Publishing News–Change is a Coming

I just wanted to share this exciting news with all of you. I’ve just signed a contract for my next book with Nimbus Publishing, due out in Spring 2024. Yes, I know that’s a bit in the future and I expect many of you will forget this news until that time comes, but that is okay. I will keep you up on what’s going on, sharing covers, etc. Publishing is not known for it’s speediness. In the meantime, I’ve been working on a few other projects and am feeling so good to be back writing on a regular basis after floundering for the past few years, due to a plethora of obligations that has taken my attention away from writing, the way life does for all of us.

This new book will be different from what you’ve been used to seeing from me in the past in that it is young adult novel with a contemporary setting and explores some heavy topics. I’d share the title but it could change before now and the publication date so I’ll wait until that has been established. The main character is also a young guy who loves hockey. With that said, it’s not a hockey story although hockey does make up one element in the book. I was so fortunate to have a friend read over the hockey bits and set me on the right track. It made such a difference to the chapter. Her suggestions were so helpful and insightful and there is nothing better than constructive criticism. In fact, I welcome it.

So that is my exciting publishing news for now and I hope none of you will be disappointed with the changes. I’m sure I won’t stop writing historic fiction, as I do have some ideas brewing, but I also have a few ideas for more contemporary stories as well. Time will tell.

So, it is back to the keyboard for me as I wait for the publication of my new book in November!

And A Warm Summer Breeze

Summer has definitely arrived here in Nova Scotia, and with it a stifling heat. Some days have been reaching +41 with the humidex. And yet, we suffer the heat as we do each summer. Those of us with air conditioning stick close to the house, and while it offers a bit of a break, that’s not possible at all times. Sometimes, we need to find a shady tree and feel the breeze against our skin, even that warm breeze.

I’m presently working on the final edits for my fall book, a middle grade novel, inspired by a friend and neighbour of mine who lived to be one hundred. The book that started out as a short story in the nineties, grew and evolved over time to the book it is today. Thanks to my editor, the lovely Penelope, for helping me bring the book to life. The story is a simple one but will hopefully be one that younger (and older!) readers will connect with. It feels so good to know it is about to be published. The book has been dedicated to my friend and rightly so. Perhaps she is watching from somewhere, with that impish smile on her face.

I hope you are enjoying this warm breeze today and hopefully the heatwave will soon end. And stay tuned for some new exciting news that I’ll be sharing with you at a later date. Stay cool.

Is It Really Worth It? $$$$

I recently had a conversation with someone about all the work that is involved in my being an author. It was a short conversation. This person asked me if it was worth it, meaning was I actually getting rich from my efforts. My reply was that we all put effort into things that we enjoy doing and not because we plan to get rich. In fact, most people I know with a “regular” job aren’t rich. Her reply was, “That’s one way to look at it.”

I think she felt sorry for me, the poor lonely author, slaving away in some tiny room, cut off from the rest of the world.

What I find interesting about being an author is that people often inquire about your book sales, those same people who certainly wouldn’t ask how much money your office job pays per hour. And if you think about it, there’s really no difference. You’re still inquiring about the money someone makes. What many people don’t understand is that authors don’t know about every book sale as it happens. We receive royalty payments two times a year.

Not About the Money.

Life is not about the accumulation of money. Many of us think that when we’re young and our whole purpose revolves around accumulating stuff. As we get older, we begin to see that stuff is something that just weighs us down and there is a huge big difference between a need and a want.

All that aside, I didn’t begin writing with the notion that I would one day retire from my efforts. It began as a means of self-expression, something inside seemed to be calling me to write, to say something. Any money that happens along is an added bonus, seriously.

Needless to say, this person does not see the value in what I do–books, big deal. Pfffff. Not that I expect people to fall all over themselves when I walk into a room, because I don’t. I’m the same person I’d be if I didn’t write. But publishing books is nothing to sneeze at. It’s an accomplishment, something that at the end of the day you can hold in your hands and feel proud of. People who do it, deserve some credit.

This person looks at the effort I put into my writing versus the monetary gains in the end. I don’t drive a fancy car or own a huge big house by the sea, I don’t travel the world. And I’m busy a lot, not only writing, but revising and editing the same story many times over. Sometimes I’m unavailable. Writers need their alone time. There are some who just don’t get that. But writers do find time for the important things in life. For us, writing happens to be one of those things.

