The Last Month of the Year

Ah, December. Never a hugely productive writing month for me, as other priorities take over. Many of you are all too familiar with the busy-ness of shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, and Christmas office functions, etc.

I’m starting a week or so earlier than usual this year, and am already decorating a second Christmas tree. Our home tree was finished this weekend with my sister’s help. It’s a conglomeration of over thirty years of a mixed bag of ornaments, nearly all of which have special memories.

Coffee Table Decorations, 2019The second tree is for our front desk at work (that’s my office). Both were worked on between other tasks, but I managed to get them finished. I also decorated the coffee table in our family room, something I didn’t do when my kids were little and the house full of pets.

I’ve also started thinking about shopping. For the first time in my life, I took part in a black Friday sale by ordering one item Work-2online for my sister, which she requested. The contrarian in me doesn’t normally take part in the annual shopping hysteria displayed on TV, but this is my sister and she event sent me a photo of the item, so I dived in and ordered online.

I don’t abandon writing completely in December, as there’s a fair bit of editing to do, goals to accomplish, and deadlines to keep in mind. My jacket designer has new versions of The Blade Man’s cover for me to peruse (I’m loving their work, by the way) and there are a million other marketing tasks, but the tasks will still be there after the holidays. Because Christmas and family always come first with me, my cover reveal won’t occur until the first week in the new year, and then the tasks will really ramp up. Stay tuned!

Part of all the busy-ness this past weekend was fun stuff, like doing some wine tasting and picking up our case of wine from the Township7 Winery in Langley. Later we took the SkyTrain to LaFarge Lake to see the incredibly beautiful lights all around the lake. It was my first time seeing the display and it was simply wonderful.

From now until Christmas, my writing pattern changes. There will be a little bit of editing every morning (which is when I work best), the day job, then Christmas preparations until the big day arrives, and of course other chores and errands. My family isn’t large, so shopping isn’t too bad. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to fit a little more writing time in than I thought. Or maybe I’ll just sit quietly and contemplate new ideas and opportunities that have been springing up.

Should I Use a Pen Name?

Pen and NotepadThose who’ve been following my blog a while know that I’ve been writing and editing my first urban fantasy for some time. It’s getting closer to completion, but while there’s still work to be done, I’ve started pondering about whether I should adopt a pen name.

The thing is, I’ve been writing and publishing mysteries for years. This blog is called Mystery Deb and my amateur sleuth transit mysteries are pretty much my brand. But I’ve been stretching my wings and am excited about this new creative part of my life. So the question is, do I keep my name or should I adopt a pen name for the fantasy novels?

I’ve read a few blogs over the past couple of years about the pros and cons of using a pen name when publishing in different genres. I don’t remember the details in those blogs, but I do remember some points, and both sides presented good arguments.

One of the main reasons for keeping one’s name is that the author’s platform is already there. If readers like the author’s writing style, then they might be more inclined to try the author’s work in a different genre.

The downside of this is that new readers who don’t know the author could become confused as to what it is they write exactly. They might come across one title in the mystery series, but see another title in the fantasy genre. Does this really confuse readers, though?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have any of you used pen names? If so, what are the pros and cons? As readers, do you find it challenging to follow an author if that person is using different names?

If I go ahead and choose a pen name, should I be setting up a separate platform on my blog Twitter account and Facebook page, or should I keep it all together? Decisions, decisions…

We Need More Mister Rogers

2659-large[1]A week ago, I was composing an email at work when an administer walked by and said something like, “I see you’re wearing a cardigan for Mister Rogers’ Day.” I responded with what was probably a confused stare and said, “Sorry?” At which point she explained that November 13th was Mister Rogers’ Cardigan Day. Who knew? Clearly, the administrator didn’t realize that I wear cardigans pretty much every day at this time of year.

When I got home from work, I did a Google search and, sure enough, according to goodfoodpittsburgh.com, November 13th was Mister Rogers’ Cardigan Day, which encourages people to express kindness by wearing a cardigan in honor of Fred Rogers You can find the short article HERE.

