Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Writing To Weave The Spell

As you may know, I'm a great fan of the works of the Canadian author, Robertson Davies. So, when I'm looking for inspiration and ideas, I turn to his articles on writing. I came across a speech he gave in 1990 for the Tanner Lectures in New Haven, Connecticut. One is entitled simply Writing, the other Reading.

What makes a novel good or even really great, so that it will be read one hundred years from now [or more]? What takes a novel out of its own time, so to speak, and become universal?

I have to quote Davies from his speech where he talks of an essential quality he calls

To weave the spell, the writer must have within him something comparable to the silk spinning and web-casting gift of a spider; he must not only have something to say, some story to tell, or some wisdom to impart, but he must have a characteristic way of doing it which entraps and holds still his prey, by which I mean his reader.

When reading this, I first think of shamans [i.e.: shamanstvo]-some sort of mystic, a healer, with powers not given to mere mortals. Perhaps a trickster or someone claiming to communicate with gods!

A tall order for us who toil before our computers, hoping for inspiration to just wrap up the plot or get a bit of dialogue right!

But it's true! Remember the last time you picked up a novel and from the very first sentence, you were transfixed, inexorably drawn into the world the writer had created. I suppose that's the "un-put-down-able" quality we all seek.

Somehow, I don't think Davies meant the quality of a real "page turner." He knew the value of lingering over a passage and the savouring of language. It's got to be something else.

I really like this quote from Davies. The silk to make the web comes from within the spider and is produced naturally from it. The spider doesn't know how it does this. It is just its inherent ability. And so, Davies must be talking about the grand sum of our whole self which produces this story-or silk. It is a product of the writer's being.

And it should have a story to tell or some wisdom to impart. But I think the real secret is contained in the last few phrases- a characteristic way of doing it which entraps and holds still his prey, by which I mean his reader. Obviously, it has to be highly personal and individual to the writer. And it must be a story or a thought, which virtually impales the reader with its significance.

How can the writer hope to do such a thing? After all, my experience is personal to me, just as yours is to you. How, by drawing on my own personal experience, can I hope to ensnare you into my web? And better still, capture thousands of readers, all of whom have their own personal worlds? How can I ever hope to enchant a reader with my world?

Immediately, I think of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung and the collective unconscious-which we all share. If a writer can access that level of the unconscious, perhaps he can bring into his writing that which is common or universal to all humankind. Of course, the writer interprets that material and adapts it to his own personal experience of life. But still, he has drawn upon emotions, thoughts, archetypes, symbols and signs, even myths from that great library of human experience we all share-the collective unconscious.

Perhaps that is how we come full circle to the idea of shamanstvo. That charmer, enchanter quality. Shamans are indeed mystics. They have special access to inner worlds-as I understand it-by way of gift. But that does not mean we can't try to enter those worlds where the creative materials of universal appeal are buried.

But Davies would not likely agree with me. To him, you either have shamanstvo or you don't. Of course, he says that everyone has a personal unconscious, which is rooted in the collective unconscious.

But the difference is this. The kind of writer he means is one who has

the ability to invite it, to solicit its assistance, to hear what it has to say and impart it in a language that is particularly his own. He may not be-very probably is not-fishing up messages from the unconscious which astonish and strike dumb his readers. It is more likely that he is telling them things that they recognize as soon as they hear them.

There you go! If its something they recognize immediately, then it must be drawn up [dredged up?] from the collective unconscious shared by all of us. Put in more mythological terms, it sounds just like the ability to court the muse.

So, next time we're writing and get stuck, perhaps it's best to just take a nap. Why? Because dreams, they say, are the gateway to the unconscious.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Choose Life: A Eulogy For My Mother

After a long illness, my mother passed away in June 2006. Even though we all knew she had little time left, her death still came as a shock.

My brothers helped me write the eulogy, and I delivered it. I almost made it through, maintaining my composure and humor right to the end. But, final goodbyes are never easy. With the last sentence, a poignant and personal message to our mother from my brothers and myself, I lost it. To cry at your mother's funeral is natural and expected. But being an author, and being comfortable with public speaking, I thought I could manage it. I humbly acknowledge grief trumped self-control.

