An Empty Shell

There are times when I feel hollow

When times drags out the shallow days

The sun, it shines, provides the warmth

That shows the normal summer ways.

**

Surrounded am I, by furry companions

And people in whose house I live.

I do, what I can, not to be a burden

But I don’t know how much I still can give.

**

I’m feeling blue, and worse by the hour

I feel forgotten, like I don’t matter at all.

No work, nobody who gives me a chance

To prove my worth – I feel useless and small.

**

There’s one person in this world who fills my life

With warmth, with smiles, and with some joy

But even he, goes forward and back, undecided

I feel hurt and humiliated, like a toy.

**

All I need is some success, a chance, some energy

Make me smile, talk to me, and make me feel alive

Currently, I feel alone, in a huge building, my thoughts an echo

Don’t leave me here with only myself – I need to thrive!

**

Maybe I just wither, unloved, undesired, forgotten and alone

If I just disappear, nobody would care if I slowly fade.

Leave the sunlight, go into darkness, enjoy the moon.

go into the night, accompanied by only shade.

**

Maybe it’s not the non-chances, or sadness that are killing

Maybe it’s not neglect, or sadness that trigger fears

Maybe it’s more, maybe it’s pain, hurt and loneliness

That make me drown in an ocean of tears….

*****

(Copyright, Aurora Jean Alexander, July 2022)

Picture courtesy of Google.com

The Best Part Of Telling A Story – Part IV

April 14, 2022 I published the first part of this blog post series, April 28, the second part followed. The third part was published May 26, 2022. This blog post series talks about the best part of telling a story. There are so many good parts, to me, each holds its own appeal. Let’s have a look at them again:

1. Drafting the plot

2. Finding a motive

3. Creating the protagonist and antagonist

4. Finding the perfect location

5. Thinking of plot twists

6. Create side characters

[7. Depending on the story, maybe even create a world]


Now, let’s find out what ‘the perfect location’ means, and where it’s supposed to be?

One of the main rules of writing says: “Write what you know.”

Besides that being the most misunderstood advice when it comes to writing, it still holds a little piece of good meaning, when it comes to ‘location’. ( Nathan Englander, the critically acclaimed author of ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank’ says, that authencitiy in fiction means thinly veiled autobiography. If you’re a drunken, bralwing adventurer like Hemingway, no problem, but Englander says, growing up he watched TV, played videogames and dreamt about being a writer. Was he supposed to write about the Atari 2600? Englander says, ‘Write what you know’ isn’t about events, it’s about emotions. Have you experienced love, jealousy, longing, or loss? According to Englander, it doesn’t matter where the story takes place, your front yard, or another galaxy, if you’re writing what you know, the reader will believe you. (Source: Bigthink.com).

And here, I admit, my opinion is divided. Part of me wants to agree with Nathan Englander, the other part doesn’t. And that’s mainly, because ‘The Council of Twelve’ series mentions places on Earth, where, in many cases, I have been before, but also, Heaven and Hell, where you normally don’t go, at least not, until you face the Grim Reaper.

 

Picture courtesy of Google.com

How can I write about locations nobody alive has ever set foot in? And that’s the fantasy writer in me, who wants to agree with Englander. You’re right… it doesn’t matter where the location is. I can make it up, I write fantasy… I can create locations that serve my story, that are as horrible, or as beautiful, as I need them to be…

The other half of me, working on a crime story, wants to scream: STOP! Of course, it matters, where the story takes place! How can I write about a murder that is happening in a dirty back alley in Shanghai? I have never been in that city. (Except at the airport, but that’s a different story, and not for now)… What’s wrong with the murder in Tuscon, Arizona, where the writer lives, or in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or in Keystone, South Dakota, if the writer grew up there and knows every building like the back of their hand?

To me, writing my crime story, meant I picked the location I knew, and that’s where I lived at the time. I was busy enough with creating a crime, a plot, keeping my characters straight, inventing, writing, changing, adjusting, trying to feel like an evil individual and being impatient because it took longer than expected… I didn’t have time to make up locations I have never seen before.

I read a series of books I love very much, Don Massenzio’s Frank Rozzani Books. Don Massenzio’s main protagonist, Frank Rozzani was born, where the author was born, and he lives, where the author lives, in Jacksonville, Florida. I doubt very much that is a coincidence. Don Massenzio, I’m sure, will answer our questions hereof.