I have to tell you that Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. I watched him a lot with my kids when they were little. The more I watched, the more I appreciated how unique and wonderful he truly was.

Movie trailers about him have been popping up on TV, so I’ve been thinking about Mister Rogers more than usual lately. I’m intrigued that Tom Hanks is portraying him. Based on a New York times article, (you can find it HERE) he’s a terrific choice because he too appears to be a genuinely nice guy.

If there’s one thing this planet needs right now, it’s more Fred Rogers and genuinely kind people…role models that children and adults, for that matter, can look up to and emulate. People with his gentleness and integrity seem in short supply right now, but there’s nothing stopping any of us from following those values and committing acts of kindness wherever we go.

As a writer, I’m thinking why not create an unassuming hero with integrity, gentleness, and kindness? Maybe he, or she, won’t be the feisty, kick-ass, super-human individual so prevalent in novels and movies today. Maybe this hero will have Fred Rogers qualities, but with one or two other unique aspects…and so a new writing idea begins.

Remembrance Day And The Power Of Words

remembrance-poppy[1]I always prepare a first draft of my blogs on Mondays. This year, Remembrance Day was on Monday. As I wrote the first draft, the TV was showing images of ceremonies that had occurred earlier across Canada. I also read heartfelt Facebook posts about grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who served our country.

Since I usually post my blog on Wednesdays, I thought that maybe I shouldn’t write about something that happened two days ago, but then I thought, shouldn’t we always be remembering those who fought and sacrificed so much? Shouldn’t we acknowledge veterans and those are who are still serving after November 11th ? Thus, today’s post is as much about paying respect to those who served as it is the power of words.

My appreciation of poetry and the real power of words, began way back in elementary school after reading John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields. If you want to read a poem with an impact, you can find it HERE. It’s still one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read and still brings tears to my eyes.

As you all know, words can do many things…heal, amuse, anger, disrupt, hurt, and destroy, to name just a few examples. It reminds us that freedom of speech is one thing, but thoughtless, unfiltered remarks in public or by public figures can have grave consequences.

Those of us who are professional writers spend much of our waking lives editing out what isn’t appropriate or simply doesn’t work. We often self-censure, mainly to make a piece clearer and/or less offensive. Granted, when you write about murder and killing people like I do, some will take offense at the topic, no matter what. So be it. I try to be careful with words, online, on the page, or in person. Words are simply too powerful to wield around like uncontrolled weapons. Although I’m seeing a lot of that these days, it makes me appreciate all the thoughtful writers and bloggers who take care with words. Who know just how much words, and people, matter.

What Really Matters

thinking-writing[1].jpgWriters spend a lot of time worrying, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you’re writing for contests and publications, fretting over word counts and meeting deadlines is a necessary part of the job. Let’s face it, all occupations come with worries and challenges.

But sometimes the worry starts to feel out of control. There are people who spend years writing and rewriting the same manuscript, never sufficiently satisfied to actually submit it somewhere. Other writers never get over the hurdle of feeling that they’re not good enough or deserving of a great review or an award, or some other recognition, so they don’t bother trying.

Those of us who publish are own books spend a lot of time fretting over production details. Which font should we use? What should the spacing between lines be? What should appear on the front and back pages, and in which order? Which is the best month to launch a new book? What makes an effective book launch? What if my books don’t arrive in time for my launch, signing, or some other event? What if no one shows up? What if no one cares?

This kind of stuff can drive you crazy. So when I came across a very short piece on Seth Godin’s blog (he writes terrific, thought-provoking blogs) it made me stop and think. Given that I’m in the midst of book production and numerous writing projects, his recent piece called A Year From Now, really resonated with me. It’s only three sentences long, so it won’t take you long to read it HERE.

Okay, now that you’ve finished, I have to tell you that those three sentences made me realize that fretting over what seems important—or even an emergency today—might not mean a darn thing a year from now. Maybe I should rather focus my energy on doing something today that will indeed matter in a year’s time.

