Saturday, December 19, 2020

Losing the track of time

This is something that shouldn't have happened, but regularly every year, around this time, it happens. I have no time to take care of everything, and when finally I find a little fragment of time, I spend it idling, recharging my brain.

I allowed a couple of weeks to pass by without having written anything on my weekly blog. Not that I didn't have anything to write about; on the contrary, many things happened, and I could have written even four blogs. The point was just the need to recharge and find some time also for me.

Likewise, every year, my job, which didn't know any lockdown or pause during this pandemic, experiences the end of the year's typical overload. We all are double time busy, and we will stay so for the next four days, when finally, closing the computer on the 23rd, I will greet the office goodbye, for this year, and I will take three weeks holidays. 

Here is a sort of summary of what is going on. The first thing I wanted to write about was about an essential day in a Finn life, which is Independence day.

On 6.12, in Finland, we celebrate independence day. The history of Finnish independence started after the revolutions in Russia after the First World War. The hardships experienced by Russia in that period gave Finland the chance to withdraw from its rule. 

It was the 4th of December 1917, when the Senate of Finland, led by Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, who became the third president in 1931, undersigned the Independence act. On the 6th of December of the same year, the first celebration took place. There aren't special celebrations going on, in the city, besides the flagging and the decorations in the shops. This meant that people didn't suffer much for this year's restrictions due to the pandemic. Finnish population doesn't willingly gather in big numbers if not during concerts and the end of the years' celebrations.

As for me, we usually have dinner with friends because going out in this chilly, dark, rainy, snowless environment is the last thing I wanted to do. However, this time, we agreed to play safe and cancel the dinner. We didn't want to take any risk, and although we could have kept the distances, we understood that it would have felt so unnatural to spoil the festivity.

We will notice the difference for the end of the year's celebration, for which we have reserved to be at home with another couple of friends. Christmas celebrations also have been canceled, we will give each other a call on the 24th, and we will stay at home, enjoying the evening with the people from the same household.

This is not a real tragedy; a tragedy would be spending a fantastic evening all together just to realize after a few months that some of us won't live long enough to see what next year is going to bring. 

On a positive note, I have been extremely productive during this period and finished the first draft for the series's first book. I have started drafting the second book and writing down the plot idea for the third and fourth ones. 

I also rebranded my latest novel by hiring a cover artist to do the cover again, and I'm more than pleased to show here the results:

Paperback

Ebook

Also, I have decided that I will keep using the services of this cover artist to get rid of the headaches given by the creation of the cover art. I will focus my creativity on the writing and the promotional banners, but for the cover itself, I will rely on them.

I hope you'll have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A late thanksgiving post

Picture from pixabay


I am not an American citizen, and I live far from the US, yet, as the internet has brought the whole world together at a click-distance, it brought us to appreciate other countries' traditions and heritage. 

Here in Finland, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but this isn't a reason to be grateful for what we have and what this year has brought us. It's easier to say what we have been missing during this pandemic, but if we look closer, we have gained something more.

We realized all those things we don't need to be happy, we have rediscovered that taking care of our neighbor is another way to take care of ourselves, and last but not least, we've rediscovered ourselves.

Of course, there had been inconveniences we had to endure, but if we compare to the epidemics of the past, we immediately should realize how easy we had it then respect the great plague (for example). We also learned to look with a different eye to those countries plagued by far more deadly diseases like Ebola, which case fatalities ranges between 25% and 90%.

Although some of us had lost dear ones to this disease, most of us were able to get a lesson of life out of it. The first is that no matter what or how, we are all destined to die, and taking some time every day to remind the people around us how much we care and love them, is more important than wasting our time arguing over old and meaningless issues.

We also should remember to be thankful every day and bring this thanksgiving spirit with us all over the year, as one day it might be too late to say how thankful we are.

So even if a bit late on the calendar festivity, I am thankful for the silence of the forest, for the nature surrounding me, for the people I care for, for the health I still hold in my body, for the job I could keep, for the inspiration that didn’t leave me, for the passion and curiosity that still moves my soul further, day after day, for my sister who cheers for my small success, for the husband who still holds my hand at night, for my rabbit who understood the love and care we hold for her, for the people who keep encouraging me even we never met.

For all the littlest things that make me smile every day, I am thankful, and with this, I wish you all a peaceful weekend.




Saturday, November 21, 2020

Become a writer, they said...

So much for the beauty of being a writer, to pour your passion into a blank paper to create words, sentences, paragraphs, and finally, a story.

A story that will inspire, enthrall, entertain, or inform your audience. But it's just here when the problems start to arise, at least for me. Writing requires inspiration, passion, and, last but not least, discipline.

The latter is what troubles me the most. 

Discipline.

Since I was a little kid, my parents and teachers didn't have to struggle with many issues besides my complete adversity to discipline and rules. Not that I have been a rebel, and I always followed the general behavioral rules. Those were the ones I was ready to follow and accept, but when it came to studying, follow, or even create a routine, it was a real nightmare for them (and also for me to tell the truth).

As a pantser, I don't really struggle in creating a story. I can pour my whole novel in a reasonable time for an average author, and with two-three novel published a year, I don't think that there's any issue on the writing front itself. 

The problem for me starts when it's the time to market my novel. At that point, discipline, consistency and commitment are three ingredients that can never miss from the marketer arsenal.

Yes, and once again I'm no marketer. I have been grown up as a scientist, a geologist for the matter, which within the whole range of scientific subjects it screams "ANARCHY."

Nevertheless, I need to become one, and after spending the eight hours in the office, or in the laboratory, or in the field, I need to come back home, forget about anarchy and step into my new world made of rules I desperately need to create and force myself to follow.

So far, I couldn't find a viable routine, as I'm easily distractable, and if writing and procrastination go hand in hand, I am sure that marketing and procrastination are twin brothers, and where goes the first, the second follows.

