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Guest post: Dance to your own rhythm, by Linda Lee Greene

Today I welcome Linda Lee Greene, author of two novels, Guardians and Other Angels, and Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams (co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch), both rated 5 stars on Amazon. Linda has written a wonderful blog about burnout and how she deals with it – something I’m sure we can all relate to. So without further ado, here she is!

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Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Recently I experienced a serious case of burnout, the worst one I’ve encountered in many years.  It was linked to my obsessive online attendance since the release of my latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels in May 2012, a presence calculated almost wholly toward the marketing of my book.  I took to heart the advice of my publicist.  “A lack of a social media presence on your part each and every day translates to low book sales,” she said, and I believed her.

As a professional woman, I understand the importance of taking periodic breaks from work-life, and I approached this new venture with the idea that I would apply the same standards to it.  But the thing about marketing on social media is that one thing leads to another, and then another, and still another and another and another, until you’ve created a mountain of responsibilities, culminating in an avalanche that smothers you.  A further complication is that you get hooked on the people you get to know this way, fascinating people all over the world with whom you would never have a chance to interact otherwise, so pretty soon, not only are you marketing ceaselessly, but you’re also chatting like there’s no tomorrow!  A still further complication is that the devices for all of this (laptops, cellphones, tablets, etc.) are all portable and go on vacation with you.  The upshot is that never is a real hiatus possible!

After seven, intense months of this, I crashed.  And I mean big time.  Although my mind incessantly urged me to log on, I couldn’t do it because my soul had taken a powder, and it would not come back.  You see, one of the things I’ve learned about my soul during my long tenure in this life, is that when I feel such fragmentation, what I’m really going through is a spiritual crisis.  Inevitably, my soul is trying to tell me that it isn’t just fatigue that I’m experiencing.  My cure isn’t only to put my feet up and read a good novel or watch some favorite DVDs, or to take my grandchildren to see the Christmas lights at the zoo, or to spend a weekend at a spa, or to go on a diet, or even to get a facelift.  The bigger problem is that I’m on the wrong path, and no matter how many leisurely activities or cosmetic treatments in which I partake, my soul digs in and refuses to participate until, and unless, I also correct my course.

I call my soul “Koko,” which is short for “Kokopelli,” an ancient kachina, or spirit-being of Native Americans that predates the Meso-American ancestral pueblo people of the southwestern USA.  He is a storyteller par excellence, as well as a hunchbacked dancer and a flutist, this aspect of him implying that in order to function at our peak, we must find our authentic rhythm, and once found, to follow it faithfully.  In addition to these, and other, aspects, he is known for the tricks he plays.   My soul emulates Kokopelli in so many ways, not the least of which are the ploys with which it manipulates me—ergo, its most recent one of turning, and keeping, me discontent until I found my natural rhythm again.

Henry David Thoreau has nothing on me when it comes to a love of solitude.  I am, after all, an artist and a writer, two vocations that require long stretches of aloneness.  Therefore, my natural rhythm is slower and quieter than the average bird.  It is also essentially private.  These are three qualities that seem antithetical to traditional practices in social media.  The obvious unknown regarding my relationship with social media is how to continue to participate effectively in it in a way that will allow me to express myself genuinely and thoroughly while also pleasing my unhurried, calm, and reserved soul.

One of the things I’ve decided to believe about social media is that there is a way of using it that is well-suited to every type of personality.  The trick for each of us is to develop one that is a good fit.  I am also an interior designer, and if I can design a beautiful, comfortable, and functional home-setting for my clients, surely I can craft an online presence for myself that is better for me.  At this juncture, the only thing I know for certain is that my strongest ally on my new path is the authentic Linda Lee Greene, and that our task is to dance together to our own rhythm despite possible risks and rewards.  Koko will like that!

