Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trying to live the dream

Work.  Something you have to do to survive which will hopefully give you the means to bring you closer to your dream.  Unfortunately, the constraints of work often hold you back from your dream.  Commitments, time constraints, all sent to try your patience.
Last night I dreamt that I owned six houses, each one in a different country.  I spent the year traveling around the world spending two months in each house.  That dream is probably a bit unrealistic considering that at this precise moment I don't own any property anywhere in the world.  And 3-4 houses would be better so that you can spend longer in each country.  But hey, it was just a dream.
Thinking about it though as dawn approached while I watched the Fiji Samoan World Cup Rugby game at some god-forsaken hour on a Sunday morning when all intelligent life were still firmly ensconced in their beds fast asleep, I realised that I quite liked that dream and might need to tweak it a bit and adapt it to make it my own.
The first step will be trying to save some money.  You can't buy a property without any money.  That is a sad fact of life.  Unfortunately, I don't have any of that hugtight sticky glue to keep those dollar notes firmly stuck to my coffers.  Exotic holidays are too much of a temptation and I can't resist flying off to explore somewhere new.  And then, life is so short so you really should make the most of it and not short-change yourself on those holidays.
What I'd really like to do is give up my day job and then spend my time writing and traveling.  Following my team for the 2015 Cricket and Rugby World Cups.
These dreams are not impossible; they just take a bit of conscious effort to work towards making them a reality.  A dream is broken down into small goals.  Each goal is then broken down into steps.  Don't be afraid to dream big.  It's the goals to get there that need to be small and achievable.  Maybe today is the day to work out the blueprint, the road map to achieving your dreams.  Good luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why I can't write

This seems to be the year of distractions.
I don't know what it is that some years you can achieve so much and other years it's just one distraction after another that blocks your vision, hampers your creativity and manages to force one's writing onto the back burner. 
I love writing.  Stories, relationship advice, I love it.  But this year it is a struggle and just isn't happening for me.
My youngest daughter will tell you, I'm addicted to research.  Mention something I don't know and I have an obsessive compulsion to find out all I can about it.  This means that my time on my laptop is ill-spent researching trivial bits and pieces that mean nothing to anybody just to satisfy some weird urge I have to acquire useless knowledge about random subjects.  It's a huge time-waster that I can't get control of.  An addiction I don't seem quite ready to give up.
During my recovery time after another bout with breast cancer, I should have been able to use that time to write.  Instead, I became completely obsessed with researching my roots.  I did find out some scandalous stuff but seriously, what can I actually do with that information?  How useful is it?  If I am honest with myself then it is just another waste of my time and time is very precious to me.
Being an armchair sports fanatic, a year of world cups is the worst possible thing for me.  First the cricket world cup consumed my weekends and killed my writing.  Now it's the rugby world cup and as a die-hard Springbok supporter I find it of the utmost importance to my sanity and psyche to compulsively read every bit of news about the Springboks and their world cup bid written in every blog and newspaper around the world.  Weekends are taken up with rugby-watching and it's very hard to focus on anything else.  Even planning an October getaway and December holiday has been pushed aside.  I have a one-track mind and it's not about sex.  Rugby, that's all I can think about at present.  I try and avoid conversations with people as I instinctively try and turn the conversations around to rugby and the Springboks chances in this world cup.  This is sad.
I have two books I should be working on.  Redesigning yourself for the multi-tasking generation which I'm co-writing with Jeremy Sherr, and C U @ 8, a novel I'm quite excited about.  I've promised myself that after the world cup, these books will get my full attention.  But there's always something else, isn't there?
Marketing.  The bain of my life.  Indie authors have to spend a lot of time marketing, especially if you want to enjoy the successes which come with increased sales.  Marketing is time-consuming, and at the moment is compartmentalised with watching E!  I can do both at the same time.  However, I do not spend nearly enough time on marketing.
Parenting takes time if you are a single-parent.  Your children expect you to talk and interact with them, fetch and carry them, all of which makes inroads on your time.  And if you just agree with them or pretend to listen, they have this nasty habit of taking your inattention personally, and throwing it back at you when you need their support.
And last of all is my job.  A huge distraction as I have to go to work during the week.  Because you receive a salary, the expectation is that you'll put in the hours and do the work.  Unfortunately, I do love my job so feel this compulsion to do the extra yards and go the extra mile.  If only I had a horrible job and didn't have to work.  Now if I could just make the time for marketing, to get the sales to supplement my income, then maybe...?  With one more child to go to university and finish school, retiring to write is not an option for a good few years.
My goal for this week is to manage my time and make the time to write.  It's what I'm passionate about (besides the rugby) so it stands to reason that I should make the time to follow my passion.
Have a good week.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Man's Inhumanity to Man

There have been times on my travels when I have come across signs of man's inhumanity towards his fellow man which has left me feeling deeply disturbed. The Nanjing Massacre Museum in China was one, the Killing Fields in Cambodia was another. Last weekend in Stone Town in Zanzibar I came upon another. The slave trade. It wasn't just a case of tearing apart families and wrenching them away from their homes. It was the unnecessary cruelty that went with it. Like the slave traders had a brainstorming session beforehand to come up with different and creative ways to make the slaves' lives more miserable. They stole people from the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and marched them in chains to Bagamoyo in Tanzania where they were crammed into ships and taken to Zanzibar to await the slave auctions at the market. Families were separated. The traders came up with a cunning plan to chain slaves from different tribes and countries next to each other, so that your neighbour didn't speak your language so no conversations could take place. That way nobody could communicate their escape plans to each other.
Many slaves were buried alive in the foundations of new buildings being erected to 'strengthen' them. The strongest were placed in tiny cells with low ceilings so that standing upright was impossible. The only light and ventilation coming from two narrow slits in the wall. A ditch filled with sea water ran down the middle of the cell where they were supposed to relieve themselves. The smaller cell held fifty men, the slightly bigger cell held 75 women and children. They had to wait in the cells chained together in neck chains for 2-3 days until auction day. The guide who took us around explained that only about 50% of the slaves would survive until sale day. Having gone into the cells I would imagine many would have suffocated to death. But the cruelty did not end there. On market day they would be tied to a whipping post and whipped to see how strong they were. Obviously the stronger they were, the more money they were sold for. The base of the whipping post is in front of the communion table at the Anglican Cathedral. They have put red tiles around the whipping post base to symbolise all the blood that was spilt. The Cathedral was built on top of the old slave market and the original holding cells are still there. The baptism font made of Italian marble is at the back of the Cathedral over the place where unwanted slave children were killed. And a further cruelty was that many of these slaves were sold to the traders by their own chiefs and village elders. Greed is a terrible thing, isn't it? I wonder if those chiefs and elders ever felt guilty by what they did to their own people, or did the wealth they got from their treachery sweeten their dreams?
In the garden of the Cathedral is a stark poignant sculpture by Clara Sornas, of five slaves in a rectangular pit wearing original neck chains. A haunting reminder of man's inhumanity to man.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book marketing tips

As an author there are different ways to market your books for free. Living in the wop-wops as I do, book signings are difficult, word of mouth works to a certain extent but won't have truckloads of your book rolling out the door. A virtual book tour is another great marketing tool and is more about generating a web presence rather than selling books.
There are so many books out there, you have to do what it takes to get yours noticed. Giveaways on Goodreads are an option and usually gets you a few reviews as well. Reviews are also a great way to get your book known. Have a friend with a blog interview you on their blog. Tweeting on Twitter and posting on Facebook helps make people aware of your book, but doesn't necessary make them leap up to buy it. Posting on blogs, writing articles online, and answering questions on sites like all help put you and your book out there.
However, it's still not enough.
Joining groups on Linkedin, Kindleboards all help to build your author platform but by themselves do not generate major sales.
Bookmarks, business cards, posters in bookstores and setting up a table in your local shopping mall are all well and good if you live in a place geared for that kind of marketing. Some of us don't.
You can also make book trailers and post them on Youtube. is an awesome book marketing site that incorporated Bookbuzzr where people can play games where they have to memorise your book cover. They also have lots of other useful tools and widgets. I'm particularly fond of the book excerpt widget where the pages turn like a real book. They give you the code to embed on your webpage or blog.
Amazon have a nifty tool called an astore. You can join as an affiliate and set up an astore which contains your books. The instructions on how to do it are very simple to follow on the Amazon Affiliate's site. You then get code that you can embed on your blog or webpage and sales of your books on the astore will net you an affiliate fee and your normal royalty.
From all these marketing tips you can gather that it's best not to put all your eggs in one basket and use only one strategy like tweeting on Twitter. You have to spread yourself thin and do as many as possible to reach heaps of people.
Writing your book was the easy part. Marketing is where the real work comes in, and boy is it time-consuming! You'll find that with all the marketing you have to do you won't have much time left to work on your next masterpiece. If you are running a household and holding down a full-time job it gets even trickier. Time management is the key here. At the start of your week set yourself a small marketing task for each day. Don't try and do all the marketing strategies every day, you'll reach burn-out before you get a chance to sing God save the Queen. Small manageable chunks that are realistic. Don't bite off more than you can chew otherwise you'll get stressed, frustrated and be inclined to give up. You don't want to dry up those creative juices of yours, so factor in some quality writing time each week.
If you have any good marketing tips to share, please add them in the comments.
Have a good one!