Posts Tagged ‘self-publishing’

Using Myth and Superstition

August 25, 2017

Photo Courtesy Michael Dwyer.

Like a significant percentage of Americans, I was absorbed in the recent (August 21, 2017) spectacle of the solar eclipse.

While we now know the astronomical reasons for the event, ancient cultures, without such scientific understanding, tried to explain why the Sun temporarily vanished from the sky … with legends.

It wasn’t difficult to imagine how solar eclipses were once a cause of fear that became associated with myths, legends and superstitions throughout history. Even today, an eclipse of the Sun is considered a bad omen in many cultures.

Myths and Superstitions
My curiosity aroused, I looked up several of those legends. In Vietnam, people believed a solar eclipse was caused by a giant frog devouring the Sun, while Norse cultures blamed wolves. In ancient China, a celestial dragon was thought to lunch on the Sun.

In ancient Hindu mythology, the deity Rahu, for drinking Amrita, the gods’ nectar, was beheaded by the other gods. His head flew off into the sky and swallowed the Sun.

Ancient Korean folklore offers another explanation. It suggests solar eclipses happen because mythical fire dogs are trying to steal the Sun.

I even found an indigenous American people The Pomo, who lived in the northwestern United States, who told the story of a bear who took a bite out of the Sun. The Pomo name for a solar eclipse translates literally to Sun-Got-Bit-By-Bear.

Predicting the Future
Surviving records have shown that both the Babylonians and the ancient Chinese were actually able to fairly accurately predict solar eclipses, as early as 2500 BCE.

In China, such astronomical events were thought to be associated with the health and success of the emperor, and failing to predict one meant putting him in danger. There is even a Chinese legend that says two astrologers, Hsi and Ho, were executed for failing to predict a solar eclipse.

Historians and astronomers believe the eclipse they failed to forecast occurred on October 22, 2134 BCE, which would make it the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded in human history.

Clay tablets found at ancient archaeological sites show the Babylonians also predicted and recorded eclipses … the earliest known Babylonian record is of the eclipse that took place on May 3, 1375 BCE.

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, a solar eclipse in 585 BCE actually stopped the war between the Lydians and the Medes, who saw the darkening skies as a sign to make peace with each other.

Scientific Discoveries
The word eclipse comes from ekleipsis, the ancient Greek word for being abandoned … perhaps appropriate for what they believed was happening when the sun started to disappear.

Although early eclipse pioneers tried to describe and explain solar eclipses and their features, it wasn’t until 1605 that astronomer Johannes Kepler gave a scientific description of a total solar eclipse.

More than a century later, Edmund Halley (after whom the famous Halley’s Comet is named) predicted the timing and path of the total solar eclipse of May 3, 1715. His calculations were only four minutes off from the eclipse’s actual timing and path.

A solar eclipse is also responsible for the discovery of helium.

The evidence for the existence of the second most abundant element known was discovered by the French astronomer Jules Janssen, during a total solar eclipse on August 16, 1868. Because of this, it’s named after the Greek word for the Sun: Helios.

Proving Relativity
The British astronomer and mathematician, Sir Arthur Eddington, used the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919 to test Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. By taking pictures of stars near the Sun during totality, Eddington was able to show gravity can indeed bend light, almost exactly as Einstein predicted.

It might be hard to picture widespread panic ensuing during an eclipse in modern-day North America, but there is no doubt the events struck immense fear in ancient people who didn’t understand them … and sought to explain them the best way they could.

I found the myths and legends that have grown up around solar eclipses to be fascinating (these are by no means all of them) and think there must be myriad new story ideas that can be generated about them. I know it works. I’ve used myth and legend before in my own stories. My well-received novel BLOOD LAKE is an example.

You have time to work on it. There won’t be another total solar eclipse until April 8, 2024.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

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I plan to attend the Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017 and hope to attend a book-signing the next day, October 22, 2017, at the Leon and Lulu Books & Authors Event in Clawson, Michigan.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

How to Avoid Promotional Black Holes

August 1, 2017

Photo Courtesy Pixabay.

There are so many potential pitfalls that writers must navigate, even seasoned authors can make mistakes marketing a book today.

With hundreds of errors to choose from, here are my choices for seven of the worst ones …

Don’t Have a Web Site
This is a biggie. Authors absolutely need a web site. Traditional publishers expect their clients to have one, and it’s just as necessary … maybe more so … for an independent.

Aesthetics matter, too … and whatever you do, don’t let it get outdated. Updating your site regularly will help with search engine optimization (SEO), which is important to establishing your brand and getting your work out there.

Don’t Play Nice With Others
Another biggie. Other writers are not competitors or enemies. You should be reaching out to collaborate with them. As a community, you’re stronger when you share ideas and support one another (I’ve interviewed other authors on this blog, to help them promote their work … and I’ll do it again, because it all helps).

Don’t Have an Elevator Speech
I’ve said this often, and I’m always surprised when I discover the number of author wannabes who don’t have one ready. You never know when you will be chatting with someone and have an opportunity to mention your book(s). Have a 15-20-second soundbite ready, and share it as often as possible.