As for my preferences: I enjoyed both, mentioning places, where I’ve been, where I lived at the time, what I saw, and show them in my books… but also I immensely thrive in the process of creating locations that don’t exist.

When you’re a writer, what do you enjoy? Have you experienced both in your career? What do you enjoy most? When you’re a reader, and you read in a book about a location you have seen, do you judge the story according to the accuracy of the places? Let us know in the comments, we are curious.

How To Start Your Own Author Newsletter – Re-blog

(This blog post was published the first time September 9, 2015 here on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’.)

When I started building my network on social media and created “Writer’s Treasure Chest” I was not prepared for this much more to come. There are many more challenges to face. One of these challenges is to create my own Author Newsletter.

I started research on writer’s newsletters.

There are as many hints, tips and tricks as newsletter owners, and I’m desperate to be as well informed as possible before giving it a try. I’d like my first newsletter to be a success, not some amateurish “good luck” try.

Tips & Tricks

One of the first blog posts about newsletters I read had been written July 5, 2013 by Steena Holmes. She provides a list of what a newsletter can be used for. Mrs. Holmes hands out warnings on what not do with newsletters. She as well dedicates an entire paragraph on and how to get people to sign up. I like her writing style very much and I recommend this blog post to every writer who’s just starting. Her entire blog post can be found here: https://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/the-how-and-why-of-author-newsletters/

Choose your Newsletter Provider

Steena Holmes mentioned one particular Newsletter and campaign provider: “Mail Chimp”. I did research on several providers and Mail Chimp seems user friendly and offers a variety of designs. I even found an easy to read and helpful “step-by-step” manual. It can be found here: http://www.authorsatlas.com/blog/author-newsletter-101. This valuable tool provides tricks and screen shots to guide me through the process.

Decide on a professional design

After reading these posts and articles I tried to imagine how to stay true to my brand and still deliver a professional looking and interesting newsletter for my future readers. The answer I found on wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Good-Newsletter. They even offer sample newsletters there which I found attractive. But the one thing impressing me most on wikiHow was their first paragraph. “Although images and layout are important, the written content is the biggest factor in whether your newsletter is successful. However, writing a newsletter requires more than just a good grasp of proper English grammar and extensive vocabulary. You need to be interesting, relevant, and easy to be read. Here are some simple steps you can take to write a good newsletter.”

The four types of Author’s Newsletters

Having a nice design in mind does not make a newsletter yet and found a blog post, written by Cheryl Reif. She offers four different Author’s Newsletters:

  • Chat & Conversation
  • News &Updates
  • Tools & Resources
  • Recycled Content

I need to decide now what type of newsletter mine should become. Cheryl Reif’s blog post can be found here http://www.cherylreif.com/2015/06/15/4-types-of-author-newsletter-how-to-pick-the-best-for-you/

What did I learn?

I will try to keep it short. I know, I provided a few links to read and all I do now is a quick bullet list:

  • Keep the feature article short
  • Add extra valuable information for your readers
  • Tell your readers what you will write about to keep them interested
  • Create a list of upcoming events (if you have any)
  • Don’t play “hard to get” – give full contact information
  • Combine great content with a professional looking layout
  • Keep your readers entertained with providing a quote.
  • Send out your electronic newsletter every 30 days
  • Watch your subscriber’s list grow
  • The next step for me now will be to start on my first newsletter. In case I’ve made you curious how it will turn out:
Please, click the icon to subscribe.
Please, click the icon to subscribe.

I’d be delighted to welcome you as my reader. Thank you!

Revamping Your Blog

Today I was looking for a link I knew I had shared on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ a while ago. It took me almost twenty minutes, but I finally found it – and then I faced an unwelcome surprise… the link was ‘blind’, which means, it went nowhere…

I realized, the blog post itself was about five years old. Part of ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ are promotional posts, connected to other authors, sharing posts that I re-blogged, or interesting articles that I found relevant for writing… there are many more reasons, why we connect our blogs to other bloggers and posts, and each one of them is important.

Longevity is important for every single blog, no matter what the basic subject is about. The longer you have your blog, the better. You develop a particular readership, and you would like to provide them with the reliable, long-lasting post content. Now, with our habit of re-blogging, sharing, and linking other blogger’s content to our blog, we’re at a risk to connect with blogs or posts other bloggers are deleting at one point. Maybe they’re re-vamping their blogs, or decide to delete the entire blog. Maybe something else happens, we don’t know. But it makes it clear that with the connection to other blog posts and blogs, we are not only facilitating traffic between blogs, we are also encouraging the risk of maintaining our own blog in a more regular and more careful way.

