Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Say It, Write It, Love It

So many people begin with the words, "I've always wanted to write a book but... ". They stop themselves before they have even get started. How do you know you can't write, if you've never sat down to do it? Fear is a powerful feeling but what is an even more powerful feeling is the pride you experience when you finally do sit down and write that first full page.

The first words are the hardest, making you question every letter you use, but they will become more fluid as you relax. Writing is a seductress, luring you into her bed, drawing you in with the freedom to create beautiful worlds, driving ambitions, moving emotions and before you know it, you'll be in love before you even hit the sheets.

Time is the biggest commitment you need to start, time and the will to try. Don't think of writing a whole book, if that's too overwhelming. When the great pyramids were built, it took twenty years. Few workers were there from start to finish so for them it became a job of moving one stone at a time.The job was cut down to size. So, start with your one stone. One page at a time.

You may then say, "Oh, I wouldn't know where to begin." Okay, fair enough, so ask yourself this, where do you like to start a good movie? Do you want to sit in a dark theatre, munching on your popcorn, looking forward to a drawn out introduction of a character's entire life leading up to the action that finally comes his way? You'd need more than a couple of hours and some extra soft seat cushions for your butt if this is the case.

You start where the real story begins when the character's life takes its dramatic turn. In the "Wizard of Oz", we don't start the story when Dorothy is born, or when she's growing up, no the story starts when she's facing the threat of losing her dog. The drama in her life has taken a quick step forward taking the viewer with it. Still, if the story lingers there too long, the viewer will become more interested in the box of Milk Duds in his hands then with the story so the pace has to keep picking up speed.

Once you find your start, trust your instinct to keep the momentum going. You may find after a few pages that you won't want to stop, and even with one page a day you'll have a full novel by the end of the year. Writing is an amazing process begging to carry you along if only you just let it. Don't go putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, you can write for just your eyes only, if it helps, or let someone you trust read it but you won't know how it feels until you try. I promise there is no greater gift you can give yourself.
Doreen McNicol
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Monday, January 28, 2013

Can you be too Happy?

Our American forefathers thought the pursuit of happiness was a basic right.  And Americans are enthusiastically, if not somewhat desperately, continuing to pursue happiness.  In fact, pursuing happiness has become big business, including motivational, "how to do it" speakers who come  in many forms and prices.

Do you appreciate being around happy people, or does that bouncy happiness become annoying?  Research often finds many conflicting results.  So, too, about turning happiness into a negative "too happy."  The May 2011 issue of "Perspectives on Psychological Science" has an article by an assistant professor of psychology at Yale that notes a study that followed children from the 1920s into old age.  "It found that those who had died younger had been rated by their teachers as highly cheerful."  But there are other studies that show that staying optimistic results in less heart disease in old age.
A University of Illinois research team analyzed several studies including data on 16,000 people world-wide.  Their finding -- "student-age individuals who rated their satisfaction with life as a five out of five were more likely to drop out of school and had lower incomes than those who weren't so happy and satisfied relatively early in life."  A follow-up study at a later age showed that the cheerful group were earning less money.  Feeling happy prevents the dissatisfaction that pushes people out of their present circumstances.
And some research indicates creativity is negatively correlated with happiness.  A variety of emotions hones a keener mind, and tough times in life add flavor and depth to the work of artists and writers.  Certainly many of our greatest artists and writers have been tortured souls.
Dr. Andrew Weil, an integrative doctor who looks at physical and emotional health from a variety of viewpoints, speaks of inner contentment coming from a harmonious balance within us.  While he feels happiness is too easily equated in our society with gaining more of something material, he refers to a Swedish word, "lagom," as expressing the concept more exactly.  In English, it approximates "just right, enough."   It is being in a continuing state of  "positive emotionality."
I don't know if the emotion of happiness or contentment itself generally feels the same within humans, but what makes us happy has fascinating variations in our species.   While some find it in personal relationships, others must climb mountains to achieve it, or overcome danger in many forms.  In the movie, "Chasing Mavericks," surfing through mountainous waves triggered really feeling alive for surfer Jay Moriarty.  In real  life, he died at the tender age of 22 while doing free diving beyond his endurance.  Such people are at an extreme, and perhaps feel happiness at a deeper depth.  Or, perhaps they keep searching for more fulfillment because they never quite reach "just enough."
I have not thought of happiness as something that can be purposely pursued or found.  Rather, it is a byproduct of what's going on in my life.  By being mindful of my personal sense of  balance and harmony, I can find myself in a state of "just right."

