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.

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.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month

As a crime writer who studied criminology in college, I’ve always had a particular interest reading and writing about white-collar crime. A few years ago, I maintained two blogs a week, one devoted solely to the wacky, bizarre, and disturbing goings on in white-collar crime capers. Needless to say, there was a lot to write about.

My first two published mysteries, Taxed to Death (now out of print) and Fatal Encryption, were about fraud and computer hacking respectively. It’s still a topic that’s dear to my heart, and as you well know, computer hacking, scams, and other forms of fraud are more prevalent than ever. Whether we know it or not, just about all of us have been hacked and invaded at one time or another.

Cyber SecurityOctober is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and there are plenty of things we can each do to help protect ourselves and our families. Seniors are especially vulnerable, but so are teens who are acquiring their first credit cards and paying with debit cards or through other means that were unheard of a decade ago.

One thing you can do right now is check your social media sites. I see many people on Facebook receiving hearty congratulations for their birthdays. I see frequent pictures of family members and children from folks who include all sorts of personal information that just shouldn’t be there. If you can restrain yourself from revealing too much, then do so.

When you join a social media site, you don’t have to fill out every bit of personal information about yourself. In fact, I’d advise you not to. Facebook, etc, is one of the few places where you shouldn’t be completely forthcoming about your age and birthdate, family names and so forth. You never know who’s watching and learning all about you, as if we didn’t already know this, right?

For great tips and reminders about staying safe, please visit StaySafeOnLine .

Welcome Guest Blogger, Darlene Foster

Amanda in Holland.jpgMy guest today is author Darlene Foster, the creator of the popular Amanda Travels series featuring Amanda Ross, a twelve-year-old Canadian girl who loves to travel to interesting places. The seventh book in the series, Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, has just been released by Central Avenue Publishing and is available through most bookstores.

In this book, intrepid traveller, Amanda Ross, is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah. They travel the canals of Amsterdam, visit Anne Frank House, check out windmills, tour a wooden shoe factory, and take pictures of the amazing flowers of Keukenhof Gardens.  But, things are missing in Holland – rare tulip bulbs, a gardener, a home for an abandoned puppy and Amanda’s great-uncle who didn’t return from the war. Is Amanda capable of finding these missing things without putting herself in danger?

Darlene Foster photo.jpgDarlene bases her novels on her own travels. Ever since she was a little girl living a ranch in southern Alberta, she dreamt of travelling the world, meeting interesting people and writing stories. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky twelve-year-old Amanda Ross, who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she encounters the unknown and unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between Canada and Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot. She is proof that dreams can come true.

A recent five-star review for Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action

This book was quite a bit of fun. Foster combines a middle-grade fiction plot with a colourful tour of Holland, including its famous sites, snippets of history, and its wonderful flowers and food. I had the great fortune of visiting my grandparents in Holland when I was Amanda’s age, and her experiences in the book mirror my memories in great detail. It was a blast to traipse along beside Amanda and enjoy the country once again.

The main plot focuses on the recovery of a lost puppy, but secondary plots weave through the story, and all come together nicely at the end. There’s a bit of mystery and some danger to keep the tension up. There are also some very moving scenes when Amanda visits Anne Frank’s home and a war memorial dedicated to the Canadians who helped liberate Holland during WWII. A lovely book for young readers and absolutely perfect for readers who plan to travel the world.

  1. W. Peach https://dwallacepeachbooks.com/

amandapostcardsallfront.jpgThe Amanda Travels series introduces readers to new cultures and countries by weaving mystery and adventure into the stories. They are perfect for tweens or reluctant older readers and appeal to teachers and librarians looking for new material for their classroom. Adults enjoy the adventures as well.

Darlene will be in the Vancouver area reading from and signing her books at these locations:

Albany Books, 123 – 1315 56th Street, Tsawwassen on Saturday, October 19th from 1:00 – 3:00 PM

Chapters, Pine Tree Village, 2991 Lougheed Hwy, Coquitlam on Sunday, October 20th from 1:00 to 4:00 PM

Social media links

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/DarleneFoster/e/B003XGQPHA/

Meet Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Blog Post Image of The Quest For Home

One of the best things about being on WordPress is in meeting other authors. One of these great people is author Jacqui Murray, who has recently released her second prehistoric fiction novel, The Quest For Home, in the Crossroad series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga.

A short summary of the book:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

Jacqui’s on a blog tour and today she’s going to answer one key question about her work, which is: Convince me they can communicate as well as it sounds like they do with just gestures, hands, and facial movements. 

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate by pointing, hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions? Second, think of sign language. Very sophisticated ideas are communicated with just hands and facial expressions. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it. 

