In the Fullness of Time

I was happy to receive an advance copy of this book. I was even happier to truly appreciate the author’s restraint when it comes to telling vs. showing.

I’m not a fan of books that explicitly tell me everything, which implies I’m too stupid to figure things out for myself. Carolyn R. Russell, on the other hand, doesn’t make that mistake in this new YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time. Instead, she has confidence in the intelligence of her young readers and drops them into the States — a filthy, overpopulated urban environment — right behind the story’s teen protagonist, 17-year-old Somerset, where they have to fend for themselves just as she does.

The slang and terms used immediately create a sense of claustrophobia, both physically and emotionally. In this world, only the children of the elite go to school, where they’re fed propaganda. Somerset is one of the few who reads the “old-timey flatbooks” from the Lost Ages to learn how the world could have changed so drastically. She’s also one of the few who has access to Hydracomputers. She’s afforded such privilege because she’s one of the privileged, a status she despises.

The only hope of getting fresh air in this chokingly-controlled society is for Somerset to follow the trail of mysteries that begins on the first page when she snatches up a little girl who falls amongst the street masses and is almost trampled. By showing such compassion for innocence, and such intolerance for the few privileged at the top, Somerset reveals the bravery and independent spirit of a true hero.

Wearing her clerical robes, Somerset clandestinely performs acts of rebellion with her antiauthoritarian friends. With every action she takes and every questions she asks, she forges ahead to expose the government’s criminal acts, both in relation to the masses’ cheap food source, ‘Brix, and the mysterious means of Revving, an act the government bills as a spiritual transformation and that Somerset suspects leads to a much darker outcome.

At some point I plan to write a book about showing vs. telling, probably the trickiest aspect of writing anything. When I do, I’ll call upon such examples of how to respect readers’ intelligence.

Happy writing!

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Photography for Writers

by Melanie Faith

I grew up in Chicago and about once every winter would wake up to a mountain of snow outside my window and more falling by the minute. At that moment, utter delight would shoot through me, because I knew this would be deemed a snow day and school would be canceled. That’s the same transformation — from this-will-be-good-for-me to fantastic! — that occurred upon reading the first page of this book.

I assumed by the title I’d be learning how to use photography to better market my next novel via social media. What an utterly fantastic thing to learn that the goal of the book is not to make us writers work, but instead invite us to play! That by messing around with photography, we can explore and improve our writing tenfold.

What a powerful concept!

We creatives tend to think we’re creative in one area or another. We’re writers, but not painters, or vice versa. Whereas this book espouses that people who create do so across their lives, so using one medium of creativity to fuel another makes perfect sense.

Rather than think of ourselves as just writers, we should consider broadening our self-image to think of ourselves as photographers, too. I have no idea why that didn’t occur to me before! I love photography, yet would never have considered submitting a photograph for publication, until now.

Melanie Faith

The chapters are flash-fiction-brief in the best way possible. Melanie uses a single, often humorous, anecdote from her personal or professional life as an all-around creative to illustrate one main concept, then ends with a writing and photography prompt. Such brevity encourages thought about basic, yet potent, concepts. For example, don’t worry about equipment. Use whatever camera you’ve got. And rather than worry about composition, take photos that snag your interest, then go back to look at why the image called out to you.

While I read the book once chronologically, I plan to use it as a long-term resource I can dip into regularly to flush my work with new creativity, almost like visiting a spa for writers!

Happy writing!

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“Smarmy” vs. Sincere: A Give-More-Than-Take Marketing Answer

After talking recently with a young freelancer friend about the necessity of regularly letting people know who you are and what you have to offer, he said, “But promoting myself makes me feel so…”

“Smarmy?” I said.

“Yeah.”

Ah, the Smarmy Factor, as in insincere, oily and ingratiating. Just listing the antonyms makes you feel like you’ve eaten a deep-friend candy bar wrapped in bacon.

Blah!

So here’s my 2-to-1 formula for staving off the Smarmy Factor:

2 sincere gives for every 1 take = more good in the world than selfishness

For every time you call out to the world about what you have to offer and why people should pay attention, send two shouts outs that help someone else or some other cause that improves the world.

I don’t really believe in selflessness. As animals, we humans make sure we get something in return for our efforts, even if we’re unaware of such calculation.

