Annette's blog


My little boy, Jack, celebrated his seventh birthday last month. For his party, he wanted a “Real Steel” theme.

For those of you without a little boy in your home, “Real Steel” is a movie released in 2011 that tells the story of a down-on-his-luck fighter, Charlie, who reconnects with his biological son, Max. Together, they tour the country with their boxing robots and eventually, their sparring bot, Atom, takes on the world’s champion robot fighter. Leading up to this big fight, Atom conquers other robot boxes, including Metro, Twin Cities and the like. It’s kind of a rock’em, sock’em robot movie.

My son and I don’t share the same opinion of this film. Jack loves it. For me, the film is a waste of 90 minutes. My problem is the main character, Charlie, who literally hawks his son to buy a robot, Noisy Boy. Charlie is played by Hugh Jackman and is the only thing I like about this movie. For me, if Hugh can’t save a movie, it cannot be saved.

Hugh Jackman with Atom, the little sparring bot who could.

I rate “Real Steel” 1 out of 5 stars. My son, on the other hand, loves it. He gives it five stars. Six, if he had a spare.

Jack loves the robots, and I admit they’re kind of cool. At least the possibility of them. But I just find a father who sells his son to be an unredeemable character. Sorry, Charlie.

But my son overlooks this. For him, it’s all about the robots. In fact, he often asks me, “Mom, do you know how Twin Cities fights?” Twin Cities is a robot. I always say, “No. Show me.” And Jack does, jumping up and down, swinging his fists in the air and adding a “crunch” for sound effect. Then he whirls around and punches the air again. “Like that,” Jack says.

Apparently, I’m alone in my distaste. The film grossed $300 million and was nominated for an Oscar for best visual effects.

My son is what I call a Superfan. Jack, with his endless adoration of this movie, is a super fan of “Real Steel.” The day before his seventh birthday, we traipsed from one party-supply store to another in Spokane, asking if they carried any “Real Steel” merchandise, like paper plates or banners or any of that stuff. I don’t think anybody but Jack was surprised to learn that there were no “Real Steel”-inspired decorations available. Some of the store clerks didn’t even know what “Real Steel” was.

Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, tells authors to grow their own Superfans. In his book, The Secrets to E-book Publishing Success, he talked about the importance of these folks.

“A fan will review your book positively and purchase your other books, and will anxiously await your next books. A fan is also a potential evangelist for your books, and an evangelist will not only recommend your book to friends, they will command their friends to read it…. Fans create word of mouth, and word of mouth separates the poor-sellers from the bestsellers.”

Well, I don’t know if I’m there yet, but I do have a few Superfans. Some are my family – my Aunt Mary Rose, my brother, Kevin, and my mother-in-law, Edith. Others are friends and former co-workers in Alaska who buy my books and read my blog.

Then there’s the patients to whom I provide nursing care. One of them, Joyce, bought both of my books and posted Amazon reviews. Thank you, Joyce. Reviews on Amazon are vital to indie authors. Some book review sites won’t even consider promoting unless the author has at least eight reviews.

Another patient, Shirley, a wisp of a girl at age 86, fawns over the characters in Celebration House and eagerly awaits the sequel. She made me laugh a few days ago when she said to me, “And what the hell kind of name is Sunshine anyway?” referring to a naughty character in Celebration House. I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh to hear octogenarians cuss.

The husband of one of my patients told me, “Carrie needs to buy a generator,” referring to the main character in Celebration House and her struggles to keep the lights on. As they were leaving the clinic, his wife said, “He tells everybody about your book.” Superfan!

Thanks to Facebook, I’ve reconnected with high-school classmates. Recently, I posted a photo of the print version of Bone Girl. Teasingly, I asked “Who wants one?” To my surprise, my classmates do. One friend from long ago said she wanted to buy four copies. Four? What? Buy that many and I come to your house and read them.

I’m so grateful for these readers. Sure, there’s no paper plates or banners featuring the cover art from Bone Girl. Not yet.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: making mistakes a long the whey.

Annette's blog

Fun along the way

A few weeks ago, I came across a post from Joel Friedlander, a well-known author who writes articles on self-publishing. He encourages writers to think about who is going to buy their book before they even write it.

Well, I can’t do that. That’s not how my mind works. I just want to tell my stories. But his comment did get me thinking. What demographic would buy Bone Girl? If you are one of the 15 people or so who has bought and read my book, you know that the main character is an 11-year-old girl who yearns for her mother, a meth addict. Okay. Well, that demographic is a pretty narrow one.

What else is there about this book that would call out to readers? One of my beta readers, Aarene Storms, gave me the answer. She wrote to me and told me to let her know when a printed version would be available because she wants to buy one for her dad. He plays the trombone, just as the main character does.

Got it! That’s one of the groups of people I could market my book to – trombone players, especially women. Because believe it or not, gender bias does exist in the music world. Just like the main character’s mother, some folks think a woman shouldn’t play the trombone.

So, I went online and stumbled upon a trombone forum. No, I’m not kidding. There is a website dedicated to trombone players. Here’s the link:

I created an account and have been asking questions of these experts ever since.

One woman, Sarah, wrote to me and said she played the trombone because it’s the instrument her family could afford for her. This is just like my main character. Sarah also told me she would be delighted to buy a copy of my book, but only in printed form. She said she’s old school. Because of her comments and my Aunt Mary Rose’s prodding, I tackled the task of formatting Bone Girl for CreateSpace, the company who prints my book. The proof copies are on their way to me.

Musing through the posts on the trombone forum is fun for me. And that’s part of the joy of this journey.

For instance, yesterday, one of the members responded to my query about choosing music for the book trailer. Yes, with the help of my husband, Chris, we are making a book trailer. My husband will play his trombone for the background music. He and I were talking and I asked him, what music should he play? What would be haunting and melodic for this 20-second movie? Chris suggested the William Tell Overture. No, I said. How about Camptown Races? No. He was kidding, of course. I think…

I posted the same question on the trombone forum. I received a bevy of suggestions, along with information that the trombone has a few names I didn’t know: slushpump, sliphorns, sackbutts and posaunes.

And that contributor, known as SilverBone from Portland, Oregon, ended his post with this limerick, which I share now with you:

“The nastiest fellow I’ve known

Smashed his trombone and ruined its tone.

There’s a simple excuse

For his slushpump abuse;

He was born to be bad to the bone.”

Love it! Thank you.

Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: Superfans!