Friday, May 25, 2018

What I Would Tell My Younger Writer Self by A.M.Westerling

Like so many other authors, I sat down and wrote my first book because I had read one too many terrible books - the ones that make you wonder how they ever got published! I was certain I could do better. So, without having a clue about how to plot, how to develop characters, how to “show, don’t tell”, etc. etc., I sat down and wrote my first novel, a Regency romance. It took me a number of years and I actually didn’t finish it until I retired but finally I typed The End. I still have it, in a box in the store room in our basement, all 313 pages of it, before the days of electronic submissions.

Now what?

In those days, Harlequin offered a romance novel critique service and I sent the book there in hopes of getting some feedback. Which I did. I received a lovely lilac colored folder containing a novel evaluation form, a letter and a certificate of accomplishment.

However I did not pay attention to said feedback. I only focused on the good ie your writing is excellent – smooth, vivid, clear and involving; your dialogue is equally well done; your characters come to life on the page.

Silly me, I disregarded the bad. The editor pointed out problems with the continuity and changes in point of view as well as problems with the pacing of the book. Something about it being “erratic”. I could understand the first two but hadn’t a clue about what was meant by erratic pacing. Seeing as I didn’t know what that meant, I simply ignored it and kept on writing.

Two books later and multiple rejections from editors all telling me my pacing was uneven, or slow, it finally dawned on me I had better figure out what pacing was and how to fix it. So, lesson number one and one that could have saved me years of rejections – pay attention to both the good and the bad comments.

Lesson number two? Don’t jump at the first opportunity. I submitted my second book to only one agent and was immediately signed. How easy was that, I thought and I was thrilled because surely now my books would find a home with a publisher. Only that didn’t happen and the agent and I parted ways after five years without a sale. She’s a lovely lady who successfully represents other authors but it didn’t work out for me. In hindsight, I should have subbed to more agents at that time to find a better fit for me and my career.

But that’s all water under the bridge. Now I’ve found a terrific little Canadian publisher and my career is humming along quite nicely. I haven’t hit the NYT Best Sellers list and probably never will but every good review I get is payment enough for me. 
And, I was fortunate enough to be included in the BWL Publishing's Canadian Historical Brides Collection with Barkerville Beginnings, a sweet romance set in the historical gold rush town of Barkerville, B.C.

  It's available at your favorite online retailer HERE.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Mother’s Day Meander

A deep connection to the earth is the common thread among all 1st Nations’ people about whom I’ve read, whether they live north or south of the arbitrary lines Europeans drew upon the land. In every biography written by 1st Nations’ People, it begins with a recollection of a childhood where the elders fostered a profound and respectful consciousness of what is commonly referred to as “Nature.” It’s an experience with which we European moderns, the “come heres” of the continent, are less and less familiar.

Writing Fly Away Snow Goose led me to a lot of rumination on this subject--our relationship with the earth. It's a deep subject we've just begun to learn about and understand. 

Many folks my age remember playing outside most days during school summer holidays. The old house where I lived was across the street from a dairy farm. The surrounding fields were in hay, corn, and alfalfa. The farmer didn’t care if my mother and I roamed across them, or if I visited a wonderful pond adjacent to a large shabby woods. In the spring the pond was full of tadpoles, crayfish, and blue gills. Later, in summer, multicolored frogs sang and courted along the edges. Butterflies and dragonflies sailed above muddy flats, and floated over flowering plants, whose names I did not know, although I admired them.  

Some days I’d see rabbits, foxes, or woodchucks, or stumble across deer at their midday rest.  Red winged blackbirds nested among the cattails; purple martens performed fighter-pilot maneuvers over the pond.  At home, we had a mud nest of barn swallows every year on the far end of our porch—off-limits to us until they’d finished the fascinating business of rearing their yearly family. The little ones with their rusty bosoms would be flying and chowing down by the beginning of August-super-buggy season.

Times have changed. Farms and wood lots have disappeared; malls go on for miles. About a decade ago, I heard of a very small girl who was taken for a walk in the woods for the first time when she was about 2 years old. Her entire experience up until then had been inside of houses, playing in groomed suburban yards, or passing through parking lots and shopping malls. After that first walk on a nature trail, she pronounced the leaf and stick strewn paths to be “messy and uneven.”

