Category Archives for Writing

Jumping on the Affiliate Marketing Bandwagon

Watch the video here

What is affiliate marketing?

If you’ve been following my blog recently, you’ll notice that I’ve added links to products that I recommend onto various posts. Those links identify me to the company involved. If you purchase a product using one of my links, I get a commission.

I’ve identified my affiliates as a list of recommendations under the “work with me” tab.

Technological Hurdles

I experimented with this brand of marketing a few years ago. The hassle of getting the affiliate links to work on my site made it too difficult given the few visitors who clicked on the links.

Recently, I decided to experiment with them again, because people have been asking me where they can purchase my books.

Also, affiliate revenue makes sense as I explore the self-publishing model more deeply than before.

But I’m still struggling with the technology.

Companies want assurances that your relationship with them will lead to sales, so you have to apply to get the right to put links on your site.

Then you have to learn their operating system to get the links you actually want. My site is not an e-commerce site, so I have no desire for those massive banners all over the place.

Creating Deep Links

All I want to do is give you the appropriate deep link so that you can buy my books, buy a book I recommend; or try one of the services I love without too much trouble while also supporting my work.

That takes time and I’m not that proficient at creating deep links properly.

The result, once I get it set up will be awesome though. Country flags tell you which link to use. If you’re in Canada, you can order from Canadian stores. If you’re in Brazil, you can order from stores in that country.

Affiliates Enable Companies to Quantify Word-of-Mouth

I also believe in the model itself. Affiliations enable companies to track new clients with recommendations from customers and put a value on word-of-mouth.

It also gives companies a chance to fix something when they mess up.

I’ve purchased many products using affiliation codes from people I love. Recently, I had a mild problem with one of these services. My business isn’t crucial to this company yet, but I contacted the person who recommended them to me. That person kindly sent them an email on my behalf and the company in question fixed the problem right away.

That’s the kind of community these affiliations create. It’s like living in a small town. All of a sudden, none of us are numbers anymore.

We’re all people.

Creating Community

When affiliates work the way they should, and when everyone takes a personal interest in the products they recommend, everyone ends up knowing someone who can help when things go wrong.

So I apologize for any broken links or frustrations you might experience. Just let me know, and I’ll try to fix it.

And thank you to everyone who purchases something from one of the companies I recommend.

Also, thank you to the people who recommended the products I love.

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Mindfulness

Mindfulness Video

Since I selected “peace” as my word of the year for 2019, I thought it useful to investigate mindfulness to see if it had any applications in the life of a creative entrepreneur.

Mindfulness, like prayer, requires a belief that we exist as part of a wider entity. That’s useful when you’re working hard to create abundance and growth, both as an individual and as a leader in the community.

For the last year or so, I’ve been practicing moments of mindfulness when I’m particularly stressed. That’s something I want to remember during this time of year when client expectations compete with plans for the upcoming year, grant applications and closing down last year and paying taxes.

So, what is mindfulness?

Two Distinct Modes

I like John Yates (Culadasa) description of mindfulness as the “the optimal interaction between attention and peripheral awareness.”

So far, I’ve noticed that it’s easiest to practice mindfulness on days when I’ve slept well, taken time to eat and exercise and am concentrating on a single task.

Clinicians have also found ways to use mindfulness to heal major illnesses.

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

According to Wikipedia, Clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness since the 1970s. They are known for helping people:

  • alleviate depression,
  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • treat drug addiction
  • cope with crisis
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn uses mindfulness in schools, prisons, hospitals and veterans’ centers

As a Catholic, having a healthy mind doesn’t solely mean being able to function in a secular world. For me, mindfulness works best when I approach it as a kind of prayer.

I’m not the only one who considers prayer a form of mindfulness either. Many world religions include a form of mindfulness in their spiritual practices.

Mindfulness and Christianity

Most people think that mindfulness comes from Eastern philosophies and religions such as Buddhism, but the Catholic faith also has a long-standing practice of mindfulness.

The Path to Our Door: Approaches to Christian Spirituality

A book called The Path to Our Door by Rev. Ellen Clark-King, the archdeacon of Christ Church (Anglican) Cathedral in downtown Vancouver, says that the popularity of Buddhist meditation has been good for Christianity. It allows us to discover meditative and contemplative methods within our heritage.

Some philosophies in the church describe a ladder of spirituality that begins with prayer, leads to meditation and ends with contemplation.

Contemplative Prayer

Most people in the west began learning about contemplative prayer after reading books by Thomas Merton. Merton, who practiced Catholicism as Father Louis, describes a traditional practice of prayer that is “centred entirely on the presence of God”. Merton also wrote the Seven Storey Mountain in 1948.

