Tag: Time

Book Blog Tours and Review Sites with Adrian Phoenix

Book Blog Tours and Review Sites with Adrian Phoenix

The few last weeks I’ve written about building a social network and its use in marketing. It was interesting that Joshua Graham couldn’t directly relate his Facebook and twitter followers to his writing, but that John Locke, could. Hard on the heels of writing those posts I attended a Publisher’s Workshop on the Oregon Coast where we discussed marketing strategies for e-books. One of the items clearly not at the top of the facilitators list of marketing tools was social marketing a la Facebook and twitter.

Following on that workshop I was referred to a an article on the Science Fiction Writers of America website regarding the author’s 100 day Social Media Blackout and the results of that experiment regarding social media and marketing. The author basically removed herself from social media for 100 days and talks about what she learned from this experience. Basically, her view of the value of social media shifted from a belief that social media connected her with readers and industry professionals as well as connecting her with family and friends, to one of social media’s value being its ability to connect her with community.

Not marketing. Community building. She goes so far as to point out that having a person as a follower (something that takes only the click of a mouse), does not necessarily mean they are going to take the time to buy and read your books.

So how do you build a fan base? Urban Fantasy Author and friend, Adrian Phoenix, has done extremely well at building a fan base over three years of publishing her Maker’s Song and Hoodoo novels. She kindly agreed to an interview about how book blog tours have contributed to her following.

1. For those of us just starting down this road, can you please explain what a guest blog is?

Adrian: You bet! A guest blog is a post you write for another person’s blog, usually by invitation, on any number of topics. I’ve written on topics ranging from vampire dating tips, my first crush, writing from the male POV, on the nature of ghosts, my love of paranormal, the top ten shows on my DVR, etc. Anything that readers might find interesting. I try to gear it toward the blog that I’ll be guesting on—paranormal, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, etc. But I’ve found that most blogs are happy with any interesting, reader-hooking subject. And humor seems to be really appreciated.

Here’s the links to a few examples.

On Paranormal Haven, I did a guest post on the nature of ghosts.

On the Strange Candy blogsite, I did I guest post on vampire dating tips.

On All Things Urban Fantasy, my post was about the top ten shows on my DVR. (Including pictures for each show, plus who I thought was the hottest character.)

On the Vampire Book Club, my post was on writing from the male POV.

2. How do you get invited to provide a guest blog?

Adrian: I usually get invited by bloggers who’ve either read my books or have received copies from my publisher. So it never hurts to check the blogs reviewing books in your genre and offering to do a giveaway or offer to send them a copy to review. Sometimes they are overloaded with books to review, so my advice at this point would be to contact them about doing a guest blog or interview along with a giveaway.

Once you’ve been a guest on a blog site, keep in touch about your next release. You should get an invitation to come back. If you don’t (and they do have a ton of authors to deal with), politely let them know—in advance— that you have a new release coming out and schedule a giveaway and guest blog or interview. Always be polite and friendly. Most bloggers will be happy to work with you and promote your books if you treat them with warm professionalism and courtesy.

3. You have conducted guest blogs as both yourself and your characters. Why have you done this and how is blogging as a character different from regular blogging? Why do it?

Adrian: I really enjoy letting the characters do guest blogs and/or giving interviews. I can play and have fun and don’t need to worry about how I’m perceived. Readers in general and fans of a series absolutely love interacting with the characters they read about, the characters that feel so real to them. Some even get to flirt. Sometimes I’ll offer to do a character gig just for a change of pace, but more often, the bloggers will ask for one—especially if they are fans of the books themselves.

Every time I’ve done a character interview or post, I always see a comment along the lines of “I haven’t read these books yet, but I loved this interview and the way the characters chatted that I’m going to get the first book right now.”

