Mastodon The Writing Desk: February 2013

26 February 2013

Guest Post by Linda Leon - Write and Get Paid Well, No Excuses

A Conversation with Bob Bly and Linda Leon

When is the last time you had the opportunity to discuss anything with a multi millionaire? I did. We discussed things every author needs to know if they intend to make a living selling books and getting paid well for their writing skills.

Bob Bly
I have been very fortunate to interview some of the most outstanding and well-known persons in the book marketing industry. Every encounter that I have had with those people has made me better off personally and professionally. The associations I have developed are priceless.

My recent interview with Robert (Bob) Bly is by far one of the best. When I try to put my finger on exactly what was so inspirational about the interview I think that it was his “no excuse for little success” persona and his sheer candidness on create the life that you want.  In his case, he wanted to become a multi millionaire, provide a life for his wife never to have to work in the marketplace, and raise his family in an upscale environment. The magic golden chariot to take him on this ride was simply a pen and piece of paper. Bob Bly personifies writing and getting paid well. His annual gross income from his freelance work and book writing is more than $600,000 a year.  He is one of the best book marketers on the planet.

The purpose of the interview was to inspire independent authors in their book-writing journey. I was looking for the traditional rags to riches story or the traditional struggling author that finally became successful slant. But he quickly adjusted my perceptions, saying that his story would probably not be what I was expecting. He was right. In my view his pen and paper story began with the premise I am not going to become successful. I am successful. That is a twist I had not expected or considered. He had the mentality that he was succeeding at whatever point he was in life. He did not define success by becoming a multimillionaire.  He defined success by being Bob Bly and I have something that will impact the world. Step back and think about that. I won’t say much more because you need to listen to the interview. If you are an author and can catch this concept it will change your world.

Bob Bly exudes with confidence and not conceit. Bob Bly believes that opportunities to sell books or become successful as a freelance writer are all around you. He believes that if others can get highly paid for what they do, why can’t you? He spoke on how simple it is to find those opportunities and to create your own book empire. When I asked him why he became a writer, he said in so many words, I write because I enjoy using my mind creatively. He created a life doing something he loves. He is enjoying the life he created. While most of the population wakes up everyday slaving at a job that they hate, or frustrated because they don’t make enough money, the Bly solution would be to become your own person and do what you want – no excuses. He was amazing.

Bob Bly’s work ethic has caused him to write over 100 articles for major publications, 70 books, and to create an online subscribership of over 70,000 people.  He has handled writing assignments for ATT, IBM, Chemical Bank and more.  He has taught writing at New York University. He is constantly expanding and using his time wisely. There are authors that will come across this article knowing full well that they want to become successful as authors and won’t even take the time to listen to the 30-minute interview. Independent authors can learn a lot from Bob Bly. 

About Linda Leon

Linda Leon
Linda Leon is the owner of an author support and visual productions company. She has worked in management and as a producer in the communications industry since 1978. This industry has given her a very broad spectrum of media skills from writing books to producing television and radio programs. Her first book was published in 1988. Linda’s television and radio work over the years has gone international and has reached over 80 million households. She has a degree in Business Economics and a Certified Nutritionist designation. She is also a professional ghostwriter and was a columnist for United Press International for 4 years. She is a prolific writer with hundreds of posts on line that have accumulated a readership of over 181,000. Her podcast Book That Author that airs on Blog Talk Radio and on Marc Lemay’s Your Hometown Radio Network. The show currently has obtained over 19,000 listeners and growing each week. She is the author of the books Publishing and Publicity for Smart People and Rock Star Marketing for the Emerging Author. Linda’s greatest joy in life is serving God and being a wonderful wife and mother.

Relate to Linda  @lindaleontweets   Linkedin   

Listen to Linda Leon’s podcast – Book That Author on Blog Talk Radio

Last word from Linda Leon

You can write and get paid well. You can create the life that you want and there are no excuses not to. Share this article, thanks.

