Sunday, December 22, 2019

Preparing for Christmas and for the new year


So, I am not yet sure but this might be the last bog until next year.
As the end of the year approaches, it is time to think about celebrating Christmas with the family and dear ones. This is the best chance to recall all the blessings we have received this year, the achievements that made us smile and the disappointments that made us almost drop everything.
Life is made of all of these, and they represent the balance of a lifetime.
As for me, I have to say that I have been blessed with many achievements, which were interrupted by some other failures and disappointments.
There have been many times when I thought I could have just step back, because I could not take it, and the difficulties, at that time they seemed to be insurmountable.
However, it also returned to my mind that most of my achievements came after disappointments and went through failures.
So, my proposition for the next year is not to give up on the difficulties that will certainly appear on my path.
That is also what I wish to everybody: finding the way not to give up, continue, and try to improve starting from the first failure.
A bad result means only that you need to recalibrate your shot, and not that you need to quit everything.

This year I was supposed to publish three novels, but things went a bit on my way, and I could not make it on time for the third one. Nevertheless, I could take more time to review the next novel and older novels, plan the next year's marketing, goals, and consider/planning the box set for the trilogy Deadly Deception.
I have also started to check up my new website and I'm considering making some changes in the layout, which will make it easier to navigate.
I will keep you updated when it's ready.

With this in mind, and also waiting for the next travel adventures that are waiting for me next year, I am going to leave you.
I wish you all the best for this end of the year, and for a brilliant success for the next year, regardless of the goals, you will set up.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Night fell on Earth

It's nine o'clock in the morning, the sun hasn't yet risen. It's the darkest month of the year here in Finland.
Even though Helsinki is located in the south of the country, there is just a small chance to even see the sun. This because at half-past two in the afternoon the sun will start to set, giving space to a long night.

For an outsider, this might seem like something cool, but I can assure you that there is nothing cool once you start living here, and northern winter starts to be your normality.
To begin with, the simple biology that we need sunlight to live should tell you that surviving in a place where for a long period you won't see the sun, is strongly affecting your mood.
People in winter are less talkative, feel depressed, and constantly tired.
At the moment, we have five hours of light, and no snow to give any sort of joy to our souls. Nature is just dark, damp, and cold.
The sky is covered by a thick curtain of clouds, and it really doesn't make any difference whether it is completely dark or just dark grey.
 
Nevertheless, if you move to the city center, particularly now that we are reaching the Christmas period, the lights and the decorations for the incoming festivity, give a good reason to feel hopeful and improve the general mood.
We are just missing the snow...
Well, the recent years have brought a slight change in the seasonal plan of the Finns, living in Helsinki, and we are not having a decent amount of snow until the second week of January. This means that we need to clench our teeth, brace ourselves, hold onto each other for another month before having two main important things: more light, and more snow.

One important happening, people still follow, is the crowning of Lucy.
One week before the winter solstice, in Finland, there one event historically tied to Swedish culture: the day of St. Lucy. 
St. Lucy is celebrated as a “beacon of brightness” in the darkest time of the year. The first records of St. Lucy's celebrations in Finland are from 1898, and the first large celebrations came in 1930, a couple of years after its popularization in Sweden. Every year, in the Helsinki Cathedral, a girl is going to be crowned.
She bears a crown of candles to fight the darkness, and will walk as a bearer of the light for the streets of Helsinki:
 
She comes to remind us that within one week the days will start once again to get longer, and this means walking toward the spring. You might consider this a bit funny, but in this period, every second added to the length of the day is a great step toward the season when the sun will shine for most of the time.
With my heart full of hope, but still tired as hell, and slightly moody, I wish you all a fantastic weekend!



Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's a magical world!

Today I am going to tell you about one of my passions besides writing: photography.
I believe there is a very close connection between all forms of art. In my case, the three things that go hand in hand are writing, traveling, and photography.
How do they relate to each other? Well, writing needs inspiration right? What better inspiration than visiting new places, experiencing cultures, meeting people, reading other countries' newspapers.
Photography offers inspiration. This one helps me to think outside the box, see the world from different perspectives, and clear my mind whenever I feel stuck with a page or chapter.
Here, the weather started to be quite unstable. It began with a chilling period, when we had the first snow, to the time we are now with temperatures that raised far above the seasonal average.
Despite this, during this winter, I was lucky enough to have a camera with me right when I needed it and could get some interesting shots that helped me going through the last few weeks.
Due to stress at work, I couldn't proceed with my writing, so I just got out and took a walk in the forest.
What I found was really stunning, and I spent most of the time taking shots of those crystals. 

The perfect harmony between the white of the snow, ice, and the blue of the sky (believe me, it's quite rare) was extremely inspiring. I could have spent the whole day there.