And then there are the relatives and friends, many of which I hadn't seen in decades. Of course, one must always be polite and gracious when someone offers condolences and a sympathetic hug. But, what do you do when you haven't a clue who the devil the person is? Years pass, people change. More than once, I had to discreetly ask a trusted relative, "Who is that?" Then, I had to hide my shocked expression when I realized time has been kinder to me than to others of my bloodline, or to my old friends.

We got through it. At the luncheon after the funeral, I said goodbye not just to my mother, but to many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends – some of which I would see again and some I know I will not. It is an odd experience, looking in the face of your own mortality. My father died ten years ago. And now my mother is gone. It becomes a reality check, to do what there is to do while there is still time.

That being the case, I am writing again. I am happily anticipating the release of my second book, Sins and Secrets. And I am thrilled to be an Aphrodisia author. It is a wonderful rush to jump back into the deep end of my life!

My Mother's Eulogy

Welcome everyone and thank you for coming. We are here to remember and say goodbye to our Mother. She fought the good fight, being as tenacious as a pit bull and never giving up. But finally, after more than thirty years of dealing with various conditions and illnesses, she has found peace.

Mother was the sort of mother who never stopped worrying about her children, no matter what age we were. Were we eating well? Were we getting enough sleep? Were we staying well and not catching colds or the flu?

She kept after our father in the same way, but they were also a couple who enjoyed each other's company very much. Mom and Dad were best friends as well as husband and wife. They had fun together. They loved to dance together, particularly the polka. They also often took us on joy rides to the local woods, sharing their enjoyment of the forest with us and showing us how to spot deer at sunset.

One of those rides wasn't as much fun. Mom and Dad took us on an unmarked dirt road, trying to see some deer. Dad found himself down in a gully. He tried to turn around, and couldn't. We were stranded overnight until lumbermen came to work the next morning and found us. Evidently the road was a logger road, not meant for passenger traffic. As I will explain in a moment, thanks toMother's planning, we were OK. It was scary, but it was kind of fun.

Both my brothers and I were all toilet-trained the same way. Mother's technique was to be with us in the bathroom, run the faucet, and softly say, "Rain, rain, rain." It worked. In fact, the suggestion has lasted the three of us into adulthood. With all the rain we've had the last few days, my brothers and I have needed to stay within easy range of a bathroom.

Mother loved music and sang in the choir. She particularly loved country music, which the three of us hated at the time. The Saturday night ritual was always Country Music Jubilee, then Hee Haw, then the Grand Ole Opry on the radio.

She loved gardening, both for glorious beautiful flowers and for food. Speaking of food, Mother made the best fried chicken. She put the Kentucky Fried Chicken secret recipe to shame. For holidays and family gatherings, she cooked tremendous amounts of food, and still worried whether there was enough for everyone to eat. And while she was cooking, she would sample the food, and at mealtime, while everyone else stuffed themselves, she couldn't eat much more.

Mother had real artistic ability. One of the times she best displayed it was at Christmas. We always had huge trees and many decorations around the house, butMother's crowning achievement was found under the tree. She sculpted an elaborate village there, with mirrors for frozen lakes, pine seedlings, or "crow's feet" for miniature trees, and boxes and props to create multilevel hills and mountains. She would cover the hills with white sheets and cotton to simulate snow. Her village was like Christmas Wonderland to us. My brother continues this tradition in his home.

Mother was the only girl in her family, and she got into hunting just as much as her brothers did. I'm sure a lot of you recall a character Johnny Carson played occasionally on The Tonight Show. His name was Floyd R. Turbo, American, and he would make silly editorial comments on the issues of the day, but dressed differently from other TV commentators. When Mother was going to go hunting, she would put on a red Woolrich jacket and a hat with ear flaps, the resemblance was pretty amazing. I couldn't resist calling her Floyd R. Turbo, American. I think she was somewhat amused. Or else I would call her the Great White Huntress. And she was a successful hunter.

