Posts tagged ‘Literature’

I Cannot Predict the Future – My Best is Yet to Come

I CANNOT PREDICT THE FUTURE – MY BEST IS YET TO COME.

This post is on attitude. If you can predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy, please do not keep reading.

I tend to ponder my future, and my future as a writer. Writing makes me happy. However, creativity needs nourishment, and many times, this nourishment comes in the form of results. If you are a writer, you know exactly what I mean. You also know that writing is not easy, and takes much work, effort, and faith. Sometimes, you might feel as if you are writing just for yourself, but results come in many forms – the comment of a reader, a good review, the praise of an unlikely reader, sales … you name it. That doesn’t necessarily translate into confidence and the assurance that one’s work is worthy of being in print. Again I tell you, if you are a writer, you know what I mean.

A few months ago, I dared ask a question to someone who has read my books (and is not related to me or a close friend – hence why I asked). I asked,”From 1 to 5, what do you rate my work so far, me as a writer?” She thought about it, and I became nervous because there were other clients at ear-distance in her office. Silently, I cursed myself for asking; now I was not sure if I could take her answer, because I knew that she would answer truthfully. A few seconds went by, then she looked at me in the eye and said, “Four, I give you a 4.” Immediately, a weight lifted from my heart, and I exhale relief. I said, “Four, that is good, very good.” If she had rated a 5, then I would have been disappointed, and suspicious. I know that there is ample room for becoming the best writer I can be, and I have to grow much more, hence why I was hoping for any number under 5, but at the same time, nervous about anything under. Reviews of one’s books are one thing, and subjective to the taste of readers, but my question went above a specific novel, and this is why I hesitated after I asked. It was the first time I had ask anyone this, and probably the last.

The other day I was conversing with my nephew, a sage for his young age. We talked about life from one’s age perspective. It was a good conversation, and later on it made me ponder about my future, and my future as a writer, as well as some plans and goals, but overall, I thought about my image of a writer’s life, and how it compared to the image of writer-self, now and in the future. It was an interesting exercise that gave me deep insight and exposed me. In the end, it didn’t matter much to me, except knowing that I cannot predict the future, and my best is yet to come, but only if I keep giving my best NOW.

When Indie Publishing is Not For You

Thanks to the way technology has developed in the last few years, and the companies that made use of it to broaden the publishing arena, independent publishing is now more effective and affordable. Writers who are serious about their work and are in it for the long run have embraced independent (indie) publishing with excitement and gratefulness. Other people have jumped in looking to make a quick buck, soon to discover that it is not possible or easy, and have left the arena. Many use indie publishing as a way to “be discovered” by the traditional industry in the hopes of obtaining a contract. Some authors who have published via traditional channels have decided to join in and publish independently, while others may consider the movement a heresy. Exciting times for writers, no doubt about it. However, choosing you path to publishing is a very important and personal issue and you must inform yourself, weigh both sides of the industry, and do what is right for you according to your standards – working style, time, work ethics, and future goals; money has little to do with it in the beginning, and a lot later on. The same reason why the traditional industry has not embraced it, and is a bit nervous. Royalties – the forbidden word.

As promising as it sounds, indie publishing is not for the faint of heart; independent authors who have published way before technology reached this capacity know this well. They are the unseen precursors, the ghosts behind the curtain. Many so-called overnight successes have worked at the craft for 15 years or more. Others have been rejected by traditional publishing a lifetime, for not writing what the publishing industry was looking for at the time. These last group found their readers by publishing independently, after many years of rejection and hard work; these too, are called overnight successes.

When is indie publishing wrong for you? It requires a very personal answer, but in general, if you are not willing to work hard, be patient, and grow with the industry as it continues to develop (this is just the beginning) indie publishing might not suit you. In addition, if you are looking for quick money, crave instant recognition, and are not willing to learn, then indie publishing might not be for you. If you feel strongly about pursuing your writing career via the traditional publishing guidelines, independent publishing is not for you. If you are not willing to work long solitary hours at your desk, educate yourself and observe the trends, while working hard to present a decent product to your readers thus honoring their time with the best book you can write, then, indie publishing is definitely not for you.

