Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Addressing Grief (part 1) (A Scene from The Sweater Curse)

"Hello, Gwen. You here?" Jay called. He sounded urgent, excited. I went to greet him. We kissed.

"I just found this in our mailbox." He held an envelope. "It's from Blondous."

"Blondous? But who would--? Why? Who's it from?"

"There's no name on the envelope."

"What do you mean?" He handed it to me. "Blondous, Manitoba R0C 0W0," I read. There was no further identification. I tore it open. Inside was a clipping from our local newspaper, the Interlake Spectator.

"Long-time Blondous resident, Olavia Bjarnson (nee Jonnasson), passed away...' " I stopped reading and handed the clipping to Jay. "Please...I need you to..." I fought back tears.

He held me. "Passed away suddenly on Monday, September 7th, 2012, on the family farm. She is survived by father-in-law Gisli, husband Steini, and sons Jon (Gudrun), Valdi (Birta), Oskar (Helga), Baldur (Lilja), Arni and Pall, grandchildren Erik, Jason, Luke, James, Kris, Liam, Jordan, Christopher, Jonathan, Olin, Emily, and Annali. Predeceased by parents Olafur and Anna Jonnasson, sister Svava Story, mother in-law Lara Bjarnson and bother in-law Kris Bjarnson.

"Oli's favourite pastime was knitting. For many years, she volunteered as a 4-H leader. Her fine-hand knitting won many ribbons at the Blondous Annual Fall Fair. Her funeral will be held on Saturday, September 26th at 1:30 p.m. Memorial donations may be made to the Heart & Stroke Foundation or to a charity of your choice."

I tore the envelope from his hand and burst into tears. I raced into the bedroom and slammed the door behind me.

Through my tears, the postmark was blurry, but I could still read it. October 1st. Clearly, they hadn't wanted me to attend the funeral. At least they'd notified me.

"Gwen, honey, let me in," Jay pleaded.

I held the door closed, but he was stronger. The door slowly eased open, he drew me close and helped me in his strong arms.

"No, not...Auntie Oli. She can't...she can't...be...dead! She can't," I sobbed. I couldn't imagine my life without her. Even though we hadn't talked for years, just thinking about her in Blondous had always comforted me.

***
Buy your copy of The Sweater Curse link
***
Next post: A study of thistles (photography)

Monday, August 29, 2011

What I thought

I thought that I had written today's post.
I thought I would finish this...

or this...

for the wedding I was attending last weekend.
As you can see, I thought wrong.
What went wrong?
Well, I have been knitting. For example, I knit this...

and I've started knitting this...


Log in Saturday to tour our favourite art/craft gallery and discover the other things I've been knitting.
***
Next post:  Beau the Cat picture book

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Publishing's hurry up and wait by author Maureen Betita


Hurry Up! And Wait!

Publishing is like everything else, a whole lot of thinking it's gonna be one way and then it turns out the other way. Sometimes ithis is good and somethimes it is bad.

If you keep your expectations low, you might be pleasantly surprised or simply find things live up to exactly what you expected, not much. So you do your best to prepare for every possibility.

One thing that is impossible to prepare for? The timing of it all.

Writers send queries. Usually, a lot of queries. And they wait. Maybe they send them off cold, with no prior contact. Maybe they send them off after pitching the idea to an agent or editor and the sending is done in a hurry. You don't want them to forget you! Either way, the next step is to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

I mean, these are busy people and stuff you send them is just one small bit of what ends up filling their inbox. Reading takes time! And catching the right editor/agent on the right day with the right words? Wow, the odds really are against us.

But it happens and wow! The contract comes, you sign and then...you wait.

And wait.

And wait for those first editing notes. Because there are always editing notes. In the e-publishing world, speed is of the essence. Writers can't control the speed at which their editors work, all they can control is the speed at which they get through the notes and send it back to their editors.

And then they wait, again.

And wait.

On and on, for several rounds. And the book gets better, cleaner, sweeter. Well worth the frustrations of waiting.

I fought with my editor tooth and nail with book one of my Kraken's Caribbean Trilogy, The Kraken's Mirror.


