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Soul Full Eye by Artist, Lisa Redfern

Soul Full Eye
by Artist, Lisa Redfern

I have to admit, I’m a lover of fantasy. I love the idea of going after the dream, wishing on a star, and clicking my heels three times to achieve my deepest desires. But that’s not gonna happen any time soon. So what am I left with? Reality. I’m left with the realization that I have to do something, anything, to make things happen. No fairy godmother is going to come along and wave her magic wand and make me or my life what I want it to be. Talking about it, planning for it, making lists, researching, none of these things really advances me toward my goals in a substantial way. Oh, they may be necessary aspects of beginning a new project or adventure, but they don’t have the same effect as getting off my duff and actively doing the nitty-gritty work necessary.

 

When I talk to groups of people who attend my writing workshops, I always start by asking where everyone is in their writing journey. At least half, if not more, of the class talks about how they want to write, how they have always wanted to write, which is why they’re in my class. Beautiful! Wonderful! But I then ask those same people, why they haven’t started to write yet? That’s when the excuses come into play. They’ll claim that they haven’t had time, or the self-confidence. Some will claim they need to learn how to write before they begin. I then ask if they know how to use a pen and paper, or computer to put words down into sentences. Everyone nods their head and laughs. Of course they do, but they want to learn how to begin. I tell them it’s really very simple. They just start writing.

 

babies walkingEver watch a baby learn to roll over, crawl, walk? Ever watch a toddler climb, begin to talk, feed itself, and all the other astounding things they do each and every day? No one teaches a baby or toddler to do these things. They just decide to do it, and they keep making mistakes and trying again until they get it right. Yes, they will fail, and they might cry in frustration, but then they’ll get over the tears and make another attempt, until they get it right. Then once they’ve mastered that feat, they begin to tackle another in exactly the same manner. Try, fail, fall down, cry, try again, fail again, fall down again, cry again, then get back up and do the whole thing over again, until success is reached. No one has to teach them any of these things. Oh, we as adults can encourage and praise, but that’s all. The rest is up to the individual child to discover what works for him/her and find their own way. So it is with writing. You can take all the courses you want, make incredible outlines, plan to your heart’s content, but until you actually plant your butt in the chair and begin writing, you aren’t a writer.

 

That doesn’t mean the learning curve isn’t huge, because it is. Yes, there are guidelines and things to learn, and tons of ways to fail, but the words on the page are what writing is all about. Nothing else. This writing gig is a loooong battle that never really ends. I’m learning that for myself the hard way. As I continue to slog through revision after revision of my latest WIP, I could get discouraged, and sometimes I do. If I’m to move forward though, I have to get back to the business at hand and write. It doesn’t even matter if what I write in the first or second draft (or third or fourth) is particularly good; that’s what edits and re-writes are for. The key is to sit down and write.

 

It has often occurred to me that life is exactly like writing, or anything we wish to accomplish in our lives. At some point, the rubber must hit the road for the car to move forward even one inch. It doesn’t matter what challenges you’re faced with, to move forward means doing something. It’s okay to stop and consider the options though, and in fact, it’s extremely advisable. We were given brains to use them in constructive, creative ways, so we might as well use them to figure out ways of getting what we want.

 

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Interviewing Interesting Writers

Everyone has different dreams and goals. Each person is unique unto him/herself, and we can all learn from each other. We can all be inspired by others and apply what we learn to our own lives, or just admire the doer for their innovation and creativity. Anyone who regularly visits this blog knows I interview other writers, primarily because people fascinate me. I began interviewing other writers from around the globe at various stages of their writing journey for another blog, Christina Hamlett’s You Read It Here First.

