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A Short Example of Travel Writing
I spent the past 50 years traveling from one end of the earth to another. Beginning in 2012 in a little town in East Texas with a population of just over 700, I’ve since lived in Asia, Africa, Europe, Central America, and have visited every continent except Antarctica. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve effectively circumnavigated the earth – between 2006 and 2009, for instance, I flew an average of 200,000 miles per year, including multiple trips to Western Europe, East and Southeast Asia, South America, and Russia. I think South Dakota is the only U.S. state I’ve never visited.
So, it becomes a bit difficult to describe the furthest I’ve ever traveled from home, because home has changed location almost every year for me until I retired from public service last year and more or less settled in suburban Maryland, just outside DC, to write, consult, and speak full time from a fixed base of operations. No single trip stands out as being the farthest. They’ve all been far in one way or another – either in distance traveled, or cultural change experienced. There is, though, one trip that stands out as probably the oddest.
When I lived in Zimbabwe, in southern Africa, I was asked to attend two conferences that were taking place in the same week. The problem is, one was in Cape Town, South Africa and the other was in Copenhagen, Denmark, and it was in December. It took some juggling, but my travel office figured out how to make it happen. So, on a warm December day, I left Harare, Zimbabwe and flew to Cape Town, where the weather was also balmy. I got up the next day and attended the meetings. When they were finished, I rushed to the airport and took off for Denmark, arriving in Copenhagen around midday the next day. I was greeted by ice hanging from eaves and piles of snow all over the place. Me and my two suitcases (yes, I had to pack one for warm weather and one for cold) survived the trip, though, and I now have the bragging rights of traveling from near the bottom to near the top of the world in one day. That’s a trip that’s not only far, but far out.
August 2016 – Marketing Your Book is Like a Trip to the Dentist
Make no mistake about it, writing; serious writing; is hard work. After deciding what to write, you struggle with how to most effectively express it in words, sentences, and paragraphs. When you plotted, planned, and shaped those words, you then have to face the daunting task of re-writing and editing to make sure you’ve expressed yourself in the best possible way.
If you think, after you’ve done all that, the job is done; stop, have a cup of coffee and listen up. The job’s just started. Unless you’re writing merely for your personal amusement, you want to be read, and that means you have to take the next step – and, it’s a big one. You have to get what you’ve written in front of readers, and hopefully keep it there long enough for them to read and enjoy it.
That’s right; I’m talking about the m-word. Like trips to the dentist, marketing your writing is unpleasant and uncomfortable, but ultimately necessary if you’re to succeed in this line of work we call writing. There’s that ‘work’ word again.
There are a number of ways to market your books. Social media, public engagements, ads, are all ways to get your efforts in front of an audience and, hopefully, create a buzz about it that leads to more readers and more sales.
One method that has generated a lot of comment and controversy of late is using give-aways as a means of promoting your writing. Some writers swear by it, while others swear at it, and vehemently avoid it. After all, the second group maintains, if your work is free it will be seen as having no value.
Before enlisting in this group, though, I recommend you think about it for a while. It might seem counter-intuitive, but offering people something for free can be a way to get them to buy. Big stores do it, and successfully. My own experience with this form of marketing offers a look at some of the advantages of this method.
Like many, I was reluctant at first. My thought was; I’ve worked long and hard on this book, why should I just give it away? But, I’m always up for trying something new, so I decided to give it a go.
Most of my books are available on Amazon in Kindle version, and the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program enables an author who enrolls a book to offer it free for a designated period, provided it is exclusive to the program during the free period. You can get the details of the program at the KDP link, but here’s how it’s worked for me.
I do two series; a western/historical fiction series about the Buffalo Soldiers, and a mystery series. I dipped my feet in the water by offering a couple of my mysteries free for the five-day period. Each time, there were hundreds of downloads (primarily in the US market, with a few in the UK). There were no big upticks in sales, but I did notice that whenever I offered one book in the series free, there were modest sales of all the other titles. I then decided to try it with the Buffalo Soldier series, which were just beginning to catch on. The first couple of times, sales went up moderately each time for each book in the series, but nothing to write home about.
