How I had to travel the world to land right back where I began – where I belonged #MondayBlogs #Traveling #Expatliving

Monday Blog 2When I arrived in The Netherlands at Christmas in 1998 for the second time (I’d previously spent a semester studying in Rotterdam), I thought I’d found my home. It didn’t exactly work out that way. I couldn’t settle into my legal career. I jumped from a large law firm to the corporate world to a government position before finally ending up a boutique law firm. Even though I worked at that firm for seven years, I wasn’t happy. In fact, after more than a decade of switching jobs quicker than you can say ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, I was fed up with the law, clinically depressed, and ready to try just about anything to improve my life. Thus, started ten years of switching careers and moving across borders to ‘find’ myself.

First, I tried working in Luxembourg. I lasted a month before I literally walked out and never looked back. Then, I developed a business plan for a weight loss retreat in Germany. I even went back to school and finished a year of university course work in Dutch. Still, those plans didn’t pan out, and I ended up starting a bed & breakfast. Turns out running a bed & breakfast is a lot of making breakfast and cleaning rooms. Not. My. Thing. I decided to develop a side business and spent an unbelievable amount of time trying to figure out what that side business would be. Soap making? Ecommerce? A return to college?

Monday Blog 1I was all over the place until my husband suggested I take a manuscript I’d written out of the attic and publish it. Twelve books later and I haven’t looked at another career option since. I have, however, moved across national borders twice. First from Germany to Istanbul and then from Istanbul back to the Netherlands. Not exactly where the entire ‘what the hell should I do with my life’-adventure began – I’m in The Hague instead of Haarlem – but pretty damn close.

I’ve been in The Hague for twenty months on my own while my husband continued to work in Turkey. He’s finally joining me in The Netherlands in 10 days (yes, I’m counting down!). While talking on the phone to him last week, I was mentioning to him – the man who was born and grew up in The Netherlands – all the things there are to do here and how excited I was that we could do them together.

monday Blog 3That’s when I realized (not for the first time) that I’m not only happy, but I’m settled. This is home. I’ve spent the last twenty years switching jobs and careers and staying miserable until I started publishing my writing. But I still wasn’t settled. Even when I was in Istanbul churning out book after book, I was itchy to find my place in the world. Only when I gave up trying to adjust to living in Turkey and returned to Holland did I find my ‘home’. It just happens to be the same place I left over ten years ago to find myself. It really is true what they say – you can travel the world just to end up in the place you originally left.

Where is home to you? How difficult was it for you to find?

Why I call myself an authorpreneur instead of writer #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #BookMarketing #AuthorPlatform

Those of you who follow my blog may be scratching your head at the title to this blog as you know I recently released my twelfth novel. And yes, I repeatedly tell everyone it’s my twelfth! But writing twelve novels is just a portion of how I spend my time. To make this clear, I recently started answering ‘authorpreneur’ to the question of ‘What do you do?’ instead of ‘writer’. Since the term ‘authorpreneur’ isn’t actually in the dictionary, you get a lot of raised eyebrows and questions when you start using the expression.

I first learned of the term when I read a blog from Derek Haines who wrote about the eleven key attributes of an authorpreneur (read the article here). After that, I kept hearing the term. I freaking love this term. Not only do I – as a language aficionado – love the idea of the word defining my job being a portmanteau (look that up here), but everything just clicked when I heard it. I may have been listening to a podcast about authorpreneurs while walking along a beach in Spain and shouted something like “Totally!” (I’m embarrassing like that.)

Why am I so excited about a word? Two reasons. One, it’s a much better description of my daily life than ‘writer’. (As a writer, I’m obviously into words and their proper usage.) The actual writing portion of my job takes up less than 50% of my time. As I’m a fiction novelist, I’m referring here to writing on my manuscript and not blogging or other marketing items such as interviewing. The remaining time is spent doing ‘entrepreneurial’ activities such as marketing, maintaining an author platform, blogging, etc., etc. So yeah, combining the term author and entrepreneur to define my job sounds like a perfect fit.

The second reason I love, love, love the term ‘authorpreneur’ is due to the reaction people have when I call myself an ‘authorpreneur’ instead of a writer. One problem I encounter again and again as a writer is the complete lack of understanding by others of what I do during a normal work day. This picture is a decent representation of the problem:

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If you look at the first five photos, they look fairly one-sided – either a glamorous writing life (and seriously, who has one of those?) or a simple writing life. The “What I actually do” picture with its piles and piles of papers is more accurate. I’d like to claim my desk looks more organized, but I’d just be lying.