That alone makes it worthwhile. It gives new readers a taste of the books through getting to know the characters, and it gives fans a chance to play with them. And my turnouts for character posts and interviews are often better attended than my own interviews. I’m okay with that. After so many interviews, there isn’t much new to say that your readers don’t already know from previous interviews. Another reason for guest blogs—myriad subject possibilities beyond yourself and your writing techniques. LOL.

Here’s a couple of examples of character post and interviews.

On Paranormal Haven, the Maker’s Song gang posted likes and dislikes dossiers, including their thoughts on Twilight.

On Paranormal Romance Addict, Dante and Heather did an interview together.

And on WereVampsRomance, Dante discusses sex, lies, and the mofos who tell them.

4. Personally, the thought of being interviewed in a blog makes me nervous. How do you make sure you haven’t made a fool of yourself in the blog or that your characters don’t make a comment that could impact readership in the future?

Adrian: Interview questions aren’t all that difficult, really. The readers want to know more about you—do you have pets, children? What do you like to read? Who do you like to read? What is your writing routine? If you avoid religion and politics, you’ll be fine. Readers want to know the person behind the book. That’s all.

As for the characters, I let them say whatever they would normally say and don’t censor them. Fans want them to be themselves and, trust me, Dante doesn’t hold back. They love him all the more for it. And he’s gained me new readers as well. I don’t think you need to worry and your characters chasing away readers. If anything, they will win them over.

5. What kind of time commitment is involved in guest blogging?

Adrian: Unfortunately, it can be a lot. It depends on how long your guest blog is (and shorter is generally better) and how much you interact with the readers after it is posted. It’s a good idea to read the comments, leave comments of your own thanking them for joining you, for their support, and answering any follow-up questions.

On my previous release, I did a huge blog tour. I had so many requests and I wanted to do them all and I did. I’ll be more careful with this next release, spread them out more. Not only do you use up too much writing time, but you run the risk of people seeing too much of you. Spread it out. Instead of a guest blog or interview every time, offer to do a straight giveaway instead. I’ve never had a blogger say no to that.

7. On a topic other than blogging, do you have a promotions/marketing plan beyond whatever your publisher identifies? I also note that you have a posse of fans who do a lot of promotion of your books. How did that come about and what do they do for you? How did you go about promoting your book as an author once you had your book deal?

Adrian: I don’t have a specific promotions/marketing plan other than getting the word out via blogsites, giveaways, sample chapters, etc. Having an active website is part of that. That’s a necessity so readers, new and continuing, can find you, learn more about your books (where to find them, for one thing) and contact you.

Through my website, people can also join the street team, request free book plates, or go to the forum (or my official Yahoo fan club) to chat with other fans about my books. I also have chats with characters on the forum.

I have a street team of 160 people worldwide right now (that number keeps going up) and two street team managers (both who are fans that I got to know and who volunteered for the job) who handle the details. The street team receive bookmarks to hand out to book stores, libraries, and to other readers. They post about my releases and events on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, MySpace and spread the word about my books in a ton of different ways (including my titles and website link in their email signatures). Quite a few make sure their local bookstore keeps my books on the shelves and chat the books up in book clubs and reading groups.

I give signed copies of each release to the top 25-30 people on the team and every few months, award prizes to members with the highest points. (Points are earned in a number of different ways.) I also make sure they know I want it to be fun and that they are not obligated to do anything.

As for promoting my books after landing each of my contracts, I don’t do much—aside from putting info and news up on my website. Not until it gets closer to the book’s release date. A couple of months prior, I start contacting blogs about doing appearances and giveaways. And I always have something happening on my website.

Thanks so much to Adrian for her time and her insight. (Her most recent book, Black Heart Loa is receiving stellar reviews.) Blog tours sound like work, but they also sound like a lot of fun —but then so does most of social marketing when you focus on the social aspect. The one caution I would add to Adrian’s information after a follow-up discussion with her, is remember that social marketing and guest blogging should not take over your writing time. If it does, then you have a problem.

