Always Walking Toward the Setting Sun

One of many fine original photos that will appear in Double Take

One of many fine original photos that will appear in Double Take

One of my favorite bloggers wrote that Adventure = Risk plus Purpose, and suggests as many have, that if something scares the beejesus out of us, then “it” is something we should probably be doing. That leads me to wonder, is the way we live our lives mirrored in our style(s) of writing, or never the twain shall meet, or sometimes yes, sometimes, no? Do we crawl snake-belly up under the barbed-wire fences hemming in the confines, and thus the safety of our minds, or do we do the Star Trek thing and go beyond to worlds we have never explored, visited or perhaps even imagined? Is the sky the limit, or are there no limits to the Universe? Do we feel more secure beginning our writing journey with an outline of our story, however sketchily drawn – an end in sight, or do we rely on our characters, fictional or real, to guide us where they want to take the reader. Or is that all literary hogwash and do writers write what and how they want to write, and do they alone deserve the credit for astonishing some readers, disappointing some others and wrestling with the unrest that visits like Scrooge’s ghosts in the thick of night, creaking the boards and causing the author to wonder what if, should I or maybe even, I don’t give a damn if they like it – my writing is my therapy and if it is published, that’s just frosting on the cake? Please weigh in with your comments and visit again soon. R.R. Harris author of Double Take, soon to be published on Amazon

Words of Wisdom for Self-Publishing

Orna Ross closed a week of posts on her blog, CREATIVE WRITING & LIVING, about the launch of the Alliance of Independent Authors at London Book Fair, with these words of wisdom from the attendees. We just had to share them here too!

Best Quotes from The Launch of ALLIA

  • JOANNA PENN, Author and Director of The Creative Penn: “The way indie authors are pushing the boundaries is awesome.  It’s like the sixties.”
  • MICHAEL TAMLYN, KOBO Vice President: “When authors are given control and visibility, they do amazing things that the traditional publishers out there are just not doing… You’re going to need a much bigger room next year.”
  • THOM KEPHART, AMAZON Createspace Community: “Self-publishers are extremely important to Amazon. You are the people who make it happen.”
  • JONI RODGERS: “Amazon… is like that big sandworm in Dune. Sooner or later you realize, either it’s going to swallow you up, or you’re going to get up there and ride it!  I’m riding that sandworm, baby.”
  • LINDA GILLARD: “When I finally realized that I was going to go indie permanently, I felt so elated. There was a real sense of creative freedom.”
  • DAN HOLLOWAY: “Self publishing affords the writer something that’s vital to every artist: the freedom to fail.”
  • VANESSA O’LOUGHLIN: “This initiative is just what self-publishing writers need — this nonprofit organisation of writers working together for each other is about to become a real force in publishing.”

Best Advice for Self-Publishers

LINDA GILLARD:

  • If you don’t like promoting yourself and your work, don’t become an indy author. Achieving online visibility is our biggest challenge and there are few short cuts to this. Resign yourself to putting in a great deal of time seeking out potential readers, cultivating bloggers, joining in discussions (not just about books.) This is all part of the job so don’t regard it as a chore. See it as an opportunity to make new friends with shared interests. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might make a friend.
  • Promote by stealth. Nothing turns readers off more quickly than relentless self-promotion. They hate it because it’s selfish and boring. Instead of promoting your books, cultivate relationships with readers. Rightly or wrongly, readers assume interesting people write interesting books. If readers become interested in you as a person, they’ll be open to the idea that they might enjoy your work.
  • So engage with readers on blogs, in discussion forums, on Facebook and Twitter. In the course of chatting, tell people about your books – just a little to whet their appetite. (This is where it’s handy to have a USP, killer synopsis or tagline.) Then if they show interest, tell them more.
  • Be sincere. Readers aren’t stupid. If you engage with them solely for the purpose of self-promotion, they’ll pick up on this and resent being used. Not only will you not have sold a book, you’ll have created a bad impression. Readers don’t want authors cold calling, they want new friends. The trick is to persuade them that their new friend also writes good books.

