Category: Writing Skills: Writing, Rewriting, Writer’s Block, Coping with Life as a Writer

About Stepping Off the Edge–A Roadmap for the Soul

Stepping Off the Edge

Last Tuesday, Native American model and actor Rick Mora and Rev. May Leilani Schmidt were on Leilani’s radio show, Universal Spiritual Connection. I called in and chatted for a minute. We discussed spirituality and other topics. Out of that, Leilani scheduled her shown on Tuesday, June 24th 2014, as a three way discussion between Rick, herself and me, Sandy Nathan.

We’re going to talk about spirituality and our personal backgrounds: how did our lives influence the way we are? How did experience shape us? [June 24th is a highly auspicious day: my dad's birthday and that of my meditation master. What magic will play?]

I thought, We’ll be talking about spirituality. I wonder if people would be interested in my book  Stepping off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice? That’s really about spirituality. Stepping was published in 2006. For my first book, I wanted to write something significant. Something that really mattered. I wanted to help people. I also wanted to tell my story.

And thus, Stepping off the Edge was born. It’s the first and only book in the memoir/self-help/New Age/spiritual/religious/applied psychology genre. It’s good, too. The darn thing won six national awards out of the starting gate.

Rendered me speechless, which is hard to do.

Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist - I've got bunch more stickers like this. I'll spare you a show and tell.

 

  • 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics) The Benjamin Franklin Award is one of the largest and most prestigious awards for independent presses.
  • Bronze Medal Winner in Self Help, 2007 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards The IPPY Award contest is the largest and oldest for indie presses.
  • National Indie Excellence Awards 2007: Finalist in THREE Categories: Autobiography/Memoir, New Age Non-Fiction & Spirituality.
  • Best Books of 2007, USA Book News, Finalist in Autobiography/Memoir

 

After its triumphant birth, Stepping off the Edge was eclipsed by my passion for writing fiction. It’s moldered on the Amazon site since, inexplicably rising to bestseller status in Applied Psychology every once in a while. I have no idea why; I’ve never promoted it.

Is now the time for Stepping to shine? I have no idea, but  two designers are working on new a cover and interior. It’s well on it’s way to a triumphant return as Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul. Will the new book emerge before the June 24th show? Beats me. I’m working on it.

Here’s the new Author’s Note which will go in the new book. There’s some repetition from the above, but folks most likely won’t have read this blog post:

ANOTHER NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Sandy Nathan 5/18/2014

The original Stepping off the Edge bears a 2006 copyright. It was my first book. I thought I should start my career with something meaningful. I wanted to create a work that was  deep and significant, expressing eternal truths. I wanted readers to see who I was and remember that when they read my future works. Stepping did that and much more: the darn thing won six national awards, quite a surprise for a first time author.

The 2014 version of Stepping off the Edge is very similar to the 2006 one. The thing about eternal truths is that they’re eternal. Reviewing the manuscript showed me that while my personal issues are different today, probably more people are struggling with the material in the original Stepping than when I wrote it.

The nasty eBay addiction I studied meticulously in the first Stepping is tamed, but millions more people have discovered the joy of spending 90% of their time in front of a computer screen, grabbing at shiny trinkets. They’re/we’re like rats in some experiment, trying to reach nirvana one pellet of food at a time. Call it gaming, participating in social media, book marketing, personal branding, or plain ol’ eBay addiction, the possibilities for destroying the meaning of your life on-line have multiplied over the years. You can still apply what I say in Stepping to dig yourself out of your hole.

Same with writing. Much of the first Stepping is about my struggle to see my work in print. I go on and on about achieving my dream of becoming a famous author, making millions, and eventually dominating the world. No. Wait—that’s what they do in gaming.

Today, millions more share my literary agony. I know: they’re self-pubbing like crazy, flooding the market with books that compete with mine. No need to change the bits in the old Stepping that concerned the Author’s Path.

Stepping off the Edge is awash with Native Americans. Its design has a Native theme and chapters and chapters take place at a spiritual retreat held by this country’s First People. Bill Miller (Mohican/German), my all time favorite musician, artist, and speaker, was the spiritual leader of that retreat. He gifted me with an interview and testimonial.

Want to know why a San Francisco-born, Silicon Valley-raised woman is so obsessed with Native Americans? I’d suggest reading my bio, which is somewhere in this book. It talks about my fall from American royalty into the desperate condition of being a regular person. Recovering from that fall has formed most of my life and turned me into a writer. I wrote this book and then a few dozen other books and manuscripts from my angst.

I dubbed my first fiction series the Bloodsong Series. Why? It’s written in my blood. After I’d drafted a few thousand pages of the Bloodsong books, I had this giant Ahah!

At least half of the characters were Native Americans. Why? I lived on the San Francisco peninsula. I don’t think I’d ever seen an Indian.

