Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Should writers blog?


On December 21st self-published author Joel Friedlander 'The Book Designer' wrote an article he titled 'Should Fiction Authors Be Bloggers'. The photo that accompanied his article was of a woman biting her computer. So it's not surprising that his answer is, 'it depends'.

I'd like to thank Mr. Friedlander for his finely penned article. It inspired this post...

First, I'd like to address the points Mr. Friedlander made in his article. Then I'd like to tell you a little about my blogging experience.

Mr. Friedlander wrote that a 'common problem (encounter by bloggers who are "unknown" authors is that) many of the blog's readers appear to be other struggling fiction authors'.

I fail to see why this is a problem. Writers read. That's what we do. If I follow your blog there's a chance I'll read your book.

Mr. Friedlander suggested that blogs be created around on a central theme.

This is good advice. It's what I've done. And it works.

Mr. Friedlander explained that blogs offering articles inspired by a central theme encounter a problem. He wrote, 'people read novels for different reasons than they read informational articles.'

I understand his concern. I read fiction but I rarely read non-fiction. 

However, to me, the solution is clear--offer short stories on your blog.

Mr. Friedlander suggested that instead of blogging an "unknown" author should concentrate on creating the best book they can.

This is good advice. I think, we as--"name" and "unknown"--authors would be wise to follow this advice.

However, it is possible to be a businessperson, an author and a blogger.

He concludes by advising "unknown" authors to wait to create a blog until after you have an appreciative audience.

But...

But...

Wow, but...

In blogging, everyone starts on the same square. Everyone begins by creating a blog and writing your first post. Everyone...does...this.

And...

And...

Just because you're a "name" author doesn't mean you'll be a popular blogger. Blogging is a skill. And like all skills  you must acquire it.

Did I wait until I had an appreciative audience before I began to blog?

Nope. 

What has blogging done for this "unknown" author?

Blogging has helped me to see value in my words and to improve my writing skills.

Some of you may be surprised to read that this isn't my first blog. 

I created the blog "Designer's Notes" (November, 2005) as a way of promoting my knitwear design website. When I started publishing my short stories your kind support helped me to see the validity of my words.

I'd been writing short stories for years. But it was your page views that convinced me to pursue my dream of becoming a published author. 

Encouraged by your support, (in 2005) I made a commitment to blog every day.

Blogging has helped me to network with other authors.

I live on an island.

If I didn't blog, networking would be limited to monthly meetings with a handful of local authors.

Thanks to my blog, I've connected with over 100 authors. And this list grows longer every Friday.

Blogging has helped me to cross time zones as well as geographical and language barriers to reach my readers and potential readers.

Blogging has helped me to keep track of the lessons I've learnt as I grow as a writer.
Please visit my 'writers' resource' page.

For more reasons why you should blog, I encourage you to visit Kristen Lam's blog.
Especially these articles...
The Most Powerful Social Media Tool for Building an Author Platform
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Do you want more? Read these posts...

 Anne R. Allen's article:  5 Blogging Rules Authors Can Ignore...And 5 You Can't.

Judy Dunn's article:  What I learned on my 5 day social media diet

My bottom-line...
Blogging works, for me. Blogging is what brought me here. Blogging continues to work, for me. Blogging keeps me writing. Blogging keeps me connected. Blogging acts a living record of my progress on my author journey.
My advice to you...
If you want to blog--blog. Don't look for excuses not too. If you find value in the process--continue. 

And if you do give it a try, here's some helpful advice and some more here

Parting words...
  Yes, I disagree with some of the points The Book Designer made in his article. However, this doesn't mean that haven't learnt many useful things from reading his past articles. And I look forward to learning more by continue to read his words.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Free #knitting pattern: I'm Not Cold Scarf


Wear this useful piece of apparel around your neck or over your hands



Finished scarf measures 35 inches 

Knitting needles:  4.50 mm/US 7/UK 7 
Yarn:  worsted weight (200 yards/182 metres)
I used an acrylic blend. You could use wool or another natural fibres.
Tension (gauge):  5 stitches x 8 rows = 1 inch worked over Stockinette stitch

4 x 4 rib stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row:  knit four, purl four--to end of row
Repeat row for pattern

Stockinette stitch
Row 1:  knit--to end of row
Row 2:  purl--to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

Cast on 40 stitches
Work in 4 x 4 rib for 6 inches
Work in Stockinette stitch for 23 inches 
Work in 4 x 4 rib for 6 inches
Cast off loosely.

Finishing
Fold the scarf lengthwise and sew side seam.


***
Next post:  Should writers blog




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Please welcome Author Robert Hough



How/why did you start to write?