Then, in May 2013, I released the fifth book in the series, Buffalo Soldier: Renegade. After two weeks of lackluster sales, I decided to try a free promotion. During the five-day promotion, there were nearly 400 downloads, mainly in the US market, but it was the two week period following the promotion that opened my eyes. In addition to another 400 sales of that title, readers purchased 5 to 10 copies per week of each of the other titles. My royalty revenue for that month was over $800, which isn’t a bad return for a loss leader.
That wasn’t the end of it, either. The next book in the series, Buffalo Soldier: Escort Duty was released in September. I waited a week and then offered it free. There were 336 downloads during a short three-day period, and then the week after it ended, sales of that title were approaching the 200 mark, and again, 5 to 10 copies per week of each of the five preceding titles. Revenue thus far is nearing the $500 mark, and it has even generated sales of the paperback versions of each.
Maybe offering free books is not for everyone, but I’m sold on this as an effective marketing tool. It’s not the only one, and if you don’t have a large number of books on your backlist, it might not be worth the effort. But, it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. It hasn’t hurt the value of my books. I continue to get fairly decent reviews on Amazon, and repeat readers who are willing to shell out money to read them, so until I experience a drop in sales I will continue to do what entrepreneurs in other sectors do, and do quite successfully.
It’s time again to travel our fascinating world to look at yet another architectural marvel, that being the Shore Temple overlooking the Bay of Bengal in the state of Tami Nadu in India. This marvel of design was constructed out of blocks of granite, intricately cut and shaped, beginning in the year 700 and extending to about 728 AD. The designer chose a promontory to display his work of art, overlooking the water. Its location became recognized as a landmark for sailors who named it Seven Pagodas; often used for navigation of their ships. Credit for the architectural elegance goes to King Rajasimha. For quite some time, it was suspected that this temple structure stood alone until a Tsunami in December 2004 exposed an old temple built of granite blocks thought to be part of the Seven Pagodas of which 6 remain submerged in the sea. The tsunami also exposed sculptures of elephants, lions, peacocks thought to be used to decorate the temple walls and gardens.
As mythology always interplays in these long-ago-structures, it is said that because of the elegance of the monuments, the gods were jealous and caused floods to occur which submerged most parts of the city.
This pyramidal structure extends 60 feet up into the sky, and is built on a 50 foot square base made of finely cut granite. The roofs have finials on top indicative of its religious functional nature.
Once again, the “what if” theory emerges, in our feeble effort to understand how such a finely designed structure could have possibly been constructed in the year 700, knowing what crude tools were available at that time. We ponder how such heavy chunks of granite could be not only finely cut and shaped, but carved with magnificent figures of people of importance at that time. Then, as the blocks of granite were completed, we cannot help but wonder how they were hoisted higher and higher until they terminate at a height of 60 feet. What is most difficult to understand, is when modern engineers are consulted, who visit these unusual sites, and make careful calculations, they walk away puzzled as to how this and other marvels could possibly have been built. Many of these highly skilled people confess that given the task today, to reconstruct some of these ancient artifacts, it would pose the greatest challenge to their engineering skills, and most would not take on the challenge.
We speculators, of course, have our creative minds to assist us in explaining these phenomena. Those of us who enjoy the “what if” possibilities find it little or no challenge if one has mastered the art of levitation, giving one the ability to move heavy objects in any direction and placed in any position, and who have the aide of laser-cutting equipment to cut stone into any size and shape desired. It is refreshing to wonder and ponder such possibilities, and until it can be proved, positively, how some of these massive structures were built, we can allow our fantasies to run wild. Enjoy any further research you may choose to explore and evaluate this location.
Dr. Willie White
A Restored Nation Through A Spiritual Reawakening
2 Chronicles 7:14
If My people which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
I have brought several messages using today's scripture because there is a need for the healing of this nation and nations around the world. I am please to announce that my fellow believers the world over have been and continues to pray for a healing of the nations.
