Friday, September 30, 2011

Please welcome author Amber Harvey

How/why did you start to write?
One summer, when I was around eleven, my friends were away and I was bored. Since my parents didn't believe children had to be entertained, I was left to sort out this problem for myself. An avid reader, my mind was always filled with stories, and having access to a notebook, a fountain pen, and some wildly exciting red ink, I began to write.


How did you become an author?
If an author is someone who is paid for their writing work, I guess it was when I started writing for a seniors' magazine, in my fifties. If it's someone who's published, I guess it was when Peter Gzowski chose one of my letters to publish in his The Fourth Morningside Papers.


How long ago?
That was 1991, or 20 years ago.


What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I have taught school for around 20 years, have been a counsellor for 15 years, and have been a parent for a total of 75 years (35 + 40). I was also a child, and that's mostly what I write about.


What inspires you?
I'm inspired by life and its challenges, especially those faced by young people.


Parting words
My parting words are, if you love to write, write.

Books by Amber Harvey
 (from right to left) Magda's Mayne Island Mystery, Mayne Island Aliens, Mayne Island Skeltons

New release...
Blurb:
The old house is just a skeleton; its bare timbers and broken windows are no protection from the elements.

While 12-year-old Magda follows Sport into this derelict house and uncovers its deepest secrets, her pal Brent is falsely accused and in trouble with the law. He hides out to avoid serious consequences, but dire results leave him at death's door. Will Magda rescue him in time? Will she find the sinister culprits who have robbed ancient Tsartlip artefacts? Will she solve the terrible secret of the Haunted House?

This exciting novel for young readers, set on Mayne Island, is available now.

Amber Harvey's web site
Amber Harvey's blog

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Let Me Out

In climate weather has confided me indoors lately. That is, until I read Laurie's Tuesday post:  I Was Minding My Own Business. For me, her words served as a wake up call and immediately made me want to drop everything to glory in the wonder that surrounds me. Thankfully yesterday was sunny and warm--enabling me to heed Laurie's call. I carried a camera in my hand and this poem in my heart...









"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

What beauty can you find?
***
Next post:  I'm very pleased and proud to welcome my friend and writing group partner Author Amber Harvey. Please drop by and say, "hi".
Tomorrow:  Oh, yes and I think I might be here
Saturday:  The first of a three part interview with Terrill Welch--artist, photographer, writer

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An explosive scene between Hannah and Afi

In this scene from The Sweater Curse, Gwen and her parents are preparing to leave their family homestead in Manitoba and move to British Columbia. This move was initiated by Doctor Hannah McNamara (Gwen's mother) accepting a position in a large Vancouver hospital.

And so we left.

Well, not quite. First we had to say a few good-byes. Most were tearful and heartwarming.

Mother gave her notice at the hospital. Nurses, staff, and patients organized a potluck dinner to send her off in rural-style. They shook her hand and wished her luck.

She glowed, her ego swelled, but she didn't care.

Tears were shed, hugs were given, but Afi's eyes were dry. His arms folded in front of his chest. His face was an angry shade of red and steam came out of his ears.

"I knew you were bad news the minute I met you. You have no respect for tradition, for our ways," he roared.

Mother roared back. "And you think a woman's place is in the kitchen, in bed, or under your feet."

"Kris, be a man. Control your woman." My dad's face was white; he gulped, but didn't say a word. This battle was between Mother and Afi. "I knew you wouldn't act to defend our ways. You've never had a backbone. Your mother coddled you, and now look at you, you're not a man. You're a mouse. You let this woman walk all over you. You let her rob you of all you have. You don't stand up to her or teach her to mind."

My dad said nothing in his defense, but Mother tried. "Don't talk that way to him. He respects me."

Afi ignored her, didn't even look at her, simply continued his tirade. "You've turned your back on family history, on our way of life, and you've endangered the survival of the family farm." He glared at Mother. "If our ways aren't good enough for you, then you aren't good enough for us. Get the hell off my land. Leave. Now!"

All families operated by a code. Taboos were made clear, if not by words, then by their lack. Afi made the family rules. We'd broken them.

If we were Mennonite or Hutterites, we would have had a word for it. We would have called it shunned, but Afi was Icelandic-Canadian. We read our fate on his bitter face and quickly left.
***
Next post:  randomly blogging
I have a few topics fighting for dominance in my brain, but--at least at this point--the topic will be a surprise for both of us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to maintain consistent tone


My beta (first) reader said something like, "Your protagonist is a teenager, right?" I nodded. "Well, then she'd use slang--like you did here. Don't use formal speak like you do here and here." 

Um, yeah, easier said than done.

