Like all artists, I do my best writing and am the most productive when I'm set up just-right.
Though create a playlist as a soundtrack to my stories, I only listen to them during my planning for inspiration or build it when the book is done. As I mentioned in my last post, I think it's fun as a reader to listen to and get into the story more with a book soundtrack. See and hear the world like I did when writing it.
But for the life of me, I can't listen to music and write at the same time. It distracts me and the next thing I know, I'm singing along, and my fingers are no longer on the keyboard.
Days where I'm snowed in or the weather just isn't cooperating to do anything else but write, my mind isn't jumping from one thing to the next. There aren't any guilt trips I'm throwing at myself for not enjoying the sunshine or mowing the lawn.
Keep in mind though, the mundane tasks we all hate to do are best done before we sit our butts into the chair or comfortable couch. That heap of laundry on the coffee table can give a mean side-eye.
A coffee or tea, which I can honestly say I forget about most times, is next to my notebook and pens.
While notifications are silenced or completely off from my phone, I do have one app that I have running. Stay tuned for my upcoming post for this cute app that helps avoid distractions and encourages you to accomplish things.
Puppy cuddles (or old senile dog cuddles) are great... until it turns into a non-stop cycle of needing to be let out, whining for supper at 2 in the afternoon, or when they get into a full-on brawl because one of them dared to boop the other accidentally. Good thing they've lost a lot of teeth, or I'd have to add a vet visit to the list.
Preparing your spot, whether it's in the same place every time, or you can move from couch to office, then a corner in a café, is the real secret.
Getting up to get a pen can turn into baking cookies or forgetting about the coffee you forgot about an hour before you put it in the microwave the first time can turn into opening YouTube watching Trixie and Katya's UNHhhh. Then you're in a downward spiral and soon you're spamming friends with links...
Not me of course, these are things that can happen, or so I've heard.
What is your set up? What can or can't you have with you?
Have you ever heard about book soundtracks? Not the ones that are from the movie that had started off as a book.
Soundtracks that authors create.
As you all know, my writing transports you back into Canada's 1930s and 1940s. As a lindy hopper and vintage lover, the music of those eras always pulls me right in and they sometimes make an appearance in the story.
In the sequel to Hold On, one chapter in Let GO Kate and Ralph dance to Hey! Ba Ba Re Bop and only get off the dance floor when their feet can't take it anymore.
When a character sits down and watches a movie, picks up a book, or turns on the radio, are you the sort of reader who looks up the movie, title, or song? Will you now?
Here are my book soundtracks for you to enjoy. Perhaps you'll want to read Hold On and Let Go again while the soundtrack plays in the background.
Help: Being Brave Enough To Ask & Take
It's not always easy, is it?
Especially when it come to something you love and hold dear to your heart.
I took the opportunity a few months ago and placed bids on different services, one was to raise funds for Ukraine and the other the WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association). Agents, authors, editors, coaches, and others donate their time and services to help authors.
Bids can start as low as $5.00 with $1.00 increases to starting at $250.00 with $50.00 increases.
There are multiple kinds of critiques that are usually on the list of services:
It's an exciting event to be part of, but then comes the time you "meet" with the donors who you then need to share your work with... and get feedback.
For myself, and I believe most other creators/artists, the fear of failure is something that holds us back and turns us into procrastinators. But you need to remember this is your work, so you have the last word in how you want things to turn out.
*Knock on wood* I haven't had any negative experience from those I've connected with. (A mentor assigned to me is a whole different story and blog post perhaps)
I'm currently working with Kristen Owens on my query letter and Samantha Skal on my query package and they're both beyond amazing. Both are supportive, encouraging, and understand the creative process, knowing how it can be nerve-wracking to share our work in hopes that it's not absolute garbage.
Both work differently, but together they had asked me the perfect questions and offered advice that really helped me make my query letter shine. It does need a final buff to make it really shine, but I will be forever grateful to them both.
My synopsis is a whole other ballgame, I loathe the dreaded synopsis. I think most authors do, to be honest. Writing +100K words and spending countless hours and months editing is a piece of cake compared to condensing your entire book into 1200 words.