 And that was exactly what I did. Not caring about the temperature, I stayed the whole day out, to take pictures, and admire the sceneries.
I also got the chance to take a shot of a hawk, who was taking a rest on a tree, checking the food situation on his territory.
Undeniably, days and walks like this give a lot of inspiration, besides offering the chance to unwind from the stress of everyday life. 
With those images, I greet you for this weekend and wish you a great day.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

To err is human


Oh well. I guess I am not the only one who has passed through this step. I still consider myself a beginner in the publishing industry, and this kind of mistake is easy to make.
What I am talking about is the re-issuing of the second book I have ever published, "The Ghosts of Morgan Street."
In the beginning, I gave the editing work to someone who had great feedback about her turnaround times and quality of work. Particularly the latter impressed me, so without even caring about the price, I chose her.
Now, and only now, I start to reconsider that the job was not done correctly. Particularly after having found a new editor who did a fantastic job with Aquila et Noctua, I decided to give her the task to re-edit the work.
Better later than never.
Anyway, I am considering to go through all the other books, including the trilogy, and see how can I improve them.
Of course, there couldn't be any re-edition without dressing the book for the party with a brand new cover. That was perhaps another problem that could have resulted in poor sales. Using the blessed time of being alone for the whole week in the house, I put myself to work. Then, with the help with the best purchase ever, a drawing tablet, I started to combine, cut, draw, and color, until I could reach a satisfying result.
Of course, you would like to see it, and here it is:

It is nothing fancy; actually, I kept it as simple as possible, making it more compliant with the standard for the genre, psychological thriller.
Any feedback is welcome.
The re-release will come in the following week, so it's a good time to stay tuned and hope for the best.
So another thing I have been learning is the importance of not just choosing a good editor, but the one that can work with the kind of issue that most likely is affecting your writing.
For example, my problem is not being a native speaker and finding a person who is qualified for editing works of people who have English as a second language, is critical.
Every writer has a particular issue, whether it is a problem of plot holes, stilted dialogues, or anything else, finding the right editor is crucial.
Of course, this means also going through a list of wrong editors. So far, I changed four editors before finding the right one. Therefore, if you are in the same situation as I am now, and are wondering whether your editor is the right one, I suggest following more closely what the readers say and how do they react to everything you are publishing. They are, at least from my point of view, the best channel to understand whether what you are doing is right.
That said, I wish you all a great weekend and see you next week.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Who is a writer?

But most of all, what makes a person a writer?

I have stumbled several times on posts of people claiming that only those people who completed a degree in literature should bother to think about being a writer.
Now, I think this is a gross understatement about what makes a person who writes, a writer. It is a combination of passion and ability to tell a story. 

The latter is, for me, the most critical part of the whole process. A piece of paper will not necessarily make a storyteller. 

Moreover, I would also like to point out two of my favorite writers Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie. The first studied journalism, which has nothing to do with a literature degree, yet he had a fantastic capability to keep me nailed to his stories.

Agatha Christie instead was mainly homeschooled by her mother, who encouraged her to write, and there is no record on literature degrees of whatsoever. Yet, undoubtedly, she is one of the most talented and acclaimed writers.

Personally, I could go on and cite many other famous and talented authors who never frequented any literary school. Yet, there are still people around thinking that the only ones who should be allowed to publish, belong to this group of the literary elite.

By no means, I consider myself even worthy of being named together with those great authors. Nevertheless, just like many others who feel the same, I write for one simple reason: I have something to tell. There are stories in my heart that need to be written. Also, this is something that makes me happy and helps me to discharge the stress. Not to mention that some people out there enjoy reading my novels, so why my education should make a difference.

Since I began this new adventure as a writer, I have been meeting many authors. I don't recall having heard them coming from the literature background. I have enjoyed their production and admired their capability not just to tell a story but to engage me so much to make me forget about everything else. Those authors, just like the big names of literature, brought me to place I have never been. They showed me how important is storytelling capability when it is coupled with a genuine passion for what they are doing.

As for me, I do not much care about what people say about what am I supposed to be or what I should never do. I truly hope nobody ever in this world will listen to the opinion of a complete stranger telling about their passion. 

If the most brilliant minds of our history had listened to what they were supposed dor not to do according to somebody else, we would have never had any of the discoveries that brought humankind to the level of development we have reached.

Therefore, follow your passion, follow your heart, and be happy.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Some resources for writers - part two

So last time, I gave a couple of hints about some resources that can help you have results with AMS. Those were, of course, based on my experience, and I am, by no means, an expert. Nevertheless, I got good help from them, and I hope they will provide the same service to you.
Now, for what concerns producing an audiobook.
I am one of the few unlucky fellows who are not eligible for ACX, the program of Amazon that gives you the chance to produce audiobooks without paying upfront the narrator and opt instead for shared royalties.
This is undoubtedly the best deal you can have at least for the beginning when you cannot afford to pay the average cost of the narrator, which is on the range of 2000 USD (!)
I have searched everywhere for a chance to get it for a reasonable price, and the best option offered was to produce it by myself, being me the narrator. Now, it is not that I want to doubt my reading capabilities. Still, there is a significant difference between me, reading my book, and a professional narrator, who knows how to use his/her voice to give life to the characters.
Nevertheless, I found a way to find a narrator who will agree to produce my book outside ACX for a shared royalty.
One thing you could do is to go directly to the ACX directory, where all the authors are listed (https://www.acx.com/ss?keywords=&sortBy=&pageIndex=1&) and search for the information of the various narrators listed there.
Some of them have listed their own website with the contact information. Also, they mention whether they are available for a hybrid share, a full share, or upfront payment.
This means that the narrator is also working with other platforms and can not only come to an agreement with you outside ACX but also suggest different distribution options.
My novels are quite voluminous, and an upfront payment would result in a minimum of 3000 USD. This is entirely out of my present and near future budget, so contacting them might be the way people like me, who can't access ACX, to have access to audibles.
Looking around, I have also found out this resource:
https://blog.findawayvoices.com/announcing-voices-share-a-better-royalty-share-option/
They offer a hybrid option, which is a 50% payment for the final product and 60% in royalties. They also provide a wider distribution than ACX, so your title won't be restricted to their own site but to the widest distribution possible
, increasing the chances of the sale.
I am still looking around, and see which is the best option to get started with the production of an audible version of my books.
One very interesting and informative blog I have found out during my search is the following site: https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/self-publish-audiobook-production-and-distribution/
Here there are listed several options besides ACX.
I hope this is going to be useful to you as much as it was enlightening to me.
I will consider all the possibilities and see which one will be the chosen one.
That said, I wish you all a great weekend and see you next week for another blog.