Ignore the Power of Reviews
Secure reviews with Kirkus Reviews, Foreword Reviews, Publishers Weekly, Readers’ Favorite, Blue Ink, TopBookReviewers, and others. Some you will have to pay for … but if your work is strong you will find they are like gold. You can never have enough.

Ignore Resources at Your Disposal
Writers fall short when they don’t join useful groups. For instance, I’m a member of the National Writers Association, the Association of Independent Authors, Michigan Writers and the American Academy of Poets. Other fabulous group resources are Independent Book Publishers, the Writers Guild (East and West), and PEN America. Get an author listing on Goodreads, too.

Your Head Isn’t in the Game
Lazy authors are not successful ones. Neither are authors whose ego is so huge they simply fail to hustle. Don’t get blinded by an inflated sense of self-worth. Tone it down, get off your high horse, and be ready to do whatever it takes to get your book out there.

You Don’t Go All In
Don’t say you already have a Facebook presence, when all you did is put up a profile. You need to engage and interact. Think about relevant visuals, personal stories, provocative statements. Be flexible, but don’t scream BUY MY BOOK! Be a friend, not a salesman.

I’ve found the book industry to more social than others in many ways. So, do the socially expected things following a book signing, classroom visit, or speaking engagement. Give the organizers a thank you card … maybe even a shareable goodie of some sort.

It not only makes your host feel good, it gives you a personal energy boost you can tap for weeks. Think of book marketing as doing honor to your work, and the work of others.

Try it. It works.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

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Check out my DEAD END STREET review

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I plan to attend the next Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Where Do Creative Ideas Come From?

July 1, 2017


Okay, you say, I’ll bite … where do great ideas come from?

The answer might surprise you.

In Paul McCartney’s biography, he shared this secret: “… John often had just the first verse which was always enough. It was the direction … the signpost … the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word, but it was the template.”

In other words, the most successful rock band in history, The Beatles, used a formula to create blockbuster songs. They’re not the only ones. Many artists, songwriters and authors … yes, authors, use templates of some form.

For instance, Agatha Christie, one of the best-selling authors ever, wrote over 60 novels by using a template to help structure her thinking in a way that made her more creative.

We tend to think of inventors like this as another species … geniuses … who have sudden flashes of insight.

I’ve written several award-winning books myself, but I can’t think of a single instance when a light bulb went off in my head, leading to some killer new idea.

Is that because creatively I’m a dud?

Perhaps. Alternatively, it might be because Eureka Moments are the stuff of legend, and innovation is often a slow and iterative process.

What, exactly, is involved in said process? One decades-old theory says that the crux of creativity lies in making analogies.

Analogies? Yes, just like those SAT questions you used to hate: Crumb is to bread as…splinter is to wood. That kind of thing.

Two Schools of Thought
Creative people, so the theory goes, are constantly connecting old knowledge and experiences to new situations. There are two schools of thought about where ideas come from.

One is the “artist-as-antenna” concept, in which ideas float in some barely perceptible ether waiting for someone to pick them up, the way a radio picks up a song when it’s tuned to just the right frequency. This is Keith Richards waking up in the middle of the night with the main riff from “Satisfaction” fully-formed in his head.

The second school holds that ideas are the product of hard work and thoughtful concentration. Sit down and think, and don’t get up until you have something! This school is the writer grinding out his four pages a day, or the mad poet storming up and down the street in search of the perfect word.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle – we get ideas from within ourselves and from without – or more to the point, from the interaction of the two.

I believe it is in the active engagement of the artist with the world that ideas are born:

    Preparation: Ideas come to those who are prepared to receive them, whatever the origin. Scientists have ideas about science. Accomplished musicians have melody ideas that translate into beautiful songs, and skillful writers create daring novels that illuminate our lives … but those who haven’t prepared themselves to be creative rarely are.

    Attention: Paying attention to the world around us is one source of ideas. You’ve heard the saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” – but it also takes someone paying close enough attention to recognize that need in the first place.

    Curiosity: Creativity often comes from the drive to understand and take things apart, literally or figuratively. It stems from the desire to know “what if…” and to follow that question until it goes somewhere interesting.

    Effort: Creativity takes a commitment to work. “Ideas are cheap,” the saying goes. “Execution is hard.” Ideas need to be captured, followed up on, and committed to a plan of action, or they disappear back to wherever they came from … and they rarely come back.

    Serendipity: Serendipity is really two things. First, it’s what you might expect … the luck of being at the right place at the right time … to be Isaac Newton under the tree at exactly the moment the apple falls. The second, more important part, is the openness to make connections between unrelated events … to see in a bathtub a lesson about physics. How many millions of baths were taken before Archimedes had his “Eureka!” moment?

These aren’t God-given gifts reserved to the few. These are all things each of us, as writers, can cultivate. They apply to just about everyone who faces situations calling for creative responses.

Start making a conscious effort to develop these elements, and I bet you’ll soon start engaging with your world more creatively. In fact, I’m certain it will show up when you write.

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My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now amazon

You’re invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.

**********

I plan to attend the next Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University on Saturday, October 21, 2017.

**********

A few days ago (June 27), my bride and I celebrated our 47th Wedding Anniversary. Thank you, Mary Lu. I love you.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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