 My two shorts, The Ship's Mistress and The Sister's Story, I had a different editor and we didn't bicker as much. Now, I'm working the edits for book two of the Kraken's Caribbean, The Chameleon Goggles and I'm back with the first editor, and things are moving like clockwork. We know each other now. I've also learned to be patient while waiting for edits but the use of well-timed nag is never a bad idea.

And I'm embracing the concept...Hurry up! And wait.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Please welcome author Lou Allin

Update:  Animal mystery author and blogger Sheila Boneham is hosting Lou Allin on her blog. They're talking about the importance Lou's dogs have played in her writing life.
 How/why did you start to write?
At five, I handed my mother a folded note reading "No." She must have wondered what she'd gotten herself into after trying for seven years to get pregnant.

Shortly after, I started writing poems about my white mice. "Whose teeth are gone and have to live/on Maypo 'cause he's sensitive?" my mouse." Most of them were named for classic film stars like Errol Flynn and Bette Davis. Did I mention that my father was a film booker? Not a bookie, like some thought.

About nine with a printing set, I started my own newspaper: The Nine Year Old. Next year, The Ten Year Old. Kind of a pattern.

In love with the Hardy boys from ages nine to thirteen, I wrote in a blue book a little mystery "novel" called The Mystery of the Secret Passageway. Mid-point, my handwriting changes from print to cursive. It was illustrated with side-burned, pompadoured young men seen from the side, proving why I am no good at art. A stick man's my limit.

Then some lugubrious poems in high school. "Misery, companion mine, to my depths you do entwine and crush my soul, a torch of wine."

But when I got to university in 1963 and majored in English, I gave up all hope of writing my own work until I got an electric typewriter in the late Seventies. I published 60 poems, moved into short stories with a computer in 1985, and into novels in the Nineties.

How did you become an author?
My first two mysteries were taken by RendezVous Press in 1998, and Northern Winters are Murder was published in 2000, Blackflies are Murder following in 2002. Blackflies was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel. It was also my shortest novel. Perhaps the judges were telling me something because I haven't been shortlisted after nine books in total.

What was your first published piece?
I had a rash of poems taken and was even paid twenty-five US bucks by the National Enquirer for four lines about toothpaste, but I'll name "A Literary Vampire," which was taken by The Vampire Journal. If I'd stuck with vampires in my novels, I'd be rich now. Who could have known back in 1980?

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I made the big mistake of getting way too much education, a PhD in English literature at a time when the universities had hired everyone they'd need for the next twenty-five years! That's what many of 800 rejection letters said. After banging my head against the wall teaching high school one year down by the Ohio River and then working full-time as a slave-labour adjunct at two universities ninety mile apart, I found out I still had Canadian citizenship (I'd spent 30 years in Ohio) and found a job at Cambrian College in Sudbury, Ontario. It was dead boring, but they paid me well and didn't work me too hard. I was lucky to be able to build a house on a gigantic meteor-crater lake and stay in the area until I retired in 2005.


 What inspires you?
Living on that breathtaking lake eight miles across and having hundreds of miles of Crown land in my backyard inspired me to write the Belle Palmer series set in the Nickel Capital. I had my own private trails tramped one footstep at a time over twenty years. With my German shepherds, I hiked in the summer and snowshoed in the winter. I also took my snowmobile right off the front lawn across the frozen lake, where I could drive for hours in three directions. Five wolves walked by one cold night. Moose and bear were everywhere. In the woods were my altars and my demi-gods, the trees, lakes, rivers, and bogs. You know you're in the north when your host wants to show you his favourite swamp!

Please share one of you successful marketing techniques
The Tourist Centre at the edge of Sudbury has all my books. I ship them from Toronto, and they sell them and send the cheques to BC. On good summer days, they get three hundred visitors.

 (Lou accepting the Murdoch award.
'The Derrick Murdoch is a special achievement award for contribution to the crime genre.' -- from the Crime Writers of Canada website )

Parting words

An author needs tools, talent, and tenacity. The first you can learn, the second you can hone, and the third is open to anyone who keeps at it. Check out Alan Bradley and his successful series about Flavia if you don't believe me. An "overnight" success at over seventy.

