Posts tagged: writing life

A Primer on Reviews – the Good Review – the Bad Review in its Two Forms – the Regular Bad Review and the Bad Bad Review – and the Good Bad Review

This article deserves appropriate illustration. I wanted to present a sampling of truly awful book covers. I found many, some totally hysterical, but they were in use on books currently for sale and as such were very copyrighted. I had to settle for what was in the public domain.

I am treading on dangerous territory. Authors are cautioned everywhere: IF YOU GET A BAD REVIEW, SUCK IT UP. DO NOT COMMENT, EVER, NO MATTER WHAT. NEVER RETALIATE OR EXPLAIN ON-LINE OR ANYWHERE ELSE.

Why? This is the viral age. At times, authors have been so hurt, provoked, or rendered insane by bad reviews that they unleash on-line diatribes against the review’s writer(s). These diatribes show the authors as groveling, sniveling, rolling-on-the-floor crybabies with snot and tears all over their faces. Either that or they come across as fruitcakes. These reactions provide terrific fodder for those who love to see their fellow human beings quivering like the Jello-O molds your aunties used to make in the 1950s. (The green kind, with cottage cheese.) The author may explain, “I don’t do this very often, but what he/she said flipped me out.” Doesn’t matter: in the cyber age, an author’s worst moments can become the defining statements of her career, thus tanking it.

I feel pretty safe writing this, as NOTHING I’ve written has gone viral, including an important blog post about water allocation in California which should interest everyone in the state who drinks water. (Now, had it been about wine, that post would have covered the globe.)

Therefore, I feel at ease writing about reviews from an author’s point of view. I would like to do a bit of teaching, enlightening readers about writing reviews and some pitfalls they may leap into, only to feel silly/stupid later. I’m not going to teach readers how to band together in semi-feral groups, organize and attack authors with the intent of sinking books and destroying careers. Those of you prone to do that already know how to do it.

LET’S DO A LITTLE REVIEW OF REVIEWS. (DUE THE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION TO BE IMPARTED, THIS TOPIC CONTINUES IN THE NEXT POST, WHICH COVERS THE STUPID REVIEW, THE EMBARRASSING-TO-ITS-WRITER FORM OF THE BAD REVIEW.)

THE GOOD REVIEW: (Spoiler alert: This is an example of a good review, but it packs a spoiler.) “This brilliant novel illustrates what can be achieved devoting one’s life to studying invertebrates living in Iceland’s volcanic hot pools. Character development was superb, especially that of the heroine, a  Naegleria fowleri amoeba, who spent her entire life in the hot water of one pond. The way she infects the villain with  meningitis was amazing, killing him by entering his brain through the nasal passages.  This marvelous tale doesn’t bode well for Icelandic tourism, but man, it sure was a relief from those lousy vampire stories. Great plotting, pacing, use of language. An A+. I will read everything this writer produces.” (signed) A. ARTIFACT, #1 Amazon Reviewer in the Universe.

Authors scream in ecstasy when they receive reviews like this. I have only one question when I read such a review: How do I get a hold of A. ARTIFACT?

Hansi. What a gal!

BAD REVIEWS: Three types of bad review exist, the Regular Bad Review, which can be the basis of the Good Bad Review, and the Bad Bad Review:

“Stupid from it’s opening sentence to its final phrase, Fillydelphi Dreams, a period romance set in the late 1700s, is a loser. The heroine and hero are a rich plantation owner and her hot Jamaican slave. The historical research behind this book is horrendous. No rich, upper class woman would be seen traipsing around the barnyard clad in her “stays” at 2 AM, while trying to find her beloved Yorkshire terrier. Yorkshire terriers didn’t exist until the nineteenth century. That’s dumb. Dumber is the fact that the author mentions Victoria’s Secret as the provenance of the stays. Also, in an earlier dinner scene in her mansion, Her Ladyship is shown lacking in skills that would be possessed by any upper class woman in that day: she does not know an oyster fork from a pickle fork. She has nothing else to do but memorize silver pieces; she should know her forks. Back to traipsing around in the barnyard. She finds more than her dog, of course. The sex in this book is its high point, as the man Her Ladyship would have as her lover runs screaming, saying he ‘ll be flogged to death if he does what she wants. Besides, he has a wife and family and doesn’t want her. She says she’ll have him flogged to death if he doesn’t do what she wants. His whimpering cries as Her Ladyship has her way with him are the best part of this book. It’s horrible, one human being using an other so, but also realistic. Still, I’d rather read a vampire novel than this s***.”