If this is what it's needed, I am not sure I will ever be a successful author, the one who is selling a big deals and can stop her day job to focus completely on writing. Perhaps one day when I retire I will be able to use those eight-ten hours I spend nowadays at work to create a successful routine to follow all the required steps marketing requires.

How are you taking care of your marketing? Have you found a good way to deal with the procrastination demon? If so, let me know, I'm all ears.

***

If you are curious about my books, here's a link to my website, where you can find them all, from historical fiction, paranormal romantic suspense, to thrillers:

https://pjmannauthor.com/category/books/

Sunday, November 15, 2020

When winter hits you hard, the Wandering Writer can still dream


https://media.winnipegfreepress.com/images/NEP3058523.jpg

You don't know what it means winter blues if you don't live above the 60th parallel north. You might not really grasp the feeling of seeing the length of the day reduced to a max of five hours with an almost constant cloud curtain to prevent any sunshine.

Usually, this would be the time when I pack my summer clothes and plan my escape route to the southern hemisphere. Now, with the pandemic hitting its third wave, I don't even have any idea when it will be possible, and the feeling is that of being trapped into an eternal night.

According to the calendar, there should still be three months to the time when the day's length will reach a reasonable length of 9-10 hours from dawn to dusk.

To make things worst, it seems like also for this year we won't have any snow to brighten up the days. Even in the most northern part of Lapland, the snow has hardly made a consistent layer (at most 5cm in the northernmost part of Lapland).

If we can call this a consolation, there won't be any disappointed tourist coming to our country to enjoy the beauty of a white wilderness. Still,  having no tourists means a big loss for regions that live almost exclusively on that income.

Yes, we won't be happy enough the day when a vaccine will be delivered among the population, and whenever it will be available also for me, you can bet your ass, I will be the one in the first line.

What will I do once I have the vaccine? Legit question, I will immediately book a flight to Italy and a couple of holidays for the darkest periods of the year. The Wandering Writer can't really wait to be on the road again.

Because of this pandemic, we've lost the chance for our last holiday last March, and this year I also avoided taking any holiday from my job. For some reason, I preferred to remain at work rather than stay at home doing nothing. I only took one week to finish my novel, and maybe I'm considering taking another one to finalize the next one and get even with all the marketing for the Christmas period.

Initially, exploring the rest of the country I’m living in seemed the best idea until I realized that the reason why I used to travel abroad was the need for sunlight. At this point, going to Lapland for a holiday, knowing that there I will find even more darkness, doesn’t really appeal to me.

It has been a blessing that none of my family or even at the workplace had been hit by the virus, but the world is big, and unfortunately, the casualties have been far too many. Mine are certainly small troubles compared to those who have lost their beloved ones. So, please, keep yourself and your beloved ones safe.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way

I have previously blogged about the new series I am going to publish somewhere next year, but I have another project on its way to publication. 

It will be a dark crime thriller that will bring you into the world of jewel dealers. The title (at least for the moment) is "The merchant of pearls."

The idea comes from a document I have been watching about cursed jewels. The first thing that comes to our minds is the pharaoh's curse, which inspired many horror and thriller novelists. 

Going a bit into details, there are many other more or less known items. For example, we can cite the 'Hope Diamond,' the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the Delhi purple sapphire, the Black Orlov, and many others. 

Each of these stones seems to have brought nothing else but disgraces to those who owned them. The question I tried to raise with this novel is: Is it just a marketing strategy, or there's some foundation of truth?

To be honest, the answer isn't essential. What is important is that whether because of magic or because of a well-planned marketing strategy, those items are highly desired by collectors.

People are ready to spend a fortune beyond the stone's market price, but this is not the question of purchasing a beautiful product of nature; it's challenging the fate and the possibility to own something with a remarkable history.

The price is often placed on the historical value or on the excitement. 

As I'm pre-editing it, I am considering the main character. For this reason, it came to my mind the famous quote of Jessica Rabbit:

My main character, Edward Sherwood, is the last heir of many generations of jewelers and goldsmith. Eldridge Sherwood started the business dealing with cursed stone back in 1802 when the Sherwoods Jeweler's shop opened its proficient business. 

Edward, differently than Jessica Rabbit, is not a saint, and it's not really just drawn that way. Nevertheless, like the yin and yang, there's still something that can save him from damnation. That is represented by the catalyst character, his partner, Byron, a young man he met during his educational journey.

Another catalyst is one of the cooperators, Mikhail Orlov, a former henchman of a Russian mob family, now working as a fixer, owning a bodyguarding company. His story will make him reconsider his doings, but will it be enough to change his nature?

To this question, I am afraid I can't give an answer, but I promise a story full of twists and turns, heartbreaking stories, gorgeous cityscapes, marvelous gems, and intriguing characters.

Besides working on the pre-editing, I'm also thinking about the cover, and I hope to show you something about it in the next weeks. As I know by experience, this is the most critical and challenging task of the whole process.

I do have a couple of ideas, and as usual, I will start with a few elements that will become the key to the picture. I will need to include a Russian cityscape, a reference to the pearl, or gemstones.

Since I haven't yet started to draw it, I will have to leave the anticipations to another time.

For now, I just wish you a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween!!

Never like this year, Halloween sounds like a cliche. We have experienced a real dystopian horror movie throughout these ten months, and yet we still have a couple to complete the collection. Yet, there's nothing more exciting than the thrill given by ghosts, vampires, witches, monsters in the closet, and so on. Those are the creatures that give us an entertaining thrill, allowing us to forget for a moment the other horrors that accompanied this year.

Living in a country that doesn't celebrate Halloween, I find myself as if I were watching it from a window, although this year, the same feeling is going to be applied to everybody. We will all celebrate the incoming festivities as if we are watching them from the window. However, this doesn't mean that we can't celebrate.

