Writing: A Day in the Life

Write NowThis should read “A Day in the Life of THIS Writer, and it’s just ONE day in the life of this writer. Everyone approaches how they write in different ways. Disciplined writing and scheduled writing are a bit of a myth for most of us. Published authors with a following and books that have hit the best-seller list, likely treat writing as the business that it is. The rest of us – or maybe I should say most of us – struggle with getting our books or articles or short stories or poetry before an audience. But we keep trying.

A day in the life–

2:30 a.m. Jolt awake with a story idea – It’s there. It’s brilliant! The characters are falling all over themselves to be noticed. The plotline begs to be written, but it is 2 freaking 30 in the morning!

7 a.m. Stagger out of bed. The idea? What was it? Was the protagonist the woman with red hair or the one with a scar? Scar? Was there something about a scar? The plot. Yeah, the plot. This woman – maybe with a scar – goes in to have her teeth cleaned but the dentist is really…

7:05 a.m. Oh, right teeth, morning routine. Shower away sleep fog and think about the story. It was so damned brilliant! A best seller for sure. Notebook and oatmeal side-by-side on the breakfast table, think about the story that woke me at 2 freaking 30 a.m. … … … … It’ll come to me… … … … I’ll let it marinate while I tidy up.

7:30 a.m. Morning chores with notebook handy. Write down anything remotely recalled from brilliant idea. Chores complete, notebook depressingly empty.

10 a.m. Writing time. Butt in chair, start fresh or return to what I was working on yesterday. The Brilliant Idea has gone stale, but what I’ve been working on has promise. Stick it out. Get it done. Write.

2 (or 3 or 4) p.m. Review and revise, maybe even think about submitting. The work finished two weeks ago has mellowed like fine wine (maybe). Time to look it over for errors, possible revisions, and overall readability. Can it be saved, or is it time to chuck it? Or is it time to (hyperventilating here) send it out in hopes it will be accepted for publication?

It often feels like there is no endgame for writers. Life interferes with writing. The above example doesn’t take into account daily emails and texts, other projects demanding one’s time, unexpected life events, coffee with your mate, a wild hair that takes you down a divergent path. Which takes us back to discipline. I’m reading Waymarks for Authors, by Chris Lewando. She makes the point that as writers, we make a choice each day, to write or not to write. It’s up to us. No one is forcing us to write. It’s the individual writer’s decision, day-by-day, whether she or he will put pen to page or fingertips to keyboard. This should be a given, but face it, we’re often guilted into believing we have to write every day or treat writing time as sacrosanct. At what point does the thing you enjoy stop being joyful and become drudgery? That fine line is drawn by each individual.

I love to write. I do it every day. That’s me. That doesn’t have to be everyone. Just me.

Am I successful as a writer? It depends on your measuring stick. I’ve been published in the local paper and regional papers; in a state-wide and a couple of regional magazines, certainly on my personal website, which – yes – I do count, and I have indie published six books and two chapbooks of poetry. So, in that I am a published author, I count that as success.

Financial success is a different measuring stick and for many, the only one that counts. I’ve always been paid for my work as a freelance writer. Success. The books I’ve written have not gained traction, at least to the point of financial success. I’ve sold enough to pay for printing and a tad more. That’s it. Is it enough? I keep writing, so, I guess the answer is either yes, or, it doesn’t matter; I’m going to keep writing anyway.

Happy writing.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. Click the BOOKS tab to find out more about my work.  Books are available on Paper Trail in Las Vegas, NM, or through online retailers. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I may be reached by email at fsvandermeer@gmail.com.

Writing: The journey continues

Hello, Writing Friends and the Merely Curious:

Write Now

My Personal Poem a Day Challenge is only in its sixth day, but I’m pleased to say, I’ve written a poem every day since May 1, after having written – along with a bunch of other writers – 30 poems in April. The May 6 poem was inspired by the aroma of cut grass and dandelions that wafted through the window as I drove home from town.

