Category Archives: #MondayBlogs

A New Focus for a New Year

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I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I’d like to move forward in 2016 with all my blogs, not just this one. I now write and publish three others – Reading Recommendations, reading recommendations reviewed, and The View From My Trailer and Verandah. Each is very specific as to what gets posted there, leaving this main blog to become the mish-mash/catch-all for my ideas, promotions, book and author news, and information. In looking through past posts for the purpose of reblogging whatever still seems relevant, I’ve also discovered a lot of outdated information, links, and thoughts that I’m now archiving.

My personal interests have also moved from the specifics of writing, getting published, and surviving-as-a-writer-aspects of the business to effective promotion and finding Readers for what we write. I’m still very interested in libraries, public and personal, but not much at all in bookstores and bookselling per se. In fact, my loyal readers will realize that I’m not interested at all in the numbers – whether they be sales figures, or numbers of followers on social media, number of reviews and ratings or even the number of subscribers here on my blogs. My intent with my own writing, blog posts and stories, is to find more Readers who enjoy reading what I and other authors write. Period.

I am, and always will be, interested primarily in reading – both what I read and the way and reasons and types of books that other Readers read.

So I won’t be writing any new blog posts about how to write a book, or how to find a publisher or on self-publishing what you’ve written. I’ll talk a bit more about marketing and promotion, but that will mainly be posted as guest posts first for my blogging friends. (I’ve already collected many of these posts I wrote previously in a dedicated page above.) There are a few draft posts on writing and publishing that I’ve had queued up forever and I may still publish these, but for the most part I’ll be narrowing my topics and subjects of interest beginning now.

For those of you who require direction because you are still struggling with your writing or deciding how to publish or trying to figure out how to sell more copies of your books, there are many, many more bloggers out there who cover these topics far better than I ever have. And you can find links to a lot of these bloggers by checking out Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Resources Page. In fact, Chris’s blog is a great place to subscribe to as Chris really does keep on top of whatever is being published on other blogs by reblogging the very best of those posts himself.

I’ll also increase blogging about food and eating, because I’ve kind of strayed away from that other activity in my life that has always been important to me.

And cats! Although you’ll more likely find posts about my cats in my other blog, The View From My Trailer and Verandah.

So here’s to a New Year, a more focused blog, and lots more news and information about books and reading and Readers and all those people out there who love books and great writing!

And remember, if you are a Writer then you must also be a Reader!

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Oh, Readers … Take 2

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In Jan. 2015, I published the blog post, Oh, Readers … Where Art Thou?, that I wrote with the assistance of my editor, Rachel Small. At the time, it received a huge number of views, likes, shares, reblogs, and became one of the more poplular posts I’ve published on this blog. I had promised a follow-up of answers to my questions that I compiled from a few of my steadfast followers, and I even set up a draft page, hoping to publish not too long after that first post was released. But life does have a way of intervening in any best-laid plans, so I’m just getting around to revising and posting this update now – almost 12 months later! My apologies to my blog readers. It seemed like a good time though to reconsider this topic of Readers and Authors and how they find one another, because I also dusted off and reshared another post on the subject that I wrote way back in Jan. 2014, Between Authors and their Readers. I know I’m giving you a lot of reading here, but I would appreciate it if you would consider all three blog posts and either comment below, write about this topic on your own blog (and add your blog link in the comments below, or write a guest post for me to post here in the future.

**Since the other two posts were published, I have created a new blog, reading recommendations reviewed, that offers reviews of books by authors who have been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

In response to the questions posed in that first blog post of this series, Oh, Readers … Where Art Thou?, here are a couple of responses I solicited from friends I’ve met through social media. I asked them for their thoughts, because I knew both would have something of value to add to this discussion. Rebecca Heishman lives in the US and is an author I’ve featured on Reading Recommendations. She reads a great deal and we’ve held a number of email discussions about books, reading, writing and authors. roughseasinthemed lives in Gibraltor, is an editor, reviewer, journalist, and blogger who is very passionate about the written word. She writes a terrific blog with a huge following of both authors and readers from around the world. (**Please see comments below for more from roughseas.) Both women have read and favourably reviewed my writing in the past. Here are their thoughtful comments:

From Rebecca Heishman:
It’s my own personal opinion that the market is flooded with mediocre writers who bombard potential readers with commercialism. As a reader, I’ve grown weary of it myself. I’ve made a point of downloading books by indie authors who sound promising. Some of the books are poorly edited. I’m no editor, but even I can see the flaws. I had to stop reading one because it was a horrible mess. My head is about to explode from all the author ego out there, on Twitter, especially.

