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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

October 2015

Indie Authors: Feeling Overwhelmed by What All Is on Your Desk?

ALLi’s blog editor Debbie Young starts the writing week with a light-hearted list of antidotes to the classic indie author’s problem of feeling overwhelmed.
Indie authors often mention that they’re feeling overwhelmed by all the tasks required to self-publish and market their books successfully. No matter how much they do, how hard they work, how many hours they labour each day, they still feel they haven’t done enough.
The downside of being a one-man band is that there are always more instruments you could take up. Resist the temptation.
So if you’re starting this week feeling under pressure, despairing of whether you’ll get everything done that you’d planned by Friday, take a moment to read her quick top tips to stay happy and sane while not dropping the self-publishing ball.

1) Have a rest. Remind yourself how many hours you’ve been spending at your desk each day, and allow yourself some holiday, as a formal employer would. You’ve earned it.

2) Go out and enjoy life. Get out into the real world. That’s where you’ll find your inspiration, not sat at your desk staring at a blank screen or fretting about the number of unanswered emails, unacknowledged retweets or Facebook friend requests. As a natural workaholic, I try to keep myself grounded in reality by keeping next to my computer screen a tube of shower gel bearing the inspirational slogan: “Live a Life Worth Writing Down”. It also reminds me that I usually get my best ideas in the shower, when I’ve switched my conscious, working brain off and let my imagination take flight.

3) Drink coffee. Or tea. Or spring water, or whatever else takes your fancy. Even better, go out to grab a coffee with an author friend. No matter how much fun you have on social media, you can’t beat real life.

4) Tidy your desk – ideally at the end of every day, so that you feel calm when you come back to it the next day. A clear, clean, well-organised desk will give you the feeling of being in control, even though it may not reduce the length of your action list. And speaking of action lists…
Tidy desk = calm mind

5) Lose the long action list habit. There’s a theory that the longer your action list, the less you get done. So don’t fill a sheet of printer paper with your to-do list today – just put it on a post-it note, the smaller the better.

6) Choose one thing. Each day, identify the single most important thing that you have to do, and focus only on that. If you finish it, do the next thing. But aiming just for the one thing should make your burden feel lighter.

7) Celebrate every achievement. At the end of the day, make an “I did it!” list of what you have achieved. My little niece, nearly two, is a master at self-congratulation, announcing “I did it!” at just about everything she does, including scribbling something unintelligible on a piece of paper. I think we authors would feel much better about ourselves if we adopted her attitude.

8) Restore yourself with a soothing and restful activity that uses a different part of your brain (or none at all). Physically repetitive tasks such as knitting, weeding or colouring are good. Apparently tasks using both hands are especially good for the brain. (Thanks to ALLi author and medical doctor Carol Cooper for that information!) Anything is good that makes you lose track of time, forget where you are, and ease the flurry in your brain. (I’ve occasionally reached this state while driving, but wouldn’t recommend that route!)

9) Don’t compare yourself with other authors who you perceive to be more successful. Ignore their sales rankings, awards, boasts, etc. You’re not them. You’re you, and you’re special. Only you can write the books that you can write. They’re apples, you’re an orange. Embrace your orangeness.

10) Smile! Next time you’ve got a smile on your face, work out what caused it – and do it again next time you need to find your smile. My husband told me last week when I got back from my new yoga class that I ought to make a habit of it, as I came back calm and happy. I’m tempted to send him to it next week.

Bonus tip: keep a contented cat by your desk at all times
Now I’m off to make a cup of tea and tidy my desk…

Do You Known What Kindle Readers Think?

Do You Fit This Image of a Kindle Reader?  
Do Your Readers Share These Traits?

Shared from http://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2015/09/09/anatomy-kindle-owner/

A Pre-Holiday Bargain for Early Shoppers

On August 28, 1861, approximately 500 men of the Pennsylvania Roundhead Regiment boarded a train (a first for most of them) and rode for 50 miles to reach Pittsburgh. They arrived in the evening and took a supper break provided by a local welcoming committee.  Each man received a slice of buttered bread, a hunk of sausage, two pickles and a cup of coffee. Then they marched out to the local fair grounds, where they were sent to bed down in one of the livestock barns.  One soldier described  them in their stalls, "kicking at fleas, bed bugs, and many other awful creeping things which existed only in imagination."

Those are the kind of details you need to know if you are researching events during the Civil War. But they are not the details you find in most history books. “A Scratch with the Rebels,” first published in 2007, draws its information from newspapers and official military papers, as well as the letters, diaries, and family keepsakes of two Civil War soldiers: a Pennsylvania Yankee and a South Carolina Confederate. These two inexperienced young men joined up in late 1861 and spend the next several months waiting for a chance to see action. They met only once on a battlefield outside of Charleston in June, 1862. And for one of them, it was the last action he would ever see. 

The chapters trace their training, their shortages of food and equipment, the weather and scourges of disease, the rumors, and the hardships and the delights of camp life. The 186-page book contains forty-three maps and photographs of the people and places mentioned. Endnotes provide full documentation for academic purposes, and the extensive bibliography fills some nine pages.

