A Great Night of Author Readings

Western Sky Books-2Last evening I had the pleasure of taking part in a reading at Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. With nine readers and an enthusiastic audience, All Hallows Story Night was an entertaining event. I loved the variety of stories the authors read. The horror, dark fantasy, and ghost stories for children and adults offered a wide selection of tales.

I read from the second chapter of my Alex Bellamy whodunit, Fatal Encryption, which opens on Halloween night and added a bit of humor to the mix. With settings near my home in Port Moody, BC, I have a special fondness for this book, and it was great fun to read from it again.

I should have arrived earlier to browse through the many titles Western Sky provides, but I’ll be back. Co-owner Tamara provided refreshments and cool decorations for the occasion, and if you ever have a chance to visit this new and used bookstore do so. The place is packed with bargain-priced books and is a huge supporter of local authors.

If you’re interested in Fatal Encryption, the ebook version is available at the following links.

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/z5sagyl

Amazon: myBook.to/FatalEncryption

Other links: https://www.books2read.com/u/brdqzm

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Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.

Gratitude

I started this blog entry on Canada’s Thanksgiving, a couple of days ago. Our family celebrated on Sunday evening at my home, and given the challenging year that some family members have endured, it was especially wonderful to see everyone gathered together, enjoying themselves.

It’s made me pause and reflect about how grateful I am for many things. Family, friends, my health, and a passion for writing that goes back nearly forty years. I’ve learned a lot, accomplished a fair bit, and still have a lot to learn. A fact that really appeals to me. Who knows what the next few years will bring? I just know that I’ll be grateful for every experience that will teach me something.

I hope all of my Canadian friends had a wonderful, peaceful Thanksgiving.

All Hallows Story NightSpeaking of gratitude, I’ve just been invited to take part in an evening of readings with a terrific group of local writers. The event will be held at Western Sky Books in Port Coquitlam on Tues., October 23, from 7 to 9 pm. You can find more details HERE. Please join this for great entertainment at All Hallows Night!

Organizing All Those Blogs, Tips, and Notes

OrganizingWriting colleagues think of me as a disciplined writer, but there’s an area where I’m a huge procrastinator, which is in organizing the how-to writing articles, blogs, and notes I’ve accumulated for over thirty years.

I have oodles of them, including a thick accordion folder crammed with old Writers Digest articles about writing in general. There’s another folder filled with notes on mystery writing, as well as files on setting, characters, etc. Now that I’m working on my first full-length fantasy novel, I’m also collecting lots of great how-to tips about that genre.

The way I’ve collected material has changed over the years. Rather than read paper magazines on writing like I used to, I read blogs and visit useful sites. I now have a growing collection of bookmarked folders containing all sorts of things about writing, research, marketing, and so forth.

A couple of years back, I purged my accordion files while looking for a specific article, which I eventually found, but I still kept quite a few pieces because the information might still be useful. Who knows what type of writing I’ll gravitate to ten years from now?

The thing is, while writing and editing new novels, I often forget about the great editing tips and articles I’ve collected. I even have a green file folder on top of my fantasy manuscript with the most relevant info. After the second draft was completed, I realized that I’d barely looked at that folder, and that’s a mistake.

I need to come up with a useful way to make all this information more accessible. The task will probably start with paring down the folders again (admittedly several cover the same topic and give similar advice).

Second, I’ll need to create a binder or something with tabs that focus on specific topics and editing tips. I don’t always edit at my computer, so having a cheat sheet of key editing points might prove useful. It also means that I’ll probably need to print out the most useful of those many bookmarked pieces.

But all this will take a lot of time and effort, as I have a lot of sorting to do. Thus the procrastination. Maybe I’ll set aside a couple of hours per week and see how it goes, but if you have any tips on organizing all those great articles and tips you come across I’d love to hear how you manage them.

The Right to Read What I Want

BooksIn my chaotic life this fall, I missed Banned Book Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read, and to not have any particular group of people take away our reading choices.

After reading recent blogs about book banning and engaging in an insightful discussion with other writers this week, I’ve been giving the issue some thought, and will probably need to do more as time passes. As you can imagine, many of the banned books are centered around diversity, sexuality, and gender. I completely support any author’s genuine attempt to explore these issues in a thoughtful manner.