In Finland, we have something similar to Halloween, which is celebrated on Palm Sunday. Likewise, going trick-or-treating, children dress as witches and knock at neighbors' doors while carrying salix tree branches decorated with colorful feathers. If accepted, they pronounce a blessing rhyme and leave a branch as a gift while receiving sweets in return. This year for that celebration, children still took their rounds, but with the pandemic going on, people arranged creative ways to make sure this wouldn't have been the year when they had to forget about the celebration.


Therefore, I'm sure that also for Halloween, people will find a way to have safe fun regardless of the tense times we're going through. Moreover, we have to admit that no time like this year, we can allow ourselves to be really spooky and scary, like in Edgar Allan Poe's novels.


We can allow ourselves to be even scarier than those times because... well, if for dreams the sky is the limit, for a horror night, you really have no limits LOL.

Wear your masks, keep your distance, but don't forget to have fun. 


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Two men in a house (to say nothing of the rabbit)

For those who remember the famous and hilarious book written by the British writer Jerome K. Jerome, the title would certainly bring them back to the adventure of the book "three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog).

For the specific tale, I'm going to tell, I'm referring to what is probably the most known of the stories told in the book: "Uncle Podger hangs a picture" (http://rosyhunt.blogspot.com/2013/01/uncle-podger-hangs-picture.html).

For the last two weeks, my house has been almost torn apart to remove the wallpaper from the stairwell walls and repaint it. Two reasons led us to this decision; the first is that we don't really like wallpapers, and the second was that our lovely rabbit decided to create a graffiti ripping it off. I have to admit that she has talent, but that wasn't matching with the rest of the house decor. Therefore, since my husband lost his job, he decided to use this idle time to fix that problem.

He invited one of his friends to help him with the job, and "I promise, in three days, these three walls will be cleared from the wallpaper and painted back."

For the occasion, Carolina, our lovely artist-bunny, was relegated to the kitchen, as this would have been the only place bunny-safe of the house.

So, the first day my husband's friend arrived with all sorts of tools to carry out the job. I left for work, happy to be far from them for the whole day. 

Day one: The wallpaper was ripped away only from half of the first wall. As I returned, I immediately understood something was wrong by the glance in Carolina's eyes. That particular glance that begs you to be brought far away from that mess.

I kindly suggested that to remove the wallpaper, it was sufficient to wet the surface, and the job would have become a piece of cake (I have experience with it). At that point, it was clear that three days would have been enough just to remove the wallpaper, particularly for them.

Day two: I returned home, and the two men could rip the wallpaper from two of the walls. Fine, I considered that, since the other wall was shorter, the third day would have been used to rip the wallpaper and start painting. 

No!

The tension between the men started to grow, and their voices could be heard from the outside. I felt like a kindergarten teacher, and remembering my mother, I silenced them with a louder-than-their yell. 

Me: "I don't want to hear a single fly flying for the next three minutes, and I want you to use this time to cool down."

Them: silently seated, with the tails between their legs.

I started to climb the stairs, and at halfway, they started already to scream at each other. Climbing down, I yelled: "WOW, How fast those three minutes have passed!!"

Silence again, and then the two toddlers returned to be adults.

It took the whole week only to completely remove the wallpaper when their promise of doing the job in three days was already forgotten.

Week two:

Monday, I decided that I would have remained at my office after working hours, log myself out of work and take my time there to market my book, write something new of the new novel (which now is completed), and prepare myself to return home, hoping to see some progress.

Well, to paint the three walls it took another week, when I'm more than sure, if I had called my sister, we would have done everything in a matter of two days. Or even better had we called a professional, this would have been completed even faster.

Nevertheless, at the end of the second week, things started to look like going in the right direction. Carolina looked facepalmed for most of the time and was extremely grateful when she saw me arriving home.

Week three:

At this point, the walls were finally painted, and what was needed was to place back the moulding, clean the mess, and hang the frames on the wall. That was a one-day job, which took the rest of the week for our two men in the house.

Note to self: Next time my husband decides to do some work at home, I need to either be there full-time to supervise or take a long holiday back to Italy, switch off the phone returning only when I receive the confirmation email, Coronavirus, Ebola, black plague or not.

Nevertheless, the result was absolutely fabulous, and after having cleaned the whole place, the house returned to the original splendor:



I hope you enjoyed this small anecdote bringing a smile to your faces. And remember it's better to spend some money and leave the work to professionals than doing it yourself, risking losing your sanity.

Take care!



Saturday, October 10, 2020

Rome, the eternal city - a research for a series

For a long time I've been thinking of writing a series. So far, I published a trilogy, of which I cannot say I'm as satisfied as I am with the other standalone novels I've written. Nevertheless, now I finally got the right inspiration and help to start writing a long series.

As you have already guessed, it's set in one of the most beautiful locations existing. A place that's full of history and culture.

Rome, Italy's heart, the place supposed to unify the business-oriented north and the culture- and art-oriented south. A city with the difficult duty to seal two different heritages, so close, yet so different.

In this scenario, I created my main character, Maurizio Scala, Detective at the Rome State Police, and this man is how I imagined him to be:



To help me with legal matters, a skilled Italian lawyer agreed to answer my questions. I am trying to get in touch with a former Italian Police officer to double-check my story and ensure the most complete consistency with the Italian Police protocol during the investigation.

But who is Detective Maurizio Scala? He is a thirty-five-year-old detective, living in Rome's metropolitan area with his wife Anna, and their three-year-old daughter, Giovanna. The biggest challenge in his life is represented by one of the busiest roads in the whole country: the Tiburtine. Being constantly stuck in the traffic jam contributes to his constant grumpy mood.

However, there's another factor to test his nerves. His name is Leonardo Romizi, technical manager at the forensic department. They know each other since High School, and Leonardo has always enjoyed teasing Maurizio. 