Remember what I told you about Mother being prepared when we were stuck on the logging road? Our Mother made emergency preparedness an art form. No matter where she went, she packed for any potential disaster. On picnics, we packed boxes full of food, enough for a small army, the grill, all the lawn furniture and extra clothes in case one of us fell into the water. When she went to my brother's college graduation, she took the toaster and the coffee pot to the motel. And when she traveled anywhere away from home, we had to lock down the kitchen sink so she wouldn't take it.

Through it all, Mother was motivated by her desire to do the best she could for us. Every night she would send us to sleep by saying, "Good night, sweet dreams, I love you." For the rest of her life, she would continue to send us off with those words. So it is only fitting that now we are able to say the same to send her off.

So, Mother, good night, sweet dreams, we love you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Article Writing -- Your Key to Success

Have you wasted valuable time and money trying to promote your online business? If you've spent hard-earned cash buying ads on ezines or on websites, you may have been disappointed with the results.

There's a better way to advertise your business or website!

Article writing is for you if you want great benefits that don't cost anything.

By submitting quality articles you'll get lots of exposure and publicity -- without a financial investment! You've probably realized by now that the internet is about information, so content brings visitors to your site. That's a no-brainer!

Consider the possibilities of regularly writing for the internet.

Your work may be seen by millions. Articles written today can quickly appear on over 100 websites.

Search engines are constantly looking for new content to feed content-hungry readers. Why not yours?

By keeping your work before the public, your website will keep getting new visitors who become buyers. As your words are spread all overthe internet , your targeted traffic will increase. That's how to reach lots of qualified buyers. Previous customers will be motivated to become repeat buyers.

By writing regularly, you can reach affiliates or joint venture partners who can help your sales' potential.

Your articles can be permanently displayed on the internet.

Your reputation can spread all over the internet and beyond. Think of the reach just one article can have!

Your influence could span the globe!

What you've written can show up in the most surprising places.

1. Your words may wind up on on a number of publishers' home pages.

2. You could get featured in a large ezine with thousands of subscribers.

3. Your work could be published in a book or in magazines.

4. An author may ask to use one or more of your articles in an e-book and you'll be credited.

5. You may get discovered and earn extra income through speaking engagements.

6. You may be given the opportunity to speak on radio shows.

7. You may even be interviewed for national newspapers.

You may not have to wait long before seeing amazing results.

As you submit your work to ezines and article directories, keep in mind that top-ranking sites are crawled by Google more often than other sites. When these sites publish your writing, you'll soon see results.

With each article you submit, your reputation will grow. After you've submitted twenty or so, you may become a household name -- at no charge to you!

An author's works are often kept permanently on websites, so one keyword-rich article can bring thousands of hits for years to come.

Articles not only build your reputation, but are the best way to raise your search engine ranking.

Reciprocal linking is viewed as less important to Google than one-way linking. If numerous sites point to your website without you linking back, Google rewards you with a higher rank.

You get back links automatically by submitting articles and you don't even have to bother with link exchanges to increase rankings. You also don't have to worry about Google's ever-changing algorithm changes that can dump your website several pages down in one day.

Your published works prove you're an expert -- at least in the eyes of readers who view you as knowledgeable. You also establish credibility and trust. Your words can create your own brand for your website and business.

The written word has clout, so you can clinch your point.
Writing brings personal satisfaction.

There's a great sense of accomplishment from sharing your expertise with the online community.

Real people are sitting behind computers in their homes or offices reading what you've written. Through the right words you can build rapport with them.

You'll probably get emails from time to time telling how something you wrote helped someone. And that's satisfying!

So there you have it --

Writing articles can open surprising doors to success! 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Overcoming Writer's Block

Writing information products (eBooks) is one of the most popular ways of starting an online business.

Why? Because the subject range is unlimited as is the angle or perspective you can bring to the subject. Plus, it costs nothing except your time to create it.

But it is not always trouble-free. How do you get started and how do you manage if you have never written a book before?

First, and most important - write about something you know. This allows you to keep the book flowing, give credibility and shows your readers you have some insight on the subject - and hence something to offer they may not have heard before.