Anyway, when I tell people I’m an authorpreneur, they are almost always curious. What’s that? Why do you call yourself that instead of an author? This leads to a more constructive conversation about my working life than when I say I’m a writer. In response to that, I often hear ‘Are you famous?’ And isn’t it just demoralizing when I have to admit that ‘No, I’m not famous. Not at all.’? (Please note that I sometimes don’t care to have a constructive conversation with someone. In that case, I just make up some crap about what I do for a living. What can I say? I’m an introvert. An introvert with a drinking problem, but still an introvert who prefers reading books to talking to people.)

So, folks, that’s why I call myself an authorpreneur. How about other writers out there? How do you feel about the term? Will you be using it as well?

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How to do a Goodreads Giveaway #WriterWednesday #Goodreads #Giveaway

There has been a lot of press lately about giveaways from Goodreads as they are no longer free. In this article, I’m not going to discuss whether or not you should do a giveaway from Goodreads. I’m only going to describe the process itself. Once I’ve had time to analyze the results from my Giveaway, I’ll write an article on whether it was worth it. So, stay tuned for that. In the meantime, how to do a giveaway.

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To start with, you have two options: Kindle book giveaway or print book giveaway. For the print book option, you’re responsible for sending copies to winners. As I’m in Europe but my customer base is largely in the US, this wasn’t an option for me due to the costs of sending the copies to winners. And notice the other option? It isn’t an ebook giveaway, it’s a Kindle book giveaway. If you aren’t published through Kindle Direct Publishing, you can’t do an ebook giveaway. (There are other options for publishers, but as I’m self-published, I didn’t research those.)

Now comes the contentious part – the price. I set my giveaway up at the start of the year when Goodreads was still running sales. I paid $59 for the standard package. Unfortunately, the standard package is now $119, and the premium package is $599 (can you say yikes?). According to Goodreads, the only difference between the standard and premium package is that the premium packages includes “Premium listing on the Giveaways section of Goodreads”.

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What do both packages include?

  • Giveaway featured in friends’ news feeds when someone enters;
  • Email sent to notify the author’s followers and readers who have marked the book as Want to Read;
  • Goodreads reminds winners to review the book; and
  • Entrants required to add the book to their Want to Read list.

I chose the standard package as I ran a giveaway promotion before Christmas. As part of the giveaway, readers had to mark that they wanted to read Searching for Gertrude. Everyone who had marked the novel Want To Read was notified of the giveaway by Goodreads. I assumed the standard package would, therefore, be sufficient to create a buzz for my novel.

After choosing a package, you need to decide on the length of your giveaway, chose the number of books you want to giveaway, and write the copy for the giveaway. (Note: Giveaways are still restricted to the US.) You can giveaway 10, 20, 50, or 100 ebooks, but the total approximate retail value of all prizes in your giveaway may not exceed $500. I decided to give 50 ebooks away. As Goodreads reminds winners to review the book, I’m hoping to receive more than a few reviews. The ebooks are instantly delivered to winners’ Kindles by Goodreads, so there’s no hassle for readers trying to figure out how to load the ebook onto their device.

You don’t have much space for describing your novel with the giveaway. I came up with the following:

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All that’s left to do is to pay for the giveaway. Once you pay via your Amazon account, your giveaway is all set. Curious how my giveaway fared? Stay tuned …

 

Three items that will change the way you travel #Travel #ExpatLife

wanderlustIn my bio, I often write that I have a wicked case of wanderlust that has yet to be cured. I’m not just making stuff up. I really do love to travel. I’m not a beach person. I don’t want to use my vacation days sitting on the sand – even if the sand, sea, and horizon are beautiful. I want to see things! Whether it’s the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal or Mayan ruins of Palanque, I want to see IT ALL.

Travel to far-off lands used to be reserved for the wealthy. It was arduous, expensive, and time-consuming. Those days are long gone. Heck! Those days were gone before I arrived on this planet. But I will admit that travel has gotten a heck of a lot easier than the first day I flew on a plane to Europe many, many moons ago. I remember bulky suitcases without wheels, long lines for check-in, and infrequent flights. There was no booking.com or expedia to find hotels with recommendations from other travelers. Hotels and restaurants were hit and miss.