I have a British father, so that quintessentially Canadian moment, when father puts a pair of skates in his son’s hands, never happened. By the time I taught myself to skate – poorly – I was too late to get any good at it. In other words, I could never play hockey worth a damn, so I needed to do something else to get attention.
My father was, however, fascinated with words. That I did get from him.


How did you become an author?

I made all my mistakes on the same bad first novel that everyone writes: a quasi-autobiographical coming of age story. Then I wrote a real novel called The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, which was published around the globe. The film rights were optioned by Sam Mendes. Today, my novel-writing career is much like that of a compulsive gambler. I got lucky my first time out, and now I can’t stop.

What was your first published piece?

I wrote a satiric column for one of the newspapers at Queen’s University, and then did a bunch of free (or close to free) work when I got out of school. Before becoming a novelist, I was a free-lance magazine journalist for a dozen years. My first real, full-length, feature magazine piece was a survey of Toronto’s underground publishing scene.


Where was it published?

This Magazine.


How long ago?

Hmmmm ... 26 years?


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

The only other job I ever had was in the media department of an advertising agency. I got it right after graduating, and was fired within eight months. Did it help? In a way, it did. Upon getting sacked, I realized if I was ever going to write, it might as well be now.

What inspires you?

Boredom.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I don’t have a successful author platform, so I’m the wrong person to ask. I’d also like to suggest that any author worth his salt isn’t spending all of  his or her time posting quips and cute kitten photos online, though even this isn’t true: one of my favourite authors, Gary Shteyngart, is a compulsive Tweeter. So I don’t know. My honest opinion is that social media won’t help your career. Not participating, however, might very well harm your career, if that makes any sense.

Parting words

If you want to be a writer, learn how to think up interesting stuff. If not, you’re dead in the water. 

Author link www.roberthough.ca.


Blurb:

In Dr. Brinkley’s Tower, a medical charlatan builds a million-watt radio station in a small Mexican town. Goats are involved.  

Reviews...


Finalist, The Governor General’s Fiction Award
Long List, The Scotia Bank Giller Prize
Globe & Mail Best Books of the Year



Hough handles his characters and the developments of the narrative with a masterful, merciless aplomb. Beauty is balanced with violence, broad humour interweaves with heartbreak, all within a novel that is at once utterly realistic and unremittingly fantastic. Dr. Brinkley's Tower – both the radio tower and the novel – is a thing of wonder.
-- The Edmonton Journal

The construction of Brinkley’s massive radio transmitter provides the backdrop for Robert Hough’s hilarious and penetrating fourth novel, Doctor Brinkley’s Tower...Hough is a master storyteller, and he works here with a practiced hand to avoid stereotype and at the same time give a clear sense of the general problems engendered by the new influx of wealth into the impoverished town. 
--Globe & Mail

Hough’s greatest skill is as an old-fashioned storyteller. Dr. Brinkley’s Tower moves like an extremely well-oiled machine, juggling and nudging forward all kinds of subplots without ever drawing attention to the muscularity required to do so. The scene where a town-wide brawl breaks out in the wake of a misguided guess-how-many-gumballs contest brings a smile to my face, still… Not all novels need to put such a premium on storytelling, of course. But those that do would benefit from looking to Hough as an example of how to get the job done right. -- The National Post

One of Hough’s strengths is his ability to transmit the feeling of being immersed in his character’s culture, to bring to life the sounds and smells of another place and way of living, and he uses this to good effect here. The setting really comes alive with a multitude of small, finely observed details, which are so judiciously placed that they almost invisibly spin a web of believability, and by the end of the novel, when one of the characters is reflecting on a lifetime spent actually loving his isolated, barren home, the reader is completely convinced. Hough has substantial storytelling chops.
-- The Toronto Star


With ingenious characters and striking scenes, Hough reveals a love of Mexican culture and has crafted a story that convincingly illustrates the emotions of men and women confronted with the vulgarities that can arise with prosperity, and the felicity they find within tradition and the fellowship of friends and family.FFWD, Calgary


The characters in this book are fantastic and the story is compelling. Hough does a fantastic job of imaging how prosperity comes to a town and changes people in a way many of us could never imagine.
-- The Writers Trust of Canada

Dr. Brinkley's Tower  is a lush, beautiful novel about Mexico in the 1930s....Hough makes you cheer for the characters, and for their town, as they struggle against the compromises imposed by “progress.” I especially love how relevant this story feels, even as I felt transported into the past. Above all, I fell in love with Corazon de la Fuente and with Francisco, Violeta, the mayor, at all their neighbours.
-- Literary Treats

