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Posts Tagged ‘In The Spirit Of Love’

Life BalanceFor those who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve likely noticed I’ve been suspiciously absent in my posts for some time. The reason is simple; life keeps getting in the way.

I didn’t set out to let this happen. Each day and each week kept getting busier and busier with so much stuff, and I told myself I’d get back to my blog next week. I didn’t. Then I realized I needed time to attend to life’s duties and the increasing demands to get my current WIP edited and in to my publisher. For those who aren’t writers, let me tell you, editing is a loooong, sloooow process that drives writers crazy. We can’t hurry it along (although we desperately want to), and we can’t take short cuts. It takes as long as it takes, and it’s not the fun part of writing. Still, it’s absolutely essential to creating something you want to put out there in a public format and ask people to purchase with their hard-earned dollars. In the end, it’s time well spent.

I’m also working with a new publisher, Books We Love (BWL). They are a Canadian publishing company that I have to say that I’m enjoying working with so far. They’ve been quick to respond to my emails and questions, and they’re diligent about staying on top of everything from editing to cover art and final preps for publishing a book. I like that, but it does mean I’m having to learn (and in some cases, re-learn) what I thought I knew about publishing, but that’s all to the good too.

The problem, as I was starting to see it, is that life kept getting in the way of my writing work. I started resenting not having the time to attend to my duties as a writer, or get the next blog posts written and published, or even breathing, it seemed.

Stumbling blockSo, I’m headed down one road when suddenly I’m tripping and stumbling over blocks in the road. I’m thrown on my ass, and it takes a while to figure out which way is up. We’re still dealing with the realities of aging parents and Alzheimer’s with my mother-in-law, a disease that we’ve all learned to hate (are there any diseases we don’t hate?). We’re coping.

Then I had a set-back with my own health issues. I have Sjogren’s Syndrome . The dry eyes and mouth associated with the condition worsened in about that same March/April time frame. Stress? Maybe. The problem really became a problem when my eyes became so dry, despite multiple applications of special eye drops a day, that my vision was impaired. For about two weeks I really couldn’t see well enough to drive. I had to have my husband drive me to a memoir writing workshop I was giving in a nearby town, and after the workshop I had to hightail it into the bathroom to insert more drops for the drive home. Eventually that issue resolved itself as well and I’m back to normal, whatever normal is for me.

I was actually going along pretty good for a month or so, until we put our park model home on the market so we wouldn’t be carrying two residences each month. Good news. We sold it. Woo Hoo! Oh, then I realized I would have to leave the wonderful area of Grand Bend and Port Franks, Ontario and live only in the city. That really bummed me out for a while. I also knew I’d miss the “mini house” and all the memories associated with it. I’d miss living up near the lake and being able to slip down to the beach at a moment’s notice. I was sad to be putting aside another chapter in my life.

Along with the sale came the stress of moving everything we owned out of it and figuring out what the heck to do with all the stuff we’d accumulated there over the course of five years! I’d just moved back to the city in December, remember? Now I was having to downsize yet again, and amalgamate, give away, or throw away more stuff. That all takes time. Time I wasn’t writing. Time I wasn’t editing. Time I wasn’t blogging, or reviewing books, or interviewing other writers.

ConnectionWhat I did do was stay current on social media through all of it. It kept my hand in the game, which kept me up to date on what’s been happening with who. I read writing related articles of interest galore. I wrote when I could. I edited when I could. I gave myself permission to do what needed to be done and not beat myself up too much over it. I also periodically vented to my husband. He’s an excellent listener, so his ears got a good workout. I’m grateful for his patience, believe me!

This past six months has served to remind me that I can’t control everything. I have to “Let go, and let God,” as I’ve heard the expression said. I’ve learned that sometimes good enough has to be good enough. I also knew that some things would just have to work themselves out. I consoled myself over the sale of my mini-house by acknowledging that it was a good, sound financial decision to sell. The single woman who bought it was thrilled to have her own little place with a good-sized garden and beautiful view of the wooded area across the street. I’m sure my old neighbours welcome her into their midst, and I sincerely hope that she’s able to settle in and make it her own.

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Blue Starburst by Debbie McClure

Surprising, to me at least, is the fact that I discovered a new creative outlet. I began experimenting with acrylic abstract painting and I love it! I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler (my son, brother, and grandson can, but I’m hopeless). What I do have is imagination and a good eye for colour, or so I think. I’ve even started doing a few large paintings for family and friends who’ve requested them, so that’s pretty cool. I’m not a professional painter, by any means, and I’ve hated some of what I’ve created, but as with writing, I can go back and fine-tune, or erase what I’ve done and start over. It’s become a great stress reducer, and I believe it stretches my imagination in other ways I hadn’t encountered before. It’s also a great way to just zone out, and sometimes that means I’m able to work through writing issues, without having to actually work at it. I like that.

