Selecting a Genre

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

 

This is probably one of the battles of the heart for many writers. Mostly, because when we write, many ideas come to mind, and many of these cross the limits of the actual work in progress. My belief is that I do not want to chain myself to writing in a specific genre, but I recognize the need to focus on the one that speaks to me the most, at least in the beginning of my writing career. Doing this has its benefits. It will help you concentrate, grow, and polish your skills, as well as develop a name brand.

There is always one genre that attracts our interest in the early days of writing. Later on, we want to spread our wings and soar to other lands. If you are publishing in the traditional way or have a contract, this will present a challenge for obvious reasons. If you have built your brand long enough that a particular genre speaks of it, it also presents a challenge, as readers will tend to associate your brand with the genre, and this is the reason many authors use pen names when writing in other genres. For the independent author, the lines are less defined, as the pen is free to write without the need to follow protocol, except the one owed to readers. If readers expectations demand from you the work that they so much have loved, then a brand has been established, but it does not mean that an author will abandon the desire to explore other genres, and create, possibly at a different pace, works that will please other readers, and maybe, win the interest of faithful readers.

In the long run, write what you love, do it from the heart, and share it in a way that it is presented to readers in the best light, and worthy of their time and respect.

 

7 Steps to Polish Yourself as an Indie Author

As the title suggests, this post is simple and clear, and mostly describes in a general way the steps I took to follow my intention of becoming and independent author. It is a summary of steps targeted to those thinking about the topic, and wanting to know a few simple but necessary steps to take. This is what I have done and continue to do to grow as part of my journey.

  1. The first thing to do is just Write. It doesn’t matter how much you learn in theory if you do not apply it in practice. You must write and write a lot. It will help you develop a style and a sense of comfort in your own skin – because you will be your worst critic.
  2. Learn from the masters. Read best-selling authors who have been in the craft/business for long, whether they are traditionally published or not. If they have made it so far, they must offer valuable insight. Study their style and enjoy their work. Keep it simple.
  3. Read in your genre. If you have a feel for the type of stories that you want to share with readers, then read other authors who have done it. If anything, it will help you become clear on your goals as a writer, as well as discover other areas of interest.
  4. Read books to improve your writing, grammar, spelling … Educate yourself as much as you can. I would rather spend time polishing my writing than attending critique groups or book clubs. Be wise with your learning time; you know your needs.
  5. If you want to publish independently you must learn about it as much as your time allows, but keep it simple. Learn the basics and keep learning. This is a movement that is gaining momentum now and developing further due to advances and changes in technology. There has always been independent authors, however, it is a new game now and the doors are open thanks to technological advances. It is also viable and less expensive for the same reason.
  6. Learn about technology. It dictates the future of book publishing and book reading. It is wise to be somehow knowledgeable about trends, even if you have no intention to embrace it right away. At least you will have an idea on where things are headed.
  7. You might not like this last one – learn about marketing and promoting your work. Most writers think about the story and not about this part; it feels alien to their nature. It is necessary, and learning as much as you can about this topic will benefit you even if you decide to go the traditional route or if you hire someone to help you with it. Knowledge gives you a sense of control, and eases your mind.

Overall, keep it simple and don’t agonize over it. Let your writing become better, and follow your own pace. It is an ongoing effort.

Art of Selling

First of all, my best wishes for the New Year. This post will take a retrospective tone, my view on becoming an indie author, and what I have discovered on the journey. Last year was very challenging in the personal and the professional aspects, however, I can say that I passed the test – it was the feeling as I received the New Year. I took some time off to think and regroup, and I put writing aside for a while (hence Sunrise Souls is not finished). I am glad that I did this because it made me focus on my journey, and I realized that I create my writing journey and walk its path, and that I don’t have to follow another’s journey – even when it is full of great ideas and awesome “to-do’s.”  It is the spirit of indie – to create and give life to my art form, whatever it may be.

Like many independent authors, I was feeling the pressure of the indie movement (as a general) presented to us by the “new-born gurus,” and which I thought was becoming as rigid as traditional publishing in some aspects. I noticed that “one-way of doing things” was emerging, as well as criticism from the pros who were leading (not on purpose but by default in most cases) the masses of newborn indies who were trying to walk before they learn to crawl, maybe because they felt the same pressure to keep up with the rapid changes while not realizing that the pros and gurus did their crawling and hard work before walking, and took their time. I also saw the insane craving for sales, writing tons of books fast, and making money while the market “is not too saturated,” and that did not make sense to me because it was not part of my journey. The more I learned about this movement, the more I understood what I wanted my journey to be, as well as my pace and method. I guess that in short, I can say that I am not a follower but appreciate many points of view and understand that there is more than one way of doing things.