Writers keep wondering where the potential readers are — I think that many of them have tuned us out. I’m overwhelmed with potential reading material available all over the WEB. I suppose a lot of people are. I don’t know what the answer is. I know that I’ve stopped promoting my own work here. It wasn’t working for me. I believe that a struggling economy has a lot to do with it. Buying a book at a retail price is truly a luxury for me now. I know I’m not alone in that. Even my little niche market is suffering. People simply don’t have the money for paperbacks, and the market is flooded with eBooks now. we are living in a world where we are saturated with pleas from people wanting to sell us things. It’s my belief that many of our potential readers are simply tuning it all out and making their choices in their own personal ways.

There are excellent indie writers out there who are not getting the publicity that their writing deserves because there is a boatload of mediocre writing that’s hitting the market on a daily basis. I am, in no way, saying that these writers don’t deserve a chance to get out there and sell their work. I’m simply saying that, from my own current reading experience, it is harder and harder for me to find really good books to read. And, trust me, I’m not picky. I just think that some of these folks are caught up in the ‘romance’ of the idea of being an author. They are not putting in the work. They are not hiring editors. Some of them are sad and pathetic egomaniacs.

I find that true of some of the bloggers. There are bloggers who love nothing more than to read their own blog posts. It’s ego all the way with some of these folks. There are bloggers who are posing as ‘experts’ in fields in which they obviously are not. They speak with great authority about subjects they know little about. But, that’s free speech, and I’m all for that. I’ve learned to not take some of these folks so seriously. I consider myself more of an entertainer than a writer. I’m not Shakespeare, and I know it. I’ll never win the Pulitzer. My work won’t change anyone’s life. I believe that there are writers out there (mostly the younger ones) who have fallen in love with the idea of being writers. They take themselves very seriously and they aren’t necessarily enjoying the ride. They dive into being authors without proper preparation. They stink up the show for writers with true talent.

From roughseasinthemed:
You have a lot of questions there, and I think it is too much for a comment reply. I’ve got two professional interests, reviewing (minor), editing, (major). Good questions!

1. How do you decide what to read next?
To be honest, anything that earns money. As a reader though, I pick randomly.

2. Do you belong to a book club? If so, do you read more than just the club’s selections? And is the club open to suggestions from you and other members?
No.

3. Do you stick to a single genre or type of book (fiction, non-fiction, YA, children’s) or are you willing to read around and try out new genres?
Read pretty much anything. I like to be open-minded.

4. Do you only read books by authors you are familiar with, or do you experiment with new authors, debut authors, foreign authors, the classics?
I’ll read anything. I consume books quickly.

5. Do you read books on bestseller lists or in the Oprah’s Book Club list, books reviewed in newspapers and magazines or on radio and TV, and books reviewed on blogs or online sites promoting books, such as Goodreads?
What’s Oprahs book club? Seriously. I don’t care two hoots about Oprah. Or, in the UK, Richard and Judy. Pre-Internet I did buy books after reading newspaper reviews.

6. Do you follow the advice of friends who read?
No.

7. Do you browse bookstores?
Yes.

If so, what makes you pick up a book off the shelf? Do you ask the staff for advice?
No.

Do you borrow books from the library
Yes.

and ask librarians for advice?
No.

9. Do you attend author events – readings, signings, festivals?
Festivals yes.

10. Do you write reviews for books you’ve read (whether you enjoyed them or not) and have you ever written directly to an author to let him or her know how you felt about the book? (Did you receive a reply?)
Yes, yes, yes.

12. How important is it to know a book has been professionally produced (edited, designed, and published professionally)?
What do you think? *vested interest alert* I edit.

13. Do you reread favourite books?
Yes

And a few of the comments left on that first post:

Ines – All good questions! I read a very wide variety of books mainly thanks to belonging to a book club. This has opened me up to being more adventurous with my book choices again as I’d got a bit stuck in a rut going for a certain genre.

