Scientists Discover the Secret to Happiness: Adult Coloring Books

crayonsParents and babysitters have long used drawing and coloring as an effective tool to engage and calm anxious, unruly children. After all, there is nothing like a nice selection of crayons, a complicated pattern, and a little free time to distract a child from the troubles of the world.

Recently, this soothing childhood activity has been adopted by a slightly older demographic. What started as a quirky pass time has become an international trend, as evidenced by the number of adult coloring books making their way onto international bestseller lists. This trend may be a throwback to childhood memory, but in actuality it may also be the books’ therapeutic properties that have them flying off shelves.

Based on studies dating back to the early 20th century, coloring generates wellness, quietness and stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity. Psychiatrist Carl Jung prescribed coloring complex mandalas for his patients as a means to calm and center their minds.Mandala Coloring Book

Brain scans reveal that when coloring, different areas of our two cerebral hemispheres are activated. Dr. Stan Rodski, a neuropsychologist who also happens to be the author of his own line of adult coloring books, says that coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through meditation. Like mediation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment rather than worrying about what did or did not / may or may not happen.

Dr. Joel PeZenarson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia theorizes a different explanation for the therapeutic effect: Concentrating on coloring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones. “You have to look at the shape and its size, you have to look at the edges, and you have to pick a color. These activities occupy the same parts of the brain that stop anxiety-related mental imagery from happening.” In the simplest of terms, coloring has a scientifically recognized de-stressing effect.

So, if you are parenting or “babysitting” an anxious, unruly adult in need of a soothing distraction, grab a few markers and sit them down with a coloring book. It’s scientifically proven to replace the stress of adult life with childlike happiness.

Get started on your path to serenity today with a few of our favorite selections.

Your happiness deserves it.

Masculine AbstractpscychodelicFashionHealing patterns

Finessing Your Manuscript: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Writing CatWriting is hard work. Never mind worrying about the correct use of commas, avoiding sentence fragments, or maintaining the correct tense. As a self-publishing author, what once was the sole concern of proofreaders and editors, now falls on you. Self-publishers must wear all the hats. They no longer just write the book, indie-authors are also proofing it, editing it, formatting it, and finalizing it for production.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s crucial.

A book with grammatical and structural errors looks unprofessional and can turn away readers. In a world with so many books only a click away, we cannot rely solely on the strength of the story to propel a book into the reader’s hands. If the book’s description is the first, and most important, element to pulling a reader in, then the second element is the quality and presentation of the writing.

Before a reader will give your characters and plot twists a chance, they will scrutinize your use of the language, your clever commas, agile adjectives, and absurd alliterations (see what I did there?). If you want a reader to fall in love with your masterpiece, your control of the language must be impeccable.

When you proofread your work, keep these common mistakes in mind and look for ways to fix them:

  • Passive Sentences “He ran wildly down the alley, because behind him there were monsters” is a passive sentence. Rather than highlight what is happening, and giving the action immediacy, the action has already happened. Consider something like this: “Monsters chased him down the alley”. The same affect is achieved, but without the passivity. The action is directly linked and the sentence flows easily.
  • Word Use There are a number of words in English that sound the same, but have very different meaning. It can be easy to make these mistakes while writing, but prior to publishing, it’s important to identify and correct these words. Some problematic ones include:
    • “affect” vs. “effect”
    • “who” vs. “whom”
    • “they’re” vs. “there” vs. “their”
  • Agreements Tenses must stay consistent (“She laughs until she cried” won’t cut it), and the same goes for pronouns. It is important to be aware of the tense you were working in, and keep it consistent (did you catch that?). Align subject-verb and pronoun-ascendant correctly, so everything agrees (“Each of the players loved their new gear” might look acceptable, but that pronoun needs to agree!)
  • Commas, Run-Ons, and Fragments All of these elements refer to the structural design of the sentence. Using commas in the right place, avoiding run-ons (with those wisely placed commas!), and crafting complete sentences all enhance the reader’s experience. A well placed fragment, especially in dialog, isn’t going to hurt. Just be sparse with your creative license.
  • Show, don’t tell This might seem too obvious to mention, but it’s worth reiterating. Writing isn’t about telling a reader how something happened, it’s about putting them in the moment and letting them experience it with you. Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.” It cannot be stated any better than this.