This is a true Bad Review. The reviewer has read the book, formed articulate opinions about it’s various elements, and states them in the review. He does not personally attack the the author, only what she’s written.  Authors don’t like to receive reviews like this, but they can be a learning experience. (Victoria’s Secret incorporated in 1977 BTW.)

THE GOOD BAD REVIEW: This is a bad review, but it turns into having a good impact on the literary universe because of the author’s response to it. My first novel, Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, was greeted with wild, over the top positive reviews. It also won six national awards, including a Silver in the IPPYs and Silver Nautilus and four more, was #1 in Mysticism on Amazon for over a year and cruised at about 1,500 in the overall Amazon ratings. Yowser, wowser! The book had some problems, but many reviewers loved its spiritual authenticity.

Years later, the other reviewers found the book. Stating their comments more emphatically than I am here, these reviewers said it was too slow and had too much back story, plus the bad guy was underdeveloped, and the book ended too quickly, making it half a book. There were reasons for all this: it was my first novel and I didn’t know what I was doing, I had the sequel written and thought it would be out right away, not knowing that I would be paralyzed by writer’s block for years. That didn’t stop the other reviewers from ripping it to shreds.

What did I do? I pulled Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money off the market. The folks who gave it bad reviews should rejoice at this. I began rewriting the novel, addressing the issues brought up by the reviewers. The part I rewrote was killer; far superior to the tortured prose and characters of the initial (now dead) version. But, when I started the rewrite of Numenon,  I the clouds of writer’s block that had prevented me from finishing Numenon’s sequel Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem for six years thinned and disappeared. The right words appeared in my brain.

When that happens, you gotta write, because those words do not hang around. And then the novella Leroy Watches Jr. & the Badass Bull and the reissue of Stepping off the Edge burst into my consciousness. I had to work on them. But, if I ever finish rewriting  Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money, it will rock. I show Will being a womanizer, instead of having his secretary tell you about it. Will is a major a slime bucket before he meets the shaman, Grandfather.  I’ve grown as a writer: earlier, I was too embarrassed to show Will’s nasty bits.

This is a case a bad review having a good outcome by provoking appropriate action in an author.

This isn't so bad a cover, but as I said, all the really bad ones were on books currently for sale. Some I checked out were ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL, and inappropriate for Your Shelf Life. "Games to Play with your ********," for one. Google "really bad book covers."

THE BAD BAD REVIEW: “Susan Wallawallawhoopsie is an idiot. She is so stupid that she wrote about a woman having a Yorkshire terrier in the 1,700s. Everyone knows they weren’t invented yet. And getting her stays at Victoria’s Secret? VS didn’t exist, either. Anyone who’s stupid enough to think she just went to VS to get undies is dumb. This author is so dumb, I’m surprised she didn’t say she got them at Costco, but that shows more brains than Susan’s got.And on and on.

This is a rant. Often, like-minded souls (called trolls by everyone but themselves) will band together and attack a book/author heaping one star reviews of this ilk on a book or books. I’ve read reviews of type. Some don’t sound like the above “Bad Bad Review.” Some sound reasonable, until you read the book, which is pretty darn good and bears little resemblance to the one-star wonder described by the reviewer.