Next, the hardest part of writing is - the first sentence. When you look at the whole project, it seems like an impossible task. You have to break it down into manageable tasks.

I like to use analogies; so think of climbing a mountain. You are standing at the foot of it and looking up at its summit vanishing into the clouds. How can you possibly scale such an immense and dangerous mountain?

There is only one way to climb a mountain - Step by Step.

Now think of writing your ebook in the same light. You must create it step by step, and one day, you will take that last step and find yourself standing on the summit with your head in the clouds. And that day will come much sooner if you keep momentum and enthusiasm.

The first thing you have to do, as if you actually were a mountain climber, is to get organized. Instead of climbing gear, however, you must organize your thoughts. There are some steps you should take before you begin. Once you've gone through the following list, you will be ready to actually begin writing your ebook.

First, figure out your eBook's working title. It's not clear from your post if you have done this or not but it is vital. It gives you a focal point.

Jot down a few different titles, and eventually, you'll find that one that will grow on you. Would it make YOU read it?

As I said, titles help you to focus your writing on your topic; they guide you in anticipating and answering your reader's queries. Many non-fiction books also have subtitles. Aim for clarity in your titles, but cleverness always helps to sell books.

For example, Remedies for Insomnia: Twenty Different Ways to Count Sheep. Or: Get off that Couch: Fifteen Exercise Plans to Whip You into Shape.

Next, write out a thesis statement. Your thesis is a sentence or two stating exactly what problem you are addressing and how your book will solve that problem. All chapters spring forth from your thesis statement. Once you've got your thesis statement fine-tuned, you've built your foundation. From that foundation, your book will grow, chapter by chapter.

Your thesis will keep you focused while you write your ebook. Remember: all chapters must support your thesis statement. If they don't, they don't belong in your book. For example, your thesis statement could read: We've all experienced insomnia at times in our lives, but there are twenty proven techniques and methods to give you back a good night's sleep.

But if this is what you say, you must give twenty proven techniques else you lose credibility with your readers.

Once you have your thesis, before you start to write, make sure there is a good reason to write your book. Ask yourself some questions:

* Does your book present useful information and is that information currently relevant?

* Will your book positively affect the lives of your readers?

* Is your book dynamic and will it keep the reader's attention?

* Does you book answer questions that are meaningful and significant?

If you can answer yes to these questions, you can feel confident about the potential of your ebook.

Now, write out chapter headings. You might not end up using chapters but it will help break the task down into manageable stages that you can tackle one-by-one. Breaking the job into smaller tasks, or chapters, will make it easier.

Remember - like that mountain do it one step at a time.

Another important step is to figure out who your target audience is. It is this group of people you will be writing to, and this group will dictate many elements of your book, such as style, tone, diction, and even length. Figure out the age range of your readers, their general gender, what they are most interested in, and even the socio-economic group they primarily come from. Are they people who read fashion magazines or book reviews? Do they write letters in longhand or spend hours every day online. The more you can pin down your target audience, the easier it will be towrite your book for them.

Next, make a list of the reasons you are writing your ebook. Do you want to promote your business? Do you want to bring quality traffic to your website? Do you want to enhance your reputation?

Then write down your goals in terms of publishing. Do you want to sell it as a product on your website, or do you want to offer it as a free gift for filling out a survey or for ordering a product? Do you want to use the chapters to create an e-course, or use your ebook to attract affiliates around the world? The more you know upfront, the easier the actual writing will be.

Now, you seem to be specifically stuck at getting started. Here you need to think about you and your audience. What made YOU write the book and what do you want THEM to get out of it. You need to hook them early on and the best way to do this is to make them feel that you can answer their problems. After all, why did they buy the book? Make them feel they made the right decision and that you know what you are talking about.

Decide on the format of your chapters. In non-fiction, keep the format from chapter to chapter fairly consistent. Perhaps you plan to use an introduction to your chapter topic, and then divide it into four subhead topics. Or you may plan to divide it into five parts, each one beginning with a relevant anecdote.

Taking all the above into consideration, you could have your eBook finished in no time at all and ready to promote via your website. You could be well on the way to an internet best-seller.