Traveling today is almost without hassle. You can check-in online. Suitcases have four wheels so you can easily maneuver them throughout the airport. There are tons of websites to find recommendations so you never have to spend another night in a hotel that has cracks in the wall, no hot water, and no locks on the door. I’d like to share with you three things that changed the way I travel for the better.

kindle_app_logo_0Kindle (and kindle app). After the smart phone, this is the item that has most changed my life. Packing for a trip used to be an excruciating exercise between deciding which books I could take with and how many I would allow myself to schlep around whatever country (or countries) I was visiting. I have a friend whose only reason for reading War and Peace was that it was the thickest book she owned and she was heading off to three works traveling around Turkey. Now, there’s no need to decide which book I can take with me. I can take THEM ALL. I admit I do often take one physical book with me – a history of the region to which I’m travelling.

powerpackPowerbank. This is a recent addition to my packing list. In the old days, I don’t think I took anything electrical with me while traveling. Seriously, nothing. I don’t care about drying or curling my hair, so what electrical items did we have in the good ‘ole days to carry with us? Things have changed. I carry my power bank with me everywhere. Well, I do now. I had an interview at a radio station in an industrial area of town late at night. When I went to leave, my phone was nearly dead. Hard to order an uber without a working phone! As I waited for the uber to arrive, I watched the percentage of my phone battery tick away until it was at one percent. At that point, I saw the uber driver literally pass me by! I am never experiencing that again. The powerbank is my friend.

Dirty clothes. I admit, this isn’t an item but a state of mind. My family recently visited me in the Netherlands, and we went off for a five-day excursion to Greece. I was shocked they each had an entire outfit planned for each day of their fourteen-day trip. Um, what? No. Just no. There is no need to wear a new outfit each day. Find durable clothes like jeans or canvas pants which you can wear for several days. T-shirts, bras, and underwear can be easily washed in the bathtub or – my personal favorite – the bidet.

What about you? What items have changed the way you travel?

New Year, Not New Me but maybe New Writer Me? #WriterWednesday #AmWriting #NewYearsResolutions

In my New Year blog (New Year, Not New Me ~ New Year’s Resolutions I hope I can manage to keep), I claimed I wasn’t going to make specific resolutions for 2018. Instead, I made up some broad goals for the year. We’re three weeks into the year, and I’ve already changed my mind. Hey! I’m a woman, it’s my prerogative. So, here are my goals related to my writing life for 2018.

guest bloggingDo one guest blog or interview per month. I know, I know. This sounds like a lot. I already try to blog three times a week on my own blog and often fail spectacularly with that. How in the hell do I think I can do one more blog a month? I have no idea, but I need to change something up. Marketing that used to work is no longer working for me. This may not be the solution, but I’m willing to try pretty much anything.

More time on social media. I seriously heard you scream Are you out of your mind? when you read this. I know, I know. Social media is taking over our lives. Blah, blah, blah. I spend a lot of time on social media as it is, but I don’t really connect much. I thought I was connecting, but upon further analysis (because I analyze everything!), I merely like a lot of stuff but don’t actually tell anyone why or respond very often with thoughts or comments. Another blogger asked me why not? And I admitted I’m scared of what people think of me. I don’t know them, why would they want me to comment? *Face palm* I love it when people I don’t know comment on my stuff, why wouldn’t others feel the same way? *Pulls up big girl panties* I can do this.

goodreads 2Goodreads. I’ve never thought of Goodreads as a way to really connect with readers. I was using it as more of a platform to show off my writing and reading. But then I was analyzing (again with the analysis!) why other writers seemed to have lots of followers and few friends whereas I have a lot of friends and fewer followers. To make a long story short, I realized I’m not actually treating my Goodreads friends as friends, I’m treating them as followers. That’s not what I want, so it’s time to interact more on Goodreads. *Takes a big breath and reminds herself she has her big girl panties on*

linkedin groupsLinkedIn groups. I admit I’m not a fan of Facebook groups for writers. The strings are long and hard to follow and OMG! I don’t need yet another group on Facebook to follow! What’s different about LinkedIn? First and foremost, I can set my notification settings in more detail. I get one email a week with a round-up of all new topics in the groups. For me, that’s more manageable than constant notifications from Facebook. Secondly, I’m hoping as it’s a professional network, the information will be, well, more professional and not just writers cleverly trying to post something to promote their book without making it too obvious.

That’s it, folks. Stay tuned. I just may not spectacularly fail.

 

 

How one law changed the face of Istanbul University #MondayBlogs #History #WWII #JewishHistory #Turkishhistory

How can one law possibly have such an influence on Istanbul University? And a law implemented in another country at that! At times of great conflict and social upheaval, anything – good and bad – is possible. In this case, I’m referring to the Nazi regime. It goes without saying that the policies of the Third Reich had far-reaching effects. Let’s look at the specific example of university professors.

law for the restorationOnly two months after Adolf Hitler attained power on April 7, 1933, the “Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service” was passed. This law banned Jews from being employed by the government. This law reached educational systems as university professors were civil servants. All Jewish professors lost their positions while German professors stood by.

Two months later, on May 31, 1933, a Turkish government decree announced a university reform. A Swiss professor, Albert Malche, had been commissioned by the Turkish government to assess the state of Turkey’s higher educational system. As a result of these findings, the Dârülfünun, the university in Istanbul founded in the nineteenth century, was to be closed and a new university to be created. This completely new university would need to recruit internationally renowned teaching staff.