But, Samantha left questions and comments that will make it easier to work through it. I'm a little more confident now, having an idea of where it needs to go, what needs to go and things to add.
So as scary as it was to ask for help, it's only allowed me to grow as a writer and person.
Sometimes you need a little bit of encouragement and be someone else's cheerleader. A creative mind isn't always spinning, the gears slow and there are days that nothing budges.
But when you have creative friends who check-in and also need accountability, there aren't many lulls. If there is, there isn't any judgement, perhaps from yourself, but they're quick to shake those free from your stubborn self.
Two girlfriends and I meet once a week for a few hours to write and bounce ideas off of one another. We've been "touring" local coffee shops, trying to find the best decaf lattes, mochaccinos, and dry lattes, which eventually all turn into decaf so we can still type without too many spelling errors.
One specific writing date, one of my girlfriends who usually reads announced that she was finally going to start writing. She's had this story in a vault in the back of her mind for years now, and joining us for writing has pushed her fears away.
How amazing is that?
Being creative can be scary, most creative people, if not all, are huge procrastinators. I think it's a fear of failure or wanting perfection. If there's a creative person out there who doesn't procrastinate, please send them my way... I must know their secret!
Do you procrastinate? Do you know why? Has a friend encouraged you to try something you've always dreamed of doing? Do you help someone with their accountability?
I'd love to hear about it!
Books transport us to other worlds, different times, introduce us to new characters, and with historical fiction, we learn bits of history we might not have known. It helps us remember, never forgetting the people who fought for us, gave us freedom, allowed us to have a voice.
My favourite genre is Historical Fiction, especially set during WWII. One of the last novels I devoured was Lana Kortchik's Sisters Of War.
Kiev, 1941: Watching the Red Army withdraw from Ukraine in the face of Hitler’s relentless advance, sisters Natasha and Lisa Smirnova realise their lives are about to change forever.
As the German army occupies their beloved city, the sisters are tested in ways they never thought possible. Lisa’s fiancé Alexei is taken by the invading army, whilst Natasha falls in love with Mark – a Hungarian soldier, enlisted against all his principles on the side of the Nazis.
But as Natasha and Lisa fight to protect the friends and family they hold dear, they must face up to the dark horrors of war and the pain of betrayal. Will they be strong enough to overcome the forces which threaten to tear their family apart?
This was an emotional story to get through, but with the news of Russia invading Ukraine, my heart is breaking all over again.
But what I read and witness on TV these last couple weeks are not part of a historical fiction novel.
Underground subway stations are being used as bomb shelters. People are fleeing their homes with only what they can carry. Families are being torn apart. Men are signing up to fight, knowing their sacrifice can mean more than time apart from loved ones.
Veterans of the Great War celebrated that it was the war to end all wars, only to have their sons enlist for the second world war.
The fears our grandparents experienced, the unknowing of what the world would come to if the Nazis won, the struggles on the battlefield and home front, changing lives forever.
I am unable to pick up a novel set during war at the moment, things I hear on the news should only be kept to the stories I read or in our history text books.
I came across this letter, signed by over a thousand of Worldwide Nobel Laureates, artists, and writers, condemning Russia's invasion and bloodshed. It is a touching letter, their words strong and full of love.
"All individuals have a right to peace, free expression, and free assembly."
The Ukrainians are strong and determined to keep their history, culture, and language. For decades now, they have fought for their freedom, including freedom of their arts.
The Soviet Union took their voices away, banned their work, and faced with repression. During the 1920s and 1930s, a generation of the Ukrainian intelligentsia were later known as the "Executed Renaissance". These artists were executed by firing squad, sent to concentration camps, or exiled from the only country they knew and loved.
Between 1934 and 1940, a campaign was launched to remove and exterminate them. An estimation of 30,000 Ukrainian intellectuals were repressed under Stalin, The Great Purge of 1938 having imprisoned or executed 223 writers. Out of the 259 published Ukrainian authors from the early 1930s, only 36 remained in 1938.
But their attempts to silence and erase their history, culture, and language failed, the Ukrainians a strong and proud country, refusing to back down. As they continue to be today.
