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Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes, I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can escape the madness, melancholia, and panic fear inherent in a human situation. ~Graham Greene.
I am a classic example of this statement. When arthritis struck me in every joint of my body, the plus side was that I became aware of all the joints that exist. Each step would be as laborious as a chain smoker trying to breathe. The pain was excruciating, and to date, I get the chills. The negative side was I was forced to go into hibernation mode.
However, my infant was being taken care of by my mom, who had traveled from India. At the same time, I had to make an effort to move to nourish myself, in short, to come out of hibernation.
Weeks turned into months, and I finally decided to quit my corporate job since I had no hope of going back. It was a tough decision, but I decided to take charge of myself. No more blaming fate over it; thus, slowly, but with steady steps, I decided to fight this inflammation off my body while keeping a keen eye on my infant’s milestones in the background.
This autoimmune disease was my turning point in my life. While the doctors had prescribed me pills to ingest every other hour, I decided to fill myself up with affirmative messages to get my limbs moving.
I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. ~Anne Frank
I started to pen down words since we all know that the society that we live in is filled with negativity. Dialogues from a distance such as, “Oh! How do you manage?” “Gosh! I feel for you.” “You are so young to get this?”
The above conversations would put me in the ‘Why me?’ stage, and I would get into the loop of never-ending pity. That would incur all sorts of negative emotions and make me take a back step.
Some of the writing:
Life has many phases bestowed upon us. There will be happy while there will be challenges to overcome. Don’t become serious when there are challenges ahead in life; continue to do your part to solve the issue by being sincere. You being diligent, honest will take you miles. But by becoming serious and losing sleep on it will make matters worse. Since the saying goes, “All work and no play make a man all dull and lame.”
You can do it!! This is the mantra we should always be chanting. Man is born to have ups and downs in his life. In this period of life, we go through ups and downs, and we can stay motivated during our down period by chanting the above mantra. Positive thinking helps.
The power of a touch, a small act of caring, can blossom a plant. Life is like a plant. Just as the plant needs water, fertilizer, sunshine, and fresh air, we need to experience the power of a touch, a smile, have a listener beside us, or hear a compliment to keep us blossoming and going every day in our lives.
Develop a challenge during a crisis. Keeping that attitude will make you confident; to try to overcome the problem, and you will be able to see through the smoky tunnel for light.
Life is a grindstone, and it will grind us down. We can choose to get polished by the grinding and shine like a jewel, or we could get crushed by the grinding.
Every minute our body creates a new cell. The cell divides, and a new cell is formed based on the type of energy we have. If we are bickering or complaining, the new cells formed are deformed and can have a derogatory effect on our health in the long run. No matter what the situation is, think positively. No problem can be as big as the kind of cell being produced in your body, which will reward us in the long run with good health.
The topic for the write-up would vary on my mood each day. But writing helped; I would go back to it; when fear, anger, pity would encircle me. These words would be gold then and would ground me and help me find light in the dark tunnel.
Eventually, this kind of pattern became a habit, and today I cannot live without it. My body is quick to retaliate if anything negative encircles around, making me conscious of my breath and thoughts.
Amidst all the chaos and the turmoil of inflammation, I could sense the negative and positive vibes. That also made me recognize that universal energy is supreme; thus, I learned about Reiki and other modalities.
I eventually started penning stories and novels and entered the self-publishing world in 2013. Also, I blog at Abracabadra, which has inspired many because of the mantras attached to each feature.
My 2 cents
Life is all about twists and turns. This detour in my life made me recognize the passion within, and I am living a fulfilled life.
Mantra for today: Man plans for his future, but only 1% of it gets executed. 99% is what destiny has in store for him. But the choice is yours to either drive it or let it drive you!
This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna
A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.
I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.
I can be found at:
I am rural raised, my writing is contemporary laced with injections of western culture, heritage and tradition. And like working with cattle, sorting stories into their respective corrals can have its advantages. My favourite round-pens to hold words in is the one that is fit for sharing around a campfire and the one where the story did happen.
As a young person, I found it annoyingly and funny how people reacted to stories they heard. While listening with the usual deer in the headlight look, their comments would range from “Really?” or “Did that happen?” to any form of disbelief that dribbled from their lips. Yes, it sometimes made me sassy, and I might counter with, “What do you think?” or “You know, you really can’t make this shit up.” But, as any storyteller knows, you can make it up.
I learned uncouth, unprofessional, and inappropriate responses do not educate readers about your passion. I have matured, which I might add is questioned by some; however, it has guided me to make a point to take time to explain the stories. I have found when I add a back story or insider memento while at personal appearances, the aha moments come to life.
In preparing for this column, I took liberties with my ‘chore’ time and revisited several pieces I’d like to share with you. I am interested in your thoughts. Are these true stories, or are they campfire worthy – a product of my imagination?
Throughout February, I will add some back story notes and personal thoughts for each of these stories. The link to their truth or fiction verdict will be on my Facebook Author Page.
The rodeo always had something for everyone: Rough stock, roping events, calf riding for the kids, barrel and stake racing, and for added enjoyment during intermission, the cowhide race.
At the last minute, her brother said she would be his partner, and since he was a lot older than her, she knew it wasn’t up for discussion. Besides, she had wanted to ride in the cowhide race for as long as her eleven-year-old mind could remember.
The bonus was—well there were a few— but the one that she was most excited about was being able to ride her brother’s sorrel horse. She had ridden him before, but she was fairly sure her brother did not know about those times. Maybe this would show him she could handle the animal and be given permission to ride him whenever she wanted rather than on the sly.
At the starting line, a strong arm around her waist tossed her up onto the saddle. She looked down at the stirrups dangling a good foot below her boots.
“You don’t need them,” he said, handing her the reins. He jogged back to the cowhide, sliding his hand down the lariat which he’d tied hard to the saddle horn. Keeping the gelding standing in line with the other teams, she watched over her shoulder as her brother got settled on the hide. He grabbed hold of a jagged, dried edge with one hand and the knotted rope with the other.
