A Busy Weekend of Events

There are many events going on around the province this weekend so if you live in Nova Scotia, you have plenty to keep you busy. Here are just three events I’m either involved in or wish I was involved in.

Craft Show: First up is the In Hants Craft Show at the Milford Recreation Hall, Milford Station, East Hants. The show hosts the creative works of more than sixty local crafters. You’ll find everything from quilts to cookies, from fancy hats to wooden carvings. You shop as if you’re in a gift shop, then pay for your purchase all at once at the check-out using cash, Visa or MasterCard.

This is the second year I’ve participated in the show. Last year I sold books and homemade goat milk soap. Only my books are there this year.

The hours of operation are Friday (9:00 am to 9:00 pm), Saturday (9:00 am to 5:00 pm) and Sunday (12:00 pm to 5:00 pm). I was there for more than four hours today, and a steady stream of people came and went, many carrying baskets of goodies and gifts out the door.

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Write Your Little Hearts Out

NOVELmberIt’s November 1st, and from my wee corner of the world, I can hear pens and pencils scratching on paper and anxious fingertips striking keyboards. It must be NaNoWriMo!

November is National Writing Month, a month set aside during the year to encourage writers to write up a storm. They might write something completely new or finish a work in progress.

The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

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Injecting Life into Archaic Words for My Fantasy Novel

McGyver-ScatteredStonesFRONTI love finding new words that describe what I’m trying to say perfectly, especially if they are not common words. I often find these words have fallen out of use and are labelled archaic.

Using them and introducing them to readers who have never before seen them is a treat. I love sprinkling these little gems throughout my story.

I’ve had a lot of fun finding new words for Scattered Stones. They are—of course—archaic because Ath-o’Lea is in the past, long ago before electricity and engines and words like trailer.

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Scattered Stones Cover Release and Proof Order

The novel I conceived in the second half of 2009 is now in the birthing canal.

Yesterday I placed an order for a proof copy of Scattered Stones. After I hit the CONFIRM button, I sat back and thought about the journey to give me a better perspective of what I had done.

In May 2010, I had written the last 60,000 words in a rush to reach the end. Then the manuscript went through multiple edits, being read and sporadically edited by beta readers. I edited and revised when I found time, often between stints of working outside the home. For six months in 2014, I barely had a chance to look at it because I worked six to seven days a week, putting in ten-hour days at a garden centre. This sort of schedule doesn’t leave much time to eat, sleep and say hello to the kids, let alone hours bellied-up to a computer to edit a novel.

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Update on Editing Epic Fantasy Novel Scattered Stones

EditingLate last week, I completed the first serious edit on Scattered Stones, the second book in The Castle Keepers series.

First, let me define serious. The dozen or so edits that occurred before focussed on over-all story, aligning the characters and the plots, and removing unnecessary material that would never play into future books. I edited large sections at a time, but never from start to finish, and I didn’t focus on each particular sentence. Non-serious edits are quicker. I can do a page every five minutes or so.

My serious edit focussed on each sentence individually and at times, it took an hour to do a page. It looked at every verb and weighed it to see if it was the right one, the strongest one for the situation. If there were two verbs in a sentence, I evaluated them both to see if they were necessary. The weaker one—if unneeded—was removed, shortening and tightening the sentence.

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How to write a killer book description to attract readers

Lessons in Self-publishingDuring my Sunday morning reading, I came upon a podcast by Libbie Hawker posted by Johnny Walker at Author Alliance. Hawker spoke about writing book descriptions.

I loved the way Hawker broke down the process into five easy questions. I recall a similar discussion on promoting books last year by someone else. It’s so simple anyone can do it.

At the moment, I’m writing, revising, tweaking, second-guessing and editing the book description for my next novel, Scattered Stones. It’s an epic fantasy story, so I have to have an epic description.

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Do Writers Need Protection from their Failures and Successes to Continue to Write?

I recently watched a TED Talk video by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. It was called Your Elusive Creative Genius.

