Home Sweet Home

Today, I find myself wishing for spring, even summer, unusual for a winter lover. I yearn for the sounds and warmth of summer. It usually takes me about four to five years to acclimate well to a new place or new surroundings. It may seem a lot of time for many people, but for me to call a place home that seems to be right. Although I welcome change, I am a bit set on my ways and my memories. The concept of home has always been very important to me. I need my four walls, and I make sure they feel cozy and beautiful to me. My husband seems to adapt fairly fast, and I think it has to do with our upbringing. While I lived in the same house until I got married, he moved many times during his childhood.

I love the phrase Home Sweet Home, but I also admire people who travel and can feel at home in any place around the world. I can honestly say that I feel at home now, although I will always miss my beloved Jersey shore. This way of adaptation translates to other things in life for me, although at different time frames. When I start a new novel, there is a period of time in which I have not yet fully adapted to the story. The time varies with each novel. It takes me some time to acclimate/bond with the story. What I find is that I cannot rush this process; it happens naturally. Once I am in sync with it I feel at home. Then, I can “settle in” and “decorate” the place with my pen.

Home is where the heart is, the adage says, but I think the tic-toc of the heart determines when it becomes home.

New Novel Update

I am currently writing The Girl Who Could Not Love. I am only a few chapters in, and it already seems as if this story will present its challenges. Not so much about writing it, but instead, on the road it is taking me so far. It is one that is new to me, and one which I am not comfortable with as it deals with the main character’s state of mind/heart/soul from the get go. I had no intention to take that route but I will trust the process and be open to it. I have sensed a resistance to write it, and I am wondering why. At the same time, I feel a sense of discovery and excitement mixed with apprehension. For the sake of writing this story and of being faithful to the process, I have decided to put aside my reserves and continue on the journey, as far and deep as the pen wants to take me.

I wish I could tell you more about it but I am discovering it as I write. For the first time I find myself at the mercy of my pen, and I am willing to follow it in faith, if not blindly.

Faith – A confident belief; trust. Loyalty; allegiance. (American Heritage Dictionary)

There are No Coincidences

I believe that what we call coincidences are tiny miracles that intertwine in this life. Every writer, at one point, questions his/her path and the issue of why keep on writing, or what difference does it make? I’ve have asked that question; I asked that question to God. A few weeks ago I got my answer in the most unusual way.

A few weeks ago, something happened that changed my perspective as far as my writing goes. During that time, I had received a shipment of copies of my latest book – The Five-dollar Miracle, and the next day, I gifted the first copy. It was an impromptu offering. I was talking to that person and the books where next to me. A few days later, I had a casual conversation with that person and she mentioned the many similarities she encountered reading the story. She told me the book spoke to her, and many things she had taken to heart. She was going through many of the challenges the story presented, and so was her church. The pastor had died three months ago, and the congregation faced new challenges as well. What caught her eye and made her read further on was the first paragraph. She asked me how I came up with that date. I found the question unusual, and I told her it was a random date with no significance to me – the day I sat to write the story. For her, it was the day her husband died. I did not know her during that time. She mentioned that she was starting the five-dollar miracle.

Later on, I pondered all the events that had lead to that conversation and weaved my tiny miracle. By then, I had put my question to God out of mind. Only when I pondered these things I realized that my question had been answered. I don’t know if she will find something more in this story, but as far as I know the writing of it mattered, at least for her. As soon as I understood this, I thanked God for his love. I had a new perspective on writing.

As writers, we never know for whom we are writing the stories we create, but sometimes, we are blessed to have a glimpse. As far as I am concerned, The Five-dollar Miracle fulfilled its purpose, and I was able to find a new perspective in writing. If you have asked yourself the same question I asked, I hope this post helps you in some way.

THE FIVE-DOLLAR MIRACLE

“My name is Jonathan. My official name is Zadquiel. I prefer Jonathan. The story that I am about to tell you happened in Jasper Falls, a small town in the north of Virginia, USA. It was a small miracle, a five-dollar miracle that changed a stranger, a pastor, an entire congregation, and a whole country. I will take you to that day – July 29, 2016.” (excerpt from The Five-dollar Miracle)

Unsolicited Advice

The other day, I thought about how blessed we are now, at this time. Writers are able to realize their writing dreams thanks to the amazing technology available, much of it at low cost. These are blessed times for writers, whether you write via an independent publishing venue, a blog, social media, or other method. I am very grateful for this. When I was younger I wanted to publish my work independently, but it would have cost so much money, hence why many of us set the dream aside until adulthood. No other generation had the opportunity we have today. However, for me, this also presented the challenge of sorting through all the information/methods available, and keeping up with it all (an impossible task). Everyday, there is more information, technology, venues available so trying to understand it all is plain silly.