It’s a poignant 21st Century story, for it shows how limited a modern child’s experience of the world can be.  Fortunately, this girl's Daddy learned something when he heard it. From then on, he took their together-times outside., so she  wouldn’t suffer from what I’ve come to look upon as Nature Deprivation. Humans are tactile critters--we must touch, smell, taste things in order to quite believe in them.

Humans may end like this Game of Thrones character, picture from Dragon Con (c) here discovered begging inside a multi-level, never-ending shopping mall...

I guess it’s no wonder that some people are so disrespectful to the earth when macadam, cement, or vinyl is the only ground their feet have touched. It’s too bad everyone can't be sent for a few weeks to a summer camp deep in the woods--no wi-fi--for a spiritual rehab. 

After all, we are part of Nature, not the other way around. Perhaps that misunderstanding is the source of the current belief that there will be no consequences for our mega-scale destruction of the delicately balanced systems which sustain all life. 

"The world has not to be put in order: the world is order incarnate..." 
                     ~~Henry Miller.

When our earthly course is run, we proud human creatures will inevitably end as this traditional Lakota prayer to Mother Earth has it:

You who listen and hear all,
You from whom all good things come…
It is your embrace we feel
When we return to you…*

~~Juliet Waldron

Find My Novels~~

All formats, all links

 *From To You We Shall Return by Joseph Marshall III

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Learning Experience by Katherine Pym


Daddy long-legs cluster

My primary time frame is 17th century London. It’s difficult to write of it and not go textbook, something I hated as a kid in school. What I’ve learned over my career is to fill a story that resonates with human interest. History does not change, only the names and circumstances, although even then, too much of the past rings the same in the present these days.

But I digress.

Take idiocy as a human interest story. Most people don’t like to admit to this, but it happens on an almost daily basis. Husband and I had one of those occasions this last week.

Close Look at Cluster
We have daddy-longlegs spiders. Lots of them. Hundreds of them, maybe a thousand (kidding, but not far from). They don’t build cobwebs of gossamer that spread across the house façade as if we were in a terrible fairy tale. No, they cluster in the eaves above our sliding glass door. They foul the clapboard with their poop, fall on our heads as we come and go. It’s creepy and annoying. We can’t sit on the patio because of them. People from miles around hear my screams, night and day as I take our pup out for her potty rituals.

Last week, Husband wearied of my constant screeches, my jumping about and shaking the bugs from my hair and down my collar. He marched outside and grabbed the garden hose. Like a soldier ready to forge into battle, he sprayed the spider clusters with steady jets of water.

They plopped like giant, wet shaggy balls onto our patio and lay there stunned. In an angry zest of nature, they freaked out, separated into thousands of crawly things with unnatural long legs. They ran up the wall, the sliding glass doors on both sides of the screen, stalked into a window corner and stayed there. Now, no one could come or go at all. Should we open the slider, an arachnid cluster would scurry into our house.

On that note, many did find their way into our house, (I know not how because it is a tightly built structure), and settled on the walls of our bedroom. Outside, the entire wall was covered with them, all vibrating up and down as if in a macabre dance.

Macabre dance all over our wall
As the days blurred by, they took to their clusters again, but not just one gigantic one. In their mindless fervor for revenge, several clusters evolved, from over the sliding glass door and down the underside of the eaves of our house and patio.

Now, we’ll have poop paths that run the full backside of our house.


As a human interest story, I hope you felt what I felt, panicked when I did. That’s what I learned from years of writing. Don’t tell these things. Show them so that the reader stands with you, witnesses the horrific skin crawling insect moments that I did.

PS… No spiders were harmed in the telling of this tale. 



Many thanks to Wikicommons, public domain.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

I Shoulda Kept on Writin'

I began to pen stories at age five, or rather I drew the pictures and my mother wrote in the words I dictated to her.
I loved telling tales, writing of ancient Egypt and Rome (I'd just watched the moved Cleopatra). I also wrote with my best friend. Together we concocted a murder mystery ala Alfred Hitchcock (we'd just watched the movie Marnie).