Dr. Brinkley’s Tower is a cautionary tale of human nature and imperialistic intent that masterfully juggles a handful of characters. The tower is just the catalyst, how each character evolves afterward, from the cantina and brothel owners to the humbled mayor, aging Casanova and town beauty is consuming. 
-- The Halifax Coast

With ingenious characters and striking scenes, Hough reveals a love of Mexican culture and has crafted a story that convincingly illustrates the emotions of men and women confronted with the vulgarities that can arise with prosperity, and the felicity they find within tradition and the fellowship of friends and family.FFWD, Calgary


The characters in this book are fantastic and the story is compelling. Hough does a fantastic job of imaging how prosperity comes to a town and changes people in a way many of us could never imagine.
-- The Writers Trust of Canada


Brinkley is a larger-than-life character, oozing American entrepreneurial spirit in a way that is simultaneously entertaining and disgusting. Ironically, he’s somewhat at the periphery of this novel, for Hough centers his work in the sleepy Mexican town of Corazón de la Fuente, where we meet the sweet and hapless Francisco Ramirez. He’s besotted with Violeta Cruz, a village coquette, though Brinkley eventually seduces her away from Francisco by giving her a job at his radio station. He claims to see in her the makings of a seer, so he sets her up with her own radio show, where she tries to help callers with their personal problems. Along the way we meet a variety of small-town characters, like cantina owner Carlos Hernandez, who develops a problem with impotence; Madame Félix, owner of the local bordello, “The House of Gentlemanly Pleasures”; and Miguel Orozco, the mayor of Corazón de la Fuente, who senses Brinkley chipping away at his political power. Hough manages to take all of these characters beyond stereotypes and invest them with humanity and humor.
-- Kirkus  (U.S)

Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will recognize a touch of his lyricism, but this book is firmly grounded in reality. At the core of the richly interwoven stories  is the search for the difference between false promise and real worth. Memorable historical fiction. 
-- Booklist (U.S)

Here is his reading on CBC As It Happens (at the end of the recording), his literary smackdown feature on CBC The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers, and his Q&A on CBC Books. 



And now that you've read (and listened to) all that go, where I'm going to go...

Buy Links

House of Anansi

Chapters

Amazon

and buy the book

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Discussing Inside by Alix Ohlin


I've said it before. I'll say it again. I like cleverly crafted books. And so I loved Inside.

From the dust jacket:  When Grace, an exceedingly competent and devoted therapist in Montreal, stumbles across a man who has just failed to hang himself, her instinct to help kicks in immediately. Before long, however, she realizes that her feelings for this charismatic, extremely guarded stranger are far from straightforward. In the meantime, her troubled teenage patient, Annie, runs away from home and soon will reinvent herself in New York as an aspiring and ruthless actress, as unencumbered as humanly possible by any personal attachments. And Mitch, Grace's ex-husband, who is a therapist as well, leaves the woman he's desperately in love with to attend to a struggling native community in the bleak Arctic. We follow these four compelling, complex characters from Montreal and New York to Hollywood and Rwanda, each of them with a consciousness that is utterly distinct and urgently convincing. With razor-sharp emotional intelligence, Inside poignantly explores the many dangers as well as the imperative of making ourselves available to -- and responsible for -- those dearest to us.

By its very nature, this book could be disjointed. We follow the  stories of three distinctly different, well-developed characters. (see above) And, on top of everything, as the novel unfolds, we jump forward and backwards through time. But, in the hands of master storyteller Alix Ohlin this story flows seamlessly. She bends and twists the separate threads of each character's story. Sometimes the threads marry and sometimes they part. However, throughout it all, the reader remains engaged. No wonder Inside was short-listed for the Giller


Three sentences that caught me... 'People like Hilary and Alan were only temporary runaways. They would always go home; they belonged to the place they came from. Other people were destined to keep leaving, over and over again.' (p. 229)

I bought Inside from Chapters/Indigo
You could buy it from Amazon
or from your local bookstore.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Michael J. Fox might not know about hockey

Recently, I watched David Letterman interviewing Michael J. Fox
Did you know that Michael J. Fox was born in Canada?
Yup, he was. And Michael (or Mr. Fox) told David (or Mr. Letterman) that we Canadians were walking around like zombies. 
Why?
Well, because there was no hockey due to the NHL (national hockey league) lock-out.
But I think Michael (or Mr. Fox) didn't look very hard because hockey was every where during the lock-out. 
How do I know?
Well, because I went to the arena and saw a very cool game.


What made this game so cool?
Well, because a relative (by marriage, but still a relative) was on the ice. Not only that but he scored a hat trick (three goals in one game). 
And poor, Michael (or Mr. Fox) thinks there's no hockey.


