, as well as links to these blogs, below.

SWAG~ What to bring to your book events

Posted on February 9, 2015 by sdficklin
In today’s market, authors face a unique marketing challenge. Gone are the days of people attending book events and gobbling up print copies. The digital frontier is here, and authors know a great portion of our sales are now made far from the traditional bookstore, in the various e-book platforms. Which means that to sell effectively, you need not just carry books at your events, but SWAG as well.
There is a weird, neurotic desire as an author to have the bestest, coolest swag on the block. Unfortunately, we are usually out of pocket for it, and that expense can add up REALLY fast, especially if the book hasn’t hit shelves yet, or is newly released.
But, if you’re an author who travels, does lots of conventions, or even just has signings at the local bookstore, swag is really important. Not every person who comes to your table is going to buy right then–the vast majority won’t. Many people will wait and look for it on e-books, which is awesome if they can remember your name. So I’ve compiled a list of the best book swag and where to get it without breaking your budget.
1) PAPER SWAG
This is the MOST COMMON type of swag and it includes bookmarks, postcards (which, if you are doing one or the other, I prefer postcards. They can act as bookmarks, but you can also mail them, and they present a larger image of your book. Plus, lots of fans collect them.) and flyers. You can also buy business cards with your book cover on one side and your contact info on the back. They are like mini bookmarks and are really cool.
The best place I’ve found for all my paper swag is Vistaprint. They always run great sales and can do everything from postcards to wall posters. Generally, I can get 250 postcards for about $12.
Gotprint.com is where I get my bookmarks. They have good prices and are excellent quality.
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2) STICKERS AND TEMP TATTOOS
I love both of these, however, it’s been my experience that people aren’t AS into them as some other types of swag. Still, specifically if tattoos are a theme in your book, they can be great. They are small and light and easy to grab. StickerYou is a great place for these.

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3) RUBBER BRACELETS
These are a lot of fun, and this is another thing that people collect, only they last longer than the temp tattoos and people even wear them out and about. They can be on the higher end of the scale, price wise, but you can buy in bulk for steep discounts. You can get 200 for about $55 plus shipping. (That’s the lowest price I’ve found, just FYI) Grab these over at Wrist-Band.com. 

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4) T-SHIRTS
This one isn’t very practical as a mass swag item, just because they are SO expensive. The cheapest I’ve found are $10/ea and aren’t very good quality. For me, my marketing budget is very tiny, so I have to be careful how much I spend. PLUS, it’s a real pain to get them to and from events (especially when I’m flying, HELLO baggage fees).  Items like this are better reserved as limited giveaway or street team prizes. Also, while you can use online printers for shirts, you can almost always get a better deal at your local print shop. This is also true of things like cup coozies, hats, etc.
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5) BOOKTHONGS AND MINI CHARMS
These aren’t your normal paper bookmarks. These are often cord or ribbon with fancy dangles at the ends. You can make them yourself (again, if you’re crafty) or you can have them made. The price isn’t outrageous, but again, these are better as limited giveaway items, because of the cost. Also, while cool, they aren’t as envelope friendly as paper ones. I know many authors who use these and/or book charms as giveaway goodies. I’ve also seen several authors who sell them at events for a small fee. They are very cool.
This is a great resource if you’re interested:
https://www.facebook.com/TheBookSwagShop
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6) BUTTONS
These are a cool, kind of throwback idea. Great for YA/TEEN books (since most adults don’t sport buttons anymore). They aren’t super pricy but are fun to hand out at events.
You can get 100 mini buttons with your book design for $30 here:
https://www.etsy.com/listing/120931395/100-custom-1-buttons-one-graphic?ref=shop_home_active_10
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7) POSTERS
I LOVE posters, but again, they aren’t really in my budget. At around $50 for 15 smaller size posters, they are a special occasion buy for me. I bought a pack for UtopYA where I signed them to celebrate the release of Queen of Someday. They are good for those limited edition things, but they are murder to ship (unless you fold them, which I kind of hate) and not super budget friendly unless you buy them in huge bulk.
I normally order from Vistaprint.com or my local print shop.
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8) BAGS
Oh my heavens these are my favorite things ever especially when I go to book events. I LOVE getting bags to haul my goodies in. As an author, they are great because, as people carry them, hey, free advertising. Plus bags are one of those things people tend to use over and over. Now, there are literally a billion places to get bags so I’m not going to list them here, but I will say one of my favorite places is 4imprint. If you have a favorite bag printer, please, feel free to share links in the comments.
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9) PENS AND PENCILS
These are really cool, especially if you writer for kids or teens, because they make excellent school and library swag. You can get pens for around $.15 each, but you usually have to buy at least 500. Now, you can buy less bulk at places like VistaPrint, but the price goes way up. Pencils are good too, though less flashy. You can get them at Discount Mugs (which Is where I get mine) and really any online promotional printer. The only downside is they are hard to stick in an envelope and mail.
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10) EVERYTHING ELSE
OMG, there are so many things you can use as marketing swag. Oriental Trading has millions of goodies you can get, some personalizable. Is your book featuring a soccer player? Try inflatable soccer balls. Is your book about kings and queens? What about mini tiaras or necklaces with crowns on them? (FYI, I just ordered both of those things from OT, at a killer price). I know an author who writes vampire romance bought dozens of vampire mini-rubber duckies for swag. Does your main character play guitar? How about guitar picks? Think outside the box. Shop for deals. Make a budget for both mailable stuff and in person swag. Start out slow. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
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Canary Club matches for my speakeasy novel
11) AUTHOR BANNER
Ok, this one really isn’t swag in the traditional sense, but it WILL attract people to your table and give you a very professional appearance. You can get these banners in various sizes, I normally use the 6 foot option from Vistaprint. I can’t recommend these highly enough!
Author June Stevens Westerfield
Author June Stevens Westerfield