Considering the dire state of academics of Jewish descent in Germany, academic emigres from Nazi Germany met in Zurich where they formed an advisory office for German scientists. This group, with the support of Malche, then attempted to secure positions in Turkey for as many German emigrants as possible. They hoped to possibly secure three positions for German scientists.

1280px-İstanbul_Üniversitesi

(c) Danbury – Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0

As a result of the two events – the passing of the repressive law in Nazi Germany and the desire to close Dârülfünun to build a modern university – eighty-two German professors began teaching in the winter semester of 1933 – 1934 at Istanbul University. The professors were allowed to hire assistants of their choosing making it possible for an additional 70 to 100 people to flee the Nazi regime.

 

 

Financially, these exiled professors were in a much better position than their Turkish counterparts. Their salaries were considerably higher than those of their Turkish colleagues. They also enjoyed a special position that protected them from repressive refugee policies.

Although many professors didn’t stay past their initial five-year contract with the university, they left behind a legacy. They helped establish the university itself. They drafted textbooks, some of which are still in use today. As experts in their fields, they also contributed to public service in various ways. For example, several of Turkey’s fundamental laws were drafted by a German émigré.

Although I’d thought about writing a novel set in Istanbul for years, it was only when I learned the above that I was actually able to start drafting my story.

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This blog is the fourth in a series of blogs I’m writing about the research I’ve done for my latest novel, Searching for Gertrude. The previous blogs are Why I chose Istanbul as the setting, Anti-semitism or antisemitism? and Modern Istanbul’s most infamous resident. Just click on the blog title to read the article.

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Modern Istanbul’s most infamous resident that you (or at least I) didn’t know about #TurkishHistory #History

Researching history for a historical novel is – in addition to a boatload of work – lots of fun. One of the problems with researching, however, is that it’s just plain impossible to fit all the interesting historical tidbits into your novel. But they’re so interesting! You have to tell someone! As I’ve bored everyone I know with all kinds of information up to this point, I thought I’d share an interesting snippet with my blog readers today.

vlad the impalerI’ll start by sharing who this ‘infamous resident’ was not. It was not Vlad the Impaler. Good old Dracula was not imprisoned during modern times, and he was imprisoned in the middle of the country at Tokat Castle.

So, who is it then? Trotsky! I know! I was shocked, too. I’m a bit obsessed with the Russian Revolution. Yet I had no idea that Trotsky made a stop in Istanbul before moving on to Mexico where he was eventually murdered with an ice pick. It turns out that Turkey was only his first stop in an exile journey that took him to France and Norway before landing in Mexico.

trotskyBut how did Trotsky end up in Istanbul? After all, it wasn’t like he wanted to be there. He even wrote a letter to Atatürk stating: “I have the honor to inform you that I have arrived at the Turkish frontier not of my own choice, and that I will cross this frontier only by submitting to force.” But an exile doesn’t have the chance to choose his country of residence. Turkey was supposedly the only country initially willing to accept Trotsky and his wife and son.

Much to its own surprise, Turkey had become a place of refuge for Russians. Unlike Trotsky, these refugees were the ‘White’ Russians – those opposing the Revolution. It is estimated that a total of 185,000 refugees swelled Istanbul’s populations by as much as twenty percent. The Russians and the Turks (the Ottomans as it were) had been on opposite sides of four wars over the previous century. This was not a comfortable situation.

house in buyukadaTrotsky actually spent four years, from 1929 to 1934, living in Istanbul. In the end, he spent the longest period of his exile years in Turkey. He spent many of those years living on Büyükada where he felt some measure of safety from the assassins he knew the Soviet government would send after him. (The Turkish government had insisted the Soviets promise not to kill Trotsky on their soil, but Trotsky was convinced Stalin was waiting and watching for his chance.) He also had a bevy of White Russians who might relish the opportunity to eliminate one of the founders of the Russian Revolution. Further, he was under surveillance of the Turkish Police Forces. Is it any wonder the man was a recluse who supposedly pulled a gun on a physician when the man when to pull a stethoscope out of his pocket?

Of course, I couldn’t leave Trotsky’s story out of my novel entirely, even though the man himself died several months before Rudolf and Rosalyn arrived in Istanbul. I’m not going to tell you how I incorporated one of Trotsky’s experiences in the city into the story, however. That would be a MAJOR spoiler alert, and no one likes spoilers.

 

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This blog is the third in a series of blogs I’m writing about the research I’ve done for my upcoming novel, Searching for Gertrude. The previous blogs are Why I chose Istanbul as the setting and Anti-semitism or antisemitism? Just click on the blog title to read the article.

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