Gilbert discussed the impossible expectations placed on artists, particularly authors. She admits, her greatest accomplishment—the Eat, Pray, Love novel—is probably behind her, so how is she to go forward and continue to write?

She takes us on a trip back in history, when the people of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome believed spirits who lived within their walls visited artistic people. These invisible spirits assisted the writer, so the writer could not take full credit or all the criticism for the completed work.

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Readers, help us solve a few mysteries about your reading habits.

Recently, I confessed to not reading prologues. I’m not sure when I stopped reading them, but I believe it was in my late teens. Why? From what I can remember, I thought they were boring and unnecessary to the story. In my mind, they kept me from getting to the story, stalled my progress, and that was something I was unwilling to do, particular if I really wanted to read the book.

It’s been so long since I read a prologue, that I truly can’t remember if those books in the 70s and 80s had boring prologues. In some cases, they were merely information dumps, something the author couldn’t creatively inject into the story.

Or perhaps it was the books I was reading, not the period. Maybe the books were written in the 60s or 50s or before then. I can’t say.

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Writing Tip: How to Make any Story Good

Writing TipLast week while I was cooking supper, my thirteen-year-old son walked into the kitchen and asked, “Do you know what makes a movie good?”

I looked up from peeling potatoes, and the expression on his face told me it was a rhetorical question. He didn’t want to know what I thought; he wanted to tell me what he thought made a movie good.

My son is a Marvel fanatic. He’s watched them all: Captain America, Hulk, Thor and, his favourite, Iron Man. He’s also seen Guardians of the Galaxy multiple times. He’s analysed them, critiqued them and guessed at the story line. Immediately after watching a movie or Agents of Shield (the TV show connecting with the movies), we know to expect his mind—travelling at light speed—to start churning ideas, and his mouth—also travelling at light speed—to start sharing them.

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Simple Tips to Make Your Book Description Standout on Amazon

Lessons in Self-publishingConfession: When I uploaded my first book to Kindle many moons ago, dozens of things ran through my mind…

  • Is anyone going to read it?
  • Is anyone going to like it?
  • Will the interior formatting pass Kindle’s inspection?
  • Will the cover be the right size and quality?
  • Did I miss something that will make it not appear on the website?
  • Is the ISBN correct?
  • Am I spelling my name right? (Yes, I worried about this too)
  • Am I choosing the right key words?
  • Is my description good enough?
  • Are there spelling mistakes in the description?
  • Will the power go out before I complete the publishing? (Okay, that’s my worry today because of the blizzard outside.)

Publishing for the first time can be overwhelming. The goal is get the book uploaded and to not get bogged down by unimportant details. Worrying about all these things I listed gave me no mindset to focus on individual aspects of the eBook publishing process.

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Treat eBooks like Websites and Update them Regularly

eBook UpdatesEach January, I take a few weeks and update my eBooks – all of them.

This doesn’t mean I edit the stories. It means I update the file with new information and refresh what might have gone stale in the past twelve months. I also add details on things to come, such as the release of a book.

How long will it take?

Updating eBooks take less than an hour per book across all venues. It will take longer if you have not gathered the necessary pieces of information or you are unfamiliar with formatting.

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Writing Romantic Scenes

Writing TipI grew up with older, conservative parents. They were born in the 1920s and lived through the Depression. My father served overseas in the Second World War. They never spoke about sex. In fact, my mother—born in rural Newfoundland—arrived in Canada in 1945 believing babies came from under rocks. She was seventeen. That’s what her parents had told her; it was what all the children in the community were taught.

In my very conservative raising, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of smut—as they would put it. When I was about fourteen, however, I found magazines my mother was reading. They were called True Stories. Anyone who remembers these magazines filled with short stories knows what I mean when I say, there was a little smut amongst those pages. And I read many of them, hiding out in my bedroom or in the work shed.

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Familiar Character Names

Writing TipOne of the best parts of writing fiction is naming the characters. For some, this may be the most dreaded part of creating a story. Still, it has to be done. Being prepared with a name makes this game easier. For me, the most annoyed time is when I’m writing a story and I need a name now, and I don’t have time to look for one because the story is coming faster than I can type.