Social Media, Pulling Teeth and Getting Started

Social Media, Pulling Teeth and Getting Started

I remember it well—the day my writing mentor said I had to be on Twitter. First came the panic.

‘No’, I said. ‘No way. E-mail eats enough time as it is.”

Another kindly pair of friends took me aside and explained that really, Twitter wasn’t so bad, and you needed it to market you books (no mention of how). So they helped me get an account and TweetDeck, and set me loose in the Twitter world.

And I never used it.

The few times I logged on, it was like going to the dentist and I HATED the fact that my darn computer dinged and disturbed my train of thought every time a new tweet came through. Now I know I could turn my speakers down, but I needed the volume to tell me when business e-mails came through. The trouble was twitter kept dinging and dinging. So this post is about Twitter and Facebook and social media in general and how to make it manageable for you. Next post will be on how to make it WORK for you.

The thing with Twitter and Facebook is that you have to understand that they have tremendous potential, but you also have to understand that there are downsides:

  • Social media can be frustrating as heck until you understand them and how they work.
  • Social media can feel like floundering in deep water until you decide the parameters of how you are going to participate.
  • Twitter and Facebook can become veritable time sinks.
  • Social media can begin to take over your social life.
Winter river near La Saucet, France (2005) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Like anything new, understanding Twitter and Facebook requires purposeful learning. Yes, it is possible to simply open an account and begin tweeting or sending messages, but why, and what do you send messages about? One reason may be to simply keep in touch with existing friends. Once you’ve connected with your friends, it’s easy to fulfill this purpose. You can use Facebook and Twitter to send out urls for blogs, which is also useful, and if that is all you want, then the social media is working for you.

So to make social media work for you, this is a first decision point: what do you want from Twitter or Facebook?

If you want to leverage social media to help with marketing your books, this requires you to become more involved in the social media family. It requires you to become more comfortable with working with social media. A good place to pick up pointers is through Lynda.com, which contains video tutorials on the basics, but also sessions on marketing.

Marketing your book requires building your connections to others in the Twitterverse, or Facebook Universe. This involves building connections to friends, which means that you need to do more than marketing. You need to give people something of yourself and your interests, something that both you and other people find of value. This involves reaching out to others to become their friends, either by identifying common interests, or through their connections to people you friend or follow. This is easy enough to do, by simply clicking on a person’s profile and friending or following them. Hopefully they will reciprocate and follow you, too. But the trouble is this can become an obsession. You can spend hours identifying friends and follows, and you have to ask yourself what is most important—this social media work, or time spent writing (and time having a life).

This is a second decision point: Are you a writer first and a social media savant second, or is it the other way around? If you are a writer, then you may need to set parameters around your time spent on social media. For an example, I try to put in thirty minutes to an hour in the morning and the same in the evening.

Street scene, Montmartre, Paris (2005) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

But at the same time you need to understand that social media is social. This means that even if your original intention in joining the Twitterverse and Facebook was to market your book, you need to do more than that. You need to have something to add to the Twitterverse. This was initially where I stalled. I didn’t know what I could add to all the comments out there. Well we all have things to add, whether it be book recommendations, reporting on your latest accomplishments, or links to blogs that you found important, these are the things that will build your followers and your social connections, and when you get your first message from a follower it starts to feel fun that you are building connections to people—people who might eventually become your friends.

And not your dentist.

Peruvian time

Peruvian time

Women in the moment of Cusco Parade(2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Women in the moment of Cusco Parade(2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Coming home from another continent affords lots of time to sit in airports and to reflect (as you cross time zones) on the nature of time, and timing, and how we experience it. Coming from North America we are so driven by the clock – to be punctual, to punch the clock, and to resent those who don’t bow to the ticking moments in the same way the rest of us do. I speak from experience. I lost a very good friend because she refused to honor my time as I honored hers. She always kept me waiting for at least an hour every time I was to meet her for a social engagement and when I pressed her on the issue she decided my friendship wasn’t worth trying to change her time sense. So we parted ways.