Things that make me a choose a book include: if it’s in the front of a book shop where the bookshop has laid out a variety of different books (and independents are great for this) and it catches my eye; book magazines (available in book shops) that give a brief outline of books; online reviews such as those by newspapers (eg. the Guardian), other things like lists of the best of 2014 etc; friend or relative recommending; prize winners such as Costa, Waterstones or Booker, Pulitzer etc; a certain genre that I particularly like and which will make me look for new authors and this for me is Scandi-crime; if I like a particular author I usually read most/all of their work.

While online reviews etc are useful there’s nothing quite like that experience of browsing in a book shop and picking up something that you’d never normally read. I also often go for debut novels.

Carol Hagans – I normally browse bookstores and libraries where a title or cover may catch my attention then I read the front and back cover and flap intro. Recently I have been reading local Flagler authors; Food for a Hungry Ghost by Becky M. Pourchot; Libbie the Rare Yellow Lobster by Marybeth Jeitner and Heather Chalmers and Chasing Butterflies in the Magical Garden by Jorja Dupont Oliva, there are others on to-read-list. I have never written a public review but have sent an email to an author.

Betsi Newberry – I find new books by trolling Amazon, checking out ones mentioned in magazines or recommended by friends. I seldom go to a book store because I read almost everything on my e-reader. I don’t stick to one genre unless the mood hits me. But that doesn’t last long and I am on to something else. Lately I have been reading a lot of “how to” books related to formatting books for Kindle Direct and CreateSpace. But I always read fiction in the evening because my head can only hold so much about fonts, paragraph spacing, social media, and badges for my blog.

I don’t belong to a book club although maybe I should because it would get me out of the house and away from this laptop occasionally.

No author is an island …

I finished reading a book on marketing that, while good, worthwhile, and filled with lots of ideas and information (much of which I already use) to get your book out there and selling, it fell short, in my estimation.

Yes, it discussed the importance of building a fan base and giving fans what they want, and it also suggested one way of developing your career as being to call on others more experienced in your field and essentially “use” them and their influence to get ahead (something I didn’t particularly agree with).

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But where the book fell short was in not once mentioning the importance of “promoting the writing and books of other authors” or in working with other authors to create a community in which all can thrive. Authors who read and follow the advice in this book will come out looking like lone wolves grasping after sales alone, yet will never know the importance of being part of a group of authors who work together to bring all their books to many readers. Sad, really, because it’s due to books like this that we end up with so many self-centered authors who only think of their own books and writing and fans and look on everyone else as competition. (I’ve felt the need to post a similar message 4 TIMES on this blog, because Authors just aren’t getting the message! Here it is, for a fifth time: Dear Writer … it’s not all about you, ya know! – a reminder)

And that’s why I say, No author is an island … We lose so much by remaining isolated from other authors. We have so much to gain by promoting the books of others rather than just talking about ourselves. I know this is true; I discovered first-hand how great was the community available to me just by reaching out through my promotion blog, Reading Recommendations. I have now promoted well over 250 authors, located worldwide, and while only about 10% of those promoted have actually given back to me and the site, that small group of authors has been sensational in the amount of promotion both I and the site have received in return. I’ve been a guest on their blogs, they’ve reviewed and featured my books, they’ve delivered to me many new fans from among their own fan bases, they’ve reblogged so many of the other authors I’ve featured on the blog, and have been there for me offline whenever I’ve needed help, advice, an emotional boost. I have paid them back by continuing to promote them well past their original post on the blog and have given them the designation of ALL-STAR AUTHORS, as a shout-out to everyone that these authors are the best!

These are the authors who GET IT! They understand none of us can exist as an “island”, only thinking about our own books and writing. We really do all need to be concerned with FINDING NEW READERS for books and reading in general.

It’s so important to drive this point home with new (and, yes, even many experienced and accomplished, or trationally published) authors. Each individual author is not as important as they believe themselves to be. We are part of a community that ultimately serves …

THE READER! Readers reign!

It just makes sense to not treat this writing gig as a competition when we should all be part of a community serving all readers.

After all, do you expect your fans to only read your books then wait patiently until you finish writing the next? I know that, as a reader and fan myself, I appreciate hearing about recommended reading from favourite authors. After all, if I enjoyed reading their books then I’ll likely also enjoy reading what they like to read. Quite often, too, those authors tell me about other authors I might never have discovered on my own.

Now, I’m not suggesting you do as I’ve done and create a promotion blog or a review blog (reading recommendations reviewed) to promote your fellow authors. I’ll be the first to tell you it’s a heck of a lot of work to administer, organize, and write to these blogs all the time. If you are inclined to set up something yourself, Bravo!! And please do send me the link so I may promote the site for you.

