Focus

 

Have you ever noticed how much you can get done when you’re focused? And how little you get done when you don’t have a plan of attack? Interesting, no?

What’s your goal for today?

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If I give you a book, do you owe me a review?

This was a discussion that started in my Facebook feed last week and I’ve been thinking about it, ever since. Not surprisingly, I suppose, there were many varying views on this question.

The original post went something like this, “If you are given a free book, you are obligated to post a review.”

As an author, I certainly agree with the spirit of the statement. All writers hope to get reviews, positive ones, but even negative reviews are helpful. And it is a difficult task to get reviews. I don’t know if there are any statistics on it but it seems that a very small percentage of readers actually post reviews on anything they read.

However, the question for me is if I give away one of my books freely is the receiver obligated to write a review?

In my case, no. I make no assumption that giving away one of my books will result in a review. I would certainly be happy if that were the case, but it isn’t something I expect. Just as I wouldn’t expect my buddy Zelda to buy me a latte this week because I treated her to one last week.

Why do authors give away books anyway?

There are many reasons authors give away books, certainly the hope of getting reviews would be one of them. Probably because they’ve been told by a marketing ‘expert’ that giving away books results in getting reviews, will skyrocket them to the top 100 list, make them super visible to potential readers, somehow make them a best-selling author, etc. I know plenty of authors who would disagree with that ‘conventional wisdom.’

But an author may also give away a book to:

  • Entice you to sign up for their mailing list
  • Get you acquainted with their writing and become a fan
  • Increase their rankings in various bookstores within Amazon and on other online book retailers
  • Encourage you to buy and read their other books
  • Otherwise increase their sales stats
  • And probably some reasons that none of us would think of

However, regardless of the reason that an author may give you a free book, does that obligate you to give them something in return?

I don’t think it does. And if it does, perhaps it should be called a trade rather than a freebie?

What about you? Do you believe that if an author gives you a free book that you are obligated to review it? Do you typically review the books you read? If not, how come? Is the offer of a free book intriguing to you or a sign of desperation? What do you think about free books? Feel free to share your views in the comments below.

All the good things that happen to us every day

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Happy almost New Year, everybody. Hard to believe that another year has passed already, but it has. I look forward to what the new year will bring. In the meantime, I am still struggling with my Christmas cold, which came upon me a couple of days before Christmas and has hung on pretty tightly since.

It’s been a fun fest of cough medicine, tissues and late night coughing. I mean seriously, how much snot can one head hold?

I don’t know about you but I can be a pretty big baby when I’m sick and even I wish I could leave the room when I’m like that. The incessant whining, the sad eyes, the stooped posture. Yikes. And ironically, since it’s one of those bad head colds I can barely talk, so all my complainng comes out in Minnie Mouse like squeaks and squeals. Not a pretty thing, my friends.

However, it’s gotten me thinking. In my quest to beat the cold into submission, to meet it headlong in battle with light saber raised and determination glinting in my somewhat crusty eye, I realized it’s a losing battle. Yes, I can take the meds, get rest, drink fluids, and eat chicken soup but the thing is, the cold will take its course no matter what I do. All my focus on dare I say obsession with it, doesn’t do much to change it.

And from there I thought, it’s kind of how life is. We get slapped around and we fight back and then we get slapped some more. We get up and rattle our light sabers but then somebody kicks us in the head. It’s messy. It’s bloody. There’s lots of drool involved. And our all consuming focus on the problem only makes things seem more futile.

So I wondered if maybe it was a smarter to just let it be. You know what I mean? Just say, “Well, okay, that sucks.” And then move on. In fact, when I have been able to do this, often the problem works itself out.

Okay, what’s my point? Yes, I should definitely get to the point. The point is that what we focus on is what we get. Right? If we focus on problems then problems we get. But what if we focused on the good things that happen to us every day? And I promise you, no matter how bad you may think things are for you, good things do happen to you every day. You may not notice them, but they happen.