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Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene was born in the farmhouse bedroom of her maternal grandparents located on the rim of the famous star-wound in Peebles, Adams County, Ohio, USA known the world over as the Great Serpent Mount Crater.  Mother of a son and a daughter, and grandmother of two grandsons, she resides in Columbus, Ohio.  An award-winning artist, an exhibition of some of her artwork can be viewed at www.gallery-llgreene.com.

In the year of 2000, Linda wrote the original draft of the murder mystery/historical novel, Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, a manuscript that evolved into a co-authorship with Debra Shiveley Welch, and upon its release an Amazon best-seller.  Greene has written two additional books in the Oma Mae Adams series, a murder mystery titled, “My ‘Aumakua” [In Hawaiian, “A Spirit Guide”], and a story of an expat-American who finds new meaning in life, as well as love, while on a spiritual odyssey in Australia, titled Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.  Both books are in queue with her publisher and are slated for future release.

Linda’s current novel, Guardians and Other Angels has inspired two other books on which she is currently working, one of them a non-fiction sequel to the novel titled, “I Received Your Letter …,” as well as a book for young readers titled, Bussy Gaffin and His Champion Roosters.

Linda’s five-star rated novel, Guardians and Other Angels is at amzn.to/PUOXl9.  You can find her Amazon Author Page at http://amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene.  She would also welcome you as a friend on twitter at @LLGreeneAuthor.  You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and other online sites.

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The day of the missing post

 

Hi all! I’m afraid that there’s no guest post or book review or anything today – not because I didn’t have any lined up, but because I’m not well and just can’t spend the required amount of time at the computer putting it all together without feeling ridiculously sick. So sorry about that but it does happen, sometimes. :(

While I’m here I’ll also say that next week will be my final posts for the year. I’ll take a break over Christmas and will start posting again on January 7.

Have a nice weekend, everyone! Cheers :)

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Looking for guest bloggers!

Blog Machine

Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

I don’t normally do straight-up call outs like this, at least not actually on my blog (Twitter is another thing entirely, haha), but I thought I’d give it a go today. Why? Because my Friday slots between now and the end of the year are looking very sad and empty.

Therefore, I’m now actively looking for guest bloggers – people who want to write guest posts, novel excerpts or author interviews. I post one of these (or a book review – which reminds me, I have spots open for those too if you have a book you’d like me to review) every Friday my time, which is probably Thursday in much of the rest of the world. Full information can be found here, but essentially my rules are, try to keep it family friendly and to 1000 words or less. If you manage to do that, then chances are I’ll be happy to post it.

Therefore, if you have a book coming out or just want to get the word out about one that’s been out for a while, then maybe we can help each other. I’ll post an excerpt or do an interview or something, or you can write your own post about it, which helps you in your publicity campaign, and helps me in filling my Friday spots.

I’ll add here that I’m specifically looking for authors to blog, rather than freelance bloggers, not because I have anything against freelancers but because they often want to link to sites that seem to have absolutely nothing to do with what they were blogging about. If you’re a freelancer and have a writing-related site, then by all means contact me. If you’re wanting to promote something completely unrelated, though, then I’m likely to turn you down. It’s nothing personal, it’s just what I see as being relevant. Besides, from a marketing perspective you’re much more likely to get business from readers of a writing blog if what you’re marketing has something to do with writing. :)

So, are you interested? Can you see yourself on this blog as a guest contributor? If so, please drop me an email at emily[dot]wheeler02[at]yahoo[dot]com and we’ll get something organised. Thanks!

 

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Guest post: Online Self Publishing (part III), by Peter McLennan

Hello all! Today I’m thrilled to be bringing you the third and final installment of Peter McLennan’s guide to self-publishing. If you missed the first two, you can find part one here and part two here, and I thoroughly recommend checking them out. If you’ve ever considered self-publishing but didn’t really know how to go about it, then this series is a must-read. So, without further ado, here’s Peter.

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eBook printing experiments

eBook printing experiments (Photo credit: proboscis)

Part III: After Uploading

In previous articles I’ve talked about laying the foundations  and formatting your manuscript  for on-line self-publishing. In this final article, I’ll outline some tactics to help with checking the results of your efforts.

