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Wearing many hats well

Many hats2We all balance a lot of identities as we make our way through an ordinary day.  I’ve managed girl, nerd, daughter, cook, wife, manager, mother, PTA  president (seriously) and irritable neighbor all in the course of single afternoon. Adding an extra persona like “writer” into my normal mix has challenged me, even more so because it seems to require several distinct pieces of head gear.

There is the wild creative hat that yields stories at traffic lights and helps me type with a manic fury when the ideas just won’t stop coming long after I should have gone to bed. I love that hat, and I wear it whenever I can.

Then there is the careful, tidy little headpiece that I wear when I proofread, edit, rewrite, add links, check everything and check it twice again. What? The font for the chapter five title is twelve not fourteen point? How did this happen? It is a nit picky little hat, but I have to admit that there is a lot of satisfaction to getting something perfect. At least I think it is perfect until the next time I proofread it.

It’s the third writer’s hat that just doesn’t seem to fit me very well. It feels to me like a loud gaudy thing and I hate to put it on. It is the hat of sales. Writers of all sorts, whether they produce self-published works, short stories, or trade novels found in the front racks of brick bookstores, all have to get out there and sell their wares. Fiction is a product. If you want to be read, and I do, then you need to convince people to read your work.

Now that d4 is off to my real editor and I have promised my family and myself that I will pause and breathe before starting the next book, I decided to play with this awkward hat for awhile. I returned to scouring writer’s forums for ideas to increase purchases and I finally let myself take a long hard look at my sales statistics. Yes, this area could use a little more work..

x0_sw final

Click to get x0 for free at Kobo

Turns out I sell books in places I have never heard of. Thanks to my opting in for everything at Smashwords, the ebook distributor I use, I can be found at a cool new online store called Inktera. You can also find me at Scribd, this great new service where for only $8.99/month you can read all the ebooks you want. I have got to get out more.

Even better, I made a list of thirteen new ideas to try to increase the visibility of my books. The first was to do an interview at Smashwords. Please check it out, I think it turned out pretty well. The second was to make my first novel free for awhile, ideally to generate sales of my other books. I decided to give this a try, and you can now grab x0 FOR FREE at Smashwords, or at another surprising site called Kobo.

How is this free thing working out for me? Well, when I posted on my Facebook page that x0 would be free for a short time, 915 people liked it. 915! That is probably a record for me for number of people ever liking anything I have ever done. However, how many have downloaded it? Zero. That’s right. Not one, so far.

As I look at this post, I think I see the problem.  If I was better at wearing that sales hat, this post would have started off with FREE BOOK in big bold letters at the top. Instead I started it out by writing what I thought was more interesting. Oh well, I’ve still got eleven more ideas to go. I’ll try to do better with the next one.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in writing, x0 and how to get it

 

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World Peace Update

Psychedelic 12I’ve been hearing the words to the protest song Eve of Destruction in my head a lot lately, and I don’t suppose that is a good thing. My mind likes to take the opening phrase “The Eastern World  — it is exploding” and substitute other places.You know, like Syria, Ferguson Missouri and the Gaza strip. Every day brings a sad new verse.

One theory is that I’m losing it. Another is that is world really does feel like it is exploding. Unfortunately, I’ve just found some evidence to support this second theory. According to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP’s) latest study, out of 165 countries right now only 11 are not involved in some sort of conflict. Eleven. That would be 93% of the world that is at war, one way or another.

Granted the study considers having a fighting presence in foreign conflicts as “being at war” (really ought to count, don’t you think), and it also acknowledges internal conflicts with clear sides and loss of life (i.e. civil war). The most disturbing fact, according to The Independent, is that from World War Two up to 2007, there was an overall growing tendency for less conflict in the world. The trend has now reversed sharply and it continues to go the wrong way. As I said, the whole freaking world, it is exploding.

There is a third reason I can’t get this song out of my head and I know what it is. As I move d4, my fun novel about the future, on to beta readers and my editor, I am letting go emotionally of beautiful Ariel and her wild adventures and turning my heart and mind to the next book, the last one in the collection. It will be about the whole Zeitman family but will feature Lola and her cadre of telepaths as they take on a type of menace that they thought could not exist.

It will all start when Lola finally writes her article Face Painting for World Peace and encounters those who want anything but a world in which people get along well with each other. I’m writing Lola’s article now and it’s got me thinking. The tools for understanding others and developing empathy have never been more available to all. How can we be fighting more wars in more places? Who stands to gain?