Much time went into sorting things out, especially, when the gates of publishing were opened. Reviewing my experience made me think about what advice would I offer myself back then. I thought about it and if I was to put it in once sentence it would be – Find your way. Realizing that “just because everyone is doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to” was not easy, especially in those early days. People tend to follow patterns/trends in new territory; it is human nature, and hence why things go viral. We are social mamals whether we realize it or not. When a new venture/technology or other, is in the early stages we tend to follow and take notes in order to learn. That is a good thing but it could also be confusing, even frustrating, more so when something that “has been proven” to work for other people does not work for you. In hindsight, my advice to myself at that time would have been to slow down and treat information as just that, not as a bible for writers or written in stone. Information serves the only purpose of presenting alternatives, being an aid in learning.

If you are just at the beginning of your writing journey, you will need to learn, and tons of information is available. It is a blessing, however, during your learning/study process you will doubt yourself when that information might not match your reality or expectations. That is all fine. Sort through it, pick up what applies to you as a writer, and keep on moving. Find and do what feels right for you. Find your way.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I love them. I have them for lunch many times. Something quick, easy, and filling. Some people like to cut out the bread corners. I cut out the side corners but like the top corner; it is like a door to delight. Sometimes, I eat the end corner; sometimes I do not. Why am I writing about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting the corners?

Sometimes, people like to cut corners. They like the quick and easy route. I have found that some people would like to cut corners when it comes to writing or publishing a book. They want to cut corners to enjoy the filling right away. I understand the excitement of publishing your first book; it is like nothing else. People who want to cut corners and jump right away are just excited enough. Sometimes, people expect to know in only one conversation everything that it took me years to learn. If I say something along the lines of “educate yourself on as much as you can about the writing process and publishing business,” it might be misinterpreted as an unwillingness to pass on the information. On the contrary, the intention is of meaning well enough to care. It took me years of research and study on my own to learn as much as I could on the topic before attempting to self publish. I had to make sure that I understood the current trends, technology, as well as to what type of publishing suited my personality, work ethic, and style. I only sent out one query, and as soon as I sent it I knew that I didn’t really wanted to pursue traditional publishing. It was then, after learning some more, that I decided to publish my first novel independently.

It is to the aspiring writer best interest to learn much about the craft, to know herself/himself well enough to know how to choose the best writing path. Industry, genre, writing methods, technology, trends, websites, publishing industry methods … all plays a role in the deciding factor. Many times, writing is approached with money signs in mind – “How much money will I make, and how quickly?” Again, cutting corners. No one can guarantee that you will make money writing. Some writers do well soon enough, while others do not do as well or it takes more than 10 years of hard work to see any financial pay off.

The internet opened a new world as far as writing is concerned. It opened the flood gates and brought opportunity to those who were not able to afford the steep price of self publishing back then. It has allowed me to publish my novels, and accomplish my dream of writing. For that I am grateful. However, when I entered into this beautiful and exciting world I did it with knowledge and sure of what my next step would be, as far as publishing my work. People assume that x amount of books published equals money. That is not necessarily true. They might even change tunes (even with you) when they realize that the bulk of the peanut butter and jelly is at the center of the sandwich. Cutting corners might get one quicker to the center but something will be missing – the knowledge to get there, and keep on going.

I treat writing like any other course of study and post education. Whether you do it on your own or by pursuing a degree from college as many others have done, the important factor is that you obtain the knowledge you need to pursue your writing career clearly. Knowledge is to your advantage always. If in it for the long run, the more prepared you are the better.

Inevitable

How did you fall into writing? The inevitable question. I’ve been asked the question many times. Other times, followed by, “I never knew you were into that?”

How do you answer it? I fell into a pile of books while going downstairs half asleep. No seriously, have you thought of the moment when you became interested in writing? Not when you felt “a writer,” because that moment might never come. The usual answer people give is, “I’ve written since I can remember.”  If I go back in time, I can see a child who read everything she got her hands on, a child who amassed a large quantity of pens and pencils, a child who thought that a typewriter was the greatest invention on the planet, and also loved the scent of new notebooks and old books (I still do). I also see a child who followed members of the family, while holding a notebook and pen, and wrote in it everything they did. I see a child who kept diaries, and then, burned them. How many stories do I have from my early years, my teenage years, and the years until I decided to become a writer? None. Not even one. Why? For some inexplicable reason, I had a habit; I burned everything I wrote or broke it into tiny pieces. I never kept one story. It puzzles me today. Although I had the desire to become a writer, I never pursued it. I went into many different careers, pretty much anything that I fancied at the time, but always kept that secret desire well-kept inside me. I had an image of writers that didn’t fit who I thought I was. I saw writers as old people with money. Where did that image came from? I don’t know.

