A New E-book for Modern Life

After writing for so many years, it becomes hard to stop.

So, continuing with this addictive habit that I can’t seem to give up, I just finished seven, short chapters for SD: HTLTLYL (abbreviated). I don’t think that it will take me very long to finish this e-book since I’m feeling quite inspired. It will, by the way, be published under my real name.

What I don’t say in the introduction is that the title was inspired from a chapter in one of my pseudonymous works. It was a particular something, a je ne sais quoi that, apparently, made a huge impression on me which, unbeknownst to me, would, in and of itself, turn into an entire e-book. I wonder if this ever happened to someone else.

The process

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve been, and continue to be, inspired when writing this e-book.

I get the feeling that a couple of chapters are ready to be ‘hatched,’—and yes, it seems to be coming in spurts of two chapters at a time which leaves the odd, first chapter which came unhitched—place myself in a comfortable position, and write. I’ve been writing on 8 1/2 ” x 11″ sheets of paper, what is commonly known as regular paper, using a ballpoint pen and later transcribing the content into my laptop and saving on USB flash drives.

Ballpoint pen image

A ballpoint pen.

Less is more

To say that the chapters are brief is an understatement. They are, indeed, very brief. And, in all their brevity, pack a punch. This is because, inspiration aside, the more I write the more I come to believe that the lower the word count, the more power is contained in the material.

Brevity

An image referring to brevity.

I fully recognize that saying this is controversial and goes against the grain. It flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says you have to ‘pack it in’ and do ‘lots of rewrites.’ I completely understand since I used to (prior to 2008) believe and practice this approach. Not any more. Now I know, experientially, that it’s not a matter of writing and re-writing, but of being inspired and keeping it short. Please understand that editing is a given and can be practiced ad infinitum toward the perfection of a work.

I’ve heard of an author who writes one book every ten years. She makes sure that every word is correct and that all of her ideas are perfectly expressed. This is in fact rare, though, because most authors produce one book per year and most publishers expect this to be the case. Prolific authors who can’t ‘kick the habit,’ produce more than one title per year. Publishers, this the cue for you to rub your hands now.

Modern life

If you think about it, everything in our modern lives involves reduction and efficiency. Cars are becoming smaller, houses more ergonomic, Tesla electric cars are replacing gas guzzlers, condos are being preferred over houses, electronic communications are replacing handwritten forms of expression and the post office as we know it may soon disappear (never mind home delivery). Written communications are becoming shorter and today’s winners are those who can tell ‘sticky’ stories in a nutshell.

modern life

An image of modern life.

On Twitter, we microblog. We are given 140 characters (I should say ‘were given’ because of a change in how URLs are counted. Click here for details.)

On Pinterest, we pin images to boards with, hopefully, the briefest of cutlines, that speak volumes. It’s just that people don’t have the patience or the time for more. But if, as they say, an image is worth a thousand words then, ironically, this is the platform on which we are expressing more than anyone can ever imagine.

What about blog posts? They are regular novels these days! If reading a 140-character tweet is taxing, then reading a 400 to 600-word blog post may put us over the edge.

I am, of course, being facetious. Rest assured that in spite of what everybody says, people still read books that contain between eighty and a hundred thousand words—the expected length of a novel.

 

 

 

Let Us Revive Deep Thinking

I just read an insightful article called 7 Social Media Trends by Patricia Redsicker which states that blogging is expected to be the “biggest area for increase” for social media marketers. The problem, though, according to the article, is that many companies fear expressing an opinion, something that does not increase traffic to their blog.

Too many businesses are stuck in this ‘grey area’ where they’re so afraid of having an opinion at all because they want to please everyone. As a result their blogs stink and they don’t get any traction.—Epic Content Marketing, (p. 62).

Having said that, I decided to tell you what I think about deep thinking.

The fast pace at which we’re moving today; the fact that hours seem to go by like seconds; and the constantly changing social media environment saturated with content to which we are constantly subject make it difficult if not impossible to do deep thinking.