Saturday, November 9, 2019

Some resources for writers

So I have been for a while not just in my writing cave, avoiding all human contacts, except my workmates. Yet, I wasn't only writing, I was trying to find some good and viable way to use advertisements, and if you are a writer looking for some cool resources, just follow me here.
The first thing I have noticed is that Amazon ads have been changing, and there is not just the general .com site where to advertise. When you go to the AMS page, you will find that you can choose the marketplace, and depending on where you live, you are given a couple of more choices to choose from. This is, from my point of view, good news, because it offers the chance to target better your audience depending on where they live.
Once again, this means that you need to do demographic research when you think about the keywords to target your audience. The other good news is that as the general amazon.com seems not to give good results with titles, which have less than 10 reviews, this might not be true for other marketplaces.
Meaning that if amazon.com is restricted because you don't have so many reviews, you might want to check other marketplaces.
Many of us found it struggling when it comes to the keywords, and "publisher rocket" (https://publisherrocket.com/) is indeed the best tool you want to have if you mean seriously to start the road of AMS ads.
The point is that you would like maybe first try it, and unfortunately, nowadays there aren't trial versions anymore. You get instead a 30-day money-back guaranteed. But what if during those thirty days something happens and you cannot even get to try it? Well, you keep the software, and if you are not satisfied, there is nothing much you can do.
One alternative is offered for free by Sonar. (http://sonar-tool.com/us/)
Sonar is a free tool to search for keywords on different marketplaces. It doesn't have all the features of publisher rocket, but it is a way to start and get your hands on the ads with a free tool to understand how keywords are working and how they can be useful for the marketing of your book. The key is trying with as many ads as possible, starting with a low daily limit of 5 $.
I have had 25 ads (and I still have them because I am still on the trial phase) with the daily limit of 5$.
The average monthly expense for the whole was barely reaching the 15$, but it gave interesting results.
No, I haven't become famous yet LOL
Mainly I am starting to see which might be the right keywords to be used, so to be ready to purchase the publisher rocket tool.
Another important thing is how to get your book to the right category. If you nail the right one, you can easily be an Amazon top seller for a long period, not restricted to a time of big sales. This is because customers are looking more into detail the categories they are interested in, and being in the right one makes you more visible, discoverable, hence purchased. Being in the right category means also having fewer competitors.
To understand better the categories and their importance, I suggest you read this article:
https://www.kindleranker.com/articles/kindle-categories-in-historical-fiction/
and use https://www.kindleranker.com/ at your advantage.
Kindle ranker gives you the chance to make two searches for free per day. Although you can use the 0.99$ option to have a 15-category search for 24 hours. Or, if you have a large volume of products, you can take advantage of the subscriptions offered. At the moment I am OK with the two free searches a day. I don't have so many products yet.
Anyway, whatever you do, it is important to follow the ads constantly, not perhaps daily, but twice a week to see what you need to change and try something new.
One thing I personally do not recommend is letting someone else taking care of managing your ads. Although this might sound like a great idea, you need to be the one who checks the ads and calibrate them. You are the one who knows the book better. So if you really want some help, better to follow some courses, but have full control over your actions/books.
I am also looking for producing audiobooks for my novels, and if you don't have access to ACX, like me, I might have found a solution for that too. Follow me also on the next week's blog to find out more.
Meanwhile, I hope this information was useful for you.
Have a great weekend!



Saturday, November 2, 2019

As we get into the cold season.

So, what's next?
As we entered the month of October, every business in town started to theme the windows and shops with Halloween themed decoration. Also, those countries where Halloween is not celebrated and means another day on the calendar weren't missing this big chance to get some extra sale. After all, every excuse is good to sell one additional item, isn't it?
And now that we are already past the day, and we should just give more time to think about our daily life, returning to what is like without the expectation of another holiday, we seem to enter the new phase, the Christmas, interrupted by Thanksgiving day.
For Businesses, this is the most hectic time of the year because never like between October and January, they have to change their advertisement targeting.
Authors are not different, and meanwhile, we are writing our next masterpiece, we are dressing our covers and banners with themes, from the spooky to the festive, from the Christmasy to the New Year.
It's a big load of a job to get the right creatives to get something enticing and new to get a piece of the Holiday shopper's attention.