So maybe the trick is to start noticing those things. All those tiny little, lovely things that happen to you every day, like:

  • The email you got from an old friend because you sent them a Christmas card
  • The unexpected gift from a friend that arrived just when you were feeling low
  • The wag of your dog’s tail or that special purr from your cat
  • The snow on the mountains that you can see out your bathroom window
  • The guy who let you into to traffic or the lady who let you cut in line at the grocery store
  • You sold a book
  • You got a review
  • People you don’t even know read your blog or make a nice comment
  • Somebody retweets you
  • Starbucks sent you a coupon for a free coffee
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • The freedom to get on the Internet and bitch and moan about anything and everything
  • A great new book to read

The list goes on and on. Every one is really, truly a tiny little miracle. To be celebrated and appreciated and paid forward.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m going out to look for the good things. Tiny as they may be, I know they’re out there. And as long as I have tissues to daubs my runny nose and eyes, I think I’ll be able to see them.

How about you? Do you notice all the little good things that happen to you every day? How did it make you feel? Feel free to share.

Annie

How’s your relationship with food?

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With the holidays upon us, there is some serious food in our not too distant futures. In fact, for many of us, it’s already started. The gift baskets are rolling in, the office break room is the busiest spot in the building, and since you’re making Christmas cookies for everybody, you might as well toss back a few too.

Where I come from, food is love. We never had much money or material possessions but there was always room for one more at the dinner table – and don’t get me started on my mom’s cinnamon coffee cake.

I started cooking at an early age and have always loved it. Have always loved feeding people, I guess it’s the way I care for people. It’s an easy way to comfort and create all in one delicious package.

But the flip side of that is that maybe I love food a little too much. Weight gain has been a problem for me most of my life and find myself loving/hating food regularly. I make lists in my head of the good foods and the bad foods. Naturally I love the bad foods and don’t love the good foods. I can’t eat a piece of cake, pie, candy or anything else without issuing a silent admonition to myself. Followed by a vow/promise that I will clean up my act later. Next week, next month, next year. And so it goes…

A new approach to your relationship with food?

Somewhere in my travels, I stumbled upon The Psychology of Eating website. According to them, you have two brains, the one in your head and the one in your gut. It sounded interesting, so I signed up for their free video series to check it out. I have to say, what these folks had to say made sense to me. So much so that I ordered the book, The Slow Down Diet, and look forward to reading it.

This is the book blurb:
The Slow Down Diet takes on all other diet books. Marc David presents a profoundly new way to look at how you eat and how you can master your metabolism in a life-changing 8 week program. You’ll learn about the hidden metabolic powers of relaxation, quality food, pleasure, awareness, rhythm, a positive inner story, and a deeper relationship with the sacred. You’ll hear cutting-edge research on body biochemistry as well as success stories from Marc’s own nutritional counseling practice that can help you find your natural weight, increase your energy, enhance digestion, and feel rejuvenated and inspired about your body and your relationship with food. Drawing on more than 30 years of experience in clinical nutrition and the psychology of eating, Marc David offers readers practical tools that will yield life-transforming and sustainable results.

I don’t know if this is something that will help me with my bad relationship with food but I’m hopeful. If it does help, I’ll probably do a follow up post about it. At any rate, I just thought I’d pass this along for anybody who may have similar problems.

In the meantime, enjoy your holidays and your many blessings.

Annie

Parting thoughts about NaNo

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Well, it’s December 1st and those of us who participated in NaNo, likely are taking a collective breath and saying, “I can’t believe I did the whole thing.”

Technically, I was a ‘winner’ because I hit the 50K mark, although the draft wasn’t finished at that point. In fact, I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday but forgot to post it, so even my word count is off. Still, it was an experience and something I can now cross off my bucket list. And you can too.

Why I did it

A lot of people may wonder why any writer would try to write a novel in 30 days. For a long time, I did too. But this time around, I had a few reasons:

  • I’d tried before and failed, so I wanted to see if I could do it.
  • I was writing a novel anyway, so what could it hurt?
  • I hoped to connect with other writers.
  • I thought the deadline would serve as extra motivation.

What was good?

The good things that came out of NaNo for me were:

I met the target. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but setting a goal and accomplishing it is good for your ego. And it was good for mine.

I met two lovely writers. I ‘buddied up’ with two other writers for sounding board stuff and encouragement. Both writers were kind, intelligent, and fun. And I hope to stay in touch with them.

