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MIND LIKE WATER MONTHLY
Dedicated to helping the ebook community.
Issue # 6: August 15, 2002
Publisher: Mind Like Water, Inc.
http://www.mindlikewater.com 
newsletter@mindlikewater.com 

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Hi, and welcome to another issue of the Mind Like Water Monthly. If you want to catch up on back issues, please visit http://www.mindlikewater.com/newsletter.html.

My family and I just spent a relaxing few days in the mountains of Arkansas. A little horseback riding, hiking (don't tell my doctor or physical therapist), swimming, camping and mineral hunting. I hope you all have had a chance to get away or just relax for a few minutes. Sometimes we get caught up in the machine of life and need time to reflect.

Watch for changes in our ebook directory this month! We are trying to "catch more fish" by expanding the topics in our directory. Our fish are readers, who we hope will help our authors and the ebook community in general. We are adding subcategories for each of the major genres, deleting prices from ebook title information, and making some other minor changes. We also recently revised our ebook submittal form to make it more user friendly.

Best wishes,

Michael Williams
Co-President
geoguy@mindlikewater.com
 

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Table of Contents
1. Feature Article: To Catch More Fish, You Need a Bigger Net
2. eBook Author Interview: Marsha Briscoe, A Still Point in Time and A Family Matter
3. Tip of the Month
4. eBook Author Interview: Jonathan Lyons, Burn

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Feature Article: To Catch More Fish, You Need a Bigger Net
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Here's a question to ponder. What do you as an ebook author do best? This is a trick question, right? Well, the answer is quite simple. You write content.

Normally, an author thinks in terms of his/her next novel, short story or nonfiction topic. I challenge you to think in terms of marketing yourself and your products. Write short, topical pieces and informational factoids that can be used on your web site to attract users. If you don't have a web site or are limited by a publisher, please contact me about adding content pages on Mind Like Water's site.

Let's say you are a fiction writer and your latest novel takes place in France during World War II. The story is compelling and you have received accolades. You are even selling a few copies here and there.

I believe you need a bigger net. Create your net by writing content pages of no more than about 250 words with only one topic or keyword phrase in mind. Make sure that you include your keyword phrase in the title of the page and in the HTML title. Also, be sure to sprinkle your keyword phrase several times within the text to help increase your "keyword density."

Where do you find your topics? Right in your own ebook.

Scan through your own ebook and pick out at least 10 to 20 topics that you either have done research on for your book or that you can research now. Even if you write fiction, your novel may be full of historical, scientific or other content that web users would love. Think in terms of the interest level of a web surfer, but temper that with the fact that you are not going to get ranked very high for generic terms like "France." You may get ranked high for a phrase like "History of France during World War II."

Write as many keyword-specific web pages as possible. Next, see if you can get any ezines, newsletters or other web sites to publish your material for free (as long as you get to include a link to your book or web site). Take it a step further and join in on a few newsgroups or discussion groups related to your topics.

At Mind Like Water, we have found this to be the most successful strategy for getting listed high on search engines and selling our products. It's not a difficult thing to do, but few people do it because it requires effort.

In short, start writing more and more content and catch more fish.

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** Special Opportunity **
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For a limited time only we are offering our comprehensive manual called Supercharge Your eBook Profits at a 40 percent discount. This ebook teaches you how to write winning sales pitches, find effective keywords, get listed high on the most popular search engines and much more. This ebook is based on several years of research by Mind Like Water staff. This offer is only available for the next two weeks. Please contact me personally at geoguy@mindlikewater.com, or visit http://www.mindlikewater.com/ebooks/supercharge_ebooks/index.html

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eBook Author Interview: Marsha Briscoe, A Still Point in Time and A Family Matter
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Diane: I see that you are a member of the Romance Writers of America, and that you served as an officer of your local Kentucky chapter. What is the value to authors of joining this or other such organizations?

Marsha: Membership in a writer's organization provides the author an opportunity for networking, promotes a sense of professionalism, offers updates in the publishing industry, and fosters a sense of community. This sense of community helps alleviate the solitude and isolation that writers may often experience.