SPRING HAIKU
The smell of cut grass
shot color into my world
and my whole self smiled.

Being inspired in this way reminds me of the recent Dreams and Creativity seminar featuring Jan Beurskens sponsored by the Las Vegas Literary Salon. Writing inspiration comes from many experiences. Dream symbolism is something I’ve been trying to explore since the seminar, but I have yet to remember a dream after the fact.

Sight, smell and emotional response to something seen or experienced is more likely to get my brain firing with ideas.

Mary Rose Henssler, one of the Lit Salon team members, wrote a great “kick-in-the-pants” article on the Salon website. Sometimes, that’s what we need, a little jog to get our writing out of a self-created rut.

Prompts are great ways to stimulate one’s thinking. You might not even use the prompt, but it’s food for your fertile brain so you can come up with something more, something different. If you are stuck, Google ‘writing prompts’ or ‘poetry prompts’ and be ready for the deluge of websites that have tons of them.

Here are a few links to get you started:

700+ Creative Writing Prompts to Inspire You Right Now
500 Writing Prompts to Help Beat Writer’s Block
125 Of The Best Poetry Writing Prompts For Poets | Writer’s Relief
101 Poetry Prompts & Creative Ideas for Writing Poems

I know, daunting, isn’t it? But when you run through these, you see they represent a myriad of life experiences or ideas you’ve probably already had. It becomes doable to give the basic idea legs by adding your own experiences or creative thinking to the mix.

Writing is most often spurred by simply sitting down, and going at it. Writing is work. The more time you put into it, the better you get. You can spend a lot of time getting down the basics of grammar, plot development, character profiles, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad girl (or vice versa), but until you sit down and pound away at the keyboard, all that know-how will be for naught.

The greatest deterrent to writing is – I hate to say it – being afraid your work will never see the light of day, or laziness, only you can decide.

So, write, but after that – or in the process, look for outlets for your work. I have a writing friend who doesn’t believe writers should give their work away, that payment represents validation. “If you don’t value your work,” she says, “how will anyone else?” She has a point. And her next point is as important: getting published is hard work and you have to work hard at it.

Why am I writing a poem a day for 365 days? It’s writing practice, but my plan is to indie publish the best of the poems in a collection. Entrepreneurial publishing is gaining ground and I already have experience in the field. See my author page on this site. Click on the Books tab in the menu for links to the books I’ve written.

It matters not what you’re writing – fiction, nonfiction, poetry – the satisfaction you derive from creating a work from start to finish, is a reward all its own. Avoid apologizing for what you’ve written after the fact. You did it, maybe you made some errors or your work didn’t get the recognition (sales) you hoped for, let it be. Move on. Learn from your fumbles so your next project is an improvement over the last. Every new book, or article, or poem, or short story is its own creation.

There is a book on the market called Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success). I’m not recommending this book because I haven’t read it, but I like the title’s message. Write. Publish. Repeat.

What are your writing tips and tricks? What fires you up for writing. Enter your thoughts in the comments and I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

Happy Writing!

Happy New Year

Happy New YearThe clock striking midnight on Dec. 31, 2020, will not bring about a magical return to “normal,” whatever your definition of normal might be. We still have a largely uncontrolled virus, political stress and strife, and the economy is a mess. Many will start the New Year with a boatload of Old Problems.

So, how do we move forward? Well, that’s somewhat dependent on how one approaches life.

How do you see your strengths and weakness? Are you a naturally confident, can-do kind of person? Are you self-motivated or do you need a kick in the pants to get going? Are you resilient? Empathetic? Optimistic? It has been said that if you believe you will succeed, you probably will. If you think you will fail, you probably will. Between the two, which choice will you make and how will that form your strategy for getting from where you are now, to where you want to be in 2021?

My magic formula for positive change is simple. Show up.

