The things that mean the most

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Last week, on a sunny afternoon in broad daylight, someone tried to unlawfully enter my home. My first reaction was analytical. I studied the scene like I was crime scene investigator, and I made mental notes about the point of intended entry and the evidence that supported the attempted access. The following morning while giving my statement to the police, I even pointed out a few details the investigating officer had overlooked. The trespasser clearly struggled for the proper footing and was only able to open the window a couple of inches before they gave up. They were unsuccessful at gaining access, so nothing in my house had been touched.

Hours later, as the emotional ramifications of the failed break-in saturated my delicate sensibilities, I had a complete meltdown. I don’t swear much on this blog, but I’m not going to lie, I was fucking mess. If the person attempting to break into my house had been successful, I would potentially have been face to face with that person in my house upon arriving home from work. I don’t think that reality will be lost on me for the foreseeable future.

After a good cry, I slept surprisingly well, albeit on my couch. Since the intruder tried to gain entry through my bedroom window, I’m not sure how many nights will have to pass before I have the courage to sleep in my bed again. I have repurposed the white boards I have for my writing to cover my living room windows since I do not have any window coverings, and as I write this post, I feel like I am in my bunker, ready to defend my home. I repressed the reality of the violation of my privacy and replaced my fear with anger. I have a metal pole near me at all times, ready to be wielded against anything I deem as a threat. I am now an emotionally unbalanced Rambo, self-confined in a small space, and irrationally bothered by the sound of the hail currently hitting my windows.

But I’ll be honest. Each time I pass my bedroom and look at the torn screen, and the mangled frame of that screen, my anger is being slowly replaced by a bit of empathy for the person who brazenly attempted to break into my house in the middle of the day. I don’t have expensive things. My six-hundred square foot home is filled with things of great value to me, but would not be worth much to anyone else, and I am grateful none of my precious possessions were damaged. But I can’t help but think, what if the person who struggled to break into my house has nothing.

As I process my emotions through the cathartic practice of writing, I know I have riches beyond the measure of anything that holds a monetary value. So many of my friends and family shared their support and concern, and that is worth so much more than anything that can be bought or sold. Their words confirmed that I am richer for having them all in my life. Sometimes it takes a disconcerting event to remind you of the things that mean the most.

Know the iceberg, write the tip

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Early on in my journey of becoming an author, I had seen the subject line of this post in many places, and at many unconventional times. While I spent months convincing myself I could write a captivating story, this line would play over and over in my brain. On the surface (pun intended), this concept seemed simple enough, but the further I dove into my writing, the more profound the statement became. I would not know why until I was in the middle of writing my second novel.

I am what the writing community refers to as a ‘pantser’. I do not spend countless hours creating an outline for the story I am about to write. I simply sit at the computer and wait for the words to come, writing with reckless abandon and telling the story that the voices in my head want me to tell.

After reading the words I had written in book number two, I soon realized my characters were only sharing the bare minimum about themselves when it came to their physical attributes and backgrounds. In my head, I had filled in many of the blanks based on the way I saw them, but I want my readers to have the ability to do the same thing. Perhaps the iceberg they imagine under the surface of my characters is quite different from how I see it. That, to me, is the biggest joy of reading a book. I don’t want to be told every detail. Sure, I want the narrative to take me on the journey I was meant to follow, but I love having the opportunity to see the characters in the story the way I see them, and not have every element of the adventure handed to me on a silver platter.

I know every nuance of the icebergs that lend their support to each of my protagonists and antagonists, and all the other support characters who add their spices to the tales I am telling. But like every good recipe, there is always an opportunity to change a few ingredients to make the dish your own. I want to feed my readers an exceptional story, but I also want to give them the chance to add a few spices to give the novel a more personal feel. The tip is the meat of the story. The iceberg is the collection of side dishes waiting to be added to suit their individual tastes.

A small drop in a big bucket

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For anyone who has self-published a book, you will most likely agree the marketing is the hardest part of the process. Writing, for me, is a natural routine. I can spend hours in a fugue-like state typing words that form cohesive sentences, but when I am faced with the daunting task of putting myself out there, the wheels fall off the bus and I struggle to put together a simple string of words that do my stories justice.

Thankfully, I have learned a very valuable lesson along the way. Talk to people about your book. Talk to anyone who will listen and who shows interest in your story. I am blessed to work in the hospitality industry, so I encounter a myriad number of people who stay at the lodge each season. I know them all by name, I know all their children by name, but I am not afforded the luxury of knowing what they do for a living, nor do I know the broad scope of contacts they may have in their lives.

Last summer, in a random conversation, I talked about my first book with a woman who knew I was trying to find an agent, and she knew about my desire to become traditionally published. Unbeknownst to me, the table behind me was listening intently to that conversation and was soon asking questions about the story and expressing a desire to read the book. They both read it and my life as an author had new life breathed into it.

Neil has since become my mentor, and the reason I now have three books for sale on Amazon. My stepdaughter, Abby, boarded the train of my crusade and used her contacts to get my book into the Chapters/Indigo store in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Knowing my book was now live in that system, yet another guest at the lodge used her contact to get my first book into the Chapters/Indigo store at huge location in Toronto. Having overheard the conversations about my books during her stay at the lodge during the same week, a copy of my first book was purchased and is now in the hands of the marketing manager at Penguin Random House in Toronto. And, that same fateful week in August brought me together with a professional graphic designer who is going to update my website and bring my SEO to a level that will increase hits to my website.

I can’t stress this enough. Talk to people about your book. Talk to anyone who will listen and who shows interest in your story. I now have a small army of people using their gifts to help me sell mine. And having six copies of my first book in two separate locations of a large chain of bookstores is truly a small drop in a big bucket, but I am that small drop in that big bucket, and that is a feeling I will cherish.

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!