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.

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!!

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.

One Eleven

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Hooray, hooray, the 2nd of May, my second book is on Amazon today!

If I am being honest, One Eleven went live on Amazon yesterday, but I wanted to officially announce the publishing date I had in mind that was much more significant. Having my second book come out on the second day of the month is one thing but having One Eleven come out one hundred and eleven days after my first book is special.

Self-publishing through KDP and having a specific launch date is tough. When you are brave enough to press the upload button to deliver your manuscript to Amazon for approval, they advise the process could take up to seventy-two hours. Not wanting to miss the window of my preferred date, I uploaded the over ninety thousand words I had written and was notified twenty-four hours later that my second book was available for purchase.

As much as I love to describe things with a plethora of words and phrases, I can not find one word or phrase that accurately describes what it is like to take a whisper of an idea and craft it into a full novel. I can only hope the writing gods will continue to look favorably upon me as I follow my journey publishing book three later this year and writing books four, five, and six in The RELATIVE Series.

Onwards and upwards

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For those of you who have been following this blog, you will not be shocked by the fact that I am going to talk about writing, again. My first book, The Waking Hours, although self-published, has been doing well compared to the abysmal report I read on Google about anticipated sales. If their collected data is correct, and self-published books only average 250 book sales in the first year, I will be doing backflips after posting this latest entry. I am just shy of 500 book sales in ten weeks and that makes my heart happy.

The road to get to that number has come with its own set of challenges. Writing, editing, and marketing are all individual career paths for a reason – it is extremely difficult to perform all three tasks at the same time, and I have been feeling the stress of successfully acting out those three functions simultaneously, but I am still keeping my head above water, for now.

I have certainly obtained a great deal of knowledge and some new skills along the way, and in the grand scheme of things, I have discovered that I do not mind doing interviews. Initially, this was an enormous shock to my system, but the more I thought about how passionate I am about writing, and sharing the stories I have created, the more it made sense that I would want to share my journey with others and have those people ask questions about my process.

Last night, I did a Zoom call with my local library along with a handful of guests and, for the first time in my life, I was not nervous about public speaking. Sure, the participants were not directly in front of me, but I was answering questions about something that has become an extension of me. Although I had done a few trial runs through the questions and voiced my responses to the squirrels on my front lawn, my responses during the Q&A session sounded nothing like what I had rehearsed, but were, in fact, more linear to the truth in my head.

I can only hope I am afforded more opportunities to talk about my writing in a public forum. I am finally comfortable in my writer’s skin, and I have faith that my journey will continue onwards and upwards.

Your rejection is my motivation

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When I was thinking about writing this post, a well-known song by Elton John came into my head, but the words morphed into something my writer brain could comprehend – “Rejection Seems to be the Hardest Word”. If you replace the word sad in Elton’s song with the word rejection, this could be the anthem for anyone who has written a novel and sent their words out into the world, only to receive an email response with the fateful line, ‘it’s not what I’m looking for”, or, “I just couldn’t connect with the story, but best of luck’.

Writing is hard. Ernest Hemingway described it best when he said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Over the last four years, I have completed almost three novels and self-published one of those stories, and I can tell you, no truer words have ever been spoken. A forensics team could analyze my laptop and find copious amounts of blood spatter and chronologically date those samples to match the past four years of my writing.

The idea of writing a novel is romantic. Composing a story that has characters with depth, a storyline that is exciting and has enough twist and turns to keep the reader engaged is terrifying. Every plot twist is subject to days of overthinking the idea. Characters constantly interrupt your train of thought to ask you to tell the story their way. And every great idea you have for your book on Tuesday night, sounds like absolute rubbish on Wednesday morning. Welcome to writing.

When I first began to query agents, I went into the process like every new writer does, fresh faced and full of hope that I had just written the next best seller. But the melting pot of reality takes you piece by piece until you vaguely resemble the hopeful person you were when you spent days putting together the perfect pitch. Some make it over the hurdles to the finish line, but most do not.

This is not where my story ends, but where it begins. Those rejections were my motivation to keep going and find other ways to share my words. One, two, even fifty agents opinions do not have the power to tell me my book is not good enough. The words I read in their email responses, if I even got one, were that my story was not a good fit for them. It did not mean my story would not connect with readers, and through self-publishing, that connection has been established and well-received.

I can only dream as I move further into what I hope will be my writing career to keep the faith I have in my writing, and always believe my writing voice will have ears that are eager to listen to the stories I have to tell.

It’s time for a good book

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Hey everyone….it’s “I Read Canadian” day today. I’m Canadian and I have a book you can read called The Waking Hours that can be purchased on your Amazon account!! Show your support by purchasing the book and, once you have read it, please leave a review on Amazon.

Self-publishing has been a great experience so far, and now I am balancing the marketing and self-promotion of The Waking Hours while editing One Eleven and writing Dark Room. I may need to make a bit of time to learn how to clone myself!