Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh You Who Doubt

By Christina Carson

Years ago, and I mean years, for I was in my twenties, I read a book with a title I cannot remember written by a Hollywood screenwriter about a summer he spent dog sitting a friend’s rather extraordinary dog. The actualized capacity of this creature was a by-product of someone having taken the time to assist him* in developing his potential. The dog had training in security and military work as well as acting. To the screenwriter who’d never had a dog in his life, living with this German shepherd proved boggling. To get to the point, over the course of the summer, the dog convinced the writer he was capable of communication with him – solid, undeniable experiences of exchanges of information. Eventually, it became a two-way conversation. The story the writer related was irrefutable evidence for this gal, and years later, I had similar experiences with my amazing Komondor, Dali; I being the lesser developed link in the process, however.

What would have us believe that communication is limited to intraspecies dialogue – human to human, cat to cat? Perhaps
Black Leopard
because we've not given it thought? Perhaps because we have a rather inflated view of our type of intelligence? Perhaps because we have no real sense of our own nature and thus do not recognize the likelihood of that nature in other forms of life.

When the leopard, you are about to see expresses his relief at being freed from human expectations for him, freed from our misunderstanding about the real needs Life seeks to fulfill, it struck a chord with me. Laugh if you dare, but the Life the lives him is the same Life that lives you and me. The ancient Dakotah Sioux had a near perfect term for it—“Taku s’kans’kan—something in movement, spiritual vitality…”  Freedom was so inherent to their sense of life that their language had no word meaning “free.” They weren't seeking it; they lived it. They and the leopard would have understood each other completely.

As you are touched by the poignancy of this video, try to look deeper within the emotion you feel, past seeming sadness to astonishment that this leopard is imbuing you with what he knows about power, majesty and freedom. See how you FEEL it. Your breath being taken away is your recognition that the life that is the leopard is the same life that is you. That’s why you can recognize it.  Our real “talk” is always at that level whether human to human or human to animal. The rest is just noise. And don’t kid yourself. You already knew that too.

*I purposely choose personal pronouns to refer to animals, because using the pronoun “it” to refer to an animal obviously doesn't work in this story or any other in my world.

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stop One Moment, Please

By Christina Carson

In response to a call for aid by friend and fellow author, Pat Zick, for a man she admires greatly, Rags Daniels, please take a moment to see if you can help. He’s a fellow author, and he’s had a stroke. To read the entire blog written by Kate Russell-Cole wrote, click here.    But what I’ve included below is one of the better book summaries I’ve read in a long time, and one way we could help is to purchase one of his books. Not only would that help him with the frightful expenses of our medical system, but what could perk up a writer more, in a difficult time, than seeing his books selling. Consider it, and thank you for doing so.

Book Summary for Lallapaloosa by Rags Daniels:

Click Here to Review and Purchase
Lallapaloosa: October 8, 1967, ‘Che’ Ernesto Guevara was executed… Or so the world believed. Inspired by a true sequence of events, ’Lallapaloosa’ tells in flashback the story leading up to the betrayal and ‘capture’ of the worlds most famous revolutionary and master of disguise. Original, fast moving, and atmospheric to the last whiff of a Partagas cigar, it begins thirty years after the event with a series of sinister murders against a fraternity of retired mercenaries who, having fought alongside ‘Che’ in the Congo, grouped for one last mission in the jungles of Bolivia. For thirty years, Richard Strang, thought he shared the world’s best kept secret with no one. Then one summer evening, the tap of a blind man’s cane, and a nose for the toasted Cuban leaf, changed all that.

One of his five star reviews: …Rags Daniels has written a marvelous compelling thriller that hooks you from the first page. His excellent characterization, evocative description and realistic dialogue really bring the characters to life with a real flavor of past and present which are seamlessly woven together. You can feel the heat and smell the smoke of revolution. Double agents double crossing each other and their respective employers this is the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters. It takes a awhile to get your breath back when you click onto the last page but it's worth every second and cent of your time and money.

I just bought my copy. Hope you consider one as well. 
Many thanks.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Conversation - The Finest Art of All

By Christina Carson

The world, the cosmos is always in conversation. It is the ultimate art-form, a form of expression that speaks to the many or the few. For those who talk, words written or spoken form the medium of conversation. For those who don’t talk, the flux and flow of energy is the conversation they entertain. Eyes speak. Paints, charcoal, pastels speak. Movement speaks. And when Jesus instructed us to pray unceasingly, he knew the Silence speaks. To pray meant to listen, to connect, to open to the ultimate conversation.
Sometimes we read a poem and the world bursts apart. Other times we watch a dancer and feel our bodies magnetically aping theirs. In this moment, enter the conversation these three guitarists are having through their fingers and their instruments. Feel what they are telling you about life.