The shorter the story the easier it is to maintain a consistent tone.

Even though I clearly hear the protagonist's voice occasionally I rewrite her because she doesn't talk fancy enough for me. Why? Well, gulp, because I want my readers to know what a great writer I am. Basically, I want to show off. (This isn't a conscious decision on my part. )

However, this isn't about me--the author--it's about my character. My beta reader said by robbing the protagonist of her voice I'm weakening the story. So, now the question is how do I stop? How can learn to tell the protagonist's voice from my author's voice?

Thankfully, in a writing magazine (or a blog) I happened up the answer. What I did was search my manuscript for the tone I wanted to convey. I printed off the example and displayed it in a prominent place. This way, as I rewrite, I can refer to it. Try it; it works.

Happy writing

Monday, September 26, 2011

Design dilemma--sleeves

I'm currently knitting myself a cardigan. The front and back are done. I thought I had finished one sleeve--enter the dilemma. After working nine inches of seed stitch I began shaping. For the sane of simplicity, I planned to decrease at the beginning and end of every second row. The result...

 a twelve inch long sleeve.
I decided this was two short. A longer sleeve was my goal.
Questions:  How will I accomplish this goal? How will I ensure that the shaping is properly placed?
Enter this helpful device...
 a row counter. As I complete row after row, I keep a record of my progress my roll to dial to the corresponding number.
I have the solution. Now I can rip out my mistake.
Happy knitting
***
Next post:  Maintaining a consistent tone

Friday, September 23, 2011

Please welcome Author Sharon Wildwind

Sharon Wildwind

How/why did you start to write?

I'm not really sure. I remember a pre-school argument between my mother and a friend of hers who was a teacher. The teacher said I was ready to learn to print even though I wasn't yet six and my mother said that learning to print could wait. It made me very curious as to what this printing stuff was about and what you could do with it. Later, when I learned it was possible to connect those individual letters to build words, sentences, and stories, I knew I was on to something that appealed to me.

The first clear memory I have of writing consistently is keeping a diary the summer I was nine. Unfortunately, it didn't survive and I've no idea why it occurred to me to keep a diary. A knitting connection here:  that was the same summer that I learned to knit for a Girl Scout badge.

By the time I was fifteen, I was writing stories in lined notebooks with black covers. When I was sixteen I started co-writing with a close friend. Since then there never was a time that I wasn't writing.

My first published piece was a humorous piece reprinted in the Canadian Reader's Digest. This was back in the 1970s and it was a pure fluke. I'd sent something I'd written to a friend. He thought it was funny enough to publish in the house organ where he worked and Reader's Digest picked it up. The first I knew about all of this was getting a letter and a check for fifty dollars in the mail. I was stunned. (I spent those fifty dollars on wool.)

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

I'm a registered nurse and for the past thirty years have specialized in working with older people. Both nursing and geriatrics are marvelous assets to writing. Observation was one of the first skills that I learned in nursing school. Sometimes it was detailed observations, like recognizing what a patient said didn't match their body language. That was so helpful in developing characters.

Other times it was more global. A charge nurse needs to carry an ever-changing map in her head of where her staff is and how the shift is going. That's good for plotting and also for handling who is where in a multi-character scene.

As a new graduate, having to convince a sleepy resident to come NOW because a patient on my unit was going down the tubes, I quickly learned to create mini-stories full of tension, suspense, and a cliffhanger ending.

Working with older people is so much fun because they have great stories to tell. I could not, in my wildest imagination, create some of the stories that these people have lived.

I've written two series--one published and one not--and there is a nurse character in both of them. I figured why waste all of that good experience.

How did you become an author?

When I was fifty-five I said to myself, "Girl, if you want to do this, what are you waiting for?" I thought it might be a good idea to take a how-to-start-a-small-business course. One of the things that the instructor said was, "Act like you're already a business, and behave accordingly. Be professional from the first day, and demand that others treat you in a business-like manner." The city where I live sold me an at-home business license, the Canadian government did the paperwork to give me a tax number and, boom, I was in business as a writer. Actually getting my first book published took a while longer.

I think the most important lessons I've learned are, first, writing and publishing are so very, very different. I had to learn what my writing headspace felt like and my business headspace felt like how to constantly improve and grow in both, and how to balance those two spaces over the long term.

Second, I can't do this alone, and I have to do this alone. I know that sounds like a contradiction. I've spent a lot of time building my support network, most of it on-line. I go into that network every day, but I also work hard not to get trapped there. It's important for me to know what other people say and what they are doing with their careers, but it's even more important to know that I am not compelled to do something just because other people are doing it.

What inspires you?