I make no difference, and as a matter of fact, I am going to do my best to finish my next novel, which seems to get longer and longer as it goes on. My longest book was my debut novel with 143k words, but I am afraid that, in this case, I will have to go over that limit.
At the same time, I am also looking around for new ideas on the creative side for promotions and banners.

Going on this way, I am afraid I am missing my favorite activity, which is observing nature and its changes during this season.
This fast-moving forward from one holiday to the other seems wanting us to speed up our time. Although, this would be rather the time we stop to think about the year that is about to end. Just like in every moment of our lives, we shouldn't be forced to switch from one season to the other in such a hurry.

It seems like the only thing important is not just to have fun during the holiday but to get prepared for the next one as soon as this one is approaching.

But do you know what?
This is my plan, I am going to spend the whole weekend almost freezing outside and risking to catch the flu, by taking pictures of the natural environment around me.
I am taking a break from writing and just spend my time outside, far from the city, far from the businesses, and far from civilization.

I am going to enjoy the calm and the natural routine of a quiet life, without stressing and hurries.
How are you going to spend your weekend?
Whatever you do, make it special!

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Berlin wall: 30 years anniversary

This post comes a little later than usual, but I have a good reason for it. Friday and Saturday, I was in Germany with my work colleagues, and there hadn't been any chance for me to write my weekly post. Nevertheless, this trip gave me the perfect topic for this weekly post.
In 1989, I was a sixteen years old teenager, and couldn't travel to Germany when finally the Berlin wall, which divided the city of Berlin into two parts, fell. This started the process that brought the following year to the reunification of Germany.
Since 1949, Germany had become two separated countries; the Federal Republic of Germany, run by the allies (France, UK, and the USA) and the German Democratic Republic, run by the Soviet Union.
The city of Berlin was within the territory of East Germany. Yet, it was divided and shared between the allies and the Soviet Union.
In August 1961, the East German communists were given the go-ahead by Moscow to close the border and build a physical barrier: The Berlin wall.
It was constructed initially as a barbed-wire fence overnight, to contrast the immigration of young and educated citizens to the west.
Although it has passed three decades since the reunification of Germany, there are still significant cultural differences between the people living in West and East Germany.
Those differences in lifestyle, wealth, political beliefs, and other matters remain. It is still common to hear people talking about eastern and western Germany as if they ere still two different countries.
Here, Germany and Europe were divided until 10 December 1989 at 10:15 am
Nowadays, Berlin, despite the differences between the two sides of the city, is one of the most fascinating cities for its impressive architecture, the cultural heritage, the museums, and history.
Besides the must-see historical places, like the remnants of the wall, of the checkpoint Charlie, and the Brandenburg Tor...




 
it offers one of the most intriguing and eye-catching architectural design that make this city beautiful and unique.
A city that made of its internal diversity its strength and point of attraction, and where the past of classical architecture meets the audacity of the present days.
It's a city that certainly is able to impress for the ability of their architects to find interesting solutions that can use shapes and materials to create a harmony of forms and reflections.

As usual, I wished I had more time to explore the city and its beauties, but it was enough to have a taste of it and pinpoint a place where I will surely return one day.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

It's birthday week


It has been three years since the day when, for the first time in my life, I have pressed the 'publish' button on what it was back in the days CreateSpace of Amazon.
It was for my novel "A Tale of a Rough Diamond."
For this milestone and birthday, I have set up a deal, and from the rest of the month, my debut novel is going to be priced 0.99 $ ONLY ON KOBO!:
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-tale-of-a-rough-diamond

The reason why I hadn't put the sale on Amazon is that the book is not inserted in Kindle Unlimited, so I cannot set a limited time deal.

If you haven't had the chance to read it, I am going to explain the reason why you should not miss this deal.
About the story:
At first, it is a tale of a dysfunctional wealthy family. From the outside, everything seems as perfect as in a fairy tale, and even for the main character, Stephan, who finds himself dealing with a careless mother and a jealous brother, things seem to go almost fine, until all hell breaks loose, and due to his restless nature, he will find himself framed in a crime and going to jail .
Everything seems lost, and Stephan will have to fight not only for his own life but for the justice he deserves.
It is a tale of deception, and indeed not everything or anyone is the one it seems to be.
Every character has his/her own purpose, and whether from the outside, they might seem to act in a despicable way; for some of them, it is a mean to cope with unspeakable traumas.
It is a tale that gives the chance to look deeper into the soul of people before judging them.

If you want to know more, here are a couple of excerpts featuring the hero and the villain:

The Villain:
Roger looked at his hands. They were shaking – that nervous shake he’d learned to recognize and deal with a long time ago. His head felt as if it were going to explode, so strong was the pain he felt.
He reached for the cabinet, where he kept the first-aid kit and took a couple of analgesic pills. He knew they wouldn’t really help, but he took them anyway.
He was expecting two guests, both very important. The first one didn’t worry him at all, as he knew he could easily be dealt with.
The second one, however, was on a totally different level. The success or failure of all he had built so far was at stake – his firm, his career, his wealth, and his own life. That was the reason for the restless state of his mind, that made his hands shake and his head ache.
He looked anxiously at the clock. There was still time, but it seemed as his heart had a different perception of time, and it started to race in his chest. He took a couple of deep breaths and went to sit in the armchair behind his desk.