Writer’s Predicament – WWTT?

WWTT?What would they think?

At one point in our writing we will ask ourselves that question. It comes from the concern that readers will associate what is written with our personality and think that we are it. Some readers will, some will not. That is a chance that the writer will have to weigh, and decide. I think that the work speaks of the writer, however, it does not define him/her.

As writers we decide how far we want to go with our writing, and how true to it we want to be. As an example – If I am writing a murder scene, you bet that I am going to be as descriptive and gross as I can be with the pen to capture the scene and translate it into a visual picture to readers. If I am writing about the killer, I will want to get as deep into his/her psychological persona as I can, to give the character life. Does that make me a psycho or a murderer? I don’t think so. Then, why do we hesitate to write? Out of concern – WWTT?  It is the predicament that stops the pen, the mind, the Muse.

Fiction writers have the “peace of mind” (do they?) that readers will take their works as fiction, but sometimes interpretation goes beyond, and the lines become a bit blurred, not so much for the author but for the readers. A latest example of this is the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James. A fiction novel that stirred so much controversy and continues to do so with its movie incarnation. I have not read the book but you would have to live under a rock not to know what is going on with it, that is, if you are an active reader or movie lover. J K Rowling had to deal with the witchcraft criticism of her Harry Potter series, and I am sure that you can think of many other examples.

In the end, a writer decides how far to go with the pen, and how important WWTT is to him/her. To be or not to be, that is the question – Shakespeare.

 

Selecting a Genre

Photo by Maria Diaz

Photo by Maria Diaz

 

This is probably one of the battles of the heart for many writers. Mostly, because when we write, many ideas come to mind, and many of these cross the limits of the actual work in progress. My belief is that I do not want to chain myself to writing in a specific genre, but I recognize the need to focus on the one that speaks to me the most, at least in the beginning of my writing career. Doing this has its benefits. It will help you concentrate, grow, and polish your skills, as well as develop a name brand.

There is always one genre that attracts our interest in the early days of writing. Later on, we want to spread our wings and soar to other lands. If you are publishing in the traditional way or have a contract, this will present a challenge for obvious reasons. If you have built your brand long enough that a particular genre speaks of it, it also presents a challenge, as readers will tend to associate your brand with the genre, and this is the reason many authors use pen names when writing in other genres. For the independent author, the lines are less defined, as the pen is free to write without the need to follow protocol, except the one owed to readers. If readers expectations demand from you the work that they so much have loved, then a brand has been established, but it does not mean that an author will abandon the desire to explore other genres, and create, possibly at a different pace, works that will please other readers, and maybe, win the interest of faithful readers.

In the long run, write what you love, do it from the heart, and share it in a way that it is presented to readers in the best light, and worthy of their time and respect.

 

How I Care for my Old Books

Many of us read from electronic devices but that does not mean that we do not enjoy a book in our hands from time to time. When I love a book so much I buy the hardcover edition or paperback. It goes on my collection of loved-to-death tomes, and I take good care of it. I enjoy buying older books to add to a very small and modest collection. These become my jewels. Whether antique or new, a much-loved book gets good treatment. Instead of writing a post on How to care for antiques books, I will leave that to the true-experts. You can find plenty of that information on the internet. However, I will write about how I care for my precious books under my real and down to earth circumstances.

Many elements are observed when caring for my precious books. I think of temperature, location, space, air flow, position on shelf, handling, and other issues that may affect the condition of the book over time. Because I do not live in a museum or a mansion, I must adapt my environment to the best conditions for my tomes, as well as my behavior or handling of these. Although my items are in storage now due to a pending move, I can tell you what I did. Here is what I always do.