  • Show up for your family when they need you.
  • Show up for friends who are going through tough times.
  • Show up to celebrate important occasions.
  • Show up to help in soup kitchens, or food banks, or clothing drives.
  • Show up in the coffers of a charity that will make life better for others.
  • Show up in local small businesses who are struggling in these tough economic times.
  • Show up for yourself through self-care.

Show up.

When I think of our small community, I’m thankful to report that many of my friends and neighbors have done just that, shown up and delivered. At the beginning of the pandemic, when there were no masks to be found anywhere, folks dusted off their sewing machines and made masks, then gave them away.

Our struggling food banks had lots of support from locals. Was it enough? The need for food and personal items for those affected by job loss or homelessness never goes away. The good news is, people are still showing up to help.

Blankets were given to those who needed them. Elders were given boxes of food and necessities. There is so much more I’m not aware of, but I thank every one of you who stepped up and showed up. The difference you made rings through into 2021 and resonates in the hearts of all you helped.

So, what does “show up” mean? Whatever it means to you, but here are some ideas:

  • It’s the simple things that add up. Samaritan House always needs socks, scarves, woolen caps, and masks for distribution, especially in cold winter months.
  • A telephone call to a shut-in or a friend or a neighbor you haven’t seen or talked to in a while can make a big difference. If you think you don’t have anything to say, be honest and say you just wanted to touch base and say, “Hi,” and let the conversation go on from there.
  • Send a card. In the mail. With a stamp. Or a letter. Or a thank you for a kindness. It’s the connection that matters.
  • The most important truth our friends and neighbors need to know is the very truth we need to remember: we are not alone. We have a tribe, a team, a family, a network, friends we can turn to. Lean on faith and friends as you look to the future.
  • Think of all that you can do and don’t worry about the things you can’t. I don’t know if this is accurate, but I read recently that 97 percent of the things we worry about, never happen. That’s a lot of wasted time that could be spent breathing deep and chilling out and showing up. It doesn’t have to be a big deal to have a big impact.

Please note that when you “show up” in the company of others, be safe and adhere to appropriate protocols to protect yourself and those you encounter: mask up, social distance, wash your hands.

I wish for each of you a blessed and happy and stress-free 2021. When you show up for others it has an amazing effect on you. Try it; you’ll like it.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsvandermeer@gmail.com.

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH

Writer Sharon Vander MeerCovid-the-curse of 2020 may soon be one for the history books as more meds are created to slow the pandemic down and maybe even bring it to a halt. In the meantime, the battle rages about whether to mask or not, gather or not, be vaccinated or not.

It appears abundantly clear that masks do work, social distancing does work, and vaccines can get us back to what passes for normal. Are there risks? Perhaps. One thing we know is that the pandemic has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide and left many survivors with lingering symptoms. The good news is that 97 percent of affected patients did survive.

For me, 2020 can be distilled down to things more personal. Our best friends died in a horrific accident in February; my son went through multiple health problems and continues to struggle; my husband fell at the end of June and broke his right femur, had surgery, and ended up in rehab for three months. He’s home now but needs in-home care. Mentally he’s 100 percent; physically he fights the good fight… with help. I developed chronic back pain, which is proving to be harder to get rid of than I’d hoped.

This is not the great whine, the 2020 Vander Meer pity party; this is the reality we’re living with. You have your reality: sickness, loss of a loved one – perhaps because of Covid, but likely from some other illness or circumstance; your plans have been harpooned because of the pandemic, moments lost forever, never to be regained. The political absurdities of 2020 I will leave for someone else to talk about, as well as racial inequality, which is a systemic barbed wire woven into the fabric of – not just our nation – but the world.

So, where is hope? It is found in every dollar given to feed the hungry. It is every first responder, nurse, doctor, and health care worker logging hours of overtime (for which they will never get adequately compensated). It is in all the agencies finding help for the homeless and in every person who puts on a mask to protect those he or she may encounter. It is the scientists working on a cure. It’s in the phone call you make to check on a loved one… Hope is everywhere and bolsters us now when we need it most.