But as thinking beings, we can make a conscious effort to help out everyone who helps us achieve our goals. By doing so, we can avoid creating a personal ladder only for ourselves that functions by stepping on everyone’s head to rise, and instead help form a vast raft that helps us all rise together.

Photography of Lisa Kristine

I was thinking about this while in Sonoma, CA, this weekend where I wandered into the gallery of Lisa Kristine, which is filled with fabulous, vibrant photographs of indigenous people from around the world. Her motto as a photographer and “humanitarian change maker” is “inspiring unity through imagery.”

Here’s my motto: Create for good, and help others do the same.

How can I help you?

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I’ll provide you with updates about my book while also passing on useful information to you writers, readers and thinkers!

Authentic Details: What They are and How to Find Them

Recently I had the pleasure of helping my friend, a fitness pro, carry out annual health assessments on firefighters employed by the county fire department.

A number of the firefighters wore black wedding rings. I found that strange, but assumed the men, who were younger, had chosen different, more trendy materials such as wood or unusual metals. That and I have a friend who has a metal ring with sensors that collects health data like his heart rate.

I finally asked a firefighter what material his ring was made of, and he plucked the stretchy material away from his skin and let it go with a RubberBand-like snap.

“It’s silicon,” he said, referring to the material that’s a hybrid between synthetic rubber and plastic.

Silicon wedding rings (7 for $15!)

The man said he knew a fellow firefighter who, during a fire, caught his metal wedding ring on something — a hook, a piece of jagged metal, etc. — and the metal scraped the skin off of the man’s finger, a phenomenon called degloving.

A good reason to use a silicon ring that can easily break if snagged!

When taken in the context of writing, the silicon ring is a perfect example of an authentic detail:

  • a small fact most people don’t know
  • that’s particular to a specific group or region
  • and that convinces readers you, the author, know your subject well

The most fun way to find authentic details is through on-site research, such as watching someone make candles according to 1800s means. Watching a process or hearing accents or viewing games live can provide an endless amount of sensory details — sayings, colors, smells, etc. — you can use in your writing.

What examples of authentic details will you provide to readers for the story you’re writing?

Happy writing!

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I look forward to hearing from you!

Stop Spinning Your Wheels and Focus: A Podcast With Anita Stubenrach

See this scrap of paper?

That’s what I grabbed and began scribbling on as I listened to the HiHelloSura Show podcast featuring Anita Stubenrauch.

Anita Stubenrach, founder of Cause Effect Creative

I knew Anita at Apple and got to see the exciting moment she left to start Cause Effect Creative, a consultancy, and the Make and Believe retreat in Murphy, CA, that together help people unlock their creativity to think big, convey their passion and become the hero of their life story.


I’ll highly suggest you listen and answer the questions she gives as a way to help you stop spinning your wheels and focus on what matters to you. Once you get in touch with how worthy you are of living a big life that has nothing to do with how much money or fame you have, you’ll understand what you have to offer and why you want to convey that passion. Then you can reach far and wide to better your corner of the world.


Anita’s podcast came at a particularly prescient moment for me. I’ve been lucky enough throughout my life to live 90% in the realm of creativity, both through writing and movement. Now, as you know if you’ve been reading these entries, I’ve been struggling with the tech side of marketing this next next novel. The creativity involved is mostly creative problem-solving, which is useful, but often time-intensive and frustrating because I lack the technical foundation.


So I have to ask myself, as Anita encourages during the podcast, why am I doing all of this?


Because that’s how strongly I feel I need to tell the story of 15-year-old Mary Donahue.


That is a heady thought. Thousands of hours to write the story. Hundreds of hours to submit. Thousands more to get the word out in addition to dealing with all of the technical angst.


Because that’s how strongly I feel about this character. She’s alone. She’s drowning. She can feel herself drowning. And what a terrible thing for a smart, young teen.


So Anita is right, folks! Once you know what’s important to you and start on your journey, I feel bad for the dragon that gets in your way.


And here’s yet another pitch for Anita: She said she’s developing an online class that can help you answer those inner questions and help you transform your piece of the world. So check out her website.

P

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6 Marketing Terms All Authors Should Know

To develop a plan for launching my upcoming literary book, Winter Light, which will be published Oct. 6 by Vine Leaves Press, I’m taking Tim Grahl’s online marketing class, Launching a Bestseller.