I welcome mail at louallin@shaw.ca
Website:  www.louallin.com
Please visit the Crime Writers of Canada, too at www.crimewriterscanada.com

One of the best fiction-writing books on the market is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. Recently Chevy Stevens hired Browne to edit her book, Still Missing. Chevy got an agent and a six-figure contract as well as selling many foreign rights. Her second book's just out. Is there a movie in the works?

SHE FELT NO PAIN

Blurb:

Summer on Vancouver Island gets off to a rough start when the body of a homeless man is discovered in the bush. RCMP Corporal Holly Martin notices drug paraphernalia nearby, and the autopsy reveals death from a combination of heroin and a synthetic oplate. She is soon led to believe that there is something of value hidden at the site of his death. As Holly struggles to connect the dots, a record drought heats up the vacation paradise, and one match could send Canada's Caribbean into flames.

Excerpt:

He snugged the rubber tubing around his arm, laughing as his body cooperated with a bulging vein. Born to shoot. A crust from a sore on one elbow was still pin, but he read no warning of infection. Soft beds and softer woman on the way. The skags he'd met on the road were all bones and dry. Then he filled the syringe, tipped up and tapped to get the air out, plunged into the vein and pulled back with blood. Then back again until gone. Warm fire, like being in a hot tub. Cold water the first time taught a rough lesson. He breathed deeply. As he closed his eyes, he could still hear that other stupid song:  "Stronger than Spain and France." Talk about a brain fart. What did it all mean, anyways, and who the hell gave a shit? He gasped, dimly aware that he wasn't getting enough oxygen. His nostrils were stuffed from the humidity. He tried short, shallow breaths. But everything was slowing down, like a wind-up clock. He dropped the syringe and clutched at his throat. Before he could telegraph his brain one last time, the bellows in his skinny chest hung limp, and his head lolled. An adventurous ant climbed aboard his hand and headed for a tasty piece of dried skin.


THAT DOG WON'T HUNT

Blurb:

Cowboy drifter Rick Cooper is on the run when he meets Gladys Ryan, an eccentric widow who offers him a ride in her classic 1970 Mustang. Before long she convinces him to help run her late husband's hunting lodge. With the promise of a share of the season's profits, Rick is happy to go along. But when Gladys fails to keep her promises at season's end, everything goes sideways.

Excerpt:

This mirage was made to order. A cherry-red Mustang Mach. One sat by the side of the road in the Mojave Desert. Waves of heat rolled off the asphalt like x-rays. Its hood was up.
My eyes were sore from squinting. One said of my throat was tickling the other. I took the last swig from a plastic gallon I'd brought at Twenty nine Palms. Scored a three-pointer against a saguaro. The jug rolled like a tumbleweed. I had been hitching on I-10 east from LA. They might be looking for me on the interstate, so I took this back road through the Sheep Hole Mountains toward Vegas. Not one damn car in an hour.
Cowboy boots hate asphalt and sand. Fact is, they're not big on walking period. I hoisted my duffel over my shoulder and headed for the car. The sun beat down like honey. Too dry in the desert for sweat to even bead. Thank God it was April, not July.
"Damn it to hell!" a rough voice yelled. The rear plate read Ontario. My mirage was near perfect. Canucks are helpful, and they'll swallow hard-luck stories. Then the hood slammed down.
A wiry woman barely five feet with a wide straw hat and sunglasses puffed on a cigarillo. Female. Three for three. Leading with my "trust me" grin, I approached.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

At the Mayne Island Fall Fair

























Wow, how this post has grown. I'll bring you more this weekend.
***
Next post:  Please welcome author Lou Allin

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Touring The Starving Artist Cafe (Scene from The Sweater Curse)

Protagonist Gwen Bjarnson's first impressions of the Starving Artist cafe...

I parked in front of a large colourful abstract mural that decorated the exterior of the cafe. I climbed out of the car, walked to the cafe, and pushed open the solid oak doors. Inside, I was immersed in a vibrant environment full of inspiration, full of colour. Artistically arranged paintings, sculptures, and pottery decorated the interior.
On stage, a harpist played, adding a touch of elegance.

