Publication News

 

And so, a quick update for those of you who have been asking about the progress of my book and when it may be published. (And a sincere thank you for being interested! :) )

Although I’ve been quiet on that front publicly as of late, a lot has been happening behind the scenes. I still can’t go into too much detail, but if all goes well Book One of my series, The Nature Knights, will be published Fall 2015.

I’m bursting to tell you more so as soon as I can start to reveal details, I will! For now, I’d better get back to the writing. There are eight more full length novels in the series, plus a novella – and they won’t write themselves.

One thing’s for sure … I’ll never complain of boredom.

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!

 

 

 

 

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.

Interview with NL Author Kate Robbins

Leave a comment below and enter to win the brooch pin featured on the cover of Bound to the Highlander.

Bound to the Highlander Cover Art
Bound to the Highlander Cover Art

Bound to the Highlander (BTTH) is the best selling, award-winning debut novel of Newfoundland author Kate Robbins. On the eve of publication BTTH won the 2013 Tampa Area Romance Authors (TARA) award and since then, has cracked the top 100 on amazon.com and is listed in the top ten on three of amazon.com’s best seller lists.

BTTH is the kind of book you want to curl up with on a cold, stormy day. Nothing compliments a fuzzy blanket and blazing fire like a historical romance. It’s the story of Aileana Chattan who discovers she is betrothed to James MacIntosh, a man loyal to King James I of Scotland, the man responsible for her father’s death. (click here for a full synopsis and to read a sample of BTTH).

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Kate as part of a month-long blog tour celebrating the launch of her first novel.

Welcome Kate!

First, let’s chat about the cover art for BTTH. Talk about a departure from the traditional romance novel cover! That red tartan pops right off the page. How much input did you have into the design?

From my earliest vision of this series, I saw the book covers reflecting something about the chief the book centered around. So people never fit for me. Each book in the series will feature a clan crest brooch pin from that clan. My publisher, Tirgearr, were fabulous to work with on it. They understood my vision and did their very best to bring it to life. I’m thrilled with it. PLUS I’m giving away that brooch pin after today folks need to leave a comment! That’s how they can enter.

What is the significance of the brooch?

The brooch pin has been used for centuries on both the ancient plaid and modern kilt. Like any functioning piece of jewelry, the brooch pin would have varied depending on the wearer. I had envisioned the one on the cover when I wrote Bound to the Highlander. Can you imagine my surprise when I actually found one like it?

Are these clan brooches that exist outside your novel, or are they specific to your fictional characters?

You can buy these brooches at just about any pipe band or kilt supply shop. Mine came from Gaelic Themes Ltd in Scotland as distributed through License to Kilt. :)

BTTH is the first of three novels in your Highland Chiefs series, which has as its backdrop, the reign and subsequent assassination of King James Stewart I of Scotland. What inspired you to write about (a) Scotland and (b) this period in Scottish history?

I’ve always been fascinated with Scotland, right from my first historical romance when I was about 15. I’ve read Johanna Lindsay‘s A Gentle Feuding so many times over the years and I still love it. Once I knew I was writing a Scottish Historical, I set out to learn more about the political climate during the high middle ages. Once I learned about James Stewart I, I was hooked! From his imprisonment in England to his attempt to unify Scotland and subsequently restricting the noble’s power, James Stewart’s reign was volatile and fascinating.

I know you worked hard to maintain the linguistic integrity of this time in history (using the vernacular rather than modern colloquialisms).  How much of a challenge was that for you when writing BTTH? Why is it important to you, that the language in your novel reflect 15th century Scotland?

That was an interesting balance to strike. Had I chosen words only existing in the 15th century, modern readers would have unlikely taken a chance on it. When was the last time you read a book written in middle-English? You could say I really did choose my words carefully. I decided not to add dialect as well, since as a reader, I find that jarring. Where possible I changed words – aye instead of yes – but I stayed away from including how the words may have been pronounced. Again, this makes for ease of reading. Having said that, words like ‘ok’ would not be acceptable. Every historical fiction writer faces this, and each must find their balance. I couldn’t say the lady thinks the laird cool, that wouldn’t fly. 😉

Keeping with the issue of linguistics, how difficult (or easy!) was it to find the right language when describing the more intimate sex scenes? I mean, the spectrum of words used to describe body parts alone is incredibly broad – from proper, textbook names to street slang and everything in between. 

