Soundtracks for Books

 

Ok, my mind is blown. Seriously. I’ve just discovered booktrack.com – a site where you can read books while listening to the soundtracks for those books. So, it’s like watching a movie, only you’re reading.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, then you must – MUST – check them out. It’s cool. Really cool.

And it’s free.

I’ll say that again because it’s important. It’s FREE. Oh, and it’s really easy to use.

If you’re a teacher you should know that booktrack.com has a special membership for you and your students. It’s called booktrackclassroom.com and kids can add their own soundtracks to stories they’ve written. Like many of the other educational resources you’ve used, booktrackclassroom is a closed network, so you have full control of its content which is shared within the classroom only. Students’ work will not be made public.

I will absolutely be making soundtracks for my books, starting with the prequel teaser, Defiant. I can hardly wait to get started!

Once you try booktrack.com let me know what you think of it by leaving a comment below, or by emailing me at valerie@valeriefrancis.ca .

Happy reading (and listening)!

 

Tenacious or Stubborn?

In the past week, three friends (lovingly) referred to me as stubborn. I (stubbornly) disagreed, saying that I was instead, tenacious – which of course led to a debate as to whether the two words actually mean the same thing.

The New Oxford American Dictionary and Merriam-Webster both list the words as synonyms of each other. Pfft. What do they know? I propose that there is a rather important and distinct difference between the two. Since I spend my days searching for exactly the right word to convey my meaning (a Sisyphean task if there ever was one), I figured this warranted a blog post.

To be stubborn, is to dig one’s heels in and refuse to move. When we say that a person is stubborn, we mean that he refuses to do something, or change his mind about something. So, stubbornness is characterized by a lack of action.

However, tenacity (in my humble opinion) implies the exact opposite. When we say that a person is tenacious, we mean that he is going after something with single-minded determination.

So while I stubbornly refuse to eat Turr (no matter how many times my father offers it to me), I am pursuing my career as an author with tenacity (actively finding solutions to each of the obstacles I encounter).

Have I convinced you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below! :)

Now, for having humoured me and my little rant, I reward you with this: The History of English, in Ten Minutes (it’s pretty funny!) Enjoy!

Coming Soon … Videos!

A few months ago, when I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever finish my novel, a wise friend listened to my frustrations with patience and understanding and told me to relax and enjoy the writing process. That friend is Lesleyanne Ryan, author of the award-winning Braco. When I asked why, she said “because writing the book is the easy part.” I scoffed. Nothing could possibly be harder than writing a novel.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Enter book marketing.

For a while I would start to convulse every time I thought about having to flog my wares—book signings at the local Costco where I’d sit for hours unnoticed, lost in a jumble of oversized shopping carts. Public readings with no one but my mother in attendance, the sound of crickets chirping in the background. A basement filled with unsold copies of my magnum opus, destined for use as door stops.

But then I remembered that marketing is really just about connecting with people. As an extrovert, this excites me. Writing requires copious hours alone in front of a computer and I found that challenging. I mean, the cats are fine company but they’re not interested in having ideas bounced off them. They have no opinion on things like character development and point of view. And the dog has long since abandoned me in favour of eating tissues out of the bathroom waste bins.

So while I research book two of my series, I’m also updating my business plan to include marketing.

Most of it will be social media for now, which will be a struggle given the time requirements and learning curves. But millions of other small business owners manage it, and so can I.

For example, this blog needs to somehow magically morph into a full fledged website. I keep waiting for the tech and design fairies to arrive during the night and do it, but so far there’s no sign of them. I suspect they’re vacationing in the Caribbean with the book-writing fairies who have also been conspicuous by their absence.

The other thing I’ll be doing is video!

This is really exciting…I mean, I love to read (love, love, love it!) but when given the option even I will watch a video over reading an article online. Yesterday afternoon I brainstormed a list of nearly twenty videos I can post to this blog and my YouTube channel.

Everything from interviews with authors (I already have two lined up) and the craft of writing, to topics directly related to my novel—fun stuff like character interviews, the Newfoundland dialect and language (we have some funky words—even our own dictionary), and a short stop animation film enacting a scene from my story. I’ve always wanted to try stop animation! Luckily my 10-year-old daughter is as excited as me. We’ve decided to take this on as our spring/summer project.

So, stay tuned! Lots of exciting things to come.

I’d love to hear your ideas for videos you’d like to see on this blog and eventually, my new website. Please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

Save the Apostrophe!

It seems that the humble apostrophe offends and confuses people. So much in fact, that the Mid Devon town council in Tiverton, England has proposed to do away with them in street signs.

When I heard about this on CBC Radio’s The Current, my curiosity was piqued. But when journalist Anna Maria Tremonti said there are websites dedicated to both doing away with, and saving the apostrophe, I laughed. Surely this was some sort of practical joke; a spoof news story like those produced by The Onion.

Nope.

The apostrophe is in very real peril apparently.

