Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Feng Shui Bagua Map

Happy New Year!

Yes, folks, it’s that time of year again – Chinese Lunar New Year. The post title, gung hay fat choy, is Cantonese (Mandarin: Gong xi fat cai) for “congratulations on prospering in money.” It is a popular saying you’ll hear frequently during Chinese New Year. Unlike Americans, this Chinese congratulatory greeting is not based on something already achieved but instead is a wish or hope that you will achieve what you desire, hence the congratulations in the phrase. It’s a blessing of good fortune and prosperity (it’s not always money, as many Chinese believed that enough food to eat also represented abundance in one’s life). So for the first blog of this new year of 2020, I want to revisit a post I wrote back in ’17 on making sure the energies of good fortune, abundance, and prosperity will flow not only through your life but through your writing, including  your desk/office.

Remember, Qi must flow positively for prosperity to appear.

I wrote:

“As a writer, it’s important to set the tone of one’s working space; how well you organize and arrange your home office (or wherever you write) is vital to the writing process and outcome. By making a few adjustments (some more so than others, depending on your needs), you may get to experience the shifts in energy flow that can occur relatively quickly (I’m talking within a week).”

I’m also starting 2020 in a new living space where my bedroom (and desk, since I now share a house) is in the Water/Wood bagua areas (NE/E). While my best direction for success is south (that whole wall is closet), I have to place my desk facing west (my worst direction for health or success. Ugh.). So I’ve laid out my work area as best as I can according to feng shui principles: clean, uncluttered desk top, Fire element in upper left hand corner of desk (for success and getting my name out there), a ceramic turtle in Water element. The desk is solid wood with metal trim and sturdy; this makes for a good professional place to write. 

5 Feng Shui Tips for Your Writing Space

The following tips are from http://www.fengshuiforreallife.com, by Carol Olmstead. She is a certified Feng Shui practitioner and has a successful practice, books, and website. 

This is important: “If you work from home, the first Feng Shui consideration is which room or area of your home to use. If at all possible, avoid locating your office in the kitchen, where it could symbolically interfere your health, or in the bedroom, which could interfere with your love and relationships.” Carol Olmstead, http://www.fengshuiforreallife.com.

“Here are five quick fixes you can make in your workspace to give your office a Feng Shui makeover. 
Problem #1: Your desk is in the wrong location.
Quick Fix: The most auspicious location for a desk is positioned diagonally across from the door. The worst place is with your back to the door. When you sit with your back to the entrance of a room you can’t see what’s going on behind you, making you vulnerable to being “caught off guard” by your competitors, clients, or colleagues.

Things literally and figuratively go on “behind your back.” If you can’t relocate your desk, hang a mirror in front of you or place a reflective object on your desk so you can see behind you.

Problem #2: Your desk is the wrong size.
Quick Fix: A desk that is too small for the work to be done makes you feel that your ambitions and aspirations are restricted. On the other hand, a desk that is too large makes you feel that you are not up to the challenge of the work. Choose the appropriate size work surface for the job you have to do. And make sure you have enough room to spread out, create, and expand in your career.

Problem #3: There are sharp corners pointed at you.
Quick Fix: In Feng Shui, the edges of walls pointing at you are called “poison arrows.” These sharp edges send harsh energy toward you, making you feel uncomfortable, threatened, or insecure. The best way to cure or fix this problem is to place something between you and the sharp edge to block its negative energy. Good things to use include furniture, a healthy plant, soft fabric draped over the edge of the wall, or molding. 

Problem #4: You are surrounded by overhead fluorescent lights.
Quick Fix: Fluorescent lights represent the Metal Element that can be too hard and cutting when it comes at you from overhead. Plus this kind of lighting can cause headaches, eyestrain, and a whole lot of stress. Whenever you can, turn off overhead fluorescent lights and take advantage of natural daylight, or use desk and floor lamps. If you can’t turn off overhead fluorescents, try to have them replaced with full spectrum light bulbs. These simulate daylight and make you feel more comfortable.

Problem #5: Your office is cluttered.
Quick Fix: In Feng Shui, clutter represents postponed decisions and the inability to move forward. When you have so many files and piles of papers that can’t even see your desktop, it’s hard to concentrate on your work. Clear as much as you can off your desk, then use colorful folders and wicker baskets to contain the rest of your paperwork. Here is one way to jump start your office clutter clearing — Set a timer for 10 minutes, take a large plastic bag, and thrown 27 thing into the bag – things you don’t use, don’t want, and don’t need in your office. You’ll be amazed as how much more space you have opened up in your office to allow new opportunities for success to reach you.”

Resource: http://fengshuiforreallife.com/Detailed/222.html

Here’s to a prosperous, abundant 2020 for all!