Suellen Zima, Member of
Visit and Follow the Senior Hummingbird as she wanders, wonders, and writes.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just what you needed

...another blog post about how to sell your books. I don't want to repeat everything you have seen a hundred times already. Things like "use social media" or "do giveaways".  There's some of that in this post, because those two things are inescapable must do's for anyone who wants to sell more than three books to Aunt Mary and mom and dad. Here is what I do to promote my books. It works well enough that I actually sell some of them.

Use Amazon Kindle Select.

This is number one. Yeah, I know, everyone bitches about Amazon and its policy of exclusivity and so on. But unless you are doing really well on the other platforms and selling a significant number of books, KDP Select is the only way to go. Why? Because you want to take advantage of the many websites that will list your book when it goes free and almost all of them want an Amazon page to link to. You MUST do free promos. You can't list for free on Amazon. Amazon will sometimes match a $0.00 price on another platform, but you can't count on it, you can't plan for it and that means you don't have a plan that includes Amazon. Without Amazon you have eliminated around 80% of your potential market. Therefore, an opinion:


You can't reasonably plan a successful free promotion without Amazon.

KDP Select success depends on a lot of things. You need eight or ten or more 4 and 5 star reviews. You plan a promo a month ahead. Many sites want three to four weeks notice of a freebie. Sites change, the requirements change, sites come and go. The whole thing of self promotion is in constant flux. BTW, if you write erotica many sites will not list your promotion, so that might be a consideration for you.

Some sites want three days, some the same day or one day notice. Author Marketing Club  ( is a good resource, free, and gives an easy way to list promos on many sites.

Plan a 3 day promo Friday-Sunday. Make sure you tweet about it, mention it on facebook (follow the posting rules in various groups) , Goodreads (join), and especially a few select Amazon discussion forums for authors (the only ones that allow self promo and product listing).

Follow up with a thank you to the groups, etc. where you posted. Success means a lot of free downloads. To me, that means at least a few thousand. Giveaways work better if the writer has a series. One book, okay, but the idea is to stimulate sales of all books. In my thriller series, White Jade is the first in the series and gets people interested in the series as a whole. It's priced at .99. The other books are 3.99.

Where else except KDP Select can you instantly get ten or fifteen thousand people to discover your book for free? Plus you get borrows that pay, a shot at being on one or two top 100 lists and if you do okay, promo flyers go out from Amazon. Yes! Amazon promotes you!

I rest my case.

Social Media (okay, have to talk about it)

Facebook: you need an author page. Pay FB to promote likes, it's worth it. Figure $60.00/month. Acknowledge the folks who "like" your page.

Twitter: Get an account. Get as many followers as you can. It's simple and free. Follow everyone back, follow the suggestions Twitter sends, don't worry about it. Tweet as often as you feel like it but don't always push the books. (conventional wisdom). Post stuff that's interesting. Retweet anything you find interesting. Support people. Don't spend a lot of time on it.

Twitter has a lot of members who will retweet your free promo post if you follow them and/or let them know about your promo. You can find them by a search on the web (Google) or by looking for "free" etc on Twitter. Learn about hashtags. There's a lot of info out there, but you have to look for it. I'm not going to attempt to put it here.

Amazon forums: pick one or two and join in. On promo days, look for other Amazon author forums (there are many) to post. Again, don't spend a lot of time...maybe a half hour or so.

Goodreads: same thing as Amazon.

There are a lot of other social media sites like Pinterest. If you like them and use them, fine. Don't get caught up in all the social media whirl or you won't have any energy or time to write.

What else should you do?

Ads: Use discretion and don't spend a lot of money. There are a lot of sites that will advertise your promo for $5 or less. Use them if you like. Ads are hit and miss. I don't know what works and what doesn't. Don't worry about it, use your intuition and do your research.

Make a plan. A budget is good (I'm bad at that). DON'T spend hours a day on self-promotion. Write instead. An hour a day is probably right at most for self promo.

Get a professionally designed website. This is your main portal, your contact point, your key exposure on the web. Do it as well as you can.