Diane: You were a published poet and essayist before you wrote your first novel, A Still Point in Time -- a reincarnation romance whose plot came to you in a dream. What were the challenges in transitioning to a different genre?

Marsha: The challenges involved in the transition from writing traditional metrical poetry (mainly in the sonnet form) and expository writing proved to be invigorating. The biggest obstacle I had to overcome was shedding my trained formal style of academic writing -- a style that often imposes an emotional distance between the reader and the work.

Reading and writing have always been prominent in my life. Although I had written and published poems, book reviews, and academic articles earlier, I was a late-comer to fiction writing. But I'd always promised myself that someday I would write a novel. It was not until 1993, however, while I was teaching college English at a local university that I decided to actually tackle the challenge.

Little did I know how difficult writing a novel would prove to be! I almost quit. Then one night not long after I'd drafted an early chapter, I had a dream about the Pre-Raphaelite artist and Victorian poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his beloved model and lover, Elizabeth Siddal. The twelve stormy years of passion and pain engulfing these two historical yet legendary characters began to haunt me and I felt compelled to weave their story into the fabric of my reincarnation novel's past life characters. Thus was borne the real impetus for me to complete my book. The more I delved into the actual lives of Dante and Elizabeth, the more I saw startling coincidences between their tempestuous love and what was happening between my 20th century English professor, Laura Bouvoire, and the college student named Dante.

Yet I still didn't really have a handle on crafting fiction, so I started reading several books on the art of writing fiction. (Although I felt confident in teaching literature and expository writing, nothing in my ninety-plus hours of undergraduate and graduate English courses had prepared me to actually write novel-length fiction.) After about six revisions of my A Still Point in Time, I finally honed my craft enough that I considered my book publishable. Of course, when I began submitting to New York, I collected enough rejections to paper the proverbial bathroom ceiling. But I did apply to my plot nearly every suggestion those rejecting editors made.

Then I discovered e-publishers and was enchanted by the advantages which e-publishing offers, advantages such as "shelf" longevity and global sales. After my reincarnation romance was contracted by RFI West and the attendant validation I felt as a writer sank in, I was so hooked on writing fiction that I wrote my second novel, A Family Matter, which was released in June 2002 from RFI West.

Diane: I read that your second novel, a romantic mystery entitled A Family Matter, is a modern treatment of the ancient Greek Phaedra myth. Tell us about this myth, and why it appealed to you as a contemporary writer. Was there something about the myth that led you to choose the eastern Kentucky coalfields as the novel's setting, or did the fact that you live in Kentucky influence your choice?

Marsha: The Phaedra myth has been treated by various writers over the centuries, from Euripides in 428 B.C. to Racine in the 17th century to Eugene O'Neill in 1924, to name a few. In this archetypal myth, the young Phaedra, princess of Crete and daughter of King Minos, marries King Theseus and lives with him in Greece. When her husband Theseus is away for several months, Phaedra falls in love with her grown stepson, Hippolytus. 

The following background (which I present along with a genealogy chart at the end of my novel, A Family Matter) will shed more light on the full myth:

After Theseus slew the Minotaur, he eloped with Ariadne (who earlier had led him with a piece of string through the labyrinth that housed the feared Minotaur), but he left her on an island and returned to Crete to capture Phaedra's affection.

Some years prior to the time that he wooed the sisters Ariadne and Phaedra, Theseus had an affair with the Amazon woman Antiope, who later bore his illegitimate son, Hippolytus. 