The biggest mistake I see authors make with swag is buying everything, spending a fortune, and just kind of tossing it Mardi Gras style at the crowd. Think honeslty about what kind of return you want to get from your investment. Consider your audience. WHO are you marketing to? What kind of things would that demographic want? And most importantly, what kind of items are going to get your book the most visibility? If you are marketing a series, it may make sense to spend more on upfront marketing than if you are marketing a stand alone novel. Remember, the idea is to get as much BANG for your BUCK as possible! Hope this helps a little, and happy swagging!

*** UPDATE ***

I took an informal poll at my last book event, asking what swag readers like the most. Here are the results in order:
Pens
Bags
Bracelets
So there you go! Good info to have!
Cheers!
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How to make business cards, bookmarks and other kickass author swag for your writing conference

I’m not a big believer in print marketing materials, nor writing/author conferences (to promote your books) because:
1.     It’s a lot of time, money and effort and requires you to manually hand out your materials (and usually to other authors, not readers!)
2.     There are much better ways to market books, for much less money.
I’ve been to lots of writing conferences full of eager authors, some with excellent print materials, and they’re all basically trying to sell each other their books.
HOWEVER, I also feel like a dumbass if I’m talking with someone about my books or my writings, and they’re asking questions, and I don’t have anything to give them.
Also, I do plan to hit up a few conferences this fall… and I was just going to make friends and not to promote, but on second thought, as long as I’m going, I might as well grab a table and set up some stuff – not only will it give me a chance to hook any readers that are there, it’ll also help build trust and rapport faster with other authors (because I’m a fellow writer, with polished, well designed marketing materials, not just some strange guy hovering around and being creepy).
So what’s the best kind of book marketing and promotional stuff for authors to bring and handout? I’ve made a list of the things to consider, the best options, and then the super best options (what I’m using myself).
Firstly, you have to sell.
It’s not enough to make cards or bookmarks that have your cover, website and some information. Everything you give to someone else should make them want to read/buy your book. That’s hard to do, on a limited space (we’ll talk about that), but you can achieve it by:
1.     Amazingly powerful sales copy (with a headline that grabs and hooks, and a description that leaves them begging for more).
2.     An amazing, beautiful book cover design and well designed materials (builds trust and credibility.)
3.     Social proof (“over ten-thousand downloads!” / positive reviews). Positive reviews are almost always better than sales copy. Use reviews that tell what the book is about.
This is the same stuff you should have figured out on your Amazon page, by the way… so if you aren’t selling, you probably already have problems with your sales description, summary, reviews or book cover (getting print materials made and going to conferences probably won’t help, unless you have a GREAT book but suck at selling it… with enough grunt work you might overcome your initial disability. But it’s easier to figure out what’s wrong and fix it, rather than spending time and money on conferences.
Secondly, you need them to take action.
You need to have an offer (free book!) and project scarcity. Don’t be desperate, make it seem like you’re giving them a limited opportunity, that they might be lucky enough to take advantage of.
Do you need your email, phone number and author bio? Probably not (more on that later).
You do need a link to your website, or better, to your signup form.