It made writing a priority for me. While I am always writing because I make my living that way, I don’t always work on my stuff. The non-client stuff. NaNo changed that because I had a deadline and was forced to make my novel a priority.

The time limit made my internal editor shut the heck up. One of the things that writers go through is endless conversations/arguments with their internal editor. And it can be a real sticking point and stop you dead in your tracks if the dialogue gets out of hand. Because of the finite time period I had in which to meet my goal, I had to force my internal editor into silence. The good thing about this is that I learned I could do it.

What was not so good?

That’s right, at least for me, NaNo is not all sunshine and unicorns. It presented a few problems for me which I didn’t expect:

The external pressure seemed a little artificial and unnatural. I have no problem with deadlines – actually in my line of work they are a way of life. But the arbitrary deadline of x number of words within x number of days felt a little forced. And it created an unnecessary anxiety in me. Like somebody was peering over my shoulder, ruler in hand, waiting for me to crap out.

I went out of touch with friends, family, and colleagues. Participating something like NaNo requires tremendous focus. You have to make choices and usually those choices have to do with cutting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary out of your life temporarily. So, I didn’t chat with friends on the phone, barely took a minute for the holiday, and my social media buds probably think I’m dead.

It stressed me out. Even though I participated in NaNo willingly – the tight deadline and the volume demanded stressed me out. I dreamed about writing. I barely left my desk and I was pretty grumpy throughout. Oddly, it reminded me of working a regular ‘job’ where someone else was in charge of my time and energy.

It forced me to decide. Now, making decisions is not a bad thing. However, again because of the pressure and short deadline I was forced to make decisions about the story that had I had more time to consider might not have made. I had to ignore glaring outpoints in the storyline and plot and gloss over a lot, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I can fix those things during the editing/revision stage in subsequent drafts, so it’s not permanent. However, in some ways I wonder if I ended up making more work for myself than I otherwise would have.

What didn’t matter?

NaNo has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings and there are a lot of non-writing activities offered, as well as other things. Most of them, unnecessary in my opinion:

The write-ins. I didn’t do any travel to do any IRL write-ins but I tried a virtual one. After about ten minutes I logged off because it wasn’t conducive to writing for me. Mostly it was a couple of cute guys who liked to giggle a lot, giving timed exercises to the participants. I could see how that might’ve helped other writers but it did nothing for me.

The offers, sponsored products, and freebies. I didn’t decide to participate in NaNo so I could receive discounted products or freebies. It’s nice that they offer such things but I already have 25 books on writing, structure, marketing and so forth that I haven’t yet read so more wouldn’t have helped any. And who had time? Also, I’m pretty old school, a simple word processing program works just fine for me when I write.

All in all, I’m glad that I participated in NaNo and can now check that off on my bucket list. It was an experience and I did get a pleasant little high when I reached the 50K mark, and met a couple of people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t. And by the end of the day my draft will be complete. So, yay. And thank you NaNo for being there.

What about you? Did you participate? Did you love it or hate it? Did you finish? Did it change the way you write or your process? Was it a help or a hindrance? Regale us with your NaNo experiences in the comments.

In the meantime, write on brothas and sistahs.

Annie

Be afraid, be very afraid…

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Not long ago I read a blog post about fear. The blogger went to great lengths to rant against how the government, media, and capitalists were all manipulating us with fear to get what they want.

Ironically, during the rant there were a few fears thrown in for good measure – global warming, government intrusion and guns. These apparently were the good and legitimate fears that we should all believe in.

After reading the comments, I could see that by and large the readers agreed with the post and related some of their own experiences with fear being used as a manipulation tool. Various solutions were suggested – though nothing new or startling.

What’s missing here?

But here’s the thing that the post seemed to miss. There is a reason fear is used in anything from news reports, politics to selling widgets – it works. So then, rather than just ranting about fear and manipulation perhaps we could drill down into the topic further and examine not the use of fear, but why fear works as a manipulation tool.