He made himself comfortable, sinking into the soft leather, and closed his eyes to regain some calm. He thought about what the deal of the game was, and how the success of both the meetings was to be achieved. Success was not an option.

The Hero:
Stephan waited in the darkness, feeling nervous and excited at the same time. Every time he was at that exact spot, waiting for the car of Reece stopping by or for Jonas to whistle him about his arrival, he felt the adrenaline rush, foretasting another adventure with his mates.
A couple of whistles, and he understood his friend arrived, just in time, before that restlessness on the background of his turmoil, would have overwhelmed the excitement and he would have ran away, scared like a child.
“It was about time, where is Reece?” asked Stephan.
“He is waiting in the car a couple of blocks away from here, there was a cop car parked there,” he said, pointing the entrance of a shop.
Jonas walked fast and barely exchanged a single word with him, like he generally used to do.
Stephan didn’t say anything either, but his behavior made him more nervous than he already was.
“Come on guys, we don’t have the whole night,” said Reece impatiently.
“What’s the matter with you tonight, it seems like we’re going to rob the Central Bank in the middle of the day,” said Stephan.
“Shut the fuck up, kid. We are not going to a party,” hissed Reece as he drove as fast as he could to their target.
Stephan could tell, when Reece had been drinking, and knew that he could become quite dangerous; therefore he sat down on the backseat of the car and remained silent as Reece ordered.
As they arrived in front of their target, Reece remained still for a moment, like he was hesitating and was almost ready to give up everything. “Fuck that!” he mumbled.
“Come on let’s go!” Reece added as he got out of the car.
“OK, kiddo, do your trick,” Jonas whispered.
It was a matter of a couple of minutes and the door opened, then a few seconds, and the alarm was put to sleep.
“Jeeha!!” Jonas exulted as they all got inside the house.

The small group of friends dispersed to the different rooms of the house, looking for something to rob that could give them some small wealth.

I hope you will give it a chance, and that you will give me your impressions/feedbacks about it.
If I grabbed your attention, and you want to know more about me and future deals, you might want to consider joining my Newsletter.
I do send news, fun facts, bonus material, and exclusive deals, to my subscribers once a month, and whenever something new happens, like when I am delivering ARCs, for example.
Here is the link to join:
http://eepurl.com/dny4RL

That will be all, and as usual, I wish you a great weekend.

Paula



Saturday, October 12, 2019

Fall has arrived, what does it mean?

Well, if we think about Fall in the general idea of the term, it just means the start of a very depressing season, which is winter.
Yet, there is more, and there are as many meanings as there are human beings on this planet. We all have different feelings towards it.
For some people, it means the starting of the spring with blooming colors, the green of the grass, and flowers.
For others, it means getting cozy in front of a fireplace, or wrapped into a warm blanket on the couch reading a book, or watching the snow falling.
What I mean with different meanings, is the memories we carry inside our souls, those that give a real feeling when we simply spell the word fall.
I have had the chance to live the Fall season in three different wonderful countries. Italy, Germany, and Finland. I have been visiting many places, but those meant for me the everyday life for a specified period. Italy for 28 years, Germany for 4 years and Finland for 15 years.
Each place gave me different feelings, and all of them, I am treasuring in my heart.
Italy has the taste of my childhood. Of the times before the Internet, mobile phones, computers. Most of them convey to one single place, or to be precise to one single item, the iron cast wood burning stove of my grandmother.
Every fall, we would have gathered the whole family to help my grandmother to store the wood she ordered to be delivered at home. The truck arrived and unloaded the pile of chopped wood in front of her house. There, we would have spent one whole day to bring them in the wood storage that was on the entrance of her home, a large room placed at the entrance divided from the rest of the house. Since she didn't have any other heating system in her house other than two iron cast stove and another wood burning heater.


That meant a huge amount of chopped wood to be stored for the winter.
Another tradition was roasting the chestnuts on that stove, and that was something that still brings me a broad smile on my face. Our family, when still my grandmother was alive, was almost always gathered in her house.
The years I have spent in Germany meant the starting for the preparation for the Christmas market. Some cities have their traditional Christmas market already in November. Therefore, October was a time when we started thinking about where to go for the Christmas Market.

At that time, I was studying at university. That meant that December I would have spent the time back at home in Italy, and we wouldn't have the time to visit them all, or at least not together.
In Europe, we do not celebrate Halloween. We do have the celebration for all saint's day. This means going to visit the graveyards, (although this is something we do regularly, for that day we bring special flowers and candle lights). Some people go to church in honor of the dead people, but that would be all the celebrations. Some fairs are organized last for the two-three weeks between October and November, but nothing spook-related.
Since I started to live in Finland, Fall means mostly the amazingly beautiful colors with which nature gives a good night, before being immersed in the long darkness of the winter. People get together in the cafeterias waiting for the snow, which gives the impression of more light to shine in our lives.