There have been several news reports reporting that a vast number of Americans praying for a healing. This healing may have been physical in nature. During Jesus' earthly ministry He healed many physical conditions to meet the spiritual need. This principle applies today. God is still healing whether it is physical or spiritual.
Many prayer warriors who are making intercessory prayers do so often. The practice of praying for healing whether for self or others denote that the prayer and the person being prayed for recognize there is a higher power who knows all, sees all and can do all. His name is Jesus.
Whether praying for a physical or a spiritual healing; God is true to His word. He asks us to pray, change our ways and then He will hear, forgive and heal this land.
It is worth noting that as more people recognize the power of prayer and continue praying for the healing of our nation(s) the result will be A Restored Nation through a Spiritual Reawakening.
A restoration is coming; God is getting our attention through the forces of nature.
A World Gone Wrong
What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they (we) are all under sin.
While praying for peace and comfort for all those affected by the wave of violence that took center stage over the past few days I pondered what to write for today's message; the Holy Spirit gave me the above topic which is this quarter's Sunday school topic.
We all are affected one way or another by the constant stream of violence that is being played out before our eyes. This is not of God. I say this because we all are linked together through God's Spirit the Holy Spirit. He breathed the breath of life into each of us and we became a living soul. One is no better than the other regardless of our race, nationality, creed, color and gender. All humanity is God's creation and He created us equally.
These questions come to mind, who are we to take another person's life? Who are we to say that one person is better than someone else? Who made anyone judge, jury and executioner of another? God is the only righteous judge and He will judge the world of its sins just as He did before sending His Son Jesus to atone the world of its sins. Today's sin and sinful acts will not escape God's judgment.
That said, what this world needs is more love. We are commanded to love one another and to treat one another as thyself. Keep in mind, God loves us all and we are to emulate God's love by loving everyone. I could ask, how did we loose that loving feeling? Is it because in today's society we are more focused on status and or nationality of a person rather than the person himself? Whatever the reason remember, we all are created equal in the eyes of God and will be judged accordingly.
Let me close by encouraging all to live and let live; give love and receive love; we are all one in Christ.
Comments are welcomed
The Figure in the Carpet
What’s the Figure in your Carpet?
C’mon, you know what I mean. I’m not talking about whether you write science fiction or paranormal romances or historical thrillers or outright smut. All this is related, of course, but I’m talking about something finer and more subtle. Something you have to search for and peer at. Something that’s staring you right in the face but is concealed by the fanciful design of your words or by paths you too often have travelled.
Your personal Figure is as essential to you as your soul and the way you walk. Only it involves the distinctive way you write and even the way you think about the way you write. It’s your personal style, part of the filter through which you process the world.
The Figure in the Carpet is a composite of many things. Some can be as delicate and small as a tendency to overuse a certain word or phrase. Plain speaking Ernest Hemingway believed you should do things “truly,” and William Faulkner loved solemn words like “avatar” and “repudiate.” The Figure in the Carpet can also involve larger, more significant patterns such as your basic writing style and the lengths of your sentences. Also, specific themes and images you use over and over again. If you’re typical, you have many quirks. Some of them are strengths, some of them weaknesses. Whatever they are, they are precise fingerprints of your mind, which differ from all others.
What’s my point? I suggest if you can detect the Figure in your psychic Carpet and recognize it for what it is, that you not only can (1) develop a better understanding of yourself as a writer and person, but (2) improve the quality of your writing and story-making.
Let’s use me as a guinea pig.
Recently, an editor for one of my novels pointed out I overuse “but,” “that,” “then,” and “and then” throughout. Now, if I had used the “Find” feature on my PC, I could have spotlighted those habits and corrected them in advance. However, to do that, I at least have to suspect the precise nature of the problems in the first place. But, uh, thanks to her, I’m now on guard, especially when it comes to beginning a sentence with “But.”
A minor problem? No, the devil is often in the details. While overusing a conjunction once may not be a cardinal offense, excessive repetition can become a serious irritant, undermining the effectiveness of your prose and damaging your prospects for a sale.
