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Hoisting a glass of Guinness with Stan in County Cork…

Day 23 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks participants to describe a fictional/fantasy encounter with their favorite character from their novel. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 23 writing prompt:

If you could meet one of your main characters or ideal reader anywhere in the world for coffee, drinks, dinner, or a caramel (tipping my hat to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting), who would it be, where would you meet them, and why?

Stan in Ireland

I love the idea of this – having coffee or dinner with my main character. Stanford Crowley is based on a real person and, admittedly, for the first little while, I would think of my personal friend when I pictured Stan. However, Stan is a FICTIONAL character, and before long, he became his own person. He may be modeled on my friend, and when I wonder what Stan might do in a particular circumstance, I sometimes think about what my friend would likely do in the same situation, but he’s developed his own thoughts and behaviors and personality quirks.

The character of Paula is less of a mystery because she is very much based on me – so she wouldn’t be at all interesting for me to meet. Gretchen is based on no one in particular, but she behaves like every horrible vixen/villainess/antiheroine that you’ve ever encountered in a TV drama or romantic comedy, and I’d have no desire to ever chat one-on-one with her. I love some of the tertiary characters – more plot devices than people – but they are deliberately unidimensional, so they probably wouldn’t be that interesting to talk with, at least as written.

So Stan it is.

Would he be interesting? Probably not so much, at first. But there would be Irish pubsomething charming about his stuck-in-his-ways way. He’d be kind and smart and a good conversationalist. He’d be a gentleman and inquire about me and my interests. He’d enjoy organic beer if we were meeting someplace like Scottsdale. But my preference would be an actual Irish pub near Blarney Castle where I’d force myself to choke down a Guinness with my fish and chips. He’d eat Irish stew and pass on the bread. We’d sit outside on a balmy summer evening because this is my fantasy, and it would not be raining. Not all that farfetched in my book, as the only time I was in Ireland, I had five days of perfect weather without a single raindrop in sight.

We’d compare notes about our time in the Tri-State Area. I’d tell him about my first visit tonotel motel Tonnelle Avenue in Jersey City. I was brand new to the city and had no idea it was one of the seediest streets in the area. My boyfriend was in town for one night and we wanted to stay in a motel instead of at my sister’s apartment. When he went to check in, the clerk’s response was, “You want to stay the WHOLE night?” Years later, I wound up living two blocks east of that exact area of Tonnelle Avenue in a quaint neighborhood filled with four-family walk-ups.

He’d tell me about his fight with Paula, how Gretchen had betrayed him, and how he felt he’d let down his sister Kerrie. He’d show me a picture of his Jack Russell terrier, Isis – if she wasn’t with us snoozing quietly under the table. We’d talk into the wee hours, decide it was time to move on, make one last toast, and then each head off to our respective B&Bs. It would be one of those magical, momentary encounters that stays with you for a lifetime. And later, snuggled back in my bed in Phoenix, I’d wonder if it had been real of if I had just imagined the whole thing.

Please be sure to check in again tomorrow, when I’ll lay out the plans for my first book signing…

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

Here’s to meeting all kinds of wonderful characters in your waking life!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Overheard: Listening in on a barmaid’s conversation

So I’m having a little get-together on Friday night, a combined birthday/Cinco de Mayo celebration. That might mean a lot more to you if you lived in Phoenix (or other areas of the Southwest with large Mexican-American populations). I chose, of course, my favorite Irish pub (hey, I’m of Italian, Mexican, AND Irish descent) for the party.

The last few times I made reservations for events like this, I overbooked the restaurant by about double. This time, I went conservative, making the reservation for 12. This morning, the count was up to 21. So I called the restaurant back to change the number. The gal who answered was friendly enough, but immediately asked me if I could hold on. I guess there’s no hold button, though, as the next thing I heard was, “Hi, what can I get you, hon?”

“I’d like a Jameson, please,” came the quick reply.

Then came the upsell: “Would you like to make that a double for just $3 more?”

“Sure, that’ll work.”

Simple as that. If you’ve ever wondered why the guy at the Burgerland Express drive-through always asks if you want to giaganticize your order, there’s your answer. People say yes, when asked.

Then the bartender handed the phone over to a coworker so she could focus on fixing the gentleman’s drink. When I explained my situation, the guy told me they were pretty booked for Friday night so they had room for my larger party, but they would be at nearby tables instead of all together at one large table. Good enough for me. Latecomers will sit nearby.

So there are three primary lessons to take from this little phone call. One is an etiquette lesson; one is a marketing lesson; one is a customer service lesson.

ETIQUETTE: Watch what you say when you’ve got someone on hold without a hold button. In this instance, it was nothing offensive, but it could have been. And in that case, this would have been an entirely different post! Think about all the “hot mike” faux pas the media loves to report and you’ll get the idea.

MARKETING: Have at least a two levels for your offering, and when the customer orders the first one, ask if they’d be interested in the larger purchase. How can an author do this? For one thing, by bundling your books, workbooks, audiobooks, and eBooks.

“Buy one and get the second half-off.”

“Buy the book; get the workbook for $4.99.”

“Buy two books and get a free audiobook.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Put the customer first. The folks at the bar did this twice. Once, when the bartender handed me (the person on the phone) off so she could focus on the person standing in front of her. The face-to-face customer should always come first, in my book! The second time, when the guy offered me the nearby-table alternative in the positive. He didn’t say, “No, but…” He started with, “They’d have to be at nearby tables … but we can do it.”

Keep your eyes and ears open – you never know where the marketing lessons will come from!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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In honor of our 1-year anniversary (May 2, 2012), we’re hosting the Author Blog Challenge! It starts June 2 and is open to published authors, authors-in-progress, and would-be authors. Come check us out and register today!

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