2019, Remembered

farewell 2019.2

Source: Google Images

Once again, another year has passed (happens this time every year!)…

Did you accomplish your writing goals? I didn’t. Due to both welcome and unwelcome changes (it’s called life), writing more than this blog has been put on a back burner. And I’m once again considering whether to continue working on current projects (have I been away too long?) or to consider them practice for something new. How does one decide whether to publish or keep the work hidden away, a precursor for something better? Always a work in progress, I suppose.

But I digress …

2019 was a year of changes in the writing and publishing worlds. I posted about new laws effecting freelance writers in CA (and on the horizon in other states as I write this). I blogged of the import of online safety and preparing your Digital Legacy and, more than once, I discussed a variety of self-publishing options for practiced writers and proletarians. I even waxed philosophically as the mood struck me (as it so often does these days; elder wisdom, I suppose). After much deliberation (and discussion on my blog), I left certain SM sites and I don’t miss them. I blogged on writing skills and perfecting scenes and I discussed the value of proper grammar for writers who want to be taken seriously.

In short, I covered the basics and then some. Now I have to come up with all new topics in the coming year. I welcome the challenge.

It Was A Good Year

All in all, it was a good year where writing was concerned. I was consistent with blog posts, for the most part. A few of you have taken the ride with me – thanks so much, by the way, for your online support. Some of you have had the good fortune to have your book on a bestseller list; others have completed their it-took-me-a-year-to-write-it novel. Congrats. Kudos. The new year will obviously bring some much-deserved accolades to some very deserving people.

Yet my work – and yours – is not done. A new year dawns; take it as an opportunity to renew your commitment to writing your stories, publishing them to the world and then moving on to the next one. It’s how life works. We must remain in motion, always moving forward, as idleness rusts us (and our stories) from the inside out.

~ Peace to All in the New Year ~

Update: Writers in CA Losing Contracts & Jobs to New IC Law

breaking news

Oh, man, this was all over Twitter this morning… California writers, PAY ATTENTION!

Big Job Losses

On January 1st, the new Independent Contractor law goes into effect here in CA. Originally designed to improve working conditions for contractors that were actually employees, it’s having a ripple effect in the world of content creators. According to posts by Writer Beware, California writers’ contracts will be cancelled as companies (like Vox Media) look elsewhere for their freelance work. 

See previous article on this subject

See “Vox Media Ends Work With California Freelance Writers Ahead of Gig Economy Law” at hollywoodreporter.com

See “Publishers Brace for California Labor Law Changes” at  Publishers Weekly

This is gonna put a LOT of people out of work. Maybe force them back into the labor force. Sadly, in CA right now the only plentiful jobs are in service-related industries that pay about $12-14/hr. This is not looking good. At first I thought maybe things would not go this badly once the new IC law goes into effect but I was WRONG. I never expected that freelancers in CA would lose their contracts or that companies would decide to cancel all work going forward.

CNBC reported that other media sites like Eater and Curbed are also changing their business relationships with CA freelancers, resulting in HUNDREDS of lost gigs. The big issue is the cap on writing 35 articles per year, written in the law’s language as “submissions.” What’s worse is CA freelancers won’t even be considered for company job notices like transcription and SEO writing because of the new IC law. Others are outright BLACKLISTING CA freelancers from applying. ?????!!!!!!

And that’s not all… now NY and NJ are considering similar legislation… don’t let them take away your ability to earn a living as a freelancer!

A Light on the Horizon?

A new FB group, California Freelance Writers United has banded together and met with legislators regarding a proposed amendment. If you live in CA, please join this group and stand up for your work! Let’s stand up for our bread and butter!

Writers: Let’s Be Safe and Secure in 2020

breaking news 2020 security (2)

Late fall and early winter have finally melded here in NorCal. We’ve had two very wet weeks but somewhat warm (low 60s) that has now given way to early winter weather (sunny and crispy, mid to low 50s) with some bone-chilling overnight temps (low 30s… brrrr). I’ve been battling what was likely a mild case of food poisoning (it didn’t feel mild when I was in the midst of heaving everything out of my body with gale force) so I’ve been neglectful of any and all writing. You just can’t concentrate when you feel like you’re on a roller coaster for four days straight. Now that my stomach (and bowels, sorry) are finally clear, I sit at my laptop racking my brain for a topic for this blog post.

Protect Yourself and Your Work

What comes to mind, as happens this time of year, is what to do come 2020 to protect our work and ourselves in this global digital world. I wrote a blog post on the Digital Legacy of writers and the importance of preparing your legacy (a part 2 post). What I’m thinking is, it’s even more important to be safe and secure in the digital world, which seems to be getting more difficult all the time as hackers and other ne’er-do-wells invade our privacy, our accounts, our lives. 

