amusing musings…considering conundra…dark sparks

Archive for January, 2008

Don’t have a Niche? Get a Life!

In reading about how to target a niche audience, I realized that I don’t have a life.

I don’t have hobbies, unless you count blogging. I don’t watch TV, unless you count a DVD once a week or so. I don’t hang out except with my adult daughter, and then we are working on brainstorming for her artwork and writing or mine. I don’t even surf the net, play games or chat.

I do write two blogs for myself, and one for work. I teach online for U. of Phoenix, which means reading the 300 or so posts every week from the class, and grading their papers. I am studying how to use the internet to make money, so I can have a life. I am writing on the sequel to my novel, ( a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakout Novel contest), and I maintain several websites in addition to my own. The internet is my first life, not my second.

That’s some kind of catch-42* I suppose. Can’t find a niche until you have a life, and you can’t have a life because you are looking for a niche. Get a life? Isn’t that what we are all working for, to be able to enjoy life?

Here’s a solution. Stop looking for a niche.

Go for the big nickel. You have something to say, and you say it to the world. Keep saying it. Say it in as many places as you can: your blog, your website, your articles, your podcast, you book, your videos, on the phone, everywhere. Say it until you are blue in the face. Say it until you are sick of it, and then see what else you have to say.

Someone out there needs to hear what you are saying. Give it away until you find the value of it. Then give most of it and charge for the rest. Or you could charge for it first and hype it up all over the place until someone finally hears you over the hype.

Someone will hear you. The more you put it out there, casting your words out like bread on the waters, the more chances the words will come back to you, maybe bringing the goose that lays golden eggs. That’s the plan.

What am I saying? Get a life. Live the one you have. Go and do what you do. Sing your song. Dance your dance. Praise ALL THAT IS that you woke up this morning. If you are stuck, move something. Change something. Discover the Zen of housework.

*42 being the answer to the eternal question,  according to Douglas Adams
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How to Help a Friend In Need – EFT

My best friend called me yesterday from her home in the land North of the Mason-Dixon. I don’t see her very often, but we stay in touch by phone and email forwards. But she didn’t call to chat. She was in tears, panic stricken, and almost unable to talk. She had fallen in the bathroom. She was afraid because it could have been much worse, and she was home alone while her husband was across the continent on a business trip. She has some health issues, and she was afraid that something like this would happen. When it did, she freaked. She was already upset more because her husband might find out that she fell than she was from falling. She said that she wasn’t hurt–no broken bones, no skint knees, no visible bruisng.

It was like talking to a scared four-year-old. But for once I had a solution, something we could do that would actually help. In the past,  I would just fuss at her, which would make her feel comfortable if not good. She is used to her family telling her that she is being “stupid.” She doesn’t need any more of that. I taught her how to tap. We used EFT to help her calm down.

EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques)  is a process of calming yourself and clearing energy blocks by tapping your fingers lightly on your face, your chest and your hands.  It does not take long to work, partly because it distracts you from the immediate issue by having to focus on saying a phrase aloud while you are tapping in sequence.  Tapping clears the energetic  “zzzzts” as EFT founder Gary Craig calls them. These “zzzzts” are places in our energetic bodies where energy is stuck, like a short circuit, where it can’t flow in a healthy way.  EFT is not a cure or a substitute for medical attention, but it is a complementary and non-invasive process to help any other therapy.  I use it for staying on my eating plan, breaking through writers block and staying awake on slow days at work.

I said the reminder phrases to my friend, and had her repeat them as we both tapped. After two rounds, she was breathing easier, and after four, she even laughed.  By then her adult self was back in charge, and we were able to talk. She called me back several hours later. She had called her husband to tell him, so that she wouldn’t dread it, and while he was concerned about her, he was certainly not angry with her as she thought he might be. She sounded like bright, strong woman who is my friend again. I asked her to tap some more when she went to bed, to help her relax and avoid some of the soreness she was expecting. I’ll check on her tomorrow to see how she is doing.

A good place to learn EFT is Carol Look’s Attracting Abundance website. She has a newsletter with  open archives and several videos and books for sale to help people learn EFT and to see how it works. Carol is a licensed psychologist in private practice, and she uses EFT with many of her clients because it often has very quick results. She offers scripts for working through many emotional sore spots  such as weight loss, anxiety, resistance, confusion, as well as attracting abundance.  I bought her weight loss software,  and it helps me stay on my food plan by letting me distract myself from my snack cravings.  She also has a book on her favorite subject, Attracting Abundance. It shows how to use EFT and other techniques such as the games explained by Jerry and Ester Hicks  in the Abraham books to help you look at the world in a joyful way. This is critical for having the kind of life that we all want, free of fear  and full of joy. 

I think I’ll send my friend a copy, and maybe she will be willing to tap with me. I would like to see her joyful and confident again.  After all, she is my best friend.

Semi-Finalist at Amazon!

