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Finding the Joy in the Picture


by Jennifer Paros


You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

~ Mark Twain

JoyPic6SmallI was all bent out of shape - over something I cannot now remember - feeling crummy yet still determined to get out and run some errands. As I got in the car and put my seatbelt on, I determined to at least try to feel a little better though the momentum of frustration and unhappiness was strong.

As I drove, I started counting backwards to calm myself. At first, I went through the numbers at a sprint – eventually I walked through them, and finally I meandered, taking my time and even slowing my breathing. Like a dog free of its owner and running towards traffic, my mind ran back to the problematic thoughts again and again and so I had to call it back, again and again.

I came to a four–way stop next to the entrance of a grocery store. One car took its turn and then pedestrians started crossing on the crosswalk before me. Slowly more people came, rather wayward and unfocused. I accepted the situation with tentative patience when, just as I thought all was clear, a man with disheveled hair and five o’clock shadow arrived pushing an empty grocery cart. He began his journey. With his broad smile, which seemed mildly crazy or drunk, he started pushing his cart erratically across the street.

Then, I noticed him look down. My eyes followed and I saw a tiny little girl sitting underneath the cart, happily having a ride. He hadn’t been distracted or talking to himself, he’d been playfully checking on her. I laughed at the sweetness of their exchange and he turned and smiled broadly at me, aware I had seen the girl. He had found someone else with whom to share his delight. I felt flooded with appreciation; his tenderness and kindness were palpable to me. more...


A Muse on Marketing: Free Amazon Tools to Promote Your Book


by Susan Sloate




I love Amazon. Seriously. Though I’ve heard grumbling for years about Amazon sweeping other booksellers into oblivion, it seems clear to me that Amazon might just be a writer’s best friend—the website that attracts and informs millions, offers writers opportunity to publish their work through a variety of companies, and has a ton of tools to help invisible writers become visible.


I talk about this last point often, and I’m always surprised that more writers aren’t aware of it. Do you realize you can promote yourself on Amazon FOR FREE (which Amazon not only approves of, but provides tools for)?


How about:


1) Your Customer Name. I’m not suggesting that if your name is John Smith you start calling yourself Carmen Miranda. BUT... if you’re a writer, why just say John Smith? My customer name on Amazon is not ‘Susan Sloate’. It’s ‘Susan Sloate, Author, Forward to Camelot and Stealing Fire’. Why? Because EVERY SINGLE PLACE where my name appears on Amazon, it’s a free advertisement for me and my book.

How do you use it?


WRITE REVIEWS. Book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews—whatever products you like and want to voice an opinion about. You don’t even need to buy it on Amazon!! If you got a good book at a yard sale for 50 cents, you can still write an honest review about its merits, and your name shows up on the review. Pick items you like, so your review is positive. If you write a snarling review, it might make you feel better, but will potential readers reading your review want to check out your book, given your attitude? Doubtful. And try if possible to pick stuff that’s ALREADY GETTING A LOT OF TRAFFIC and is in the same genre as your book (better yet is if it's also the same subject matter as your book). Recent bestsellers are good, or books by authors who are already popular. You’re getting YOUR NAME AND TITLE on THEIR PAGE—for nothing! Isn’t that worth a few minutes of your time? I think it is. Besides, I like boosting other writers. It’s fun. Remember to write a review long enough to get some attenton. more...


Seven Ways to Shut Down On-Line Bullies and

Protect Your Author Brand


by Kristen Lamb

Lamb201111The world is drowning in choices, and discoverability is nothing short of a nightmare, especially when it comes to books. Cheap and FREE! no longer hold the same influence and, in the face of limitless options, consumers (code for readers) will often purchase based off feelings.


This is why likability is key for using social media effectively. Writers are no longer selling information or stories—we’re selling ourselves, which just confirms for me that writing really is the oldest profession in the world.

But that's another topic entirely.


