Meet the Author

Although it seems counter intuitive, readers are primarily interested in the author after which they’ll read their books. An author could, for example, write prolifically yet have readers want to know intimate details about them. Readers, I’ve come to understand, long for this intimate knowledge combined with an emotional rapport with the author. It’s that “special bond” that lets readers know you’re human and that you care—about them and the world around you, generally speaking.

Let me tell you a bit about myself

When I was a teenager, I read Dr. Wayne Dyer’s book, Manifest Your Destiny. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I already mentioned this. Although I’m repeating myself, I’d like to tell you more about my discovery now.

I read the book in a secret hiding place: our home’s verandah, where all the unused yet accumulated clutter was stored. I chose the verandah because I didn’t want anyone to know I was reading such a book. That’s because, on some level, I knew that what the book said was extremely powerful and that, provided one believed, it could happen. I remember squatting, surrounded by messiness (an old bicycle, my enormous, stuffed Clifford toy), staring at the book’s cover with its yellow hue and smiling author who mesmerized me. I looked at a then younger version of Dr. Dyer wondering, “Who is this man who knows such things?”

After reading the book, I promptly forgot all about it and proceeded to do all of the things (read, societally approved and expected behaviour) that everyone does. The idea, though, that manifesting one’s destiny was possible, however, remained planted somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind. It didn’t fade away. It remained for future reference.

As a teenager reading Dr. Dyer’s book, the idea that I could write books which would be distributed and sold all over the planet arose in my mind. It was probably too much for me to absorb, then, which is why I blocked it out.

There’s a time for everything

In the same way that we can’t force a flower to bloom, we can’t make an idea germinate before its time. Forcing something before its time can have counter productive, not to say disastrous, effects.

Dream time book planet

Image courtesy of dreamtime.

How to Write When You Have Zero Time

Today was a wonderful day because I wrote two more chapters for SD: HTLTLYL (abbreviated).

For the past month, my life has been a blur. I’ve been on the go virtually nonstop, performing as if I were a robot instead of a person. I barely had time for grooming let alone writing. Having said that, how can one write when one has no time?

Out of the country and on the road, it seems as if I have zero time. Yet, the moment came when, all of a sudden, in a burst of inspiration, I knew that two more chapters—yes, the more or less predictable two—had arrived.

I wrote. They were good chapters, made sense and seemed to emerge spontaneously. And they were related to the experiences I’d been having.

Writing comes naturally

The honest truth is that I wasn’t able to write until today. During a quiet moment, I knew that the words had arrived. It was almost as if they’d waited until this very moment. The words knew that I was too busy to pen them and had waited. They’d waited somewhere in the misty world where words wait for authors. It’s a space that exists somehwere beyond where I will ever know. Nevertheless, this space exists and it holds onto words until the right moment.

Availability

The words arrived at the very moment when I became available to receive them. The words somehow knew that my busyness had come to a temporary halt, and they came. It’s almost as if they asked, “Would you like two more chapters now?”

Perfect progression

The two chapters for the e-book SD: HTLTLYL, an e-book about which I’d had zero time to think about, came as a natural progression to where I’d left off. I did not have to remember or figure out anything, the words just came and made perfect sense.

Like a computer program

If, as authors, we make ourselves available, the words we’ve been waiting for will come. I know this to be true because I experienced it. I would describe it as a computer program that is made to generate books, too many to count. Each book is there, waiting in line, waiting for its turn to emerge from the “waiting room.” The words, paragraphs and chapters are ready, just waiting for me to record them.

When inspiration strikes

Inspiration knows when to come. It comes when there’s an opening; when you, the author, have a free moment. That’s when it comes. Your job is to “listen” and write down the words.

This is how to write when you have zero time.

Painted Mountain II

“Painted Mountain II” Photographer: Luba Rascheff

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.

 

 

 

On Inspiration vs. Struggling to Write

I finished a short book, 101GNOA (abbreviated), and am working on 101GNOA, 2. I find that when I have a book in ready format (for Amazon, Kindle, for example), it’s very easy to expand upon what has already been written. You’ll be hearing more about these two, little power-punching books in about five months from now or so once they clear copyright.

Although some may disagree, for me personally, inspiration is the key to good writing. Without inspiration, I don’t believe that I would be able to offer readers memorable material.

There is a certain humanity to Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth that has stayed with me over the years. I can’t say the same for the multitude of novels I’ve read, some written by well-known authors. This speaks volumes about an inexplicable quality that has so much more to do with the soul than an ability to mechanistically assemble carefully crafted sentences  like car parts in a factory.

What is it, therefore, that makes one story—or parts thereof—stick to one’s memory and others slip away into oblivion?

Research and critical thinking

Combined with inspiration is research and critical thinking. When inspiration comes—and count your blessings when it does—you’ll need to structure it in such a way as to make sense. There must be cohesion and it must fit inside a larger context. In other words, it’s got to make sense; and I’m not just talking about the plot, names of characters, event sequence, color cordination, etc. I’m referring to meaning that goes beyond syntax, grammar, spelling, plot, paragraph formation, suspense and conclusion.

The flow

When I write and feel inspired, there is a ‘flow’ that starts which can be likened to a flowing stream of water. Momentum builds up and content ‘pours’ out of me. This is the kind of inspiration that writers should aspire for. Why? Why should we be inspired at all? I believe that writers for whom it is the case should stop struggling in order to express themselves.

The big secret is that writing can and should be a lot easier than it’s made out to be, provided you’re inspired.

 

Working versus struggling

To say that one must struggle in order to produce memorable content is a myth.

Doing research for, say, a historical novel—I’ve done this and can speak to it—constitutes work but doesn’t represent a struggle. Struggling is when we must exert effort in order to say something.

