I have a book on Amazon!

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Once upon a time, I had the dreamy notion I wanted to write a book. Twenty years ago, I had a great idea for a story that was unique, and I knew I wanted to write it. I stumbled through three chapters and then the idea was shelved for well over a decade.

A few years ago, I pulled that file out of the archives of my computer, and my brain, and began writing again. I certainly hit a few bumps along the way, but through dedication, and accepting the fact I was hearing the voices again, I finished it.

Today, I have the pleasure of telling you my book is for sale on Amazon. Typing that previous sentence takes it from surreal to real. Below is the link to Amazon if you want to check it out. I am going to excuse myself now and rock back and forth in the fetal position with a glass of champagne!

The Waking Hours

Pulling the trigger

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There are many days I feel like a child who is distracted by shiny things. Yesterday was one of those days.

I had a great chat with my friend, and mentor, Neil. He has been instrumental in keeping me motivated and inspired to follow this crazy journey of writing novels. I knew I had a monumental day ahead, as the 238 pages of my first novel needed to be screened for one final edit before I self-publish on January 11th. But during my conversation with Neil about book number three, my mind took the next exit into creativity and the editing sat on the side of the road with a flat tire.

He had given me a few tasks, and asked that they be hand-written. My pen could not keep up with the ideas my brain was sending. I quickly realized how long it had been since I had actually written anything with a pen, and I struggled to remember how to hold the pen properly. After a few trial runs, it all came flooding back.

Since I spent my Monday afternoon being an author, I had to spend all of today being an editor. I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 am and spent nine consecutive, grueling hours going through my first novel with a fine-toothed comb. By mid-afternoon, I was ready to gouge my eyes out with a spoon. BUT, The Waking Hours has been submitted to Amazon for approval and I am now drinking wine, and shitting my pants. They really should make pills for this!

The signs are everywhere

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I have been so absent from this blog because I have been so present in my novel writing and editing that I have not been able to process any other words, until now.

I am a big believer in signs. If you are willing to see them, they are everywhere. As many of you already know, my first novel, The Waking Hours, will be self-published on January 11th, 2021. (1/11) My second novel, titled One Eleven, is scheduled to be published 111 days later on May 2nd, 2021. For the past few months, I have noticed the number 111 at many different times and in many different ways.

Almost every day, I happen to glance at a clock or look at my phone at precisely 1:11 pm. And no, I am not glancing repeatedly until the seconds pass. It happened again today, and when my best friend in Calgary received the email I sent to her earlier today, the delivery time was 11:11 am, her time. The last time I ran to the grocery store, my Odometer was happy to show me I had driven 11.1 kilometers. And as I played a Turbo table of online Texas Hold ‘Em, the person to the right of me was called Shady1111, and the person to the left of me made a bad bet and was left with 1,111 dollars in chips. I was flanked by 1111.

To say I think these things are a good omen for me in 2021 is an egregious understatement. Although self-publishing a book is a frankly nauseating experience, my nerves are not as electrically charged as they had been. The acid that now percolates in my stomach is much more of a simmer as opposed to the rolling boil it had been at the end of the horrific year formally known as 2020.

I entered 2021 with a great sense of hope and a new confidence in myself. I took a short respite from my books to create an author website where I can post updates, and readers can learn more about the future books in the series. I do not know what the universe has planned for me this year, but I am happy to climb on board to see where the ride takes me.

You can find my new site at http://www.susanmnairn.ca

Oh, how the words have flowed

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Back in July, my world changed for the better. I know that may seem unbelievable since 2020 has been so devastating in so many ways, but a chance conversation overheard by a keen set of ears has changed the trajectory of my belief in my writing and its potential in the fiction market.

That keen set of ears has since become my mentor, and my friend. We scheduled weekly Zoom meetings so he could get updates on the progress of my writing in book number two, and he held me accountable to a proper schedule I may not have kept otherwise. We had agreed on the date of November 30th as the day I would finish the book. As much as I wanted to hold up my end of the agreement, my characters chose to have a temper tantrum and November 30th came and went with no end in sight for my story. I could hear the quote by Douglas Adams in my head – “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

I was determined to finish my second novel and promised my friend the book would be done by December 5th. My characters must have been motivated by my uncompromising determination and the words began to flow again. On the day the story was meant to be finished, I wrote 5,700 words between the hours of 11:00 am and 6:00 pm, an average of 815 words an hour! My reward for being a conduit for the voices in my head was being able to write the two words authors love – THE END.

After giving my brain a much-needed rest, I am now in the editing phase, which is also known as the pull-your-hair-out phase. My goal is to have book number two sent to Beta readers to bring them some holiday serial-killing cheer, and to have book number one ready to be introduced to the Amazon world on January 11th. I am hoping Santa will fill my stocking with a heaping dose of courage (and some new underwear). Wish me luck!!