I have just learned that the original publisher of this book is getting out of the book publishing business entirely.  Given the chance to save the books from a rubbish pile somewhere, i have agreed to purchase the remaining stock, in hopes of eventually finding a new publishing opportunity for it. But in the meantime, I will be able to offer these 67 first-edition  volumes to you at at $6.00 a copy (plus shipping), which is an 75% reduction from the original price of $24.95. 

There is something here for everyone: 

(a) If you are planning to participate in the Military Writers’ Gettysburg Retreat in May, (or if you only wish you were), this little book can provide you with a fundamental understanding of what life was really like for a Civil War soldier. Neither of my subjects fought at Gettysburg, but those who did shared similar backgrounds and experiences.

(b) If you are a descendant  of a Pennsylvania Roundhead, or a member of the Society of the Roundheads, you will want to add this book to your library.  Your ancestors may well be caught up in these pages. 

(c) Members of the Society for Women and the Civil War will find fascinating details about the mothers and sisters of these young soldiers — their worries, their efforts to supply the men with needed goods, and their amazing visits to the camps and battlefields.

(d) Civil War enthusiasts of all sorts will find much to enjoy. 

I will be setting  up a webpage to allow you to order one of these books online, with payment either through PayPal or by regular credit card. I will post the URL as soon as the shipment of books arrive. In the meantime, you may want to visit my Pinterest boards to see some of the maps, settings, recipes, and people of “A Scratch with the Rebels.” Available at https://www.pinterest.com/roundheadlady/ 

Coastal Flooding and Culture in the Gullah/Geechee Nation

I am re-blogging this post from the eloquent woman who represents the Gullah/Geechee people on St. Helena and the surrounding Lowcountry.  Her reactions to the storms that have overtaken South Carolina are worth considering by all of us.   

I have spent the last week engaged in an activity that I and others in the Gullah/Geechee Nationfind ourselves in the midst of during the hurricane season annually-staying tuned to the Weather Channel.  I found myself truly engaged in social media for up-to-the-minute accurate coverage from people literally on the ground or in the waters as rain fell and tides rose and we got flash flood warnings on TV, on cell phones, and from family and friends.   I found myself truly appreciating and living the scripture 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing.” for I know that the “prayers of the righteous availeth much” and webe Gullah/Geechee anointed people.  I found myself tuning my soul in as numerous spirituals came to mind and I realized that my elders and my ancestors had passed on this tradition that centers me in the midst of these times.

The days of rain and more rain served as a wonderful time to reflect on the traditions of the Gullah/Geechee community that have been passed down including how hunnuh chillun hafa hab muddawit and ting.  It was interesting to realize how many people of other cultures were more interested in proceeding with events that they had planned along the coast and some even literally on the waterways than paying attention to the weather forecast which included Hurricane Joaquin passing by theGullah/Geechee Nation‘s coast while rain was heading to the coast from the west and from the north and the tide continued to do what it does every day-rise.  This was all as the lunar eclipse had just been completed.  As a Gullah/Geechee traditionalists that is also a scientist, everything within my being said, “It is time for folks to stay inside and stay put.  Do not get on the roads and cross the bridges.”  I again heard a Gullah/Geechee spiritual come into my soul-“I saw the sign!”

After I made sure to check my own disaster preparedness checklist and insure that I had things ready, I reposted it and a video of me presenting it on social media.   I settled in to my meditations and prayers and then into waiting and watching.  Yes, watch as well as pray!

As our prayers turned the hurricane completely into the sea and away from land, my soul was still not settled that there was not more to come.  Within hours, this feeling was confirmed as the photos and videos started to appear and states of emergency were declared in the Carolinas.

As I posted and prayed and checked the island for flooding, I thought of all the work that I had been led to do over the years to awaken people to how sensitive the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida are to the various weather incidents, sea level rise, climate change, and ocean acidification dynamics that have been taking place.  Some were willing to listen and a few have engaged in physical work to help us restore and protect the Gullah/Geechee Nation‘s coastline and even few have donated financially to the on-going work in this regard.  However, there were the masses that did not see and feel what those of us whose hearts seem to be syncopated with the rise and fall of the tides along the coast are able to see.  They literally needed a disaster to pay attention to what the “natives” have said in regard to not building where they build and not playing and recreating on sacred ground.   

Unfortunately, it took the national news to make folks sit up and pay attention and they started to do what happens time and time again-react.  Massive amounts of folks tend to be reactionary and not pro-active which makes this literally rising problem that much more difficult to contend with.
As I shook my head and resumed my focus to insure that I could reach people on the ground in various areas of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, a flood of emails came in to see how we were doing on the island.  What folks were not discerning or believing was that the flooding wasn’t on the rural Sea Islands.  It was taking place in the suburbanized, urbanized, and gentrified areas along the coast.  The flooding from rainfall got coupled with midland South Carolina dams topping and some failing which sent water rushing down to the coast while the rivers that run throughout the Gullah/Geechee Nation began to swell and overflow onto land.