To mention one more example in this area, my editor also said I don’t use contractions enough, e.g., preferring ‘he had’ for ‘he’d.’ A picky point? No, for too many ‘he hads’ can slow your style and make it seem stuffy. Ultimately, these and other weaknesses are not just cosmetic considerations. They weaken the way you think and express yourself and need to be recognized for what they are.
Okay, let’s consider a larger part of the Figure in my personal Carpet, a main part of the design rather than a minor thread. In my novels, I like to focus on the Hero or Heroine as savior and as messiah. In Beyond Those Distant Stars, only Stella McMasters, a cyborg, can save the human race from alien annihilation. More recently, in Alien Dreams and Dax Rigby, War Correspondent, we also have saviors. Both are painted in cosmic, spiritual colors and upon their shoulders the fate of billions depends.
Okay, nothing wrong with this. Superheroes, as good old Joe Campbell would tell you, have a thousand faces, and many novels, movies, TV programs and the like depend on superheroes to save humanity in one way or another. But these two particular heroes—
Eric Latimore in Alien Dreams and Dax Rigby in Dax Rigby—strenuously resist the notion they are special and that their destiny involves a divine or cosmic mission.
Now I was aware of this thematic pattern and that Latimore and Rigby closely resembled each other in some ways. However, I viewed them as variations on each other, sufficiently different to warrant their mutual existence. When I went over the galleys for Dax Rigby, though, I found a character tries to convince our hero of his great role with the same words used by an earlier character to Eric Latimore:
“Don’t you know who you are? Don’t you know who you’ve always been?”
Whoa. Too similar for comfort. When I wrote Dax Rigby, I was not aware of this parallel, of the fact that I have a character repeat what a character in another universe previously said.
Is this a weakness or a justified variation on a theme? Perhaps it’s the latter, but one thing’s for sure: I must not do it a third time. My point, again, is that writers need to be aware of the infrastructure of their stories and novels, of the perils involved in repetition. The Figure in our Carpet exists whether we see it or not, and perceiving it enables us to know more fully who and what we are as writers and to accentuate strengths and avoid weaknesses.
One last point: probably the major theme in my fiction is transformation in all its imaginable permutations. A woman contracts a deadly, horribly disfiguring disease which makes all her friends shun her, and in the end she turns into—a radiantly beautiful, angelic creature. In other stories, humans become aliens, or emerge like butterflies from a miraculous chrysalis. Sometimes the transformation is psychological or spiritual and involves a sea change of attitude rather than form.
Obviously, this theme is a broad, worthy one, and I’m deeply fascinated by it. But how much is too much? No matter how resourceful and inventive I am, do I run the risk of being a one-trick pony and limiting my scope? Either way, it’s something I must at least be aware of.
So, gentle reader, as I asked before, what is the Figure in your Carpet? While it’s difficult to be objective and self-analytical, it’s still something we must do.
Here’s an assignment: Sit down and make a list of ten distinguishing traits of your writing. They can be small, concerned with word choice and punctuation, or they can be large, such as repetitive themes and character types, or a tendency to telegraph your endings. Or those traits can fall somewhere in the middle, like a tendency of your heroes to dream or share similar gestures, facial expressions, or mannerisms. Whatever they might be, your task is to recognize them and determine if they are assets or liabilities.
If it helps, pick up one of your stories or novels and read it as if you were a customer in a bookstore, whether virtual or brick-and-mortar. Put yourself in the Carpet objectively and try to see the Figure in the depths of your own mind.
When my mind is blurry, and my spirit is wounded, and I need you to come to me
with love and kindness
I lean in
When my heart is hurting
my head in pain
am I sane?
or do I just wait
for the day to pass
so my heart smiles, sings and my legs
dance to the new day
I read this poem today, and since I've been running, I thought I would simply share it with you instead of writing a column. Forgive me.
SUZANNE'S Health Column
Normalcy – a past life, but there is a future
Hello and welcome. Over recent months I’ve received a number of questions, too many to answer in one column so for the next few months I will be addressing issues which have been raised. This will be in a general way rather than answering specific questions. Please remember that: what works for one person may not be the best approach for another; I’m not qualified to answer medical queries; and these are my opinions based on my experiences and observations.