I cannot support authors who would write about these topics through hate-filled diatribes. But would I go as far as to have any book like that banned from my local library? I would never want to see a book that encourages or glorifies terrorism or sexual exploitation on any bookstore’s shelves, but would I boycott the store? Maybe. Although I’m not a lawyer, I’m told that there are laws against encouraging the intent to commit a crime, such as a how-to book on building a bomb, for example. Happily, I’m not likely to find such material in my local library or bookstores, which is where I find most of my reading material.

But here’s the conundrum. Should I defend another person’s right to read what they want, even if they prefer books that contain graphic rape scenes, a topic which I find abhorrent? That’s the issue I grapple with. I live in Canada. We believe in freedoms and diversity for all, but we all have personal moral lines that cannot be crossed, and sometimes they’re difficult to see and define.

What about the novels written decades ago that depict common racist, misogynistic, homophobic attitudes of the times? Personally, I believe they need to be read because if we don’t learn and understand the past, we are doomed to repeat it. A classic example of this is one of the most commonly challenged books by those who want to ban it. To Kill a Mockingbird. You can see the list of most challenged books in 2017 HERE.

Another interesting blog identifies several banned books that readers read again and again. Those titles include Lolita and 1984, you can see the whole list HERE.

I’m going to read more banned books in honor of the freedom to read, and I’m going to review them and keep reading all types of books, banned or not, because this is my right in this wonderful democracy where I live, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Should I Choose Instagram?

Social network imagesChoosing social media platforms has always been hit and miss with me. Over the years, the two constants have been Twitter and Facebook. I still belong to Goodreads, LinkedIn, and Kindleboards, but no longer take part in group discussions. Frankly, the spamming and contentious attitudes among too many people make discussions less appealing than they once were.

Some writers insist that you need to be everywhere on social media and I can understand their viewpoint. But for me, it’s neither desirable nor practical. There is one I’m considering, though: Instagram. Indeed, I’ve been invited to join by several writers but I can’t make a decision until I’ve visited the site. I know the audience is generally younger, and I do know a gift shop owner who says that it’s really helped raise her store’s profile. People even offer her advice about improving her store window design, etc.

But does a site that focuses on photos really work for a writer? Before I spend a lot of time setting up and sending out photos of my book covers and events and other experiences, I’d like to know what you think. Do you writers out there use Instagram and is it worth your time?

Last week, I read a blog advising writers to stay away from social media period, as it’s become too negative and troll-infested. This person’s argument was that one’s time was better spent on building their business page rather than connecting with people through blogs and group discussions, and suffering abusive and offensive comments.

I’m not attracting enough attention to have that many negative experiences, and maybe never will. I still enjoy FB, Twitter up to a point, and now WordPress, but should I take a closer look at Instagram, or are there other new sites that are useful for writers? I’d be really interested in knowing your thoughts.

Upcoming Writing Events in Metro Vancouver

golden-ears-writers-2018Fall is one of the most energizing times of the year for me. There are many terrific events to attend…book launches, conferences, workshops, readings, book clubs, and so on. It would be impossible to list everything happening in this blog, but if you live in Metro Vancouver, take a look at the Events listings from the Federation of BC Writers HERE.

One of their listings is for the Golden Ears Writers & Readers Festival on Sun., Sept. 30 from 10:00 – 3:00 p.m. There will be workshops, speakers, a blue pencil café, the Great Canadian Literature Tea, and of course books for sale. I’m delighted to be part of the blue pencil team again this year. It’s a fun event held in Maple Ridge at The ACT Arts Centre, 11944 Haney Place in Maple. Check out their Face book page for more info HERE.

The annual WORD Vancouver festival is back from Sept. 26 – 30 (the main event is on the 30th) This celebration of literary and reading will feature many author readings, bookselling tables, workshops, panels, and all kinds of fun stuff. It’s a free, family-friendly event that’s held both outdoor and indoors down at and around Vancouver’s main public library on Georgia St. Crime Writers of Canada will have a table there as usual, and what I’m sure will be a lively panel discussion about crime writing. You can learn more about the festival HERE

The annual Vancouver Writers Fest is also back with another lineup of big-name authors that include Ian Rankin, Jodi Picoult, and Miriam Toews. The festival runs from October 15 – 21st and some of the tickets are already sold out, but there are still plenty of terrific authors to see. The events are set at different locations in Vancouver, so check out their website HERE.

So get out there and have fun!