Finland, like most of the other Nordic countries, waits for winter, only for one reason, winter sports, which includes a lot of snow, hot chocolates, crowded cinemas, getting together with the family, and wait for the Spring.
One day, I hope I will be able to experience my everyday life in the southern hemisphere. There, I will get used to waiting for the Summer in October and for the Winter in June... How crazy that might sound!
I wish you a great weekend and a spooktacular Fall.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Something I have learned.


I know that this is not the end of the year, and we are a bit in advance for the New Year's resolution, let alone consideration about this year.
The fact is that October 2019 marks the anniversary of my career as an author.
In October 2016, just three years ago, at this precise moment, I was finalizing the preparations for publishing my debut novel.

I was quite excited about it, and I considered one of the biggest leaps in my life.
Indeed, there have been many leaps I had done. From the day I decided to leave my country to study abroad, to the time when I moved away to another country, following the promise of a job. Then, to the decision that it was perhaps about the time when I published my novel too.

Little I knew at that time about the things I needed to take into account, and it was not just the question of putting something on the internet. It was a question of building my brand, growing my name, and being part of a growing community of writers, whether seasoned or newbies like myself.

I have found an incredible and supportive community ready to give all sorts of advice to bring my novel to the eyes of the readers.

I had many doubts, and some I still have. Something was clear to me since the beginning, I wasn't interested in having a contract with any publishing company, not big nor small. I understood since the beginning that this meant two main things: sharing a cake that might be not big enough and have no words on the creative process. 

In some cases, this would have meant also restricting my say in what and how I wanted to write.
I am a rebel by nature, and I have never accepted people telling me what to do or how to do things unless it was me asking for advice.

I have read many comments of people bashing indie-authors. They claimed that since they are not represented by any publishing houses, they are not worth the attention of a readership. For what I saw, the quality and content can be equally missing in both indie and traditionally published. (I have in mind a few examples, but I am not going to list any of them here).

One big lesson was to build a community, and I have found out that by sharing more than "buy my books," I could grow my list of followers. Those might or might not buy my books, but the more they are, the more I get visibility.

Hence, social media is not really a place where I sell something, but it is a place where I build something, namely connections and brand.

The biggest lesson, anyway, arrived this year after a series of lectures about different kinds of ads. I have tried AMS and BookBub ads, and although I still have a lot to learn, I got results.

I started to study, really taking time to go through all the material I have accumulated and classified 'for later review.'

Well, I guess this is the time when I finally start to review the accumulated material. That is something else I have learned, which is trying not to procrastinate excessively. Nowadays, life is hectic, and we have thousands of things to think about and to do. Nevertheless, I want to try and find the time for my growth as an indie author.

It might take time, but determination can perform miracles.

Will I be able to honor my propositions?
We will see, and I will keep updated. I will also update any progress, whether this could help someone in the same situation.

For now, I just wish you all a great weekend, and stay tuned for next week's blog!

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Doha, you can't even imagine it.

So, here, we were ready to board once again to return back home after our journey. We could not leave Nigeria without anything that made me wonder.
We just passed the check-in and passport control when we reached the gate. However, there we had to go through another security check before entering the plane, which sometimes happens when the flight company does not trust the local screening completely.
I arrived at the counter, and the woman there started to open my carry-on baggage for prohibited items. Everything followed the routine when suddenly she glanced at me: "Do you have anything for me?"
In the beginning, I wasn't sure what she meant, or whether she was just joking, so I just replied that I didn't have anything.
She looked a bit disappointed and seriously: "aren't you, my friend?"
At that point I just thought you gotta be kidding me, bribing at the safety check at the airport? Really?
"No, I am not your friend," I replied firmly.
She checked thoroughly and sent me to the body scan, "well you can scan whatever you want, I am not going to get robbed this way."
Of course, this didn't cause anything more than just a delay to my boarding, but the least I can accept in this world is people trying to rob me.
This was just a little incident and didn't really mean any trouble. Yet it raised a few considerations about what is considered legit and what it is not from the personnel at the airport.

So here we were leaving Nigeria to reach our first stop of seven hours in Doha. The flight went smoothly, and at five o'clock in the morning, we reached the International airport in Doha.
Now the first impression:
You certainly are familiar with the heatwave that hits you when you open the oven to check on your food. The same heatwave hit us as we stepped out the plane. The engine was off, so it wasn't because of it. It was like entering a giant oven at 240 Celsius, barely breathable humid and hot.
I thought I knew about the heat after having experienced the Afar desert in Ethiopia... No, this was more... In Ethiopia at least it wasn't that humid, although the temperatures were much higher than in Doha (around 50 Celsius).
It was only five o'clock in the morning, and the temperatures reached already 30 Celsius!!
We reached the well air-conditioned inside the terminal with our great relief.
The first idea was that perhaps we could have had a tour of the city, but thinking twice we could also take a hotel room, have a shower, a good meal and maybe a tour of the city, before returning to the airport.
That was the best idea possible, and we had a hotel arranged within a couple of minutes. The efficiency of the country reflects on the way the general organization of the services.