In past centuries, people had time to leisurely consider what they read and were able to both comprehend and analyze a text, book or article. People used pen and paper to express themselves and letters sometimes took months to reach their destination. Today, it’s expected that we zoom through life and manage our social media accounts like a juggler juggling 5 or 7 balls and produce quality content, too. I’m afraid that this kind of pace and speed cannot produce quality. It will, instead, produce quickly-thought-out, shallow output that will soon be forgotten.

But, Luba, how can I make time for deep thinking?

I understand that designating time to think deeply about what you’re exposed to can be challenging. Consider, though, what you’ll lose if you don’t. You won’t be able to:

  • Understand the root of the matter
  • Know where things are headed
  • Discern whether what’s being promoted is temporary or lasting
  • Understand trends, marketing or other
  • Sift between what is trivial and what is meaningful
  • Write a compelling story
  • Make a lasting impression
  • Enhance your brand and,
  • Make people remember you.

Purposefully take time out to think things through

If you set a time aside each day to consider either what you read or what you write, this mental activity—deep thinking—will help you put things in perspective and bring much clarity.

It’s not about randomly reading texts and regurgitating. It’s about reading select posts, e-books, books and articles toward which you feel a pull and taking the time to really understand what is being said.

People are looking for substance

I secretly suspect that, in the sea of trivia in which we swim, people are actually looking for meaning. They are, I believe, tired of the same old same old and hunger for tangible realities that will enhance their lives.

Doing deep thinking will help us both understand content and create original content which offers just that.

Le Penseur - Rodin

Image title: “Le Penseur” by Rodin.

Article Source: 7 Social Media Trends for Marketers: New Research by Patricia Redsicker.

 

The Secret to Success in Social Media

Do you want to be more successful on social media? Perhaps you’d like to increase the number of your Facebook friends or gain more Pinterest and Twitter followers?

Giving is receiving

A golden rule to success on social media is to be generous. Don’t hesitate to click “like” if you really like something or post a brief and succinct comment where appropriate. Emoticoms are important, too, because they encapsulate many thoughts and emotions in a single image. Using them appropriately and effectively will increase your popularity.

Play by the rules

Not everyone plays by the rules; but if you do, you’ll be appreciated and sought after even more. When you post–and this applies to virtually all social media settings–be positive. Say things and/or choose images that are uplifting. There is enough bad news out there; why don’t you be a harbinger of good news.

Be engaging

If you have something to say, make sure that it’s timely, contemporary and interesting. People have very little time as it is, so don’t waste their time with nonsense. At the end of the day, we are all looking for something that we can add to our how-to-live-a-better-more-fulfilling-and-happier-life tool kit.

Don’t be sarcastic

We all have moments when we want to reply sarcastically to what someone says (in general or to us specifically). This is because it might sound stupid or rub us the wrong way.  Avoid this temptation by being nice or saying nothing instead. In the psychologist’s dictionary, sarcasm is a mask for sadness. Better to process the feeling and move on. It’s not true that what we say on social media doesn’t affect others because it’s the Internet and, hence, “not real;” on the contrary, what we say could have implications beyond which we are able to comprehend.

Be careful

This is why we need to be careful about what we say. Online publishing–whether it be e-books, group posts, tweets or pins–must be treated with care. You may want to ask yourself before you write something, Do I really want to say this? This simple question may save you much heartache later.

Enjoy yourself

In spite of the above caveats, you can and should enjoy yourself when you’re navigating the world of social media. By all means relax, feel good about yourself, and unabashedly say what you must bearing in mind that your words will be read more than once.

Social guru

When you feel completely self-confident, know who you are, what you’re about, whom you serve, and why you exist, you’ll be able to blog, post, write, pin and tweet flawlessly. This is the secret to increasing your following on social media.

For more on this topic, see my blog post, The 5 Golden Rules to Success in Social Media.