As I gave myself the time to do nothing, I found myself watching two major shopping networks during the holidays. I don’t watch too much television, and I did not buy anything, but I kept coming back to these hosts who understood the art of selling and promoting. I was mesmerized by the choice of words in description, and by the feelings that these words created in an almost non-perceived way. At one point, I heard the callers repeating the same words of the host, as if they had made the discovery. These hosts were doing the impossible – they were practicing the art of selling from afar, of selling something via the air waves, something not yet tangible to the audience, but these callers wanted it badly. The key to their selling was not to sell, but to create a strong desire, a “want it now – have to have it” feeling. They are successful at it. Although I have a strong background in sales (real estate and jewelry/diamontology), and always knew that the key to selling is not to sell at all, it was the level of descriptive selling and choice of words that caught my attention and admiration of their craft. Some of these hosts do a three-hour show on a line, and many seem to have a huge following of customers for many years. Many recognize a caller from time to time. All this lead me to think about my writing, not so much about selling or promoting, but about the necessary time to create, to build a story with the right words, and to let these words do most of the selling, awaking feelings in the reader. I am not saying that an author should not sell or promote a product, it is a necessary practice. What I am saying is that I should put more attention on the product (the writing and crafting of the story) that on the number of books, sales numbers, or revenue. I want to make a living from my writing, yes, but I don’t want that to be my sole focus/effort.  Going back to the shopping network hosts, the ones who seemed to sell more, were the hosts who focused the effort on creating a love affair with the product.

One thing that became clear during this time is that I will pursue my writing on my own terms, while keeping an open mind about new developing, and while enjoying the journey. A journey that I want to create at my own pace and space while being true to my work ethic and working style. It is the indie spirit after all.

In Retrospect

As the end of the year approaches it is natural to look back and contemplate all the things that we could have done better, and those that were accomplished, but usually, as human nature dictates, we focus on the first. As writers, many times we are hard on ourselves for not producing more, faster, even when we have dedicated an entire year to the craft. It is as if madness had taken over our souls, that is, the madness of the pen, and for a while the only thing that may count, absorbing all our energy and persona. Is it madness of the soul or of the mind? Maybe a bit of both, maybe none. Maybe of the heart. And we dare to follow our heart where it will take us because we are writers, and mad at it.

Well, for me this year has been a bit of a surprise in many areas but one thing that is a constant is my love for the story. I am still working on trying to meet the deadline for Sunrise Souls, however insane that may seem.

One thing I learned over the past year is that inspiration listens to mood, and mood to no one, however I control my mood – allow the mood in understanding – to regain inspiration. Many times, we take inspiration for granted, and it lets us know that it lives in us but we must give it life. It doesn’t flutter around like the Muse we call it, or resides outside ourselves, in another realm – no, it is a part of us, one that is to be summoned by will and faith, and even by desire, one that must be respected and encouraged, and dignify. When we respect ourselves, our work, our surroundings, we are summoning inspiration, our Muse of all sorts, and with it Creativity and audacity. Writing is not for the faint of heart or spirit; in it many souls have gone mad or desolate, but also in it others have grown wings to other realities, paths to other worlds, the solace of the word, inkblood to the soul, inkspear to the heart, and freedom to the mind, but overall essence of the soul.

I will continue to try to meet my goal this year, and await the next with joyful anticipation of good things to come, although these have always been in the now. I wish you all a happy and healthy Holiday Season, and beyond, and a very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. May you inspire this new year.

Love,

Inkspeare

Indie Resources

Since I took the path of becoming an indie author, a priority has been to learn more of the evolving and growing movement. From time to time, I come across material that in my opinion, every independent author should read, as it may be very beneficial. I came across two important books that I am reading now, and a third that I am planning to read next. I could not pass on the opportunity to mention them here, hoping that any indie authors out there that need this information will benefit. These have been written by people who have walk the path and done the job, as well as independent authors, entrepreneurs. Here they are,

  • Business for Authors – How to be an author entrepreneur – Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is a very successful independent author and entrepreneur, and one of the leading figures of the movement.

A book about the subject of intellectual property,

  • How to Use Eye-catching Images Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer – Helen Sedwick

Helen Sedwick is a California attorney and independent author who represents small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Another book by Helen Sedwick on my “to own” list is Self-publishers Legal Handbook. 

If you have embraced becoming an indie author for the long run, I advice you to start your own learning library, as I am doing. The more you know the better, and knowledge will enhance your journey, and hopefully, will make it fruitful.

 

Lily – More Than a Pretty Flower

The Lily is an intriguing flower. The Lily is mentioned in my novels, but its appearance was not planned. It started as the need for the name of a ladies club, a secret society formed by divine command (although I did not know it at the time) – The Blue Lily Society. The name popped in my mind and it refused to leave, so that is what it became, and its purpose was revealed to me later in the writing of Moonlit Valley. Later on, I discovered the many meanings of this awesome flower. It has been used as a symbol in many cultures and religion, and its many colors represent many things from purity to friendship, love, wealth … and so on.