I began to worry, what other things about hockey does Michael (or Mr. Fox) not know?
Now, I'm not really that knowledgeable about hockey so this won't be a very long post. But still it needed to be written... 
Why?
Well, because Michael J. Fox is one of my heroes and so I want to keep him well informed.
And so...I bring you my 


Hockey Facts


My favourite hockey songs...

He Shots He Scores by Jughead



The Hockey Song by Stompin Tom Connors



Where the five hole is located?

Oh, yeah and that there are three periods in one game.



Organized hockey is fun but shinny may be better.

Learn more about shinny here

Oh, yes, and just in case you didn't think I cared. I did catch glimpses of Saturday's game between the Habs and the Leafs. And my husband cheered enough for both of us.
***
Next post:  Book discussion:  Inside by Alix Ohlin

Friday, January 18, 2013

Please welcome Author T. K. Anthony





How/why did you start to write?


My first complete tale was a fanfic, written for my best friend in high school. I’m really hoping she burned her copy. I played around with a MacGyver fanfic, off and on, for probably ten years. Finally finished it when I had some personal trauma going on in my life: laid off, spent my severance package to support my decision to take on night-nursing of my fragile elderly mother who’d just broken her leg. When the Mac tale was done, I still needed an escape hatch—which turned out to be a wormhole to the Scotian Realm and the planet Forge.

How did you become an author?

Once I’d drafted Forge, bolstered by my sisters’ enthusiasm for the story, I scraped up the courage to post the tale on a crit site. To my delighted amazement, the folks there started demanding the next chapter, and the next.... With the help of their feedback, I pounded Forge into better shape. I also met my writing buddy, Robert Roman on the crit site. I slogged through a lot of slush looking for stories I wanted to read and crit. Bob was doing the same, and we tripped over each other. We started to give each other feedback. Bob also continued to bug me about sticking with the query process, and when he sold a short story to Decadent Publishing, he told me to send Forge in to them. The rest is history!

What was your first published piece?

Forge is my first published fiction. I’ve done a lot of business writing, and even spent a couple of years on Capitol Hill as a press secretary, so I’ve seen a lot of my writing in print. But nothing compares to breaking through the “author” barrier.

Where was it published?

Decadent’s bread-and-butter is e-books, so you can find it on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, etc.—and, of course, at Decadent Publishing—for the e-reader of your choice. There will also be a print-on-demand paperback available through Amazon sometime in the future. I still love the tactile feel of a book in my hands, but I’ve grown equally fond of my Kindle. And the Kindle app on my smartphone. I broke my right wrist this past July. The e-reader was soooo much easier to handle than a dead-tree book. Plus, I travel a lot, and with the Kindle, I can pack as many books as I want, without adding an ounce to my luggage. (Happily, the wrist is better now!)

How long ago?

Forge was released this past July 2012. A very happy memory for me. People were just starting to come in for the family reunion. Forty or so aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends were at my brother’s for dinner—and some pickin’n’grinnin’. (Bluegrass, anyone? With some Simon & Garfunkel thrown in?(Count me in)) My brother had left his computer up and running and logged onto Amazon, so I checked to see if Forge was out yet...and there it was! Two of my sisters pulled out their Kindles in a race to see who could buy it first. And a few glasses were raised to toast the occasion. Possibly raised more than once.

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

Following my stint on Capitol Hill, I spent a lot of time in communications and all kinds of human resources roles. In addition to an ability to critique my own writing (and accept the constructive feedback of others) without flinching, I also gained an appreciation for deadlines, and excellence in the final product. Plus, you can’t make up the people you meet.

What inspires you?

Before I started to write fiction, I had no real appreciation for the Greek concept of “The Muse.” Now I’ve met her. She’s both an entity in herself, and a useful way of boiling all the sources of influence and inspiration into one handy term. For Forge, the immediate inspiration was my personal angst over rather traumatic life events...and the quiet, courageous endurance of my elderly mother, who battled back to her feet against all medical expectations. I did a lot of thinking about the meaning of suffering and human dignity during that time, and some of those themes showed up in Forge. But I’m sure God had a hand in it, because without all that trauma, I most likely never would’ve written the book in the first place. As my friend told me at the time, (I forget who she’s quoting): “Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It’s all material.”

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

I wish I could! I’m still very new at the published author gig, and feeling my way through an industry that is reconstructing itself under my feet. In many ways, this is a very good thing, as it creates more opportunity for writers to become authors. But navigating the cyber-ocean to find people who might like my stories is a new challenge for me. Setting aside my techno-peasant inclinations, I’ve built myself a website, and gotten Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads accounts, and put together an Author Page on Amazon.com. And I recognize that I’ve only just begun to assemble the tools to build a platform.

