Friday blessings: Blessed. Beyond. Belief.

What prompts me to write this morning is a scene that happened outside my window. I can’t describe how blessed I feel right now. I have no words strong enough to thank God for the people He’s put in my life.

We have a two-car driveway, but between my husband’s truck, our son’s, and our tenant’s car, there’s no room for all three vehicles. A neighbour told us to park at his place since he doesn’t drive. So my husband parks down the street. In exchange we shovel for him.

A Nor’easter swept across the area yesterday afternoon. We received approximately 6-8 inches of snow, but wind caused a lot of drifts and made it look more like 12. The mild temperatures brought hail and very wet snow which, in the end, was very heavy.

Rather than wait until the storm’s over, we always shovel more than once. I went out around 4 pm. It was still coming down heavy. We went back out around 7, and then again at 9 after the plow went by and closed off the entrance. At 5:45 this morning, hubby went out to reopen the entrance, and did a quick pass between the truck and our tenant’s car before he headed off to work.

Fast forward a couple of hours. I looked out my front window. A different neighbour was struggling to push his snow blower up the hill. Despite his severe arthritis, that sweet man often plows other neighbours’ driveways. He once told me he suffers for the next few days, but it doesn’t matter to him. He feels led to do this.

Sitting at the kitchen table, my son heard me say, “Awww… did his blower break down? I wonder what happened.” He jumped up and joined me at the window. Before I could say much more, he turned and headed out the door. The scene that unfolded made my heart swell and want to explode with thankfulness for my son as well as for our kind-hearted neighbour.

terrence and arthur mar 23 18

Together they pushed the blower uphill to his driveway. I watched as he trudged through thick snow to his shed and returned with a container. I soon found out he’d run out of gas. Where? The driveway where my husband parks. Of all places! He didn’t have to do that.terrence and arthur mar 23 18 (2)

After he refilled, he went back out to plow. As if he hadn’t done enough, he stopped and widened ours too before he went home.

terrence and arthur mar 23 18 (3)

Neighbours helping neighbours. Isn’t that what we’re here for? To be there for each  other? Always. In the good times. In the bad.

God knew what He was doing when He led us to this area. Little did I know the impact the people around here would have on us. Directly across the street, another set of neighbours have blessed us time and time again. I’ve been working for them since last July (cook/childcare). They’ve been absolutely amazing, and have always been there for me. I’m so thankful. More than that. I’m blessed beyond belief.

Count your blessings this morning. Then pause, and thank God.

Advertisements

Ready For a Book Signing?

My First book Signing

Welcome back! How’s the weather out your way? Nice and sunny here. More people are out and about at the markets, libraries, and community fairs. It’s the time of year when you’ll see more book signings between now and the fall. At least, in these parts, where winter temperatures can drop below -30C (-22F), there are less signings.

So you’ve called the bookstore or library down the street, and asked if they would host your next book signing. They said Yes! Congratulations. 

How do you prepare? What things are a must? Which ones are a no-no?

I hope these helpful tips will make things easier for you.

  1. Spread the word to your friends, neighbours, and on social media.
  2. If the store owner or library will allow, put an 8×10 poster in the window of the venue or somewhere inside. I put mine up a week in advance. A small ad in their newsletter, or in the local events section of the newspaper helps too.
  3. Carry a good float with you. You don’t want to run short. 
  4. Get the Square or PayPal device for processing payments. Not everyone carries cash anymore. Download the app to your cell phone, and plug the device into the headphone jack. It’s that easy to use.  
  5. Round the price to the nearest dollar. It’ll save you from having to carry a lot of change.
  6. If your book is, let’s say, $15.00, make sure you have plenty of fives. Many ATMs only dispense twenties. There’s nothing more embarrassing than telling a paying customer you don’t have change. 
  7. Are you promoting more than one book? Offer a deal if they buy the set. 
  8. For income tax purposes, write a receipt for every sale, even if the buyer doesn’t want one.
  9. Make your book table attractive. A dish of wrapped candies acts as a magnet, and gives you a chance to talk to those with a sweet tooth. Acquire a small stand (available in many dollar stores) to prop up your books.
  10. Offer a business card, bookmark, or book plate to those who walk by your table. My book plates bear the back blurb of my novel. My cards have both titles. 
  11. Turn off or mute your cell phone if you’re not using it with the Square or PayPal device. Talk to your potential readers. If you want them to be interested in your book, show your interest in them. Don’t forget to smile.
  12. Bring nothing messy to the table. You don’t want to spill liquids on your books, or leave sticky fingerprints on them. I keep my water bottle on the floor. 
  13. Don’t forget your favourite pen and a notebook. Some may come, not knowing there was a book signing. They may want to leave their contact information. 
  14. Best of all, have fun. Get to know your readers, and tell them about your  novel. They’ll probably want to know about you as well. Go ahead and tell them! 