We live in review wars,  Star Wars’ ugly cousin. Typically, reviews posted on sellers’ sites are permanent, smelling up the site on which they are written forever. Some review platforms, Amazon, I understand, allow authors to get such defamation down, if they work hard enough. Other review sites are bloody free-for-alls with no author recourse.

What triggers attacks by trolls? Success. If your head sticks up above the cyber-crowd in any way, swarms of virtual vipers may be attracted to your work and attempt to destroy your career. The situation is on-going and is so bad that I’m not going to say any more about it. I have a number of instances (that most writers know about) that I could cite, but the authors involved asked me not talk about them. What do these examples involve? Death threats. Professional destruction. Really nasty verbiage flung hard. Books sunk by coordinated attacks of one star reviews. Do you feel fear?  If you don’t, you’re not on the writer side of the aisle.

Those wishing to understand the behavior I’ve described can visit the Center for Internet Addiction, founded by Kimberly Young, PhD, the clinical psychologist who identified ‘net addiction in 1996. The Internet has created new forms of psychopathology: the attacks on authors are manifestations of the rage states that overtake some people on the ‘net. Flaming-–an individual or a group group exploding and heaping vitriol on a member–is one manifestation of these new mental illnesses. Dr. Young describes more. Internet addiction isn’t just piddling your life and money away on auctions. When I was writing the first edition of my book Stepping off the Edge around 2003 to 2006, I stumbled into internet addiction–my own, in the form of an eBay addiction. Dr. Young’s writings. particularly Caught in the ‘Net, really helped.

The anonymity of the ‘net fosters all sorts of behaviors that people would never indulge in person.

But if no one can see them … There’s no sanction of what they do … If they have a bunch of friends and egg each other on … A culture that says what they’re doing is  OK?

Let’s get to something more pleasant: The STUPID REVIEW, the topic of my next post.

Sandy Nathan
Sandy’s Other Website, the Interactive One
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Yoo-hooo! Calling my Tribe – Where Are Youuuu?

MY PLATFORM AND HOW I GOT IT

I received a message from a fellow author wanting to know how I, as a successful person (and assumed, successful author) built my platform. She loved what I was doing and asked for advice on what to do to gather her own tribe and have her message resonate with potential readers. She mentioned a bunch of stuff she was doing, in addition to writing her book and sharing it widely. What else should she be doing?

I thought to myself, I can answer this in two ways: Give her the truth, or make up a bunch of **** and sell it as a seminar.

Truth or consequences? I may end up doing both, but I’ll start by telling the truth. Here’s the basic question, authors: If you aren’t already making a living with your writing, do you need to for some reason? Some people make big bucks as authors. That’s cool. But if you are struggling to make a living with your writing, thinking any day will be the big break through––I would suggest that you change professions. That’s even if you did take a course on following your dream and living your passion. Writing is just a dismal, hard way to earn a buck. I wrote a blog article somewhere about the tens of thousands of Bureau of Labor Statistics job categories that will earn you more than writing. Pick one of those and do your scribbling in your spare time.

If you already make tons of money with your writing, cool. If you don’t currently rake in the dough and don’t need to make a living with your writing, you won the jackpot. You can have lots of fun without spending too much, and maybe make some money, if you pay attention to what I say below. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up crazy, just like authors trying to make living at the dismal occupation. (The unofficial name for economics is “the dismal science.” It’s not as dismal as writing.)

I used to be an economist. It was easy: just earn straight As for at least a BS and an MS, and a PhD if you can. (Though I only did a year of the PhD.) While in school, wow your professors with your erudite and insightful grasp of the subject, so that they enthusiastically recommend you to their friends, who are in a position to hire you. (Remember the days when a person got out of school and there were jobs?) After getting a job, I found success was a simple matter of analyzing the **** out of whatever my bosses pointed me at. And presenting it at professional meetings and to local governments. I did that, and my bosses loved me and so did their bosses, and even people like the economists and analysts at the RAND Corporation and National Science Foundation. Easy peasy.