The Guide to Successful Personal Statement Essay

Holding a college application in your hands you might think about what the requirements are going to be. Usually a written assignment is specified and in the most cases it happens to be a personal statement essay. There are several types of personal statement essay, such as general comprehensive essay, that is usually written n a free topic and is required in applications of law and medical schools and personalapplication statement essay that has to be completed. You may be given a question that has to be transformed in a thesis statement or a thesis statement that has to be developed from the point of view of a specific field you feel yourself involved in. your academic achievements should not be a centre of your essay, try to provide the committee with some information about your hobbies and your success in extra curriculum activities. Committee members are usually interested in the profit they get accepting this or that student.

You may meet questions that seem similar in different types of application. But this doesn't necessarily mean that you are to create a template and sent it to all the Universities you want to apply to. Every answer should be different and while giving it, think about what the committee members expect you to answer in this question. You have to show that you are a unique individual that has never lived before and will never again exist. Your style should be different from the generally accepted unless it is required. You have to impress by intelligence, ingenuity and literacy. However there are different types of essays that require different approaches; for instance personal statement essay should be creative and bright when process essay should be a bright example of logics, scientific approach and reserved thoughts.

The process essay is meant to reveal the methods and details of a specific process. In the process of writing you should concentrate on a specific process or the subject that includes several processing stages (you can describe a softball game or to give detailed directions on how to fix the engine of a motorbike. Your essay should be based on the actuality of the process and its importance, the methodic of the process completion and steps or stages of completion. You have to keep in mind that your intended reader is a professional that is acknowledged in the subject you've chosen and this factor should influence your essay style. It may also happen that the reader is quite unfamiliar with all the details you present in your essay and therefore you make the general idea very clear. Your style should be close to scientific description of the matter and give an impression of a person with the vast knowledge of the subject. Use specific constructions and complex sentences to sound more intelligent and acknowledged. Idea generation may not be easy and may take some time. You may hesitate but a good idea would be to turn for help to relatives or good friends that may help. Proofreading is a final stage of your application completion. Make sure that you go over your essay a couple of times before sending it. After all you have done you may be 100% sure of your success.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How To Write A Murder Mystery

The murder mystery genre' is alive and well and living at an on-line bookstore just a mouse click away. How is it that this over-utilized method of story-telling has remained so fresh and compelling after well over a hundred years? The answer lies in the basics of writing.

Grab Them Where it Hurts and Their Minds Will Follow

An author must first and foremost always tell a compelling story, involving, to one extent or another, recognizable three-dimensional characters. The fact that the story takes place against an otherwise formulaic backdrop, involving the effort to solve a murder mystery is just icing on the cake.

A reader needs to care about at least one of three people: the person who was murdered; the murderer; or the person searching for the murderer. Unless the reader can identify with at least one of them, the story will generally not coalesce. Reading a book utilizes our time, and in the modern world, that is frequently our most precious resource. The author must have a compelling answer to the question: why should I waste my time reading your novel?

The answer to that question is that the story is about someone the reader will find quite interesting: himself. The reader needs to recognize parts of himself in one or more of the characters. Though he will see them in situations that are different from his every day life, he needs the opportunity to ponder whether he would react the same way under those circumstances?

The Murder Mystery Must be Solvable Only When the Story is Concluding

Readers love to guess at the 'who done it' aspect of a murder mystery. Yet they are generally disappointed if they can figure out the answer too easily, or at least too early in the story.

Life is about obscurity. We never really know the secrets held by the people around us, even our most trusted loved ones. That is what makes murder mysteries so compelling: in truth, our own lives are informed by mysteries that are never solved.

Yet, unlike real life, in the novel everything is explained by its conclusion. Hence, we find comfort in the difference between our real lives and the novel; the satisfaction of finding out the answer. Psychoanalysts have a term for this: repetition compulsion. It is the need to duplicate the essence of an earlier trauma and this time, control the outcome. The reader knows there are secrets being withheld by the author, but unlike in the messy and traumatic chaos of real life, if she reads on to the end, all will be explained.