That’s what a book signing is all about. How do you prepare? Leave a comment below.

 

He Said / She Said?

marketing-man-person-communication.jpg

Creating great dialogue can be quite tricky. Here are a few helpful tips.  

Voice and vocabulary: Your characters are different. Tall. Short. Blonde. Brunette. Give each one his or her own voice, expressions, and vocabulary. If they all looked and reacted the same, and used Rats! or Oh man!, wouldn’t your story be boring?

Make it Realistic: Next time you’re in a coffee shop, or walk through the food court at the mall, have a seat and listen to the conversations around you (it’s not your fault they’re sitting close enough for you to hear). It’s not what they say that’s important, it’s how they say it. Pay attention to the tone, pitch, and expressions.

Focus: When you write dialogue, stay focused on the topic. Don’t veer somewhere out to left field, or you may end up with someone asking what in the world it had to do with the story. 

Tags: Unless there are more than two people in the conversation, and you need to clarify which one’s talking, don’t use tags too often. It gets annoying to read he said / she said at the end of every sentence. When it’s necessary, vary it up. He added / she exclaimed / he asked / she replied. If you haven’t bought one already, I strongly recommend the Flip Dictionary to help with replacement words. 

Don’t Be Too Formal: You want it to flow well, naturally, you don’t want the whole book to sound like the narrative. My next point explains this better.

Complete Sentences? Not in dialogue. At least not all the time. And don’t over use your character’s names. Why use too many words when you can say the same thing with fewer of them? In most cases, less is better. How often do you say to a close friend, “Hello, Jane. How have you been?” “I am fine, thank you.” Isn’t it more like “Hey! How’s it going?” “Fine, thanks.” Concise. Your characters’ conversation should be like that. Of course, you need to keep in mind who’s speaking and to whom. You wouldn’t use the same wording with someone in a position of authority.

Show Actions: Your characters are not robots. They can do different things while talking. Show their action, no matter how insignificant it may seem. 

Jane folded her hands on the kitchen table. “We need to talk.”
Brent nodded, straddling the chair across from her. “What’s up?”

“I’m pregnant.”
He sighed, rubbing his hand over his stubby chin. Unable to maintain eye contact, he glanced toward the window, shaking his head.

Show, don’t tell. Without saying it, I showed my reader Brent’s not happy with the news. 

Create Conflict: Make it interesting. You don’t want to bore your readers to death or they’ll never read the sequel of your 3-book series.

Use Hooks: Yes, you can do that in dialogue. Give part of the information, but save some for later. You want your readers to come back when they’ve had to set the book down before the end. 

What are your tips and tricks for creating great dialogue? 

What’s your excuse?

timer.jpg

Day 29 of 31. Woohoo! I’m almost done this daily blog challenge. I admit, it’s been fun and very…uh…challenging, to say the least. Finding time most days was easy, but there are a few instances when it seemed time got away and I didn’t get to write until late in the evening. But no matter what, I wrote every single day since January 26. Why? Because I wanted to. Finding a topic, however, every single day, was quite a task in itself.

During my morning devotions, I read a quote that prompted an idea for today’s blog post.

