Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 29-June 4, 2016

A nice variety this week.

Sudbury’s Health Sciences North put boots on the ground to help the people of Attawapiskat. Carol Mulligan for The Sudbury Star.

Laurentian University is now requiring all arts students to take Indigenous Studies courses. Kudos! CBC.

Morris Davis says he’s fine if goldfish have more patience than Millennials 😉 Ontuitive.

How Mark Zuckerberg led Facebook’s war to crush Google Plus. Vanity Fair.

Portland now generates electricity from turbines installed in city water pipes. Rafi Schwartz for Good.

Phil Plait shares footage of the latest SpaceX landing—from the Falcon 9’s perspective 🙂 Slate.

Here’s how the government on Mars will work, according to Elon Musk. Kurt Wagner for Recode.

I just—I can’t even. Apparently Texas representative Louis Gohmert wants to save us from same sex space colonies . . . ? Phil Plait, getting wacky for Slate.

When everyone got the vote. This is Finland.

For the women with balls who do give a fuck. Kate Rose for Elephant Journal.

Research reveals that a three day work week might be better for people over 40. I hope this research gets confirmed, pronto. Simplemost.

Lolly Daskal lists eight tiny habits that will make you happier. Inc.

A neuroscientist points out a benefit to exercise that’s rarely discussed. Quartz.

This is creepy-weird: there’s a mental illness called walking corpse syndrome that makes people think they’re dead. Medical Daily.

King Tut had a knife made from a meteorite. Slate.

Marian Evans explores Rosslyn Chapel’s ancient bee sanctuary. Bee-loved.

And that was your thoughty for this week.

Thoughty Thursday

My first NaNoWriMo

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Off the top, I have to say this: I won!  My first time out and I won 🙂

Backtracking to my trip to Surrey

Before I even left, I was considering NaNo. The municipal liaison came out to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild meeting in September to promote. My leave would be until November 18, 2013, so I thought I’d probably have a chance.

While at SiWC, I heard several people talking about NaNo and how it had really helped them get their ideas down, break through writers’ block, built their confidence, and so forth.

By the time I got back, I was determined to give it a try.

I chose a project that I had outlined years ago. I’d had a little bit written, but I hadn’t touched it in years.

I was going to start over in any case.

The power of planning

I knew I was going away for a few days to visit some friends, and that I’d be going back to work before the month was out. I started out by front loading the work, trying to move ahead quickly at the beginning so I could coast a bit at the end if I needed to.

Still, when I went back to work, there were a few low count nights. I was worried.

To make time for my writing in the evenings when I went back to work, I tried using my smart(er than me) phone to keep track of my email and social media.

I got up a half-hour earlier than usual to check Facebook, WordPress follows, and my Feedly follows and share the interesting stuff on Twitter and Google+.

The pilgrim’s progress

Here’s a convenient table for you:

Day Count Total + or –
1 2161 2161 +494
2 2284 4445 +1111
3 2325 6770 +1769
4 travel 0 6770 +102
5 2122 8892 +557
6 travel 0 8892 -1110
7 1877 10769 -900
8 2168 12937 -399
9 2190 15127 +124
10 1675 16802 +132
11 1721 18528 +191
12 2284 20812 +808
13 2008 22820 +1149
14 1699 24519 +1181
15 1684 26203 +1198
16 1894 28097 +1425
17 1668 29801 +1462
18 1727 31528 +1522
19 return to work 1181 32709 +1036
20 549 33258 +82
21 507 33765 -1242
22 1822 35587 -1087
23 1814 37301 -1040
24 1707 39008 -1000
25 1731 40739 -936
26 1677 42416 -926
27 1692 44108 -901
28 757 44865 -1811
29 2232 47097 -1246
30 3802 50899 +899

What I learned

I don’t think I could do this working full time.

Having said that, it was fantastic to know that I could pull a 50000+ word draft together in 30 days. It was interesting to me because my first novel took me a year to write, working in the evenings and on weekends.

It gives me hope that if I do end up getting a deal for my work at some point and am asked to pump out sequels in swift succession, I should be able to do so. Also, if I end up going the self-publishing route, it’s always good to have moar material out there. If people like what I write, I can potentially supply the demand.