The writing bug is back

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I hope you are all well and staying safe. I have not posted here as often as I would like, but for good reason. I am finally continuing the adventure of writing my second book.

My creativity from March to July was dismal, at best. I could not put together a string of words that gave me any sort of joy. My work in progress collected dust and my characters had self-isolated to the extent I feared they had taken reclusiveness to an award-winning level and would never return. I was devoid of ideas and was deeply saddened by the reality my prolific brain had atrophied.

But a series of chance discussions in August sparked my imagination and charged new life into the decaying cells in my brain. One by one, the neurons began to fire, and the ideas began to flow. The novel that had sat in solemn darkness with only 18,000 words is currently over 31,000 words in a span of two weeks, and the characters are now tripping over themselves to add their stories to the chapters of the adventure I am writing. This is a writer’s dream.

The inspirational voice that sounded was unexpected, but quickly presented ideas that got me excited. The stagnant pool in my head is now churning with ideas. I find myself at my laptop, writing for hours at a time and then having to physically readjust to the life I am living outside of the life I am creating in my story.

This is my bliss. This is the elusive happiness I struggled to find for four months before the muse came back. This is what being a writer is all about and I cannot tell you how excited I am to finish book number two and continue to write the following three in the series.

 

 

The elevator and the stress of knowing exactly what to say

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As a writer, I craft strings of words into sentences. Those sentences become paragraphs that eventually blend into chapters to create a novel. To say that process is easy is ridiculous. When I wrote “the end” after finishing my first book, I felt like I had nurtured the story from conception, and I had carried those words until I had given birth to a full manuscript. After I typed those two words, I wept.

I thought the most difficult part of writing a novel would be the writing itself. I was wrong. I have recently become much more aggressive in my plight to share my words. After chatting with a friend, and then a friend of that friend, I was gifted some great advice and given the task of coming up with an “elevator pitch” for my book. For those unfamiliar with an elevator pitch, it is basically condensing the eighty-three thousand words of my novel into a twenty-word pitch that could be quickly shared on an elevator and outline of the backbone of my book. It was an arduous task but one that made me strip back all the things that take place in the story to the reveal the true essence of what the book is about.

I was forced to forget about the characters and all the great plot twists I had woven into the fabric of the story. I was tasked with creating a succinct delivery of two lines that could pique the interest of someone who could potentially propel my first child into the private school that had a three-year wait list. It was hard. It was intimidating. But it was achievable.

After many drafts that were close to the mark, but not close enough, I managed to put together twenty-three words that truly convey the heart of my first book. I also created a similar pitch for the book I am currently writing as well as a pitch for the third book waiting to be written. The elevator may skip my floor a few times while I am waiting for the right door to open, but now I am confident I will know exactly what to say if given the opportunity.

 

 

 

Even my exhaustion was exhausted

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Frayed nerves aside, this summer was one for the books. From not knowing if I would even have a job this year to spending countless hours researching all the Covid protocols for opening a family resort, this summer presented a profusion of challenges. Thankfully, we rose to meet them all and we had an extremely successful and safe season.

When you work in a fast-paced job, there are few moments you can stop and realize how exhausted you have become. It is natural to wake up in the morning, jump into the deep end of the day and swim with all your might until your feet finally touch bottom in the shallow end, allowing you to tiptoe up the stairs to escape the water. This was the summer of 2020.

Our respite, this year, came much earlier than it has in past seasons and my body responded very quickly to the welcome down-time. And when I say responded very quickly, I mean I crashed. I went from going to bed long after midnight and waking at 5:00 am with a brain loaded with scenarios for the day, to sleeping for a solid twelve hours because I could not keep my eyes open much later than 7:30 pm.

But with the exhaustion came the overwhelming pride in knowing that we had not only survived the Covid summer of 2020, we had succeeded in providing a safe and enjoyable environment for our guests. Though they were aware of all of the protocols we had in place, they were still able to relax, enjoy the change of scenery from the concrete jungle to cottage country and forget the turmoil that still existed in the world outside of our resort bubble. In the end, it was a win-win.

My exhaustion has since been remedied. A few nights of sleeping like a teenager has brought me back to life. The Covid demon that stole my ability to write has been vanquished and my creative life is back on track, largely due to a great mentor I had the honor of sharing ideas with during the summer and who continues to fuel my desire to write.

What I have learned from this summer is that exhaustion cannot steal the best parts of you. It may have the power to suppress your joy, your tenacity and your creativity, but it does not have the power to fully take those things from you. You must weather the storm until the sky clears and have faith the best parts of you will eventually be restored.

 

 

 

How one book has potentially turned into a four-part series

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Writing is an interesting pastime. Some days my fingers cannot keep up with the speed at which ideas come, and other days I stare at the screen for countless hours and nothing happens. For five months, especially during the initial Covid-19 isolation period, my characters self-isolated as well. The voices I am proud to admit I listen to were so muted, I began to think I had never heard their voices in the first place, and I was unable to write anything. But divine inspiration is a wonderful thing and it comes from sources that are never anticipated, but truly cherished.