Not so with writing as a career. The woman who asked me “What do you do to build your platform?” does not want to know what I did to succeed or for how many years I did it. I did everything any writing pundit, no matter how obscure, said, for years and years. Enough so that when the IRS audited our literary adventure and I told them what I had done to be a commercially successful author, they fell to their knees, sobbing, “Oh, you poor baby.” No, the IRS does not do that. But we won. Anyway, I did everything that the major books about what you should do to succeed as a writer say.

After years of study and doing everything, I have formed the following basic principles about succeeding as an author that I’d like to share with you. Buckle your seat belts, compadres: my maxims pack a wallop. (I wrote this yesterday when I was in a feisty, facetious, and, indeed, flippant mood. Perhaps too flippant. I’m going over this today to make sure I said what I really meant and to clarify where needed. This “turn all the rules on their heads” model is new to me. I’ve tried it in previous years, often for days at a time But I always fell back into the crazed maw of obsession with sales that is the publishing world. Well, the worm-ette has turned. I’m going for what feeds me. And that’s below:)

1. FORGET YOUR MARKET. ALSO FORGET YOUR TRIBE. THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.
All the marketing/authoring pundits say the opposite. Great. They aren’t you and they don’t live in your skin. If you feel lousy because you’re hanging your well-being on your Klout score, your writing will stink. I need to amplify that.

Of course you want your work to succeed and you want profession friends and buddies. Of course you want to show up effectively in whatever genre you write. But at what cost? Your individuality? Your soul? Do you want to sound like everyone else–”Grow your tribe.” “Establish your platform.” Do you want to lose yourself running from one pub-guru to another? This is funny, because I’ve been self-pubbing since 2006. Most of the dudes giving the classes and seminars had not heard of independent authors or presses then. There’s a scene in my book Stepping off the Edge where I’m in Mark Victor Hansen’s huge MEGA Selling University. The MEGA University is reduced to a set of CDs now, but it was a big deal when I took it. In that scene, an editor from a Major Publisher speaks, and the floor tilts toward her as thousands of publication-lust-maddened wannabe authors stampede toward her … The scene captures the world in which independent and traditionally published authors find themselves as well as I could capture it.

I am going to be extremely snobby and judgmental for a bit. I write visionary fiction (Amazon calls it Metaphysical Science Fiction and Fantasy. Amazon will call it whatever wants. That’s the thing about a monopoly.) To me, visionary fiction is fiction–made up stories–with a moral core. That means that right and wrong, good and evil, exist and the book is about the struggle for right over might. Doesn’t mean good will win. In addition to having a moral core, my kind of visionary fiction features at least a few characters who reach a higher level of human development. I don’t go so far as some writers in positing that the species elevates to the woo-woo sphere, because I see no empirical evidence that our species is on anything but a dive into the nasty. But to be my kind of visionary fiction, some people in the book grow in spirit and consciousness.

This type of writing is more demanding of the writer than, say chick-lit (Most likely. I’ve never written chick-lit, nor have I written romance or other addiction-based genres. Yes, that’s judgmental.). My soul writes my books and does everything else for me. For this to work, my soul must be cleaned up so that it coughs up verbal sparkles of enlightenment, rather than dirt clods. Chiefly, this means taming my major addictions and being whole spiritually. What does this mean in concrete terms?

This is what I feel like if I’m in good shape spiritually: I feel the outlines of my body, a solid core. I feel my heart beating. It radiates, light, love and good will. That’s what hearts do. It’s state pulsates outward. I feel my chakras, those pesky energy centers that no one can see but are there anyway, lined up from my tail-bone to the crown of my head. My energy is pulsating and I can feel all of it.

Nothing disturbs my equanimity, my peace. I’m not reaching out trying to grab for something, living in a state of lust. I’m not attached to getting anything, nor am running in terror or any kind of aversion from anything in my world. I am free and blissful.