The King's Consort Cover ArtIn the meantime, I’m happy to announce that my most recent (bio) historical fiction novel is finally done! This book has been a long labour of love, since my mother tells me her paternal great aunt claimed we are related to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner. Whether it’s true or not, I became intrigued by Louise and King Frederik VII of Denmark’s remarkable love story, and knew I had to write my (fictionalized) version of it. For information and a brief synopsis of the story, head over to the Amazon link provided below.

The great news is that my publisher let me know that we’re looking at an e-book release date of September 10th, 2016 for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story, followed by a print release a few weeks later. For anyone interested in ordering their copy right away, it’s available for pre-order now (see link above). I’m so excited! I’m also extremely nervous (that’s another post). It has taken me two years to get this book to this point, and now I’m standing on the threshold of seeing all that hard work come to fruition. Yikes! I truly hope you enjoy it, and if so, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon (it really, really helps the writer), email me, or drop me a line on the blog, and of course, share the news with your family and friends.

As for what’s next, well, I’m in the process of getting my first two books, In The Spirit Of Love and In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, re-released – complete with new cover art and titles (details to follow once I have them). My plan is to re-release these two books and follow them up with a new series that continues Sir Richard and Claire’s story, and adventures. I’m really excited about that too, so check my website periodically, or social media sites, for new information. I have a second (bio) historical romance novel I started working on several months ago, and am itching to get back to, so it’s in the works for a little further down the line.

I’ve settled into our city house and am loving my little courtyard garden. The weather has been hot and summery. My family are all doing well, and I have my life back—for now. I know life will rear its head again soon, but today I’ll celebrate the good things and not worry about what’s around the corner.

We all go through life challenges. How have you dealt with some of yours lately? Share ideas for what’s worked for you – you never know who might benefit from your insight and wisdom. Thank you for sticking with me, and I’ll talk to you soon. Promise!

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Confidence Moves You

Confidence Moves You

Writing has given me many unexpected benefits, in addition to the actual writing, that is. It’s allowed me to share the stories that tumble around in my head. It’s allowed me to tap into deeper parts of myself and become more confident in my purpose on this earth, and it has introduced me to many wonderful people via in-person and on-line networking efforts I’ve engaged in.

Once my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, was released back in November, 2012 (Echelon Press), I knew I was going to have to step even further outside my comfort zone. I was going to have to go public with my book and do book signings and talks. I’d always been terrified of speaking in public – who isn’t? The thing is, I knew I was going to have to get over myself and my fears and just go do it. After all, writers have to be comfortable talking about their books, and themselves, in order to promote the work they’ve just spent countless hours, months and yes, years, creating. Whew! This was going to be a challenge.

When I first started writing, I never gave a thought to actually publishing the book. I just wanted to write a cool story I had come up with about a ghost who falls in love with a modern-day woman. I didn’t look too far down the path, but rather, I learned as I went. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be required to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk. I didn’t think I’d get that far. I did though, and so I gathered my courage and stepped into a local library, copies of my book tucked into a pretty little book bag, prepared to do my best. I figured if I crashed and burned, at least no one really knew who I was anyway. I also brought my husband along for moral support. He turned out to be an invaluable ally, since I could see him nod his head in approval when I hit my mark, or shake it slowly when I was veering off course. He also handled the monetary transactions for the few books I sold – I think it was 2 or 3, and took a few photos. When we left the library, I was pretty proud of myself. I’d faced and conquered one of my deepest fears; looking like an incompetent idiot.

Next time I went to a book signing, I took my mother. She’s one of my biggest fans, and again, having her there really boosted my confidence. During the Q & A portion of my talk, she spoke up and asked some questions she knew others in the small group were also wondering about. She also handled the financial transactions for the few books I sold, again maybe 2 or 3. On the way home, I was giddy with relief for having gotten through the talk, but surprised at how comfortable I felt once I was up there and got going. I had reminded myself before I began the talk that there was absolutely nothing anyone in my small audience could ask me about my writing, publishing, or my journey thus far that I couldn’t answer. I had this one. I’m passionate about my writing and the whole business of publishing, so once I get started talking about it, I could go on for hours. That’s why I write out, in point form, my entire talk. I have a limited time period in which to engage, entertain, and hopefully, inform my audience. I realized I could do that.

