Babies on Billboards

Back in December I told you about a billboard campaign with pregnant women, advertising a new women’s wing of a local hospital.  As expected, the ladies on the signs got more pregnant.  In the last two weeks, the new wing has opened and the billboards changed again.

I was disappointed in their final incarnations.  In fact, their transition was so ineffective that I didn’t even notice the new billboards until I noticed the change to the signs on the building itself.  (In comparison, I always noticed those pregnant bellies.)

What was the problem?  Context.  A belly billboard showed a pregnant woman, clothed in a close-fitting, single-color shirt, from shoulder to hip.  For the first round all of the women (they were in different colors on different boards) had noticeable baby bumps.  The second round had the same women, in the same position, with huge bellies.  Now they show women holding their babies, but now the shot is just head and shoulders with the baby cradled close to the mother’s face.  I can only assume they are the same women, but I have no way to know, and if I hadn’t been following their serial billboard campaign I wouldn’t make the connection between the belly billboards and the baby ones.

Good transitions work wonders; bad transitions can ruin everything.  I was enjoying following this series of billboards, but now I’m just disappointed by the conclusion.

Serial Billboards

On a typical highway between cities, a billboard may not change much.  It assumes a one-time audience, so it has to communicate all of the pertinent information at once.

On a typical highway around Houston (or any major city), a billboard can work differently.  These highways often have repeat audiences, with the same people driving past the same billboards at the same time every day.  I’ve recently noticed two billboard campaigns that are taking advantage of the same concept as a serial story or a cliffhanger episode on a television show.  I find this very intriguing.

The first set of billboards started out white with black letters.  They said things like “Smart people…” and “Busy people…” and that was it.  No follow-up, just black letters on a white billboard.  Very curious.  About two weeks later I saw one of them again.  This time it said “Smart people listen,” along with the call number for a local radio station.  My interest was piqued, so I paid attention.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed the finished billboard if it hadn’t started out so intriguingly.

The other billboard that’s working on a series has a longer commitment.  A local hospital (of which we have many) is opening a new maternity ward.  About a month ago the first billboards went up, with several different women.  Each was wearing a body-hugging top, and all you saw was her torso with a hand on her belly.  (I’m sure you can see where this is going.)  Last night I noticed one of these billboards, and the woman’s tummy has grown.  The hospital is planning to start delivering babies in the spring – I’m guessing when they’re ready to open the women on the billboards will all have big tummies.  They may even carry it through all the way and have them holding their babies!

It’s nice to see that print ads can carry a storyline just as well as a novel or a television show.  It definitely makes a commute in rush hour traffic a little more interesting.

Is it Sunday again already?

I know it has been mentioned in a couple posts this week, but I was out of town for a bulk of the week.  I did post things in advance, so you wouldn’t be without reading material, and I got some new ideas for blog posts from my trip.  There is one thing that slipped through the cracks, though.

I didn’t write any fiction.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this morning I realized that it’s Sunday once again.  Sunday means that there should already be a post with the next installment of With Honor.  I haven’t written one and I’m guessing it won’t get finished today.  I can’t force the writing; if something comes, I’ll get it posted, but if not I’ll just have to wait.  I will try to post a section later in the week (with another on Sunday) if I can make it happen.

Writing is fun and my brain works on stories all the time.  Unfortunately, the procrastinator in me traps them in my head when I need to get them out.  Finding a way to circumvent the procrastination is always a challenge, but I’ll keep up the effort.

With my humblest apologies

What a great way to start off hosting my own serial story – I don’t have anything to publish!

Last night I had a Cathy moment.  You know, “Ack!” 

In the process of working a very long week and trying to get posts done so they can be scheduled in advance, I somehow missed writing the next section of With Honor.  While I am capable of writing a section quickly and posting it last-minute, I didn’t even have time for that.

If you are here to read With Honor, part 6, feel free to peruse the other stuff on here and please come back next week!  I’ll have the next section done by then.  And yes, this is probably my only post for today. 

My sincerest apologies for letting you down…

With Honor, part 1

With Honor

by Leigh Townsend

Part 1

Sergeant Matthew Lewis enjoyed riding through Diaea, especially when his troop was unburdened by infantry to slow them.  The wagons carrying their gear hindered them slightly, but the cavalry mounts benefitted from the comfortable pace set by the draft horses.  At their current speed Matthew’s chocolate gelding could walk all day without tiring.  There was no reason to rush; this troop of skirmishers was traveling to the border on a routine assignment, reinforcing the rest of their company already working on the problem of bandits in the northern mountains.

