Have you tried Pinterest?

(Purple clematis on a blue fence – one of the first images I pinned – from dontcallmebetty.tumblr.com)

How many of you are taking advantage of Pinterest as part of your social media platform? According to Reuters and Comscore (data via Wikipedia) Pinterest had gathered 48.7 million users as of February, 2013. That number jumped up from 11.7 million users in 2012. So I assume some of you are on board with Pinterest.

For those of you who are unaware – Pinterest is a pinboard style social media site where you can collect, organize and share images of things you love.

When I was a teenager, I used to fill scrapbooks with images cut or torn from the pages of popular magazines. Pinterest reminds me of that activity – to the trillionth power, mind you. The site is most popular with women – global stats indicate 83% of users are women. Maybe some of them used to keep the kind of scrapbook I’m describing.

On Pinterest, an image is a pin – you can add pins from anywhere on the web or from your own computer – any pin can be repinned by others and it always links back to the source.

You organize your pins by topic on what the site calls Boards – Boards can be private or public, and you can invite others to share on your Boards

You can follow others and then their pins will show up on your Pinterest home feed.

The site provides a bookmarklet device that allows you easily to pin content from the web and bring it back to Pinterest.

Like all social media sites, Pinterest has its rules of etiquette. Participants are reminded to be kind when they make comments. It is best to express your own unique qualities in the images you choose to pin, rather than pinning to collect followers. Users are told to promote artists to create great works by linking back to their pages and making polite comments if one discovers an image is being used without proper credit. Nudity, porn, hateful pins or pins that encourage people to hurt themselves should be reported. The Pinterest community is evolving, so users are urged to let those in charge of the site know what is working and what isn’t.

I first heard of Pinterest, months ago, when reading a blog post by Kristen Lamb: Writers – Why it’s time to renew your love affair with Pinterest. She wrote that Pinterest was a powerful tool for writer inspiration. If you spent your lunch hour on Pinterest, you’d come away refreshed, your head full of creative ideas. After all, a picture does say a thousand words and images stimulate creative parts of the brain. She advised the linking of blog posts up to a Pinterest Board – why not take advantage of the crowd already gathered on the site to promote your blog. One suggestion that she made appealed to me – create Boards that reveal your stories or characters in images.

I did get excited about Pinterest when I first discovered it. I spent time there and got several family members hooked. I’ve let it slip a bit by the social media wayside the past few months. I have had to prioritize my time. I returned to Pinterest the other day and was once again fascinated by the Boards I had created.

I’m still in love with Izzy’s Garden. If you’re reading my novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, and you want an idea of how I imagine Izzy’s garden, check out that Board. And if you want to know what Crater Lake is like (at least in my imagination), check out the Board – Views of the lake, and you’ll get a good idea. The Board I created entitled, Pictures of people that make me think stimulates endless ideas for stories and characters. And if my mind needs a bit of beauty, I have a Board called, Incredibly beautiful places and things to wander through.

I know that many of you probably feel the same time pressures I do when you think of yet another social media platform. Pinterest is quite beautiful – that is more than can be said for Twitter or LinkedIn. Why not give it a try – no reason you couldn’t start small. Create one or two Boards and pin up a few images.

Let me know how it works out Rolling on the floor laughing

If you write what’s in your heart – will you lose friends and loved ones?

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The answer to the above question is – possibly. I used to think that writing fiction would be a good defense against such a state of affairs. My previous writing had been in the realm of academia. At a certain level, (peer-reviewed journals) even academics have to take a stand – albeit one that can be backed up in the literature or with one’s own research findings. I put myself out there on more than one occasion. When asked, in my oral thesis defense, how I would respond to the criticism that being a qualitative researcher meant I lacked objectivity, I responded that quantitative researchers are not objective either. Objectivity in any type of research is a myth. Now that was taking a firm stand, and it was one that many did not appreciate.

I’ll just fast forward to the life of a fiction writer. Let us first define the word, fiction.

fic-tion

Noun

Prose literature, especially short stories and novels, about imaginary events and people. Invention or fabrication as opposed to fact.

Synonyms: figment, invention, fabrication

That would appear to say all that needs saying about fiction, but not so fast. Here is a conversation that I had the other day.

Book recipient (suitable excitement on his/her face) Is it a true story?

Me: No, it is a work of fiction.

Book recipient (not in the least daunted) Yes of course but is it true fiction?

The term “true fiction” would appear to be an oxymoron.