He that is good for making excuses
is seldom good for anything else.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Ouch!

Today, I want to talk about excuses. We all have them. We all make them. I’m sure we all believe they’re legitimate too.  

I can’t write because I don’t have time… I can’t afford to take creative writing classes… my family needs my attention… I work a full-time job outside the home…

Sounds familiar?

Hey, I’ve been there. I wrote my first novel — with pen and paper, between phone calls as a customer service rep. I then had to transcribe everything to my computer when I came home after my shift. Yet, I had over 50,000 words in 30 days. I know what it’s like to scramble. 

It’s easy to find all sorts of reasons why we can’t write. This thought-pattern stops us from moving forward. Instead of making excuses, shouldn’t we look for a way to get results?

On January 28, I wrote about making things happen. Finding time to write is not always easy, but personally, I think a lot of it is excuses. I’m not talking about setting your priorities aside. Precious time with family should always be number 1. And yes, there are meals to prepare, a house to clean, laundry to do. I get that. 

mother-daughter-love-sunset-51953.jpeg

What I’m talking about are things like some TV show(s) you say you have to watch every night. If you really want to write, can’t you use that hour or two (or more) to do so? (I say YOU because I rarely ever watch TV anymore. I can’t seem to find anything suitable for my liking). What about the computer where we (I’m guilty) spend way too much time scrolling through different social media apps? 

Pretend there’s a timer on those apps, and it starts the moment we opened it. A big number flashes on our screen when we X out. What does your timer say? Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT saying those apps are bad. They keep us connected with our family and friends (and many people we don’t even know who sent a friend request for whatever reason). 

Isn’t it time we get rid of excuses, and add writing to our to-do list? I did that some time ago. Some say I spend too much time on the computer. I tell them I prefer to do research for my next novel, or blog post. 

What’s your excuse? Please leave a comment below. 

Thursday’s Quote

pexels-photo-247314.jpeg

“Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I see myself as a thinker (I ponder and ask why about everything… my youngest often thanks me for passing it down). I also see myself as a writer. It’s become the joy of my heart. Now that my editor and I are working on my third novel, the first line for my next one has been screaming at me to start a new story for well over a week.

To stay with the above quote by Emerson, I want to answer the following question:

“Why do I write?” 

Because God put me on this earth, and gave me that desire. Although I’ve penned numerous poems and short stories since I was a child, I never took writing seriously until 2009. It was one of those ah ha moments.

Mom was a newspaper reporter. As a teen, I often said that, like her, I’d write someday. Back then, little did I know writing fiction novels of suspense would be the direction I’d follow. To say I like it is a major understatement. I love writing.

“I write because I have a burden in my heart to reach people.” 

Mom often told me that when I was in grade school, I used to come home crying. She’d look me over from head to toe to see where I was hurt. My pain wasn’t visible, however. It was in my heart. Whether it was for the boy who was sick and didn’t make it to school that day, or for the girl who fell and scraped her knee. Things are no different today. Even when I don’t know the reason for their tears, seeing someone cry chokes me up. Especially when it comes to a child (Movie theatre? Give me loads of tissues).

My stories are purely a figment of my imagination. I choose a real life situation, and answer the question,

“What would happen if…”

The suspense and drama I describe in my books isn’t something that necessarily happened to me, but it can ring true to many readers who are going through a similar situation. My hope is to show them how to see the positive in the negative, something I strongly believe in. I want my readers to do the same, to look around and see that in most cases, there’s someone worse off than they are. On days when I’m going through a hard time, regardless of the situation, I like to be able to say,

“Today is going to be a great day, no matter what.” 

While the above may be good reasons, one is much more important to me.

To share the most amazing gift God’s given me. The Love of Jesus. I want to bring my readers closer to Him, by weaving my faith through the pages in a way that I pray will help them understand, and come to faith in Him.

Why do you write? Please share and leave a comment below.

