Saturday, July 24, 2021

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, or anything else.

I took a pause that was, perhaps, too long from the social media world, but it was probably necessary. First of all, I could focus on my marketing strategy and create a good cooperation schedule with the translator who's in charge of translating my books in Italian. 

This pause also coincided with the second year of the pandemic that forced many of us to rethink the way we socialize, work, and do business, move around, and much more.

As for me, there has been one of the most important lessons, and that was to look closer to my life and understand what's important and what it isn't. We've lived our lives from one day to another without acknowledging how it was literally passing by, without having the time to enjoy it.


'Every cloud has a silver lining,' or at least this is what we've been taught since we were kids. If this is true, then there's something positive also in a tragedy like this pandemic, as it gave us the chance to look deeper into our lives and understand what really matters. 

I don't need to work my finger to the bones when this means that I miss the time with the people I love. There's always time for work, but we have a limited time to enjoy each other's company, and tomorrow might be too late.

Also, I had the chance to look closely around me to see the beauty just behind the corner. I also had the time to reconsider and reorganize my time, including more efforts on writing new material, researching, and find a new balance. Something had to be sacrificed, and that was my presence online on social media. 

My country never really went into a lockdown, except for the restrictions of traveling abroad and having restaurants, cinemas, and large gatherings restricted.

I have been lucky, and I hadn't been for a single day forced to work from home, although I'm not an essential worker. However, I experimented it for a month of my own will, and many people followed the same example just to test the possibility of working remotely. This remote-working offered a never hoped for flexibility, as people start to consider moving to other locations still keeping their job. Some plan to move closer to their families living away, other contemplate the possibility of moving abroad.

For a person like me, who is seeking for a milder climate, this chance is coming like a blessing. I wondered how I could have approached the discussion with my employer. My original idea was to move away and start living a simpler life in a place with a more favorable climate, but on the other hand, I was sorry to leave a job I really enjoy. Therefore this new opportunity is the one I can't let slip away.

Let's keep safe and positive... It can't rain forever.




Saturday, March 27, 2021

Are we really happy?

This is a post about the myth behind the happiest country in the world: Finland.

Once again, Finland has been declared the happiest country in the world, based on the low corruption, working healthcare, the way our government dealt with COVID-19, welfare, and so on.

With 74,2% of the territory covered in forest, it's not difficult to understand that Finns are literally surrounded by nature, and the woods are the places where they find refuge. Finns are not social animals or not as much as people in other countries could be. It's a very individualistic society, which brings people to keep their distances from each other even without the risk posed by the pandemic

https://imgflip.com/i/3w4jf3

People in Finland do not enjoy being close to other people, particularly if they are not close family members. It wasn't any action taken by the government the reason behind the low contagion; it's because of the Finns' way of living. To be honest, our government received many criticisms for its clumsy way of dealing with the pandemic. Loneliness, darkness, long winters bring two problems every year, suicide and chronic depression. 715 people suicide yearly. In 2018, over 6000 people between the age of 16 -24  were declared unfit for work because of chronic depression (and this is not taking into account those who suffer from depression in older age). 

Their number is destined to grow.

Natality has also reached a screeching halt, people don't see life as something worth giving, and the uncertainties seem to bring people to that decision. It's not an economic problem to stop Finns from having children; it's the fear of having them dying by suicide or falling into the spiral of depression and alcoholism or drug abuse.

Now to the question, are we, the Finns, really happy? And why are we?

Happiness is a weird concept and changes meaning depending on who you ask. Finns are indeed happy because they can connect to nature around them. They know that after a long, dark winter comes the summer, and with the changes of seasons, the forest offers food for the body and the spirit, and Finns rely on that healing power, despite the statistics. They also have been taught since a young age not to complain and see the positive things in life. If you can't find them, then it's time to work harder to get them. They trust law enforcement and governmental institutions, and so far, their trust met very few disappointments. This is the reason why, when you ask a Finn: are you happy? Even if the world is collapsing, they will answer yes.


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Spring time, time for...


 Generally, we would say that Spring time it's an excellent time for cleanings. The new season is a sort of second  New Year, when we go through the spaces of our homes, clean, and declutter from all those things we'd accumulated during the rest of the year.

I don't know whether for you it's the same, but every Spring, when I start decluttering, I am amazed by the number of things I've accumulated since that last clearing. Although I go twice a year through the storage, trying to free my house from what's useless or obsolete, during the Spring cleanings, I always find many things to bring either to the recycling or straight to the garbage.

My promises of not accumulating things fail every year miserably, and I think I can attribute this, mainly, to my own laziness, but also to the lack of time and the increasing stress caused by work schedules and writing commitments.