Eventually securing the hand of Phaedra from her father King Minos, Theseus took Phaedra to his homeland in Greece where, after the death of his father King Aegeus, she reigned, content and happy, by the side of her husband King Theseus in the Royal Palace at Troezen near Athens. Until, that is, the day when Hippolytus, grown to manhood, wanders to his absent father's Royal Palace and meets his stepmother, Phaedra, for the first time. Soon after that fated day, a storm gathers. Phaedra and Hippolytus fall in love, but Phaedra is so plagued with guilt over the incestuous love, she grows ill and eventually commits suicide. When King Theseus returns from a visit to the underworld, he discovers the illicit affair and banishes his son Hippolytus. Hippolytus leaves, driving his chariot along a rutted seaside road, not knowing that King Theseus has called upon the sea god Poseidon to cause a massive wave to rise up from the sea and overtake Hippolytus' horse-drawn chariot. The horses bolt as the water crashes down upon them. Hippolytus, caught in the reins and dragged against rocks, is mortally wounded.

Why did this myth appeal to me as a contemporary writer? The tragic story of Phaedra and Hippolytus appeals to me because of the archetypes embodied in this myth and its various treatments. Myths have long been considered attempts to explain human behavior and when those myths involve archetypal patterns, they unconsciously or subconsciously touch chords in what Carl Jung called the "basement" of our minds -- that collective memory of the human race. It is, however, essential when writing a contemporary treatment of an ancient legend or myth that the modern re-telling stand alone as a story. The writer cannot assume that readers will be familiar with that old legend or myth.

I happened to be teaching Racine's 17th century play, Phaedra, a few years back when the idea of writing a contemporary re-telling of this ancient myth struck me. My idea was confirmed when a month later I read Jane Smiley's novel, A Thousand Acres, which is a modern telling of the King Lear story. Smiley's success in her contemporary treatment of King Lear dividing his vast land holdings among his three daughters inspired me to write A Family Matter. I chose to set this second novel in the 1990's eastern Kentucky coal fields because (1) my father was a Civil and Mining Engineer and the owner-operator of eastern Kentucky coal mines many years ago, and hence, I had some first-hand knowledge of the goings-on in the coal business; (2) I could envision a ruthless coal baron whose mines fueled the economy and whose power led him to be known as "King of Coal"; and (3) I saw obvious parallels between the underground mines where A Family Matter's hero searches through the dark, labyrinthine tunnels for his mysteriously missing father and the descent of King Theseus into the Underworld. The prolonged absence of Theseus while he was in the Underworld and the lengthy absence of Mick's father paved the way for the young wives left behind to fall in love with the grown stepsons.

Diane: I came across this tidbit on the Internet: "Marsha Briscoe -- Authority on Arthurian Legends." We have T. H. White's The Once and Future King and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Any thoughts of putting your own spin on the tales of Camelot in a novel? What can readers look forward to next from you?

Marsha: I do not know where on the Internet it says that Marsha Briscoe is an "authority" on Arthurian Legends. I have taught the Arthurian legends in my college literature courses and in high school Advanced Placement English courses. I am conversant with the various treatments of those legends from Chretien de Troyes to Mallory to Tennyson to T. H. White and I thoroughly enjoy teaching that material. When I can find the time and recall the muse, I hope to write a contemporary treatment of one facet of the legends -- particularly one that brings in the Fisher King myth, the Grail Legends, if you will. Currently, I am busy editing books for a publishing company and my muse has temporarily fled. But don't ask me how I get my creative juices flowing. I do know I cannot force those bursts of creativity; they just happen when they happen. When the muse deserts me, on occasion I have felt like the narrator in Coleridge's "Kubhla Kahn," whose vision of an Absinnian maid (his muse) vanished when he was interrupted and he later realizes that if he could revive the music the maid played on her dulcimer, his creativity would return and he could reproduce in his writing that "sunny dome! those caves of ice!" In other words, the poet reveals that if he could only recapture the inspiration once afforded him by the music of the "Abyssinian maid," he could succeed in his creative effort. So too at times have I hoped to recapture the inspiration that drove my first two novels.

-- Marsha Briscoe
For more information about Marsha's two novels, visit her author website at http://www.marshabriscoe.com.
Marsha's email address is megbris@bellsouth.net.
And be sure to visit Marsha's publisher, RFI West, at http://www.rfiwest.com.

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Why advertise in the Mind Like Water Monthly?