15 February 2013

Quexistence The Quest for the Meaning of Existence: Time dreams by Tom Stafford

Quexistence: The Quest for the Meaning of Existence

Time Dreams is the story of one man’s search to find the meaning of his existence. It is a story of adventure, fantasy, dreams and love. Gork travels through space and time, compelled to follow his dream. His dreams take him back to a time and place long forgotten. While in reality he discovers an underground cavern that holds the secret to Man’s past. A secret buried in Time.

Pewview Quexistence on Amazon US and Amazon UK

12 February 2013

Special Guest Post by Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed author of A Deconstructed Heart

"The "deconstructed heart" of the title concerns the disconnection between a husband and wife, but could also be a stand-in or metaphor for the disconnection within a family separated from loved ones in a former homeland, or between old and new cultures. The author has a fine sense of style, with a wry sense of humor, rich images, and skillful use of simile and metaphor. Writing this good is rare." O. Barnack

Preview A Deconstructed Heart on  Amazon US and Amazon UK

When you think about major tragic events in human history, it is hard to fully grasp the suffering and loss involved on such a large scale. The Partition of India in 1947 led to an almost unfathomable amount of sorrow and upheaval. The declaration of the Radcliffe line, delineating the border between India and Pakistan led, over a time span of a few months, to the deaths of approximately one million people in interreligious conflict and the displacement of another 12 million.
As a writer of historical fiction series about families living in India, I wanted to examine the lives of people caught in the conflict as they went about their everyday business. The stories that dominate the history books have other stories tangled up in them: people trying to live normally, finding work and raising children at a time when everything is falling apart around them.
I wrote The Dust Beneath Her Feet, a short story from The Purana Qila Stories series, to bring a spotlight on one such family, struggling to make ends meet and hold their family together in the eye of the maelstrom. The main character, Safiyah, is married to a man who has all the ambition in the world, but no work ethic. Fate brings him work in a wealthy home as a servant, but he soon tires of his responsibilities and gets mixed up in a robbery that leads him to leave town under a cloud of suspicion. Safiyah is left to raise their two daughters and patiently waits for her husband to send money from his new job in the north of India where he has moved to work with his cousin. As the country is pulled into religious riots between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, Safiyah has to manage as a single woman and depend on the kindness of others in order to keep her small family safe. Partition is looming, just as Safiyah hears a child's rumor about her husband and his new life in the North. She has to decide whether or not to brave the dangers of cross-country travel at this time to find out the truth, or give up on uniting her family, possibly forever.
It was important to me to create a strong female character, who maintains a remarkable resilience, despite the daily indignities of poverty and the vulnerability of her position. Safiyah's story was personal. I wrote it to honor my eldest aunt, whose story was told to me as a child. Like Safiyah, she had an extremely difficult decision to make that would determine the fate of her family during this dangerous time in Indian history. I know that almost every family from India and Pakistan has their own story from that dark time.
While I know what happened to my aunt, and the events of the Partition-era have been detailed in history books, there are no tidy endings in my story. The Dust Beneath Her Feet stands alone as a work of fiction, but is interwoven with other stories in The Purana Qila Stories series; the reader will be able to revisit some of these characters in my other stories to get the full picture of their lives.
In my series, I wanted to create a sense of interconnectedness and flux, as we move back and forth in dates and geography, getting a sense of time's pull on a once tightly-knit community. The series begins with a focus on the families living in or around a compound in India. I move forward in time to revisit some of these characters, their children and grandchildren, to share what has happened to them; some of my characters take part in the emigration that brought many South Asians to the West in the 1950's and 1960's; in subsequent stories, I will be examining the intended and unintended betrayals that come with uprooting and building a life in a new land.
I hope that visitors to The Writing Desk will join the characters of The Purana Qila Stories series, like Safiyah, and share a little way of their journey with them.