I recently joined a fascinating discussion string on the Alliance of Independent Authors (members only) Facebook page. It related to how the friends and family of an author might view a work of his or her fiction. A few people shared having lost friends and angered family members because of what they had written. A fictional character may knock on a door to close to home. Perhaps the situations that the writer makes the characters endure are unacceptable. Maybe a friend or family member sees something familiar about a certain character and finds that a treasonable offence.

Authors must be free to explore a whole gamut of life situations without the fear that those close to them will lose sight of important realties. To write about a lifestyle or behaviour does not equal an endorsement, and the word fiction is synonymous with figment, invention and fabrication.

I had an enlightening experience at a social justice workshop years ago. In order to participate in a mock debate, we divided into two groups. One group had to speak in favour of the Gulf War. I found myself in that group. I took the exercise seriously and did a good job at the task assigned. I spent the entire weekend under attack for my stance on the Gulf War while enduring barely concealed looks of outrage. What part of mock debate did they not understand?

Later, when I taught communication skills at the undergrad level, there were often options for mock class debates. I never staged one. Words are powerful, and when wielded well they tend to stick – no matter the parameters of an exercise.

Is there truth in fiction? Yes, indeed – but it is the nature of that truth that needs to be explored. In a good work of fiction, I would expect to find a truth or two about human emotions, and most importantly, a truth about myself as I explore my own reactions to the story. I do not expect to find the author’s life story.

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We live in interesting times . . .

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I seem to be having more than a few captivating experiences as I sit in my writer’s chair contemplating the lake.

I have been featured as a guest author on Pamela Cook’s blog – Flying Pony. Please check out my first blog interview – Pamela asks the most intriguing questions. I was thrilled to be invited. Pamela is the Australian author of Blackwattle Lake.

On another front, I have now chalked up three five-star reviews on various Amazon sites for Disappearing in Plain Sight. Funny thing about Amazon – marketing giant that it is – reviews listed on one Amazon country site don’t necessarily transfer over to other sites, though it does seem that reviews on Amazon.com are available to Amazon.ca and Amazon.uk.

Click on the book jacket for Disappearing in Plain Sight to your right and you’ll be directed to the Amazon.ca site where you can read all three reviews.

For me, the highlights of these reviews are comments such as,

“I couldn’t put this down!! I was quickly drawn into the lives of the complex characters in this beautifully written novel.”

“ . . . once I started to read this book I didn’t want to stop. I read until 2 o’clock in the morning, which is two and a half hours past my normal bed time. I shut my Kindle off and tried to go to sleep, but I was so captivated by the story that I couldn’t shut my mind down. It took me a long time to drift off and when I woke up in the morning, I made coffee, grabbed my Kindle and continued reading.”

I’m sure all the writers will understand why these comments make my heart skip a beat. We all want most desperately to be read in such a way that readers say they couldn’t drag themselves away from the world we brought to life for them. It’s how I’m feeling right now reading Linda Gaillard’s book, A Lifetime Burning. I’m having a hard time putting it down. Please check out Linda’s Facebook Page. She’s an amazing author.

So, there you have it – I am living in somewhat interesting times these days. I’m leaving you with a photo of our cat – Leonardo. We recently marked the one year anniversary of his death. I’m not overly sentimental about animals, but I will say – Leonardo was a good cat.

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Web-less Wednesdays

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Be it resolved – I will have web-less Wednesdays. It’s hard to even type those words, but necessary and they do have a certain ring to them. A day’s fast from the internet – from checking my current ranking on Amazon, from dropping into my favourite Facebook groups, from checking out my WordPress stats and reading posts by all the bloggers I follow (and by the way, find totally fascinating), from keeping up with emails, from Tweeting, or popping into Goodreads, or LinkedIn, or any of the sites that have become part of my daily agenda.

No web on Wednesday – period. Wherein lays the anxiety? What do I worry about? That I’ll miss something really important that requires me to reply online within moments of hearing?

Come on – how likely is it that George (@strombo) is going to read one of my tweets (he has over 300,000 followers – can you imagine how fast his Twitter feed must move) and then go to my blog and then follow the link to my book and read it while he is waiting at an airport or flying around the country (seemingly weekly) and then decide that he wants to interview me on his very fabulous nightly CBC George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight Show and I must respond the second he sends me a direct tweet?

Well – he did favourite one of my tweets on the weekend – I said his news website rocked, but seriously, all you guys should check it out – the guy literally has his finger on the pulse of trending.