Writing good sex scenes is all about knowing your characters. If you know how they’d act in other situations, you know how they’d speak and act…and moan in sex scenes. LOL The secret to good sex scenes is the chemistry and anticipation leading up to it.

Tell me, how does it feel to be a best selling, award-winning debut author?

Lordy. Where did I put that wine glass? It’s a bit messed up actually. I had hoped it would do well, but never expected anything like this. I’m so grateful for all the amazing and supportive people I have around me. Our Scribe Wenches group contains some of the best writers I know and I see much more good news coming.

Thank you so much for having me here today Valerie! I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen some of your work and can’t wait until we’re celebrating your debut release. :)

Author Kate Robbins
Author Kate Robbins

Kate Robbins writes historical romance novels out of pure escapism and a love for all things Scottish, not to mention a life-long enjoyment of reading romance. Her journey into storytelling began with a short screenplay she wrote, directed, and produced which was screened at the 2003 Nickel Film Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. She has also written and directed several stage plays for youth.

Kate loves the research process and delving into secondary sources in order to give readers the most authentic historical romance possible. She has travelled to Scotland and has visited the sites described in her Highland Chiefs series.

Bound to the Highlander is the first of three books set during the early fifteenth century during the reign of James Stewart, first of his name.

Kate is the pen name of Debbie Robbins who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada with her hubby, the man-beast, and her two awesome boys, the man-cubs.

Follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter!

Terrific Summer Read: “Against Her Rules” by Victoria Barbour

Only 8 more sleeps until summer officially begins! Time to break out the frosted drinks, beach chairs and steamy romance novels. No matter how long your summer reading list is, there’s always room for one more book – and do I have a recommendation for you!

Against Her Rules is the debut novel of Newfoundland-born author, Victoria BarbourAgainst Her Rules Cover Art

Set it outport Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, Against Her Rules chronicles the love affair between B&B owner Elsie Walsh and her hunky guest Campbell Scott. The hero is (you guessed it) Scottish and looks like “someone took a dash of Gerard Butler, added a sprinkle of Daniel Craig, and then spiced it up with a little bit of Colin Farrell.” Yup.  That’ll do.

This book is just plain fun from start to finish. Its sexy, witty and at times, laugh-out-loud funny. Elsie and Cam are of course, beautiful and charismatic, but two of the minor characters stole the show for me – 96-year old Aunt Ida who “religiously permed her hair every six weeks” and Asher (Ted) Corbin, the ne’er-do-well rock star. They’re both so vividly drawn, I’m sure I’ve met them. Barbour’s description of the Inn, a renovated 1880s merchant’s home, the stylish décor and the hearty Newfoundland menu made me wish the place was real.

I met with Victoria Barbour recently to discuss her debut novel.  Here’s a bit of our conversation:

When I think of romantic settings for a novel, outport Newfoundland doesn’t come to mind.  What possessed – I mean, inspired you, to set AHR in an outport?

For me, Newfoundland is the most romantic place on earth. I can name a dozen romantic spots in St. John’s, and I just love our outports. When I say I’m passionate about Newfoundland, I really mean it. I love this place. Our scenery is amazing, and our people are vibrant. That said, I think you can make almost any setting romantic so long as you have the right characters doing romantic things. Romance is in the heart, and the pheromones. If you’re “feelin’ it”, it doesn’t matter where you are.

Newfoundland has some great place names – Heart’s Delight and Little Heart’s Ease to name just two. Is Heart’s Ease in AHR based on either of these communities, or is it completely fictional?