“You need to be concerned with writer scams popping up all over the web offering unauthorized copies of authors’ books or scamming writers out of money. Writer Beware is one of many sites that track predatory sites and unscrupulous people trying to steal our IP.” A Writer’s Legacy, Part 2

In my calendar for December 26th, I have a reminder to update my logins and passwords. I try to do this at the end of each year or by the end of January of the new year. Better to be safe than sorry, eh? Yeah, it’s a time-consuming pain, I won’t lie… but I do feel better once it’s complete. I feel like maybe I outsmarted the smart guys – at least for another year.

Kiss Gmail and Chrome Goodbye?

You also might want to consider new email accounts despite the obvious challenge to transferring all your saved emails. Google has a hold on me, granted, but I hope to wean myself of their grip little by little (and maybe for good, we’ll see). And I recently began using DuckDuckGo to reduce my online search transparency. They don’t keep a log of sites you visit because they figure it’s your business, not theirs.

Clean out unused apps, apps that track you wherever you are, apps that don’t serve the greater good in your life. Do you really NEED that word game app? Or that app that turns your face into something other than your face? Think about it; our connectivity, while convenient along with the ability to create a whole lot of goodness in the world, also enslaves us at a level unseen by previous generations. Be careful, is all I’m asking.

Storage Safety

Do you keep copies of your manuscripts/poems/works only on your computer? Not the safest option. Keep hard copies or a thumb drive stashed where only you can find them. Do you use cloud accounts? While I’m not 100% convinced they’re completely secure (seems nothing is, these days), it’s a good way to access your work from anywhere. Use strong passwords to better ensure their safety.

The Upsell – Never Fully Secure?

As I write this post, my AVG software pops up to tell me I’m being tracked, that companies are getting my personal information. Talk about timing. But just how much money do we need to spend to be safe? I’ve got a secure program but it’s always popping up to tell me I need more and more to keep my information safe. Beginning to sound like a snake oil salesman, if you ask me. When is enough actually enough for these data protection services?

My advice?

Keep it simple and safe in 2020.

True Crime: Just the Facts, Ma’am

true crime1

Source: Google Images/kfgo.com

Once again, while perusing notes for a topic for this week’s blog, I came across some interesting information – on writing True Crime novels. As a fan of crime/suspense novels in general – usually fiction but also good nonfiction – I’m curious about what it takes to write a novel about a crime, usually a homicide.

One of my all-time favorite true crime novels is The Stranger Beside Me, the fascinating story of how True Crime author Ann Rule became friends with Ted Bundy, one of the twentieth century’s most prolific serial killers (they met at a suicide hotline office). I read the book while working on my BA in Psychology and Criminal Justice. My focus was the psychopathology and crime scenes of serial killers. I was fascinated by both the why and the how of these killers, which fit in with my major and minor. So I read just about every book there was to read on famous serial killers throughout the twentieth century (Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Randy Kraft, Billy Bonin, etc.) and the definitive book written by Patricia Cornwell on solving the Jack the Ripper cases (with mitochondrial DNA).

9 Tips for Writing True Crime

So how does one get started writing such a story? The late great Ann Rule, known as the queen of True Crime, grew up around it as her grandfather was a sheriff; she frequently visited him at the local jail and became fascinated with the why. Here are nine tips she recommends, in addition to going to the trial, if it’s a current crime you’re researching:

  1. You can usually get a press pass, but there’s often a deluge of writers trying to obtain one. Rule calls the prosecutor’s assistant.
  2. Study the witnesses, watch the jury, and soak up the entire experience.
  3. Try to obtain the court documents from the court reporter or the prosecutor, or purchase them.
  4. Observe the other reporters in the room, and analyze what they’re doing.
  5. If you’re sitting out in the hall with potential witnesses, don’t ask them about anything. You can comment on the weather or the courtroom benches being hard, but “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth pretty shut.”
  6. Don’t take newspapers into the courtroom.
  7. Know what you’re getting yourself into. “You don’t want to start a nonfiction unless you’re really in love with it, and usually you want a go-ahead from an editor.”
  8. Absorb detail. “When I’m writing a true-crime book I want the reader to walk along with me.” Rule describes the temperature, how the air feels—“I think it’s very important to set the scene.” As far as the writing, you can novelize, but keep all of your facts straight.
  9. Don’t use the real name of a rape or sexual crime victim in your writing. (Though Rule has written about a few who have asked to have their names included.) As Rule said of her subjects at large, “I always care about my people. And if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

Finding the Right Case, Doing the Research

Since not just any case will work out as a good read, it’s important to find a cast of characters that will engage and enthrall your readers. Research is paramount; it can possibly take a year or more of interviews (witnesses, law enforcement, prosecutors, etc.), researching paper and online records, and reviewing forensic evidence, police reports and other facets of evidence that’s public (not all evidence will be made public due to certain restrictions such as classified information, trade secrets, etc.). Access to trial evidence can also be costly, maybe $3-6/page for a 2400 page manuscript! (Check your local courts for printing fees.) And, a current crime may necessitate you attend court; getting a press pass is the surer way to reserve a seat.