Parting words

Leanne, thanks so much for having me. (It was my pleasure, T.K.) I’m so pleased to be able to spend this time with you and your readers. Here’s wishing you all the best!

I love to hear from fans, and I can be reached at my website, on Facebook, on Twitter and on gmail. You can probably also reach me on Goodreads, but I’m still figuring that one out! 




Forge by Theresa K. Anthony

Blurb 
Warned by a Seeing…The high king of the Scotian Realm expects the arrival of an enemy, a race of psychic predators bent on galactic conquest. The Realm’s one hope is alliance with the neighboring star domains in defense of a shared colony, Forge.
Caught in Fate’s grim weaving…Mindblind, amnesic, Tazhret lives out his drug-induced visions of servitude on Forge. He wants to believe the beautiful woman with the nut-brown hair who whispers reassurances to his harrowed heart: “You have a name.” But is she even real? Or just one bright thread in his dark dreams?
An unexpected hope…Tazhret’s destiny leads him to freedom and the woman he yearns for
—and to a desperate struggle against the enemy. Tazhret can save Forge, and the clan of his beloved. But only at the cost of all he has hoped for: his name, his freedom, and his love
for the woman with the nut-brown hair…

~~~Excerpt~~~
Clenched in the grip of a fateful vision, the black web of Tazhret’s nightmare suffocated him, paralyzed him. While his heart pounded in terrified denial, the ensnaring net grew dense, and tight, cutting off all light, all sound…every breath of air. The nightmare shifted, and the web became chains, chains of red fire burning into his skin, binding him, crushing him in nameless enslavement to an evil will while his soul cried for freedom.
One thread of light, an answer to a desperate prayer, shone in Fate’s grim weaving of a dark future.
She was beautiful. She gazed at him, her luminous amber eyes sorrowful in a pale face framed by dark hair. She insisted against all evidence, You have a name. A good one.
He knew he loved her. His heart ached for her.
He wondered who she was.
Links:
Twitter: @TK_Anthony_
Buy Links:
Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Forge-Thrall-Web-ebook/dp/B008NWREII/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top)
Barnes&Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/forge-tk-anthony/1112198653?ean=2940015014785)
Smashwords   (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/207698)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are you called to write?

Sarah Mae wrote an article--When You Don't Have a Cabin or a Dog... But Are Still Called to Write--for Jeff Goins' blog Sarah concluded her article with questions that I feel compelled to answer. And, so please allow me to answer them here, now...


Are you called to write?

I’ve been a storyteller since childhood. In elementary school, one of my poems was published in the school newspaper—one of my short stories in the community newspaper. I’ve continued to write throughout my life.

What is stopping you from doing it?

It’s always been my dream to be an author. But I’m dyslexic. So, I told myself, how can I be a writer when I can’t even spell?

I’m still waiting for that large ‘Monty Python’ foot to stomp on my dream.



What keeps my dream alive?

Fine examples such as Jules Verne, John Irving and Agatha Christie. Prolific authors who used their fertile, creative, dyslexic minds to spin a lifetime of stories.

How can I give up when they never did?
***
Next post:  Please welcome Author T.K. Anthony
***
Work in progress...

No, Smoke the Other End
(humorous mystery)
Goal:  12 - 20 k words
Current word count:  9.777 words

The Sweater Curse:  a novel
working on revisions.
Current word count:  67,051 words

Because I live on an island, sometimes traveling from point A to point B can take a whole day. I loose an entire day to travel and the next day to playing catch-up with emails and related activity. And, besides all of that, the writing flow is blocked. So I spend another day trying to get back in the swing of that. 
There went Tuesday and Wednesday. Now it's Thursday and I'm trying to stretch this day out as long as I can. And hubby wants to invite people over on Friday.
All together now, "Oh, poor-poor, Leanne."
I have no idea how some writers can have children, a job and write. It boggles my mind.
If you do, you have my deepest respect.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Team worsted weight

My favourite weight of yarn is worsted weight...



Most of the knitting patterns I've designed are worked on 4.50 mm/US 7/UK 7 (or the needle size you require to obtain the proper tension).


Why this needle size?

Knitting needles do come in other sizes.

Some knitters enjoy using a smaller size of needle.


I've tried knitting with smaller needles--2 mm/US 0/UK 14. But it wasn't fun. I felt like I was a giant knitting with my fingertips.

Small needles require good eyesight, patience and lots of yarn.

Take it from me, knitters who knit with small needles are strange ducks. Instead of worsted weight yarn, they knit with fingering or baby weight yarn. Their favourite pass-time is cloud watching. Their favourite saying is, "Relax! I'll get it done.'

Some knitters enjoy using a larger size of needle.


I've tried knitting with larger needles--10 mm/US 15/UK 000. But it wasn't fun. It was awkward. Working these monsters required whole arm movements.

Let me tell you, knitters who knit with large needles are weird. Instead of worsted weight they knit with bulky yarn. Their favourite pass-time is race car driving. Their favourite saying is, 'Are we there yet?'