“Detached from aversion and attraction, the yogi lives in peace with a silent mind.” (The Bhagavad Gita says something like this. Google wouldn’t find it for me.)

You can write some killer visionary fiction from that state. Any kind of fiction or nonfiction, too. My Stepping off the Edge, a cross-genre nonfiction memoir/self help for writers and everyone else, was written in that state and higher. (Meditative states have an infinite up side.) I expect that regular writers do their best work from that sailing “wheeeee” that accompanies the state I just described.

Say I read a  book or go to a seminar and someone tells me that I have to find my tribe and grow it and have a brand and follow the hottest, sure-fire marketing plan? How about I start charting my daily sales figures and looking at my website stats all the time? What if I read all the writers’ blogs and FB threads about everything I have to do to be a writer? What happens?

I lost my tribe, before I found them. And my sales . . .

My chakras deflate in an instant. If I’m hanging on people, numbers, friends, or likes, I cripple myself as a writer of spiritual fiction or any kind of work that requires “soul clarity and truthfulness.” I might be able to cough up a salable book or two, but they won’t be of a caliber that will satisfy any spiritually developed person. Spirit sings. Also spreads its bliss.

Think about yourself. This upside-down thinking is new to me. I used to play “She with the most FB Friends wins.” “Every five-star review is a step closer to heaven.” I used to get really upset if my books didn’t sell the way I thought they should. In other words, I used to think marketing, platform, selling first, and Sandy second, or maybe fifth. What I did with that was run that racket hard enough to make myself sick.

Not too long ago, I was a mess. My hands hurt. Thumbs most, but a good writing session on the computer will cause everything, including my pinkies, to howl.  My hands are well on their way to being wrecked from spending so much time on my iMac. Not too long ago, my brain was fried. I was crabby, and exhausted. Snapping at everyone, mostly my dear husband. I thought obsessively of going to Venice, the one in Italy, not the one near Los Angeles. I wanted to escape.

About a week ago, I made the inner flip that resulted in what you’re reading here. I’m changing my behavior so that how my body feels and the joy I feel with my profession is the barometer to success. I want those chakras flaming! Spinning! Frolicking! And I want to write and sell a lot, too.

How does my brave new world work, relative to the opposite? I have no clue, other than to say that I had just made the transition to putting my soul and my physical well-being first when that stranger-to-me author contacted me about my great platform. Just a coincidence?

WHY YOU SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN SPIRIT I started making these Maxim cards when putting out the second edition of Stepping off the Edge. The book bristles with these pithy bits. I may make a picture book out of them, ir some on-line, subscription presentation. Who knows. Was this the result of building on my book's platform? Was it part of my marketing program? No. The idea just came to me. It's a good one. If people can't/don't get my book with words, they'll get it with pictures.

2. LEARN TO WRITE
Looks like this will be a series of articles. This particular article is I’m already at 2,900 words, but I can’t quit without adding this crucial bit about writing books that get read. I have more than 700 books on my Kindle. Most of them I got through BookBub, ENT, Blurb-a-minute, or Read-Me-or-I’ll-Die–the emailed, juried lists of new, cheap, or free books that fill our in-boxes every day. Those arbiters of mass taste and harbingers of our success as authors are hard to get on. You may have to beg, as my friend Consuelo illustrates here, but it’s worth it for what they can do to your sales, often for a week or more.

So, as a self-pubbed author, you devise the perfect book cover and two sentence blurb, hustle up fifty great reviews (this requires magic, black or white–whatever works) and you are accepted by one of the big book advertising sites. By some trick of fate, I see the ad and your efforts snag my attention for the approximate ten seconds needed to download your tome. I get it. And forget it. I’ve already downloaded 700 books. But say I open your book for some reason.

I read two pages. Blecch. Delete. Bad writing shows up that fast. A book has to  hook me in a page or it’s off my Kindle.