We drew pictures to go with our stories and that was half the fun. My best drawing had nothing to do with my novels but was of my favorite cat, Lucretia. I might have been fifteen when I drew this.

When I started working in an office at eighteen, and was so efficient I had time left over, I wrote more stories and kept some. I read them not too long ago and one was very good.

But at nineteen I joined the navy and traveled all over, married, had children, and let my writing slide.

I should have honed my skills, taken classes, and kept on writing. I had a workshop with bestselling author Sherryl Woods years later, and she said in the 80s everyone was being published. I missed my chance, because I hadn't written through most of the 70s and throughout the 80s. I only picked it up again in the mid-nineties.

When we were stationed in San Diego in the late 70s, I should have taken creative writing classes, but somewhere along the way I'd lost the urge to write. An urge I once couldn't deny or ignore, it had burned inside me, compelling me to constantly spin tales.

I forced myself to write again in the late 90s, to see what I could come up with. My story meandered all over the place. I researched at the Library of Congress, got library loans, and stuffed all the fascinating details into my book. No internet for the average person existed yet.
I thought I knew everything there was about writing, but soon found out I knew very little. I had rejections galore.

My next move was to join critique groups and learn to edit my work. Busy with family and a job, years went by before I polished my first novel. A small press took it on, but their e-books were overpriced, and paperback prices outrageous. Finally, a good friend invited me to submit to my current publisher, BWL, and my first book, now titled Escape the Revolution, sold very well.

To sum it up, if you have a dream, pursue it!

My latest project is part of the Canadian Brides Series.

Blurb: In 1784, Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to New Brunswick to marry a man chosen by her father. Amelia is repulsed and refuses the marriage. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian, Gilbert, a man beneath her. Gilbert fights the incursion of Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his heritage. Will they find love when events seek to destroy them?
E-book and paperback are available at Amazon and All Markets

For more information on me and my books, please visit my website:
Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Friday, May 11, 2018

If I knew then... by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

If I knew then ...