Get a professionally designed cover. Everyone who knows anything says this. They're right. Use the money you didn't spend on ads to get the design services you need. It doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars.

Use the author page on Amazon. It's important. Make it interesting but not full of your life history.

Write good descriptions for the sales page and the best blurbs you can. Study how the big guys do it and shamelessly copy their style.

Respond to readers, always. Acknowledge people who help you. Share resources.

Help out other authors when you can. That can be an encouraging word, a retweet, a comment in a blog, a shared article or something on your facebook page. It's not hard.

There is no competition. What, you say? Think about it. There are over 30,000,000 readers in the US alone. Enough for everyone. Just write a good book. If you're not thinking about how the other guy is taking sales from you, you are not immersing yourself in resentment and poverty thinking. No one is taking sales from you. Everyone can succeed.

Keep  writing. Get more than one book out there. DON'T fall into the trap of quantity vs. quality. Write the best book you can. Lately I see and hear a lot of talk about "commodity" writing, the idea being that cheap junk will bring in money because a lot of people don't care about quality, they just want something to read. I hate the whole idea of that and I don't agree.

Don't give up and get discouraged. If your book is well written and it's not selling, you need to find ways to get it out to as many people as possible, which brings us back to KDP Select as the best venue.

Be patient. This process takes time. It took Lee Child ten years to be an "overnight success". Figure a couple of years to start making consistent sales, maybe longer, maybe less. But believe in yourself.

Give up resentment about Amazon. I see a lot of that. It's a waste of time. Without Amazon the Indie Revolution would be almost non-existent. Be grateful. It's okay if they make a lot of money.

Set your intention. This is the most important thing of all. By this I mean that you KNOW you are a.) successful b.) going to make a bunch of bucks someday c.) you can trust the universe to back you up d.) your work is good enough to sell and sell well and e.) you're not worried about it, because you are definitely going to succeed AND you can FEEL it. Try it, you'll see.

Now go out there and sell a lot of books.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Criticism and Writing

"When it comes to reading, I love it. Giving or receiving criticism, constructive or otherwise? Not so much.
My main love is fiction - mainly romance novels. I do read other fiction as well, if I find something that just sounds too interesting to pass up.
After I read it, I give it a rating on Goodreads and you have the option to write a review. Most often, I pass up this option and simply star the book. The reason is...I am not sure what to put in the review and if I didn't like something, I find it difficult to tell the person why I didn't like it because it is often just the way I feel.
I don't feel that it is my place to tell people what is wrong with their writing. Sure, I could see informing the writer of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and basic information that is wrong that perhaps should not have been gotten wrong. Anything else and I feel like I am stepping on the person's view of the world - or even the world they made up, if that is what they are interested in.
Those romance novels I mentioned reading? I can't count how many times I've been made fun of for reading them. Tripe, ridiculous garbage, 'it is just porn for women except it's not images, it is words', 'romance novels are not real writing', etc. I've been asked why I don't go read something with more substance.
I instantly ask them...'Have you ever actually read a romance novel?' Better yet, have they ever tried to research to write a romance novel based on historical times in say...Victorian England? It is a lot of work and reading and getting all the facts straight. Hours and hours of it, in fact. I think if you've never even read a few different items in a specific genre, you have no business commenting on how stupid you think they are.
Don't get me wrong. It's not wrong to dislike something that another person wrote. You can dislike it and think it is stupid but you can just say 'this is not my cup of tea' and move the heck on. I don't like horror - at all, period. What do I do? I don't watch it and I don't read it. If it doesn't sound interesting, I don't spend time on it. Heck, I am even choosy when it comes to who and what reading I will do in romance novels. I have my faves, I admit but I will give new authors an opportunity and if I don't like it, I simply don't read them again.
I have to say that for the most part, people who read someone on a regular basis are very constructive and do an excellent job of telling the author why this book or writing didn't stand up to the other things they've done and they are not the people I am speaking of. Then you have those who said they chose this book because of the description but it was misleading.
These are not the people I am speaking of. Being respectful and telling someone simply why you didn't like their story is fine - I'd say that in my opinion, most authors would want to know what you think or what they could improve on. It's the blatant disrespect and making fun of other people's work that is disgusting.
Sometimes, a book just doesn't do anything for me and that's okay. Honestly, if I really didn't even read the whole book or knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to enjoy it, I don't rate it. I have experienced disappointment by authors I normally read and it is usually a feeling of 'well, this story wasn't as good as the others' but there isn't necessarily something wrong with the story.
Really, I wrote this because I'm afraid of this kind of response to my writing but for an entirely different reason. When people criticize something I do, I have always taken it personally. Of course, I want to know how I can improve, what didn't work and what did work, etc. I expect to receive these kinds of things in response to my writing.  I just don't want to be told it is stupid by people who really aren't into it but read my writing or book anyway and feel they can tell me what tripe it is for the heck of it.
I think if you want to be respected for your work, then you should always be respectful of other people's work."
Follow me on Twitter @CassJaney