Heart’s Ease is entirely fictional, but the name did come from those communities. I love the place names we have here. And I’ve always been intrigued about three communities in a row—Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Content— and how they got their names. I’d initially thought Little Heart’s Ease was there as well, but then I learned that’s on the other side of Trinity Bay. I chose Heart’s Ease because when I thought about Elsie’s inn, I thought it had a warm feel about it. Kind of the idea that you can go there to rest your heart. So whether you’re going for romance, or as is the case for many of her celebrity guests, a refuge from reality, it made sense to me. It’s a place to ease your heart.

Ida and Asher – talk about scene stealers! I have to know, are they based on anyone you know?

Everyone seems to love them. It’s great when your secondary characters really resonate with people. They are completely fictional. When I write, I have no idea where the story is going, or who is going to make an appearance. I think it’s important to build a personality for your main characters, and I find the best way to show who they are, is to observe them interacting with other people. My secondary characters pop into the story and often I don’t know who they are until they start to develop on the page. Aunt Ida is a mixture of a bunch of people I’ve known. Her age comes from the longevity of the women in my family—I have a great aunt who’s 105 or 106! Ida’s personality is her own, but I can see now that some of the things she says might have come from my grandmother, or my own aunts. As for Asher, he was a big surprise. He wasn’t meant to be likeable. But then the more he developed, the more I liked him. In retrospect, I can look back on his character and think that he might have some Russell Brand elements to him, but he’s his own guy.

The house in AHR is so vividly drawn, it’s actually one of the characters. Have you ever been in a place like this? Do you dream of owning a B&B?

I wish I’d been to a B&B like Heart’s Ease Inn. Owning an Inn or B&B is something my husband and I have talked about for a long time. But it’s a pipe dream. I don’t think a house like that would really exist in an outport, at least to that size. That’s why the story was important to explain why it would exist. The idea of building something and then leaving it behind came from the colony of Avalon (in Ferryland), and the whole Lord Baltimore experiment. Of course, this house was built in the 19th century. I think it would be wonderful if people could come and stay in the Heart’s Ease Inn. But imagine the work, and the money, it would take to make it real! Still, we have some fantastic B&Bs in this province, and if I could get some of my readers to explore those places, I’d think my novel was a real success.

Newfoundland has produced some incredible authors of literary fiction – Wayne Johnston, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey and Donna Morrissey just to name a few. We’re not so well known for our genre fiction though. Why did you choose to write a romance rather than stay with the tried and true?

You know, you have to write what comes naturally for you. I need to enjoy what I’m producing. You spend a long time with your book, and your characters, and for me, I need to feel the story. I love to read those fantastic literary works that come from here, but it’s not me. I didn’t set out to be a romance writer, and I’m sure in the future I’ll create books that are fantasy, or chick lit, or children’s books—who knows, I might even one day manage something that someone thinks is literary. But first and foremost, I write for enjoyment—mine and my readers. At this stage in my life, romance is what works for me.

My reading tastes were guided by my grand-mother, Elizabeth Barbour. When I was a little girl and teenager, most of what I read was on her recommendation. She introduced me to Catherine Cookson and Jean Plaidy in particular. When I was in my 20s, I really got into fantasy and historical fiction.  She had no time for fantasy, but we shared many historical fiction novels. Then when I was in my 30s, she started handing me some really well-written historical romances, especially those by Julia Quinn and Julia London. Nan got sick almost four years ago with cancer, and she died very quickly. The last book we read together was What Happens in London. She left me all her books! And there were a lot of romances. Hundreds. So I started reading my way out of grief with those. And then I thought, I’m going to write a romance for Nan. I still haven’t finished that one. But a funny thing happened when I started writing that romance. I realized all the novels I’d started and never finished were romances. It was in me all along, I’d just just never really thought about it.

You may have written a genre piece, but these characters are quintessentially Newfoundland – especially Ida. There’s an old joke in this province about how hard it is to give directions since the road are actually developed cow paths and there are few street signs. The punch line is “come to think on it, you can’t get there from here.” This scene captures the essence of that joke beautifully. Will you set it up for us?

Sure. Cam, our Scottish hero, is on his way to the Heart’s Ease Inn, but his GPS keeps bringing him to empty fields. The cell service is terrible, and he’s totally lost. He’s frustrated as all hell. And when he does manage to get though to the inn, he gets Aunt Ida on the line, a 96-year-old woman who’s newest goal is to travel to Scotland.