From the day they met again as colleagues in the same Police Department, teasing Maurizio became Leonardo's life mission.

The release date for the first book of the series is not yet decided, as I'm still writing the conclusion and check for consistencies. I forecast it will be ready by March 2021. Meantime, I will have the chance to release another standalone between the end of this year and the beginning of the next one.

If you are intrigued by Italian culture, history, food, and people, this is a series you shouldn't miss. I will keep sharing work in progress, excerpts, facts, and curiosities about Rome and particularly about the characters.

Therefore, as usual, stay tuned, and particularly, stay safe!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Horror tales for writers



This is a story that will make many other authors shake in fear, although it might leave many other baffled. 

Losing half of the content of the latest novel.

This happened to me two days ago, and I wanted to show this to everybody because I know it's not a question of being careless or distracted; it's something that can happen regardless.

I recently finished one novel that should be published next year, and I thought I could go through the pre-edits for another story to be published before, perhaps already this year.

My style is writing a book and as soon as it's finished, start another one letting the previous one in the backburner for about one month before starting to edit it.

In the present case, I let it be for about three months, and I was ready to read it through with clean eyes.

I generally have several backups for the same novel, one on my computer, one on the external memory, and another on the cloud storage. In theory, they should be synced together, and, in the end, there should be at least one viable updated copy among these all.

What happened shocked me completely. In the latest draft saved, the one that should have been ready for editing 11 chapters were missing, for a total of 45000 words. 

My husband isn't a writer and has no idea about the meaning and consequences of such a catastrophe. He just said, "It's not the end of the world, you can write them again."

WHAT???

I mean one chapter, yes, I could have written it once again, no problem, but eleven, after a break of three months, when I hardly remembered what I have written there? Impossible!

At midnight, knowing that the day after I needed to go to work, I had to give up, and with tears in my eyes, I went to bed, hoping I could at least find some sleep.

Enough to say that I couldn't, and the morning after, in my office, I was already thinking about how in the world I could have rewritten the half story.

Then, just because I need to check everything, I went once again to my cloud storage and searched every single file and folder to make sure that I've searched every place.

The last place I expected to find the full draft was the trash bin of the cloud storage. Now, I wish to understand how in this human world, it could end up there, because for sure, I would have never thrown away a full-length novel, not at least without having it published or at least stored somewhere else too.

Despite my amazement, I saved the copy in the other five locations, because at this point, I really don't trust anything anymore, not even myself.

On a very positive note, everything ended well, and I don't have to rewrite half of the novel unless, when I start to read it through, I will find something to be changed.

I hope you will never find yourself in the same situation, and please, save, save, save at least one thousand copies of the final draft.

With a lighter heart, I wish you a great weekend!

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Can procrastination be a consequence of stress?


Now I have spent a few words about procrastination in the past, but I've never considered the deep roots on which it grows. Particularly, as I started to think about it. I've always been a mild procrastinator, meaning that I could complete every task I had scheduled, even if it wasn't in the exact order, and perhaps sometimes I had to rush.

Since my new career as a writer started up, I have seen an increase in my tendency to postpone my duties. Likewise, many other indie writers have to rely on my day job to provide the funds necessary to live and pay my bills. Yet, this means that I have much less time to dedicate to de-stress, relax, and spend time in the family. 

I should have seen it coming that this also means an increase of stress when I need to check up on my ads, write new novels, create social media posts, read and review. 

Indeed it's an increase of stress, and I believe this is why lately, I couldn't find the right motivation to write my weekly blog or even the time to do it. I realize I have been searching for something else to do, or even doing nothing at all because I needed to recharge.

A small part of me feels guilty for having let things slip away. The other part is reasoning with those senses of guilt, justifying them by my lack of time and need to rest my brain with activities that have nothing to do with work or writing.

I believe this is something very familiar within the indie society, and it's something I know I should take care of before this slight stress turns into burnout.

The best way I can think about it is to make sure I can organize a sort of schedule. But most of all, I should consider not to pretend too much from myself.

I don't need to write a certain amount of words a day if this will overwhelm me, nor I need to cram in a single day the checking for the ads, and I can undoubtedly make scheduling of social posts a smart way to ease my time. But most of all, I don't need to kill myself in what I love to do, which is writing.

Why would I turn into a nightmare, something I consider a dream?

If you have the same problem of being too stressed to focus and tend to procrastinate more than you used to do before, the solution might be decluttering.


Wish you a fantastic weekend!


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Finding inspiration - A hero's quest


There are so many posts around the social media world asking creatives about their source of inspiration. The answers are always different, and the reason is that we all are different human beings with different thinking processes, thus different triggers for our creativity.

As I can't speak for anyone but myself, I will tell you what I've discovered about my inspiration process. Sometimes I think I just sit down and listen to the voices, and most of the time, this doesn't go so far from the truth. However, recently I went a bit deeper into my creative process, trying to understand it better, so to be able to answer that question more precisely. After a long brainstorming, I figured out the following common points:

1. Frustration. Many of my novels were indeed born during periods I found extremely challenging. Whether they were triggered by a conflictual relationship with the rest of the world or myself. Whether I dealt with a particular unfavorable condition or the feeling of fighting against the windmills sparked the creative flame. This year, the situation with the COVID-19 played only a marginal role, to be honest. My life isn't generally made of social gatherings. Therefore, going to restaurants, theaters, pubs wasn't on my list anyway. The only difference it brought to my life was that I can't travel the way I desire. This also means not being able to reach my family for my usual ten-days solo holiday. Perhaps, that was the thing that blocked my mojo. Being away from my everyday life to spend some time with myself and my family is a therapeutic period.

2. Long evening chats with my spouse. Although they might get heated, they can spark great ideas for the next novel to be written.