My Audience

My Audience

Looking out into the audiences I’ve spoken to over the past few years, I recognize myself in the faces staring back at me. I’ve come to understand that these people are there because they’re interested in what I have to say, and welcome any tid bits of info or insights I can impart. I’ve come a long way since that first talk. I’m proud of my ability to connect with others and address several issues besides writing.

After the release of my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, I began speaking to groups about something new. I call it my Step Up and Step In To Your Life talk. You see writing also opened up new insights for me. I began to realize just how many times I’d held back from pursuing a dream, or from approaching a problem head on. I’d side-step it, I’d waffle, and sometimes, I’d out and out run from it. My life hasn’t always been easy – not by a long shot – but I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes along the way. I know I still have a lot to learn. When I began speaking publicly, it became apparent that just about everyone struggles with how to take control of their lives. They’re not sure how to make serious, lasting changes in their life. Changes they’ve always wanted to make, but have been afraid to.

Let’s face it, writing isn’t a solid career choice if you’re looking for a regular pay check, or regular anything. It’s the most difficult, challenging, frustrating, flat out ridiculous career move I could have made, but I love it. I’m caught, hook line and sinker. Because of the many challenges a writer faces, and the numerous rejections we receive over, and over, and over again, we develop a deep sense of conviction about who we are and what we want from life. We willingly step up to the plate day after day and pitch/hit our best. We face our fears head on every time we sit down to the task of writing. When it comes time to actually publish, market, and promote our work, we tackle a whole new set of obstacles and fears.

That’s why I felt that I had something of value to share with others who are likewise struggling with elements of their life. Sometimes it really is all about being willing to do the hard work, and stepping up, and into, our lives. It’s about taking responsibility for the choices we make. It’s about owning who we are as human beings, and as individuals. It’s about claiming our truth and being proud of it. It’s about facing fears, accepting our failures, and moving through them to get where we want to go. It’s also about accepting and respecting others for who they are.

Make Things Happen

Make Things Happen

It’s about dealing with a whole lot of things we all face. That’s why I talk about it openly. I’m not the only one struggling to come to terms with what to do with the years I have to live on this planet, and neither are you. My goal is to motivate even one person at each speaking engagement to examine their life and where they want to go with it. By hearing me talk, maybe that one person will move closer to their goals and dreams. I won’t necessarily ever know it, but for me, that possibility is awesome. I’m not a doctor, and I certainly can’t claim a whole bunch of letters after my name, but I’ll continue to talk publicly about things that matter to us all. I’ll do my best to impart what bits of wisdom and experience I’ve collected along the way.

What would you like to achieve in your life?

If you’d like me to speak at your business or organization’s next meeting/event, please feel free to contact me at mcclure.d@hotmail.com, or visit my website at www.damcclure.net for more information. If you’re outside Ontario, Canada, feel free to contact me, as I am able to periodically travel to worth-while events. Thank you.

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Diving In

Diving In

This past winter I took a fair bit of time away from doing public appearances at bricks and mortar venues. After the release of my debut novel, In the Spirit of Love, I dove head first into the book marketing and publicity pool, and discovered a lot of areas I really enjoyed. I met some wonderful people, and gained invaluable experience by tapping into a number of venues. As for actual book sales, some things worked better than others. Book signings and readings were fun, but it was hit and miss in terms of actual sales. That’s okay though, since I went into it knowing it isn’t necessarily about sales; it’s about reaching new audiences, honing new skills, and just plain connecting with others. Our brutal Canadian winter of 2013/14 also had me glad not to be out on icy roads, travelling to more distant locales.

 

There was also the business of on-line networking, marketing, and promotion of this first title, while working diligently at penning, then editing the sequel, In the Spirit of Forgiveness. Writing and editing is time-consuming work. I can, and do, sit for as much as 5-6 hours per day just on those two activities, in addition to any on-line marketing. The really cool thing though, is that it doesn’t feel like 5-6 hours. Often it feels like maybe 1-2 hours. I become so engrossed in the story and the writing that it isn’t unusual for me to glance at my watch and realize time has literally flown for me. That’s a good thing. Before I began writing, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could sit at a computer and simply type up word after word, page after page-for hours. Now, I love it. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

 

With the release of In the Spirit of Forgiveness (June 1, 2014), I’m finding myself having to dive into the publicity pool again. The water is a little chilly, and I’m having to get back into the strong and steady strokes of swimming again, but I’m enjoying it. I remind myself of all the great experiences I had last year, and look forward to new ones. The hard part of course, is finding the right venues, reaching the people who book events, and making the time to get out from behind my desk.