The ring crackled, like he was dialing 1982, but at least it was ringing.

“Hello?”

The voice on the other end was older than he expected. “Hello. Is this the Heart’s Ease Inn?”

“Oh my. Are you Scottish?” the voice trilled.

“Aye. Have I rung the inn?”

“I’m planning a trip to Scotland. Where abouts are you from?”

“Glasgow. Excuse me but…”

“Oh, a Glaswegian, are you? I was hoping for Edinburgh. I don’t have any plans to go to Glasgow myself. Heard it’s a bit of a rough spot.”

Sweet lord. Even in this godforsaken small corner of the globe people had impressions of Glasgow. “Pardon me, madam, but I’m looking for the Heart’s Ease Inn.”

“Oh yes. This is it. Looking to book a room are you? It’s pretty pricy, you know.”

“I have a room booked. I just can’t seem to find the place.” He was also beginning to wonder if he wanted to if he was going to have to deal with this woman for the duration.

“You didn’t go to Little Heart’s Ease, did you? That’s on the other side of the bay, my son, and you’ll have a good couple of hours drive to get here if that’s the case.”

The woman at the car rental kiosk had warned him of that; at least he knew he wasn’t that far off the mark.

“No, I’m pretty sure I’m nearby. I just can’t find the bloody place.”

“Watch your language, boy. Now where are you then?”

It was just his luck to get a schoolmarm on the line.

“I have no idea. I’m in a field.”

“What field?”

“I don’t know. It’s green. There’s grass and trees.”

“Now don’t go gettin’ snippy. Of course there’s grass and trees. Now, what else?”

Campbell looked around. “I can see water, and…oh, it’s just a field. No fence. No building. No cows. Sheep. Nothing. Just a great big grassy area with some gnarled trees.”

“Oh, that could be a couple of spots. Now we’re getting somewhere.” He could swear she was cackling with glee. “Now, what’s the last sign you saw?”

That Campbell could answer, because he still couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d even taken a picture and texted it to his sister with a terse, “Where the hell have you sent me?”

“It said Worms. Ice. Cold Beer,” Cam told the woman.

“Excellent. We’re getting somewhere now,” the woman intoned. “Was it one of them neon magnetic signs, or was it more homemade?”

“It was attached to a derelict gas station. And it was written on cardboard.”

“Oh, sure you’ve gone too far.”

Against Her Rules is available as an ebook from Amazon (Kindle), Chapters (Kobo) and Barnes & Noble (Nook).

Victoria Barbour
Author Victoria Barbour

About Victoria Barbour:  Victoria lives on the island of Newfoundland, and is fiercely proud of her home. She can imagine no better setting for her works, and hopes that her readers will one day come to witness Newfoundland and Labrador’s rustic beauty for themselves. When she’s not writing, or trying to convince people to visit her home, she’s busy with her day-to-day life as a mother, wife, and marketing communications specialist.

She was born in St. John’s, and raised above her family’s fish and chips restaurant. She has traveled and lived in other parts of Canada, but chose to make her home where her heart has long resided. Victoria has a degree in History from Memorial University of Newfoundland, with a minor in Newfoundland Studies. The only thing that stands between her and a Master’s degree in History from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia is her thesis. She has a background in broadcast journalism, advertising, and marketing. She is a proud member of both the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and their affiliate chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada (RWAC).

Victoria counts herself lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly supportive family, and thanks her husband daily for his unerring faith in her, and for being a wonderful father to their infant son.

Author Lesleyanne Ryan: Blog Tour

In October, award-winning writer Lesleyanne Ryan published her debut novel, Braco. At the time, I interviewed Ryan about her publishing experiences. Last week, I had the great privilege of sitting with her again to discuss her Atlantic Book Awards nomination, her blog tour and life as an author. (At the end of this blog, you’ll have a chance to enter to win a signed copy of Braco, so read on!)