According to Eb Gargano, an avid and experienced blogger, with her blog ProductiveBlogging.com we bloggers should take good care of our blog, and ‘revamp’ it occasionally.

Eb says, we don’t have to delete our old blog posts, unless, they had become useless. (Like in my case, the one with the ‘blind’ link.) But we definitely should comb through our blog and update and re-write the one or other post, set up new pictures, add some creativity and design, and re-post them. This is not only a recommendation, it’s advice. Eb Gargano says,  “”If you have a lot of old, out of date, irrelevant, and/or poor-quality blog posts, this will have a negative effect on your SEO.” (For the ones who don’t know what SEO is: “Search Engine Optimization”, you will find a link to another one of Eb Gargano’s posts).

Reviving, re-writing, and re-vamping your older blog posts, and even re-posting them again, can boost your SEO – and your reader’s and visitor’s experience. Keep your blog as accurate, reliable, modern, and current as possible. Delete old and outdated posts and slim your blog down when necessary. You don’t need posts with old links that lead to an error page. Show your readership and followers, that you’re taking care of your blog, and that it’s important to you!

Fosterwebmarketing.com says, “Deleting irrelevant, unviewed content may be painstaking, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to boost your search engine rankings and improve user experience. Just like all white hat, ethical SEO techniques, there is no silver bullet to ridding your site of old content.”

That means, to us writers and author-bloggers: a blog is not a book – once written, preserved for eternity! It means a blog is constant work, permanent revision, renovation, updates, maintaining, and revamping. Having a blog means, spending time with it and on it, precious time that we don’t have, and that is taken from us from writing. I’m glad, to be honest, I only have one blog to take care of… I can barely imagine how the ones with two or more blogs are groaning now: “Oh, noooooooo!”

Of course, I’m not going to force anyone to do anything on their blog. This is a recommendation, or ‘good advice from good ol’e A.J. if you will.

But you will have to excuse me now, I have to work on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ updating. Hopefully, see you soon!

Part of the picture is courtesy of Google.com

As The French Say: “C’est le ton qui fait la musique.” – A Book Review By A Writer

Picture courtesy of Freerangestock.com

Many writers have a myriad of other writers and authors in their network. Since we all know how important book reviews are for us authors, most of us are willing to help out and write a review for our fellow authors. If not, we should.

At this moment I won’t repeat how and why book reviews are essential to our work, I published plenty of blog posts on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ about that subject, many of them written by other bloggers and writers and shared here.

Also, I won’t add any more tips and tricks on how to write a review, because, ditto…

But what, if we agreed to help and find ourselves in the horrible situation of having to review a book that’s not what we expected, neither in character development, character voice, description clarity, or plot arc? What if we just cannot find the thread that leads us through the story, and we have the feeling that this particular writer suffers from a lack of skill, ability, and talent to actually write a book?

And here, I admit, I feel torn apart… I want to be honest, I don’t want to discourage a fellow author, in particular a young, upcoming author who’s just starting out… But at the same time, there’s that nasty little thought that tries to talk me into protecting the world from a really bad book…

Picture courtesy of: https://stock.adobe.com/

So, what should we do in such a case? And here, each one of us might decide differently. There are, of course, different possibilities. I’ve seen them all.

  1. I write and publish an honest review, clearly stating that the book is not good
  2. I don’t publish that review, but send it to the author personally and tell them, the book is crap
  3. I contact the author and let them know that I read the book and ask if they’re willing to ‘listen’ to some advice
  4. I want to help and recommend the author to remove the book from the market for a while and work on it before re-publishing
  5. Tell the writer that it might be a good idea to find another occupation, maybe as a gardener, at least they’d do something useful

I admit I wish I had never made that horrible experience or stood in front of that decision. But unfortunately, it happened. What did I do?

Very simple: I tried a mix of numbers three and four.

Now, we are talking about three different young authors and three different reactions.

Author A: “How DARE you judge my book like that. My Mum said it’s a great story, and my sister said the same thing. That’s why it’s published, and they both helped me with the editing and stuff.” (You must be a writer, man… I like the ‘and stuff’ part best). Basically, I dare to judge your book ‘like that’ because you asked me to. If you ask for an honest review, you will have to brace yourself for the possibility that you will get a very honest review, and it cannot always be good. If you only want a good review, ask your Mum and your sister. Being a writer, and a published author is not always a ride on a pink rainbow unicorn. It’s hard work, and you give many people the chance to libel your name. Get a very thick skin, that’s the only way to protect you from being harmed. Not everybody is as nice as to tell you in private that your work needs a bit of polishing.