Success

Image credit: http://www.phildrolet.com/the-new-and-improved-definition-of-success/

PhilDrolet.com

The Perfect Storm

In her music video, Dark Horse (Official, ft. Juicy J), Katy Perry plays four roles: Cleopatra, the woman on the barge; Isis, the woman on the pharaonic throne; the ascending “Snake Woman”; and the Messenger atop the pyramid.

Overlooking its entirely charming kitsch, Dark Horse is highly symbolic and worthy of our attention.

The perfect storm is the final battle between the elemental, oppositional forces of the universe

The crescendo beat of the song ratchets up the tension of what is inevitable:  the perfect storm.

The opulent luxury of the royal palace, the fawning servants, electric-blue, palace guards and mesmerizing, scintillating, colorful, crystal–the “perfect” gift–will all be marred by the approaching storm. As go the lyrics,

So, you want to play with magic

Boy, you should know what you’re falling for

Observe how Isis examines the gift with the Eye of Horus, the third eye that sees beyond the material, three-dimensional world. As she smiles, peering into the crystal, we hear the lyrics,

Are you ready for, ready for

A perfect storm, perfect storm

The Sphinx speaks

“There’s no going back,” says the Sphinx. The Sphinx is talking about the inevitability of the clash between raw, universal forces that are in opposition.

Observe that immediately after the Spinx speaks, the Snake Woman appears in the arms of the ancient Egyptian gods, gods who the ancient Sumerians called Anunnaki–those sent from above.

This scene in the music video, in a muted gray, refers to Isis/Cleopatra “ascending” into a higher-dimensional reality, the realm of the gods.

That’s why, at this point, Isis chews on gems. In a crude way, she’s “tasting” the fruits of paradise.

The Snake Woman sings,

Mark my words,

This love will make you levitate, like a bird, like a bird without a cage

A bird without a cage represents a soul that’s been freed.

The Messenger

The next key point in the video is when we see the Messenger atop the giant pyramid. She sings,

So you want to play with magic

Boy, you should know what you’re falling for

She’s directing those words at Isis.

Do you dare to do this

‘Cuz I’m coming at you like a dark horse

The Messenger continues singing as she unfolds her pastel-blue wings.

She is a winged messenger recounting the future, the coming of the perfect storm.

Dark Horse

Image credit:  Vevo

Source:  Dark Horse, by Katy Perry.

 

 

 

 

How to tap into Inspiration

Do you ever look at a blank page and can’t seem to write a word? You have no idea at all what to write. You may start with something, struggle, and then, after a while, stop. You may even write several pages and then crumple them up because you feel dissatisfied with what you’ve written.

These are signs that you lack inspiration.

Inspiration, whose origin in Middle English means “divine guidance” and, via the Old French from the late Latin verb “inspirare,” means “breathe or blow into ‘from in-‘into’ + spirare ‘breathe.’ The word was originally used of a divine or supernatural being, in the sense ‘impart a truth or idea to someone.'” 1

Many people today know that by performing breathing exercises they engage in meditation. These kinds of exercises enable people to relax and “tap into” inspiration.

No rush here

If you want to be inspired, the best thing is not to rush. Forcing something will get you nothing but dissatisfaction.  It’s like trying to make a flower grow. A typical flower grows naturally when it’s well rooted in soil and receives enough sunshine and water. The process cannot be rushed. It’s the same way with writing.

Time

I believe that time plays a great role in receiving inspiration. If you can’t seem to come up with something, take a break, relax and drink a cup of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. This will put your mind off of forcing yourself to come up with something. As you relax, over time, thoughts will traverse your mind. One thought will lead to another and, all of a sudden, you’ve come up with an idea for your blog post, chapter or novel!

Enhancement

Although the thoughts will be brief and almost like ‘sparks,’ you then need to enhance them by adding more to what you’ve received. This is where the hard work of writing and editing comes in. You will need to ‘dig’ around the ‘flower’ of your thoughts, clear out the ‘weeds’ and make sure you add plenty of ‘water.’