Lesleyanne Ryan at a recent Chapters book signing.
Lesleyanne Ryan at a recent Chapters book signing.

About Braco: As a former UN peacekeeper, Lesleyanne served in Visoko, Bosnia in 1993/94.  There she helped a friend send food to a young boy in Srebrenica.  When the Canadian military pulled out of Srebrenica in March 1994, he sent her a green licence plate from the town as a gift.  In the years that followed, Lesleyanne often wondered whether he survived the fall of Srebrenica in 1995.  Grounded in historical events, Braco is her exploration of the boy’s possible fate.

Lesleyanne Ryan and Paul Beaupre
Lesleyanne Ryan with Paul Beaupre in Visoko

For the past five weeks, you’ve been touring the blogs of other Newfoundland writers to talk about Braco. (See below for links to these interviews.) What has that experience been like for you?

It has been an amazing experience and greatly exceeded my expectations. I’m new to the blogosphere and getting this chance to see what can be done has been eye-opening. It’s essential for authors to not only be promoted by their publishers but to take an active role in promoting themselves and the blog tour is a great self-promotional tool.

So, what do you think about the promotional part of publishing?

As I always say now, writing the book was the easy part. I recall the first time I sat down at a signing table at a local bookstore. For the first ten minutes, I sat there watching the shoppers walk by and I realized they were going out of their way to avoid eye contact. All I could think was that if it was going to be like this, I was never going to write another book again….LOL.

But it got better and I love talking to people about it. Not all will buy the book and that’s fine. I just love the chance to tell them about it. I also love the chance to speak to people who’ve already read the novel – like at book clubs – because it’s a great chance to have a back and forth conversation about the content of the book.

A boy on a manure cart.
When UN soldiers offered this boy apples, he fed them to his horse rather than eat them himself.

Braco won the Fresh Fish Award in 2011 and has now been nominated for the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award category of the Atlantic Book Awards. How does it feel to be an award-winning debut novelist? 

I can’t really say it’s a dream come true because I never dreamed I’d win any awards, so I am really humbled by every nomination and win. I guess the awards are really an affirmation that what I’m doing works, and as a debut novelist, that is what I want to hear.

Do these award nominations put extra pressure on you now that you’re working on a second novel?

No, I’m not feeling too much pressure. I just want to strive to do the same thing I did with Braco – follow the same formula that made it work and hopefully produce something as successful.

UN Convoy on a break after running the front lines.
UN Convoy on a break after running the front lines.

What kind of feedback have you been getting from readers? Critics?

The feedback has been amazing. Critics reviews have been wonderful and I’m in awe every time I see a reader’s review posted to Goodreads, Chapters or Amazon. I hope readers know just how much an author appreciates the time they take to post a review.

When I get a chance to talk to people who have read the novel, the one thing I like to ask is which character they identified with and how it made them feel. I’ve gotten a wide range of responses and it often relates to their own background whether they’re a mother, a vet or just an avid reader who knew nothing of the conflict. It seems to me that my readers really come from all ages and backgrounds and not all of them are local. For example, I’ve had feedback from a mother in the US, a teacher in Toronto, a librarian in Ottawa, a vet in Quebec, a grandmother in BC and a writer in Australia.

The Atlantic Book Awards will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia on May 16, 2013. For more information about Lesleyanne Ryan, please visit her website: www.lesleyanneryan.com

To read the interviews on Lesleyanne’s blog tour visit:

www.katerobbinsauthor.com

www.paulbutlernovelist.wordpress.com

www.mbutlerhallett.wordpress.com

www.ratiwrites.com

To enter to win a signed copy of Braco, simply leave a comment on this blog (below) and tell me why you’d like to have this book, or why you think it’s important for writers to explore issues like the fall of Srebrenica. If you’ve already read Braco, tell me what you thought about it.  The contest will remain open until midnight, May 23, 2013 with the winner being announced on this blog on Friday, May 24, 2013.

Here’s a video of Lesleyanne Ryan reading from her award-winning novel, Braco.  Good luck at the Atlantic Book Awards Lesleyanne!