I realized that I had lived the lite version of what happened to Native Americans. They had the kingdom the entire continent and lost it. I know how that feels. They were treated abominably for centuries, and had the worst abuse hurled at them. Then they were asked, “What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t you doing better, you lazy bums?” I know all about that, too.

One more thing: I do not sit you down in this book and teach you how to meditate, pray, or figure out what’s sacred to you and what you should do with your life. Some things you have to do for yourself. This book is a roadmap containing everything that actually helped me heal and move forward. Some of it is from my years in school, while other portions may be highly personal spiritual experiences. That’s what I offer you. You have to apply your mind and heart to what’s in this book and transform it to fit your circumstances.

Having set the stage, here’s the Author’s Note to the original Stepping of the Edge. It’s as valid now as it was on the first go round.

 * * *

I want this book to touch you and heal you. I’d like my writing to open your heart so that the love inside flows out and transforms your life. I want my words to make you laugh and cry and feel and become the person you were meant to be. I want to move so many people that the world of hopes and prayers becomes real and we live together in paradise.

Negotiation coaches tell you to set your aspirations high. That way, you’ll have a better chance of achieving them, or at least you’ll get closer than you thought you could. My goals are set out above: You can tell me if I attain them when you’ve read this book. Right now, I want to tell you about it.

At first, I wanted to write a book about a Native American spiritual retreat called the Gathering. As I wrote, I realized that what I was writing about was bigger. I was writing not just about a particular retreat or spiritual activity, but also about how we can become mature, spiritual beings.  What must we humans do to grow up?

If that is too big a question, how did I grow up? I’ve grown up over thirty years of spiritual seeking. I can tap into my inner well of bliss. I’ve got a great life. My husband and I have been together for forty years and are still in love. My family’s wonderful. And I still experience my old crud now and again, but that’s not the norm.

How did I achieve this?

By what I do and how I live. Spiritual practice made me the woman I am. So I wrote a book about spiritual practice. This is a real “show me, don’t tell me” volume, because you don’t learn spiritual practice from reading a book. A book can tell you about spiritual practice, but doesn’t give you its fruit. Trying to learn spiritual practice from a book is like trying to train a dog without having one. Spiritual practice is alive and requires a living body committed to learning. Given this, I used my favorite demonstration tools, my soul, body and life, to illustrate the road to spiritual maturity. (A few of my friends chip in their stories, as you’ll see.)

This book is a trip. I cover the bases of prayer, meditation, worship, spiritual retreat, dedication of one’s life to experiencing the divine, taming the mind … I write about many things, using stories and examples that anyone can comprehend. I hate books that are so highfaluting that the average person can’t understand them. Life is hard enough without me making it worse with intellectual pretension.

I suggest that we get going. Who knows how much time we have for our journey? None of us will come out of this earthly voyage alive: We’d better start now.

Sandy Nathan
My website
My new interactive website
My Facebook author page (Please like!)
My Amazon author page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Outline or Write by the Seat of Your Pants?

I write by the seat of my pants and I don’t outline. Those words make me cringe. They’re a recipe for mediocrity without a few qualifying sentences. Maybe more than a few.

I’ve written all of my life, academically and professionally. My writing got high marks and was well received by my professional peers. Does that mean I was a good writer?

Absolutely not. In 1995, I began writing nonacademic fiction and nonfiction full time. In that year, I had a cataclysmic and extremely painful personal breakthrough. The idea for an entire series of books was “injected” in my head almost instantly in a healing transcendental breakthrough. I had had big experiences before, but I’d never had one associated with writing.

A lot came with that Big Bang of the mental/spiritual type. With the idea for the series, I received the self-discipline to finish my books and see them in print. The discipline to finish was a big thing. Before that experience, I’d started dozens of books only to peter out about chapter three. Not any more. I’ve got six or seven award-winning books in print and eBook form. The just-released Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem is the second book in the Bloodsong Series. Another  Bloodsong book or two will be out in 2014.

In 2007, another personal tragedy resulted my writing in the Earth’s End Trilogy, my dystopian sci-fi series.

Mogollon (Bloodsong Series 2) A great Native American shaman meets the richest man in the world. Hot off the presses!

Mogollon eBook

Earth's End Trilogy - Three Books in One Giant eBook. Winner 7 National Awards

Earth’s End Trilogy eBook

How did I do that? I employ a writing technique I call “literature through disaster.” Giant personal catastrophes jar my depths and somehow kick out ideas for books. And more books. After these ideas appear, I’m able to cut through procrastination, writer’s block, laziness, fear, and all the other demons that bedevil writers. The impetus for the writing outflow is very painful emotionally, but I’m able to finish books, including all the very hard work involved in getting them into print.