Author B: “Thank you very much for telling me. I’d like to hear what you recommend, please! I really appreciate it. I don’t get much support from anyone, and I feel I can do with some help.” (Needless to say, I’m still in contact with that author, and the story has massively improved. I will promote the book here on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’, once it’s ready.)

Author C: “I hate you! You hurt me so much! I will make sure that nobody will ever take you seriously as an author. You will pay. for what you said..” (In that case I would really have liked to recommend a good shrink)

Now, in each one of these cases, I’m not talking about a published book review on my side. I contacted each one of these authors and told them, that I’d like to talk about that book, carefully explaining, why I thought, at this moment a review wouldn’t be the best idea. Also, in each case, I started by mentioning the good things I found. (Even though there weren’t many, I tried my best). Only then I listed the things that should improve.

There’s always more than one way to say something. And right here the title of this blog post kicks in. As the French say: “It’s the tone that makes the music.”, or in French: “C’est le ton qui fait la musique.”

Let’s say, you’re at a party, and the host serves an adventurous combination of manchego cheese, pickles, pineapple, and maraschino cherries on the avocado salad. You can either say, you’re allergic to avocado (And hope, she doesn’t remember you ate her guacamole last time you were there) or, you can ask her, if she’s pregnant, because, nobody in their right mind would eat something like that without vomiting big time. I’m known to be quite straight out, but even I wouldn’t eat that salad, and faking an allergy at that moment sounds just perfect.

Or, you’re taking your two besties out for dinner to celebrate… and when you arrive at the second one’s house, she shows up in a white mini-dress that has seen better days, and she’s completely oblivious that she grew out of it, most likely, about twenty-five years ago, you have two choices. Tell her, that she forgot to get dressed in something age-and weight-appropriate, or ask her if she forgot to get dressed – period.

In our case, things are similar. I had two possibilities: publish a book review that tells everybody the plot is crap, the characters are lame, and the book is poorly written, by a completely talent-free individual… or, I did what I did and try to help these authors by telling them something good I found to avoid killing their buzz, and then carefully showing them different blog posts and articles that help them to improve their story plot, their character voices and -development.

It’s all in the way we say things… how we make and keep friends, how we make sure we don’t hurt people, and how we remember, that our strongest talent and skill are words. That saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is true. Words can injure and kill, as horribly as a blade can. In doubt, just remember one more thing: “Talk to others the way you want to be talked to.”

How would you handle a situation like that? And do you remember it’s the tone that makes the music? Let us read your comment, please.

Picture courtesy of Amazon.com

The Sad Retirement Of A Tradition

When I was a kid, I watched my parents carefully marking their days and appointments on an agenda. Back then, you got these 2022 ‘agendas’ from your bank, the butcher’s shop, or some other company that used them for advertisement. I always wanted my own ‘agenda’, despite me being only 4 years old and going to Kindergarten.

Since I grew up in a so-called well-protected parental home (and I’m very grateful for that!), my life was generally controlled by my mother. That meant, all my appointments, play afternoons, or birthday parties were noted in her agenda. She had to be informed about everything we children did. I think, when I got my first personalized agenda for my birthday, she impounded it and I never saw it again.

Then, planners, and ‘Filofax’ cases became not only a fashion statement but also a necessity for every business person (and a few others too)… and I would have loved one of these. Instead, I had to settle for an agenda, a promotional article from my bank. (I could have my own now, I was almost an adult).

When I finally got my first combined planner/agenda/address book/notes case in size 9 x 13″ from COACH, the fashion statement was basically on its way into the archives, not to mention that I found out, that thing added about 6 pounds to my already heavy writer’s purse. To make things a little easier (and lighter on my back), I left that rock-heavy combined case at home and got myself a light, ring book paper agenda to take with me. I love paper, and I continued entering my appointments, plans, and tasks in both agendas, one for home and one for ‘the road’. By the time it got hard to get a replacement for my annual COACH agenda, I was so sick of my method, that I decided to set the state of my COACH stone to ‘out of service’ and further just kept using my light and practical paper agenda, which I, on an annual basis, bought at Walmart or Target.

Since I’m a writer, and was a job seeker at that time, and had other things to do I took notes of, and love post-its, my agenda always looked like a ‘work book’, with notes, corrections, and hooks, and post-its and tape, and I loved it.

And then came the time…

When my life took a big hit with the pandemic, and I decided to add another huge change and start traveling, I realized, that my paper agenda used up a lot of space and just didn’t serve its purpose anymore, no matter how much I loved it. I kept collecting paper in it, rather than using it for its original purpose, and took fewer and fewer notes, which I had started adding to my electronic agenda on my devices, (phone and tablet) instead. That way I knew I had them with me at all times. They didn’t use up additional space and were even lighter and less bulky that my beloved paper agenda.

Only a few days ago I finally found it, somewhere, on a dresser, forgotten and abandoned, ragged, shriveled, used… and still, somehow sad and neglected. And with a heavy heart, I had to recognize the sad truth: it is time to bury an old tradition… Another one of my beloved paper products will not be with me any longer. My poor, orphaned paper agenda will retire…

Does that mean, I’m completely computerizing myself? Hell, no! I will always enjoy taking notes by hand, on paper, with a beautiful pen. But there won’t be notes for books, or something else… they won’t be appointments, tasks, and meetings on paper anymore. That will be over. A. J. Alexander goes electronic!

Goodbye paper agenda. Thank you for your decades-long services! I will always remember you.

A Cheat Sheet on Body Language for Writers – Written By John W. Howell

Hi SEers. John with you today.

As a wrap-up to the subject of gestures (or beats) to convey non-verbal communication, I found a great cheat sheet for writers on body language. The cheat sheet is below the text and was developed by ArchetypeWriting.com.

The cheat sheet can be used in developing characterizations beyond having to explain just how your character is feeling. I hope you find this cheat sheet useful and perhaps dig deeper into the subject of body language.

Image

CONTINUE READING HERE

Why do good books fail to sell while poorly written books fly off the shelves? – by Thomas Umstattd Jr.

on Author Media:

I recently spoke at a conference for professional editors. My session was titled “How to Edit a Book to Sell.”

Editors and writers are often confounded when great books fail to sell while poorly written books fly off the shelves.

You’ve probably had a confounding experience at a bookstore when you pick up a book, read a few pages, and say, “This is awful!” When you put it back on the shelf, you notice the words “New York Times Bestseller” emblazoned on the front.

Why do great books often fail to sell while poorly written books fly off the shelves? 

Some books stay on bestseller lists even though they seemingly don’t deserve it. Other books are brilliantly written, and they never crack the top 100.

A book only finds life in the mind of the reader, which means you must convince readers to buy and read your book.

You don’t want your book to be a neglected masterpiece. So how do you write a book that will sell well?

Continue reading HERE

How to Upload Your Book to KDP, Easily and Correctly [Text Instruction + Screenshots] – by The Book Designer Team

I recently published my 21st book to the KDP platform, having been self-publishing for the last 7 years. And as I was going through the self-publishing steps again, it occurred to me how the platform has evolved over the past decade. This text-based, step-by-step tutorial is your most current and up-to-date process to upload your book to KDP.

Publishing a book can be overwhelming – especially if you want to make sure you’re doing it right and to prevent any confusion throughout the process on how to publish a book. Let’s take a look at the process and what is required to become a bestselling self-published author.

If you are a first-time author—or seasoned veteran at self-publishing—you will find this brief post on publishing to KDP very beneficial.

  • What is KDP?
  • Uploading Your Book to Amazon KDP: a step-by-step process (11 Steps)
  • Bonus Step: 3 Marketing Tools to Consider When Publishing on KDP
  • Next Steps

But first…

Continue reading HERE

Using Analogies is like Giving Yourself an Ink Blot Test – Written By Charles Yallowitz

Did the title work?  Maybe not, which is one of the challenges with analogies.  They’re like jokes in that they depend on the audience and don’t always hit their mark.  You can share an analogy that has one person nodding in agreement and another scratching their head in confusion.  Why is that?

Well, the big thing is that analogies require pre-existing knowledge.  I remember one from the animated X-Men that was ‘Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs’, which I’ve been told is a Southern expression.  Pretty simple to understand as long as you know what a cat and a rocking chair are.  You also need to know how painful that experience would be.  If you’re missing any of those elements, you’re going to have to explain what you meant.  Again, this is like a joke where it loses its impact if you have to explain it.

I’ve noticed that I use analogies a lot.  People may have picked up on that in comments over the years.  By analyzing myself, I tend to use an analogy for one of two reasons:

CONTINUE READING HERE