My Neverending Story…

In my last post, I argued that writers should blog because it’s a great way to keep family and friends (i.e., your diehard supporters and those most likely to buy your book) updated on the progress of your manuscript. After all, they’re going through this weird and wonderful journey right along with you.

Naturally, my diehard supporters called me on this.

Seems I haven’t kept them abreast of the status of my (our?) neverending story.

Lest I ignore my own (and original) reason for blogging, as we say in Newfoundland here’s “where da book is at”:

The publishing industry has capped Young Adult (YA) novels at 90,000 words. True, plenty of YA books are over 100,000 words, but for a first time author it’s wise to keep within the word count guidelines. It has to do with the cost of producing and distributing books. A 90,000 word book could yield a reasonable return on investment for a publisher, whereas a 95,000 word book (selling the same number of copies) could result in a net loss.

My friends, a net loss does not lead to multi-book publishing deal. I’ve planned nine novels in this series – need I say more?

Book one, entitled “Crossing the Rubicon,” should come in right around that 90,000 mark. There are currently 35 chapters in all, 19 of which have solid drafts. Another 7 chapters are in a rough, first draft state and the remaining 9 have been outlined.

I spent months agonizing over the first half dozen chapters (more on that in a later post). To make the beginning work, I had to add a second point of view (pov). This second pov meant I had to add four more chapters (four of the nine in the outline stage above). And on-and-on it goes …

My workplan to complete “Crossing the Rubicon” is as follows:

  • May/June: finish the manuscript
  • July/August: manuscript with beta readers, flesh out ideas for book two
  • September: make final edits to book one
  • October: start shopping for an agent (book one), start outlining book two.

61 days, 12 hours and 22 minutes to deadline. Better stop blogging and start writing.

Later gator.

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 …

Why Prologues and Adverbs Get a Bum Rap

The prologue, like the humble adverb, is a despised thing among writers so I’ve learned.  So much so that, if you can believe the rhetoric, a manuscript of 90,000 words daring to contain one adverb is in danger of being denounced as rubbish and cast aside by agents – its author pooh-poohed as an amateur.  Likewise, the mere suggestion of inserting a prologue at the beginning of a tale is met with audible gasps of horror from those desperate to appear “in the know.”

Here’s the best thing about being a novice writer.  (more…)

Why Writing Groups Are Important

Writing is lonely business.  For someone like me, who’s used to spending her days interacting with lots of different people, the solitude of the writing life can be a bit of a shock.  The cats are always with me when I’m working of course, but they don’t laugh at my jokes, they don’t care if I make my daily writing quota, and they have no opinion on whether I should tell my story from one point of view or two.

Needless to say, when I got the invite to join a writing group with some other local authors, I jumped at the chance.

There are four of us, all working in different genres and all at different stages in our careers.  We’ve met three times so far, and already the benefits of belonging to a writing group are evident.

First and foremost, it’s a chance to talk about the craft of writing with other people who genuinely find it interesting.  I have the most supportive friends and family in the world, but honestly, I don’t think they’re really very interested in talking about the evil ways of the adverb, or debating the pros and cons of prologues.  I can’t say I blame them – it’s pretty “down in the weeds.”

Being part of a writing group also provides an incredible opportunity to learn about both the artistic and business ends of the field.  Yes, we talk about techniques for effectively shaping a story, but we also chat about our experiences finding agents, working with publishers and building author platforms through social media.  There are lots of good reference books out there, which is a terrific start.  In fact, we often share useful articles we’ve found.  For me though, they can’t replace this new network we’ve created.  For example, we met yesterday afternoon and discussed, among other things, the use of metadata (tags) on the amazon.com and amazon.ca websites.  Here’s literary agent Kristin Nelson, of Nelson Literary Agency discussing why this is so important for authors.  You may also want to visit her blog.

Writing a novel is a massive undertaking.  It never feels like work to me, but it is sometimes overwhelming.  That’s why my favourite thing about being in this group is the impact it has on my motivation.  I leave each session full of energy and enthusiasm, anxious to get back to my book.

Speaking of which … my magnum opus awaits.