Checklist

Checking multiple document formats multiple times is obviously repetitive. To speed things up and help me focus on likely problem areas, I produced a checklist of issues to look for. If I get enough encouragement, I could be convinced to put it up on my web site.

In general, you need to look for errors in font, text size, page alignment, paragraph spacing and alignment, indentation, line breaks, pagination, character formatting and special characters (eg, ellipses, m-dashes, non-breaking spaces and ‘smart’ quotation marks).

CreateSpace

CreateSpace produces hard copies, but you can check the contents well enough using on-line tools and/or the .pdf download.

Unfortunately, the only way to be sure that your cover is okay is to actually buy a proof copy of the book. If you order a proof copy, you aren’t permitted to continue with publishing until the book has been printed and dispatched to you, so if you’re in a hurry you might want to risk-manage this.

Kindle Direct

Checking your KDP conversion is easy, since Amazon provides a free program for this. You should see what your eBook looks like in different versions of the Kindle (which the program lets you do), since not all Kindles are created equal.

Smashwords

Smashwords eBook conversions are the hardest to check because of the plethora of possible formats and the limitations of the Smashwords converter. I found it best to look at each format in at least two eBook readers since the readers themselves can be idiosyncratic: if you only use one reader, you can’t know whether an anomaly is inherent in your eBook or just the reader being quirky. Here are the readers I used and the formats they handle:

Some file types and viewers do not allow the use of multiple fonts, and some are unable to render bold and italics. If you’ve used such formatting to emphasise or clarify things in your text, you need to ensure that your meaning remains clear in the absence of such cues. Alternatively, you can opt not to publish your work in those file types that don’t meet your needs.

Unfortunately, some eBook formats, or conversions thereto, are so crude as to be unacceptable. For example, .pdb turns all your smart quotes, ellipses and m-dashes into gibberish. I didn’t need any more gibberish in my book: I’d already written enough of it. Rather than further dumbing down my formatting (which would have detracted from the more popular eBook formats), I chose not to publish a .pdb version. Some writers publish separate versions for the less capable formats, whereas others just sell defective documents (check out a few .pdb files on Smashwords and you’ll soon see what I mean).

 

.pdb silliness: note the inconsistent font sizes in the table of contents and the incorrect special characters

In addition to eBook files, Smashwords also produces two formats for on-line reading. These often have formatting errors that are not present in any other format. Here are two examples:  the preliminary material on page one should be centred, and the first paragraph of the story should have the same font as the subsequent paragraphs. Such errors are distressing since this is the format that a prospective customer is most likely to view prior to purchasing, and they make the author look amateurish. Further simplifying the styles in the document would probably fix these problems—but at the expense of the ‘real’ eBook formats. I chose to maximise the quality of the latter.

.html silliness: note the inconsistent font face and size

 

Smashwords will automatically insert your cover image into some of the formats, but not all of them (most notably, .pdf). If you want your cover image to appear in all formats, you need to insert it into your Word document. Supposedly the Smashwords converter is smart enough to detect this and avoid duplicate covers, but I could never get this to happen. Ergo, I had to choose between having two covers in some versions or no cover in some versions. I opted for the former.

Smashwords strongly encourages the creation of a table of contents since some distributors insist on it. These can be especially problematic. Several eBook formats couldn’t handle the character formatting I needed for one chapter heading, forcing me to rename the chapter.

Repeat

When you’ve looked at every combination of format and reader and made appropriate changes to your manuscript, you need to upload the new version and repeat until you’re happy with the results. For Smashwords, I needed four such cycles.

Marketing

With over one million eBooks for Kindle, and 38 million hard copy books on Amazon, the odds of your book being discovered by a simple search are negligible. Judicious use of metadata to describe your work will help, but marketing is essential. Each self-publishing site provides some recommendations and facilities to help with this, and some other eminently sensible advice is here.