When the klaxon blew announcing the start of the race, the sorrel catapulted forward. Leaning over the saddle horn, reaching along his neck to give the gelding his head, she felt the slack rope snap tight across her leg.
They were at the other end of the arena in seconds. Her brother raced from his place on the hide, took hold of the reins, drug her off the horse, and swung into the saddle in one motion. She ran as hard as she could towards the hide. Stumbling, she somehow landed where she was supposed to before finding the end of the rope to hang onto. The gelding was already at a dead run when the rope tightened, swinging the cowhide with the little girl on it through the air in the direction of finish the line.
It was a good day to check the fence line damage. He loaded the tools and supplies into the side by side and slid his rifle into the scabbard. A few hours into his day, he noticed something dark lying on the other side of the fence not that far from where he was working. Thinking it might be the neighbours’ missing bull, he started down the fence line to check.
It happened faster than he could think. The roar. The screeching sound of barbed wire stretching to the max before it snapped. The grizzly bear charging. One shot from the hip, the bear dropped. The second shot was lost in the trees. Six feet from the toe of his boot to the nose of the old boar was the distance between life and death. Why he had decided to take his rifle to check on the possible bull sighting, he will never know
Man of the House
She busied herself stoking the fire, topping up the water reservoir, and filling the kettle and large canning pot with water to get them heated and boiling. She had already put the extra bedding, scissors, and thread on the chair beside the bed.
The pains had started through the night. It wasn’t the first time she had birthed a child, and it wasn’t the first time her husband had been away when it was time. She would get everything prepared before sending the boy across the frozen lake to their nearest neighbours. The neighbour lady had experience in helping in these situations. It was the way of life.
When his dad was home, the little boy spent all his time shadowing the man he looked up to. His young mind knew more about surviving, hunting, and horses than some of the men his dad knew. His dad was proud of him and the man he would become.
The boy knew there was something not right with his mother but didn’t ask. His dad had taught him that was women’s stuff and not to worry. But today, he was worried. She was doing things he’d never seen her do before. His mind told him something was going to happen, and since his dad was away, he was the man of the house and would look after her.
It had started to snow by the time the boy finished his chores. At his young age, his daily responsibility was to gather the eggs, feed the chickens and dogs, and make his bed. Arriving at the house, his mother met him at the door. Taking the basket of eggs from him, she leaned on the counter, rubbing her back.
“I need you to go get Mrs. Brant. Catch one of the workhorses and bridle him. Come back to the house and bring the horse with you. Before leaving, I’ll help you put on extra socks and gloves and your dad’s scarf.”
The boy nodded, leaving the house without saying a word. He pulled his wool hat down over his ears. He would take the big roan horse called Ginger.
His mother gave him last minute words of encouragement, a sandwich she had made, and asked him to do his best to hurry. He had been across the lake to the Brant homestead in the sleigh with his dad. Going by horseback wouldn’t be any different in his mind. His mother reminded him he needed to go out to the point, on the lake past the beach, and turn toward where the sun would set.
It was still snowing when he left, but every so often, the clouds would brighten, showing him the direction of the sun and his way. He wrapped the rein around a hand and hung onto the main, urging Ginger into a ground-covering trot across the snow-covered ice. The sound of horses whinnying welcomed them before the shoreline came into view, letting the boy and his trusty stead know they were close to their destination.
Ginger needed no guidance. He seemed to know the importance of their mission. He didn’t go to the corrals. He went to the house and stood still while the little boy slid off his back, dropping the rein to remind him not to go anywhere.
Mr. Brant hooked up his team to the sleigh, tying Ginger to the back while the youngster warmed up and ate his sandwich before the return trip. Wrapped in a quilt, sitting between Mr. and Mrs. Brant, they started back across the frozen lake in the fading afternoon light.
Gin in the Jockey Box
It was New Year’s Eve and forty below outside. Still, it was a given that the party at the lodge would not, and could not be missed. In this weather, any kind of travel required a certain amount of planning. In the long run, it was unanimously decided the trip would be worth it.
After I had finished the morning chores, the Mrs. had coals from the wood stove put into two buckets for me. I put them under the motor of the car to keep a small fire burning all day. We always had a stock of shaving sticks we used to start the fires in the house. These, along with sawdust, were used to fuel the coals throughout the day to get the oil warmed and the motor primed to turn over when it was time for us to leave.
Now the Mrs., she had things to do as well. The women supplied the midnight supper and My Mrs. was always asked to bring a few of her desserts and her pickled beets. We took the beets from our supply in the cold room, and she had spent a few days baking up a storm. Just because there was a bunch of women cooking didn’t mean we only needed to take a little bit of food. Each woman had to make enough to help feed about sixty people.
I loaded the car with extra quilts and blankets. In this weather, you never know what you’ll be faced with. The Mrs. wrapped the beets in towels to help keep them from freezing, and layered her baked goods in a box. She’ll put the her baking in the warming oven to take any cold off of it when we get to the lodge.
Now you’re probably thinking, why go to so much trouble when we can turn on the heater? And I bet you think we didn’t have far to go either. That isn’t quite how it works in our part of the world. Driving to the lodge is not a ten-minute jaunt down the street. It takes us the better part of two hours in the winter, sometimes longer if we are the ones breaking trail in a fresh fall of snow.
The car we had is a good one. She’s reliable. I do all my own mechanic work, so I know her sweet spots and what has to be teased and tickled to make her hum. We had a little trouble convincing her that the heater should work all the time and not just when she felt like it. But we’re used to that.
The Mrs., she wore her big, fir coat and wrapped a quilt around her legs. I chose a less ritzy look with coveralls and a winter parka. Most important was that we stay warm.