Conducting interviews are time-consuming but vital to the storyline. As a way to protect yourself from legal liabilities, it’s best to have the interviewees sign an Interview Release form. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to lawsuits claiming defamation of character or invasion of privacy. Record the interview to ensure you properly quote the person.

FOIA: A Necessary Tool

When you need information that can’t be readily obtained, the next step is to write a Freedom of Information (FOIA) letter. These letters can be sent to any agency to request records but not all records are public. Check your state laws on which records are public. With police records, for example, much of the information is public: cleared suspects, witness interviews, crime scene photos, 911 tapes, and maybe even warrants. You can request paper or digital format (they may or may not comply) but remember there are always fees (find out just how much the records cost up front) and turn around time depends on the length and/or quantity of documents you’re requesting. 

Protect Yourself From Copyright Issues

Copyright issues may collide with your FOIA requests, so be aware. Certain records, like evidence not used at trial (i.e., email or text messages) may have copyright protection. The best way to avoid copyright and other legal issues is to have a lawyer review your manuscript before you submit it to any agency. 

Want to get started writing true crime? Try your hand at true crime articles first; submit to true detective magazines, get a feel for writing nonfiction. Like in the 1950s show, Dragnet, it’s all about “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” 

New CA Labor Law Affects How Writers and Other Content Creators Earn Their Money

 

write for money1_pickthebraindotcom

Source: Google Images/ pickthebrain.com

Just a quick note, this one is IMPORTANT. I’ll give you the gist but it would be best for you to click on the article link below, especially if you live in California and are a writer or some type of content creator (journalist, editor, photographer, etc.).

Dynamex Ruling

In April 2018, the California Supreme Court made a ruling (Dynamex Operations W., Inc. v. Super. Ct., No. S222732 [Cal. Apr. 30, 2018]) that changed the rules for freelancers – including writers and other content creators – here in California. Many earn their bread and butter as freelancers – aka independent contractors (IC) instead of as employees. According to the new ruling, people must be classified as employees, not IC, if the following criteria are not met.

A person is an IC/freelancer if s/he:

  • Is free to set his/her own hours, rates, and not subject to the control of the employer
  • Performs work that is outside the employer’s core business
  • Regularly engages in an independently established trade, occupation, or business

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the decision “When a worker has not independently decided to engage in an independently established business but instead is simply designated an independent contractor … there is a substantial risk that the hiring business is attempting to evade the demands of an applicable wage order through misclassification.”

The End of Gig Work

I had a professional experience with this new ruling. While it ended in my favor, for many it has not. The new ruling basically ended gig work in California. I saw an almost immediate disappearance of gig jobs from the Internet. The positive is it forced those companies who were taking advantage of cheap labor to rectify their misclassification. The negative is it folded all content creators in with everyone else.

How does that affect writers? Read on…

In response to the ruling, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB 5 to amend this new law in consideration of all content creators. According to the article, others in freelance professions gathered together and “convinced lawmakers to carve out a partial exemption for writers, editors, journalists, and photographers.” Whew. That was close!

There’s more to this issue so read the full article to understand what limitations (albeit loose ones, I admit) are included in that partial exemption. Still, it’s a move toward the positive. Freelancers freelance so they don’t have to keep a J-O-B. Let’s hope California wises up and continues to update this new ruling to stay flexible in what defines an independent contractor versus an employee, for the sake of all content creators.

And spread the word!

https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/authors-for-hire-what-the-new-california-labor-law-means-for-freelance-writers-journalists/

#CaliforniaSupremeCourt #independentcontractors #freelancewriters #journalists #editors #photographers

Picture Perfect Opportunities

overcast sky3-hiveminerdotcom

Source: Google Images/hiveminer.com; photo from Norfolk County, MA

Autumn is finally upon us here in NorCal. The sweet smell of decaying leaves is everywhere, as are the crisper days and cooler nights. Only thing missing is the flat gray cloud cover back home that I aptly call a “November sky,” as it is a regular weather pattern seen in a mid-season New England autumn. I find myself pining for that back lit cloud cover; for any clouds at all. California has nice weather – perhaps too nice, as in too much sun and not enough clouds. Growing up in New England, I learned to appreciate the overcast autumn days as a signal to spend more time indoors with a cup of hot cider or chocolate, hard at work at whatever hobby/task needed attending. Like spending more time writing and editing. Sunshine beckons me outside, leaving my writing and other hobbies for the all-too-rare-in-NorCal cloudy days.