So, if I were to define “worth it” it would mean something different for all of us for we are all as individual as the very things we think about and value the most.

Is writing worth it to me–absolutely.

The sun is shining here in Nova Scotia this morning and we’ve been promised a lovely weekend. If you are spending time with your family this weekend, consider yourself blessed.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend to all the mothers out there!

Keeping Busy

“Being busy and being productive are two different things.”

Having a certain amount of years under my belt, I have to say there’s a lot of truth to the above quote. My days have been super busy since I retired from my day job, and I’m grateful for that, but I don’t always accomplish the things I’d like to in. Mind you, I always manage to meet deadlines and most times actually beat them. But there’s always that “What if?” question dangling above me.

What if I used my time more efficiently? What if I set small, reasonable goals each day?

This week, I’m juggling several writerly things while trying to keep a balance in my personal life.

I also find myself on one hand, thrilled to have another book published, yet disappointed that this is my second published book during a pandemic. And I ask myself: Will THE FAMILY WAY even stand a chance in that scary COVID world? Regardless of the circumstances all author hope that their book will make a bit of a splash when it enters the world, not just a tiny ripple. Will this pandemic allow for splashes? Or will the many restrictions only allow for a ripple or two?

Today I was working on some preparation for the ARC for my upcoming book this fall, and I had to wonder what the future holds in store for that one. Will it become a third book released during a pandemic that doesn’t want to seem to go away?

Still, there’s not a thing I can do about it. Some things are out of my control. This is one of them. But I don’t intend to let this get me down. I’m not about to let this pandemic rain on my parade. I’ll just keep my head down and keep plugging along. What will be will be.

My Deserted Island

Across the lake from where I live there’s an island. Plenty of trees but nothing else, it’s basically deserted, if you want to use that term, although we have seen the remains  of human activity left behind on the shores from time to time while out in our boat; the remnants of small camp fires and some empty bottles.

I was thinking today how writing is sometimes like being on a deserted island in the middle of nowhere, where your only thought is of survival—survival of the story, that is—with little contact with the outside world. You’re in hermit-mode—thinking, eating and breathing the story you’re working on. You can’t keep your thoughts on anything other than that dang story which can become kind of a convenient excuse for your own forgetfulness with those in the outside world. Things like not remembering what you were going for in the refrigerator or even the next room, the phone calls and emails you forgot to return. I like to call it author-brain, kind of like mommy-brain when all you think about is that little bundle of joy( or story) you’re suddenly responsible for. Don’t bother the author, her mind’s on her writing.

These past few weeks have been kind of like that; kind of, but not quite.( I’ve still had family time that I wouldn’t trade for all the stories that are circulating in my author-brain.)

I’ve started edits on my adult fiction novel recently and have just sent round one back to my editor. I’ve got to be honest, it’ always difficult to hit that *send* key and resist the urge to keep making changes, some so tiny that no one would ever know, except the author. But eventually you have to let go, the same way you let go of your child when you send her/him out into the big scary world. And it’s been pretty scary out there as of late.

All authors want their books to be perfect, and if not perfect, then as near to perfect as is humanly possible. Still, the typos pop up, the missing commas or periods, the misplaced words—all these things, regardless of how many proofreaders go through it with a fine tooth comb. Still, it’s something to aim for.

As many of you know, this is my debut adult fiction novel which doesn’t mean I won’t be writing for kids anymore. It just means, I’ll be doing both. I’ve several other adult novels that need to be resurrected after years of neglect. It was more like I got side-tracked. I’m really hoping to get back to them soon. But…I’ve also a few more ideas for children’s books as well. Why can’t there be more time in the day?

As of yet, this next novel of mine is titleless which isn’t really a word but I felt like using it. Titles are important but can sometimes be SO difficult to come up with. I was lucky with my first three book but this one has been a bit more challenging.

Another snippet I can share with you is that much of it is set in the Forties Settlement which, as many of you know, is right next door to good old E. Dalhousie. I like to give my stories local settings or use local name places. It’s important to me to share my part of the world with readers from far and wide.

I’m hoping I’ll find time to blog a bit more often, although it seems I’m forever promising that. It’s not as if I purposely ignore that promise but I’ve been putting more time into my actual writing these days which is probably more important. Perhaps when I’m fully retired I’ll make more time.

So that’s it for now. The edits are back in my editor’s hands and I’m getting ready to work on a project I started about nine years ago. I’ll be off on my deserted island at least for a little. They say that publishing is a slow business. It takes plenty of patience, but then so is writing sometimes.

I hope you’re all having a wonder summer and are enjoying this beautiful Nova Scotia sunshine. I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing this summer.

Cammie Takes Flight: One Step Closer

“You’ve signed a contract months ago so what’s taking SOOO long?”

As a writer with a new- to- be published book I get asked that a lot, which I suppose isn’t a bad thing. Means there’s interest, right?

A published book comes about in baby steps. This is once the book has been written (not to mention all those hours of thinking and plotting, writing and revising, a writer does before it’s even sent it off to a publisher.)

While each of these steps might be little over time they begin to add up.

Here’s where the books is now:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the aim for “Cammie Takes Flight” (Yes, that’s the name we’re sticking with!) is to have the Advanced Reading Copies or ARCs  ready to be sent out in early winter. These go to reviewers etc. before the book is actually released. At this point I’ve already made revisions to the manuscript plus a few rounds of edits, smoothing out the wrinkles and straightening out any problems with the plot, etc.

Late this week, I received the design ARC galleys. This shows me what the interior of the book will look like, such as what fonts have been used and the little birds at the start of each chapter that I absolutely love! So with the file now created, the words, fonts and birds all in place you might think we’re all set to go, right?

But wait.

I still have some tweaking to do.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Not really. I’ve got a bit more work to do to the galleys, plus a decision to make, before the ARCs are ready to go to print.

Okay, so there’s no cover yet. Sorry. But trust me on this, there will be a cover before it goes to print. I mean, whoever heard of a book with no covers, right?

So once the ARCs are printed that’s it, right?

Wrong.

Believe it or not I’ll have the opportunity to make slight changes before it goes to the final print which should be late February, ready for the book’s release in April. Yay, it will finally be a book!

Whew!

So, the important thing is the book is getting closer to publication. Baby steps, but it’ll get there. I promise. And one of these days, very soon, I’ll have a cover reveal on my blog.

It’s all very exciting each time a writer brings a new book into the world. It’s our way of sharing what we’ve created with the rest of the world. Well, at least with our readers. 😉

That’s it for now. I hope you’re having an enjoyable fall and that you’re making steps towards  completing your own project whatever that might be.

Don’t Die With Your Story Still in You

Many years ago I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room waiting on my mum who had an appointment to have her eyes checked. There was an older gentleman there, a retired teacher, who struck up a conversation with me. He asked where I was from and I told him. From there he asked what it was I did in East Dalhousie. I replied that I was a writer. He admitted to me that he’d always wanted to write, that his stories were “up here,” he said, tapping his forehead. I encouraged him to take the plunge and start writing his stories out. What did he have to lose?

“Don’t die with your music still inside you. Listen to your intuitive inner voice and find what passion stirs your soul. When you do this, you’re also tapping into another face of intention: love.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

I love this quote. Whenever I read it, it reminds me of why I started writing in the first place. It wasn’t to DSC00753prove I could do it or to rack up a bunch of publishing credits that I could wave like a victory flag. I started writing as a matter of survival, that little voice that one day reminded me of how important writing had been to me in my younger years. Back then I didn’t care about publication, I only cared about writing a story and expressing whatever it was inside me what needed to be said. Growing up as a middle child sometimes left me feeling stifled. It was difficult for me to communicate my feelings verbally. I was often shushed. But the written word offered me a safe place to fall, a way to communicate without making too much noise. Plus it felt right.

My mother bought me a diary when I was nine. I hadn’t a clue what to write and I’m sure I didn’t update it with any regularity. I was young, words hadn’t yet found their way to me in the way they do a writer today. That would come a bit later. Yet, I was the only one in family who ever had a diary. Perhaps my mother saw something, or sensed something in me even then. I’ll admit I did love to write stories. I wrote plays in elementary school at an early age. My friends indulged me by playing along. We did it because it was fun. As the years went by, I discovered a great sense of contentment upon the page and writing stories felt so right, so natural, so good—like music to my soul. But what if I had resisted that urge to write? What if I had said, I don’t have anything important to say,  I won’t be good enough, or  People will only laugh at me?

I wonder sometimes how many of us ignore the nudges we receive for fear that we won’t be good enough. Good enough for what? How good do you have to be to write? All you need is an idea and some words. Now, being good enough to publish—that’s a little different. But we don’t all need to be THAT good. If writing fulfills some longing in you, if it brings you joy, that’s what counts. If in time you decide that your work is good enough to be published take it further. But nothing, nothing, should stand in the way of you writing if that’s what you want. I used to think that everyone who writes should do so for publication, that it would ultimately be the goal for anyone who writes. But I’ve since changed my mind about that. Writing can free us by allowing us to express the things that make us happy, angry or sad. Sometimes we don’t even know how we feel about a particular thing and can discover new truths about ourselves.

The people I write about might be fictitious but inside each and every one of them comes a sliver of truth, a small piece of someone I know, something I heard, everything I’ve every experienced either directly or indirectly.

Not everyone is a writer, but I’m willing to bet that most of us have something we do, some way of expressing ourselves. I’m sure there are people right now saying, “No, no, you don’t understand. I’m not creative in ANY way.”   You know what I say to that? Fuddle-duddle. Maybe you don’t write or paint, but what about crafting, card-making, sewing, gardening, baking, or twiddling your thumbs? Maybe you’re the best thumb-twiddler on the planet. And if that’s so, that’s wonderful. But seriously, we all have something. Maybe you’re a good listener, someone who volunteers their time, someone who makes time for someone else who’s lonely or in despair. We all have/do something of value.

It doesn’t matter what your story is because maybe your story isn’t a story at all, but something you’ve been called to do yet you chose to ignore. Wayne Dyer said, “don’t die with your music still in you” which is really the same as saying don’t die with your story still in you. If, at the end of you life, you had to write an essay about yourself would you end it all by saying you followed your heart, your inner guidance, or would you end the story by saying there was more you would have liked to have done?

I sometimes wonder about that older gentleman in the doctor’s waiting room, if he finally got up the courage to write down all the stories he’d been keeping in his mind for years. I hope, I pray, he did not come to the end of his life still thinking of those stories he wanted to write, that he did not die with his story still in him.

A Book—How Long Does It Take?

DSC07192The other day someone asked when I’d last written a book. I quickly replied last year. But that’s not really accurate. Yes, I finished a book last year, but I worked on it for several years before declaring it completed. Even then, I only ever refer to it as a manuscript. (Not a book until it’s published.)  I have several manuscripts in various stages of completion, ones that go back many, many, many years. It’s the nature of writing, I think; the ability to simply pick up and start or stop or even change directions. I don’t wear blinders when I write. Sometimes my eye wonders. I see a potential story some place else and I quickly jot things down—a paragraph, a sentence, a page—for a later date.

I’m not an organized writer. And I have periods when I’m not nearly as productive as others. I get in slumps. I procrastinate and often wonder what’s stopping me from writing more. Exactly why do I procrastinate when writing is something I absolutely love doing, something that’s a part of me? I’ve asked myself that question a time or two. But then I remind myself that creativity isn’t something that can be rushed. It comes in its own good time, the same way a story idea or character suddenly arrives right out of the blue when I’m washing dishes or stirring pots.

I don’t produce outlines or write character sketches. I don’t decide what my characters likes or dislikes are before heading into a story. In fact, it’s more like they tell me. This is the place where some people start looking at me a little strange. Characters tell you things? They might even suggest an evaluation of sorts—just to make sure everything’s okay. They might even pat me on the head. But yes, with every book I’ve written, every short story, I feel a connection to a character who then leads me through their story. Occasionally I have a certain topic I want to write about, even then I have to wait for some character to show up and guide me through to the end.

I know one author who wrote a book in eighteen days. I’m still in awe of that feat although she told me she wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I’m willing to bet she didn’t get a whole lot of sleep during those eighteen days. While I’m not expecting to write a novel in anywhere near that time I’ve learned to never rule anything out because, really, who am I to say what will and won’t happen. I don’t like putting restriction on life. I like to stay open to any possibility. Who knows, a character might show up one day, a character so strong and insistent and impossible to ignore and I’ll be at their mercy to write, write, write. I’m sure this certain author didn’t decide she’d write a novel in a few weeks, it probably just happened. When you’re open to all possibilities anything is possible.

So, how long does it take to write a book? It takes as long as it takes—at least for me.

What kind of writer are you? Do you write with an outline or simply fly by the seat of your pants? How long does it take you to write a book?

Reflection

The sudden passing of a friend in February kind of threw me for a loop. For a few days I withdrew into my thoughts to contemplate the things I would miss with this friend no longer here, and to honour the memories I had of her. Whenever we lose someone in our life it causes us to reflect upon so many things—the frailty of life being one of them, our own mortality as well as the mortality of those closest to us, the things we haven’t yet accomplished that we’d like to, the relationships we forge and so, so much more.

When we get to a certain age, we begin to understand that life doesn’t always make sense. Good things happen, bad things happen, and we have no idea why. We can become angry and bitter over the things we deem senseless in this world and yet delight when good things happen that also don’t make sense. (If that makes sense!)

I’m not sure that life is supposed to make sense. If it did make sense all the time, I think we’d lose a little of the wonder and the magic that exists in the world. And without the wonder and the magic what would that do to our hopes and dreams and wishes? Without magic I’m almost certain all those things wouldn’t exist. Why would we ever wish for something or allow our hopes to propel us into some crazy new direction, why would set our dreams on anything other than the reality we now have if there wasn’t some force out there capable of making our hopes, dreams and wishes come true? Wouldn’t we simply go through our days and wait for life to happen? How drab, how utterly mundane and ordinary, how sad.

Truthfully, I’m glad to live in a world that doesn’t always make sense, where strange, out of the ordinary things sometimes happen, where people overcome insurmountable odds, a world that fills us with delight and yes, sometimes, sorrow. My friend once sent me a link to a site about fairy homes. There are those who might say that a site like that doesn’t make any sense, and maybe it doesn’t, but so what?

If I was looking for things to always make sense I might have said a long time ago there’s no sense in trying to get published. I might have said it’s too hard to a thing to accomplish. I might have looked at the stats from some of the literary magazines I submitted to (we receive over 1200 submissions a year and publish 5%) and said the odds are not in my favour. I might have said, I have no one to show me the way. I might have counted the rejections (I had a few file folders filled) and said it isn’t meant to be. I might have said I’ve never once taken a writing course. I might have said I don’t know one single solitary writer in the entire world. But I didn’t say those things. I kept doing what I was doing even though there were times that it didn’t make sense to be doing it. (Seriously, some of my friends worried about the postage I was spending and if it was actually “paying off”) I kept wishing and hoping and dreaming…and writing.

And for those people who think life makes perfect sense, that if we dig deep enough we’ll find out exactly why things happen, I feel a little sad. I might be a Pollyanna, I might set my sights on things that seem an impossibility, but I’d rather live in a world of magic and wonder than a world that just is.

R.I.P my friend–the next time I find a fairy house in the woods I’ll think of you.

Do you believe in magic and wonder or in a world that always makes sense?
(Please drop in next time when author Heather Wright will be a guest on my blog. Heather will be telling us about her new book : Writing Fiction: A Guide for Preteens.”

PUBLISH BEFORE YOU PERISH or The Little Red Hen

Today, it is pleasure to welcome author Syr Ruus to my blog. As both a traditionally and self-published author, Syr has kindly agreed to share her thoughts on this with us.

37816_135253859838486_2745956_nSyr Ruus was born in Tallinn, Estonia during the Second World War. As a small child, she escaped with her mother to Germany and
subsequently immigrated to the United States. She has an MA in English and MS in Education and taught in the English Department of Illinois State University. She has lived in Crescent Beach, Nova Scotia since 1970, formerly working as an elementary school teacher while raising her three children and currently devoting herself full-time to writing. Her short fiction has appeared in anthologies and journals and in 2009 her novel “Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart” was published by Newfoundland’s Breakwater Press.

PUBLISH BEFORE YOU PERISH or The Little Red Hen

I have always loved books. I became a reader at three. More than thirty years later, I became a writer. Why did it take so long, you might ask? Perhaps because English is my second language, or maybe I felt that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. Once I started, however, I never stopped.

Publishing, of course, is another matter. People say it’s extremely hard to find a publisher these days with things being as they are. I know from personal experience that it has always been hard. It’s even difficult to find places to send a manuscript. Only small publishers accept unsolicited queries. If anyone does offer to take a closer look, it takes many months, even years, before a decision is reached. Often you hear nothing at all.

Not that this is altogether bad. It gives a writer a chance to reflect. After the first flush of enthusiasm, one can make some meaningful revisions. Sometimes, along with a rejection, there is feedback. I have read in a manual for writers that when you finish a novel, it should sit in a drawer for at least two years before you begin working on it again. A bit extreme, maybe. Yet often it sits that long in a slush pile on some junior editor’s desk. There does come a time, however, when a work is definitely ready. Finished. Done. Only a few final perks and tweaks could make it any better. Or perhaps not. Still no one has offered to publish it.

The wonderful news is that it has become more acceptable than ever to do it yourself. Even the Writers’ Union of Canada has recently voted to accept self-published writers.

321214_269317809765423_1682562519_nI was lucky. A smattering of my short stories appeared in Journals and anthologies. After my novel Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart received first prize in the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia annual competition, it was published by Breakwater Press in 2009. This gave me a much needed boost and sufficient confidence to actually begin referring to myself as an author.

But what of the two books I had written earlier? In 1999, Devil’s Hump was being seriously considered by a well-regarded publisher before being rejected. A few years ago, a new editor at the same company found the same novel (revised edition) “transporting, enchanting, strange, unsentimental, vivid,” but not fitting in with “what we’re trying to do with the fiction list at present.”

“I do think you should be able to find a publisher for this,” she added.

So, like The Little Red Hen, I did it myself. Devil’s Hump was published in 2013 by etc. Press, Halifax, N.S.10569081_810453168985215_2058664649597654044_n

The first novel I ever wrote also received an award from WFNS. In 1994, Edgar was the winner in the juvenile novel category. After some years, I decided to incorporate the original story which concerned a pet crow within an adult novel about the family which raised it. As such it was shortlisted for the Ken Klonsky Novella Award, yet despite positive comments from various publishers, no one was prepared to take it on. Just a few months ago, The Little Red Hen did it again. The Story of Gar was published in December, 2014.

Each of our voices is important to our collective humanity. Those that have spoken to me in the books I have read over the years have enriched me beyond measure. Our writing preserves a personal vision of a world which is constantly changing. The characters we have created with such loving care deserve a chance to sit on a bookshelf and perhaps come to life in someone else’s mind also. It’s every writer’s dream to be published, but you can’t wait around forever. Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

It’s exciting to prepare one’s work for print: to choose the paper, to select the font, to format the pages, to decide on a cover, to be in full control from beginning to end.
This includes promotion, of course, which these days is increasingly left up to the author, but which publishers certainly facilitate. Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart is available in bookstores all over the world (as I see when I Google myself). It was also reviewed in 10247462_880235172007014_1772275323027241970_nvarious newspapers and was submitted to contests which I cannot access as a self-published author. Since both of my independently published novels have a regional content (as does In Pleasantry, a collection of connected short stories, which I plan to publish next), shops in the area are willing to take a few copies on consignment. The books are printed in limited editions; the cost goes down as the number goes up. Being a diffident self-promoter, I am mainly depending on word-of-mouth for any future sales, and with luck, I may get back what I spent.

But as writers, we know that we don’t do it for the money—we do it for love.

Thanks so much, Syr, for sharing your thoughts and your wisdom. I hope that In Pleasantries will find the same success as your other novels. I am looking forward to reading your next literary offering.

To learn more about Syr, check out her WFNS page here. And her Facebook page. Her books are available locally at Coles in Bridgewater, The RiverHouse  and Lahave Bakery or by contacting the author directly: syr@eastlink.ca

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