Today more so than ever before, writers have to be more than just story tellers. They must be self promoters, self editors, the harshest critic, and their own strongest advocate. It’s no easy task to stand out amid all the other writers with stories to tell, but the surest way to make your work shine, is to polish it to perfection.

 

7 Tips for Keeping Your 2016 Writing Resolutions

new-years-resolutionsBy now, most people have realized their 2016 resolutions were perhaps a little too ambitious. You are not alone. On average, only 8% of New Year’s resolutionaries are successful in reaching their proclaimed goals. But, with resolve and a little encouragement, you may count yourself among the determined 8% at year’s end.

Here are seven tips to help keep your writing resolutions on track for success.

#1 – Define your why

You say you want to lose weight, quit smoking, start / finish writing your novel, devote more time to marketing your book, or find more happiness. But do you know why you want to do those things? Your “why” is your motivation. If you don’t know why, you are more likely to lose your resolve upon encountering the first setback.

#2 – Consider the why-nots

This is the flip side of your whys. As Noah St. Joan explains in his book, The Secret Code of Success, everything you do is caused by your why-tos weighed against your why-not-tos. Your brain is like an infinite weighing machine: It’s always comparing the perceived benefits (why-tos) against the perceived cost (why-not-tos).

Whenever you’re considering an activity — like spending time editing your novel, answering emails, writing press releases, or reading this article — your brain is going, “Why should I do this? How will it benefit me? What’s it going to cost me? I’d rather be watching TV.” Since our brains are always negotiating with us, our “why” must be a greater motivator than the alternative.

#3 – Enlist the help of friends

The easiest way to fail is to try to do something alone. There are not many examples of people who did great things completely alone. Bill Gates had Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Michael Jordan had his dad. Paul McCartney had John Lennon.

The way to overcome this mistake is simple: tell your friends what you want and why you want it, and ask them to support you in making positive changes.

#4 – Use positive peer pressure

This is a continuation of #3. Ask your friends to tell you when they see you straying from your goal.

Many people will feel uncomfortable about this one, but what you don’t realize is that your friends already know when you are not making an effort; they are just too nice to say anything. That’s why you must give them permission to tell you when you mess up or fall short of what you said you wanted to do. Just resolve to not get mad or defensive when they tell you.

#5 – Recruit an accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone you communicate with at regular intervals (monthly, once a week, even daily) to check on your progress. The beautiful thing is, you can also be that person’s accountability partner and help THEM make positive changes, too.

#6 – Ask experts for advice

No matter what you are trying to accomplish – write a poem, sell your book, schedule an interview, be nicer — without a solid plan of action, your good intentions will probably fall short. That’s why it’s good to find other people who have succeeded at the thing you’re trying to do and ask how they did it.

There is always someone who likes to talk about him/herself who will share their experience with you if asked politely. Even if you don’t know anyone personally, there are numerous blogs on all subjects that are just a few clicks away. If you can make use of others’ advice, you can avoid the most common pitfalls thereby increasing your chances of success.

#7 – Don’t set yourself up to fail

This is the worst mistake of all. The truth is, everyone knows how to write a book, quit smoking, or be nicer. Most people simply don’t believe they can do it — either because they’ve tried in the past and failed or they just don’t believe they’re capable of doing it.

Most importantly, don’t’ give up. It’s still early in the year and there is plenty of time to get your writing and marketing resolutions on track for success – just don’t wait too long to get started.

If you have any suggestions to share, please add them in the comments section below.

Happy 2016!

Using Lulu Coupon Codes in Your Marketing Emails

Jan 28 JANEND20 Full(This Post will be updated each day when new consumer coupon codes are released, so check back often.)

Let’s try out a few seasonal metaphors for your email marketing efforts…

Stuff your readers’ stockings with email! Deck the halls with deals on eBooks! Pass the turkey and mashed potatoes… and… strategically develop an email marketing plan that takes advantage of Lulu.com’s sales and special offers…

Okay, so that last one doesn’t really flow. But – it’s good advice all the same. Email marketing that coincides with Lulu’s impressive special offers is the next best thing to having your books carried right down your readers’ chimneys.

What’s so great about it? For starters, email marketing works. Social media may seem the savvier approach, but email is roughly six times more effective at bringing in new buyers than Facebook and Twitter. Email gives you a great platform for sharing special offers and introducing new books, without your carefully crafted content getting lost in the endless scroll of tweets and status updates.