Thomas Keating’s centring prayer movement

Wikipedia has a site for an even more modern Centring Prayer Movement created by Thomas Keating. The Wikipedia article describes a number of leaders in the field.

The Cloud of Unknowing

Keating, Merton and Clark-King all benefit from “The Cloud of Unknowing,” a book written anonymously in the 14th century. An English monk probably authored The Cloud of Unknowing.

The author promoted a kind of prayer in which you keep silent as long as possible noticing thoughts as they occur without paying attention to them.

In Canada, many groups form part of the mindfulness movement, including the Contemplative Society on Salt Spring Island and most Anglican and Catholic Churches.

Montreal Mindfulness Opportunities

The Centring Prayer Movement Centre in Montreal holds meditation events every Monday evening at 19h at 5530 Isabella on Clanranald corner in Notre Dame de Grâce.

Christ Church Cathedral, at 635 Ste-Catherine St. West offers talks and silent meditation from 17:45 until 18:45 the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

There’s also Mecum, 8598 Des Rapides LaSalle QC H8P 2W2.

A collaborative community non-profit association called Mindfulness Montreal offers occasional events too. It was founded by three Montreal practitioners, Dr. Andreanne Éli (Clinique Psyché) Dr. Joe Flanders (MindSpace), and Muriel Jaouich (True North Insight). Since Éli works at the University of Montreal, Flanders at McGill and Jaouich at UQAM, the collaboration also links to three of our universities.

The organization’s first event at UQAM sold out last year.

This year, they’re planning a full weekend of activities at McGill and UQAM from April 19th to April 22nd. The full weekend costs $525, but individual presentations cost $40 or $50.

These centres offer good opportunities to get in-person training in mindfulness.

I’d like to commit to practicing mindfulness and its deeper cousin, meditation, in the next year to help me focus and take care of my personal health. If things go well, perhaps I’ll move towards a level of contemplation sometime later.

What kind of mindfulness do you practice? Does it help heal your body and spirit?

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Honouring Fred Christie for Black History Month

 

Honourary Grand Verdunois Fred Christie became known in 1936.

Christie went into the York Tavern in Verdun and the owner refused to serve him. He chose to take the owner to court.

Christie initially won $25, but he lost on appeal. The case took three years to get to the Supreme Court of Canada. There, Christie lost again.

The Supreme Court decision was rendered on December 9th, 1939 and published in 1940. It said:

the general principle of the law of Quebec is that of complete freedom of commerce.” Specifying further, the judgment states that “any merchant is free to deal as he may choose with any individual member of the public […] the only restriction to this general principle would be the existence of a specific law, or, in the carrying out of the principle, the adoption of a rule contrary to good morals or public order.”

After losing his case, Christie left Montreal.

His efforts initiated a series of events that led to the 1975 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Read more about Christie in the memorial page set up in his honour.

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How Many Distribution Partners Do You Have?

This week’s video is a short reflection on all the partners there are to create an online business when it comes to distribution.

[00:00:07] Now that we have created our online products, how do we distribute them?

[00:00:11] My example for this one is going to be a gluten-free cooking book that I originally did for an in-person course a couple of years ago.

[00:00:21] I’m just updating it now so that I can put it online. It’s gluten-free cooking basics. But I had to think about how to distribute it.

[00:00:32] So first of all, I need to make it into three different versions. I want a basic PDF version that you can buy off my web site.

Digital Book Versions

[00:00:48] So far, I’ve used a couple of different services to make this work. I used Canva in order to do the cover page and Jutoh to do the layout in a proper way. I was going to do In Design because I’ve wanted to learn it. But then I found Jutoh and so I decided to demo that because I know it’s not a very long book.

[00:01:08] And so I decided just to stick with what I know for this particular project. So then I’ll be selling it on my website.

Industry Distribution

[00:01:20] I want to sell it from Amazon so I had to use Ingram Spark and maybe I’ll also use Draft2Digital. Those are the two services that I’m exploring.

[00:01:29] I started with IngramSpark because I want to be in libraries and I definitely want it to be an Amazon and Kobo Writing Life but I could take I didn’t I unselected those so that I could do the distribution myself in those two formats because I want to have my own relationship on Amazon. I want to have my own relationship on Kobo.

[00:01:47] IngramSpark has a print on demand service that they can do. They can do libraries. They have a ton of different things that I don’t know very much about because I haven’t actually done that particular part yet. I’ve just signed up for my account and started investigating what I’m going to be doing but I’m very excited because the gluten-free cooking basics is an important project.

Gluten-free Cookbook

[00:02:08] I know that a lot of people who have celiac disease really struggle with trying to cook home wonderful meals that are as good as the ones they were used to if they were eating gluten free before. And it’s not that hard to take your original recipe and modify it.