The holidays are upon us, and by all accounts, there will be less giving in the gifting sense, but there will be lots of sharing. We have found within ourselves – it would seem – wellsprings of generosity and kindness. Perhaps by entering 2021 with a spirit of hope, we will find in others that something special that sets them apart, and help them celebrate that.

There is a public announcement, I think it originates in Albuquerque, but I’m not sure, that asks everyone to look within themselves and find their unique gift or skill and find ways to put it to work. Giving isn’t just about dollars donated; it’s also about how you engage with your community, following safety protocols, of course. We all have something to give. We can all point to people in our town who have made a difference, whether it’s collecting food for distribution or making masks back when there was a huge shortage. Giving and helping and reaching out are not activities limited to times of trial. My particular local heroes are the visionaries who are working on the natural waterway that runs through the heart of Las Vegas and creating a beautiful Gallinas River Park along the route. While the heavy-duty work is paid for by grants, a lot of volunteers are showing up to help when and where they can.

We have lots of reasons to be hopeful about the future. This year has been a test, but it has not broken our spirits. If anything, it has given us reasons to look around and appreciate living in our small town. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

There will be less spending this year, so the talking heads say, but may I suggest that whatever you spend this year, try your very best to spend it at a local business. We need them to be strong and able to weather this financial storm. They are braver than any superhero and made of stouter stuff than you can imagine. Let them know you appreciate them. Spend your shopping dollars in Las Vegas in small businesses. Find out more about hometown merchants at the Las Vegas First Business Alliance website lasvegasfirst.org or by emailing lasvegasfirst@gmail.com.

Have a blessed and beautiful Christmas and look to the New Year with hope in your heart.

–Sharon


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting, and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares, and comments are welcomed. I am an indie author of six books and two chapbooks of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M.Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsvandermeer@gmail.com.


WALK WITH ME

I have been thinking about – and missing – my friend Kathy Allen a lot lately. In truth, I think about her, and Fred, every day, but on some days, more than others. I still have blink moments when I think, “We’ll see them for dinner on Saturday, or next time they’re in town, or I’ll call her later and catch up.” And then it settles in. Kathy is gone, Fred is gone, and there is an empty spot that only good memories can fill.

I can’t look in many rooms in our home that don’t hold a reminder of Kathy. Our friendship began in the ’60s when we worked at what at that time, was known as Ma Bell, the telephone office where we were operators. “Operator, number please?” Back when a human voice connected one person with another via a dial-up telephone. Over the years we exchanged gifts. In the kitchen I see holiday trivets I keep up year around, on the patio a tinwork angel, a wooden angel wall hanging in the hall, Christmas ornaments and nativities on China cabinet shelves, tiny books and big books here and there, handmade pot and dish scrubbers in the kitchen, drawers full of handmade scarves, bracelets… These small reminders bring on a smile along with a catch in my throat.

I wrote the poem below sometime ago with Kathy in mind, and posted it on this site long before her passing. I repost it today because I wish for one more walk and chance to talk with my friend. I have so much to tell her, all of which , of course, she may well already know. As a believer, I know there is only a thin veil between this shadowy and insubstantial thing called life, and the people we have known and loved. Kathy loved yellow roses, but what she loved most were the people in her life, Fred, Mark and Marlene, her sisters and their families, her friends. I miss her.

WALK WITH ME
Let us stroll along today and talk.
Tell me what makes you laugh, as we walk.
I want to listen to what you say.
Share your heart with me today.
I want to know what makes you cry.
May I ease your worry, wipe your tears dry?
Share with me your anger deep inside.
I will help you slay that dragon, and turn the tide.
I am your friend come what may.
Please share your heart with me today.


My Town – Las Vegas, NM

Eighth Street - Las Vegas, NM

So, what would you like to share about Las Vegas – NM that is? I’ve decided to be more intentional about posting information about my home town, a little community with amazing potential. In the middle of a pandemic, people stepped up to help each other, to make masks, to encourage one another, to make the most of a bad situation. Now we’re getting back to business and hopefully on the road to normal as defined post-COVID-19. I’m a one-person operation, so I rely on you to contact me if you would like your story posted here.