Here’s a sample email template you can use:

Email Subject Line:
Get <Book Title> for 20% Off on Print Books and Calendars

Email Body:
Have you ordered your copies of <book title> yet? <Placeholder for one line book description>  If not, order today and save big.

Order today on Lulu.com and save 20% with coupon code JANEND20 thru January 28th.

To place your order, simply click this link: <Placeholder for link to book>, click Add to Cart and apply the code at checkout.

Plus, you can order extra copies at this discounted price to share with friends and family.

Order today and save! <Link to book>

<Author name>

**Don’t forget, coupon codes are case-sensitive.

 

See? Simple. You can highlight the current savings, briefly describe the book, and gives easy instructions. It’s low-pressure, good-natured, informative and brief. You can even provide a link right to your Author Spotlight and save your readers from searching. If you have multiple titles, you may wish to include a link to your Author Spotlight page to encourage shoppers to browse your catalog.

And, though we are currently entering the season of sharing and shopping, this strategy works year-round. At Lulu.com, we’re always looking for ways to promote you and sell your books. Whenever we have a sale — seasonal or otherwise — send out an email blast letting everyone know. After all, ‘tis always the season for reading!

All current discounts, coupon codes, and expiration dates are listed on the Lulu home page: www.lulu.com/home

 

Revising Your Fiction: Question Everything!

It’s a big day. You’ve finished the first draft of your book. You share the news on Facebook and get so many Likes—which will surely translate into book sales. But the ghosts of English teachers past remind you that a first draft is not a finished piece of writing.

“Fine,” you tell them. “I’ll edit.”

To appease the red pen-wielding apparitions, you add a semicolon here, take out a comma there, do a spellcheck, and now you’re done! Really done!

“Nope,” say the ghosts. “Revise.”

“But I spellchecked! I replaced two commas with em dashes! I even undangled a participle!”

“That’s editing,” they say. “Not revision.”

A lot of us consider these concepts synonymous, but they’re not quite the same thing. Revision is something a little more comprehensive.

The ugly truth is that lots of us don’t quite know where our stories are going until we get there. Sure, you might know the broad strokes, but good writing is all about the details. You discover things about your characters along the way—their motivations, likes, dislikes, loyalties, and more. Going back to make sure you’re as true to these details in your first sentence as you are in your last will make your stories better, your characters more well-rounded, and your readers more satisfied.

Ask yourself the following as you revise:

  • Who are your characters?

Do their actions make sense? Does your meek protagonist suddenly get loud and violent for no reason? Characters can—and arguably should—undergo change, but not on a dime, and not without cause.

  • What’s your setting?

Does the setting fit the story? What does it reinforce about the mood of your story or your characters—or how does it create contrast between your characters and their location? Properly setting your stage also sets the tone of your story.

  • What’s happening?

What happens? Are events properly set-up or do they occur randomly? Sure, life is random; but, in the same way that truth is stranger than fiction, truth is also less orderly. Fiction needs structure to feel believable.

  • Where’s the conflict?

This is the evil twin of plot. Both drive your narrative. What’s happening that generates interest, drama, or change? It can be external (like a ticking time bomb or a tough new boss) or it can be internal (like facing a debilitating fear or the acceptance of a breakup). Even better, include internal and external conflict. Good fiction is like life—complex.

  • Whose point of view is this?

Who’s telling the story? If your narrative is dependent on knowing lots of intimate thoughts and details about your main character, consider writing it in first-person. If the story works better with the reader kept at more of a distance—especially if there are lots of characters to touch on—try third. There’s no right choice, but be consistent—and be true to the voice you create.

In short, question everything about your story or book. It’s no easy task, but if you can’t answer the questions above, your readers will be left with lots of questions of their own—including why they should bother reading anything else you write.

Give your manuscript to a trusted (but picky) reader or two. Ask the above questions to them. The ones that stump them will show you where to start providing answers with a thorough revision. Your work will be better for it—and the ghosts of your English teachers will finally find some rest.

Getting Noticed: The Art of the Description

You wrote a book – congratulations! You’ve achieved something incredible. You wrote it, formatted it, reviewed the copy, self-published it and you are thoroughly satisfied, now all that is left is to put it up for sale and rejoice as readers the world over enjoy your work.

pexels-photoBut – selling a book is no easy task. Particularly in a literary world where self-published books are plentiful. By some UNESCO estimates, more than 800 books are published in the U.S. alone each day.