You can read more of the history of the Executed Renaissance, here.
If you are looking for a way to support Ukraine as a bookworm, consider purchasing books by some of their talented authors, a small way to let them know that their work is important to the rest of the world and we want more. That no matter how hard Russia tries, the arts will never be erased from Ukraine.
Here are a few popular books by Ukrainian authors that have been translated into English for your reading pleasure.
Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex
Life Went On Anyway
A Biography Of A Chance Miracle
Our Others: Stories of Ukrainian Diversity
Mondegreen: Songs about Death and Love
Stars And Poppy Seeds
Sound: Shhh . . . Bang . . . POP . . . BOOM!
You're either a HP fan or you're not.
*Prepares myself for angry comments and losing readers*
I never read a chapter, not a line, nor seen a movie about the famous wizard who captured the hearts of young bookworms decades ago.
JK Rowling and Harry Potter did a lot to grow the bookworm community, getting children to read and discover the magic of getting lose within pages.
So why won't I read JK now? Because she is a problematic author and since I have no connection to her from my childhood, I don't owe her a thing. Supporting her work means I am not giving the right focus to the community she has attacked and hurt.
She has damaged herself and has not learned from her mistakes. When others called her out, instead of listening to the Trans Community, she talked. As a white, straight woman, she talked over them when she should have shut up. Rants and rambles was not the way to handle things. This was an opportunity to learn and be open-minded. Instead, she took the voice she had to reach where the Trans Community are struggling to, and spread more negativity.
She made a post on her website, which can be summed up as "But what about me and my problems?"
"So I want trans women to be safe. At the same time, I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside."
She is putting fear where it shouldn't be, jumping on the band-wagon of bigots and racists, including Donald Trump.
"As a much-banned author, I’m interested in freedom of speech and have publicly defended it, even unto Donald Trump."
Instead of learning herself to pass this on to her fans, she has made the decision herself, thinking she knows what being Trans is like and that it will do harm.
"I’m an ex-teacher and the founder of a children’s charity, which gives me an interest in both education and safeguarding. Like many others, I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on both."
She mocks and isn't sympathetic to those who are struggling with their identity.
"I read that the Scottish government is proceeding with its controversial gender recognition plans, which will in effect mean that all a man needs to ‘become a woman’ is to say he’s one. To use a very contemporary word, I was ‘triggered’."
This doesn't mean you need to burn the books you've carried and moved around since you were a child. You don't need to question your happy memories that you have with each book you patiently waited to come out.
Wear your house colours and make inside jokes that us non-Potters (Or as I discovered through research, Muggles) won't get. Binge-watch the movies until you know each line by heart.
What it means is whether you want to support other problematic authors in the future and to do your research.
A fantastic blogger, The Literary Phoenix made a post on different levels of problematic authors, why they are, links, proof, and what you can do, such as donating to certain charities that the author wouldn't support instead of purchasing their work.
I encourage you to go over her list, focus on authors who are doing good and trying to be as inclusive and understanding as they possibly can.
Their words they share within the book cover isn't the only thing we listen to, but what they say and do, hopefully being an ally.
Who doesn't like a deal? I know I do!
You know that feeling you get when you find the next perfect read in the bargain bin? When the 25% off sticker screams at you from a shelf? Or what about the used book store where you hope to find a cover that catches your eye for only a couple dollars?
Then there's the feeling you get when you read the back cover, the cover is beyond gorgeous, the first page you skim over hooks you... then the price jumps out at you... Especially if you're Canadian.
I hear you. Trust me.
But lets do the math of what went into that book.
Hundred and hundreds of hours, years, tears, smiles, anxiety... all wrapped up in a beautiful book that might have cost you $20.
Is $20 really that much? Is $30?
Just the 3 years it took to go from research to my novel making it onto bookshelves, that means you're paying just under $7.00 a year that went into the story you might devour in a few days.
For myself, I want the characters and worlds I create to be shared. For others to love and loathe them as I did when I was writing. I don't do it for the money (obviously), it would take the fun out of it and I'd probably wouldn't get very far in my writing career if it was the case.