  • The first rule I observe is to never leave a book unattended. I have six cats and some of them love to chew on paper, or play with it. Old books have a plethora of enticing scents and will become a favorite toy or prey.
  • The second rule is to treat my books as if they were vampires. I avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or leaving them where I know that the sun rays will hit for some time. Sunlight rays work fast on discoloration and even drying out a cover or spine.
  • Third rule – In my case, temperature and location go together. I try to select the best placement in my home – not too humid, not too dry or hot. For example, never leave a favorite in the bathroom or near a cooking stove or on top or near a heater or vent. I don’t have a basement but do have an attic, and neither those would be a good place to store a book.
  • Fourth rule – Air flow goes tied to location and placement on the shelf, so I will address those altogether. I try to select a location away from drafts, cold/hot air, sunlight, as well as having a nice airflow where the books will be stored. My shelving is made of wood and it is soft, not rough. Rough shelving might cause tears on your cover and pages, as well as damage on the spine. I don’t place the books too tight, even if I am tempted due to lack of space (wanting to fit another one). I allow a bit of space between, but also, I never lean a book against each other because this will damage its shape and pages eventually. If I have space, I use a felted book end. I’d rather it rests flat than leaning it, although if I lay it flat, another book on top should not be so heavy that the pressure will damage the cover, if it sticks together.
  • The fifth rule has to do with how I handle the book. I love when books have dust jackets because of the obvious. I place them upright, but if a book is a softcopy/paperback and it is tall, I’d rather store that one flat on its side because I know that it will bend eventually. I think I only have one or two that are that tall, if memory serves me well. One thing that I try not to do when selecting a book from the shelf is to pull on its spine because I did this once and the thing just came off a bit, so now I rather push the book out from the back and grab it firm with my hand when pulling it out. If there is a decent amount of space between books it should be retrieved easily. In the previous disaster, the book was stored too snug; sometimes you learn the hard way. Under handling, I should mention that I never have cream, lotion or oil in my hands when I am about to read a book that falls under the “precious” category, and by precious I mean “my precious” because I don’t own any valuable or expensive tomes, although I do have a few that are one or two centuries old, and those I have to be very careful when handling them.  The reason for this is that the old pages were made of a different material than today’s or more recent books, I think of wood pulp, back in the days when trees were murdered or sacrificed for knowledge. Anything oily or acidic will wreak havoc on the pages (old or new). I do have a pair of white gloves that I keep for the day that I encounter (or afford) that very special specimen. If you have opened an older book you may have noticed that the pages are dry, yellowed, and sometimes a page will crack/crumble when handled. Also, when returning my book to its nest, I try to be gentle, especially with the corners, and try not to touch the wood or the neighboring book. I also don’t dog-ear mark a page or leave a marker inside. Some papers are acidic and will damage it eventually. I bet you have seen the imprint of a marker on a page or its image, even when the marker has been removed.
  • The sixth rule has to do with cleaning, and that is simply being aware of using cleaners, oils, and sprays near books or the shelving, dusting gently and regularly so dust does not accumulate heavily. I use a soft duster, but honestly, I don’t even know what kind is better, although I would assume that feathers have oil compared to synthetic dusters; and of course, a separate duster would be better, not the one used around the house.

Other than that, I just try my best to love and care for my books, nothing fancy. Speaking about fancy, if you are into it and want to do it the professional way, there are many book care supplies available such as acid-free protective jackets, gloves, book furniture with glass doors, slip cases, special boxes … . If you own a very special and expensive book then you should consult a antique book specialist or expert that will educate you in the care and or restoration of older volumes. You may want to insure it of course, if it is very valuable. Overall, I just use common sense and TLC.

Ever wondered about the parts of a book? Here is a picture I put together sometime ago. If you notice, at one point, this book was handled with oily fingers because it has markings on the gold-leaf pages; just to give you an example of how something so simple and natural may affect a book later on.

book parts 1

book parts 2

I hope you enjoyed this post.

 

Divine Organization – Prayer and Theology Journal

On a earlier post I talked about getting back on the saddle and renewing my work/life vows. Another step that I am taking is starting a prayer/theology journal to organize my thoughts and study different sacred works, starting with the Bible and following with other sacred texts and authors . Of course this will become a lifetime activity, as I have felt the need to learn more about different faiths on this planet. I am not pursuing a degree in theology but instead want to learn as much on my own. After all, our time on this planet is so short, I think not enough to learn and enjoy everything that we want to experience.