In Peru I ran into a similar phenomena. There I was, sitting in the train station at Aguas Caliente, going home from Machu Picchu, and the train before mine arrived. They called the train’s arrival. They called boarding and the foreign tourists crowded around to load. They called last call and a few Peruvians came running. They called last call again (I guess they didn’t mean it the first time). More Peruvians came running. They called last call again and an entire tour group (Peruvian) came trotting up. They closed the gate and announced the train was leaving.

Time worn ripples in the stone of Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Time worn ripples in the stone of Sacsaywaman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

About 5 minutes later another entire Peruvian tour group arrived and were a tad put out that the train had left without them.

I watched this and put the phenomena down to this being a tourist train and Peruvian tourists, but then I had to catch a plane to get from Cusco to Lima. There, I was, sitting in the departure lounge as LAN airlines boarded a flight. They announce last call. A couple of people come running. They announce last call again, and a few more people come. They announce that they were closing the gate and a western tourist who had been guarding the belongings of a Peruvian friend, finally tossed the friend’s belongings to the gate crew and boarded. His friend eventually showed up and was choked that the plane wasn’t waiting for her. They announced last call again and at that point – after Airport staff had been walking around for at least ten minutes paging missing passengers (by name) – someone pointed out to a group of businessmen in the waiting area that they were supposed to be on that plane. They dashed off, madly. So after about 4 last calls, personal pages and various and sundry announcements the gate was finally locked and the plane took off, but the whole thing got me thinking.

Village near Ollantaytambo (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Village near Ollantaytambo (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

What was it about Peruvians? Did they just not pay attention? Was the whole world to wait for them? Did they just not care that they were holding up an entire airport? Was there something called ‘Peruvian time’?

While waiting for another flight (this time in Canada), I had the chance to chat with a Peruvian woman who has lived in North America a long time. I ran my story past her and she laughed and said that the Peruvian psyche is not so Machiavellian. Instead the reason those passengers missed their trains and almost their planes was more likely because Peruvians are more ‘in the moment’. When they engage with friends they are totally ‘present’, and so they miss little things like the announcement for a train or last call for a plane. She told me that when friends get together for dinner they had best plan for people to arrive two hours late.

Which is interesting for a writer, because, from personal experience, our sense of timing is such a rich source of conflict.

Peruvian mountain woman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Peruvian mountain woman (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

And now I’ve come home to Canada to find my mother in the hospital from a stroke and my family playing a waiting game. No longer is our focus on punctuality. Now we live in the moment and keep hoping for a few moments more – Peruvian time. Let the world pass us by for a long, long time.

The masses at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
The masses at the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu (2011) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Wiggle Room – the Chinese army and finding the time for a creative life

Wiggle Room – the Chinese army and finding the time for a creative life

I’ve heard it said that if you want something done, ask the busiest person you know and they will accomplish it. Somehow these people have the ability to stretch a little more out of a minute or hour to get the conference planned, or the new report written. These people amaze me. Actually, I think they intimidate the heck out of me, because I am constantly finding myself scrambling trying to get things done and regretting my inability to say ‘no’ to new work. Of course, too much work impacts my ability to find time for my writing.

How do these people do it? Do they really have the magical ability to expand time?

Yak at Qinghai Lake (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Yak at Qinghai Lake (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Of course the answer is ‘no’ (at least I don’t think too many of us have Hermoine’s magic watch), but these people have tricks that help them get things done. I figure I must have a few as well as I am frequently being asked where I find the time to write, or travel , or blog.

