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Posts Tagged ‘writers’

typing-clipart-typing-on-computerI’m humbled and thrilled to receive my first 5 star review for The King’s Consort-The Louise Rasmussen Story.

When a reader takes the time to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or their blog, they are not only reaching out to other readers, they are reaching out to the author. After countless hours, months, years, the writer sits on the edge of his/her seat, waiting to see if anyone out there actually enjoys the story, as they’ve told it. We are anxious mother hens, hovering over our chick, pushing it forward, clucking away, and full of nervous excitement.

Reviews also affect the discoverability of a writer’s work on on-line venues, and in bricks-and-mortar stores. Just like word-of-mouth, it helps spread the word about a new release, or a book that’s been around a while. Places like Amazon use something called algorithms to help place the book in line with others of it’s kind, and rise it in the ranks of scores of other books. The more reviews a book gets, the higher up the line it rises, thereby making it easier for potential readers to discover. No one seems to know exactly how these algorithms work, but it is vital to the success of a book, and of course, to the writer and publisher.

When considering a new book, I know I check the reviews first, just like I do when considering whether or not to book a hotel. It isn’t that I rely on that information only when buying a book, but when I see a pattern (positive or negative), it sways my decision-making. I combine that information with my opinion of the cover art and back cover blurb, and if I like what I see, I’ll lay my money down.

Reviews may also help bookstores decide which books they give valuable shelf space to. Their business is to sell books, so it makes sense that a bookstore is going to want to place books that are more likely to sell.

Finally, (honest) reviews help the writer determine whether or not they’ve hit their mark with the story. It gives us much needed feedback, and feeds the fires of inspiration to keep us moving ahead with the next book, and the next, and the next.

shout-outBut how do you write a review? Honestly, it’s easy. Once you’ve finished reading a book, go to Amazon and set up your (free) account (most countries have their own Amazon sites). Next, search for the title or author, and click on that book. This brings you to the book’s sales page. Just below the author’s name you’ll see a series of five stars. Beside that you’ll see a line that states how many reviews that particular book has. Click on that, and it’ll bring you to a new page that gives all the reviews that book has received to date. Beside the star review, you’ll see an area that says “Write a customer review”. Click on that and follow the prompts. If you’ve read a book on a Kindle or via Kindle app, at the end of the book you’ll be taken to a “review” page, so this is where you can easily leave a review. Amazon, and other e-venues, is trying to make this really easy for readers, because they know how valuable your feedback is.

As for the portion where you can leave a comment, it can be as long or as brief as you like. Read through a few others on that book or any others to get an idea. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t have to be perfectly worded. It just has to be honest. Typically, it’s helpful to explain what you liked (or didn’t like) about the book. In some cases you can give a brief synopsis (no spoilers though, please), or not, and a recommendation, such as “I’d highly recommend this book to other lovers of _____.”

Once you’ve submitted your review, Amazon will notify you that it has been accepted, and what’s really cool, is that if your review proves helpful to another reader, you’ll receive an email notification to tell you.

On behalf of all writers out there, and for me, thank you for your incredible support. It means more to us than you know!

Finally, do you read reviews before purchasing? If so, tell us why. If not, share your reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

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Write On The Beach

Write On The Beach

This weekend I wrapped up a 2 day inaugural writers’ workshop I was co-hosting. It was a ton of work, but an extremely exciting and successful event – which is what really matters. I’ve never attempted anything on this scale, and bringing together 4 diverse, very successful authors to Grand Bend to teach 90 minute workshops to an equally diverse audience of new and “wannabe” writers proved to be no small challenge.

We couldn’t have done it, and done it so well, if not for the help of my partners-in-crime, Mary Alderson and Jonathon Roulston. Of course without the financial grant support of the Grand Bend Community Foundation, the Lambton County Creative County Fund, and the Grand Bend Art Centre, none of it would have been possible. I’m incredibly grateful for these groups and individuals who pulled together to make this entire event and weekend a success. Our instructors were also a real treat to work with. Jeff Rasley, Alicia Rasley, Bonnie Burnard, and Robyn Doolittle are professionals of the very finest merit. Their wisdom, humour, and expertise were appreciated by everyone. Judging by the comments I received from attendees, each session was chock full of insightful, helpful information and take-aways.

Grand Bend Harbour

Grand Bend Harbour

One of our added goals was to increase awareness of Grand Bend, Lambton Shores, and all we have to offer residents and visitors. Long known for our beautiful, wide sandy beaches, incredible sunsets, beach town vibe and family-friendly restaurants and activities, we wanted to showcase Grand Bend’s cultural and creative side as well. Visitors to the workshop, including instructors Jeff and Alicia Rasley who travelled from Indianapolis, Indiana, came away impressed by Grand Bend, and stated more than once that they’ll be back.