It’s a personal gift, literature through disaster. I don’t think you really want this gift, but it’s how I work. What I get when I have one of these experiences is a gestalt, which means a big, integrated hunk of meaning, images, feelings, memories, and physical sensations delivered as a whole. The gestalt is more than the sum of its parts.

Bazaam! An entire book pops into my head in a second. I don’t have to outline it; I just write it down.

Carl Jung on the cover of Psychology of religion & Synchronicity by R. Aziz

In a blog article, I discuss Jungian personality types as they apply to writers. This is very important information for scribblers. What I have just described is how an intuitive type creates. A thinking type would do things very differently. The rational and orderly thinking type is most likely to write with elaborate outlines and methods of tracking his/her work. That’s how a thinking type operates. The other two types––sensate and feeling––might or might not outline, depending on how they’ve learned to be creative and successful.

A sensate, for whom physical sensation and the present moment is important, might outline as a way of creating structure. Think football players and sports types when you think sensate. The feeling type, interested in relationships, and orientating him or herself with feelings, might outline a book as a way of providing a logical structure that is hard to muster internally. The romance genre is to province of feeling types.

I don’t outline. I get big, intuitive explosions occasionally that provide me with years’ worth of writing material. I just write it down. Does that mean I spend my days floating in a swimming pool, chugging down Margueritas while thinking positive thoughts?

No. I work really hard, seven days a week. What I didn’t say when I said I don’t outline is that I spent nine years in a writing group run by a local poet. I spent an additional two years in a writing group run by a professor of literature and English. I’ve spent the last seven years working with an excellent content editor. She’s tougher than all of them. I know when may editor gives me a manuscript back, it won’t have an extra word.

I’ve internalized her comments and apply them automatically when I write. “Your point of view is wandering. This doesn’t move the story forward. Why did he/she do that? Shorten this. Give me more on this. The totally leaves me cold. I don’t understand this part.”

I’ve got my own writing group automatically functioning in my head.

In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that individuals require 10,000 hours of practice of a skill to become outstanding in it. He cites all sorts of examples from the Beatles to Bill Gates. My experience in writing (as well as riding horses) indicates he’s absolutely correct. You must spend your hours in the saddle before you can ride the horse.

As a writer, you can’t just not outline. You have to train your mind to order and discipline the words coming out of you. You have to learn to feel the flow and pacing of plot. Outline or not, you have to work like crazy. And you have to have your work edited by as good an editor as you can find. Maybe do a couple of go-rounds of content editing. Then you have to have your work copy edited and proofread.

If you want to sell your stuff, you have to do the work. Otherwise, you’re perpetrating garbage on your fellow human beings and contributing to the sorry reputation of indie publishing.

So. I don’t outline. I write by the seat of my pants. It’s really hard work and I’d do it another way, but I don’t know how.

Do what you have to do.

Image of Sandy Nathan Sandy Nathan, Sandy’s Website, Sandy’s Amazon Author Page

 

 

 

Is Book Marketing like Snorkeling in a Septic Tank?

Sewage Treatment Plant in England

I have been wrestling with this issue for years. Do I defile myself by immersing my soul (and body) into the odoriferous swamp of  book peddling? Is bookselling the sleazy activity inappropriate for decent people that I think it is? Why is it so off-putting?

Look at my email inbox. As a good, modern Internet marketer, I belong to a multitude of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter  writers’, readers’, and marketing  groups, as well as subscribing to individuals’ and groups’ blogs. And sites like Pixel of Ink, ENT, and BookBub. I get around three or four hundred emails a day. That’s after scrubbing my list of non-essentials. This is what the emails are like, except most aren’t intentionally funny:

I had to share the latest 5 star review from my new book entitled, POOPSIE SPANKS A POODLE: ‘Wow. This is a really good book. Great character development. You just feel for that poodle! You’re getting to be a better writer, Sandy. I’ll read everything you write!!’ Mom

“WOO-HOO! I JUST GOT MY 10,000,000th TWITTER FOLLOW! I broke their counter! Next, I’ll take over the world!”

“Here’s a foolproof system to sell your book on Amazon. Only requires $99 up front and lifetime celibacy.”  God

“God may promise you a good deal, but I deliver. Want all 5 star reviews? That can be arranged.” Satan

“Hi everyone! Please check out my Facebook  author page and give me a Like. When you’re done with that, could you go to my Amazon author page and Like it, too? And on Google +, there’s a  . . .  And on Twitter . . .  I’m also in a contest. Could you drop by GoodReads and vote? Pretty, pretty please? Plus, it’s my birthday. Could you send a cake?” Mona I’ve-Never-Heard-of-You-in-my-Life

“5 stars! Wow! Was this book hot! My Kindle ignited. Also the house.”