Courage. Humor. People who treat one another well. Many kinds of art and music. Keeping a journal on a regular, sometimes daily basis. I'm a great believer in these two quotes:

I only write when I'm inspired, and I see to it that I'm inspired at nine o'clock every morning.
-W. Somerset Maughn, writer

I don't believe in inspiration. I was educated by the nuns. They are a lot tougher than any muse.
-Nora Roberts, romance fiction writer

There are times when you have to sit down and write, period. Seat in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. You have to meet deadlines. You have to treat other people with respect. And you always have to be ready for the brass ring, that wonderful opportunity that you had no idea was coming your way, but which you are going to grab with both hands when it does come.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

I call this the Rule of 10. Events can be divided into non-reader-heavy and reader-heavy.

Non-reader-heavy is your general crowd, like a convention, or a flea market. In those markets, 1 out of 10 people will even notice you. For every 10 people who notice you, 1 will speak to you. For every 10 people who speak to you, 1 will buy the book. So if someone tells me that they expect 3, 000 people at a convention, my sale potential is 3000 divided by 10 = 300 will notice my booth; 300 divided by 10 = 30 people will speak to me; 30 divided by 10 = 3 sales are likely. There could be a whole lot of reasons other than sales--networking, having a good time, contributing to a cause, etc.--that I might set up a booth at that convention, but at least I won't go expecting to sell 50 to 100 books.

For reader-heavy events, such as speaking at a library, you can skip the first two steps. By showing up, the people there have already noticed the author and want to speak to her. The average attendance at most library programs is 8 to 20 people, so my sale potential is usually 2 to 3. The advantage is that I'm tying into a reader-heavy group, who will promote me by word of mouth. If an author can engage one reader, that's usually worth 5 contacts.

Parting words

Writing is a marathon. Warm up, write, cool down. Eat right. Drink water. Exercise for stamina, balance, and staying power. --Sharon Wildwind, mystery writer

Author Links
Poes Deadly Daughters Blog (I blog on Tuesdays, but come see the rest of the daughters, too)
Web site and link to e-mail
Facebook fan page
Tweeting @sharww



The fifth (and final) book in my Elizabeth Pepperhawk/Avivah Rosen series is at the publisher. They haven't shown me the proofs of the cover yet, so I'm using this photo as a stand-in. It is the memorial stained glass window at the Special Forces chapel, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The book is called Loved Honor More, and it's about healing wounds and letting go.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A patchwork of who, what and where

Where

This Sunday, September 25th I will be attending The Word on the Street
From one to three o'clock, I will be sitting booth V22 The Crime Writers of Canada
Please drop by. I'd like to meet you.
***
Next post:  Please meet author Sharon Wildwind

A patchwork of who, what...

What

Today I'm going to try this...link
Details...
What:  Belly dancing workshop
When:  Thursday September 22, 7:30 - 9:30 PM
Where:  Mayne Island's Community Centre
Cost:  $20, payable at the workshop
Who's teaching:  Martha Reid
What to bring:  water bottle, comfortable clothing (with a fitted top), yoga mat

I'll report back on how I do. The instructor and I aren't going to have an easy time of it. I'm not body aware or coordinated. Basically, if I can do it, anyone can. : )
***
Next post at 6 PM (PST):  Where

A patchwork of who, ...

Who
More than twenty years ago I started dating a man with long lustrous hair. He meet my parents and a few days after his head was shaved.
"One of my brothers has long hair. You didn't have to..."
He smiled. "Don't worry I didn't."
This ritual continues...
You may remember this photo...
Here he is again

His wavy locks were carefully collected and will become a wig for a cancer survivor. What he does isn't easy. I was only able to do it twice before vanity stopped me in my tracks.
He has done it more than five times and this story continues...
***
Next post (today at noon):  What

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sweater Curse on Youtube

Ghosts? Greed? Afterwalkers?
Viking Olafur the Bloodthirsty died bravely on the battlefield. Valhalla should have been his reward, but sadly he is doomed to walk among us.
Waiting for you on Youtube--I read from The Sweater Curse
Here's a link
***
Next post:  A patchwork of who, what, where

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Becoming a YA author

My journey to becoming an author of a young adult novel began when I was born.

Don't panic. This isn't a novel--it's a blog. I'll get to the point. I was born dyslexic. Simply put, dyslexia means that my brain doesn't process information in the same way as a so-called "normal" brain. (To learn more about dyslexia, I highly recommend Ronald D. Davis' book The Gift of Dyslexia.) I spent too many years thinking the differences in my brain meant that it I was stupid.