These are all true win-wins for everyone involved. I like that. It also means we’ll definitely be going ahead and doing one again next year, so stay tuned next spring for details.

 

 

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I’m so excited to share information on a new 2 day writers’ workshop series in Grand Bend, Ontario (2 hours from Toronto, 45 minutes to London and Sarnia) this June 11-12/2016! With four A-class, seasoned writers as instructors talking on a variety of topics, there’s something for everyone! Whether you’re already well into the writing journey, just starting out, or want to learn how to get started, these workshops were made for you. 

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Why Bother?

Why Bother?

Well, there’s a question and a half! Every so often I ponder this question, and at the beginning of a new year, it’s extremely appropriate.

Life can seem like such an uphill battle that it’s easy to think, “Why bother?” After all, if whatever you’re doing isn’t getting you where you want to be, maybe you should just quit. I mean seriously. Quit. Or don’t quit. Only you can decide which path is right for you.

In a YouTube video I posted a few months ago, I remarked that I’d watched a video with Pastor Rob Bell and author Elizabeth Gilbert, where Rob commented that perhaps we don’t need to “find” our place in this world, so much as “create” our place in this world. Wow! That really hit home, since I’d spent most of my life trying to figure where I fit in. I’ve come to a conclusion; I don’t need to fit in. I can create my own place and thrive from there.

But what if what I’m doing is hard? Really, really hard. I’ve questioned this chosen path of writing so many times. I’ve cried, I’ve pleaded with God to give me a sign, I’ve meditated, and I’ve demanded. I’m still right where I’m meant to be. I’m still struggling. I’m still learning. I’m still growing – sloooowly. Maybe someday I’ll look back and wonder why I couldn’t see what was right in front of me, or why I even questioned who I am and what I want to do with this life I’ve been given.

Struggles Ahead

Struggles Ahead

In reflection it occurs to me that every struggle I’ve had to go through has brought me to this point in my life. I’ve hated the struggles while I was going through them, and I know I’ll hate the ones that are looming out of sight. After all, what if my choices lead me places I don’t want to go? What if I never reach my goals of making a living from my writing. What if all my family and friends never understand what I’ve been trying to do? What if I fail?

So why bother? I have the free will to change my course and do something entirely different. The next question is; do I really want to? What will I gain if I do? What will I lose? Every choice has pros and cons, and being a reasonably intelligent woman, I have to consider those pros and cons every single day. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, to the moment I close them again at night, I have to choose how I spend my hours. Sitting here writing this blog post, I could be doing something else. But this question has been bugging me, so I’m better off getting it out in the open where I can see it. It’s a big question, and the answers are scary.

Do I have to answer today? Right now? Tomorrow? Next week – or next year? No, I don’t. I could just drift along and let life take me where it will, but knowing me, I won’t like that either. I know I need to feel I have goals and some measure of choice in what I do. I need to be intellectually challenged – Lord knows I’ve had life challenges enough. I don’t need any more “blessing in disguise”. I want them front and center where I can see them, so I know there’s a reason to bother. Of course what I want isn’t necessarily what I get. It isn’t always what any of us get. So, we choose to either bother, or not bother. There are consequences to both.

For me, I choose to continue to work at writing because I feel my most authentic when I do. I feel good at the end of the day when I’ve done the work, sat in front of my computer, slogged at getting the words down on the page of my current WIP. Even when I know it’s not perfect, it’s at least a start. I have that choice. Every day. Now, because I can, I choose to work five days a week at my writing, leaving the weekends for family, friends, errands and household chores. After all these years, I know this is when my brain functions best, so I’ve learned to go with what I know works for me.

Networking works!

But if I’m not making a wonderful living from my writing, why bother? If I’m not a famous author yet – after five, going on six, loooong years – why bother? I guess the answer to my own question is because not writing scares me more than failure. I’m afraid that if I stop, that’s where I’ll feel I’ve failed myself. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know that I love writing stories. I also love interviewing other writers from around the globe and getting to “know” them. Connections matter to me, so if I were to stop, I’d lose that. I also learn so much from other writers like Molly GreenAnne R. Allen, Ruth Harris, Christina Hamlett, Janna Graber, Deb Cooke (aka Claire Delacroix), Jeff and Alicia Rasley, and so many more I’ve come to know and enjoy through my writing and interviews. I think about the connections I haven’t made yet, and I don’t want to give those up either. For me, they are reasons to bother.