From the Greeks to the Romans in mythology, to Christianity and other orders, the presence of this flower is strong. It is mentioned in the Bible. It has been depicted in religious sculptures of saints and angels holding it, as a cross, and even as the french fleur-de-lis representing the trinity as well as faith, hope, and charity. It is present in other works of art, and in antique jewelery and royal jewelery. It is also a symbol of the feminine energy as represented by the Virgin Mary in Christianity and as a feminine element in other religions, and even in Greek and Roman mythology. A happy coincidence since the Blue Lily Society members are women.

Although the water-lily or lotus is not of the same family as the lily flower, it represents divinity and the sacred, as well as enlightenment. It is very sacred in eastern religions. The Egyptians revered it as a symbol of life. Hence the Lily flower becomes a universal symbol throughout history.

Whether a happy coincidence, divine inspiration, or universal mind (I will never know), I am very happy to have this very special flower depicted in my novels, and yes, it is more than a pretty flower.

How I Care for my Old Books

Many of us read from electronic devices but that does not mean that we do not enjoy a book in our hands from time to time. When I love a book so much I buy the hardcover edition or paperback. It goes on my collection of loved-to-death tomes, and I take good care of it. I enjoy buying older books to add to a very small and modest collection. These become my jewels. Whether antique or new, a much-loved book gets good treatment. Instead of writing a post on How to care for antiques books, I will leave that to the true-experts. You can find plenty of that information on the internet. However, I will write about how I care for my precious books under my real and down to earth circumstances.

Many elements are observed when caring for my precious books. I think of temperature, location, space, air flow, position on shelf, handling, and other issues that may affect the condition of the book over time. Because I do not live in a museum or a mansion, I must adapt my environment to the best conditions for my tomes, as well as my behavior or handling of these. Although my items are in storage now due to a pending move, I can tell you what I did. Here is what I always do.

  • The first rule I observe is to never leave a book unattended. I have six cats and some of them love to chew on paper, or play with it. Old books have a plethora of enticing scents and will become a favorite toy or prey.
  • The second rule is to treat my books as if they were vampires. I avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or leaving them where I know that the sun rays will hit for some time. Sunlight rays work fast on discoloration and even drying out a cover or spine.
  • Third rule – In my case, temperature and location go together. I try to select the best placement in my home – not too humid, not too dry or hot. For example, never leave a favorite in the bathroom or near a cooking stove or on top or near a heater or vent. I don’t have a basement but do have an attic, and neither those would be a good place to store a book.
  • Fourth rule – Air flow goes tied to location and placement on the shelf, so I will address those altogether. I try to select a location away from drafts, cold/hot air, sunlight, as well as having a nice airflow where the books will be stored. My shelving is made of wood and it is soft, not rough. Rough shelving might cause tears on your cover and pages, as well as damage on the spine. I don’t place the books too tight, even if I am tempted due to lack of space (wanting to fit another one). I allow a bit of space between, but also, I never lean a book against each other because this will damage its shape and pages eventually. If I have space, I use a felted book end. I’d rather it rests flat than leaning it, although if I lay it flat, another book on top should not be so heavy that the pressure will damage the cover, if it sticks together.
  • The fifth rule has to do with how I handle the book. I love when books have dust jackets because of the obvious. I place them upright, but if a book is a softcopy/paperback and it is tall, I’d rather store that one flat on its side because I know that it will bend eventually. I think I only have one or two that are that tall, if memory serves me well. One thing that I try not to do when selecting a book from the shelf is to pull on its spine because I did this once and the thing just came off a bit, so now I rather push the book out from the back and grab it firm with my hand when pulling it out. If there is a decent amount of space between books it should be retrieved easily. In the previous disaster, the book was stored too snug; sometimes you learn the hard way. Under handling, I should mention that I never have cream, lotion or oil in my hands when I am about to read a book that falls under the “precious” category, and by precious I mean “my precious” because I don’t own any valuable or expensive tomes, although I do have a few that are one or two centuries old, and those I have to be very careful when handling them.  The reason for this is that the old pages were made of a different material than today’s or more recent books, I think of wood pulp, back in the days when trees were murdered or sacrificed for knowledge. Anything oily or acidic will wreak havoc on the pages (old or new). I do have a pair of white gloves that I keep for the day that I encounter (or afford) that very special specimen. If you have opened an older book you may have noticed that the pages are dry, yellowed, and sometimes a page will crack/crumble when handled. Also, when returning my book to its nest, I try to be gentle, especially with the corners, and try not to touch the wood or the neighboring book. I also don’t dog-ear mark a page or leave a marker inside. Some papers are acidic and will damage it eventually. I bet you have seen the imprint of a marker on a page or its image, even when the marker has been removed.
  • The sixth rule has to do with cleaning, and that is simply being aware of using cleaners, oils, and sprays near books or the shelving, dusting gently and regularly so dust does not accumulate heavily. I use a soft duster, but honestly, I don’t even know what kind is better, although I would assume that feathers have oil compared to synthetic dusters; and of course, a separate duster would be better, not the one used around the house.