 

Writing Pet Peeves?

pexels-photo-296878.jpeg

We all have writing pet peeves. For some, it is a word they dislike. Others, it’s an expression or poor grammar. When I say ‘word’, I don’t mean weasel words, but rather those we hear all the time in speech, the ones that make us cringe. Sadly, some of those end up finding in our writing. Words like REALLY, and LIKE.

There’s also the misspelling of certain words. Such as:
Your vs. you’re,
There vs. their vs. they’re.
Better yet, how about
Site, cite, and sight?
Lead vs. led
Affect vs, effect,
Assure, vs. insure vs. ensure.
Its vs. it’s.
To vs. too
You’re vs. your

Having learned English as a second language, there are times I can’t wrap my head around some of those, and yes I have to stop and think…is it this one, or that one? 

I could keep going, but it’ll double my word count and I want to stay close to 500. 

Some people tend to use the ‘lazy’ route when texting or sending a quick message on social media. That’s their prerogative, but it creates a lazy habit that sometimes can end up in their writing.

 There’s also the misuse of apostrophe’s in plural word’s. Yes I did that on purpose. Both times. Plural don’t need an apostrophe. The possessive does.

One that drives many people up the wall is the use of at to end a sentence. “Where are you at?” Grammatically, that’s incorrect. Where are you? Ah, that sounds better. 

The above are all pet peeves many writers hate to see, specially in novels. Some set my teeth on edge when I find them in writing. My biggest peeves–yes, plural, I have two–are not words or expressions. They’re not a mere typo or grammatical error.

The first one is: 

Some people say writing is NOT work. As someone who is semi-retired (I work three hours a day cooking for my neighbours and taking care of their daughter when she gets out of school), I spend a good part of  the rest of my day writing. I have poured many hours into my novels, attending classes, conferences, and workshops to learn the tricks of the trade, and applying them to my writing. I’m constantly striving to learn more and improve. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, writing is work. Correction, writing is hard work. I’ve always said:

Writing is hard.
Editing is harder.
Marketing is the hardest. 

A friend of mine works as a freelance writer. She’s up at 4:00 a.m. on a daily basis, bent over her keyboard, writing her columns. People have said to her, “What do you do with your time since you’re not working?” When she tells them she is working as a freelance writer, they reply “Really? Oh so, what do you do with all your time?” Grrrr…

What’s my worst and biggest pet peeve related to writing? I know all of you writers out there will agree with me on this one. Drum roll please… 

People who believe ALL writers are rich. I chuckle as I write. 

What’s your writing pet peeve? 

 

Recurring themes

pexels-photo-575335.jpeg

While some people prefer to write about different topics in each of their stories, others, such as myself, like to have a similar theme, even though the stories are stand alone, and not part of a series. 

That’s what it’s like to do with my novels. There are two recurring themes in all of mine. 

Deafness

Faith (and/or lack thereof)

Unlike my father who loved math and everything else that has to do with numbers, I’ve always loved learning new languages. By the time I graduated from university, I had learned six. I’ve never been fluent in all of them, but I am in three: French (native tongue), English, and ASL. I never had much of a chance to practice Spanish, Biblical Hebrew, or Shona (Zimbabwe dialect) so I lost more of what I’d learned.

I started interpreting in 1994 to a group of deaf people in our church. They became very dear to me, and I learned a great deal from them. It’s one of the many reasons I include them in my stories. As much as I like to educate my readers who are not familiar with the deaf community, I want to dispel the myths surrounding them.

Like the fact that they can’t drive because they can’t hear. Of course they can drive. I’m guilty of thinking such a thing. I remember asking one deaf man to excuse my ignorance but how could he drive if he couldn’t hear the sirens of emergency vehicles. His reply came with a big warm smile, “I can’t hear, but I can see them.” It was one of the first lessons I ever learned. Many more were to come. 

Each of my novels include at least one or two deaf characters and an interpreter. They are people for whom I have the utmost respect. Using our hands to be the ears for those people is not always an easy job, but it’s quite rewarding.  

pexels-photo-208371.jpeg

The other recurring theme in my stories is that of faith. At least one character has none, or has walked away from their Maker. Someone attempts to lead them to or back. Whether or not they return, that’s for me to know and you to find out in my novels. 