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Are we forever dreaming of Utopia?

To be honest, all things considered, I would say that the last three or four decades in western and northern European countries, in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and a few other territories were as close to old dreams of "Utopia" as any place could possibly be. Same was true for most folks in the US between the 60s and nineties. Unfortunately the improvement does not continue forever, certainly not when it requires perpetual economic growth. Complex systems feature overshoot and downfall. Resonance catastrophe and collapse. That's, quite simply, a fact. And ignoring "Late lessons form Early warnings (the title of an enlightening EU Report) is, well, silly. Warnings come before visions. And as Michio Kaku informed me (not that it was new to me) when I once interviewed him: "Humans only move under the impression of great shock. That's our nature." In other words: we are stupid. We just love to hold on to the cozy status quo. Lack of visions? There seem to be plenty of them. But how realistic are they? How realistic can a single vision be for a complex world of 7+ billion that has entered the anthropocene? Marx attempted one such vision and it already collapses because it seemingly applies to another planet with another dominating species - certainly NOT for really existing humans of our time. Freeman Dyson warned that any system that is to work has to assume that all humans are crooks. I'd say potential crooks. Only 5 or 10% really are crooks (5% fully fledged psychopaths). The remainder are merely lazy, a bit greedy, mainly concerned about feeling good and having things and impressing their neighbors and a hell of a lot of people devoutly believe in things and ideas that, quite simply don't exist (and some of them get so infuriated about those non-existing things that they even go about and KILL each other!). Any uniting vision for this bunch please? Many attempts were made. Some of them resulted in wide spread belief in things that don't exist...and the aforementioned related fighting and killing.                      

Stefan Thiesen is a Germany, UK and USA educated earth and space scientist and science writer. He is an expert in marine science, climatology and planetary sciences, author of several popular science books in German and English as well as a novel. (See the current Pick Six).
Published before on 11 Jan, 2013 on

Friday, January 18, 2013

My First Love

Fantasy. Stripped to its most basic definition, it’s the activity of imagining things that are improbable. Even someone who doesn’t enjoy reading this genre can appreciate how exciting the idea is – imagining the impossible. And for those who do read it… oh, the places it will take you. Fiction is a vehicle to escapism, but fantasy, in my opinion, is escapism in its most vibrant and enchanting form.
Some may not agree, and to each his own. But from the moment I watched my first fantasy movie, I was forever changed. Or maybe I should say inspired. I think my love for this genre has always been inside me, it just took a catalyst to help me realize it. The movie? The Last Unicorn. And it was all over from there.
From there on out all of my toys were either flying horses and unicorns, or anything to do with Rainbow Brite and her rainbow-striped horse. To hold on to my nostalgia a little longer, my love flickered brighter when exposed to The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. Talk about capturing my attention – witches, talking animals, and minotaurs, oh my! And I need to take a moment to thank my Aunt Becky for that. One summer she took me to the library and checked out all the books so I could read them.
As I grew older, many more movies and books enchanted me – The Never Ending Story, The Lord of the Rings, I even still enjoy Disney movies that have a touch of fantasy like The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and the most recent one would be Brave. It wasn’t until last year, though, that I created a fantasy story of my own. It’s more of a Paranormal Romance/ Urban Fantasy but is definitely a product of imagining the impossible. And while I will always have an affinity for all things mystical and whimsical, I do still enjoy stories in other genres with well-rounded, thoughtful storylines. But I can never deny that fantasy was my first, and most captivating, love.
Susan James Pierce              

Pick-up a copy of my Urban Fantasy novel “Marked forVengeance” on Amazon