And where are these eleven peaceful places? Some may not be high on your list to visit, some may. Those of us who remember The Eve of Destruction being sung by Barry McGuire as a protest song against the Vietnam War will appreciate the irony that the eleven countries currently not at war are Switzerland, Japan, Qatar, Mauritius, Uruguay, Chile, Botswana, Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil and  ….. drum roll please ….. Vietnam.

“Eve of Destruction” was written in 1965 by P. F. Sloan. Enjoy Barry McGuire’s recording on YouTube here.

Also please drop by the Facebook page of Psychedelic Adventure and give them a quick like for the great image above.

 

 

 

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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in peace, writing

 

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Finding Forgiveness in Costa Rica

I’m once again in Costa Rica, experiencing a week of mountain views, fresh food, water and air, and a recharge of the qigong practice that I began a year ago. The week has gone well, and I feel isolated from the troubles of the everyday world. On this last day, our sifu, or teacher, has chosen to focus on spiritual qualities such as gratitude and forgiveness.

Gratitude goes well, but forgiveness hits a glitch. Not everyone defines the word the same. To some it includes an element of reconciliation, forgetting or moving on and several of us agree that defined that way, some acts are unforgivable. We get into a discussion about the meaning of the word, and several well meaning people pull in child molesters, sexual predators, genocide in Africa and, of course, Hitler. I find the images disturbing and enter the next exercise with a churning mind.

beautiful life1Others have been harder hit than me. Two women in the group who identify strongly with their fellow Jews are angry and disappointed at having been pulled into the forgive Hitler discussion. Their reaction is not to be taken lightly. One fled Europe as a child at the start of World War Two, and still bears scars the rest of us do not comprehend. The other has been following the news and is dismayed by an out pouring of hatred in Europe that most of us did not even know was happening.

There are tears and harsh words. Our teacher was using examples he has used dozens of times, meaning no ill will, only trying to make his point. An angry student jumps in to defend him. Stances turn from gentle to hostile. His wife tries to offer an olive branch of no harm intended. A student from Mexico offers understanding. There are examples from the drug wars that would have been just as difficult for him he says. The positions soften just a little.

“Can I have a hug?” Sifu asks the woman who has expressed most of the anger. She hesitates, then stands a little stiffly and lets him hug her. “Hugs all around’ someone says and pretty soon everyone in the circle is hugging every one else, one by one. Eyes meet. Skin touches.Words of understanding are muttered quietly, person to person, until all is soft again.

Nothing we can do will dent the pain that these two women carry, and no one in the group is naive enough to think so. But we have diffused our own little crisis of understanding, and will at least all part with mutual appreciation for each other.

It works for twenty or so people at a mountain retreat. It would never work in the harshness of real life, of course, filled with all of its deep wounds and long-standing fears. Or would it?

For more on my own personal story of my Costa Rica qigong experiences please see
1. Embracing the Yin in Costa Rica,
2. Breathing Deeply in Costa Rica
3. Many Paths in Costa Rica  and
4. Animal Play in Costa Rica

If you would like to know more about qigong, please visit Flowing Zen
Please also visit the Facebook page of Your Beautiful Life and drop off a like for the great image above.

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in peace

 

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Peace Out

I’ve taken a bit of break from blogging for a lot of good reasons. Finishing my fifth novel, d4, turned out to be more of an overwhelming experience than I expected, and the timing overlapped with producing a new version of my first novel x0. This mild rewrite was designed to better use the books interactive links in the electronic version, and to be smoother without them in the paperback version. I’m proud of all my efforts but, as I keep learning the hard way, you can only do so much, and if you try to do more, then your head is likely to be lost in the clouds while you are doing it.

True voice 2In the real world, life moved on. I started a new job and went on a vacation and looked up only to discover that one of my own Texan congressmen was busy likening refuge children from Central America to the Normandy invasion. Fellow Americans were screaming and waving signs at busloads of youngsters, in at least one case too angry to notice that it was a bus full American children on a field trip. Another Malaysian aircraft was missing. This one turned out to have been shot down by mistake, by people too angry to know or care that they had blasted a group of uninvolved innocents out of the sky. Meanwhile teenagers of all faiths seem to have become the latest casualties the ongoing dance of fear and revenge in the Gaza Strip.

