Read an E-book Week

Welcome to the 10th annual Read an E-book Week. The Smashwords site is offering A Place in the World ( set in the Colombian cloud forest) for $1  this week only. (As of last night Amazon was also matching the price on their Kindle books – let me know if you have trouble with that).

You will find thousands of other e-books that are free or deep-discounted this week through March 9. These include multi-formats (Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple users, Kobo and more) in their e-catalog. If you find books you recommend on this site  please let others know by commenting below.


Wikipedia says “The main reasons more people are buying e-books online are  lower prices, increased comfort (as they can buy from home or on the go with mobile devices) and a larger selection of titles…In the space that a comparably sized physical book takes up, an e-reader can contain thousands of e-books, limited only by its memory capacity. Depending on the device, an e-book may be readable in low light or even total darkness.”

The last two sentences are the reasons I take my e-reader when I travel, but then, I confess, I often prefer to hold a”real” book (unless it is more than 300 pages or so!).

What about you: e-books or print?

End of Year Sale on e-books

READERS: Smashwords is having an End of Year Sale on e-books which runs only through January 1. “Discover tens of thousands of deep-discounted e-books from thousands of the world’s best indie authors and publishers.”

(OK there’s some junky books on the list but also some good ones, I especially noted good biographies at 75% off.) You can pick up some books for only a $1 (like mine 😉 ) to $3 – there are even some freebies.


What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life? After holding this lovely phrase in my head for a year or two I found out who wrote it: Pulitzer prize winner Mary Oliver in her poem The Summer Day.  Some mornings I woke up and there it was in my mind like a challenge.

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Here are some of my favorites of her wonderful words:

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
Mary Oliver

“To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go”
Mary Oliver

imagesHere’s another excerpt I relate to:

“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable…

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way … as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit…motionless until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable…”

wildgeeseHer most famous is perhaps WILD GEESE (excerpted):

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

For more go to:

Do you have a favorite poet, poem – or just a line that sticks in your head?

Featured Writer on Wellness

Colleen Story invited me to be this week’s Featured Writer for her blog on Writing and Wellness.  When I get together with other writers we bemoan how ailments, like carpal tunnel etc. slow us down!  If we’re writing for many hours on end this can cause all sorts of issues…Colleen lists: sore back, dry eyes, carpal tunnel syndrome, weight gain etc. Here are some tips.IMG_1523ps-crp

Get Up Every 30 Minutes

I’ve had trouble with neck pain.  For awhile I couldn’t work for more than 30 minutes at a time.  I also developed wrist pain. Apart from the computer I sometimes lose my voice after a presentation—and could never do two in a row.  (Hey, I have dry eyes too but didn’t realize it was a “writer’s symptom!”)

My neck trouble forced me to learn to use software that allows me to talk to my PC—but it is just not the same! Now I set a timer for 30 minutes and that makes me get up and stretch, or at least reminds me to watch my posture, and that helps with both the hand and the neck issues.

A hot tip?  Change your chair 2-3 times a day—or at least vary the angle and height slightly.

writing_ps0540For the throat problem I drink slippery elm tea, and take it with me to a talk.  I rest my voice the day before and have started taking voice lessons with exercises that seem to be helping me use my voice box differently.

Social Life? What Social Life?

I get overwhelmed by all a writer has to do besides writing.  I feel like social media etc. has taken me away from actual writing (story-telling).  My real social life has gone downhill—it was better before I “retired” to this second career!

Several things help in dealing with life’s ups and downs: exercise is the main way I deal with stress, and secondly,”meditation” is calming (in quotes because in my case I just carve out some quiet time, close my eyes and think of nothing – or concentrate on breathing).

Cinda welcomes distractions from her dog, NAME.

Taking a break with my walking companion.

I find that walking in nature is when I get my best ideas and work through problems; the other time seems to be in the middle of the night! I keep a notepad next to my bed now.

For for the rest of  this post (including writing advice) and information on Writers and Wellness click here.  Do you have any tips for working on your computer etc?

Poetry, prose and everything between

Hilary C. Green surprised and honored me with a review of A Place in the World, along with several other books, on her blog, Green Writing Room.  Hilary has a few books under her belt, including Unseen Unsung , which is on my to-read list; it is about an opera singer who meets a girl in a catastrophe and searches for her afterwards . Her book Border Line was recently reviewed on Rosie Amber’s book site and she is currently working on nonfiction about the POWs in WWII who labored on the infamous Thailand-Burma Railroad. (My own father was shot down in this area and managed to walk out and escape capture by the Japanese.)  Check out these sites – you’ll be glad you did!

Poetry, prose and everything between.