The first thing one must do is decide if writing or travel is something you really want to do. For me, there were years of frustration about finding the time to write and the time to market my writing until a friend and mentor made the suggestion that I treat myself as a one of my clients. You see, I work for myself as a consultant and I schedule my time based on the work a client has asked me to do. The suggestion was helpful to me because it did two things:

1. It got me to schedule time;

2. It legitimized my writing and got me to take it as seriously as I take my paying work.

The first of these points speaks to organization, a key point if you are trying to fit writing into your life. Along with organizing your life to allow writing time, you must obtain the buy-in from significant others like spouses and friends – otherwise expect writing time to be a constant source of relationship friction.

The second of these points is probably the most important. Taking my writing seriously gave me permission to make it a priority to write. I can’t tell you how many people I know who say they want to write a book or are working on a book and yet they never sit down to write. The first job of a writer is to write – not to talk about it. Not even to blog about it. But to write. Bum in chair folks, and no matter what else is going on in my life, I always find time to be there.

You have to decide the writing/travel/whatever is a priority because it will hurt you more not to do the activity, than to do it.

I’ve also had people tell me that part of their trouble is the challenge of moving from creative to mundane (e.g. work) projects and back again. This is an issue of multitasking. So how do people manage this shift from project to project?

I know people who work on two or three novel projects at the same time. I admire them greatly, but I don’t think I can do it. These folk can literally be writing one manuscript in the morning and another at night. For some it’s a matter of compartmentalizing their writing, so writing a certain type of book is associated with a certain time of day. I suppose I do something similar when I get up early in the morning and write creatively, and then turn to my work computer at eight a.m.

Having separate computers can help, as well. Having one computer for work and one that is strictly for creative endeavors allows your brain to associate a certain place with a certain type of thinking. Keeping your creative space separate from the internet has also helped some writers, and definitely removing all games from the creative computer. For me, I have to keep my photography on a separate computer because that is a time sink I frequently get stuck in, because it also feeds my creativity.

Other issues fledgling writers run into include knowing what to write and just getting started. I’ve talked previously about inspiration, but sometimes it’s just the fear of getting started. There are wonderful books out there that can help. I fondly recall Natalie Goldberg’s Wildmind, and the wonderful book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Both helped me explore my voice and passions and taught me that my voice was valid. Books can teach you how to deal with the anxiety of starting through cleansing breaths, or meditation . Each writer has to find their own way to deal with the critics in their heads.

I’m reminded of a mantra Kris Rusch and Dean Smith put up at every workshop: DARE TO BE BAD. What this means is that all creativity (and travel, and just plain living, for that matter) is about taking a risk. We have to throw ourselves out there and only by taking those chances will something wonderful arise.

I’m reminded of one of my adventures: In China my travel companion and I decided to visit a remote area called Qinghai Lake. This is a wind-blown steppe in the mountains that has a huge lake that supports the massive migrations of waterfowl from Siberia to South Asia. So we hopped a local bus and travelled up into the mountains and were dumped off in a small group of buildings that were reminiscent of an old west town except there were no horses around, only yaks and monks.

Monks at Qinghai Lake (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Monks at Qinghai Lake (1998) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

So we ventured out to the lake on foot (not an easy hike, because the lake was distant and the wind was high and scoured us constantly with dust). We were met by Tibetan women bringing their children to see Westerners. (I scared the children because I have blue eyes and apparently that’s not a good thing.) We saw massive stone cairns, strings of prayer flags, and wonderful kids who showed off by riding yaks to guard their herds and, in the distance, blue Qinghai Lake. I ended up going back to our room alone and was just washing the dust out of my pores when someone pounded on the door.

Soldiers.

They barged in on me as I stood there dripping. I was shocked, to say the least, and my first reaction was to shoo them right out of the room again and bar the door. It worked. I stood there, heart pounding. Through the door I heard them whispering and laughing. And they went away.

Which proved to me, that if I could deal with the Chinese Army, I could deal with most anything – including anything that dares get in the way of my writing.

