Saturday, August 18, 2012

Zen of the Garden


This year, the combination of rainy evenings and warm sunny days has created a rainforest effect in my garden.  The lushness of the green immediately soothes me on hectic days.  The sound of water running into our tiny pond, where frogs serenade us in the early evening, melts away the stress of hectic days.

I must admit, I am having a difficult time keeping up with the weeding this year.  With all the warmth and rain, it seems things grow overnight.  But, there is a good side to this.  Weeding is meditative.

 

What amazes me, is that I can feel all stressed because I need to finish this or that, but, if I give myself permission to go weed for a bit, I find that my mind empties, leaving me with space to see what I need to do and how to do it.

 

In addition, I have come to realize that having a garden - planting, harvesting, weeding, and pruning - connects me with the seasons and the various phases of the moon.  Being connected to Nature gives me a deep awareness of my surroundings.  This awareness allows me to see little things that bring me such joy!  Butterflies, birds, frogs and toads, even my neighbor's chickens that come to visit are part of the eco-system of my garden.  


  
I am grateful for the Zen of my garden.  Caring for it is really caring for myself.  We ARE all connected!  Here are a few more pictures - may they bring comfort, inspiration and joy.

Namasté!














 

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Love Comes Later


Today, we have a guest blogger, Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar, who has written a new book, Love Comes Later, which a fictional love story in which the traditions and ancient culture of the East meet up with the modern culture of the West.  Love Comes Later is a tale that examines where the lines of loyalty to friends and family intersect with those of love.



Welcome to Words from the Heart, Mohana!  I am so happy to have you with us, today, to talk about life and your book, Love Comes Later. Let me begin by saying how much I enjoyed the book. I recommend it highly to readers who really like a love story that spans cultures.
  
You’ve probably been asked this a hundred times, but I am interested in knowing how you came up with the concept for Love Comes Later. Was it something that happened in real life that triggered the story or was it purely the Muse at work?
 
Thanks for having me Linda. I’m excited to get this story out into the hands of readers. I worked on the manuscript for over three years. The project began with a fairly simple question (or what I thought was at the time): how will anyone in this generation in traditional societies fall in love?

I knew some really terrific young people, both men and women, who felt despair of ever finding happiness in love or marriage. I took the guys and made them in to one character and same for the girls; then the similarities between Qatari and South Indian culture had me introduce an Indian character.

In this book, the reader learns about various cultural norms and taboos. Can you tell the readers why this is an important element in what you write?
   
I love to show people worlds or experiences that are outside their immediate knowledge because this is what I find most interesting myself about travel and other cultures. What’s scary about the current global climate is that it’s so easy to villainize people who live far away or are in some way different, say a political party or religious affiliation. For me writing and stories are how we can bridge the gap.
  
I have often written about serendipitous moments that can be life changing. This book has several such moments. Have you experienced serendipitous moments that have changed your life?  If so, could you share one with us? 
  
I have had so many! I interviewed for the job that took me overseas to Qatar at a conference, thinking very little about it. Even after I moved overseas, I didn’t know I would meet my husband, have a baby, or step off the career path to pursue writing full time. Each decision is like a fork in the road that in turn opens other doors.
  
We all write to give our reader’s something. What do you hope this book will do for the reader?
  
I hope the reader will discover a private world, the world of the heart, and recognize his/her own emotions in those of the characters.
I also want to show the intersection of Qatari and South Indian culture to people who may not be familiar with either.
  
What advice might you share with aspiring writers?

Be honest about why you are writing. Is it for fame? Fortune? To tell your grandfather’s story so it isn’t lost forever? Honesty will then give clarity to the work you produce and also make the choices you make (commercial versus indie) clearer.
   
And if you aren’t prepared to give it everything: skip movies, use your savings, be bold in marketing so your friends and family are tired of hearing about it, then ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather keep a diary. It’s a lot easier, less expensive, and has none of the risk.
  
Are there any other words of wisdom or encouragement that you would like to share with the readers?
  
Writers depend absolutely on readers. Without you, we’d be talking to ourselves (which is more like a conversation made up of monologues). 

Even if you don’t read my work, you’re reading someone’s and that’s a huge support to the industry overall.


About the Author:  Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a writer who has lived in Qatar since 2005. She has a PhD from the University of Florida with a focus on gender and postcolonial theory. Her dissertation project was published as Haram in the Harem (Peter Lang, 2009) a literary analysis of the works of three Muslim women authors in India, Algeria, and Pakistan. She is the creator and co-editor of five books in the Qatar Narratives series, as well as the Qatari Voices anthology which features essays by Qataris on modern life in Doha (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2010). Her research has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. 
  
She was the Associate Editor of Vox, a fashion and lifestyle magazine based in Doha and a winner of the She Writes We Love New Novelists competition.   She has been a regular contributor for Variety Arabia, AudioFile Magazine, Explore Qatar, Woman Today, The Woman, Writers and Artists Yearbook, QatarClick, Expat Arrivals, Speak Without Interruption and Qatar Explorer. She hosted two seasons of the Cover to Cover book show on Qatar Foundation Radio
  
Currently Mohana is working on a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf and a novel based in Qatar. She believes words can help us understand ourselves and others. Catch up on her latest via her blog or follow her on Twitter @moha_doha.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

No Budget for Promotion? Twitter!