The massive rainfall ended an extended drought due, but sewage and contaminants were now surfacing and flowing right along with waters that now filled and submerged roads, highways, yards, and homes.   My mind went again to the work that the Gullah/Geechee Sustainability Think Tank has undertaken over the past five years and how we most recently have naturally or Divinely shifted our primary focus to seafood safety and human health.  In a case like this, the human health of the Gullah/Geechee Nationpertains not only to how we will cleanup and restore the coast after this massive historic flooding incident, but how the Gullah/Geechee family is holding up mentally after witnessing and feeling the impacts of this.  I prayed some more.

Well, my prayers were answered when the sun came out and began drying out the land which led to people getting back online and responding to my messages to find out how families were in various communities.   I heard positive messages from Gullah/Geechees who had all only dealt with minor flooding in Charleston County, SC and northward into NC.   We started to mobilize and assess the damages to our institutions, businesses, and homes when another report of rain returning came in.  So, it was time to again be still and watch as well as pray.

The new rain fall was now an issue for Georgetown County due to the fact that rivers were cresting and dams were failing which would send water straight down to that county.  The South Carolina counties listed as disaster areas started to grow and as the rain fell, the images and videos of flooding multiplied.  As reports of all the personal losses emerged in the midst of this, I then started wishing that I could stop time and get all of the “Gullah/Geechee Alkebulan Archive” digitized and backed up in the cloud in one day.  Time was truly of the essence as I saw the signs.

The signs that I have been able to see spiritually for years were now manifesting themselves before my eyes and on TV and computer screens. I stopped and wondered if this would now be enough to get people to get involved in the environmental work that we are doing.  I wondered if they would now pay attention to any of the numerous reports that predicted the loss of coastal and cultural heritage resources that would come through environmental damage brought on by weather, flooding, sea level rise, and climate science related incidents such as this.  I wondered if the Gullah/Geechee Nation would ever get back in the headlines and on the news screen for us simply showing what we are doing to continue our culture and protect our cultural heritage resources along the coast or would people only remember that we were here when another disaster or tragedy took place-flooding, murder, etc. GOD forbid!

I prayed that people would tune in to the reports from those of us that live on this land and who truly move with and by the tides.  I prayed that GOD would continue to answer my prayers and that my folks would yet stay up as “GAWD trubbull de wata.”

Just as things started drying out a bit, it rained again yesterday and folks paused, breathed, and prayed.   The biggest thing I took note of was that once again we stayed.  We stayed at home on the islands and in the Gullah/Geechee townships with family and friends.  We held together as a community and we’ve drawn on our cultural traditions to protect ourselves during the storms and to now bring ourselves out of the storm and to a higher level of consciousness in regard to how we will now continue to protect ourcultural heritage resources as the weather continues to change.  One thing for sure is Gullah/Geechees will once again weather the storm and we culcha ain gwine nowhey tall tall.  No matter what flows in, it will not take us out!  AMEN!

The Small Animal Residents of South Carolina

I've been thinking about South Carolina a lot lately, as I imagine many of you have because of the terrible storms that have raked it recently.  As the setting for my Civil War books, it has become something of a second home for me, and I frequently find myself defending it for its unique qualities -- not just climate, and glorious antebellum mansions and great seafood, but also its fondness for nature and its animal inhabitants. Does any other state have both a state horse and a state dog? And if so, are they both unique and small breeds? 

I learned for the first time in March of this year that South Carolina is one of only 14 states to have its very own breed of horse -- The Carolina Marsh Tacky. [Tacky, by the way, is the Gullah word for horse.] This rare breed, descended from the mounts of the 16th-century Spanish explorers, was once thought to be extinct. It is still an endangered breed with less than 100 breeding mares in existence.  I can only hope that the small herd of wild  marsh ponies has managed to survive the recent storms.

The animals were popular in South Carolina because of their ability to traverse the marshy ground of the Lowcountry. Francis Marion ("The Swamp Fox") used them in the Revolutionary War, and after the  Civil War they became the favorite horse of the Gullah population of South Carolina because they were small (around 14 hands), cheap, easy to feed, and strong enough to handle the farm work of the Lowcountry. Their numbers decreased in the 20th century because they were no longer needed as plow animals. The had something of a resurgence, however, in World War II, when they were used for beach patrols against Nazi invasion. Today, efforts are underway to restore the breed, and it became the State Horse of South Carolina in 2010.

Every year I get my basic "dog fix" by watching the Westminster Show.  And in 2011, I discovered a new favorite.  One of the six new breeds admitted to the show for the first time was the Boykin Spaniel, the official dog of the State of South Carolina. The Boykin is a small dog (about 40 pounds, max.) and 15 to 18 inches high.  It is bred to be a hunter and agile enough to jump in and out of small swamp boats without upsetting the boat. Since most of my books are set in the Low Country of South Carolina,  I can understand the appeal of this energetic little dog.

I have no real hope that a Boykin will end up as "Best of Show." Newcomers seldom do.  But while the breed is making its mark among usual favorites, I'll be cheering it on.  If  you're looking for me on a Monday or Tuesday night in February, you'll find me wrapped in something fleecy, glued to the TV, and rooting for aSouth Carolina  breed that produces the the cutest pups I've seen in a long time.