In the words of Lao Tzu: Attain the highest openness. He meant be available for the real conversations in life, where the Source of it All is speaking through whomever or whatever of Light, Truth and Love.

With thanks for the utube reference from dear friend, Ralph Miller, who shares his marvelous finds with others.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another Twist on Marketing your Book

By Christina Carson

Seth Godin started me thinking about yet another issue in the marketing conundrum for authors. Let’s face it. We indie writers know we have to be businesspeople, but it is a strange affair. We are, what is called in business, sole proprietors. Our products are books and our competition is as thick and dense as any I can imagine in today’s business world. On top of that, we have this alluring proposition of a potentially huge market thanks to social media, but as yet, no effective means of connecting with it. That includes the piddling of advertising available which, strangely is controlled by the advertiser. So now that we’ve gotten the frustrating bits out in the open like revealed boogie men under the bed, let’s apply another notion of Seth’s to our particular situation.

First off, here is my mantra, and it has taken me many fine places: You work at what you can, and do your absolute best, until you can work at something else.

Now let’s couple that with Seth Godin’s ideas about product awareness (how well our books are known) and see where we go. Here is his first notion:
If your startup, your non-profit or your event is suffering because of a lack of awareness, the solution isn't to figure out some way to get more hype, more publicity or more traffic.

His reason for saying this is:
The challenge with this approach is that it doesn't scale. Soon, you'll have no luck at all getting more attention, even with ever more stunts or funding.

Put into other words, if we had all the answers we wouldn’t be having this conversation, so doing more of the same is not an answer, merely a momentary response to our frustrations.
Here is his simple answer: re-create your product so it is worth talking about.

As it applies to sole proprietors known as writers, it means ensure your books are quality, something that impels a reader to tell at least one other person, “Man did I just read a winner of a book.”

Here’s a clue where to start. Don’t ask others whether you are a good writer or not. You are the only one who knows how far you can push that envelope. You are the only one who knows how far down that trail you’ve gone. A powerful book, one that people feel compelled to talk about is one where the author has traveled way down that road and put more of him or herself into it than most others.

Don’t get confused. I’m not talking autobiographical information here. I mean what you know and understand about life. That needs to seep into your story. It needs to get sopped up in your characters so they become people so convincing and fascinating the readers yearn to spend time in their company, lamenting each parting. People talk about those books, and then people do their job in your marketing plan. They are the only ones who can do this part. They, just like the old days, find a way to spread their excitement and satisfaction to others – the tried and true word-of-mouth, the best promotional tool a writer has. 
It might not go viral, but it will start the ball rolling and get you known for the long haul better than anything else—a tangible person to person connection.

That’s why I said my mantra is: Work at what you can, and do your absolute best, until you can work at something else – like answering all your fan mail.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who’s Your Audience

By Christina Carson

I don’t know about you, but every time someone—agent, publisher, marketer, has asked me the question—who would my audience be—I’d stare blankly at them and mumble, “I don’t have a bloody clue.” If you write in a strict genre, it’s much more straightforward. But for all the rest of us who either cross genre lines or are forced by the conformist needs of marketers to check off the only remaining box—literary fiction, it’s tough. Seth Godin in a recent blog gives us a much more useful approach to this
question of who would buy my books. Here is his take:

Answering, "anyone who pays us money," is a cop out.
Almost as bad is describing your customers by demographics. It's only a little interesting to know that they are, on average, 32 year old, white, male, lacrosse fans.
No, what we need to know is:
What do they believe?
Who do they trust?
What are they afraid of and who do they love?
What are they seeking?
Who are their friends?
What do they talk about?

When I read through that list, I could answer every one of those questions because regardless of the backdrop I choose, historic or contemporary or the particular aspect of the human condition I explore, there is a group of people out there for whom I can easily answer those questions.
·       What do they believe? There’s got to be a better way to live than how they are presently doing so.
·       Who do they trust? People who have the courage to tell them the truth.
·       What are they afraid of? Reaching the end of their lives without experiencing what they sense is possible.
·       Who do they love? A person who inspires them and encourages them toward what they know is true for themselves.
·       What are they seeking? Some way to live that offers substantive purpose and meaning.
·       Who are their friends? Those who understand their longing and respect it.
·       What do they talk about? If they talk at all, they share an intimate vision of a stimulating life unencumbered by the mundane and open to exploration and possibility.

With Seth’s approach, it becomes possible for authors to help readers FIND THEM—to find the writers who speak directly to what they want to hear, talk about and be part of. It pulls from a much larger segment of society than simple demographics, because it respects the multifaceted nature of human beings. Maybe the reader wants to start with a genre but within it wants something more, perhaps a pulp fiction philosopher like John D. MacDonald. Or maybe the reader prefers to hang out directly with those who share his or her values, the ones identified in the above questions, less needful of a particular setting or nature of a story.