3. Being a mainly a thriller author means that the next source of inspiration in the list is reading crimes on the news or checking unsolved mysteries in history. The search for psychological profiles of serial killers is a fascinating, informative, and inspiring process.

4. Traveling is another vital source of inspiration. Meeting different cultures, religions, and heritages can offer a wide range of character developments.

Of course, there might be other sources that can inspire me. This is the case of the 'Ghosts of Morgan Street,' where the inspiration came from a casual chat with a homeless gentleman. For 'The Man from the Mist,' I wanted to give voice to those invisible people who live their lives in complete anonymity like I was forced during my youth. The paranormal novel, 'Thou Shalt Never Tell,' comes from the experiences in my family with ghosts and paranormal activities.

Obviously, there isn't an easy and straightforward inspiration source, at least for me, and what grabs my attention is going, sooner or later, to be transformed into a story.

Will that be worth the effort? Is it enough? Those are the questions to which only my readers can answer. As for me, they had been useful to find out more about my own self, and that's already a gain.


If you want to know more about my books, check out my website: https://pjmannauthor.com/category/books/


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Thou shalt never... compare yourself with other authors (a note to self)



Although this post is mostly a note to self, I'm pretty sure also other authors have found themselves in need of such a reminder.

In my case, I mostly tend to appreciate my success only in function of what other, more successful authors can achieve. In this way, I'm losing touch with some critical reality factors.

The first is despite writing in the same category, using the same marketing approach can work for one author, leaving the other completely resultless.

The second is that we're all much different from each other, and there might be other millions of secondary factors contributing to the success of their books that go beyond the marketing strategy. Most of the time, success comes from the combination of many other actions. 

The third is that although my books can be written in the same genre, they can be completely different (and believe me, they literally are) from the mainstream standard, which characterizes that genre.

The fourth, and that's the most crucial point of all, is that I have my unique voice, I have my own style, and the only author I can compare myself with is myself.

Mainly I need to compare my today success with the success I had yesterday. 

Did I learn something from my trials?

Have I improved anything from what I achieved in the past?

Have I spent some time analyzing what made the success of one book then respect others?

Can I extract the formula and replicate it for the future?

I know it might be disheartening and frustrating sometimes to look at those who are more successful and then returning to your still acerbic results.

Nevertheless, if there's something to do is to be inspired by their development and get from them, the motivation to get things done.

One more time, there isn't any competition going on between authors. There isn't a single spot to be filled so if one of us can be successful, so can be other thousands.

As I said in the beginning, this is mostly a note to self, as it sometimes happens to feel discouraged, yet, nothing is lost, and I have everything to learn and, thus, achieve.

If you, too, are an author (or other creative figure struggling to get your art noticed), look back at the path you've walked so far. You might be surprised at how successful you've become from the day you started your journey.


Take care and compare only to yourself!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Finding the time


 I have been spending the last two weeks trying desperately to find the time and to organize all my duties. Needless to say that I wasn't entirely successful as I wished to be.

The problems with my failed achievement are the increasing of the task I'm putting myself through and the time I can realistically dedicate to each of the duties. Many times, I am also possessed by the procrastination demon, or by the overthinking demon.

Those two can get me completely off track.

I'm not yet in the position to leave my day job to pursue my writing career full time. This means that for eight hours a day, I need to be focused on my working duty, forgetting plots, ads, ideas, social media, website management, courses, challenges, writing new books, and God-only-knows what else.

Of course, from the day, we need to take away not just the times when I am at work, but also the time for sleep, eat, take care of the house, and, well, why not? Also, having a full deserved rest enjoying the company of my family.

In a perfect world, I would return from home, sit at my desk, and write at least 1000 words on my new novel. This would be achieved dedicating to the activity one and a half hours.

The next would be creating another five to ten ads on amazon, adding one or two ads to each of my books. 

The following step would be to update my website and social media, answering questions, replying to posts, or ask questions about any kind of doubt I might have. 

This also should take a couple of hours. At this point, it would be the time for dinner, and my day could be considered over, dedicating the rest of the evening to family life.

So where's all my fuss?

Well, we don't live in a perfect world, do we?

As I come back home, I certainly sit down, and my best try is to create a list of things I need to do before dinner. From there, the thoughts in my mind become random. Meanwhile, I have a list of things to do; I recall that I need to update the blurb of my novels. Then I also need to find a better hook and glancing at the sales report, which generally gives me nothing but depression, I think about the best solution.

The result is that generally, I can write the 1000 words for my next novel, I can ask questions and hardly update any social media, and in the best cases, I can do one or two new ads.

Saturday and Sunday, there are so many of the chores I've set aside that I can hardly write my blog anymore. You might have noticed that I started to write every two weeks instead of my usual one-week blog.

It's not lacking ideas, and I'm not even sure whether it's a lack of time. The problem is that I'm dealing with a massive lack of discipline and organizational skills.

I have no idea where I'll be heading or if I ever will be able to find the right pace and organization to allow me to take care of everything. That is, at least, my goal.

I will go back, trying to find a way to efficiently organize the time and get out of this mental chaos.

Meantime I wish you all a great end of this week and a happy labor day if you're living in the US.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

The thin line between emulation and plagiarism


I have to admit having thinking about this topic for the whole last week and wondered how often this thin line has been crossed, even if involuntarily.

Everything happened when I decided to rebrand my trilogy series completely, starting with new covers, and update the content. Like many indie authors do, I asked for feedback about the new covers in several authors groups.

Someone asked me the genre, and whether there was a particular author's series my trilogy could be connected with, something that had a similar story or theme. This is a question I've always dreaded because I have absolutely no idea. I do write thrillers, but the point of view is quite rarely one of a particular agent who saves the day in the end. To be honest, in some of my novels, nobody can save the day entirely, and the characters, like in real life, have to find a way to stand up on their feet and try to cope with the unexpected situation. There's always a bittersweet component in my ending. That is the kind of outcome that gives the reader the final bit to chew on.