But even when the heater did decide to work, we were faced with the problem of keeping the window clear so I can see if we are still on the road. It is sometimes hard for me to tell when the ground flattens out and trees have been logged off. That’s where the Mrs. comes in. She keeps a mickey of gin and some pieces of an old flannel sheet in the jockey box. Before we leave, she wets a rag with gin and gives the inside of the windshield a good wipe down in front of where I need to see out. It keeps the glass crystal clear for a little while, and when it starts to freeze up again, my Mrs. works her magic once more.
When we get to the lodge, the men’ll help us carry in the food and drink. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that we bring our own liquor. We put it on a big table sharing with anyone who wanted some. There was always a good variety of homemade and store-bought. I like the potato champagne the Mrs. always makes. We usually take extra for anyone who wants to take a bottle home.
I’ll put the bucket of coals we brought along under the car and check on it every so often to make sure it keeps things warm and ready for our return trip home. Sometimes we stay for breakfast before heading out, but that’s a story for another time.
It’s good to see our friends and neighbours again. Happy New Year.
My mind became a state of turmoil when I heard the term writer’s brand. When you are raised in ranch country, the word ‘brand’ is common. It’s the mark put on livestock to identify who they belong to, and now I was being asked to come up with a ‘mark’ to put on me as a writer.
I wondered if our family’s brand, Bar K Reverse K, could be used, or if I would have to invent another branding iron that would be mine and mine alone. You should see the file filled with scrap papers, covered with all the brand drawings I concocted to represent what I assumed this new brand should be.
During my time of no-brand limbo, it was decided a logo, a picture, or something, needed to appear on my work to identify it as mine. This would not be my decision alone, as my husband was also my business partner. Whatever we were going to use was not only expected to be my identifier, it also needed to be incorporated as our company’s logo.
I would be several years into what I call the ‘serious writing thing’ before I fully understood what having a writer’s brand meant. It fell into my lap one day while I was explaining why I write what I do and why I take the pictures that I do. Diversity and growth often lead to a need to make other changes. These might be a major overhaul of everything involved or baby steps to make sure the new landscape feels right under your feet.
For years, the picture of the full moon rising over the ridge has been synonymous with everything we did from my writing, photography, and our company. However, it was evident that the talks of rebranding should become more than dinner table discussions. With the addition of books in various genres, taking on the role of book publisher, and incorporating other projects, this growth to our corporate interests resonated with the need to have an updated look: a look that was a recognizable presence representing the company as a whole. It was time for a transformation, but here again, it had to fit with what I had discovered was my writing brand.
Like rewriting a chapter in a book, change starts with an idea. It can be one thought or the vision of an end result. Either way, it took quite some time to find the right look for the new branding iron. Thinking it would happen in a short time frame proved to be a mistake on our part; however, listening to the people we contacted was found to be invaluable. They may not have provided all the answers or the direction we were looking for, but their artistic concepts added depth to the final result, providing food for what we thought we wanted. Simultaneously, it was a stark reminder that wants and need is two totally different things.
And now I return to the original dilemma of going on the hunt for a writer’s brand. Through my search to locate what I thought was needed as a writing branding iron, I discovered I had been writing under our home brand all along. It is the passion for what I believe in. It is from where I come that guides me to where I go.
Quietly, a cowboy would make a statement, “I ride for the brand.” These five words speak volumes to the dedication and respect we follow in creating our own brands. The values we place on the top rail keeps us true to what we believe in. True to our brand.
Oh! And the company…In the spring of 2020, we were presented with a rough concept that encompassed our vision. It did not compromise the want to include the trees silhouetted against the full moon or the important need of adding a feather. In the end, we got what we were looking for. It’s obvious there, too; we are still riding and writing for the same brand.
How did you discover the brand you ride for, I mean write for?
I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminders of where I come from, mentoring me to where I need to go. Gifting me excerpts of a lifestyle I see slipping away. Snippets shyly materializing in my writing and photography. I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Sharing moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWest, DAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact me.
Creative writing is defined as writing fiction or poetry with imagination and contrasts academic writing. As a creative writer, we imagine our character to gallop over the green pastures or drag his feet in the dry brown desert. To be able to take long firm strides over the mountainous terrains, or glide over the waters like a speed boat.
But that requires an uncluttered mind where we have neatly piled all our emotions just as we stack clean clothes versus the scattered dirty laundry.
That allows a single-pointed mind, and a writer can be in her character’s shoes and capture just the right kind of emotions.
Writing is like housework. For that, the mind should be tidied up just like our bed every morning before we sit down to write. It should be crystal clear for those cells in that organ to create something extraordinary for our character. If we cannot differentiate between fiction and our real-life, we will end up writing a memoir unknowingly, of course.
If our mind is hungover from yesterday’s dialog between a friend or a relative, our plot would unknowingly revolve around that scenario. We have limited ourselves to our environment and missed out on a classic scene, which our mind dared to explore. Due to the circumstances, it wandered around our troubled spots and penned those down instead.
Mind and Intellect can go hand in hand, but the mind ought to first spruce up to listen to the Intellect.
A mind without thoughts is no mind, but to tidy up our thoughts is the key.
But how do we unclutter that damn mind to begin exploring the unexplored?
Unclutter Mentally and Physically
The learned suggest we meditate. Continue to breathe with closed eyes while keeping your mind over your breath. This activity is like rinsing your mind with fresh Oxygen as you continue to breathe, which helps curb the erratic thoughts. Can you imagine how soothing it would be?
The scenario is like the ocean waves crashing on the shore, washing off any footprints left behind by humanity.
Attached is a guided meditation.
Writing down thoughts can help your mind stop churning and begin to release them. An individual can choose to write what pains her since most of the time, people are aware of their foul mood, but don’t know its reason. Journaling helps to work through current challenges, helping one get rid of mental blocks. As a doctor drains a wound, write out all those toxins on paper, and those words will glow in gold once your heart is lighter. So, find a comfortable spot, grab your pen and paper, and get going. Journaling is meant to be a stream of consciousness activity, so you can choose to set a timer or just free flow.