Through Christina, I’ve had the great privilege and pleasure of “meeting” so many incredibly talented people over the past year. People who are taking their dreams and running with them at full speed. People who seek new ways to express the deepest part of themselves, and help others along the way. Talk about inspiration! Each one of the individuals I interview shines a light into an area I had never explored before. Although I may never choose to climb a mountain, like fellow writer, Jeff Rasley, be able to create stunning pieces of visual art, like Lisa Redfern, take a love of animals and turn it into unique stories told from a dog’s point of view, like Carol McKibben, write wonderful, witty plays like Christina Hamlett, translate an admiration for another person into a series of books, like Tony Lee Moral, trek around the world and write about my adventures, like Janna Graber, or gather my family and head out to parts unknown to experience new cultures and ways of life, like my up-coming interviewee, Michelle Tupy, I can be inspired by them to keep playing my own tune and following my own dreams.

 

I find it reassuring to know that people can do literally anything they choose to, and do it with skill, finesse, and a lively sense of humour about trials and tribulations they encounter. I love knowing it’s okay to make mistakes, to fall down, and then get back up to try again. In fact, since I started writing, I’ve come across scores of people who are launching themselves forward into their lives with gusto, and with a look over their shoulder to see who they can help along the way. How cool is that? In talks with other writers, like ML Swift (watch here for his interview in the coming weeks), who chose to dedicate the last years of his mother’s life to helping her get through the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, then wrote about that experience, I realize that we all have something to give, and get, from other people. Perhaps we should retain more of the dogged determination of infants who watch, learn, internalize, then gather the courage to get out there and DO something, damnit!

 

So yes, learn all you can about whatever it is you want to go after, but at some point be prepared to put yourself out there, risk humiliation, overcome fear, and HAVE FUN with the whole messy business of living your life while going after your dreams! And if it helps to close your eyes and wish upon a star, cross your fingers, click your heels together, whatever, then go for it, because we can all use whatever help God, the Universe, Allah, Buddha, whatever you want to call it, can give us.

Wish Upon A Star

Wish Upon A Star

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Who Am I?

Who Am I?

As a writer, and as a human being, I have struggled with believing in myself and my purpose many times over. Throughout my life I’ve doubted I had what it took to do a certain thing, or be a certain way. I kept thinking I needed more education, more time, more money, more something. I was wrong.

 

What I’ve learned is that what I have right now, today, is enough. The lessons I’ve learned just from living have taught me well. The reading I’ve done have helped educate me. My own intuition is usually spot on. It’s when I doubt my intuition that I stumble and fall. I have been talked and guilted into doing things I knew weren’t right for me. Why? Because I didn’t believe in myself and my purpose enough. I doubted my strength. I doubted any God-given talent I may have. I kept seeking the right fit for me. I listened to others who were also seeking their own path. I learned that’s okay. I learned from those experiences, with some tremendous take-aways for my life and my writing. I met people I would not have met otherwise. But more importantly, each stumble had me righting myself and realizing that my instincts, my intuition, were right. Each time I fell I came away more sure of who I am and where I’m supposed to be. These are all good things.

 

I used to wonder what my purpose on this earth was. Now I don’t. I know, just as I’ve honestly, deep down, always known, that I was born to communicate with others. My writing allows me to do that via the written word. My public speaking allows me to do it via verbal communication with others. My blog, website, and social networks allow me to do this via the written word and the world wide web.

 

Storytelling

Storytelling

When I write, I don’t start out thinking about what message I want to convey to readers. I write to tell a story. I write from the heart. It’s really only after the story is completely written that I realize the message, or theme that tends to run through each story. This theme tends to be one that speaks to the value of love and people. The value of connection to other people and our humanity is what really lies behind each of my stories. I believe we are all connected. I believe we all provide value to each other, and to the world at large. I believe we all teach and learn throughout our entire lives. My purpose, as I see it, is to share those beliefs through any medium available to me. My stories tend to be character driven. I enjoy focusing on the relationships that shape the characters, their conflicts, and triumphs. As I said, I don’t write with the purpose of conveying a hard message in mind. I guess my own innate beliefs permeate my writing on an unconscious level. Once I became aware of this, I was glad. It means it isn’t contrived. It doesn’t seem to matter whether my characters are fictional or based on real historical people. I visualize a story and I wonder who the characters are. I wonder how they would feel in certain situations. I wonder, “what if”.