At that point, he replied: "when authors come to me asking for suggestions, I always tell them to find the best selling authors and emulate the hell out of them."

That answer unleashed my considerations, and a question started to twirl on my mind, if I emulate the hell out of a particular author, what will happen to my unique and personal voice? Where is my creativity going? Is there any meaning in being creative?

The answer, at least from my point of view, is 'no.'

I am not going to take another author's idea and use it as a mold, where to confine my creativity just because it's something that people are used to. I believe that readers can get passionate about many different takes on a single genre if the author can draw them into the story, and that has nothing to do with a particular format. Creativity should never have boundaries, and experimenting something new, will give readers the chance to have something original and genuine coming from the soul of an author, instead of that coming from copying a particular format because it sells for sure.

To be honest, there have been a couple of "sales gurus," suggesting me to do precisely what the others do without listening to my creative voice. They all went to the ignoring trashbin. I am not going to listen to any suggestion on how to sell more if this means giving up my own personality and creativity.

Following this optic, I'm asking you, can we consider this sort of wild emulation as a hidden form of plagiarism?

With this weekly thought, I leave you to draw your own conclusion, and if you want to read something genuinely coming straight from the heart of an author, you might want to check out my novels here:

US marketplace: www.amazon.com/author/pjmann

UK marketplace: www.amazon.co.uk/author/pjmann

Canada marketplace: www.amazon.ca/author/pjmann

Australia marketplace: www.amazon.com.au/author/pjmann

India marketplace: www.amazon.in/author/pjmann

You can also check out my website for something more here:

https://www.pjmannauthor.com


Saturday, August 8, 2020

Lee Child meets James M. Cain: The Man from the Mist

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned my new release, promising something about it. 

Well, Sunday 26th of July at 01:25 in the morning, after a whole day spent re-reading, rechecking, perfecting the novel, I was able to click the 'PUBLISH' button on Amazon. 

As first, it was released as a Kindle, knowing that it would have taken more time to release the paperback. To be honest, both the versions were published in the exact same moment. Still, if you are familiar with the times required by Amazon to check and make a paperback available for order, you know this can really be a time-consuming process.

Despite it all, the Kindle version was approved and live within a few hours, and the first thing I did was to send the link to my ARC readers' group, who, in the meanwhile, had the time to read it. 

Like it happens in many cases, you send a certain amount of free copies, but it's not really said that you will get the same amount of reviews in Amazon or Goodreads. This is because most of the people find out only at the end that they haven't spent the 50 USD requirement to be allowed to review anything on the site.


So, now here we have a new tale to show to the world:


However, one particular review brought tears in my eyes, and I decided to share it with you:

"I was intrigued by the cover and the title. I've always loved foggy days, particularly mornings; and the story held me captivated. Dave Stanford, editor at a local newspaper, is one of life's "invisible" people. They go about their daily lives, leaving behind barely a trace. We may see some of them, but we pay no attention to them - never ask him or her their name, spend sometimes years around them, and then are shocked when they finally get our attention.

Dave is drawn out of his anonymity, seemingly by chance when someone actually acknowledged him as a person. Soon, he is forced, quite unwillingly to deal with others - his neighbors, his co-workers, and even the police.

I don't do spoilers, so I strongly recommend you get your copy of The Man From the Mist. P. J. Mann has woven an essence of noir, reflecting the styles of authors such as Raymond Chandler - The Big Sleep, James M. Cain - The Postman Always Rings Twice, and one of my favorites, Led Child's first Jack Reacher novel - Killing Floor.

I have a collection of novels I've read more than once. The Man From the Mist is joining The Stand, The Lord of the Rings, Interview with a Vampire: there are about 20 of the hundreds of books I have read.

This will not be the last of Mann's novels for me, you may very well agree after you have navigated the twists and turns in search of the mysterious man from the mist."

This novel came to my mind, inspired by a foggy day. It's quite rare for Finland to have days of thick fog, but that day was an exception under many aspects.

Walking the streets, I stopped for a moment to look at the people walking by and how difficult it was to even recognize one from the other. Strangely enough, I considered that it would have been relatively easy for a serial killer to hide on a foggy day. So the story began...

If you want to know more, here is the link to Amazon:

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON CANADA

AMAZON AUSTRALIA

AMAZON INDIA

I really hope you will give a chance to this novel and I hope you will enjoy it, like many of those who read it did.

One more thing, if you go and choose to get the book, I would really be grateful if you would leave a review If you can't maybe you can recommend it.

Keep yourself safe!

Saturday, August 1, 2020

It's all running into a circle

When you think about a city, the last thing that comes to your mind is to wonder about its planimetry. This, unless you stumble into something utterly bizarre.
Now think about having built something you are entirely proud of.
Think you want the whole world to admire it.
What would be the best way to do so?
Easy answered you make sure that every road leads there. The best way to make sure this is so is to build the whole city to circle your creation.
This; Ladies and Gentlemen, is Hamina:

A city that has been built around its Town Hall. The reason for this circular/ octagonal plan isn't clear. Personally, I love to think that when they finished the Town Hall, besides being considered the center of the social/political life, it was also considered something g to be proud of. In this optic, they built the rest of the city in a way that every single road would have led to it.
Located South-East Finland, this lovely town is sure to attract your attention and to make sure you will fall in love with its unique planimetry. But this is just one small reason to fall in love with it. The quiet, the beauty and the serenity feeling you get as soon as you exit your car, and start walking the streets, is something that makes you run to the first real estate agency to check for any availability in the city.





If it weren't for the fact that my job is in Helsinki, I would have considered remaining there and get one of those lovely wooden houses for myself.
The restrictions caused by this pandemic start to bring some good sides, and I wouldn't have otherwise discovered those jewels around me.