Some prompts that an individual can choose to write is:
“What makes you feel happy?”
“What is hurting, and why?”
“What do you believe in most?”
“Write a letter to your future self?”
“What is your past that still hurts you?”
“List the things you are grateful for?”
Walks amidst nature can help turn your mind outside and help calm the chaos in mind. It’s just like distracting a child who is throwing tantrums. This activity enables an individual to relax as she continues to take deep breaths while she is striding through the open space. Such walks not only help clear the mind but also help burn some calories. On a side note, it gives many ideas even if you choose to call yourself a plotter or a pantser.
Uncluttering is simple; the only thing needed is having the awareness to do so. Once that is in check, one can shape the character or the plot as your creative bugs allow you to do so without anybody’s interference. You are at liberty to either project your characters’ mental growth or take them to a dark place.
I’ve tried all the three methods above and can vouch for it.
As a writer, I write about issues that stalk the human’s mind via tales of fiction, making my readers tag my work as, “Books that make you ponder.”
My contemporary romance novels and short stories have allowed my readers to go to a beautiful place and take home a message. That has helped them ponder their true nature and enjoy my characters’ growth as they endure through the journey that I have created.
My work can be found at www.ruchirakhanna.com
This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna
A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.
I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for four years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.
I can be found at:
Man is a social animal, and we need each other for emotional support. The pandemic is the classic example when the world is in lockdown. Many are feeling the brunt of not being able to communicate, hug, and interact with their extended families.
Now, although the immediate family is in the same four walls, emotions are running high as mostly our thoughts and ideas don’t agree.
As a writer, I have observed that my creativity is the lowest at that point. My ego-filled mind and intellect run parallel, just like two railway tracks, and I can’t pen a single word without frowns and disappointment.
I can feel the train of thoughts chug by in my mind with no interaction from the intellect since the track is parallel. As a writer, I see the sunrise and sunset without getting any inspiration to pen since I choose to brood over an argument that happened within my four walls or choose to lament over what my teen did or could have done in his spare time.
But as the weeks ticked by and spending family time amidst board games and movie nights, I realized there is no such thing as winning an argument amidst family.
When you win, you usually don’t win. And when they win, they don’t win. The best outcome is a tie. If you both can walk away equally satisfied—or even similarly dissatisfied—that’s the real challenge. And the real win.
Easier said than to be doing in practical life. I made a few pointers that I eventually embraced to find that inner peace to start my penning.
Be in the moment
That requires the art of being aware of an argument in the first place. I had to be mindful of my surroundings—my thoughts, feelings, and body. And also be conscious of the people around me. Most of our communication is felt or seen before it reaches the verbal realm. Being fully present…is the key.
I realized I’ve been eluding my teen’s presence. I would do this in subtle and subconscious ways.
Most of the time, we are in a constant state of avoidance. By avoiding, you are telling people in your life that something is more important than them. Going back to the first point…become mindful of their presence will help solve this issue.
Too much to do in the lockdown, but less time. Are you also multi-tasking, like me? Then, how would you become fully present in any conversation?
As Malcolm Forbes said, “Presence is more than just being there.” Being fully present focuses all of your senses on the task or person at hand. Being mindful for a couple of minutes a day and see what you notice.
Since I work from home, multi-tasking was a band-aid solution to fill my void, which became a habit even during the lockdown with family around. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed. How could I dismantle myself from this over-scheduled and over-committed life for my search for Balance?
Can’t say No to family requests that usually involve cooking their favorite foods could lead to overwhelming emotions that could, after a few weeks, lead to spew of venom. Creating a boundary where each respects their space gives all the privacy and yet the privilege to enjoy each other’s company, is the key.
Energize the Mind-Body
Taking time to exercise is very important. The mind also needs our love and undivided attention every day for a few minutes.
Embrace an unprecedented time
Lately, the news of COVID is that it’s airborne. Now, to embrace the new change of not stepping out without a mask and maintaining that social distance should be the mantra. Again that allows us to be mindful of our actions when in public and be in gratitude to be in good health to venture out in the first place.
All the above steps are tedious, and honestly, there are days when my mind gets exhausted before the physical body. But, aren’t we the intelligent souls here, we can fight out any times. Let’s continue to find that inner peace and be able to continue with our passion…writing.
Branding, Bios and Author Multiple-identity Disorder
by Anne Goodwin
If there’s one consistent message about managing our author platforms, it’s that consistency rules. After all, if consumers need to be exposed to a product around seven times before they commit to making a purchase, only a fool would reduce the odds of being noticed by presenting their product in potentially contradictory ways. Friends, I am that self-sabotaging fool.
While I deeply admire those who can sum up what you stand for in an attractive image and roll-off-the-tongue strap line, there’s a part of me wailing How on earth can you know? Doesn’t your sense of who you are alter, like mine, with the seasons? Don’t you behave differently depending on who’s with you and where you are?
I do appreciate that we can’t dither indefinitely; that we have to make choices if we’re not to stagnate. I accept there’s no brand loyalty without brand recognition. Hell, thanks to Charli, I even accept I have a brand. But I have to develop it at my own pace.
I’ve come a long way since I balked at putting my mugshot on my website. I’ve come a long way since my first published stories were followed by the bio-that-never-was:
Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and hates bios for fear of getting it wrong.
Although a certain self-deprecating humour has become part of my brand – risky because what amuses one person turns another right off – the sentiment of that non-bio still holds true. I do like to contradict myself and fear commitment to a form of words that were right for me yesterday but a poor fit today.