Well, to answer the question – How did I fall into writing? When I resigned from my last job, I felt a strong urge to write, and I did. Almost as a long-lost calling, too loud to keep ignoring. At that same job, in one of our meetings my former boss asked an exercise question to start the meeting. It was, “If you were not here, what would you rather be doing; what is your ideal job?” Each one of us was urged to answer, and we did. Some of us answered honestly, including her, who’d rather be a detective. I answered, “I see myself writing at a cottage near the sea.” Of course, I got the weird looks, but not from her. She said, “I can see you doing exactly that.” Going back to that memory, I think that was the moment when I fell into writing.

Five Annoying Questions For Indie Writers and Possible Answers

If you are an independent writer, it is likely that you have been asked one or more of these annoying questions, and usually by people who have not read any of your books. These are questions that are “meant to happen” at one point or another, so might as well have some fun answering them.

Question: Why do you write?

Answer: Why do you breathe?

Question: Are you really published? I mean not self-published.

Answer: Do you own the company you work for?

Question: Do you make any money doing that?

Answer: How much money do you make at your job?

Question: What is your real job?

Answer: What is your life purpose?

Question: Is it true that self-publishing killed literature?

Answer: Is it dead? Oh, my sincere condolences.

 

It is probable that you have been asked at least one of the questions above mentioned. Instead of becoming annoyed, have fun answering them. I invite you to share some of your own.

 

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.

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.

 

Making Sense of the Indie Movement

We are living in exciting times for independent writers, musicians, artists … and it is so thanks to the technological developments and new venues of communication. Therefore, the independent (indie) movement was bound to gain new heights. I say new heights because indies have been around for long. It is because these changes and ease of publishing (almost at no upfront cost) that the indie movement flourished the way it has, and will continue. The publishing industry has been jolted, and this is just the early stages. It is not clear what will happen next, but for now, the doors are open and independent writers may share their work openly and become as creative as they dare. Daring times!

However, every time there is a revolution, people tend to make sense of the process, share experiences, groups are born, and in the hopes of giving cohesiveness to the experience, sets of rules appear, “ways of doing things the new way,” and leaders, preachers, and experts emerge. It is all a normal process and it is meant to grow and move along the revolution. However, as indies we should beware of a tendency – that the revolution does not morph into tradition, rendering the movement powerless. This is where our responsibility as independent writers stands. Each one of us must learn, consume, and study the movement, the fruits of it, to decide our role in it. Just because trends show up does not mean that it is a “one size fits all” kind of deal. On the contrary, it is the opposite to the indie movement.

To an aspiring writer who wants to publish independently, it is like a huge treasure box full of many tools, advice, do’s and don’ts, experiences … but it is also very confusing, and if the person does not continue to educate herself/himself and becomes a follower, it all may backfire and become overwhelming none the least, and even uninspiring. I am convinced the indie evolution will continue, and I think we have taken baby steps so far – there is more to come. This is why my approach to all this is one of learning and observing while doing. It is my way of making sense of the indie movement. How?

For once, before deciding to become and independent author, I learned as much as I could about it, compared it to what information was available about traditional publishing, and then, examined my personal criteria – values, work ethic, working style, expectations, and goals. Over some time, I was not sure of what path to follow, and I had not submitted work to agents, which made my decision solely based on the above mentioned personal criteria. Once I deeply thought of these things that were very important to me, and considered all the information I gathered, the decision became obvious and clear to me – I wanted to become and indie author. Then I took the steps. However, because all the changes occurring in the publishing industry and all the new information available, new faces rising, leaders, preachers … I will not deny that as exciting as it was, the experience was also overwhelming and exhausting. And this is when I decided to stop following advice, and instead treat each available piece of information and experience  as precious, be grateful for it, study it, evaluate it against my personal criteria, and look inside myself and embrace only the advice and information/methods/”to do’s” and so much more … that were aligned and in balance with my personal criteria, while developing my own style. This is how I embrace independent publishing.

It is just the beginning, and I think that over the next few years we will be amazed at what is to come, and many will be inside the process, outside of it, while others will be it. Daring times!