 

I’ve discovered that the further I move into this writing gig, there really isn’t a lot of down time. Aside from the valuable and important time I want and need to spend with family and friends, I have a job that never really ends. You see, while I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting people and sharing my work with new readers, I’ve also just finished the first draft of a third novel, The King’s Consort. The real work is now ahead of me with this new WIP (work in progress). I have editing to do, at least two rounds, before sending it out to query agents and/or publishers, followed by tons of work to polish it up before it actually gets published. Although I’m currently with a small independent publisher who has done a great job for me with the first two books, I’ve decided to seek representation and/or publishing with a larger house. I have no idea if I’ll succeed, but I believe I at least have to give it a shot with this next book. It’s in a completely different genre (fact-based historical fiction), and I’m hoping it will garner some real interest.

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

That means going through the entire difficult query process again, followed, inevitably, by the rejections I’m sure to receive. It’s a long, slow process, and it can be extremely intimidating. There are no guarantees it’ll be accepted anywhere, but that’s the name of the game. I figure it’s like anything new you attempt in life. You put your best foot forward, you give it your best shot, and you learn the lessons taught along the way. You also incorporate any lessons you’ve already learned. No lesson is ever wasted, whether negative or positive. I also know that, whether I pick up an agent or new publisher or not, I’ll continue to move forward with this next book. I love the story behind the facts I researched, and am keenly passionate about sharing it with readers. Because I’ve now successfully had two novels published, I’ve also gained a level of self-confidence I didn’t have before. I’m ready and excited to begin the next steps.

 

It’s daunting; this diving in again thing. But hey, every new day we wake up, we begin anew. We get up, we get dressed, and we begin our daily work. Diving back into the pool isn’t so hard the second, or third time. I know what’s coming, I gear up for the shock of cool waters, and hold my breath. Then, I start swimming long, strong strokes. Hmm, maybe I never really got out of the pool. You’re either in, or out. There is no in-between.

Fish underwater

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Cover InThe Spirit Of Forgiveness

Cover InThe Spirit Of Forgiveness

This is a short, but sweet, post. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, is now available on Amazon, Smashwords, and OmniLit. Additional e-venues will be announced as they become available. We are working diligently to have it available ASAP on B&N (Nook), and Kobo (Book One is already available on Kobo here, and B&N here), so do keep checking back often for updates. If you purchase an e-book copy and would like to have it autographed, you can do that here.

 

For those who prefer to have a paperback copy, you can also order a print version of Forgiveness via the Amazon page (In The Spirit Of Love is currently already print enabled on Amazon), and we are working diligently to get this function up and running, so again, check back often. You can also order directly through me by sending me an email request on my website at www.damcclure.com.

I’m also excited to share that I’ll be doing another podcast interview with Eat, Sleep, Write’s host, Adam Scull on Friday, June 13th – no this is NOT bad luck! Once it is scheduled to go live, I’ll post the information and link here and on my Facebook and Twitter @debbiemcclure59 pages. If you’d like to listen to my previous two podcast author interviews, please check them out here, and here (this one was an exciting paranormal mystery roundtable author interview with me, USA Today’s bestselling author Tonya Kappes, and UK’s bestseller Karen Perkins).

 

Here’s the exciting blurb to In The Spirit Of Forgivness, the new much anticipated novel, the sequel to In The Spirit Of Love:

 

Death can hold as many uncertainties as life.

Destiny brought them together, but greed could tear them apart. In England for a much-deserved vacation, Claire Jacobs has fallen in love. However, fate has played a cruel trick on Claire, and now a mystery more than a hundred years old could take her happiness, as well as her life.

Sir Richard Abbottsford, of England’s grand Kent Estate, has finally reunited with his true love. He never imagined it would take more than a century for that to happen. But the past and present are intricately entwined, and as the lovers soon discover, sometimes even death is not an end.

As Claire and Richard struggle to adjust to the obstacles of their unique relationship, they are forced to deal with a vengeful foe determined to put an end to them both—forever. Time has kept the mystery of Sir Richard’s death tightly shrouded, but the heart has a way of overcoming even the most impossible. A little magic can’t hurt either.

Loving a ghost isn’t easy.

Oh, and please remember to leave a comment here, or after reading ANY book you’ve really enjoyed, consider posting a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads! This is incredibly important to authors, and please believe me, we read every single one of them. They are what gives us the support to keep doing what we’re doing. Your words to us are as valueable as ours are to you.
Thank you,

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Beauty of Cover Art

Beauty of Cover Art

I love working with my publisher on cover art design. It’s a fun way to express creativity and bring a concrete vision to potential new readers. But book covers are more than just a pretty face. They have a message to convey. Book covers portray an image of what the book and/or characters represents. The font, colours, photos/drawings, are all vitally important to catching a reader’s attention and enticing them to read the back cover blurb, then hopefully, purchase the book.