Bookmarks, postcards, business cards?!

Previously, I’ve been a big fan of postcards, because you can basically print the front cover on one side and the back cover on the other – so it’s got all the marketing material you’ve already carefully crafted and polished on your book cover, in postcard form. If your cover design is amazing, and it should be, just put the art/cover on one side and leave the details for the back.
The problem with postcards is, if you have lots of books, you’ll end up with boxes of unused postcards. Plus, they’re great for tables but a little awkward to pull out casually and hand to people. Business cards work better for that. You probably want an “author” business card, very simple, with just your name, tagline, a review or two and a website. Maybe with your amazing book cover or two. But keep it clean and simple, and it should be something you can use for years.
Bookmarks are great too, though they are common. But they’re a good in-between size.
I usually use overnightprints.com for more stuff, especially because I like to use spot varnish (shiny bits over the text). Here are some examples I’ve made for clients; they’re design heavy and sometimes have no more than a website.
The blank white box is a place for the author to sign the cards.

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lightbookmarks postcards2

Going beyond the ordinary…

The above designs well-designed, professional examples, but still aren’t really focused on selling. Plus I don’t want to have to hand out all three to everybody (people might take all three just because they’re there… which eats into your profit). Readers only really need one to remember you.
But if they got a card or postcard, even though well designed, would they really look you or your book up online later? Do they have enough information to hook their interest?
For my cards, I decided to use these images I’d made for Instagram:
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Instead of a book description, I just used Amazon reviews. But you still need a reason to get them to come back to your site and follow you, so the back has my email optin offer:
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“Limited time offer” sounds kind of cheesy, but it’ll probably work better than something like “Join now” – I’m giving away free books but I might not always… and I want them to take action. Over 8,000 young adult readers boosts credibility and establishes myself as a non-newbie. It’s also important when meeting other authors, so they take me seriously (as not just another author… as someone who knows how to market and build a platform).
I actually have about 12,000 young adult readers now on my list now but I need to screen some out. This would have been a decent effort, for one book, but I have several… so I made 5 versions. I was thinking of making a folding card, so I could have three books and the offer.
That would have worked, though I’m not sure how I feel about folding business cards. Instead I decided to use 2.5×2.5 “fat” square cards (they have them on overnightprint.com). “Fat” cards have increased paper weight, so they’d be like little coasters. Paper weight is an easy way to boost professionalism, if you can afford it. It won’t fix design problems, but having sturdy materials sets you apart.
In the end however, I moved away from 2.5″ and decided on square postcards, at 4.5″.
The small, mini-cards are cooler, but I was afraid the text would be too small.
I also decided to go with Moo.com – they’re a bit more expensive but quality is usually better – and they have the option to swap up to 50 designs on the back… so I could order 200 cards with the offer design, but use 5 different book designs on the back (here’s a gif of the designs).
There’s a few benefits to that: I can give out different cards to different people, or let them choose (choosing gets people engaged and makes them actually think about your books or ask questions). I can also lay out six different piles of cards – showing all the faces – though I would have a sign or something that says to pick one rather than taking all six.
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I could still print the little versions at 2.5″ which are a little more fun and discreet… though I think they were almost the same price as the big ones. I think I paid about $150 for 200 of these, which is actually too expensive. You need to think of your print materials as lead gen/cost acquisition… If you give out 200, how many of those will actually sign up and become readers?
You can boost conversion by using social proof, a call to action, a great offer and scarcity, and by having high quality materials, but you can’t afford to get 10% conversion if you’re paying $150 for 200 cards. Even if you’re getting 50% conversion, you’re not doing great – you could get clicks on ads for much less (which is why, again, I don’t usually do events).
But you also have to figure in the “impression” factor.
Having great print materials, at conferences, is a way to immediately broadcast your worth and jump ahead of all the other authors: you need to project yourself as a success, as someone who knows what they’re doing, which will make it easier to make friends and build relationships during the conference.
If you went in with a plan to impress or befriend one industry insider or bestselling author, that $150 investment might be worth it if you secure just one valuable relationship (note: on relationships, I never try to sell or ask for help; I try to prove my worth by not being promotional or salesy, and just being fun to hang out with and super helpful/knowledgeable).