Trust me, it's best to stick with 4.50 mm/US 7/UK 7 (or the needle size you require to obtain the proper tension).



Worsted weight yarn is available in a variety of fibres both animal (wool, etc.) and plant (hemp, etc.) produced as well as man-made (acrylic). I usually use yarn that contains at least some acrylic.

Why?

Well...

Today's post was brought to you curious of the right side of my brain and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by the left side of my brain. : ) 
***
Next post:  Are you called to write?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Please welcome Author/Knitter Meg Wolfe

Update:

Just to let you know: The first book of my new traditional/literary/somewhat cozy mystery, An Uncollected Death, is up on Amazon and is free today and tomorrow (March 1-2) for its inaugural weekend. If mysteries are your cuppa tea, this is your chance to try it out. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. From the official description:
Broke. Empty nest. Career and friends gone.Charlotte’s only ray of hope is a new job editing the notebooks of a mysterious author from the 1950's, Olivia Bernadin, who was poised to rival the very best when she disappeared from public view for reasons unknown.Finding Olivia battered and left for dead was not exactly what Charlotte expected her first day on the job. The editing project continues under the supervision of the author's sister, Helene, but Olivia has hidden the notebooks amid her hoard of collectibles with only cryptic clues as to their whereabouts.Enter the only son and heir, Donovan, a nervous character who seems to have an agenda of his own. His machinations bring Charlotte far too close to the town’s criminal undercurrent, who will stop at nothing—not even murder—to get their hands on a rare book rumored to be somewhere in Olivia's house.Charlotte finds herself a suspect in Olivia's murder on one hand, and staving off financial disaster on the other. On top of all this, she has difficulty learning to trust her new acquaintances, as well as her growing feelings for Helene's friend Simon.Solving Olivia's murder requires understanding what made her tick—and that means finding all the notebooks before Donovan has the estate hauled off to auction. As Charlotte perseveres in her search and studies the clues amid Olivia's collections, she uncovers a story that reaches from the French Resistance to the Vietnam War—and it hints at a shocking truth about a world-famous novel.AN UNCOLLECTED DEATH is a book about a book about a book. It is also a story of life, death, and renewal in a small Midwestern college town.

Minimalism, downsizing, simplifying, the meaning of our stuff, and a new perspective on consumerism plays an important role in both the subplot and in the heroine's success as a sleuth, a theme which I think you might enjoy and/or relate to, and particularly as the sleuth is also a writer and dealing with current economic realities. The next book in the series is scheduled for release this fall.

Cheers,
Meg

How/why did you start to write?
My first stories were picture ones, usually done on a chalkboard and involved a house or several houses on a hill, a couple of kids, cats, dogs, and birds, and amid flowers and trees, all of which talked. This was before I was school age. I never wrote them down, but I still remember a couple of them. I think I considered myself more of an artist back then.
I was a bit lonely and awkward as a mainstreamed deaf child, and was inspired to start keeping “notebooks” at the age of 11, after reading Harriet the Spy. This was in 1966. Because I didn’t want to risk Harriet’s fate if my notebooks of observations were discovered, I wrote them in the codes I learned from a gadget in my beloved James Bond briefcase. (And, yes, I wanted to grow up to be sleek and cool like Mrs. Peel in The Avengers). Slow going at first, but it got faster after practice, and I would rotate three different codes for extra security. The notebooks were full of observations, some utterly scathing and likely unfair, about classmates, family, teachers, and life in general, but writing them helped me to feel more real, more validated. After writing these for nearly two years, some classmates did get hold of them and threw them into the school incinerator. They didn’t decode them, but they just knew those notebooks were very important to me and likely unflattering about them. It wasn’t all bad, though—the principal had an inkling of what I was up to and he encouraged me to start the school’s first newspaper. I staffed it with fellow 6th, 7th, and 8th grade misfits and we had a blast.

After that came high school, where I mostly wrote poetry until my senior year, when a new young teacher had us spend a semester writing short stories. I fell in love with it and ended up majoring in English instead of Math in college.

What was your first published piece?

A poem and a short story in the same issue of the campus literary magazine in my freshman year, I think 1974. 

After that I continued to write poetry and short stories, and wrote and produced three plays. After getting my graduate degree, I expanded into a few articles and wrote several drafts of a novel, which I never did finish. After writing for ten years and getting very little published, I stopped. It was like I couldn’t tell what good writing was anymore. My confidence was also shattered due to some unfortunate personal circumstances that I wasn’t equipped to deal with.