 

It’s also a marketing tool. This is why top companies spend literally millions of dollars creating the right packaging for their product. The packaging says a lot about the company, just as a cover tells a lot about the writer and publisher. This is our first introduction. It’s also a little like being sure to wear your best outfit to a job interview, making sure your hair is combed, shoes are clean, and personal appearance is as pleasing as possible. It’s our virtual handshake and “hello” to the world.

 

It’s also how we remind past readers that we’re still here and have a new story they’re going to love. This is why there are some elements of the book cover you may want to keep consistent, like font, over-all colour scheme, tag line, etc.

 

This is really marketing 101, but most people who will buy our books don’t care about that. They want to pick up a book that intrigues them, and gives them a reason to pay their hard-earned money out for our stories. Huffington Post recently posted an article on this very subject, entitled, Yes, We Really Do Judge Books By Their Covers, written by Terri Giuliano.

 

Ensuring the cover art is as close to any descriptions we have in the book is vitally important. After all, you can’t describe a brunette heroine, then show a blonde on the cover, or a cover model with brown eyes when you describe a main protagonist with blue. It jars the reader and shows you don’t care about the details. I know they won’t realize it until they purchase or read the book, but do you really want to set them up for disappointment? Oh, and negative comments will definitely start popping up if the cover doesn’t match the narrative or story line. Trust me, people notice!

 

With my first book, In The Spirit Of Love, my publisher and I went back and forth many, many times to find the right overall look, then again in choosing the closest male model depiction for Sir Richard. With the locket we chose to feature on the cover, I actually had to go back into the manuscript and alter the description to ensure it matched what we were showing on the cover. Simply put, it matters.

 

High Five!

High Five!

As we continue to work on putting the final touches to the sequel, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, again, we’ve been working hard to find just the right look. So when readers compare the story line, they can see we’ve taken care to match the cover to the narrative.

It’s a lot of work, and yes, it may cost extra money to get it right, but it’s an expense that’s well worth it. Once the print version is out there, it’s out there for all time. Yes, you can update and change it later, but somewhere an original will still exist. You want to be proud of what you’re putting out into the world. It’s your baby.

 

For the writer, this is even more important, since readers identify with the author, not the publisher or cover artist. In fact, few people pay any attention at all to who the publisher, editor, or cover artist are. Unless it’s poor job, or on the flip side, a really great one, most people don’t care. They’re going to judge the writer on the entire package. Is it fair? Possibly not, since we don’t always have final say, but it is what it is.

 

Personally, I want to be proud of the finished product. I want to be beaming with pride when I attend a book tour, or public speaking event where my book is going to be centre stage. It’s my name that’s on the front cover in big, bold letters, not anyone else’s. It’s my face they’re going to associate that book with.

 

In the talks I do at libraries, bookstores, schools, etc. I talk about the importance of cover art, and use one of my books to demonstrate the different aspects of it. Can you imagine how that would go over if I hated it, or was disappointed in it? I’ve been in marketing and sales for years, so I know that I can’t “sell” something I honestly don’t believe in.

 

No Mirror Images

No Mirror Images

You also don’t want your book covers to look so similar in style that readers are going to think they’ve already read it. This is especially important when selling ebooks, since all the e-venues use thumbnail sized covers, and if your covers look too similar, you’ve got the problem of someone passing it by and thinking “I’ve read that one”.

 

That’s why some authors include the words “sequel”, or “Book Two”, or even just roman numerals to indicate the subsequent books in a series. You want to make book selection easy for potential readers. I know if I’m standing in my favourite book store, I don’t want to have to scrutinize too closely whether or not this is a book I will like, have read before, or, in the case of a gift, is something I think the recipient will enjoy. The old rule of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) definitely applies here.

 

Conversely, cover art that tells a potential reader nothing about the story will often have them passing over it. Unless you’re writing non-fiction, straight text is rarely a good idea. Cover art doesn’t have to be so elaborate that it confuses the reader, but it does have to intrigue them, and by intrigue, I don’t mean be obscure. This is why certain genres have evolved to include easily identifiable elements. For example, romance books usually depict lovers, a male or female protagonist, or some romantic element that tells the prospective reader exactly what they’re getting when they buy that book. Other genres have certain elements on the cover art that readers expect to see too, and if it’s not there, or is so elaborate the intent is hidden, you risk readers putting the book down and moving on to something they can identify with.