Speaking of Spending Time Inside…

It’s NaNoWriMo time! How many of you are partaking this year? It’s the perfect opportunity to “get your write on”. Sadly, I’m working a new gig that keeps me out late every evening so I’m not working on anything other than an occasional blog post… deep sigh… I think if that overcast sky would show up, I’d find a way to hunker down and write. Or edit. Or both… sigh…

Test yourself; see how much you can complete before Dec. 1 gets here. Maybe I’ll make a half-hearted attempt if some cloudy weather shows up!

A New Marketing Angle That May Be Picture-Perfect

I purposely don’t spend much time online. Life is short and I’d rather be experiencing something like nature instead of staring at a computer for hours on end. But this was an interesting article I came across from a book marketing site I used to follow.

There’s an online business called Cameo Marketplace – perhaps you’ve heard of it? I haven’t so I’m sharing it with you. Ever dream of some famous person talking up your book? Do you fantasize that you’ll sell a gazillion copies on the word of that famous person? Well, here’s your chance – kind of.

Cameo Marketplace (cameo.com) offers a personalized shout-out from your choice of their famous clientele in a ‘cameo’ video. Yep. For a fee, you can have, say, Charlize Theron plug your book. (I don’t know if she’s actually a client.) Or Tom Hanks. (Not sure if he is, either.) Point is, you can find a well-known (or quasi-famous) personality, one that fits your book’s style and image, to say something positive about it in a short video. The actor earns money and you get more sales, so you earn money. Sounds like a win-win situation, right?

Unless you pick someone who won’t exactly influence the right people – your target audience. You need to know who they are before choosing your celebrity. Prices range from $5 to about $150 for a personalized video and promotional videos cost more. Probably not a good idea to invest in the prettiest face. Make sure the actor you do choose can have a positive effect on your book marketing and sales; otherwise, it’s wasted money.

So there it is, my advice for the week. It’s not much but who knows, it may help you find the perfect face to sell your book.

 

Post Script: I only just realized that I didn’t title this post and put too much space above the pic… oops. And wouldn’t you know, that November sky I referenced is here today, on my day off! Yippee!

 

Pre-Black Friday Sale is On!

MB List price Nov sale

EARLY BLACK FRIDAY SALE!

Now 30% off! Order now for Holiday gifts! Get your health on!
 
That’s right, folks… I’ve got an early sale just for those pre-Black Friday shoppers. Want to get a headstart on getting and staying healthy through the holidays? Here’s your chance!
 
Visit my Lulu page today and get your copy while supplies last! Tell your friends all about it!
3D softcover JPEG

Smart Tips to Create a Self-Publishing Imprint

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Source: Google Images

For those who may not know, an imprint is defined as, per Wikipedia“An imprint of a publisher is a trade name under which it publishes a work.” As a writer, if you self-publish, then you are technically a business owner so it’s a good idea to have an imprint or trade name under which you bundle your works. You might even use different names “as brands to market works to various demographic consumer segments.” (Wikipedia) You must be a jack-of-many-trades as you take on the roles of writer, editor, publisher, project manager, funding specialist (if you’re looking into crowdfunding your publication), and more. It’s a huge undertaking and there are pros and cons to be weighed before making the commitment.

The following tips are from an article written by Amy Collins for the November/December 2019 issue of Writer’s Digest:

NO SHORTCUTS

Remember, there are NO SHORTCUTS in self-publishing. Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. Unless you want to put out a poorly written and edited manuscript with a cheesy book cover that doesn’t sell well …if at all. Self-publishers may have a smaller budget so they will want to skimp on the important parts: editing, layout, proofreading, cover design, etc. My advice is DON’T SKIMP. Nothing wrong with looking for affordable options – just know that you WILL get what you pay for, which may or may not end well for you and your book. Remember that this part of the process is for your readers, not you (your part was writing the story, whatever your inspiration), so do your best to put out a worthwhile product. And this step is vital if you want bookstores and libraries to consider purchasing copies of your book. It needs to look and read as professional as possible. Do your research and do your best to choose wisely.

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Budget for every element of book publishing: development editing, copy editing, layout of the interior, cover design, marketing, sales, distribution, and printing as well as every element of starting a small business.” (My tip: include accounting and taxes in this list, since this is a business and will likely be separate from your other work.)

“While self-publishing is a viable option if done well, the marketplace is flooded with sub-par, poorly written, self-edited, book-shaped objects that have not gone through the proper care every book needs before being published.” ~ Amy Collins

Caveat Emptor: WATCH OUT for Those Vanity Publishers!

I wrote on this very topic in a previous post. Luckily, our watchdogs at Writer Beware® keep the writing community up-to-date with the who’s who of fraudulent or questionable “publishing houses.” (And if you’re not subscribed to that blog, accrispin.blogspot.com, shame on you.) There have been and continue to be issues with royalty payments, fees padding, and unscrupulous owners offering restrictive contracts that may or may not take away your copyrights. READ every line of every contract and don’t be afraid to ask QUESTIONS. 