Shameless Advertisement

And speaking of marketing…

If you’ve found this information useful, then you probably wouldn’t like the novel that yielded it. But you might have kids, nephews, etc, who would! It’s about a fourteen-year-old named Jason who can’t work out how to get climate change fixed—until he saves the life of the mysterious and powerful Graham. Graham promises a reward, and Jason asks him to do something to stop climate change. The request is caught by the media, so Jason thinks the man’s trapped and has to keep his word.

But Graham’s got other ideas.

Jason’s got a fight on his hands.

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Peter McLennan

Peter McLennan served for 28 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, where he focused on strategic planning. He has tertiary qualifications in engineering, information science and government, and a PhD in planning for uncertainty. He has had several non-fiction monographs and papers published.

Peter now writes fiction from his home in country Victoria, Australia. His hobbies include playing computer games badly and developing software badly. You can find Who Can Save the Planet? online in print versionKindle, and other eBooks.

Thanks, Peter! I certainly feel like I know a LOT more about self-publishing than I did a couple of months back, before I’d read these. If this has helped you out at all, I’d really appreciate if you left a comment thanking Peter for sharing his experiences, because let’s face it, the more we know about this sort of thing before going into it, the better prepared we are.

 

 

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Guest post: 4 Sure-fire Places to find Inspiration for Character Names, by Barbara Jolie

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alyssandro, Jeezera, Pepper—these names and about 200 more can be found in a floral notebook I keep on by bedside table, a collection of names I’ve worked on since I was  in college.  At first glance, it may seem like a list of potential baby names, but in actuality it’s my character name book— something I refer to when I start a new piece and need to give my main character an identity. Some of these names belong to people I’ve met in real life, some were given to starlets, and some appear to me in dreams. Whatever the case, if I like a name, it goes in the book.

Establishing names for your characters can sometimes be the hardest part of the creative process; after all, the name needs to not only “fit” your character’s personality but  there are other factors that must also be considered too, like geographical relevance, spelling,  time period and age appropriateness. And since character names influence your reader’s first response to them, it’s important that you pick the “right” name.  While keeping a character name book like I do can make the process easier, there are other outlets you can turn to get some inspiration and come up with an appropriate list of character names too. That said, no matter if you’re crafting a novel for your advanced creative writing  program, or writing a novella or short story for fun,  continue reading below to help gear you in the right direction.

Phone Books

Most people use the online version, but scouring names in a traditional phone book can really help get the creative juices flowing. No matter if trying to pick a first name or last name, the phone book can really help. If you more or less know what you want the name to start with, then go about it that way and look under P’s or M’s. Or, you can be adventurous and open random pages—you may just get lucky.

Baby Books

Resorting to baby books can also be helpful. Not only do they help you come up with ideal names but they also share their meaning, so you can see if it really fits your character’s personality or not. There are plenty of baby name books that are accessible for free at your local library or for cheap at the local discount book store. There are also online resources you can use, like the Social Security Administration website. Here, you will be able to find the most popular baby names of the current year, or even search them by decade or territories if trying to create a historical piece.

Movie Credits

Another easy way to come up with appropriate character names is to simply stick around after a movie and check out the credits. There is a colorful and diverse group of people who work in the movie-making industry and you will most certainly come across a few gems if you pay enough attention.

TV Shows/ Soap Operas

Lastly, some writers are also inspired when watching TV shows or soap operas—and who’s to blame them? Some of the names are really creative and original, but be careful if you go this route, especially if the name is already too popular. You don’t want your audience to associate your character with the conniving woman from General Hospital. On the same note, stay clear from “loaded” names—those that when said can only be associated with one person like Oprah, Madonna, or Cher—unless it’s part of the story. Maybe your character’s mother was obsessed with watching Oprah.

Like mentioned before, these are only a few ways that you can come up with some character names for your story. It might take some time, but keep an open eye and you should be able to find a fitting name in no time.