But promoting can be as little as reblogging other authors’ promotions, from mine and other sites. I’m amazed at how few of the authors I promote on Reading Recommendations even reblog their own promotions, or link them permanently to their websites and blogs, let alone share those of others!

Share, retweet, reblog, comment on the posts – let us know you’re out there and that you care about the other authors who are writing books and publishing!

Then take it a step further and offer to review books by some of those authors I’ve promoted on Reading Recommendations. Or, if you discover a great book and want to tell other readers, contact me about posting on the Authors Recommending Authors segment of the blog.

There are many more ways you too can become an engaged and engaging member of this community. The sky is the limit. This all comes so naturally to me now, because I’ve been promoting authors and great books throughout most of my adult life. But I haven’t thought of everything yet, so please do tell me if you have other effective ways of getting the word out.

I know there are authors out there gnashing their teeth, wondering how the heck they can also be included on my Reading Recommendations blog when the site is “currently closed to unsolicited submissions”. I am constantly on the look-out for interesting books and authors to promote, and I do know so many personally or have met them online, that there is never a lack in my schedule.

However, if you wish to get my attention so I will consider promoting your books on the site, the best way is to do exactly what I’ve outlined above: Subscribe to and follow the blog; reblog or share promotions; buy, read, and support books and reading in general; comment on the blog (and not just to tell me about your great book!!); offer to review books by authors I have promoted; ASK ME ABOUT MY BOOKS and offer to promote me or give me a guest spot on your blog. Flattery will get you everywhere!! That’s the best way to attract my attention, and then I will ask YOU to be a part of this.

It’s not rocket science, folks! If you want to get, you need to give first.

And, BINGO_BONGO! Here’s how it works … I posted an update this morning on the blog for one of the all-star authors, as it happens, and in less than an hour she has already shared the post. Others who liked it immediately were authors previously promoted on the site. And they have also now “liked” it on Facebook, too. Magically, this post and author promotion has moved beyond my initial reach and been exposed to many more readers. Amazing!!

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Writer = Reader

You can be a Reader and not be a Writer.

You cannot be a Writer without being a Reader, first and always.

No exceptions. No arguments. No Ifs, Ands, or Buts.

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We learn to read before we learn to write. We learn to write well by continuing to read, forever and ever. No excuses like, “I’m too busy writing to make time to read,” or “I don’t want to be influenced by another author,” or “I’m afraid if I read a book while writing this one I’ll lose my unique voice.” No, no, and no, I reply. Not good enough, because as I said above, No Exceptions! And that means you, as well as every other Writer.

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Sorry to have to bring out the tough love, folks, but I’m tired of hearing these excuses from too many of you. And I’ve said it all before. If you want to learn how to write … read, read, read! But some seem to need to be reminded. Again.

In order to be able to write well, think of reading in this way: You would never allow an untrained surgeon, one who doesn’t keep up with the latest advances in medicine, to operate on you; Or what about mechanics who have not gone through a lengthy apprenticeship and maintained their qualifications? Would you allow them to work on your car? I thought not.

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So consider reading to be a major part of the apprenticeship of writing. And continuing to read, even while you write, is something like taking Professional Development Days to further improve your writing–-except that reading a good book is a lot more fun than attending those boring meetings.

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Please note that I assume you wish to WRITE WELL so that Readers understand and appreciate whatever it is you are writing. I know anyone can “write words” without reading, but can you “write well”? Aye, there’s the rub! Besides which, it’s not a badge of pride to say you never read books, especially if you call yourself a Writer. As Mark Twain so aptly put it, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”

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And just to prove how important reading is to this Writer, here’s a photo of part of my personal library . . . The rest of my books are around the corner in the kitchen, in a Calgary storage unit, at my trailer, and on my eReader. Yes, I’m bragging. Some of those books have been with me most of my life, longer than many of the people I know. Comforting that they’ll always be with me. If not physically, they’ll continue to travel with me in my mind.

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Guest Post: Reflections on Bequia by Nat Warren-White – Part 1

I first met Nat and Betsy last year when they were vacationing on Bequia. Robin Coles, an author I promoted on my blog Reading Recommendation, had put us together on Facebook, so I invited Nat and Betsy to visit my house when they arrived on the island and we have been in contact since that time. Nat posts many photos to Facebook and that’s what led me to ask if he’d like to write about Bequia in this series of guest posts. Besides, he also brought a copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to reread – definitely an author serious about his writing!