Amy’s Pro Tip: How do you know whom to trust if you want to avoid a nightmare situation in partnering with a self-publishing company? Sites such as Writer Beware highlight offending companies. Other resources that offer a guide to the hundreds of author services out there include The Alliance of Independent Authors self-publishing service guide and the Independent Book Publishers Association Advocacy Committee’s list of nine criteria on what it means to be a professional hybrid publisher.

CREDIBILITY ISSUES?

Even though self-publishing has been around for more than ten years, indie publishers continue to have difficulty building their reputations, thereby making it harder to garner attention from readers and retailers (not Amazon but the brick-and-mortar businesses). There can be issues with accepting returns (for example, do you have a way for retailers to return unwanted books?) and a lack of trust in the quality of your product (so go back to Tip #1).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Build your credibility and reader base with consistent outreach. Approach established book reviewers, but don’t forget to keep asking for reviews from your readers as well. Researching book reviewers and requesting reader reviews is a practice that should continue for the life of a book.”

Fellow Authors are Your Friends, Not Your Enemies

I admit to feeling a bit competitive and unwilling to read some books in the same genre (Chinese medicine) as my nutrition book. Somehow, I believed, my information was superior. That is just not true. There are so many wonderful options out there; it would actually behoove you to read a few books within your genre. Get to know the authors who write stories like yours; connect with them on FB and other SM; see who’s following them and leave comments. Who knows where these connections could lead you (and your stories).

Amy’s Pro Tip: “Find the bestselling authors in your genre and follow them on social media. Read their books and help where you can. Enjoy getting to know their readers. Authors can do so much for each other if they put aside the crazy idea that “it’s either them or me.

Write reviews and post in your author newsletter about the authors you truly admire; start building friendships. Soon, you will have a large, supportive group of authors ready to do the same for you because they genuinely want to help a fellow author. Offer to be a beta reader and cross-post for your favorite authors on their launch days.”

In the end, how our books do out there in the digital world/global community depends solely on our commitment to their success. There are many steps to take in publishing your own works but the rewards are greater if you adhere to the above advice. Like any other business, it’s best to have a plan so you can leave your imprint on the world. 

Grammar Rules! Or At Least It Used To…

which v that

Source: Writersdigest.com

Here are some great tips from Writers Digest blogger, Brian Klems. He certainly cleared up a few grammatical confusions for me. It’s been a lot of years since those Catholic grammar school English classes. Honestly, as much of a ‘grammar Nazi’ as I can be, there are times when even I can’t figure it out. Brian clears it all up succinctly and in an easily comprehensible way.

These tidbits are nice refreshers of some of the issues many people have when writing/speaking:

Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid)

Thank god, cuz this one always has me topsy-turvy, never quite getting it right.

Here’s the difference between lay vs. lie, along with ‘lay lie’ examples and a simple chart that breaks it all down. (PLUS: laying vs. lying)

Source: Lay vs. Lie (vs. Laid) – Grammar Rules

Who vs. Whom

This one’s the easiest for me but I see their misuse all over the place.

Source: Who vs. Whom

Which vs. That

Oh, I know I get this one wrong a lot, as do many people.

Source: Which vs. That

If you like these, check out his other posts: Since vs. Because; Snuck vs. Sneaked (hint: one of them is a made-up word now a part of our American lexicon); and Leaped vs. Leapt (I never figure this one out).

For writers, grammar rules can make or break our work. We don’t have to have a Masters in Fine Arts or English. It makes sense to have a good grasp of the basic rules of grammar; then our stories will be better off and our readers will be, too. Oddly, I’m the first one to break most rules (I prefer to think they’re for other people) but, for some reason, grammar rules are the ones I choose to follow (probably because I want people to actually read and like my books and not think I’m a complete idiot). When grammar rules, stories shine. So do the writers.

Writer, Thinker, Dreamer-in-Residence

dreamer pic

Source: Google Images/dribbble.com/Rebecca Williams

Dreamer-in-Residence

I’m in one of those reflective moods (again). Every now and then, the modern world gets to me (read: incessant noise) and I must remove myself from the droning, deafening sounds of our modern, so-called civilized society. I crave quietude and solitude so I can hear myself think. And see the stars in the night sky – I found Polaris tonight, twinkling a dull blue in a misty indigo sky.

In these reflective moments, as I meandered the “mean streets” of Midtown Sacramento (and quieter as I strolled in a direction opposite the interstate that cuts it in half), words visited then filled out my thoughts, such as: what are words but one’s daydreams put on paper?

As fellow writers, surely you can identify.