 

I want to continue living the rest of my life that way. I want to live my life intent on connecting with other people. I want to teach and to learn and to understand as much as I can. I suppose that’s also what fuels my love of travel. For me, travel is about learning and connecting with new people in new places. It’s about discovery, and I like that.

I enjoy sitting in my little corner of the world and writing stories about people and places that might resonate with readers anywhere else in the world. To me, that’s the coolest thing possible.

 

Believing in yourself means listening to that little voice that whispers in your mind. It means trusting that voice and your instincts. When we’re honest with ourselves, we often know, instinctively, what’s right and what’s wrong. We sometimes get an instinctive sense of the character of people we meet. Ever meet someone new and felt an immediate affinity for them? Ever met someone and felt an immediate sense of distrust, or even fear, of that person? That’s instinct, and it’s often the truest piece of feedback you’ll ever receive.

 

Believing in your purpose starts with acknowledging that you have one. It’s about acknowledging that you are here on this earth for a reason. By being honest with yourself, and trusting yourself, you’ll know what that purpose is. Sometimes it takes a very long time to learn to trust yourself. It took me almost fifty years, and still I struggle some days.

 

Writing is hard. It requires the writer to trust that what they are sharing with the world is of value; that it brings something to other people they don’t have, or are seeking. It means accepting the multitude of rejections and keep on going. It means believing that every no is one step closer to a yes, or forging an independent path to getting the stories out there. It means learning, growing, and pushing the boundaries of comfort. It is the greatest leap of faith in yourself possible.

 

Walk Your Own Path

Walk Your Own Path

Whatever you do in life, you determine your own path. You make decisions that affect your future every single day. The beauty is that if you make a mistake, you CAN make a new start. The addict can get clean. The unhappy person can learn to be gentle with him/ herself and love. The person intent on gaining material wealth only can change and choose to re-connect with the people in their lives and give something back to the world. You get to choose your reaction to any given situation.

 

Believing in yourself and your life’s purpose is the greatest gift you can give yourself and the world around you.

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We are all connected

We are all connected

 

 

I find people endlessly fascinating, and enjoy connecting with them on multiple levels. Whether in-person or on-line, people’s views, personalities, and idiosyncrasies come through loud and clear in very short order. Some I gravitate toward easily, perhaps because of shared mind-sets and values, while others quickly become abrasive and offensive. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which. Of course I’ll seek out those whose ideas and opinions I share and enjoy, and will avoid those whose don’t mesh easily with my own. Still, I learn something from every single person I come into contact with.

 

For example, just this weekend I held a creative writing workshop at a local art centre, The Grand Bend Art Centre. It was a very small class, but that didn’t bother me. I believe in showing up for those who care to attend. I don’t like turning people away who might have an interest in learning, so when given the choice of going ahead with the small class or cancelling, I chose to go ahead. Why wouldn’t I? If even only one person shows up, then I feel I owe it to the Centre and to the attendees to do my part. The smaller classes just mean more one-on-one instruction and interaction, which can be great fun!

 

As we went through a series of small writing exercises, I began to see where each participant’s strengths and weaknesses lay, both in writing, and personally. One young girl was very shy and reluctant to share her written work aloud, even though she showed remarkable ability and promise. One woman had taught creative writing, but lacked the impetus to actually write the novel she’d always dreamed of. She too showed much promise and skill with words. What they both lacked was the ability to get themselves started on the path to writing and completing a full body of work. In short order, I knew my role; kick-starter. I was going to do what I could within the limits of four hours to ignite a spark of fire and encourage them to really start, and finish, a project.