My grandmother helped me see that perhaps I was capable of success. To honour her memory, I wrote the short story Because She Believed In Me. This story was first published in the Island Writer literary journal and I've also read it over the radio. Following this success, I decided to submit it to Kaleidoscope -- a magazine that champions the disabled. Renamed If Not for Her, my story appeared in this magazine in January, 2011.

Orca Publishing's prolific author, Robin Stevenson, gave me feedback regarding this story. She encouraged me to write more about my experiences as a dyslexic.

After many false starts and half finished stories I began to write about my time as a Katimavik volunteer. (Katimavik is a nine-month government-run national service youth program for participants 17 to 21 years of age.) For me, Katimavik was not only life-changing but also provided insight into the disabled in general and especially into my own disability. While in Katimavik, I wrote 'limitations on my accomplishments are only set by my inability to accept the fact that I can succeed.'

Thanks to my grandmother and others who have helped me along the way, I have been successful. I'm currently working on revising my young adult adventure. I can't wait to share this story with you.
***
Next post:  The Sweater Curse on Youtube

Monday, September 19, 2011

Knit easy lace

The fashion conscious know, this year lace is in.
The Knitting Directory has a selection of lace stitch patterns. Each are classified 'Intermediate'. The instructions include gobbly-gop like this:  k1, *yo, k3, y0, k1 and k2, sl1, k2tog, psso, *k3, sl1, k2tog, psso
What if you have beginner knitting skills? What if you can;t read these instructions? Does it mean that you can't knit lace?
Nope. Easy lace to the rescue.

Double wrap yarn
 Simply wrap yarn around your needle twice.
The first rows of this sample is seedstitch. The results of the double wrap can be seen in the last row--cute and lacey.

Do the Combo
 I knit the seed stitch using 4.50mm/US 7
Simply changing to 10mm/US 15 resulted in this lacey stitch.
My 'Queen Anne Lace scarf' pattern uses this method.
***
Next post:  (Tuesday) My Journey to becoming a young adult author
(Wednesday) The Sweater Curse on Youtube
(Thursday) Patchwork of who, what, where
(Friday) Please welcome author Sharon Wildwind

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Top Three Editing Mistakes by Em Petrove

Top Three Editing Mistakes

Seen By Undercover Editor

by Em Petrova

I've worked with several critique partners and newbie writers over the years, and recently I decided I would enjoy working with writers to polish their manuscripts. So I took an editing job. When I was starting writing, taking workshops and struggling to get a handle on the craft of writing. I gobbled up any bits of information the more experienced writers offered. Even after selling over twenty manuscripts, I continue to learn from my editors and a few great friends who will offer me feedback.

Today I'd love to share with you the top three mistakes I commonly find while editing manuscripts.

Mistake #1:  Overuse of a good thing

Whether it's a word, an action, a cool phrase or a punctuation, overkill is bad. I once read a novel by a VERY popular bestselling author where each page was riddled with the use of the word "dark". I mean, two or three instances per page through the entire book. Needless to say, it became a joke with me. "His dark secrets filled her with dark longing. The darkness inside him was relentless..." You get the point. As writers we often get hooked on a word and overuse it, and as far as I'm concerned, the problem in this particular book wasn't the author's--the editor should have caught the 849 occurrences of that word before it went to print.

How to fix it:  go to http://www.wordle.net and paste your manuscript into the box there. It will generate a word cloud for you of the most often-used words. Instantly you'll see if you've used the word "back" too much (this once happened to me--used 320 times. Needless to say, I think very carefully before typing that word now!)

*Using Wordle will help catch your overused phrases and even tell you if you're writing in a passive voice by using "was" too much. But it won't see that you've used the semi-colon seven times on a single page. If you're a semi-colon, colon or em dash offenders, you might have to catch that yourself by looking at a printed page.

Mistake #2:  Unusual names and misspellings

Some people enjoy interesting names. I'm one of them, and this is an offense I commit occasionally. In fact I recently had a writing partner knock me down a peg about my name choice for my hero. Basically having an interesting name is good--but two interesting names isn't. A name that sounds too exotic in a contemporary suspense might throw a reader or sound hokey. So unless you're writing fantasy, save the far-out for something very special. And for the love of angels, don't spell the name one way on the first pages and then switch up spellings later!

How to fix it:  Do a search/find for your name and make sure all instances are spelled the same. This actually drives me wild when editing a manuscript for another author--if YOU can't remember your cahracters' names, why would the reader want to?

Also, look through baby name sites online for interesting but easy-to-read or pronounce names. When choosing a last name, I often grab my phone book and leaf through it . Adding a more common last name such as White or Johnson to an unusual first name will provide much-needed balance.