The troop was spread out, allowing room for merchant wagons and other locals to share the road.   One of the mandates of the Diaean Army was to maintain the goodwill of the people of Diaea, and not taking up the entire pathway was an easy way to keep to that goal.  When the army had expanded, this and several other new ideals instituted by King Marden had made it easier for the civilian population to accept and support their growing military.  The son and heir of King Stefan, Marden had been a peaceful man, much like his father, but had shown an aptitude for military strategy.  His legacy was a larger, more organized, and more efficient army.  While the Army revered King Stefan as much as everyone, they held a special place in their hearts for his son.  Marden’s son, Brannon, held the throne now, but King Marden’s reputation lived on in the Army.

As they rode, quiet except for the creaking of leather, Matthew mentally worked on assignments for tomorrow.  It was his unit’s rotation of rear guard and wagon protection.  They may be riding through their own countryside, but good soldiers never forgot to set a guard.  It was up to him to decide which soldier took each position tomorrow. 

Lieutenant Fisher kept a three-day rotation for the units under his command, a standard practice in the Diaean army.  One unit would scout, another guard, and the third would have a “rest” day.  This last group was responsible for the overnight watches on their day.  The rotation changed at midnight, meaning the watch was split between two units each night.  No matter what their daily assignment, every soldier was responsible for setting up his own camp and caring for his own horses.

Matthew finalized the next day’s assignments in his head just in time to see one of Sergeant Graham’s scouts galloping hard down the road.  As he neared, headed for his commanding officer, Lieutenant Fisher stood in his stirrups and waved to the other two sergeants.  Nodding in response, Matthew nudged his gelding into a trot toward the front of the line. 

“There’s something on fire – a lot of smoke,” the scout said to the four officers as he saluted.  “Davis and Hayes went up ahead to check it out.”

“Graham, Lewis, take your units in that direction immediately.  I’ll be coming with you.  Young, keep your unit with the wagons and spare mounts,” Lieutenant Fisher ordered.

Saluting his response, Matthew turned his horse back towards his unit.  Graham’s team rode out as he was issuing orders; on scout and sentry duty, they were already prepared.  “Fall in, soldiers, we are heading for the next village with haste.  Bows at the ready, no arrows.  Head out!”

Following his own command, Matthew unslung his bow from its usual position and hooked it over the pommel of his saddle.  This would likely be an assistance mission, but with the increased bandit activity in the area, he preferred to have his fighters ready to respond in case it turned out to be more.  Leaning forward, he kicked his gelding into a gallop and headed in the direction of the blaze, his unit hard on his heels.

Teaser three

“Caetlyn was torn by Mara’s argument.  She agreed with the woman’s reasoning; the country needed a clear line of succession, and the Princess presented it logically.  Yet there was something about the discussion that set her on edge, something she could not explain.”

Read Burden of Knowledge, part 2, in its entirety on Sunday on Serial Central!

A Fresh Start

I am completely moved, although not unpacked, with a lot of help from many friends.  (It took 7 people, plus me, to make the move happen!!)  I also have internet in my lovely new apartment – thus, blogging ability returns!!

Exhaustion is a funny state – I know I have been this physically worn out before, but I can’t remember it.  Sleeping on an air matress for two nights, staying up late and getting up early to pack the two nights prior, and working all day in between will make you tired regardless, but moving boxes and furniture on top of that has taken it out of me.

Now that I have moved, I plan to focus once again on my publishing and writing adventures.  I am hoping to get the next several parts of “Burden of Knowledge” finished and send out a few more query letters within the next week.  I also have to decide which novel to work on.  What do you think?  Dragons (the new one) or Butterflies (the sequel to my existing novel)?  At this point both are equally in the front of my mind, and I will outline both before really jumping in to one or the other.

Please help me choose!  The choices are: Dragons, a “gate” fantasy – half set in this world, half in another, with dragons and elves and magic – or Butterflies, a sequel to my existing manuscript – for a better description of the world and the premise, read my synopsis page and the beginnings of my serial story on Serial Central.

What’s your vote?

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