Those Who Can Teach, Write

Some of the best murder mysteries involve discourses on unrelated esoteric topics. This usually leads the reader to learn some obscure subject matter having nothing to do with the murder itself.

The act of reading involves a commitment to inhabit the mind and feelings of another person. Sometimes, that person's expertise and erudition is an integral part of understanding them. Hence, in the course of reading a murder mystery, one might learn the evolutionary symbiosis between butterflies and orchids; the esoterica of military strategy and tactics of the Civil War; or the protocols for DNA identification of human remains.

Another example is that in my recent novel, Point and Shoot, I discussed the subtle intersection of the internal and external martial arts, using the Okinawan art of Shaolin Kempo Karate and the Chinese art of Tai Chi Chuan as an illustration:

I went to the dressing room and put on a Kung Fu uniform that I always used for Tai Chi Chuan practice: simple, loose black pants and jacket with a white collar. When I taught Kempo, I would wear the black Karate uniform with the rainbow of fighting animal patches and under that, the black belt with six stripes, but for Tai Chi, this understated garb was the uniform of the day. It was a tacit reminder that, although admittedly they were both derived from the same original Chinese Shaolin Temple forms, the two arts had developed in wholly distinct ways. Diverging branches from the same tree.

My practice of Kempo Karate had been merely adequate through my mid-adolescence. I had dutifully memorized the movements and their names, making my way up through the belt rankings. In five years, I had reached brown belt level. However, like so many martial arts students at that rank, I felt discouraged by the fact that I performed the movements so inadequately when compared to the black belts. I had reached technical proficiency, but that was all. There was obviously something more, and I had no idea what that might be.

I shared my misgivings with Grandfather, and he suggested that I learn the basic 24 posture Tai Chi short form and after that, the 108 posture long form. At first, I simply learned the Tai Chi as I would any other Kempo form. In fact, the postures and strikes were very similar to the crane form I knew so well from Kempo Karate. I executed them the same way: with focused force, albeit at a slower pace.

But over time, he painstakingly helped me unlearn everything he had taught me about the Kempo. It was a very Eastern undertaking: a Master taking his disciple back to the beginning to start fresh. This was the man who had taught me to move with blinding speed, now urging me to slow down; who had taught me to strike with devastating, focused power, now urging me to be soft and gentle with those same movements; who had taught me to prevail decisively over my attackers, now urging me to yield to the attack. In short, it was the man who taught me the external aspect of the Kempo, now helping me switch to the internal.

It was the hardest thing I ever learned, mostly because it involved unlearning. But I stuck with it, and eventually, it started to come to me. I began to immerse myself in the river of theTai Chi form. I began to move with the flow and relaxation I had often read about in the writings of the ancient Chinese masters, but had never understood. And my martial arts practice finally started to blossom.

The Tai Chi enhanced my Kempo Karate into something beyond simple punching and kicking. I began to understand the difference between learning the martial arts and being a martial artist. I had spent so many years memorizing the Kempo combinations and forms with my head, so much time training my hands and feet to execute them, that I had completely neglected to apply the most important part of my body: the heart. I had never connected with the martial arts as a passion, a life enhancing undertaking. Like Grandfather had.

After that, he suggested I re-learn the entire Kempo Karate system from white belt on up. They were the same Kempo combinations and animal forms, but now they felt and looked different. It was like first learning a beautiful poem through translation, and then because you loved it so much, re-learning it in the original tongue. I was finally learning Shaolin Kempo Karate in its original tongue.

I still cannot adequately define what exactly changed. But somehow, I had tied into something deep and eternal. I had developed a balance and centering that extended well beyond my practice of the martial arts. I found myself becoming a different person: less angry, less anxious, more forgiving and embracing of other's failings, their weaknesses. In a word, the internal arts enhanced me.


In essence, a murder mystery should be a story that could stand alone without the murder and without the mystery. The characters should not be tangential to the story, but instead, drive it forward. They should at least have some characteristics with which the reader can identify. In other words, the reader must care enough about these characters to want to stick around and solve the mystery.