Why do I write about God, faith, and eternal salvation? Because I believe it in. It’s my way–my hope–to reach the lost for the cause of Jesus Christ. We all have hard times and troubles at some point in our lives. What we all need to know, though, is that we’re never alone. God is with us every step of the way. Whether we believe in Him or not, He’s there. All we need to do, specially when we’re down, is look up, open our heart to Him, and welcome Him.

There’s one more thing I like to do. The title of the first three are similar and one of the main characters’ name in each one begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Stella’s Plea, (Alexis), Emma’s Prayer (Braden), Charlie’s Plight (Charlie). 

Do you use recurring themes in your stories. Why or why not? Leave a comment below.

What books are you reading?

pexels-photo-867483.jpeg

This is going to be another writing sprint. Monday morning, February 19. It is actually a holiday across Canada. They called it Family Day. It’s the first year that we, here in New Brunswick, have it as a statutory holiday. Most everything is closed, except for gas stations and convenience stores.

I have less than an hour to write my 500-word post because a friend of mine is coming over at 10 o’clock. Early bird that she is, I can almost guarantee she’ll be here before that. So… here we go:

I decided to do a fun and do a promotional post today. Sort of. 

What books are you reading? Are you one of those people who read certain stories only at certain times of year? Our tenant is what I call a ‘season reader’. She loves cozy beach stories but will not read them at any other time of year than in the summer. The same goes for Christmas novels. For her, those are strictly December-only reads. What about you?

To me, it doesn’t matter. I read anything, at any time of year. I’ve read Christmas stories well past December, just like I’ve picked up a cozy beach read in the dead of winter. Hey it keeps me feeling warm inside.

Recently, I started a Speculative Fiction by Yvonne AndersonThe Story in The StarsI can’t tell you much about it because I’m only on page 31, but to pique the interest of all the spec-fic fans out there, I can give you the book’s back blurb. This book was an American Christian Fiction Writers Carol (ACFW) Award Finalist in 2012. (Way to go, Yvonne). 

yvonne

Dassa skates toward the palace in completion of her Third Quest, unaware the Karkar Plague has returned to ravage Gannah.

On a medical starship not far away, Dr. Pik is ordered to find a cure for the plague – an unlikely assignment, given his inbred hatred of the whole Gannahan race. Duty trumps, prejudice, however, and he succeeds… but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Dassa and Pik survive attach by space pirates, food poisoning, and a place crash in the savage Gannahan wilderness. The hardest part, though, is enduring one another’s company. 

The Creator who wrote the story of redemption in the stars has commanded her to share it with her reluctant savior. That’s not all He requires of her, but the rest is unthinkable. 

Fly through the Gateway to Gannah for some serious sci-fi adventure!

This is book one of four. 

Book 2: Words in the Wind

Book 3: Ransom in the Rock

Bok 4: The last Toqeph

Someone once said:

The best way to thank an author is to write a review

It’s so true. We depend on reviews. That’s how many readers determine whether or not they will read certain books.  

What book are you reading right now? Are you enjoying it? This Family Day, go ahead and pick up a good book. When you’re done, please do the author a favour. Go to their website or on Amazon and thank them. Write a review. 

Author Platform? What’s that?

pexels-photo-267350.jpeg

Let me ask you this: Your friend Jane tells you her buddy John published his first novel. “Ple-e-e-e-ase…” she begs you to buy a copy to support him, even though it’s not a genre you like. Do you buy it? I’ll come back to that a bit.

Today is day 24 of 31. I’ve covered many topics, ranging from editing, inspiration, and influencers, to character development, choosing a title and a book cover, emotions, spelling, attending conferences, and more. One I haven’t covered is platform.

Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, if you’re serious about maintaining a writing career, you need a platform. A place to connect with your readers, promote your books, and of course, sell them.