This journal is divided into three sections – Journal – Theology/study – Prayers. Of course being creative, it cannot just be a regular journal, so I took my time to find the perfect one for me and did some decoration to its pages as well. This particular one I found at Staples, the same day I went looking for the huge binder for my Home/work/life Management System (see earlier post). The cover art couldn’t have been more fitting for this type of journal. I find that taking a bit of time in the morning to meditate and learn helps me become more productive during the day, as well as setting the mood.

Here is what it looks like.

Prayer/Theology Journal

Prayer/Theology Journal

Decorated pages

Decorated pages

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Of course, as I continue this part of the journey, I will end up needing more journals, but I am happy to combine my regular journal-writing practice with the study of the sacred texts, and into a devotional time. It works for me. In searching for a better way to do the study part, I will keep some points in mind.

  • Start the study with my faith (Christianity/Bible) before moving on to other faiths
  • Pay attention to the title, time, and writer or writers, as well as language (original) and how translations have affected the book. In addition, how different groups have adopted variations on interpretation (for example – Christians and Jews interpret the book of Jeremiah differently).
  • Note any main topics/ideas of a particular book, chapter, or passage and cross-reference.
  • Note my interpretation and application to my life

One thing that I am not doing is following a particular study program/system because I don’t want to rely on a sole interpretation, but will use any material that will enrich my understanding or offer cross-reference points and enhance the learning experience.

 

 

Making Sense of the Indie Movement

We are living in exciting times for independent writers, musicians, artists … and it is so thanks to the technological developments and new venues of communication. Therefore, the independent (indie) movement was bound to gain new heights. I say new heights because indies have been around for long. It is because these changes and ease of publishing (almost at no upfront cost) that the indie movement flourished the way it has, and will continue. The publishing industry has been jolted, and this is just the early stages. It is not clear what will happen next, but for now, the doors are open and independent writers may share their work openly and become as creative as they dare. Daring times!

However, every time there is a revolution, people tend to make sense of the process, share experiences, groups are born, and in the hopes of giving cohesiveness to the experience, sets of rules appear, “ways of doing things the new way,” and leaders, preachers, and experts emerge. It is all a normal process and it is meant to grow and move along the revolution. However, as indies we should beware of a tendency – that the revolution does not morph into tradition, rendering the movement powerless. This is where our responsibility as independent writers stands. Each one of us must learn, consume, and study the movement, the fruits of it, to decide our role in it. Just because trends show up does not mean that it is a “one size fits all” kind of deal. On the contrary, it is the opposite to the indie movement.

To an aspiring writer who wants to publish independently, it is like a huge treasure box full of many tools, advice, do’s and don’ts, experiences … but it is also very confusing, and if the person does not continue to educate herself/himself and becomes a follower, it all may backfire and become overwhelming none the least, and even uninspiring. I am convinced the indie evolution will continue, and I think we have taken baby steps so far – there is more to come. This is why my approach to all this is one of learning and observing while doing. It is my way of making sense of the indie movement. How?

For once, before deciding to become and independent author, I learned as much as I could about it, compared it to what information was available about traditional publishing, and then, examined my personal criteria – values, work ethic, working style, expectations, and goals. Over some time, I was not sure of what path to follow, and I had not submitted work to agents, which made my decision solely based on the above mentioned personal criteria. Once I deeply thought of these things that were very important to me, and considered all the information I gathered, the decision became obvious and clear to me – I wanted to become and indie author. Then I took the steps. However, because all the changes occurring in the publishing industry and all the new information available, new faces rising, leaders, preachers … I will not deny that as exciting as it was, the experience was also overwhelming and exhausting. And this is when I decided to stop following advice, and instead treat each available piece of information and experience  as precious, be grateful for it, study it, evaluate it against my personal criteria, and look inside myself and embrace only the advice and information/methods/”to do’s” and so much more … that were aligned and in balance with my personal criteria, while developing my own style. This is how I embrace independent publishing.

It is just the beginning, and I think that over the next few years we will be amazed at what is to come, and many will be inside the process, outside of it, while others will be it. Daring times!