[00:02:28] You have to do a little bit of experimenting to make sure that you get the textures right and the liquids right and everything but and baked goods are not too bad.

[00:02:37] They can get crumbly and dry if you’re not careful but I add a lot of either egg or apple sauce into them so that prevents that real crumbly thing from happening and that can be really good. So in terms of distribution, obviously our distributions include WordPress because this site is on WordPress.

Payment Sites

They also include all the payment. You know how people pay me. So I have a Square. I have a Stripe account.

[00:03:06] I have a PayPal account and so people can pay me that way too.

[00:03:20] So basically anybody can pay me if they want to. But all those organizations including Quickbooks where I do my accounting, and YouTube, where I host my videos. Those are all distribution partners because they all have online catalogs which I’m I’m going to take advantage of as well so that they won’t just be on my own Web site but they’ll also be on the website of all my partners because I want to make sure that their clients get to have as much diversity as possible, including my gluten free cookbook. So that’s one point about online distribution that people don’t often think about the other partner and this is MailChimp.

Email List

[00:03:58] I’m using MailChimp to deliver my cookbook to people who order off my Web site. So they’ll just go into my mailing list and then my mailing list delivers them the PEF. Hopefully, that will work.

[00:04:11] I’ll let you know when I launch. If you’re one of the purchasers then please let me know how it’s working for you so that I can update it if I need to. And I guess my next when I do another video I will tell you how it went.

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Improve your Craft with a Writing Reference Book

Are you a word nerd? If so, consider getting a writing reference book from the following list and support your passion and my work at the same time.

If you choose to buy one of these books through my affiliate links, I get a few cents although you don’t pay any additional fee.

Then we can both sit back and explore the world of nonfiction. Very few people in the world understand how wonderful it is for word nerds to pick up a good writing reference guide and read a few pages for fun.

I’m not talking about those moments when grabbing it quickly confirms a particular grammar point, although that’s useful too. No, instead I’m speaking about those lazy days when anything is possible and yet somehow the whole day passes by because I chose to sit and read The Chicago Manual of Style for a few minutes.

In addition to thinking about language and getting tips to improve your craft, writing reference guides can trigger new research ideas.

Research Ideas Triggered

Once while reading the section about citing sources, for example, I discovered a new potential source for research. On page 748, it says:

Command papers are so called because they originate outside Parliament and are ostensibly presented to Parliament “by command of Her [His] Majesty.” The different abbreviations for “command” indicate the series and must not be altered. No s is added to the plural [Cmnd. 3834, 3835].

That made me curious. Turns out that Command Paper 3834 is a book called “Review Body on Armed Forces Pay: 1998, 27th Report by Great Britain, Gordon Hourston (Paperback, 1998).” This exercise made me realize that researching under the term “command papers” in the UK National Archives might lead to detailed policy analyses that are unavailable elsewhere. Awesome lesson!

While the Chicago Manual of Style contains depth beyond its key strength, most writing references are less diverse. Each one meets a precise purpose for a particular situation.

As with many works of notable nonfiction, that purpose depends on whether you’re looking for story, structure or style advice.

I have selections of books to help inspire me about all three challenges, yet there are still a few highly recommended books on my wish list. I’ve listed all of these below to give you an idea about which books cover which topics best. Books with reviews or affiliations links on this blog are hyperlinked to those resources.

Story: Books about Being a Writer

Brown, Rita Mae. Starting From Scratch. A Different Kind of Writers’ Manual. New York: Speakeasy, 1988. ISBN 0-533-34630-X.

Cheney, Theodore A. Rees Writing Creative Nonfiction. Berkeley: Tenspeed Press, 1991. ISBN 0-89815-411-1.

DeBartolo Carmack, Sharon. You Can Write Your Family History.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2003.

Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. New edition. Shambhala, 2005.

King, Stephen. On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Simon & Shuster Inc., 2000. ISBN 0-671-02425-6.

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird. Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.

Nieman Foundation. Telling True Stories. Edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call. New York: Penguin Group, 2007. ISBN 978-0-452-28755-6.

Pen Canada. Writing Away. Edited by Constance Rooke. Toronto, McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1994. ISBN 0-7710-6956-1.

Structure: Books about Writing Presentation

Best American Essays 2000. Edited by Alan Lightman and Robert Atwan. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. ISBN 0-618-035580-x.

Bishop, Leonard. Dare to be a Great Writer. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1992. ISBN 0-89879-464-1.

Kuriloff, Peshe C. Rethinking Writing. New York: St. Martin’s Press Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-312-00274-2.