Uplifting oneself toward inspiration

To be inspired one has to seek inspiration or, at the very least, be open to  receive it. When inspiration ‘knocks’ at the door, it’s up to you to open it.

Inspiration will come, but it won’t come all the time. That’s because it isn’t humanly possible to be inspired at all times. It is, however, within the realm of possibility to be inspired some of the time.

Whatever its frequency, inspiration is the source of memorable content that makes an impact and changes lives.

May you be inspired!

Inspiration image

 

 

On Writing and Immortalization

There’s a famous author whose name I can’t recall. Prior to attaining fame, he holed himself up in an attic with the intention of writing the ultimate novel. He sat in his attic room, at his desk, for one month staring at a blank sheet of paper unable to write anything at all. He couldn’t pen a single word.

The young man left the attic room and started traveling. He had experiences that moved and changed him. It was only then that he was able to write the novel he had tried to start prematurely in vain. He realized that, without life experience, without having felt anything, he had nothing to say. The aspiring author had been a blank slate needing to be filled.

It is only after reading much, living much, analyzing much and practising the art of writing much that we are able to, with few words, say things that are meaningful and have the potential to influence readers. Anything prior to that represents crude attempts at expression that could be likened to a Neanderthal trying to recite Shakespeare.

Frozen in time

Writers possess a unique gift: we can freeze time. Writing enables us to take situations and immortalize them. And, by immortalizing situations, we ultimately immortalize ourselves. We leave behind us a body of works that can be read again and again, works that speak to those lived events that changed us and have the capacity to change others.

At the right time

There’s a time for everything and this includes producing a literary work. As much as people extol motivation, the best creations are produced through inspiration. In the same way that the now-famous author sat at his attic desk staring at a blank sheet of paper for one month lacked inspiration, we who lack inspiration should leave our ‘attic room’ and head for the proverbial trail.

In slow motion

Writing about the events that ‘fill our slates’ and civilize us is a lifelong proposition. It has everything to do with maintaining the determination to put pen to paper and tell our story. And it has nothing to do with lacking inspiration.

You will become immortal through your writings

One of the hardest things for a seasoned author to do is to move from writing fiction to writing non-fiction. I can attest to this because it happened to me in 2008. It is precisely this, however, that will catapult you into immortality. It is the step that authors fear most yet must take in order to move into another sphere.

The late Maria Zaousi, a well-known, Greek author and friend, talked to me about how she moved from writing fiction to fact. She told me that it was one of the most liberating decisions she’d ever made.

Maria was a very generous person. I was living in Athens at the time. In Europe, heating systems start working at fixed dates regardless of what the weather is like. It became very cold very soon and my cousin George’s apartment was freezing. Maria generously gave my cousin and I a large amount of firewood to warm ourselves.

This happened in 2001, but I still remember Maria’s words.

Rest in peace, Maria, and may your works continue to be read.

The Sphinx

Image title: “Wealth, power and desired immortality: monuments and tombs (Sphinx and Pyramid).

Image source: http://www.oubey.com

 

 

 

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.

 

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

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

How to Use Amazon’s Createspace

If you’ve written a book in, say, Microsoft Word and have proofread it, properly formatted it, and have a title page, copyright page, introduction, table of contents and distinct chapters, you are essentially ready to roll for Createspace.

Although a variety of trim sizes (i.e., book sizes) are available, I recommend selecting the 6” x 9” setting, B & W. Why this trim size?, you may ask. Choosing a 6” x 9” trim size will ensure that your book is fit for most distribution channels. Your title will be exposed to more potential customers hence increasing your chance of being discovered and read.

Once your book is in its most perfect form possible and you have zero spelling and grammar errors, go to the Createspace website and, if you haven’t already done so, open an account. Select the “add new title” option. You don’t need to worry about buying an ISBN; Createspace will automatically assign one for you if that’s what you choose.

The secret is, once logged on and moving through the process, to find the link that leads to Createspace’s interior templates. Download the 6” x 9” template to your computer. Copy and paste your ready book into the template. Visually check that the pages are numbered sequentially; that your chapters are correctly numbered; that your headers alternate between your name and book’s title appropriately; and that you are completely satisfied with how the book appears. The template will ensure that your book’s margins, fonts, pagination and other settings satisfy Createspace requirements. If you’re careful, patient and thorough, this will save you time later. Export the file as a PDF and upload to Createspace.

After you’ve inputed the book’s title, have selected an ISBN, category, and successfully uploaded the book’s interior to Createspace, you’re now ready to create the cover.

In the same way that Createspace offers the right template for your book’s interior, Createspace has a cover creator. The creator comes with a variety of styles to choose from as well as images. If you choose an image from Createspace, make sure to read the fine print about what doing so entails. Alternatively, you can upload one of your own images. The steps you’ll need to complete while using the cover creator are: Theme, Title, Subtitle (if applicable), Author, Front Cover Image (yours or one offered by Createspace), Author Photo (optional), Publisher Logo (optional), Back Cover Text and Background Color. Createspace will take care of the bar code for you.

I enjoyed uploading my own image and experimenting with different styles and colors offered by the cover creator.

After completing the above, Createspace will suggest that you use its interior reviewer. I highly recommend that you do so. If you haven’t embedded your text, do not worry. Createspace will do it for you.

Createspace offers a range of distribution channels. The more channels you select, the more exposure your title will receive. I personally selected the minimum price threshold for my book (generated by Createspace) since this guarantees the lowest possible price for my readers.

Once you’ve finished, you’ll be prompted to submit your file for review. You’ll receive an e-mail within 24 hours with further instructions. In my case, I was congratulated, told that my file was printable, and asked to do a final review which I did.