Excerpt from The Dust Beneath Her Feet:

When Safiyah was a small child, the Spanish flu took away one family member after another, leaving only her mother and a set of distant relatives who remained dazed and untethered to one another so that they drifted to different parts of the country without apology or regret. Aarif had lost both his parents not long after his marriage and a bitter dispute over some farmland in the Punjab had broken all connections with his older brother, Shauqat. A few years back, they had received news that Shauqat too had died, leaving nothing but debt, the family farmland swallowed into the neighbors’ acreage.
After Aarif and Safiyah were asked to leave their home at the Grange and a hoped-for connection with another English household did not materialize, there was no one to whom they could turn. They moved into a small house in a neighborhood where they were not known.
Aarif announced that he would become a teacher and that the last of their savings was invested in textbooks so that he could “change their destiny.” He performed odd jobs during the day for the shopkeepers on their street, hauling in sacks of rice or lifting carcasses onto his shoulder for the butcher. When there was no more daylight left in the sky to study, he took his textbooks outside and sat under the streetlamps to read.
Safiyah kept a tiffin for their savings on a high shelf in their house and she brought it down once a week, waiting patiently until Aarif brought out the last rupee from that week’s work and dropped the notes and a few small coins into the tin. She would shake the tin gently, looking intently at the money as if she were prospecting for gold, then put the tiffin away with a sigh.
They were running out of serviceable clothes, so she washed their clothes every evening and hung them up to dry on lines of string that she tied from one tree to another behind the house; she unpicked thread from clothes that had to be thrown out, harvesting buttons and lengths of string for future repair projects. The girls were quiet when their mother put bowls of ox bones swimming in oil in front of them at dinnertime, or when she walked past the heaps of fresh produce gleaming in the stands to root around in sacks of slightly spoiled guava or soft turnips that were thrown to the side.
They were surprised one day, a few months later, when their father came home with heavy bags oozing with blood that seeped into the grain of their wooden table, and they watched their mother as she floated around their small living room like a feather.
“I was watching him,” said their father, as their mother started slicing an onion, looking up with a big grin from time to time, before bending back to her task. “You don’t see good shoes like that around here often, I knew he was someone important.” He sat back on a chair and put his arms behind his head. “He didn’t notice the men following him, but I could see right away they were goondas. I wasn’t scared, I’ve seen these types before, shouting up and down the street about what saints Gandhi-ji or Jinnah are, but then waiting for the dark to cut a man’s throat. I knew he could not handle them at his age. I didn’t even think.”
“Listen,” said their mother, pointing the rusty knife at him. “You could have been killed.”
“That’s what Masood Sahib said to me. He said, “That was very courageous. You could have been killed.” But let them dare bring crime into my town where I am raising my daughters! I told Sahib, these damned political rallies just bring thugs roaming around afterward. Decent people should be able to go wherever they want at night without being attacked. The British can’t get out of here fast enough, but who is taking care of the law?” Aarif smoothed his kurta over his small potbelly. “He lives at Purana Qila. I walked over there today, it’s a fine house. I would have liked to be his driver, but he already has one, but servant of a good-sized house will do. Who knows? One day soon, we might be able to get these ones,” he pointed at the girls, “in school.”
“I want to go to school, Baba! Take me to school!” Laila was hopping.
“Not yet,” said their mother. She turned to her husband. “What about your exams? Will Sahib give you time off to take them?”
“Waste of time. It’s fixed. It’s who you know, and I don’t have one thousand rupees to slip in the examiner’s pocket. And chances are less I’ll get a job, without contacts. Being a servant is the best opportunity right now, especially when you’re working for the big man in town.” He reached forward and pulled at the handle of the canvas bag that was slumped over on the table, and a potato rolled out. “Make something good, I have an appetite.”
Their mother began working more slowly, and she did not look up as the knife rose and fell absentmindedly, chopping the onion into clumsy wedges that would not fry evenly. After a few moments, she rubbed her eyes with the back of her knife-wielding hand. Henna went to fetch another, smaller knife, stood next to her mother, and reached for an onion. They worked in silence.


Shaheen Ashraf-Ahmed won a national essay competition about life in India held by the Indian High Commission in England and has had her poetry and prose published in the Cadbury’s Book of Children’s Poetry, Nadopasana One and Tomorrow magazine. 