So, how do you make your book stand out?

Aside from writing a terrific book, the most important thing to do is to write an even better description. In fact, it’s arguably more important to write a great description.

The description is the front line for your book, the entryway to your literary world. It is the most important piece of writing you’ll do in terms of marketing your book and getting it noticed. And getting noticed is key! No one will know how good your book is if they aren’t enticed by the description to pick it up in the first place!

As both a consumer and a writer, there are a few things I’ve noticed that separate a good description from a poor one (and often these items mean the difference between someone buying your book or passing it over):

 

  • Brevity – The word count should be in the 150 to 250 range. This is a brief description meant to sell a reader on the book, it should not serve as a summary of the book. You are advertising your book, presenting a teaser that will make the reader want to pick up your book and find out what happens.
  • Introductions – Introduce your protagonist, the inciting incident, the setting/place/time – all the basics. Use strong, emotional language, in the third-person (even if the book is first-person). Writing in the third-person is a particularly effective way of removing yourself (the author) from the description.
  • Hook – Some suggest beginning with a hook, some ending with it. Either way, you need to “hook” the reader by evoking the genre and speaking to your intended audience. If your book is a crime thriller, make that clear with language that builds suspense or implies the unknown. If it’s a fantasy, let the reader know that they will be transported to strange new worlds with unique creatures and characters.
  • Raise the Stakes – Once the reader knows your protagonist, the inciting incident and has been hooked by the language, the stakes need to be cranked up to instill tension and motivate them to know more. A good story is steeped in conflict; tell your potential reader, either subtly or flat out, what the conflict is.
  • Write It as the Publisher – You wrote your book as the author—telling a story. An author is not a salesperson. You should write the description as the publisher, the person who wants to sell this book. Or better yet, have someone read the book and write the description for you! Whatever you do, stepping out of the author role is critical to writing an effective description.

 

While these aren’t the only rules, nor are they hard and fast, they will serve as guidelines when creating your description. The description is your only opportunity to grab your reader and make them want to read your book. Don’t waste this chance—use it to get as many people reading your book as you can!

Publish Your eBook to Amazon Kindle with Lulu

Get Your eBook On the Kindle Store STAT!

kindle_publishing_image

Time for a victory dance. You’ve mastered the Interwebs by publishing your eBook on Lulu.com. You’re a Level 10 Author! But to rank up to Bestselling Mobile Device Master, you must submit your eBook for distribution. This sends your eBook to online retailers across the globe, including Amazon’s Kindle store.

Kindle is the world’s best selling eReader, made so by the massive reach of Amazon. Even readers who don’t have a Kindle can buy and read your eBook on their smart phone, tablet or computer via the Kindle Cloud Reader.

How to get your masterful eBook from Lulu to the Kindle Store (and everywhere else)

First things first, you’ve:

Now how do you get your eBook into the Kindle store and all other online eBook retailers? Simple; go to the My Projects page, click the Manage distribution icon to the right of the eBook, and choose your eBook distribution options.

Lulu eBook Kindle distribution screenshot

You can opt into the Kindle channel while also having your eBook submitted to the iBookstore, Nook store, Kobo Store and Everything else. Click to Save your choices and your eBook’s journey begins.

Lulu Kindle screenshot

Lulu’s techno-sorcery will even convert the EPUB file you created on Lulu to a MOBI file automatically as part of the process of submitting your eBook to Amazon’s Kindle store. If you are curious how your eBook will look on a Kindle eReader, you can get an idea of what the MOBI version will look like using a free EPUB to MOBI converter. Searching the term “EPUB to MOBI” should list a few.

Greater visibility leads to greater success.

Take for example Andy Weir, a computer programmer who self published the best selling science fiction novel “The Martian.” He initially offered free chapter downloads on his website and listened to his readers’ feedback before compiling the chapters into a completed novel. He saw his eBook downloads skyrocket (ha ha.) after making it available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle store for $0.99. Interestingly, more people downloaded the $0.99 version from the Kindle store than had ever downloaded the free chapters. Go figure.

What did all this visibility get his novel? MORE visibility. (Plus a swanky status with nerdy ladies everywhere, no doubt.) I love nerdsIn fact, you can now watch the movie version of “The Martian” staring Matt Damon.

Happy eBook publishing, you tech-savvy author!

Make sure to share a link of your eBook’s Amazon Kindle listing in the Comments section on the left.