Composing a Writer. #1 Tools of the Trade

Everybody has a list of wishes, some more idle than others. Early retirement is an idle wish if you aren’t saving for it. If you don’t have a passport, walking along the Seine in Paris isn’t in your near future. And the desire to write will lounge on your bookshelf next to Gone With the Wind as long as you like.

Idle wishes serve a valuable purpose. They are a way of playing dress-up with the future. What would the garden look like if I didn’t work at my job? What does it smell like in Paris? Fiction or nonfiction? Curiosity and creative exercise are crucial in keeping our brains healthy, so no guilt. Daydreaming is a fine art and wishes serve a purpose even if they go no further than the couch.

I have a confession: I love my writing. I’m probably supposed to lament writer’s block and be a tragic soul about a dozen literary things, but in my previous thirty years as a professional artist, I never threatened to cut an ear off either. What if the imagination/creativity thing was easier than we think?

I’ve decided to do some writing about writing; a road map of the paths and stopovers that I made. There will be weekly posts with writing exercises included. It isn’t that I think I’m an expert or that my book sales have bought me a second home. Or even a second bathroom in this home. I’ve just had such a great time on this adventure and sharing it serves as a thank you.

I notice saying thank you does more good than artistic angst every single day.

So, do you want to come along? Writing doesn’t require a savings account and you can travel so much farther than Paris using your own words. Is it finally time for you to start writing?

This is the part where you lay out your tools. If you feel that the only really artistic method of writing is banging away on an old Underwood typewriter, good for you, but there is some technology out there that really makes writing easier.

If you want to play along at home, start here: When is a blog not a blog? When we re-task it to suit our journaling needs. Think of a blog as a word processing program that also has a search feature and comes in a tidy, attractive package. You can categorize your thoughts/posts in a more organized way than a spiral notebook. A blog can be as private as a diary, shared selectively, or used to bring the world to your desk. Rather than having word docs attached to emails, drifting around the internet, and loitering in other computers, your words are contained and shared by a simple link. And, blogs are free. You can have a whole stable full of blogs for different purposes.

This week: Look around and find a blog home. I tried a few blog sites back when I started and I like WordPress best, for its scope as well as its bits and parts. The online community there is supportive and I’ve made some good friends there. It’s fairly friendly to use, but suit yourself. Then trick out your blog like a hideout. Give it a name that matters to you. Pick themes and colors you like. Get familiar with its quirks.

Blogs have pages, like a website, and there is usually an “about” page. If you want an example, take a look at my author site. Keep in mind that mine is a public blog, so I’m “dressed up” in a literary way. Your first blog is fun meant just for you, so lighten up. Flip-flops are fine.

Then write an introduction. Introduce yourself in seven words. (An exercise in brevity.) Or introduce yourself as your best friend or your dog would. (An exercise in using another voice… and speaking more kindly about yourself than you might, left to your own words.) Or introduce yourself to your greatest literary superhero. (An exercise to connect you personally with published authors, even if it’s just in your own mind.) Or do all three exercises… just for the sheer fun of it.

We work on the honor system here. There’s no submission requirement. Just like real life, you’ll get about as much out of this journey as you put in.

And just one more thought from me. Words matter so very much. They are powerful; how we speak of ourselves and our dreams are the creative spark that lights the future. At 62, I’m so aware of how precious that light is and how important our diverse voices are to the collective conversation. Too many of us hold our tongues, thinking we’re being polite when the world needs our truth. Writing is the art of molding our voices to say just the exact thing we mean, with honesty and vulnerability, and hopefully a little humor.

Please join us. Take your writing seriously. Whether the world ever reads us or not, it’s past time that we give our own words the respect they deserve.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

Now What? (and Other News)

hurry-spring

Now is the winter of my discontent

Okay, maybe I’m being Shakespeare-dramatic. Monochromatic seasons can bring that out in me. Here on the prairie, the only visual break from tan grass stretching to the horizon is when it turns white for a while. I’m grumbling, but the truth is that I can use a break from my hectic pace, every ten months or so, to cozy-in at my farm.

But this winter, I mourned some excruciating good-byes. If you are a woman of a certain age who thinks too much, the changes can add up. Not that it’s good or bad; just that I noticed and needed time to acclimate. I think there’s some rule of diminishing returns that says that with each day I grow older, the world becomes more precious. The beauty in ordinary things has become nearly debilitating. But then, I think too much. No apologies.

I’ve been prodded into action after reading that there is legislative action to make it legal to shoot hibernating bears, along with their cubs. It seems to follow that the dogs and I could be mistaken; we’ve been doing a decent bear impression. Besides, the weather is having mood swings and I’m counting days till the time change. Hurry spring.

BOOK NEWS: My books are now available on two new online sites. Check out the Equine Network Store for a great collection of equine literature, and for international readers, Lavender and White publishers, based in the UK, now carry all three books.