This year, Springtime seems to be a bit late on her schedule; therefore, the decluttering and cleaning season will start with a couple of weeks delay. 

Unless the weather takes a sharp turn to higher temperatures and the snow we are still (not)enjoying will finally melt away, I don't see this coming this weekend.

Spring also means switching to daylight saving time. Now, at least, here in Europe, this was supposed to be the last year we would have switched our clocks forward and backward, but with this Corona crisis, those issues had been placed on the backburner. As for me, I always hated changing my clock, especially in March.

Helsinki isn't blessed with more than four hours of sunlight a day during the winter, and as soon as I can appreciate the lengthening of the days, my mood reaches the stars. I wake up at six every morning to reach my office at half past six. Presently, I wake up with the daylight, then suddenly, from one day to another, I am brought back to waking up in the darkness for another week. If this isn't a good reason to despise the daylight saving system, I don't know what it could be.

According to the latest news, we should quit this madness next year and, believe me, I can't wait!



Saturday, February 27, 2021

A new light, a new release: a brand new world!

 After a long pondering and fighting all the possible hesitations, I did it. I have searched and found a translator for my books. The first market I wanted to try, is the one I am more familiar with, the Italian market.

This means that I am proud to announce that the first book of the trilogy has been translated into Italian and has been published yesterday, 25.2.2020.

My biggest hesitation, so far, was due to two factors: the fares and the alternative solutions to a royalty share.

Unlike the audiobooks, where the royalty share is controlled and limited to a certain period, the translation market is wilder and less regulated. In this case, I preferred to keep all the rights and search for a translator who could have taken the job and was flexible enough to accept various payment plans. 

I am not a widely successful author who can afford to have a substantial cut on the royalties. At the point where I am now, I prefer to pay upfront but to keep the ownership of the title, after all already Amazon is having a 30% on the sales, and cutting the profit further for a translation and then audiobook means not having a margin for living out of my craft (unless I'm as successful as Stephen King).

The task seemed to be almost impossible until I found the person I was looking for. The first book is doing fairly well, and I hope the Italian audience will like it the same way the anglophone audience did, so please join me in keeping the finger crossed for this trilogy in this new market I'm dipping the fingers into.

I was so satisfied with the first book that I decided to have all the other books of the series translated. I have received the first part of the second book, and I'm extremely satisfied with the quality. I know you will wonder why I didn't translate the books myself, saving money. 

The reason behind my decision to hire someone else to take care of this job is time. I really have no time to take care of marketing, day job, relaxing, writing new books, updating social media and website. One thing I can do is checking the translation received and confirm the great value I've received.

But here is the cover of the translated version:


And if you like to read in Italian, here's the link to Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XK6H3QP

With this great news and having found back my writing mojo, I'm going to wish you all a great weekend.





Sunday, February 21, 2021

Spring is coming!!!

 Oh well, I know many of you don't consider it Spring when the temperature reaches 0 C. Nevertheless, for those who like me, spent the last four months at -15C ~ -23C this is almost time for  going swimming.

As soon as the mercury column rises with the clear will of leaving the minus side, it spells the end of winter and the beginning of Spring.

That is also pretty much Finland.

This means also one thing, I have set for one day the writing aside and I have put on the grower hat setting up the seedling for the summer and also for the next winter season.


The tomatoes, the cucumber, and the paprika are the first I have started to plant, and at the moment they grow indoors far from the still chilly weather.

Faster growing herbs will follow starting from May, and so the growing season it starts.

At the same time, I can take it a bit easy with the writing a I have sent my manuscript to the editor and waiting patiently (although in anticipation for the result).

Life starts once again to look good, and with the incoming of a fairer weather, the kick-off of the growing season for the greenhouse, the sweet sound of the ticking rain, telling me that the snow will be soon a dear memory, my heart can find some peace from the latest unfortunate events.

I also started to look around and pondering to adopt another rabbit from the animal shelter. Carolina seems to agree with the fact that being the only rabbit in the house may not be the best situation. regardless of the time we spend playing together, I believe she's missing someone who talks her same language.

On a negative side, it seems like soon we will be once again into lockdown, but since I have my own room at work, this won't mean that we will be working from home, unless there will be an order from the health authorities.

Honestly I hope this won't happen. I am a terrible procrastinator, and if I find myself working from home, I will have, as a result a spotless house and a massive load of undone work. I guess I can't have all I wish, can I?

On a brighter side, although one of my colleagues was diagnosed with Covid-19, I have been tested and resulted negative, meaning that being confined in my room at work is working quite well as a protection against any sort of contagion.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, remember to take care of yourself and stay safe.



