How Much Is Too Much?

With social media these days authors can easily make themselves visible to the public in ways never dreamed of in the past. As fans we can seek out our favourite authors, follow them on twitter, read their blogs, visit their websites, friend them on facebook.

But is there a point where an author can make themselves too visible?

Recently a friend of mine commented that she was so tired of seeing a particular author on facebook that she considered hiding her from her news feeds. Don’t ask me why but her statement sent me into a giggling fit, maybe because I’ve often wondered the same thing about myself. Do people get tired of seeing my updates on facebook? Do they cringe when they see that little gavatar of mine pop up into their line of vision? When I publish a new blog post on facebook do they moan and groan, and want to stick their head in a sock? Do they hide me from their news feeds? Or do they simply ignore me and go happily on their way ‘cause let’s face it I’m just not all that fascinating? ;)

As with anything in life we have to find a balance. Deciding what that balance will be isn’t as easy as it might sound. Finding the perfect balance, the one that will make everyone happy is impossible. Just as we cannot satisfy all the readers of our books, neither can we all agree on how much social networking is enough.

The interesting thing about my friend’s comment the other evening was, although we are mutual friends of this same author, this author’s presence on facebook and twitter has never annoyed me. I enjoy seeing what this particular author is up to. So there you go. A perfect example.. I did say perfect, didn’t I?

What I take notice of more often are those people whom we never hear boo from until they have a book about to be released then they’re all over the place promoting and wanting us to support their work. I come from a small Nova Scotia community where we like to support people we know. I’m more willing to spend my money buying books from author’s whom I feel I know. Getting to *know* an author through social media takes time, and a certain amount of interaction on the author’s part. Putting posts and updates out there and then disappearing might not be enough. What I do know is that getting to know an author through social networking has certainly prompted me to buy books in the past so I guess it works. Most of us like to support those we know and like.

Perhaps I’m more of a social butterfly, but I do like interacting with my facebook friends. And nothing tickles me down to my toes more than getting to know people through facebook, twitter, and my blog. I’ve met some pretty nice folks these past few years. Now, I know all this social interacting is time consuming, and we can’t spend all of our waking hours getting to know people. Well, we easily could, but other important areas of our lives would certainly suffer like our family, our jobs, our writing life. And let’s not forget, in order to call ourselves writers we do actually have to write. In a perfect world we could stretch a day out for a long as we needed to get everything done, but we already agreed that perfection is a very subjective thing.

So I’m wondering how the rest of your feel.

Do you have people on your facebook and twitter who make themselves too visible? Or do you think it’s every author’s right to promote their books in whatever way they see fit and the rest of us need to accept it and get on with it? And have you found a balance when it comes to your own social networking time?

Guest Blogger—Dave Ebright

Today, for the first time ever, author Dave Ebright is guest blogging. Yay Dave! After a powerful amount of arm twisting, whining , bribery, and basically refusing to take no for an answer, I got Dave to agree to do this guest post. (It actually wasn’t that difficult but I had fun exaggerating. I’m a fiction writer, so sue me. Sorry, Dave, couldn’t resist.)

I’m pretty sure if I met Dave in person, I’d probably find him anything but shy. Here in cyberspace it’s a totally different story. Dave’s one of the shyest bloggers/authors I’ve come across. If he could write a blog post and never have to mention that “I” word, he’d be a happy man. Unfortunately, if an author wants others to read their books we have to get the word out. The most fantastic novel ever written will not make an impact if it sets gathering dust. So thank you Shy Dave, for agreeing to this. I knew it would be a challenge, but one you’d step up to in fine style. You never disappoint.

You can visit Dave’s site over here at Jaxpop and read a bit more about his great adventure books, and if you have any advice to help him get over his online shyness at promoting his own work don’t be too shy to leave a comment for him below. I’m sure he’d welcome your ideas. Come on people, we’ve got to help this guy out…

BTW If you didn’t catch Dave’s interview over on Carol Garvin’s Blog–Careann’s Musings you might want to check it out.

The inspiration for JRA.

My friend Laura recently invited me here to guest post & chat about writing a series while describing how I jumped into YA fiction. Whew! So y’all hafta bear with me, this is a first.

For starters – THIS IS ALL A BIG MISUNDERSTANDING! Writing was never on my radar screen – it just happened.