Maven Fairy GodmotherI got word today that my novel, Maven Fairy Godmother, is a semi-finalist in Amazon.com’s Breakout Novel Contest. By all means, go over a give it a free read, and tell me what you think.  I am glad to have made it to the first round, and would like to move up. The comments so far have been very helpful and mostly positive. I am so excited.

I’m also concerned that there may be some serious re-writes ahead, but that is okay. I’ll have some good feedback before I take another look, and in the meantime, I can work on the sequel, already about 25% in first draft.  I am doing more writing than I have in most of my life, now that I have two of my own blogs and one for my job. Research takes time, but it pays off in more ideas and more resources.  Any by the time Maven is in print, I’ll have the platform up and going for her to stand on. 

The comments so far indicate that Maven is not far enough from the stereotype of fairy godmothers in Disney movies to be interesting. I may reevaluate that, especially in the first 50 pages of the book, which is all that is presented at Amazon.  If an editor reads that far into a book, then the writer has a good shot. From my own experience, I won’t read that much of a book expecting it to get better, and the few that I have read because it was required, never got better, and some that stated out with promise never delivered. So I am very glad to get this kind of feedback.

 The semi-finalists collect votes, and from there the finalists are chosen. The final winner will get a publication contract, and the 9-runners up will be able to publish through Booksurge, the Amazon Print on Demand service. 

The writers group that published Port Nowhere used Booksurge, back before Amazon bought them, and they do good work. Their templates are easy to use so that you can make a decent looking book with in a reasonable amount of time, although it helps to have a deep knowledge of some of Word’s advanced features.  

 I also have some other stories, though not about Maven, at my website http://charlottebabb.com , These are the stories from Port Nowhere, and are not fantasy but space opera. They were a lot of fun to do, and I hope sometime to revise the proprietary bits out and republish them in a new setting. Now to spam all my friends and get out the votes.  This is one candidate I am completely behind–unless that means I am beside myself!

Snow Day – An Unexpected Gift

Snow ISnow IIUsually snow days put me in the dumps. For one thing, I work by the hour, and my college is always closed when it snows–no make-up snowdays for part-timers.   In South Carolina, it doesn’t snow very often, but snow that Yankees would not even notice shuts down everything here.  I did not pay much attention to the rumored weather predictions, but when I woke up at 4 am and could see clearly from the street light outside my house, I knew the white stuff had landed. 

Even though I knew it wouldn’t get much lighter during the day, I got up at 6 and started catching up on some tasks that I would have saved for the weekend.  I watched as the snow began to fall off the trees and the roads melted from slush to wet.  I had to admit that it was pretty and peaceful.

 I posted a list of resources for Christian writers on my Wise Author blog, and set out to find some ezines for article submissions. I took a few pix outside because it’s a law here that you have to document snow. I had an enlightening conversation with my friend about why the poverty-conscious rednecks we know are so hateful towards those who have some money, especially since the “haves” generally worked for it, possibly with some more knowledge, education, or skill that the “have nots” haven’t. 

Her family had much more money than mine did as we werer growing up, which we discussed, but she does not judge others by their income. On the other hand, her sensitive spot is her education, since she for various reasons, did not go to college.  What we came up with for an answer was that people who don’t know what to do may project their own feelings of worthlessness as anger towards those who do know what to do.  Since she and I are in a MLM business, part of the discussion was on how to teach someone what to do, so that they would feel confident enough to do even without skill, and to be willing to get past that irrational resentment. 

It is a lot easier to be angry and resentful, than it is to face uncertainty and possible failure.  It’s much easier to watch TV or play cards or do any number of distrating things and complain about how unfair life is than it is to take a step in a new direction with focus and determination. It is also hard to look back and see that one hasn’t done nearly what could have been done, but water that’s already flowed under the bridge is very hard to swallow (grin).

This conversation gave me a lot of insights to how much my perspectives have changed on so many topics. For example, I don’t complain about my job, wish it was Friday on Monday afternoon, or check the clock constantly for going-home time.  I am glad to be employed at the moment. I am working towards the day when I can work three hours a day on the computer instead of ten to twelve or sixteen, but where I am now is good, much better than in times past.

In studying about how to earn money on the internet, I have felt stuck by the feeling that I did n’t ahve anything to make into a product, nothing that I could sell to anyone. But that’s just that old redneck whining, which I gave up when I went back to grad school.  I don’t know everything I need to know to be sucessful, but I now that learning comes from doing, evaluating, doing, evaluating, and then doing again. Not Trying. Doing.

Then this afternoon, my copy of James Brausch’s Earn a Living by Creating Your Own DVD arrived! I’m going to be learning by doing this afternoon. I’m still looking for a subject for my product. Anybody have any ideas?

My Bucket List

Location Freedom! Thanks, Richard Lee for your thought provoking question.

Space…the Final Frontier…I want to live long enough in good enough health and rich enough to go to the moon. It’s not like I haven’t been there, just not in the flesh. I’d rather go to Mars, so I’ll put that here too.