 

The cover of a book can also form part of an author’s branding. It might be as simple as using the same font for each title in a series, or the author’s name, a tag line that follows the author with every book, or an over-all look in terms of colour and layout. It’s what helps readers identify the author at a quick glance. Well-known writer and blogger, Joanna Penn, addresses the issue of author branding in her article, entitled, Branding for Writers: An Essential Step to Building Your Author Platform. I would say that cover art is an important part of an author’s branding and platform.

 

So, now that I’ve shared my thoughts on the importance of cover art, what do you think? Have you ever purchased, or not purchased, a book based on it’s cover?

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Success through Failure

Success through Failure

As an emerging writer, I’m often faced with having to work through my fear of failure. It seems as if I’ve failed at so many things, I should be an expert at it by now. My first marriage failed dismally, and I’ve failed at virtually every job I’ve ever taken on. Then I got into writing, and the very nature of that beast means I’ll be met with failure, rejection, and more failure. I’m not a masochist, honestly. I’m just determined to continue moving toward what I do want, rather than settling for something close to it.

For years I was a single parent, raising two kids, and living on the poverty line. I had no job, no money, and was at the lowest point in my life. I couldn’t see how I was ever going to turn my life around, but I always thought I would. I believed that I could achieve better than my circumstances at the time. I was right, but it didn’t come easy. It never does.

When I talk to people who attend my book signings and library readings, I hear so many of them tell me they always wanted to DO something. They had a dream that they let slip through their fingers. Or worse, they feared failing if they tried. I get it. I know what it is to face your fears, and try to step beyond them. I also know that failure isn’t just a possibility when you reach for your dreams, or a life you want to have, it’s guaranteed. What helps me is to remember that I’m not alone. In fact, I’m in some of the greatest company possible. JK Rowling comments often that she felt like a colossal failure for most of her life, before publishing the Harry Potter series of books. Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, received 144 rejections before landing a publisher. And virtually every well-respected inventor or luminary has experienced failure on a HUGE scale. So, I figure I’m okay.

Moving Toward Success

Moving Toward Success

Failure leads to learning, and learning leads to success. One can’t happen without the other. I also know that, just like Rowling, had I succeeded at any other job, I would never have begun to write, or stuck with it for so long. That’s the beauty of  life; we don’t know what’s around the next corner, or whose lives we touch.

Just today I watched a video interview featuring writer, Lisa Nichols, the author of “No Matter What”. I was fascinated by her story. Lisa talks about how, in her college days, one of her professors told the entire class that Lisa was “the weakest writer he’d ever met”. That fuelled a fire under Lisa, and she went on to become of the world’s most renowned writers. She didn’t set out to be a writer, but when the opportunity came, she went for it. That woman deserves the praise and accolades she receives, not only for writing, but for speaking out.

With the upcoming release of my second book, In The Spirit Of Forgiveness, I too have begun to take on public speaking engagements. Talk about overcoming a fear of failure! Before becoming a published writer, I’d never dreamed of speaking in public. The very thought terrified me. But I knew if I wanted to get the word out about my work, I was going to have to get over it. What I discovered surprised me. Turns out I love it, and others claim I’m good at it. I soon realized that I had nothing to fear. Those who had come to hear me speak only wanted me to share what I already knew about novel writing and publishing. I could do that. I was confident that I could provide some value to what they were seeking, so I relaxed and enjoyed the process. Even more than the speaking part though, I enjoyed the Q&A that followed. I love hearing the questions and connecting with people. Public speaking offers me a forum to do this, and I love it, so I’ve begun to expand and offer other topics relating to motivation and encouragement for groups, companies, etc..

Stepping Up to the Mic

Stepping Up to the Mic

A few months ago, I participated in my first podcast interview at Eat, Sleep, Write. I was keyed up in fear for days in advance, but on the day of recording, I relaxed. I realized it was just like public speaking in front of an audience. I was there to share what small knowledge I had on the topic of writing and publishing, and of course, my work. It went beautifully, and was fun. As a result of having said yes to the host’s request to do the podcast, it lead to him asking me to pull together a roundtable discussion podcast with two other paranormal mystery writers. I was thrilled. I knew who I wanted, and I knew I wanted it to be as interesting as possible for listeners. As a Canadian writer, I wanted an international feel to the next podcast, so I invited UK’s Karen Perkins, best-selling author of Thores-Cross, and USA Today’s best-selling author, Tonya Kappes, to join us. What a resounding success that has been, with the podcast going live today at eatsleepwrite.net! It was such fun learning how other authors work within the paranormal mystery genre in very different ways. Karen focuses on the darker side of paranormal, Tonya infuses humour into her paranormal mystery stories, and mine, as romantic paranormal mysteries. My point is, if I’d allowed my fear of failure to stop me from accepting the first interview, I would never have had the opportunity to work with Adam again, or with Tonya and Karen on this one.

Now, I’m a HUGE fan of Walt Disney, and Disney World in Florida. Ever since my parents took me and my three siblings to the Magic Kingdom back in the ‘70’s, and after years of watching Disney movies, I’ve had a thing for “Uncle Walt”. What I’ve loved is the man’s ability to move through failures, and he had lots of them, while using his imagination to visualize a future like none other. Many, many times throughout my life, I’ve had to hold on to my visualization for a better future, and I still do, every day. Imagination isn’t just about fantastical or magical books and characters, it’s the corner stone behind virtually every medical and technological development known to man. Someone has to first have the imagination to conceive of the idea, and that’s truly amazing, but its not enough. After all, As Lisa Nichols says, “Vision + Action = Success; Vision + Inaction = Wishful Thinking.” Wishful thinking is NOT enough. We have to be willing to put the action into place and DO something to move us forward to success. Without it, we go nowhere. That’s where so many go wrong. They rely on wishes, good intentions, and visualize the heck out of something, but they stop short of actually doing what’s necessary to achieve their goal.

The other thing I’ve learned is that to succeed at something, you have to have Guts. You have to believe you have the right to achieve the outcome you want, and just go for it. So many times I didn’t try hard enough. I knew I wasn’t giving my previous jobs my all, and so wasn’t really surprised when they didn’t work out. But when I discovered my passion for writing, I knew going in I’d have to pull out all the stops. I’d have to push myself and not allow failure, rejections, or a lack of imagination for the future stop me. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s damned hard, but it’s worth it. I’m still struggling to make ends meet, and my writing career is far from stellar yet, but I’ll keep pushing, striving, and writing, until it’s as good as I can possibly make it. Oh, I’ll still also wish upon lots of stars, because that’s part of the magic of being human. More importantly, I’ll add a hefty dose of action behind the wishes.

Going to the Ball

Going to the Ball

I guess I’m like Cinderella; I want to go to the ball and dance with the prince at the palace.

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Magic of Writing

Magic of Writing

As a writer, I tend to write “organically”. This means I only draft a brief outline of the story and characters I’m writing, then allow myself to just fall into the story and let it, and my characters evolve. I find myself getting lost in the process of creating, and enjoy letting the characters lead the way. Sounds strange, I suppose, but it’s how I seem to work best.

 

I’ve attend a couple of workshops where other writers talk about how they detail almost every move a character makes, and every step along the journey is mapped out. Some actually even include detailed maps to help them along the way! I’m stunned and amazed, and impressed. I also know I couldn’t work that way. I’d get so caught up all that planning, that I don’t think I’d get to the actual writing.

 

What I know for sure is this; we each have to find our own way. For me, learning what method works best for me as individual is a private journey to be discovered through trial and error.  But don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from others and adapt what they do into what works for me. I do that all the time. It’s why I’m so interested in learning how and what other writers and/or artists of any nature do. I listen, and if I think there’s a nugget of inspiration for how I might make something work for me, I’ll use it. That’s my agenda for attending the workshops; I want to learn something I didn’t before. It’s a take-away I can shape and mould, or discard, as I see fit. I know there are no right or wrong ways to write, paint, create music, or do many of the things we all do each and every day.

 

Our Agendas

Our Agendas

In fact, each day we open our eyes, we have an agenda, which can be different from a goal. I might wake up with the goal of writing a certain amount of words that day, or fit grocery shopping and house-cleaning into my schedule, but my agenda is slightly larger. I want to get words written down so I can move the story along, and therefore, move that much closer to the conclusion, or to allow me the time to fit in some internet marketing and promotion. I might need to get the grocery shopping done that day, so we can have the necessary ingredients for the dinner I’ve planned. I do the house cleaning to ensure I feel comfortable and at ease during the evening hours when I’m relaxing. I simply cannot relax when a place is unkempt and dirty.

 

When I used to work in real estate and mortgage sales, or as BDM for a small incentive marketing company, everything work-related I did, I had an agenda. I had a reason for the tasks I assigned myself. As a commissioned salesperson, I had only myself to rely on to get the job, and tasks done. I hated cold calling. Hated it. But, I also knew that sometimes I just had to get it done if I had any hope of gaining that next bit of business. My task making those cold calls, but my agenda was to ensure I had income down the line.