Although Seth’s blog certainly applies to other areas of our lives, I’ve been thinking about this with respect to my writing life, and I’m working on answers.

Whether you’re into writing or not, what will you do that will still matter one year from now? Food for thought, right? I encourage you to subscribe to Seth’s blog. Needless to say, he has some pretty cool ideas.

Christmas Craft Fair Season is Almost Here!

I love craft fairs. I’ve been shopping at them for over thirty years and now often participate as a vendor to sell my mystery novels. I’ve met many wonderful people through these events, both customers and vendors, and I have to say that it’s one of my favorite times of the year.

This year, I’m participating in four events, starting this weekend with the smallest, and working up to the largest event in December:

Terry Fox Secondary Christmas Craft Fair

Saturday, Nov. 2, 10:00 – 4:00 pm

1260 Riverwood Gate, Port Coquitlam, BC

Mission Arts Councail Craft FairMission Arts Council Christmas Craft Market

Saturday, Nov. 9, 10:00 – 5:00 pm

Sunday, Nov. 10, 10:00 – 4:00 pm

Heritage Park Centre-Clark Theatre

33700 Prentis Avenue, Mission, BC

 

 

 

2019 Chilliwack Christmas Craft Market.pngChilliwack Community Arts Council, Christmas Craft Fair

Friday, Nov. 15, from 12:00- 8:00 pm

Saturday, Nov. 16, from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday, Nov. 17, from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Chilliwack Heritage Park

4414- Luckakuck Way, Chilliwack, BC

 

Coquitlam Christmas Craft Fair

Friday, Dec. 6, 4:00 – 9:00 pm

Saturday, Dec. 7, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Sunday, Dec. 8, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Poirier Sports Centre, Poirier Street, Coquitlam, BC

All of these fairs charge fees to vendors, and some of the fees are becoming uncomfortably steep, so it’s always a gamble, but I have to say that I do have fun.

I’ve also just learned that I’ve been invited to take part in:

Writers in our Midst, night of author readings

Tues., Nov. 19th at Port Moody Library from 7 – 8:30 pm

100 Newport Drive, Port Moody, BC.

This wonderful program of readers is sponsored also by the Gallery Bistro and Timbercrest Publishing. If you live in BC’s Lower Mainland or Fraser Valley, and have time to drop by to any of these great events, come by and say hi!

Searching For Great Urban Fantasy Novels to Read

BookshelvesGiven that I’m editing my first urban fantasy (still untitled), I’ve read a fair number of fantasy novels over the past three years. I’ve discovered great authors in Jim Butcher, Kelley Armstrong, Justin Cronin, Darynda Jones, Deanna Chase, Charlaine Harris, Morgan Rice, Deborah Harkness, and Terry Pratchett. I could list another fifty lesser known speculative fiction writers whose books I’ve really enjoyed, yet I still feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface of great books I should be reading.

When I came across an article listing “The 21 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Ever”, I had to take a look (you can find it HERE). My problem with these types of lists, though, is that they are subjective and woefully incomplete. Only 21? How come? Perhaps this is a word-count issue for the piece, and the author does admit that a lot of great writers have been left off.

Many on the list are classic novelists such as Tolkien, William Gibson, Lois McMaster Bujold, Douglas Adams, and Ursula le Guin. Given that not all of the must-read authors are urban fantasy novelists, I’m not rushing out to read every book mentioned. I’m still looking for more great urban fantasies to read, so if any of you have some favorites, let me know.

This brings me to the link within the article, (HERE) which features the best books of 2019 so far (31 are listed). None of the titles are familiar to me, but the author provides descriptions of each. No matter how you cut it, I have a lot more reading ahead. It’s impossible to stay on top of even one genre, isn’t it?

So, what do you think of the list(s)? Would you agree with the author’s choices? Would urban fantasy novels would you suggest as must-reads these days? I’d really like to know.