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!

Interview with Paul Butler (Part 1)

Award-winning Newfoundland author, Paul Butler is about to release his latest novel entitled The Good Doctor. While the book might centre around Sir Wilfred Grenfell, it isn’t a biography. In fact, what Paul has written is a rather thought-provoking twist on the generally accepted image of this iconic character from Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Charis Cotter

After a brief summer hiatus I’m back with another interview – this time with Newfoundland children’s author, Charis Cotter! Her latest novel is for kids aged 9-12 and is entitled The Swallow: A Ghost Story (published by Tundra Books, a division of Random House). In this first of a two-part interview, we talk about the inspiration for the story … and whether or not she has actually seen a ghost!

Part two of this interview will be posted on Friday, September 12. AND we’ll be giving away a hardcover copy of The Swallow: A Ghost Story. Stay tuned! 😀

Interview with Victoria Barbour (Part 1)

 

Newfoundland author Victoria Barbour is rereleasing her debut novel Against Her Rules as part of a ten-book collection of contemporary romances called Passionate Kisses. Victoria is the only Canadian writer to be selected for inclusion in this box set. In this interview she tells us a bit about her novel and her series.

The final part of this interview, in which Victoria talks about her decision to be an indie author, will be posted July 2, 2014.

And of course you can win a copy of Against Her Rules by entering your name in the giveaway below the video!

 

 

 

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Interview with Author Kate Robbins (Part 3)

 

Here’s the final part of my interview with Newfoundland romance writer, Kate Robbins. In this segment Kate introduces us to her heroine, Nessia Stephenson and talks about her writing process.

Kate has also kindly offered up a copy of Promised to the Highlander as a giveaway! Enter below. :)

And of course we have more hilarious bloopers. Check them out at 5:57.

Interview with Kate Robbins (Part 1)

Interview with Kate Robbins (Part 2)

 

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How to Promote Your Children’s Book

Katie Davis headshot

 

Katie Davis is an author, illustrator and host of the #1 iTunes podcast about book marketing, Brain Burps About Books.

As if that wasn’t enough, she’s just released the second edition of “How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks and Secrets to Create a Bestseller.” But guess what? It isn’t just for kidlit – the information she provides can be used to promote any book, fiction or non-fiction.

Since we live two timezones away, we met up in cyberspace for a chat about her latest venture. Take a look!

 

 

 

 

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!

Dreaming Up and Writing Down

Now that I’ve finished my magnum opus, many people have asked me what I’ll do next. The short answer is “write book two.” In fact, I’ve already started plotting it.

But what happens to book one? As I write, Crossing the Rubicon is safely in the hands of my beta readers—people who are reading my book and giving me feedback before I send it off to agents and publishers in mid-March.

When I started this blog in 2012, I called it “chronicles of a debut novelist” because honestly, the learning curve was enormous. I took a few writing classes, but for the most part I was learning how to write a book by writing a book. Actually, I think I could write a book about everything I learned about writing a book. :)

Ironically, one of the biggest lessons came from this blog—maintaining a social media presence is both difficult and time consuming. Difficult because I didn’t have a finished novel which meant I didn’t have anything really to talk about—no media interviews, public appearances, teaser text to share, trailer videos to post or cover art to reveal. I was just sitting alone in front of my computer. And that’s dull by anyone’s standards.

But it’s also time consuming and that was by far my bigger problem. I found myself spending precious writing hours drafting blog posts, crafting tweets, maintaining Facebook and well, my Goodreads account never did get off the ground the way I’d hoped.

I was increasing my follower numbers, but I wasn’t working on my novel.

So if social media is such a distraction, why spend any time on it at all? Terrific question. I asked a literary agent, a publisher and many authors the same thing. Bottom line? Publishers like writers to have an online presence. I’m not sure why but my theory is that it shows a person who can write consistently and well. It shows discipline, an awareness of marketing and a willingness to be an active participant in the successful realization of a story from initial concept to final ink and paper/digital product.

When a manuscript from a debut author comes across a publisher’s desk, one of the first things he does is a google search. (For the record, if you google “Valerie Francis” this blog should pop up in the top four. There’s a musician in Ireland with the same name and we toggle back and forth for the top spot. Go ahead, try it.)