For this global nomad, botany buff and blossoming novelist, a picture says…

The Displaced Nation

Cinda 1000 Words CollageWelcome to our monthly series “A picture says…”, created to celebrate expats and other global residents for whom photography is a creative outlet. The series host is English expat, blogger, writer, world traveler and photography enthusiast James King, who thinks of a camera as a mirror with memory. If you like what you see here, be sure to check out his blog, Jamoroki.

My guest this month is Cinda MacKinnon, an American who grew up overseas and is the author of an award-winning novel set in one of her former homes, Colombia. Called A Place in the World, the book was featured almost exactly a year ago on the Displaced Nation.

Cinda shoots mainly “macro” (extremely close up) pictures, a habit she developed because of her interest in nature and plants—especially wildflowers. A writer, former university lecturer, and environmental scientist, Cinda is trained…

View original post 2,105 more words

Picture This: An IDEA

I have this idea that I thought might be fun…I’ve been mulling over whether to try it. Here it is: Would you like to contribute a photo of yourself holding A Place in the World?   It would sure be fun for me to see these pictures from around the country and the world.  What would really be cool, but not mandatory, is if you were standing next to some iconic symbol of where you are – like the Statue of Liberty, the Tour Eiffel, or Tequendama Falls (in Colombia). Or it could be creative and include an orchid, a llama, a map or a painting featuring some symbol of the book – or of you- are you a skier, a rock climber or have a hobby?

Send me a picture and I will include it on a new Pinterest Board (and perhaps this blog). If you don’t have a book you could still send a picture with your Kindle etc.

Here is my first picture taken today with new friend and fellow expat and writer, Rita Gardner. We met in Berkeley, California and exchanged books (thanks to James King from Thailand who introduced us on The Displaced Nation Blog!).

C & Rita ps e_3285a


So there’s the question. What do you think? Good idea or not? Are YOU be willing to contribute a picture of yourself with my book? Please click on an option below.

If your answer is yes –  send your picture with A Place in the World to : Cinda.mackinnon at gmail dot com

I’ll start compiling them and see if I get enough for an album.  Thanks for your input!

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Only two more days to Win the Book Giveaway: A Place in the World

Are you a member of Goodreads (GR)? GR is a large site for readers to review and/or find book recommendations. They are sponsoring a giveaway of A Place in the World ….. “an award-winning, multicultural-literary novel laced with romance and adventure.”

book cover          2014-ContestSEMIFINALIST
Alicia, a young American expat, marries Colombian Jorge Carvallo and they settle on his family’s remote coffee finca  in the Andes Mountains. Educated as a biologist, she revels in the surrounding cloud-forest. However, following an idyllic year, calamities strike one after another……

For more information or to win a softcover copy (several are being offered so 3 chances!) here:



Indie/Self-Publishing (Publishing 101 Part II)

Recently I wrote about traditional or commercial publishing.  This post addresses the pros and cons of indie or self-publishing.

Writers are turning to self-publishing after running the gauntlet of publishers and agents – it’s an exciting time. In the strictest definition this means you will handle not just the printing, but also the editing, distribution and marketing; you will be in charge of every facet. That said, there are so many companies out there that will handle different aspects of this for you.  At a minimum everyone will tell you to hire a good editor – and they are right. An editor can help make the difference between a mediocre book that never takes off and a scintillating read.

In the old days there was the stigma of “vanity presses” and that was just about an indie author’s only option outside of traditional publishers.  In fact they are still out there: beware being talked into paying thousands of dollars for books that could end up in your garage (unless you have a stellar marketing plan).

But times have changed and the quality and reputation of self-published books has gone up. This is where the greatest growth in publishing is occurring. The grand prize winner at the San Francisco Writers Conference this year is a self-published book, A Chair with a View by David Sabine. (And I can’t bypass the opportunity to say A Place in the World came in second in the Indie category). 12756072   thumbnail cvr

Actually there is a history of self-published writers ranging from James Joyce and Gertrude Stein to Mark Twain. Even Margaret Atwood has joined the group. Authors are publishing their own books because of opportunity,  speed (relative to the year{s} it takes to publish traditionally)and to garner a bigger share of the sales.

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There is a veritable gamut of companies ranging from strictly print-on-demand (POD) printers to Indie publishers who are a bit more selective and offer a menu of services similar to the traditional (“Big Gun”) houses. The costs are as varied as the companies so you need to comparison-shop. One book I found thorough and helpful is: The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine – which by the way is a highly successful SP book.Fine Print of SP

Not only will he teach you the basics of self-publishing, but he gives information on over two dozen companies, rates them and tells you what to look for in a good POD.

