Writers Never Surrender When it comes to Love

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Do you ever listen to a song like Dido’s White Flag and feel as though you want to sit down in a chair and sob out an over indulgence of emotion for the time you carried a torch for someone and felt like the pain of lost love would never, ever end?

When we get older and more jaded about the idea of going down with the ship of unrequited love, we forget what this experience was like. As a writer who had the nerve to create a character that loves and loses and hangs on, I had to dig down deep and remember that emotion. A song like White Flag can really aid in the process.

I’ll let you be the judge. Listen to the song and see if it doesn’t plunge you into at least a bit of nostalgia for the days of believing that hanging on forever could make a difference. I’ve given you a link to a You Tube video with lyrics. Give it a listen – I’ll be here when you get back.

Did you feel a bit weepy?

Popular culture often projects an image of love that is rarely what any of us have lived, but this image takes hold of our imagination for a reason. There is something about the idea of holding on to love no matter how hopeless the cause, of never putting up that white flag of surrender that appeals to us.

It’s really quite simple – we want to believe there is a man or woman out there who would go the distance for us. Never mind that we probably know ourselves to be incapable of returning the favour – it doesn’t change the want.

For example, a man like Professor Snape, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books – he loved Lily Potter right up to the bitter end. He died to protect her son – the son she had with his most hated rival. I ask you – is his behaviour not the personification of true love?

Or maybe a woman like Angelique, the French heroine of Sergeanne Golan’s books. She rushed through at least a dozen thick historical romance novels, sleeping with and marrying other men, though she never stopped pining for and being in love with Joffrey de Pyrec – her first and only love. And true to the romantic ideal, he never stopped looking for her. This is the stuff great literary romances are made of.

Though James Bond is portrayed as the master of love affairs in a host of Hollywood movies, in Ian Fleming’s novels, Bond never got over the woman he lost.

Of course we probably don’t know anyone like Professor Snape, or Angelique, or even James Bond, for that matter. The men and women we know are fickle and who could blame them. No one wants to be alone and as you get older the concept of true love becomes somewhat bargained down. What is true might end up being what is comfortable and familiar, or convenient, or self-serving, or a host of other things. Don’t get me wrong – that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t love, because in the end, love is a bargain of sorts. Yet part of us will always cling to the ideal – why else do we flop in a chair and feel our stomachs roll over when we listen to a song like White Flag?

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The Next Big Thing–Disappearing in Plain Sight is Now Available

 

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I was tagged by S.J. Main on the blog – Diary of a Novel – A Writer’s Journey for the Next Big Thing Award. I received a nomination for this award a few months ago and this post is an update on a previous one. So, here goes – I answer the following questions and then tag a few other people to do the same.

What is the title of your book?

Disappearing in Plain Sight, my debut novel, was released for Kindle on Amazon yesterday. (Yippee – I still can’t stop going to the site to just stare – you can stare too by clicking on the book cover on your right and going from the Friesen Press website directly to Amazon.)

Where did the idea for the book come from?

I’ve always mulled over writing ideas while out for my daily walk around our cabin. There’s something about tramping along the trails that gets my creative juices flowing. When the idea for the novel came to me, I was supposed to be writing my PhD candidacy papers. For some reason, instead of doing my research, all I could think of was this handful of characters I had created in my head and how they might react to being thrown into certain situations. Soon the characters were interacting with each other and dictating what would happen next. I just sat at my laptop and took it all down. It was absolutely impossible to drop the idea of writing the story once it got started. At the time, I compared it to being in the grip of some sort of virus – it had to run its course.

What genre does your book fall under?

When the first draft was complete, I described it as a woman’s romance. As the novel developed through subsequent drafts, the genre shifted. A reviewer said I would be short-changing the book to limit it to romance – this reviewer described the novel as Dramatic, Literary Fiction. I’ve also had a reader say that the book has appeal for men as well as women. I guess time will tell on that issue. I chose Fiction – Literary; Fiction – Romance/Contemporary, and Fiction – General as my Book Industry Shelving Codes.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m going to skip over that question because I think it’s important for the reader to form their own image of the characters. Within the novel, I weakened on that resolve by having one character describe another as looking like a well-known movie personality. As I gain in maturity as a writer, I realize this type of thing isn’t necessary. The biggest thing I have learned about writing is that I need to trust the reader to follow where I lead.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m going to cheat a bit here and give you my book cover synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m self-publishing with the help of Friesen Press. This has been my first experience with any type of publishing – self or otherwise. I’m learning a lot and I have a clearer idea now about what I will do differently the next time around. (Yes – you heard that correctly – I am busy on the sequel to Disappearing in Plain Sight – the tentative title for the next novel is The Light Never Lies.)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft of the novel took about one summer to write – oddly the same amount of time and season of the year that the main action of the story takes place within. The first draft was shorter than the final manuscript turned out to be – a bare bones treatment of the story I wanted to write. I often think about going back to read that version. I’m sure I would be stunned by how much the story evolved over the various rewrites.