Other than that, I just try my best to love and care for my books, nothing fancy. Speaking about fancy, if you are into it and want to do it the professional way, there are many book care supplies available such as acid-free protective jackets, gloves, book furniture with glass doors, slip cases, special boxes … . If you own a very special and expensive book then you should consult a antique book specialist or expert that will educate you in the care and or restoration of older volumes. You may want to insure it of course, if it is very valuable. Overall, I just use common sense and TLC.

Ever wondered about the parts of a book? Here is a picture I put together sometime ago. If you notice, at one point, this book was handled with oily fingers because it has markings on the gold-leaf pages; just to give you an example of how something so simple and natural may affect a book later on.

book parts 1

book parts 2

I hope you enjoyed this post.

 

In Between the Lines – Sacrifice

When looking at several definitions of Sacrifice, a few words and phrases stand out – offering, relinquish, forfeiture, loss, and to sell or give away. Those are not attractive words/phrases. If one were to think of Sacrifice on those terms only, it would definitely not happen (maybe the offering part seems to be the only part with a positive vibe).

Sacrifice is a main theme on my novels. However, it is presented tied to Love and Duty. When we think of Sacrifice as part of those, somehow, the meaning of the above mentioned words/phrases take a different tone. For Love and Duty of the deepest and highest kind, we offer, relinquish, forfeit, lose, and give away anything and everything. Sacrifice becomes an act of Love, of Duty, and suddenly it becomes a form of exaltation, a high state of being, and instead, a great offering – giving instead of lack of, or losing something. It changes the meaning. This is why Sacrifice is bound to happen.

Food for thought – If you experienced Sacrifice, in what light did you view it, and how it affected your state of being? Think of the Why.

In Between the Lines – Hate

Hate – To loathe; detest. To dislike. Intense dislike or animosity. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Hate is a very strong word and full of negative energy. This makes it a passive and active entity. In other words, hating requires an amount of negative energy as well as negative action, that is, if the person acts on the hate he/she feels and entertains.

If you believe in the adage “what goes around comes around,” then hating and acting in hate damages the hated as well as the hater. Hate is another topic on one of my novels. If you have experienced the effects of hate (whether hating or hated) you will agree that it is a very damaging emotion, and one that will only attract more negative emotions/feelings by empowering these (negatively) as the person becomes entangled in its trap. I never want to experience such a negative emotion, but I have observed it on others, and it is very dark and uggly. I may say that I hate injustice, but this type of dislike is different from the damaging emotion of true Hate.

We get to choose the emotions/feelings that we welcome in our lives. We have been given the power to encourage or reject these – to choose to love or to hate, to forgive or not to; however, that does not mean that we are androids. Negative emotions are intense but we can control these, and if we feel them we are free to let them go or let them haunt us, and even let them determine or affect our future behavior. We become masters or slaves of our emotions/feelings – it is up to us; not easy, but always up to us.

“He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.” – Proverbs 16:32 (kjv)

“When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.” – Abraham Lincoln

“In time we hate that which we often fear.” – William Shakespeare

 

 

 

In Between the Lines – Betrayal

Betrayal – I don’t like to hear or even say the word. It is sour, pungent, and yes, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and soul. If you have ever been betrayed and never saw it coming, then you know what I mean. Unsuspected betrayal is one of the hardest things to forget and forgive.

Betrayal is present as a secondary theme in one of my novels – Ramblings of the Spirit (The Dinorah Chronicles). What intrigues me about betrayal is that it comes in many degrees, however, leaving the same feeling, and contributing to an array of other feelings/emotions that attach to it – distrust, anger, pain, desire for revenge, disappointment … all far away from our true nature of loving beings. What makes us depart from that nature? Different paths for different people on different journeys crossing paths in one big journey.

Betrayal is defined mainly as treason, as committing an act against … . In movies, and stories of all kind, the heroes are the good guys/girls, but most times they are betrayed. Yes, “good guys/girls” sometimes finish last (a temporary illusion). It is not the goodness in the hero that makes him/her so, but the way he/she bounces back and deals with the emotions/feelings that are packaged in with the betrayal. How we react after we open the package makes all the difference. Do we let it make us less than heroes or do we go through mourning of the self in an array of emotions (because we are human and not super-human) and decide who we want to be? Do we want to honor our loving essence or ignore it? It is a process, not an easy one, but eventually, the hero will rise, that is, if you let it.