Big Cats and Small – Nurturing what we have

Big Cats and Small – Nurturing what we have

 

Male lion, Serengeti (1994) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Male lion, Serengeti (1994) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

I’m trying to write this blog with a 16 pound cat yelling in my ear and grabbing my sleeve in his teeth to get my attention. He’s an insistent, not-so-little guy who knows when he needs me and I don’t know anyone who can completely ignore him. Frankly, some people wonder how I put up with his delinquency and I know that Bengal cats are frequently turned in to the SPCA for exactly the types of behavior Ben exhibits, but Ben is just asking for what he needs – in this case a few minutes of my time for pats and belly rubs. I can react to it either by ignoring him or doing what I signed on for when I adopted him – nurturing him just as he meets my need for company.

Sometimes, when I’m extremely busy or in the heat of writing, my first inclination is to ignore him—as much as you can ignore a 16 lb cat gnawing on your sleeve – but lately I’ve come to accept this is part of having this wonderful companion and that the best I can do is nurture him, just as I need to nurture myself as a writer.

For me, nurturing does not come natural. I once described myself as having been AWOL when they handed out the Florence Nightingale gene. I’m regimented in my life and always seem to put the hard work first, before I get to the things that nurture my soul, and giving cats attention. Thus, at this moment, I’m so swamped it feels like having a life just comes second. Of course, my life is what I’m using up while I’m consumed with work. Somehow I forget to take care of the little things – like spending five minutes of play with each of my cats. So little and yet it has such wonderful pay-off. There is just nothing like thick fur and a purring, ecstatic kitty-face to make me smile and relax from the rat race.

So as writers we need to give ourselves time off. We need to do things like stop to listen to the first birds of spring, read good books and go for walks alone or with friends, or just have a bubble bath – whatever makes you feel whole again. Nurturing yourself as a writer also means giving yourself a chance to celebrate what you have. The skills you’ve gained as a writer, and the determination to keep writing – or the fact that you’ve started or finished a short story, a novel, whatever you’ve written—should be celebrated. Writers shouldn’t let defeat and negativity make them blind to those assets and accomplishments.

This is a lot like recognizing the wonderfulness of the two little demons I cohabit with. They forgive me when I ignore them and are so thrilled when I pay attention.

There is something wonderful about cats, whether a placid housecat or the great wild cats. They both have something mystical about them. Or maybe it’s mythic, except there is such an element of the clown in most cats. I’ve never seen a tiger in the wild, and I likely never will given the decline of their population. But I have been fortunate enough to see a mother cheetah teach her youngsters to hunt and have watched their playful lounging after they gorged. I’ve seen elusive leopards hang limp in a tree after gorging on a gazelle that must have outweighed them. And I’ve seen lions – prides of them – sprawled on a sunny kopje in the Serengeti, and playing silly games in the game parks of Botswana. I remember one young female who thought it was fun to push over a small tree. Every time she did, it smacked another lioness in the face, and I swear the youngster knew exactly what she was doing. A lot like Ben knows what he’s doing when he takes a swipe at one of my pictures and sends it sliding.

Yup. Got my attention, little man.

I read a sad article in the Vancouver Sun newspaper the other day. It was about African lions and how they may disappear from the wild within 10 years. Their numbers have fallen from about 150,000 in the wild ten years ago to about 20,000 total today. IN ALL OF AFRICA. The article went on to say that once the numbers of a species fall below a certain level the race to extinction accelerates. I was so shaken by the article I couldn’t even read it all the way to the end in one sitting. A world with no lions? I couldn’t imagine it; or I could, and it broke my heart.

The article went on to talk about how a few National Geographic researchers and the Botswana government are working to try to bring them back in that country. Nurturing. And it made me realize that lack of nurturing is a huge problem in our world. From our children, to the oceans, to the jungles, to other cultures, to ourselves, to my cats – we are failing our world because, at least in the west, we’ve become far too focused on work and our own personal challenge to just get through it, to the point where we don’t appreciate the gifts around us.