I later wrote a few trade journal articles, garden club newsletter material, unpublished short stories, and participated in NaNoWriMo, but did not write with any serious intent to publish again until 2010, when I started my current blog.


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

The previously-mentioned personal circumstances included a divorce and subsequent single motherhood, requiring me to come up with a living. Since I also had an art degree and design skills, I combined that knowledge with remodeling and garden experience, and started my own landscape design company, relying on others to help with phone calls. It was one of the very few such companies in the area at that time, and eventually had an excellent clientele list.

Geographically, I went from rural isolation to small college town to the exurbs and inner city. Workwise, I went from academia to small business ownership, from a protected, privileged environment into being a contractor and often in charge of a team of laborers. If one is supposed to “write what you know,” my “know” grew exponentially. Later, after remarrying, I retired from the physically-demanding landscape work and we opened an art gallery and I also did well as an artist. Then came the recent economic upheaval, which hit the local art world very hard. We moved to a less-expensive area (back to the small college town, in fact, where my son and his wife lived), but the only job I could find was as a cook in a coffee shop. This led to starting my own commercial cookery when the coffee shop closed, and I supplied other coffee shops and private clients with baked goods and soups, casseroles, and quiches for a couple of years. It was harder than landscaping, though, and I ended up flat on my back.

My son, who is an online entrepreneur, then encouraged me to collect my recipes and write a cookbook, and publish it as an ebook. So I did. I had started my blog a few months before this, as an outlet for getting a handle on the financial and emotional challenges we were facing, and the connections I made through that blog helped the ebook, and subsequent ebooks, to do quite well.

Blogging was also enabling me to find my long-subdued writing chops again, and with the strain of being at the mercy of print publishers removed, my confidence returned. So I’m back on track, nearly twenty-five years after I “stopped” writing. My first collection of flash fiction, Spirits of Place, is the realization of a dream I’ve had for fifty years, ever since I was a little kid making up stories in front of the chalkboard.

What inspires you?

I don’t know that I actually get inspired. Instead, I’m a constant extrapolator, a what-iffer. Like a lot of deaf people, I’m extremely visual. My eyes will land on objects or compositions in the world around me, and then memory or a chain of thoughts start, and sometimes snowball into an essay or a character’s back story. Oftentimes my husband’s photography triggers a mood or point of view about something, and I use those photos at the top of my blog posts. A lot of times, though, I just plain set myself a writing task—and do it.

Please share one of your successful author platform building techniques

The best author platform I have so far is my blog, The Minimalist Woman, which quickly acquired a lot of followers who were also in search of simplicity, downsizing, and a way out of the buy-buy-buy culture. It’s more writerly than the usual “10 ways to declutter” blogs, as I’m more interested in the shift in mindset and the counter-culture perspective that happens when one embraces minimalism. It didn’t start out as an author’s blog, but rather one on a topic that concerned me. Since many of my readers tend to be, well, readers, I’m able to connect with people who are potential readers of my other writing, especially the fiction. It certainly has helped me to connect with other writers.

Apart from that, though, I don’t yet have anything else that works well as a platform, but I’m open to trying things out and seeing what sticks. Twitter and Facebook take too much time, and Google+ so far lacks a certain energy, but that might be because I’m not using it right. There are also networks of readers and writers that I’ve recently become aware of, and hope to find a few that are a good fit.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing my first cozy mystery novel, and taking time to properly learn the craft—and learning to use Scrivener. I’m also allowing 80,000 words written over the summer to simmer for a while before whittling them down into more collections of flash fiction.

Parting words

Digital publishing has made all the difference in the world for a lot of writers. It’s less mysterious and feels less at the mercy of some faceless manuscript reader at a publishing house. It also isn’t as expensive—or fraught with folly—as vanity presses used to be. Ebooks can also be updated. If I want to rewrite something or format it better at a later date, it’s no big deal, and the existing customer can redownload it without repurchasing. Writers can now learn as they go, without feeling like one amateur mistake or bad review will kill their careers before they’re barely off the ground. And a print contract is still possible once you have a blog and a few ebooks out—it’s happened to several writers I know, including my husband.

This also makes it possible to write the book you want to write, in addition to writing for a particular market. I’m just getting started, but I know that even if I don’t get picked up by a legacy publisher, I can still have a market for my writing—and that’s a feeling I would have killed for twenty-five years ago!