The walls and booths were in muted tones meant to accent, not detract, from the art I sat and studied the menu. Soup, sandwiches, seafood, burgers, pasta. It was the usual fare.
***
Buy your copy of The Sweater Curse ebook link
***
Next post: Come with me to the Mayne Island Fall Fair

Monday, August 22, 2011

Design dilemma

The best laid schemes of mice and men
from Robert Burns' poem To a Mouse, 1786

Meaning
The most carefully prepared plans may go wrong.

I had this great idea for a sweater. Casting on the stitches, I happily knit the back. Back complete, I surveyed the yarn remaining and realized that I may not have enough of the light lilac.
No, worries, I thought. I'll just buy more.

 Easier said than done -- it seemed. The closest colour I could find is the one resting on top of the sweater.
What to do?
 Only one thing:  rip, rip, rip. And poof, the sweater disappears.

***
Today I'm visiting Jessica E. Subject's blog
***
Next post:  Being a Multi-genre Writer

Friday, August 19, 2011

Please welcome author Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller and 3 other non-fiction books. She is also a blogger at the CreativePenn.com: Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing. Joanna is on twitter@creativepenn


How/why did you start to write?

I've always written journals and diaries, especially while travelling and I always dreamed of writing a great novel. My idol was Umberto Eco with The Name of The Rose which I loved but the literary fiction ideal blocked me because I didn't think I could write like that. Dan Brown released me from the fear of writing as I saw that you could have a similar plot of religious history but still be a mainstream writer, so I started believing I could write a novel. That belief turned into reality when I wrote Pentecost, the first in a series of religious fiction thriller novels which I am really excited about. I am currently writing Prophecy.


How did you become an author?

I define an author as someone who has completed a book, whereas a writer is someone who writes. So I have always been a writer, but I finished my first book in 2008. It's called How To Enjoy Your Job...Or Find A New One and was written for people like me in the IT industry who are desperately unhappy. That book changed my life because I could see the process involved in actually completing a book, then I started learning about publishing. I also took my own advice and started writing on the side. I moved to 4 days a week work which gave me the time to write more, start a blog and a side business. I am slowly transitioning into writing full-time but we all need to pay the bills!


What was your first published piece?

I finished How To Enjoy Your Job and tried to find a publisher, but it was a career change book and I had no platform and no one would pick it up even though I made it onto primetime TV and newspaper. So I self-published on Amazon in 2008 and then discovered that marketing was critical in order to sell books. I really didn't have a clue back then! I was selling nothing so I started to learn about marketing and the internet and started a blog, then a podcast, then doing vidoes. So it all began with that non-fiction book. When I moved into fiction this year, I had built up a decent platform so I had people to sell to. Pentecost is still in the Kindle bestseller lists after 4 months so the difference is certainly marketing!


What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I am still an IT consultant 4 days a week which pays the bills and therefore means I can write what I want and not be worried about income. I do want to become a fulltime writer but for now, I can write my novels and not feel too pressured. So the day job is an asset to my writing in many ways which I have blogged about here.


What inspires you?

In terms of writing, I am inspired by religious history, psychology and also travel. I have a Masters degree in Theology and have also studied psychology and they both provide me with immense amounts of interesting material for my writing. I also love to go to art galleries, the theatre and listen to speakers as well as travel. I am a constant learner and find all kinds of tidbits to add into my writing through these interests.


Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Starting a blog and being committed to it for the long term has made all the difference to me in terms of building an online platform and actually selling books. I actually consider myself a "real" author now thousands of people have read my books and that is all down to blogging, which in turn led me to podcasting, twitter and more. But I definitely recommend starting a blog and taking it seriously!


Parting words

There's an amazing community of writers online who I have met through blogs and twitter. Anyone can become a part of that by being generous with their time, helping others on the journey and sharing their story. The internet has made it possible for authors to sell direct to customers and connect with each other. It's an amazing time to be a writer!

Author Links

Website --Adentures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing

Twitter

Facebook

*Thriller novel 'Pentecost' now available in Kindle and print format*
here

*Check out the book trailer on YouTube*
here

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Touring Mayne Island Farmers' Market













































Shop Saturdays until October 10th. You're sure to find a treasure...or two.

***

Next post: Please welcome author Joanna Penn