Shaheen lives in Chicago with her family. To follow her blog, please visit: and Goodreads and follow her on twitter @hailandclimb

7 February 2013

Guest Post by Linda Leon - 5 Book Marketing Tips I Learned From Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter

I was pleasantly surprised to read what Evan Williams, co founder of Twitter had to say about Twitter after reading an article in Inc. Magazine, called The Rules.  He said, “With Twitter, which was a side project of Odeo, it wasn’t clear at first what it was.” At that time he had not quite figured out what type of social media platform Twitter would be. I laughed because that was my first experience with Twitter. I just recalled listening to what all the guru’s had to say, trying out their “expert recommendations” and watching it not be effective for me. So I figured out what Twitter means to me, and now everything works for me effectively. There were so many wonderful business tips from my favorite icons in this article that I had to share it. They were all asked to talk about the most important things they learned in business. I applied their concepts to my book marketing business and thought it might be helpful for authors too.

They interviewed many people. These were my favorite interviews -Evan Williams the co-founder of Twitter and Blogger, Tony Hsieh, Co-founder of Zappos, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Danny Meyer of the Union Square Hospitality Group, and Jeff Mackey, co founder of Whole Foods. What I learned from each of their articles is that running a business is about developing stellar relationships, using failure as a stepping stone to success, and learning that it takes time to develop and nurture the soul of your business. That is the part that makes your company unique and according to Danny Meyer, that cannot be copied.

My business is all about book marketing, so what can authors take away from this?

1. Evan Williams talked about finding your niche and sticking with it.  He credits the success they had with Twitter and Blogger with becoming the best in those areas and not trying to be the master of everything. Authors should really spend time deciding what they want to become experts in. What genre will you master? What self-help works can you become known for? Become the best in your field.

2. Tony Hsieh talked about building relationships because you never know which will have a tremendous impact on your business.  He called it maximizing collisions. Authors should be building an audience everyday.  Get busy with podcasting to meet new people or expanding your social media networks.  You might also consider joining associations – anything that causes you to bump into other people along the way. Then maximize those relationships.

3. Arianna Huffington talked about how failure can help you to succeed if you learn from it. How many times do people start a writing career and then quit.  Maybe they don’t sell enough books, maybe they do not have confidence in their writing ability, or perhaps they have tried many things but nothing seems to work. She encourages people to learn from their failure. The very things that you learn through your failure can teach you what not to do, that in term can become the catalyst for your success.

4. Danny Meyer talked about the importance of doing one thing well before you begin another project. Give yourself time to get rooted in one area before starting another area. The e-book industry makes it very simple to churn out books in hopes of making big money.  However becoming a book mill might reduce the quality of workmanship. Why not spend time becoming known for one book very well.  Saturate the market place with that book. Gain a good following for that book. Branch out more after you become well established. That tip can really benefit authors as they are defining their brand.

5. Jeff Mackey talked about the importance of seeing the big picture, instead of just the individual goals we might try to establish.  How do these goals impact others? While authors strive to become the New York Times best selling author how many opportunities to develop relationships, build an audience and grow a network of dedicated people to support your books do you miss? If the sole focus is just on the success that you want, will you loose site of the people that can help to make you successful. He presented a very interesting way of looking at things.

I encourage all authors to get a copy of the Feb. issue of Inc. Magazine. Read the article and apply the tips to your book business. I learned a lot. If you enjoyed this article please share it. Retweets welcomed.

Linda Leon is a book marketing professional and visual producer. Her company book marketing professionals supports authors in their editing, book formatting, book cover design, book formatting and video marketing efforts. She is a professional ghostwriter, independent author and has a background in broadcast television. Her greatest accomplishments are being saved, a wife, a mother and taking care of her precious dog. Follow her on twitter  @lindaleontweets and Linked In, and listen to her podcast, Book That Author on Blog Talk Radio and the Home Town Radio Network. She is the author of the upcoming books Rock Star Marketing and Publishing and Publicity for Smart People. Free copies of the book are available via her website.