Someone told me that if I’m going to dream, why not dream big – something like this: The popular US talk show host Jon Stewart asks me to be on his show. But come on – I’m Canadian, hey! And George and I are like connected – he follows me on Twitter. Where there is life (and a Twitter follower) there is hope. After all, I often ask myself – What would George think? (or say, or do, or Tweet, or eschew)

But back to my question – how likely is it that I would need to respond to anything that fast? You are absolutely right – not very damn likely!

A web-less Wednesday means time to spend walking, thinking and reflecting, cooking and taking time to eat what’s cooked with enjoyment, interacting with real people (and maybe even this decrepit old dog), and writing – yes – writing!

I have heard from a few people who say the very best promotion for a first book is to produce the next book in a timely fashion. Without time to just slow down and ponder, I’m not sure how that will happen. Drawing a line firmly in the sand to allow a break from the exciting and hyperactive world that is always streaming on the social media platform seems like a good start. And what’s one day – right?

If you see me on the internet on Wednesday – give me what for and I mean that!

thomas-merton-infinity-quote & loneilness

Daily Prompt: Stranded

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Do you ever wonder what it would be like to find yourself in a totally unfamiliar place or time? Today’s prompt about being stranded intrigued me and this little bit of flash fiction is the result.

Stranded

Her eyes flickered rapidly. Her head was down, resting on her arm. She could see a small journal lying open on the polished surface of the table beside a tall glass of white wine. She focused on the two words written at the top of the open page of cream coloured paper – Don’t panic.

She sat up slowly and reached for the wine, taking a long slow sip as she studied those words. She noticed the arm extended before her. She felt her heart start to thud wildly; the hand that held the wine glass began to tremble. A black silk blazer was pushed up the graceful forearm, a wrist was encased in a sparkling diamond bracelet, rings adorned the slender fingers – none of that had ever belonged to her.

She put the wine glass down very deliberately and glanced quickly over the body sitting on the chair. She noted the low cut white blouse – a crisp fabric under the black silk and a tight black skirt that rode up the thigh. Long legs were encased in black leather boots with stiletto heels.

Suddenly she had to find a bathroom – the wine was rolling in her stomach dangerously. She wasn’t sure if she could walk in the heels but she had to try. Much to her surprise she had no difficulty making her way toward the sign that indicated the direction of the ladies room. The bathroom was thankfully empty. As she passed the large bank of mirrors she let out a gasp and staggered against one of the stall doors.

Staring back at her from the mirror was someone she had never seen before. A woman in her mid-twenties perhaps, large dark eyes thickly fringed with make-up, fashion-model thin with a sheet of dark hair surrounding her face.

She gripped the edge of the vanity sink and stared at the face in the mirror. It had happened again. She forced herself to take a breath and think – what was the last thing she could remember? It never mattered, but she always tried to grab hold of that last vestige of a life gone from her forever.

She had been in the garden planting the peas, down on her knees on the spring wet ground, her hands in the cold earth. A robin had landed nearby and dipped its yellow beak into the newly turned soil. The bird had pulled up a worm, stretching it to what looked like the breaking point. She had sat back on her legs and watched as the weak sunshine glinted off the rippling water of the lake. There had been a flash of very bright light and then nothing until her eyes had flickered suddenly open to the words on the journal page – Don’t panic.

Where on earth was she? And more to the point, who was she?

She walked slowly out of the bathroom and back to the table, an oasis of familiarity within the desert of unknowns. Impressions hit her – she was in a bar, the clink of glasses and a low hum of conversation surrounded her. As she regained the security of the table she saw the bartender approach, a crisp white apron tied around his waist over sharply creased black trousers. He warned her not to leave her purse hooked over the chair the way she had. Did she want to get robbed? People think an uptown place like this in the city is safe – but it isn’t. What city, she was screaming to demand but she didn’t. He asked if she would like more wine and she shook her head, unsure if she could even pay for what she had already consumed. He walked away after flashing her a suavely suggestive smile, his glance lingering on the open front of her blouse.

She now felt the weight of eyes on her. People were staring – staring in a way she wasn’t used to anymore. She had been a fifty-five year old, overweight woman with streaky grey hair dressed in gumboots and a ratty sweater kneeling in the dirt of her garden to plant peas. There was no reason for anyone to pay her any attention at all.

She took a sip of the wine and then another for good measure, draining the glass. She pulled the fashionable handbag from the chair and rooted inside. She found a wallet and flipped it open to discover a raft of credit cards and a driver’s license with a picture of the women she had seen in the bathroom mirror. Her name was Veronica Lambden – she was twenty-six years old and she lived at 515 Huntington Terrace, Manhattan. A fancy cell phone vibrated in her hand as she picked it up. A text message ran across the screen under the name Robert – traffics a snarl – I can’t get a bloody cab – should be there in ten minutes or so – order some more wine.

