Wednesday, 31 May 2017

My cup runneth over.

Wow! This was a longer absence than I planned. We had a lovely getaway on Salt Spring Island and enjoyed a week-long visit with friends. We’ve freshened up our verandah downstairs and refinished our side deck. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I have been preoccupied with overindulging…too much food, too much wine, and too much fun. Is there really such a thing as too much fun?

It’s back to work for me this week. Mags’s story has rusticated on the shelf for a month. It’s time to pick it up, dig through it and see if I’ve got a second YA on my hands. I’ve been looking forward to it and will be diving in as soon I post this.

This month I’ve had amazing feedback on my historical romance, Love Denied, as well as a “revise and resend” from two publishers. Revision ideas are percolating in the back of my brain. One publisher has a call out for novella-length stories. I have three that I haven’t looked at in a while. Perhaps I should be delving back into those and seeing if they’re up to snuff? I’ve been missing historical research and am pulled toward returning to my Raven’s Path sequel as well. And, as always, new concepts beckon—in young adult, in historical romance, and in historical fiction.

I am grateful that my well of ideas is full. Now I just have to figure out how I want to go about emptying it.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Content is king, but promotion is queen.— P.J. Feinstein

How much author promo should I be doing? I tweet, post on Instagram, make all calls on my Facebook page and update my YA blog. While it is part and parcel of being an author, you would think that I could keep things to a minimum since I am not self-published. Yet I see very well-known authors doing the same. Authors with an agent, a large publishing house behind them and a history of sales. It seems it is now embedded in publishing. For me, the reality of online sales is that my book is competing with millions of other books. How does one gain visibility if no one even knows it exists?

I spend too much time on my devices working to develop exposure. Trying to balance promo with social media fatigue is proving to be challenging. It is a fine line between getting the word out, wearing yourself out and tiring out your followers. I mean, folks only want to see my book flogged so many times. When does it shift from interesting and informative to eye-rolling frustration? I wish I had the answer.

In an attempt to keep things varied, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of free software. My latest is Adobe Spark Video. I’m doing a giveaway over at Goodreads, a signed copy of Cutting to the Chase, and I wanted something different to promo.

What do you think? Does it add interest or is it just another way of presenting same old, same old? Are you tired of seeing authors endlessly promoting? Have you found a way around it? If so, what do you do to get the word out about your book or someone else’s? I would love to hear from both readers and writers on this.

And if anyone has any ideas about how to get my book into the hands of my target audience—teens—please, pretty please, share those too!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. —Tony Robbins

I wrote Cutting to the Chase in one month. It has taken me far longer to write Mags’s story. Sometimes life got in the way, as it does and should. I believe in putting the passivity and insularity of writing on hold and becoming an active participant in the world around me. I’ll stop to give lovin’ to my fur girls, to spend time with my husband, and to enjoy the company of friends. I’m also lured away by a sunny day and the promise of fresh air and gardening. But these things did not prevent timely writing.

Part of the problem was the distraction of having my first novel published. Between celebrating and promoting, my mind was more often centred on Lizzy’s tale than Mags’s. It has been an exciting ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but it definitely cut into the time I dedicate to writing. I will need to look at that and see how I can balance it better in the future.

The bigger problem was a stalemate with creativity. My original story arc didn’t hold up and I struggled to adjust. Even when I did have a sense of where it was heading, the words didn’t come easily. At the beginning of the month, I was finally frustrated enough to get angry—with myself. I believe we choose how to respond to any given situation, and I chose to use that anger to whip myself into shape. Enough was enough.

First, I set a definitive goal. I would finish Mags’s story by April 30. Second, I was going to create empty time in my life to allow my thoughts an opportunity to be unfettered. To do this, I stopped reading on the elliptical. I’d been using that time to catch up on my TBR pile. With digital recorder nearby, I would exercise before my scheduled writing hours. I hate exercising. It bores me. So, sure enough, within ten minutes my mind would start to reach for things to think about and inevitably it went to writing. Eureka!

I’m happy to report that after 20 days of scrambling back upstairs and pressing ‘play’ on that digital recorder, I’ve managed to double my word count. I need to backfill a couple of early scenes but essentially, Mags’s first draft is done. It will go into a cyber drawer for a month or so before I pull it out for round two and tear it apart. But that will go much faster. Not just because the essence is there, but because I’ve learned how I work. I need firm deadlines and an opportunity to be still…while moving. That’s when the ideas and the words sneak in.

Who knows, maybe I’ll write my way to fitness?! J

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

And now for something completely different...

I’ve shared a lot about my debut novel lately, and I always talk plenty about my writing. I meander through my mind from time to time and share personal ponderings. Once in a while, I expose my political views. However, that’s such an unpleasant well-travelled path online these days, I’m trying to steer well away from it. So, today, I’m going to veer from all of the above and share a snippet from a significant era in my life.

You had a glimpse of this part of me in my November blog post. Prompted by the death of Leonard Cohen and needs of the Christmas season, I posted my rewrite and performance of Hallelujah. That performance with our wonderful musical theatre troupe, the Madcap Players, showcased my serious side. But the company wasn’t called Madcap for nothing. Comedy was a mainstay.

This clip is a tribute to vaudeville’s Sophie Tucker. Opening with my husband and I doing a Soph joke, I tried to co-opt Bette Midler’s style from the 70s. In homage to Sophie Tucker, Bette based many of her stand-up comedy routines at the time on the bawdy vaudeville star.  Not as edgy as Bette but still a little risqué, this is the kind of number I loved to perform.

Our production was held around this time every year. I suppose that is why it’s on my mind. Months of brainstorming, writing, dancing and singing came to fruition each April in the form of a three-act cabaret-style show. So much work, so much laughter and so much love went into each one. The creation, the performances, and the friendships are indelibly stamped on our hearts.