Larsen, Michael. How to Write a Book Proposal, Writer’s Digest Books; 4th edition (April 18, 2011), ISBN: 158297702X.

Law Hatcher, Patricia. Producing a Quality Family History. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1996.

Moffett, James. Points of Departure. An Anthology of Nonfiction. New York: New American Library, 1985. ISBN 9780451627285.

Ross, Raymond S. Essentials of Speech Communication. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1984. ISBN 0-13-289173-5.

Sands, Katharine. Making the Perfect Pitch; How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye.

Strathcona County Board of Education Communications Handbook. Edited by Paula S. Goepfert. Scarborough: Nelson Canada, 1982. ISBN 0-17-6015 07-8.

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey. Studio City: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998. ISBN 0-941188-70-1.

Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction. New York: Harper and Row, 1976. ISBN 0-06-272027-9.

Style: Books about the Art of Writing

Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, edited by Christopher W. French et al. Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1986. ISBN 0201100916.

Board for Certification of Genealogists Genealogy Standards. Edited by Thomas W. Jones. Washington: Turner Publishing Company, 2014. ISBN 978-1-630-26018-7.

Canadian Press Stylebook. Edited by Bob Taylor. Toronto: The Canadian Press, 1986, ISBN 0-920009-01-8.

Canadian Style. Edited by Malcolm Williams and Vitalijs Bucens. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997. ISBN 978-1-55002-882-9.

Carroll, David L. A Manual of Writer’s Tricks. New York: Paragon House, 1990. ISBN 1-55778-314-4.

Casagrande, June. Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies. A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite.  New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Coles Handbook of English Grammar and Composition. Toronto: Coles Publishing Company Limited, 1980.

Gordon, Karen Elizabeth. The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.

Hale, Constance. Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. New York: Broadway Books, 1999.

Hart, Jack. Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction Paperback, University Of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (Oct. 12 2012), ISBN 0226318168.

Kleinschmit, Nathalie. Borderless English. Manitoba: Global’ease, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9783825-06.

Mahan, Margaret D. F. The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. The University of Chicago Press, 2003, ISBN 0-226-10403-6.

Merriman, Brenda Dougall. Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Family Historians.  Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2010.

Shown Mills, Elizabeth. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Revised edition.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.

Strunk Jr., William and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York: Longman, 1999, ISBN 0-02-418200-1.

Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. ISBN 1861976127.

Venolia, Jan. Write Right. A Canadian Desk-Drawer Digest of Punctuation, Grammar and Style. North Vancouver: Self-Counsel Press, 1983. ISBN 088908-554-4.

Weber Shaw, Fran. 30 Ways to Help You Write. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1980, ISBN 0-553-24073-0.

If you’re new to writing, or if you’ve never used books to inspire you to improve your craft, you might consider judging the “sound” of these books to select those that might appeal to you.

Use Sound to Select Your Top Three

When I say sound, I’m referring to how we hear books in our head as we read them. Readers are used to judging poetry by sound, which encompasses mood, rhythm and tone, but they often forget that other books have the same qualities.

Authors also change how quickly they want readers to read by playing around with how they present their work.

Narrative voice, wordplay and book chapter and sentence structure encompass the mood of a work, whether argumentative, playful, intense or light.

The layout of a written text captures rhythm and reflects whether an author wants readers to quickly skip over sentences or pause and meander through them slowly.

Prose style captures the tone of a work.

Long words, sentences and paragraphs encourage deep thought and slow reading, while short precise sentences present a conclusion as though already formed in a reader’s mind. Is a work divided into small bite-sized chunks that encourage a reader to read sections separately whenever encouragement is needed? Do quick sentences make it difficult to put a book down? Do chapters end on cliffhangers that keep readers wanting more or do they end at clear conclusions to encourage readers to think?

Thinking about sound when judging a book can help readers understand what a writer wants to project.

Choose the Top Three for Your Writer Type

Most writers fit into a particular type: reporter, researcher or storyteller. All writers have characteristics from each type, but your key tendencies determine your type. In brief, reporters focus on events and news; researchers love information-gathering and storytellers create narratives easily.

Take my family history quiz to find out which type of writer you are and then get the ideal books to help you with story, structure and style.

If you’re a reporter, you’ll appreciate

If you’re a researcher, I’d suggest:

If you’re a storyteller, you’ll probably like:

As a Canadian, I also reference the Canadian Press Stylebook frequently. Rules in Canada sometimes match American rules, while at other times we use British rules. The Canadian Press Stylebook, which was first published in 1940, helps me keep the exceptions to Chicago straight.

If you’re a family history writer, you need Genealogy Standards for style.

Obsessive writers like me own all thirteen of the above books, plus a great many more. We are the word nerds.

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