DAN HOLLOWAY:

  • …my biggest single piece of advice to a self-publisher – remember why you’re doing it and don’t be a magpie.
  • Don’t let sales or invitations or publicity distract you – unless they were the reason for self-publishing, in which case go for it.

JOHN A.A. LOGAN:

  • Seek out online forums and groups where readers go to communicate with each other and with authors, such as Goodreads Groups, Kindle Forum UK, Kindleboards, Mobileread.com, Amazon Discussions. Also use Facebook and Twitter, and bring readers to your work with content-rich blogging, posting, forum debating, done sincerely to communicate, not cynically to “sell”. Consider the use of free promotions such as Amazon KDP Select. 18500 people now have The Survival of Thomas Ford in their Kindles or Kobos or PCs or Ipads as the result of promotional giveaways.
  • Try to get local press interest (and work on your titles). Three local newspaper articles helped generate interest that got The Survival of Thomas Ford into bestseller rankings or kept it there, all with snappy titles: “The Literary Survival of Author John Logan” – THE NORTHERN TIMES; “Positive New Chapter for Thriller Man” – THE HIGHLAND NEWS; “City Author’s Ebook Breaks into Top 100″- THE INVERNESS COURIER
  • Take your book into your own hands. Remember the maverick spirits that have gone before, in other mediums too, like Bill Hicks, or Sam Peckinpah, who would not accept the warping and tainting of their vision. The author needs to remember, now more than ever, their own power and responsibility to their own work and vision. Only in that way is the reader being respected also. Mikhail Bulgakov, John Kennedy Toole, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, they wrote masterpieces which never saw one word in print during their lifetimes. If only they had access to 2012-style epublishing that need not have been the case, so it need not be the case for you now unless you let it be.

JONI RODGERS:

  • Zealously protect your writing time. This is the greatest challenge for me. Now that I’m in charge of either overseeing or executing editorial tasks, design, marketing and PR, the actual writing too often gets pushed into a smaller space, and that’s just ass-over-teakettle crazy. If we’re not in it to write, why are we here?
  • Ignore all those apocryphal tales of self-publishing glory and riches. That’s less than a handful of success stories out of millions of self-published books. If your oncologist said, “This cancer treatment is absolutely proven effective in one out of four million cases!” would you be signing up for that? Me neither. We’re all reinventing the wheel here. Do what feels right for you.
  • When you do score that coveted book contract, sign an agent or sell your first 20,000 books, don’t let it go to your head. Keep the old Golden Rule of show biz in mind: Be nice to everyone you pass by on your way up. I guarantee you’ll be seeing them again on your way down.

Good luck to all Indie Publishers – joining the ALLIA is a good way to go!

Becca Chopra

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

How to Market Your Book or Put Books into the Readers’ Hands

Pulled in too many directions? Get professional help in publishing your book.

As I write my new book, I’m glad I like to multi-task, because I’m reminded by the guidelines in the “Novel in A Month” program that it’s never too early to start getting your message out there. Writing a self-help book means I want to help make the world and the people in it happier and healthier – but it will only happen if they know about my book.

I wish that publishing and marketing your book would be fun and a labor of love like writing the book. But make no mistake, it is labor. If you are pulled in too many directions and do not want to do it yourself, there are dozens of individuals and firms, like www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com, who will be glad to assist you in any and every phase.

Back on the sunny side where a mountain of books and eBooks are filling brick-and-mortar stores and virtual marketplaces like Amazon, let’s discuss some tried and true methods for maximizing your visibility as an author to the reading public. Can we call it the Books in Carts strategy?

(1) Prepare a marketing plan

Start this well in advance of launch of your book.  Start with Where and How you will market your work. For example, where will you place it – Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Smashwords? Where will you Social Network? Choices may be Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter in addition to your blog and/or website.

Identify the marketing issue, and create an action list with a schedule for completion or the amount of time you will spend daily or weekly, if it is a repetitive task. It is human nature to do tasks that we enjoy first and to delay the others interminably.

