A Timely Gift

Every year I tell myself that this Christmas is going to be the year I’m going to invest time and put some effort into making a present for the special people on my list. Prior years I have failed, been unable to create something that would be suitable.

My Mom used to knit, but due to the arthritis in my fingers, shoulders and neck, I have not been able to follow in her footsteps. Then, while shopping in the craft aisle of a local chain store, I spotted a round loom. I used a tiny one when I was a child, but these were people versus doll-sized.

My Aunt spends months knitting hats, which she donates to the city’s disadvantaged. She came over one day and was knitting hats on the loom. One hat took her a few hours. It sparked my interest wondering if the loom could help me to achieve my goal and overcome my arthritic joints. Living in Canada, our winters can be long and cold. A nice hat would be perfect for most of the persons on my gift list. 

So at the end of July, I decided to start my holiday gift-making quest. Instead of using standard yarn, I purchased a large skein of Bernat Blanket yarn. It is soft, colorful and extra thick. This meant I only had to wind each peg with one string yarn instead of two. I found a video to show me how to start and I was on my way.IMG-20150727-00242

While I can only loom knit for a half hour a day due to my joints, energy and pain levels, I was able to knit a hat in roughly a week. As the hat grew, I must admit that I was unsure as to how to get it off the loom once I was finished. Again I referred to a video, which gave instructions to tie off the end row.

With the large skein of yarn I purchased I will be able to make several economical gift hats. And each person who receives a hat has something that I made with my own two hands, something not sold by the hundred in stores. Each person who receives a hat will receive a gift of my time.IMG-20150801-00248

 

 

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Are you done yet?

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  Ernest Hemingway

No matter what the length of the project in front of me, at some point toward the end of the project, I always wonder, am I done yet?

Novels require so many drafts. Once the writer has the story completed, there are themes, characters, plot, dialogue, and the grammar, layout, and overall readability to consider.

I’m not sure if a writer ever feels as if the project is finished. After all, he or she has spent minutes, hours, days, weeks, months or years working on a piece, and have toiled to get it to the best it can be.

When writing a novel, I enlist readers to provide a manuscript evaluation. This provides me an opportunity to see the material from a reader’s point of view. It allows my writing to speak for itself without all the background information of which I am aware. Readers’ opinions allow me to know if the amount of information is too much or not enough. Readers’ opinions provide a view of what should be added and cut out.

Subsequent drafts can weed out some of the areas that raise red flags or take the readers out of the world of the story. A world in which I want them immersed. A world where they are not spending too much time analysing and trying to figure something out.

Then there is phrasing and wording. There is nothing as powerful as being able to string together just the right words to create a phrase, a sentence, a paragraph, a page. For myself, this process can be never-ending. It can be a challenge to find that right arrangement, that elusive ‘perfect’ word.

My useful trick is to read the project backwards. From backwards I mean the last sentence, then the next sentence. As the sentences are not in order and are essentially standing on their own, they have lives all to themselves.

My judgement as to the point of knowing if my project is complete is when I do the addition test. Is there anything that I can still add to the project? If all the points have been checked, reworked, drafted, and explored, then this ‘baby’ I have been working on is ready to go out into the world.

 

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From Inspiration to Creation

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” – Somerset Maugham

So a writer gets an idea in his or her head and the long journey starts. I must admit I find the process an adrenaline rush and yet daunting at the same time. With an idea, there must be enough content to not just fill those pages, but also to provide readers with a book they want to finish.

For my first published novel, I just jumped in and figured out timing, characters, and the story as I went along. Comments from the readers have been ‘we didn’t know what was coming next.’ The characters led my story and the readers were along the ride. That said, I ended up having to do multiple rewrites and movements of entire sections of the book. While this was part of the editing process, I wondered if I would be able to keep that same wonder for the writer and the reader but still be able to have some kind of outline to follow and cut down on editing. An outline that would lay out all the important details, plot, characters, and themes.

I hesitate because I find myself wondering if the outline will stifle my creativity. The New York Book Editors website argues against an outline. They explain, “planning your novel ahead of time increases its likelihood of being dead on arrival.”

That is a terrible outcome for a new novel, so I went on a search to find some advice on a way to organize my writing, while still allowing me the freedom to create and let myself write. Lit Reactor had eight methods to try.

My two favorites methods, which I plan to try, are ‘The Skeletal Outline’ and ‘Free Writing.’ I feel those will provide me the framework of an overview of the journey my story and characters will take, but will allow me the flexibility to let the story develop naturally.

 

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Tools of a Wordsmith

Guest Post by Jaclyn Dawn

I struggle to put words in a new pretty book. The pages are so clean and full of potential. Will what stains the pages be poetic, beautiful? Will it tell a story of love or adventure, or both? The possibilities paralyze my pen, for it can also be awful. A waste. Musings of a want-to-be wordsmith, someone turning the new, pretty book into something ordinary. The thought makes me sad to an illogical degree. The new book offers a means for expression and creativity. To be able to express myself is something I crave and have craved since I was in elementary school. I see the world around me in words, letters of the alphabet pushing and shoving to line up in the order that best describes that event, this feeling, those people, or any inspiration. So give me a cocktail napkin or a scrap of paper from the recycle bin. My words will cover every bit. It is the writing that matters. I do not like the pressure of my new, pretty book.