Online newsletters tend to narrowly focus their content to meet the needs and capture the loyalty of a very specific readership ... giving you the perfect opportunity to get your ad in front of your best potential customers! If you would like more information about advertising with us, please send an email to geoguy@mindlikewater.com.

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Tip of the Month
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You can take a vacation during July. Based upon our research, July tends to be the slowest month for sales of online products.

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eBook Author Interview: Jonathan Lyons, Burn
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Diane: Your science fiction noir Burn is set in "a surreal twenty-first century full of androids, binaries, chip trippers, NewSchool Grrls and Morlocks, black acid rain and StellarNet obsession...." (Domhan Books) What did you draw upon to create this imaginary world?

Jonathan: Quite a lot of things, really. Growing up in the '80s, under the looming cloud of the Cold War, many people of my generation were convinced that a nuclear war was inevitable in our lifetime. A poll conducted by Time Magazine found a surprising number of Gen Xers -- something like 50 percent -- thought so. A 1982 nationwide survey ranked nuclear war as the nation's number-one concern.

Fast-forward to the mid-'80s. Environmentalism was beginning to take root as Americans began to realize that it was possible to do enough damage to the air we breathe, water we drink, and planet we live on to endanger us. My generation watched as politicians managed to take serious signs of environmental damage and transform them into mere political disagreements. The hole in the ozone layer and global temperatures that had risen markedly since the start of the industrial revolution come to mind. By simply denying that they were happening (as happened with global warming) or claiming that they were a politically motivated fiction concocted by NASA (as was said by some when satellite photos began to be released showing the hole in the ozone layer growing), they managed to turn very real problems into the same sort of debate we always hear between the right and left.

We were crashing the environment we depend upon to survive, and '80s-era politicians pretended it wasn't true so that they (and we) wouldn't have to help pay to fix the problems. A lot of people stopped paying attention when the politicians told them not to worry.

We saw these things happening and knew, as we have always known, that we would be the ones who would have to clean it up. Bankrupt Social Security? Not their problem -- they'll be gone before it runs out. Environmental issues? Only whacko tree huggers, we were told, care about that.

In one exchange on global warming a conservative commentator trotted out the line-to-toe du jour: Even if the worst environmental predictions were to come true, it would just mean Miami-like weather in New York.

A more informed commentator replied that while this was true, New York would also be under 120 feet of water under that much of an increase in global temperatures. There's a great deal more to it, but you get the idea.

I began to think about New York City in transition -- not at the end of those worst predictions, but in the middle somewhere, while they're taking place. More smog in the atmosphere combining with more water vapor to produce an impenetrable, unending, raining night -- an environmental apocalypse in progress happened to set the scene in a way that parallels the old black-and-white tradition of the film noir. This led to me thinking of the film noir of the past as a template to work from for a future noir -- a technoir.

The rest was just me spending hours on end thinking about the logical evolution of society as a result of current trends: Microsoft constantly taking over markets by producing less- functional knock-offs of software, then making their knock-off the system's default application for that task; ever more expensive and ever more necessary higher education leading to rogue free schools, such as that run by the militant NewSchool Grrls; the Morlocks arising out of predictions for the future of recombinant DNA, with which it is theorized we could actually be able to change our physical characteristics.

It didn't hurt that I was working a late shift as a copy editor, and as such wrote much of the book late at night.

Diane: I love the opening line to Burn: "Outside, it rained a black rain again." What do you feel are the qualities of a great first sentence in a novel? Can you describe what you were trying to evoke with the opening line to Burn?

Jonathan: The most important thing a writer can do is engage the reader's interest. Forget a great evolution in the story within 50 pages, think about the perfect opening word to hook them. Now that's a feat!

I remember reading once that when William Gibson wrote Neuromancer, the award-winning novel that for many heralded the arrival of cyberpunk, he was so concerned with the need to keep the reader engaged that he tried to get some sort of hook on every single page!

The book begins with the line you quoted, but the second line helps set up the tone as well:

      "Outside, it rained a black rain again.
      Outside, it was still dark, still the dirty-gray near-night of the best-lit days of Old 
      New York."