Of course there’s lots of places here on the home planet I’d like to see: Macchu Picchu, the Louvre, the Georgia O’Keefe museum, in order of increasing probabiltiy. After all, I could drive to New Mexico. I even have a friend who lives there.

See my novels in the Science Fiction Book of the Month Club.

Wear size 14 clothes like the average woman in America.  Better yet, wear custom-tailored silk clothing in my long-waisted, big hipped, shape. Even if I have to do the custom tailoring. I used to be able to sew.

Go out dancing with a significant other on a regular basis.  That’s a bucket list in itself.

But it’s a list.

Down the Rabbit Hole…with Georgia

It’s fun to check the search engine terms on the blog stats to find out how someone found me. I have no idea what they wanted to find, but they typed in “Georgia O’Keefe snakes.” So I did a search on those terms to see what the path was to get to my blog.

I wish that person would email me. I’d love to know why they went all the way to page 4 of Google results, then to a portfolio I did, and from there to my home page and from there, how did they get to my blog?

I wish they had left me a comment after doing all that work. But then I wasn’t what they were looking for, and they were falling down the rabbit hole too fast to stop by, I reckon.

What I found was that someone thinks Georgia O’Keefe might have inspired the design of the Firefox logo –a bit of a stretch, IMNSHO. A red circle around a blue circle are very archetypal shapes, and some of them are O’Keefe-esque, but the painting cited was not a popular one that would be found on a calendar. I know. I have a number of Georgia O’Keefe books and calendars.

Apparently a lot of New Mexico sites mention both snakes of the desert and the Georgia O’Keefe museum. I was hoping that I might find an image of O’Keefe’s that would include snakes, but that might be a bit less representational than her images, which though often apparently abstract, are usually variations on shapes in nature filtered by her perception of them.

Last night I dreamed about snakes last night–lots and lots of them, pretty ones, colorful ones, not attacking me, but swimming in the water, coiled on the forest floor, everywhere. “A snake is not a symbol” according to James Hillman, second wave Jungian analyst, so I’ll need to do some morning pages on that…and maybe send a bit of Active Imagination to speak to Georgia, if she is not too busy designing canyons and flowers for the Universe.

But maybe the message is that letting yourself fall down the rabbit hole of the Internet might get you bitten?

Novel Structure and a Hook

This simple structure comes from Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method of plotting a story:

sentence one: introductory sentence.
sentence two: disaster #1
sentence three: disaster #2, caused by consequences of actions taken because of disaster #1.
sentence four: disaster #3, caused by consequences of actions taken because of disaster #2,
sentence five: resolution and closing

It’s the basis of all screenplay writing and other how-to-plot materials. The introductory sentence is the statement of who and where the protagonist is now. Disaster #1 is the inciting incident, coming no more than five pages into the story, after the perfect world is set in motion. It’s called the Initiation in the Hero’s Journey. Disaster #2 is what happens when the protag responds to Disaster #2–a.k.a. the Road of Trials. This leads to Disaster #3, The Dark Night of the Soul where the protag either reaches within to find the strenght in the Shadow or we have a tragedy. The resolution plays out the results and brings the story back to where it started, the Return.

James N Frey suggests that in addition to this structure, the author needs a premise, a point that is illustrated by the story (NOT a moral tacked on to the end.) The premise gives the plot and the disasters a thread of logic and meaning–that is, if you want to write a DAMN GOOD NOVEL. Don’t we all?

So here’s my stab at this process. I have a premise, and lucky for me, the preliminary scribblings I have done do fit this premise: Gratitude is the only way out of the prison of guilt.

In this case, the imprisonment has to do with the feeling of being stuck because one is grabbing too much to try to have security–like the money with his fist caught in the jar of nuts. He won’t let go enough to let his fist out of the jar. The characters work from a sense of guilt and try to atone through magic or through controlling the magic of others.

All my characters have some guilt (or at least resentment, which is a component of guilt). this is a second novel in the series, so there is lots of baggage from the first. Set in the dimension of Faery, where the Fairy Godmother Superior manages the wishes and in some cases, the lives of the populace.

Sentence One:

The number of wishes to be granted in Faery have grown to an unmanageable proportion, so Maven is sent to recruit missing fairy godmothers to help with the overflow.

Disaster #1:

When Maven finds the first FGM on her list, she is captured and threatened with being drained of her magic, and possibly her life.

Disaster #2:

Along with the normal folk who want wishes granted, monstrous creatures–trolls, ogres, and other beasties are seeking Maven to grant their wishes, thus sucking up more magic from the realm of Faery and threatening its very structure.

Disaster #3:

d’Book, alter ego of a secondary character whose magical ability is to take magic from others captures Maven, threatening all of Faery in his bid to rule the magical world, and thereby to destroy it.

Sentence Five:

Hwo does she get out of this? Probably by not doing magic at all. Could be interesting since she’s not a ninja, or sorceress or even a halfling with a disappearing pig trick.

More later. Meanwhile, Check out Randy Ingermanson’s fiction courses!

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