Fear works because:

  • Everybody has a bias. If you can tap into that bias, then that person is yours for the asking.
  • Most people hate being bored and modern life creates a lot of boredom. Let’s face it, modern technology has taken much of our critical thinking away from us. We don’t need to pursue information in earnest anymore, we have Google and Wiki. And they are happy to do our thinking for us. Hell, we don’t even have to drive or parallel park our cars anymore. Technology will do it for us.
  • Sensation is king among humans. This is a bit of an extension from the boredom bit. Humans love to feel stuff. They love the rush. It interests them, it kicks in endorphins, and it relieves their boredom. Otherwise, no one would ride a roller coaster, sky dive, mountain climb, read horror novels, or go to horror movies or truth be told, watch the news. Sensation makes humans feel alive.

What to do about fear manipulation?

You could do many things about it, if you had the will to do so. If you are the kind of person who is strong willed you can simply refuse to give into it and go about your business

Though the better solution might be to find a hobby or activity that interests you and creates more sensation than the lookie-loo joy of watching blood and guts parade of the nightly news.

But above all else, and you’ll hate me for saying this,  I think we need to stop seeing ourselves as victims. So what if capitalists, marketers, and politicians lie and use fear to manipulate? None of them is holding a gun to your head. You don’t have to take the bait. You don’t have to see yourself as a victim.  You can actually take responsibility for your own fate and pursue what is important to you in life.

This is not to say that I don’t sympathize with people who are truly victimized. Crime, abuse, violence, natural disasters, illnesses, and accidents are all equal opportunity victimizers and there is usually no rhyme or reason or discernible why. But that is the exception to the rule. Most things you can walk away from and refuse to be victimized by:

  • Mean words
  • Critical comments
  • Being cut off in traffic
  • Liars
  • Jerks
  • Ass-hats
  • News reports
  • Celebrity spats
  • Opposing political opinions
  • Stupid things said by public figures

You can trade in that fear for something that excites and interests you. By doing so you might find it makes you happier in the long run.

How about you? Do people in your life try to make you afraid? Do you take the bait? Or do you ignore it and go about your business? Regale us with your stories in the comments.

The new black in blogging – comments turned off, no response to comments

Copyblogger shocked a lot of people when they turned off comments a while back. The post they wrote explaining why was reasonable and let’s face it, Copyblogger is one of the biggest blogs around. Their business model has probably changed twenty times since they started and well progress, right?

But it got me thinking and maybe wondering if they just weren’t acknowledging a trend or perhaps even predicting one. When I started blogging there weren’t many rules but there were a few common practices, among them, responding to comments.

It made sense. You write a post, someone comments on the post and you respond, if only to say thank you. You started a dialogue and sometimes that dialogue grew into a connection. Maybe you visited their blog and commented, or added them to your blog roll, introduced them to other blogger buds, linked to their posts. It was nice. Cozy. Friendly. I made a lot friends that way.

These days though it seems that perhaps a “like” is supposed to suffice for a comment. An electronic ‘atta girl’ if you will, that at least lets you know somebody’s reading. And given the many types of feed readers there are out there, getting someone to even visit your blog can be feat.

Too big to respond or interact?

In the case of Copyblogger, perhaps they are too big to respond or even allow comments. I imagine they had hundreds of comments daily. And realistically, they’d have to hire someone to answer the comments. Probably….

And of course this may be an issue for many of the popular blogs that get a lot of comments. And I’ve certainly noticed that some of the blogs I read follow this business model. Funny though, I tend not to comment on those blogs anymore – even though I do read them somewhat regularly. On the other hand, there are some very popular blogs that still seem to not only manage to respond to their comments but do so with warmth and and good humor.

So maybe it boils down to preference on the part of the blogger.

Old school or new school?

Personally, I’m old school. I feel that If somebody makes the effort to come to my blog and make a comment it seems only right that I acknowledge that comment with a response. Nobody likes talking to themselves, do they? I know I don’t. And really don’t we blog to start a conversation and exchange views? Or is it just a one-way street where we’re all supposed to just be talking at people instead of to them? Are we so wise and such experts that we don’t need to respond?

If you listen to any of the experts they all say you must give value with your content – wouldn’t a response to a thoughtful comment be valuable to the commenter? Anyway, I think I believe it would be. So, if you comment, rest assured, I shall respond

What do you think? When you make a comment on a blog, do you expect a response? Do you go back and check to see if you received a response? If there is none, do you feel disappointed? Are you less likely to make a comment in the future on that blog?

I’d really like to know what people think about this.