When I think about the question “why bother”, as it pertains to anything in life, I guess the answer is to consider what you’d do if you stopped. Are you okay with the consequences? Does stopping fill you with relief, or disquiet? If it would truly be a relief, then perhaps it’s time to try something else. On the other hand, if it fills you with disquiet or upset, then you aren’t done yet. Possible future or past failure doesn’t matter. It becomes a moot point, since that’s no longer why you do it. You do it because you aren’t finished with whatever your “it” is, or “it” isn’t finished with you. Simple. As. That.

So, I guess I keep writing. I can add to my repertoire of writing. I can explore new avenues of writing to add to my novel-writing, such as freelancing with articles, more interviews, or non-fiction. I can fall in love with the written word and communicating with others all over again and stop worrying about the what-ifs. What I choose not to do is stop. I choose to bother. Doesn’t mean I’ll never complain again, or worry, or agonize, or cry, or demand, or question. That’s not part of the bargain I have with myself or with God. I’ll just do my absolute best and see how it all turns out. It’s all any of us can do.

What have you chosen to bother, or not bother with for this new year?

 

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Moving on Up

Moving on Up

 

 

 

 

We’re moving again. Even though I tell myself before, during, and immediately after every move that I’ll never do it again, life gets in the way and I find myself packing boxes and going through a surprising accumulation of stuff. It’s a tremendous chore to pack, sift through, and unpack everything you own, but it can also be a good thing.

First there’s the feeling of a new start that is inherent with any move. It can also be one of the most stressful situations we can be in – up there with divorce, change of jobs or schools, marriage, and new babies. But life is constantly changing. We’re forced to either accept the tides of change, or get sucked under. Personally, I like the opportunities that moving brings with it (I guess that’s why I keep doing it). While I’m grumbling about all the work it is to move, I try to focus on what’s ahead. I imagine my new home, and in my head I decorate to my heart’s content. I place furniture in different rooms, paint walls, hang pictures, and visualize how it will all look. I talk about it at length to my husband, and make long lists of what to keep and what to toss. It’s exhausting, but also strangely liberating. It’s personal world-building in the very truest sense.

Inspiration Moves Us

Inspiration Moves Us

Writing is the ultimate in world-building though. We’re literally crafting characters, worlds, situations, and outcomes out of the ether. Our job is to make the reader enjoy the journey and be able to make sense of the world we’ve created. Even the most outlandish fantasy stories must contain key elements of grounding for the reader to hold on to. If the writer fails in that, they’ve lost the reader, because he or she can only go by what’s written in front of them. They can’t see inside the writer’s head for the details that failed to make it to the page. If something is jarring or seems completely out of place, the writer risks upsetting the dear reader to the point where they close the book and become dissatisfied and distrustful of the writer.

Writers are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. Not only do characters need to have substance and value, but consideration must be paid to things like time, place, costuming, language, point-of-view, and what characters see, smell, hear, and touch. Be careful of the info drop though, since no reader wants to slog through pages and pages of description before getting to the good stuff – action and dialogue. It’s a careful balance, but when achieved, brings the reader right into the heart of the story. They’re right there chasing the bad guys, or up in the rigging fighting (or being) pirates, or falling deeply in love. The reader is taken out of his/her everyday life and given a chance to be someone they aren’t and explore places they may never see. That’s what they pay for. They buy a book in hopes that it will transport them. World-building is complex, but must appear seamless for it to come to life.

Like moving to a new home, the first page of a book is a brand new start. A new adventure. As a writer, you determine where you’re taking the reader. You get to decorate to your heart’s content, and when it comes time to edit, well, it’s like down-sizing; you take away the things you know you aren’t going to need, and even get rid of things you once loved, but no longer have a place for in your new home. You build a new world full of hope and promise, and is a reflection of the story you are telling yourself and visitors. Welcome readers to your book like you would to your home. If you’ve done your job, they’ll return for another visit.

Friends

Friends

 

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Office For One

Office For One

 

 

 

 

 

Office For One: The Sole Proprietor’s Survival Guide, by Christina Hamlett is the perfect read for anyone either currently in business for themselves, or even thinking about it! Chock full of useful information, tips, and solid business sense, this book gives the reader what he/she is looking for; real, hands-on, useable advice about starting, operating, and growing a sole proprietor business. Whether a woman who decides to work from home while caring for children, writers who toil in solitude to create something worth reading, or the man who yearns to run his own business his own way, Office For One gives the how-tos, along with reminders of the inherent pluses and minuses of doing so. Far from a boring business manual, this book enlightens and pours many lifetimes of experience into its pages. A must read for Solopreneurs!