The quality is not great, but here it is. Another peek into this author’s world.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

If I don't want to do PDA, it's not that I have something against you.—Coco Chanel

Some people are comfortable with public displays of affection, some believe such behaviour is too personal to share. Keev and I walk hand-in-hand, we lightly plant kisses, and we sit at the theatre with my hand nested snugly in his on his lap. So, moderate PDA on our part, but we are not offended by more effusive displays. I’ve seen anger erupt in public, and that is far more disturbing than any PDA will ever be.

My YA novel has been out in the wild for five weeks. I have no idea how sales are going and will not know until my royalty cheque, based on percentage of sales, comes in. The first quarter ended yesterday, but it will not be telling since it has not been out in the universe very long. From what I understand, third party payments (e.g. Amazon, Chapters, etc.) take time to come in, so will probably not make this first cheque. Not that any of that matters, but sales are part of the equation of writing for me now and I look at ways to increase them. Which has me pondering book reviews, which are proven to boost sales.

As of this morning, Cutting to the Chase has only been reviewed by one person on, one person on and no one at Chapters-Indigo. The insecure writer in me would panic were it not for the emails and messages people have taken the time to write. Without those, I would be in a fetal position sucking my thumb. So, thank you for the wonderful words of support, for sharing your favourite parts, quotes, and real-life stories that connect to the novel’s content.

I have tried to encourage review writing, not to individuals as that is presumptuous and invasive, but by sharing how the algorithms work on the online book sites. I certainly did not know how it worked before getting into this process, only finding out about it a year or so ago. I read a fair bit and it didn’t cross my mind that what I had to say might be important to an author. I now make the effort to do so—and it is effort. Most of us spend too much time online as it is. Heading off to a book site to leave a review is one more thing to do in busy lives. It is why I cannot urge individuals to do it. What right do I have to impinge on their time? I mean, they’ve already put out money to buy the book and taken the time to read it.  Without a doubt, that is enough.

Yet I continue to ponder sales and reviews and how to generate both. In reflecting on reviews I have written, I realize that I have a caveat. I will only review books I absolutely enjoyed. There is nothing wrong with a three or four-star rating, absolutely nothing—good and very good. Despite knowing that, if I can’t give it a five star, I tend not to review it at all.

This all-or-nothing mentality is what led me to thinking of PDA, and how it’s such an individual, personal choice. I’m comfortable publicly showing affection for books I love, but am much more reserved when it comes to books I liked. And that’s okay. Okay for me and okay for my readers.

Friday, 17 March 2017

I think there's something about the Irish experience - that we had to have a sense of humor or die. —Frank McCourt

Top of the evenin’ to you!

Ireland is on my bucket list. I had hoped it would get crossed off sooner, but I have a feeling it’s worth the wait. I grew up on the island of Newfoundland, and have no doubt that the character and scenery in Ireland will rival that of the Rock. And that says a lot because I adore Newfoundland.

I have cousins in Ireland, although I’ve never met them. During a tour of England and Scotland, I was fortunate to meet my Scottish clan. They hail from Dalry, Ayrshire, and it’s through them that I know I have relatives in Ireland. I wish I had taken the time all those many moons ago, to cross over, meet them, and have a wee peek at the Emerald Isle. Unfortunately, excitement nipped at my toes and I was anxious to head off on the grand adventure of backpacking for a year throughout mainland Europe.

Perhaps that is why Mags comes from an Irish family. While I try to keep me out of my writing, it seems inevitable that aspects of my life sift down and settle on the shores of the story. Mags is American born, but her parents are Irish immigrants. They exemplify the values I associate with being Irish — hard-working, honest and grounded by family. And, let’s not forget, a solid sense of humour. It’s where Mags gets her joy of laughter.

Mags stayed with me after I finished writing Cutting to the Chase. Her laughter rang in my ears. I have written her into a place barren of that sound and am struggling to write her out of it. While the luck of the Irish may not be shining on her right now, the strength of her heritage is in her core. She won’t let me leave her there.

So cheers to you, Ireland, on your special day! And here’s to you Mags Brallen. May the world come to love you as I do!

Rough, very rough, excerpt from Mags’s story:

"Well, aren't you the lovely lass this evening?"

"Da! Whatcha been up to now?" His hair is plastered around his head and his collar is dark blue with the water stains.

"Ma was complainin' about the slow drain in the sink, so I thought I'd have a look at the pipes." He grins. "They're not slow when they're apart."

I love his laugh. It's a deep rumble that starts in his chest and finds its way out in a loud boom.

"You think it's funny do you?" Ma flicks a towel at his backside. "Sure and fine for you to be laughing when I'm the one on my hands and knees cleaning up your mess." Her smile makes a lie of her chastisement. "Oh, that dress is lovely on you."

"Why, thank you." I twirl, pleased that the dress creates a breeze. I feel like that old-time movie actress Ma loves. I can't remember her name. The platinum blonde one.

"Where you off to?" Da grabs the t-towel and starts rubbing his head. "Need a lift?"

It's too far too walk and I don't want to get all sweaty. But, I also don't want to be dropped off like a little kid going to a birthday party. It'd be embarrassing if someone saw that. "No. Thanks though. I'll just catch the bus." And get off a block or two away from the house. Not telling him that though. He'd tease me for sure.

"Call if you need one home," he says and pecks my cheek.

Ma gives me a quick hug and a kiss too. It's the way of it at the Brallen's—I can't get out of the house without a little lovin'. And, really, I wouldn't want it any other way.

"You really do look lovely, lass. Be a good girl."

"Thanks, Ma. Will do." I duck out from under her arm and head out the door, excitement and nervousness rolling together in a ball as big and bright as the sun that's still shining.