Here are links to articles posted so far:

The Las Vegas Economy: MSLV Initiatives Attack the Virus
Tortillas, donuts and more, Oh My!
Skillet Casting its Culinary Magic
Las Vegas NM Community Foundation
Small business, big heart: Unikat Fine Jewelry
Semilla Natural Foods, a nurturing environment

I welcome you to be a part of this series. Articles will be posted as responses to questions are received. Reserve your spot now. I’m looking forward to sharing news about you and your business, nonprofit or organization.

There is a mix of content on this site. I am, after all, a writer, so you will continue to see poetry, essays, short stories and whatever else I decide to post. If you have a Las Vegas, NM, article idea, share it with me at fsharon@msn.com and I will follow up.


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Dance Today; It’s Okay

DanceDelight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Dance today. It’s okay. God knows your joy. Remember its source. He knows your fears, your sorrows, your fury, your confusion. The Lord of all walks with you and lives in you. He is not a distant and unconcerned God; He is the God of possibilities; He is the God of the impossible. Let him in. Take comfort in his presence.

“How can I?” you ask, “My home was washed away in a massive flood!”

“How can I? I lost my job!”

“How can I? My husband/wife left me!”

“How can I in the middle of a pandemic?”

“How can I when racism rages?”

How can you not? The anchor in every storm is the assurance of God’s presence. Studies have shown that those who lean on their faith are more likely to overcome troubling times. Dance, even when the dance is one of sorrow or disappointment or anger. Even in those times know God is present, not to fix what’s wrong, but to give you strength.

Dance on the flames of hate until they are stamped out. Dance so justice is served. Dance so the dying embers of hope spark anew. Dance in memory of innocent men, women and children everywhere.

The music of life is a curious thing and a reminder that we are never alone in our dance. The spirit of hope and the hammer of faith give us strength, wisdom and helpers along the way. We aren’t forgotten even when we forget. God’s love for us is as real as the breath we take in and the breath we let out. God doesn’t care what color we are, what language we speak, the way we worship Him – or not. I believe God is color-blind but very attuned to the melody of renewal.

Dance. The band is in full swing. “You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isiah 55:12


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central


 

Isolation

Kafka

Isolation is a way to know ourselves. Franz Kafka
The arts don’t exist in isolation. David Byrne

We’ve been in forced isolation because of this pandemic. Some don’t mind it at all; others chafe under the restrictive boundaries. It isn’t just the “staying home” edict that grinds. Mask-wearing has, for some, become a line in the sand. Personally, I don’t like them but if by wearing a mask I protect others, I’m okay with masking up.

Not interacting with others is a bit more of a challenge. I like people. Although I’m inclined to fade into the background, I still want to hear what others have to say, even when I don’t agree with them.

Kafka – a man full of self-doubt about the thing he most valued, his writing – perhaps sought isolation to better understand who he was and how the complications of his life shaped him. A tyrannical father, the deaths of siblings when he was young, a mother who loved being a homemaker but who didn’t quite know what to do with an intellectual child who would become more so over time. These factors affected his relationships and colored his work. Interestingly, little of his work became known during his lifetime. Were it not for his friend Max Brod, his unpublished manuscripts would have been destroyed.

I’m inclined to agree with David Bryne (Talking Heads), identified by Time Magazine in 1986 as Rock’s Renaissance Man: “The arts don’t exist in isolation.” According to the Time article, Byrne enjoys success as a singer, composer, lyricist, guitarist, film director, writer, actor, video artist, designer, photographer. Always engaged in creating art.

These very different men identify with isolation from perspectives based on their own experiences, and most certainly through the lens of the eras in which each live(d). Bryne works in collaboration with others to bring art to the masses in different forms. Kafka, although a genial fellow in certain circumstances, was so haunted by self-doubt about his writing, he asked his good friend to destroy his work after Kafka died.