Things have sure changed since I began writing. I took a few writing courses and began my published, writing career (as opposed to my unpublished writing career) with a short story titled  A Hawk's Reluctant Flight, in a small magazine called Western People. With that on my short resume, I had travel and historical articles accepted by other magazines, one of which didn't pay anything to the author. Then I took another writing course and one of the speakers was Grant Kennedy owner of Lone Pine Publishing in Edmonton, Alberta.
       At the time Alberta was divided into tourist zones and I had been thinking about doing a book on what there was to see and do in each zone. I sent a query letter to Lone Pine Publishing and the senior editor responded with a phone call. We set up a time for me to go to the city and meet with her and Grant Kennedy. I outlined my idea and Grant said yes it was a good one but he thought that the books should be more on the people and culture of each zone. He liked his idea and I liked mine so we decided we couldn't work together. As I stood to leave I said. "Well, at least as I research the zones I will see all the backroads of Alberta." He replied. "I've always want to do a book on the backroads of Alberta." I sat back down and that was how I began my backroads series. Over the next ten years I travelled through and wrote two books on Alberta, four books on British Columbia and one on the Yukon and Alaska. These books were very successful and I decided to branch out into fiction.
       My favourite books to read have always been mystery novels and after much thought I decided to write one. I quickly learned that writing a fiction book is not like reading a fiction book. You need a story to tell, you must tell that story in a believable way, and you must make the reader want to read that story to the end. Since one of the mantras of writing is to write what you know I made my main character a travel writer. In the first book, Illegally Dead, she is headed to southern Alberta to do research for a magazine and is drawn into the mystery of a skeleton found in a septic tank. I found that I didn't write my books from page one to the end like I did when writing my travel books. I wrote scenes as I thought of them and put them in where they belonged in the story. I knew the ending but found it wasn't as easy to write it as it was to think it.
     I also learned that getting fiction published is different from getting non-fiction published.
     At that time there was no multiple submissions. A writer sent their manuscript to one publisher at a time and had to wait up to six months to hear back. If it was rejected then you sent it out to another publisher. It could take years to find the publisher who wanted to publish your book. One publisher wrote back to me that they liked my mystery story but my travel background was coming out and I had too much travel information in it. I was asked to remove some. So I did and resent my manuscript. Again, I was asked to cut back on the travel info. Again I did. The third time I was told that this was a mystery and I should stick with the mystery and leave out the travel stuff. I wrote back and said that the main character is a travel writer and is working on an article. She is not going to drop that and concentrate on the mystery. So needless to say we parted ways.
       I sent out the manuscript again and another publisher said they were interested in publishing it. They had one stipulation and that was that I should add in more travel information. We worked together and a year later my manuscript was actually a book that I could hold in my hand. Their publicist arranged a book launch and a book signing tour. It was fun and exciting to stand in front of an audience and read from my book.
       I wrote the second book of what I was calling my Travelling Detective Series to the same publisher. After about a five month wait I received a letter that told me the publishing house had been bought out by another one and that my manuscript and all my information had been sent to them. I waited a few more months then emailed the new publisher to find out what was happening. A couple of days later I received an email stating that they had no record of my manuscript.
     My heart sank.
     But a few days after that I received an email from another editor at the publishing house that they had found my manuscript and they wanted to publish it.
     However, in the time between that email and the publishing date for my novel, the publishing house was sold again. The new owner was going to honour my contracts, but in the future wasn't going to publish mysteries. I knew there was no use sending my third manuscript in the series to that publisher and after checking around I sent it to Books We Love. They immediately accepted it and e-published it. After two years of talking with my former publisher I was able to get the rights to my first two novels of the series and now all three are published with Books We Love Ltd.
     Since then I have written another stand-alone mystery, three Canadian Historical novels, a sci-fi two-book series, and a contemporary young adult novel all published by BWL. These are sold as e-books and as print books.
     Like I said at the beginning things are different than when I first started writing. For my non-fiction and first fiction publishers, there was a publicist to organize book readings, signings, and television appearances, and a distributor to get the books into stores and libraries. In the new publishing world, it is usually up to the writer to do a lot of publicity through social media and to arrange book signings and readings. I find this time consuming and, for me, not very profitable. It also takes away from my writing and because there are so many books being published every day, it is almost impossible to stand out and get noticed.
     If I knew then what I know now, would I have become a writer?
     Short answer--Yes.
     I enjoy taking an idea and making it into a story. I have more ideas for books than I will ever have time to write. When I'm not writing I go through a bit of withdrawal, yearning to be in my make-believe world with my new friends. So, it doesn't matter how much the publishing business changes, I will still write.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

If I Knew Then... by Victoria Chatham

Ah, yes. Hindsight is wonderful. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have listened to the naysayers – those people who didn't take my writing ambitions seriously and joked about the stories I produced. My earliest audience was my family and I know I don’t need to go into details here as I’ve met many writers whose paths have been similar to mine.

The results, however, have differed. In my case, I simply did not have the confidence to persist. Never mind that I had been awarded prizes for essay writing at school, but an essay is a very different beast to that of a work of fiction. I was always a reader and when I discovered romance in my teens I thought I was in heaven. There were times, even then, when I thought I could do better but there was always that gremlin on my shoulder whispering ‘no, you can’t.’ It wasn’t until I had children that I started writing again but I still lacked the confidence to pursue it as a career.

Roll forwards a few (many) years and, now married to a Canadian and living in Calgary, I heard an interview with author Gail Bowen (Joanne Kilbourne mysteries) in which she stated (as closely as I can recall) that ‘people who have lived exotic lives often make the best authors as they have so much material to draw from.’ It was at that point that I took good at my life and decided I did have a lot of material to draw from. I also now had support for my writing ambitions as my Canadian husband (now my dear departed as he passed away in 2001) signed me up for a writing course and I joined my first writers' group.

Groups don’t and won’t work for everyone, but I finally found my fit and gained the confidence in my writing that had been so sadly lacking. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who ‘got it’ and understood the quirks and foibles that make writers who they are. In 2012, at age sixty-nine, I self-published my first book. Since then I’ve written seven more. I look at young writers today and so admire their apparent fearlessness, their willingness to jump right in and write whatever they like.

So, what would I tell my younger self? Ignore the naysayers, brush that gremlin away, and go for it. Take that workshop, go to that conference, learn the craft but then cut to the chase and write the damn book!