Writing fiction is not the same as professional or academic writing. I did LOTS of both. Here’s an example from a study I participated in with the RAND Corporation. (My previous married name was Tapella.) Here’s an amazing example of academic writing from my MS thesis in economics: 

“The determination of the cost of sprawl is based on the differing responses of service providers to increased demand for services from contiguous and noncontinuous new urbanization.”

That was an easy sentence compared to some in that thesis. If you’re going to have anyone read your stuff, it can’t sound like that. (However, that sentence and many more like it got a master’s degree that got me a job that earned me more than 90% of the population of female workers, including writers. So, go figure.)

Though I’m pleased with the way my work reads now (and so are my reviewers), it took me nineteen years to attain that proficiency. In 1995, I had the big YOWSER spiritual experience that I write about in my Author’s Notes that started me writing full time. From there, it was work, work, work. I was in one writing group run by a local poet for nine years. It petered out and I joined a group of traditionally-published professional writers led by a professor of literature for two years. (In the following article, when we discuss controlling your PTSD in writing groups, I’ll go into this more.)

After eleven years in writing groups–let that sink in: eleven years–I had a giant breakthrough and met my current editor. She is reputed to be a niece of Freya, the Norse Goddess of War, and does her edits with a golden machete. I love her. She’s tougher than the lit professor was and does not let an extra word slip by. It’s all: action, action, one word of dialogue, then climactic action. That’s the modern novel. She delivers the manuscripts she has dissected in such a kind way that I seldom sob for more than an hour after receiving an edit back. I’ve been working with her for eight years. I don’t claim to be the best writer in the world, but what I’ve become, I owe to her. I’ve internalized her voice, so that when I begin to write words like “price elasticity of demand,” my fingers refuse to type.

So, if you spend nineteen years working on your writing and learn to throw out everything but verbs, you may develop a writing style that guarantees success.

In future articles I will divulge my other secrets.

All the best! Don’t forget: put yourself first! If you feel lousy, your work will stink.

Sandy Nathan: Remember, You Come First

Sandy Nathan
Sandy’s Other Website, the Interactive One
Sandy’s Amazon Author Page

Sandy’s Facebook Page
Sandy’s Pinterest Page-I’m having fun with this!
Sandy’s Vimeo Page–even more fun. Check out the Chessadors!
Sandy on Twitter

WHERE’S MY TRIBE? THE SERIES YOU WISH YOU’D READ FIRST.

This lil’ article kicked up a fire storm for me. Here are a few topics for later posts:

  • TO RESONATE WITH YOUR POTENTIAL READERS, JUST RESONATE. They’ll find you.
  • FORGET FOCUS GROUPS AND BETA READERS AND MOST PARTICIPATION ON LINE. Don’t forget editors, copy editors, and proofreaders.
  • DON’T BE AN IDIOT. If it seems too good to be true, it is. This is a predatory industry. Lots of people want to take your money to help you with your book. They’ll promise anything to get it.
  • IF YOU HATED SENDING IT OUT, OTHER PEOPLE HATE RECEIVING IT.
  • GIVE UP YOUR MESSAGE. Whatever your message is–save the planet, get everyone enlightened, treat the breweries right, kill the immigrants, or a least their parents (these are real messages I’ve seen on FB)–it is wrecking your writing. Stop it. Or write your message out it full, put it in a drawer, and write something else. If you have a real message, it will come through your words without effort or thought on your part. I have a great example here using my Earth’s End sci-fi trilogy. When I dropped my message, the writing sizzled.
  • DON’T PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA TO “FIND YOUR TRIBE.”  Finding your tribe is a good concept: connect with people similar to you who like the same stuff. Maybe you can help each other, or, if not, have a good time. How many people are currently selling seminars, running FB groups, or trying to teach you to “find your tribe”? The tribal concept is overdone, like vampires. Time has come and gone for tribes and bloodsuckers.
  • DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE ON-LINE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS AND YOU CARE ABOUT THEM. YOU WANT THEM TO BUY YOUR BOOK: THE FRIENDS BUSINESS IS A PLOY. ONCE YOU’RE HONEST ABOUT THAT, THE POSSIBILITY THAT THEY MIGHT REALLY BECOME FRIENDS OPENS UP. MAYBE THEY’LL EVEN BUY SOMETHING OF YOURS. Pretending to be friends to get someone to buy your book is phoney and rude.
  • HOW TO HAVE A GIGANTIC TWITTER PRESENCE EASILY. I have about 6,700 Twitter followers. A famous author found out about that and wrote to me, ecstatic. “Oh, you have such an amazing Twitter presence.” She still didn’t give a blurb for my book.
  • THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT: MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL! THAT’S MY PLATFORM. BEAUTIFUL WORK, BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED AND ILLUSTRATED. WITH BEAUTIFUL VIDEOS, COVERS, BOOKMARKS, NAPKINS AND MATCHING TOOTHPICKS. Whatever is associated with the book should be beautiful. Beauty attracts.