But wait, there’s more!

The other thing I’d like to do, however, is print up mini excerpt books, maybe with the first couple chapters. That way instead of selling books at conferences (which I’m loathe to do, because we can’t travel with a big box of books), I’d have little pamphlets with the cover and back cover, and maybe 36 pages inside.
The problem is cost: you can get these made at Createspace (just upload a shortened PDF) but they cost at least $2.10 each. You can get them from Overnightprints.com, at 5.5×8.5 for $133 for 100 booklets of 32 pages.
If I went ahead, I’d probably want to get these mini booklets that are 5″ x 3″ … because they’re cooler and cuter. I could get 100 for about $80, at 32 pages… but because they’re smaller I’d probably need more pages. I’d probably get 60 pages for $120, then order one for each book and have 5 different booklets.
They’re expensive, yes, but also awesome: nobody else will have something like them. But instead of just giving them away for free, I would bring an ipad and make people sign up on my list before picking one out. And I’d have a little sign saying these are just for “serious YA fans” to discourage random strangers or people giving fake emails to get free stuff. This is also something you could volunteer or donate into a conference’s swag bag. (Which impresses everyone, but won’t convert as well).
I think the mini-booklets are more fun, but the idea is readability, so I’d have to make sure my booklets are readable (5″x3″ is about the size of the little booklet that comes with a tarot deck or instruction manual, so it should be fine… the text will just be really small). I might try to source these on Alibaba.com as well.
Update: Got some books made!
Got a price of under $1 per 50 page booklet, ordered 400. This is what they look like.
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Ideally, you really want several books printed up so they have to choose one; that gets them invested, and they’ll spend some time flipping through and reading all of them to see which one they like the most – that’s good because you’ll get them hooked, but it’s also good because you want people standing around you. Just like your website, you want to keep them there as long as you can, by giving them something to do.
Nobody wants to come up to the table with nobody at it… they want to come to the popular table where something is happening. Having a bunch of people reading your books is a great way to keep a crowd.

Giveaways and cool stuff

If I’m going to take the time to actually go to an event, I’ll want to make it even more fun with games, giveaways or cool free stuff. I printed up some stickers – again, not cheap, I used stickermule which makes great quality stickers. But you don’t want cheap stuff that gets used once and thrown away… stickers are great because people will either put them on right away and wear them (so that everyone will ask, “where did you get that?” and they’ll send more people your way) or they’ll put them on a binder or something where they could stay for years (unlike a postcard or business card which will go straight into a bag or pocket, probably forever, or be thrown out later).
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The trick with stickers is to make them super cool and not promotional, at all… no website, no author name or book title… people won’t wear an advertisement. But if you give them something of quality and value that they actually appreciate, they are more likely to remember you and say nice things about you or your books.
Spending a dollar for stickers seems like a terrible deal, but you need to factor in the gift exchange value. If they really love the sticker, and it’s high quality, they’ll appreciate getting something for free and then they’ll feel like paying you back somehow… they’ll be in a position of gratitude. This is the opposite of how most authors do marketing – they only ask for favors (buy my books, follow me, support me) or give out “free” stuff that’s actually just advertising and promotional material. Even when readers take your free swag they might feel like they’re doing you a favor or just trying to be nice.
They might have good intentions but never look up your book afterwards.
Finally, I might go a step further and set up a game or contest… something interactive, like a bean toss or a pinball game (something easy and portable though… maybe tossing a pingpong ball into a clam shell). Something on theme for your brand. Something really hard, but if they get it, they win a free book. That keeps people engaged and having fun at your booth.