COMING EVENTS: I’ll be at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo March 10-12 in the Author Corner. (Discount tickets here.) I’ll be signing books and meeting new friends. *** I’ll be at my favorite indie bookstore, Covered Treasures, in Monument, CO, on March 18th, 3-5 pm, signing books. Please come by. *** Who’s going to the World Cup in Omaha? Look for my books in the Equine Network Booth and I’ll be there, too. Let me know if you want to meet-up.

I’ll be presenting at the Region 10 PATH conference May 7th. This isn’t open to the public but it’s a reminder that I am available for public speaking engagements, on topics on horse advocacy and training, women’s experience, and writing. Please contact me if you’re interested in having me speak to your group or clinic at your barn. Join with groups in Washington, California, Virginia, and Illinois-Indiana.

NOW WHAT? Well, I have a stack of ideas; I’m investigating doing something on the topic of responsibility and care of therapy horses. *** One of my readers encourages me to consider a children’s book, with Arthur, the goat, as the main character. She found a great illustrator, too. *** Others are encouraging me to compile a book of quotes from my blogs. *** Still others are asking about a book of photos and poems. *** And I have a few book outlines including a sequel to Stable Relation and another book about Love, Men, and Dogs. What do you think?

THEN THIS: I always thought I’d write something, but it wasn’t easy. At first, it was nothing but masochistic. I’d read a fresh paragraph aloud and I’d tried so hard to be clever that I was nearly unintelligible. Adverbs were lost in verbiage. There were runaway pronouns. But I stuck to my keyboard, hoping an intention in my mind would somehow intersect with the right group of words. Then I edited liked a mad dog with a chainsaw.

babybird-3Do you feel the pull to write? If there’s interest, I’m thinking about starting an online group to encourage those of us who are certain there’s a book (or blog or story) in us but we’re having a time squeezing it out. Like an egg. That will hatch into something real. Like a fat-lipped baby bird.

Want to write with us? (Email me at anna@annablake.com)

Again, for those of you who have left reviews for Barn Dance, or the other books, thank you so much. It breathes life into search engines and that is gold for indies like me. I appreciate every single review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

HURRY SPRING.

….

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

Amazon Recommends My Books. To Me.

15289057_1183443898404722_5143139141458563265_o-2Do you ever have that experience where you tilt your head, squint, and hear a dubious voice in your head say, “No kidding?” 

My life is like that lately. It’s like I’m on a hijacked bus; the destination hasn’t changed, but wow, are we ever taking the scenic route.

This man in the photo is very kind and seemed to genuinely enjoy having his photo taken all night long. I’m always nervous when there isn’t an animal in the photo. We’re in Miami and that’s a gold medal around my neck. Head tilt. No kidding?

(This passes for formal attire. If anyone has held their breath in anticipation of who I wore for the red-carpet event, well, a very old kimono and brand new Crocs.)

I’m like you. I like to dawdle in the barn. I’ve been known to binge-watch Netflix.  I like being on the bottom of a dogpile on the couch. Clearly, ambition is not my middle name.

Then writing starts innocently enough. One day an idea comes along while mucking the barn and you scribble it down. It’s like a crossword puzzle that has an 80,000-word runaway. What used to seem impossible becomes irresistible.

Then there’s a choice. You can put the words in a drawer and feel good about yourself. Done.

Or, if you enjoy the awkward balance of wearing one flip-flop and one stiletto, then you decide to let the world scrutinize your words. Or worse yet, ignore them. And from that day forward, the line between anxiety and pleasure becomes a floppy, teetering stumble. Weirdly unbelievable things happen without warning. Head tilt. No kidding

So, like I said, I’m like you. I get those same emails from Amazon suggesting books for me–sometimes horse books. Recently, the subject line of the email was “Barn Dance: Nickers, brays, bleats…”  Squinty confusion.

When opened, the email suggested a list of books, like usual, but this time including both Barn Dance and Relaxed & Forward. In one email. To me. It’s unprofessional to say so but I still get such a thrill seeing my covers.

And the best part? This email was not my doing. It was you! Yes. Thank you, in the extreme!

An attempted explanation: I think the way this works is that books get stacked in a remote dark corner of the world-wide-web. Search engines don’t go looking on their own. You have to nag them for a while before they move, and even then, they have a very short retention span.

We indie authors are always trying to not sound too desperate when asking readers to leave a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. It’s embarrassing; we don’t do it because we’re groveling for compliments.  Getting a marginal review, like one for Stable Relation that gave it three stars and went on to say she didn’t finish the book, is still good news. That silly search engine can’t read! It just wanders out back to look for my book. In that way, every review is good.

If you left a review, thank you so much for keeping my books moving. It makes a huge difference.

And if you have thought about it and have a moment, please consider writing a brief review of Barn Dance or Stable Relation or Relaxed & Forward. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.)  Self-published books gratefully rely on word-of-mouth support. Thank you.

Last week found me in Elgin, Illinois, working four days at a wonderful therapeutic riding center there, followed by a two-day riding clinic at another barn that shares my blog and books. One of the participants at the second barn was a very serious rider; a man in his seventies who came with his two chestnut mares. He’d managed to ride five lessons in two days. Well done!