I feel so fortunate to have heard the grunt-grumble roar of a lion and to have seen the magnificent sprint of cheetahs. To have smelled the dusty cat-scent of a lion as it nosed the side of the jeep I was in, and to have looked into its amber eyes. There was something there: intelligence, but different than a person’s. Something wild and foolish and wonderful that I see mimicked in Ben and Shiva’s gaze. And we’re at risk of losing the great cats unless we take the time to nurture the other inhabitants of this world.

So I’m going to step away from my desk and write a check to the National Geographic Society. I’m going to find out what I can do locally to help the environment.

But before that, I’m going to go pat my cats.

Ben
Ben (2009) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
For the Writer: Travel Open

For the Writer: Travel Open

 

Dawn at Holy Amristar's Golden Temple (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Dawn at Holy Amristar's Golden Temple (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Reviewing my travel journals for excerpts in this site reminded me of facts I had long ago forgotten. Like the fact that Moroccans have a unique way of holding their hands when clapping, or the way my Mauritanian guide, Akbar, poured his mint tea by holding his red teapot at least three feet above the small juice glasses we drank from, or the way the Rajasthani women regarded my small gold earrings as symbols of an ancient royal family. Alone, these aren’t particularly earth-shattering bits of information, but in a story they provide unique bits of authenticity about a country that help establish a place for others.

To me these are the small bits of place – I call them the gifts – you can only gain by travelling. So how do you go about gaining these insights?

My basic philosophy is to travel open.

This speaks to being willing to be where you are:

1. Coming from our fast-paced culture it can be easy to set a schedule that keeps you moving on to new places all the time, rather than taking the time to get to know a place. When I traveled in India, for the first month I hired a car and driver to help get me to all the spread out places I wanted to go. They expected me to spend a day in each location. Instead I spent the time traveling around the state of Rajasthan, and only that, when the company I had hired the driver from had advised that the one-month period allowed most tourists to visit Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and one other state.

But the way I traveled I was able to spend two evenings as the sun went down, with a hotel owner and his friends as they played evening ragas (songs to the time of the day) on sitar and tabla on the rooftop terrace overlooking the lake of Udaipur. I was able to meet an Indian woman in an old fortress town and be invited home for dinner with her family. I was able to sit beside the pool at the golden temple of Amritsar and chat with young Punjabi women. On other trips I was able to stay an extra day and walk the long, pristine beaches of Zanzibar. Or decide at the last moment NOT to go to Beijing, but to return to the Tibetan highlands of Lamusa instead.

2. Traveling open also means not being consumed with your own needs all the time, and not being afraid. Some of the ugliest travelers I’ve seen are the people who won’t take the time to adhere to local customs. Like the tourists who won’t remove their shoes at a temple door. Or the tourist who complains vociferously about the native food not being like it is at home. Note to tourist: YOU ARE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, HERE!

I once had a lovely Indian guesthouse hostess practically cry with pleasure when I said I would love to eat whatever her family was having. I was invited for dinner every night and had some of the best food I ate in India. She even took me into her kitchen and showed me her spices. As a result of being open to things like this I’ve been invited into Tibetan tents, and taught how to make chapti. I’ve sipped tea with retired Ministers of Culture who were trying to preserve their country’s ancient arts, and I’ve had a man in an empty Cairo street turn and give me flowers in welcome when my first inclination was to be afraid. All of this when I rarely spoke the language.

Rajastani kitchen (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson
Rajastani kitchen (2000) Photo (c) Karen Abrahamson

Traveling open means being willing to put aside your own schedule to take advantage of the many gifts along the way. Like the young woman at Burma’s Schwedigon Pagoda who told me her sad life tale that inspired a short story of mine.

Most of all, traveling open means traveling with a smile. That, and a writing notebook or computer, are the most important things you can pack when you travel. One gets you the memories and one helps you keep them. These are the gifts that fuel my writing.

Recent Fantasy

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Recent Mystery

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Available HERE,
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Available HERE,
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Recent Romance


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