In summary…

High quality, well done marketing materials that aren’t strictly promotional work better than mass printing of “swag.” Find ways to make it fun and to give more than you ask. Make sure you only go to events with your ideal readers. Printing little booklets with excerpts can get them reading right away; also give them a reason to sign up to your list right away (cool shit, a big giveaway or contest, etc).
Do you have print materials or ideas you’re proud of? Share in the comments, or post pictures on the Creativindie Facebook page here.



In other book related news, I just got confirmation this morning that another fabulous local vendor, Tom and Sandy's Horseshoe Restaurant, has started selling copies of Fathoms Below! This was such an unexpected treat, and I cannot think these wonderful people enough for giving me this opportunity. Paperback copies are only $13 each and in limited supply, so if you're a townie, live nearby, or on the road and just passing through, stop by and purchase one for yourself or the YA Fantasy lover(s) in your life! And don't forget to give yourself enough time to sit down at a table and enjoy some truly delicious southern cooking served with a free helping of small town hospitality. For more info about Tom and Sandy's Horseshoe Restaurant, visit their website by clicking on the link below, and keep checking back here to see when Fathoms Below will be available at stores near you! I have two more lined up already (can't mention any names yet until it's final) that should start carrying it within the next two weeks. (Does author happy dance) :)

http://www.hawkinsvillehorseshoe.com/

I was a little late to the party to participate, but I still managed to review the live Q & A on Twitter in which one of my personal favorite authors, Cassandra Clare, whose Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, and Lost Artifacts books have catapulted the genre of YA Fantasy to new heights, talked with readers about her upcoming work. I did, however, have the privilege of participating in the #YAThrillersChat with outstanding YA authors Victoria Scott and Merrie Destefano, where I and other readers got to pick their brains about all things book and writing related. Since I recently read Victoria Scott's Fire & Flood and Salt & Stone, she has become another of my favorite authors (it's quite an extensive list lol), so getting to talk to her one-on-one was a dream come true! If you haven't read any of her books yet, I totally recommend hopping over to Goodreads and checking them out! The two I mentioned above were beyond excellent (hopefully one day there will be a third!), and although I haven't read her Dante series yet, it's definitely on my to-read list for 2017. One of her upcoming books, Violet Grenade, is also listed as a Giveaway on Goodreads (yes, I signed up for it, and I included the link below for your easy access), and she gave a little sneak-peak reading of her other upcoming book, Hear the Wolves, on Instagram that left me longing for more! (There's a link below for that as well if you'd like to hear it.) And, since we're talking videos, I posted a new one as well: the full length video of my presentation and reading of Fathoms Below at the Savannah Art Walk last weekend. Check it out at the link to my YouTube channel below. (Be warned, it is a long video lol. There is a shorter, edited version on my Instagram page, also below.) Plus, if you missed either of those Twitter events, not to worry! You can still review them on my Twitter feed by clicking on the link below.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/218593-violet-grenade
https://www.instagram.com/p/BPfqV_9gQT_/?taken-by=authorvictoriascott
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNhr-mVVz9k&t=6s
https://www.instagram.com/authorlauraholt/
https://twitter.com/authorlauraholt

In non-book related news, I celebrated my birthday on Monday with pizza and brownies (a tasty combination). I finally finished reading Ice Like Fire by the amazing Sara Raasch, and can I just say that if ever a sequel was as good as the first, this book wins the blue ribbon! I absolutely can't wait to find out what happens next!!


Most importantly, though, I started the final planning stage (aka shopping) for my daughter's 8th birthday party. This year, the theme, at her request, will be Fly to Neverland, featuring the Disney Fairies Tinkerbell, Vidia, Rosetta, Iridessa, Fawn, Silvermist, Periwinkle, and others as well as the classic beloved Peter Pan characters Wendy, John, Michael, Captain Hook, Tiger Lily, Mr. Smee, Crocky the Crocodile, Nana the Nursemaid Dog, and, of course, Peter Pan himself. And while I feel a little bit like Alexander the Great must have felt when he set out to conquer the world, I am looking forward to seeing the look on her face when she sees the finished product. Wish me luck (and sales lol), and I hope you all are staying safe and dry during this bout of stormy weather.