1 February 2013

Guest Post - Merrie P. Wycoff, Author of Shadow of the Sun

What if our destinies are given to us in clues along the way? Mine was.  My mother kept a verdigris green bust of Queen Nefertiti upon our mantle.  I would trace her face and her elongated blue crown with my finger. Then when I was ten years-old our class took a field trip to a local Egyptian museum and I discovered a colossal statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who happened to be Nefertiti’s consort.  This odd shaped king of the 18th dynasty was written out of history, and deemed a ‘heretic’ for introducing a revolutionary form of peaceful worship during a dark reign of terror.  I vowed to write the truth. It wasn’t until 2005, after my first trip to Egypt,  that I began to write Shadow of the Sun.

In 2007, I returned to Egypt and had the opportunity to be led by tour guide, Egyptologist and Egyptian wisdom keeper Abd’El Hakim Awyan whose ‘living African Oral Tradition’ goes back for centuries.  Although I am finishing my Egyptology degree with the University of Manchester, Hakim’s teachings were very right brain. Hakim believed that one must experience the esoteric wisdom of Egypt in order to understand it.

Merit-Aten was the first-born daughter of Queen Nefertiti and Pharaoh Akhenaten, and I chose to write this first person story though her eyes. Although first person point-of-view isn’t typical for a historical novel, this isn’t a traditional story.  My intention was to introduce some of the true complex Egyptian concepts, and I felt it would be easier to understand them through the eyes of a child. This coming-of-age story begins with Merit-Aten’s birth at a birthing house in Denderah. The Egyptians didn’t believe in birth, or death, instead they related these concepts to the sun. The sun rises in the East, so easting is the idea for birth and because the sun sets in the west, then westing meant death. Ritual and a deep reverence for worship were essential to this ancient civilization.  Merit-Aten has paranormal abilities such as being able to speak to animals and see auras around everyone.

If you have seen the pictures of the royal Amarna family with the elongated heads, Merit-Aten  was born with extraordinary intelligence. This meant she struggled to make friends her age as she journeyed with her classmates through the perilous path of an Egyptian Mystery School. The beautiful and pragmatic Nefertiti, the dreamy Akhenaten and the willful Merit-Aten clash about how this royal lineage will survive. Nefertiti believes a Royal Daughter’s duty is to bear children. Pharaoh Akhenaten wishes his daughter to remain chaste as a Temple initiate while Merit-Aten must chose her own path without tearing her family apart.

I made a general outline for the book, but the characters really tell their story of jealousy, lies, betrayal, murder and magic. It is a tale about how chaos must ensue in order to establish peace, and how one royal little girl must figure out how to find the power to save her family.  It took me seven years to write Shadow of the Sun and it is the first book of five in The Shadow Saga. I became so passionate about writing that I wrote at all times of the day and night. The hardest part was editing and tightening up scenes, and believe me, I left many great pieces out. I came from Hollywood and worked at a television show for eight years, so learning to edit is essential. Every word counts in a book. You don’t ever want to lose your reader.

Author, Speaker, Healer and Metahistorian-Merrie P. Wycoff is finishing her Egyptology degree through The University of Manchester, and has a Masters in Metaphysics, and a Ph.D. in Comparative Religion. Merrie P. Wycoff loves her biodynamic garden and Dressage on her horse farm. Her published works include: w Shadow of the Sun (Rosa Mystica Publishing, 2012, Born in Orgasmic Bliss: Turn your Contractions into Expansions (Rosa Mystica Publishing 2012, and Work like an Egyptian: Unlock your Inner Pharaoh (Rosa Mystica Publishing 2013)  Merrie P. Wycoff was a Lead Segment Producer for Entertainment Tonight and President of a Direct Response Company.

Visit Merrie’s website at
Follow Merrie on Twitter @MerriePWycoff
Like Merrie’s Fan Page on Facebook P Wycoff-Author 

Preview Shadow of the Sun on Amazon US and Amazon UK