Why is it so important? Because who you know just isn’t enough. Sure, your family, your friends, and even the friend of a friend, can buy your novel. They can also spread the word to their friends (remember the question I asked above? Did you say yes or no?).


In order to reach those who don’t know you but who may be interested in your work, you need exposure, not just locally but everywhere. More than just on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, those are helpful for spreading the word, and a great place to start, but you need to attract potential buyers, connect with them, and interest them. Most of all, you have to get your name out there because, other than your family and friends, nobody knows you as a writer.


So how do you build your platform? Start slowly.

1. Create a website, a page where you can display your book(s), and talk about yourself. Your readers want to know about you, the author behind the story. If they like it, they’ll want to know if you have a series, or other works they can get their hands on.

2. Create a signup link on your website, and start your email list. When your next book comes out, that list becomes the easiest way for you to let them know.

3. Take advantage of Social Media and link different accounts. Opinions differ on this one, but it worked wonders for me. As a beginner, I didn’t know anything about platform, and my book didn’t do well. About 10 months after its release, someone told me about the advantages of linking different accounts together. I signed up for a Twitter account, and linked it to my Facebook page. Everything I posted in one feed also appeared in the other. Using hashtags also helped because the best way to find something on Twitter is to use keywords with a hashtag. Try it. Do a search for #suspense and see how many hits you get. It works great when you have a #FREE offer. By using this method, more people saw my book, and downloaded it. It wasn’t long before I reached 1,000+ downloads and made it to #3 in the top 100 in inspirational category.

There are other ways to get started, but I hope these few steps will help you. If you already have one, share how you did it.

Writing Sprint!

pexels-photo-280254.jpeg

The power just went out for no apparent reason, and my battery is at 43%. I have little time to write a 500-word post. How about doing a sprint, and come up with as many words as I can in a limited amount of time? It’s a good way for me—and you­­—to practice writing on the spot.

How do I start, though? I previously mentioned a great book, called The Writer’s 1001 Book of Matches, which is filled with prompts. It’s a great way to get the ideas flowing. Even if the words sound ridiculous at the time you pen them, the exercise is not aimed at having you write something sensible, but at making you think fast, and write what you see in your mind’s eye.

Writer's book of matches

Let’s try a random one: page 106 says:

A woman digging in her garden uncovers a sealed, ancient box. Slowly, she lifts it up. Surprised by its lightness, she sets it on the ground beside her, removes her gloves, and for a moment, stares at the lock. It’s old and rusty. She brushes the dirt off the top of the box, revealing some kind of patterned design, unfamiliar to her. Foreign writing, perhaps? A dent shows where her spade made contact with the delicate wood, and marred it.

The sun breaks through the clouds. What looks like flakes peels from the lock, and falls in the grass, still damp with the morning dew. The latch pops open.

She dusts the cover once more before opening it. Several small mesh bags of seeds sit inside, a red ribbon tied into a bow, near the top of each one. Taped inside the cover is an envelope. Unmarked. She wipes her hands on her pants before pulling it off. A sweet fragrance fills her nostrils. She breathes in deeply. What is it? Lavender? Honeysuckle? She opens the envelope and pulls out a threefold pink sheet of paper. She reads the two lines, and bursts into a fit of laughter. “The power is back on. You can now resume your blogging duties.”

Okay so that’s a silly ending to the story but the power came back minutes ago and that’s what popped in my head. I didn’t want to stop, and try to come up with a different idea.

Thhe whole point of a sprint is writing what comes to mind, when it does.

What did you imagine when you first read the prompt? Is she an older woman? Young? Mine is about 20, with long blonde hair. She’s sitting on her knees on the ground.

What did you see in the box? Precious jewels? Was it empty? I saw a red velvety lining. Not sure why I didn’t write it down.

Now it’s your turn. Set a timer to 15 minutes. See how many words you can pen in that short amount of time. Don’t stop. Don’t edit as you go.

JUST WRITE!

Randomly opening the book to…… page 186:

After a violent thunderstorm, a man finds a rain-soaked diary among the debris in his backyard.

Ready? Set?

GO!