Reflections on a Wednesday Morning in Downtown Bequia

Sand Cake As I wait patiently by the beach in the yellow Moke for Betsy to return from shopping this morning, I notice a couple of kids working hard down in the sand. I assume they are building a sand castle but when I move closer for a look I realize it is something else altogether.

“It’s a sand cake,” the boy tells me with a big smile.

“Looks good enough to eat,” I say.

He laughs then quite seriously responds, “It’s not for eating.”

I see another smaller round pile of sand with a hole in the middle next to the cake. “I was trying to make a doughnut,” the boy says.

“Or a bagel” I add.

His sister brings shells and bits of sea glass for cake decorating. I watch as she carefully plucks each piece from the water and balances them on her flip-flops which are floating gently nearby. When the flip-flops are fully loaded she transports them carefully to the cake building site to lay delicately on top.

“How come you’re not in school today?” I ask.

“It’s Easter vacation!” the boy responds. “Two weeks! We don’t go back to class again until April 13.”

“Do you live near here?” I ask.

“We live in Hamilton,” he answers, pointing across the harbor. “Are you from America?”

“Yes, I am. And it’s very cold, ice and snow now, where I come from.”

Children playing at beach
“Do they have beaches as nice as this one in America?”

“Not so many,” I say. “Well, maybe a few.”

“We don’t have many hurricanes or tornadoes here in Bequia. When we do have them they are not as bad as they are in St. Vincent. Because the buildings are not so big.”

“Do you remember a hurricane landing here?” I ask.

“Yes. My sister went outside in it. She wasn’t supposed to but she did and she left the door open.”

“I was much younger then,” his sister adds. “My mother had to come out and get me.”

“All the people in Bequia are very nice. All the business people and the people who live here are nice,” the boy tells me. “My mother and father drive a taxi. My mother has the new one and my father has the old one.” He points toward the taxi lot full of waiting cabs and trucks. “There’s my mother sitting in the new taxi with my grandmother. They are having a little chat.”

Green Ferry - Copy “Looks like a nice taxi,” I say.

“It is. You see that green boat?” he asks, pointing at the ferry boat backed-up to the pier nearby.

“Yup,” I say.

“They are fixing that one right now,” he says.
“When we come here we usually take the red one,” I say.

Red Ferr “That green one is a good stiff boat. It doesn’t roll around as much as the red one. The red ones belong to the Bequia Express and the green ones belong to the Admiral ferries. The green ones are more comfortable.

Both ferries, red and green, at the wharf. Photo taken by Susan Toy from The View.

Both ferries, red and green, at the wharf. Photo taken by Susan Toy from The View.

You see that boat there?” He points at the locally built blue and white schooner, Friendship Rose, anchored just off the beach. “That boat was the ferry before these red and green ones. Only she was lower in the water then. They added more height to her when she stopped being the ferry.”

“She’s a beautiful boat,” I say. “I sailed on her down to the Tobago Cays last week. We had a great sail.”

“Yes, she is a beautiful old boat,” the boy says with pride.

“Do you like to go sailing?” I ask.

“No, I don’t go sailing. But my grandfather did. He was a great fisherman. He is 93. He lives in Paget Farm. Do you know Paget Farm?”

“Yes,” I say. “Out near the airport.”

“Yes. Paget Farm is a good place to live. The people there take good care of each other. When my grandfather was fishing out near Petit Nevis once his boat sank and he had to swim to save his life. Everyone in Paget Farm went out to look for him. Finally they saw some smoke coming from behind Petit Nevis. They found him cooking a fish on the beach.”

“He must’ve been a good swimmer!”

“Yes, but now he is very old and he can’t see very well. He is shrunken. My auntie in America says he can come there to have an operation to make his eyes better but he is afraid to go because he is afraid he will lose his sight completely. He says he can only see the shadow of someone who he is looking at now. Sometimes I go to his house and sneak in while he is sitting there and sometimes he doesn’t hear me so I just sit until he asks, ‘Who’s there?’ Then I use another voice and he doesn’t know it’s me. Sometimes he hears the floors going squeaksqueaksqueak and then he guesses it’s me. My mother cooks him food to bring to his house everyday.”

“But you live in Hamilton?”

“Yes … and he lives in Paget Farm.”