But my shape-shifting author identity might be frustrating for others, as I was reminded recently when someone kindly sent through the version of my bio she planned to use in a post that mentioned me. Horror of horrors, it was the bio that accompanies my debut novel, and thus three and a half years out of date. Yet it wasn’t so much that the older version deprives me of the opportunity to crow about more recent accomplishments, but the slant of the summary was wrong. I don’t know if others do this but, in addition to my short-and-sweet Twitter biography, and the let-me-tell-you-everything about page on my website, I’ve composed a completely new bio for each of my published books.
Why, Anne, why? Because each novel draws on a different part of me: I thought readers of my debut, Sugar and Snails, narrated by a psychology lecturer at Newcastle University with a close friend teaching in the mathematics department across the road, might like to know that I studied those subjects at that same institution myself. But that’s irrelevant to people picking up my second novel, Underneath, who might be more interested to learn that, like Steve, my narrator, I used to like to travel and that, like Liesel, his partner, I worked in mental health services in the region where the story is set. If and when my possibly third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is published, I’ll probably mention that, like Janice, one of three point-of-view characters, I had a role in the longstay psychiatric hospital closures of the 1980s and 1990s.
With my forthcoming short story collection, Becoming Someone, I have a freshly-minted bio all over again. As the anthology is on the theme of identity and self-discovery, it felt right to include some of the quirkier aspects of my own identity in the bio:
Alongside her identity as a writer, she’ll admit to being a sociable introvert; recovering psychologist; voracious reader; slug slayer; struggling soprano; and tramper of moors.
We all have multiple identities to accompany our different responsibilities and roles. But I’m still unsure how much my multi-author biographies represent flexibility and diversity versus disorder and lack of focus. What do you think?
Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity launches on Facebook on November 23rd, 2018, where the more people participate the more she’ll donate to Book Aid International. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists.
Becoming Someone published 23rd November, 2018 by Inspired Quill
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-908600-77-6 / 9781908600776
eBook ISBN: 978-1-908600-78-3 / 9781908600783
Amazon author page
Author page at Inspired Quill publishers
Facebook launch in support of Book Aid International
How to Build a Readership with Blogging
and Prepare for Publishing by Debby Gies
As writers who choose to self-publish, we must understand that we’ve chosen to be not only writers but publishers, marketers, and promoters of our work because these components are all essential parts of running a business. Yes, your business! If we intend to sell books, it’s in our best interests to learn about these things as well as building an author platform. If we don’t put in the time to promote our work, our books will surely sit and collect dust on the virtual shelves, lost in a sea of hundreds of thousands of other books.
Although we may be publishing in a digital world, our business is no different than if we opened our own brick and mortar store. We wouldn’t leave our doors unlocked and wares left unattended, would we? So, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of what’s involved in putting together a good book to gain wider readership.
Building an Author Platform with Blogging and Social Media Tools
If we prepare for our book launch well before publication, we’ll establish a presence as a writer and begin a following so we’ll have readers already eagerly interested in our book once it’s published. Remember – No readers = no sales.
Running a blog and creating a presence on social media are two important tools for gaining an audience. Using our blogs to write interesting articles to reflect on topics we write about in our books is a good way to develop a niche for our blogs. Some other suggestions to write about:
- Writing and publishing tips you come across which other writers may find helpful
- Book reviews – to share works of other writers to build rapport, which in turn will have others wanting to reciprocate and share our posts and books and reviews
- Personal posts to share with readers to give them some insight as to who we are as a person, inviting readers to get to know us
The point is to build relationships with our readers and showcase who we are. Don’t be the person who posts about their book all the time, because people don’t want to be hard sold to. And keep in mind, it’s important to always respond to comments because this is the engagement we strive to receive from readers. If they’ve taken the time to leave a comment, it’s our obligation to take the time to acknowledge them. It may take a while until we find our niche and target audience, but eventually, we’ll build our tribe.
Tip – Don’t forget to add share buttons under your blog for readers to share posts to their readers, which will bring new readers back to your blog. And don’t forget to add your social handles to these buttons when setting up your blogs so you get the credit to your name for the post.
Next, get active on social media. Yes, there are many sites out there, but many of them don’t have to constantly be babysat. You can auto send your blog posts to your social sites automatically by linking your posts to your social media sites at the very least. And eventually you will narrow down the few sites you most gravitate to by noticing where most of your reader engagement is happening, and those sites will become the ones you’ll want to focus more of your energies on. And again, when people respond by leaving comments on your social posts, make it a point to respond back. By engaging with potential readers on multiple platforms, you’ll give yourself a head start on creating interest about you and your writing, and by the time your books roll out, you’ve already created interested readership.
Now that we’ve established the importance of social presence and completed writing our first rough draft of our book, we can focus on the major parts of getting our book in shape for publishing.
Tip One: Editing
Before your book is anywhere near ready to go to an editor, re-writes and revisions begin for your rough draft. Even Hemingway said, “The first draft is shit.” This is the time to clean and polish your words, phrases, and structure of your story. At this time, you’ll experience a bit of pride, and a bit of, “What the hell was I thinking?” after you come across random run-on sentences, typos, and plot holes. You’ll need to read through the manuscript a few times to begin the polishing process. I recommend then to send your manuscript to beta readers for feedback and then weighing out the suggestions and making appropriate changes before sending off to the editor.
I always find it helpful to print out a copy to do another round of revising before sending my work to the editor because our eyes catch a lot more on paper than they do on the screen. Then I take my newly marked-up manuscript back to the computer for last round changes before it goes off to the editor. Yes, even editors need editors. And the cleaner your book goes to the editor, the less time and work it takes them to edit, resulting in less cost to you.
It’s important to seek out an editor you’re comfortable working with and fits reasonably in with your budget and your genre. Believe me, I know as writers our budgets are tight or practically nil, but have you ever heard of anyone who started a business for free? Your books need professional editing, and if you don’t believe me, go look at some books with bad reviews on Amazon because of lack of editing. Readers are discerning and will get angry for crappy, unedited work, and we can’t afford to piss off readers when we’re trying to gain them.