Mistakes #3:  Overuse of the same sentence structure

Here's an example:  The evil knight put his head down and charged The Princess Wartesia like a bull, hitting her full force. She gasped and fell, knocking the wind from her. He continued toward her, raising his fist. She cowered against the flagstones, crying and trembling. His feet drummed near, giving her the impression that he would surely kill her.

See anything that sticks out to you in this passage? Like words ending in -ing? All those little words that modify what the noun in the sentence is doing are fine, but the same structure over and over again becomes dull for the reader.

How to fix it:  Play with sentence structure. Read a passage that your favorite author has written and see how he/she crafts sentences. If I come across an interesting flow in a sentence, I often study it more thoroughly, even syllables to dissect what makes it work so well for the author.

*There's one more problem in that example above. Do you see it? The glaring name "Wartesia". This another no-no as far as I'm concerned--using names or spellings that cause a huge grin to break over a reader's face when the writer intended something much different. Unless The Princess Wartesia is an antagonist in a children's book, you need to find a different name.

I hope some of these tips will help you to polish your next manuscript! Thanks for reading and feel free to ask questions. I'd love to hear from you!

Em Petrova
~where words mean so much more~




Friday, September 16, 2011

Annual Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers

The Writers' Union of Canada
Call for submissions

19th Annual Short Prose (2,500 words) Competition for Developing Writers (unpublished authors).
Prize:  $2, 500

This competition is open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants

Please welcome author Robin Stevenson

Author Robin Stevenson

How/why did you start to write?

I've always loved books but didn't start writing until 2005, while I was on maternity leave from a crisis counselling job. I got hooked on it pretty much instantly.

How did you become an author? What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

My first teen novel, Out of Order, actually began as a short story. I sent it off to a literary journal, and in response I received a very kind rejection letter and some helpful feedback. Among other things, the editor suggested that I needed to explore the relationship between the two main characters--both teenage girls--in more depth. I started writing more about these characters, trying to figure out who they were and how they had come to be in the situation they were in, and the story very quickly grew well beyond the bounds of a short story. I thought it might work as a teen novel, so after a few drafts some further polishing, I submitted the first chapters and a synopsis to Orca. They requested the full manuscript, and a few weeks later offered me a publishing contract. Out of Order was published in Canada and the US in the fall of 2007.
I have continued to publish with Orca, writing early chapter books, juvenile novels, and young adult fiction. I have two new books coming out this fall: a teen novel called Escape Velocity, and an early chapter book called Ben the Inventor. That will bring me up to twelve books altogether, with two more under contract and scheduled for publication in 2012 and 2013.

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

I worked for ten years as a counsellor and social worker. Counselling taught me to pay close attention to people, to relationships, and to communication; it gave me an opportunity to be involved in people's lives during difficult times and to learn more about how people understand themselves and their lives. I learned a great deal about child and adolescent development, family dynamics, trauma, loss and countless other issues. I think my ability to create realistic, complex and believable characters has been strengthened as a result.

What inspires you?

Family and friends, travel, books, my students, conversations, experiences, news, stories, debate... Just about everything, actually.

Please share one of your successful marketing techniques

Honestly, I don't do nearly as much as I probably should. I decided that the best way to promote a book was to write and publish another...and another...and another. But I may just be choosing to believe that his is a good strategy because I am more interested in spending my time writing than marketing!

Parting words

If you want to know more about me and my books, please visit my website at www.robinstevenson.com . And feel free to send me an e-mail--I love hearing form readers and from other writers.

Robin Stevenson's fall 2011 releases...

Excerpt


I slip the key into the file cabinet lock and it opens easily. I glance over my shoulder at the front door. If Zoe comes home, she'll be furious. I tell myself that it's her fault I'm doing this. If she would tell me the truth, I wouldn't be forced to hunt for answers.


I open the top drawer, my heart pounding. A row of file folders, alternating blue and grey, all neatly labeled. Clippings, Documents, Letters... I stop, about to pull out the Letters file, but then I notice the next file: Lou. The skin on the back of my neck prickles, and I shiver, I raise my hand to lift out the file and just as my fingers touch it, I hear my mother's key in the lock.


Blurb


It's the end of a long hot summer in Alberta's Badlands, and fifteen-year-old Lou is restless and dreaming of escape. Then an unexpected crisis turns her dream into reality and Lou is forced to leave Alberta and stay with the mother she has never known. Lou is overflowing with anger, hurt, and, most of all, unanswered questions. Why did her mother never want her? She is convinced that the answers lie hidden in her mother's novels, and is determined to find the truth...no matter what the cost.