Nurture your inspiration

The ‘sparks’ you receive need to be nurtured in order to bloom into the beauty that they were always meant to be:  an inspired project. You need to nurture the seeds of inspiration so that they can grow. In many ways, writing a good blog post, chapter or novel is like cooking a great meal. My Aunt Sue says that if you put love into your cooking, the result will be wonderful.  It’s the same way with writing.

Don’t overcook the meal

Adding too many words to a project can be disastrous because your literary inspiration could ‘go up in flames.’  It’s important to say just enough, but no more than what is necessary.

May you be inspired today.

Beautiful Swan

Image title:  “Beautiful Swan”

Photographer:  Luba Rascheff

References

1 Oxford Dictionaries

Bulgarian Urtime

As I settle in Toronto, I’ve been reminiscing about the decade I spent in Bulgaria.

I remember, especially in the beginning, that I wanted to return to the West. I didn’t speak the language and couldn’t understand why things moved so slowly.

My first invitation was to a village feast or, “praznik.” I recall going to a small chapel and sitting on its front stoop with village women. We sat there holding a single flower in our hands for more than an hour with no one uttering a word. I understood then that Bulgarians were people who appreciated and communicated in silence. Later, I gathered why there hadn’t been any men at the feast. The men celebrate “kukeri” or, carnival together. They dress up in animal skins and multi-colored, hand-painted or fur masks and, donning huge cow bells, walk down the middle of the village streets banging on pots. The point of the ritual is to bond as males while making their presence felt via loud noise.

Urtime

Over time, I learned how to speak Bulgarian and began to understand the power of silence.  I got used to watching the street lamps–with their soft, orange, anti-fog glow–contrast with swirling mists of precipitation and allowed my thoughts to slip into infinity, time immemorial or, urtime. I learned that communication happened differently than only with words. I began to feel the draw of silence and the mysteries that enfolded it.

Subterranean tunnels and time capsules

They say that Bulgaria has everything. This includes Noah’s plate (i.e., the plate Noah ate from while traveling in his ark), subterranean tunnels that crisscross the country, and time capsules. The plate is in Varna and the time capsules are at undisclosed locations, waiting for an unknown trigger that will activate them and enable people to make new, never-before-heard-of discoveries that will benefit both Bulgaria and the world.

Vanga

One of Bulgaria’s most well-known psychics was a woman named Baba Vanga 1 which translates as Grandma Vanga. During her youth, she was caught up in a violent windstorm that left her blind. Ever since then, Baba Vanga developed the ability to “see” with an inner vision. Bulgarians from all walks of life would line up and wait for hours to meet with Baba Vanga, born Vangelia Pandeva Dimitrova, for healing and to learn what their future held. Well-known Bulgarian and foreign politicians visited her as well. Vanga had learned how to tap into Bulgarian urtime.

The Noah Plate

Image title and credit:  “The Noah Plate,” Copyright © Dukaty Ltd., 2006

References

1 Baba Vanga

Distribution Channels on Amazon’s CreateSpace

One of the most attractive features offered by CreateSpace, an Amazon.com company and print publishing platform, is its distribution channels. There are six channels and they are all free.

Standard distribution

Selecting Amazon.com “makes your book available to millions of customers on Amazon.com.” Activating Amazon Europe enables you to target websites belonging to Amazon in Europe, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain. And, you can choose to place your book in the CreateSpace online e-store.

Expanded distribution

By selecting Bookstores and Online Retailers, your books will become available to “thousands of major online and offline bookstores and retailers.” Choosing Libraries and Academic institutions will enable you to increase your book’s exposure to “public libraries, elementary and secondary school libraries, and libraries and other academic institutions.” Selecting CreateSpace direct will “make your books available to certified resellers such as independent bookstores and book resellers.”

The more the merrier

Having recently uploaded a third book to CreateSpace, I gladly selected all the distribution channels available. This is because the more distribution channels you choose, the more readers are exposed to your books, and the greater your chance of selling them and earning more royalties.