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Thanks Barbara! If you would like to know more about this week’s guest blogger, please go to her website at www.onlineclasses.org. Barbara enjoys writing about online college classes and other trends in the academic world. Even when she’s not blogging, she is always contemplating and considering issues concerning education and modern society. Barbara is from Texas and has completed her BA from Ashford University. If you’re interested in any of her work or want to check out her classes, you can reach her at barbara.jolie876[at]gmail[dot]com.

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Guest post: Toby Neal, the reluctant crime writer

Today I am thrilled to introduce to you Toby Neil, who is the author of Blood Orchids, a crime novel, and the ebook Building an Author Platform that can Launch Anything, which is FREE on Amazon this weekend 7-9 April.

Toby Neal

Toby was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”

She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.

Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.

Thanks for guesting on my blog, Toby – you can take it from here.  :)

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How did this happen to me? I’m studying Forensics for Dummies with a pack of Post-its. I’m cutting up a chicken in the kitchen with a butcher knife as “research” for a paragraph on dismemberment, leaning in close to listen to the wet thunk and gristly snick of the knife. I’m looking at gruesome pictures of autopsies for accurate descriptions. I’m pulling over to the side of the road and sniffing roadkill, trying for accurate words for the scent of decay. Oh, and I’ve watched about a dozen YouTube videos on handgun cleaning, shooting, loading and handling (still never have touched a real one.)

I’m putting out FB questions—“Anybody know a real policewoman I can interview?” A friend puts me in contact and I meet this intrepid soul for coffee and flattery,  studying her body language, stance, and verbiage while peppering with questions about procedure and the mysterious accoutrements on her duty belt. I’m jogging with my (tiny, fuzzy and idiotic) dogs, imagining myself as the physically fit, badass Lei Texeira, my protagonist, with her Rottweiler.

Through it all, and four books into it, I’m still baffled that I’m writing crime mysteries—but I’ve passed through the denial, bargaining, and anonymity stages and am well on my way to acceptance.

Here’s how it happened:

I wrote a short story on my anonymous blog about a policewoman who’d been sexually abused, who was brave and a little crazy in her persuit of justice. I wrote about the drowning of two young girls, a situation  that I’d dealt with in my real life role as a therapist, helpless to do anything but grieve and help others grieve. I wrote this story to try to work through the trauma of it, to understand it all better somehow.

People wanted to know what happened next so I posted chapters. About 60 pages in, further than I’d ever made it on any of my other attempts, I realized I was so into Lei’s story I was going to be interested enough to actually finish a novel (after about 10 aborted novelets? Novelinas? No-vellums that petered out.)

And I finished Blood Orchids.

I found Lei had more to learn, more cases to solve, more islands to explore, healing to experience and sex to have—and I was still totally into her story. Four books in, and I haven’t lost interest in the seedy underbelly of humanity (did I mention I’m a therapist?) and the dual faces of Hawaii—paradise, and purgatory.

I’m a little embarrassed by this. I’m a nice person, a people helper—staid and a little matronly in my flowered pants and tank tops with pearls.  This fascination with fighting crime really seems…unseemly.

But what I’ve also discovered is that I have a side that loves to root for the underdog, that revels in justice, and that wishes I could be more active than wiping the tears of victims. It’s that side that revels in Lei’s ass kicking of psychologically sick perpetrators… and so in a funny way I guess it all does make sense.

Anyone else surprised by what they like to write—and what they like to read?

Blood Orchids is ON SALE at Amazon (US) for only 99 cents through Saturday April 7!

A little bit about the book:

Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water— but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise.

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. The girl’s harsh life and tragic death touches a chord with Lei, and she becomes obsessed with the case. The killer is drawn to her intensity and stalks her, feeding on her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei’s quest for answers. She finds herself falling in love for the first time—but the stalker is closer than she can imagine, and threads of the past are tangled in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he already knows where she lives.

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