Blurb

Inventors invent Inventions! That's what Ben and his best friend Jack like to say. So when Ben discovers that Jack's family is planning to move to another city, he decides they should put their inventions to work. The boys figure that if no one buys Jack's house, Jack won't have to move away, so all they need is a plan to scare of potential buyers! Inventors are good at coming up with plans. But when Plans A, B and C fail to bring the result the boys had in hoped for, Ben discovers that not everything in life stays the same--and that while change can be hard, sometimes it isn't all bad.

Praise for Robin Stevenson's books...

A Thousand Shades of Blue (2008) was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Awards and the BC Book Prizes. Here's what reviewers said:

"[Stevenson] eschews cliche in her keen and credible exploration of family dynamics... Readers looking for a family drama with adroit characterization, serious issues, and a little risky romance on the side should sign up for this voyage." (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books)

"Rachel comes across as a real teen with whom readers will identify. Using the small boat as a setting highlights the cramped, suffocating feeling many young people have when spending a lot of time with parents and siblings. The book has no easy answers...giving the novel a refreshing realism." (School Library Journal)

Inferno (2009) was selected for the ALA Rainbow List and was a finalist for the BC Book Prizes. Here's what reviewers had to say:

"[Stevenson} does a terrific job, capturing the impossibly large emotion and the power that propels teenage girls... This is a skillful writing featuring a strong female protagonist. A good story well told." (January Magazine)

"Stevenson creates a compelling portrait of autonomy vs. conformity... Dante's sexuality is refreshingly not a problem, just a fact of life. Readers will recognize themselves and many of their peers in Stevenson's complex, likable characters." (Booklist)

"Stevenson's writing is sharp and her plot tidy and briskly paced, making for a quick, engaging read. Even her integration of the tough themes of relationship abuse and the alienation of queer teens is seamless--not to mention free of heavy-handed lessons." (Quill and Quire)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Baking with Blackberries

We had a wet spring and a late summer--ideal weather for blackberries. (For those unfamiliar to this edible fruit, here's an informative site)


Food right outside my door. What to do? Pick it...
Rather instead of picking it, roll the plump black berry between your index finger and thumb. Ripe berries will fall into your palm. Within hours, I had a basketful.

You can eat blackberries right from the vine or on cereal or with ice cream or...
Here's a recipe

Blackberry crisp
4 cups (1L) of blackberries
1 1/4 cups (300 mL)) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) Deacon Vale Farm jam (I used plum, but you could use blackberry)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) Heritage Ancient Grains granola
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ginger
1/2 cup (125 mL) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
In bowl, combine blackberries with 1/4 cup (50 mL) flour. Stir in jam and set aside.
In separate blow,combine remaining flour, granola, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in brown sugar and blend in butter until crumbly.
Press 2 cups (500 mL) of the granola mixture into bottom of 8-inch (2L) square baking dish. Spoon blackberry mixture over top; cover evenly with remaining granola mixture. Bake in 375 degree F (190 degree C) oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until deep golden brown and filling is tender.
***
Next post:  Please welcome Robin Stevenson

Gwen, teenage rebel (The Sweater Curse)

In this exceprt from The Sweater Curse, Gwen Bjarnson discusses her teenage rebellion.

After my dad died, my official address remained unchanged. My school and other governing bodies believed I still lived with Mother. They didn't know about our severed relationship.

Periodically, I would visit my old residence, when I knew she wasn't there. I didn't break in. I had a key. An envelope would be waiting for me there on the kitchen table. Inside would be a lump of bills and a note. I rolled the unread note inot a joint. It relaxed me to "Love, Mom" go up in flames as I puffed. I would suck in Mary Jane's sweet breath and poke it out on Mother's curtains, walls, and rugs. Just one of the many ways I would let her know I still cared.
***
Next post:  Baking with blackberries

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Direct marketing tips

On August, 2002, when my business began, I was living on a remote island; I had limited finances; I had no formal education in marketing. By February, 2003, my hand knitting patterns were being sold in three yarn shops; my bio appeared in Knit Together (Canada's only knitting magazine); people from 42 countries knew of my product. What is my secret?

I did a few things right. These "things" are inexpensive and easily done. Although, there is no guarantee they will lead to success--they can't hurt.

I work on my business:  everyday I try to do at least one thing to promote my business. What one thing can you do today?

Try e-marketing. E-marketing is superior to any other form of direct marketing. You save stamp money. Its fast so it is easy to contact a number of prospects in mere minutes. Immediately you know if your message got through. It is an easier form of communicating with a stranger than by phone.