Editors charge by the page or the word count. A good editor will offer to edit a sample chapter from you to show you how they work. A good editor will also not strip your voice from your story.
Once your manuscript is returned, you’ll go through the editor’s suggested changes and revise, then send it back for a final proofread before it’s ready for formatting.
Tip Two: Formatting
Once the manuscript is ready for print, it needs to be made into a downloadable file for ebook form: a mobi file for Amazon, and an epub form for all other distributors, and a print file for POD (print on demand) if you should desire, but highly recommended.
Some authors have the know-how or the inclination to learn how to format, but I can tell you, I have neither. So, if you’re like me, you’ll want to hire a formatter to get your book into form for publishing. A good formatter knows all the specs entailed with creating the file, will find spacing and gap issues in the document, and most important, find leftover marks on your Word document that you may not even be aware of because they aren’t visible after making changes on your manuscript. Once the files are created, they’ll be sent back to you, ready for downloading to your retailers of choice.
*Note: There are many authors offering formatting services now. If you’re not well-versed in formatting and don’t wish to go through the hair-raising and often time-consuming process, you can get a book formatted for a reasonable price, many only charging as low as $25. I know it’s certainly worth my time to hire out.
Tip Three: Book Cover
The first thing to catch a reader’s eye is the book cover. A catchy cover is more apt to attract attention than a boring generic one. Think about how many times you’ve looked through books on Amazon and didn’t look twice at even reading the blurb because the cover didn’t grab you. No matter how great the book may be, it can become a missed opportunity for a book sale if readers aren’t attracted to the cover or if it’s difficult to read the title.
Many new writers try to cut corners by making their own covers, and if they aren’t well-versed in the graphics department, to the discerning eye, it will look home-made. There are many elements involved in creating a good book cover. There is font, and font rules to beware of – size, color, and style elements. And you must be sure the cover is proportionately balanced with the font and picture elements in relation to the size of the book cover. Also, it’s important to know how that cover will look in thumbnail size because that’s how it will show on Amazon and other retail sites.
There are several places online you can find and hire book cover designers for a reasonable price. A good designer will know what’s involved in constructing an eye-catching cover. And of course, it will be up to you to tell them the concept of your book, share your ideas about what you’d like to essentially see on the cover, and you might want to send a few photos to the artist to give them an idea of what you’re after. You can search images at many photo sites to look for ideas of what you’d like on your cover. Artists don’t have time to read your manuscripts, so the more you can tell them about the book, the more ideas they can come up with as mockups to begin sending you for feedback and changes until the final masterpiece is created.
As you go through the process, you’ll be suggesting the changes you’d like, and a good artist will tell you if your suggestions for change will look balanced. For example: The rule of thumb is no more than 3 fonts on a cover because it becomes distracting to the reader. So, you may want your title in one font and your name in a font that you intend to keep as your branding for future books you will write. But you may have a subtitle requiring a third font because you don’t want it to blend into the title or look the same as the font used for your name. These are just a few pointers to take into consideration when creating a cover. I had no concept about all of this when I wrote my first book, so I subscribed to some of the pioneer Indie authors’ newsletters and learned a lot from their publications and links they provided on everything book publishing. I would highly recommend visiting www.thebookdesigner.com – Joel Friedlander’s site. He offers a wealth of information on everything about creating a book.
Tip Four: The Blurb
This is the book’s description, a crucial sales ad copy for your book to attract readers and entice them to buy it. The blurb will go under the product description on Amazon to dangle a carrot and intrigue readers into wanting to buy the book. If you’re making a print version of your book, this will go on the back cover.
Many writers will tell you that this can be a hair-tearing process to write. Finding the appropriate words and message for the blurb has been likened to – worse than writing a book. Why, you may be wondering? Because condensing your book into a mere 200-300 words to share the essence of your story, finding the right hook and not giving up spoilers, is hard work.
A blurb should contain – the protagonist, what they’re after, what the stakes are if they fail. It should create an emotional attachment, leaving the reader curious and wanting to read the book to find out what happens.
Blurb standard protocol:
- First line is where you hook the reader (what the stakes are)
- First paragraph is plot and conflict with the protagonist
- Second paragraph should leave the reader wondering what the resolution of conflict will be
- The last line should be a cliffhanger, causing an urgency in the reader to find out what happens
- You can add a third paragraph if it’s fitting, informing the reader what they can expect from reading the book, or by adding one or two quotes from an editorial you received from your book, inviting the reader to get insight as to how the book will make them feel
*Note: If the blurb is short you can condense the first and second paragraphs.
Here is a wonderful breakdown from Standoutbooks.com, on writing the blurb. This site is one of my favorite sites for learning and keeping up-to-date with everything about the writing industry.
I hope I’ve given you some points to ponder here today. These are the basic guidelines used to self-publish a book. As you get more comfortable publishing more books, you’ll come across many other tricks of the trade that you’ll find useful for incorporating into your own publishing purposes.
Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.
D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.
When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.
Connect with her at:
Book by D.G Kaye available on Amazon.
Platform is a guest blog to discuss ideas or share tips for building and marketing a writer’s platform.
If there’s a demographic for the brand averse, I’m it. As a Brit of the baby-boomer generation, I’ve grown up in a culture that wrinkles its nose at any hint of self-promotion. I’ve felt personally affronted by the privatisation of public services, where passengers become customers and I daren’t even comment on the weather to the person delivering the latest batch of books to my door because, if they don’t complete their around in record time, the contract will go to another company. I’ve been professionally offended by the repeated rebranding of the NHS, leaching funds from patient care into headed paper and signage. Now retired, I’m still affected, as a volunteer for the national park, which has swapped its logo of a millstone with a circular hole in the middle to one with a square, and I’m expected to tramp the moors as a walking advertisement for the outdoor clothing company that’s our current sponsor. And yet.