Last week, I had the extreme good fortune of having a guest at the lodge who had read my first, unpublished novel in July take a keen interest in the story. He had arrived back at the lodge for a second stay in August, and during each day of his vacation, he dedicated a portion of his precious family time every afternoon to meet with me and discuss his ideas of how he saw the concepts of my future novels morphing into a series. My creativity exploded with the force of a Supernova and an abundance of lights reappeared in the dark recesses of my brain. By gently weaving the characters from the first novel into the fabric of books two, three and four, the “Relative” Series was given life. To say his input was invaluable is an egregious understatement.

In the short span of seven days, my creativity came back with a vengeance. Spending thirty to sixty minutes a day sharing ideas about my characters and my story lines relit a fire within me that had long been extinguished. My neurons recharged, the bubbling cauldron of ideas overflowed and one book turned into a series of four stories, now all connected, taking the word ‘relative’ to a new level.

White board at the ready, I will be spending my day off tomorrow journaling ideas for the new books and documenting the connections between stories. Book number two is still in its infancy, but it is pulling itself up to the table and is ready to take a few more tentative steps before it hits the ground running. Zoom meetings have been scheduled with my friend every Monday beginning September fourteenth and I am ready to be accountable for getting this series written. 2020 has just take a giant turn for the better!

 

 

 

 

The summer it rained caterpillars

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I had a fortunate childhood. I was born in the city and each summer we would pack our station wagon as full as it could get and we would drive North to our cottage in Muskoka to spend two glorious months at the lake. I was a water baby and could not get into my bathing suit fast enough in the morning so I could run, bare-footed, down to the dock to jump in the water. I would spend hours in that lake, eventually swimming to the point of land between our family cottages where our extended family members would come from their cottages for cookouts to fry the fish we had caught that morning.

In the afternoon, I was back in the water with my diving mask looking for undiscovered treasures or coming up for air in the open space under the dock to marvel at the number, and size, of the dock spiders inhabiting the space they begrudgingly allowed me to share. The recollections I have of being a child at that cottage continue to resurface and I hold each of those memories close to my heart.

Although I am blessed with a good memory, I could never forget one summer if I tried. I was still in single digits and the summer began as a normal summer. I was on my way to the dock when I noticed the tent webs starting to form in the V-branches of many of the trees surrounding our cottage. As the mornings progressed, the webs became bigger, they took over more of the branches and they began to assume ownership of the trees.  The larvae that had been birthed in those webs had grown and soon the foliage around our cottage was infested with Forest Tent Caterpillars. I can only describe the days that followed as something you would see in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

(the branch I removed from one of my trees this summer)

When the caterpillars reached maturity, they began to drop from their nests. The days of me running to the dock in bare feet was a thing of the past as I donned my running shoes and held an opened umbrella to avoid caterpillars landing on me as I slowly made my way along the tree-lined path to the open sky over the dock. I can still recall the sound of the caterpillars bouncing from the woven fabric of the umbrella and it gives me chills. The infestation was so brutal that cars slid into ditches because the roads were so slick after being covered by these furry little creatures and car tires could get no traction on the pavement.

The webs are back in the trees again this year, but their presence is nothing like it was that summer. Like the smell of spearmint gum in my mom’s purse, the sound of caterpillars pinging off my umbrella will live with me for the rest of my life.

 

 

 

The Day Off I Absolutely Needed

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When you only get one day off a week, you must pack as much activity as you can into an exceedingly small window of time. Yesterday, I did the opposite. I changed my regular day off from Monday to Sunday to spend a quiet day at home and watch the stream of an online concert that was both mentally and emotionally soothing. (apart from the tears because the music was SO lovely)

I have mentioned in previous blog posts that I have become slightly obsessed (in a good way) with a musical theatre boy band called Collabro, a group who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. These boys have gone above and beyond during the mess that is 2020 and have constantly kept in contact with their fans through social media as well as other platforms. For the first time since March 15th, these boys put together a live, socially distanced, online concert for their fans and it was brilliant.

This year can only be described as an emotional roller coaster. I feel like I have been a prisoner in the first car, slowly chugging up the track and not being able to prevent the eventual crest over the hill, the rocketing descent into utter chaos and the visceral sensation of true fear. But each day I remind myself to remember the plateaus during the ride, the moments when I can catch my breath after the turbulence and the moments of serenity before the track pulls the car up the hill for another round of torture.

Despite the state of the world right now, I seized the day yesterday and fought my way off that roller coaster for a short time. I was able to spend the day at home and not talk about, or think about, Covid-19. I did not have to wear a mask or maintain a social distance from anything. For one day, my life felt somewhat normal and it was bliss. It was the day off I absolutely needed for me to get back to me.