(2) Request Reviews

Gather a list of reviewers so that you may request reviews the second the ready-to-be-published copy is in your hot little hands. Create a professional review request document that includes an image of your book cover, a cogent, yet concise synopsis, (Imagine you are standing in line at the DMV or post office, carrying a tote bag that advertises your book and a woman who is reading a book on her Smartphone, looks up and asks about your work – you have 15 seconds to schmooze her or lose her. What will you say?) and pertinent details such as genre and number of words.

(3) Become a Chatty Cathy

Put up a thread about your book on a readers forum even if you have not completed it yet, and get to know people. Some of them will end-up reading your book, and if they like it they will recommend it on other forums too. Offer them incentives to be an advanced reviewer such as a PDF download to gather blurbs for your back cover.

(4) Get tangled in the Web

Write about your projects and comment on others’ work. Pass on advice on what helps you and what does not. Post sections of your work and invite comment. However, just like a date from hell who refuses to quit talking about themselves, websites that are solely a self-serving vehicle are a bore and will sit home many a lonely Saturday night without even a visitor.

Thought for the Day: To write, all you have to do is to open a vein and let it bleed. Red Smith

Thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to join me in trying to write your NOVEL IN A MONTH, click here.

Becca Chopra

www.TheChakras.org

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Novel in a Month – Day Two, Character Sketches

Today, let’s talk about character building. We will start with identifying the main characters, and color in their personalities, challenges and individual attributes.

Before you proceed any further, you will need to decide whether you are following an outline or not. It will help if you have both primary and secondary characters. Too many may turn your work into a Shakespearean play and you may lose the reader by page eight.

Introduce characters into your story plan by listing their name and role in the story. Think ahead to ways you will let the reader inside their heads by showing their fears, vanities, quirks, flaws, hobbies, even secrets that can help mold your story.

“I am going to write about people with faults, with nasty tempers, men and women of all classes and conditions, with love and hate and fears and gripes against each other. People I can believe in because I know and understand them.” Leigh Brackett

Maybe the kill-without-a conscience mob assassin has a soft spot for kids because when he was four, his own father’s blood crimson-stained his just-finished sand castle at a family beach outing. Now he has an unwritten rule never to hurt a parent in front of their child.

In The Chakra Diaries, Rebecca is the main character but she introduces and is enveloped by a cast of sub-primary characters who are participants in her Chakra Healing workshop.

All of the characters in The Chakra Diaries need to build a strong Root Chakra foundation before they move on to achieve what they want in life. Yet, Estrella, a young woman from Long Island, especially experiences the frightening feelings of isolation and abandonment by those who profess to love her. In response, she grows a thick outer shell literally by gaining weight to physically push others further away and emotionally by trusting no one and fearing everything. Every minute of every waking day and, often in her dreams, she searches for the safe haven within herself that she never found growing up.

Blond hair and anorexia were passed down like the family jewels to my sisters, but not to me, the brown-haired blob… My carbon-copy mom and sisters all followed the Atkins Diet, exclaiming with drooling delight over blue cheese bacon burgers (buns aside – too many carbs). I had to supplement family meals with goodies I hid in a stash under my bed to keep my ethnicity – the zaftig curves, remnants of old-country Europe and appropriate only for my grandmothers… My father refused to accept my collect call, screaming, “Star made her bed with the bus boy, let her lie in it.”

Julie is the poster girl for an unbalanced fourth or Heart Chakra, a noxious cocktail of anger, depression, grief, despair, jealousy and sadness that is neither shaken nor stirred. She so desperately needs to learn forgiveness in the course of healing her chakras, and to free her life from the suffocating restraints of negativity. Her tainted soul lies bruised and sore, cast away from the mainstream of life and out-of-reach of her body’s innate healing energy.

A sense of peace washed over me as I imagined the cool, dark, soothing embrace of the ocean’s depths. Depths where this earthly pain could not exist… The doctor said the cancer had spread way beyond the lump on my thigh. Far beyond the scope of simple surgery or mainstream chemo… It’s probably a blessing that Mark confessed to sleeping with Rebecca.

Thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to join me in trying to write your NOVEL IN A MONTH, click here:

http://www.novelinamonth.com/?afl=90058

Becca Chopra

www.TheChakras.org

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Novel in a Month – Day One

Whether you are writing a self-help work, like I am with Balance your Life or fiction, as my colleague R. R. Harris is penning with Double Take, it pays dividends to be organized.

“An outline is crucial and saves so much time. It tells you where the story is going.” John Grisham

So, we begin at the beginning.

TITLE: Give your work a name, or something that can reference your project.

GENRE: Be flexible as this may change as the plotline and characters and your thoughts morph and develop. List all of the genres that your story might fit into.

POINT of VIEW: Will it change from scene to scene or will the main character narrate in first person throughout? An author friend of mine said that when she began her autobiographical “coming of age” novel that her original intention was to have the first-person voice change as her character grew and matured. However as she drove further and further into the hinterlands of her work, she realized how maintaining that direction complicated her writing and de-railed it from flowing freely from her consciousness. For example, she would have to ensure that her teenager was not speaking with the voice of a worldly and wise, middle-aged maven or vice versa.

Some authors choose voice from scene to scene by weighing what character stands the most to lose. Although unless skillfully written, this approach can leave a reader wondering what is going on and especially, who is talking.

WHO wants, WHAT do they want, WHY do they want it and What/who stands in your character’s way? Not sure where to begin?

“What if X happened? That’s how you start.” Tom Clancy

“Don’t wait to be struck by an idea. If you are a writer, sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.” Andy Rooney

SETTING: Can make a story gel into a dish fit for the Queen or alternatively turn it into cold tasteless soup that even hungry flies shun. Of course, there are endless possibilities. You can create memorable characters as at home in the book’s setting as a well worn slipper, but who enliven it and blaze brightly at the slightest provocation. Perhaps others triumph despite all odds or seemingly invincible villains meet their match in a unforeseen avalanche of choices that could not have been forecast.

“Most of our lives are basically mundane and dull, and it’s up to the writer to find ways to make them interesting.” John Updike

HOOK/SPARK: Yeah, the night was dark and stormy and she came to the door with nothing on but the radio, but then what? What will I write in the second paragraph and on page 87 that will keep my reader into the book? Will the last sip of my book be as satisfying as the first, or even more so?

As an author I must constantly ask – have I set-up conflict, created suspense and action and left the reader panting for more? Am I solving a problem the reader has, conveying knowledge or fulfilling a need?

“I want the reader to turn the page without thinking that she is turning the page. It must flow seamlessly.” Janet Evanovich

DON’T QUIT: “Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Namaste!

Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

TAKE THE WRITING CHALLENGE – BOOK IN A MONTH!

I spent three years writing my first novel, The Chakra Diaries. Then, a full year on the sequel, Chakra Secrets, which I can happily say is now finished and on the way to the editor.

Now, I’m ready to write the book my students and readers around the world have asked for – Chakra Healing Simplified. I have the title ready, Balance Your Life, and my enormous pile of information at the ready.

I want this book written quickly. So, I decided to jump into a new way of writing for me – an organized routine and structure for writing. I was introduced to this program, NOVEL IN A MONTH, when joining Indie Author Counsel, and I’m going to see if the system works to use both my left and right brain to complete my self-help guide.

Now, are YOU ready to write as well? Laptop at the ready, a rough story outine lying pent-up, cramped into the folds of your brain, awaiting glorious release through your fingertips?

Anton Chekhov suggested that every sentence should spend two days in the brain, lying perfectly still and putting on weight. But using that principle, your work might be completed by the time you are 98 years old.

If you want to join me in the challenge of writing a book in a month, try the program along with me….

Learn how YOU can write your own book in just ONE MONTH, by visiting the official website:

http://www.novelinamonth.com/?afl=90058

I’ll be posting my progress as I move through my outline this week. If you try the program or have other writing advice, please share your comments as well.