Personally, I think quality of writing should trump a google rating or follower counter. That’s why last summer, as many of you noticed, I abandoned this blog and social media and spent all my time finishing my book. (Thanks for asking where I’d gone…nice to know people actually read my posts!)

Now though it’s time to revive the online presence, but in a manner that compliments my writing time. Not overshadows it.

I won’t be here everyday but I’ll pop in once a week (or so) to share more lessons learned, and give you a progress report on my novel’s path to publication.

In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming up and writing down worlds of new adventures.

Blog Hop: Writing Process—#thisishowwedo

My good friend and historical romance author, Kate Robbins tagged me in a blog hop last week. So now it’s my turn to answer a few questions – this time about my writing process.

What am I working on?

Funny you should ask … in fact, I just finished the first novel in a nine-book fantasy series for children (middle grade, ages 9-12). So right now I’m in the process of plotting out book two of that series, plus I have at last count, five other stories bouncing around in my head:

  • two literary fiction
  • one medieval (maybe historical, but probably fantasy) fiction
  • one women’s fiction (chick lit – my bestie wants me to finish it post haste)
  • and one regency novel set in Newfoundland

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ll focus on the kids’ series for this one. The Nature Knights has been described as a medieval Narnia set in Newfoundland. So, having a Newfoundland setting certainly sets it apart from most other children’s fantasy novels. However, there’s also an important environmental theme running through the book, so I think that also sets it apart. Environmental protection has popped up in all sorts of books—the dystopian worlds of many novels are in effect, depictions of the world after environmental disaster. My story is pre-apocalypse, and although things haven’t fallen apart just yet, the writing is on the wall and it’s up to my four main characters to ensure Armageddon never happens.

Why do I write what I do?

This is an easy one. I’m writing The Nature Knights because this is the story that presented itself to me. I really can’t explain it any better than that. I was actually trying to write a different book entirely, but one character—Clancy Donovan—kept hijacking it and in the end, she browbeat me into writing The Nature Knights. She really isn’t the type of girl who takes no for an answer.

How does your writing process work?

I find this whole business of “writing process” fascinating. I know lots of authors who have a whole ritual set up to help summon the gods of creativity and inspiration. They couldn’t begin to put pen to paper until (and unless) certain elements are in place: they need to sit in a certain chair or have a particular drink in a particular mug. They need the wind to come from the east or the planet Neptune (which rules inspiration) to be in their fifth astrological house of creativity.

I don’t know about any of that stuff. To me, writing is like any other career so I show up every day and punch in the hours. Sometimes I work on computer, sometimes long hand. Nothing more to it than that.

Now I pass the baton on to three other authors, Lesley Richardson, Paul Butler and Jennie Marsland.

Lesley Richardson is a writer from Bangor, Co. Down, who is currently writing her second novel, The Possibilities of Elizabeth. Her first novel, Biddy Weirdo, is yet to be published, but Lesley and her agent, Susan Feldstein, are hopeful that that will soon change. Represented by the Feldstein Agency, Lesley has just received her second grant from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and was also awarded a writing bursary from North Down Borough Council. She launched her blog, Standing Naked at a Bus Stop last year and she tweets.

Paul Butler is the author of several critically acclaimed novels including Titanic Ashes, Cupids, Hero, 1892, NaGeira, Easton’s Gold, Easton, and Stoker’s Shadow. His work has appeared on the judges’ lists for Canada Reads, the Relit Longlist for three consecutive years (2011 for Cupids; 2010 for Hero; and 2009 for 1892), and he was a winner in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards four times between 2003 and 2008 at which time he retired from the competition to be literary representative, and then chair, of the Arts and Letters Committee. A graduate of Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre, Butler has written for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s History Magazine (formerly The Beaver), Books in Canada, Atlantic Books Today, and Canadian Geographic, and has also contributed to CBC Radio, local and national. He lives in St. John’s. His website is http://paulbutlernovelist.wordpress.com.

Jennie Marsland is a teacher, a painter, a musician and, for most of her life, a writer. She fell in love with words at a very early age and the affair has been life-long. She enjoys writing songs and poetry as well as fiction. Jennie is a history buff as well as an unashamed romantic. Glimpses of the past spark her imagination, and she believes in happily ever after. A resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia for the last thirty years, she lives with her husband Everett and their outrageously spoiled Duck-Tolling Retrievers, Chance and Echo. Her website is http://jenniemarsland.com.