And yet I’m a writer with small-press published books to promote. I understand an author needs a brand. But because I’m ambivalent, I approach it haphazardly, swinging between living with fingers-in-the-ears indifference to frantic clamouring to board the latest bandwagon – sometimes latest in the sense of newest, sometimes in a sense, it’s already left town – the blogosphere’s been hectoring me about.
And yet, as Charli has so kindly pointed out, I do have a brand. It might not shine and shout as strongly as some brands, I might struggle and blush to articulate it succinctly, but it does exist. And I’ve created it, both consciously and unconsciously, through being me, with all my clumsiness and contradictions. Committed branders should look elsewhere but, for the confused and reluctant, here are a few things I’ve learned.
You can develop your brand at your own pace. I set up my website almost ten years ago and didn’t begin blogging until it was starting to go out of fashion. In my back-to-front way, I joined Twitter a few months later, quaking in my bedroom slippers. Yet I’ve got somewhere.
Something is better than nothing, and you can’t do it all. Yay, you don’t have to be perfect! How many times a day do you have to remind yourself of that? Working meticulously through some version of ten-steps-to-branding might be the most efficient, but if that’s not you, don’t worry. But don’t let it stop you from doing the teeny-tiny bit you can do. Every little bit helps.
You don’t need a personality transplant, and you don’t need to sell your soul. Charli’s expertise in marketing for a non-profit organisation has helped me to see that a brand needn’t espouse the nastier tenets of late capitalism to thrive. Cooperation, compassion, and integrity can be part of a brand; Carrot Ranch providing the perfect object lesson in how these values translate into practice. You can choose how much of your everyday persona goes into your author brand, but you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. While confidence and eloquence are attractive, brashness can be off-putting, and even shrinking violets can sell their books.
Don’t sweat over how others do it. Shall I compare me to a better brander? Alas, there are myriad opportunities for seeing how we fall short. But, when everyone’s circumstances are different, isn’t this like comparing apples and oranges? Notice others’ success in order to celebrate with them, or learn from them, but turn away if it makes your own achievements seem shabby or small. Just because I’m better at giving this advice than following it doesn’t make it any less valid.
Are you a reluctant brander? What strategies have worked for you?
Rough Writer Anne Goodwin’s author brand encompasses grey hair and perhaps the only English accent Americans don’t find cute. Her writing explores identity, marginalisation, mental health, psychology, and attachment. She also has a pronounced intolerance for dodgy fictional therapists.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who seeks to resolve a relationship crisis by keeping a woman captive in a cellar, was published in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 80 published short stories. Her short story anthology, Becoming Someone, will be published in November 2018. Catch up on her website: annethology http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/ or on Twitter @Annecdotist.
Platform is a guest blog to discuss ideas or share tips for building and marketing a writer’s platform.
We’ve had a blast at the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo, and great guffaws from Little and Laugh thanks to the Real Geoff Le Pard and all who entered his contest. And we’ve had fun with Spammer in Residence, Nanjo Castille. He seems to be having fun, too.
We like humor in the literary arts. We like to share laughs among friends. But let’s have a serious talk about spam for a moment.
According to Askimet, spam is “the underbelly of the web.” By October 30, 2017, Askimet caught its 400 billionth spam comment. If you pay for your Word Press website, you receive this filter. Who knows, maybe the Real Nanjo Castille was number 400,000,000,000.
What is this underbelly, exactly? My own definition is that it’s poor marketing. Spam manipulates the sales technique “the more you ask, the more you sell.” I still shudder at those cold-call nights after I left magazine publishing and sold insurance as an agent. I hated it. I hated picking up the phone, interrupting people’s lives with a sales pitch.
Spam is the same idea based on mass numbers producing more sales, or click-thrus. You see, advertisers pay money to get their ads seen. Nanjo is not really selling purses, or perfume, or dongles, or forklifts. A spammer wants to lure you to a bogus website. Click. You just became a number. Those numbers add up and shady marketers charge advertisers by those clicks.
Spam can be a nuisance. It can spread disinformation (think of those fake news chain emails telling you to forward to five more people or your guardian angel loses her wings). It can lead to phishing. Spam can include malicious downloads. You can learn more and how to play it safe on the web at Tech Journey.
Authors and bloggers inadvertently become spammers, too. This goes back to the poor marketing practices of cold-calling and interrupting strangers with a sales pitch. It doesn’t work. It’s disingenuous. It robs your time and energy and the recipient’s time and energy (that’s why spam sucks — it’s a thief of time).
However, Nanjo reminds us that even spammers are human (not bots). Writers selling books are human, too. Spammers do what they do, cold-callers do what they do, and book sellers do what they do, all to earn a living. Let’s be frank about that. It can be incredibly difficult these days to earn a living in sales. It’s even more difficult to earn a living as a writer.
Yet, in order to sell, you still have to ask. And it’s hard. Think about this for a moment — what if spamming is easy because we dehumanize ourselves to turn into robot mode buy-my-book-buy-my-book, and it’s not us making the ask, its bot-self making the ask. I know when I made those cold calls, the only way I got through those nights was by turning off internally.
Therefore, good marketing is uncomfortable. It’s only human to feel vulnerable when pitching your idea, book or product to another. As much as you might prefer a technique that allows you to turn off, don’t. You need to engage. You need to understand that rejection isn’t personal, it’s simply that you didn’t reach your right target. Adjust. Aim better. Stay human.
Two attributes of good marketing are work ethic and authenticity. Work ethic means you take the time to build a platform and authenticity means you take the time to match up your product to those who want it.
It’s a simple answer but complex to set up and execute. It takes thought, strategy, pushing through resistance, maintaining confidence when you have doubt, building relationships, understanding channels of distribution, defining and finding your target audience, innovating, gathering feedback, promoting, and understanding what platform and marketing are.