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Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

 

It never ceases to surprise me that, as I continue to build my writing career, I’m also exploring new avenues of communication with others. Of course I’m hoping I reach readers through my books, and some are very generous by posting reviews on websites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc. This is incredibly important on many levels, but on a personal one, it means they think I’m doing something right with my writing, or they share how they felt about the characters I’ve created. There is no higher reward for a writer!

 

But then there’s this blog, and it’s helping me communicate with others on a whole different level. It lets me share my thoughts on many subjects, and again, sometimes hear back from others. But I’m continually looking to expand my reach and stretch my comfort zones, which is why in addition to book tours/signings, I’ve branched out into the public speaking arena. Although my stomach still gets tied up into knots before every appearance, I know this is a good thing. Once I get started, I’m fine and I relax. I actually even enjoy the experience, because not only do I give a talk for a specific period of time on a topic pertinent to the attendees, I do a question and answer session. This allows the audience to ask me questions, and often, I ask them questions. This exchange is really important to me, and I hope, to them. The take-aways are huge for me, and gives me a chance to connect with others outside my computer and the net, on a personal level. I can watch their faces and see their reactions to my words immediately. Likewise, they glean a little more information about me, my work, how I think about certain subjects, and can see and hear me talk as well. To me, public speaking is the ultimate vehicle for connection, and I’m very present in the moment. It isn’t about what I have to say, so much as it’s about what they hear and take away from the exchange. Public speaking isn’t about the speaker; it’s about the audience, and giving them something of value they can use in their own lives.

 

Retreat Presentation

Retreat Presentation

This past Sunday I spoke for an hour to a group of female teachers who were attending a women’s retreat. As I spoke, I was watching their faces, their postures, and their body language. At several points I knew I’d touched a nerve with some of the attendees. When they dabbed at their eyes in response to a portion of my talk where I revealed some of the really difficult years I’d struggled with as a single parent living on Family Assistance while raising two children, I knew they were really listening. Those were dark days for me, but they were also days of re-connecting with my family in amazing ways. Clearly, something in my words touched some of these women, and it was evident on their faces and by the tears they shed. I have no idea why this resonated with them, because everyone has their own story and internalizes information in their own way, but I was glad to see they felt something, not just heard my words.

 

At other times they laughed at a comment I made, and again, this was gratifying for me to hear. I felt I was hitting my mark with my talk. Then I did something I’ve never implemented before. I had left a one page feedback sheet on each chair, and requested the attendees take a couple of moments to comment on my presentation. While I was busy signing books, my husband was in charge of dealing with the money exchange and accepting the returned feedback sheets. Because I was focused on the book signing and chatting up the ladies who’d approached me, I wasn’t paying any attention to how many were actually returning the sheets. It wasn’t until we were on our way home that I asked my husband about them. I thought we’d received maybe one or two returns, but he assured me we had received many more. He’d put my book bag in the back seat of the car, so I couldn’t access the pages until we got home, and I was thrilled to discover we’d received ten responses out of sixteen attendees! That’s an excellent return quota.

 

As I read through those pages, I was overwhelmed by some of the comments these ladies generously supplied. Comments like, “Your ability to overcome what you felt were obstacles and/or failures in life was inspiring”, or “Yes! I’m at that moment (just before 50) and realise that its time to look forward…”,and “Debbie’s life story of her struggles and successes has truly motivated and inspired me to persevere in some areas of my life that I have been hesitant to start due to fear of failure”, resonate and touch me deeply.

 

We Are All Teachers

We Are All Teachers

As I mentioned during my talk to these ladies, we never know whose life we touch in a positive way when we reach out beyond ourselves. By being vulnerable to and with other people, we allow them to see that we all share similarities. We are all afraid of the new and untried. We all have failures and fears. When we share of ourselves, our stories, successes, and failures, we connect in ways we hadn’t always anticipated. It sounds trite, but I honestly feel that if even one woman present last Sunday was motivated to take on a new challenge, or overcome an old one, then I’ve done more than just stand up and talk. I’d like to hope I made them think and feel. Much as I love sharing my work, and of course, selling my books, it doesn’t move me the way connecting with others does. I’m discovering that both men and women have a need to be reassured that failure, perseverance, and ultimately, success, is and can be part every human experience. We are all teachers.

 

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider leaving a comment here, and sharing with your circles on social networks. Thank you! Debbie

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