What other books of the same genre would you compare yours with?

I wouldn’t put Eden Robinson’s book, Monkey Beach, in the same categories that I’ve chosen for my novel. I also wouldn’t put myself in the same universe as Robinson in terms of writing talent. But for some reason, whenever I think about this question, Monkey Beach is the book that pops into my mind. Perhaps it’s the West Coast setting or the blue of the jacket cover.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think my first inspiration was the place where I live – the isolation and the beauty of the area. I’ve also been inspired and informed by my life experiences. I’ve been an educator and a counsellor working with young people and adults for years and some of the stories I’ve heard inspired my writing – not in actual details. It is more like I’ve gained an understanding of how people might react under challenging circumstances.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

You will be drawn into a unique and beautiful setting – an isolated lake on Northern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. In this place, you will meet characters who deal with hard-hitting life situations – bullying, trauma – both past and present, death, grieving, and sexuality. The characters have problems to deal with – but their lives are also light hearted and funny. I believe the novel achieves something rare – handling complex and challenging life issues in the authentic voices of both young people and the adults who act and react to them.

If you’ve ever felt like life disappeared you, a little or a lot, then you will enjoy this novel. If you are a parent, or someone who works with or provides care for young adults, if you were young once yourself and remember the experience, you will get something from this book. If you’ve ever had to work at rebuilding your life after the loss of a friend or loved one, you will identify with the struggle the characters in this novel go through.

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So – there you have it – the next big thing is my novel – Disappearing in Plain Sight. Seeing the book out in the world is a big, big, big thing for me and my supporters. Open-mouthed smileOpen-mouthed smileOpen-mouthed smile

Part of being nominated for this award is to nominate others. I am going to follow the example of a couple of other bloggers and invite anyone who follows me and feels they have The Next Big Thing to feel free to consider themselves tagged.

Hemingway: Master of the Sound Bite

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Hemingway was a master of the sound bite before the sound bite existed – write drunk, edit sober. Genius is short and sweet – honed down to the pure essence of meaning.

Let’s expand Mr. Hemingway’s meaning beyond his well-documented love of drink. Writing drunk could mean writing completely soused with what one is engaged in, totally inebriated with the work, drunk on the possibilities. It could mean working within an altered state of being. It might mean writing with a blind eye to everyone and everything. It most certainly indicates a total investment of time and energy.

Edit sober – out of the flow of creativity we enter a disciplined arena where we train clear eyes on what we have written. Being sober speaks to the need for reflection and clarity. Editing is obviously not a process that lends itself to reckless abandon.

I believe the most important message to take from this interpretation of Hemingway’s wisdom is that writing and editing are two different processes, quite possibly exclusive of one another. Let yourself go when you create – rein yourself in when you edit. I wish you the best of luck with both processes.

I wonder what Mr. Hemingway would have had to say about marketing and promoting. At this point they strike me as pursuits that could lend themselves to true drunkenness – just joking – sort of.

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(When I thought of altered states of reality, I was reminded of this photo of poppies that we took when we were touring the grounds of Stanford University in California.)

Twitter: The Ongoing Saga

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It’s been about six weeks since I entered the world of Twitter. I thought it might be time for an update on how it’s been going.

I started off searching out everyone I could find who had anything to do with self or indie publishing. I was following about 70 people and had about 35 people following me. Then I got disillusioned by all the tweet, tweet, retweet, retweet stuff I was seeing. I had somehow gotten trapped into a circle of people tweeting themselves and each other’s work over and over and over again.

I dropped a whole bunch of people and then a whole bunch of people dropped me and that’s where things sat for a bit.

In the meantime I started following a ton of CBC reporters and radio shows that I like – soon my account was all news all the time. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started Twitter. It had turned into a one way street – news tweets coming in and not much going out. I did manage a couple of tweets a day but it was mostly retweeting interesting quotes or tweeting about my latest blog post.

I did have an exciting time when I heard that George Stroumboulopoulos (@strombo), one of my favourite CBC TV personalities, was in an airport somewhere. I sent him a tweet that said, “If you’re bored you could follow me. I don’t tweet too often, I’m not selling anything, I’ve always loved CBC – just wondering.” About a minute later I saw via email that he was following me. He has over 319,000 followers and follows 9,900 people himself – so I was pretty pumped by that experience.