While my Samsung Galaxy Note II is quite lovely, I don’t think that I could manage my social media long term using it alone. Some of the information so easily accessible on my desktop is not so convenient to find in an Android app version of the program. Also, some things don’t translate well. Though the Feedly app appears to allow FB mentions in a post, it does not actually include them when posting to FB.

I have a few strange-looking posts over the last couple of weeks, and was not able to keep track of anyone’s birthdays on my phone, so apologies to anyone I may have offended or missed as a result.

Again, it’s good to know that I can do a minimally good job of maintaining my social media from my phone if need be.

Today, except for these blog posts, I have not written. I’ll get back on that horse shortly. I’ve also had to let a few submission deadlines slide because I just couldn’t manage to do it all. Everyone has their limits.

Coming up

I’ll be blogging in the future about my writing plans moving forward as well as a little about work. Interesting times I live in 😉

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

What kind of “-ist” am I, anyway?

Over the past few months, I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and articles on sexism and misogyny in writing and publishing.

Just to refresh your memory:

There have been scandals involving Penguin and the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).  Patty Jansen has posted extensively on women in SF.  Being one of those women, she has an inside track 😛  Just search by that string, “women in SF” on her blog, and see the results.

John Scalzi frequently posts about online and real life harassment and recently talked about his thoughts on feminism and whether he considered himself a feminist.  He wouldn’t be insulted, btw.

Being a woman writer who writes fantasy and SF, among other things, I have a stake in these issues.  I share much of what comes across my desk on these topics on Facebook, my primary avenue for curation.

Yes, I know, get with the times, Mel.  Why aren’t I doing this on Pinterest or putting out a Paper.ly on the topic?

Cause I’m writing.  That’s why.

So what the heck am I?

This all has got me to thinking: what variety of “-ist” am I?

I don’t think I’m a feminist.  I espouse feminist views and support the goals of feminism.  The problem is that I’m a bit more than that.

I believe that everyone, man or woman, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, of any religion, spirituality, or world view (including atheism), of any culture (I don’t believe in race, we’re all human) to do or say what they wish, so long as it does not violate the law, or the civil rights of another human being.

There’s a pagan tenet that sums up my philosophy: an’ ye harm none, do what you will.

I also believe that bullying should be a crime, because of the evil it fosters.  Yes, I said evil there folks.

I believe that animal cruelty is a gateway crime and that penalties for it should be increased and enforced.

I believe in the right of a woman to do what she wishes with her body.

I think I’m going to stop there, before I get into trouble 😉

So what does that make me? I don’t know.  Maybe you’ll have to sort that one, dear reader.

Caturday Quickies: Bun and Bucket

Those of you who have been following me on Facebook, know that Phil and I got a new car last year.  It was a pretty big deal, because it was our first new car.  We figured it was about time we treated ourselves.

The car is a 2012 Hyundai Sonata.  We went for the previous year’s model, as they gave us an incentive.

This be Bun

This be Bun

With a new car came a conundrum: what do we call her?  Naming a car is important, donchya know?

When Phil picked up the licence plate, the first four letters were BNVN.  He suggested we call her Bun Oven, a mnemonic for the licence plate.

“Why don’t we just call her uterus and be done with it then?” I said.

Sadly Bun Oven stuck, and Bun she remains.  We love our Bun, though.

This year, Phil wanted to get a pick up truck, “an old beater,” as he put it.  As we’ve tackled out home reno projects over the years, he’s lamented the lack of a truck to tote supplies.  We’ve either had to pay for delivery, or beg/borrow/steal a truck from someone we knew.

Initially, he was thinking of looking in the fall or winter, but when his mom announced that she’d be moving in October, he wanted to get one now, so we could help out a little more.

The result: Bucket.  It’s short for Rust Bucket and has nothing to do with her licence plate. She’s a 2003 Ford F150.

And this be Bucket

And this be Bucket

Do you name your vehicles?  My high school science teacher named his car Bucephalus. My friend Margaret, named her bicycle (when we were kids) Star-jumper.  Do you think the practice is silly, or endearing?

I’d love to hear from you 🙂

Caturday Quickies

CanWrite! 2013: Day 1 publicity and marketing sessions

As promised yesterday, I’m going to talk about the good, bad, and downright ugly.

To start with …

The Good

I’ll start with Vikki Vansickle’s Mapping your Market presentation.

Vikki was enthusiastic, energetic, and clearly loves what she does, on both sides of the board.  Vikki is an author and a marketer, recently moving to Penguin Books (congratulations!).

Vikki has published four middle-grade (MG) novels since 2010.

  • So what do you do when you get published?
  • Celebrate!  Tell EVERYONE.  You never know who your champion will be.  Word of mouth is still king.
  • Do some research (yes, it’s important in marketing too).  How do you find the books you like?  Work outward: How does someone like you in Houston, Whitehorse, or Harrison Hot Springs find the books she likes to read?  That’s where you want to go, to get in front of the wave.
  • Who wants to read your book?  Who needs to read your book?
  • Comparative novels (comps) are critical.  It doesn’t even need to be a novel, as long as it’s in popular culture.  “If you like X, you’ll love XXX!”  “It’s Dirty Dancing without the dirty :)”  “It’s Looking at the Moon meets The Summer I Turned Pretty.”
  • Who is your ideal reader?  Define her in every detail.  Who are your potential readers (again work outward)?
  • Your elevator pitch should be about the length of a Tweet.  You have to tell people what your novel is about in pithy, taut, engaging sentences.
  • Be prepared to wear different hats.
  • Instagram is big with kids.  Facebook’s where their parents are (ew!).
  • Goodreads is great for more mature readers.
  • Writers Cafe (dot) org can help you with critique, beta readers, contests, conferences, etc.
  • Find your niche and identify specialized groups that will help you reach your readers.
  • The Ontario Blog Squad will set up blog tours.  6 blogs.  You create the content.
  • Twitter giveaways.  People love free stuff!  Specify Canada only.  Make sure they enter using a Retweet (RT) and including a hashtag specific to you, your book, or blog.  This helps to spread the word to all of your participant’s followers (and so on, and so on).

The Bad

I won’t tell you the guy’s name, or who he works for, but he’s a publicist.  I thought a publicist would be better spoken, honestly.

His session had some good information, but he was almost too relaxed, too casual.  At times I thought he was bored with the topic.  At times he went off on tangents or mumbled.  He decided to wing it.  He didn’t have a plan.

  • Print ads are not an effective use of funds.
  • Look for web magazines that have “up fronts” (= previews) especially if they have a print tie in.
  • A platform is not essential for fiction writers, but is absolutely key for non-fiction.
  • In fiction, the publisher may work with the writer to build the platform.
  • Build your relationship with your publisher.
  • A P/L or profit /loss sheet may determine what will be expected.  Analysis determines what the most appropriate action or angle may be.
  • Do you have a business or profession related to your book?
  • Books = cultural entertainment product.
  • You have to engage your readership on social media (SoMe).
  • Some publishers spend more $$ on authors than others.  This will be different in the States.
  • If a publicist is assigned, it’s usually for 3 months.  On-shelf promotion (during the initial sales period of the book).
  • Marketing is different for every book.
  • Book trailers are too expensive to be effective.
  • Applications (apps) are even more inefficient and more expensive.

The Downright Ugly

One thing that emerged early on in the session and coloured the remainder of it was that this publicist works for a small imprint of a larger publisher and in non-fiction (politics, sports, world events).  His clients are men and of the imprints authors only a third were women.

He made an off-hand remark about the ladies liking their beach reads.  Fatal mistake when speaking to an audience of 90% women.

To be fair, I have to say that I don’t think the young man realized that he’d just insulted his audience unforgivably.  Even after several women from the audience spoke up and made some very salient points, I’m not sure our publicist got it, or if he did, he was so scared, he didn’t know how to save himself with any grace.

I think it has to do with the publishing environment he works in every day, his mentors, his colleagues.  I think the sexism is so ingrained, so rampant in his sector of the industry, that he wasn’t fully conscious of the prejudices he promoted.

For the remainder of the conference, our publicist was the topic of conversation, and not in a good way.

It immediately brought to mind Chuck Wendig’s posts on sexism and misogyny in publishing.

It’s not a problem that has an easy answer.

Tomorrow: I’ll be moving onto the Day 2 panel and session.

Training trainers in Toronto

This past week, I was out of town.  The purpose: to teach a bunch of trainers the content of Business Writing Made Easy, so that they, in turn, can teach others.

The class was composed of three trainers from one business line and 6 from the other.  BWME Nov 19-22 001Though I may, as I mentioned last week, be returning to the training team in September, there are several possible alternatives that might prevent this from taking place.  I have to be prepared for the possibility that I won’t be able to help train staff much or at all in the future.

This was my fourth time co-facilitating the course, and I’ll be training it one more time this week coming.

The course is 15 hours, or two days, spread over three.  I added a day onto the end so that the participants could adapt portions of the course, present them, and get some focused feedback from the rest of the class.

The class is very participant-centered, that is, there are a lot of activities and the facilitators are constantly using questioning techniques to engage learners in their own learning.  This last is a challenging bit for me, because I’m a word-nerd and a total grammar-Nazi.  I have to restrain myself from talking about the things that I love.

The course went well.  I was able to help one of my colleagues get some experience co-facilitating the course because she may be turning around and delivering it to her business line in the future.  I also got the trainer’s high that come when you see the participants getting enthusiastic about the subject matter.

I think they’re all going to be brilliant 🙂

As I’ve mentioned before, the course involves learning a business letter writing model, tips on clarity, concision, and readability in writing, and a final module on grammar review.  The practical component is a letter that the participants draft as part of their pre-course work and revise as the course progresses.

Actually, looking back, every time I’ve blogged about BWME, it’s been about the process surrounding the course, not the course itself (eeps!).

I learn, or have something confirmed for me every time I teach this course.  I hope that my newly-minted business writing teachers feel the same way.

I still get nervous every time I have to train too, but I hide it well.  I’m introverted (as all get out) and training, though enjoyable, tires me.

I’m reading Susan Cain’s Quiet right now, and will likely post about introversion in the future.  For now, let’s just say that I’m learning a lot about myself 😉

Just yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook by the wonderful Nancy Kress, who said that in preparing for a 4-hour workshop, she was nervous, even after her many years of writing and teaching.

One of the comments that followed mine was that, if you care at all about the subject you are teaching, or presenting about, you will be nervous.  Every time.

I do find this to be true.

Getting back to the course, since it’s only two days, I can’t teach anyone who to write properly or how to use the principles of grammar.  The course is a combination of review and resource-building that we hope will give participants the tools to continue improving on their own.

Practise makes perfect.

bunch of starsThe participants seem to enjoy the word pairs exercise most (affect/effect, practice/practise, principle/principal, further/farther, etc.).  The “snowball” fight is a great energizer, and the subject/verb agreement and punctuation exercises tend to confirm that most participants already know a lot about grammar, it’s just not something they’re aware of in their everyday work.

The key with BWME, as with so many other topics, is to cultivate that awareness, and promote its continuance on the job.

 

Have you had the opportunity to learn or teach something that you’re passionate about? How was the experience?  Do you practise after the fact?  What stayed with you most?

 

A year (and a bit) in the life of Writerly Goodness

This post is one in a series of Anniversary posts for Wordsmith Studio (WSS).

What is WSS, you ask?

It’s a group of people who originally bonded through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year and who have gone on to create a community online, not only through our blogs, but also through social media (Facebook, Twitter (#WSchat), LinkedIn, G+, Goodreads, Pinterest (sorry, not a pinner, so no link for the group there), and probably a few other places that I don’t know about yet).

Originally the MNINB Challengers, or Not-Bobbers, we slowly evolved into our own collective.

Part way through the year, a group of fabulous people got together to create the Wordsmith Studio site on WordPress.org.  Since December of last year, a number of members have been blogging regularly on the site as well as on their own blogs.

Others have been attracted to WSS who had nothing to do with the original challenge, and others who participated in the challenge have moved on to other projects.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle Go Joes! 🙂

Prelude to a kiss challenge

One thing that amazed me was the diversity of people who participated in the challenge.  Some of them had been blogging for years already, or had several blogs.  Others, like myself, were new bloggers.  Others still didn’t start blogging and platform building until Robert’s challenge prompted them to.

I actually started my platform building in September of 2011.  I tried Joomla! first, but found it to be less intuitive than I wanted.  Plus, I was posting a blog more than anything else, and couldn’t figure out the proper way to set a blog up on a Joomla! site.  I wasn’t interested in bothering my techie husband, or in paying someone to sort this out for me, so I looked at other options.

In short order, I found WordPress, and gleefully uploaded the software to my self-hosted domain, labbydog.ca, converting all of my content into proper posts for my blog.

I learned as I went, relying heavily on experts such as Robert, Jane Friedman, and Michael Hyatt and the resources to which they referred me.

Then in February of 2012, disaster struck.  My blog was hacked, and our hosting company insisted in a complete wipe.  RIP labbydog.ca.

After playing around further, I decided, gun-shy and tender creative person that I was, to move to WordPress.com.  On Robert’s advice, I’d purchased my domain name, mapped it to WordPress.com and www.melaniemarttila.ca, A.K.A. Writerly Goodness was born.

At first I was merely attempting to recreate my content and was posting 5-6 days a week.

Enter the dragon challenge

I was already following Robert at the time, and when he announced his April Platform Challenge, I jumped onboard.

For a month, I eagerly awaited my daily dose of platform.  I’d been on Facebook since 2007, and had, as part of my amateur platform building program, already joined Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+, so the days in which the challenge task was to set up accounts on these services I had things a little easier.

It’s a good thing too; otherwise, I’d have fallen waaaay behind.

I learned about having a mission statement for my blog, about using a blogging schedule (doesn’t blogging in this sense sound like a colourful euphemism?  What the blog?  Blogging work!), about calls to action, guest blogs (hosting them and proposing them), interviews, tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, hashtags and Twitter chats, mailing list, business cards, newsletters, Goodreads and other kinds of social media.

By the end of the month, I verged on the overwhelmed.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I cut down on the frequency of my posts.  A new position at work meant that I had even less time and energy to spare for my blog if I wanted to keep up with my novel and other creative writing.

Something I’ve learned is that, as a writer, the writing comes first.  Blogging is a part of that, but if I don’t get my stories, poems, and novels written, submitted, and published, the blog is tantamount to an online journal and practically useless for the purpose of promotion or true platform building.

Now I blog on weekends only, and it’s been working for me, which is the most important thing.  I’ve been getting the writing done and have achieved a greater balance between my professional, creative, and personal lives.

I have several new pages, with links to those of my books that are still available for purchase from the publisher, my blogging schedule (such as it is), an invitation for guest bloggers, awards, and so forth.

I’ve started doing interviews with a number of friends, online and in real life, and was surprised but ultimately pleased when a fantasy writer right here in town contacted me out of the blue on my blog to be interviewed.  It speaks to the unexpected impact that blogging has had on my creative life and the community that I am, however back-asswardly, building 🙂

This post will be my 190th, I have 118 followers through WordPress, and publish my posts to 243 friends on Facebook, 412 followers on Twitter, 112 connections on LinkedIn, and 90 people have included me in their G+ circles.

I’ve participated in a few challenges (October submit-o-rama, I ❤ my blog, and the Just write 2013 short story challenge) and a couple of the Goodreads group craft book discussions.

I’ve posted a grand total of once on the WSS site and am currently waiting to hear from Robert regarding a guest blog on My Name is Not Bob.  **Hint: Look in your spam folder, Robert 🙂

It’s a humble beginning, but I remind myself that platforms take years to build and that until I have something more than a couple of old poetry anthologies to shill, that I’m not likely to have a massive following.  Even then, unless I turn out to be the next big thing for real, I’ll probably only see modest growth.

Next

I’ve been threatening to move to WordPress.org for a while now.  I still haven’t found the time to parse my archives and clean up some of my old posts.  I have to rework some of my images too, since in the early days of my blog, I just did a Google search for my images.  I have to find creative commons equivalents, use my own, or remove them entirely.

Nor have I settled on a new hosting company.  The fear of hack still lives in me and I’m admittedly dragging my feet on this one.

I’m also considering a greater involvement in WSS.  The site is still in evolution and I’m not sure what I can commit to.  Want and need are two entirely different things.  Keeping that distinction in mind will help me stay sane.

What I will do is encourage all of you to visit the Wordsmith Studio site, peruse the wonderful diversity of our members’ sites and blogs (photo bloggers, pet bloggers, health bloggers, poets, fiction writers of all genres, non-fiction writers, publishers, and so much more).  A weekly round up of our anniversary blogs will be posted on the Veranda, so please read on.

Also visit My Name is Not Bob to see some of the lessons learned posts from several of the original challengers.

Many of my online friends have had amazing years, some good, some bad, some demoralizing, and some downright inspiring.  Most of them are far more eloquent than I am.

Consider liking, commenting, sharing or subscribing.  They are teh awesome, with a little awesomesauce on the side 🙂

Happy anniversary WSSers!  Love you all, even if I don’t show it often enough.

Bits and pieces

First: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Though my mom was adopted, she was of Irish descent.  It was something my grandfather liked to tease her about.  So though my last name is Finnish, I claim Irish into the mix and feel very proud to do so.  Besides, isn’t everyone Irish on St. Patrick’s Day?

Second: Remembering Dad

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was entering my “season of sorrow.”  The first of the sad anniversaries passed last Thursday, March 14th with Dad’s birthday.  He would have been 73 this year (I think, I’m beginning to lose track—it’s shameful).

I posted this to Facebook on the day, but I wanted to post it again, just because.

RememberingDad

Third: Mini Pupdate

I’d hoped not to have to write any more about Nuala in the near future, but it seems she now has a urinary infection, poor dear.  The snow reveals clear signs of blood in her urine 😦

We decided to take her off the Metacam last month, and the blood tests confirmed that her liver was being compromised by long-term use.  She’s still been limping, but it’s different than it was before.  Now we’re fairly confident that it is the arthritis in her knee that’s causing the her hobble, and we were looking to see if we could find some other treatment for her joint issues without resorting to the same kinds of medication (with the same kinds of side-effects).

So we’ll be making another appointment for Nu this week to see if we can figure out what she has.  It will be interesting and possibly messy getting the urine sample from her to get a proper diagnosis.

Have you ever had to collect pee from a female dog?  I have.  Interesting and messy is the nice way of putting it.

Best for Last: Upcoming excitement

This past week, I was contacted by a local writer who will be publishing her first young adult fantasy novel in May.  Her cover reveal is Wednesday, so I’m going to break the “weekend only” blogging rule to publish an interview with her on Tuesday.  I hope that you’ll all give a warm Writerly Goodness welcome to Hally Willmott!

A life sentence with mortal punctuation will continue next weekend as well, and I’ll keep you up to date with all things writerly as I continue on my journey toward publication.

That’s it for today.  Off to Mom’s for stew.  Is it Mulligan?  Don’t know, but it will be tasty 🙂  Kim, need you to make me some soda bread!  Or share the recipe?  All out of Guinness!  Oh, ‘tis a sad St. Patrick’s without Guinness!

Have a happy week, everyone!

Writerly Goodness, signing off *wags*

 

Six questions with Lara Schiffbauer

Lara SchiffbauerLara Schiffbauer is a writer, licensed clinical social worker, mother of two, wife of one, and a stubborn optimist. She loves Star Wars, Lego people, science, everyday magic, and to laugh.  You can connect with Lara through Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or on her website. Her debut novel, Finding Meara, will be available in March, 2013.

_______________________________________________________________________________

Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Lara!  Thank you for taking the time to answer these few questions for my readers.  I have to say that since we met through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year that I’ve been following your progress with Finding Meara with rapt attention 🙂  As I approach the end of revisions on my own work in progress, the decisions you’ve made are informing my process and plans moving forward.

Without further ado:

WG: When did you begin to write and what was the moment you knew that writing was the path you wanted/needed to pursue?

LAS: I’d like to first say think you so much for having me over today! The Platform Challenge was a wonderful opportunity to get to meet so many lovely writer-types—like you! I’m honored you find my path to publication informative and inspiring!

I enjoyed writing my whole life, but I didn’t think about writing for other people’s enjoyment until five years ago. I hadn’t been creative in any way for about ten years, and wanted to regain the spark. My children were toddlers, and I work full-time, so a return to writing fit the best. Since I’m a goal-oriented kind of person, I decided to not just write, but write with the goal of getting it read by people other than my family.

WG: What was the idea that became Finding Meara and how long have you been working on the novel?

LAS: I’ve worked with children in a social worker/therapist role for over ten years. The seed for Finding Meara rose out of the need to have some justice for abused and mistreated children. The story evolved into an urban fantasy about a young woman who, in a case of mistaken identity, ends up in a magical world where she must rescue her newfound half-sister before their sadistic father can sacrifice either in his quest for immortality and unrestrained power. As her world is turned inside out, she is forced to put other’s needs before her own, and discovers herself in the process. I’ve been working on it for about two years.

WG: I’m a process geek and I love to hear about how other writers approach their craft.  Can you give us some insight in to how you do that thing you do 🙂 ?

LAS: Lots of trial and error! I have learned that if I want to write with any speed, I have to know where the characters are going. With Finding Meara, I’d plot out a few chapters at a time, which allowed flexibility as well. I started another book, Age of Stars, which I plotted out completely. By doing that, I realized that I didn’t like the story and will be re-plotting it, once I get the first draft of the next book in the Adven Realm adventures done.  So, no pantsing for me, but any hybrid of outlining seems to work all right.

WG: I remember that you tried the traditional publishing route. What was your experience with querying and why did you choose to self-publish?

LAS: It didn’t take me long to change my mind. I pitched Finding Meara to Lou Anders of Pyr Books at the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference in April 2012 and sent out eight-ish query letters over the summer, before deciding (around August 2012) that Finding Meara is a unique enough animal that traditional publishing probably wouldn’t want it. I love the story and want other people to have access to it, in case they might love it too, and so decided to self-publish.

WG: What platform(s) did you choose and why?

LAS: Interesting question! My platforms fall into two categories: those I have had and used for a while and those I’ve created due to releasing Finding Meara.

I’ve been blogging for a little over two years, and use Facebook to connect to writer friends. I enjoy Pinterest personally, but do have some boards for the three books I’ve got going on it. I like Twitter, but lately I’m lucky to get on a couple of times a week.

In January I created a Facebook Author Page, a Goodreads Author Page and my website, which has links to all my social media spots. I just recently opened a Wattpad account because I am releasing two chapters of Finding Meara a week there until its release.

I’m not one of those people who have created a social media empire, with hundreds of followers on any given platform. I do sincerely appreciate every person who has ever decided to follow along with my journey, and have been absolutely blessed by getting to meet and become friends with some amazing, supportive people. I’ll take those types of relationships over numbers any day!

I chose to create a Facebook Author page because it provides an opportunity to interact with the international community. E-reader use in other countries is on the rise and I’m hoping through Facebook I’ll have a way to develop the writer/reader relationship. I opened a Goodreads page and a Wattpad page because they offer a way to interact with readers. So much social media seems to be directed toward other writers, and while writers read, there are tons of readers in the world who don’t go hang around the writer water-cooler.

WG: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with regard to Finding Meara?Finding Meara Cover

LAS: As I mentioned above, I have a Finding Meara Sneak Peek going on at Wattpad leading up to the release. I wish I could give a firm date of release, but I’m still tweaking for an exact date. It will be in March, though, and if anyone wants up to date information regarding the release, I would encourage them to follow me on Facebook or my blog, as I will post the date as soon as I know. On release weekend, Finding Meara will cost a full $0.00, so if you like the story on Wattpad you will be able to finish it for free. There will also be a giveaway on Goodreads post-release.

Thank you so much, Melanie, for offering me this opportunity to share my story!

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Lara, thank you for being so generous with your time and experience.

If you have any questions for Lara, please write them in the comments, and as always, I encourage you to like, share, comment, and follow (the blog equivalent of the writer’s think, do, create, be!).

Have a good one, my writerly peeps!  Until next time! *waves*

My Journey to the Misty Lands – Guest blog post by John Rice

John William Rice (1942-) was born in Iroquois Falls Ontario to parents of Scots/Irish/Welsh ancestry, spent his public school years in Charlton Ontario, and quit school after completing grade eight. In the spring of 1968, he returned to school under a government upgrading program, completed high school and studied electronics at Northern College of applied arts and technology where he earned the nick name, “The Whisky Poet.”

After graduating in 1971, he began a 34-year career as an instrument technician at International Nickel Company. Along the way, he married and fathered two sons. His wife Patty died from cancer in 2003. John retired in 2005 and after completing a book of verse, From the Heights to the Enchanted Places, he plunged head first into his fantasy novel, Keeper of the Sword.

John lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario and can be reached on twitter, @keeperofthsword, on Facebook, and on his blog.

My Journey to the Misty Lands

I lie on my bed, let Return of the King, the last volume of Lord of the Rings drop from my hands, and close my eyes. My mind drifts far away from my small room in the Piccadilly Hotel, far away from Vancouver, and far away from my job as a sheet metal helper at Humble Manufacturing, to Middle earth, where I march with Frodo and Sam toward Mount Doom.

The sounds of feet shuffling outside my door bring me back to harsh reality. I prop myself up on the pillow, rummage around in the rickety dresser drawer for a pen and scribbler, and write, “Keeper of the Sword” across the top of the page. Images of a completed epic poem dance through my mind and I bend all my thoughts to the first word, the first line, but nothing comes. I struggle for a while, still nothing comes, and it seems my muse, such as it is, eludes me once more. “Someday,” I whisper, “Someday I’ll write it.”

I put my writing utensils away, snuggle under thin blankets and let my mind drift over towering mountains, across the endless prairie, through the rugged Cambrian Shield, to the village of Charlton Ontario, to the house where my sister, mom, and dad live. For a moment, I wish I was there, instead of in this city by the sea, thousands of miles away.

I kick the homesickness out of my mind, and go back, back into my past, back to my first attempts at writing verse. I remember finding a love poem my brother wrote for some high school girl, remember thinking if he can write poems than I can write a song.

I remember the name of the piece, “There once was a horse named General Jim,” but little else of my first plunge into writing, and most of all I remember sending it away to an address I found in Popular Mechanics, to a person that promised to turn it into a hit record.

Days, each one seeming like a year, passed while I waited for my first of many checks, and at last one day after school, my mom handed me an envelope. I took a deep breath, and taking care not to damage the contents tore it open. A piece of folded paper fluttered to the floor. I bent over, scooped it up, and unfolded it. “We don’t think this subject matter is suitable to become a commercial song,” burned into my eyes.

“What’s wrong,” mom asked.

I turned away, hiding my tears, hiding my disappointment.

For years I never wrote another thing, but at last my bitter disappointment slipped deep into my mind. One day a cousin of mine wanted to know if I had any songs he could sing to the girl he was courting, and over a couple of hours I managed to write a piece he liked. This adventure sparked a creative flurry and dozens of lyrics tumbled out of my mind onto paper.

My alarm clock’s strident ring drags me out of my dream of home and to the reality of a new workday.

Forty-six years have come and gone since I first read Lord of the Rings in that small dingy room, since I first came up with the title, “Keeper of the Sword.” Over those years, I’ve completed high school, completed two years of electronics at Northern College of Applied arts and Technology, worked thirty-four years as an Instrument Technician, fathered two amazing sons, and lost my wife to cancer.

During that span I had periodic spurts of writing verse, most notably while attending college, where I earned the name, “The Whiskey Poet.” Of course I didn’t deserve the title because at that time of my life I could only afford to drink beer.

While at northern college I believe I let an opportunity slip away, an opportunity that might have changed my life in a dramatic way.

I always sat with my peers from my Man Power retraining days, where I completed high school, for lunch, and often wrote poetry during the hour-and-a-half. One day our English teacher joined us and asked if he could see the poem I was working on. I finished the last line, and handed it to him with a degree of trepidation.

He took several minutes to read the short poem, nodding several times. He handed the poem back and said, “Not bad, as a matter of fact it’s quite good. I know someone in Toronto that might be able to help you, but before I put you in contact with him, I want you to learn ten new words every day for two weeks. You not only have to be able to spell them, but you need to be able to use them correctly in a sentence.”

I folded up my poem, “Waiting,” and placed it in the binder.

As the years have speed by on the one way train of time I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like if I’d taken his advice, but I preferred to spend time in the bar with friends instead of taking the time to improve my vocabulary.

The dream of becoming a writer and completing at least one novel has always lingered in the deep recesses of my mind, and in the winter of 2007, I decided it was time to make my dream come true. I started off by attempting to write a play. About half way through, “Music Box Dancers,” the concept for another play, “I taught a Mocking Bird to Sing,” came to me.

After completing two plays, and feeling confident, I wrote several short stories, a book of poems, and remembering that title from long ago, I plunged into Keeper of the Sword.

I still live and write in Sudbury.

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And here is a free excerpt from John’s novel:

In the beginning

 

Morgan Connelly, stunned, unable to move for the moment, feeling a warm wetness dripping down her skin, fluttered violet eyes open and stared at the growing red stains on her blouse, the amber feathers attached to a long slender egg yolk colored piece of wood jutting out from under her collarbone, and whimpered, “Josh. Josh. Josh. Help meeee.”

 

Something crashed to her right, and screams sounding like a cat in pain filled the air around her.

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To read more of Keeper of the Sword visit John’s blog, tweet him @keeperofthsword, or friend him on Facebook.  His novel is available on Smashwords, on Kobo, or on Amazon.