“How old are you?”

“I am 12. My sister is 10.” The girl is bigger than the boy. “I go to school on St Vincent. She goes to school here on Bequia.”

“You take the ferry to St Vincent for school every day?”

“Yes!”

“Do you ever get seasick?”

“Not unless my belly is too full from food but then I get accustomed to the rolling usually. Have you been to the volcano on St Vincent? It’s called Soufriere.”

“No,” I say. “But I saw another one on Montserrat that was exploding once.”

“My class took a field trip to see the Soufriere but I didn’t go.”

“Why not?”

“My auntie said it might be slippery and I could get hurt.”

“Were other children hurt?”

“No, but some slipped.”

“And fell down the volcano?”

“No, just fell down! Do you know any other beaches here? You know Lower Bay?”

“Yes. That’s a nice beach too but I think I like Hope Bay the best.”

“You know Princess Margaret Beach? It was named Princess Margaret beach after the princess who went bathing there. Do you know this harbor was first called The Harbor? Then the queen came to visit and she named it for herself, Port Elizabeth.”

Suddenly a black cloud rolls over us from the east side of the island and it starts raining hard.

“It’s raining!” shouts the boy. “Goodbye! We’re going to sit in the van!” And they run away leaving me standing by the sand bakery which is quickly dissolving back into the beach. All I can think of is the Jimmy Webb song, MacArthur Park, and how happy I am to have met these two young Bequians on a Wednesday vacation morning on the beach in Port Elizabeth.

Part 2
Part 3

Nat resting Bequia-style

Nat resting Bequia-style

Nat Warren-White is an actor, drama therapist, writer, and executive coach who first fell in love with Bequia when he and his wife, Betsy, landed there in 2006 at the beginning of a circumnavigation aboard their 43′ South African-built cutter, BAHATI that you may read about here. In 2011, they stopped there again on their way home to Maine and, in fact, Bequia is the spot on earth where they “closed the loop/tied the knot” – joyfully completing their sailing journey round the world. Since then they have been returning every year and are learning to love and understand this special dot in the ocean more and more!

Guest Post: San Miguel Writers’ Conference by Gordon Cope – Part One

This is the first of a 3-part series written by Gordon Cope who has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations. Gordon has offered to give us an “insider’s look” into the writing conference held annually in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Part One: THE CONFERENCE

This is my third year attending the San Miguel Writers’ Conference. I first became interested in the conference after my wife Linda and I moved full time to Manzanillo, Mexico, located on the Pacific Coast, south of Puerto Vallarta. San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is situated inland, approximately halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City, and about 8-hours by car from Manzanillo. Friends in Mexico called my attention to the upcoming conference, and I was so impressed by the speaker lineup, the workshops and the city itself, that I immediately signed up.

Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende

Folk Art in San Miguel de Allende

2015 marked the 10-year anniversary of the conference. For the last decade, Susan Page and an army of volunteers have been organizing a five-day extravaganza that has earned international recognition for the quality of speakers, extracurricular activities and workshops. I will talk about the speakers and activities in part II and III of my guest blog, but first, I’d like to discuss the workshops.

I have been writing professionally for a long time; for the last 30 years, it has been my full-time job. In addition to working as a reporter for the Calgary Herald newspaper, I have also been a journalist and international correspondent specializing in the energy sector. As an author, I have had three travel memoirs traditionally published; A Paris Moment, So, we Sold Our House and Ran Away to the South Pacific, and A Thames Moment. In addition, I wrote a mystery thriller, Secret Combinations, that was released by a Canadian publisher.

However, I have had little formal education in regards to creative writing, and the opportunities to meet fellow practitioners and learn from experienced faculty members were important considerations in attending the conference. I wanted to learn firsthand the tips and techniques used by successful writers to enhance their work.

Workshops

The conference offers over 50 workshops, ranging from fiction to non-fiction and poetry. They are organized into seven sessions spread out over five days. Each workshop is 90-minutes long, and features a lesson from a subject matter expert, exercises, and a Q&A opportunity.

One of my favourite workshops was Randall Platt’s talk on point-of-view, tense and voice. She spoke at length about how an author creates a character, delving into a fictional construct by asking simple questions about their gender, physical appearance, and then building on interpersonal relationships with family, spouse and friends until a character emerges that can convince the reader that they might actually exist. For our exercise, Randall had us imagine the Point of View of a major character in the story of the Titanic. I chose the iceberg.