 

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An Opportunity for Authors, Writers and Book Lovers

The best ideas don’t just happen – it takes some dogged determination and supporters to make them work! Authors for Altruism is one such example. For the past couple of years, Rick Lauber and I have spearheaded this unique community fundraiser. Based on our previous success and growth, we are very pleased to announce the details for Authors for Altruism – Our Third Annual Charity Book Sale and Community Fundraiser and are very thrilled to have silent auction items donated by a senior literary agent, a local publisher and editor, as well as an indoor rock wall climbing centre. If you are a writer or author who has been trying to get your work in front of an agent or publisher, here is your chance!

Attend the Third Annual Authors for Altruism Charity Book Sale and Community Fundraiser on Saturday, August 15th, 2015 at Audreys Books (10702 – Jasper Ave., Edmonton, AB) from noon – 3:00 p.m. and bid on one of our amazing opportunities. Every visitor can also enter to win our “Be A Celebrity for a Day” Door Prize. The winner will walk away with items with a retail value of $200, and a priceless chance to go behind the scenes at CORUS Entertainment Edmonton.

Attendees can mingle with their favourite authors and illustrator:

Shop for books and toys, bid on silent auction items, and help out our very worthy cause.

630 CHED’s Santas Anonymous

$1.00 from each of the featured author’s book(s) sold (and all proceeds from an accompanying silent auction) to be donated directly to 630 CHED Santas Anonymous.

We would like to sincerely thank the following for their kind support:

 

 

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Motivations

Guest post by Erinne Sevigny Adachi.

I’ve evaluated countless manuscripts over the years for writers who were ready for a professional, non-family/friend opinion on their work. The advice provided within those evaluations has fallen all over the map from talk of consistent characters, to reworking plots, to cleaning up and condensing text. But if there was a single piece of advice that stands out as one that any writer of fiction could benefit from, it is this:

Keep your reader engaged by ensuring character motivations are believable and align with their background, the plot, and the world you’ve created.

When I talk about motivation, I am talking about the WHY. The REASONS. When your character chooses to act (or not act) a certain way, why are they doing (or not doing) so? Does the reason make sense to your story? Could they believably get away with these choices amidst the setting of your book?

Believability is, as most things are, subjective. But remember: the fact that you are writing fiction is not trump card.

Take a character in a contemporary fiction piece (we’ll call her Andrea) who decides to volunteer at a youth shelter. There she meets a girl who inevitably brings Andrea into a drama that involves a dangerous drug dealer and maybe a teen pregnancy. Sounds like it could be interesting, but let’s examine all the motivations at play here. What is the motivation for the youth shelter to hire Andrea as a volunteer? If it doesn’t make sense for Andrea to be working there, then the whole story is built on a shaky foundation. What is the young girl’s motivation for bringing Andrea into her drama? Andrea needs to provide something to the situation that the youth shelter cannot.

Your aim in ensuring believable motivations is to take away any chance of the reader discrediting you and your book by saying: “That doesn’t make sense.”

Okay, so now what about Andrea’s motivation? Why will she allow herself to be pulled into the potentially dangerous drama? In this case “out of the goodness of her own heart” could work, but if her life ends up in danger, there better be a much stronger reason for her getting involved personally instead of referring the case to the police. Maybe the drug-dealer is a family member she is also trying to protect?

Considering the motivations of all the characters in your book is especially helpful at the outlining stage (and don’t even get me started if you’re not outlining your book).

Bottom line is that eventually “out of the goodness of her own heart” and other “soft” motivations, while perhaps functional as far as filling a void goes, can quickly become a superficial reason for a story to continue. And if believability is superficial, the reader won’t buy-in to your character’s motivations, nor will they be engaged in your book.

Erinne Sevigny Adachi is a freelance editor and publishing consultant. Her business, Blue Pencil Consult, provides manuscript evaluations to writers. For your own manuscript evaluation, you can reach her at esadachi@bluepencilconsult.com.

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Doing What Works

Guest post by Jeff Rivera

I’ve been at the indie publishing game before it became fashionable and long before Amazon’s KDP service became available. That is how I eventually landed my deal with Grand Central Publishing. I wrote an indie book and did so well with it that they became interested.

Since then, it’s been over ten years, I’ve been able test out good ideas and bad ideas to see what has worked for me. I’ve had some ideas skyrocketed my sales and other ideas that were so bad that I cringe at the aftermath.  So, if I were to give advice to new indie authors or authors who just want to see an increase in sales, then I would recommend the following:

1) Make a list of every little thing you’ve done that has actually led to direct sales. Buzz and excitement about your book are not sales.  Don’t think about promotion, think about what has led to sales.  Do that, and only that.  Leave the other stuff and anything you want to experiment with aside for now, until you’re making enough that you can afford the time.