In starting Burn with these lines, I set the tone for the novel: It is still night time (How long has it been dark out?), still raining (How long has it been raining?); it is raining a filthy rain in a dark night out there. Looking out the window, you can imagine the slick, somewhat reflective post-cityscape glistening like molten lead in the night -- just as it always does. It sets the novel in a black and white world that is related to that of the Philip Marlowe detective series and other film noirs, but with a twist that aligns it with the worlds of environmental apocalypse novels, such as John Brunner's prophetic The Sheep Look Up, as well.

Diane: The official web site of Burn has links to several reviews. In terms of your overall marketing strategy, how important are these reviews? Can you share any advice for getting a book reviewed?

Jonathan: I feel that getting your books reviewed and getting those reviews into readers' hands are both absolutely vital; it's a big literary world out there. We went looking for reviewers, for magazines and newspapers and webzines that do book reviews, and sent out dozens of copies to make it happen.

Diane: I read that your third novel will be a return to the world of Burn. What should authors consider when deciding whether or not to write a sequel?

Jonathan: I set out to have the Cage/Jonny Cache technoirs be a series that crosses genres. This one is science fiction/technoir, murder mystery, literary fiction, and paranormal -- it deals with spontaneous human combustion as a way of committing murder. Future novels will remain in this hybrid of genres, dealing with the crashing environment and more possibly paranormal issues. The decision of whether to write a sequel is the author's alone (usually -- I get the sense that some of the biggest-selling authors are having less-than-stellar novels dragged out of them to fulfill contract or market demands). I say it is the author's decision because it involves planning out past the length of a single book-length story, and because the author must feel good about the sequel story if s/he expects that story to be in line with the best work they can produce.

Diane: Burn, your first published novel, is available in a variety of ebook formats, as well as hardcover and paperback. What was your experience within the epublishing industry like, compared to your experience within the print publishing industry?

Jonathan: With both being handled by a single publisher, I would say that I have had the small-press experience; a novel I worked at and tweaked until I felt I was ready to share it was accepted in a highly competitive market, even receiving one award and nominations for several others. But what happens to the new author then? Ad budgets in small-press publishers are modest or nil; the big publishers buy out the shelf space in the brick and mortar book retailers; and to some book reviewers and publishers, you're still not a "real" author until one of the big publishers picks you up. In my case, we (my wife and I) invested a great deal of time doing work to promote Burn in our off hours.

That is the reality of today's print publishing business.

In the e-book realm, I encountered greater flexibility and generosity in contract terms, but how many people have e-book readers? And when they're shopping for them, how many will be happy with the news that some producers of e-book readers will attempt to control the supply of books, as well; or make it impossible for the consumer to load their own content onto their e-book reader?

I tested out a Cassiopeia and a Rocket eBook for e-book reading and truly enjoyed both, but as not that many people have e-book reader devices yet, the market continues to reach a smaller potential audience. I look forward to wider acceptance of e-books, though, and certainly want to make sure my future novels are available in print and e-book editions.

Thanks! I am presently finishing a creative nonfiction novel based on my experiences as an American expatriate in a post-9/11 world in India as the country nearly went to war with neighboring Pakistan -- twice. There was a militant suicide attack on the Indian Parliament; another on the American Centre in Calcutta/Kolkata; and the entire state of Gujarat erupted into massive Hindu vs. Muslim violence in which thousands died. And I am a good distance into the follow-up to Burn - the next Cage/Jonny Cache technoir.

-- Jonathan Lyons
Burn, a science fiction noir published by Domhan Books
Visit the official web site of Burn at http://www.the-foundry.net/burn.

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If you would like to be profiled in the Mind Like Water Monthly, please send an email to dino@mindlikewater.com. We are interested in hearing from ebook authors, epublishers, those of you who read ebooks, and anyone else involved in the ebook community.

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Phone: 913-381-4520 / FAX: 240-368-5664
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