Writer Chick

copyright 2015

Ten Ways to Ruin Your Blog

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Yup, I think I’ve done all of them.

Stop blogging about what you want to blog about in favor of the advice of experts whom you do not know. The problem with experts on the Internet is that everyone is an expert. This can confuse us. While there are many people who do give sound advice on Internet marketing you might want to check them out before taking their advice.

Worry about value to your readers so much that your blog posts are incomprehensible and even you don’t know what you’re saying. I remember a few months back I was trying to get back into regular blogging and so read tons of articles and advice, most of it stressing value. I became so stressed out about my ‘value’ that when I wasn’t in apathy about writing a post I was chewing my fingernails down to the stubs worried that whatever I produced was not valuable enough.

Imitate what the big bloggers do so you are a poor imitation of them. I think we’ve all done this. Tried to imitate CopyBlogger or some other big blog in our niche. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t pull it off. Can you say disaster?

Blog about what you think others think you should blog about because what you want to blog about you don’t think anyone will think is cool. Look, you started your blog because you had an idea. You had something to say in your own voice, from your own point of view. Now after reading all the how-to articles, that enthusiasm, that joy of creating that you felt is like a cold super-sized side of McDonald’s fries churning in your stomach. See if you can go back and find the thing that excited you when you first started.

Write about a topic as though you are an expert but about which you know nothing or you know something but not enough. Lots of people think, well I can (fill in the blank) so I can assume the view of an expert – and in fact I’ve seen that suggested in marketing advice. But when you try to write the post it doesn’t fly. It doesn’t sound authoritative or experty enough or whatever. Might work better if you approach the topic from the view of ‘this is how I do (fill in the blank).”

Write the same post everybody else is writing. Is this tempting or what? You subscribe to lots of blogs, read a few of the big ones and everybody is posting about a certain topic, news story or current event. So you figure you’ll do it too. I’ve done it and it didn’t work. I say, so what if everybody is talking about the fight with Hachette and Amazon, if you want to blog about red-haired girls and their best looks then write about that. It’s your blog, your voice, your little condo on the Internet. Do it your way. Who knows you may even set a trend.

Write posts based on titles you get from a title generator. Okay, I haven’t done this one but you can tell who does. Because you see the same titles/headlines everywhere, slightly edited but still…

Write nothing about which you have an opinion, feel passionate or have any interest in. Can you say instant death? Blogging about things you don’t have any strong feelings about is about as exciting as watching milk go bad. If you don’t love it, chances are nobody else will either.

Write a blog for the sole purpose of collecting readers for your future books. I know, I know, most of us are writers. Most of us write books, stories, and poems and we want people to read those books, stories and poems. But people can tell if you’re just trying to sell them rather than have a conversation with them. And who knows if the conversation goes well, they might want to buy your books, stories and poems.

Have lots of ads, pop-ups, flash animation and everything else you can think of to keep people from being able to read your posts. This one I did for about five minutes. I didn’t go full-bore flash animation but I ran the ads. I made no revenue whatsoever and even I was irritated by them staring back at me.

So my friends, there you have it, ten surefire ways to ruin your blog. Have you ever done something that ruined your blog? What happened? Did you fix it? How?

Oh yeah, and Happy Tax Day to one and all 😀

Writer Chick

Amazon goes to court over fake reviews and other scintillating reads this week

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Amazon files first-ever suit over fake product reviews, alleging sites sold fraudulent praise
Hold onto your hats, think Amazon doesn’t like reviews written by your mom or best friend? They really hate it when somebody builds a business around fake reviews.

20 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LIBRARIES IN THE WORLD – Gary McLaren at WorldWide Freelance Writer offers us awe-inspiring buildings that honor books – so beautiful they almost look like houses of worship – and maybe they are.

Top Social Media Turnoffs. Forbes gives us a pictorial of the top social media turnoffs.

Nicolas Sparks:Writing and Proscratination go Hand-in-Hand.
Interesting insights about writing from famous romance writer, Nicolas Sparks.

10 Resources To Upgrade Your Grammar And Writing Skills from BhatKallys.com is a handy list of resources to up your grammar and writing game.

Okay my friends, start reading. And feel free to talk about these stories with each other in the comments.

Have a great week!

Writer Chick