Isolation 2020 will have repercussions on society that are yet to be determined. The impact of COVID-19 on those who lost family and friends is incalculable. The economy reels and will continue to do so for some time. The emotional toll will emerge slowly, catching us unawares, showing up in unexpected ways.

Kafka was a pessimist and probably for good reason. He lived in scary times. If you want a nightmare, read Metamorphosis. His work is overall bleak. Byrne on the other hand appears to be the ultimate optimist. He confesses to being “mostly” happy.

In the days ahead (weeks, months, years?), we have a choice to make: be an optimist or a pessimist. I don’t think there is a middle ground. Pass on your optimism to those around you. If you must be a pessimist, find people who know you well enough to help you see the up side, even when it feels like there isn’t one.

To say the future is a bit wobbly around the edges isn’t being a pessimist; it’s seeing the world for what it is and doing what you can to make it better. Two things you can do – optimist or pessimist: VOTE and fill out your census form. See, that isn’t hard!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


 

 

 

Redesign

Sharon VI am so psyched! For the past several months I’ve been dragging my fanny, and it isn’t funny! I’m so not the sit-on-my-bum kind of person. As a writer, I have options most people don’t have:

  • I can work where I want.
  • I can work when I want.
  • Inspiration is a window, not a door.
  • I can take on clients to write for, or I can get creative with my own writing.
  • I’ve been working from home before it was a thing.

I could easily attribute my lack of productivity to life events that sort of stopped me in my tracks, not the least of which is the mad virus that has brought the world to a stuttering halt. That’s BS, a big BULL and big load of SPIT!

My method of handling life is to write about it, in my journal (which no one will ever see), and through poetry, fiction and essays. Some get publish; most do not.

Why am I psyched? I did a website redesign, or more truthfully, erased a lot of color giving it a cleaner and crisper look. Why does that get me going? This sort of comes under the heading of what COVID-19 has taught me.

  1. Like my website, I live with unnecessary clutter, yet fill my days with procrastination and guilt. The wouda-coulda-shoulda syndrome. I’m over it. One day at a time.
  2. I tend to equate busyness with productivity. So not true! In future, I hope to have the good sense to ‘finish’ one thing rather than half-assing five.
  3. I’m a more social person than I realized. I miss seeing friends and – really, folks – ZOOM is a crappy substitute.
  4. Hugging is healing. Virtual hugs are wonderful, but there is no substitute for a hug from a friend.
  5. When it comes to the virus and the future, nobody has ‘the’ answer. There are too many variables.

My daily prayer is that my friends in small businesses can survive and thrive and that the virus dies out, never to return.

So, why am I psyched? Because there is no alternative. Living in limbo waiting for the next alarming news report is a sad waste of time. I choose to count today as the best opportunity to be… well, me. And, yes, I am ever the optimist.

What COVID-19 has taught me more than anything is to live each day as best you can. We’ve lost so many to this breath-stealing monster. Don’t let fear rob you of the best life you can live, now.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central


 

Friday

When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified. Matthew 27:31 NLT

The Hill

I don’t like to think of the crucifixion, but then, who does? It brings up a lot of questions, not the least of which is, “Why would a loving God allow such a heinous injustice to a sinless man, his own son, at that? The Trinity is as inexplicable as it is Holy and essential. God suffered on our behalf through his human/divine self, his beloved son. We don’t get it; we never will. God “got it” that we needed saving grace and provided a means by which we could and do achieve redemption. God saw the road ahead and – I believe – wept at his Son’s suffering. I believe the Holy Spirit watched with tears streaming. Jesus. His agony laid the ground work; resurrection planted the garden of universal grace. I am not a theologian, but this is what I believe after a lifetime of trusting God.


Follow Sharon at:
www.vandermeerbooks.com
https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks
Amazon Author Central