 

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach

One of the exercises I particularly enjoy during the workshop is what I refer to as a “walkabout”. This is where we go outside to explore the five senses and articulate what the participants see, feel, smell, touch. Writers must be able to bring forward these experiences while sitting in usually quite locations, away from the source of the experiences they are trying to write about. I wanted to remind them to be aware of the world around them on a daily basis. I wanted them to begin thinking in descriptive terms as they experienced where we were that day. Holding classes near a beach gave me excellent fodder for this type of experience and expression. We took the five minute walk down toward the lake. As we walked, I encouraged each person to describe what they saw around them. Then we stopped for a few moments, off the side of the road, and I asked them to close their eyes and describe what they heard and smelled. They talked about feeling the breeze on their skin, and hearing the cry of a gull as it swooped and dove overhead, or the sound of a squeaking bicycle gear as it passed by on the other side of the road. The scent of motor oil from boats moored nearby, and tang of fishy water assaulted their noses. By closing their eyes, they could focus on these elements one by one and experience them in a different way than they might normally. On reaching the dunes overlooking the long expanse of sand, water, and sky, they each described the tall grasses that graced the tops of the sand dunes, the leaden grey sky overhead that touched partially fog-shrouded land in the distance on one end, and cleared on the other to reveal the long pier and lighthouse close by. I reminded them that writing is about perception; their perception. The writer’s perception is everything, since it is always the writer who determines what the reader will see, hear, feel, scent, taste, and touch. Turn your head one way, and you experience one set of sensory input. Turn it the other, and you get a completely different angle. Turn your head too far, and you can’t see the other side at all, but it’s still there. Each person described the identical setting very differently, but with such passion and conviction. I loved it!

 

As I drove home from that class, I thought about how that little exercise is mirrored in our every day life and experiences. We can only perceive the world through our own senses, and we interpret those experiences in individual ways. No two people view themselves and the world around them in quite the same way. This is perfect. We aren’t meant to see and interpret the world around us exactly the same. It’s this variation that makes us unique and interesting. In that walk-about exercise, there was no right or wrong interpretation. Everything was valid and exciting. Putting words to the experiences helped us all see, for a quick span of time, through the other’s senses and mind. This is what the writer does. We share our views on the world, both real and imaginary, with others for a brief span of time. Close the book, magazine, or computer, and we all move back into our own lanes of thought, belief, and understanding. This is the magic, and joy, of writing, and life.

Writing and Life

Writing and Life

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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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Getting Started

Getting Started

When I first decided to start writing, I had absolutely no experience. I hadn’t taken any writing courses, and had no formal writing education. Because of this, I kept putting off writing. I was afraid I had no business tackling such a tremendous endeavour. I don’t claim to be an expert on writing. I’m just a writer who is feeling her way along as she goes.

I have, however, learned a thing or two since I embarked on this journey. First; it isn’t as difficult as I’d thought. Second; it’s more difficult than I ever dreamed. Let me explain. You see, I thought because I didn’t have the education behind me, I had no business taking such a huge step. I thought I couldn’t possibly have gleaned enough knowledge through my many years of reading other people’s work to do it justice myself. Finally I realized that if I didn’t just do it, I’d run out of time. None of us gets out of here alive. As I neared my fiftieth birthday, it became clear that only I could do, or not do, anything I chose. Scary business. Still, I’d always thought I wanted to write. I always believed I would. So, I did it. One painful, joyous step at a time. So, I decided to just start writing, and worry about the rest later. That was the easy part.

The really difficult part came once I realized I was hooked on writing, and what a significant task I was undertaking. I quickly realized I needed to write. I’d finally found what I’d heard others refer to as “a calling”. I knew this is what I was born to do. Everything in my life had lead me to this point, and I don’t regret that. It was a necessary passage for me. Once I realized this, I became aware that I’d have to give it my all; more than anything I’d ever done previously. I’d have to delve into more than just the nuts and bolts of learning to write, but also understand the business of writing and publishing. I’m kind of an all or nothing girl.

One of the first things I had to do was decide what I wanted to write about, and once I had that germ of an idea, I wrote out a very brief outline, in point form. Then I had to decide whose point of view the story would take. Now remember, I had no experience, and hadn’t been able to afford the writing courses I was sure I was going to need. Instead, I do what do best; I began researching what POV (point of view) was on the internet. I’d heard the term, and was pretty sure I understood it, but wanted to check. I learned the best way to determine POV, for me anyway, was to start writing and see whose voice came through first. That first chapter taught me that I prefer to write in Third Person Narrative, at least for this book. It felt easy and natural for me, which is why I chose it. The other POV options are: Second Person Narrative, and First Person Narrative.