In fact, every news channel I turned to was using the word “crisis” although they were applying it left and right to all manner of things. A world in crisis. Great. Do we love our screaming and our shooting and our anger that much?

I’m picking up my pen again and I’ll be starting the last book in my series soon. While I write it, I hope to finish editing d4 and get it published, and also to give y1 the bit of a rewrite that x0 just got. It’s too much to do at once and I know it. I’ll be distracted and lost in my own world. I suspect that is why I will be doing it.

(Please drop by the face book page for Your True Voice and give them a like for the image shown here.)

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in peace

 

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Tolerance gets a test

nothingThose of us who walk around proclaiming how humans ought to treat each other with more kindness and respect run into this problem. We find people doing things that aren’t illegal or unethical but just make us say “yuck”. Whether it is hot dog eating contests or tongue splitting procedures, our first instinct is to search for reasons why this is a a genuinely bad idea. There must be some valid objection that allows us be disgusted. There is health and nutrition. Infections and sanitation. And always, the children. We have to protect the children.

Of course, one quickly sees how those same arguments are used to ban books and ostracize anyone unusual and ultimately discriminate against freedom of choice of all kinds. Do you really want to live a world were anyone gets told how much they can eat of what or how little they can modify their own body? I don’t. And I don’t believe in treating people poorly based on preferences they are entitled to have. I don’t have to like their choices, but I’m also not entitled to a world in which my sensibilities are never offended by other people enjoying what I don’t like.

Enter the new BSMD craze.Or is it BDSM? I’m not sure, but the indie publishing world is aflame with hunky dominant men who enjoy hurting and demeaning their otherwise strong and gorgeous women who apparently love every bit of the pain and humiliation. Given that I am the author of four self-published books, I do some marketing research and was kind of aware of this in the background. However, I recently took my latest creation, c3, on a blog tour and got a whole new look at what is out there. Oh my.

My tour was conducted by a recommended site that focuses on fantasy, science fiction and romance. Kind of a nice mix, I thought, and I checked out some of the blogs ahead of time and they seemed fine. Once my tour started, however, I noticed how many of the sites involved required me to click something affirming that I was over 18 years of age and did not object to sexual content. That was fine.I enjoy a little erotica now and then. No problem.

To be fair, many sites did include a wider variety of stories, but once it moved to the erotic, it looked like most of the folks in these books were busy tying each other up and beating on each other. Yuck. My fantasy novel championing the power of young girls to take control of their own bodies and their own sexuality was actually sandwiched in between a novel about a football player who likes his women to pretend to be submissive little girls and an excerpt about one female submissive interviewing another about getting beaten with a stainless steel cane by her fiance as he ‘prepares her’ for their honeymoon. I’m not making this up. There was also a blog feature about how African American’s are embracing the sadomasochist fun, and listing various conventions to attend. Conventions? These people with slavery agreements and stainless steel canes have conventions?

spirit science 1I took a few deep breaths. Adults are entitled to all the consenting fun they can handle, I reminded myself. They are entitled to read about it as well. I just had no idea that there was such a market for something that seems to go far beyond mostly gentle horseplay all the way to a lifestyle of chosen submission. I found myself angry about how often these “she really loves” it arguments are used to justify genuine abuse and rape, and how debilitating such treatment is to the many women who find it disgusting, not erotic. I found myself protective for the young men and women who might read this and let it shape their ideas of how to behave, in the bedroom and outside of it, with those who share such tastes and more critically with those who don’t. Yes, I found myself wanting to protect the children. I took a few more deep breaths.

It was too late to cancel the book tour, so I let it wind itself down, and declined to add any more posts or articles of my own once I hit this point. Honestly, I’m still struggling with how I feel about this.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in writing

 

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x0 gets a makeover

cleaningI’ve been quiet lately, hard at word on my own personal version of spring cleaning. Top priority has been to get out the feather duster and my high-powered vacuum and make my original creation x0 somewhat shiny and new.

To that end, I’ve created a second print edition of x0, which has been edited to work better as a hard copy. Underlined links and the references to them have been removed, along with a little too much factual material that was included in the original text. As my writing has evolved, it made sense to take this out. All of this information is available here on the book’s website, after all, where it can be updated and better maintained.

I’ve also added more clearly delineated breaks for scene changes and a list of characters. A small number of corrections have been made, but the story itself is unchanged.