Here are some tips:
1) Remember that direct marketing is not Spam. Carefully match your product with prospects. Find email addresses legitimately. One of the best sources I found was association web sites. Look at their mandate do they promote business in your field? If yes, than use the email addresses provided. Remember if asked you want to be able to share were you obtained their address.
2)Inform don't sell.
3)Be polite -- remember this may be the initial contact. The prospect may never have heard of you or your product. Your goal is to be product specific, concise, and polite.

In his book Mail Order Business, Robert W. Bly states that direct marketing 'response rates can range from below 0.5% to 3% or higher'. You need names! The world wide web has a wealth of contacts.

Like the wings of a butterfly, a times your efforts may seem small and unimportant...but who knows what tidal waves they are causing. Continue to work on your business...anything worth having requires effort.

(This article -- titled "Working on Your Business" -- was published in the Craftlink magazine in June, 2003)

Monday, September 12, 2011

12k in 11 months

Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you

Is it possible to create a new blog and accumulate 12, 000 page views in less than 12 months?
http://sweatercursed.blogspot.com/ went live on October 10, 2010 Today, 11 months and 2 days later this blog has accumulated over 12, 000 page views.
How?
Post consistently. I post five days a week (at least) at 9:00 AM PST (usually).
Be authentic. I love to write and knit--this is who I am. That said, it's not surprising that The Sweater Curse's protagonist is an aspiring knitwear designer. So, the theme of this blog is knitting and writing.
However, sometimes there are other things in my life besides stitches and words. Things that I want you to know about. That's why I reserve Thursdays for random posts about my life.
You. Thank you so much for reading, commenting and helping to promote this blog. Together we will continue to grow.

Queen Anne's Lace scarf pattern shared

Inspiration for this scarf came from...
(Queen Anne's Lace)

Finished scarf measures fifty inches long by six inches wide.

Knitting needles:  5mm/ US 8/UK 6
Yarn:  worsted weight yarn approximately 210 yards (less or more depending on desired length and width of scarf) I used Kraemer Yarns' Summit Hill (100% Merino Superwash Wool)

Tension:  5 stitches x 8 rows over seed stitch

Stitch pattern:
seed stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit one, purl one--to end of row
Row 2:  purl one, knit one--to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

Cast on 26 stitches
Work in seed stitch for one inch
Double wrap stitches
Work in seed stitch for 4 rows
Double wrap stitches
Work to desired length.
Double wrap stitches
Work in seed stitch for 4 rows
Double wrap stitches
Cast off
Weave in ends
Determining the length of a scarf
Based on your height and how you will be wearing the scarf. For example, I'm five foot five and plan to wear this scarf with one end flipped to the back--no wrapping it around my neck twice. I continued knitting until the scarf measured fifty inches.
As I knit, I coil the scarf around my neck this helps me determine the length of my scarf.

Width
I like wide scarf. If you like narrow, cast on fewer stitches. I would recommend no fewer than twenty--between twenty-four to twenty-six should be ideal.
***
How-to double wrap stitches

Friday, September 9, 2011

Please welcome author Melodie Campbell

How/why did you start to write?

Only child for nine years -- never anyone to talk to! So I invented characters even before I could write. Hey -- this would be an interesting thesis topic:  to see how many fiction authors were only/lonely children. I wrote a book, "Horatio Hedgehog" when I was 16; it won an award and was displayed in the city library. So I guess you could say I was writing since I could read.

How did you become an author?

I wrote comedy first, and a smattering of short stories. Then moved to nonfiction (newspaper op-ed and magazine articles). I won my first short story award in 1989, and have won a total of five to date. In 1992, I started teaching fiction writing at Sheridan College in Oakville. After that, I had a few fiction 'regulars' -- Star Magazine (New York) and ComputerEdge (San Diego). I've appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine twice. I have over 200 publications; most of my fiction has been published in the States, oddly enough. They paid more in the 90s, alas.

What was your first published piece?

A humour column, of course! I was a columnist for a local paper in the early 90s, then got picked up by a bigger outfit that paid better. Then a stand-up comedian saw my work and asked me to write for him/her (can't reveal). In 1993, a producer from fledgling HBO saw my play "Burglar for Coffee", labelled it "completely nuts" and offered me a spot writing pilots, which I stupidly turned down. This goes on record as one of the worst decisions ever made by a human not officially insane.

Oh, and I opened the Canadian Humour Conference.

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

When Celia Franca personally rejected me for the National Ballet School ("Wrong body type" -- and boy, she wasn't kidding!) I had to look for another career.

I have been a bank manager, marketing director, college instructor, comedy writer, and possibly the worst runway model ever. All of this has been an asset. My Commerce degree gave me discipline -- something every writer needs in buckets. I've experienced failure (see model above) which helps when facing rejection -- and I've had my share of that, as an author.

