Saturday, July 30, 2016

Staying Focused (Television)

I don't believe I have a problem with television eroding my writing time because I don't spend much time watching TV, especially when compared to other Americans.

An A.C. Nielsen "Cross-Platform Report" in 2014 revealed that folks spend more than five hours a day watching live TV. And viewers in my age group (the golden oldies), garnered more than seven hours a day. Wow! Here's the story in the New York Daily News. (Here's another article on time spent in social media.)

I seldom watch TV in the morning, unless there is some big breaking news event. Likewise in the afternoon. In the evening, perhaps an occasional movie, PBS News Hour, or some topic I may be interested on the Travel, National Geographic, Science, or History channels and a few others (Kentucky Educational Television, RLTV, C-SPAN).

My mornings are usually spent walking my dogs, working out at the gym (three days a week), research, and writing. Afternoons may involve running a few errands, chores around the house, and taking a short nap (naps are good for you!). Evenings include reading and perhaps a TV program or two before I turn out the lights (I'm not a night owl). I also walk on my treadmill four times a week, usually in the evenings. And there are a few family- and friend-related activities. I do stay rather busy.

So my fellow authors, if you're having some difficulty finding the time to write, you may want to audit your time in front of the television. I find that less is best; just be selective in what you watch.

And for those who are interested in the status of your favorite shows, click here. Good luck with the writing!

Until the next time....

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Staying Focused (Internet)

My biggest distraction to staying focused on writing is the Internet. Other writers have told me that it's a problem for them as well. 

While it's a useful tool for research, marketing, and promotion in producing books, and educational in providing useful information about the art of writing, the Internet can also be a time-stealer. It sucks you in -- link by link by link.

I guess I'm a news junkie since I scan various websites for breaking news and analysis. That's one of the first things I do in the morning -- after I feed my dogs, pour a cup of coffee, and check email (yes, it's the Internet, but only takes about five minutes if that long).  

Before I realize it, I've spent a couple hours reading about what's happened locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. So instead of delving into a work in progress right off the bat, I'm immersed in other things for way too long. 

I also belong to several social media sites -- Facebook (of course), Twitter (no surprise), LinkedIn, Pinterest, Goodreads, and a few author-related ones. I guess it could be worse if I was involved in Snapchat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Reddit (honestly, I do try to draw the line). And I do have a personal website to maintain and update.

According to an article in Business Insider, nearly 20 percent of U.S. users spend their total time in social media. Facebook is the most popular site with 14 percent. 

And in a 2015 story in GlobalWebIndex, its survey of 170,000 respondents found that people spend an average 6.15 hours a day online including 1.72 in social media. When the company first surveyed the respondents, in 2012, the numbers were 5.5 hours online and 1.61 in social media. 

The story noted "...we're actually spending more time on networks now than in the earlier part of the decade--with the rise of the mobile internet, and the ability it affords us to connect to networks at any time and from any location, being a major driver of this."

It makes you wonder who has time for television! (I know, you can download and live stream on the Web.) 

I don't think I devote that much time on the Internet, and I really don't want to know, but there's no doubt that it's taking up too much time that could be devoted to writing and other useful endeavors. 

So that's one area of my life I plan to curtail. Most of those Internet ventures can wait until I've finished writing for the day. And that also includes Amazon, ebay, Barnes & Noble and other commercial sites. 

And I do want to lead more than a virtual life. Really I do. 

Oh, since you're here, you can connect with me at these sites:

Facebook: Kentucky author Michael Embry (always looking for "likes.")
Twitter: @MichaelEmbry (I'll follow you as well.)
LinkedIn: Michael Embry (Let's connect!)
Pinterest: Michael Embry (Let's share some stuff!)
Goodreads: Author Michael Embry (Be my friend!)
And you can follow my blog by clicking on one of the "follow" buttons in the right column. 

Until the next time....


Friday, July 15, 2016

Staying Focused

Over the next few weeks I'm going to write about the difficulty of staying focused -- at least as it pertains to me.

It's funny, or perhaps tragic in some respects, that I used to be very disciplined when it came to my writing. I suppose it stemmed from my work as a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, when I had to deal with deadlines, often on breaking news events.

But as I've grown older, I find myself getting distracted. There was a time, when working on a novel, that I would set a self-imposed deadline on finishing a project. That's not to say that I would simply stop on the due date, but I would generally have 95 percent of the draft finished, if not already completed. 

Those were the days when I was employed full-time, and time was of the essence when working on a book. I'd get up early and write for two-three hours, then get ready for work. It was a routine I stayed with until I finished the manuscript. 

Now that I'm retired, it seems the free time to write is overwhelming. I know that probably doesn't make sense, but not having blocks of time designated for writing and research bring on procrastination.

And procrastination is something I'm beginning to master -- to my own detriment -- because I keep putting things off or occupying my time with activities that distract from my writing.

Now to regain some discipline in my writing life.

Until the next time....

Friday, July 8, 2016

Story Songs: Jesus Rocks

While driving the other day, I heard Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" on a classic rock radio station. I had to turn up the volume to fully hear and appreciate Greenbaum's fuzz guitar licks that set the mood for the psychedelic gospel song that peaked at No. 3 in 1970.

After it ended, I started thinking about other songs that focused on Jesus. Oh, by the way, Greenbaum is a practicing Jew so it shows you don't have to be a Christian to sing about Christ. But I digress.

Without a doubt there have been a lot of Jesus-inspired songs that became popular hits since rock has been influenced by gospel, blues, country, well, just about every music genre.

I remember watching Elvis sing "Peace in the Valley" on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

The first gospel hit I recall on the radio was "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," a No. 1 song by Laurie London in 1958. It's been covered by countless artists since then.

The Edwin Hawkins Singers scored with  "Oh Happy Day," reaching No. 4 on the charts in 1969. Whoopi Goldberg led a rousing rendition of the song in the movie, "Sister Act,"  in 1992.

The super group Blind Faith (Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech) got religious with "Presence of the Lord," a song on the group's only album, in 1969. Clapton turns in a sizzling guitar solo.

In 1971, the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, made its debut on Broadway. It was controversial at the time, especially the rollicking hit, "Superstar," recorded by Murray Head with the Trinidad Singers. The song charted to No. 14 on the studio recording.

Another musical, released in 1971, was "Godspell," and it produced the hit, "Day by Day." The song, by Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak and sung by the cast, reached No. 13 on the U.S. charts in 1972.

The Doobie Brothers got a lot of airplay from its version of "Jesus Is Just Alright," released on their "Toulouse Street" album in 1972 and reaching No. 35 on the charts.  It has some great guitar and vocals from Pat Simmons. The song, written by Arthur Reid Reynolds, was first recorded in 1966 by his own group. Three years later, The Byrds covered the tune on their "Ballad of Easy Rider" album.

Ocean's "Put Your Hand in the Hand" climbed to No. 2 in 1971. The tune, written by Gene McLellan, was first recorded by Anne Murray, in 1970.

In 1972, Rick Springfield released "Speak to the Sky," a top 10 song in his native Australia. It was his first hit as a solo artist, who went on to worldwide fan nine years later with "Jessie's Girl."

So there's a few Jesus-inspired songs from way back when, years before Christian rock had its own genre and stars.

Until the next time....

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Some "Free" Promotion

As most of those who read this blog know, I'm always on the lookout for ways to promote my books. The main reason is because promotion is one of the least things I like about writing. Writing a book is a wonderful, life-changing experience. Promotion, well, is more like a headache for me.

But you have to do what you have to do to get your books out there to grab the attention of potential readers. I know quite a few writers who have had success by offering books for free on Amazon, Smashwords, and other websites. Yes, I said free.

I'm sure you've seen it as well on Amazon. It seems so counter-productive to me, especially after spending some much time and energy to write a book. All of my novels have sample pages for readers, but never have I provided an entire book.

The aim, of course, is to give readers an opportunity to read a book, and crossing fingers, they'll return and perhaps purchase some, if not all, of your other titles. Believe it or not, but it apparently works. That's the price the author pays for the exposure.

So with that introduction, my novel, "Foolish Is Heart," is being offered on Smashwords for free during the e-book distributor's summer sale that runs the entire month of July. More than 20 authors in Wings ePress, my publisher, will have free books as well. And that's just a drop in the bucket since other small publishers and thousands of independent authors will be doing the same in promoting their books to a world-wide audience. (FYI, use SFREE code at checkout).

As I've mentioned many times before, I do hope that if you download my book, and those of other authors, that you will leave reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other venues. Isn't it the least you can do for getting something free?


Me, Cat Shaffer, Lewis Nichols and MJ Wixsom at the Author Faire. 
I also want to share a recent article in the Portsmouth (Ohio) Daily Times about the Author Faire I participated in on June 25 in Greenup, Ky., with about 20 other authors. I had a great time at the small town next to the Ohio River. I hope it encourages other libraries and book stores on how easy it is to put on an event featuring local, state and regional authors.

Also, thank you to reporter Portia Williams and the newspaper for covering the event.

Now to get back to my work in progress.

Until the next time....