For a while after that I was nervous about everything I tweeted or retweeted – always asking myself if George would approve. Thankfully, I got over that.

Then there was the day I did a really stupid tweet – I won’t even bore you with all the details. Suffice to say, I wasn’t meaning to sound racist – I simply didn’t read the original tweet properly. It was before I understood how to decipher a string of hashtags quickly and effectively. I responded exactly opposite to what I would have wanted to say. By the end of the day there were a string of people wondering what was wrong with me. That slowed me down for a bit and I’ll probably never tweet to that site again.

But, I screwed my courage to the sticking post, as old Will the Bard would say, and got back on the horse that threw me. I began to find people to follow by entering hashtag prompts and seeing who came up – things like #amwriting, or #amselfpublishing, or my latest great find – #writingtip.

I’ve tweeted 204 times and have now built myself up to following 170 people with 84 people following me – this ratio of approximately two to one seems to be OK for now.

I’ve discovered how to screen who I follow by checking out the last few tweets they’ve done – if it’s all buy my book, buy my book, or buy this person’s book over and over, I’ll skip them.

The group of people I’m following now is an interesting and eclectic mix. I’ve started picking up WordPress bloggers who have an option on their blog to follow them via Twitter. Lots of good contacts have come to me in that way. I’m finding other people’s blogs to put a tweet out for and that’s great – my posts have been tweeted a few times as well.

I try to tweet at least three times a day. I’ll often tweet my most recent blog post twice because the medium is moving so fast, I think it can bear a repeat. I try to do some type of interesting update and maybe retweet a good quote or two.

I’m only beginning to understand twitter etiquette, so I apologize if I’ve offended anyone. I read somewhere that I should acknowledge anyone who retweets me or favourites something I have tweeted – I’m still figuring out how to track all that information in a timely fashion. When I get that down, I might be able to be more polite.

So – all and all – a bit of a rocky start, a few hiccups along the way, but I really like the twitter world. It’s fast paced and interesting and I’ve found links to a ton of great articles and blogs on writing and self-publishing. Here’s just a taste of what I discovered – The Self-Publishing Tool Kit. Every time I see a tweet about a new article on this site, I pop over. The current article was on how to win with twitter – if you’re going to be self-promoting your own novel you’ll find these tips helpful.

Twitter is win/win my friends. If you’re not out there tweeting yet, don’t be afraid – it’s a forgiving world – maybe because it moves so fast. Anyway – I’ll tweet you later – OK?

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Spring is coming!

How Do I Know the Weekend is Coming?

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When you don’t have a regular 9:00 to 5:00 – Monday to Friday type job, it can sometimes be a challenge to keep track of time. But I always know when the weekend is upon me. All I have to do is check out my blog stats page. The weekends bring the inevitable rush of views to my blog inspired by the following string of search words – is Flight a good movie. When I see the number of times this happens, I am stunned.

If I only think about the state of my stats, I end up wishing I was someone who reviewed movies and blogged about them. I apologize in advance to all the people who will come to my site wanting a definitive movie review – though it did turn out that my earlier post: “Flight” – A Good Movie for a Writer to See.   was well received.

Is it just because Flight is such a good movie? Would this have happened with any movie? I don’t see many new movies so I have no way of finding out one way or the other. I just know that all weekend people will end up at my blog while trying to find out if Flight was a good movie.

The other search word that brings people to my blog every single day is – Georges Seurat. If you haven’t heard of him, he is a famous painter and the founder of the school of painting known as pointillism. Hard to say what state my stats might be in if it weren’t for Seurat and the movie, Flight. Take no offence my loyal followers – I speak only in jest In love

When you look at your stats page, do you see a string of search words that don’t have much to do with why you are writing a blog, but keep bringing people around? It would be great fun to hear what they are.

Exciting News

Why does good news always make me want to run away and hide somewhere? Must be those early childhood experiences that contribute to my ability to write while making the real world a bit of a challenge.

Anyway – today I have two exciting pieces of news to share.

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Drum roll please – my novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight,  is now being previewed on the Friesen Press site and should be available for sale through them by Tuesday, March 5th. Just follow the words YIPPEE to have a look. The release date for Amazon will be two to five weeks later.

The second piece of news has to do with a writing contest I entered on the blog – Postcard, Poems, and Prose. I won an Honourable Mention for a short piece of fiction. The winners will be featured on the site during the month of March. I encourage you to check out this WordPress blog – it’s a very eclectic showcase of writing with interesting contests being offered most of the time. I’m really enjoying reading the work of the author’s they showcase on the site.