At the end of the clinic, he had his horses loaded for the haul home when he came to say goodbye. I stood to shake his hand, but then we hugged instead. I thanked him for riding and he said, “You’re just exactly the person you are in your book. Just the same person.”

There’s no squint in a barn. No head tilt. “Thank you,” I said, “that’s my intention.”

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

Photo Challenge: Path

Perhaps the reason for my books… just trying to keep up.

Relaxed & Forward: AnnaBlakeBlog

wm-tommi-path
It all looks
obscure

she leads
not lost
not found
but traveling
beyond the map

so follow close
your heart
knows the way.
 ….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. My photos are taken with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high tech.)

Path

View original post

Nickers, brays, bleats, howls, and quacks. Now.

longear-approved

We are Long-Ear approved. A whole lot of books do not have this designation.

Barn Dance has been available for a week, and the race is on. But it’s an endurance race and not a sprint; perfectly suited for a contrary herd like us. The start was a bit uneven in an attempt to answer readers asking for a holiday release. I let Amazon have a head start. They are bigger and stronger and didn’t need it.

Independent bookstores are my love, and in order to have my books available there, I do a list of extra things. If you have a bookstore you love, you can get any of my books from them. Tell them Ingram has it; especially if you are located outside the U.S. In a day or two now, Barn Dance will be available from my personal favorite, Barnes and Noble. Support them when you can, but getting it there before the holidays is doubtful.

(Ebook versions are all available on Smashwords, iTunes, and all the usual online locales.)

And if you want to go old-school, you can still get a book from me, signed and with a sweet bookmark or two, by clicking here. There’s no extra charge for the Corgi hair that is bound to be included, as well.

If you like my books, please consider telling a friend or writing a review. You, sitting there with your coffee, are my entire publicity plan. Here’s the crazy part: It’s working. Thank you. I’m so grateful for the precious time you spend reading. It would be painfully dark and quiet without you!

And finally, to introduce my spokes-donkeys today, with Nickole in the photo: Ajax and Comet are here for some training. They are available for adoption through the Colorado Horse Rescue Network. And photos never lie. They are smart asses.


Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

BARN DANCE *Book Launch*

behind-me

Excuse me. Um. Barn Dance is now avail…

***

Speak up. Enunciate. 

***

He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

***

What you want to do is take a deep breath, relax your ears, and then PROJECT!

***

He is a donkey-publicist of strong opinion and this isn’t the first time he’s corrected me in public.

***

Get to the point, old girl.

***

pr-barn-dance-3d-cover

BOOK LAUNCH:

BARN DANCE

available AT AMAZON now,

AT BARNES AND NOBLE,

or SIGNED books available on HERE!

***

Bray it out! That’s me on the cover.

***

Paperback and ebooks at Amazon now and Barnes and Noble.   Signed copies on my website. (Slower than Amazon but comes with a bookmark, too!)

***

Buy Barn Dance now. Thank you. The goat says thanks, too.

***

And please consider writing a review of Barn Dance or Stable Relation or Relaxed & Forward. (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.) Your words will kick-start the search engines in our direction. Self-published books gratefully rely on word-of-mouth support. Thank you.

***

YOU should bray it out, too. Help her. She’s only human. 

***

Well. Isn’t that the truth?

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

A Word from My Publicist (Cover Reveal)

pr-barn-dance-cover-ebook

My name is Edgar Rice Burro. I’m the publicist for Prairie Moon Press. I got the job because I have the loudest voice, and I’m not afraid to use it. Also, I’m not afraid to tell humans what to do. I’m helpful that way. 

***

I am the human and I used to think I had a thin veneer of control on this farm. I might have been exaggerating.

***

My human finally took my advice and put my handsome face on a book cover. She’s slow on the uptake, but she gives a good ear rub, so I’m patient with her. This book will sell like cold carrots on a hot day.

***

I do the hard jobs for Prairie Moon Press. I wrote the book, for instance. I paid for everything. He just came in at the end and brayed about it. Like it was all his idea. Okay, maybe it was.

***

This book has stories about all of us in the barn. And the barkers and mouse-killers that live across the paddock in the human-barn.  Even goats, and if she let goats in, she has very low standards, but like I said–my human gives good ear rubs.

***

We’re a farm that also fosters and re-trains rescue horses, as well as rescue dogs. The book also includes memories of those who didn’t stay with us forever but are still part of the extended herd. The thing that they don’t tell you about rescue is that it’s an inside job–I think I’ll probably always need it.

***

And when my human wants to rant–and she does love a rant–about being an awkward age, whatever that means, she calls herself an old gray mare. Something I respect, by the way.

***

Final proofs are being finished now but publishing is slow this time of year. In order to expedite the process, I’m not letting the goat help. Stay tuned; I’m publishing as fast as I can.

***

Look into my eyes. Now it’s my job to say, “Buy this book!” But how can you resist? There are words and stuff, but the cover is the real deal–photos don’t lie! Intelligence, sincerity, and donkey scruples. I’m irresistible. 

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro