A big part of my process

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Authors are unique, and no two writers will ever have the same method of achieving their desired result. Sure, there may be many similarities along their journeys, but they will never use the same string of words to describe how stories come to them, how they harness the power of their imaginations, or characterize the voices in their heads that tell them how to write their individual stories.

The beginning of my trek into the writing world began many years ago and was suddenly repressed by reality. What started as a promising adventure sat on a shelf until the facets of my existence shifted and allowed me to embrace the creative part of myself once again. Picking up my first novel, still swaddled in its infancy, was a daunting task, but one I was eager to embrace and nurture.

Along the road to writing books two and three, comfortable patterns began to form. I was encouraged by my newly found mentor to buy a few white boards and they have become my saving grace in my writing process. Having the space to quickly jot down new ideas is a revelation and having those ideas staring back at me every day keeps me engaged in the stories, and motivated to continue writing.

I have surpassed fifteen thousand words in book four, and my muse is extremely long-winded. That voice I have come to love is pushing me to add words, not only to my manuscript but, to the four boards that flank me as I sit in my comfortable position on my couch. This is the place where I harness my ideas and feed off the energy and the words that come from places I will never see.

Board number four is a blank slate, but it is waiting to be filled with messages for the next series of books that will be written under the umbrella name of Farmhouse. If you haven’t had a chance to read the books in my current series, and you enjoy a good thriller involving serial killers, the first three books in The Relative Series – The Waking Hours, One Eleven, and Darkroom are now available on Amazon.

Short legs can jump big hurdles

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It has been a long time since I have been in this space, this forum where I can talk about what I want, and when I want. Recently ‘when I want’ has been modified to be defined as when I can carve out a few minutes in this crazy time we call summer. The lodge has been abundantly busy, and I am now realizing I have not written here in almost a month!

The month of August has been fraught with long work weeks and not much time to write, but within the past twenty-seven days, I have managed to jump the hurdles Amazon had put in my path, and make it to the finish line, although it took a bit longer to reach that invisible line than anticipated.

Book number three in The Relative Series was meant to be available locally and online on August 21st, but Amazon required me to redesign my cover, so my publishing date was pushed back. Instead of conceding the race, I pumped my stunted legs and began the race again, vaulting myself over the freshly placed hurdles and I pushed myself, shoulders forward, to cross the altered, but hugely coveted, finish line.

Darkroom is now live on Amazon, and printed copies will soon be available in the local stores that have so graciously supported my race. I almost feel like creating a runner’s bib to wear when I deliver the paperbacks, signifying the tremendous effort that was required to re-enter the race, and finally claim my victory.

Soon enough, there will be more hours in the days ahead to rekindle the creative flow required to finish writing book four in the series called Root Cellar. The Beckett family secrets are bubbling in the cauldron of their twisted family concoction, and I cannot wait to see where this next segment of The Relative Series takes me. And throughout the moments I spend writing these books, I must remind myself, it’s not the destination I have to focus on. I must direct my attention to the journey on which my characters will take me to reach that final page.

Groundhog #4, and socks in July

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“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” ~ John Lennon.

I find it hard to believe we are already halfway through the summer. The lodge has been full since the end of June, and time has marched by at an accelerated pace. In the blink of an eye, July has come and gone.

As I write this post, I am in my living room wearing clothes I would normally wear in the latter part of September, and, for the first time in ages, I am wearing socks in July. Writing those last six words has made me physically ill. I toyed with the idea of turning on my heat, but every nerve in my body convulsed as the thought was processed by my neural pathways. I made the choice to not give in to the temptation to rid the chill in the air by burning the dust in the baseboard heaters and, instead, I am facing the cooler temperature with a solid disposition of disdain.

If you follow my blog, you will know I unwittingly became a landlord to a family of groundhogs. Three of the furry creatures have been successfully rehomed, but the fourth rodent in the family has been quite successful at dodging my attempts to live-trap him, until today. By watching the activity on my lawn, I have surmised that this cute little intruder is the last of his generation to have taken refuge under my house. I can only hope I am correct.

Progressing into the month of August has given me a sense of renewal. The family of groundhogs will have been successfully relocated, and I am a few months away from having the time I need to get back to the writing schedule I truly miss. Book number three will be on the virtual, and local, shelves on August 21st, and I have every intention of getting back to my writing schedule in the fall so I can finish book number four and have it available in early 2022.

Life truly does happen while you are making other plans. I was eager to continue writing throughout the summer, but life succeeded in making those dreams remain dreams. Groundhog 4.0 will have found a new home by tomorrow. My July socks will be thrown into the laundry as soon as possible. And my writing will soon become the focus of the attention I have sorely misplaced.

I need to write

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When I turned the calendar page from May to June, I knew the reality of keeping a solid writing practice would be difficult, but I did not know it would become essentially non-existent. Prior to June, I had been able to enjoy many hours at home while only working part time at my hospitality job, but once the busy season started, I began to struggle with balancing my work / home life and my creativity bypassed the back seat and it took refuge in the trunk.

As much as I want to add more words to book four in The Relative Series, Root Cellar is living up to its title and is presenting itself as a cold and inhospitable environment. The winter and early spring afforded me the time to listen to the voices and let them tell their stories, but the summer is a completely different animal. The voices are gone, and I am struggling to hear anything beyond the voices I hear during my hours at work. I need to write.

This blog post is the first creative string of words I have been able to put together since the lodge opened. I have been able to plug away with the final edit of Dark Room before it is available on August 21st, but that is not the productive vibe I need to continue the series and keep the characters fresh in my mind.

It is time to set a writing schedule, and stick to it. These books are not going to write themselves!!

Groundhog – 3.0

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“Gophers! You great git! Not golfers! The little brown furry rodents!” ~ Sandy MacReedy, Caddyshack

Try as I may to make sense of the backstory as to why I have groundhogs living under the floorboards of my house, the logistics of the story still sound like I am writing fiction.

Two years ago, I unwittingly ferried an adult groundhog from my work to my home in a rather astonishing tale. You can read it here. This spring, I witnessed another generation of that furry family emerging from the burrow their mother had created and watched this new generation feasting on the expansive greenery on my front lawn. Towards the end of April, not long after I heard the rodents creating a birthing den under my living room, I live-trapped the two culprits and happily re-homed them.

Fast-forward to yesterday. After wanting to celebrate the first Beta review of my third book, I poured a glass of wine and was enjoying the congratulatory words I had received. As I was lifting the glass of wine to my lips, the movement outside my window made me pause to focus on the scene before me. Another furry rodent had emerged from the same place and was enjoying the salad bar that is my front lawn.

Correct me if I’m wrong, Sandy, but it’s time to dust off the live trap again!

The monkey has my back

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Marketing yourself is a tough business. I thought writing a novel, or three, was going to be the most difficult bit, but blatantly shoving myself into people’s worlds, and down their throats, carries much more of a burden than writing the damn books.

Several times, I attempted to make myself familiar with MailChimp as a way to reach out to a broader audience, and several times I hung my head to admit defeat. I was still wearing my writer pants and the marketing outfit I was struggling to get into was a horrible fit.

Today, I took the chimp by the, uh, horns, and we acclimated. While I currently have a scant list of followers on this new marketing platform, I created and sent out my first newsletter. I even figured out how to add a button on the landing page of my author website that now enables people to go to the site to sign up for that newsletter.

I have made a promise to myself to keep the reports brief and engaging while allowing anyone who has enjoyed The Waking Hours and/or One Eleven to follow the progress of the next four books in The RELATIVE Series. If you want to come on this crazy journey with me, please click the link below and take your seat on the roller coaster that is now my life.

Subscribe here.

And for anyone who has read either of the first two books, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Reviews help authors more than you know!!

The branches, and the tree

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If you have been following me on this blog, you will know I have self-published two books on Amazon that are part of a six-book sequence called The Relative Series. I am new to the writing world, and have been doing my best to maintain a structured writing schedule. Weekly Zoom meetings with my friend and mentor, Neil, have kept me on track (for the most part) and held me accountable to meet a weekly deadline.

The creative aspect of constructing stories that come from the depths of my imagination is a dream come true. Since I was a young child, I have built worlds in my mind, developed characters who lived in those worlds, established conflict, and designed fitting endings for each tale that I had manufactured.

Along the way, there were always signs to tell me that I should forge ahead, to throw caution to the wind and put each and every word onto a page, and last night was no different. I have three white boards in my living room to help me keep the timelines of each book so they flow properly into the next story, and one of those white boards spoke volumes last night.

Writing a series of six books is daunting enough, but making sure the timelines throughout the generations match up is overwhelming. While sitting in my living room as the sun went down, the outline of the tree I planted in my mother’s memory after she passed away magically shadowed the white board holding the family tree of my series. I got the message loud and clear, now back to the story board I go!

Imposter Syndrome

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I had never heard the term imposter syndrome until recently. Admittedly, I was on a huge high after self-publishing my first novel in January and receiving such great feedback from family and friends. My mood was heightened even more when I started getting fantastic reviews from strangers. My lockdown was spent writing, and many others had the time to catch up on their reading, which was certainly to my benefit.

I self-published book number two at the beginning of May and, while it is getting great reviews as well, the momentum doesn’t have the same feel as the first book did. After Googling trends about book publishing, the general consensus was book sales dip as Spring begins springing and doing outdoor activities seem more appealing after spending the colder months indoors. That compounded with the end of the stay-at-home orders should be enough to make my brain understand it will take a bit more time for my second novel to gain some traction, even though it is selling well locally and people are enjoying it even more than my first book.

But my brain did not buy into my logic. It went into self-deprecation mode, and I found myself feeling like I was merely posing as a writer. Thankfully, I have a solid group of connections who are willing to play Cher to my Nicholas Cage and deliver a well-timed slap to my face, Moonstruck style, circa 1987.

After having added 800 new words last night to the fourth book in my series, I am back on track. The handprint is still visible on my cheek, but I seem to have come to my senses and reminded myself that I have talent as a writer. They should make pills for this.

Have you ever been a victim of Imposter Syndrome?

This would make me want to read my own book

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I have said it before, and I will say it again, marketing your own books as a self-published author is about as enjoyable as sticking needles under your fingernails. While the obsessive desire to create is always at the forefront of our brains, the necessity to get our names into the real world is onerous.

I have been very present on my social media platforms and prepared myself for a few bouts with the primate on MailChimp, but I was keen to find other avenues that would allow me to get my stories out into the world without feeling like I was shoving myself down my friend’s throats.

Navigating markets outside of the Canadian border is daunting but, as I recently discovered, readily attainable. The Fiverr.com website has been a blessing. Not only have I had the great fortune of finding two highly creative book cover designers, but I also happened upon this talented fellow who has created an ad that will be broadcast to the US through iHeart Radio. Gaining any sort of momentum in the States would be amazing, and I love what he has done. Click below to listen to the ad.

Rome was not built in a day and I have no misconceived notions that I will be a household name any time soon, if ever. But, if I keep my eyes on the prize, and put in every effort required to succeed, it may happen for me. I just have to keep the faith, and be willing to do whatever it takes to get my books, and my name, out into the world.

This old dog is trying to learn new tricks

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I have a creative brain. I can make up stories with the best of them, but when I am tasked with complicated steps that will help market my books beyond my being annoying on my social media platforms, the creative part of my brain atrophies, and I am left with a vacant space in my head.

This post, for me, is a bit contradictory. In my early twenties, I was ready to live in the big city, and I was seeking a career in Marketing. Now, thirty-plus years later, I am stymied by the fact that my early career choice is lending no help whatsoever to my desperate need to find new and creative ways to make people aware of my book series, and the first two books that are currently available on Amazon. If there were ever a moment in my life I felt like a dog chasing its tail, this is it.

But this old dog is tenacious, and willing to lose a few precious hours of sleep while learning some new tricks. I’ve mastered sit, and stay, while I continually punch the letters on my keyboard to write the next book in the series but mastering the agility course required to properly market a book will take a few more trial runs before I am happy with my score.

My canine persona is currently attempting to make friends with the primate at Mailchimp, and, although we have acclimated, that monkey is not shy about touting its intelligence and reminding me that mine pales in comparison.

Over the next few weeks, I will beat that monkey into submission and begin sending monthly newsletters that will forward updates about my new book releases, my favorite lines from my books, and snippets of stories to come. Sign up through the contact page on my website www.susanmnairnauthor.ca to follow the journey of The RELATIVE Series, and the dog who is eager to master all its new tricks.