Now I need to make a small introduction to Qatar. This little State of about 11.000 square kilometers is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The funny thing is that 88% of the population are expats working there, the rest 12% is Qatari.
I cannot figure out yet a good reason to move and live in such an over, where, going for a walk is totally restricted to the night or early morning.
We tried to have a walk, and our stubbornness found an empty city, where only cars were moving around.




If you have followed the Olympics that is now going on in Doha, you might have heard horrifying stories about the heat, well, let me tell you, they are not exaggerating at all. That place is not fit for humans. Just like the Sahara desert, it is made for very specialized animals.
At least THIS human doesn't consider it as a place for herself. Although I crave the summer and the hot, there is a limit to it. My limit has been abundantly tested in Doha.
So glad to have returned home, where I am free to go wherever I want without fear of dying dehydrated LOL
I wish you, as usual, a great weekend. If you live in similar desertic countries, believe me, you have all my respect and sympathy.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Back to Nigeria

At this point, we were almost at the end of the journey, that brought us to travel by road through four different countries in West Africa.
It was again the time to discover something new, meet new people and getting in touch with heritages far from ours.
Traveling by road can be in some cases tiring, exhausting, and depending on the countries, dangerous, like crossing the border from Nigeria to Benin. Nevertheless, it gives the chance to see more and stop at different places that would be otherwise left unseen.
This time, we returned from Ghana to Nigeria by plane, and with a journey of about one hour, we finally were back to our starting point.
One thing that I wanted absolutely to see was the Lekki Conservation Park, for two main reasons. The first was to observe the local wildlife, and the second to experience the longest canopy walk in all Africa.
I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything in the world.
Yet we arrived in the late afternoon and our driver, who was supposed to bring us from the airport to the hotel, got lost several times.
We were wondering whether he knew where the hotel was, or whether the hotel was really existing.
He stopped about every twenty minutes, asking for directions.
Eventually, after three hours we were able to reach our hotel. It was already dark, so the best thing was looking for a restaurant and call that day off.
The morning after, we already knew it would have been a long day. Our flight was supposed to leave at 18:00, so we should have left the hotel at 15:30. Having eight hours at our availability was reasonable enough for a visit to the park.
The most frustrating experience was dealing with the staff of the hotel.
We chose that particular hotel because it was also recommended by trip advisor and, since our schedule was quite tight, we trusted that they could have helped us in arranging the trip. Nothing more wrong than that.
We reached the reception at about half past seven in the morning, asking the easiest route to reach the Lekki Conservation Park.
The receptionists glanced at us like we asked to have a guided tour to Mars. They had no idea what we were talking about, despite being a highly touristic place.
We showed them the place on the map, and they asked us to wait there as they were calling a taxi for us.
After about one hour, I went there:
"Did you called the taxi? we are a bit in a hurry as we need to leave here at 15:30 to the airport."
The receptionist, who asked us to wait as she called a taxi, replied.
"No, I haven't."
I wanted to explode, but instead, we left the hotel looking for a taxi on our own.
Here the old saying: if you want something done, do it yourself.
We were lucky enough to find a taxi driver who knew exactly what he was doing. He was a young man working for the army and at the same time earning some extra money, driving a taxi.
We reached the Park, paid the fee, and started the guided tour to the canopy walk:
The Center has been covered with wooden pathways that allow an easy walk around the swampy areas:

Monkeys seemed to be curious about us, and we loved them!



And finally, the canopy walk!



We had only one hour to be there, and as soon as we finished the walk, we asked the guide how much time it would have taken to return to the starting point.
"Oh, we are now going to the family park, and there we will chill out for a while..."
"No, no chillout!" I said with a smile, "Sorry but we need to reach the airport in about one hour, so we don't have time, just tell us the route to reach the center, and we will follow it."
The guide laughed and showed us the shortcut back and so we could reach the taxi driver who was waiting there at the entrance. 
IT was indeed a short tour, and I certainly recommend to spend more than a couple of hours in the Park. There are so many things to see and such a wonderful nature to experience that it would have been a pity to skip it totally.
With a smile on our faces, we left Africa to return back home.
However, we had also a seven hours stop in Doha, where we decided to have a look at the city. I will tell more about that experience next week.
Have a great weekend!





Saturday, September 14, 2019

Ghana, the Africa's golden child.

Africa is a rich and diverse continent, where you can find almost everything. Yet, some countries are plagued by corruption, wars, and exploitation.
My blogs are not generally aimed to advertise one or another place; I don't get money from travel agencies to sell a product. Rather, I would like to give an informative and, as accurate as possible, experience about this wonderful continent, full of marvels and contradictions.
After the days spent in Togo, it was the time to move forward with our travel plan and reach the next destination: Accra.
Ghana is well known for being a very rich country, famous for the cocoa plantations, wild honey, textiles and of course, gold.
The first impression we had about the city is that the infrastructures are more developed, which gives to the city a western image, still keeping the beautiful African identity. The beach is something you really want to indulge in, although it is quite far from the heart of the city, the place you want to visit to have a taste of Ghana's life.
When during the day, the beach is a place for great sunbath, surfing, and fun activities, during the night, the beach transforms itself and hashish and marijuana dominate over the scent of the sea.