Networking

According to an article posted by CreateSpaceResources, “Book Marketing: Have you Tapped your Network?” by Maria Murnane, every author has a network that includes: where we went to school, who we share a favorite hobby with, our heritage, and where we’ve worked. It’s important to reach out to our network and tell them that we’ve written a book or books since this is newsworthy, according to Murnane.

From my marketing experience with Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, I can assure you that there is a natural progression to exposure; that a fan base will develop; that readers share with other readers; and that your reading audience will become more and more familiar with your brand.

When readers comment favorably about you or your work, include their comments in the About section on your website called, ‘What people say about [put your name here.]’

In my opinion, it’s not a matter of throwing a lot of money into your efforts. Remember, CreateSpace offers absolutely free distribution channels. It is, rather, a matter of systematically exposing your work and what you’re about to readers. It’s something that you must do every day.

If you select the distribution channels that are made available to you at no cost by CreateSpace and you do your part by networking and marketing appropriately on social media, you will significantly increase book sales, royalties and become known.

Book distribution

Image credit: The Cadence Group, Book Distribution

Accepting Cultural Diversity

Although we hear the occasional horror story about how someone, on account of their race, origin or religious beliefs, is discriminated against, the truth is that globalization (however we view it) is thrusting acceptance upon us.

In Bulgaria, for example, the civil war in Syria resulted in a wave of immigrants from that ravaged country.  Bulgaria, a country of roughly eight million mostly older people, and virtually devoid of population with a 0.6 population growth rate 1, is now facing the prospect of new faces from faraway places (e.g., Syria, Algeria and Russia for example), some of different faiths than the predominant Bulgarian Orthodox religion.

I heard a story in which villagers, all of whom were seniors, pulled out their rifles when they heard that refugees of a different religion would be forcibly settled in their village.  ‘What will happen?’ I asked, deeply concerned about such a violent reaction.  ‘The gendarmerie will become involved.’

Acceptance vs. Resistance

We cannot stop change.  We must accept that there are certain forces at work that are beyond our control.  As hard as it is for some of us to accept that our world has changed and continues to change, from a psychological perspective, acceptance is healthier than resistance.

Breaking the barriers of difference

There are civilized ways of dealing with difference.  Diplomacy, communication, civility, an open mind and a welcoming heart.

A personal example

My family moved from Toronto, Canada to Champaign, Illinois when I was a child.  As a youngster, I did not travel well and do not remember crossing the border on account of the suppository my parents gave me.

It was not a direct route since, first, I graduated from Mrs. Armitage’s kindergarten in Toronto and, later, completed first grade in Madison, Wisconsin.  As soon as we arrived in Champaign, my mother was befriended by the late Eloise Wachala, a poet, who introduced her to the C-U International Women’s Group.  Through this group, Mother met many wonderful women who subsequently became her friends.

This open, welcoming and accepting way is beautiful.  It is the opposite of fear, suspicion and discrimination.  This open, beautiful way is what made America the culturally diverse nation it is today.

After centuries of wars, conquests and oppression, we cannot entirely blame the older Bulgarian villagers for their deep mistrust of foreigners.  We need to keep things in perspective in that regard.  Nevertheless, let us open the door for change by acknowledging that times have changed.  Wars are mostly economic these days and immigrants have much to offer from professional expertise to culinary delights.

Green Nuances

Image title:  ‘Green Nuances.’

Description: On the outskirts of Raduil, Bulgaria.

Photographer:  Luba Rascheff

References

1 Source:  https://www.google.bg/search?q=bulgaria+birth+rate&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&gws_rd=cr&ei=K1Z_UpecD4Tcswb_l4HoCA#q=bulgaria+population+growth+rate&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&stick=H4sIAAAAAAAAAGOovnz8BQMDgz8HjxKHfq6-gaFpYYaWY3aylX5OfnJiSWZ-nn5xCZAuLslMTsyJL0pNBwpZFeQXlOaAZePTi_LLSzLiixJLUuPL84tyUuKTEvOy84_fevNqwT4vt7uxNRMclAXV_nJsBwD9MMUDbAAAAA