Thinker

I once again find myself craving something different, to move (read: run screaming) away from the status quo (who decided this was so great to begin with?) to find my place, my unique place, in this writing/creative world, a place which belongs only to me (and I to it). It’s a desire to grab that brass ring, the one that’s been just beyond my reach for as long as I can remember. It’s a signal to me that my life is out of balance and I’m still working on how to put it right. Writing helps.

Does this make sense to you? I ask you, how can I/we freely write/create when held in place by burdensome responsibilities so much of the time? Held by the chokehold of corporate America – the dangling of the corporate carrot (climbing the “ladder of success” only to find out someone’s removed the top rungs), learning how to lie with a smile on your face, learning that people are expendable, replaceable (so much for being unique and valued) … the corporate mantras memorized, recited, regurgitated … leading to feeling institutionalized.

How do I/we break free?

My guess is, to write, as a writer must.

Writer

How many of you dream of the freedom that comes with being a writer/thinker/dreamer-in-residence? I’ve had to redefine the word freedom multiple times, as it can have different meanings in different stages of one’s life. That stream of thought brought me to this:

IF

If we dream, we must write.

If we write, we must imagine.

If we imagine, we must create.

If we create, we must give a bit

of the best of ourselves to the world.

Dream. Write. Imagine.

Create.

We must not forget; it’s who we are, not just what we do. We can’t deny it, avoid it, or squirrel it away for a rainy day. We must go out there, into the world, with pen (or computer) in hand and blaze our own trails.

Institutions be damned.

Post Script

hemingway app

Source: Google Images

Post Script:

I couldn’t stop thinking about that Hemingway app. Curious about my nonfiction writing score, I added portions of my nutrition book to the editor. I first downloaded a section from the beginning, The Qi of Life, and here are the results:

Hemingway app1Hemingway app2

So my nonfiction scored much higher in readability than my fiction. Hmm…

When I added in another section, this one from the first chapter, the readability shot up to Grade 10! Whoa! I’m practically a NYT bestselling author (snark snark)!

When I added yet another bit from a later chapter, the readability went up to grade 11 but the app still recommended I lower my readability to grade 9. This makes no sense to me. I thought my writing was clear and concise, and readily understood. Guess not. Guess 10th and 11th graders can’t read my book. Not without 9th graders to translate and explain. 🙂

Hemingway app3Hemingway app4

Perhaps the Hemingway app is another of those online tools that has its used but is taken with a grain of salt? Not sure how I feel about it, just that I need to use it a few more times to see if it’s a helpful tool.

What were your scores? Did you try it? Might be fun! Maybe your book is too smart for 11th graders too!

 

Fall Into Your Writing

 

autumn2

Source: Google Images/ townandcountrymag.com

T’is the Season

Last week came the first tease, the first hint that autumn was on its way. I love the word autumn more than fall; to me, it connotes a subtle changing of the guards, so to speak; that those hot summer days are mostly behind us and crispy, breezy, sweet-smelling days lay ahead. We even had to wear jackets for a few days last week, with the morning and evening temps getting pretty low. Some leaves have already begun to change, thanks to those cooler-than-usual nights. I can’t yet smell autumn in the air as the warmer summer weather is upon us once again. Autumn officially arrived yesterday and I wait with baited breath for the scent of those brilliant autumn colors.

Days become shorter this time of year and an indoor activity like writing (plus the PR and marketing) is a great way to stay busy without burning up too much energy. I love to write later in the evening, from around 9pm to 1am, this time of year; it seems everyone gets home and settles in earlier than usual so my corner of the world goes a bit quieter. Does yours?

Ready for the Holidays?

This is also a good time of year to gear up your PR and marketing for the holidays. I’ve published a nutrition book, so it’s a good time of year to get on an anthology list for holiday purchases to help people eat better during and after the holiday binges.

Alli – Alliance of Indpendent Authors – has some great tips for DIY PR for us Indie authors in a post written by Helen Baggott. She posts some sensible advice on pre- and post-publication PR (even though she’s in Great Britain, I’m sure much of this applies here in the U.S. as well). Try contacting magazines related to your book’s topic (hers was genealogy and hand-written postcards); check out trade journals as well, as they are often a good source for some free (or affordable) advertising/PR.

If you utilize Ingram Spark, it’s a good time to check whether your book is getting into libraries (locally and nationwide).  She recommends contacting Resource Managers at the library’s headquarters (or main branch here in the states). Have a 60-second pitch ready in case they don’t yet have your book on their shelves. Another option (which is a bit more costly) is to donate some of your books to your local branches. I did that with my first book and it turned out to be pretty popular, especially with high school kids doing book reports.