Today, I am changing gears and sharing the blog with guest author, Beth Barany.  Beth shares some insights on using Twitter to promote newly published books.

 
Promotions on $0 Budget: Use Twitter for a Purpose by Beth Barany

Twitter is a lot of fun! I’d be the first to admit it. And it’s a time suck. In researching this article I spent WAY too much time playing on Twitter, doing good things—which I’ll get to later—but it’s distracting nonetheless. Lesson: set a time to write the article [done!] and a time limit on Twitter. [I’m going to have to work on that one!] 

You may think that using Twitter is a complete waste of time (see above), but actually it’s a goldmine of promotional opportunities for authors. If you use Twitter to grow your fan base, build your book buzz, and ultimately sell your books, then Twitter can be worth all your time away from your current work in progress. Yah!  
 
Before We Begin – Twitter Basics 

 To get started on Twitter, here are the steps: 
1. Create a free account and fill out your profile information. 
2. Choose a picture, background and bio that stays aligned with your brand. 
3. Import your contacts from your email account. 
4. Then start searching for your favorite authors, media folks, and interesting people to follow. 

In Twitter, who you follow won’t necessarily follow you back, though they may. You also don’t have to follow those who follow you. I do recommend you follow your fans, once you’ve identified them. Which leads us to our first main opportunity: grow your fan base.  

Grow Your Fan Base 

Whether you’re a newly published author or have a few books under your belt, Twitter is a great way to have direct and timely contact with your readers. By direct, I mean you can send them a message via Twitter called a direct message or DM for short. Handy, huh?! By timely, I mean right away! Okay, when it’s your social networking time. 

 Regarding DM’s, individuals can only send you a direct message if you’re following them. So, follow back if you want to use this feature. 

You can also write a Twitter post (often called a tweet) directly back to someone and mention them. Everyone likes some Twitter love. 

Actual Twitter Example: “@ann_aguirre We’ll miss you while you’re gone. Enjoy DRAGON AGE”. 

For as yet unpublished authors, you can use Twitter too! Connect with your potential fan base by chatting (DMing in twitter parlance) with fans of your favorite authors. Share about your favorite authors in the genre in which you write. When it comes time for you to chat about your first book, your fellow fans can get excited about your book and become your fan. 

Continue the conversation by occasionally inviting followers to visit your site or blog and sign up for your newsletter, if you have one, or sign up for your RSS feed for your blog. 

 Build Your Book Buzz 

 You can build buzz around your book by getting other people to buzz for you. One way to do this is to talk about other people’s books a lot, as does Ann Aguirre, paranormal romance author, https://twitter.com/MsAnnAguirre, and romance author, Bella Andre, http://twitter.com/bellaandre, among many others. 

Another way to build buzz is to interact with the buzz builders: book reviewers. By following romance author, Carolyn Jewel’s Twitter (@jewel), I found LimeCello (http://twitter.com/limecello), an avid book reviewer who interacts with the authors she reviews and raves over. It was fun to follow her send up of various authors and see them answer back. 

Find book reviewers by using Lists, a new Twitter feature that allows you to collect groups of Twitter folks under one, well, list. Anyone can create a list. I’m sure I was not the only one to create one for book reviewers:http://twitter.com/Beth_Barany/book-reviewers. Check out the reviewers’ sites to be sure they cover your genre, then engage the right ones in a Twitter conversation.  

Book Sales 

While it may be difficult to track book sales because of Twitter, you can increase your author platform—the size of your audience—by using Twitter to point out how great and awesome you are! I mean, how your books rock the house. Or, how absolutely smart and snarky you are. Whatever fits your book, your style, and your author brand. 

Above all, have fun with Twitter! Interact with new fans, build buzz, and shine a light on your books! 

 Links mentioned in this article: 
List of Book Reviewers on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/Beth_Barany/book-reviewers 
Book reviewer, LimeCello: http://twitter.com/limecello 
Romance author, Bella Andre: http://twitter.com/bellaandre 
Romance author, Carolyn Jewel: https://twitter.com/cjewel 
Paranormal romance author, Ann Aguirre: http://twitter.com/ann_aguirre 

First published The Heart of the Bay, in the column, the Promotion Posse—a monthly column spotlighting promotional strategies for authors, written by members of SFA-RWA with a knack for PR.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Beth Barany is the bestselling author of The Writer's Adventure Guide: 12 Stages to Writing Your Book, and Overcome Writer's Block: 10 Writing Sparks To Ignite Your Creativity. Beth speaks to groups and conferences all over the San Francisco Bay Area and across the United States and Europe. Beth Barany is also an award-winning novelist. Her current novel is Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, a young adult fantasy novel, available in print and in ebook format. You can connect with her on Twitter and bug her with questions at: https://twitter.com/Beth_Barany. More about Beth and how she helps authors create successful careers at http://www.bethbarany.com.