In July, 2007 – I was in my garage thinking about my grandson Jack, 1000 miles away in Pennsylvania, wondering if someday he might get the chance to spend summers with us in St Augustine, Florida. For reasons I’ll never understand, I fired up my laptop, in the sweltering heat of that garage, and typed – Jack spent summers with his grandparents in the ancient haunted city of St Augustine Florida. Four hours later, my shirt soaked with sweat, I had banged out what became the draft of a first chapter – though I was only toying with a short story. For several nights I kept at it, adding to the tale, creating characters & a plotline – using my hometown for the story’s backdrop. The daydream resulted in a full draft, which needed lots of work, but the story was “down”.

In one chapter I had written about a pirate’s ghost ship firing cannons at the kids as they crisscrossed the harbor at midnight trying to escape in Jack’s boat – Bad Latitude. This led to another warped idea – What if Jack was the descendant of a real pirate? One of the more colorful, yet inept pirates was Calico Jack Rackham – his flag is the one with the skull & crossed cutlasses. He had the right first name, was a historical figure & his background intrigued me – so ‘my Jack’ became a Rackham & … I did a complete rewrite. As I neared the end of my rewrite more what ifs percolated & I knew two things – There would be another adventure & Calico Jack Rackham would become one of my characters. So I did another rewrite & created hints for the next story – sort of a lead in. In late November 2008 BAD LATITUDE A Jack Rackham Adventure made its quiet debut. I was working in Chicago at the time so there was no promotion.

By the time BL came out, the RECKLESS ENDEAVOR manuscript was underway. My goal was to release RECKLESS in 2009, but my big boy job made that impossible. 2010 wasn’t doing me any favors either. I was out of town again, with limited free time & a heavy dose of “what’s the use”. A jumpstart was desperately needed. My wife Deb convinced me to submit BAD LATITUDE to the Florida Writers Association for their Royal Palm Literary Awards. The book had done remarkably well locally & online, thanks entirely to Deb’s promotional efforts (I’m a marketing coward), so I reluctantly fired it off to the FWA panel.

To my shock, BL won 2nd place for published YA &, being totally stoked, I resumed work on RECKLESS with newfound confidence & determination. Again, ideas exploded, resulting in late rewrites & the formulation of the primary storyline for the 3rd book in the JRA series. RECKLESS ENDEAVOR made its buzzless debut in January 2011, while I was out of town – again.

As a reader, I regard crisp pace, memorable characters & purposeful dialogue as components of a good story – goals that I strive for as a storyteller. I like building stories within the story, adding twists when possible. The challenge for writing a series, I think, is keeping it fresh. Where backstory is needed, blend it rather than plunk a disruptive info dump in the middle of a scene. Make each book stand alone with unique plots & circumstances & filter in new characters. Finally, if writing for kids, don’t ‘dumb it down’. Teen readers are smart & like challenges.

As for choosing the YA genre – I didn’t. As stated at the outset, it just happened. My years as the coach of teenagers (another story) helped create a comfort zone for that audience & using my grandson as the protagonist provided instant affection & kinship for the character, making the transition to my alter ego – JaxPop – a breeze.

Thanks for the nudge, Laura. D

Popping In

I’m in here quickly this evening to let you know that author, Dave Ebright, a.k.a. Jaxpop, will be here on Friday to do a guest post on my blog. I know you’ll all drop in and help make Dave feel welcome because the readers of this blog are totally awesome and supportive. Dave’s going to tell us how someone who had never thought of writing before ended up writing YA fiction, about his first two books, and just what he has planned for the future. You won’t want to miss what Dave has to say.

While you’re here, I’ll post this really cool photo of a spider’s web I snapped the other day and a lovely quote by Virginia Woolf about fiction and spider webs.

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible.”~~Virginia Woolf

Enjoy the rest of the week. See you on Friday.

Something to Think About

I love inspirational quotes. Don’t you? They’re so…so..inspiring. Here are a few inspirational quotes I wanted to share with all the writers out there. I hope they give you something to think about.

1. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. – Marianne Williamson

2. The muse whispers to you when she chooses, and you can’t tell her to come back later, because you quickly learn in this business that she might not come back at all.
- Terry Brooks

3. Your biggest problem is yourself. Getting out of the way and letting your imagination take over is the best way. – Terry Brooks

4. My books are water; those of the great geniuses are wine. Everybody drinks water. – Mark Twain

5. What I like in a good author isn’t what he says, but what he whispers. – Logan Pearsall Smith

6. The main rule of writing is that, if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) - Neil Gaiman

7. Read, read, read. Read everything-trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the most. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window. - William Faulkner

8. All writers are crazy. So never mind what the editors and your family and your critique group tells you. Submit your manuscripts and keep submitting until you get an offer. Then you can be crazy, with a paycheck. – MaryJanice Davidson

9. If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart. – Terry Brooks

10. Create a character who is both proactive and sympathetic, someone with a hole in her life, but who is willing to risk all for her goal. When readers care, you can get away with almost anything. – Bonnie Hearn Hill

Enjoy your weekend!