2) Focus only on your audience, not the world.  The more specific you are, the better. Don’t just write a book for moms, but rather a book for moms 34-43 who live in Wisconsin and love One Direction. Once you’ve done that, it’s very easy to find out where they are through blog searches, Facebook Graphs, Twitter feeds, etc. Within seconds, you can find out whom those people are and start making an excel list of who they are. 

3) Stop pushing your book on people. If you’ve identified who your potential readers are, all you have to do is be nice to people.  Treat them like a human being not a potential sale and eventually, on their own time, they’ll discover you. They will search your Twitter profile or website from your email signature or your Facebook feed and discover that you’re an author.  It’s non-direct marketing and more accurately, relationship building. These efforts won’t bring you overnight sales, but it will bring you long term relationships and opportunities that you never thought you’d have.

 

 

 

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Promoting My Books Effectively

Guest Blog By: Mandy Eve-Barnett – Author, Ockleberries to the Rescue

The most successful technique I have found for promoting my books is through local events, such as book fairs and community hosted events. With the ability to display my books and interact with potential purchasers, I can effectively promote my stories and engage visitors at my table.

To draw people to my table, I create themed displays for each book. This catches their eye and draws them in. For example for my upcoming children’s book, Ockleberries to the Rescue, I have small animal characters reflecting the ones in the story and for my work in progress, Willow Tree Tears (a western romance) I have already purchased a couple of items, including a cowboy boot ornament.

The other method, I employ is a colouring competition for my children’s book, Rumble’s First Scare, which is Halloween themed. Each year, I promote the competition and that year’s special prizes on social media, through my publisher’s website and at events. The winners are presented with their prizes at an annual October book fair, just before Halloween. As my second children’s book will be launched at the same event this year, I will be adding a colouring competition for it to run during the spring. This will give me two avenues for promotion during the year for these children’s books.

Although I am extremely active on social media, I have found the personal touch is the most enjoyable and effective method for selling my books.

Mandy Eve-Barnett is the author of Ockleberries to the Rescue, Rumbles First Scare, The Writing Prompt Journey, Life in Slake Patch, The Twesome Loop, and The Rythom Kingdom.

 

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Helping Us All

Guest post by Cassie Stocks

There are times when things become overwhelming for each of us, times when sickness seems to be who we are, rather than something we have, times when caring for others leaves us nothing for ourselves.

The Rainbow Society of Alberta grants wishes to children with chronic or life threatening illnesses. I once worked with a young woman who had been granted a wish by a similar charity. The wish was granted when she was nine. Ten years later, when I first met her, it was one of the first things she told me about herself. It was something that had made her feel special and was far more important to her than her illness. Sometimes it takes something big, something we long for, to allow us to forget the unpleasant things in our lives.

The Alberta Caregiver’s Association supports those who are taking care of others. While I haven’t had direct contact with this Association, I have seen many examples where it might have been useful; the elderly taking care of elderly spouses with Alzheimer’s, parents whose lives have been subsumed with caring for their disabled children, even siblings caring for a brother or sister. We are better able to care for others when we feel supported and strong ourselves.

Charities such as The Alberta Caregiver’s Association and The Rainbow Society of Alberta help individuals, their families, and their communities. We all benefit from supporting them.


Cassie Stocks

Cassie Stocks is the author of Dance, Gladys, Dance, her first novel and winner of the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.

Website

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Successful Book Marketing Requires “Off the Bookshelf” Thinking

Guest Blog By: Rick Lauber – Author, Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians

How does an author sell his/her work? Through bookstores, of course; however, the most successful authors also use other creative avenues to market themselves. Following my own book’s publication, I quickly learned that I could not rely on bookstores alone to generate sales. Authors must become their book’s primary promoters and can pursue various opportunities as a means to introduce and showcase their book(s) to readers. Among the many effective methods to boost book sales are bookstore signings.

Bookstores are prime spots for author appearances and bookstore management has never turned me away. Visiting authors can generate some “buzz”. Call the bookstore well in advance, politely introduce yourself as an author and ask about upcoming signing dates. If the bookstore carries your book, allow them time to order sufficient stock. Self-published authors will need to supply their own books (or “car stock”) to sell on consignment (where the bookstore will take a percentage of sales).

A table and chair will be provided, but authors can’t just show up empty-handed for a signing! Pack along a tablecloth, business cards, sharpies (excellent for signing …), bookmarks, and a “table-topper” of some kind to attract attention and serve as a conversation starter. My “table-topper” is a stand-up banner, which rolls out and hangs from its own stand. I’ve also photocopied numerous newspaper/magazine articles either written by me or about me to offer as hand-outs.

When doing bookstore signings, smile, be enthusiastic and focus on your job (turn off your cell phone). Also, be prepared for anything. Yes, I hear many of the same questions from customers, but I have found that other doors can open. During one outing, I met the Home Care Manager for a chain of local drugstores. Following some conversation, she accepted a number of my books to sell on consignment through each of her store locations – an unexpected but pleasant surprise!

Rick Lauber is the Edmonton-based author of Caregiver’s Guide for Canadians (Self-Counsel Press). Please visit www.caregiversguideforcanadians.com.

 

 

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