Whose eyes are you looking through?

Whose eyes are you looking through?

I also learned from my research to stay with one POV per chapter, to allow the reader to follow along a little easier. This made sense to me. I’d read books where there was a lot of “head hopping”, and found it confusing, so wanted to avoid this mistake. It also simplifies the writing, since essentially you are writing “as” one character, not multiple characters. It allows the writer to see the world through one character’s eyes and mind at a time. When I got to the next chapter, I could switch perspective and choose to “become” the other character, and explore their world. As the story evolved, so too did the characters, in part because I’d had sufficient time to understand who each of the characters were and their purpose. As I wrote, I was able to begin drafting a profile of each character, i.e. hair and eye colour, occupation, family members, if needed, needs and drivers, etc.

I know many writers who do complete, complex story and character outlines before actually beginning to write the story. I’m not one of them. I tend to think as I type, and let the story and characters evolve. I guess I figured that’s what editing is for. That’s when you get the chance to go back and re-visit each aspect of your work and modify it as you think is needed. Editing is also where I go back to make sure I’ve stayed with the right POV throughout the chapter. I have definitely caught myself “head hopping”, or losing the original POV I’d started out with at the beginning of the chapter. This is most likely because life gets in the way of writing. I have a husband, family, and outside obligations that can and do interrupt my writing time. It’s very easy to forget where you are in the writing process and pick up where you hadn’t intended. I also don’t set time or word count limits on myself. Although I usually wrap up a writing session at the end of a chapter, again, life sometimes gets in the way and I need to stop before the end of a chapter. Rather than go back and re-read an entire chapter, I’ll also often go back a couple of pages to refresh my mind on where I was, and start where I left off. I know, many writers would likely shudder to think of doing this, but it works for me. Again, I figure if I’ve messed up, I’ll fix it when I get to the editing stage. During the first draft writing, my goal is to write, not edit. It may be very different for each writer, and each one must choose what works best for them, their personality, and their lives. I do what I do because it’s how I work best. I know this, and don’t fight it.

Oddly enough, I’ve recently heard a few people who know me well say that one character or another sounds like me, but doesn’t fit with their vision of the character. That’s a tough one, since as the writer, I can really only write as me, or should I say, variations of me and my personality. We all have inner voices and are multi-dimensional. Writers simply take all those dimensions and put them into a story. We do occasionally have a certain person we know of, or have read about, and imagine their POV, but again, it really comes down to how the writer perceives those characters. I suppose each point of view, each character, is really my own, but manifests in different forms and voices. It’s a fun and exciting thought.

Communicating

Communicating

To me, writing is really just another extension of my desire to communicate with others. Even though I can, and do, speak publicly on a number of topics, I’m actually an introvert. I prefer smaller groups and intimate settings rather than loud, boisterous gatherings. It sounds strange, but I’d rather be up on the stage speaking, than standing in crowd. Writing also allows me the opportunity to express different thoughts and ideas, and explore new adventures with exciting characters who live far more exciting lives than I do myself. Because of my love of travel, I tend to seek out settings that are far removed from where I currently live. This is not because I don’t love where I live, I most certainly do, it is just that when I write, I want to reach beyond where I am and learn as I go. Just as with choosing POV in writing, choosing the setting is just as important to the finished product. However, choosing the setting for a story is another blog post I’ll address next time.

The next time you read something by an author, be aware of and think about the POV the writer has chosen. Did you enjoy it, and if so, why? If not, why not? If you are a writer, do you have a favourite POV? If so, why?

Please do take a moment to comment in the comments section to share your thoughts and ideas. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing with your social networking circles. Thank you.

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Sell! Sell! Sell!

Sell! Sell! Sell!

 

We are bombarded daily with ads wanting us to buy this product, or that service. The ads come on our televisions, tablets, phones, billboards, and in the venues we frequent for shopping. It seems everyone wants to sell us something, and this can be tiring. Sometimes, it’s even downright annoying.