Find Jacqui and her Books at Any of These Sites:

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                 https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                       https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:                          http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                           http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                               http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                              https://jacquimurray.net

Jacqui MurrayJacqui’s bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Excerpt from Chapter One, The Quest For Home

Northern shore of what we now call the Mediterranean Sea 

Pain came first, pulsing through her body like cactus spines. When she moved her head, it exploded. Flat on her back and lying as still as possible, Xhosa blindly clawed for her neck sack with the healing plants. Her shoulder screamed and she froze, gasping.

How can anything hurt that much?

She cracked one eye, slowly. The bright sun filled the sky, almost straight over her head.

And how did I sleep so long?

Fractured memories hit her—the raging storm, death, and helplessness, unconnected pieces that made no sense. Overshadowing it was a visceral sense of tragedy that made her shake so violently she hugged her chest despite the searing pain. After it passed, she pushed up on her arms and shook her head to shed the twigs and grit that clung to her long hair. Fire burned through her shoulders, up her neck and down her arms, but less than before. She ignored it.

A shadow blocked Sun’s glare replaced by dark worried eyes that relaxed when hers caught his.

“Nightshade.” Relief washed over her and she tried to smile. Somehow, with him here, everything would work out.

Her Lead Warrior leaned forward. Dripping water pooled at her side, smelling of salt, rotten vegetation, mud, and blood.

“You are alright, Leader Xhosa,” he motioned, hands erratic. Her People communicated with a rich collection of grunts, sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and arm movements, all augmented with whistles, hoots, howls, and chirps.

“Yes,” but her answer came out low and scratchy, the beat inside her chest noisy as it tried to burst through her skin. Tears filled her eyes, not from pain but happiness that Nightshade was here, exactly where she needed him. His face, the one that brought fear to those who might attack the People and devastation to those who did, projected fear.

She cocked her head and motioned, “You?”

Deep bruises marred swaths of Nightshade’s handsome physique, as though he had been pummeled by rocks.  An angry gash pulsed at the top of his leg. His strong upper arm wept from a fresh wound, its raw redness extending up his stout neck, over his stubbled cheek, and into his thick hair. Cuts and tears shredded his hands.

“I am fine,” and he fell silent. Why would he say more? He protected the People, not whined about injuries.

When she fumbled again for her neck sack, he reached in and handed her the plant she needed, a root tipped with white bulbs. She chewed as Nightshade scanned the surroundings, never pausing anywhere long, always coming back to her.

The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. Sweltering heat hammered down, sucking up the last of the rain that had collected in puddles on the shore. Xhosa’s protective animal skin was torn into shreds but what bothered her was she couldn’t remember how she got here.

“Nightshade, what happened?”

 

WordVancouver 2019 Coming Soon!

Word+Vancouver+2019+Website+Banner+SquareIn just two weeks, from Tues., Sept. 24th to Sun. Sept. 29th, the annual WORDVancouver festival will be celebrating its 25th year here in Vancouver. This celebration of reading and writing will feature many author readings, exhibits, workshops, panel discussions, and all kinds of fun stuff.

I love this event because it has something to offer people of all ages and reading preferences. Poets, comic book authors, nonfiction writers, Indigenous authors, and many fiction authors, among others, will be there.

The biggest day is the final day, Sunday, where there will also be musical entertainment. This free, family-friendly event will be held both outdoor and indoors down at and around Vancouver’s main public library on Georgia St.

I’ll be helping volunteer at the Crime Writers of Canada table from 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. There will also be a panel discussion on Setting in Crime Fiction from 12:05 to 1:05 pm in the Montalbano Family Theatre, so if you’re a fan of crime writing, come by and check us out!

You can learn more about the festival’s schedule HERE

Hope to see you there!

Celebrating International Literacy Day

tumblr_ma0chcq3dn1qedj2ho1_1280[1].pngFor those who don’t know, today is International Literacy Day. Created by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1966, the purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the important of literacy in communities around the globe.

According to one website, 16% of the world’s population, two thirds of them girls, are unable to read or write in their native language. While many programs are underway and doing great things to help, there’s still a long way to go. You can learn more HERE

There are plenty of things people can do to help promote literacy, but just helping someone with reading challenges is a huge and important step forward. When my kids were little, I spent many hours over the years reading to them. It’s one of the best things I ever did as a Mom.

This year’s theme is Literacy and Multilingualism. I work in the Linguistics department at a university here in Canada, and most of the people in my department speak at least two languages. Some speak four or five, and one professor far more than that! Three of our faculty members and others are working diligently to teach and record Indigenous languages, and to instruct other students on how to teach those languages before they are lost. It’s quite remarkable.

So, hats off to literacy and multilingualism, learning and communicating. No matter how technologically advanced we become, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t express and share your ideas with words.