 

 

 

Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul – Coming at you!

Are you ready to step off the edge?

Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul  is the new edition of my spiritual classic. Why should you be interested in Stepping off the Edge? Do you have an on-line addiction that is threatening your job, relationship, and sanity? Do you feel that you don’t know who you really are–in the big sense of  what you’re doing on the planet and in the little sense of why am I here? In Podunkwalla USA? In this skin and particular life? Have you lost something important–a spouse or kids or everything you owned? Is life a pain, or even worse, dull as sawdust? Would you like to go somewhere where you could learn something worth learning with people worth knowing?

I have just outlined what’s in my book and why it’s for you. Stepping off the Edge is a roadmap for navigating the hardest, most important journey you’ll ever make: your life. I wrote Stepping because I wanted to share what I did that facilitated my life working out. The book is a memoir, a very personal series of stories and vignettes that illustrate spiritual principles. It’s not a text book, though it does contain theoretical material. It’s not a how to book, but it does contain exercises you can use to apply concepts. Above all, it’s not a 1, 2, 3 guide to how to be spiritual. I don’t sit you down and teach you how to meditate or pray. (Some things, a person has to figure out for herself.)

My life has worked out and that’s my primary credential in writing this book. I’m sixty eight years old and an happy! That may be the most important thing. I’m happy, content, and in love with my husband of forty years. I love my work–writing for you–and live a beautiful California horse ranch surrounded by animals and people I love.

LINDENWOOD-GATES

These are the gates to the estate on which my family lived. We didn't own the whole thing, it had been subdivided years before. We had an acre of paradise.

My life wasn’t always like that. When I was eighteen, my father was brutally slain by a drunk driver. At that time, I had a charmed existence. My parents owned the tenth largest residential construction company in the USA. We lived in what is now the third most affluent town in the country. I showed horses and water skied on weekends.

Within months of my father’s death, I lived in a tiny apartment at below poverty income. I won’t talk about how that happened, but it did. My brain still thought I was upper class, Why aren’t you doing more charity work, Sandy?

I was seriously depressed for a decade after my father’s death. I didn’t know it and it didn’t slow my down; I earned two master’s degrees and part of a PhD. I was the Santa Clara County economic analyst. Big titles, big jobs, while my soul labored to keep me moving and darkness drifted just out of sight.

Angst

Darkness nipped at me

A huge breakthrough occurred when I attended one of the giant enlightenment seminars during the 1970s. One of the participants wore a blanket around her hunch shoulders. She shuddered and cried the entire weekend, a living plea for help. The seminar leader gave it to her, stripping her to her truth. He showed her and everyone else that she was identified with physical illness and in love with the attention she got as a sick person. He also helped her expose what her sick act had cost her: a husband had walked out on her; she’d lost her kids. She got it, at least then.

Some people really have sickness down. They may be "sick" all their lives, eighty five years or so

Some people really have sickness down. They may be "sick" all their lives, oh, eighty five years or so.