I have been asked how did I begin to deal with my illness in such a positive way, and did I simply just change my attitude toward it?
Short answer to the second part – no, my attitude evolved and still evolves. A feeling of isolation and aloneness can exist even with excellent support (which I am lucky enough to have). I’ll give you a bit of background. This should have helped me but …
In what seems to be a previous lifetime i.e. before 2007 I studied and taught various aspects of energy balancing – tai chi, chi kung, meditation (lots of different types which I will expand upon in a future column), Body Harmony ™, Reiki, psychic/spiritual medium, and developed my own techniques for rebalancing energies. Research was a strong component of my life. Life was a good balance. Then a couple of incidents happened following which, in addition to coping with intense pain, I was embarrassed and humiliated – not to say at a loss for words when told “you’re a healer, you work with energy, why can’t you heal yourself?”!!! Why couldn’t I??? It didn’t help that one of the cognitive symptoms was that my mind was wiped of any connection to that life. It was as though what I had been doing for 20+ years never existed.
I suppose the first ‘turning point’ was late 2010 when my daughter gave me a blank paged book in my favourite colour, purple, with its own pen. I had a box of ‘fairy’ cards – pretty pictures, a title/thought, and an affirmation. I’d shuffle and ask for a card to drop out (sometimes one, sometimes more would drop). Perhaps it was the colour, the image or part of it, perhaps the words – whatever I saw first I’d write that down into my book. That book only ever carried the positive. There was enough ‘absolute negative’ (and I’m not going to expand on that here) happening and surrounding me that the nice words in this book became a relief to read.
Regaining control. I don’t know whether or not my health will be fully restored, I hope it is. An evolving management plan which takes into account the, sometimes tiny, changes is what is important to me. It takes determination, finding a way that is realistic for me. I’ve also found developing with my specialist an acute episode management plan has pushed the ‘what-if’ away from continual concern.
Learning to deal with illness in a positive way is a long slow process, but don’t be discouraged. Because of the trigger to sound I can’t escape a downward spiral or one step forward two steps back. However, I recently came across a wonderful picture which showed the figure at the top of the steps holding the placard ‘failure’ and word on the bottom step … success. Yes! I like it, totally spinning a positive on a normally fraught reality.
So until next month I look forward to hearing from you about this and anything else you’d like to share with me, to share with all of you.
There are four basic types of paragraphs—descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative, and they serve to do exactly what their names imply.
Descriptive paragraphs should create a dominant impression for the reader based on description, whether you do it by appealing to the five senses, or by showing the actions of characters or the relations of items to other items, or any combination thereof.
It would be unusual to write an entire composition using only descriptive paragraphs, because they are by nature static. In order to move the action forward, you need to include narrative paragraphs.
Narrative paragraphs tell the reader about events, usually in the order in which they occurred. It is desirable to show your reader certain events than to merely tell about them. Narration involves scenes. Think of your paragraphs as scenes in a video or movie. One writing coach I had insisted that each writer use an actor with whom she is familiar so as to envision the video playing out in her mind as she writes. It’s a really effective tool. I knew that I envisioned my characters as I wrote them, but when I actually placed specific actors in the scenes, they became more real to me.
Expository paragraphs explains what is going on. It explains the significance of the narration and description.
Argumentative paragraphs asks for action or adoption by the reader of the writer’s opinion. What the writer is trying to accomplish in each paragraph determines what kind you want to write.
Putting your paragraphs in their places depends on their function. Opening paragraphs usually contain a shocking statement, rhetorical question, or interesting quotation.
Anecdotal paragraphs contain brief stories, often used in openings and closings.
Transitional paragraphs contain and link two ideas. Ending or closing paragraphs provide resolution and returning in some way to the opening.
I recently attended a really great writer’s workshop at Texas A&M University. The writing coach I mentioned earlier gave a great lecture on opening pages. I’m going to talk about that next month. She really gave us writing tools that we could use in all of our works in progress.
I can be reached at: [email protected]. I am available to work with you on parts of or entire manuscripts. I hope to hear from you soon!