I’ve gone ahead and carried some of those tweaks back into my Kindle version as well, and in a few days both Create Space knightand Kindle should be selling the new and slightly more reader friendly x0. I’m excited! I hope that my story will now be more accessible to those who may enjoy it.

The next step is Smashwords.com. This site distributes all of my books to Barnes and Noble, Itunes and others. Because it must comply with so many different formatting requirements, self-published author’s like myself know that it is a bear to get a new version of a book through the Smashwords autovetter. However, it can be done and in a week or two I will put on my best armor and attempt it.

zen2zany 3Within a month or two, the new and improved x0 will have made its way out to all of the various distribution channels and then I will start a renewed publicity campaign for this, my first novel.

Funny thing. As life has gone on and reviews have come in and people have started reading x0 and never said a word about it and all the other usual nonsense that goes with a creative endeavor like this, I’ve come to think of this first book as “not as good as my others”.

Spring cleaning forced me to reread it carefully and to be more objective and less emotional about it. I found mistakes, of course, and things I did not particularly like. But I also found more that pleased me than I expected. This book was written with my heart wide open, and it shows. I’m going to enjoy spending some time with it again, and giving it another chance to dance in the light.

 

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2014 in writing

 

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Electrify Africa

Writing a novel in which at least half the action takes place in a sub-Sahara African nation made me more aware than I had been about the day to day struggles in a developing country. Mind you, “more aware” merely means less ignorant. I’ve never lived anywhere without electricity, clean water, and ample food and my research produced information and sympathy, not understanding. But as my hero of x0 concludes, knowledge and concern are a start.

beautiful life3I work with several Nigerians, in real life, and enjoy the occasional opportunity to see the world through their eyes. They give me a feel for how complicated their homeland is, and how well-meant simple solutions often fail. Obviously, problems everywhere else can be complex too. I work in the oil industry, and have a grown child who makes his living trying to understand climate change. We both want what is best for this planet, and we each spend our days surrounded by those with very different opinions about how that should be achieved.

All of this came together for me recently when I received an impassioned email plea, from Bono of U2 no less, to support the Electrify Africa Act. It was described as “a life-saving bill that would help Africa bring electricity to 50 million people for the very first time”. This sounds wonderful. Nigerian co-workers tell me that much of the electric power in their country comes from diesel generators, a smoky, noisy, inefficient part-time solution that they suspect puts money in somebody’s pocket. I am all for a better answer and even willing to see some of my tax dollars used to get there.

I received a follow-up email a few days ago saying the bill had passed. Wahoo! Furthermore, I was informed that my representative,Texas Republican Congressman Kevin Brady, had voted for it. Wait a minute. Maybe I am being too cynical here, but over the past several years I have noticed that Congressman Brady and I don’t agree on a while lot of things. If he voted yes, perhaps I’m not as informed about this bill as I thought.

Indeed, a little more research showed that the bill is controversial and the issues are complicated “Access to power is a principal bottleneck to growth in Africa. Six hundred million Africans lack access to a power grid” reads one headline. Yes, we need to do something about that.  “Two U.S. initiatives to provide Africans with electricity seem likely to lead to large, climate-polluting projects rather than the locally sourced renewable energy rural Africa needs” says another. Okay, I may be starting to see where my pro-oil-industry congressman fits in.

sungazing7The Nation takes it a step further and adds that “Proponents of Electrify and Power Africa have been most publicly enthusiastic about new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas on the continent, which has many African activists wary of a resource grab.” USAID, a U.S. Government agency working to end extreme global poverty puts it somewhat differently. “Power Africa encourages countries to make energy sector reforms while connecting entrepreneurs and U.S. businesses to investment opportunities.”

What to do? Go with an initiative that will be backed by many more, and yet may well invite more problems into a continent that desperately needs less of them? Or hold out for a better, more environmentally friendly and Africa-centric solution? Remember “electricity allows businesses to flourish, clinics to store vaccines, and students to study long after dark. But for more than two-thirds of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa, these opportunities simply do not exist.” Politics is a messy business. For now, I’m going to reluctantly cheer on the passage of this bill on the grounds that trying to solve a problem is better than doing nothing. Let’s hope that is true in this case.

(Thanks to the Facebook pages of Your Beautiful Life and Sungazing for sharing the images shown above.)

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Nigeria

 

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