Who taught you to knit?

I taught myself with the help of a very skinny pair of needles, a ball of twine, and an ancient book of knitting stitches and patterns that I found in a box in the attic when I was a kid. Later, my great-aunt, the original owner of that book of patterns, helped me to refine my technique.

What knitting method do you use? Continental? English? Or...??

Primarily English, but will use Continental with two-color knitting

What is your favourite stitch pattern?

It depends on the yarn. The best stitch is one that brings out the quality or color or texture of the yarn, and vice-versa. That being said, I’m fascinated by cables and Aran patterns.

What is your favourite yarn?

Any yarn that handles well and co-operates with me. My latest sweater was made with Berocco Comfort DK, totally synthetic, and it is so soft, consistent, and washes well. It was much less frustrating than the beautiful cotton/linen DK yarn I used for a previous lightweight sweater. But I have had great projects with wools and bulkier yarns, too.

Is there a needle size that you prefer? Bamboo, plastic or steel needles?

Again, that depends on the project and the yarn. Years ago I would have said size 11, as I had no patience back then, and I actually had broom-handle needles, too. Recently, though, I’ve used size 3 and enjoyed it. I’m fond of enamel-coated steel needles for their smoothness and balance, which makes it easier to knit without looking at the work or making a mistake.

What is your favourite item to knit?

Very simple no-pattern drop-sleeved sweaters, and free-form crazy quilts that combine all sorts of yarns and fibers in various knit and crochet stitches.

Where is your favourite place to knit?

On the sofa in the living room while watching favorite programs on t.v. My knitting basket is stored inside the ottoman, there’s a task light next to me, and a small table for a cuppa tea—or spot of brandy on cold nights.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished a tunic-length sweater and matching moebius scarf. Now I’ve got some blue yarn to recycle from an old unraveled project, and am trying to decide what to make with it. 



Meg’s links:




Set in the near past and present, this collection of seven short-short stories and four paintings evokes the deep relationship between each narrator’s identity and the places in which they live, to show—or imply—its effect upon the choices they make in their lives. In some stories, the choice is clear: the young narrator of Cathy Robinson chooses not to drown her playmate, and in Walpurgisnacht, the young-middle-aged narrator tries to help her best friend from college heal with a bonfire. The narrator of Macy grows aware of a garden’s spirit of place, its genius loci, and in time becomes a real gardener, a “maker of Edens.” The problematic relationships between fathers and daughters and husbands and wives weave through all the stories. Young narrators tell the funny/frightening Halloween tale in At the Crossroads, and the traumatic loss of a sacred space in The Firmament. Older narrators confront their bitterness at a loss of identity in Post-Op, and at the heartbreaking release from denial in Lease on Life.

From the Prologue through the stories and paintings, this small, 7,000-word debut collection of fiction can be experienced as a single narrative of different, yet shared, points of view.

From reader reviews:
“They all manage to say something profound about the human condition in such a short amount of words. But beautiful words!”

“The quality of writing in Spirits of Place is superb. Clear and evocative, with each character's voice, as varied as they are, ringing true.”

“It is as if every flicker of light, movement of leaves, or call of a bird is imbued with a meaning far beyond the obvious, for which you also experience a kind of shared "remembering", some kind of magical inner/outer space.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Reviewing Beyond Knit and Purl


The first things that attracted me to this book were the soothing colours and the conversational writing style. I know knitters will enjoy the projects that range from small to larger items. However, I would also recommend Beyond Knit & Purl to knitwear designers because the information Kate has included would help in the development of patterns. Thank you, Kate Atherley, for this fun and informative book.



Author/knitwear designer Kate Atherley has visited this blog. Clink link to read that interview.
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Work in progress

My old computer is seeking early retirement and so this necessitated the acquisition of a new computer. I find change difficult. And this change has been especially taxing. First there was a problem with the email. Thankfully my computer savvy husband was well-equipped to deal with this issue. But then...then...then...(excuse me while I kick the wall) 

I've been working on revising The Sweater Curse--pressing 'save' as I go, trusting 'save' meant what I thought it meant, thinking that my relationship with this new machine was mellowing into a mutually, supportive one. 

Turns out it wasn't. Turns out the new computer was only toying with me. Turns out each time I pressed send it was laughing in my ear. 

"Save this? Why should I save this," my new friend said. "I don't need to save this." And so it didn't. 

I've resisted the impulse to toss it out the window. And, for this, I think I deserve a medal.

Hmm, unless I saved it in this document. Yes! Here it is. Well, my week just improved immensely. : )

Human error--it does happen.