Happy writing,

Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Proofreading 102

WATCH OUT FOR THESE COMMON WRITING ERRORS!

These are are the 5 most misused words by writers, according to Ezine.com. Strengthen your writing skills and maintain your credibility by ensuring these errors never see the light of day in your work.

Its vs. It’s

its – Associated with a thing previously mentioned or in reference to an animal without prior knowledge of the animal’s gender.

Incorrect: That monkey will never be a ballet dancer; it’s posture is horrendous.
Correct: That monkey will never be a ballet dancer; its posture is horrendous.

it’s – Contraction of it is or it has.

Incorrect: John bikes to work. Its his favorite part of the day.
Correct: John bikes to work. It’s his favorite part of the day.

Lose vs. Loose

lose – To be deprived of or cease to have; to cause someone to fail to gain or retain something.

Incorrect: Loose weight in 5 weeks or loose your chance to go to the beach!
Correct: Lose weight in 5 weeks or lose your chance to go to the beach!

loose – Not firmly or tightly fixed in place; to release or set free.

Incorrect: The dog’s collar was lose, so Bob tightened it before the dog got lose.
Correct: The dog’s collar was loose, so Bob tightened it before the dog got loose.

Your vs. You’re

your – Possessive form of you (typically used before a noun).

Incorrect: You’re article writing skills have improved!
Correct: Your article writing skills have improved!

you’re – Contraction of you are.

Incorrect: Your an article writing master!
Correct: You’re an article writing master!

Their vs. They’re vs. There

their – Possessive adjective indicating a particular noun belongs to them.

Incorrect: There keys are in the ignition.
Correct: Their keys are in the ignition.

they’re – Contraction of they are.

Incorrect: Where are they? Their at the shop.
Correct: Where are they? They’re at the shop.

there – Reference to the existence of something; a place or position.

Incorrect: Their is a reason why the pie is gone. John ate the last slice over they’re.
Correct: There is a reason why the pie is gone. John ate the last slice over there.

To vs. Too

to – In the direction of or at; used with the base form of a verb to show the verb is in the infinitive.

Incorrect: Susan goes too the store too buy vegetables.
Correct: Susan goes to the store to buy vegetables.

too – Very, as well, also.

Incorrect: Bill drives to fast on his motorcycle to.
Correct: Bill drives too fast on his motorcycle too.

HERE’S TO GREAT WRITING!
R. R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com

Proofreading 101

I have got to loose eight pounds before bikini season, Sarah thought as she guiltily enjoyed an afternoon chocolate bar. Of course, even more would be grate as my clothes might be too lose. But, even if I don’t, its my party and I will cry if I want too. They’re are always tricks like vertical stripes and dresses that don’t tie at the waste.

“No one can make you feel inferior without you’re permission.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

So, how many errors did you find in the above two paragraphs?  Several of them may be all too obvious and stick out like a proverbial sore thumb – underlined in every color of the rainbow by spelling, grammar and punctuation checkers, yet absolutely no product is foolproof. The Proofreader function on this blog missed two of them! As such overlooked mistakes can be a shot to the heart of your labor of love, you absolutely must avoid them.

That is where a professional proofreading service like Indie Author Counsel can come to the rescue. Although your budget may be small, we know that you want your work to look and sound as good as professionally published books and eBook versions such as Kindle. So, do not make the mistake of relying just on your eyes or those of your neighbor or partner. We will check your formatting, spelling, grammar and punctuation, plus offer suggestions on word usage and sentence structure as warranted.

Our staff has many years of writing, editing and proofreading experience in a wide range of genres from nonfiction, white papers and self-help books to creative writing efforts such as poems, mysteries, juvenile, science fiction, fantasy and romance. We will perform these services affordably with quick turnaround.

As a value-added bonus, will post two reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and  Becca’s Chopra’s Book Blog  to kickstart the sales of your work.

Thanks for visiting. Please tell your friends and colleagues about us and sign up for our updates as we begin our journey to writing a NOVEL IN A MONTH.

Happy writing,

R. R. Harris

www.IndieAuthorCounsel.com