Other than paying full price for a book, leaving reviews and sharing our titles with your friends and family is another way to not only support authors, but thank them for all that went into the hundreds of pages. Ask your local library to carry our books too! Then share a photo with us, it will make our week...or month! I promise.
The month to write a novel in 30 days is here and I'm just over 36K words.
NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month, encourages authors and writers to focus on getting at least 50K words in.
I've attempted this yearly challenge a few times now, usually either forgetting or making excuses not to find time, but this year, a girlfriend has joined with me and we now hold each other accountable.
Entering our word count does help, with any "buddies" you add, you'll be able to see on your dashboard. Congratulate in messages, ask questions, etc.
But Rachel and I decided to meet once a week at a café, taking at least a couple hours to get in words and focus only on our stories. And caffeine.
I wish we could meet more than once a week, but we both have our regular lives and live about a half hour apart, and she has two little ones to put to bed.
But thanks to these weekly meets, it gets my wheels turning and I find myself picking up my laptop to continue where I left off or start a new chapter. Bouncing ideas off of one another gets the creative juices flowing, and really got me out of slumps or break through blocks... two things I would have used to not finish my 50K.
This is a free event, simply sign up and decide your word count goal! Grab a friend to help with accountability, or ask them to sign up with you and plan virtual dates. Or, add me as a buddie!
You can find my profile here.
We've enjoyed warm drinks at Bistro Sapin in Knowlton and Café 1792 in Bromont... where to next?
August 18th, 2021
The pandemic has really flipped our world upside down, barely allowing me to remember what life looked like before everything shut down.
All negative words, aren't they?
As much as I've enjoyed the positive, the negatives tend to creep up between the cracks and try to pull me down. What frustrates me, is that I allow myself to be frustrated or become hard on myself.
I'm fortunate to have had both vaccines. I've kept my job and never worried about losing my house. My family and friends are healthy.
Time not spent rushing to parties or events has allowed me to complete and polish my third novel, finding the courage to query agents with the dream of becoming traditionally published. My confidence in my writing has grown. I recognize how important it is to me and how badly I need to stay creative.
But the days on the couch after work or nights I spent doing my nails nags at me.
You should be writing.
You won't make it at this rate.
Look how long it was since your last blog entry.
All I see is failure and it takes all the energy I can muster to fight off these claims I taunt myself with.
The guilt of not being better or faster. Guilty of ignoring editing or leaving my laptop closed.
But what author would I be and what story would I tell if I forced myself to do everything on a schedule? Words would be forced, characters would be unrelatable, and the story would be yawn worthy.
Why is falling into a rabbit hole or Trixie & Katya YouTube videos so bad? Reading instead of writing is the last thing I should punish myself over. Getting enough sleep and being able to breathe easier will only do me good.
I know the spark will come again and I'll scurry down into my creative cave, reappearing when I'm low on food or tea. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of this. Allow ourselves to not be perfect. And do what we need to do to refuel and take charge again.
Edits, queries, and writing
It has been quite the busy last few months... As busy as one can be during Covid.
I have joined the Knowlton Literary Festival board and have been wearing the social media crown since January, if you can, go give us a like and follow on IG, FB, and Twitter. You can find more info at www.knowltonliteraryfestival.ca. We've been adding great webinars and are currently planning what the 2021 festival will look like.
Book 3 is now with my editor and as usual, a smooth process and I can't wait to get it more polished and ready to get to agents.
What's harder than writing 110K words? Writing a ONE page query letter. How is this even possible you ask? Imagine trying to sell your book, your baby, to a stranger in just 300 words. This will not only include a quick wrap up of the story (think back cover blurb), but your own bio and catchy introduction... showing you've done your research.
I have luckily joined a writing group and we have had workshop days, getting feedback on my query letter which has changed so much it's barely recognizable from the first draft.
While I wait for my editor's notes and suggestions, I'm just over 20K words into book 4. It's a big change from what I'm used to when creating worlds and characters. You'll find yourself in Montreal during the 1930s with some badass women who refuse to bow down to the patriarchy.
We need more female leads like this, right?
What do you wish you saw more of in books when it comes to female characters?