I am one of those writers that falls readily into that second group, the one that’s difficult to pinpoint any other way. If you wonder about the human condition, the explanation for why our lives so often disappoint us, coupled with an alternative, then I’m your lady. All I need do is take one of the hundreds of stories we already live and create characters capable of showing another way for that story to end.

And without Seth Godin’s insights I wouldn’t have thought to tell you, and you might never have known.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

New Analytics – Good, Bad or Ugly

by Christina Carson

Until now only the big names like Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been privy to behaviors of readers primarily through analyzing their buying behaviors, information they have kept as proprietary. A recent article in the Business Technology section of the New York Times, announces a new order of analytics on readers, information gathered by tracking readers’ behaviors as they read, suggesting that such information might be just what writers need to elevate sales. Stephen Woodfin sent me the link to that article and asked for feedback.

Thanks to his request, I stopped to look at my last two years as a writer, because it hasn't felt like much of a success, and I saw why. In buying into the angst that success in writing is defined by big sales, I had followed the crowd into the social media hamster wheel, even while week after week, month after month sensing something wasn't right. And like any hamster will tell you, if he could, it’s mighty hard to get off the bloody thing when it’s spinning. But the idea that peering into the private behaviors of my readers in an attempt to get more of them to read my books was the incentive I needed to bail out of the wheel whether I went ass for teakettle or not.

We get lost in the weeds, lose our sense of priorities and begin to look for short cuts when we forget what we’re about. It becomes easy to believe we don’t stand a chance of success. It’s equally easy to miss how costly social media’s returns on time invested have become. It could be easy to think that analytics might be the answer to poor sales. But somewhere if our uneasiness persists, we best take a serious look at our choices to ensure that are actually ours. Here’s what became clear to me:

Give it any name you like, but I write for me.
I write what I like to read.
I write what is worth my time writing about.
I write what I must, getting it out of me and onto paper.
I write to clarify life to me.
I write to share what I've learned about life, with others.
I write because I can.
I write because it gifts me with the experience of being present and all that offers.

How much more successful would I now feel if I had two more novels on my shelf—well-written, well-edited works that made me feel deeply satisfied with how I’d spent my time and talent as a writer. There will be time enough to market my work before I leave this earth.

So don’t look for me on Facebook, Pinterest, Stumble Upon, Goodreads, LinkedIn or using analytics. I think we’re been sold a bill of goods, but that remains for another blog. I have a website and email, Triberr and Google +. That’s enough. What is true for me in this moment is this: I am a writer and writing is how I’m going to spend my time.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What Is It We See in Each Other

by Christina Carson

Well ask them. If we only could. The magic that draws life toward itself from boy meets girl to these sweet creatures is still one of the universe’s great mysteries. Sometimes we call the attractive force gravity. Other times symbiosis. We really go out on a limb when we call it love for that’s the most mysterious word of all. Who really knows or understands what it is that calls us to each other in harmony, often playfulness and seeming enjoyment.  And yet, it happens over and over again as if beckoning us to look at it more deeply, to grasp its significance, and perhaps to evolve us a bit.

I’ve had my own experience with this uncommon bonding. It involved a Komondor dog and spring chicks. At a time when there were very few Komondors in North America, the small coterie of owners stayed in close touch through a newsletter one member of the group produced. If you don’t know the Komondor as a breed, they are livestock guard dogs, originating in Hungary, huge, fierce
and odd-looking in that they are covered in dreadlocks. They are highly instinctual, stubborn and suffer fools not at all. It was one of these dogs that was found on the porch of its home one spring morning after a night that had turned unseasonably cold. He was lying on his side completely still, literally covered in tiny week-old chicks. They chicks had been housed on the porch, protected from the cold by heat lamps which would have been ample for their needs, only sometime in the middle of the night, the electricity went off.

 In the dark and the cold, these little creatures crawled up onto what should have been their nemesis and nestled into all those thick, fuzzy chords comprising the dog’s coat. The dog stayed in that position long past its normal time to clock in. When the dog’s owner came out onto the porch expecting to find all the chicks dead from cold, she instead saw this huge hairy incubator that began cheeping. When she turned the heat lamp back on, the chicks were lured to their box. The dog managed to get up gently enough that not one chick was tumbled or stepped on in the process.

I've given up on explanations. They tend too quickly toward anthropomorphism, which from my life among animals feels naïve and diminishing. When you live among animals for any length of time, my experience is that you begin to realize how very underdeveloped the human species is. But I do know one thing, looking at those photos at the beginning of this blog or revisiting my own big male Komondor raising two orphan piglets, few happenings on this earth touch me more deeply. They call from within me a memory of the nature of what enlivens us all, the thread of oneness that ties us all together. The beauty of that recognition continues to feed me all these years later.

The coming together of humans is most agreeable too.
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