Hemingway – A Funky New App

And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out the Hemingway app. Dr. Judith Briles, The Book Shephard, highly recommends it as a way to ferret out bad verbiage, grammar issues, etc. It’s free and easy to use and it provides you with a readability index, meaning at what grade level you’re writing. She suggests hovering around a sixth grade level; sadly, this is the average literacy level in the U.S.  There are color-coded phrases that pop up and suggest fixes.

When I popped in the first chapter of my in-the-works novel, it came up with good readability … but at a grade 3 level. Sigh. Evidently I used a few too many adverbs but only three of the sentences were judged as hard to read (by who, I wonder, if I’m writing at a 3rd grade level). I think I will spend some more time with this app to see where I can improve my writing and the story. I’d even like to get a little above grade 6, in the hopes that some readers are more literate than that.

As I said, now is the time to ‘fall’ into your writing. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner, so sharpen your editing pencils, your writing mindset and get your desk in order – it’s time to write!

Serendipity

serendipity

Source: Google Images

Serendipity, defined as fate, destiny, luck, kismet, fortune, coincidence or karma – if you believe in that sort of thing, presented me with an interesting (and not coincidental?) meet this morning.

But first, let me back up.

Last night, the little red battery on my Jeep’s instrument panel popped up while driving home, around 10:30pm. Once parked, I perused the 500+-page manual (a huge pdf on my phone) to find out why. Seems it was telling me there was an issue with low power. Okay… I was taking the car to the garage this morning anyway for an oil change and figured I’d have them check it out.

battery light

The car started no problem this morning and the little red battery didn’t come on. Okay, I thought, maybe it was just a fluke or an electrical fart, used cars can have these issues. About ten minutes later, there it was, taunting me, daring me to continue driving. I arrived at the parking garage of the local Co-op where I have breakfast when I realized I hadn’t had my lights on while on the highway (it was around 7am and still a bit dark). I turned them on just to make sure there wasn’t an issue and BOOM – dashboard lights went crazy and the car died in the parking spot. At 7:15am. When I tried turning the key, all I heard was a ‘click’ sound – oh, joy; that  likely meant the alternator was the culprit and had eaten up the battery power (which would explain the little red battery on the instrument panel).

I called my insurance company and requested a tow – a 45-minute wait. I was surprisingly calm, considering the situation. I decided to forego breakfast and instead gathered a few things from the car that I would need while it was getting fixed at my regular garage, luckily not far from where I was stranded. The tow truck showed up almost exactly 45 minutes later, a jovial fellow at the wheel. The sticky problem was that he couldn’t get his flatbed tow truck into the parking garage, so he had to push my car with me behind the wheel steering, out to the road. (Poor guy; awfully early for that kind of physical demand but he managed wonderfully.)

Fast forward:

I knew there was a Starbucks up the street from my garage so I made for it with the intent of getting an overpriced breakfast and latte. Being a Saturday morning downtown, it’s usually slow (it’s more of a Mon-Fri business district) but hordes of women were piling in and the line came close to running out the door. While waiting for my order, a woman standing nearby struck up a chat with me. Turns out they’re here for a health and wellness convention and she’s a certified nutrition counselor. Hmmm…..

Needless to say, we got to chatting and I told her about my nutrition book, that I’d published three books, taught nutrition classes, etc. She told me that she’s writing a nutrition book (outline complete and chapter 1 in the works) and speaks about her personal experience (she’s lost over 200 pounds) at universities and other small venues. When she explained she was considering self-publishing, I launched into a short explanation of the self-publishing process and offered more information if she had any questions down the road.

We ended up talking for about half an hour and exchanged emails with a promise from her that she’d contact me. I offered proofreading and editing services and also offered to provide her with more in-depth information about self-publishing and traditional publishing based on my twelve years of delving into it. She also gave me the title of book she highly recommends I read, The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. I recognized the title but forgot that I’d perused this book when it came out and found it to not be a good fit for me. It’s a good book and I recommend it if you haven’t read it; it just wasn’t for me. Maybe something about his writing style, but I found his information useful only if you have a strong financial foundation (meaning you’ve got a good amount of money in the bank to invest or available credit cards with high limits, and I have neither at the moment) and a strong support base (which is important for success in any venture).

Serendipity, For Sure

Anyway, I felt it was a serendipitous meeting for both of us, as it lit a lightly dampened fire within me in regards to marketing my nutrition book and finishing some projects and, it motivated her more to complete her nutrition book. Her light and enthusiasm were genuine and contagious and I hope to make contact with her again. Who knows what the outcome can be, but I’m sure it can only be good. People like her are destined for success and I would consider myself fortunate to be able to go along for at least part of the ride.

Has karma surprised you lately? Have you had an unexpected but positive meeting or conversation with another like-minded writer/artist? Like attracts like, after all; perhaps some folks are just meant to connect.

May you have serendipitous moments in the near future to help move you along your writing path.