We reached our hotel, which was located in a convenient area where also all the embassies had their sees.
Despite being also very close to the airport, we didn't get any troubles with the air traffic noise, as one might imagine. The city is very well kept and offers many interesting sights, one of which is the market in the center of the city. That is a place you need to see, as we got lost in the middle wondering where we should have gone to reach the main street. The only landmark we could find was the Sun and the knowledge that the beach was in the South-East direction. Merchants were shouting from their stands, music played all around, scents of grilled food, fish, spices filled the air. Although the place was crowded, it was one of the most interesting experience to walk around and witness the heart of the city beating with enchanting tunes.

The market doesn't have fixed boundaries, it can stretch for streets and squares and slowly its boundaries blend with the normal streets gradually fading away.
Nevertheless, the Market experience was something we kept as a one-day experience, as there were so many more places to visit and to see.
As we explored the city, we had to walk for quite long distances every day, however, we also needed sometimes to call for taxi drivers, and there you need to bargain as much as you can. The prices are not fixed, they are decided, depending on how the taxi driver feels on that day, or who is asking for a ride, (is it a woman or a man, is she/he young or old, is a foreigner or a local). That considered you might have a very expensive ride for a couple of minutes drive and a very cheap one for one hour drive. You need to bargain and be ready to have a nice walk if you think the price is getting out of control.
Another problem with taxi drivers is that they seem not to have any idea about their city. In many cases, we needed to navigate them to the places we needed to go, and I found it hilarious that we knew Accra's locations better than they did.

Walking the streets gives anyway the great chance to take nice pictures of the surrounding and of the wildlife, like the colony of fruit bats that lives happily within the city.

It is also interesting to see all the important sites like the presidential palace, which was quite close to our hotel and gave a nice view both during the day and night.

Together, of course with the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and memorial park, which is located in downtown Accra. It is dedicated to the prominent Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah. The memorial complex was dedicated in 1992
and is situated on the site of the former British colonial polo grounds in Accra.



With that, I hope you have enjoyed this short tour of Accra. I will return next week with another pearl of Nigeria, where our loop journey ended with the visit to the Conservation Park. Don't miss it!



Saturday, September 7, 2019

Togo and the Voodoo heritage

After our stay in Benin, it was finally arrived the time to reach the next destination, Togo.
This was a place where we could find most of the answer to my questions about Voodoo. Together with that, I collected some material for a novel I am planning to write.
Undoubtedly voodoo, as a religion, was born in Benin, Yet, although it is still one of the main religions practiced in the country, it seemed more widespread in Togo. Perhaps it is because people in Benin seemed reticent in talking about it, or because it has been challenging to get any contact there. Whatever the reason is, in Togo, people seemed keener to talk about it and explain to us a little bit of the religious practices.
The first thing is that Voodoo is wrongly associated with black magic or with evil forces. This is absolutely a myth that needs to be debunked. Voodoo is about healing and evoking the spirits for good purposes. Whether for healing disease, ask for the end of a long period of drought, to maintain peace inside the family, the spirits and the Gods are summoned for good practices.
Voodoo is a way of life for many people in Togo and Benin. It consists of about 100 divinities, which essence governs the Earth governing the forces of nature and human society.
The divine creator is called Mawu and is a female being. It is believed to be an elderly woman who is gentle and forgiving. She owns all the other gods.
An interesting part of this journey was the visit to the March√© des F√©ticheurs in the Akodessawa district in Lome. It is said to be the largest fetish market in the world. Perhaps just because there aren't many competitors, a visitor might find it not as big as they figured out in their mind. Nevertheless there people find all the necessary for worshipping and also ingredients for traditional medicine.
According to what they told us, the dead animals in the market were found in the forest already dead. Some others were farm animals who have been used for the sacrifice (and then eaten with the community). Considering the relatively small amount of corpses that are allowed to dry, I might also think that this is not far from the truth.
Just like I always say, when traveling to other countries, and particularly when getting in touch with different heritages and religious practices, we need to unlearn and forget from where we come from. This allows us to look at them with fresh eyes.
Asking questions to get a more in-depth insight into the cultural heritage will help to understand.
So are you ready for a full immersion into the culture of Voodoo?
Good, follow me...

This young man was a practicing priest. Not everyone can become a priest, This is something that is transmitted through the family. Therefore only the sons of the priest can become one day priests themselves.



Now to the question, that might come to your mind, "did you buy anything?" The answer is, "Yes, I did, but mostly it included wooden masks and other artifacts."

Lome has lovely beaches, which could have great potential for tourism. Yet, they are not really well kept, and most of the places seemed to be something to avoid rather than something to enjoy. 

Nevertheless, the restaurants on the beach offer a great variety of food and I have to say, absolutely delicious. I just indulged myself in their local fish specialties, and I could not get really enough. It was a real pity knowing that we needed to leave the country after a few days. I would have remained just for the food for much longer.

I hope I didn't creep you out with this cultural insight. As for me, I felt extremely inspired for the novel I've started to write.

I wish you a great weekend!





What have I learned?

 Life is made of learning steps. Every day we learn something new, either about ourselves, someone else, the world around us, a new skill, o...