Gardening: All in a Day’s Work (Every day!)

From the Series: Life on Dog Hill

When I stepped out into the garden to pull a few weeds, it was 7:40 in the morning. I’d just finished my second cup of coffee with hubby. “Only 20 minutes,” I told him, as he headed downstairs to his office. “I’ve got too much to do today to spend any more time than that.”

Famous last gardening words.

An hour later, five dog heads were peering down at me from the overhead deck, reminding me that it was time for their breakfast.

The day prior, my youngest son Ryan and I had worked outside for three hours, moving ferns, trimming hedges, and pulling weeds.

My garden is much too big for just me. I recruit my son to help with cold-hard cash, a good attitude bonus, and lots of benefits.

“You want me to run out and get your favorite ice-cream? No problem, son. Just transplant all those volunteers, pull a few thousand weeds, and you can have any ice cream you want!”

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I created so many different gardening spaces, but I definitely blame the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Less than a 10-minute drive away, my leisurely strolls through the perfectly groomed walking paths and wooded areas always leave me feeling that I could just as easily be strolling in my own backyard. And if I had a staff of employees and volunteers to tend it all, that would certainly be the case.

Still, here I sit at my desk looking out the window adding to my mental gardening to-do list. It consists of three actions followed by the infinity sign:

  1. Pull weeds
  2. Separate and/or move plants 
  3. Trim, prune, tack up, and/or remove 

My eyes keep moving to the area where Ryan and I worked so hard yesterday. It’s the prettiest part of the yard. I’ll draw inspiration from it as I focus on yet another garden area. When that space is ship-shape, I’ll be focused on yet another area. By the time I’ve worked all of my lovely garden spaces, it will be time to start all over again.

While my garden may be forever a weed-infested work-in-progress, I consider it an ongoing work of art and therapeutic devotion. Not to mention, my dogs like it, too!



Marketing Your Author Brand: The First Step to Success


Featured guest post by Chelsey Bentley, chief marketing consultant for Bentley Communications Group

As an independent author, it’s often difficult to get your voice heard. You’re at sea with thousands of authors, some big names to compete with, and consumers who may feel overwhelmed by the selection of books and authors to choose from. So how can you make yourself noticeable, and potentially grow readership (and life-long fans!)? The answer isn’t to pour out hundreds of dollars on advertising or change your tone to that of a well-known author, but fairly straightforward: set yourself apart. The marketing of your brand is the single most important step for any small business, and especially for independent authors.

As a marketing consultant, one of my favorite quotes is that of Mad Men’s infamous Don Draper,

If you don’t like what is being said, change the conversation.

I apply this strategy to marketing campaigns, new ads, and when meeting with clients to define their brand. Your brand is the key to helping you stand out in a sea of authors. Are you the quirky author who pens novels that change point of view halfway through? Use that to distinguish yourself.

Below are just a few tricks one can use to help define yourself as a brand, and set yourself – and your product- apart.

1)  When building your brand, think of it as a person.

Every one of us is unique, and that shows through our beliefs and values. Therefore, your brand is an extension of yourself or your ideal image. More often than not, authors create protagonists that remind them of someone close to them, or even of a facet of themselves. Let’s capture that facet or personality, and propel it into a full person. Is this character quirky? Sweet and southern? Fierce? Use the word that you think fits best, and use it to define your brand.

2)  Consistency is key.

  • Now that you’ve pinpointed a word that defines your book/brand, let’s take it up a notch. Consistency is key with brand marketing and identity. Invest in some brand standards. Brand standards usually consist of a font, colors, and a visual.  Is there a font that goes with your “brand word”? Use it in your cover, press kit or website. Any colors that stick out to you? Create a logo or small visual for yourself or your novel and stick with it. Put it everywhere! Create business cards to leave around town with your brand standards to drum up curiosity.
  • Use your brand word to drive your tone of marketing. If you’re going with a fierce brand, let that define your tone of voice in campaigns, direct mail, emails, etc. Let the protagonist’s voice shine through you. When your brand is personable and unique, it becomes memorable.

3)  Improve your digital footprint.

Got a Facebook page but you rarely post? Post more. Create a Twitter and Linkedin for your brand. Make sure you invest in a robust, content rich website that reflects the brand. If you have separate websites for each book you’ve written, make sure there is a link to your main author site (please make one if you don’t have one!), and your author brand is visible on each site. Hootsuite and Buffer allow for seamless (and free!) social media management for you to share author updates, photos, and anything else that aligns with your brand.

4)  Build relationships with your customers.

As a marketing consultant, I let my clients know that relationship-building is one of the most overlooked items in marketing today. Relationship-building helps your brand become more personable to your customers, which increases the chance they will share your product with others, and make sure you get great reviews! Start an email newsletter for your customers to read exclusive author news, book excerpts, etc. Stage author meet and greets at coffee shops for customers to discuss the book with you. These small “guerilla” marketing ideas are the easiest, and sometimes can result in a few extra sales.

5)  Partnership is important.

Along with building relationships, partnerships are important as an independent author! Be strategic in your partnership.

If you implement any or all of these tricks, you’ll be taking some very important steps to different your brand and enhance your author presence.

Chelsey Bentley is the chief marketing consultant for Bentley Communications Group, a full service agency that caters to each clients’ detailed marketing desires. BCG strives to deliver charming, precise and innovative marketing to “change the conversation” and impact an audience. 

Contact Chelsey

The Power of Dreaming Big

DreamI love to dream. And I don’t just mean dreaming at night, I love day-dreaming, too because I find such power in allowing my imagination to wander to faraway places and experience wonderful pleasures.

My desk is on the second floor of our home facing three picture windows. Because we have a walk out basement, I have a nice, high vantage point from which to gaze through the thick stand of trees on our property. Maples, oaks, loblolly pines, beech, poplars, dogwoods — all beautiful and green — standing as guardians of my office, my work. Keeping me company, laughing with me when I imagine something funny, applauding my efforts when I imagine my hard work paying off.

Dreaming allows me to connect with my desired future, and feel it as if it’s already come to be. That energetic visual provides me great insight and reminds me of this quote:

I have more than hope. I have knowing.

-Deepak Chopra

Dreaming is like that because, when you allow yourself to visit the future of your dreams, you’ve already been there in spirit. You already have knowing of its existence. You’ve already moved past the state of hope and onto the path of actualization.

Dream big.

Dream big often.

Give yourself permission to imagine the best that life has to offer. See yourself there. Feel it. Know it can be yours.

Stepping out of your dream you only need to ask, “What’s the first step I need to take?”

Sheila Callaham is an author, motivational speaker, and life coach with a passion for helping others live the lives they truly desire. After a long career in corporate communications, Sheila resigned to spend more time with her family, write, and coach others to live their dreams. Sheila delights in motivating others and works to facilitate transformational shifts through her writing and coaching practices. To receive her inspirational newsletter and free gift, Five Steps to Release, Reboot & Reconnect to Your Dreams, subscribe on the right.