In the desert, termite colonies thrive. It never gets cold enough to kill them, and sometimes there may be as many as twenty colonies in a yard–or under a house!
After a recent rain, I found these two Lilliputian skyscrapers in a stream bed. Although the water had dried out on the surface, underneath, there was just enough moisture in the earth to allow these tiny bits of sand to cling together when the termites carried them out of their home.
The efficiency of the termite colony is amazing. The insects carry the grains just far enough from the opening that sand doesn’t fall back into the burrow, thus building these tiny mounds. How do they know how to do such an amazing task?
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris~
About four years ago I decided to write a mystery series based on young rookie sheriff’s deputy who lived in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
The Verde is a unique place, an oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert, with one major river and five tributary creeks.
It is on the flight path between Mexico and points south, and the entire US and points north, which means seven kinds of hummingbirds, golden AND bald eagles, and 300 hundred + other birds to watch!
It has a huge cement plant, a salt mine, pecan orchards, wine vineyards, a thriving artists’ colony, and some of the most magnificent red rock scenery in the world.
PLUS, a real live ghost town.
In short, a milieu crying out for a mystery series to be created. I wrote five books in rough draft, and then circled back around to start rewriting and publishing. The first, DEATH in COPPER TOWN, begins the journey for my heroine, Pegasus Quincy, with her adjustment to life as a cop, in an environment very different from her native Tennessee.
As a Valentine’s gift to you this week, 2-12 through 2-16, please accept a free Kindle copy of this debut novel through Amazon using this link. Enjoy!
As a writer, I use the month of January to reorient my life after the craziness of the holidays. That’s when I plan what I want to do during the coming year and renew my resolution to be as nurturing to myself as I can be.
I visit these eight authors to find new inspiration for the coming year:
VICKI ROBIN. Even though each year I resolve to lower my holiday spending, I’m not always successful, and as a result January can be depressing! That’s when I turn to Robin’s seminal work, Your Money or your life. It’s been called, “the best book on money period.” I like it because it is practical and not preachy. It talks about the best ways to get out of debt, saving money through being more mindful, living well for less.
(Although the mountaintop wouldn’t be bad, either!)
PADRAIG O’MORAIN. Meditation calms me down and gives me clear thinking, which is absolutely essential for good writing. O’Morain is a master at giving ways to be more mindful, even on days when I am crazy-busy. According to the author of Mindfulness on the Go, inner calm can be found “on your morning commute, during your coffee break, or in line at the super market.”
And he’s right!
MIRIAM NELSON. Strong women stay young. Sometimes when the words are flowing, I spend long hours hunched over a computer keyboard, barely breathing, much less moving. I get up hours later moving like a jerky robot!
I’ve found much better way is to intersperse—with a timer set way across the room so I have to move—periods of writing with short bursts of physical activity.
Strong women stay young describes just six exercises using a straight back chair and a set of hand weights that can keep you limber, strong, and young.
I’m a stress eater and a comfort eater and a convenience eater when I’m on a roll, plotting a new novel. Set something in front of me and I’ll eat it. Especially if it contains caffeine or chocolate, or even better, both!
Michael suggests instead, “eat food, not too much, more plants.” I agree.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a brand new one just out, The Healthy Writer. Joanna knows all too well the kinds of stress that creative people subject themselves to in the pursuit of their art.
Here she teams up with a medical doctor to give some practical tips for escaping the unhealthy habits we sometimes construct for ourselves.
A positive read!
And that’s my favorite eight writers on best practices that help me start my New Year in a nurturing way.
What about you? Who are you reading for inspiration right now?
I’m an author who writes mysteries about a rookie deputy named Pegasus Quincy living in Arizona. So what does my cat Leaf smart-mouthing on a kitchen counter have to do with using Instagram in my writing career? Stay tuned!
I view marketing, whether we are Indie or Trad authors, as a sum-zero game. We’ve got X amount of time, nobody really likes to market–we’ve rather be writing, and it is TOTALLY necessary.
Enter this thing called Instagram. It is easy to set up: Most smart phones already have it installed, and you can easily download an app to your computer. It can be synced to Facebook, because Facebook has owned the platform since 2012. It’s like Twitter, only easier to use, in my humble opinion. It gives you immediate access to your readers in a very real, very personal way.
And Instagram is fun to use. As Sierra Godfrey Fong suggests in that great writers’ resource, Writers in the Storm, “Instagram is a visual snapshot of your head.”
Here are seven practical ways Instagram can help writers reach their audience:
1. Instagram is big, and getting bigger:
Statista estimates that Instagram has grown by 200 million viewers from 2016 to 2017 alone. That translates to some 800 million total users, evenly split between men and women. That’s a lot of people. And because it is a relatively new media platform, that growth curve is still heading upward.
Joanna Penn says, “If your reader demographic is between the ages of 18 and 49, Instagram can be a strategic application for you.”
I would go even further. If, for example, your preferred demographic is ages 50 to 64+, 11% of them ALSO are on Instagram. That translates to about 88 million people, many of whom also read books. Wholly cow!
2. Instagram is easy to use:
I’m not a computer nerd by any stretch, but I was up and running in an afternoon.
Some things to remember: it is geared to your smart phone, not to your computer. So be alert to pictures of your local neighborhood–especially if they are representative of what your book is about.
If you are doing any book signings or author conferences, take some pictures.
If your book is in a library or book store, stage the cover strategically and take that shot.
3. The shape and orientation of your photograph can be changed:
The preferred format of Instagram is square, so that’s what you are aiming for. But the resolution has increased to a nice 1080 px x 1080 px, and there are all sorts of neat filters and aftereffects that are built in to Instagram.