They go on like that, hundreds a day, many from the same person, “Buy my book! Buy my book!” “Me! Me! Me!” “My Book!” “Nothing else matters in the universe, so buy my book.” “Gimme! Gimme!” “He is HOT! She is HOT! Their dog is HOT!” Day after day. Vile communications pitched at . . . whom? Who would buy anything with this type of selling technique? It absolutely grosses me out. Because of this spewing of egotism, I haven’t promoted my stuff for maybe six months. My sales show it, too. This stream of verbiage must do something, but at what personal cost to those sending and receiving it?

Your better marketing articles say this behavior is marketing suicide. But the emails keep pouring in.

How to market a book? I dunno. I’ve been doing it for years and haven’t a clue. I’ve had friends say, “But your marketing is so good!” Meaning whatever I send out is beautiful and tasteful. But it doesn’t ignite my bottom line the way I want.

This is an example of the tasteful and elegant graphics that have my friends thinking I'm a great marketer. This actually happened: I couldn't get my sale to go away. Even Amazon couldn't help.

The good old days really were the good old days. My first book came out in 2006. Marketing was much easier in those early days. You didn’t have to do much more than have a great cover, a bunch of killer reviews, and a few national awards. Bingo! Selling success.

My first novel, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, rose to the number 1 position in three categories of Mysticism and cruised around the 1,500 level in the Kindle store for a year. I did no promoting and didn’t think there was anything unusual about the book’s performance.

Hah! I wish I’d known how to take screenshots then. I’d have a record of those fabulous numbers. (The screenshot is the modern author’s best friend. After your mammoth promotional campaign lands you in the #1 Bestseller spot for fifteen minutes, you can stare at the screen shot afterward to remember the glory. You can only do that if you took it, of course.)

Now, it’s not so easy. The problem is the number of books coming out. How does an excellent, well-edited book, with a killer cover and award-winning author get noticed?
Seems like it should rise automatically. Forget that.

I’ve read three books recently that offer a defense against the tsunami of eBooks flooding Amazon. I recommend them heartily. They are:

After reading these books, I felt hope that I could get this marketing thing down. I had a definite direction. In Let’s Get Visible, Gaughran talks about Amazon algorithms and how to use them to your benefit. Reading this was like finding the Holy Grail. Both of his books above are worth memorizing.

Joanna Penn handles the “marketing is sleazy and degrading” issue and shows you how to approach the activity in a civilized fashion. Joanna says she’s introverted. (I doubt she could be as introverted as me and be in international speaking sensation.) But she’s accomplished great things including writing careers in fiction and nonfiction, blogging, and international speaking.

My initial reaction to the three books was relief and joy at having found concrete advice and a path to follow. By the time I got to the end of each, I was more like, “Whoa. This is a lot. This means serious work . . . When do these people sleep?” When I knew what success required, I felt depressed.

But the feelings didn’t last. I have a pressing need to practice the stuff in those books. Starting now. If you’re interested, links to my web page and Amazon Author Page are down below, as is a link to In Love by Christmas: A Paranomal Romance, which blasted it’s way to the top of the charts in a bunch of categories, ending up ranked in eleven Amazon categories just this week. Woo-ha!

In Love by Christmas is a paranormal romance according to the industry definitions of those terms. It’s a romance, in that the relationship drives the story and is its most important element. It’s paranormal in that a few of the characters have supernatural abilities. The hero, Leroy Watches Jr., is a shaman who can do all sorts of things, often with disastrous results. It’s not your paranormal romance with naked men  and dragons on the cover. (My cover artist gave me that description of the genre based on her experience designing covers.)

Oh, let’s go all the way. Here’s a video about In Love by Christmas. If there’s anything I like to do more than write, it’s make videos. This is my masterpiece and my Happy Holidays 2014 greeting to you:


IN LOVE BY CHRISTMAS: A PARANORMAL ROMANCE – Noel – Montreal Version +
from Sandy Nathan on Vimeo.
Leroy Watches Jr. is a shaman whose Power sometimes makes things worse. Despite his flaw, he must save his soul mate from her addictions, her father, and Evil Incarnate, or she’ll be damned forever.
Trying to unite with his true love, Leroy embarks on a pilgrimage that takes him to the highest levels of European society. As he travels, his shamanic Power grows. So does the Dark Lord’s hatred of him.
His prospective father-in-law demands that Leroy and Cass be in love by Christmas. Can they be?

All the best in your publishing endeavors. Remember, if facing the public is too much, hide under your bed. You’ll find me right beside you.

So long for now,

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3)

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3). My new book, and Amazon #1 Bestseller in Metaphysical Fantasy.

SANDY NATHAN, award-winning and #1 bestselling author of In Love by Christmas, and a bunch more. You can find them on my Amazon Author Page. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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