Often, we judge a book by its cover author. If interacting with the author is a pleasant experience, we feel better about purchasing her books and even promoting the author/books to our own networks. Conversely, if an author is self-centered, self-promotes non-stop, spams everyone in sight, takes without giving and acts like an equine derriere, we’d sooner suck nails through a straw than part with $.99 that would benefit the jerk writer. I know of very gifted, genius authors who I will never buy from simply because I don’t like them. I don’t care for their inflated egos or the demeaning way they treat others. I’ll buy from a nicer, less “talented” writer any day, and likely I’m not alone.


But how can we be “liked”? No need to panic. I’m here to help.   more...




The Writer Twin


by Judith Kirscht


ScreenShot20140408at81643PMWith WordPress and other DIY websites becoming ever easier, many writers are savvy enough to design and post their own sites. But some of us aren’t, or can’t face trekking up the learning curve. When I needed a website for publication of my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, I didn’t want a prepackaged site (a la WordPress), although they can be fine. But I needed a site that reflected the themes of my book and so resolved to hire a web designer.

Once I did, I learned some shocking lessons. Whether you intend to create your own website or hire a professional, I hope my baptism will ease your own plunge into the arctic waters of website creation.


1. Watch out for new website shock. Writers deal with and, for the most part, love words. That’s why we’re not artists, photographers, architects, or graphic designers. When you design a website—by yourself or with a professional—you must trigger, or learn, a visual sensitivity to photos, color, graphics, proportions, layout . . . and supply the content.


2. Find a good website designer. I first contacted a friend—big mistake. He was a sophisticated tech professional who had done many sites, but he was returning to graduate school and completely preoccupied with applications and majors. And he had little affinity for my book.


Then a fellow writer (who had designed his own site—sigh) suggested I look at sites of authors with works and viewpoints similar to mine. I gravitated to one author I greatly admire. Her site is not only beautiful but inspirational, and I’ve often accessed it to pull myself out of the writing dumps. At the bottom of a subpage, I saw a tiny credit—the designer’s. Click and redirect: found her! more...



To Be Read to Aloud


by Cherie Tucker



noellersterneauthor11. Take a deep breath.

2. Read this aloud: The past tense of sink is SANK.

3. Repeat.

If you wish to use the word sunk, it must have those little helper verbs in front of it, like have or had. You may say, “The boat sank.” You may say, “The boat has sunk.” You may even say, “The boat had sunk.” Any of those will do nicely, as will, “I don’t know. It may have sunk.” But you may NOT say, “The boat sunk.” It didn’t sunk; it sank.

Now go to the list at the top of this article and read it aloud. Many times.





by Katie Hafner


Hafner1I have been a journalist for 35 years, happily writing about the lives of others, while just as happily dodging my own story.

That changed in the summer of 2009 when, in the wake of a crisis in her life, my mother moved from San Diego to San Francisco – and in with my teenage daughter and me. My mother was 77. I was 51. We planned to live together for a year, as an experiment in multigenerational living.

I was determined to do what I could to help my mother – not just through this particularly difficult time for her, but on through the last years of her life. I held fast to a fairytale view of our relationship that made me certain everything about our experiment would work out just fine. My mother was equally starry-eyed. We both referred to our upcoming adventure as “Our Year in Provence.”

There was just one problem: My mother and I didn’t really know each other. I had been taken away from her when I was 10 (she had been an alcoholic), and she hadn’t raised me. Yet for years I had convinced myself that I had emerged from my childhood unscathed, and not the least bit angry at my mother.

As it turned out, to no one’s surprise except perhaps my own, I wasn’t over the past. Not one little bit. Soon after my mother moved in, I began acting out in small, cruel ways. When we blended households, I rejected her furniture, her artwork, even her Tupperware, in favor of my own stuff. If she needed my help with something, I did it, but grudgingly. I lay in bed at night feeling guilty, confused, sorry and tormented. more...


April 2014