Someone in my life was like that. I had assumed that her “sick act” was as immutable as the fabric of the universe. A Mount Rushmore of the soul. I was also forbidden to feel/express any resentment or be anything but kind and empathetic. The seminar leader showed me that the woman’s behavior was an act, an unconscious but very powerful role that had taken over her life.  As an act and not the real her, it could be changed. I saw. Even if that person who was impacting me so much couldn’t change, I could. 

How did I get from that moment to now? It’s all in Stepping off the Edge Took thirty-nine years. I did everything from getting an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling to spending thirty years with a meditation school based in India, to coaching negotiations at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, to working on myself every way I could.  Stepping contains the fruit of my spiritual pilgrimage.

I’m pulling out the stops in getting the word out about Stepping. You can buy it as a paperback and as an eBook very soon. I’m puttin’ the message out in other ways, via Facebook albums and Pinterest boards and who knows what else I’ll think of. These new social media offer terrific ways of sharing content and giving readers a very clear look at what a book is about. Like this:

Bliss accompanies spirit. If you're thinking about studying with someone don't feel blissful around him or her, you're in the wrong place.

My intent is to get  your attention. What Stepping is about is very important: you and who you really are. Want another teaching aide? Check this out. I’m having a bunch of these “Maxim Cards” made up on key points from Stepping. The three presented here deal with the basic issue: What is spirituality? What is spiritual? I’ve got cards made up in nine other areas, ranging from What is your true identity? To How to establish a personal spiritual practice? All the way to Spiritual traps and dealing with evil.

I like things presented so everyone can understand them. Take a living person. Then look at a dead one. The difference is spirit. No spirit, no life.

One of the things about being an older person is you know you don’t have forever to do whatever you came to this earth to do. That’s one reason I’m putting the new version of Stepping off the Edge. It’s behind my push to get these materials to you. They’re beautiful, impactful teaching aides giving you jewels of spiritual exploration. What do they cost? Nothing, at the moment. I am discussing selling them with a retailer. So, download while you can. Contemplate and apply always.

How to you fully experience your spiritual nature? Contemplation–attention fixed on an object–is a very good start.

Want more than pictures? How about music, color and movement? A video! Let this run through once to buffer. It’s HD so you can watch it full screen. Enjoy!

 

Here’s where you find these Maxims from Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul:

Sandy Nathan/Vilasa Press on Facebook, my professional page:   My albums from Vilasa Press. All the Maxims are in there. Please “Like” my page!

Sandy Nathan/Author on Facebook, my personal page:   My albums. Lots of them. You can look through the ones on Stepping and all the rest. If we aren’t FB friends, send me a Friend request and I’ll Friend you.

My Pinterest boards are here. The Maxims have boards of their own and you’ll find lots of other interesting stuff. Feel free to borrow and repin.

All the best,   [I'm not quite sure what the Facebook badge below does. May take you somewhere where you can get to the Maxims faster. Below the badge is some info about Stepping off the Edge. What it's won in contests and so on.]

Sandy Nathan

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The text of the second edition of Stepping isn’t much different that the first edition. I didn’t change the book very much for a bunch of reasons. Reading it again told me that nothing has changed; in fact, spiritual life has gotten much worse for many people in the last. More on-line addiction, more seeking and striving and killing one’s dear self to attain success as a commercial writer, more of everything I talked about back in 2007 when the first Stepping came out. What’s to change?

Also, not many people read or even heard of Stepping off the Edge, even though it won the most prestigious awards of my multi-award winning books. When the first Stepping was pubished, it won:

  • 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics)
  • Bronze Medal Winner in Self Help, 2007 IPPY (Independent Press) Awards
  • 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

The Benjamin Franklin Awards and IPPY Awards are probably the most prestigious, largest, and oldest contests for independently produced books. This was my first book and I didn’t realize what a big deal those wins were. Now I do.

For more about the original Stepping off the Edge, check out my website.

 

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