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.

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?”

 

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.

The Growth of a Popular Scam

I love blogging on WordPress. It’s introduced me to many great people whose blogs I enjoy reading and learning from. From time to time, I’ve also entertained the idea of adapting my books into screenplays. Screenwriting interests me, and understandably, many authors would love to see their books make it to TV or movie screens.

WordPress has raised my profile, apparently enough to attract the attention of unsolicited emails from strangers offering to promote my books. Some of them even take the time to mention my latest title, Knock Knock. But I’m also seeing more unsolicited offers to help turn my books into movies. Hmm. Sounds a little too good to be true, right?

fraud-alert-sign[1]According to Victoria Strauss, who’s written a really informative piece for Writer Beware®, there’s been an explosion of “book-to-screen scams”, which offer to help authors turn their books into movie deals. Some of the packages are rather elaborate, not to mention expensive, but they quite enticing.

This scam isn’t new, Strauss notes, but it is increasingly prevalent, which is why she wants people to understand how it works. Strauss adds that it’s debatable if any of these services, regardless of who provides it, actually get the desired results for authors. I also know that I’m regularly approached on LinkedIn with a similar type of offer.

If you’re approached by a service that sounds too good to be true, please exercise due diligence, and read Victoria Strauss’s blog HERE.

Maybe we authors should prepare a list of legitimate sites that assists authors, although perhaps one already exists somewhere.

Returning to a Favorite Pastime

ink_flower_by_denadavis[1]Creative people fascinate me, and they have long before I became a writer. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned (aside from the fact that most of us have sleep issues) is how frequently writers delve into other art forms to express themselves, especially through painting. I’ve met several terrific artists who also write fiction and nonfiction. Multi-faceted creative folks isn’t a surprise, though. If you allow yourself to open your mind to possibilities and take the time to explore, it’s amazing what will come.

This weekend, while working out at the gym, I started thinking about writing and painting. I also thought about how I would spend more of my free time once I retire from the day job in a few months. Sure, I might write a little more, but given that long periods at a keyboard aren’t healthy (after four decades of typing my posture’s not great and eye strain’s a problem) I’ve decided that extra physical fitness is a good idea, and one that I happen to welcome.

But another idea has come to mind, and it’s based on something that very few people know about me. A little over three decades ago, when I was working on my first novel and pregnant with my first child, I was working on pen-and-ink drawings. (The drawing above isn’t mine, but I think it’s beautiful).

I don’t remember how many pictures I drew, but I still have my sketch book buried beneath stacks of paper in my office closet. I used to draw graveyards and stark, leafless trees, which I suppose isn’t a psychological stretch from the mystery thrillers that I write today. But you know, I’m now thinking about pulling out that sketch at some point to explore the possibility of going back to drawing.

Several months ago my hubby the accountant returned (after a long absence) to painting watercolor landscapes. He too, has trouble staying asleep, so each morning he awakes very early, goes downstairs, and experiments with color and design and ideas before he leaves for work. He loves it. It feels like it sets a positive tone to his day. It’s also given him a new appreciation for the nearly forty years I’ve devoted to my passion for writing. We talked about goals and satisfaction and pushing through tough times until perseverance slowly turns to habit.

I’m not worried about not finding enough to do when I retire. I worry more about having time to do everything I want to. There will be more goals—brand new ones—and although I’m not ready to remove the sketch book out from under all that paper today, it’s now on my radar. We’ll see what happens.

Well, It Was Almost a Balanced Week

It’s always a struggle for writers to juggle family life and day jobs with their creative lives. In fact, most of us don’t spend nearly as much writing/editing time as we’d like for numerous reasons, although this past week I came close.

I’m one of those weird folks who actually likes Mondays because that’s when I’m at my most energetic. Mondays means that I can get a fair bit of writing and editing done before and after the day job. On a really good day, I’ll then put in a half hour on the treadmill while catching up on reading. Yeah, I’ve been a multi-tasker for years.

By Wednesday afternoon, my energy level seriously fades. Thursday’s often a struggle to write, and Friday’s almost a complete write-off when it comes to stamina and concentration. Usually I can squeeze a little more writing time in on the weekends, but this past weekend was different.

Shower prep-2A few weeks ago, I volunteered our house for my daughter’s bridal shower. Given that this is summer, I figured we’d have a dozen guests at most. My task was to clean the house and provide platters for the food that the bridesmaids were bringing. I spent most of Saturday and early Sunday, cleaning the two bathrooms, tidying, dusting, etc. while my hubby and son swept the patio, cleaned the outdoor table, moved the BBQs out of the way and arranged furniture.

Bridal shower, group photoOnce the bridesmaids arrived, I watched in awe as they brewed jugs of different flavored teas, laid out food, decorated, and arranged flowers with an efficiency that had me in awe. As you’ll see from the photo, my twelve guest estimate pretty much doubled in size. (I’m in the blue dress in the front row, my daughter to the left, and my sister on the right.)

The shower was great fun and the bridesmaids were just as efficient with the cleanup and take-down as they were in setting things up. By the time every had left by 4:30, though, I was exhausted. My plans to do a little more editing that evening fizzled away.

Still, a good week of editing, followed by awesome family time, could be considered a balanced week. The only problem was that none of us felt rested by Monday morning. That’s okay, I have major rest and relaxation planned for this upcoming long weekend.

CakeBy the way, the delicious lemon cake in the photo was hand made by one of the bridesmaids. She brought fresh flowers to decorate the cake with! She also made a cheesecake with blueberry sauce, and earl grey cookies, which were amazing. As her wedding gift, she’s making the wedding cake, along with cupcakes. Now that I’m totally in wedding mode, I can’t wait for the big event in September.