What inspires you?

Anxiety! No, truly. I live with a lot of stress (autistic brother, palliative mother, both of whom I am responsible for). At times the choice is jump off a bridge, or sit down and escape into a fantasy world for just a little while. Hopefully, I give my readers that same escape!

Why do you write Humour? Do you ever write Straight?

Many of my short stories are serious crime stories with a sharp, twist ending. There is something I love about the challenge of setting up a short taut scene, and spinning the reader around at the end. However, I've tried to write a serious novel, and (I hate to admit this) I lose interest. Somewhere, a voice says to me 'but it isn's funny!" And I get distracted by another plot lurking nearby that could indeed be made comic. Sigh. I'm a literary slut -- seduced by the lure of another storyline.

Over the years, I've come to accept that in order to make something interesting enough to me, I have to challenge myself to make it funny. And hopefully, others will enjoy it too.

But -- to be honest -- I was the class clown in high school, always getting in trouble for smart-ass remarks. I am fairly good at drawing, and did a lot of 'comic book' parodies of famous books. (Dante's Inferno comes to mind. Yes, this is a weird thing to parody, I recognize now.)

Please share one your successful marketing techniques

Guest blogging. I have been on blogs in Estonia, England and Sweden, plus many in the US. All of these expose your writing style to a new audience. My blogs are usually humorous, so they reflect the tone of my fiction. And I've met some wonderful people through blogging, who have become friends!

Parting words

You want me to stop talking? <smile> (Um, no! No, I don't. You're very entertaining. But I just thought prehaps I'm keeping you from something. Like, I don't know -- writing another book. Hint. Hint. Hint.) The other day Rowena Through the Wall climbed to No. 2 on the Amazon.ca top 100 bestseller list (fantasy, futuristic, ghosts). (Congratulations!) Someone asked me if that was how I knew I had 'made it'. I said:  for me, it will be the day a reader comes to me and says, "Thank you for writing this book! It is one of the funniest things I've ever read." Then I will know I've been successful.



ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL

Do you like comic time travel?
Meet Rowena Revel!

"Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?"

When Rowena falls through her classroom wall into a medieval world, she doesn't count on being kidnapped -- not once, but twice, dammit. Unwanted husbands keep piling up; not only that, she has eighteen-year-old Kendra to look out for, and a war to prevent. Good thing she can go back through the wall when she needs to...or can she?

"Hot and Hilarious!" Midwest Book Review
"Jack Sparrow meets Stephanie Plum" Former editor, Distant Suns Fantasy Magazine

Rowena Through the Wall (Imajin Books) is available at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Amazon

Smashwords

Follow Melodie's comic blog

View trailer and read opening scene at http://www.melodiecampbell.com

Melodie Campbell got her start as a comedy writer, so it's no surprise that editors have called her work 'wacky' and 'laugh out loud funny'. She has over 200 publications, including 100 humour columns, 30 short stories and one novel. She has received five awards for fiction, and is the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada.

Want a half price coupon for the ebook version of "Rowen Through the Wall"? Leave a comment on this post, with your contact info!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

At the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival

 Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival




 Our home for three days and two nights. Thanks to a generous family member who lives in the area.

 Doesn't my husband look handsome in his uniform. You'll see him again -- performing his volunteer duties.

 George McKnight (Master of Ceremonies Bluegrass and Acoustic Music events) addresses Ron Hudson (Executive Director Chilliwack Community Arts Council)

 Foggy Hogtown Boys
 Cedar Hill
 Great Northern Planes
 HighRise Lonesome
 III Generation
 Earl Brothers
 Bull Harman & Bull's Eye
 Bull's son Wyatt joins the band
 Corn Shuckin contest -- band members participate
 Stage Crew
Snohomish County Bluegrass Orchestra
The only bluegrass orchestra in the world.
Legend:  A few years ago, band members entering Canada from the States were required to pay over four hundred when they crossed the boarder. An additional hundred dollar fee was charged for every additional crossing. Cedar Hill, Great Northern Planes, III Generation, Bull Harman and Bull's Eye as well as the Earl Brothers all had to cross this border. As you can see, this would have been an overwhelming expense for the festival to encur. Clearly something had to be done.
Ron Hudson, executive director, found a loop-hole. Bands with more than fourteen members could cross for free--and the Snohomish County Bluegrass Orchestra was formed.
Despite the fact that the fee no longer needs to be paid, the tradition continues. Members of all the bands perform together during the finale--and, may I just say, as a fan, this is a thrill.