Tim Grahl of BookLaunch.com, author of Your First 1000 Copies

As part of the process, I’m identifying influencers — book reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, celebrity book clubs like the Ophrah Book Club, etc. — who can help sell my book to readers.

To evaluate how many people these influencers can reach, I found Feedspot, a media site where you can find the blogs, podcasts, new websites, YouTube channels and RSS feeds you need to target. Or if you’re a blogger, you can add your blog to the database.

The site lists a media source along with how many people the person or organization can reach. To fully appreciate the information, and be more effective in marketing efforts, here are 10 terms all authors should know:

  1. Social reach: The total number of people you can reach across all of your various social media networks.
  2. Social media engagements: The number measures the public shares, likes and comments for an online business’s social media effort.
  3. Domain authority: A score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERP). The scores range from 1 to 100. The higher the number, the greater the ability to rank.
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO): The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
  5. Organic search engine results: Any traffic you don’t have to pay for.
  6. Click-through rate (CTR): How often the people click on the call-to-action link in your post.

Let’s practice that last one: Please subscribe to my newsletter!

For those who want to read more, Hootsuite has a great article titled The most important social media metrics for marketers.

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

The Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

As I read this book, the writing became “gorgouser and gorgeouser,” the very term the main character uses to describe — with full-on melancholy — the love of his life that he slid away from. Rather than lyrical in the way harp music or a serene river flowing by, the book’s language is akin to an Irish beach where you’re likely to cut your feet on the sharp rock not yet ground into fine sand, despite centuries of pummeling.

The story begins with lifelong Irish mates Maurice and Charlie Redmond sitting in a humid, dirty fairy building in Algeciras, Spain, hoping to intercept Maurice’s 23-year-old daughter, Dilly, who disappeared herself. While most of the story is told through dialogue and flashbacks, of which I’m not a fan, Kevin Barry’s writing is so marvelously shard-like in its poetry, and the revelations so simple and shocking, that the story sails. The mystery of why the daughter felt the need to lose herself from these men’s lives is apparent when the duo strong-arm a young dreadlocked man for news of Dilly and the vagabond says, “Why’d she take off? You ask yourself that ever?”

And there provides the entrance to the back-in-time tunnel that reveals the rough road taken by Moss and Charlie Redmond, and the heartbreak they’ll live with for the rest of their crooked lives.

Besides the Irish colloquialisms, Barry has filled the tale with sensory descriptions meant to be cloyingly rich as the various atmospheres both of Spain and Ireland, back when and now, like this scene of Maurice on a past night in Malaga:

“The city ran a swarm of fast anchovy faces. The surge of the night traffic ran. The harbour lights were festive and moved across the oily water. He walked as far as the beach of Malagueta to get his head right and let the fear settle. He recognized at once there was heroin in the vicinity of Malagueta by night. The heavy sea was constrained on tight lines. He sat in the dark on the sand and listened to the night, the traffic; the fast, sibilant hiss of the Andaluz voices.”

And back in Cork when Maurice has come undone, “He was more than possessed by his crimes and excesses — he was the gaunt accumulation of them. He wanted an out, but he could never be a suicide. He could not willingly deprive the world of himself. He was almost forty-six and if fate did not intervene, he would have to sit it the fuck out.”

Neither delicious nor beautiful, his scrappy prose is a fantastic addition to world literature.

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

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When Your Book Rights Revert Back to You… Republish!

I am jazzed to announce The Wind Thief, my second book and first novel, is now available as an ebook through all of the major outlets.

The rights for this literary book, along with Growing Great Characters, recently reverted to me when the publishers for each said they wanted to get out of the business. I asked them to send an email formally releasing the rights to me.

I decided to republish the books for 2 reasons.

The Quality

Whereas the material for some books ages, most typically with nonfiction books that handle culture and research, my books are still relevant. I did update the writing book to include that most submissions are now done digitally, but that’s the only change I had to make.

Future Marketing

As I move toward promoting my second novel, Winter Light, which will be published by Vine Leaves Press in October 2020, I wanted to let readers know I have other books. People might like to buy them, and the books will convey I’m an experienced writer and the chance my next book will be worth reading is high.

The Process was Easy

When faced with formatting my two books and determining how to distribute them, however, I was overwhelmed. But then Kate Tilton of Kate Tilton Author Services sent me a link to Draft2Digital.