 

Before I began writing novels, my background was in commissioned real estate and mortgage sales, so I understand the concepts and drills of selling. I was never the “hard sell” type though, which is perhaps why I got out of that business. I loved working with people, and putting pieces of the puzzles together, and although I met some wonderful, conscientious sales reps, I got tired of dealing with so many disreputable “professionals”.

 

I also wasn’t driven enough to succeed. I liked the work, but didn’t love it. So, I quit. I drifted around a bit, unsure of what really fit me, my personality, and my skill sets. I kept looking for something that excited me and drove me to want to succeed. There were plenty of things I could do, just not a lot I wanted to do. As a result, my finances suffered, as did my self-esteem. I just couldn’t seem to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I felt like a failure. I pretended it didn’t bother me, but it did.

 

I was asking for a lot; I wanted to do something meaningful to me, but couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t making the logical connections. Then I discovered writing, and all the pieces finally fit. This is what I’m meant to do. More than that though, I began to realize that all those years in sales weren’t wasted. Before that, I worked as an office administrator, so I can type and organize an office pretty well. I’d need my experience in sales and office admin to help me write, market and promote my books. I already had the basics, and I made another connection; it’s all about building relationships.

 

Making it all fit

Making it all fit

When I’d been in sales before, I loved building relationships with my clients and other industry professionals. I’m good at it, and it comes naturally to me. I don’t have to force it at all. Writing is just another way of building even more relationships. I’ve been able to do this not only through readers, which is fantastic, but with other writers and publishing industry professionals all over the world. Sure, I want book sales, who doesn’t, but I love connecting with others on various levels. I’ve discovered so many people out there who are like me; they’re connectors. They love to share the knowledge they’ve gained, and enjoy the connections they’ve built over time. Seth Godin posted on his blog recently about this very subject, which is what got me thinking. He’s absolutely right; it isn’t about the short term gain, it’s about the long term goal.

 

People like Jonathan Gunson, of Bestseller Labs, Molly Greene, Jane Friedman, and Joanna Penn all share the wealth of their knowledge and experience with others freely and openly on their blogs and websites. Well known writers like Hugh Howey, Sylvia Day, and many others are breaking down the walls and sharing industry insights and hard won know-how with other writers climbing the ladder behind them. They’re actively changing the face of publishing in very real, tangible ways, and are encouraging others to re-examine the options. They’re building relationships by sharing what they know. They provide real value in their writing, and in their websites and blogs.

Believe me when I say that when I see one of these remarkable individuals share something on social networks, I forward and share their words, reviews, comments, and upcoming books and events. It doesn’t matter if I personally read every book they write, although I’ll definitely purchase their work too, because I’ll share with my connections and many of them will.

 

Trust must be earned

Trust must be earned

That’s the power of relationship building. It really goes back to sales 101. We don’t buy things or services because we’re told to, but because we trust that what the vendor has to offer will fill a need we have, or solve a problem we’re dealing with. Books are no different. They educate and entertain readers the world over, and writers work hard to bring them to light. That’s why it frustrates me when I hear writers say they hate marketing and promotion. They haven’t made the connection between the product, which is the book, and the message they are trying to convey, or the story they’re trying to tell.

 

I look at sales from the stand point of making connections and building relationships. That way, book marketing, promotion, and learning about the industry I’ve become avidly interested in, becomes much more fun. Social networks have taken on a new meaning for me. Not only do I keep up with family and close friends there, but I also connect with others interested in the same things I am. I learn and grow from other writers, publishers, editors, and agents. Public speaking has given me a forum to talk about my writing, publishing, and my books, but it’s also opened doors to other topics I’m keenly interested in, such as overcoming the fear of failure, and women’s issues.

 

Again, it’s all about making the connections. First, to figure out what I was looking for in my work career, then how to use what I already know to advance that career and connect with others, and finally, to learn more about writing, publishing, and book marketing. I’m not selling anything; I’m simply sharing my work and my words with anyone who’s interested. I don’t have to do the hard-sell. I just have to be me, and that’s easy, flaws and all.

 

I welcome comments, so please do share your thoughts on this issue. If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it with your social circles. 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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