The Business of Writing

Publishers are in the business of making money from books, and the sector is currently going through a massive upheaval as online retailers like Amazon undermine their ability to price their product. The knock-on effect upon authors is immense; few publisher will now take on an unproven writer unless they have some built-in notoriety or social platform.

The conference offers a sampling of workshops that inform and offer alternative publishing outlets, such as self-publishing. I attended a very informative session taught by Judith Gille, an independent author and bookstore owner. Gille outlined the Nuts and Bolts of Self-Publishing, walking attendees through what essentially the author needs to do to step into the shoes of the publisher. The publishing rights for A Paris Moment recently reverted to me, and I am in the process of launching the 10th Anniversary eBook edition of the travel memoir; what Judith had to say about successfully entering the ePublishing sector was both reassuring and immensely informative.

Agent Pitches

The conference offers another tremendous benefit; the opportunity to pitch your manuscript to an agent. For many years, I have been sending out query letters to agents in regards to several of my writing projects, to no avail. At every conference, however, I have had the chance to speak one-on-one to an established literary agent, learning how to overcome nervousness and communicate my enthusiasm for my work. This year, I spoke to Kimberly Cameron, of Kimberly Cameron & Associates. She was sufficiently impressed by my pitch for A War Child (a contemporary historical fiction set in occupied Paris during the Second World War), that she requested a copy of the entire manuscript for her consideration. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

For more information about the conference, visit their main website.

Part Two
Part Three

Five years since … I met my best friend for the first time – Feb. 9, 2010

This is a post I wrote in Feb. 2010. I’m reposting it now, because I’ve noticed that, after “pizza ovens,” “meeting my best friend for the first time” is still the second-most popular phrase entered as a subject into search engines that brings readers to my blog. Curious, I thought. Then I checked the stats and this post has garnered 1982 views since it was first published on Feb. 9, 2010. There must be a lot of other people out there who are meeting their best friends for the first time!

Monday was a very good day – an historic day, I should add. In the same way as the meeting between Livingstone and Stanley, Lennon and McCartney, Lewis and Clark – okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit here, but bear with me… For me, this was definitely a significant turning point in my life, to finally meet, in person, the person I’ve long considered my best email writing friend, but had never had the opportunity to actually meet.

Darcie Hossack and I “met” online for the first time on the Humber student discussion board. Those early exchanges involved talking about food, specifically white chocolate and berry scones and an exchange of recipes, if I remember correctly, Firefly – oh, yes, and writing, too. We quickly realized that while we come from different backgrounds, are separated in age by a couple of decades and (at that time) several thousand miles physically – not to mention that Darcie’s writing is leaps-and-bounds more accomplished than mine, we definitely clicked, and became fast friends all those years ago. During the past four years (now seven!!), we’ve offered each other advice, editing, encouragement, connections, and confidence that what we write, and the way we’re writing it, is not only good, but will eventually be published. I’m so proud that Darcie is first this fall with a collection of short stories, Mennonites Don’t Dance, to be published by Thistledown. **Update – Here’s Darcie’s book on a playdate with mine, which I have since published, as well!

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And read this terrific review by Jim Bartley Of MDD that appeared in The Globe & Mail.

But we’ve also been collaborating all this time on another idea. I don’t think it’s stretching things too much to say that we complement each other. And that’s what best friends should do, right?

So meeting Darcie, finally, yesterday was just a matter of putting a physical presence to someone I felt I have really known all along. And now I have the added bonus of being able to hear her voice when I read emails she writes to me. She’s no longer my imaginary friend. But she is still my best writing friend!

Thanks, Darcie!

(And here’s the addition of a photo essay I posted not long after that day.)

From the Vaults … You say you want to save print books?

I originally wrote this post in Dec. 2009, at the beginning of The Great Debate … you know the one: Print vs. eBook. Some insist on continuing this debate, even though it doesn’t look as though, 5 years later, we’re going to lose print books at any time soon. So for all of those who continue to clutch your print books close to your chest and worry over their sudden demise, I have a few words for you…

"Some" of the hundreds of books in my own personal print library.

“Some” of the hundreds of books in my own personal print library.