She raised the empty glass to the bartender and shrugged her slim shoulders. He nodded. She would drink another glass of wine and wait until Robert, whoever he might turn out to be, came along to claim her – what else could she do? It was always the same, already she was forgetting the image of the robin and the feel of the cold earth on her hands.

Flash Fiction Honourable Mention–Featured Today

 

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This morning I awoke to a beautiful winter-like wonderland.

Today is the day that my flash fiction piece – Breaking Free – is being featured as one of three honourable mentions for a contest that ran on the great blog, Postcards, poems and prose. I hope you’ll pop over there and check it out. They’ve set the story on a postcard background and they’ve done an interesting little bio of me to go with it. Send a kiss

Autographing the First Copy of Your own Book: Oh What a Feeling!

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I held a hardcover copy of my novel Disappearing in Plain Sight in my hands for the first time yesterday and the feeling was close to indescribable. Being a writer, that’s a telling admission and makes me think I better get busy and try to describe it!

It was right up there with the birth of my children and my two beautiful granddaughters and the day I walked on the stage to receive my graduate degree. Milestones, accomplishments I wasn’t sure I could get myself through – and yet I did.

I mentioned holding the book in my hands on my Facebook homepage and on the private Facebook site for the Independent Alliance of Authors. I was amazed to receive so many likes and comments. I’m sending out a big thank you to all the well-wishers. Positive energy is always a bonus.

Apparently the first thirty days on Amazon are crucial – if you’re reading or thinking of reading and doing an honest and heart-felt review, please don’t delay.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember the post I did (Why Not Just Enjoy It) right after I received my editorial evaluation from FriesenPress. I wrote about how great I felt and then almost immediately began to doubt myself and the evaluation’s authenticity – typical of me.

The other day I received an amazing comment on that post and I want to share it with all of you.

Hi there Francis,

I found your website after seeing your book for sale in the FriesenPress Bookstore. First of all, congratulations on this accomplishment! I’m so happy to see your book’s finally in print.

I’m outing myself now – I’m the editor who did the evaluation of your manuscript through FriesenPress (yup, I’m a ‘she’) and I think you should know that every word I wrote about it was absolutely genuine. I loved your book. I still think about it now, many months (and many, many manuscripts) later. A few times I’ve even found myself wondering about the characters, and then remembering after a moment that they’re not real people who I know (so I’m very excited to read that you’re working on a sequel). I’ve told fellow book-lovers about it, and will be linking to the book’s page on the FP store so that it can be read; it deserves to be.

In another part of my life, I worked as a social worker on Vancouver Island, and the way you captured the complexities of therapeutic relationships, particularly in trauma work, was really fantastic.

I just wanted to clear up any lingering doubt you may have about my words; I really thought the book was excellent, and I do wish you a great deal of success with its publication.

I emailed my amazement and thanks to Sarah Stewart and received this reply:

Hi Francis,

Thanks so much for your email! I’m so pleased that you were happy with my comments. And of course you can use anything I’ve written as promotion for your book. Feel free to quote me as either an editor or a social worker, whichever you think carries more weight in this context. I don’t tell many authors about my other hat, but I thought it might be meaningful to you given your work history as well as the book’s content. I’d be happy to write something for Amazon too.

Your blog post was such a great surprise for me; as an editor for FriesenPress, I don’t normally have any personal contact with the writers I’m working for, which can sometimes be a really strange thing. I send my words out there into cyberspace and hope they are useful, but I never get to hear how they’re received since the authors (as you know) only work directly with their account managers. I so enjoyed reading about your process of writing (and editing, especially), and about your very real and vulnerable reaction to my evaluation. It made me feel, in turn, like what I do has a positive impact on the authors that I work for, and that is incredibly important to me.

Anyway, I can’t wait to keep reading your blog and your book’s sequels too!

Thanks so much for writing to me.

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Sarah Stewart – thank you and rest assured your words will pop up again – an independent endorsement by an editor and a social worker – my promotion heart sings and my newly published writer’s insecurity has been lulled to sleep for the moment.

Yesterday was the first day of spring. On Northern Vancouver Island we have enjoyed one of the mildest winters I can remember. And today the snow is coming down! It’s quite beautiful and it won’t last, but winter seems to want a last little hurrah before those spring flowers really make their appearance. Though this rhodo in the snow is a hardy forerunner of beauty to come.

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