The company is one of three digital book distributors that includes Smashwords and PublishDrive. I read a review by Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur and he mentioned the one feature D2D offers that I needed, but the other two don’t have: the company converts your manuscript to ebook form, including for the Kindle.

The process takes about an hour initially as you move through the prompts for loading a book cover, determining if you want the company to automatically generate a copyright page under your name, and you fill out bank information so the business can send you royalties, etc. My manuscript got turned down because I embedded links to my website. Once notified, I took those out, filled in the hyperlink address for my website in the field D2d provided, and the book began loading to the following:

  • Amazon
  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Tolino
  • OverDrive
  • Bibliotheca
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Hoopla

The company sends you updates as the book is accepted by the various digital outlets. The company also provides a multitude of tools to help market your books.

In exchange for such simplicity, the company takes a cut of the royalty, an arrangement I found completely worthwhile.

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

How to Build a Regular Writing Habit (or any habit!)

A lot of people I talk to want to build a regular writing habit, but don’t know how. Here’s my process, which works for undertaking anything new:

1. Frequency: Start with a goal you know you can do. Rather than writing daily for 2 hours, for examples, try for two days a week for 45 min. Put the sessions on your calendar so they become a legitimate use of time and that you can honestly tell others, “I can’t make that time because I’ve got something else going.”

2. Motivation: Usually I’ll get at least 5 channels of energy moving me toward the endeavor. I’ll 1) network with friends to see if they want to meet and write, 2) take a  class that includes homework that makes me work in between sessions, 3) find a contest with a realistic deadline, 4) look at my schedule to actively find time.

3. Reward: I almost always tie the activity to something pleasant, like something simple as drinking my favorite coffee or following the session by eating my favorite thing for dinner.

4. Obstacles: My calculation is that for every 1 step I think I need to make to progress, there are actually 20 obstacles in the way. If I don’t meet the goal I set that day, I make sure to find the obstacle that kept me from succeeding so I can avoid it next time.

I’ve been writing my whole life, so writing per day is like breathing. But I have taken on a number of other challenges for which I’ve had to follow the above process. But there are certainly plenty more resources to help, like the above book. If you have particular methods or resources that work for you, let me know!

SUBSCRIBE to my newsletter and get a Free novel excerpt!

I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental History of the Mind

I woke up this morning dreaming about a book I finished three weeks ago. That’s the highest praise I can give a book, to still be contemplating the ideas within the text long after I’ve finished. That’s the case with Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris, a consultant to science writers who specializes in neuroscience and physics. The book offers concepts you’ll chew on for a long time, and rather than in the laborious way of gnaw on gristle, what Harris serves up is a trippy feast I had to step away from occasionally, then rejoin, to make sure I got the full flavor of dishes far outside anything I’ve had before.

Comfort food, this is not!

All of that, yet the book is only about a hundred pages. That’s because, as Harris explains, while scientists have launched forward in the study of how the brain works, especially in the last decade, there are few experiments on human consciousness. Why? Because consciousness is so hard to grasp. What is it? Where does it reside? In the brain? A gene? Did consciousness evolve, so that after billions of beta versions, humans get the honor of running the official first release of the software? Or has consciousness always existed and we humans are simply incapable of getting our heads around the fact we share a commonality with other matter, but experience the feature in a different way? Are we really behaving out of free will born of consciousness, or are our actions at the mercy of a parasite, bacteria or other life form that needs us to do something so that it can continue to exist?

Perhaps the best question, though, is the one Harris asks in the book’s first paragraph:

Why would any collection of matter in the universe be conscious?

As a writer, I love these questions because I’ve never felt humans are the top bananas in the universe and love the idea of other forms of consciousness. I’m also a huge science buff and am not scared by explorations that question the idea of souls and humans’ place in the universe and other questions our specie grapples with. Even so, certain theories put forth in the book — especially those relating to our concept of time — had me holding my head in complete inability to imagine the theory or implication.

Which is exactly why I’ll encourage you to read the book. Taste a little, step back, clear your palate, then taste a little more. Then consider allowing the ideas to shift your world view — your universal view — because that’s what such books are meant to do: push humans farther down the celestial road.

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I’ll provide you with updates about my newest book, Winter Light, forthcoming Oct. 6, 2020, by Vine Leaves Press. As a thank you, I’ll give you a FREE excerpt of my first novel, The Wind Thief!

I look forward to hearing from you!