Saturday, February 13, 2021

The pen is mightier than the sword

 

The past two weeks have been quite challenging, and that's the reason why I have taken a small break from blogging.

Now, with a fresher mind, I can go through the problem encountered. I hope nobody ever has to go through the same trouble, but if so, I hope my experience will help them too.

An author doesn't write the perfect manuscript on the first draft; sometimes, he'll need ten or more drafts before he can (almost) confidently click the button "Publish" and send his words to the world.

A writer is made of doubts, second thoughts, dilemmas, fears. But how can he or she get over those overwhelming feelings and courageously send the raw draft to a beta reader, to an editor to find help in the shaping of the final product, a novel readers will love?

Most of the time, it's a leap of faith unless you already have an editor to work with. The contract between the writer and the editor is a question of trust and honor both parties will respect. The professional editor knows perfectly that the manuscript he or she will receive is far from being perfect. It might be plagued with plot holes, plot bunnies, repetitions, missing explanations, typos, stilted dialogues, and everything a creative mind, in the excitement of the writing process, didn't grasp.

This is valid for new authors as much as for seasoned ones. Writing isn't easy.

In my short career, I had to change three different editors. All of them helped me to improve my style, find my voice, found the holes, and pointed out how to fix them. I owe a lot to those amazing people and will never be grateful enough for their precious help.

Then something happened. My regular editor couldn't take any other jobs, and I needed to search somewhere else. Fate brought me to knock at the wrong door and choosing an unprofessional self-proclaimed editor. I decided to have developmental editing because the novel I had was a recovered version, and I couldn't say whether it was the latest I pre-edited or not. For this reason, I also sent the first two chapters because I wanted the editor to have a perfect idea of what to be expected. Sending the two chapters means that the editor is going through them and evaluate whether he/she feels like the job would require skills he/she doesn't have or will require more time than the forecasted. Obviously, he/she didn't even open the document and agreed to the contract.

I said the document was a recovered one, and there were some plot holes. After 45 days, as a result, I received a nasty email full of insults about my writing style, the plot, the main character, and myself, together with a hardly edited text. For two weeks, I tried to overcome the feeling of those insults, but it hadn't been easy. 

For two weeks, everything I tried to write felt like a complete failure, and the only desire I had was to quit everything, including my whole existence.

I need to thank my husband, my sister, and all the wonderful people of the author group I belong to, who understood that no editor should ever resort to personal attacks, insults, and never should feel free to belittle a customer.

That customer is a writer already filled with doubts; she/he doesn't need any further. Had I been more lonely or fragile, this editor had a human life on his/her conscience, and that's absolutely not a joke or an exaggeration.

If you are an author and find yourself in my same situation, please seek comfort between the author community around you, and ignore those negative people who can't do their work professionally. Editing is hard work, as hard as writing. It requires skills you can't merely improvise, empathy, understanding, and the ability to fix a first draft. This is particularly true when the editor offers developmental editing services.

So, my fellow authors, keep writing and keep positive. But most of all, find a professional editor to polish your future bestseller.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Bots and A.I.


We're living in very interesting times indeed. Never like in these two years, technology has been developed at a higher speed. 

The new pandemic forced many people to work from home, when possible and many others saw their job linger into a frustrating standby. Others instead had seen their jobs simply disappear.

This condition forced small and big firms alike to rely on Artificial Intelligence and Bots' development to fulfill the primary customer service or to moderate their websites.

As many of us had the displeasure to experience, the social platform like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter suffered this forced shortage and many saw their accounts suspended based on a glitch of the system. Now, since there isn't any human to be reached with which talk to reason, those accounts are permanently suspended, until this pandemic is over. We're all waiting for the day when humans can get back to the place where they perform better than machines; customer service.

Also giants like Amazon aren't immune to this problem, and many sellers have experienced glitch on their reports, or ads campaign.

I really hope that all this mess will teach us something very important:

HUMANS CAN'T BE REPLACED BY MACHINES.

Artificial intelligence will never be able to simulate the complexity of human brain, particularly when we're talking about problem solving, and communication between each other. Artificial intelligence can't substitute a narrator, nor it can substitute an artist or a musician or a singer. 

I have been struggling with failed deliveries for the whole 2020, and in all those cases I was dealing with a bot. I really can't wait to have again an email address or a telephone number to call in case I need some assistance during the use of a online service.

I might be too old fashioned or also too old to appreciate the advantage of bots and artificial intelligence. Although I am a person who tends to avoid crowds I still prefer to deal with people, to whom I can explain my problem and together we'll find a solution, even it's not recorded on the database.

I hope humanity will understand this very valuable lesson and will give up those useless bots which cause nothing more than harm.

Stay safe and take care,

Paula

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...