 

It’s the same with my writing. I write five days a week, essentially from 9-5. I write because I love to write, but I set goals for my writing to fit my agenda; to get a book published within an established period of time. I might edit all day for days at a time to allow the publisher to continue with the next step, and hence, get the book published and in reader’s hands.

 

Marketing and promotion via social media also has a hidden agenda. As much as I love interacting with online family and friends, and I do, I also need to get the word out about my work, and to do that, I need to allow them to connect with me as well. So, I go to various forums, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even this blog, to create content that allows people to find me, learn a little about me, connect with me, and perhaps even discover my latest book. Dare I hope they’ll be intrigued enough to even purchase an ebook or print copy? Yep, I do.

 

I’ve learned, through years of reading avidly, that my characters also need agendas. They have to have a reason for being. They have to serve a purpose, whether as a main protagonist who is on a quest for love, justice, or whatever, or as a supporting character. The supporting character’s job is to provide someone for the protagonist to interact with, bounce things off of, and provide third party insights into the protagonist and the situation they’re dealing with. It’s an important job, and one not given much credit. Even villains have to have an agenda, one that moves the story, and the character along.

 

Spark of Life

Spark of Life

If my characters lack an agenda; that spark of why they’re doing what they’re doing, what motivates them and drives them to the conclusions they make, I’ll lose the interest of the reader. Characters, even paranormal ones like a handsome ghost, have to embody human elements a reader can relate to. They have to have reasons for being there, and reasons for wanting to achieve the goals and tasks set before him. Without that, they’re just going through the motions, lying flat on the page and providing no excitement or momentum to the story. Readers are going to tune into that, get bored, and close the book, which is definitely not the point of any story.

 

Not all agendas as positive ones though. Just as with people, characters within a story can have agendas that are harmful to themselves or other characters. They can be motivated by greed, jealousy, evil, and a host of other not so nice motivators. We all have and experience those feelings, and our agendas can sometimes be self-serving. So as a writer, I try to remember that. People, even good ones, don’t always make the right decisions for the right reasons. It’s what makes us human, and it makes for great story-telling. Characters who exhibit human flaws and skewed agendas are great, since they allow them to seem more “3D”.

 

It’s not easy to create characters on a page that will resonate with readers, but it is fun. As a writer, you have a vision in your mind of what the characters look like, sound like, and what drives them. Then you have to find a way to put that vision into words so you build a story, and a world, where the reader can get lost for a while. After all, the agenda of anygood fiction writer is to allow the reader to forget the outside world and settle in for a little dose of unreality. Still, not every writer gets it right every time. Ever read a story by a well-loved author and been disappointed to discover you just couldn’t connect with the characters and/or story line? That’s because writers are human, and there is no “one-size-fits-all.

Same is true for non-fiction. When dealing in facts, it’s equally important that the writer finds a way to do it in such a way that the reader will want to continue turning the pages to discover the wisdoms the book promises. Make it too dry and uninteresting, and you’ll lose people to boredom. They’ll look for something else that gives them what they need, in easy, enjoyable bites. Of course text books don’t need to be entertaining, and most of them are as dry as butterless toast, but they have an agenda; to teach and to share information. That’s it. The author of those texts though, has to ensure the information they provide is accurate to the very best of his/her ability, or risk being challenged on it. So, the agenda behind all the research a non-fiction writer might go to is to ensure the finished product delivers what’s promised; accurate information.

 

You and me

You and me

In fact, it occurs to me that virtually everything we do is with an agenda, with few exceptions. But we can, as human beings, do things “just because”. For example, I might compliment a woman in a grocery line for her lovely scarf and expect nothing in return. I might agree to help an artist title a new piece of artwork, which I did this weekend, just because she admits she struggles with finding the right words to put to her work, and not ask anything in return.

 

We can all do small acts of kindness for no reason other than, “just because”. The characters in a book can do it too. It’s a human quality that, when done right, comes off as genuine, but I believe the writer also has to see it as genuine. Of course you can argue that the writer might have an agenda when creating a scene where a character does something altruistic. The hidden agenda might be to create a picture of who the character is.

 

In real life, it’s argued that people engage in even small acts of altruism because they get something back in return; a smile, an acknowledgement, a feeling of “being good”. Maybe that’s so, but I don’t let it stop me, and please, don’t let it stop you. In writing, our book characters will benefit from engaging in that very human behaviour, and make them easier to relate to.

 

When it comes to those of us living outside the pages of a book, if doing something altruistic makes you feel good, and you want to feel good about yourself, I’d call that a great agenda!

I Feel Good!

I Feel Good!

 

 

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