To solve this problem, I keep a file containing names I come across that are interesting and may make good character names. I gather them from various sources: obituaries, news announcements, movies, baby name sites, food boxes, by-lines in newspapers…the list goes on.

If the character was born in another era, say 1920, I’ll search for popular baby names for that time and pick an interesting one.

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2016 Goals

Another year to dreamI keep thinking I should be making a list of things to do or setting goals as we look down the barrel at 2016, but I’m not sure what they would contain other than what I already have on the wall behind my laptop.

Back in October, I spent several weeks rewriting my business plan. This is something every self-published, freelance writer should have. Writing is a business, and creating a plan puts things into perspective and helps plan for the future.

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Editing Tip: Word Overload

EditingHave you ever read a sentence and thought, “Not much was said; why were there so many words?”

The extra baggage a sentence carries is directly related to the experience a writer has had with editing, whether self-editing or professional editing. Although some writers recognise this word overload soon after they pick up a pen, many of us learn about it through others.

In my teens, I took a creative writing course. That was my first real experience in self-editing and chopping unnecessary words.

At that time, my sentences may have looked like this:

Quite simply, I was telling him about this and that when the alarm sounded.

Oh, my, anyways, he was going on about the food and all that jazz.

Well, we were picking up things and this and that sort of stuff.

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Editing Tip: Using Time in Novels

ClockTime. It’s what we’ve lived by for centuries. Whether you get shot at 6:00 am or at dawn, there’s always a time to record.

Many of us go through our daily time watching without knowing exactly what we’re saying when we’re asked, “What time is it?” and we answer, “7:45 am.”

If we are pressed for a meaning, we might say ‘am’ stands for after midnight. We’d be wrong. The abbreviation ‘am’ stands for ante meridiem which is Latin for before midday. The usual meaning I give to my kids for ‘pm’ is pre-midnight, which is also wrong. The abbreviation stands for post meridiem which translates to after midday.

But how do you record these abbreviations in your novel? Do you go with the simple am and pm? Or do you use the old fashioned way of writing them: a.m. and p.m.? Or do you use all capital letters: AM and PM?

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Writing Male Characters in Romance Novels

REblog“Dominated by women, as both readers and writers, romance still needs strong male characters. So how do you write male characters for romance novels? Author Richard (RJ) Gould, explains.

When it comes to the genre of romance, women dominate. Most romance writers are female, most readers are female, and plots predominantly centre on the female point of view. At this early stage, I should point out that I‘m a male author who writes romance fiction. I’m not unique, but I am a rarity. My publisher, Accent Press, badges my novels as contemporary women’s fiction and several literary agents have suggested I use a female pseudonym. Adopting ‘RJ’ as opposed to Richard is my cowardly compromise. At Romantic Novelists’ Association events, including the annual conferences with up to 200 participants, over 95 percent are women and several of the few males write under a female alias.”

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Making a Mountain Out of a Mole Hill

Writing TipAll my life, I’ve been told to not make mountains out of mole hills. Why? Because situations are usually not that dramatic or life-threatening. If we can stop and evaluate the situation, we often find we can deal with it without creating too much anxiety.

However, as a writer, you should get in the habit of making mountains out of mole hills in your fiction. They make for interesting stories, ones readers can’t put down.

We all have stories in our lives—real stories. We go through our day doing small and medium sized things. We get the kids up and ready for school, we clean up the garden to prepare for planting, we drive to work through heavy traffic and so on. All of this doesn’t sound very interesting, but if you let your imagination run wild—and mine often lives on an open plain—we can turn a simple outing to a park into a story others might want to read.

We can also take that little scene and drop it into the middle of a larger story. Here’s how it works. Below is a simple story, one that actually happened to me. The names of my children have been changed.

We walked away from the SUV, and I looked back at it, cursing. Why had it failed to start at the end of a dirt road, miles away from houses and the main road? Glancing at the sun, I determined we had about four hours of daylight left. It’d take us over half of that to reach the first house where we might find someone at home to drive us the rest of the way to our camp.

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