Basil the Bootlegger

IMAG2423Years ago people used to comment all the time on what a small world we live in. That was back in the days before social media and the Internet, when you could travel to another county in the province or even a whole other province and cross paths with someone who knew a relative or neighbour from your little community. It seemed a big deal. A little serendipitous, a little uncanny that you should stumble across someone who shares that connection with you—enough to make someone declare what a small world it is. Usually here in Dalhousie, you’d meet someone who was acquainted with an old fellow who used to bootleg. Seemed no matter where you went in Canada, and mentioned you were from Dalhousie, his name would come up. I swear he’s East Dalhousie’s most famous person which is exactly what Cammie had to say about her aunt Millie in Flying With a Broken Wing. But seriously, that’s the truth about these little communities in Nova Scotia—the bootlegger holds near celebrity status. And now just look, there’s a blog post even named after the bootlegger from Dalhousie. Yup, people still remember him from back in the day. I should only hope for the same recognition with my books. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink this writing career of mine!

These days our world has been made even smaller via the Internet and social media sites. Now, we’re stumbling across people from all over the world. I can promise you though, not one of them has heard tell of Basil the bootlegger. Well, maybe now if you’re reading my blog. With all the social media sites out there we’re privy to information we’ve never had before and our world just keeps getting smaller. Some of you might remember that I was contacted last winter from someone in the US who wanted a picture of an ancestors tombstone here in Dalhousie. I snapped a photo and sent it off…Super cool. I was happy to oblige.

If you’re an author, the world has also become smaller with all the different sites at your disposal. A Google search of you or your book will bring up reviews as well as all the sites your book is listed on. You can read what others have to say about your book on GoodReads and what rating they give it. A site called WorldCat.org will show you the libraries around the world where your book (print and digital) is available. How cool to know that “Flying With a Broken Wing,” is in a library in Perth, Australia, and that someone in Singapore can sign out a copy of “Bitter, Sweet” and read about life in little old East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia—my backyard yet a totally different world for them.

An author can even track their book sales (print and digital) on a site called NovelRank that allows you to track your book on any Amazon site around the world. Novel Rank tells me that someone in France downloaded a digital copy of Flying With a Broken Wing. Tell me you don’t think that’s cool! There’s also a site called “Author Central” that tells you areas in the US that reported sales of your books, as well as the number of copies and how your book sales rank. Copies of my books have sold in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston. (I believe this site keeps track of, not only Amazon sales, but other sales as well.)

And if all that doesn’t have you falling over with adulation for the Internet, you can become involved in promoting your own book through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or by starting your own blog through WordPress or Blogger. Whew! I’m exhausted just writing this. Some might say we really don’t need all these tools at our disposable, and that might be true, nonetheless they’re here. Like it or lump it. I prefer to like it, but also to pick and choose how much time I’ll devote to any one of these sites. Let’s face it, if your book makes a peep anywhere in the world you have the ability to know about it. Wonder why some days the Internet can make us feel like a spy?

To prove my point about how small the world has become I just did a Google search on Basil the Bootlegger and a whole page of links came up. Seems he’s more world famous that I previous thought! Okay, so I’m just joking with you, but I bet I had you fooled for a second.

So, I’m sure you’re curious to know—was Basil actually related to me or just someone from the community? You bet he was a relative, a distant cousin a few times removed. Wow, never thought I’d be boasting that fact. When all is said and done my claim to fame might not be the books I write at all, but the fact that I have a connection to the once infamous bootlegger of East Dalhousie. Go figure!

The only thing now that could bring Basil world wide recognition would be if this post went viral. Now wouldn’t that be a hoot?

What are you thoughts on the small world we live in today? Is it good, bad, scary or do you fully embrace it? More importantly, do you know who Basil the bootlegger was or were you related to him?

 

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Amy’s Marathon of Books—Guest Blog Post

I’m so excited to announce that Amy Mathers has kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog today. Perhaps you’ve already hear of Amy and her Marathon of Books. She’s been getting quite a bit of media covering and, yes, she even appeared on Canada AM a few weeks back! The buzz around Amy and her “Marathon of Books,” began back in December and continues to grow. If you care about books, teen books in particular, I hope you’ll support Amy and her quest to raise $100,000 dollars to endow a Canadian teen book award. I know you’ll be inspired by Amy’s story and her determination to help promote teen fiction in this country. To date Amy has raised $10,000 dollars toward her goal. I think that’s an amazing feat in itself. If you’d like to support Amy, why not pop on over to her website HERE and find out how. 
Dear Laura Best Blog Readers,
AmyMy name is Amy Mathers and Laura has kindly invited me to write a guest post for her website. I am currently reading my way across Canada with Canadian teen fiction books. My Marathon of Books is a year-long venture and I have been reading a book a day since January 1st. I started my reading journey in St. John’s, Newfoundland by reading books either set in St. John’s or written by authors either born or living in St. John’s. I’m going province by province and territory by territory, and after 90 days of reading I am now reading my way through Quebec.
The goal of my Marathon of Books is to raise money to fund a Canadian teen fiction book award to be given out on a yearly basis by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Currently they award six cash Canadian children’s book awards at a yearly awards gala, but none of them are specifically for teen fiction.
As a volunteer for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and an avid fan of teen literature, I felt not having a specific teen award to support the efforts of our incredibly talented Canadian teen fiction authors was a real gap, and one that I hoped I could do something about.
You see, books have played an important role in my life. I was born with a genetic illness called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD), type 3A. It’s considered to be a metabolic disease, but also a type of muscular dystrophy. My type affects the liver, heart, and muscles, and my case was so severe that I needed and received a liver transplant when I was five, and then a heart transplant when I was 27. I am now 31 years old.
Terry Fox is my hero, and I love the message he sent to Canadians through Marathon of Hope that people dealing with disabilities and illness could still live the lives they wanted to live despite their limitations.
But having a muscular dystrophy made me different than Fox, and even different than Rick Hansen. I use an electric wheelchair for mid to long distances and while dealing with chronic illness my whole life long has given me the fortitude of a marathon runner, I am not physically able to be one.
Instead of being a runner, I am a reader, and I realised that I could be like Fox and Hansen in a different way, by reading my way across Canada instead of running or pushing myself in a manual wheelchair. It’s a journey of the mind through literature, and I am experiencing everything Canada has to offer.
A typical marathon day starts with me reading a book that can range from just under a hundred pages to over 400 pages. I take the rest of the day to think about and write a review to prove that I’ve read the book and hopefully promote it, and also a daily Tumblr post to let my followers know about my reading experiences.
Some nights I’m up pretty late finishing my writing, because depending on how my body is doing that day and if I had other events going on, my brain can take time to work things out. Also, while I had figured out that I could read about 10 pages in six minutes, I didn’t take into account page size, spacing, and font size which affects my reading speed on a daily basis. Terry Fox could run a kilometre in about six minutes, and so every ten pages I read counts a kilometre across Canada in my Marathon of Books. I’m up to 19,532 pages of reading, which translates to 1953.2 kilometres travelled across Canada.
My favourite part about my Marathon of Books is that I’ve had tremendous author support. I’ve heard from the likes of Deborah Ellis, Eric Walters, Vicki Grant, Gordon Korman, and, of course, Laura Best. I’ve read so many books that I probably would have never heard about or picked up before my journey, and I love getting to review each one and brag about the talent our country has. Also, with all of the books that helped me through my life, letting me experience what I couldn’t physically and providing me with the mental strength I needed to face my situation, not to mention my profound love of Canada and its health care system, I can’t help but feel that my Marathon of Books is a wonderful way for me to say thank you for all that I have been given.
I hope you’ll visit my website, www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca, to read my reviews and for more information. I’ve already reviewed Laura Best’s Bitter, Sweet which you can read here: http://amysmarathonofbooks.ca/bitter-sweet/. Also, I encourage you to take the 13 Book Challenge and read your own way across Canada through reading one teen fiction book from each province and territory. If you do take the challenge, I hope you will get in touch with me and tell me about your reading journey.
Warmly,
Amy Mathers
Thank you Amy. It’s been such a pleasure to have you visit my blog. I wish you all the best and will continue to watch your progress in the coming months!
You can follow Amy on twitter,  Goodreads Facebook, tumblr and Youtube.

In the box, out of the box

There’s nothing more fun and exciting than a brand new cardboard box to play in— just ask my kids, they’ll tell you. The day their father built them a house from the big old box the new washing machine arrived in, made for some pretty fun times in the Best household. Of course it took up a lot of space in the house but I knew it was temporary. I could put up with a little inconvenience for the sake of my kid’s pleasure, (Okay, I’ll be honest here)  that and the fact that it kept them out of my hair for hours on end.

Over the years the kids in my family have played in Carnation milk boxes, banana boxes, the aforementioned washing machine box, and in general any box large enough for a toddler to sit in without breaking the sides. Here’s a Cornfake box Guppy brought home form the store for Miss Charlotte.  It was a real hit.  She even took her “wittle house” home and now has it set up in her own living room. I’m telling you, these things are great. You could say I come from a long line of cardboard box enthusiasts. They’re fun, they’re free, they’re even biodegradable. What’s not to love?

Now, as much as the kids in the family love to play in boxes, and no doubt I was one of them back in the day, today I’m not so enthusiastic about boxes.

Today, when I got to thinking about that washing machine box, I started to think how ironic it is that, while kids love to play in boxes, most adults will do just about anything to stay out of the box. Being placed in a box is constricting, and leaves little or no room to move. Being in the box finds us labelled as this or that, people begin to predict our movements, there is nothing left for the imagination.

Last year when my book was short-listed for the Bilson Award the news came over facebook and twitter. Some of the tweets referred to me as kidlit author @ laura_a_best. I gotta say it sounded a bit weird. Felt a bit like I’d been suddenly placed inside a box and right away I knew I wasn’t happy there. Before that tweet I’d considered myself a writer, one who happen to have written a young adult novel. That day I felt the walls come up around me. I’d been labelled a “kidlit author.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re a writer and you’re happy calling yourself a kidlit writer, children’s writer or any other classification of writer, without feeling any restriction, that’s perfectly fine. But what if, like me, you do not write exclusively for kids, would you mind be labelled then? If I only wrote children’s stories I can’t say I’d mind. But I also write for adults.

I’m sure some of you are thinking what difference does it even make, you’ve been published? Stop whining. You’re probably also thinking that each author needs to have their own brand. I’ve had some time now to think about all this. While I still do not personally like the term “kidlit author,” I’m slowly coming to terms with who I am as a writer. Lately, I refer to myself as a YA writer, and that feels okay. Most of the projects I’m working on at the moment are in the genre. Just so you know, I don’t mind being in the box from time to time, but I reserve the right to come out and look around whenever I want.

Sorry, there are no photos of me in the Cornflake box for you to feast your eyes upon.. Maybe next time Miss Charlotte is home.

How do you feel about being labelled? Do you think it is a good thing or do you find it restricting?

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?

It’s Raining Outside

I wasn’t planning to write a blog post today, but something on twitter set me thinking.

The tweet was “It’s raining outside………” I don’t need to continue on with the tweet because the rest of it isn’t important to this post.

My first instinct was to tweet back something smart like— “Where else would it rain?” or “Good thing it’s not raining inside”— but I wasn’t sure if my humour would be well received since I don’t know this particular tweeter very well. (See previous post!) Not everyone appreciates my sense of humour as difficult as that is for me to believe.

But this got me thinking about those times, in our writing, when we state the obvious as this particular tweeter did. I sometimes catch myself doing this even in my own writing. Stating that someone picked an object up in their hands for instance, such as “He picked the Frisbee up in his hands,” should be pretty darn obvious unless the He in question is a dog named Benny who likes to play Frisbee. Then by all means “He picked the Frisbee up in his mouth” would sound appropriate (unless Benny’s one smart dog who picked the Frisbee up with his paws. But let’s not go there.)

“She kicked the can with her foot” is another obvious statement. I’ve kicked a thing or two in my day, and I gotta say I always used my foot. Even if I were to say I kicked it with my shoe you’d have to figure on my foot being in that shoe. Wouldn’t you? If anyone out there has kicked at something and their foot wasn’t in someway involved, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

On another note we’d never, ever say, “He ate an apple with his mouth,” or ”She listened to the music with her ears.” Please tell me you’ve never written, said, or was even tempted to say, “He ate an apple with his mouth.”

Still, I’ve got to admit it intrigues me to think that we accept some obvious statements without giving them a second thought while others sound so totally ridiculous to our ears that we wouldn’t consider uttering them even once.

Now I must go announce to the first person I see that it’s raining outside just to see what their reaction will be.  Wish me luck!

Update:

Me: “ It’s raining outside.”

First person I encountered: “Yes it is.”

My point exactly!!

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