Language is a living thing, and as such it evolves. I’m cool with that. I don’t mind texting language in its proper place. Things like “c u l8r” exist to fend off carpal tunnel in our thumbs. There was a time when splitting an infinitive was tantamount to hearsay. Now, thanks to Gene Roddenberry, we’ve learned to boldly go about our business without giving it a second thought.

The apostrophe too exists for a reason. Its job is to clarify messages and enable more effective communication. There’s a very real difference between the words hell and he’ll or were and we’re, for example.

Of course, the real issue here is not the apostrophe at all. It’s literacy.

The modern English-speaking world hasn’t learned how to use apostrophes. We haven’t learned other punctuation, grammar and spelling rules either. Rather than address this issue, we’ve chosen to ignore it. Town councils move to abolish apostrophes in signs. Schools remove grammar from lesson plans. As such, our public institutions are making decisions that effectively promote, if not cause, illiteracy. The socio-economic ramifications of that are heartbreaking.

I don’t lose sleep over an honest grammatical mistake. We all make them. But plummeting literacy rates? That does keep me up at night.

So please, save the apostrophe.

In Praise of Creativity

Here’s what happens when the creative, artistic minds of Newfoundland & Labrador get together to support a great cause.  The Janeway Children’s Hospital Telethon will be held this weekend, June 1-2, 2013.

Please, whatever your name is … support the Janeway.

Winner of Braco copy

A huge thank-you to everyone who participated in our contest to win a signed copy of Lesleyanne Ryan’s award-winning novel, Braco.  And of course, thanks to Lesleyanne for stopping by my blog!

I’m pleased to announce that a signed copy of Braco will be going to Christina Stoffels from the Netherlands!  Congratulations Christina!

 

Poll Results: Poor Cinderella

Last week, I experimented with running a poll on the blog. I asked whether people preferred the books they read to have happy endings, or satisfying endings that made sense with the plot and general arc of the story.

Turns out, 2/3 of the people who voted chose the satisfying ending. The caveat being that it sometimes depends on the genre – happily ever after (HEA) is par for the course in a romance novel, for example.

Have we become cynical readers then?  Too jaded by the harsh realities of life to swallow HEA?  No, actually I think the opposite is true.  We, as readers, already know how Cinderella’s story turns out.  We’re not opposed to HEA, but we’re looking for something new and fresh – an unexpected ending that works.

So move over HEA.  Make way for SEA:  Satisfyingly Ever After.

 

 

Satisfyingly Ever After

I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending.  I want the guy to get the girl. I root for the underdog. I long for the rags to become riches.

Lately though I’ve become bored by stories that neatly tie up every loose end.  It feels like lazy writing.  It smacks of cliché.  Worst of all, it’s predictable. I blame it on turning 40.  My body is falling apart, so why shouldn’t my literary preferences come crumbling down too, right?

The problem with “happily ever after” is that life doesn’t always work out that way.  Many people, including me, read to escape reality so there’s a very strong argument to be made in favour of the entertainment value of the Cinderella ending.  But is a happy ending a requirement for a great book?  Could an unhappy ending – one in which the guy doesn’t get the girl – be just as satisfying?

What do you think?  Vote for your preference below – and feel free to leave a note in the comments section!  I’ll post the results of the poll next week.

Five Reasons Authors Should Blog

Every day, WordPress sends blog ideas to its subscribers via The Daily Post. Usually I just watch these things go by. Sometimes I read what other bloggers have written.  But on Tuesday the daily prompt was “Why do you blog?”

Fantastic question!

1.  Progress Report:  I started this blog to keep friends and family up to date on my book. I never dreamed strangers would stop by and like what I had to say. Eight months later, my site has received over 4,000 hits and has been read in 27 countries. Even if you subtract the few hundred hits my parents have made, it’s still pretty cool.

2.  Marketing Tool:  Apparently publishers look favourably upon first-time authors who already have a following – better chance of increased sales I guess. I seriously doubt it makes or breaks a publishing contract, but hey, every little bit helps.

3.  Discipline:  For a blog to attract visitors the writer has to post meaningful content consistently. Some say daily, but I prefer weekly. Let’s face it, no one is interesting enough to listen to every day.

4.  Community: Valerie’s Journal is now part of a broader social media marketing strategy.  Through it, my goodreads account, twitter and my facebook page (links can be found in the column to the right), I’ve met other writers, agents and journalists all over the world.  We share information, learn from one another, and celebrate each other’s achievements.  In fact, it was through blogging that I met the members of my writing group.

5.  The “Godin/Peters Principle”: Hey, if it’s good enough for them …

Republic of Doyle Limerick

April is poetry month, and I feel I should honour it some way. But I’m certainly no poet (and trust me, I know it), so I’ll offer you a limerick today.

 

 There once was a guy named Jake Doyle,

Against bad guys he daily did toil.

He got kicked in the dirt,

Liked to take off his shirt,

And Malachy’s blood he did boil.

 

If you want to read the work of genuine Newfoundland poets, I recommend “The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Poetry” … or Google.

And if you haven’t discovered Republic of Doyle yet, you’re in for a treat.  Episodes are available online.