Just Write It

When you first started writing did you know immediately the kind of book you would write?

People often talk about “finding themselves” and I suppose for many of us it comes down to living an authentic life, and being who we really are without worrying about disappointing those around us.

Writers also need to find out who they are as a writer, what genre they write in, and what their own unique style is.

It wasn’t until I’d been writing short fiction for many years that I began to notice a pattern in my writing. Most of my protagonists were kids, and it felt quite natural to write from a child’s POV. Even so, at that time, I didn’t consider the stories that I was writing were intended for a young audience because they weren’t. The literary magazines that published them didn’t think so either.

Still, I had this strong need to write for kids that didn’t go away. It wasn’t until a writer (one who had just published her first young adult novel) basically told me not to worry about who I was writing the story for that I felt completely free to write. She advised me to simply write it and, once it was written, then decide if it was best told for a young adult audience.

I took her words to heart and shortly afterward began writing Bitter, Sweet. I knew I had a story to tell and I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in a game of self-doubt. Just write it. Just write the story, my story—those words stuck in my mind.

So what happened to my writing over time?

The best way for me to describe it is to say, I slipped into a time and place that felt so utterly right for me. Right now, I’m particularly happy setting my stories during the first half of the twentieth century. That time is like a welcomed friend, one that I greet with open arms. For me, writing needs to be enjoyable, a safe place for me to explore who I am and where my writing is taking me. It is a place where I can take my characters, explore their feelings, and discover who they are as well. I don’t worry anymore what genre I’m writing in these days because so far as I’m concerned, we do not pick the genre, the genre picks us.

What genre do you write in? Do you agree with my statement that we do not pick the genre, but rather the genre picks us?

Guest Blogger–Darlene Foster

For a bit of a change I’ve invited Darlene Foster to do a guest post on my blog, and she graciously accepted my invitation. Darlene and I were both contributors to The Country Roads Anthology (Nimbus Publishing) and became acquainted through facebook. In my opinion, the friendships I have formed with some of the contributors has been one of the greatest things to come out of this anthology. I hope most of them would also agree.

To find out more about Darlene and the Amanda Series you can visit Darlene on her Blog Or her website.

Where does a writer get ideas?

It’s hard to say where the germ of an idea for a book comes from, but I like to think for me, it started way back when I was a kid growing up on a ranch in southern Alberta. I was bored and lonely and would dream of visiting amazing places I read about in books and learned about at school. I would often day-dream I was travelling the world and having amazing adventures. Many years later, when I had the opportunity to visit a friend working in the United Arab Emirates, I jumped at the chance. I had such a good time I felt compelled to share it with the world. I started to write a nonfiction account of my trip but it didn’t quite capture what I felt and experienced. During my visit, I remembered my friend commenting that my excitement reminded her of a twelve-year old. So, I started to write from the point of view of a twelve-year old. Then I decided it needed some adventure and Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask slowly took shape.

A few years later my in-laws retired from England to Spain which gave good reason to visit and explore that country. I found it also quite amazing so decided my young heroine should have an adventure there as well. From that experience, Amanda in Spain-The Girl in The Painting was born. I collected materiel over three visits. Writing the second book gave me a chance to develop the characters and the friendship of Amanda and Leah, while describing the locations and points of interest.

Followers of the Amanda books kept asking, “Where will Amanda go next?” That told me I had to keep going. I had been to visit England a number of times since that’s my husband’s home country, so it made sense that Amanda would go there next. Right now I am having a lot of fun writing Amanda in England-The Missing Novel as I now know my characters quite well. I have introduced some interesting extras including a big old Maine Coon cat named Rupert, who lives in a book store.
Where will Amanda go after England? I haven’t decided yet, but one thing is for certain, Amanda doesn’t get to go anywhere I haven’t been! This may be motivation to visit another cool place on this amazing planet we live on.

So from dreams of travelling all those years ago, to having the opportunity to travel as an adult, some stories have been generated for other kids who may dream of travelling to intriguing places or just want to learn more about them from the vantage point of a twelve-year old.

Where did the idea for your first book come from?

Is Your Writing Telling Tales On You?

Have you ever considered what your writing says about you as a person?

Something? Nothing? Not sure? —-Come on be honest.

You don’t have to look very far to see what peeks a writer’s interests because it is right there on the page for everyone to witness, sometimes boldly so, others times more subtly, a sprinkling of small clues hidden here and there.(No one will ever know.) If you think you’re being clever about it, you might want to think again.

If I were to use my own novel as an example, it would tell the reader that I have an interest in history, especially local history, since I set it in 1940’s Nova Scotia. Not only that, they could probably guess that I am interested in healing plants which play an important roll in the book. If they were really paying attention they might even pick up on the idea that I’m interested in things of a spiritual nature, which mama brought though loud and clear in the book. Got to love mamas for their eternal wisdom, right?

The wonderful thing about life is that we learn and grow. We hear about something new and suddenly we’re interested in finding out more about it. When something I’ve heard or seen grabs my attention I like to jot these things down so that I can look back and remember when the time is right. Relying on my own brainpower just doesn’t work.

Nothing feels better to me than starting a new notebook and filling it with ideas. Many times it is just a word or two scribbled across the page. And I do love placing asterisks in front of those really important thoughts that will definitely need attention at some point in time.

If a writer can’t think of anything to write about they need only to pay attention to what’s happening in the world around them. Life is anything but mundane. Ideas are everywhere. Think about the things you like, and the things that have made you stand back in wonder. Do you like handmade quilts? Spaceships? Trees? Animals? Cars? Mountain? (Okay I could go on forever here, but I’m sure you get the point.)

Finding something to write about is a matter of keeping our minds and thoughts open to the endless possibilities that surround us. That next story is out there waiting to be written. If it is your story then you are the only one who can write it. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. No one can write that story but you. No one can bring that uniqueness to the page the way you can.

If someone you didn’t know picked up your book or manuscript, and read it, would it tell them anything about you? Would they discover the things that interest you, the things that surround you, the emotions you feel, the thoughts you think?

Can a writer hide behind their books? I don’t think so. I’m willing to bet that you have put something of your own into your writing. Our fiction does not spring to life from out of nowhere. It comes through us, and our true self trickles onto the page whether we want it to or not. The fiction we write might be a complete figment of or imagination, but we are still there on the page regardless.

What clues have you left behind in your writing, either intentionally or unintentionally, that would tell you reader a little about the person you are?

Making the List

What a pleasant surprise when I discovered today that Bitter, Sweet made the Best Books for Kids and Teens 2011 list with the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, school and public librarians from across Canada. Can’t say how honoured I feel to have Bitter, Sweet included in this list. I’ll take a surprise like that any day.

When The Universe Speaks Take Photos.

What’s with all these bird nests I’ve been finding lately? Is it just me or is the Universe trying to tell me something? Who knows, maybe my next book should have a bird theme?

In an earlier post I published some photos of a tiny bird nest with five eggs inside. Although I’d seen momma bird I hadn’t been able to identify her in any of my bird books. I’ve noticed that is often a problem with illustrations, they do not resemble the bird in question or sometimes the illustration is only of a male and you happened to have seen the female. They look similar but not quite and so you’re a bit unsure. This is why it’s important to read the description that is included with the illustration as well as information as to where they nest—trees, bushes, ground, grass.

I snapped these shots of Momma and Papa today. They were the same type of bird I found last May. They were not happy campers when I wandered into their territory. They flew toward me and even played the broken wing game, which of course I didn’t fall for.

With a little patience we discovered the nest between two branches of ground juniper. To think I might have stepped on the nest makes me cringe. I was quite close. Momma and Papa had their nest very well hidden.

As a note of caution, when you’re out walking in the woods and birds suddenly begins flitting around, sounding distressed, it’s a good chance that a nest is handy. Tread carefully.

I find it interesting that the one egg that did not hatch is still in the nest, unharmed. I think there are four babies in there, but I’m not positive.

So what kind of bird is this? I feel quite confident in saying it’s a palm warbler. If you have any other thoughts on this please share them. I’m a writer, after all, not a bird watcher. And I promise no more bird photos for a while. The Universe will have to speak to me in other ways.

Not Quite The Bee’s Knees

A writer explores the world around them, physically, mentally and emotionally. We write down what we discover and, hopefully, share it with others.

A few weeks back I shared some robin eggs I’d discovered on this blog. When I went back for another photo about a week later I happened to arrive just as the babies were hatching.

Cute, right? Well, maybe not so much. Or maybe it’s just a matter of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Momma robin likely thinks her babies are the bee’s knees.

This is probably the youngest robin most of you have ever seen. I know it is for me.

This next photo was taken a week later. There appears to be only two babies in the nest. To tell the truth Momma robin was highly agitated by my presence. I snapped a quick picture and vowed not to return. I would be very upset if she abandoned her babies.

I can only imagine that the babies are now out on their own, exploring the world, flying off in search of adventure.

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