With traditional publishing you send a query letter to agents and the smaller publishing houses (the big ones will not look at a query unless it is from an agent) – fish around for awhile – perhaps a long while in what Levine calls the “black hole.” Let’s say you land your fish and give your rights to a traditional publisher for 5-8% royalty – then if you are very lucky (or famous) they will give you an advance. But an advance  must be paid back through book sales before the author receives more money –like a loan you are given against future royalties. Next you will probably get the bad news that the marketing rests with you as they do not have the budget – although they do have the contacts for you. Marketing can be expensive. Thus to my mind, IF you are paying for your own promotion, you might as well go the indie route and keep a much bigger royalty.

Will you get rich with a traditional publisher? Probably not. Will you get rich in SP? Probably not.  It’s difficult to earn even a modest living from writing.  A newbie author might have a more realistic ambition to try to break even, for the joy seeing her/his book in print and sharing it with the world.

So to sum up, the bad news is that you have to do practically everything yourself or hire professionals to help you. Make no mistake: it is a lot of work to do it right. You have to invest money as well as time; while it is possible to publish a book for less than $500 it isn’t possible to have a professionally edited, designed and marketable book distributed for anything like that. Although shop around, because there are deals to be had – I found professionals who were not out to gouge people (in fact in two cases I felt like telling them “you could charge more”!)  Alternatively you can hire a publisher who offers a complete range of necessary services (and usually pay a bit more). I opted to hire my own editor and book designer (but I had contacts, so I knew mine would be as good and I thought probably better, than the in-house ones) although my publisher, Virtual Bookworm would have done these things for me. (BTW I choose this small company a year ago because the owner was willing to hold my hand and walk me through the process – many will not even speak to you by phone.)  I even got my own ISBN so technically I am the publisher – known as Multicultural Press. I have been pretty happy with the decision and A Place in the World has won two modest awards recently.

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Contented indie author.

On the plus side SP gives you an option to traditional publishing (see my post Publishing 101 – the Three Routes from July 17, 2014,) you have a larger slice of the pie, independent control and almost anyone can do it – I say “almost” because it does take drive and organization – but hey you just wrote a whole book didn’t you?

So you have your decisions and work cut out for you (and you thought writing was the hard part?). Before you  give up any rights and/or money  please do your homework – it will pay off in the long run. Another book I can recommend (this one covers all your publishing options from traditional to SP) is: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published by Eckstut and Sterry.     519UsIKw2gL._AA160_

Please share your experiences and opinions. If you have questions I will endeavor to answer them. (Please comment below rather than on FB).

Good luck!

“A Place in the World” Wins an Award

Toot, toot!

A couple of weeks ago I found out “A Place in the World” was a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference (SFWC) contest.  My husband and I were flying back home from a vacation in the wee hours of Saturday morning and I debated whether to get up and go hear the announcement of the winners (there were seven finalists, so what were the odds?).   Two things held me back – lack of sleep and the steep cost of attending, but then SFWC organizer Barbara Santos graciously offered me a guest pass for the event.  That sealed the deal: bleary eyed I joined the slow traffic crossing the Bay Bridge and through the city and spent another 20 minutes looking for a place to park ($35 for a three hours), then trudged up a VERY steep four blocks to the Mark Hopkins Hotel.

book cover

It was all worth while when they announced my name in second place. I was excited – now I have an “award winning” novel with a Kirkus review.  I introduced myself to David Sabine, the Grand Prize winner, and when told him I was the “runner-up” and he said “I’m glad I ran faster!”   By the way, his novel, A Chair with a View is another Indie!  This would have been almost unbelievable just a few years ago, but is still remarkable.  Yay – go Indies!

book launch 5-18-13efile

Latest review excerpts:   This well-written, riveting plot captures strong elements of friendship, love, freedom, perseverance and endurance amid all the physical and emotional challenges, heartache and pain. This pages of this novel are filled with beauty  and grandeur.The characters are well-developed, their personalities adding depth and dimension to a story that’s heartwarming and emotionally riveting. It’s a fascinating and moving story .        Wendy Goodreads (See the full review: A-PLACE-IN-THE-WORLD-Review)

“A Place in the World” is a serene, affecting, and poignant novel by a gifted storyteller. This gentle, meditative novel ramped up the tension toward the end and morphed into a genuine thriller. The author created a world that was wholly realistic and honest. In fact, everything about this novel pulsated with authenticity—the place, the characters, the animals, the community, the rebels, the indigenous tribesmen, and most of all, the everyday drama…the sign of a genuine five-star story. I recommend it highly.                         B. Case, Emeriti University Librarian. (See the full review: A-PLACE-IN-THE-WORLD-Review)