Keep yourself safe and healthy!


Monday, July 27, 2020

It's time to hit the road, so to say

For me, there aren't summer holidays without a journey planned somewhere. Idling at home is not my ideal way to spend time and that's probably the reason why I'm not even eager to take my holidays from work. Nevertheless, this year, being forced to remain in my country I needed to compensate for this lack of opportunity and try to make something out of the summer holidays. Exploring my country is something we have been planning, even though so far it would be only for a one-day-trips. 
One place I always wanted to see was the city (or town if you want to be more precise) of Hämenlinna in south Finland. The city is not really far from Helsinki, but for some reason, I always found it easier to fly to a farther destination, rather than taking the car and drive for a hundred kilometers to reach a closer location. 
Nevertheless, this is what we did this time, as our first journey to discover the beauties of our country. As I said driving one kilometer north from Helsinki, you will easily reach Hämeenlinna a city with 68000 inhabitants in the historical province of Tavastia.
This is the oldest city located in the inland of Finland and it's famous for being the birthplace of the composer Jean Sibelius and the medieval castle.
The first human settlement in the area was recorded during the Viking Age (793-1066 AD) and the castle was built in the 13th century to secure the Swedish power in central Finland. A village was built around the castle to provide services and goods, but only in 1639 was granted the status of "city" and in 1862 the first railway was opened to connect Hämeenlinna with Helsinki.
The city isn't at all anything big, and people who travel to visit it, generally do so for the medieval castle, the military museum, and the Jean Sibelius museum. 
Like every castle in the past, its construction date is uncertain, as it was built in stages. Most certainly it was completed by the end of the 13th century. 
One important goal of the Swedish expedition had been to link the province of Häme more tightly to the Swedish kingdom. 
This aim, which was influenced by foreign policy considerations, required the maintenance of a strong military fortress. Of equal importance, however, was the desire to tax this relatively wealthy region, and thus to set certain demands concerning the exterior forms of rule.


The oldest part of the castle is known as the fortified camp. This included a square-shaped greystone wall, with defensive towers at the northern, eastern, and southern corners. 


The view from the top floor of the castle is charming as it is the whole building itself.

This has been one strange month, where I could dedicate just a little amount of time to blog and being on any social platforms. This because I've been busy with the new release of my novel, about which I'm going to talk about very soon!
I hope you enjoyed this journey in my country and will see you soon for new adventures and news about the life of a Wandering Writer.

Take care!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A garden can become a place to surprise you

It's not like I woke up one morning, and they were there, but I knew something was growing, and that was also something I've never planted myself, or at least that was something I didn't remember having purchased for my garden.
I'm talking about two bushes of roses.
I always loved those flowers in my life, and they've always had a special place in my garden:




Yet, when I moved first in this house and the garden wasn't at all set, I planned a special place for them, together with other species of flowers to create a lovely bouquet of colors and scents. Now, I also know what kind of roses I've chosen, and white roses weren't much on the list.
A few years later, something started to grow, and I was wondering whether it was one of those roses which I thought they died out and found new life from the roots I hadn't remove, or they were something new. I didn't eradicate then because they were not harming, and they filled up nicely the empty spaces. Now, thy never made any flower, so I was really wondering about their origin and their specie.
I did wait, and meantime, I kept trimming them every fall and spring. They were growing nicely yet no flowers.
This until this summer, when finally they started to bloom and to show their beauty. White roses:

Indeed those were roses I've never planted myself; the only explanation is that the seeds have been brought to my garden by the wind or the birds.
I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see them blooming after many years of just having the bush. I cannot say which kind of specie they belong to, as I haven't purchased in the first place, but I believe they make a great addition to my garden.
Once again, when you let nature help you with the choice of flowers for your garden, you will undoubtedly get fantastic surprises.
Do you have a garden? What do you plant there?

Stay safe and tuned!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Traveling the country

As Coronavirus restrictions force us to plan our holidays at home, the need to escape the four walls seems almost unbearable. Here in Finland, as the new cases dropped further, shops and small businesses begin to reopen their activities, although the authorities still suggest safety measures to be in place until the availability of a vaccine.
For the Wandering writer, those have been hard times, but the rediscovery of the beauties of my country made it worth spending a few words to bring everybody to a virtual tour.
Today, I'm going to bring you to a small town in southern Finland, Fiskars.

What brings Fiskars to be famous, is the fact that it has been the birthplace of the most successful and prolific factories, producing knives, scissors cutleries, and kitchen appliances. It's one of the oldest companies in the world to be still at the top of the market in the country makes it a success story.

But today, I'm not going to talk about the factory, but of the lovely place from where everything originated. The town was founded in 1649 and developed around the ironworks founded by a German gentleman, Petter Thornwärste, which also produced copper. The development of the industrial community was fast, producing, since the beginning, various devices, from kitchen utensils to transmission devices. 
The village was annexed to the municipality of Raseborg.

Nowadays, the village is an active center of Finnish art and design, with just 600 inhabitants in its center. It's a popular place for artists designers and artisans, and particularly in summer is a popular tourist destination.

The town is immersed in a quiet natural environment, and we were very lucky to find a sunny day for our visit:







A cup of coffee on the socially distanced cafeteria, at the shadow of the trees, crowned the hours spent on that charming place.

Although our plans for retiring in a warmer climate remain, I know I will miss those neighborhoods. Therefore, I plan to enjoy them for as long as I can. This means that, if you stay tuned, I will bring you some more of those peaceful and charming places.
Take care, and stay socially distanced.


Saturday, June 20, 2020

An alternative Midsummer in Finland

Midsummer fest is, for those living in Scandinavia and Finland, a very important day to celebrate. The long, dark winter days are gone and forgotten.
Yet, the midsummer, bringing to the whole country an endless day, is more than a reason to celebrate.
As a general rule, people would gather at the park for a picnic. They will go swimming in the sea, take long saunas, and enjoy the light, which is something more valuable than money or any material possession.