Reading this post from Booksquare got me thinking – everyone out there who has ever said, “I could never read an e-book on a computer or a reading device,” or “I will never give up print books, because I love the feel of the pages and holding the book while I read,” should put their money where their mouths are and buy new books – lots of them, and insist that all their friends buy new books, too. And buy those books at full price, while they’re at it, and from an independent bookstore. Don’t buy used, because the author doesn’t gain from sales of used books. The only way to keep publishers publishing print books, and paying royalties to the authors who write them, is if those print books actually sell.

But the real point is that e-books, and all the other new technilogical formats, some of which you probably haven’t heard about yet – how about a vook? – are increasing in popularity, and are definitely here to stay. The Next Gen is computer savvy, and much more inclined to receive and read online than my boomer cohorts ever will be. We’ve really only seen the tip of possibilities of where e-publishing is headed. (And 5 years on now it seems that MY generation, the Boomers, are embracing eReaders and eBooks even moreso than was predicted might happen.)

So my point of this post is to suggest that if you truly love print books, and can’t imagine reading a book in any other format, then you can help save those print books by buying them. Support your local authors, attend their readings, browse in independent bookstores and ask their (usually) well-informed staff for suggestions and help with reading selections. Recommend good authors you discover to your friends and encourage those friends to buy their own new copies of books. And buy books for everyone on your gift list.

That’s the best way I know of saving print books.

"Some" of the hundreds of eBooks on one of the eReader devices I use (including a few written by friends and an advance PDF of the first 8 chapters of my own WIP - you won't find THAT shelved with any print books!).

“Some” of the hundreds of eBooks on one of the eReader devices I use (including a few written by friends and an advance PDF of the first 8 chapters of my own WIP – you won’t find THAT shelved with any print books!).

As for me, I prefer continuing to be an ambidextrous reader, and constantly switch between eReader and my print book library. I still believe that, as authors and publishers, we shouldn’t allow our own preferences to enter publishing decisions. It’s important to provide our books in all the formats in which Readers choose to read them.

There are no Write-By-Numbers kits … a reminder

I originally wrote this blog post in May, 2014, and I think it’s time to repost as a reminder to many authors who read it previously or as a revelation for those who haven’t read it yet.

There are no Write-By-Numbers kits …

Goodreads for promoting books … my experience

My books have been listed on Goodreads since they were each published. Those books have been favourably rated and reviewed on the site by many members, both known and unknown to me. I have also been a member of the site and list books that I’m reading, have rated them all when I finish reading, and I’ve even written a few reviews. I’ve found several new-to-me authors listed on the site who I have then contacted and subsequently promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog. And I enter the Goodreads Giveaways all the time and have won a number of very good books over this past year or so.

My best experience with the site, though, has been in offering my own Goodreads Giveaways. My first contest was held in Sept., 2013, and since then I have run three more. A total number of 2998 Goodreads members in 26 countries have entered the four contests and I gave away 25 copies of my novel, Island in the Clouds. Some of those who won copies have rated and/or reviewed my book after they received and read it. But many, many more have listed it as a to-read and now have the book’s cover on their Goodreads page.

The way I see it, these are 3000 Readers who likely would never otherwise have heard of either me or my book. Whether they actually buy a copy is of no matter to me – I just want these Readers to know of the book’s existence and consider reading it, or tell their friends about it.

And guess what I’m going to do next … To celebrate the availability of my eBooks on Amazon in both Germany and India, I plan to run yet another Goodreads Giveaway for members in those two countries, and perhaps a few other countries, because there are many, many people outside of traditional English-speaking countries who can not only read in English but are also genuninely interested in reading books like mine. I hope to have that organized very soon.

The reason I’m so big on Goodreads as a means of promoting books is because it’s all about the READERS! Absolutely everything about the site is about books, authors and reading – so no distractions from other possible means of entertainment. None of the other social media sites are as specific to books – not Facebook, nor Twitter, nor anything else. The people who sign up for membership in Goodreads do so because they love to read – pure and simple! So I’m very happy to list my books there and offer promotions like the Goodreads Giveaways on a regular basis, because I’m promoting to the exact people I should be promoting to – THE READERS!!

A few authors have told me they don’t really “get” Goodreads and have never thought of using the site themselves, either for finding reading suggestions or for promoting their books. But I say you can’t afford to ignore this site, because it delivers millions of interested Readers to you every single day – and where else are you going to find so many people in one place who are interested in books and reading, I ask you??

So a big two-thumbs’-up from me to Goodreads as a means of promoting my own books and for providing me with a never-ending list of books to read and enjoy!