Not so simple, after all. Thus spamming is easier if you can numb yourself to doing it. Instead, let’s be vulnerable, let’s learn and grow and build. As writers. As marketers. Let’s respect each other’s path, our time, and our shared humanity. Let’s laugh. Not at anyone, but in that grand mystical way when humor breaks down barriers and lightens our burdens and illuminates our human foibles.
And above all, let’s reach out to one another through the empowerment of creating literary art.
Carrot Ranch is growing. If you look around you might see some gaps and unsightly piles of lumber. Growing can be inelegant. Mud-work, I call it. It always begins by digging in the mud. Soon, I’ll wash off the foundations, nail some clean boards and you’ll see barns taking shape. By the time the barns open you might raise your eyebrows in surprise or kick up your heels in delight.
Think of me as the buckaroo with a hammer in one hand, a writing quill in the other and eternally distracted by migrating birds, ancient bedrock and stories waiting to be caught. I recently commented to another writer that one day my tombstone will read, “…but I haven’t told all the stories, yet.” This made me think I could stash pencils and paper at my grave, inciting visitors to write 99 words. If I were to leave a legacy, that would satisfy me greatly. It’s not the words published, but the hunt for them, and stories never cease.
99 words at a time allows me to write beyond the range of my novels I’ve cultivated for the long trail ride. Yet 99 words also becomes a tool to refine those longer stories, to explore their characters and scenes, to process research. When this Ranch hung its shingle to challenge writers to wrangle 99 words, no more, no less it was to spark creativity and cultivate connections. Out of that beginning grew a literary community.
If you think of writers who enjoy word play or word craft, then literary art is our common ground. Flash fiction became the sandbox for playing with literary art in a constrained and yet open way: 99 words, but according to where a prompt leads each writer. Anytime someone says they didn’t think they stayed with the prompt, I clap! That means someone felt more driven to pursue a creative idea than sticking to a “rule.” Carrot Ranch is a safe place to practice, bend or even break literary rules. It’s exploration. It’s creativity. It’s community.
Coming from rural places and the cooperative industry, I believe in the difference a small and engaged group of people can make. The barns raised at Carrot Ranch are to expand the reach of this literary community, and to build upon the 99 word challenges with new innovations to push creativity and word craft. The barns are also places to house the abundance of writing from those who wrangle words here. What you will notice are changes to pages, new events, a book launch and a Rodeo.
The Ranch schedule remains the same with enhancements:
- Mondays: Admin day with #MondayBlogs participation on Twitter
- Tuesdays: Ranch Business/Guest Authors (essay and advanced flash fiction topics follow for 2018)
- Wednesdays: Weekly Challenge Compilation posts
- Thursdays: New Flash Fiction Challenge posts
Guest authors can sign up for the 2018 schedule January – September. There are 38 open slots. Essays will continue to include Raw Literature (about the creative process and early creations in writing) and Platform (about marketing tactics for authors or bloggers). A new essay opportunity is to write a Peer Book Review on a fellow Rough Writer (or Friend who joins us in writing at the Ranch).
In 2018, Carrot Ranch will challenge flash fiction writers to push their craft with Advanced Flash Fiction. If you are interested, you can sign up for the 6th Sense Challenge, History Challenge, or Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge. Each will be explained on an upcoming new page this month (Submissions). If you are interested in being a guest author at Carrot Ranch in 2018, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carrot Ranch will use the remaining 2017 Tuesdays for Ranch Business. We have an exciting season kicking off, which will become yearly:
- October: Flash Fiction Rodeo (8 contests, 8 first-place prizes, 0 fees) Tuesdays & Thursdays
- November: First 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 launches, #NaNoWriMo
- December: Final 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 Book Parties & Blog Tour, #NaNoProMo
If you want to participate in blog sharing, #MondayBlogs is how Carrot Ranch shares other blog posts on Twitter. Each writer who participates in the weekly challenges with blog links have those links embedded in their flash fiction’s title. I share the compilation with your blog links across a broad platform of active Facebook Groups and at the Carrot Ranch Facebook Page.
Weekly Challenges will continue. If you ever get a burning idea for a prompt, leave it in the comments with your story. I might use it to prompt my own blog post that week, too. Facebook decided to change its format, which has hampered how I save stories for the compilation. It’s caused a hiccup during a busy time, but it’s just hiccup. I’m setting up the compilation differently. It won’t appear different, but my process will change.
IMPORTANT: The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo in October will replace the weekly flash fiction challenges for that month. The last one will be September 28. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.
I’m excited for the Flash Fiction Rodeo! This is the big show, the one we built the show barn for and it is led by 8 of our own Rough Writers. My first rodeo was at Bolado Park Arena when I was three. After I married, I hung up my riding boots and followed the ink trail.
This might be your first rodeo, but let me tell you it’s going to be a fun and wild ride! Our fearless leaders have events you’ll not expect. This is not your ordinary flash fiction contest. If you’ve never entered a contest before, here are three compelling reasons why you should enter one:
- You have 8 contests to choose from (enter one, two or all)!
- There are no entry fees (it’s free, and you might win a $25 prize)!
- It’s Carrot Ranch & the Rough Writers (you know we don’t bite)!
Next Tuesday we will introduce the Leaders and their Contests. Each Tuesday and Thursday in October (Oct. 5-31) a new contest will debut at Midnight (EST). Each one will have its own set of rules, deadline and platform — some will be at Carrot Ranch, at least one will be on Twitter, and another will use Submittable. Winners will be revealed at Carrot Ranch each Tuesday Nov. 7-Dec. 26. An All-Around Winner from among the eight will be revealed Jan. 2.
In January, we’ll begin development of Vol. 2. The anthology features the writing of The Congress of Rough Writers. On Oct. 3 Carrot Ranch will have a kick-off party for the Rodeo and announce the new inductees to the Rough Writers. If you’ve been writing here and thinking about answering the open call, email your interest to me at: email@example.com.
The saw dust will clear and the barns will soon be up! Save the date to celebrate: