Six questions with Jane Ann McLachlan

I “met” Jane Ann through a wonderful online collective, Wordsmith Studio, following Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge of 2012.

Though I knew that many of us were writers, I had no idea Jane Ann was working on a science fiction novel. Last fall, she was even up in Sudbury, giving a reading at the Sudbury Public Library, which, because I was out of town, I had to miss.

I also had to miss her Twitterview with mutual friend Lori Sailiata for Hawaii Content Management (#HiCM), though I read the Storify afterward 🙂

Now that her novel is coming out in instalments, I decided I simply had to find out more about this virtual friend and fellow Canadian author.

Without further ado, here she is: Jane Ann McLachlan!

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Jane Ann McLachlan

Jane Ann McLachlan

Hi Melanie. We’ll have to meet when I’m in Sudbury in September for Cinefest. My parents were both originally northern Ontarians, although I was born in Toronto and grew up in Newmarket, a small town near Toronto, Canada. I taught at Conestoga College until a few years ago, when I decided to write full-time, although I still teach a couple of evening courses a year. I have written two college textbooks, published by Pearson/Prentice Hall, a science fiction e-book on Amazon called Walls of Wind http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98 , and my collection of short stories, Connections, which came out last fall, published by Pandora Press.  My website is http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

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WG: Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Jane Ann!

You are a writer of diverse talents. You’ve written two textbooks on professional ethics, a collection of inspirational short stories, and now a science fiction novel. I also understand you write historical fiction as well. How do all of your writerly personae intermingle, or do they?

JAM: I read extensively and enjoy a lot of different genres, so writing in different genres feels natural to me. But it didn’t always. I had to learn to accept the genre a story idea came to me in. I started writing science fiction, which I have always read, when I heard of a medieval superstition that really grabbed my imagination. An editor at Tor loved the idea, and liked my writing, and seriously considered it. He didn’t buy the book, but he gave me some excellent advice—he told me to re-write it as a medieval novel. I had to do a lot of research and reading in that genre (at that time I’d only read a few historical fiction authors) before I felt qualified to write historical fiction, but I’m pleased with the result. The Sorrow Stone is currently on offer with my agent. I guess I’m not a quick learner, because about the same time, I went through a traumatic event, and I tried to write it up as fiction. But it just kept dying on the page, until I gave in and wrote it as memoir. Impact: A Memoir of PTSD is now also with my agent. Now, I listen to the story and let it tell me which genre it needs to be written in.

WG: What is the origin story of J.A. McLachlan, author?

JAM: When people ask me, what made you start writing? I say, “I learned to read.” The first story I remember writing was a picture book, way back when that’s what I was still reading. It was about a pony, and I remember practicing for months to learn how to draw a horse. After that, I switched to poetry. I have a number of poems about dogs and horses my mom saved. They rhyme and they scan, but I wasn’t into very deep themes at age 8. 🙂

WG: Focusing on your fiction, what attracts you to each of the genres you write in (inspirational, historical, and speculative)?

JAM: I like a good story, with intriguing characters that are changed by their experiences in the novel, and an interesting “high concept” theme. Moral and philosophical quandaries really interest me, as well as a plot that keeps me guessing. These elements can be found in many genres.

WG: I’m a total process geek. I love to find out how people work their art and craft. Would you care to share anything about your writing process?

JAM: I need complete silence when I write, and NO interruptions. I write best when I’m all alone at home for hours, and I write on a laptop that is not connected to the internet (I have a separate computer in another room for that.) I start with a rough outline and let the characters alter it as I go. I would like to be a total plotter—that’s how I wrote my textbooks, with a very detailed outline for every chapter—but fiction, like life, just doesn’t work that way.  Stuff happens, and you have to adapt. Fiction (and life) can be a pain that way. 🙂

WG: With respect to Walls of Wind, why have you opted for publication in instalments?

JAM: It’s all about knowing your market. E-books do better in novella form, at low prices, for a number of reasons. It seems most people who read e-books like something they can read fairly quickly. If they want more, they’ll buy the next one. And since I’m an unknown author, readers are more willing to try me out if it’s not going to cost them much in time or money— Walls of Wind Part I is 4 chapters long and sells for .99c. I want people to be able to try it, because Walls of Wind is the best thing I’ve written, and I’m pretty confident anyone who likes science fiction and reads Part I will want to read the rest. Oh, and the link is:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98

But here’s an offer for your readers. Right now, book reviews of Walls of Wind are worth more to me than royalties, so anyone who will write a review on Amazon or GoodReads (or best of all, on both) for me—whatever they think of the book—I’d be happy to send them Part I for free. Just email me at:  jamclachlan@golden.net

WG: What’s next for you?

JAM: Right now, I’m editing Part III of Walls of Wind —Part II goes live on Feb. 1; Part III on March 1; and the complete trilogy, for those who want a longer read, in e-book form and in print, will be available on April 2. I’m also currently setting up a number of talks and readings in the US and Canada for Connections and will be doing the same for Walls of Wind when I have the print book. And while all that is going on, I have my next historical fiction novel—which takes place during the Third Crusade—AND a YA science fiction novel, both hollering around in my head trying to get out, so I’ll be writing them this year.

Thanks for a great interview and break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

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About Walls of Wind:

Walls of Wind, Part II

Walls of Wind, Part II

What if males and females were completely different species from each other?

Walls of Wind explores this question and its ramifications on a world in which males and females are two different, equally intelligent species: Ghen and Bria. They are interdependent and reproductively symbiotic, although physically, emotionally and mentally they have little in common. Or so they believe, until their city-state is threatened by increasing internal conflict and a terrifying external predator that has invaded the forests beyond their walls. A handful of Ghen and Bria struggle desperately to find a solution before their civilization is destroyed.

Walls of Wind combines anthropological speculation with the tragedy, suspense and triumph of individual characters who struggle to overcome external threats as well as their own internal fears and prejudices.

Read Part I of Walls of Wind: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HNXOG98  Look for Part II on February 1st, 2014.

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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.

Writer-tech: Dropbox on Wordsmith Studio

Please go see my post on Wordsmith Studio: Writer-tech: Dropbox.

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Wordsmith Studio is a wonderful collective of writers that began through Robert Lee Brewer‘s April Platform Challenge last year.

Thanks to Lara Britt for inviting me into the designers group and encouraging my more active participation it the collective.

Hope you enjoy!

Writerly Goodness, signing off from Timmins, Ontario 🙂

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Rethinking my online strategy

I’ve been through a fair amount on this platform-building journey, from my first hesitant steps, through my experience of being hacked, and my triumphant return to the blogosphere.  I think it’s time that I took a little more control of my online life rather than letting it control me.

To this end, I’ve retooled my blogging schedule.  I’ll only be posting twice weekly now, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Tuesdays (starting next week) for my learning and development category, and Thursdays for all things Writerly Goodness (it’s a grab bag folks!).  Fridays will be set aside for any guest blogs and other special events.

The truth is that I really have to get back to my novel.  If I don’t have a product, what’s the point of all this platform development?

Back in April I partook of Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and made a lot of online friends through the continually evolving Wordsmith Studio community.

Recently, I also volunteered to help develop Author Salon’s social media campaign.  With working, critiquing, curating, blogging, and hopefully writing, my schedule’s full enough.  I’m learning and growing though, as a writer and in social media.  As Christina Katz wrote, if it’s not painful, you’re not growing.

Actually, what she wrote was:

If you are frustrated to the point of tears or total exasperation, then wow, you must really be taking risks and stretching yourself. Good for you!

Think I’m getting there 😛

For the next six weeks, I’m participating in We Grow Media’s How to Build Your Author Platform course delivered by Dan Blank.  I’m hoping to learn how to make more efficient use of online tools to recapture some of my precious writing time.

Today, however, I want to share some pearls of online wisdom I’ve learned over the course of the past few months:

From Nathan Bransford:

  • When you post something to Facebook or G+, the link that you copy into your status will be embedded.  Once the post shows up, you can delete the pesky link and use the space to say something more apropos of your witty authorial persona.
  • Render unto Twitter that which is Twitter’s.  In short, if you tweet a lot, don’t link your Twitter feed to Facebook.  I experienced the negative side of this earlier this year, when a friend joined Twitter and I saw his half of every Twitter conversation he had.  It was excruciating clutter, but because he was a friend, I didn’t say anything.  He isn’t the “hey, you’ve got a booger in your nose” or a “that dress makes you look like a hoochie mama” kind of friend.  Sorry Dan.

From Kristin Lamb:

  • Don’t spam your friends.  Though tools like Hootsuite make it very convenient to post to multiple social media at multiple times, don’t do it unless you’re there to engage anyone who might respond.  Twitter is about having a conversation, forming a community.  If you’re automating you posts and someone replies to you or retweets saying that they liked it, you have no way to engage them if you’re not actually on line to respond.  Prove you’re not a robot?  Only post/tweet/share when you’re on line.  Got a day-job?  Tough.

Other points of etiquette:

  • Got published?  Yippee!  But I don’t need to see the same post every five minutes.  If I’m interested, I’ll check it out, but I find that half my Twitter feed consists of people trying to promote their books.  It becomes a visual kind of white noise and I tend to ignore those tweets after a while.  Pace your promo posts, and again, try to do it when you’re online to respond to any enquiries.
  • In the same vein: be professional.  In the early stages of any platform building effort, it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere.  It takes time.  Sometimes years.  Be patient.  If every time you post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, or any of the other social media sites, you’re practically begging people to “share, please share” it smacks of desperation.  It’s off-putting.  If you write honestly and put out quality material, people will share of their own accord.  Again, it takes time to build a solid following.
  • If you’re interested in proposing a guest blog for someone and they’ve posted guidelines, treat them as seriously and professionally as you would submission guidelines to a magazine or journal.  Read the guidelines and follow them.  Respect the blogger you want to guest post for.
  • The other side of that coin is that if you’ve entered into an agreement, informal as it may be, to host a guest blog, or to interview someone, treat it with as much respect as a written contract.  If you can’t, for whatever reason, hold up your end of the deal, be up front and address the issues with your guest or interviewee.  If you have to decline after receiving the interview transcript or post, then do so in a timely manner.  Pretend you’re a publisher, because that’s what you’re doing when you host guests or conduct interviews, and treat your guest or interviewee as you would like to be treated if your positions were reversed.

It’s the golden rule.  Be polite.  Be professional.  Show respect.  You’ll be amazed how those three simple phrases will transform your online life and how much more quickly your platform will grow as a result.

Ok.  Kicking the soap box off to the side now 🙂

There might be some additional changes coming in the future as the result of Dan Blank’s course.  I’ve been considering a thematic revamp of the blog, but I want to hold off until I have some feedback.

On that note, if you have any of that for me (feedback) please feel free to comment.

How are your platform development efforts going?  Have there been bumps, or ruts in the road?  What have to done to work through these issues?  Do you have a plan moving forward?  Do tell 🙂

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

Eight metaphors for persistence, and why you’ll want to read this anyway

God help you if you are a phoenix / and you dare to rise up from the ash …

~~Ani Difranco, 32 Flavors

Rise Of The Phoenix

Rise Of The Phoenix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, February 26, 2012, my dear blog labbydog.ca was hacked, necessitating, in the opinion of the hosting service on which she lived, a complete deletion of all materials.  Even if I’d have been savvy enough to back up, those files would also have been suspect and deleted.  It was a dark day.

The light at the end of the tunnel

It was a dark week, truthfully.  Labbydog.ca was also the mail server for me, my husband Phil, and my mom.  It took a couple of days just to get everything re-established after the wipe.  Phil is a computer genius though, or as a friend of ours once said, an ass in jeans (a fine one, admittedly), and email was restored in short order.

I had some of my materials saved as Word .docx files, but by no means all of them.  How to rebuild?  More importantly, where to rebuild?  I wasn’t about to trust my next effort to the same hosting service, who essentially blamed me and my importation of add-ons and plug-ins (A.K.A. “scripts”), intended to protect my blog, for its very destruction.  I investigated each one and only downloaded them after the recommendation of an online guru. So what was I going to do?

I considered my options.  Both blogger and WordPress allow the importation of domains, and thanks to Robert Lee Brewer’s excellent advice, I had purchased melaniemarttila.ca in January.  It was my intent to move my blog to the new domain in February or March in any event, which is why I (oh-so-foolishly) hadn’t backed labbydog.ca up.

Robert, you saved my virtual ass, and my online sanity.  Thank you.  There are no words.

Getting back on the horse

I mucked around with blogger for a day or two, but I really didn’t want to start entirely from scratch.  I liked WordPress, was comfortable with the admin portal and the intuitive interface.  So I started a new blog on WordPress, transferred my domain, mapped it, and prepared to wade back into the blogging fray.

No use crying over spilled milk

I was seriously depressed, but the disease is an old frenemy, and I know how to deal with him.  The bottom line is that I can’t worry about things I have no control over.  I have to focus on the things I can affect in a positive way.

Depression and writing:

People have asked me since the dreadful day, “Why?”  Why indeed would anyone want to hack my innocuous wee blog?  I wasn’t particularly controversial.  I didn’t have a lot of followers.  It’s not like they were taking down some corporate mogul, or politician, or even a celebrity.  So yeah, I’d like an answer to that one too.  Why?

Wishing won’t make it so

You’ll have to track down the hacker and ask his or her maliciousness yourselves.  Quite likely, the culprit is not even a person, but some hack-bot, a lackey bit of code sent out to do its vile master’s bidding.  So why?

The short answer is: because she or he could.

Hacking, trolling, griefing, phishing, propagating malware, and other acts of online evil are all about bullying and the abuse of power.  You deal with it the same way you deal with any other kind of abuse, you speak up, share your story, and hope to hell you save someone else by your sad example.

I will share Wil Wheaton’s online motto here: Don’t be a dick!

[Wom]an with a plan

Labbydog.ca 2.0 = Writerly Goodness on melaniemarttila.ca.

From here on out, I’m saving everything I post in Word.  Once I have Writerly Goodness up and running, I will institute a back up routine.

When was the last time you backed up your blog, novel, training course design, or insert anything you’ve spent a lot of hours doing here?  Don’t procrastinate any further: save your work.  Now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait …

[W]e can rebuild [her]. We have the technology …  Better than [s]he was before.  Better, stronger, faster.

~~The Six Million Dollar Man, 1974

So yeah, I’m going to go back to the drawing board.  I’m going to repost as much as I can remember of what I used to have on labbydog.ca, but I’m going to do it better (I hope).  For example, ‘My history as a so-called writer’ isn’t just going to be self-serving or shamefully confessional.  I’m going to try to put in some meat for the writerly.  I’m going to try to answer the questions: why should I care, and what’s in it for me?  I’m hoping for some serious takeaway action.

A weekly schedule should give the project some structure: different categories on different days.

I’m trying to learn/do/create/be better.  And I’d appreciate it if you’d let me know how I’m doing.

Never say ‘die’

The takeaway here: in writing, as in everything, if you love what you’re doing, you can’t give up. You won’t be able to.  Sometimes, though, you might need a little help.

Some curation, and maybe inspiration:

What have you had to overcome to do what you’re passionate about?  Ever felt like a phoenix rising from the ash?

Comment, like, share, subscribe!  You know you want to 😉