In addition, Instagram now gives you the ability to upload vertical or horizontal aspects by clicking on the brackets shown in the left lower corner of your preview shot. The picture of my cat Leaf, above, uses the horizontal view. Have camera, will travel gives you an excellent step-by-step of how to do this.
4. Instagram encourages the use of hashtags–but only in certain places:
Like Twitter, Instagram uses hashtags. And they are always changing. Current policy from Instagram states that hashtags in the comments section will not be read. Better to include them in the description, and limit to about five or so. See a good rundown on this in the Pigeon Letters.
Store the lists of hashtags you might want to use in your phone memo app so that you can do a quick cut-and-paste.
One way is to combine YOUR BOOK with various backgrounds:
You drink coffee? How about a shot of YB with your favorite coffee mug, or a pic of YB on the table of your favorite coffee shop.
You a yoga fan? Guess what. YB looks gorgeous against that turquoise yoga mat.
I haven’t been able to get mine to cooperate yet, but I hear that YB next to a sleeping kitten or puppy is click bait. (And you don’t even have to pay a modeling fee.)
Be alert to the seasons and holidays: YB with a Christmas tree behind. YB in front of Halloween pumpkins. YB displayed in front of winter snow or a summer lawn mower. YB on the beach towel with the blue waters of the Caribbean behind it. (Just dreaming!)
Consider the visuals in your writing process: Shots of a hand-written manuscript, or a picture of a page of rough draft notes, or your wastebasket filled with crumpled first attempts connects you with your reader. What about the white board chaos of sticky notes that you use for plotting, or the desk or dining room table where you write your masterpiece-in-progress.
The nice thing is that you can either use a photograph you just took (easiest) or those you manipulate on your computer and then upload to your phone picture gallery. These can include text, for example, or quotations–always popular.
6. Instagram is a way to connect with other authors
We are all in this big splashy pond together, so any way you can connect with others can make you feel better. And happy writers are more productive writers!
Facebook groups are a great way for writers to connect with other authors, and yes, there are groups specifically for Instagram. Check out Instagram4Authors, for example.
7. Instagram is a great way to play
Writing can be hard work, there’s no getting around it.
And when you are in the midst of a rational-brain deadline, one of those I’ve-got-to-get-this-proofread-right-now modes, the creative side can get a bit sulky. Instagram is one way to take a break and just play.
Think in terms of personal, color, and people (that includes fur-babies) to maximize the visual.
In other words, the Instagram venue gives your creative side another way to interact.
Keeping your muse happy and occupied brings her back for more!
Have you ever listened to the dialogue you have everyday with yourself?
For example we’re all familiar with the Critic: Youidiot! Why did you think that would ever work? They’re all laughing at you.
The “you” in this case often doesn’t talk back, but simply cowers in a virtual corner, taking in, and worse, accepting the negative judgments as being earned. Totally.
We also run into this negative evaluating side of ourselves when we don’t do something we know we should, for example, exercise: You are lazy. Youshould get up earlier. Or overeating: Why did youtake that extra piece of cake? You know better.
That system doesn’t always work too well, and in fact productivity plummets as we use valuable emotional energy to battle those negative, self-induced feelings within.
There is a way to change this.
Are you listening yet?
We can encourage and praise, rather than critique or judge when we do something difficult that we didn’t want or have to do, and did anyway: When we have that one in a thousand day when the to-do list got vanquished. When we tackled mind-numbing paperwork at the beginning of the day. When we not only made our step goal, but actually we were 57 steps over.
Some folks take this to mean, I need a BIG reward. When I do this hard thing, I’ll reward myself with a Godiva chocolate. (Who ever ate just one?) Or when I lose this weight, I’ll schedule a massage. (Find time for massage, schedule massage, get dressed, get in car…) Or if I finish the laundry, do this report, file my taxes, you name it–I’ll “let” myself read a fluff book. (Choose book, acquire book, don’t read it yet…no, not yet, either. If it’s a good book, it is already on my nightstand, half finished!)
There’s a more effective way. And it uses tools you always have at hand.
The key is that your rewarding action must be easy to do, short in duration, and it must be immediate.
Two ways to do this are the following:
IMMEDIATE PHYSICAL REWARD
Have you ever watched little kids on a playground? They do something difficult such as swoop down a slide for the first time, turn a hand spring, kick a goal. What do they do? They celebrate physically. They jump up and down. They hug themselves. They do a little dance. Their fist rises in a pump of victory.
Well, we all have a little kid inside that still wants to celebrate. The next time you accomplish something really cool, announce it physically in exactly the same way. And if you are in the middle of an office, head outside or into the restroom or a quiet place, and just do it. And then notice how you feel. Better?
SHORT VERBAL PRAISE
The second is by using small words of praise. My fitbit does this for me. When it notices that it is vertical rather than horizontal, it wakes up and rewards me: “Way to go!” it says. Or “Woot!” Or “What’s up?” And I have that little fillip of good feeling. Someone, or in this case, something, noticed my actions in a positive way.
You can do the same thing for yourself. On an index card, write down 10 short phrases that sound familiar to what you might say. The key is short. For me, the list includes, “Wow!” “That’s great.” “Look what you just did.” “That’s amazing!”
I practice saying these phrases in my mind, with as much enthusiasm as I can, ingraining them into my memory so that I can call them forth when I need them. And then I commit, to using them as often as I can, as soon as I can after a task is completed.
Try it. And then notice how you feel. I think you may be surprised.
If a system isn’t working, it doesn’t hurt to consider a change. Perhaps it is time to turn in those sticks and add a few more carrots to our lives.
What works for you? How do you reward yourself when you do something hard?