This year, however, the parks are looking like an ordinary day in summer.
No big gatherings, no cafeterias full of people, no grilling or meeting at the beach.
For once, people will have to feel glad to be allowed to gather with their families in their gardens or going in the woods, avoiding popular places, reaching the summer cottages, and enjoy what nature can offer.
The official midsummer day is the 20th of June, that is today, but most of the people will celebrate on its eve.

So, indeed the pandemic reshaped the way people are celebrating the holidays, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they quit having fun, or honoring old traditions.
To tell the truth, the change we've experienced is not completely a disaster. Perhaps it's a positive reshaping, discovering that we don't need to spend our money uselessly to be happy. All we need is to connect with the few people who really mean something in our lives and have fun.
Perhaps we will learn how to enjoy life with simple things, even with a walk in nature.

Concerning me, I will celebrate the midsummer today, and I will take this chance to drive with my husband in the nearby cities, to discover something new about the country I'm living in.
Next time I will show you something more about what I've discovered about Finland. Perhaps the Wandering Writer is back on the road.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Next release and cover reveal

Time's flying and things get a bit on my way, particularly when it's time for a holiday.
The funny thing is that, for the first time in my working life, my supervisor could ask me to postpone my holiday, and there were no problems with it.
With that, we 're reaching another point, which is the complete flexibility of my free time.
Not being able to travel, I should call it time off.
Of course, there are also positive sides to not being able to leave for a journey, and those are, besides saving money to be allocated somewhere else, more time for me to write and nurture my garden.
Big projects are going on concerning both sides of the business. 
One is nurturing my spirit through the garden activities, and the other is transforming those positive thoughts on the writing process.
Therefore, I'm pleased to announce that the process worked so far and I've been busy creating the new cover for the next mystery novel.
The title:
The Man From The Mist.
It's a mystery novel where a young man, Dave, who lives his gray life in the almost complete invisibility and anonymity, will have to stand up for his right and to defend the only person who offered a friendly relationship. However, there is something from his past, he appears having forgotten, and a mysterious man appearing every time the mist is rising will force him to remember.
Here is a short teaser for the novel:
I'm also working on other promotional videos to be released.
Here's the cover I'm planning to use for the book.
As usual, from the original version that was created in the beginning, this is quite an evolution, but this is what happens generally. You start with an idea and you have no idea where it will bring you.
So the question is where now it will be released?
Being in the hands of the editor, I presume it could be ready by the end of this month. Nevertheless, I'm planning to put it into a pre-order and see what is going to happen.
Stay tuned, stay home, stay safe!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Not giving up the hopes

As here in Finland Spring is considered over, at least if we're asking the calendar, the weather isn't really warming up. We certainly shouldn't be surprised about it, as I can count a few years when we kept the summer clothes mothballed until further notice. Yet, this year, also the weather forecast seems to add insult to injury, as they keep forecasting the arrival of the summer "within a couple of days."
Now, if this couple of days were indeed days and not months, I wouldn't mind.
Nevertheless, having been blessed with a very mild winter, when it didn't snow at all, the plants in my garden didn't suffer at all, and after a slow start, all the flowers are blooming once again. Due to social distancing, we won't have any garden party. Regardless of this detail, I am still glancing at my yard, wondering whether there is anything I can improve. Until last year, weed was my problem, until I saw how some bugs seem to appreciate their presence. Therefore, this year, instead of eliminating it, I've considered blending it into the garden, planting other random flowers to match.

The result is that now I have many flowers in a meadow-like garden. Today, was also one of those days when the only inspiration was to take my camera and go out, and so I have some pictures to show you.
I could get the shot of a duck's specie which is classified as endangered. It was a pleasure to see a male chasing one female on the riverbank.

On my wanderings, I couldn't take my eyes off this beautiful tree:
And on the way home, I had to stop to listen to a charming singer giving all his best to that special song:
Before entering a magical place where to lose myself:
I hope you all had a relaxing weekend and will be ready to start once again the rat-race tomorrow. Take care, and stay safe.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

As we are reaching the half of the year


Well, what do you know? We are almost in the middle of this year. Five months have passed by, and honestly, I don't know when it happened. What I do know is that, just a few days ago, I was wondering what the new year would bring, dreaming about my summer holidays.
That was before the lockdown before, slowly, we saw airline companies canceling all the scheduled flights and sending refunds for the booked holidays.
After five months, we've seen a radical change in lifestyle as the whole world tried to adapt to a new normal. Although we know this is going to pass, we don't know how long it will take. 
This uncertainty brought us to rethink the whole structure of our society, not just the small one that directly affects us, city, or country wise, but globally.
We also experienced something incredible: the recovery of the natural balance of our planet. With the restrictions imposed on production and transportation, people began to understand the difference between need and desire.
Perhaps we reconsidered what is right to desire and strive to achieve, and what instead is better to leave aside. The pandemic reached where all the warnings from scientists failed.
The question now is: will it last?
Will humanity remember these considerations, once the emergency is over, or will they thoughtlessly continue following the false god of greed?
Posterity will tell.
What we can do, instead, is try not to forget this important lesson, and respect our planet also when we're not forced to do so. We can write a reminder for the better times of how the skies looked prettier once the smog cloud dissolved. We could write a note of the beauty of clean waters in our rivers, lakes, and seas. 
If we need to give up something, maybe it's going to be for the best, and it doesn't mean restricting our freedom, rather ensuring every single creature on this planet with the same rights.
There's a vital rule we need to remember before yelling that we're been stripped of our rights, and that is: your freedom stops where your neighbor's freedom starts. This doesn't include only fellow humans, but every single living creature.
With this consideration, I greet you until the next time.

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...